on 28 October 2012
I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
Stephen F. Roberts
on 27 October 2012
I learned something new today--a concept in cultural economics known as power distance. 

An influential Dutch researcher in cultural economics identified, in 1981, a cultural dimension he terms "power distance", defined as "the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally".
On PDI, scaled zero to one hundred, the U.S. scores 40 and China scores 80 (Russia scores 93).
Another dimension of significance is individualism, defined as "the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members".
On IDV the U.S. scores 91 and China 20 (Russia scores 39).
China (and Russia) value social cohesion along implicitly informative, i.e. highly contextual, information flows. Leaders are given tremendous leeway to do their jobs and are to be questioned only in cases of extreme breach of obligation, i.e. when they threaten social harmony.
Note that Russians, in surveys, explicitly prefer social stability to free speech and a free media. Chinese find the legalistic contortions American politicians have to go through to do something generally favoured as awkward and wasteful. We see allowing elites to enrich themselves off market reforms to help them buy into the idea of change as distasteful whereas from a social utilitarian perspective it's strategically kosher.
The next question that comes into my mind is, "Which countries have the lowest PDI?"

The answer, taken from ClearlyCultural.com: Austria--11, Israel--13, Demnark--18, New Zealand--22

I'd like to see (rather, I should create) a table that shows power distance, press freedom, corruption, etc. My guess is that we'd see the same global leaders (Austria, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Costa Rica), but it would still be an interesting exercise.
on 25 October 2012
Often times, non-profits and educational institutions have pretty lame mission statements--and even lamer tag lines. But hats off to IMSA, the Illinois Math & Science Academy, for coming up with something non-wishy-washy.

IMSA: igniting and inspiring creative, ethical scientific minds that advance the human condition. 
Who can argue with that. Well, if you're any kind of religious fundamentalist, you may want to.

And their beliefs:

  • All people have equal intrinsic worth.
  • All people have choices and are responsible for their actions.
  • Belonging to a community requires commitment to the common good.
  • Diverse perspectives enrich understanding and inspire discovery and creativity.
  • Honesty, trust and respect are vital for any relationship to thrive.
  • Learning never ends.
  • Meaning is constructed by the learner.
  • No one’s path in life is predetermined.
  • The ability to discern and create connections is the essence of understanding.
  • We are all stewards of our planet. 
I prefer these bullet points over the Ten Commandments.

on 22 October 2012

Akamai recently published its annual State of the Internet report, which can be found here.
If you scroll down to the bottom the page, there is a chart that lets you see average connection speeds in a country over time. It's an interesting display of information related to the growth of the internet across the world. 
From 2008 to 2011, the difference between Algeria and Macedonia is night and day. 
on 14 October 2012
Passion burns out, whereas greed is sustainable.
Yossi Kreinin
on 11 October 2012
Although I don't write nearly enough, one of the reasons that I do is to track my opinions and perspectives over time. I like to think that I am very progressive in the way that I think. If my thoughts are in line with reality, then most of my beliefs will change--evolve--as I age.

I came across a post on Quora that asks about the political leanings of The Economist. I'm including the best answer, which was written by the organization's digital editor below because I think it does a better job of explaining my current beliefs than anything I could put down in words. 

The Economist is not inherently left-wing or right-wing; its political philosophy is rooted in 19th-century Classical Liberalism of the John Stuart Mill variety. Essentially we are fans of Free Markets (The Economist was founded to oppose the Corn Laws) and individual choice. So we favour, for example, a small state and the abolition ofagricultural subsidies 
Generalising hugely,
  • Right-wing parties tend to be fiscally liberal but socially conservative; they think it's OK for companies to do what they like but want to intervene in people's private lives.
  • Left-wing parties tend to be keener on individual choice in private affairs but think they know better when it comes to spending people's money (via taxation) or regulating the market.
In France, a "liberal" is a right-winger keen on free markets; in the US, a "liberal" is a left-winger keen on letting people make their own personal choices. The Economist is liberal in both these senses.
In theory our position might be characterised as libertarian, but that term also has baggage: unlike many American libertarians, The Economist is in favour of gun control, for example, on the liberal ground that your freedom to do what you want (own lots of guns) ends where my freedom to do what I want (not being shot) begins. So, is The Economist left or right? The answer is yes and no. 
 I may have a different opinion on gun control, but I haven't put any real thought into the matter.
on 01 October 2012
Even with much of the world having instantaneous access to anyone's ideas from all over the world, we still see vacuums of improvement, innovation, and creativity. Why are some cities more maker-oriented than others? Why do some cities have more meetups than cities many times their size?

From Silicon Valley Watcher
I refer you to Foremski's Universal Constant of Kultura (Polish for culture, and for which there is no polite acronym) which states that ideas take about six months to travel about 3,000 miles.
I've noticed that It takes people in New York about 6 months to understand key ideas from Silicon Valley; and London and Europe takes about a year.