Category Archives: ideas

Bill Gates on inequality and Piketty’s Capital

Bill Gates has a strong post on Piketty and inequality and I think it is one of the better ones I’ve seen. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything Gates argues for. For example, to counter Piketty at one point in the piece, he refers to data from the Fortune 400 records. I think the data that Piketty has gathered is much more significant than that and it is not something Gates accounts for.  Still, it’s clear that Gates has thought hard about the book and his comments seem to reflect that.

Gates is on stronger ground when he points out areas concerning inequality that Piketty has left out or not touched upon. His assumption there, though, is that Piketty’s book is the end of the discussion on capitalism in the 21st century, when the better assumption is that the book is the start of a new and better discussion. I expect Piketty or followers and supporters of Piketty will be expanding into those areas based on the material in this book.

I am not surprised that Gates has wrote about this – Piketty uses him as an example at one point! Plus Gates is no stranger to wealth and capital and what to do with them. He’s a natural to write about inequality and the French economist.

All in all, a good read.


How to relax using white noise, winter edition (the joy of simulated warmth and coziness)

In the winter, I think one of the nicest forms of white noise is a fire. It’s not the same as having an actual fire, but if you have a computer or big screen you can Chromecast this to, I recommend this video:

I’ve watched quite a number of these videos, and this one is my favorite so far: really good sound, and it looks realistic. (Oddly, this matters to me, even though I know it merely a video).

If you want the feeling of being warm and cozy inside while it storms outside, I recommend this video for white noise:

On adults around you doing science experiments on large populations of children

Right now there are many adults around you doing science experiments on large populations of children. Here are three examples.

#1) The city of Calgary is currently doing a science experiment by removing fluoride from Calgary’s water supply (Dental decay rampant in Calgary children, pediatric dentist says | Mobile). The results from that experiment:

Dentists and dental hygienists are seeing an increase in child tooth decay and Dr. Sarah Hulland says the decision to remove fluoride from Calgary’s water supply three years ago is playing a big role.

“I’m seeing a lot more children having a lot more cavities,” she said. “I’m seeing a lot of decay on 19- to 20-month babies, and this is even before they’ve got all the teeth in.”

#2) We have a rise in measles and other infected diseases because of parents decided to experiment and not vaccinate their children. That experiment is not going well either. According to the CDC, measles cases in the United States reach 20-year high:

Two hundred and eighty-eight cases of measles were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States between Jan. 1 and May 23, 2014. This is the largest number of measles cases in the United States reported in the first five months of a year since 1994. Nearly all of the measles cases this year have been associated with international travel by unvaccinated people.

“The current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people, primarily U.S. residents, who got measles in other countries, brought the virus back to the United States and spread to others in communities where many people are not vaccinated

#3) Climate change. This is potentially the biggest science experiment of all, affecting the largest population of children. See Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet: Evidence, if you haven’t seen enough evidence of this.

I think, and likely you agree, that performing these experiments is wrong and unnecessary. Somehow too many people do not.  Too many think there is a need to disagree with the science behind fluoride in water, vaccines, and climate change.  It is true that science is not dogma, and it needs to be challenged.  But the way to do that is scientifically and in a way that minimizes or eliminates harm to the subject of the experiment. I would think that would be especially true when it comes to children.

I understand people having concerns and worries about technology. The way to deal with those thoughts about technology is to become better educated and to developer numeracy so that you can have a better understanding of the science involved. If you can’t do that, at least develop better sources of information, so that if you have to depend on authorities, make them the best ones you can find. I would think that is especially the case when it comes to science that has to do with children.

On the Jonathan Chait p.c. discussion

I joked that when this article by Jonathan Chait came out, I would wait three days, and then comment. My joke being that in three days the whole story would have blown over and there would be nothing left to comment on.

I was clearly wrong here, and instead it has gone on for some time. If you click on this: chait political correct – Google Search, you’ll see what I mean. Given this, I feel I should say something. :)

I don’t have much to add to the content of the argument going back and forth, and there are much smarter people than I who have commented on the topic: if you go through some of the results of the search, you can find them.

However reading the various pieces, instead of the content, I had some thought on the format and structure of the pieces. Specifically, I had four impressions:

  1. The first impression was that many writers do not like Jonathan Chait. Even a number of writers defending what he had to say would start off by saying disparaging things about him. I found it odd they had to say that, as if supporting the argument wasn’t enough. They needed to show somehow they were on the side solely of the argument and not of Chait.
  2. The second impression is how much of the evidence one way or another was anecdotal and not data or statistical driven. I don’t doubt the anecdotes and examples given: I just didn’t seen any hard data in the pieces that I read. Maybe it is some and I just missed it. Examples are relevant, but data is better to me.
  3. The third impression I had was how in arguments the people arguing often did not agree on the terms of argument. I realize the writers are not philosophers, but I felt sometimes that the definitions used were twisted to suit the argument of the writer.
  4. The fourth impression I had was how much invective was pulled into the pieces for or against Chait. It wasn’t enough that the authors had to disagree with Chait: they had to disparage him.

It’s important to stress these are impressions. I read roughly 6-10 pieces, including the original one by Chait. I’d be happy to be corrected on these.

The things about the impressions is that while I didn’t find the argument that Chait made had merit, but it wasn’t because of the pieces critical of him. If anything, it was just the opposite. Maybe I should dislike him, but even if I did, if he had a good argument I should listen to it, and if he doesn’t have a good argument, then it should be enough to dismantle it to discredit him or his supporters. This may be naive, but it is what I look for when someone is making an argument for or against something. If anything,  name calling and invective towards someone tends to persuade me to go in support of that person. In this case, perhaps I am not the audience, and the writers do not care if I am persuaded or not.

This had me thinking about a bigger thing that I have been thinking about for some time. And that is the topics of influence and attention. I think influence and attention are the key attributes writers want to have associated with their work on the Internet.

This idea of the importance of influence and attention  requires more thought though. For now, I wanted to jot this down, to get it off my mind, if anything.

Thanks for your attention. I hope this influenced you in a positive way.

Forget Google Glass: here is where wearable technology is going

As digital technology gets more and more compact, expect to start seeing it combined with new and unexpected things. Wearables will not just be watches and sports-bands, but clothing and jewellery. For example: Meet Ear-o-Smart The World’s First Smart Earring.

Anything you wear, anything you touch, anything you own: all of it will soon have sensors and digital technology in it to talk to your computer and your phone. This is just starting.

Reasons to be optimistic in 26 charts

The folks at Vox have put together this: 26 charts and maps that show the world is getting much, much better.

One of my favourite statistics/charts is this one:

Even hardcore pessimists have a difficult time with that one. :)

The other 25 charts are worth checking out. They highlight significant areas where life is getting better. If you need a reason to be optimistic or to be more optimistic (or to be less pessimistic), you owe it to yourself to see the Vox post and then think about it.


Piketty Explained (by someone other than me. Also more prodding from me to get you to read it


I wrote about Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century here and here. As I said, I strongly encourage you to read it and take notes.

If you want a great summary of the book, I highly recommend this post: Piketty Explained: Summary of Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty.

It’s superb. Peter Shirley, the author, has written  a 30 second summary and a 15 minute summary, and when you finish both, you will have a very fast but very thorough introduction to the book.  I am going to come back to this from time to time as a refresher to what I read in the book (as well as flip through the book again). Did you read Piketty but skip sections? Then review Peter’s post to see what you missed.

More good reasons to pick up Piketty before 2014 ends.

(The chart on world growth rates is from a link to Peter Shirley’s blog post.)