flwyd: (currency symbols)
During Mitt Romney's concession speech, as he was thanking all his classes of supporters, he euphemistically said "job creators." Something about the way he said it gave me a flash of insight:

The political dialog about how to grow the economy and reduce unemployment has been largely focused around people who hire other people. But a political economic policy which focuses only on employers ignores the balance of economic activity. You can give all the corporate tax breaks and hiring incentives you want, but if there's no demand for the company's products, they're not going to create any jobs. In order to create American jobs, we need to foster an environment of a demand for products and services that Americans are best fit to provide.

Romney engaged in a lot of anti-China economic grandstanding during the election. Instead, China's vast stockpile of dollars could be a boon to American job creation if we can start selling more things that China wants to buy.

Both parties positioned themselves as in favor of private sector "job creators." Yet government has an immense role to play in job creation. Most directly, government hires a lot of people. The Department of Defense is the world's largest "job creator" with over 3 million employees and probably hundreds of thousands of indirect contractors. Government also creates jobs indirectly. Changes in regulation can increase or decrease demand for products and services. Strong public health leads to more productive people with more disposable income. Transportation projects help get products to places where people want to buy them. Taxes and government regulation can get in the way of economic growth and job creation. But so can reckless cuts to taxes (and therefore government activities) and regulation. When you consider the balance of supply and demand, even prisoners are job creators: by locking up millions of our citizens, we create jobs for tens of thousands of prison guards.

There's a final irony in the focus on job creation. The default political view is that the United States is no longer a manufacturing leader. In fact, the U.S. makes and exports more stuff than any other country in the world, including China. But in the last 40 years or so, American manufacturing has become very automated. A couple people and a few complicated machines today do the work of a thousand factory workers in the 1960s. Neither a hiring incentive nor a corporate tax break will lead to the factory rehiring all 1000 people: there wouldn't be enough for them to do. In many industries, "job destruction" has led to major gains in productivity and profit.

The contradiction of modern America is that we're an incredibly prosperous nation with an uncomfortably high unemployment rate. Our first challenge is to find a new way to productively engage millions of people. Our second challenge is to structure society such that you don't have to keep busy just to keep alive. In the 20th Century we learned that everyone can eat even if most people aren't farmers. In the 21st Century we need to learn how to help everyone thrive even if robots and programs do most of the work.
flwyd: (Trevor glowing grad macky auditorium)
Key takeaways from Intuition, Technology, and Communication at The 2010 Conference on World Affairs.

Intuition is a human skill for coming to a conclusion given all the varied data we've gathered. Technology provides us with a lot more data so hopefully humans can have better intuitions. For instance, a human with a laptop and a chess program can beat a chess supercomputer that a human alone cannot beat.

Intuitions are often culturally conditioned. American intuition when the phone rings is to answer it. Russian (Soviet?) intuition when the phone rings is not to, because it's probably someone who wants you to fix something.

The most useful recordings for building Roger Ebert's new TTS voice were commentary tracks from DVDs. Future movie commentaries will literally be recycled from his old movie commentaries.

There are TTS systems that let you add markup for inflection, but it makes typing even slower, you'll far further behind in the conversation. What if there were Unicode characters that indicated sense and emotion? ;-) is okay at indicating irony and ALL CAPS can do emphasis, but there's a lot more nuance that could be added.

Some of the best writers are lousy face-to-face conversationalists.
flwyd: (spam lite)
Which is weirder? You can buy a taser that plays mp3s and an iPod-integrated George Foreman grill. And you thought you had to jog in order to listen to music and cut fat.
flwyd: (Trevor shadow self portrait)
Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] slyviolet for alerting me to a wearable I Ching hexagram generator. I wonder if I could convince them to make a hat...

Active Listening

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007 05:52 pm
flwyd: (bad decision dinosaur)
I've had the same cheap pair of earbud headphones at work for almost four years. Every day I bring 8 CDs to work and can often gauge my productivity (or at least the level of external distractions) by how many I listen to through the course of the day. As I'm lost in thought or plowing through code, I often chew on the wire leading to the right earbud.

Today, all that chewing has crossed a threshold. When I started listening to music, only the left channel came through. I found that I could usually jostle the wires a bit to get the right channel to come in, but if I left the wire hanging, my arms would soon bump it and the right would cut out again. But if I put the right wire in my mouth, when it cut out I could usually fiddle with it between my tongue and teeth to bring the music back. So the likely original source of the problem is also the easy solution to the problem!

On a related note, does anyone know how to set the balance of audio output using ALSA? GNOME doesn't seem to provide a setup view to do it and the ALSA command-line and ncurses interfaces don't seem to give me the ability to balance all the way to the left.

But Why?

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007 05:39 pm
flwyd: (bad decision dinosaur)
A fiendishly clever pun is now the title of my friends' page: Voyeurs to the Center of the Navel.

Maypole syrup would certainly be an aphrodisiac. Practice safe eating, always use condiments.

And in case that's not worthy of a post in itself, Slashdot brings us this article:
Patent documents for the design describe it as notches "formed in a road surface so as to play a desired melody without producing simple sound or rhythm and reproduce melody-like tones".

There are three musical strips in central and northern Japan - one of which plays the tune of a Japanese pop song. Notice of an impending musical interlude, which lasts for about 30 seconds, is highlighted by coloured musical notes painted on to the road.

Unless a pop song has the genius of, say, The Beatles, its life expectancy is far less than a highway. So this is a highway project which is mildly amusing for a few years at 28 MPH with windows up and thoroughly annoying in all other situations. Don't the Japanese have world-domination robots to be building, or something?

And it's not too early to get your Cthulhu for President 2008 merchandise. Why vote for the lesser evil?
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