phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer is an Internet enthusiast based in Troy, NY

The Trouble with the “uber for…” Economymedium.com

Zeynep Tufekci on the broader little-u “uber for ____” economy.

What if the reason Uber raises so much ire and anxiety is not about whether Uber, the company, fails its drivers better or worse than medallion owners fail their own drivers, but because the “uber for …” economy is threatening to make the lousy conditions for taxi drivers, once seen as a temporary job for first generation immigrants, into the jobs of the future?

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Economics of Climate Changewww.youtube.com

Mark Z. Jacobson, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford gave a talk at the New School in 2012 about the economics of renewable energy.

His part of the talk starts at 18:50.

Video

See also: his TED debate with Stewart Brand about nuclear energy.

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Renewables are winningwww.bloomberg.com

Bloomberg on some promising trends in U.S. energy production.

For the first time, widespread adoption of renewables is effectively lowering the capacity factor for fossil fuels. That’s because once a solar or wind project is built, the marginal cost of the electricity it produces is pretty much zero—free electricity—while coal and gas plants require more fuel for every new watt produced. If you’re a power company with a choice, you choose the free stuff every time.

It’s a self-reinforcing cycle. As more renewables are installed, coal and natural gas plants are used less. As coal and gas are used less, the cost of using them to generate electricity goes up. As the cost of coal and gas power rises, more renewables will be installed.

See also: a wonky financial analysis of the residential solar market.

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Random Darknet Shopperfusion.net

Kind of along the lines of Google Will Eat Itself, but for darknet goods:

An automated online shopping bot with a budget of $100 a week in Bitcoin, is programmed to do a very specific task: go to one particular marketplace on the Deep Web and make one random purchase a week with the provided allowance. The purchases have all been compiled for an art show in Zurich … the programmers came home one day to find a shipment of 10 ecstasy pills, followed by an apparently very legit falsified Hungarian passport.

The article is mainly concerned with the question of “is it legal?” This, to me, seems like a terrible metric for an art project.

Link via New Aesthetic

Doug Henwood vs. Adam Davidsonlbo-news.com

Last January Doug Henwood, one of my favorite lefty blogger-radio people, wrote a nasty response to Adam Davidson’s New York Times Magazine article on Wall Street:

For a while, I’ve been thinking about writing a piece on how NPR is more toxic than Fox News. Fox preaches to the choir. NPR, though, confuses and misinforms people who might otherwise know better. Its “liberal” reputation makes palatable a deeply orthodox message for a demographic that could be open to a more critical message.

The full critique will take some time. But a nice warm-up opportunity has just presented itself: a truly wretched piece of apologetic hackery by Adam Davidson, co-founder of NPR’s Planet Money economics reporting team, that appears in today’s New York Times magazine.

So I was excited to see that Davidson recently appeared on Henwood’s radio show, Behind the News:

Adam Davidson, host of NPR’s Planet Money and columnist for the New York Times Magazine, on finance, innovation, bourgeois ideology, journalism, and being mean on the Internet.

The discussion starts out with a lot of Henwood talking uninterrupted, and coming off a bit defensive, but then they get into an interesting big picture discussion about the nature of ideology in popular media. The blog post Henwood mentions in the introduction on Scott Walker’s victory in Wisconsin (and its follow-up) is also worthwhile.

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Luxury goods make you selfishwww.reuters.com

The students who viewed luxury goods were significantly more likely than the second group to endorse production of a new car that might pollute the environment, launch a new software with bugs, or market a video game that might induce violence, according to the study.

“Results … suggest that when primed with luxury, people endorsed self-interested decisions that could potentially harm others,” the researchers said in the study.

Link via Fiona Carswell

Cass Sunstein on group decision makingwww.econtalk.org

A little economics geekery on topics including the wisdom of crowds, futures markets and group deliberation. I was most interested in the deliberation part, which starts about 25 minutes in.

MP3 link

It’s even worse than garbage in, garbage out in deliberating groups. Typically some garbage in leads to more garbage out. So errors with respect to human cognition are frequently not just propagated in a deliberating group but actually amplified.

Often groups emphasize shared information at the expense of uniquely held information. So if you’re a deliberating group where a bunch of people actually know something, little bits of information that no one else has, those tend to play very little role in the deliberation. And the shared information, what everyone knows, that isn’t dispersed, that has the dominant role.

And this can get groups in big trouble where the uniquely held information, that is crucial, is downplayed or disregarded. And the deliberating group marches happily in the direction indicated by the shared information.

Link (See also)

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