Oil Cars; Lobbyists and Net Neutrality; Robots and Jobs; Hydrogen

View from Chaos Manor, Wednesday, February 25, 2015


We have not seen it officially but Tom Wheeler and his FCC seem full bent to give us Obamanet, a fully regulated Internet. If we can be sure of one thing, it is that regulators regulate. They have to justify their high salaries and pensions. Don’t be surprised if in future you have to go through Google or Yahoo if you want to start a web page. I know that sounds absurd, but it’s an easy prediction. Why should you be able to take up public resources without permission from someone?

Net Neutrality is put forth as a battle between Big Corporations vs. Big Government. But Big Government is responsive to Big Lobbying and Big Contributions, and Big Corporation gets a Big Say in what Big Government does. Elementary economics will teach you that the one common goal of all firms is to restrict entry into their line of business; the easiest way is to get Big Government to impose Big Regulations which require compliance officers and cost money making the cost of startup much greater. Adam Smith wrote about that…

So we wait to see what the Obamanet will look like. You won’t see it at first. The lobbyists haven’t had their shot.


Obama’s Oil-by-Rail Boom

Activists get their jollies blocking pipeline construction, but the crude still flows through your neighborhood.


Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.

Feb. 24, 2015 6:45 p.m. ET


It’s better to be lucky than good. President Obama, who arrived promising to heal the planet and halt the rising seas, instead presided over a fossil-fuel renaissance in America. If you were unemployed and found a decent job in Obama’s economy, there’s a good chance it was a fracking job. If things are finally looking up for the middle class, cheap gas is a major contributor.


The rest of this is worth reading. The Congress set a pipeline bill to the White House. President Obama vetoed it. That will not stop the oil: it will come by rail through your back yard. Have fun when an oil train derails.

During the week of Three Mile Island, coal train wrecks killed far more people than nuclear power ever has in the United States and Europe. That killed the nuclear power industry. Welcome to Obamarail.


Of course it’s still pledge week. if you haven’t subscribed, this is a great time to do it.  If you haven’t renewed in a while, this a great time to do that. I don’t ask for a lot, but I do have to get enough. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/paying.html

Go on, do it now while you’re thinking about it.


What Clever Robots Mean for Jobs

Experts rethink belief that tech always lifts employment as machines take on skills once thought uniquely human


Timothy Aeppel

Feb. 24, 2015 10:30 p.m. ET


CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Economist Erik Brynjolfsson had long dismissed fears that automation would soon devour jobs that required the uniquely human skills of judgment and dexterity.

Many of his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where a big chunk of tomorrow’s technology is conceived and built, have spent their careers trying to prove such machines are within reach.

When Google Inc. announced in 2010 that a specially equipped fleet of driverless Toyota Prius cars had safely traveled more than 1,000 miles of U.S. roads, Mr. Brynjolfsson realized he might be wrong.

* * *

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates , speaking in Washington last year, said automation threatens all manner of workers, from drivers to waiters to nurses. “I don’t think people have that in their mental model,” he said.

Robot employment

Gartner Inc., the technology research firm, has predicted a third of all jobs will be lost to automation within a decade. And within two decades, economists at Oxford University forecast nearly half of the current jobs will be performed with machine technology.

“When I was in grad school, you knew if you worried about technology, you were viewed as a dummy—because it always helps people,” MIT economist David Autor said. But rather than killing jobs indiscriminately, Mr. Autor’s research found automation commandeering such middle-class work as clerk and bookkeeper, while creating jobs at the high- and low-end of the market.

This is one reason the labor market has polarized and wages have stagnated over the past 15 years, Mr. Autor said. The concern among economists shouldn’t be machines soon replacing humans, he said: “The real problem I see with automation is that it’s contributed to growing inequality.”


There’s a lot more.

Moore’s Law is inexorable – at least as long as we are on the exponential part of the chip technology S – curve, and that will still be for a while. Every doubling doubles all of what went before. Within five years, I believe, nearly 50% of all jobs in the US can be done by a robot whose capital cost is about a year’s payments (including health care, unemployment insurance, and pension reserve payments) to the worker. The robot’s maintenance including human supervision will be no more than 10% of what the worker it replaces was costing. One worker will be able to supervise at least ten robots.

The schools, meanwhile, will continue to teach nothing that anyone would pay money to have done. Government will subsidize queer studies, voodoo social sciences, and various other studies programs, but taxpayers will be increasingly reluctant to pay for them. Of course they will be unhappy with economic inequality. They will insist on ending it, so they can continue to be paid to do voodoo – or paly Internet games.  Work is for idiots. Perhaps Moore’s Law will make it all possible.

That is the future I see coming. I can hope I am wrong.


Leo on Winbook and other matters

Definitely wouldn’t recommend the $59 Winbook for serious work. There’s so little free storage you can barely update it!

But the HP Stream – either tablet or notebook – are amazing devices for practically nothing.

As you know, Dragon relies on RAM and I’m guessing nothing that cheap will have sufficient RAM for reasonable performance. If it’s dictation you want get the new Dell XPS 13 with 8GB RAM. Now THAT’s an amazing machine – the best Windows laptop on the market and it starts at $800!

I think we have you booked soon – can’t wait!

All the best,


Leo Laporte, Chief TWiT


I appear to be booked for next Sunday TWIT, 3PM PST. I’ve got the Mac Book Pro set up to SKYPE.


Networks, signal and “Limited” access

> We have several because we have Ethernet-over-power-lines in several rooms. Modern portables are supposed to choose the best signal, and Precious chose the one with several bars that kooks to me like the best, but it was “limited”, meaning that it didn’t work at all.<
So, yes, the “several bars” is a measure of signal strength. But that’s not the whole story. There’s also whether or not the access point you’re speaking with knows how (or is willing) to let you talk to who you want to talk to.
For example, if you set up an access point, provide it with power, but then don’t connect it to the Internet, it might show up as having plenty of signal strength, but once you connect to it, you can’t get anywhere.
Alternately, perhaps the access point doesn’t want to permit you to go anywhere until you’ve clicked through some agreement page. (This is normal for things like public hotspots.) Until you’ve clicked through that agreement, the access point’s network won’t let you go anywhere interesting.
In both of these cases, it might let you go somewhere local (such as a page hosted by the AP itself, or perhaps somewhere on the local network), and Windows has no way of knowing if this is the case. So Windows just determines if it can get to the public Internet, and, if it can’t, it tells you “Well, shoot. We’re connected, but I can’t get anywhere I recognize. It’s…Limited.”

Michael Mol

Yes, I’ve done some more experimenting and I may have a reliable Wi-Fi for Precious; but I’ll be happier when we get the docking station and Ethernet connection. One less thing to worry about.



Meet the fast-charging, affordable ‘future’ car that Elon Musk hates (WP)

By Drew Harwell February 25 at 8:00 AM

Toyota this week officially rolled out what it’s betting will mark “a turning point” in automotive history — a sleek, affordable, eco-friendly “future” car that can drive for 300 miles, takes less than five minutes to charge and comes with three years of free fuel.

It’s everything haters of gas-guzzling car culture could love. And the biggest name in electric cars hates it.

Toyota’s Mirai (meaning “future” in Japanese) will be one of the first mass-market cars to run on hydrogen fuel cells, which convert compressed hydrogen gas to electricity, leaving water vapor as the only exhaust. As opposed to getting plugged in overnight, the sedan will need only about three minutes to get back to full charge, a huge boon for convincing the world’s drivers to convert to a cleaner ride.

But the green technology has found a surprisingly forceful critic in Elon Musk, the electric-car pioneer and founder of Tesla Motors, maker of battery-powered cars like the Model S. Musk has called hydrogen fuel cells “extremely silly” and “fool cells,” with his main critique being that hydrogen is too difficult to produce, store and turn efficiently to fuel, diverting attention from even better sources of clean energy.

“If you’re going to pick an energy source mechanism, hydrogen is an incredibly dumb one to pick,” Musk said last month in Detroit. “The best-case hydrogen fuel cell doesn’t win against the current-case batteries. It doesn’t make sense, and that will become apparent in the next few years.”

I used to be a hydrogen economy booster, but the damn stuff REALLY wants to escape; and it is VERY flammable. I wonder if it can be made safe at affordable prices. Hydrogen fuel cells are very efficient, but hydrogen is very volatile.

Elon Musk generally knows a lot about what he talks about; but Toyota is no slouch either.

Ain’t competition grand?


The most compelling MH370 story I’ve heard.


Roland Dobbins

Conspiracies sometimes work.  Most still believe Gary Powers was shot down, when he couldn’t have been. But they don’t work very often without someone talking.


Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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