• tags: knowledge ignorance science epistemology honesty AdamGopnik

    • “Every few weeks or so, in the Science Times, we find out that some basic question of the universe has now been answered—but why, we wonder, weren’t we told about the puzzle until after it was solved?” When we talk about science to the public, we need to explain what we have discovered, but we should also not be afraid to tout our ignorance. When we introduce the grand mysteries, we make the case for the importance of further exploration.

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  • We are going to have to decide fairly soon whether Google, Facebook and Amazon are the kinds of natural monopolies that need to be regulated, or whether we allow the status quo to continue, pretending that unfettered monoliths don’t inflict damage on our privacy and democracy…

    In 2015 two Obama economic advisers, Peter Orszag and Jason Furman, published a paper arguing that the rise in “supernormal returns on capital” at firms with limited competition is leading to a rise in economic inequality. The M.I.T. economists Scott Stern and Jorge Guzman explained that in the presence of these giant firms, “it has become increasingly advantageous to be an incumbent, and less advantageous to be a new entrant.”

    There are a few obvious regulations to start with. Monopoly is made by acquisition — Google buying AdMob and DoubleClick, Facebook buying Instagram and WhatsApp, Amazon buying, to name just a few, Audible, Twitch, Zappos and Alexa. At a minimum, these companies should not be allowed to acquire other major firms, like Spotify or Snapchat.

    The second alternative is to regulate a company like Google as a public utility, requiring it to license out patents, for a nominal fee, for its search algorithms, advertising exchanges and other key innovations.

    The third alternative is to remove the “safe harbor” clause in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which allows companies like Facebook and Google’s YouTube to free ride on the content produced by others. The reason there are 40,000 Islamic State videos on YouTube, many with ads that yield revenue for those who posted them, is that YouTube does not have to take responsibility for the content on its network. Facebook, Google and Twitter claim that policing their networks would be too onerous. But that’s preposterous: They already police their networks for pornography, and quite well.

    tags: monopoly platformmarkets market marketfailure networkeffect Google Facebook Microsoft socialmedia search internet web regulation FCC FTC

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  • Yet there must also be, in any corner of the planet, and for each human living on it, a threshold at which a familiar place becomes an unfamiliar one: an altered atmosphere, inundated by differentness and weirdness, in which, on some level, we’ll live on, in exile. The Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht describes this feeling as “solastalgia”: “a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home.’ ”

    Still, we insulate ourselves from the disorientation and alarm in other, more pernicious ways, too. We seem able to normalize catastrophes as we absorb them, a phenomenon that points to what Peter Kahn, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, calls “environmental generational amnesia.” Each generation, Kahn argues, can recognize only the ecological changes its members witness during their lifetimes. When we spoke recently, Kahn pointed to the living conditions in megacities like Kolkata, or in the highly polluted, impoverished areas affected by Houston’s oil refineries, where he conducted his initial research in the early ’90s. In Houston, Kahn found that two-thirds of the children he interviewed understood that air and water pollution were environmental issues. But only one-third believed their neighborhood was polluted. “People are born into this life,” Kahn told me, “and they think it’s normal.”

    A University of British Columbia fisheries scientist, Daniel Pauly, hit upon essentially the same idea around the same time, recognizing that as populations of large fish collapsed, humanity had gone on obliviously fishing slightly smaller species. One result, Pauly wrote, was a “creeping disappearance” of overall fish stocks behind ever-changing and “inappropriate reference points.” He called this impaired vision “shifting baseline syndrome.”

    The future is always somebody else’s present — it will very likely feel as authentic, and only as horrific, as our moment does to us. But the present is also somebody else’s future: We are already standing on someone else’s ludicrous map. Except none of us are in on the joke, and I’m guessing that it won’t feel funny any time soon.

    tags: climatechange quote nostalgia fear anxiety future perception understanding change awareness

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Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

  • What has changed? The facts. The pendulum has swung heavily in favour of incumbent businesses. Their profits are abnormally high relative to GDP. Those that make a high return on capital can sustain their returns for longer, suggesting that less creative destruction is taking place. The number of new, tiny firms being born is at its lowest level since the 1970s.Two explanations are plausible. One is successive waves of mergers. When you split the economy into its 900 or so different industries, two-thirds have become more concentrated since the 1990s. Regulators may also have been captured by incumbent firms, which get cosy treatment. American companies collectively spend $3bn a year on lobbying. In regulated industries that don’t face competition from imports—health care, airlines and telecommunications—prices are at least 50% higher than in other rich countries, and returns on capital are high.The technology industry’s expansion could exacerbate the problem. An analysis by The Economist in 2016 suggested that about half the pool of abnormally high profits is being earned by tech firms. The big five platform companies—Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—earned $93bn last year and have high market shares, for instance in search and advertising. They are innovative but sometimes behave badly. They have bought 519 firms, often embryonic rivals, in the past decade, and may stifle them. The data they gather can lock customers into their products. They may also allow firms to exert their market power “vertically” up and down the supply chain—think of Amazon using information on what consumers buy to dominate the logistics business. Investors’ sky-high valuations for the platform firms suggest they will, in aggregate, roughly triple in size…If the summit showed that there is a consensus that competition has weakened, there was little agreement on how to respond. Pessimists abound. Many antitrust technocrats plead that they have little power: bodies like the DoJ and the FTC are not meant to run the economy, but instead to enforce a body of law through courts that have become friendlier to incumbents. Some radicals argue that the government is now so rotten that America is condemned to perpetual oligarchy and inequality. Political support for more competition is worryingly hard to find. Donald Trump has a cabinet of tycoons and likes to be chummy with bosses. The Republicans have become the party of incumbent firms, not of free markets or consumers. Too many Democrats, meanwhile, don’t trust markets and want the state to smother them in red tape, which hurts new entrants.

    tags: competition economics cartel monopoly efficiency corruption politics Chicago regulation ideology 2017 inequality

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  • “he five life skills which bring health, wealth and success throughout life have been discovered by scientists.Experts at University College London have found that emotional stability, determination, control, optimism and conscientiousness are the foundation stones of building a fruitful life.”

    tags: skill success life emotion stability determination selfcontrol optimism conscientiousness

    • They discovered that just three per cent of people who scored highly for all five positive attributes had symptoms of severe depression compared with 22 per cent of people who had a low number of life skills.
    • Highly skilled people also had lower levels of cholesterol and of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation relevant to a number of different diseases including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  They also had smaller waistlines and walked more quickly, which often predicts a longer life.
    • Regular volunteering rose from 28.7 per cent to 40 per cent with increasing numbers of life skills.

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