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Russ Abbott
Applying CS concepts to questions in philosphy.
Applying CS concepts to questions in philosphy.

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Of course I'm thoroughly anti-Trump. In addition, here are some of the longer-term initiatives I support.

Civil Liberties

Climate Change
Citizen's Climate Lobby:
Environmental Defense Fund:

Electoral and Government Reform
Fair Vote:
Represent Us:

Public Banking Institute:

Also, you may be interested in this list of Think-Tanks ( You can filter them in multiple ways. Useful list.

I will be offline for a week. My wife has a conference in Jerusalem. I'm meeting her there and will return next week.

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This is an excellent talk about controlling Zika. The recommended solution is to release genetically modified male mosquitoes, which when they mate with normal females, produce eggs that fail to reach maturity.

The anti-GMO movement opposes this because it involves releasing a GMO into the environment. The speaker, who is very knowledgeable (read the bio), is fervently in favor of the solution and doesn't discuss the anti-GMO arguments.

What should we do?

Zika is spreading rapidly around the world -- and now in the US. It can cause babies to be born deformed and mentally handicapped. The proposed solution works well and appears to be harmless to anything other than the targeted mosquitoes.

But there are always possible unintended and unanticipated consequences to significant artificial, i.e., man-made, changes to the environment. We already suffer from many of them. In fact the spread of Zika itself is one of them. Zika probably wouldn't have spread as fast and as far as it has were it not for global air travel.

I doubt that we can avoid changing the environment. We are already too enmeshed in doing so -- and too dependent on the results we have produced. (Even family farms change the local environment.)

As far as I can see, our only realistic strategy is to study the possible options as carefully as possible. The study must include steps to anticipated the unanticipated, which by definition will never be wholly successful. But what else can we do. No matter what we do our actions or non-actions will have consequences. We must face those consequences and trade offs as best we can understand them and make the most intelligent decision we can. We will be wrong in some cases. But we have no other choices. Every choice has consequences, even doing nothing.

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Rutger Bregman talks about Universal Basic Income. Bregman starts with statistics that show that poverty by itself lowers IQ and many other indicators. And that's not long term. Give people money, and their IQ goes up!

The idea is to give people enough money to cover essential living costs: food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, the Internet. I once started a list of things I would include in basic living needs. It grew pretty long. But that's another story.

The idea is not to encourage not working. We know that people need to feel that they are doing something productive. For most people that is their work.

So with that in mind, I favor a universal basic income (UBI).

Ask yourself this question: Do you favor universal healthcare? (Most people I know do.) If so, how can you favor universal healthcare if you don't favor universal food or universal housing? A UBI is intended to supply the basics that people need to live.

The talk claims that childhood poverty costs the US $500 billion/year and that a UBI would cost $175 billion/year. So UBI would be a bargain as well.

Now that I do the arithmetic it doesn't make sense. $175 billion/year is about $500/person/year. Not enough to supply basic needs.

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Too good not to share.

via +Valdis Klētnieks

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Robert Reich is really a very good guy. Apparently he does a video like this more or less every evening.

cc: +Robert Reich

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Blue collar self-destruction.

The graph below show hourly wages of truck drivers (and related jobs) in current dollars. It went from a high of about $32/hr in the early 70's to today's wage of about $21/hour.

Why? Paul Krugman hypothesizes ( that the drop is due to the decline of unions.

We don't know for sure, but what is your guess about how truck drivers vote on issues involving unions and related "right-to-work" laws? Mine is that they vote against their own interests. I'd also bet that they favored Trump in the election.

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What's amazing about Trump is his audacity. He thinks he can get away with anything. As he said during the campaign, he could shoot someone in the street, and his supporters would stay with him.

So far he has been right. His core base remains strong at nearly 40%. Nothing he has done seems to concern them. The Republican establishment also continue to support (and shield) him. So why not, in his view, take the next step and propose a budget that steals from the poor and gives him more money. Anything goes in TrumpWorld.

As illustration of the increase in inequality, the graph below show the percent of income that goes to the to 1% (yellow line) compared to what goes to the bottom 90% (brown line).

We are not quite as bad off as 1929 when the top 1% grabbed nearly 25% of all income compared to the under 6% for the rest of us. Now (as of 2012) the two groups are about equal at about 22%. (Note that the ungraphed amount, 100 - 22 - 22.8 = 55.2, goes to the 9% of people above 90% and below 1%.)

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Excellent article that focuses on how free energy characterizes the stages of biological evolution. I absolutely agree. Free energy is central to life. That may be almost tautological, but it is rarely the focus of study. It should be. Here is the abstract.

The history of the life–Earth system can be divided into five ‘energetic’ epochs, each featuring the evolution of life forms that can exploit a new source of energy. These sources are: geochemical energy, sunlight, oxygen, flesh and fire. The first two were present at the start, but oxygen, flesh and fire are all consequences of evolutionary events. Since no category of energy source has disappeared, this has, over time, resulted in an expanding realm of the sources of energy available to living organisms and a concomitant increase in the diversity and complexity of ecosystems. These energy expansions have also mediated the transformation of key aspects of the planetary environment, which have in turn mediated the future course of evolutionary change. Using energy as a lens thus illuminates patterns in the entwined histories of life and Earth, and may also provide a framework for considering the potential trajectories of life–planet systems elsewhere.

Free energy is a universal requirement for life. It drives mechanical motion and chemical reactions—which in biology can change a cell or an organism. Over the course of Earth history, the harnessing of free energy by organisms has had a dramatic impact on the planetary environment. Yet the variety of free-energy sources available to living organisms has expanded over time. These expansions are consequences of events in the evolution of life, and they have mediated the transformation of the planet from an anoxic world that could support only microbial life, to one that boasts the rich geology and diversity of life present today. Here, I review these energy expansions, discuss how they map onto the biological and geological development of Earth, and consider what this could mean for the trajectories of life–planet systems elsewhere.

via +Gideon Rosenblatt

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AllphaGo beat Ke Jie, currently the top ranked human Go player. The outcome was not a surprise. What was a surprise was the small margin of victory, only 1/2 point. During the press conference (starting at 5:39:00) the AlphaGo technical expert explained that AlphaGo is programmed to maximize the probability of winning, not the expected margin of victory. So toward the end of the game AlphaGo exchanged points to ensure its victory. Another notable point: today's AlphaGo is 10 times more efficient than the one that beat Le Sedol. It runs on a single computer, but using Google's TPU chip, rather than the multiple computers AlphaGo required last year.

A number of news articles are available here:
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