rob's blog

Apocalyptic bullshit

Humans love miserable apocalyptic predictions, even when they are bullshit.

Lately a paper from Nature did the rounds on social media with headlines like

    Pacific plastic dump
    garbage dump
    more than twice the size of France
    Dumped Plastic Defiles Nature
    a future in which they will not be able to eat any seafood because all of it will in fact be contaminated by microscopic and even smaller bits of plastic

One of the biggest threats to dealing with global warming is the green movement

It seems contradictory to say that one of the biggest threats to dealing with global warming is the green movement. it is certainly ironic. But the green movement has a pathological aversion to nuclear power, and to climate intervention engineering. Both will be essential to save us - this is obvious from basic trends in population.

First World Problems 

It's wonderful that our world has reached such a level of affluence and safety that we can worry about the tiny negative effects of our abundant, cheap, and reliable food supply.

The issue now is that too many people are ignorant of economics, science and history, so they have no idea what the current situation is, and no perspective on how it compares to the past.

The chattering classes need something to work each other up about. Sometimes it is mercifully focused on what celebrities do, but other times it looks at health, environment or money.

Evil money

Money is not the root of all evil.

Money is just exchange of value. It's not some evil entity, it's an emergent phenomenon of society. There's no such thing as society without it, only the form differs. Make no mistake we all operate to survive, and to ensure the survival of our children. It's innate.

Money does not turn us into an evil species destroying our habitat. If you think no other species is destructive, you're living in a hippy dream. Arguably we are the ONLY species that moderates it's destructive potential. 

One more overseas adventure: here's my shortlist

In about 5 or more years I will be without earthly ties: I will have nothing keeping me here in Wellington except a house, a garden railway, and a classic car.

The plan is to live overseas one more time before I retire back to New Zealand. But where? Here's my shortlist:

Chiang Mai
still top of the list. I love everything about Thailand: the exoticness, the resilience, the humour, culture, arts, architecture, food, design, language, scenery, railways, and of course the people. Some of my happiest times have been there

GMO Derp Test

Here's my GMO Derp Test

Derp Thinks all GMOs can be discussed and regulated as a group
Double Derp Thinks GMO is a thing, like a chemical
Triple Derp Thinks GMO is a toxin, a poison in our food

Where do you score? if you're anywhere on the table you are disqualified from intelligently discussing genetically modified organisms.

the issue with Charlie Hebdo is freedom from religion.

I support freedom of speech.
There are limits: e.g. hate speech, racism.
Arguably there may even be limits of provocation.
It's possible Charlie Hebdo oversteps bounds of freedom of speech.
In fact I'm sure they did with their racism.
But #jesuischarlie is not about freedom of speech. It is not about defending some right to be as offensive as one likes.
It is about freedom FROM religion.
The right to say what one likes without disproportionate response.
The right not to have ones rights restricted because of superstition.

I believe

I believe in rationality and science and their ability to lift the human condition.

The technological revolution has improved the worldwide life expectancy and quality of life many-fold in a couple of centuries after millennia of religious misery.

The data is in: God loses.

The Rational Optimist

This is the best time ever in history. Seems every generation has been pessimistic, announcing the end of times, the decline. They've been consistently wrong for the entirety of human history. I beseech you to think you may be mistaken in assuming the worst for the future. I envy my son.

I'm a Rational Optimist (thank-you Matt Ridley*).

the musicians in my head

Did it ever occur to you how remarkable it is that your brain so readily accepts the illusion that a group of musicians are performing inside your skull when you wear earphones?

The productivity drag of irrational thinking

I wonder what the productivity drag of creationism, New Age theories, chemical and radiation hysteria, and other anti-science is, measured in GDP percentage points.

Especially in the USA, the epicentre of air-head ideas. These morons are costing us prosperity.

A friend proposed Isaac Newton as a counter-example:

Do you subscribe to the theory that Isaac Newton could have been even more successful if he hadn't spent most of his time obsessed with alchemy and the occult?

the rights of the individual versus the greater good

OH online: "The real beauty in life is the obligations, not the freedoms." I think it's in the middle there somewhere.

I admire the Asian prioritisation of the group over the individual, in contrast to whiney Western self-indulgent entitlement. With every generation we shift further into selfishness in the name of "freedom" and especially "rights".
On the other hand "obligations" smacks of that Protestant work ethic so beloved in the USA which veers dangerously close to paid slavery.

The domestic solar energy industry is a con.

Yes, domestic solar is a con perpetrated against the consumer and the taxpayer by its vendor industry, whcih only survives on subsidies and deluded idealism.

I saw it on a screen; it must be true

In the street-wise 21st century the IT Skeptic hoped that people would be sceptical of anything a computer produces but it isn’t true. Put something on a screen and it gains instant credibility. It must be the backlighting.

Core Practice: focused excellence as a differentiator

A leading cultural assumption in the business world is that anything we do should be benchmarked against world’s best practice. But why pay for gold when copper will do? Rob England says don’t aim for best when there is no business driver to do so.

Organisations are wasting resource and damaging themselves unnecessarily chasing a “best” standard for everything. Save “best” for focused areas where it counts. Organisations that do this will gain an efficiency edge over those who chase it everywhere.

When will technology make life simpler?

The technology world has gone mad, as techno-freaks are allowed to design user interfaces that nobody wants and nobody can use. The IT Skeptic wants a DVD that plays movies, a stereo that plays songs, a phone that makes phone calls, a screen that surfs, and a TV for watching.

Remember when a phone had a dial on the front with numbers, a TV had a volume knob and a dial with channels on it, and a record player had two controls: volume and speed? Now:
• I have six remote controls on the TV room table, with more buttons than a 747

The Folly of the Crowd

There is much excitement about the potential for Web 2.0, in particular what is known as the Wisdom of the Crowd. Wikipedia becomes the repository of all knowledge, Google search statistics are the zeitgeist of the times and MySpace is the face of the world. Page rank is a measure of authority. Corporations appeal to the public for solutions to problems. The ivory tower is replaced by the democracy of the commons; the proclamations of the cathedral displaced by the hubbub of the bazaar. Not so fast.

How I downshifted

Here are some tips on how to make today’s popular life-style change: the downshift, from one who has already gone there.

Once I worked 50-60 hour weeks for an IT vendor. I spent weekends traveling; I spent 50 or even 100 nights per year away from home; and missed a fair chunk of my son’s first four years. My aspirations changed as I got older and had family, and the company changed too. It had ceased to be fun. At times it got downright Dilbertesque.

What matters

When one spends 50 or 60 hours a week immersed in an activity (does anyone reading this still work 40 hours or less?), it is easy to lose one’s perspective on just where that activity should rate in our lives.

Internet, I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life

The world is full of those chasing fame and fortune on the internet. The glittering lures of e-commerce, Adsense and cult-hero-dom draw them from far and wide, looking for easy money, good hours and groupies. It is not like that.

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