Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Amphibians in the Indian Navy

Via Livefist.

Not what one would usually expect to hear, although given India's long coastline, an amphibian is sorely needed. The US-2 is a proven design, and it's quite likely to work as advertised in its Search and Rescue role.

But how long is this kind of thing going to take? Hard to say.

Hunger Games USA (repost)

Reposting a few things. Blogger works pretty well.

Anyway, this was about two weeks ago. Paul Krugman, via Angry Bear.
Good grief. If US politicians keep going this low, the United States will become the way India was in its lowest days. 63 percent of Tennessee is on Hunger Stamps? A couple of years back I wouldn't have dreamed of hearing that come from the US. Unbelievable.

The Economics of Innocent Fraud: Was Galbraith right or wrong?

John Kenneth Galbraith's last book was "The Economics of Innocent Fraud", in which the 95-year old economist asserted that the Federal Reserve was utterly ineffective - not due to the political issues as much as the fact that modern macroeconomics does not work the way it does. Tao Jonesing has an excerpt -

Understandably, Galbraith has come under a whole lot of flak from economists across the spectrum in the profession, because if what he says is right, everything that has been taught in Macroeconomics 101 goes down the gutter, because the Central Bank is such a critical institution. The prospect of finding basic macroeconomics - the stuff that is taught at the beginner level, which no student of the subject can do without anytime in their career - to be utterly and absolutely wrong is just ghastly.

Let this not be dismissed as the writings of a senile man - Galbraith at 95 was far more lucid and sensible than economists half his age. This man was a titan in his field, and he had a breadth of experience few economists of his generation or otherwise could possibly have. Galbraith's words on Greenspan proved prescient in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, two years after he died. Even if Galbraith is wrong about the Federal Reserve or any Central Bank for that matter, his observations should raise serious questions on the nature and state of our current economic system.

One of my majors in undergrad was economics. Now, Galbraith's words leave me wondering just how much I really know about the subject, whether I've been learning truth or nonsense throughout. It's a frightening prospect, and not one that I'm inclined to take lightly. Will someone eventually come to teach undergraduate college students that the 'dismal science' is far less scientific than it purports to be? I really don't know.
A repost from my other blog. Via Economist's View, a paper on 'dancing with robots'-
For the foreseeable future, the challenge of “cybernation” is not mass unemployment but the need to educate many more young people for the jobs computers cannot do. Meeting the challenge begins by recognizing what the Ad Hoc Committee missed—that computers have specific limitations compared to the human mind.
Paul Krugman had a different worry with the "third Industrial Revolution" - we're just exploring the beginning of possibilities with computers. And the fact remains that computers have eliminated enormous numbers of human beings at jobs that involve some degree of repetition or systematization - because computers excel at anything that involves repetition. A world where a handful of human beings take decisions and computers do the rest has been there in science fiction for quite a while - Isaac Asimov imagined the Robot-heavy world of Solaria in 1957's "The Naked Sun", for instance. But the trend here is more worrisome. Earlier, for every job destroyed, a new job was created. That trend has gone on for quite a while. Will computers kill off job creation enough to cause significant unemployment? Quite possibly.
I keep getting the feeling that we're running into a fundamental clash of values. Businesses find it the most profitable to keep their labor flexible, and one way of doing that is through automating a large number of tasks. The upfront fixed cost of automation is small, but the cost of automation afterwards is less than that of adding labor, so it turns out to be highly profitable in the long run. Lower job creation or lower labor costs overall equate to higher profits, which is good for the business, or so they claim, to the consumer. But that assumes that the jobs they don't create will be taken care of by society, or by other means. "It's not our business", that sort of externalization.
It reminds me of what Keynes said about private saving turning into a public vice. What helps an individual company profit could lead to a potential trend towards mass unemployment. The report submitted 50 years ago was wrong, but Linus Pauling and Gunnar Myrdal had very legitmate worries, and it may be too early to write off their fears. More on this in the future.
EDIT: Turns out that this came up on the New York Times as well. "The Race against the Machine." I must have read this a while back, or maybe I got this off Paul Krugman's blog. Seriously though, how does one race with computers if the entire system is biased towards replacing human labor?