Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Economic Science: objective guidance or articles of faith.

"I wanted to understand the extent to which empirical economic research can provide objective guidance for policy — and at what point even brilliant, highly trained economists resort to articles of faith"

Pretty great quote from my favorite economics reporter using a amicable debate btween Larry Summers and Glenn Hubbard to answer pretty much the above question. I do think most of economics research is objective and non-partisan. The problem is on the really big macro questions, about what causes long term unemployment or entrepreneurship or debt crises or growth, the economics research just doesn't know. And at that point, all that is left is judgment and faith.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Joel Stein on the Economics and Potential of AI

This article is likely behind a paywall, but it's a nice summary by my favorite humor columnist Joel Stein on the economics and potential of artificial intelligence.

A nice discussion on the limits and potential for artificial intelligence that conforms nicely to my view of things. The question of consciousness if a tricky one and even confounds very smart friends of mine (with PhDs in AI even) who want to believe there is something inherently special about human brains relative to a computer when really there isn't. It also takes a fairly reasonable view of a future AI economy, where basic economics suggests that AI is simply another type of capital K, that should on the whole enhance the value of labor (wages), and allow us to specialize in other pursuits like art and human services. I like the line about how art requires the possibility of loss and death (like in Brave New World or Bicentennial Man) and therefore while AIs would in theory be able to produce it, why would you bother programming loss death into an AI.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The end of irony

I've been thinking about the end of irony for some time.

13 years ago, my cousins and I coined the term post-cynicism to herald the coming post-ironic age. I wrote about it on epinions, declaring Mallrats as the exemplar of a post-ironic age. 5 years ago, I helped organize a conference where MIT researcher Judith Donath declared that in a high-speed online age, irony is the key to cool, because of the in-group signaling value irony imparts, in an era where traditional money based status structures have slowly been deconstructed. Perhaps today we're at an end. There's been a spate of articles denouncing hipsterism, which as this n+1 article argues is defined by its ironic consumption.

So I like this paragraph from a recent Time review of the upcoming Superman (the first Superman movie I've ever been excited about), where the irony is.. the lack of irony... How meta... (Although meta feels so 90's)
Watchmen essentially dismantles the great Western myth of the Superhero--it's about exposing superheroes as tights-wearing neurotics and alcoholics and sociopaths--whereas Superman is the most ingenuous, unironic, unreconstructed, un-self-aware franchise of them all. But here Snyder was, in a parking lot in Vancouver in the rain, earnestly trying to breathe life back into the big blue Boy Scout. "All the movies I've made, I've made with a slight bit of irony," Snyder said. "Not even a slight bit. A fair amount. But the ironic part of this movie is that it's not ironic. You know what I mean? No tongue in cheek, no winking at the camera, no apologies. It's Superman. He deserves that."