A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.

To be clear, the sandpit is for regular commenters to pursue points that distract from regular discussion, including conspiracy-theoretic takes on the issues at hand. It’s not meant as a forum for visiting conspiracy theorists, or trolls posing as such.

19 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. When I saw the word ‘sandpit’, I thought you meant a play area for infants or people with infantile minds – like the realDonaldTrump.

  2. “A ‘sandbox’ is a testing environment that isolates untested code changes and outright experimentation from the production environment or repository in the context of software development including Web development and revision control.” – Wikipedia.

    As I see it, the sandpit here serves that kind of function with respect to other discussions and arguments which are meant to stay on topic.

    As J.Q. says, the sandpit serves for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.

  3. akarog,

    You mean explosive ideas… like money does not measure value. 😉 That’s an heretical claim in the world today. Yet, it is correct and provably so. See Capital as Power.

  4. Here’s a long sided discussion topic. According to Paul Krugman and The Economist magazine (January 2nd-8th, 2021) the new wave of e-commerce will replace traditionally based commercial operations in the long term. The Economist insists that online spending across the globe ,in 2020 alone, has been responsible for “speeding up the shift from physical stores by half a decade or so” (Leaders page 7). The only stumbling block, according to The Economist, is the USA. where live-streaming is still not taken up as much as it is in other countries. The Economist also points to the ageing populations in Japan and Europe as a negating factor. Their argument is that the so-called gig microeconomy relies on cheap young warehouse workers and delivery drivers. The Economist also blames overspecialization, inherent in western style firms, for a small number of risk takers going into e-commerce opportunities in the American and European markets.(“The great mall of China” pages 47 to 50 of the Business section of The Economists January 2nd-8th, 2021). .
    As far as Australia is concerned, we are held back by poor infrastructure. Our broadband is a joke. Our urban roads are overloaded with heavy freight vehicles. And our governments only want to tax the internet not promote its productivity and efficiency.
    I am not a fan of the labour contracts enforced in the gig economy; but am reminded that when traditional businesses today had their start ups they too pay poor wages and imposed unfair work conditions on a young workforce. Henry Ford’s labour management edict of “NO WALK! NO TALK!”
    matches anything we are seeing today in the gig economy.
    If e-commerce is the future then we better get in there quick and make sure it is a better future for everyone; and not just for the one in a hundred lucky punters who get in first.

  5. A published paper dated 18 Dec 2020, by Martin Siegert, Richard B Alley, Eric Rignot, John Englander & Robert Corell, titled “Twenty-first century sea-level rise could exceed IPCC projections for strong-warming futures”, suggests that the IPCC’s projections that sea-level rise from the 1950s levels would likely be within 0.61–1.10 m if warming exceeds 4°C by 2100 is “focused at the low end of possible outcomes”.

    This statement in the paper grabbed my attention:

    “The lessons from the paleo record inform us that it is possible, when pushed by greenhouse gases, for the climate to change rapidly and for ice sheets to drive several meters of global sea-level rise over a century timescale.”

    I’d suggest coastal infrastructure and residents would be totally unprepared for that magnitude of sea level rise.

    The paper concludes with:

    “Sea-level rise will be one of the most challenging issues faced by society in the coming decades unless we decarbonize fully by mid-century. An objective appreciation and more-effective dissemination of what sea-level rise is possible under strong warming, as opposed to what is deemed likely or is currently accounted for by numerical models, would better inform decision makers, who must increase decarbonization ambition to avoid the most severe of outcomes.”

    I wonder how many policy/decision-makers are aware of this?
    Do people who say we just need to adapt really understand what that really means?

  6. Gregory, regarding “e-commerce will replace traditionally based commercial operations in the long term”, I of course do not have a crystal ball to agree or disagree, but I observe that
    despite trains and cars and buses there are still horse drawn coaches to be seen in London, Vienna, Munich and many other places in Europe and in the Amish settlements in the USA (possibly elsewhere also). Setting aside modes of transport involving horses in places other than Europe and the USA, having a ride in a horse drawn coach has become a novelty at a price (if not social status, as in the case of London). Moreover, bicycle rides have experienced a revival in popularity during the pandemic.

    What are traditionally based commercial operations? It may well be that large malls, filled with shops selling standardised items, are on the way out – but these have a very short tradition in comparison to speciality shops, starting with the bakers to be found on almost every street corner in French towns, to hand made chocolate shops, cake shops, tailors, musical instruments, etc, where craft and expertise in the goods matters rather than factory production.

    Shopping in Sydney has become very boring, IMHO, because the shops in the various shopping malls all sell the same stuff. I haven’t been to Melbourne for a few years but I recall at the time when shopping was already boring in Sydney, it was a pleasure in Melbourne (and in Adelaide).

    How long is the ‘long term’? Is it so long, measured in calendar time, to span the disappearance of e-commerce?

    I agree with you regarding the payment of workers in the gig economy. I hear the President elect in the USA want to raise the minimum wage. Have the authors of the Economist article or Prof Krugman taken into account the impact of such a policy on their prediction?

    Anyway, good for you to raise this issue. It has been simmering for at least 15 years.

  7. Just saw an interview in a (German) public television report about corona containment measures: “I am happy i can come to work, because I got social contacts here, and I feel safe because everyone is wearing a mask (interview without mask at the workplace).” Well….
    Before that: Reporter to reporter: “What alse shall we do, the measures are already so strict” Uhhh……

    Today, at leasts a _right_ to remote work will be introduced. Still no mandate while schools remain closed and private contacts are reduced to one person a day. That makes no sense at all.

    Ah, also had another job interview by video. That is, I was connected by video, the hiring committee all sat in a single office together. Not even a big room and I could barely identify any faces with their strange one webcam for all setup GAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Not only did they put each other at risk, they also made the entire process much more uncomfortable for everyone.

  8. Anyone aware of the latest data on the health vs. economy tradeoff myth during the pandemic? I found this from Sept. 2020.

    One of the paragraph headings is “No sign of a health-economy trade-off, quite the opposite”

    I wonder if all the “let-it-rip” advocates are still denying these facts, along with all the other facts they deny? My guess is that they are except for the ones that are now dead.

    It’s disappointing that Australia (GDP rank 13th (nominal, 2020), 18th (PPP, 2020)) is not in the data or on the graphs. IMHO, this is typical of Western northern hemisphere myopia. But then again, maybe it’s better to be forgotten than remembered in this global system. That could well lead to better survival chances long term.

  9. “We totter on the brink of extremism at present: there are no such things as ‘less valuable’ lives

  10. Trust J-D to find some interesting information on the topics “traditionally based commercial operations” and “how long is the long term”; the linked article deals with ‘commercial’ operations in Japan, which are based on traditions that are 1000 year or more old. I found the article interesting. Thank you.

    In the context of the topic introduced by Gregory, J-D’s linked article illustrates the economic notion of ‘bounded rationality’ (ie decisions or statements that appear general but are based on limited information), or, as one might say in sociology, seeing issues through cultural lenses.

    The article raises further related questions: What does ‘commercial’ mean? ‘The economic activity described in the article on Japan, could be called family businesses in some European countries, setting aside the length of the generational chain of operators and allowing for variations in the adherence to traditional means of production. This allows focusing on characteristca, which are more similar than different between the Japanese and the European ‘family businesses’ from a more or less long contemporary economic perspective. Firstly, the owners-operators make decisions, which reflect their own preferences, including their regard for past and future generations. Second, they avoid debt.

    In my professional opinion, it is the avoidance of debt (and reliance on savings), which allows owner-operators to act according to their preferences – not absolutely and under all conceivable circumstances but as long as they can survive.

    The much talked about financialisation of ‘capitalism’ involved, what I’d like to call a propaganda or marketing effort by an originally rather small group of Finance academics promoting debt. Numerous case studies were published showing how family businesses in the USA can become richer if they drop their avoidance of debt. Privatisation of public assets usually involves debt, mergers and acquisition usually involves debt…. GFC.

    I don’t know the notion of ‘traditional commercial activities’ underlying the Economist’s and Prof Krugman’s assessment. But I am rather confident that the ‘tradition’ introduced under the heading of ‘financialisation’ is not going to have a long life.

  11. J-D & Ernestine, let’s hope “of ‘financialisation’ is not going to have a long life.”, yet Branko Milanovic may not agree.

    I too, due to lifelong social conditioning “become a small center of capitalist production assigning implicit prices to our time, our emotions and our family relations.” – a habit I am trying to alter.

    Branko Milanovic muses that, even if half the planet is destroyed by nuclear war, capitalism won’t be destroyed.

    “The C Word
    By Paul O’Mahoney
    Capitalism, Alone: The Future of the System That Rules the World,
    by Branko Milanovic

    “Some critics of course deplore this gross amorality and its acceptance, as they deplore another aspect of capitalism, its tendency to infiltrate every domain of human existence, to leave little or nothing not either directly commercialised or at least conceived of in transactional terms. Some writers have posited that this will be capitalism’s ultimate undoing; that some set of abiding human impulses will eventually revolt at the system’s imposition of its values and reject it in its entirety. Milanovic demurs, however, arguing that the notion that this thinking is imposed from outside, in contravention of our nature and better judgement, is fanciful. The commodification of life, even private and family life, and the atomisation induced by capitalist calculation, proceeds for the reason that “we are willingly, even eagerly, participating in commodification because, through long socialization in capitalism, people have become capitalistic calculating machines. We have each become a small center of capitalist production assigning implicit prices to our time, our emotions and our family relations.” Commodification of the private sphere “does not presage a crisis of capitalism” because it is not felt as an intrusion; for most, it is rather “a step toward enrichment and freedom”, and the capitalist calculus “encourages better use of time”. (One might suggest this idea to be a component of the sustaining ideology of moneymaking as the highest objective, with the most detailed theoretical exposition of this position contained in the work of Gary Becker.) Nor is capitalism to be presumed threatened by the predicted automation of jobs; robots and artificial intelligence are only the latest phase of the mechanisation that has proceeded since the industrial revolution. Fear of automation is based on the “lump of labour” fallacy, the idea that there is only a set number of jobs, and the false notion that human beings have limited needs. There is every reason to expect that mechanisation will produce more jobs not yet foreseen, and new possibilities create new needs and wants to be met by services. The chorus advocating for measures such as a universal basic income to address the automation of jobs is premature (Milanovic sees universal basic income as a problematic proposal with too many unknowns for its success to be foreseen).”

    …” contrary to what its most zealous advocates sometimes claim, globalised capitalism does not necessarily promote peace. Even a war which destroyed half of the world would not, for Milanovic, mean the end of capitalism, as technological know-how would survive and, despite setbacks and adaptations, a capitalist system could be expected to be again established and in the fullness of time be expanded.”…

    Capitalism, Alone: The Future of the System That Rules the World,
    by Branko Milanovic

  12. Any to add? I have recently been told of Henery Lawson’s mother. A Plaque needs to read …

    “Every eccentricity of belief, and every variety of bias in mankind allies itself with a printing machine, and gets its singularities bruited about in type, but where is the printing-ink champion of mankind’s better half? There has hitherto been no trumpet through which the concentrated voice of womankind could publish their grievances and their opinions … Here then is Dawn, the Australian Woman’s Journal and mouthpiece.”
    — Dora Falconer, 15 May 1888[6]

    And I’d say Louisa Lawson – real name – would want the statue to contain a small man with Louisa throwing a bucket of water onto the haranguer.

    “The association attempted to boycott the publication, and at one stage a member visited their offices to “harangue the staff” – only to be removed after having had a bucket of water thrown on them by Lawson.[12][13] Lawson won the battle through patience and “stern resistance” – eventually the boycott lost momentum, and the Dawn continued as it had before.[14″

    Both quotes from

    And a street…
    “Louisa Lawson Crescent, in the Canberra suburb of Gilmore, is named in her honour.”

    “Ask HN:
    Famous anonymous inventions other than Bitcoin?”

    “Do you know famous inventions whose authors have always remained completely anonymous and never reveled their identities ? Other than Bitcoin.

    “PS: In any field, not only technology, and any time in history.”

  13. Here is a “famous inventions whose authors have always remained completely anonymous”, to me.

    “Overlooked No More: Karen Sparck Jones, Who Established the Basis for Search Engines

    “A pioneer of computer science for work combining statistics and linguistics, and an advocate for women in the field.”

    “A Retrospective view of Synonymy and Semantic Classification

    Yorick Wilks and John Tait

    1. Introduction
    Karen Sparck Jones’ Cambridge PhD thesis of 1964 has had an interesting and unusual history. Entitled Synonymy and Semantic Classification (henceforth SSC) it was reproduced only in the simple mimeo book form then used by the Cambridge Language Research Unit where she worked. It was finally published in 1986, in an Edinburgh University Press series. Even that late publication managed to be ahead of a great deal of later work that recapitulates aspects of it, usually from ignorance of its existence. There is no doubt that SSC was developing statistical and symbolic techniques for the use of what we now call language resources so far ahead of other work that it was almost impossible for contemporary researchers to understand the book or to relate it to their own activity. At the time SSC was being written, Olney and Revard (1968) were exploring the content of Webster’s Third Dictionary quantitatively on punched cards at Systems Development Corporation (where Sparck Jones also was by chance at the time and joined in their work with her 1967) and their work met a similar lack of reception, it, too, being twenty to thirty years ahead of its time.”

    March 2006
    DOI: 10.1007/1-4020-3467-9_1

  14. Yes, any idea that the people who make money out of problem solutions (by copyright and monopoly) are the people who had the original idea, is usually utter bollocks. That is to say, there are the people who have the ideas and the people who steal the ideas and the money from the ideas and these are usually two different sets of people. The focus and time taken to have original ideas in technical fields often preclude the possession of the focus and time to make money out of the ideas, at least under our current system. This all may be a way of suggesting that people who make money don’t make things or ideas.

    As an aside, I wonder if SSC-style engines would detect that the above sentences are all circling around the same idea? I guess I could try internet searching each sentence above and see what the engines find. How much intersection of results would there be? I’m nearly bored enough to try that. I might do it or I might not.

    A better idea (re. copyright and monopoly) would be to permit ideas to belong to all. Nobody has ideas in isolation. Every idea is a compound of sensory impressions and brain recombinations. Following George Berkeley’s taxonomy of ideas , an idea of a unique (newly compounded) nature could be said to be of a nature “compounding, dividing, or barely representing… ideas (images) imprinted on the senses…” and then further “formed by attending to the passions and operations of the mind”. Section 1, “Of the Principles of Human Knowledge” by George Berkeley. This refers to ideas in the brain drawing basic elements from the senses as “impressions” meaning sense impressions. Today we would call this “sense data” or just data. We might also call it information.

    Words too enter our brains through the senses, usually by sight or sound as coded symbol sets (letters, pictograms, ideograms or phonemes). All the words of upbringing, enculturartion, education and social interaction enter enter the brain via the senses, thus entering this organ which is (among many other functions) a compounding pharmacy for ideas. Consider the volume of word-carried ideas which much enter each brain along with vast panoply of empirical impressions. From this vast array in a vast, socially connected set of brains, or minds if you will, a few truly novel ideas may arise.

    The novel idea in any mind must truly arise from the great volume of socially available ideas provided and then also from some extra emergent impetus. “Genius” is one theory but as Popper says ““A theory that explains everything, explains nothing”. Equally possible, is the fact that a unique set of ideas had entered a single brain, ideas which have never “met” in one brain before. This would be enough to explain a novel emergence. Of course, a combination of a very good brain AND a set of existing ideas which have never before been entertained in one brain would be most felicitous.

    The sense impressions and ideas come from all of nature and all of society. They are the gifts of nature and society. A good brain is possessed serendipity (luck): good nature (good genes), good nutrition and good nurture. All these gifts and luck may produce novel and useful results. Every brain worker like every physical worker requires a living income and reasonable social recognition for what they do, even if it be in a small social circle. Nobody deserves inequitable wealth from ideas and even less so from ideas hijacked under the banners of copyright, monopoly and private property.

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