2008-06-19

The philosophy that you, too, should follow



What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)

You scored as Strong Egoism

Your life is very much guided by the concept of Egoism: You work primarily to promote your own interests.

“I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

“I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.”

--Ayn Rand

2008-06-17

Student solves plastic bag 'crisis' in spare time

Ponder this.

So apparently, with all those activists breathing down our necks, for the last several decades, about how awful plastic bags are, how long it takes for them to degrade in nature, and how much they pollute as a consequence -

no one;

really, no one;

has ever tried to do a simple experiment like this student did. Shred some plastic bags, mix them with some bacteria, provide a growing environment, and see which bacteria degrade the plastic bag fastest.

By doing a simple experiment like that, this student has single-handedly solved the 'environmental crisis' of how to get rid of used plastic bags.

Does that tell you something about the breadth and depth of the scientific obstacles we're going to experience solving our problems with garbage?

We don't have a garbage problem. We just have garbage piling up, which no one is interested in.

When someone becomes interested in the garbage, solutions will arise. If a lone student can make an environmental breakthrough with plastic bags in his spare time, this just shows that no one has even started to pick up the low hanging fruit yet.

2008-06-12

Maggot party

Let me tell you a real story. It's about this doofus who leaves home for 3 weeks, just after accidentally flipping the switch that shuts off the refrigerator and freezer, with piles of meat and other spoilable items inside. He only realizes that he might have turned off the fridge when he is already at the airport. But at that point, turning back would mean missing the flight; and then again, he isn't sure that he actually turned off the fridge, there's a chance that it could be still running.

So the guy proceeds with the trip and comes back home as scheduled in three weeks. He finds that the fridge is off. What's inside?

A crime scene from CSI, that's what. Piles of rotten meat, a stench that stinks to high heaven, maggots crawling, hundreds of larvae, larvae and maggots everywhere - on the door, in the cracks, in the ice dispenser; the freezer light doesn't turn on because there are larvae on the switch.

It looks like most people who have to go through this kind of thing, do so after having had to evacuate their homes for a few weeks during a hurricane. Me, I need no hurricane. Just a misfortunate flip of a switch in a hurry before leaving... :-)

We're yet to see if the fridge can be salvaged. For now, it's off to the store to buy bleach, baking soda - then possibly charcoal...

2008-06-11

On Bill Gates's calls for "system innovation"

Steven Levitt at the Freakonomics blog recently drew attention to Bill Gates's speech at Davos, and described it as "probably right" and "beautifully argued".

I disagree.

Bill Gates is essentially making this case:
As I see it, there are two great forces of human nature: self-interest, and caring for others. Capitalism harnesses self-interest in helpful and sustainable ways, but only on behalf of those who can pay. Philanthropy and government aid channel our caring for those who can't pay, but the resources run out before they meet the need. But to provide rapid improvement for the poor we need a system that draws in innovators and businesses in a far better way than we do today.
Here's my reaction:

Bill Gates’s reasoning is thoroughly and completely wrong. Not only that, but it is wrong in very dangerous ways.

If Bill Gates’s argument were true - that a system innovation is necessary to harness people’s creativity to serve the needy - then hundreds of millions of people in China would not currently be climbing the economic ladder in a capitalist environment.

The fact is, all those people are climbing the economic ladder, while billions of people in Africa are not.

In order to understand why capitalism does not appear to be improving the lives of people in Africa, Bill Gates ought to read Richard Lynn’s book “IQ and Global Inequality”.

However, I’m afraid that reading that book, and accepting it, would require him to perform a 180-degree turn on the values and principles that his work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation shows he has completely embraced.

Unfortunately, such an about-face, on such an important issue, by such a prominent person, is near infeasible, which is a pity, because Bill will continue to squander billions in futile ways - and worse, he might influence millions of other people, possibly to actually come up with “system innovations” such as he described, and turn the whole world for the worse.

Naturally, I am smarter in these things than Bill Gates, but of course you already knew this ;) :P

No, seriously. I think Bill is wrong, and the reason he's wrong is, he didn't take years to contemplate and research this issue before he invested his billions.

Meanwhile, I did, and this may be partly why I don't yet have billions.

Maybe I'll have them, say, if the dollar collapses enough. :)

But for him, now, it's already too late, he's already too far in. Even if he wanted to do an about-face, it is much more difficult now, because now he has to counter the sunk cost fallacy.