Daily Archives: October 28, 2021

Capitalism’s Core Problem: The Case for Universal Property

Capitalism’s most grie­vous flaws are, at root, problems of property rights and must be ad­dres­­sed at that level.
By Peter Barnes – Capitalism as we know it has two egregious flaws: it relentlessly widens inequality and destroys nature.  Its ‘invisible hand,’ which is supposed to transform individual self-seeking into widely shared well-being, too often doesn’t, and governments can’t keep up with the consequences.  For billions of people around the world, the challenge of our era is to repair or replace capitalism before its cumulative harms become irreparable.

Among those who would repair capitalism, policy ideas abound.  Typically, they involve more government regulations, taxes and spending.  Few, if any, would fundamentally alter the dynamics of markets themselves.  Among those who would replace capitalism, many would nationalize a good deal of private property and expand government’s role in regulating the rest.

This book explores the terrain midway between repairing and re­pla­cing capitalism.  It envisions a transformed market economy in which private property and businesses are complemented by universal property and fiduciary trusts whose beneficiaries are future generations and all living persons equally.

Economists wrangle over monetary, fiscal and regulatory policies but pay little attention to property rights. Their models all assume that property rights remain just as they are forever.  But this needn’t and shouldn’t be the case.  My premise is that capitalism’s most grie­vous flaws are, at root, problems of property rights and must be ad­dres­­sed at that level.

Property rights in modern economies are grants by governments of permission to use, lease, sell or bequeath specific assets — and just as importantly, to exclude others from doing those things.  The assets involved can be tangible, like land and machinery, or intangible, like shares of stock or songs. more>

The search for alien tech

There’s a new plan to find extraterrestrial civilisations by the way they live. But if we can see them, can they see us?
By Corey S Powell – Are we alone in the Universe? And if not, should we be excited – or afraid? These questions are as immediate as the latest Netflix hit and as primal as the ancient myths that associated the planets with spirits and gods. In 1686, Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, the long-term secretary to the French Academy of Sciences, put an Enlightenment stamp on speculations about alien life with his book Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes (Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds). In a series of spirited philosophical conversations, he declared that ‘it would be very strange for the Earth to be so well inhabited, and the other planets perfectly solitary’, and argued that alien beings might attempt to communicate with us or even visit us using some advanced form of flight.

Ever since, each age has featured its own version yearning for contact with life from beyond, always anchored to the technological themes of the day. In 1818, the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss proposed communicating with aliens using a heliotrope, a system of mirrors that he devised to send coded signals using reflected sunlight. After the development of early electric lights, the French inventor Charles Cros suggested that such lamps could be amplified to beam messages to Venus or Mars. Nikola Tesla wrote in 1900 that ‘interplanetary communication has entered the stage of probability’ using newfangled radio waves. A year later, he reported that he had detected likely signals broadcast from another world.

Then the search got stuck. Radio persisted as the alien-hunting medium of choice, even as technology continued to change faster than ever. A full century after Tesla, researchers engaged in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (commonly shortened to SETI) were still scanning the heavens with antennas and listening for artificial radio transmissions incoming from other worlds. The efforts led to ever-tightening statistical upper limits and a handful of briefly exciting false alarms, but mostly a whole lot of nothing. more>

Engineering Fundamentals: Is Moore’s Law the Wright One? Battery Tech Hopes So

Will Moore’s Law yield to the Wright one for battery technology?
By John Blyler – Scientific laws describe observed phenomena, like Newton’s Law of Gravity. Engineering “laws” tend to focus on design or manufacturing processes, such as Moore’s Law. Although this most famous of engineering laws is really a corollary to a more comprehensive principle (as we’ll see shortly), it is nevertheless so well known that non-semiconductor experts refer to it often in their predictions. For example, several technology advocates have lamented the lack of a Moore’s Law equivalent in the automotive battery space.

“There is a focus (in the battery market) on halving cost while doubling energy density in the next three years,” observed Michael Doyle, Corporate Fellow in Material Sciences in the Dassault Systemes Strategy and Research Team. The specific reference to doubling within a particular time frame mimics Gordon Moore’s famous design and manufacturing law predictions. But let’s see what is behind Doyle’s statement for trends in battery technology.

What drives this desire for the doubling of density every three years (as opposed to 18 months with semiconductor nodes)? Several issues explained Doyle. Cost is one driver. The reality is that $50,000 for a new car is not an everyman or mass-market solution. So, costs will have to come down, hence the halving prediction. Fortunately, a scale price reduction has been a common occurrence in the semiconductor and automotive sectors. Of course, these sectors are not mutually exclusive as automobiles are dependent upon semiconductors and related technologies. more>

‘History will not Judge us Kindly’

Thousands of pages of internal documents offer the clearest picture yet of how Facebook endangers American democracy—and show that the company’s own employees know it.
By Adrienne LaFrance – Before i tell you what happened at exactly 2:28 p.m. on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, at the White House—and how it elicited a very specific reaction, some 2,400 miles away, in Menlo Park, California—you need to remember the mayhem of that day, the exuberance of the mob as it gave itself over to violence, and how several things seemed to happen all at once.

At 2:10 p.m., a live microphone captured a Senate aide’s panicked warning that “protesters are in the building,” and both houses of Congress began evacuating.

At 2:13 p.m., Vice President Mike Pence was hurried off the Senate floor and out of the chamber.

At 2:15 p.m., thunderous chants were heard: “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!”

At the White House, President Donald Trump was watching the insurrection live on television. The spectacle excited him. Which brings us to 2:28 p.m., the moment when Trump shared a message he had just tweeted with his 35 million Facebook followers: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution … USA demands the truth!” more>