05 November 2018 - WIC

posted Nov 5, 2018, 7:20 AM by Benjamin Bias

Last week I was in the check-out line at a box store. The 6' 2" tall woman in front of me seemed to pregnant - big belly & buying baby clothes.  I was checking her out because you can't teach tall and sometimes I day dream about getting back into volleyball.

As she is completing her transaction I perk up my ears when the cashier says, "I'm sorry but none of your items qualify for WIC".  Her WIC card had just been scanned and provided $0 for her check-out.

I was incredulous.  I spoke up, in anger and ignorance about the system, "She has oranges, fresh basil, and a bag of carrots.  None of those qualify for WIC?!"  The cashier, deflated, said, "No, sir" and the woman with a sweet there-there-you-idiot smile, said, "No... They are really strict on what you can buy."  The cashier nodded in agreement, knowingly.

I let it go on the spot, no need to hold everyone up discussing a system we could not fix in the check-out line.  However, we can do better, humans. Recognize the problem.  Be the change the world needs.

28 May 2018 - Aggression Transition

posted May 28, 2018, 12:17 PM by Benjamin Bias

Slavery was outlawed in the USA in 1865.  Lynchings entered the public's perception around the same time.  

Lynchings were no longer a widespread practice in the USA by the 1960s.  Mass shootings entered the public's perception around the same time.

27 March 2018 - To Law or Not to Law

posted Mar 27, 2018, 3:15 PM by Benjamin Bias

The USA is weird.  Politicians prattle about the sanctity of the rule of law.  And then there are laws for which you can be exempt based on your beliefs.  Being rich, white, or especially both has a demonstrable effect on the severity with which the law is applied.  Finally, stupid pundits say that if we had more laws then the bad guys would not follow the laws anyway so stop making laws. ... Explain away my confusion with small words.  I will wait.

13 March 2018 - Government Chaos

posted Mar 13, 2018, 1:43 PM by Benjamin Bias

The root of all fear at the bottom of the deep well of chaos coming out of the Trump Administration is that when (not if) something crazy happens to millions of people, the federal response will be delayed, inept, or non-existent.  See Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria.  See Louisiana after hurricane Katrina.  Those suffering humans in the videos could be you and your family.

The first job of government is to make sure the systems we all rely on are working smoothly.  First, make the trains run on time.  Having reliable systems saves millions of hours of suffering.  Then, if and only if things can be improved, should attention be spent to make changes.  Finally, having layers of steadily-improving systems should put us all in position to weather the storm when bad things inevitably happen.  By this algorithm we all can help each other be better off every mundane day and on our worst day.

15 February 2018 - Path to Ruin

posted Feb 15, 2018, 4:17 AM by Benjamin Bias

Study history and you may wonder, "Why did they follow that terrible leader to their own ruin?" 

In my old age the path to ruin illuminates itself. 

Step 1: Take away hope for positive change; e.g. its only going to get worse; i.e. the best days are behind us.

Step 2: Find someone to blame. Divide the population such that neighbors revile one another.

Step 3: Wait for any bad thing to happen and assign blame based on step 2.

Step 4: Repeat step 3 as needed for personal profit. The cost, suffering of many people, should be ignored.

Step 5: Your life and ruined civilization is an example for others to avoid.

09 December 2017 - War Tinder

posted Dec 9, 2017, 4:11 AM by Benjamin Bias

In our lifetimes we are going to see more change than we saw last century.

Last century saw the birth of instant global telecommunications, the revolution of industrialized fertilizer & evolution of industrialized farming, and the beginning of the nuclear age.  For the first time we could talk to anyone instantly.  For the first time there was a bounty of food for billions of people.  For the first time the propensity to war was quenched by fear of nuclear fire.  Big deals!

This century will have at least three revolutions for our civilization.  We will see the birth of strong AI, climates will change, and our mastery of biology will extend productive lifespans.

Strong AI and automation puts hundreds millions of people out of work and simultaneously makes some individuals thousands of times more productive.   We will have to reconsider what it means to work and be a productive member of society.  

Climate change will disrupt the ability to produce food for billions of people. When people move away from flood and drought they will challenge the relatively stable geopolitical structure that has lasted since World War 1. We may have to rethink what it means to have nations.

Average life spans were doubled last century and it was difficult to notice the change day to day.  Babies did not die.  Toddlers did not die.  Old age became a little more comfortable, but the maximum life span did not budge.  In this century maximum life spans will go up.  We will regrow aged and diseased organs.  We will solve more types of cancer.  The duration of adult productive years will expand and the trials of old age will be delayed by decades.
That is great until you realize a hidden consequence: The value of labor goes down as lives are extended because there is more labor.  Simultaneously, the value of capital goes up because each dollar buys more labor AND there are longer lifetimes in which interest to compound into vast wealth.  We may have to rethink our core values around money lest all the benefits of wealth are reserved for a very few immortals.

In conclusion, we will live in interesting times.  The development each of these marvels is nearly inevitable due to market forces.  And each of these has the potential to disrupt market forces catastrophically.  Our civilization must evolve.  Imagine that hundreds of millions of people are put out of work because of AI, forced to move because of climate change, and pitted against one another by centurions with more wealth than Mansa Musa.  The tinder of war would be ready to spark into a world consuming conflagration.  Yet, if we take steps now to take care of one another, then the disruptions could be managed, and we won't have to kill each other for a chance to survive.

24 October 2016 - National Depression

posted Oct 24, 2016, 4:37 AM by Benjamin Bias

In these United States of America I expect the national acrimony to get worse after the 08 November 2016 election:

1.Real wages are down since the 1980’s, and the 1980’s were not so fabulous.  No amount of higher GDP, record corporate profits, record highs in the stock market, and reductions in the deficit will make people feel good about the country until real wages are going up.  And real wages will not go up because productivity gains outpace inflation.  Also, the robots are coming: When real wages do go up then there is even more incentive to eliminate jobs entirely with mechanization - the ultimate in productivity gains.

2.Imagine the acrimony after the civil-war was over.  There were millions of citizens who lost an armed conflict over their firmly held beliefs.  Today there are people with firmly held beliefs and they feel like they have lost a civil war:  Same-sex marriage, productivity rights, politically correct language, undocumented workers, and the ever looming threat of curtailing 2nd amendment rights strains their beliefs.  As the nation progresses and social norms drift these people will feel less enchanted by the nation they call home.

3.A minority of Americans selects the candidates of each party during the primaries.  Then in the general election a minority of Americans selects the president.  No matter who wins a majority of Americans will rightly say, “I did not vote for that person and I do not have to support them.”  Once upon a time that might have been an ‘un-american’ thing to say, but nowadays people can say it, mean it, and obstruct any agenda based on that fact.

4.As population rises the number of citizens that is represented by each person in Congress goes up.  Just like with the president, members of Congress are elected by a minority of people in their district.  Thus, each members of Congress is elected by a minority and will have a terribly hard time representing the (ever larger and more diverse) majority.

5.All of the easy problems have been solved.  The country is 240 years old now.  The United States has fought wars over its ideals, both externally and internally.  The problems that remain are problems that have existed since the dawn of civilization: allotment of finite resources, how to treat unequal people equally, and balancing personal liberty against civilization’s best interests.

That we get along as well as we do is amazing and a testament to what is possible when we all do our best to be reasonable.  Yet, and especially if, people have expectations (hope) that does not align with the real progress in their own lives then they will be depressed.  We have recovered and found prosperity out of previous depressions, but the current one will be the hardest to solve yet because there are few metrics that can even detect it.

How we show leadership and solve a depression that is not measured with a stock ticker?

07 October 2016 - 42

posted Oct 7, 2016, 7:43 AM by Benjamin Bias

What if earth really is a living in computer?  What if the meaning of life is to figure out the meaning of life?

I like this idea. I like thinking that the point of life is thinking. Sure it is better if something can be done with the thoughts: ideas Plus action is better then just ideas. However, ideas should precede action and all the better if those ideas are good.

I think everyone should try to to have an original idea at least once per lifetime. 

If each person would pick a topic of interest, concentrate for at least a few minutes per day on figuring out something new about that interest, and did so for years at a time then, eventually, that person might have an original idea worth sharing with the world.  This ocean of human knowledge is made of many small drops. 

07 July 2016 - Future System

posted Jul 7, 2016, 3:30 AM by Benjamin Bias

Life is inherently not fair. Always remember the wisdom of George Carlin who said, "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that." 

I imagine a future, just a few years from now, where there are two basic types of jobs. There will be a relatively few exceptional jobs which can only be done by disciplined, healthy, and highly intelligent people. Then there will be a few billion jobs which anyone of reasonable health and intelligence could do the work. There will be almost no jobs in the middle where hard work and average intelligence would be enough. 

The best we can do is to create a system where we can still get along in a civilized manner despite most people's contributions being worth very little; and despite a few people's contributions being worth so very much.

09 May 2016 - Stiff Upper Lip

posted May 9, 2016, 4:23 AM by Benjamin Bias   [ updated Oct 25, 2016, 3:04 AM ]

The whole world is fine

If I keep the truth hidden

I will be okay
-- haiku by Benjamin Bias 09 May 2016

Each line of this poem stands alone; like the speaker.

The first line read with the second line as a sentence says that the external visage presented to others is based on an internal mantra.  

The second line read with the third line as a sentence says that the internal mantra about the truth creates a lie that allows the internal person to be 'okay'.

The first line plus the third line illuminate the lie.  How can the the whole world be fine if I will be okay?  Maybe I am already okay, but typically the future tense, 'will be', indicates a change of status.  Am I okay already and I will continue to be okay?  Then why mention it?

Read as a whole the reader is left with a dim impression despite the many positive words.  What truth must be hidden for the whole world to be okay and allow for the speaker to be fine too?

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