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Free markets bitch - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Free markets bitch [Sep. 4th, 2008|10:50 pm]
Arvind Narayanan
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[Current Mood |optimisticoptimistic]

I rarely repost anything verbatim, but Scott Adams is right on the money about this and has saved me the effort of writing a less coherent version of the same thing.
High oil prices have unleashed a flood of venture capital and creative genius on the problems of energy and global warming. Hardly a day goes by without another credible breakthrough in turning sun, wind, waves, water and who-knows-what into useful energy. Even if the vast majority of those ideas don't pan out, the surviving ideas will probably be enough to make oil obsolete. That's my guess anyway. And I think it will happen at Internet speed when it finally ramps up, not the usual fifty year horizons you always hear about.

The thing I wonder is whether the government has any useful role in fostering these advances, other than staying out of the way. You hear the candidates for president talking about encouraging this, or incenting that, or catalyzing whatever. But when billions of dollars of profit are on the line, does anyone need any extra incentive? I doubt it. The market should be taking care of that stuff, and seems to be moving in the right direction.
While I've argued that the markets by themselves will get there somewhat slower than ideal (which would be "already"), I think they will get there well before oil prices become a credible threat to our profligate energy consumption, which we will continue.

It's a pity that Adams doesn't get taken more seriously as a pundit; his day job as a cartoonist seems to hurt him there. His blog posts are very insightful even when he's joking — wait, especially when he's joking. I think this is no coincidence: to be a successful comic, you have to be able to look past society's collective delusions and see things as they are, and this gives you a certain amount of wisdom. (Bill Watterson comes to mind.)
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: theswede
2008-09-05 05:26 am (UTC)
It's a damn good thing he's not taken more seriously. He's removed the permalink I had, but here's a summary of one of his, shall we say, less critical views.

http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/scott_adams_is_a_wally/
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2008-09-05 06:07 am (UTC)
i didn't say he's always right, just that he should be taken more seriously. even when he's wrong he gives me more food for thought than the vast majority of crap that gets written.
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[User Picture]From: theswede
2008-09-05 07:41 am (UTC)
On that you have a point, indeed.
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[User Picture]From: sunson
2008-09-06 03:28 am (UTC)
Scott Adams is indeed brilliant. Some of the 'office humour' is sadly reality - ah, you're a research guy - you probably won't know what life in the typical corporate is like. ;)
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2008-09-06 06:14 am (UTC)
indeed. when i first looked at dilbert strips i was like wtf?! it was only when i started hearing other people's real life horror stories that i realized why it wasn't making sense to me.

my friends often forward me strips from phd comics. interestingly, my experiences have been nothing like that strip either. i can honestly say that i have never met anyone whose experience with their advisor was better than mine has been.
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From: kupamanduka
2008-09-06 03:14 pm (UTC)
His blog posts are very insightful even when he's joking — wait, especially when he's joking. I think this is no coincidence: to be a successful comic, you have to be able to look past society's collective delusions and see things as they are, and this gives you a certain amount of wisdom.

I can only partially agree. I doubt, for instance, that the authors of Onion can see things as they are. I do, however, believe that Scott Adams' success stems from the fact that while many of us may talk about the "moist robot funda" and the tendency of human brain to work irrationally, Scott Adams has internalized this concept much better than most. As someone recently said, "It's roughly the difference between learning Newton's laws of motion and being able to duck in time when a baseball is thrown at your face." :-)

And I think there are several reasons for this, such as his experience with hypnosis, acute self-consciousness - to the point that your brain talks too loudly for you not to take notice etc.

BTW I never found any Ph.D. comic funny. Not even one.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2008-09-06 07:51 pm (UTC)
yeah, well, if that shit actually happened to you, then you'd react very differently to it.
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From: kupamanduka
2008-09-07 03:04 pm (UTC)
That isn't true. While I too have a great advisor, Ph.D. comics cover various other types of situations exact analogs of which I have found myself in. And my reaction has always been "Why do these guys bother stating the obvious"?
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From: jakespeak
2008-09-11 11:52 am (UTC)

Adams

Is funny. Sometimes, well his dilbert most of the time is. His posts are thought provoking. Again, sometimes, and I believe most erudite, educated people who think, also achieve the same on a more or less regular basis. So Adams is okay.

Except the amount of noise he gets and his holier than thou attitude that he has even when people point out the drivel he sometimes produces. This is an irritating trademark of most moderately intelligent individuals. Case in point the post he wrote about Intelligent Design which someone here pointed out, I also remember him saying something about Pascal's wager a while ago. But combine this with all the Dilbert wankers and the god-like status they accord to him, he can get tiresome.

Also just like phd comics does not cover every aspect, and not all of which it does humourously, neither does Dilbert catch all that it is about working in a corporate cubicle jungle (I should know!).

So like everyone, get over Dilbert, Scott Adams mostly.
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