Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tony vs Paul

We interrupt our regularly schedule programming for an awesome stop-motion video:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Eyes on the panopticon

The economist has a piece on our incarceration rate. Either that or they just published a press release by Senator Webb under their own byline. So... what's the problem here?

Well, there's the failure of the war on drugs, that's an obvious one.

Perhaps less obvious is mental health. I don't know the first thing about the public or private provisions for mental health in the US. It appears to me though that far too many of the mentally ill have fallen through the cracks. If they're in prison, or homeless in the streets, or employed by Fox News... well, that's not doing any good for anyone.

Anyone else have a theory? Does the US of A just have more criminals? Are our cops just better at catching the ones we've got? Do we hand out longer sentences? What's going on here?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dope on the table

So the US is a world leader in incarceration rates. Drug convictions aren't the only reason, but they're a big reason.

The Portugese, it seems are on to something. Anyone want to convince me why decriminilisation couldn't work in the US too?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Even More on the Missing Entwives

So, we all know that I'm trying to figure out where all the women are, and why they aren't programmers like me.

This article doesn't touch on the subject directly, but it addresses a lot of the pop-psych that gets tossed around in the conversation. The article is long and detailed and interesting and you should read it. If you don't have the time or the inclination though, a summary:

Women, individually, are more important for survival than men, basically since their part of the reproductive process is the critical path. One man can make 9 babies in 9 months, but that job would take 9 women. This means that women have a higher chance of passing on genes than men, which in turn makes it more important that every woman have decent genes.

Evolutionarily speaking, you want to play it safe with the women since they're likely to reproduce. You can afford to take chances with the men since screwing up on one is okay.  Another can have more children and make up for the loss.

There are a bunch of attributes where men have a higher variance than women.   Height, IQ, math capabilities, whatever.  Similar mean, but at the extremes, there are more men both at the top and at the bottom. So dudes are more likely to have Wikipedia-worthy achievements, but are also more likely to be homeless or in jail.  Men have pretty uniform tastes in women, but women show a lot of variance in their preferences.

Guys are expendable. It's okay to get a few failures in the pursuit of greatness. That model moves well into a social paradigm of negative sum status hierarchies and competition. Status hierarchies have a lot of losers and a few winners. Losers might be dead soldiers,  lowly office drones, football players who never made the big time or whatever,  but in any case they're probably having fewer children than the winners.  Things work out for society though: the winners can have a lot of children.

We need relatively more women to succeed though, so the few winners vs many losers model doesn't work as well. This model moves well into a social paradigm of cooperation instead of competition.

Unfortunately, cooperation works best in small groups and scales linearly. Competition works in large hierarchies and scales geometrically. So you've got one group that's optimized for the things that make social life work: small, interdependent, cooperative groups. Then you've got a second group that's optimized for the things that make social life scale: large, competitive status hierarchies. Hierarchies like politics, corporations, the military, and sports teams.

So, two questions:

1) Is this an accurate model of how things work in the world?

2) If so, what if anything can or should be done about it?

Monday, August 3, 2009

On entitlements

"keep your government hands off my Medicare."

ht: Tyler Cowen @ Marginal Revolution