Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Base Case

"Inequality of outcomes is okay, I just think we need to work on equal opportunities."

If you haven't heard that sentence, you've never been to a SWPL dinner party.  Good for you. =)

Really though, there's a theory that where you end up is a function of where you start.  I amend that theory by saying that where you end up is a function: outcome = f(start, effort, luck).

Anyhoo, follow these threads for a while and you get to a oft-asked question: If we were to set everyone to zero, what would outcomes look like?

Well, here's World Of Warcraft to help.  (tl:dr: WoW has a pretty high degree of wealth inequality)

WoW has some nice properties.  Everyone starts out at the same point.  Luck is a factor but over the timelines that folks play, not a major one.  So we basically "control" for start and luck and take a look at "effort."  Maybe "effort" isn't a good word, but the thing that remains depends strongly on the actual actions of players.  What sort of actions separate folks?  Some ideas:

  • Number of hours played
  • Cooperation with others (finding and maintaining membership in a good guild)
  • Desire to earn gold in the first place, compared to other goals such as PvP success, world exploration, raiding, etc.
  • Initial character build choices (n.b., a limited amount of rebuilding can occur even for "older" characters, and many players play with multiple characters).
It should be obvious how well these factors map to real world considerations.  If you asked me to guess someone's career earnings, I could do worse than to ask these four questions:
  • How hard does he work?
  • How well does he work in teams?
  • Is he motivated by money?
  • What is his education and work history from college through his current job?
Of course this is the real world, so "who are his parents?" and "does he have an uncommon surplus or deficit of luck" enter into things as well.

Maybe that explains why the US has an even higher degree of wealth inequality than WoW does...?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On the Amazon Kindle Fire

Spotted in the internets:
Playing with it for a while, it’s obviously worth $200, but it makes you realize that the iPad 2 is worth $1,000.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bass Police

It's highly unlikely that you'll regret listening to this:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Android == IE?

I was just getting cranky with Apple for not supporting iOS5 on the 3+ year old iPhone 3G.  And then I saw this.  I guess the problem of supporting new stuff on legacy hardware is an issue for every one.

It's like supporting IE: it doesn't matter what the newest version can do if all your users are 2-3 versions back.

HT: rounded corners.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On valuation

Say I work for a widget-making company.  I make widgets.

Now, when I say widgets, I probably mean that I "add value" somewhere in the widget-creating process.  It's not like there's a pile of widget ingredients on a shelf and I roll up to the shelf, pull some down, and then an hour later there's a widget that was produced entirely by my own agency.  Widgets roll down the line.  By the time they get to me, maybe they're like 55% done.  My job is to use a few fancy, expensive, purpose-built tools to get them to 58% done.

How much should I be paid?  To rephrase, let's ask: how valuable am I?  Am I responsible for 3% of the value of each widget created?  Well, without the fancy tools (which I probably can't afford and probably wouldn't have invented), I wouldn't be able to add that 3% value. Without the people before me, I wouldn't have had a half-a-widget to which I COULD add value.  Without the people after me, we'd have 58% of a widget.  58% of a widget probably sells on the open market for about as much as 0% of a widget does.  Without the process engineers that planned out the line, none of the people before or after me would have anything to do.  If we want to keep going, without the lawyers and the accountants and compliance engineers and such, our widget-making enterprise might get shut down by the SEC, or the EPA, or some other regulatory agency.

Taken in isolation, I'd produce nearly zero value.  Without the remaining infrastructure of my widget-making company, it's unlikely that I'd be able to produce even a single widget, ever.  If widgets were baskets or clay pots or or knit sweaters, maybe I could.  If they were medical devices though, or cars or iphones or smoke detectors or cans of pringles, I couldn't.  Not even one.

This near-zero value isn't just particular to me though.  The worker to my left and the worker to the right are in the same boat.  The process engineer wouldn't be too useful if there weren't someone sitting right in my seat, executing his or her carefully crafted plan for taking a widget from 55 to 58.

Let's throw a curveball though: what happens when the company buys a newer, fancier, even more expensive, purpose-built widget-crafting tool?  I used to be able to move 10 widgets an hour through my station, but now I can move 20.  Then the process engineer finds a way to combine my step with the step of the guy after me without it taking any extra time.  So now I can move 40 widgets!

Am I four times as valuable?  In an 8 hour shift, I add four times as much value!  I went from 30 widget-percentage-points an hour to 120!  On the other hand, my increase in productivity came from a tool which I didn't invent and couldn't afford, and a process improvement that wasn't my idea.

And what about the guy to my right?  I'm doing his job now, so he's not even around any more.  In the beginning, he and I looked like we were both equally productive, but now I'm four times as productive and he's not productive at all?  What happened here?

At the end of the day, my company is more productive.  If similar developments hit the rest of the line, we'll be making four times more widgets without fewer workers.  From our CEO's perspective, we invested in capital (the tools) and R&D (the process engineers).  The increased throughput is the return on that investment.

That's great econ 101 stuff right there, but where does that leave me when it comes time to discuss a raise?  And what about the dude to my right who's now unemployed?  This sounds like a great story if you're a process engineer at a widget company.  Or a process engineer at the company that makes our fancy, expensive, purpose-built tools.  Or the CEO, who gets a bonus due to the increased throughput.  Or a shareholder, who gets a dividend from the increased profitability of the company.  Or a widget consumer, who probably pays less for widgets now.  It's not a great story though, for a widget maker like me or my right-hand dude.

What happens to my wage as a result of the productivity increase?  Well, it probably goes down.  Right-hand dude is unemployed now.  He'd like my job if he could get it.  Increased competition from all the right-hand dudes out there drives labor supply up, which drives wages down.

So it's a great time for widgets.  Widgets are more popular than ever.  We're selling more than ever.  Widget companies are more profitable than ever.  But it's a terrible time for widget value-adders like me.

That's the kind of situation that leads to graphs like these.  The sort of thing that just makes you want to... occupy something.  It just feels unjust.

What's the just solution though?  If I get a magic wand, what would I do?

Make my company re-hire right hand man?  For what purpose?

Make my company pay me more?  How much more?  Why?  Why do I deserve more when right hand man is the unemployed one?

Should the government tax our widget company more and pay the money to the unemployed?  How much more?  Why?

What do the widget company and/or the government owe me or right hand man?  On what basis would that valuation be calculated?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Are you in the 1%?

I presume that the 99%-1% divide is intended as an index of USA income.  Of course my belief that countries are social fiction makes me want to consider the world wide numbers.

I found this kinda out-dated and sorta-sketch indication.  It says that the top 1% is anyone making more that 47K a year.  More than 25K puts you in the top 10%.

You can check yourself with their tool here.

Let me know if you find a better source.

*For the metaphorically inclined, I'm not trying to suggest that someone with 37 kids and a mortgage and an income of 30K annually has it great and has no right to complain or some such.  Anyone can complain if they want to.  Just remember how you feel when those richer than you complain, and then take a second to realize how rich you are too...

Friday, October 14, 2011

It's just...

One of my "man, if I had a nickel for every time" things is describing new tech as "just" *insert old tech + some new improvement here*.

The iPad is "just" a big iPod touch.  Yeah, 10 hours of battery life and a perfectly-sized screen for an airplane, a couch, a chair or the bathroom?  Maybe that's a good thing.

The Porsche Panamera is "just" a stretched out 911.  Yeah, 0-60 of a sports car and it fits the family plus luggage?  Well, that sucks.

Siri is "just" a voice recognition tool paired with a context-aware AI engine and embedded into an OS.  We've had voice recognition, AI and OSes before, so I guess that's not cool either.

Beer is "just" water, hops, malt and yeast.  Who would care about those?

Kids, everything is made of something else.  Wholes are greater than the sums of their parts.  Next time you find someone making a bajillion dollars selling something that's "just" a combination of other things that already existed... Be happy that they came up with an awesome new combination of things and unleashed it upon the world for your fucking enjoyment.

I feel like our entire globalized capitalistic system is working in overdrive trying to create awesome new things that would seem like magic beyond the wildest dreams of someone even a few decades removed from now, and all the tech community can muster in response is "meh, Simpson's did it."

Spoiled brats. =)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011


So the economics profession has been managing their job postings online since 2001.  The Department of Labor has regs about print advertisements, though.  In order to protect domestic applicants, you have to advertise in print before being "forced" to hire qualified international candidates.

So now they're going back to print.

One inefficiency (protectionism) deserves another (wasting resources on a dead tree edition).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Anyone know if this is a true story?

I heard it attributed to Milton Friedman...
"...Milton recalled traveling to an Asian country in the 1960s and visiting a worksite where a new canal was being built. He was shocked to see that, instead of modern tractors and earth movers, the workers had shovels. He asked why there were so few machines. The government bureaucrat explained: “You don’t understand. This is a jobs program.” To which Milton replied: “Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it’s jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels.”

Some things are worse than other things

Raping a maid for instance, is a bad thing.  Ordering the deaths of thousands is a worse thing.  IOZ explains.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Most insightful OS comparison I've read in a while

Can be found here.  For the slightly unconventional definitions of "barbarian" and "civilized," you might want to read some or all of this as well.

In fact, you should probably be reading everything that Venkat writes.  No whining, no tl;dr, just do it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Farming and Mining

I've been on both sides of the farming/mining divide and I heartily recommend the former over the latter.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Earth with Rings

Pretty neat thought experiment.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

It's Over; We lost. No Wait... We Lost, but it's NOT Over?

A bunch of ex-politicians and policy guys say that the War on Drugs is lost.  It is and it has been.  On the matter of the legalization of marijuana, the "science" is settled.  Those who continue to support legalization are on par with the flat earthers or birthers.  These are folsk whose commitment to a view exists entirely independent of observed reality.

40,000 fatalities in Mexico.  The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world (n.b., some doubt China's figures, so maybe we're number two?).  The trillions of dollars down the drain.

This isn't a matter of debating whether or not substance abuse is "good."  It's a matter of the fact that prohibition is far WORSE than substance abuse.  By a long shot.  It's not even close.

Now, this report will come to nothing.  We deserve the government we get because it's the government that we vote for.  Not even California has managed to legalize marijuana, and it's pretty safe to say that the waste of blood and treasure will continue until the entire United States wakes up.  The world will likely follow.  Other nations would probably love to stop watching their citizens die in the tens of thousands due to our tilting at windmills, but the US exerts tremendous pressure on their governments to toe the line.

It's a sad, sad state of affairs.  Think of what good could instead be done with those lives and that money.  This is a global tragedy of huge proportion - dwarfing all the tsunamis and earthquakes combined.

If you've been voting for those who support prohibition, shame on you.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

You can't rsync an entire SAN...

And other new lessons for a fearless leader:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

Was he murdered, martyred or assassinated?

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Can God make a rock that he can't move?

The important lesson here is that two wrongs make a right.

What do Jesus, MLK, Gandhi, the Buddha and the Dalai Lama have in common?

Weak on terror.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Virgin America Support: A pretty useful Twitter experience

So I had a flight canceled, got some credits and tried to transfer them to my bro.  The process was long, aggravating and unsuccessful: by the time we finally managed to negotiate the human-faceless megacorp divide, tickets had gone up by more than the credits were worth in the first place.

Like so many other humans in this position, I posted a juvenile rant on the internet, resolved to use other airlines in the future (not that I expected that to help) and figured that was that.

Except Virgin America responded.  This blog you see, it's set up to tweet headlines and links whenever I post, through my attached twitter account.  Virgin America clearly has alerts set up to monitor their online reputation and began following me shortly after my post. 

I followed back. 

After a week or so of high-latency (on both sides) direct-message back-and-forth, VA reviewed the situation and opted to credit my brother for the difference -- on his credit card, not simply an account for future flights.  They basically left us where we would have been had the application of my credits to his flight actually worked when we first tried it.

Now, that's pretty cool.  When I was posting my rant, I knew that this was the age of Google Alerts and job descriptions like Social Marketing Manager, so I did know there was an outside chance that my words might eventually hit the screen of someone in VA's employ.  I didn't however expect them to respond or attempt to make things right. 

So what is there to say?  As an individual customer, it's pretty clear that I don't matter much to Virgin:
  • They strung me and the wife along at the gate for hours rather than canceling the flight.  An earlier cancellation would have let me schedule a new flight in a timely enough manner to make it back on Friday.  It also would have allowed a decent night's sleep before working online from Virginia.  Canceling the flight costs them a lot of money, enough that looking out for our experiences was secondary.  They did provide soda and chips though.
  • Their email contact system has an indefensible character count limit that clearly discriminates against users with my level of verbosity.  Even after I edited for length, I still to this date have received no response from my two submissions through that form.
  • 30 seconds on their phone system and you know that VA is not concerned about phone contacts being an important part of the customer interaction.  It takes a while to even convince the thing that you want to speak a human and once it concedes that point, it takes FAR longer to actually make that happen.  I have a decent amount of experience working as front-line support, working with front-line support and even managing front-line support.  I know that putting a human at the other end of the line is expensive, but I also know that computer-human reactions are nowhere near as satisfying.  Some companies pay extra in order to win this experience.  VA does not.
  • When my wife called to explain the exact situation that I blogged about, she received no sympathy nor action from support.
On the other hand, as an online ranter, I do matter:
  • They responded pretty quickly after my post went live.  The idea of companies actively monitoring their online reputation probably seems obvious to those who would read this blog, but I'm pretty sure there are many corps messing that up, probably even in the airline industry.
  • They did respond slowly, but 1) they let me know it would take a while and 2) they did respond.  They had no legal need, there was no prior commitment that they were honoring.  There was no explicit quid pro quo - I made no claim that I would remove or edit my rant and they didn't ask.
This behavior actually makes sense.  As an individual customer, it doesn't cost them much to lose me.  As a potential online influence on others, it might make sense to contain me.  I'm not flattering myself here - neither I nor VA actually knows the scope of my online influnce.  It's probably very low, but that's hard for them to determine and being nice in this case was quite cheap in comparison. 

Of course the end-game arithmetic doesn't work out: if only squeaky wheels get the grease then customers should all become squeaky.  Dealing with squeaky wheels over twitter and refunds has got to be more expensive than actually interacting with your customers in the first place.  That said, the bet on their end is obviously that most wheels won't squeak, i.e., most folks will just suck it up and move on.  That bet is, I think, a good one.

At the end of the day, Virgin stepped up and me and the bro are pretty happy.  I'll fly with them again if they're going my way and I felt like I should write this post to pass on the rest of the story.  I'll still view any potential phone or email experience with dread, but as long as I can keep things simple and just deal with the computers like I'm supposed to, I expect a pretty good experience.  I'm stoked that they journeyed out to my station in the outer rim of the blogosphere in order to go the extra step to get things sorted out.  And they still offer the power of flight - that's a pretty convincingly awesome thing to be purchased at such a low price.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Virgin America Support: WORSE THAN USELESS

Hey all, I realized that it's been a while since I've gone on a good rant.  Online rants are a fundamental part of my generation.  If us internet generation folk ever have our Woodstock, it'll be an epic 3-day flame war on 4chan.

So, without further ado, my unbiased and completely reasonable accounting of my experience with Virgin America support:

So back on Thanksgiving, the wife and I try to fly back from east coast to west.  We picked Virgin America.  They've got the cool new planes, the TVs in the seats, the hip staff and videos, decent prices.  None of the shitty service you'd expect from the older carriers that just survive on business travel (American, Delta, etc).

Flight gets delayed 90 minutes, then again, then again.  I guess there was a sensor problem, the leg from LA to DC was diverted to Chicago.  They said they had it fixed, then that they were waiting for a part.  Then that the plane was in the air.  Then that the plane was about to take off.  Then that the plane was FOR REALS, in the air.  Somewhere around 2AM, the plane lands and the folks from LA with the unexpected CHI layover finally deplaned.  THen after an hour or so, they cancel the flight at 3AM.  We'd been in the terminal for about 7 hours at that point and had a meeting in California that we were now going to miss.

Now, equipment problems happen and they suck.  Airlines don't want to cancel unless they're sure that they'll have to, because canceling is expensive.  So it's in their interest to string us along, and string us along they did.

Anyway, all the flights for Friday were booked long before our Thursday flight was canceled.  We had to wait until Sunday to fly out.  Definitely missed our meeting and had to get picked up by my brother at the airport at 4am on a Friday morning.  Sucks for us and him.

Virgin America Guest Care gives us each a $100 credit that expires in a year.  $100 isn't too much and we don't fly much so probably won't be able to use it, but I guess they did something.

Fast forward to now - my brother is trying to visit us.  Figured we'd give him our credits.  He tries the codes, no luck.

I call support and figure maybe I have to transfer them.  REAL struggle to get in line for a human.  Wait on hold for 30 mins or so and use their "we'll call you back" option.  They call back much later, after I'm already asleep.

Next day I call again.  I don't want to use the "call back" because I have a conference call in an hour and I don't want to miss Virgin's call because of my other call.  After 52 minutes I give up and write an email to support explaining my situation.  That was three days ago and support still has not responded.

Day after that, I call again.  7 minutes and I get a human.  YES!  Human says my brother needs "elevate."  Virgin America calls their frequent flyer program "elevate" I guess.  I suppose some inhuman marketdroid thought that sounded cooler than "frequent flyer program."  Whatever.  Like me, my brother is the opposite of a "frequent flyer," but I let him know that he needs to create an account.

Next day, he's created his account and sent me the number.  I call but it's late on a Friday and I guess the support line is down.

That brings us to today.  I call in in the morning and spend 45 minutes or so getting our credits transferred to my brother.  He goes to book the flight and the four days in between have apparently caused the flight to go up by 238 dollars.

So the process cost me all of my credits.  It's costing him $38 extra (well, not really - he's using a different airline...).

If support just told me that I couldn't do it and to book the flight, they'd have been useless.  No help, no harm.  They didn't accomplish that though - my experince COST time AND money.

They failed simple tasks like answering a phone.  They failed at less simple tasks like transferring credits with expedience.  They failed at the fundamental task of business - providing positive experiences for customers that would lead to customer loyalty.

At one point, I even recommended these guys to others.  Now I feel bad about that.  I'd like to get a list of everyone to whom I've said positive things about Virgin America and call them up in order to set the record straight.  I feel like I'd need to do that in order to protect my personal reputation as a reliable opinion.

Mostly, I'm bummed because my list of Airlines That Don't Suck was pretty short already and I'm sad to see it get shorter.

I'm also amazed because, as an engineer, I figure that the hard part about flying civilians across the country in 5 hours was, you know, the FLIGHT part.  Thing is though, we've nailed that.  We can put thousands of tons thousands of miles up at hundreds of miles an hour and land safely, all with food, TV, internet, reclining chairs and a reasonable cost.  No problem.

Compared to that, how hard is it to ANSWER A FUCKING PHONE?


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dvorak, one year later

I've been typing using Dvorak for a year now.  Pre-switch querty was about 95wpm.  Test today says 102 sober, 93 drunk.  Not too bad.

Vim took a while to get used to.  I didn't map everything so that the positions were the same - I actually learned the new positions.  So the hjkl is not exactly the same.  The only major change I made was that cw is mapped to cg (looking at your keyboard, that mean that change word is 'iu' instead of the harder-to-type 'i,'.

Starcraft was tricky until they allowed custom key mappings.  Prior to that I had a hotkey to switch back to qwerty for that game only.  My story won't be the same for others though - I play with the grid set up and a lefty mouse, so I'm pretty unique there.

The iPhone hasn't bugged me - the keyboard is too small for the different layout to compete.  The ipad is a bit more troublesome but not really - I'm typing by sight there anyhow.  Bluetooth keyboards connected to iPads can use Dvorak anyhow - it's just the software mapping that doesn't support it.

Switching was really only bad for a month, I'm faster (if only slightly now than before), and it's working out pretty well.  If this means I'll dodge the repetitive stress so common for folks in my industry, it's worth it.  Of course there's no real way to tell...

Monday, February 7, 2011


So Melch had this to say about things that I've had to say:
Apparently, I vicariously read a lot of blogs through Pinto. He was reading about the value of creation and the idea that if you’re not creating things, you’re merely using other peoples’ creations to express yourselves. I find a lot of truth to that, but I don’t think that using other peoples’ expressions to express yourself is a bad thing at all.

It takes time to develop skills. When you mix that with different levels of “natural talent” and chance, it becomes probable that somebody else will have created something that expresses you or a subset of you better than you could have.

Tumblr has no comments, so let me say this about that... here.  This is unedited, so expect a bit of rambling.  No, I'm not high.  Perhaps I should be... =)

Firstly, the thing she's talking about is WhyTheLuckyStiff's quote: "When you don't create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability.  Your tastes only narrow & exclude people.  So create."

Secondly, Melch and I are differing a bit here at a rather fundamental: the identity of self.  I took a course on this in college many moons ago, which is scant qualification to hold forth on the matter.  On the other hand, this is the internet so why should I let that silence me?

When you express yourself... what exactly are you expressing?  Is there some pre-existing, invariant identity that Melch merely lacks the ability to express via words, music, visual art or other means?  Is it that hidden reality that will be more professionally revealed by someone else?

I propose to challenge the invariance and amend the implied direction of influence.  Imagine the creative endeavor of basketball.  Imagine Michael Jordan looking back upon his efforts to create in that space and thinking "well, what I did was good, but I'm glad that Kobe and LeBron have come along to more capably express what I was about."

Perhaps Michael Jordan actually did a pretty good job of expressing himself, but... what self?  Did the 18 year-old Jordan possess the "self" that famously won the dunk competition with the foul line flight that lives on in every Nike sneaker that bears his name?  Or did the later creativity come as an organic result of tens of thousands of hours of practice, grinding, thinking and competing?

I think the path is two-way.  When you paint the canvas, the canvas is painting you.  You create yourself by creating.  Jordan expressed himself on the foul line using muscles that he created... by expressing himself. 

Did Picasso express himself with Cubism?  He had painted for decades before creating Cubism.  What self was he expressing before then?  Did those years simply enable him to create the language he needed to express what he had always been?  Or was he a different "self" after all those years?  Did the process of learning how to invent Cubism turn him into the sort of "self" that he used Cubism to express?  I think it's a two way street.  Picasso created Cubism and Cubism created Picasso.

Consuming is a raw ingredient for creation (think "standing on the shoulders of giants"), but it's an insufficient ingredient.   If you just consume various creations of others and then say "there's nothing left to do!  I'm that!" then you're not noting that they're expressing you.  You're passing on the chance to create an identity, preferring instead to freeload on theirs. 

I don't think anyone just "gets lucky" and finds that Picasso just happened to be expressing them too.
Cubism can't mean to you or me what it meant to Picasso.  We weren't there when the canvas was blank.

This tracks  back into Sapir-Whorf territory.  If you find someone expressing you, is it you that they're expressing, or is it their expression that you're using to create your own identity?  If you're using someone else's language to express yourself, then all you can be is whatever you can interpret from what they give you.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Posted without comment.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dear Wikileaks haters

Information doesn't kill people.  People kill people. 

In particular, the inhabitants of the countries we invade kill and are killed by the military forces that we have directed to invade them.

Hat tip NRA?

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Dear designer of every productivity/scheduling and planning utility ever:

The transition between "today" and "tomorrow" is when I wake up, not midnight.  If it's 12:10AM on Thursday, my "today" list should be for Wednesday.

If you're cool enough, you can let me configure the transition point.  If you're not, let's settle on something reasonable like 6AM. 


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Graceless Degradation

I need to bring this idea into a general Rails plug-in.

Also, "Graceless Degradation" would be a halfway decent name for a band.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Kangaroo and Kangaroo

Giles knows it, Graham knows it.  Just like calories, our bodies and minds rank physical possessions as more scarce than they are.  The result is that we seek too many of them and end up with too many of them.

The extreme reaction is the cold-turkey diet.  There's the lifestyle change theory too.

Like food, energy, information and natural resources, this is another symptom of the "good" kind of problem.  Modern capitalism has been so mind-boggling successful that  many in the world have a new problem: they lack the mental circuitry to handle having more than they need of so many of the things that they want.

This is definitely a problem and we post-industrial societies are going to need to find a solution, but we should all remember that it's the good kind problem.  Better this than the problems encountered last year by folks in Haiti or Pakistan.