2015 October 04 Sunday
Ross Douthat Asks: Is Putin Winning?

Ross Douthat takes a look at Russia's widening intervention in Syria from a distinctly American elite perspective. Lots of nuance here as usual. But he does not get to the meat of the matter and I disagree in a big way with his conclusion:

... what’s closer to his grasp is something more destructive — a wrecker’s legacy, not Peter the Great’s, in which his own people gain little from his efforts, but the world grows more unstable with every move he makes.

The far more powerful United States already has a wrecker's legacy in the Middle East. The US invasion of Iraq resulted in ISIS slavery, ethnic slaughter, and crucifixions in Iraq and Syria with at least half of Iraq's Christians fleeing and Syrian Christians major shafted. The support Obama and Hillary Clinton showed for Arab Spring has resulted in Libya fragmented into warring tribal regions. We have gained nothing for our efforts and racked up huge losses. Obama's policies (or MSM punditry) show little sign of having learned anything important from all these disasters and policy failures

Make no mistake: US military intervention in and around the Middle East is a failure. Ross' own employer has gems like "Caught off guard by the Taliban's capture of an entire city in northern Afghanistan" and "They are just not fighting well". Did the US government expect them (Afghan government soldiers) to fight well? Same question about soldiers in Iraq and Syria trained by the US.

Think about it. America's military interventions in the Middle East are a disaster. America's goals in Syria are lunacy. Against this background how are Vladimir Putin's interventions going to play a wrecking role? The wrecking is already in full swing.

To see why Putin isn't going to wreck a good outcome first understand how constrained the realistic list of potential outcomes are and why. Here are four realistic posts about Syria from Anatoly Karlin. As his posts make evident, the topics you most need to learn about to understand US foreign policy failures in the Middle East are outside the bounds of what our MSM and foreign policy elite find acceptable for consideration.

A secular united democratic state equally protective of the rights of all citizens is not one of the potential futures in Syria. The beliefs and loyalties of people in Syria's main ethnic groups (especially the Sunnis) preclude that. We should approach Syria by asking how bad does its future have to be and what lesser evil outcome might be achievable. One problem is that the various factions do not trust each other with good reason. The largest ethnic group (Sunni Muslims) would surely shaft the rest of them if it came into power. Democratic rule is Sunni rule in Syria just as it is Shia rule in Iraq.

A Sunni government in Damascus would be worse than the Shia government in Baghdad toward its own Sunni minority. It is telling that ISIS, a Sunni group, has the most territory among the Sunni factions and its rule is horrible from a human rights standpoint. Child sex slaves anyone?

US policy has failed. By contrast, suppose Putin moderately succeeds in bucking up Assad's government in Damascus. Who benefits? Almost anyone in Syria who isn't a Sunni Muslim. Assad's government before the uprising was better than what is likely to replace it. Christians were in far better shape under Assad and Saddam Hussein than they are today in most of Syria and Iraq. This is rarely mentioned in the MSM. It is too counter-narrative. Christians today might be better off in the Kurdish zone of Iraq (which is de facto a separate state from the Baghdad government) than they were under Saddam. I'm not sure on that point. Yezidis in Iraq: Well, a lot more were alive under Saddam and few if any were sex slaves. Saddam was better for the Yezidis. How about the Armenians in the middle of Syria? Definitely were better off under Assad before they became surrounded by ISIS.

The implicit assertion that since Putin is a problem for US policy in the Middle East he must be a problem for a good outcome in the Middle East is quite wrong. US policy in the Middle East is broken and intellectually and morally bankrupt. US policy makes no sense. Its continued failure in spite of a huge military technological advantage is a testament to its bankruptcy.

Iraq and Syria need partition into more viable ethnic states. If policy makers in Washington DC became more realistic I do not know if this is an achievable option. But a united Syria and united Iraq as secular liberal democracies isn't a realistic future possibility.

By Randall Parker 2015 October 04 01:21 PM 
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2015 October 03 Saturday
International Cooperation Blossoms In Syria

First we had this: America's partner/ally/client Iraq (should I say Shia Iraq) is allying with other Shia states against Sunnis.

Iraq says it has reached a deal to share intelligence with Russia, Iran and Syria in the fight against ISIS militants.

Four countries learning to share and work together. International intra-ethnic cooperation is still possible.

But the Shia support comes from Lebanon and Afghanistan as well. Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, Iraqi Shiite militias, Afghan Shiite militias, and Iran government fighters are all coming together to fight on Assad's side with Russian air support.

I count Shia from 5 countries plus the help of Russian bombers and likely Russian soldiers on the ground fighting for the Alawites and Shiites. The Christians might benefit from the Russian presence. The Kurds might benefit too.

I bet many Sunnis and Sunni governments will be inspired to respond in kind.

As Anatoly Karlin points out with an ethnic map of Syria, the Syrian civil war is a war between ethnic and religious groups. Karlin also gets into why Arab armies perform so poorly.

I think the Shiite coalition is reasonable. The non-Sunnis do not want to be ruled by the Sunnis. The Sunnis think they've got God on their side. So do the Shias. What would be reasonable: partition Syria into ethnic states. The Kurds and Christians would certainly be better off and so would the Alawites.

By Randall Parker 2015 October 03 08:23 PM 
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2015 October 01 Thursday
Beheadings And Sex Slaves As Recruiting Tools

Doing it on Facebook. How ISIS recruits teens in America and other Western countries.

Beheadings communicate a form of validation to recruits, a demonstration of the unrivaled power of the new caliphate. In addition, some analysts see the group’s open trade in sexual slaves as a blatant and cynical recruitment tactic to increase the ranks of young male volunteers.

Seen in this light Mark Zuckerberg's efforts extend internet access to billions more people is great news for ISIS. Every new member of Facebook is another target for recruiting.

One might argue that we shouldn't let into America the sort of people who recruit for Jihad. But if one makes that sort of argument then one is clearly out of step with our elites. What our elites have gotten us into:

The FBI acknowledges that it has active investigations of Islamic extremists under way in all 50 states.

By Randall Parker 2015 October 01 09:01 PM 
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2015 September 27 Sunday
5 Education Policy Proposals By Education Realist

Start here.

To give you a sense of what you are in for and how badly government has messed up schools: Education Policy Proposal #2: Stop Kneecapping High Schools

Our national education policy has led to an absurd paradox: colleges charge students full freight tuition for a suite of remedial classes that high schools are effectively banned from offering for free.

The ban is most noticeable in math. Some examples: In 1997, Chicago Public Schools wanted all freshmen to take algebra, so all remedial and pre-algebra classes were dumped., giving students and their counsellors no other options. A decade ago, Madison, Wisconsin did the same thing. California effectively banned pre-algebra in high school by docking test scores of students who weren’t taking algebra in 8th grade (drop one score category) or, god forbid, 9th grade (drop two score categories).

It boggles the mind. So a 90 IQ kid who is never ever going to understand algebra shows up in freshman year of high school and gets put in a class they have no chance of passing. There is no easier to class for them. They won't be taught useful skills they can actually understand. Gotta take Algebra I. This is what left-liberalism has degenerated to. This is what passes for progressive educational thinking in America in 2015. How utterly intellectually bankrupt.

At some point in the next 10 years the whole intellectual edifice of liberal doctrine collapses as scientists develop a much better understanding of how genes control the brain's development and determine its capabilities and tendencies. I'm really looking forward to that collapse. But before that happens we have to watch The Camp Of The Saints in reality. Tragic.

By Randall Parker 2015 September 27 07:31 PM 
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Why Prison Populations Grew

The "war on drugs" theory is a libertarian fantasy explanation. It neatly sidesteps the problem of violent men.

The fact of the matter is in today’s state prisons, which hold about 90 percent of all of our prisoners, only 17 percent of the inmates are there primarily for drug charges. And about two-thirds are there for either property or violent crimes.


Well, the real growth in the prison population comes from county-level district attorneys sending violent people to prison.

This does not fit #TheNarrative. Yet there it is in Slate. Go figure.

I think we should consider colonies rather than prisons as ways to separate the violent and the sexual predators from the rest of us. Take pedophiles for example. Imagine Pedophile Island. A population with no children. Women would only be allowed on the isand if they were sterile. So no babies. Lots of former Catholic priests would be on hand to give religious communion. So there'd be an active religious community.

By Randall Parker 2015 September 27 03:53 PM 
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2015 September 26 Saturday
When Each US County Hit Peak Median Income

See the color-coded map of when various US counties hit peak median income.

Lots of interesting patterns. Western New York State peaked in 1969. Once factory jobs got automated smart folks set up businesses more more appealing climates. Also, most of the Western United States peaked before the East. The oil boom and crop demand boom lifted the plains states to make them later peakers. Also, the Washington DC elite growth made the DC beltway counties very late peakers.

What else? Miami obviously hasn't benefited from vibrant diversity. It is in a very early peaking region. Hover over each county. LA for example:

The inflation-adjusted median household income in Los Angeles County, Calif., peaked in 1989 at $65,688.

California as a whole peaked in the early 1990s. So did New York State.

Automation is going to devastate demand for labor from the left side of the IQ bell curve. So this picture is going to become more grim. The industrial revolution's next phase has little use for the sorts of low skilled laborers who found bountiful employment during the early and mid stages of the rise of the machines. Since immigration is flooding the US job market with more low skilled people to chase after dwindling physical labor jobs that makes the outlook even worse for the lower classes.

Maybe I should change my blog's subtitle to "Documenting the decline".

By Randall Parker 2015 September 26 12:41 PM 
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2015 September 20 Sunday
Prisoners Accumulating Debt Per Day Incarcerated

Some state and local governments are trying to bill inmates for the costs of incarceration. Some jurisdictions go even further with billing for court costs and medical costs.

This brings up an interesting topic: What is the income level of the average person when they are convicted of a crime? People who make their living off of off-the-books criminal activity probably aren't making much money. How many criminals are high income? Surely some white collar Wall Street criminals have deep enough pockets to pay all their incarceration costs. But lots of these prisoner incarceration debts go unpaid.

But I think this idea of accumulating costs to society has a lot of potential. Do the same for welfare recipients and those who get subsidies for medical insurance and housing. Start summing up the total costs per person and per family. It does not even have to be sent for collection. It just has to be made public, aggregated, sliced and diced. What does the average 16 year old pregnant girl cost the rest of us? Track and accumulate their costs to us.

The same could be done with immigrants, legal and illegal. Collect data on their educational level, country of origin, educational level. While we already know that there is heavy welfare use by legal immigrants the devil is in the details. Which legal (or illegal) immigrants are the worst? Which are the best?

By Randall Parker 2015 September 20 11:54 AM 
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2015 September 15 Tuesday
Japan Labor Shortage From Aging Population Boosts Robots

Great news from Japan.

“The labor shortage is such an acute issue that companies have no choice but to boost efficiency,” says Hajime Shoji, the head of the Asia-Pacific technology practice at Boston Consulting Group Inc. “Growth potential is huge.” By 2025, robots could shave 25 percent off of factory labor costs in Japan, according to the consulting firm.

With a much smaller population of low skilled workers the United States could have been an even bigger innovator in robotics. But hopefully the big push to raise minimum wage to $15 per hour (why not $20!) will give American businesses the incentives they need to develop robots.

In our robotic future I expect an even bigger acceleration of the global decline in support for democracy. Support is even declining in the United States. The people with stagnating incomes think the system no longer works for them. The cognitive and financial elites feel more separated and feel less shared common interest with voters in poorer towns. If you are making your living selling high end stuff to cognitive elites around the globe then the more the income and trade takes place within the global upper class the less they feel loyalty to any one elected national government.

Click thru and read the article. Over 40% of the top quintile would like a leader who is unaccountable to Congress or elections. Wow. The neoreactionaries who favor a return to monarchy aren't as fringe as I thought. The challenge is going to be how to select a competent and correctly motivated dictator.

By Randall Parker 2015 September 15 07:31 PM 
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2015 September 13 Sunday
Robot Nation: Has Needed Broad Bipartisan Support

Yet more reason why I keep getting more optimistic about the future of robots in the American workforce: Even a majority of Republicans favor a policy that will boost the spread of robots.

Nine-in-ten Democrats surveyed backed a minimum wage increase, but support among Republicans was more divided, with 53% supporting an increase and 43% opposed.

The theory is that a higher minimum wage will stop the decline in wages of the cognitively less able. But that trend (see below) will only be strengthened by higher minimum wage.

Rising Earnings Disparity Between Young Adults with And Without a College Degree

That graph really drastically understates the size of the earning power gap between levels of cognitive ability. College grads cover a wide IQ range and also a wide range in innate motivation, social skills, and degree of development of commercially useful skills. Engineers making over $100k and even over $200k are the norm in some areas, notably Silicon Valley. We need another graph line for degrees in engineering, computer science, and mathematical disciplines.

There are great benefits for the cognitively more able from a $15 per hour minimum wage. The most obvious benefit: Fewer illegal immigrants when demand for their low-skilled labor collapses. This will slow the growth of America's (quite socially pathological) lower classes.

But there is another benefit that might end up mattering even more in the long run: higher quality goods and services. Services will be delivered faster and better by the robots of 2030 and 2040. Imagine a robotic hair cutter than cuts your hair in about 2 minutes. Or a robotic chef that enables a cheap fast food restaurant to serve high quality cuisine. Or cheap, prompt, and very safe robotic taxis. And of course there is the long awaited robotic home cleaning maid. My hope is that the Dyson Eye 360 will provide a much better solution for the vacuuming part of that problem.

The Moore's Law doublings of computer power are doing more to usher in the robotics age than any government policy. But a $15 per hour minimum wage (and why not $20?) could make each step in robotic advancement happen a few years sooner.

By Randall Parker 2015 September 13 10:46 AM 
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2015 September 12 Saturday
Europe Can Not Afford The Refugee Immigrants

Remember the recent #Grexit crisis. It isn't over. Greece is not the only sick man of Europe. The most skilled people in Europe aren't making many babies and the populations of skilled people are aging and shrinking. Their governments are in deep financial trouble as this OECD sovereign debt table shows.

This problem will only be made worse by a large influx of people who lack significant intellectual capital. In America those kinds of immigrants make heavy use of the welfare system. Same thing is happening in a Europe which is headed for more sovereign debt crises. The European welfare state can't fund their aging population already. Throw in a lot more welfare recipients, many of whom aren't really compatible with Western liberalism, and you get conditions that are both financial and cultural disasters.

Here is one measure of the financial disaster: The European welfare states spend more per refugee:

International support for countries bearing the greatest refugee burden also makes economic sense: it costs Jordan about €3,000 ($3,350) to support one refugee for a year; in Germany, the cost is at least €12,000.

But of course the heart wants what it wants. The heart thinks it can get what it wants. So increasingly crazier ideas get turned into public policy. We are still in the mass elite delusion period of Western industrialism. So Europe's rulers will continue in their folly.

I believe the delusion period will end. The cracks are starting to show. The intensity of doctrine enforcement is a sign of weakness, not strength. They need to ratchet up enforcement. Scientific advances will eventually cause at least a weakening in the reigning ideology. Heresies will arise. Will a new ideology form? Or will we enter a more rational period?

Update: Obviously a new lower class living off of already overburdened welfare states isn't the only problem the refugees pose for Europe. I see a few other problems. Lets take a look at the future of Germany.

An obvious problem which Angela Merkel seems to willfully ignore: The Mohamed Atta phenomenon. Take a guy who can't make the grade sufficiently well to feel really successful. Atta lost one job by getting replaced by CAD software. How many will get laid off by automation in Europe in the coming years? How about draftsmen, taxis, truck drivers, cooks, and other jobs some Syrians will get in Germany. Then the layoff comes (assuming they get jobs in the first place). Frustration. Feelings of inadequacy. Surrounded by successful members of a different group. Different ethnically, religiously. Resentment. Jealousy. Then stir up a feeling of grievance (SJWs and radical Islamic preachers will help). Islam will channel the grievance. What do you get? Dead terrorist victims. You also get Social Justice Warriors arguing that the victims are to blame for creating a society where the terrorist came to feel so aggrieved and angry and bound for glory.

Then there is the Rotherham grooming problem. You can't expect Leftist governments to protect the natives from the predators. The fail is huge.

Then we come to support for Sharia Law among Muslims living in Europe. Do the Germans want to live under Islamic law? More here. I'm opposed.

So what's playing out in Europe is folly.

By Randall Parker 2015 September 12 10:40 PM 
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2015 September 10 Thursday
NY Governor Andrew Cuomo Favors Pro-Robots Policy

Does Andrew Cuomo think he can boost investment in NY state robotics companies? New York governor pushes for $15 statewide minimum wage.

$15 per hour minimum wage will so slash demand for illegal immigrant labor that the US government will seek to grant them all instant eligibility to an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and more welfare benefits. Otherwise illegal aliens won't have sufficient incentive to move to America.

On the bright side, I'm looking forward to restaurants staffed by robotic cooks which can cheaper cook up much higher quality food for the same price as current fast food fare.

A $15 minimum wage passed in one state will be very educational for anyone who doesn't mind real evidence of causes and effects.

By Randall Parker 2015 September 10 09:02 PM 
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2015 September 04 Friday
Immigrant Flood, Declining Low End Wages, Higher Min Wage

We live in amazing times. America is being flooded by immigrants, mostly illegals. Their use of welfare benefits (paid for by the rest of us) is higher than natives at all educational levels. Is it any wonder that with the mainstream media promoting open borders that people are turning to Donald Trump no matter how many times the MSM dissing him?

Then there is the drive to raise minimum wage. It is a policy which is being promoted by the Left but whose biggest effects will actually work out to benefit people on the political Right. High minimum wage will speed up technological changes that will enable the cognitive elite to more thoroughly isolate themselves from the left half of the IQ Bell Curve. It will also slash demand for the low skilled illegal immigrants that much of the Left is so eager to flood the country with.

With so many governmental institutions coming out in favor of policies to speed autonomous vehicle development and policies to speed robotics development it is any surprise that the NY Times editorial board has come out in favor of a $15 per hour minimum wage? Think about how many fast food restaurant owners this sends a signal to.

This policy will produce new winners and losers. Consider fast food franchises. I am figuring that between sandwiches, burgers, burritos, tacos, and pizza one of them is much more amenable to robotic preparation than the others. My guess: pizza followed by burritos. But we might see new fast foods come to the fore just because they are easy to automate. The new automat Eatsa could be a winner. However, while the automat format seems set to grow it is far from clear that the Eatsa quinoa dishes are the best for full automation.

The winning fast food companies will be the ones who can automate years sooner. The losers will be driven from the field at $15 per hour minimum wage (along with a substantial portion of the high school drop-outs who are still working). Though the more adaptable will change their menus to switch to food that can be prepared by robots.

A big rise in minimum wage will slam into a labor market spoiled by a flood of compliant and cheap illegal aliens. In an article in The Atlantic (which predictably makes no mention of immigration's impact on labor supply and wages) this sentence leaps out: from 2009 to 2014 the pay of these low skilled occupations dropped 8.9%. Already most of the least skilled and least intelligent do not have jobs. The ones that have jobs are getting paid less and less.

Those who work as janitors, cooks, housekeepers, and home health aides had their real wages drop the most, as much as 8.9 percent

I'm thinking at $15 per hour minimum wage the next gen of autonomous floor cleaning machines will look a lot more attractive. Good for the robot makers.

America's elite has set us up to be major shafted by their immigration policies of the last few decades. Our future labor force doesn't have the right stuff: SAT scores at lowest level in 10 years, fueling worries about high schools.

Americans live in a country with an incredibly irresponsible ruling elite. But their crazy ideas on minimum wage could work wonders in spite of their motivations for pushing it.

By Randall Parker 2015 September 04 09:38 PM 
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2015 September 01 Tuesday
Uber Class Action Suit Great News For Autonomous Vehicle Development

A pair of news articles tell the tale of how a US District Judge in SF is spurring Uber to speed up autonomous vehicle development: Uber drivers granted class action status in lawsuit over employment and Uber Loses Bid to Block Drivers From Suing as Group for Tips.

That's great news for those of us who want to hand the driving over to computers so we can spend our travel time on other activities. Plus it will make travel safer. While I'm usually opposed to federal meddling in business decision making in this case I'm pretty excited about the potential benefit.

Since truck driver is the top occupation in most states the impact of faster autonomous vehicle development will be even bigger in trucking. Uber could make some extra money licensing their self-driving tech the truck makers. Or Google or Apple or another company involved in development self-driving tech could license to truck makers. One way or another autonomous vehicle tech will come to jobs and the truck jobs will start getting phased out in the 2020s. What will the truck drivers do them? Libertarians think more people will get jobs as personal servants. But I expect home robotic chefs and robotic house cleaners will serve us, not humans.

I think Ford and other taxi makers ought to get a clue from this decision and decide to speed up their autonomous vehicle development as well. Think of it this way: people will travel more by taxi if the labor cost of the taxi driver is removed. That will mean more miles driven and so vehicles replaced more often with new vehicles. So higher car sales. That's great for Ford and GM. They ought to get those autonomous vehicles to market as soon as they can.

Also, if people don't have to drive their own cars they'll spend more time traveling in their own cars. So miles traveled per passenger will go up. Autonomous vehicles are a great deal for any vehicle makers who can manage to make the transition ahead of most of their competitors.

What is interesting about this development: political forces are lining up for autonomous vehicles just like for automated fast food restaurants and other low paid and low skilled occupations.

By Randall Parker 2015 September 01 08:49 PM 
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2015 August 29 Saturday
68% Of Californians Favor Incentive For Faster Robot Development

While a Washington state court rules in favor of faster robot deployment at SeaTac a much more impactful way to speed up robot development is taking shape in California. This is great because Californians have a ballot initiative system that gives them a very effective way to act on their preference:

Sixty-eight percent of California voters said they support the idea of a $15 minimum wage, according to a Field Poll released Thursday.

That's great news for robot start-ups. Venture capitalists hear the call! You can fund companies that can supply the big coming increase in demand for robots as food prep workers, janitors, security guards, and as workers in many other occupations.

The resulting mass unemployment (especially among the least skilled and least bright) will drive migration that will fall heavily on Republican states governed by cuckservatives who refuse to raise the minimum wage. Those states won't stay Republican of course.

On the bright side, quality of food at fast food places will improve because the robots will be able to do more complex and precise food prep. Also, the influx of low skilled immigrants will stop, at least in the states with $15 per hour minimum wage. The big drop in demand for low skilled workers will see to that.

The 21st century is going to be a very different place than the 20th century. Celebrate the upsides of what's in store.

Update: The national Democratic Party has come out for the biggest incentive for robotics development so far: $15 national minimum wage as a plank in their platform. Wow, that'd be great news for robot developers and software developers in general. Way more money would flow into autonomous vehicles, warehouse automation, fast food restaurant complete automation, security robots, retail store automation, automated delivery UAVs, automated hair cutters, automated nail polishers. What am I leaving out? Much better automated vacuums and floor cleaners. Automated home cooking machines. Autonomous lawn mowers and hedge clippers. What else?

We live in exciting times. The Democrats are bold in their efforts to speed up technological development and cut low skilled immigration. The Republicans (with the exception of Donald Trump) are total wimps in comparison.

Update: The National Labor Relations Board is also adding incentives for robot development by making franchise operators treat their employees like employees of the companies which grant the franchises. There is an obliviousness to their decision-making, much like the obliviousness of the movement to raise minimum wage to a high level in a country which has let tens of millions of low skilled illegal aliens to enter the country. All the happy talk about the potential of high minimum wage is built on false assumptions about the economy and technology. The advocates for higher labor prices are assuming there will be jobs for all the low skilled no matter what costs are placed on employers. But that's not in the cards in an era when computer technology is becoming advanced enough to take over many of the most menial physical tasks.

We are approaching a rude awakening about assorted ignored truths about human nature and about the potential for technology to replace the least mentally able workers. My guess is the awakening will be in full bloom by 2025 and perhaps then the Overton Window will start to move in a rational direction.

By Randall Parker 2015 August 29 09:39 AM 
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2015 August 19 Wednesday
Big Shake-Out Coming: Most Colleges Have Operating Losses

Most colleges are running at a loss.

Moody’s found that expenses are outpacing revenue at 60 percent of the schools it tracks even as many try to slash their way to balanced budgets, according to Fitzgerald.

The shift to online education will cut into smaller colleges especially.

What I'd do if I was operating a small college: Use online courses for lectures and allow students to take a large number of courses and give them tests and credit in the small college. Offer more classes and even more degrees by leaning on online resources to support an expansion of offerings.

A small college that sees itself as more of a tutoring, testing, and credentialing center could enable students to move thru courses at an accelerated pace and to fill in gaps between traditional semesters and trimesters with useful learning toward credits and degrees.

Some small colleges could group together to enable specialized faculty to teach courses to students at all of their campuses. Make a virtual university as a way to offer more of the advantages of the big U while retaining the advantages of a small college.

Update: Mind you, most small colleges are toast. Road kill. The walking dead at this point. But some could avoid that fate by embracing online and video recorded lectures, automated testing systems, and arranged tutoring sessions. A good college would have administrators skilled at organizing small fast paced courses, impromptu tutoring sessions, and fast paths thru for people who want to focus and get some skills in a hurry.

By Randall Parker 2015 August 19 08:30 PM 
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2015 August 18 Tuesday
Anatoly Karlin: Procrastinators Should Not Trust Future Selves

Anyone irresponsible enough to procrastinate today can't be trusted to get it together in the future.

When you are procrastinating, you are essentially trusting your future self to do the work that your present self does not want to. But if you make a habit of procrastination, of being unreliable, would it then be rational of your present self to depend on your (presumably equally fallible and unreliable) future self to do that what your present self is too lazy and slothful to do today? It’s grossly irrational and irresponsible!

What do you think of this argument? To put it another way: what's your rationalization for why you can procrastinate and dismiss Karlin's argument?

One of the ways I make myself more effective is to deny myself things I want until I make some milestone. This can be a small milestone and a small reward. It helps.

By Randall Parker 2015 August 18 08:17 PM 
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2015 August 15 Saturday
ISIS Sex Slaves In 2015

The highest slave prices in Islamic State territory are for kids aged 1 to 9. I was expecting a later price peak. What's with that? I would expect the Jihadists would most want teen girls to rape. Am I missing something?

The potential to rape infidel women is a powerful recruiting tool for ISIS. See: ISIS Enshrines A Theology Of Rape. This one is disgusting too: Hellish ordeal of the 11-year-old ISIS sex slave used as a human shield: Terrified girl is strapped to bonnet of Humvee and driven into battle to protect her captor from gunfire. ISIS has collected together a bunch of soldiers who deserve to die.

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi kept American aid worker Kayla Mueller as a sex slave and raped her repeatedly. Was he thrilled to be raping an American in particular?

If the US government hadn't worked to destabilize the Middle East (supposedly in the name of democracy and freedom) the Middle East would have far fewer slaves and far more living Kurds, Yezidis, Christians and others. US intervention in the Middle East has been a disaster. To reduce the damage our foreign policy has caused I would heavily arm the Yezidis, Kurds, Christians and some other minority factions. They are going to continue to get shafted as long as they do not have enough military power.

We need much more realism about human nature when setting foreign policy just like we need much more realism about human nature when setting domestic policy.

By Randall Parker 2015 August 15 10:39 AM 
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2015 August 06 Thursday
Next Recession To Cause Chain Of Sovereign Defaults?

Jeremy Grantham thinks a big market downturn in 2016 could trigger a chain of defaults on sovereign debt.

I've made similar comments recently:

Check out this chart of sovereign debt levels of OECD countries from 2008 to 2015. Note the 2008 and 2015 amounts. Add a new crisis. Those countries will enter the next recession starting with much worse debt level, slower GDP growth rates, even more aged populations. A lot of Euro zone countries would default if we had a repeat of 2008. Add 20-30-40% of GDP to each country's sovereign debt load. Even a normal recession will push Italy, Portugal, and Ireland close to the Greece zone.

The European countries are at most risk of default because they gave up their own currencies, have rapidly aging populations, anemic economies, and social welfare states. They are also importing bigger lower classes. The European social welfare state is failing.

Going into the last recession it was possible to drop interest rates to provide some economic stimulus. Central banks can't do that next time around because interest rates are already low. I hope we can avoid the next financial panic for several years because governments are financially in bad shape.

By Randall Parker 2015 August 06 07:13 PM 
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