Monday, January 29, 2007

Subliminal messages in "documentaries"

An Inconvenient Truth:
Scientific message: Anthropogenic Global Warming is real and dangerous.
Subliminal message: George Bush kills innocent animals.

Supersize Me:
Scientific message: Fast food outlet policies are unhelpful for losing weight.
Subliminal message: McDonalds is evil.

Farenheit 9/11:
Political science Message: The events of September 11th should not have resulted in war against Iraq.
Subliminal message: George W Bush is an evil warmongerer.

More dumb climate change stuff

Realclimate has become too tedious to follow up on anymore and I'm getting a gist of what it is that bugs me. The climate scientists in general pin a great deal of importance obviously on science and the scientific method (at least that which specifically concerns climate per se). Firstly, I don't believe that the all the answers to important questions lay in the cup of reason, and secondly, I find the scope of the science limiting when they are only dealing with the science of the physical earth rather than the associated political science, economic science, biological feedbacks, game theory etc. For instance if one only argues about whether the science is factual in "an inconvenient truth", it misses the point that everything other than the science is "selling" to a certain point of view and way of thinking. Movies like "an inconvenient truth", "supersize me" and "farenheit 9/11" I do not consider to be documentaries, but "brainwashing" through subliminal messages embedded in otherwise factual footage. I must admit I have not found any sites which take a multi-denominational science analysis of it. "the Economist" comes close, by assuming that the world will act on climate change, whether for good or ill, and is analysing the most cost effective ways of going about it. It, like me, has left aside the question of whether we "should" do anything as a moot question, for the majority seems to have made up their mind, both individually and collectively as countries to act one way or another.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Game Theory 101

I was casually browsing the web googling game theory, and the third lecture listed on a university schedule explained the "tragedy of the commons" game/situation. It escapes me why this stuff isn't taught in primary school alongside other special interest science stuff they learn, such as the environment etc, but I digress. A critical lesson is that if a situation can be proved as such, the solutions, though obviously difficult should be obvious. The trick is always about reorganising such that the common resource is no longer common.
The less talked about opposite twin of the situation is the "tragedy of the anti-commons" This is rarer, but any argument against Kyoto would have to play up the possibility of this occuring.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Iraq and "the surge" d'uh

Tactics work best with a full understanding of what tactics your "enemies" are using. Ever since 1983 and the first big suicide terrorist strike it should be clear what the terrorists achieved that time and what they have since used as a tactic. That is to remove a big army from the region at the lowest cost to themselves. These tactics will fail if proper countertactics are used. There has got to be a clear signal to the various terrorist groups that every terrorist attack on US interests in Iraq will result in more troops, not less. Thus it would have been more helpful to have started with a much smaller, more expert force, to give room to surge at every opportunity. The example I am thinking of is Australia in the Solomon Islands. There was a small complement of federal police working there, and a sniper shot and killed one. Australia immediately sent in troops. When things had calmed down somewhat, the troops quietly moved out.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The problem with fear

It often comes up in arguments about global warming, Y2k bugs and nuclear armageddon. People feel vindicated in sending and propagating alarmist arguments, whether or not the aftermath ends up completely benign or not. For the Y2k bug for instance, people who wildly exaggerated the dangers felt that it turned out well at least in part because fear focused peoples minds to fixing the problems. I will argue right here and now that widespread fear is neither sufficient nor necessary to "fix" global warming (I'm using the word fix loosely, to indicate the avoidance of civilisation threatening disaster). The example I am going to use is Easter Island and the emptying of the Aral sea. These are the kind of situations we are trying to avoid with the Earth in a sense. There was very likely widespread fear in both of these cases. The math/science was not very hard to work out and well within the grasp of the citizens involved. The problem on Easter Island was in one sense statutory - given the location of the island, human nature, and the technologies and cultures they had at the time, the island was doomed from when the first settlement took place. The problem is easily described in game theory as the "tragedy of the commons", and the various "fixes" are completely "structural" in nature. They generally involve some kind of "ownership" of the common resource (ownership leads to good stewardship by correctly valuing it), and a central arbitration of competing interests on the resource. In other words if applied to global warming, the Kyoto protocol, carbon trading, and the continuing measurement and tracking of all the variables is vital and probably sufficient if it doesn't completely break down in acrimony. The continuing risk is both cheaters, and a lack of central authority which may enforce aspects in the future. Fear, as it stands may not even be helpful, as it breeds mistrust of any future central arbitrer.

Monday, January 15, 2007

School Uniforms

I've already discussed this before here but if you are looking to buy school uniforms but are worried about exploitation, you should think about all the school products we get that are imported from overseas, and how we can over-think this and realise that using our purchase choices is too indirect a technique to lessen crimes of exploitation. Exploitation in Australia tends to only be possible within the context of organised crime. In other words, to force someone to work for well under the going rate (with the job market the way it is) they would have to be locked up. It is ironic that the local prisoners labour on sewing machines.
I suggest when looking for school uniforms to search for the best quality. Quality demonstrates attention to detail and pride in one's work. This only happens where the sewer is comfortable, happy and satisfied with the conditions of employment. Unhappy workers can easily sabotage the interests of the employer without risk of getting found.

Tight job market advantages

The flip side of a tight job market is that there is less angst about job security. Employees are just as happy to be classed casual, will leave at the slightest whim without fear of unemployment, and have way less fear of asking the boss for a favour, time off or whatever. Change of scenery, rather than destitution is the only challenge.

That sucking sound

It's Townsville inhaling labour from all over Australia and around the world.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

New Year Resolutions

I had been stumped for new years resolutions for years - so I asked my therapist (no really!). She made me realise that goals are good, and there was just a few simple guidelines about them. ie. they must be achievable, it had to be something I was interested in achieving, there should be just a hint of satisfaction or challenge about them, and that they can be given enough priority in the context of day to day activities. It came to me clear as day once I realised all this. I am resolving to join Townsville Brass. Whether I end up the conductor, become a soloist or just have a minor part in their second or third tier bands doesn't really matter. I've been away from it for so long (while people I knew when I was there over 15 years ago are still there), that it will have the "prodigal son returns" feel to it. I am looking forward to the first practice on the 24th of January.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


I am not sure if it means I am intolerant of "other" world views, but reading a book that matches my own has overcome my general avoidance of books in general. I could describe its style as rambling, which matches my own style of argument. However, I guess that the concept of disproving some conventional wisdoms is absolutely necessary, but I would like it to go further and use the discoveries as assumptions to come to even more startling conclusions. With the abortion link, "modern" economies that attempt "prohibition" as pre Rowe vs Wade US or Romania become increasingly "unstable" due to the intergenerational positive feedbacks. I think one can come to this conclusion without necessarily coming to moral conclusions. Even as this book manages to disprove many conventional wisdoms, there are a thousand other conventional wisdoms that don't lend themselves to data mining at all. For instance, school results don't seem to be affected by changing schools, but other less measurable things are very likely to be affected. For instance, our choice of school change for our children had nothing to do with our desire for better school results, but a more subtle desire for better "life" results. It does make a mockery of peoples stated reasons for changing schools however. Every time I mention how good the reputation of the new school is, they tell or ask how many OP 1's they get. I hope that challenging conventional wisdoms becomes a worldwide habit. Other ones to work on - "War is bad", "Doctor visits make you live longer", "chicken bones should not be fed to dogs", "Global warming is the most serious global environmental problem". In that sense, does Levitt have a more important message than Lomborg? Probably. Levitt challenges conventional wisdoms overall and asks us to look at motives behind experts in general. Lomborg principally concentrates on environmental activists/experts and questions their record on excessive fearmongering and looks at a more pure economic approach, without also addressing the non-monetary aspects of environmental motives and where they may lead us both in a negative direction or a positive one.