Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The economics of cloning

From marginal revolution: The economics of cloning: "Here is the abstract of a paper I have not yet read:
In this paper, we analyze the extent to which market forces create an incentive for cloning human beings. We show that a market for cloning arises if a large enough fraction of the clone’s income can be appropriated by its model. Only people with the highest ability are cloned, while people at the bottom of the distribution of income specialize in surrogacy. In the short run, cloning reduces inequality. In the long run, it creates a perfectly egalitarian society where all workers have a top ability if fertility is uncorrelated with ability and if the distribution of ability among sexually produced children is the same as among their parents. In such a society, cloning has disappeared….

That is by Gilles Saint-Paul (original paper here) and you will find it discussed here.

I met Giles at a conference in Austria. Had nice dinner table chats. At the time, he was the only European in all of Europe who supported the Iraq war. He also has some nice papers on the economics of the year 3000. I was actually thinking about something quite similar on the economics of Artificial Intelligence after the singularity where robot brains surpass humans, but I certainly don't have the stature to write such papers yet. Assuming AIs adhere to Asimov's 3 laws, and are perfectly productive, then we get some simple things like labor becomes useless, thus wealth is only capital, so we can now have redistribution without consequences...

Most Green activities are a waste of time

I've been demonstrating the fact that most green activities people talk about are a waste of time in class for years. Nice to see the message is getting out there finally:

Friday, August 27, 2010

iphone4 cloth case and materiality subversion

I got my new "free" iphone 4 case, (basically apple's I'm sorry case) finally after a several week wait. It does seem to solve the reception issues so far, though it adds bulk so I'm not sure if I will keep it.

Instead of the bumper which just looked clunky, I got the Speck cloth case.

I sort of like it because it subverts our notions of materiality much like the fur covered rotary phone I saw at some museum a few years ago--like how the iphone4 subverts our notion of phone by being a phone that can't make phone calls. 21st century electronics are expected to be smooth/plastic/glass/metal/cold rather than fabric/soft/fuzzy/warm.

Been watching "Work of Art", Bravo's Project Runway/Top Chef spinoff into the art world, so that's amped up my art b---s--- level. I actually like the show in the end and am amused at how it follows their previous shows almost scene for scene, just with contemporary art rather than fashion or food as its subject.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Plants can Think?

From a recent BBC article Plants can Think and Remember
Plants, scientists say, transmit information about light intensity and quality from leaf to leaf in a very similar way to our own nervous systems.
These "electro-chemical signals" are carried by cells that act as "nerves" of the plants.
Not that surprising, but indeed neat. Makes Avatar that much more plausible.

Though yeah, I guess I was already convinced by Godel Escher Bach than an ant colony is not that different than a brain, and by Sum that consciousness is not limited to what goes on in brain cells.

The psychologists at Cornell and elsewhere are all excited about this idea of embodied cognition or environmental cognition, citing recent studies that find that things like the temperature of the cup we are holding or the weight of the clipboard affects how we judge situations (like how nice people are or how serious people are) and make decisions. Some interpret this to mean that we "think" using not just our brain but things outside the body, which I think is taking it too far, but it is an interesting redefinition of cognition.

It also makes one rethink about the ethics of being a vegetarian.

There was an interesting article about that in the New York Times a few months ago. Contemplating the ethics of killing a cow for food compared to killing a broccoli and why it is not clear one is better than the other. I don't buy it. For me it is easy to see why killing a broccoli is better than killing a cow. But still worth asking the question. The question I ask in class is why is it ok to commit genocide against the species Variola (aka the smallpox virus) but not ok to do the same to the spotted owl. The economist Martin Weitzman calls this a bias toward charismatic megafauna.

Monday, August 23, 2010

nifty iphone hiking tool: trailguru

Got back from D- and J-'s wedding in California yesterday. Beautiful wedding. Prepared a speech with 3 of the other groomsmen. At one point we were all there composing / looking stuff up on our smartphones. Remarkably, we all had smart phones, but all different models. Clearly, the blackberry/iphone dominance has come to an end.

I got to try a nice hiking app too, trailguru, now that I have gps on my phone. A bit fussy, you have to make sure the phone doesn't sleep, but keeps track of your hikes/biking/walks on beach quite nicely, and lets you annotate with pictures. Helps you follow maps too.