Facebook (and three start-ups and various other projects) have meant I infrequently post here… and haven’t prioritised the funds to fix the automatic link digests functionality… so in the meantime:
Archive for Opinion
Great data visualisation on population levels that is getting a lot of attention.
One of the interesting issues I’ve highlighted as futurist for the past 6 years has been that of a “peek population.” I originally got alerted by this paper:
The global macroeconomic consequences of a demographic transition – Professor Warwick McKibbin, Lowy Institute for International Policy, Working Papers in International Economics – November 2005 – No. 7.05
The world is in the midst of a significant demographic transition with important implications for the macroeconomic performance of the global economy. This paper summarises the key features of the current and projected future demographic changes that are likely to have macroeconomic effects. It then applies a new ten region global model (an extended version of the MSG-Cubed model) incorporating demographic dynamics, to examine the consequences of projected global demographic change on the world economy from 2005 to 2050. A distinction is made between the effects on each country/region of its own demographic transition and the effects on each country/region of the equally large demographic changes occurring in the rest of the world. It is estimated that the macroeconomic consequences of demographic change over coming decades are large for the world as a whole. For each country both domestic and foreign demographic changes are important.
Posting the above to the Association of Professional Futurists listserv I followed up with this missive which pretty much summarises my thinking at present:
I wish I had your clients: ones I could entice to explore an un-picking of assumptions and the multifaceted insights that can arise in the process. Unfortunately, for my passions, I’ve often had to work hard to even get such data sets / analyses on the table to be considered at all, let alone looked at in depth.
I agree there are a huge number of factors involved in population levels, and any scenario, particularly simple trend extrapolations, are incredibly unlikely to be realistic. So the main thing I come back to is making it as simple as possible for people to digest *something* about this topic: high level assumptions, primary interactions and practical implications for today:
- I see the main assumption being continued lowering of the birth rate, to a possible plateau, involving a clear ‘cresting’ of population numbers at some stage in the next 40-80 years.
- The primary interactions that influence the scale and timing of the cresting, and if it is a slow or fast decline thereafter or establishes an unlikely stability in total population numbers, include technology (innovation/invention), carrying capacity/resource limits and socioeconomic stability (which are highly, dynamically, interdependent themselves!) as they impact on/are impacted by healthcare, food, education and capital.
- The possible plateau in birth rates is the fundamental uncertainty point for me: it represents an echo of what the trans-humanists think of as the singularity: a lot could be said of it, most of it with little practical insight for the present;)
- By contrast, the main practical insight I elicit for ‘today’ is that the ratio of productive labour v’s dependant populations will continue to skew heavily towards increasing economic dependency, and possibly, followed by rapidly declining population levels altogether.
- Which leads to a clear challenge: how to prepare to better cope with increasingly aged populations who are living longer while the very foundations of our environmental-economic systems are fracturing? How do ‘we’ survive and thrive in this context? Can ‘we’ even help humanity ride this wave?
All very interesting stuff, highly debatable, and incredibly challenging to grok and respond to in the present!
// June 18th, 2011 // Comments Off // Opinion
- Google’s New Correlation Mining Tool: It Works!, Team @ Freakonomics:
You may have heard of Google Trends. It’s a cool tool which will show you the ups-and-downs of the public’s interest in a particular topic—at least as revealed in how often we search for it. And you may have even heard of the first really important use of this tool: Google Flu Trends, which uses search data to try to predict flu activity. Now Google has released an amazing way to reverse engineer the process: Google Correlate. Just feed in your favorite weekly time series (or cross-state comparisons), and it will tell you which search terms are most closely correlated with your data. (Read more…)
- Parents Are Less Happy. So What?, Team @ Freakonomics:
Bryan Caplan’s new book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, (which he blogged about for us here and here) has people talking about happiness and kids, again. Over at Cato Unbound, my better half Betsey Stevenson takes Bryan to task on some of his claims. It’s worth reading the full essay. Jeff Ely at Cheap Talk says you should take note of her views on the distinction between happiness and utility. Instead, I want to highlight an insight that comes from thinking through a formal framework:
- Sudan Falls Apart – By Maggie Fick, MAGGIE FICK @ Foreign Policy:
A confrontation over a disputed border province ensures that the divorce between north and south Sudan won’t be amicable.
- The Middle East Crisis That Just Won’t Go Away – By Salman Shaikh, SALMAN SHAIKH @ Foreign Policy:
Barack Obama may think that Israel and Palestine alone can end their decades of conflict, but the Arab Spring has changed the contours of any potential negotiations.
- Shakira vs. the Democrats – By Laila Lalami, Team @ Foreign Policy:
For Morocco’s would-be revolutionaries, a popular music festival is a corrupt symbol of the country’s misplaced priorities.
- Controllability of Real Networks, Team @ Complexity Digest 2011.12:
Liu et al. have forged new links between control theory and network dynamics by focusing on the structural controllability of networks [Lui et al., Nature:473(7346), 167-173, 2011]. Two main results in the paper are that (1) the number of driver nod…
- Heart + Mind? Or Just Heart? Experiments in Aid Effectiveness (And a Contest!), Team @ Freakonomics:
When signing our book, More Than Good Intentions, Jacob Appel and I often sign “Heart + Mind = Good Giving.” Nobody argues with the premise that we should act with compassion, but be smart about it. Of course nobody would ever say they do not care about the effectiveness of the charity they support. But in practice, does evidence about charitable effectiveness impact donations? Or does the presentation of dorky evidence turn off the emotions that cause us to donate in the first place? (Read more…)
- More People, Please, CHARLES KENNY @ Foreign Policy:
Don’t worry about the booming global population — celebrate it.
- Freakonomics Radio Live in St. Paul, Minn. This Week, Stephen J. Dubner @ Freakonomics:
On Thurs., June 9, we’ll bring Freakonomics Radio alive (or die trying) on the stage of the historic Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn. Details here and here. St. (Read more…)
- The Least Wanted Most Wanted Man – By David Scheffer, Team @ Foreign Policy:
The inside story of how the United States and NATO let war criminal Ratko Mladic evade justice for 16 years — and why it matters.
// May 19th, 2011 // Comments Off // Opinion
- Evidence of Strategic Periodicities in Collective Conflict Dynamics, Team @ Complexity Digest 2011.08:
We analyze the timescales of conflict decision-making in a primate society. We present evidence for multiple, periodic timescales associated with social decision-making and behavioral patterns. We demonstrate the existence of periodicities that are …
- This Week at War: Send in the Lawyers? – By Robert Haddick, ROBERT HADDICK @ Foreign Policy:
Why the president’s legal advisors are in no hurry to justify the bin Laden raid.
- How Prevalent Is Insider Trading? And What’s to Be Done About It? A Freakonomics Quorum, Stephen J. Dubner @ Freakonomics:
As I type these words, the biggest insider-trading trial in years, that of Raj Rajaratnam, has just gone to the jury. I haven’t followed the trial too closely, but the gist is evident: the line between “insider trading” and the legitimate, if sharp-elbowed, acquisition of useful trading information is extremely blurry. This is hardly the only insider case at the moment. Preet Bharara, U.S. (Read more…)
- Sean Carroll: Distant time and the hint of a multiverse, Team @ Complexity Digest 2011.09:
At TEDxCaltech, cosmologist Sean Carroll attacks — in an entertaining and thought-provoking tour through the nature of time and the universe — a deceptively simple question: Why does time exist at all? The potential answers point to a surprising v…
- Revenge of the Invisible Hand – By Bruce Everett, Team @ Foreign Policy:
How the free market shaped the new geopolitics of the oil industry.
- Where Are the Big-Homicide Cities?, Stephen J. Dubner @ Freakonomics:
Perhaps not where you think. A new Centers for Disease Control report is out: “Violence-Related Firearm Deaths Among Residents of Metropolitan Areas and Cities — United States, 2006-2007.”
Notable patterns by geographic region were observed. All-ages firearm homicide rates generally were higher for MSAs in the Midwest (seven of 10 above the median MSA rate of 5.4) and South (13 of 21 above the median rate) than for MSAs in the Northeast (six of seven below the median rate) and West (eight of 12 below the median rate). (Read more…)
- The Lightning Rod President – By Daniel Balint-Kurti, Team @ Foreign Policy:
Ivory Coast’s new president has made many enemies over the years. Can he bring peace?
- The Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought, and Civilization: The Origins of Human Thought, Language, and Civilization, Team @ Complexity Digest 2011.09:
This book challenges the commonly held notion that language is what makes us uniquely human. In this compelling book, Michael Corballis argues that what distinguishes us in the animal kingdom is our capacity for recursion: the ability to embe…
- Fellows Friday with Gerry Douglas, Alana Herro @ TED Blog:
Through his organization, Baobab Health, Gerry Douglas has implemented a top-of-the-line electronic medical records system in Malawi. Many health centers in the developed world have not yet achieved what Baobab has. His secret weapons? Touch screen computers, super-high usability, and low power usage, just to name a few. Interactive Fellows Friday Feature! (Read more…)
- Beware online “filter bubbles”: Eli Pariser on TED.com, Team @ TED Blog:
As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there’s a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a “filter bubble” and don’t get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for [...]
// May 4th, 2011 // Comments Off // Opinion
I’ve been with Firefox since the beginning. I’ve struggeled through every major update, loosing some functionality, gaining others, learning to love the growth and increased productivity, flexibility, speed, security, functionality.
But within 5 minutes of trying to make Firefox 4 work – I went back to 3.6.x. I believe Firefox may have just killed itself. If I wanted to use IE, the immitator, I would. If I found Chrome better, I would have switched – I did test it out, and I regularly have to use several browsers for cross-browser manual checking of website functions.
Firefox 4 enforces layout choices, makes some really bad UI decisions, is slower, crashes more often (even in my 5 minutes!) and generally looks very ugly. I’m astounded they’ve managed to do so many things so badly after so many years of briliance. Following the pack (and trailing behind) is a strange decision after you’ve been leading the pack for YEARS. Perhpas they just got tired?
Well, just so you know, I very rarely write anything about the tools I use online. I was just so incensed by this monumetal stuff-up and so dissapointed that it means that unless major mistakes are rectified, eventually I’ll have to switch to a different and less useful browser. Very sad indeed.
// April 19th, 2011 // Comments Off // Opinion
- Buena Vista Auto Club – An FP Slideshow, Team @ Foreign Policy:
Is this the end of classic cars in Havana?
- Is Bahrain Creating a New Terrorist Threat? – By Hussein Ibish, Team @ Foreign Policy:
By leaving no room for peaceful dissent, the Bahraini monarchy is creating the conditions for a violent revolt.
- Important Indonesian terrorist arrested in Pakistan: The LWOT, March 29-April 1, 2011, ANDREW LEBOVICH @ Foreign Policy:
Foreign Policy and the New America Foundation bring you a twice weekly brief on the legal war on terror. You can read it on foreignpolicy.com or get it delivered directly to your inbox — just sign up here.
- The Awful, Unsaid Truth: We’re Heading Back Toward a Double Dip, Peter Jocis @ Everyone’s Blog Posts – R2 Global Meshwork:
REMOVE THE STRANGLEHOLD ON ENERGY EVOLUTION – A return to Wisdom, Survival, where Science and Spirit meet…
- Ai Weiwei detained. Here is his TED film, Team @ TED Blog:
[via YouTube] The news that Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been detained by authorities has prompted significant concern here at TED HQ. We had shown a film of him at last month’s conference, an unexpected and courageous statement about his treatment by the government, social change, the power of the web, and his hope for [...]
- Fukushima’s Hidden Fallout – An FP List, Team @ Foreign Policy:
Four ripple effects from Japan’s disaster.
- Four years of Open Source Ecology at the Factor E Farm: a 4-year status report, Michel Bauwens @ P2P Foundation:
See the 4-minute video with a summary progress report on the project and their ‘Global Village Construction Set’ (GVCS): 4 Years of Factor e Farm in 4 Minutes from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo. The ‘Crash Course‘ summarizes developments for newcomers and laypeople interested in supporting the project. Founder Marcin Jakubowski adds: “We’re now moving [...]
- Information Theory and Population Genetics, Team @ Complexity Digest 2011.07:
The key findings of classical population genetics are derived using a framework based on information theory using the entropies of the allele frequency distribution as a basis. The common results for drift, mutation, selection, and gene flow will be…
- Elephants know when they need a helping trunk in a cooperative task, Team @ Complexity Digest 2011.09:
Here, we show that elephants can learn to coordinate with a partner in a task requiring two individuals to simultaneously pull two ends of the same rope to obtain a reward. Not only did the elephants act together, they inhibited the pulling response…
- Stiff Upper Lip – By Charles Homans, Team @ Foreign Policy:
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may have shaved off his mustache, but it’s going to take a whole lot more than that to convince the world that he’s not a dictator. FP investigates the whiskers that autocrats wear.
// March 20th, 2011 // Comments Off // Opinion
- Leaks in All the Wrong Places – By Christian Caryl, Team @ Foreign Policy:
Why the Japanese public has good reason to distrust official information.
- Gold, Dan @ Dan Ariely:
Here’s something interesting I found in Madrid: a vending machine for gold! You wouldn’t normally expect a commodity to be sold in a vending machine, but somehow gold might be special…
- Fellows Friday with Neha Gupta, Alana Herro @ TED Blog:
Founder of EachOneTeachOne, Neha Gupta helps Facebook users spend their online time tutoring students in need. Neha has a history of using IT for social good, including helping develop a smart phone app that provides live video streaming during 911 calls. In the future, Neha hopes to spread the power of technology by training women [...]
- Que pasa, China? – By Joshua E. Keating, JOSHUA E. KEATING @ Foreign Policy:
Why China’s boom might take a siesta.
- A Journey Through Russia’s Killing Zone, Part 5 – By Tom Parfitt, Team @ Foreign Policy:
Traveling through Ingushetia, a republic where people are more frightened of Russia’s shadowy security forces than the Islamist militants.
- Exploring the “uppards” of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, Rachel Tobias @ TED Blog:
To get the shot of JR’s “eye” from above in Session 7, photographer James Duncan Davidson and photo editor Mike Femia spent a good deal of time climbing and crawling through the labyrinth of what I refer to as “the uppards” (as opposed to the innards) of the TED stage in Long Beach. Here are [...]
- Sex and evolutionary stability, Team @ Complexity Digest 2011.06:
We study evolutionary games in which the rest points of the evolutionary dynamic cluster in connected components, focusing on what we call the Resource Game as a canonical example. The long-term outcome in such games can depend critically on second-…
- Going to Extremes – by Tina Rosenberg, Team @ Foreign Policy:
Why Muslim fundamentalists may be our best hope for stopping terror.
- Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality, Team @ Complexity Digest 2011.06:
What is morality? Where does it come from? And why do most of us heed its call most of the time? In Braintrust, neurophilosophy pioneer Patricia Churchland argues that morality originates in the biology of the brain. She describes the "neurobiological platform of bonding" that, modified by evolutionary pressures and cultural values, has led to human styles of moral behavior. (Read more…)
- Lisa Gansky: The future of business is the "mesh", Team @ Complexity Digest 2011.04:
At TED@MotorCity, Lisa Gansky, author of "The Mesh," talks about a future of business that’s about sharing all kinds of stuff, either via smart and tech-enabled rental or, more boldly, peer-to-peer. Examples across industries — from music to cars — show how close we are to this meshy… TED.com