We treat terrorism as more costly than it truly is


The deaths from terrorism are unspeakable tragedies. It goes without saying. But the mortality due to terrorism -- total deaths per capita -- are very low, lower than car-wrecks or traditional murder. Likewise, the costs from terrorism -- damage to physical structures, damage to economies -- are high, but, when you look at the numbers, you find they're just not that high. Read the rest

Hey, kids, let's play Corporate Monopoly!


Global Justice Now's "Corporate Monopoly" is an excellent piece of information design; it's a playable boardgame adapted from Monopoly (itself originally designed to teach the evils of capitalism), in which a shoe (the 99%) and a top hat (obvs) take it in turns to go round a familiar board whose squares tell stories about real-world class war, centred around UK policies and business. Read the rest

As America's middle class collapses, no one is buying stuff anymore

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From Walmart to Hershey to Campbell's Soup, America's biggest retailers and manufacturers are warning their shareholders that flat growth is a fact of life because of "consumer bifurcation," which is plutocrat-speak for "everyone is broke except the one percent." The companies' plan for rescuing themselves is to turn themselves into luxury brands targeted at the wealthy. Read the rest

Economics research considered unreplicable


Andrew C. Chang and Phillip Li undertook a study of "67 papers published in 13 well-regarded economics journals" for the US Federal Reserve and attempted to replicate their conclusions, using the code and data-sets provided by the authors: in two-thirds of cases, they were unable to replicate the findings without help with the authors; with the help of authors, they were still only able to replicate 49% of the papers. Read the rest

What's the objectively optimal copyright term?


Tim Harford, the Financial Times's Undercover Economist, writes about the Happy Birthday to You court case, which finally settled the question of whether the familiar birthday song was still in copyright (it isn't) and uses that as a springboard to ask the question: how long should copyright last? Read the rest

Facebook wants to be the attention economy's central banker


Warren Ellis ruminates on the the way that the old idea that the Internet was birthing an "attention economy" has been transformed by Facebook, which has literally monetized attention, charging you money to reach the people who've asked to hear from you. Read the rest

The story old people tell young people about getting a job


An excerpt from Monical Helsey's new book I Can't Believe it's Not Better: A Woman's Guide to Coping With Life called "Getting a Job, a Short Story by Your Parents" shows off both Helsey's razor wit and the generational unfairness captured so well by Old Economy Steve. Read the rest

Artificial Intelligence, considered: Talking with John Markoff about Machines of Loving Grace


Literary podcaster Rick Kleffer writes, "I must admit that it was too much fun to sit down with John Markoff and talk (MP3) about his book Machines of Loving Grace. Long ago, I booted up a creaking, mothballed version of one of the first Xerox minicomputers equipped with a mouse to extract legacy software for E-mu. Fifteen years later I was at the first Singularity Summit; the book was a trip down many revisions of memory road."

John Markoff’s ‘Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robot’ is a fascinating, character-driven vision of how the recent past created the present and is shaping the near future. The strong and easily understood conflict at the heart of this work gives readers an easy means of grasping the increasingly complicated reality around us. If we do not understand this history, the chances are that we will not have the opportunity to be doomed to repeat it.

Our technological ecology began in two computer labs in Stanford in the early sixties. In one lab, John McCarthy coined the term “Artificial intelligence” with the intention of creating a robot that could think like, move like and replace a human in ten years. On the opposite side of the campus, Douglas Englebart wanted to make it easier for scholars to collaborate using an increasingly vast amount of information. He called it IA, Intelligence Augmentation as a direct response to AI. Thus were born two very different design philosophies that still drive the shape of our technology today – and will continue to do so in the future.

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Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future

Economist Paul Mason's blockbuster manifesto Postcapitalism suggests that markets just can't organize products whose major input isn't labor or material, but information, and that means that, for the first time in history, it's conceivable that we can have a society based on abundance.

Ulysses pacts and spying hacks: warrant canaries and binary transparency

As the world's governments exercise exciting new gag-order snooping warrants that companies can never, ever talk about, companies are trying out a variety of "Ulysses pacts" that automatically disclose secret spying orders, putting them out of business. Read the rest

Hilariously terrifying talk about security

In Not Even Close: The State of Computer Security, a talk given at the Norwegian Deveopers' Conference, Microsoft Research's James Mickens gave the most acerbic, funny, terrifying security talk I can remember seeing (and I've seen a lot of 'em!). Read the rest

What does $60 trillion in debt look like?


There's about $60 trillion in public government debt worldwide, and the folks at Visual Capitalist created a chart to show proportions and debt-to-GDP ratio in one handy image.

About two dozen countries carry over 90% of the world's debt, with Japan and Greece having the worst debt-to-GDP ratios.

$60 Trillion of World Debt in One Visualization Read the rest

Why privacy activists and economists should be on the same side

Ryan Calo writes, "I argue in a new paper that economists and privacy advocates don't need to hate one another... Here's the abstract:" Read the rest

There Is Such a Thing As a Free Lunch

On Crooked Timber, John Quiggin has been rehearsing the arguments from an upcoming book called "Economics in Two Lessons," and the latest installment asks why, if there's no such thing as a "free lunch," we're not all still living in caves? Read the rest

Why we're still talking about Terminator and the Matrix

My July 2015 Locus column, Skynet Ascendant, suggests that the enduring popularity of images of homicidal, humanity-hating AIs has more to do with our present-day politics than computer science. Read the rest

Outstanding paper on the impact of ebook DRM on readers, writers, publishers and distributors

In last summer's Unlocking the Gates of Alexandria: DRM, Competition and Access to E-Books , Ana Carolina Bittar of the Fundação Getulio Vargas Law School at São Paulo does an outstanding, thorough, and easily understandable job in explaining the ways in which ebook DRM ends up hurting writers, readers and publishers by shifting market power to the ebook vendors like Amazon, Google Play, Apple and B&N. Read the rest

Man Who Sold the Moon wins the Sturgeon Award!

This weekend, my short story "The Man Who Sold the Moon" won the The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, a juried prize for the best science fiction story of the year. Read the rest

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