Chaos Manor View, Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Today’s Wall Street Journal has an editorial page article, about the latest Nobel Prize in economics winner, Angus Deaton. http://www.wsj.com/articles/measuring-world-poverty-as-it-shrinks-1444692792 ; the prize is for finding ways to measure the extent of poverty in a world of rapidly rising technology. Deaton’s ideas on why poverty is shrinking – we’re down to 9.6% http://www.economist.com/news/finance-economics/21673530-number-poor-people-declining-data-are-fuzzy-tricky-work-measuring-falling worldwide — are in his major book,
The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality
Although poverty is shrinking, a great deal of attention has been given to income and wealth inequality in reviews of his works; Deaton himself says:
“Life is better now than at almost any time in history,” writes Mr. Deaton in the book’s opening. “More people are richer and fewer people live in dire poverty. Lives are longer and parents no longer routinely watch a quarter of their children die. Yet millions still experience the horrors of destitution and of premature death. The world is hugely unequal.”
The Economist article is a bit more “economic” rather than editorial, as might be expected.
The tricky work of measuring falling global poverty
THIS is the best news story in the world,” said Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, of the announcement this month that the proportion of the world living in poverty is now in single digits, at 9.6%. The claim has rekindled a long smouldering debate over the reliability of such statistics.
Counting the poor is no easy task. The Bank bases its poverty figures on household surveys, which are undertaken by developing countries every few years. In the years between surveys, the Bank takes the last set of survey figures and shrinks them by assuming that the fortunes of the poor improve at the national growth rate. But the benefits of economic growth in many developing countries often accrue to the rich. In India and China, inequality has been increasing in recent years. From 1981 to 2010, the average poor person in sub-Saharan Africa saw no increase in their income even as economies expanded. Because there is no household data since 2012, it is impossible to know if these trends towards greater inequality have since changed.
Still, there is more concern for rising inequality than joy over the fall in the number of those in poverty. The US defines poverty in percentages, not in the actual wealth of those “in” or “out” of poverty; and as far as I can see, virtually no one pays attention to something I pointed out fifty years ago in my Galaxy columns, and repeated in A Step Farther Out http://www.amazon.com/Step-Farther-Out-Jerry-Pournelle-ebook/dp/B004XTKFWW, technology gives to the poorest of us real choices not available to the wealthiest on Earth not all that long ago. Kipling’s wonderful; novel Captains Courageous http://www.amazon.com/Captains-Courageous-Rudyard-Kipling/dp/0486407861 which every school child once read with joy (and ought to be reading now, in my judgment) describes how a 1900 California railroad baron, one of the wealthiest men in the world, discovers that his formerly lost at sea son is alive and on the East coast; and how he takes his private train across country, at a frantic pace, to rush from San Francisco to Boston in a day or so; a feat no other man alive could have accomplished. Now any lower middle class father could do that.
When I was growing up, and just after I got out of the Army, I could and did hitchhike across the country; sometimes I was uncomfortable on the road in the middle of the night, but it only took me two days to get from New York to The University of Iowa, and the trip cost me nothing at all – indeed a truck driver bought me breakfast.
My income at the time was zero. I don’t know what the truck driver made, but the ratio of our incomes was infinite; yet I got to Iowa City as fast as Leland Stanford could have not many years before I set out on the George Washington bridge with a portable typewriter and a barracks bag – everything I owned.
I am over 80 and still have teeth. I have survived brain cancer thanks to radiation therapy. I have mostly recovered from a stroke last January, and I received no better treatment for that than would anyone else appearing in the Emergency Room at St. Joseph’s in Burbank. Back when I hitchhiked across country no person alive could have survived my brain cancer, or recovered from my stroke.
Yes, there are income discrepancies, and vast inequalities; but perhaps we should once in a while count our blessings, and contemplate the requirements of keeping what we have, and adding to the real opportunities we all are given, rather than resenting what we don’t have and the rich can afford. Civilization sometimes a delicate flower, and more easily killed than you might suppose. Ask anyone during the Thirty Years War in Europe; or ask any non Res Guard survivor of Mao’s various drives and campaigns; or those who lived under Stalin http://www.amazon.com/The-Harvest-Sorrow-Collectivization-Terror-Famine/dp/0195051807 .
No campaign for income equality could have given me teeth at 80, or survival from brain cancer at 77, when I was a young man hitchhiking across country to the State University of Iowa, where, incidentally, I got through without going into debt by working at various jobs including board jobs (no money paid) in Reich’s Café; impossible now for those not rich. Board jobs were outlawed by minimum wages. Minimum wages were imposed to help reduce inequality.
The number of people living in poverty is growing smaller. Much of that is due to technology giving us all, rich and poor, more choices, some of which were formerly impossible. I would bet that Moore’s Law has done more to reduce the number of people in poverty than all the wage regulations since the beginning of time.
Ginni Rometty: Forget digital—cognitive business is the future
A new era of cognitive business is here.
IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty said that a new technological era is upon us, one that marries digital business with digital intelligence. It’s what’s known as cognitive business.
“Digital is the wires, but digital intelligence, or artificial intelligence as some people call it, is about much more than that,” Rometty told Fortune Editor-in-Chief Alan Murray at the Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C. “This next decade is about how you combine those and become a cognitive business.”
“It’s the dawn of a new era,” said Rometty.
There’s a vast amount of information out there, from the Internet to your computer hard drive, but nearly 80% of that information has been invisible to systems and computers until now, explained Rometty. For instance, while there may be millions of songs and movies digitally stored, a computer hasn’t known what’s inside those files before today’s technological innovations.
Artificial intelligence has been around for decades but it hasn’t been until recently that its power’s been unleashed. IBM’s IBM -0.99% Watson is symbolic of this era and is able to demonstrate the power of digital intelligence, said Rometty. Systems can now understand, reason, and learn. See: Watson’s breath-taking performance on Jeopardy! in 2011 when it took down the gameshow’s top two contestants ever.
There’s still a long way to go before digital intelligence becomes the standard, but Rometty recommended five areas where a business can benefit now if it starts building a cognitive business:
1. Drive Deeper Engagement: Help clients behind the scene for better customer experience.
2. Scale Expertise: Companies spend lots of money training employees, this could be scaled more effectively.
3. Put Learning in Every Product: Build products that adapt to each consumer’s needs.
4. Change Operations: Streamline your supply chain to help margins.
5. Transform How You Do Discovery: From pharmaceuticals to financial industries, research will be the foundation of many many segments will work in the future.
“Instead of being disrupted, be the disrupter. I do it inside my own business,” said Rometty. “You will be the disrupter if you choose to do it.”
I bet she makes a lot more than the girl who cleans her floor and washes her dishes.
Re: A perspective on uncertainty and climate science
There was a guest post on Judith Curry’s blog a couple of days ago that was quite good (title & URL follow).
A perspective on uncertainty and climate science
“Word “around town” is that science is truth. Sorry to damp the zeal, but science is NOT truth. By definition, science equates to varying degrees of uncertainty, with hypotheses and theories bookending the uncertainty spectrum – to some, a rather boring outlook.”
“In time, it is not difficult to see how we come to believe the little fantasy world we have made for ourselves in attempt to make sense of nature’s vast stomping grounds.”
“The motivation for adjusting data is honest; at least we hope it is. A recent increase in the frequency of data adjustments in temperature trends has raised red flags, with findings of undocumented changes, questionable extrapolation practices, and computer-initiated “homogenization” changes made according to assumptions. Some argue that where assumptions might have trumped accuracy, the number of errors is so small as to not present a problem. Yet, it seems yesterday’s data sets showed variability over the years. Now the warm 1930’s and 1940’s have been erased, relegated to mythology. We shiver as we are told of the “warmest years on record” by hundredths of a degree, and with minor data re-calculations, “pauses” in observed temperature trends disappear overnight, and we are told to accept this, and we do, in light of all the uncertainties. Can this be???”
““Photo-journalism and social media have enhanced our understanding of the world. They bring to our eyes, and our hearts, the enormity of global changes that imperil our future.” This eloquent statement, said to me recently by an acquaintance, was followed by an attempt to boost the credibility of her words – “And I’m a Republican”! Yes, I understand the political framing, much as I rebel against it – as it has no place in science – but that is today’s reality. And she was on to something; indeed, photo-journalism and the power of social networking have scripted our perceptions and redesigned reality for our consumption. But, behind every photograph of a stranded polar bear, of mountain glaciers shrinking, of drought-ravaged landscapes, of tornado-inflicted devastation, of flooded neighborhoods, of pounding seas and calving glaciers, hurricane-pounded surfs and ice-locked shipping ports, our impulse to assign cause to effect confounds our ability to reason, to see the story behind the sensation.”
I can only hope this approach continues gathering steam enough to overwhelm the BS.
Every school child knows, or should know:
There were farms in Greenland and vines in Vinland during Viking times.
Cannon were brought across the frozen Hudson to General George Washington in Harlem heights in December, 1776.
The Hudson hasn’t frozen hard enough to walk on in over a hundred years.
No model we have predicts all these events.
Microsoft delivers new Windows 10 ‘Threshold 2’ test build for PC users (ZD)
Microsoft has made Windows 10 test build 10565 for PCs available to Windows Insiders on the Fast Ring.
Microsoft released a new Windows 10 Insider Preview build — No. 10565 — to PC testers on the Fast Ring on October 12.
The previous build on my Surface Pro 3 was 10547; 10565 is installing now.
The Aviationist » No, the Turkish Air Force has not shot down a Russian aircraft near the Syrian border (at least, not yet)
The reports of a shoot down might be exaggerated or just premature.
We don’t seem to be at war yet.
How to Detect Killer Asteroids.
Subj: NK can hit US with LR nuclear missile
Among other things, the Chinese aid proves that NK is intended to distract us from the other things China is doing.
We have no SAC but the boomers patrol the seas… Of course they cannot fight a war so much as wreak terrible vengeance.
Education: It Mostly Doesn’t
Most jobs only require a basic solid high-school level education, and a lot of people are simply unsuited for high levels of academic achievement.
As far as public education goes, the major factors are:
1. The native ability of the student
2. The socioeconomic status of the parents
3. The socioeconomic status of the other children in the school.
That’s it. Throwing money at administrators and fancy buildings etc., having teachers with PhDs in education etc. does basically nothing.
However, this simple reality has been clouded by vested interests.
Wages and living standards are headed down, because of too rapid immigration (nobody beats the law of supply and demand, not even PhDs), outsourcing industries to low-wage countries, and bailing out Wall Street and starving real productive enterprises of investment. But this doesn’t sound good, so the rich often blame the schools: ‘oh we have to import foreign workers because the American schools are so bad that there aren’t enough skilled American workers’ (hahaha). ‘The inner cities aren’t failing because there are no jobs and no money, no, it’s because the schools are so bad.’ etc.
However, the educational bureaucracies and unions have bought into this. They like promoting the fantasy of teacher-as-miracle-worker who can magically transform ordinary people into the next Einstein and single-handedly turn East St. Louis into Geneva Switzerland.
And in the short run the educational mafias made some bucks off this fantasy. They got big raises and lot of plum administrative jobs (where you don’t even have to do any of that grubby teaching stuff).
But now the bills are coming due. Having claimed that schools are more important than they really are, now teachers are having to take responsibility for what is really not their fault. The inner cities still failing? Facebook still wanting to replace its entire workforce with H1Bs? It must be the fault of the schools! It must be the fault of the teachers!
Too late, as their unions are broken and public funds are diverted to private or charter schools, teachers must be realizing what a toxic bargain they made when they joined with big business in blaming so many of our societal ills on the schools…
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.