Friday, December 30, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Coming soon: the online teaching of MIT courses to people around the world and the opportunity for able learners to gain certification of mastery of MIT material.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Maze algorithms

Monday, December 12, 2011

Technology to end debt?

I'm intrigued by this:
Don't subsidize short-term debt with a tax shield and regulatory preference; tax it; or ban it for anything close to "too big to fail." Fix the contractual flaws that make shadow bank liabilities prone to runs.

Here we are in a golden moment, because technology can circumvent all the standard objections. It is said that people need liquid assets, and banks must borrow short and lend long to provide such assets. But now, you could pay for coffee with an electronic transfer of mutual fund shares. The fund could hold stocks, or mortgage backed securities. Nobody ever ran on a (floating-NAV) mutual fund. With instant communication, liquidity need no longer coincide with fixed value and first-come first-served guarantees.

I'm also skeptical. If debt were forbidden, then many people would buy insurance against taking a loss (maybe measured against a consumer price index) when they make withdrawals exchange equities for goods and services. What will be the cost of this insurance? How about the insurer keeps any gains from asset appreciation? Oops, we just created a bank. How do you prevent insurers from becoming banks in this world? It seems like severe regulation would be needed.

And why do we want to live in this debt-free world? You have to trade fractional mutual fund shares for coffee. That sounds like barter, like a big step backward. Can I pay taxes with any mutual fund shares, or do I have to pay taxes with Federal Reserve Mutual Fund shares? If the latter, then wouldn't coffee shop owners be wise to demand payment in Federal Reserve Mutual Fund shares? Are we banning banking or nationalizing it?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011


This makes we wonder what the bandwidth of a FedEx plane full of discs is.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Against medical credentialism

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Follow the green.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Peace in our time

I hope this is right:
So why is war less common now than in the first half of the 20th century? The simplest explanation, I would argue, is not Pinker’s multifaceted movement toward Enlightenment values. Instead, it’s now clearer that war doesn’t pay. In the past, most of the value of the potential conquest was in the dirt acquired: mines or cropland. War couldn’t hurt dirt. Conquering California in 1846, for example, did little damage to the place, which turned out to have gold in the ground.

Today, though, most of the asset value of a territory is in the buildings and people above ground, which are very easy to blow to smithereens with modern weapons. And if you don’t raze your enemy’s cities, they provide formidable makeshift fortresses for resistance to your invasion. You can’t win. The expected profit isn’t worth your trouble. You might as well stay home.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Target NGDP

And target levels, not rates. This moral argument is also interesting.

Monday, December 05, 2011

45-byte executable

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Circular queues

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Creeping credentialism

Thursday, December 01, 2011

TV in the first 2 years

Don't waste money on educational videos for infants. It's ineffective at best (and might be counter-productive).
The 0- to 2-year age group has become a prime target for commercial educational programming, often used by parents convinced that it’s beneficial.

As screens proliferated, so did research. “There have been about 50 studies that have come out on media use by children in this age group between 1999 and now,” said Ari Brown, a pediatrician and member of the AAP committee that wrote the new report.

Those studies have found that children don’t really understand what’s happening on a screen until they’re about 2 years old. Once they do, media can be good for them, but until then television is essentially a mesmerizing, glowing box.