Monday, November 28, 2011

comparative advantage, relative wages and marginal product: or I like programming

I got to program today. It always reminds me how much I enjoy it. These days I program once a year or so. I only do it now because I have no RAs to do it for me. To be honest, its much faster doing it myself. I spent 3 years of meetings helping teams of RAs do what I probably could have done in a week or so myself. (training RAs is part of the job)

I know it is immodest to say but I happen to be a very good programmer. Well at least in some dimensions of programming (who knows how well that translates into big corporate projects), I probably am a relatively better programmer than an economist. Part of it is the 10,000 hours of practice thing.  My mom had me programming BASIC when I was 5. I copied code from 3-2-1 contact magazine and library books until I could write it myself. In middle school I wrote computer games for myself because I wasn't allowed to play any I hadn't written.  I took theoretical comptuer science courses when I was 14. In my 4 years at MIT, 2 of my degrees were in CS and received commendations in my CS classes even though it was relatively low priority. I walked into a programming contest for the MIT team that regularly competes at the international level on a lark, and did reasonably well.

So it feels a shame I don't get to do it any more, something I enjoy and something I'm good at. I suppose such is the nature of programming. Even if I had chosen a more CS focused career path, it seems few people actually program for very long.

we have plenty of oil?

It's funny how memes ebb and flow in pop culture. Just a couple years ago, it seemed like the popular idea that you constantly saw in the news and popular discourse is how the world is running out of oil. Which is why I was surprised by the recent spate of stories (e.g. this one in npr) about how due to recent fracking technology, the US and also the world has plenty of oil. These technologies aren't new, they've been around for a long time, and I've been pushing back against the peak oil chicken littles as long as I've been studying oil markets (since 2006 or so). I suppose it just reflects the price of oil, which mostly has been moving based on global gdp growth rather than actual oil trends. Which is sad because you'd hope that media coverage should be based on facts as opposed to just popular psychology. Which I guess is why I've been studying media coverage trends as well.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Judge Not Joe Paterno?

Milgram’s Expermients showed that ¾ of people will kill someone if someone in a lab coat tells them to, the experiment was a test of Arendt’s banality of evil on Nazi behavior. Which led to Ross’ and the Fundamental Attribution Error that in general many choices are dictated by situation (structure) even though we think it is disposition (agency). It's amazing how quick people are to forget lessons that have been taught for thousands of years. Bottom line: Judge not lest ye be judged. Or let he who is without sin...

I'm not saying what he did was by any means right. I just don't like the judgy done of so much of the coverage.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The latest in gamification: google news badges.