Donal's picture

    Tainter: Q&A Session

    Dr Tainter fielded several questions after the keynote lecture I just posted. Some of his responses are a lot more direct than his presentation, particularly his answer to the very last question:

    Part One

    Part Two

    Donal's picture

    Tainter: Collapse of Complex Societies

    In 2005, I read the books, Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond (who was all over public TV with Guns, Germs and Steel) and A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright. I found them fairly similar in theme, both dealing with Easter Island and other collapsed societies.

    Donal's picture

    Infra Architects

    I attended an AIA panel discussion tonight:

    Infrastructural Systems: Cities Designed for a Changing World
    Hillary Brown, FAIA, Paul Lukez, FAIA, and Mason White; moderated by Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson

    Donal's picture

    Free Transit and Slugging

    In What Does Free Really Cost, I discussed the problems of free parking. A few weeks ago, in Should Transit Be Free?,  Mark Brown, who has been documenting his car-free lifestyle at Car-Free Baltimore, discusses the many advocates of free transit, and summarizes their arguments:

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Book Review: The Great Stagnation

    The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better by Tyler Cowen

    The Great Stagnation, a short yet ambitious e-book by economist Tyler Cowen, has been generating a lot of buzz lately. It has been recommended by Matthew Yglesias (ThinkProgress), Ezra Klein (Washington Post), Tim Harford (Financial Times), and Nick Schulz (Forbes), to name a few.

    I bought the book on the suggestion of EmmaZahn here at dagblog. I found it to be clear, original, and so engrossing that I missed my subway stop. But I did not ultimately find it persuasive.

    In the book, Cowen argues that America's spectacular growth of the past 200 years has been driven by the consumption of "low-hanging fruit" which we have now exhausted. In particular, he cites cheap land, advances in education, and technological innovation. He argues that since we can no longer rely on these drivers, our economy will stagnate for the foreseeable future.

    But you don't have to be an economist to see that the evidence Cowen relies on to bolster his low-hanging fruit theory has been derived from some aggressive cherry picking.

    Donal's picture

    Auto No-Show

    I walk past the convention center every morning and evening, so I stopped to look at the Motor Trend Auto Show here in Baltimore yesterday. I visited the same auto show a few years ago, when Pontiac was still a brand. Back then I wanted to see the Prius, the Escape hybrid and the Smart Car; tonight I wanted to see the Volt, the Leaf, the Sonata Blue Drive hybrid and the Smart Car, which wasn't at the previous show.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    The Private Internet

    This is outside my usual subject matter so forgive me if it's trite or has been done before, but I've had a couple of Internet experiences lately that have really driven home for me how much things have changed.  When I started using the Internet back at the end of high school (around 1993) it was a bunch of bulletin boards with text interfaces.  It probably wasn't a commerce thing for me until around 1998/99 (making me a late adopter, I know, but for awhile I got an employee discount at a book, movie and video store so why Amazon?)  Throughout, there was a sense of the public square to the

    Donal's picture

    A Less Obtrusive Wind Device


    This video Resistance linked to is also interesting - recovering oil from plastic. Again, you have to evaluate whether he is spending more energy melting the oil than he is getting back, but it sounds good.


    Donal's picture

    Hacking, Phreaking, Carding and ... Leaking?

    WikiLeaks is still hot, and the top story at the New Republic today is Game Changer - Why Wikileaks will be the death of big business and big government. Noam Scheiber predicts that WikiLeaks will both survive and will shrink overbearing organizations until they are no longer Big Anything.

    Donal's picture

    High Speed Rail is taking forever

    The Infrastructurist has a good summation of the For and Against of high-speed rail. They also have a slough of links throughout the article that I haven't reproduced here.

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    The Electric Razor and the end of America

    The first electric razor was patented in 1928. About six months later, the Great Depression hit. This is not a coincidence.

    From the moment Col. Jacob Schick decided that electricity was necessary for men to shave their faces, the nation’s fate was sealed. Because once American manufacturers realized they could sell Americans products that simply have no function or value, the entire economy was doomed.

    tmccarthy0's picture

    Secret Communication Sent to Wikileaks by a Private? I Just Don't Believe This Story.

    Yesterday or the day before that, as we all know Wikileaks dumped 76,000 secret documents onto their site, and are editing another 15,000 or something like that to dump soon, for all the world to see. And to tell you the truth, I have little to say about Julian Assange, except, who in the hell told him that hairstyle was flattering. He looks like a broke down, Diane Sawyer.

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    The Moon Landing: 41 years later, still better than a punch in the face

    When Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon in 1969, I did not care. I was two, mind you. But 41 years ago, it was a really, really big deal. Bigger than iPad or Lady Gaga even, if you can imagine that.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    How Long Would the Gulf Oil Spill Power the USA?

    The amount of oil spilling into the Gulf Coast boggles the mind. And looking at one offshore well destroying such a huge swath of fragile ecologies, it's easy to think, "Man, there's more oil down there than I thought. I see what those 'drill, baby, drill types' were talking about."

    But here's my question: how much oil is that compared to America's energy needs? If all of that oil had gone into refineries instead of into the Gulf and our wetlands, how long would it keep our cars and lights and internet servers going?

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Facebook glitch sends everyone's private information to Al Qaeda

    An accidental security glitch sent the information of all Facebook users to Al Qaeda operatives overseas, a company spokesman admitted today.

    “Oops,” said Elliot Schrage, the company’s vice president for public policy. “Are we perfect? Of course not.”


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