Wednesday, March 25, 2015

explaining accelarating economic growth

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Eric Crampton is an economist who co-wrote an essay arguing that economic growth is New Zealand's panacea. I pointed out this was Growth Porn.

I also tweeted Eric a couple of links to arguments which laid out reasons why. His response to this one was:

 2 hours ago2 hours ago Data st derivative of distance with respect to time is speed; 1st derivative of GDP wrt to time is growth. Acceleration is 2nd.

Now, Eric's gone for a technical reply here, which I'm not going to go into. If you're interested then I'm not going to bother trying to better the Wikipedia article on the subject. For simplicity's sake I will also present an image showing the first and second derivatives of the top plot:





Suffice to say, I know what a derivative is and Eric has missed the point of the blog I linked to, which is that economic growth figures, as almost universally presented, indicate an acceleration of growth and not just a steady increase. And that is fucked up because pretending something can keep accelerating forever is even more dumb than pretending something can keep growing forever at a steady rate.

Look at these two columns of numbers:

100
102 2
104 2
106 2
108 2
110 2
112 2
114 2
116 2
118 2
120 2
122 2
124 2
126 2
128 2
130 2
132 2
134 2
136 2
138 2
140 2


The first column shows a figure of 100 growing by 2 every line. The second column the difference between each figure in the first column and the previous one. By the end of 20 lines the figure has grown from 100 to 140. The reasons for this are too obvious to elaborate upon. 

Now check out this series:




100
102 2
104.04 2.04 0.04
106.1208 2.0808 0.0408
108.2432 2.122416 0.041616
110.4081 2.164864 0.042448
112.6162 2.208162 0.043297
114.8686 2.252325 0.044163
117.1659 2.297371 0.045046
119.5093 2.343319 0.045947
121.8994 2.390185 0.046866
124.3374 2.437989 0.047804
126.8242 2.486749 0.04876
129.3607 2.536484 0.049735
131.9479 2.587213 0.05073
134.5868 2.638958 0.051744
137.2786 2.691737 0.052779
140.0241 2.745571 0.053835
142.8246 2.800483 0.054911
145.6811 2.856492 0.05601
148.5947 2.913622 0.05713

Once again you have a starting figure of 100 but this time the figure is multiplied by a constant of 1.02, or 102%. This represent a rate of 2% growth. In the second column you can see that the amount by which the figure increases is itself increasing. The first iteration it increases by 2. The 20th iteration it increases by nearly 3. 

In the third column I have calculated the difference between each value in the second column, just to demonstrate unequivocally to the hard of thinking that the rate of increase is also increasing.

The same applies to economic growth figures which are almost universally presented as percentage GDP growth per time period, normally per year. However, they are rarely presented in isolation, for a single time period. Instead they are inevitably presented in the context of historical growth figures and future forecasts. Any such presentation therefore communicates not only how much the economy has grown by, as an absolute figure within the time period specified, but also whether the rate at which that absolute figure itself is changing over time.

Edited for clarity @ 22:16

Thursday, March 06, 2014

population does matter

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Green types have a difficult relationship with issues of population so I wanted to lay a few thoughts out here that I've been playing with for the last year. Whilst I respect the editorial independence of magazine editors to choose whose adverts to publish I must argue that  just because 'rich' people (Westerners) are barely replacing themselves doesn't mean there aren't too many of us already. I doubt you would argue that the population of the UK or Europe is within the carrying capacity of those regions. These regions couldn't be self-sufficient and maintain their standard of living. New Zealand is, of course, in broadly the same position: We rely on trade with other countries, exchanging manufactured goods and services for the raw materials we need to maintain our Western standard of living. There is no question that any Western country could isolate itself and maintain the quality of life of its citizens. Even Europe or the USA couldn't achieve this. Were does your raw rubber come from? Cocoa? How about sea fish? Yeah. The US and Europe have pretty much fucked their own fish stocks into oblivion and are now almost entirely reliant on hoovering up the last few abundant stocks off the coasts of semi-functional states of Western Africa or the Southern Ocean.

I also doubt you would argue that Western trade with developing countries is administered in a just and egalitarian fashion. Western nations rape and pillage the developing world, exploiting and perpetuating corrupt regimes that favour us in betrayal of their own people, exporting carbon- and pollution-intensive industries and enclosing beauty spots and natural wonders in opulent, manicured tourist bubbles. Western nations, therefore, should make trade more just; effectively reducing their population's standard of living or they should reduce their population to their carrying capacity to maintain their populations' current standard of living with the productivity and resources of their own region. This is a just solution but only the fantastically naive think its likely. In reality Westerners are often bigoted and selfish and whilst many pay lip service to the principles of equality and justice they really couldn't care less about starving povs in Bangladesh. There are many reasons for this, which I don’t need to go into here but the veracity of it is undeniable. All you have to do is ask yourself what would happen to a political candidate advocating a policy of global equality in any Western country. Were they to give advance notice of a public appearance advocating such policy they would be lucky to escape a lynching.

As a thought experiment, let's consider what the principles of equality and sustainability prescribe: In the ‘Global South’ lives the majority of the world’s population, often existing (I won’t call it ‘living’) in utter squalor and destitution. 80% of the globe live on less than $10 a day, 50% on less than $2.50. Those nations afflicted with the Resource Curse often foster an abundance of preventable diseases, extreme poverty, conflict and corruption thanks to Western influence. What if they could suddenly be magically elevated to a Western standard of living? The answer is that this would be totally unsustainable. To argue that everyone on the planet deserves a Western standard of living would be to argue for the rapid degradation of the planet’s biosphere and some sort of Starkian holocaust. The WWF’s Living Planet Report provides an example estimation of planetary carrying capacity. Other reports from more academic sources also suggest that human civilisation exceeds the capacity of several of the planet’s ecosystem services and functions. (Contrary analyses do exist,of course. ) A recent, and delightfully gritty example is reported by Naomi Klein.

So, a sustainable mean global standard of living is far below the Western one. Exactly how far below, though? Here's a summary table I made from the data on page 142 of the 2012 LPR. The units are global hectares per person. You'll have to read the report to work out how that was

Country/region Population  (millions)   Total Ecological Footprint Total biocapacity   footprint per billion people biocapacity per billion people footprint / biocapacity
World 6739.6 2.7 1.78 0.40 0.261.52
High-income countries 1037 5.6 3.05 5.40 2.94 1.84
Middle-income countries 4394.1 1.92 1.72 0.44 0.39 1.12
Low-income countries 1297.5 1.14 1.14 0.88 0.88 1.00


There are many fascinating aspects of this data but to make my point lets focus on the three columns on the right which I have calculated for myself (they're not in the report). High-income countries (I haven't checked whether this is synonymous with the "West") have much higher footprint and biocapacity than the poorer countries thanks partly to the Green Revolution but also to the fact that these temperate climes are the most stable and productive regions of the planet. A status which surely contributed to their enlightenment. However, the footprint of these rich countries exceeds their biocapacity by 84% whereas that of middle and low income countries are roughly equivalent. So for citizens of high income countries to live within their biocapacity they must reduce their footprint by nearly half. This is before we even broach the issue of any moral imperative to share technology and resources equally between rich and poor countries.

This is a substantial step down for the affluent nations from their current luxury. Whether you agree with WWF's figures or not, I doubt you'd find a significant difference if you went about reproducing this data in any reasonably objective fashion. The implications are clear and the point ought to be restated boldly: The sustainable and egalitarian standard of living for humanity is currently far below the current Western standard. You can’t argue against the veracity of this statement without invoking some sort of racist argument based on Western superiority or some deus ex machina technological development that will imminently and magically decouple lifestyle from our ecological footprint. Technologies such as decoupling carbon emissions from energy are theoretically possible. However, the window for their development and deployment on a scale necessary to mitigate climate change are implausible to say the least.

My point is that if you want to increase your standard of living, and let me state here that I do, then the ecological footprint of doing so must inevitably result from me dispossessing someone else in my society or from population reduction. I know which one I prefer.

As for the poorer countries, they are doing much better on the sustainability stakes according to the WWF numbers. But reflect upon that for a moment: the current ecological footprint of all those people living in destitute slums in Cairo, Nairobi, Manila and Lima are only just living within the biocapacity of their nations. There's only two solutions to the insufferable poverty these people live in: the nations can pursue development, raising their populations out of poverty and increasing their footprint to the detriment of their biocapacity or they can reduce their population and the biocapacity per capita will increase. In a just society these gains would be spread equally between the whole population. Of course, this isn't likely. One of the most glaring dysfunctions of Western society of the last thirty years has been the decoupling of productivity gains from income gains. I don't know if this applies to poorer countries but my innate cynicism whispers to me that they probably never saw the initial postwar gains in the first place.


The second solution to sustainability and equality is the same one I outlined above. Now, remind me whether population matters?



N.B. Please don't be so naive as to suggest that technology transfers cold allow poorer countries to develop their biocapacity for their own populations benefits. If you think this is in the least likely you have been living under a rock for the past ten years because Western countries, and the BRICS too, are only interested in transferring technology to poor countries for their own benefit through neoimperialist land grabs.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

are insect spy drones real?

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I called this image a fake. Someone disagreed. I was going to tweet a response but there's numbers and evidence and shit which gets drawn out and needs a blog post. So here I am.

I think its fake because its too complicated. Machines are simple. They do not approach the complexity of even the simplest cell. That image shows something that looks like a mosquito. It has mosquito-shaped wings and legs and what appears to be a multi-instrumental proboscis. The more I  look at it the more I know its a fake. Here's the evidence:


  • This link has video showing what a real insect drones look like. Note that it does NOT look like a mosquito. It looks like a toy. It has few moving parts. That's because moving parts require movement systems including motors, drivers, wires and a power source. Every extra moving part requires more capability in the CPU controlling all that shit. That means more power too. I made the audacious claim that there wasn't a power source in existence that could power the alleged mosquito drone for any useful period. 
  • Look at a quadrocopter, for example. My nephew has a Hubsan X107 X4. Its a toy. It has a 240mAh battery that keeps it aloft for less than 10 minutes. The person who this post is aimed at linked to a paper published in a very prestigious journal in 2008 that reported the development of a revolutionary new lithium ion nanotechnology that would increase the capacity of li-ion batteries by 10 fold. In the link the author of the paper claims "this new technology can be pushed to real life quickly,". Note that the paper was published five years ago. I haven't seen any hyper-capable li-ion batteries on the market. 
  • Even if the technology was available to the NSA, the CIA and all the other hyper evil people, because of the complexity of the mosquito drone there's no way its consumption is comparable with my nephew's toy quadrocopter. If the Hubsan could stay aloft for 90 minutes, that would be rad. But if, instead of running some cheap brushless motors, a CPU and a little 2.4GHz receiver it had to simultaneously control 6 multi-jointed limbs, 2 wings and a head full of sensory gear transmitting an audio visual feed, then I don't think even the hypothetical super-battery would last more than the same 9 minutes the Hubsan currently achieves. I am, of course, assuming a similar power-to-weight ratio here as well as a similar battery-to-weight ratio.
  • G_Funk_D, the protagonist here, also suggested that the mosquito drone could run off solar power. That sounds reasonable although I don't see any solar panels and even if the entire surface was doped there would be a tiny, tiny output in anything other than direct sun light. If this thing is meant to fly outdoors then its performance is going to be very restricted by the weather conditions (as are actual mosquitos) or it is going to consume implausible quantities of power. If its not meant to fly outdoors then solar power is simply not an issue. Indoor conditions would be much more favourable to such a device. 
  • Finally, the ultimate nail in the coffin: Snopes says its not real

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

why is Auckland such a fucking awful place to get around?

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I ride a motorbike. I drive 20km to work and back every day. There is a train station 300m down the road from my house. One of the twenty or so in the entire city of a million people with just two train lines. But I don't use it. I ride my motorbike to work. There are many reasons why I choose to do this over taking the train. The convenience. The speed. The thrill. The train can't compete on any of these.

Recently however, I have been discovering more and more unpleasant aspects of being a road user in Auckland. Firstly, people on the motorway have tried to kill me twice in two weeks. That's quite a big one. Secondly, a combination of the beginning of school term and the roadworks at the new Waterview interchange has impacted my commute like a hefted brick and left me weaving through heavy traffic, instead of farting freely down the open roads. Thirdly, I have found myself becoming more and more aggressive in my driving in response to other road users' habits.

I have always prided myself on being a conscientious driver. In the UK I drove various permutations of white van. Well, my first one was green, but anyway, I drove vans. I drove them to work and I drove them to the beach and I drove them to festivals. I took pleasure in being a courteous road user and defying the stereotypical white van driver. In fact I believe that stereotype is a myth. I found the majority of van drivers to be amicable and generous road users. You can't be anything else when you're driving something as unsexy and unwieldy as a transit, although the minority exception to the rule often seem to contribute every bit to the myth as much as the majority detract from it. Actually, I did used to stink around considerably in my T4 but that's allowed because T4s are fucking awesome and go like shit off a brick. I always used to compare my T4 to a Golf, whereas the Citroen Relay I had before that was a 2CV. Anyway, I digress. I was a careful, if enthusiastic driver and even when I was tonning it home in the 306 along the A38 on a Friday afternoon I was never one of those cunts who would tailgate people or come up behind them and flash lights or undertake. I'd just wait patiently for whatever doddery old bastard was in front of me to get out the way before stinking away again. I respect other peoples' rights to be law abiding, doddery old farts or pootling mummies on their school run. It doesn't bother me.

From the previous paragraph you might have grasped that I break speed limits with some abandon. I do. I'm not ashamed of it. I have a relatively blemish-free driving licence and have only ever pranged two cars, one of which was a childish prank and the other a parking accident. I am proud to have been caught speeding just the once and that was a fair cop when I was late for work one morning. I work on the principle that speed limits, particularly those here in New Zealand, were set in an age when mainstream production automobiles couldn't break 100mph without threatening to disintegrate and certainly couldn't be trusted to stop or avoid obstacles in an emergency. Have you seen those old pieces of shit the UK used to churn out? One friend at uni had a Morris Marina. Another had an Austin Allegro. They were joke cars that were gifted to people by their grandparents or elderly uncles. We laughed at them and hand painted confederate flags on their roofs, or put BMW badges on the front. I couldn't drive myself but even if I did I aspired to drive a 306 or a Golf, not one of those wrecks. Their owners never bothered to do any substantial maintenance because it was accepted that it would be pointless. The cars were fundamentally unsound. There was nothing our inexperienced hands could do to remedy that. The difference between these contraptions and the epic Mercedes that I drive today couldn't be more marked. Despite being 20 years old my epic MercPanzer exhibits ABS and a body made of such heavy steel that I can't drill self tapping screws into it. I could do that to the T4 and as for the Shitroen, I could almost flick holes in that with my bare fingers.

Ah. More digression. Anyway, my take-home message is that if you get a speeding ticket you're either driving too quickly for the conditions or you weren't paying sufficient attention to the road. Either way, you're a liability and you deserve it. BTW, I do have a pretty good grounding in statistics so please don't make the mistake of thinking that I've just been lucky up til now and that I'm an accident waiting to happen. I have taken care to learn and understand the stochastic influences at play in road safety. By this I mean I pay careful attention to the factors that contribute to road traffic accidents and take pains to pay them appropriate respect. You can't stay alive riding a motorbike in any major city for more than a few months if you don't.

And so I have wound my way back to Auckland traffic and my motorbike. The point of this article is to lay down something I said to my wife earlier tonight when we were discussing my near-fatal incident on the morning commute. What happened was that I overtook a long line of queuing cars and then stopped a couple back from a set of lights, indicating to turn right. The guy I had stopped in front of, some middle aged Maori or Pacific Islander, obviously took umbrage at what he perceived of as my forcing my way in front of him and proceeded to try to drive around the outside of me as I turned right and then turned into me, forcing me off my line and towards the concrete barrier separating my side of the road from the oncoming traffic. He was so close to me that if I hadn't been leaning into the corner he would have contacted me. Fortunately I realised what he was doing and managed to tighten the turn and pull ahead of him. Once I knew I was ahead of him I then stopped in the middle of the lane, giving him the option of stopping behind me or running into me and I put my kickstand down and started to get off the bike. The cunt drove around me and away down the motorway, leaving me literally shaking my fist at his receding cage.

When someone tries to kill you- and I hope I'm not being melodramatic here- you find yourself considering whether you provoked them. Had my actions in pulling ahead of this guy in traffic presented such a mortal insult that he felt the need to imperil my life? Had I failed to understand the cultural implications of my perceived queue jumping? Had my presence in front of him pushed him over the edge of an already bad morning and into a homicidal rage that was no fault of his own. I think not. The reality of riding a motorbike in traffic is that you are constantly overtaking cars. If the guy hadn't acted as he did I would have been a kilometre down the motorway before he could even see it. The motorway on-ramp consist of two lanes curving down to a classic New Zealand stop-go traffic light which lets the queue of cars pass in pairs. This is an anti congestion measure to limit the flow of cars on to the motorway. Once I had put myself between the protagonist and the van ahead of him I would only have usurped his position in the flow of traffic for a handful of seconds.The stretch of on-ramp flowing from the traffic light intersection where the incident took place down to the stop-go lights splits into two lanes to accommodate the queueing cars. Directly after the stop-go these two lanes merge again. A driver on four wheels must pick one of the lanes to queue in until they get through the stop-go light. A rider on two wheels, such as myself, slips carefully between the two rows and nips through the stop-go behind the next two cars. I don't know if this is legal but its what I and about half the other motorcyclists on the roads do. (The other half of motorcyclists do not drive as if they are riding a bike but as if they are driving a car, which seems to me to defeat the entire point of riding a motorcycle). And so my protagonist would only have had to tolerate the sight of me immediately ahead of him on the road for the few seconds it took for him to turn the corner of the traffic light intersection and travel a hundred meters down the on-ramp to the queuing traffic, where he would have come to a halt and I would have disappeared ahead and away, leaving him in his original, coveted position behind a shitty white van with the legend "I wish my wife was as dirty as this van" daubed in the dust and grime covering its rear window. Okay, I made that bit up, but do you see how trivial this arsehole's actions were?

So this is the context for the conversation I was having with punkwiff this evening when I experienced the startling revelation that people like this guy, and the other wanker who, on the motorway a couple of weeks ago, pulled up so close behind me in the fast lane that I could have turned around and pulled his wipers off, actually deserve to sit in traffic for an hour every morning. They deserve to have to sit and simmer and rage and grind their teeth as they inch towards the stop-go light for their turn to burn rubber for fifty meters before slamming their anchors back on to merge with the traffic crawling along the motorway at 30kph. Because that's what they've voted for.

There's a saying I came across: You get the government you deserve. If you live and work in Auckland and have to travel across the city on a regular basis and you continue to vote for people whose stated policy is to make this situation worse, to neglect public transport infrastructure and to institute transport policies that favour car drivers then you deserve everything you get in the way of congestion, road rage, wasted hours sat in your cage when you could be playing with your children or reading a book or making love to your wife. What's more, you have no right, perceived or otherwise, to take umbrage at people who are smart enough to adopt more sensible approaches to transport, whether that be subsidised public transport or people like me making our way through the shit storm of oiks and retards blocking up Auckland's arterior roads in their cuntmobiles. I don't vote for these things and I'm not stupid enough to spend two hours a day driving 2 tons of steel into the city and back, not to mention paying $15 for the privilege of parking it there. My bike doesn't take up fuck all space on the road, it doesn't do fuck all damage to the road surface and it only produces a fraction of the emissions some Holden mkIV prickwagon does so fuck you and your fucking playground strop about me getting ahead of you on the road, fuck your stupid, shiny cuntwagon and fuck the government that you voted in to keep this absurd fucking shitstorm of a transit system in place. You twat.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

the vicious circle of pseudodemocracy

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An exchange on twitter with @PhilRandal led to the following summary of the vicious circle of pseudodemocracy. Any attempt to effect genuine democratic change within a pseudodemocracy such as the UK will ultimately be thwarted by a dysfunction in one or more of the elements of this circle. 

There are just so many examples of this but a few prominent ones include the AV referendum, the constant flux of absurd, ideological policy spewing forth from the department of education, the Leveson Report, the Jenkins Review, limitation of media coverage to controversial figures such as UKIP and the BNP and not the greens or the SNP, etc., etc. 

Anyway, I said to Phil that I should come up with a pithy jargonism to use as a hashtag on twitter to refer to this but then I realised that the tagline on this blog was about as succinct as you could make this. I also use too many obscure jargonisms as hashtags on twitter already so until I come up with something better I'll just stick with my old favourite #Duhmocracy.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

new header

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v1

v2




are the Tory Scum mining Westminster contact records for their propaganda spam?

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I received an email from Theresa May. This surprised me. I've never met Theresa and if I did I don't think I would ever give her my email address. I'd probably have a struggle on my hands to resist spitting in her face. Here's what it says: 


Really what it says is irrelevant. I would never listen to a word a Tory said on principle and in the interests of preserving my mental health. However, this email was sent to my personal email address. I don't know how the Conservative party got hold of this as I can guarantee that I have never corresponded with them. Even if I had I would never authorise them to send me unsolicited material. Why would I be interested in their propaganda?

So how have the Conservative Party of the UK got hold of my email address and what makes them think its okay to spam it? This email address is publically visible on the internet but not associated with any information which would allow the Tories to identify me as a target. Unless I have slipped up in registering for some website and forgot to tick the "don't allow us to sell your personal info for profit" box, which I'm always careful to do, the only way I can think of is them mining Westminster resources such as the ePetitions website and ministerial contact records, with which I have communicated via that email address. If true this is a gross abuse of my private data and is clearly illegal under the Data Protection Act. I have replied, of course demanding to know how they obtained my email address but I doubt The Scum will be forthcoming. 

I would be interested to know if anyone else has received such an email and can confirm or deny my suspicions. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Eastleigh byelection

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Chris Huhne is gone. Good riddance to Tory Scum. Now to look to the future: There isn't a Green Party candidate standing in the constituency, which is a jaw-droppingly naive move. How can the Party claim they represent anyone if they don't run a candidate? Even though the UK's dismally pseduodemocratic electoral system makes it certain they will lose their deposit they need all the publicity they can get. Not even having a name on the ballot paper is just dumb. 

Anyway, here's some numbers:

Based on the 2010 figures the electorate is 77,417 strong (votes cast / turnout). The LibTards polled 24,966 or 46.5% of votes cast. A classic example of UK 'democracy' there: not even a majority on paper, regardless of the wishes of those in the constituency too disillusioned, not registered or otherwise ineligible to vote, eg. due to being imprisoned for some petty misdemeanour. This is why punkscience advocates compulsory voting and proportional representation.

Anyway, apart from the disenfranchised, the 2010 election left 52,451 people- nearly 68% of eligible voters- without political representation in Westminster. Oh, they had an MP. Yes, one they hadn't voted for. Very 'democratic'.

I don't know if you can tell but I am utterly disillusioned with UK politics. That 68%, that enormous, farting, blarting pachyderm depositing vast piles of dung in the corner of the small, packed room that is UK politics, is such an obvious offence to my sensibilities that I find it hard to muster anything beyond harsh scorn for any political commentary that fails to acknowledge it first and foremost. As this includes pretty much the entirety of political commentary I am left cackling and sneering from my shack here on the edge of Auckland without much of substance to engage people on. But then I'm happy like this. I'm clearly right. You can't argue with the numbers. Can you?

The worst thing is that I now find people I respect and whose opinions I value posting earnest tweets discussing what would be the best outcome in the byelection without considering that the entire affair is blatantly illegitimate and a sham. They consider whether UKIP's explosion of voter share is a good or bad thing. Whether, ultimately, a LibTard hold might be the Best Outcome they can hope for. Its just bizarre! Have they no ambition? Have they no sense of their own role in the perverted satire of this pantomime of public participation? Their own subjection to the agenda of the covert and malevolent authoritarianism that has ruled the UK for decades? 

Apparently not.