Curiosity Over Pride (FYI: To comment, send an e-mail to scifidink@gmail.com)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Assumption With Gold

The underlying assumption when people say gold is the ultimate store of wealth is that there will always be a market infrastructure in which we can exchange the gold for other things (nutrients, potable water, cell phone chargers, etc.).

Perhaps this assumption is always why I've found discussing the issue with goldbugs so exasperating. A miscommunications about scenario parameters. The term "economic collapse" to them means fiat currency lowering in value so other people eat generic-label cereal while they get to buy Ferraris by trading for a few bracelets. Whereas to me the term "economic collapse" means that there is no food to buy at any price (or medium of exchange), and no gas for Ferraris at any price (or medium of exchange).

In a way, goldbugs are more optimistic about social stability in the future. It just seems to me that in past crises, the planet had a low human population and abundant resources. The peasant farmers may have been poor in terms of cool stuff (silks and toys), but the basics (food and water) were still obtainable. So a stable, tolerable poverty. The planet is at a point now where if the infrastructure fails due to an economic collapse, the basics aren't going to be obtainable. So social instability on a scale never before imagined.

In summary, I now feel a sense of peace with my gold-loving brothers. A miscommunication in perception. They believe in a market after dollar death whereas I am an eternal skeptic. Like with my religious friends who believe in life after death, I disagree but am open to pleasant surprise and will be very happy to be wrong.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Italian and Spanish Debt Yields are Spiking

And that's bad news for Europe.

I've taken to watching the 10-year yields on Italian and Spanish soverign debt as a recent hobby. Apparently, Europe is experiencing a slow motion soverign debt train wreck.

With respect to Italy, it has the third largest bond issuance in the world. I think they normally would simply revalue their currency. But they no longer have their own currency.

I don't quite know how the EU is going to bail out Italy (and Spain). They're going to try something.

And given that the rates are on a rocket ship to the sky (over 6% as of this post), they are going to need to do something immediately.

Oh, and the U.S. may be entering a recession. And the U.S. stock market is tanking.

It's going to be a fun August.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Funny Cartoon

I used to could

"I used to could" is one of Jeff Foxworthy's made-up southern words. As in "Dink, do you remember how to embed images into a blog post?". Well, I used to could. I managed to add the link, anyway.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Strange Days in the World of Educational Finance

It appears, as Jeremy Grantham notes in his most recent missive (1Q 2010), that the Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever.

He is talking, mostly, about the recent apparent paradigm shift in commodity prices. The days of cheap everything is over.

Our obsession with economic growth at all costs is running up against a slight problem in the real world, known to the general public as math. Specifically the feature in math known as compound growth.

Hellasious touches on this with repsect to his various discussions on permagrowth.

The problem is as follows: No compound growth is sustainable.

In terms of debt, this means that no real (non-inflationary) compound growth in debt is sustainable over the long term.

Resources are no longer abundant. Good-bye real compound growth.

What does this have to do with the financing of education? Everything.

The educational finance model permits real compound growth with respect to student loan debt. This is then passed on to colleges and universities in the form of real compound growth in tuition with students taking on the risk of paying this money back.

Put simply, colleges and universities increase tuition faster than inflation. We all know this. Everyone complains about it. But nothing ever happens.

Colleges and Universities use the compound tuition growth model to ratchet up costs, year after placid academic year, with no discernable improvement in anything except massive resort-type facilities for students. However, this idiotic system has never come face to face with a major economic paradigm shift before.

The fuse for the coming major discontinuity in the world of educational finance has been lit.

Let's just wait and see what happens when the now permanent feature of price pressure and shortages of resources hit student loan debt system and the ivory tower.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hazy Recollections....Awkward Synthesis....

Austerity riots. I'm annoyed by them. First the rioters seem like spoiled children demanding the grown-ups figure out a way to make life a permanent Disneyland when any reasonable person realizes that their wish is logistically impossible. Then I feel annoyed about being annoyed by the rioters because I feel like a reactive pawn of some collective banking industry that has brainwashed me with carefully crafted lies. There is no winning. But the riots have acted as a muse of sorts:

Hazy recollections:

In the late Eighties a friend gave me "Atlas Shrugged" to read right after we graduated high school. It was intriguing. Hazy recollections of feeling that personal responsibility and rugged individualism were the only moral way of life. Absolute fairness! Had to watch out for bad people who wanted to manipulate their way into things they didn't earn.

Was it the mid-Nineties that Bono of U2 argued to some G7 summit that all debts accumulated by third world countries should be forgiven? After all, the debts were created by corrupt leaders of those countries who didn't use the money to help the citizens. On top of that, the payments on these corrupt loans were taking cash needed to finance projects that actually would help the citizens. Clean water and such. Its a very hazy recollection, but I recall thinking "Well that makes sense and seems ethicially to be the right thing to do". Sure, some nameless investors would lose money in the default, but they were bastards who shouldn't have been lending to other bastards who were clearly lying about using the funds for civic endeavors.

About a decade later I came across some mind-bending books on evolutionary biology. Soon, the CDS situation was spiralling out of control. I was curious and learned all sorts of horrendous things about the Federal Reserve system and the US financial system in general. I couldn't believe that educated people in suits created such sloppy work. And that the rest of us weren't even paying attention even though the sloppy work permutated nearly ever aspect of our physical existance. Sobering, no? This research led me to the Sudden Debt blogsite where an insider named Hell explained much of multifaceted horror along with a devotion to alternative energy since (well, one reason was saving the environment which seems like a good idea in general) the thermodynamic accounting wasn't balancing out any more with hydrocarbons. The blogsite also carried a mad genius commenter named Thai. He worked at light speed with complex ideas shooting off in all directions. Fairness perception in game theory experiments. Scaling benefits of cooperation. Zero sum, breaking symmetry, and fractals. It was a blur of mind-bending (mind-breaking at times) idea candy.

Awkward synthesis

So take all these puzzle pieces of knowledge and/or beliefs and fit them into a coherent, flowing picture. Well, not today obviously ;)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

On Dreaming

This is from Dr. Robert Godwin's post of December 16, 2010. I copied it from his One Cosmos Blog where he generally posts daily.

"What distinguishes daytime consciousness from night time consciousness is that in the former mode we are separate from the creations of our consciousness -- or at least we weave in and out of them, merging and observing, producing and critiquing, spewing and cleaning up.

At night things are different. Although there is a Dreamer and a dream, we only know this after the fact, upon awakening. We generally cannot experience the distinction when the dream is occurring. This is a fascinating principle of consciousness, because it means that in the most profound sense, we are both the subject (creator) and object (created) of our dreams, even though we identify only with the object pole.

But once you appreciate the protean genius of the Dreamer, you cannot possibly believe that your little ego is anything more than a tiny satellite in the orbit of a higher conscious power. But who is the Dreamer if not you?

However, this You is like the dark side of the moon. I Syd you not. It is always there, even if we cannot see it. Indeed, we cannot see it because it is in a permanent dialectical relationship with the visible side; even if you bring a portion of darkness into the light of consciousness, it is now in the latter world, just as there is a distinction between dreaming vs. recalling and interpreting a dream. Note that the latter activities can never exhaust the Dreamer. Truly, to interpret a dream is like bringing a sponge to the ocean.

Grotstein writes of the unconscious as a sort of alter-ego or background presence with (or in) whom we go through life -- the “stranger within” that shadows our existence in a most intimate, creative, and mysterious way. We don't necessarily notice the relationship, but we would if it weren't there. That is, everything would go suddenly "flat," and be robbed of the extra dimensions that we only apprehend because of the conscious/unconscious resonance and dialectic."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Artificial Intelligence Will Not Lead to a "Singularity"

The singularity is simply a type of immanentized escheaton that is a product of the Western/Faustian Grand Style where we focus on infinity. One way of thinking of Western Culture/Civilization is to view the collective memetic superstructure as having a boundary condition of thoughts that tend toward the infinity.

For example, the entire “faster, stronger, bigger” = Better. Supersize me!

Now, with respect to computer “intelligence”, it helps to remember that what is being addressed is a specific slice of the overall realm of intelligence. Computers are extremely useful tools, but they are tools and useful only in the realm of thought that deals with logic. A better way of thinking about is that computers are basically a form of technological “left brain” that has no underlying personality.

Individuals make decisions based on their underlying personality structure. Individuals also exercise free will. To the extent that computers are given “free will” it will amount to the randomness aspect of the physical universe. That is to say, the free will inherent in a random number generator.

I do not think that the people who deal with AI have even started to look at the real problem, that of artificial personality, or AP. To the extent computers become “more intelligent” than people, I would argue that we already have experience having such people in our midst. I call them autistic savants.

The only thing that AI will accomplish is the creation of mechanical hypersavants, which will be quite useful to helping us solve problems that can be solved by savants. But there will be no “singularity”.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Pleasant Dream

Sorry if this sounds a bit like transcendental ridiculosity, but I had a dream last night that seemed to indicate that the saloon needed a visit. It was quite a warm, pleasant dream that was apparently strange enough to raise me to a conscious state that I actually remembered it the next morning. These omens should be heeded ;)

And behold, JP and Dr. John had actually responded to my New Year's lament posting!

Dr. John was concerned about the future. As any sane person would be. Humanity has gotten itself into a cluster@#$& economically and politically. I just about start screeching in public (requisite bathrobe donned and donut crumbs in my hair) when people talk about "Recovery". It can't be recovered! The base has been ravaged (i.e. abundant and resiliant natural resources, shadowy NGOs buying untold squidillions of debt, etc.). Bidden or unbidden, change is coming.

Hell, instead of being terrified, let's make it entertaining! Together we can come up with the most outlandish, fantastic, and ingenious method for surviving The Change.

For transport of materials, I suggest the crazy-ass Australian Skylifter .

To which you might ask, "Dink, where the hell are we going?". And this would be a fair question. We'd have to do some reconnaisance at the time and see how stable the local populations were. Assuming, not at all stable (my default assumption), we'll need to stick to isolated areas. Northern Canada in the Summer and Amazon in the Winter? Sure, why not ;)

Then you might ask "What the hell will we be skylifting?". Perhaps you saw this on CNN.com a few weeks ago as well. Behold, The Ark . Apparently, we can "lyophilizize" (sp?) all sorts of food. Get some medium-scale desalinization equipment and we're good to go.

Please do feel free to add on any madness that you like; I'd love to hear about it. Its fun to idea-play. That's what the saloon was always meant for. I'm glad the dream reminded me of that. I better stop writing now before I get all sappy.

Pleasant dreams, y'all ;)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Dread 2010 Is Now Over

And it is over in all time zones on the planet. I try not to be superstitious, but I could not help but to feel that 2010 cursed in some hugely, actively malevolent way. Though I experienced new levels of anxiety through a few truly nasty individuals, 2010 main method of attack seemed to be stomping on my friends. And being just a standard human creature, I was unable to defend them.

Perceptional bias, you might argue. 2010 wasn't dread for every living entity during every second of the year. I would be too tired to argue the point. I would nod politely to feign agreement so that I continued to appear fair and rational, but I would secretly continue to believe that 2010 was a bastard the likes of which I hope to never come across again. I feel greatly relieved that its 2011.

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits

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