Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I'm More Optimistic But It's Gonna Take Change

David Atkins seems a little oddly pessimistic in this post.  On the one hand he is very correct about the progress of technology and what it will be able to do in the future.  On the other he seems to ignore that a future in which all jobs are performed by machines is one in which either people must either all be enjoying immense prosperity or we are hiding from the robot death machines that are keeping insurrection in check (whether they are controlled by an AI or the future's 1% is kind of irrelevant).

While there are times I feel like the doomsday scenario is where we are headed, mostly I don't.  There are a few reasons for that, some positive some negative.  Let's start with the negative...

I don't know that we will really develop machines/software that can truly replace human creativity.  It could be our limit, or that we realize it is a bad idea (more likely the former).  I mean AI's will either enslave or kill us.  It is the sensible thing to do.  Whether our history is actually one of violence and destruction interspersed with periods of peace and prosperity, or the other way around doesn't matter much because our current trend is not good.  Particularly with respect to...

...Global warming, which will vastly change how we live on this planet over the coming decades.  Peoples will move, starve, thirst, die, and wars will start.  Or we will resolve all these issues via a combination of technological development and a vast, global political force for good that sees that that development is distributed to maximize the aid to humanity. (Stop laughing!)

On a more positive note there is the fact that if you replace all people in the workforce with machines: who buys the products the machines make?  In that world either governments/corporations would need to ensure that somehow the bulk of the population had the wherewithal to consume, or the wealthy could move to enclaves where the rabble couldn't kill them.

In reality I suspect that we will not approach any of these things (except global warming which we can't stop at this point and so will have to deal with).  If machines displace enough middle class the economy will suffer so there will be less impetus for further development.  There could be an asymptotic approach, but I think we would find there are local minima/maxima that would really require some heft to get past, and in our current political state we're nowhere close to having it.

I think in the US we will mostly be not as well off as we would like--with the wealthy being increasingly distant from the others--but still sufficiently comfortable that revolution doesn't really happen.

I'm not sure that is really optimism, but it isn't the downward spiral or killer robots of doom so it's something.

Monday, August 18, 2014


We were planning on waiting on getting a new dog until after a bit of travel coming up, but a "Puppy Adoption" sign put an end to that thinking.  We adopted Ripley--nominally a border collie/lab mix, but who knows for sure (or really cares)--took him home and really pissed off the cats.

New puppy, day 1:

Day 2: ~26 hrs later he vomited everything he had eaten that day and a few hours after that at about 2:30 am he woke us up with very vile smelling bloody diarrhea.  Now we know what an intussusception is.  He had parvo, which is likely contributor to getting the intussusception, and the surgery alone was $4k.  I don't know what kind of person it takes to choose to put a puppy down (or let it die) rather than fork over the $4k for the life saving surgery, but I know I'm not that kind of person.  So he is now Ripley, as in "Believe it or not this puppy was $5000!".

He is doing quite well now--staples out and back to eating anything he can get in his mouth...and still pissing off the cats by his mere presence.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

But you don't need that much!

I find retirement calculators like this one (I know, CNN's crappy Money section again) incredibly frustrating. The single biggest issue goes to methodology where (burried) you can find:
We then assume you can live comfortably off of 85% of your pre-retirement income. So if you earn $100,000 the year you retire, we estimate you will need $85,000 during the first year of retirement. For each subsequent year, we increase your income need by 2.3% to keep up with inflation...
Here's the problem: what you need and what you earn don't scale this way.  Someone making $50k/year at 35 who has a house and kids, is someone who, may be making $100k in 30 years, but who, at that time could well have a paid off house and grown kids they are no longer paying for.  No fucking way does that person need $85k/year (plus inflation) to retire on!  What you need in retirement is only a large fraction of what you earned if you still have lots of debt.  But anyone with that level of debt probably isn't a candidate for this calculator, as they probably can't afford to put away the 15%+ of their income necessary to have a secure retirement!  The whole thing is just fucked.

No matter how much you earn, if you can actually manage to put $1-2 million into retirement, own your residence, and be otherwise debt free at retirement, then that'll be plenty.  There are people who don't believe that, but they are pretty much all delusional financial types.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Not Learning Good

I would have thought that after Hillary lost to Barack in 2008 she would have learned that the Democratic base likes their candidate to be less warmongery.  It even sounded like she had really come to see how badly flawed her judgement was on Iraq.  Guess not.  I really want to like Hillary, but it is exactly this kind of right-wing sounding militaristic crap that I find outrageous coming from anyone, much less a Democrat.  I hope that we get a better candidate on military/intelligence that can displace her.  What is more likely is that such a candidate would make her pull back and lots of people would believe she is less of a warmonger than she is.

She's probably worse than Obama...who, still dissapointingly, was not a whole lot better than Bush Jr.  Why the fuck can't we get a presidential candidate that doesn't want to arm and then bomb the hell out of the middle east?!?

Thursday, August 07, 2014

"We're F'd"

Probably.  Not a very happy read, this, mostly because no matter how scary the outlook I don't see us (US or globally) doing nearly enough to head off very bad things.  More, I'm not very confident in our being able to successfully deal with said very bad things when they arrive.

At a global level this is insane, and there is no reason we couldn't do something but at an individual level, it's just too hard and too expensive.  I would love to get off the grid and go carbon neutral, but it isn't very feasible.  For commuting: award winning SEPTA kind of sucks for me: too expensive and very inconvenient relative to driving, and the roads I would need to take are kind of dangerous for bicycling (plus riding 10 mi to work in the summer morning would leave me in such a state that no one would want to come near me for the rest of the day).  At home: solar/wind/etc plus the energy storage for load leveling is very expensive, and there isn't enough back from energy companies to offset by feeding the grid.

I think that there is basically no hope without a carbon tax--including gasoline--coupled with a massive [federal] push for renewable energy and more efficient use of that energy.  We need fully electric transportation with more mass transit.  We need more efficient heat pumps.  We need a smarter, more efficient grid.

I suspect we will have most of those things eventually, but I also suspect it will be too late.

Monday, August 04, 2014

How Anti-Torture of Him

What Digby said.

So the president called torturers patriots at a press conference yesterday.  Yea, we'll never torture anyone ever again, thanks to how well President Obama has handled things.  I mean, if you torture someone, then a future president (and Nobel peace laureate), after admitting it was torture and saying it was horribly wrong, will then call you a patriot!  How will you be able to look yourself in the mirror after that?!?  Or, really, after torturing people, but let's not ignore the way that you will be publicly ridicule-praised.  The Shame!

Why can't we have good Democrats politicians people?