Octavo Dia

Friday, June 29, 2007


Funny quotation: "If you're looking for truth, don't search within yourself. You're the one who's confused!"

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Who knows what evil lurks...

One of the foundational aspects of John Robb's theories is the existence of super-empowered individuals. Today, small groups can declare war on governments, and fight them to a draw. In his book, Robb argues that eventually, technology will be so accessible that an individual can declare war on the world and win.

It occurred to me that this situation has not been unforeseen. In fact, there is a whole genre of literature that discusses the challenges that such individuals would pose to the world. This genre is commonly referred to as comic books, and those who defend humanity are super (empowered) heroes.

In contrast to Robb's theory, in the world of the comic books, the state has not been destroyed, but serves a different role. It provides the rules of the game for the teeming hordes of normal people, settles the small crimes of normal people, and provides the tools of justice for the super heroes. The main battle is between the super heroes and the super villains.

It would seem that this is the only true response to the super-empowered individual. Sure the super heroes of the future may not be able to leap tall buildings with a single bound, cloud men's minds, or shoot adamantium claws out of their knuckles (but who knows?), but if you've always wanted to be a super hero, here's your chance.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cardboard coins

In India, the one rupee coin is worth 35 times as much melted down. One rupee coins are thus rapidly disappearing from circulation, and private vendors have started making their own one rupee coins out of cardboard. Though cardboard is much cheaper than metal, cardboard coins will have the same problem of eroding value. Eventually, they'll just stop making one rupee coins, even out of cardboard, because they just won't have enough value to bother dealing with. I remember in Ukraine, during their hyperinflation, they stopped printing anything less than a 1000 kupon note (which was worth about half a cent), because no one used anything smaller.

Therefore, the question becomes, are coins worthwhile? If coins are worthless, and bills are just fine, we should get rid of coins altogether and use bills, and just stop printing the ones that few people use. If coins are a good and useful product, we should price them accordingly, and revise our currency values occasionally. The revaluation would be easy to determine: when the cost of the metal exceeds the price of the coin, change the price. I recommend making the old currency worth 1/5 of the new currency (we print new bills all the time anyway), and just give all the new coins partially gnurled edges to keep them separate while we pull the old ones from circulation. It would take a long time at 3% inflation to get back where we are now.

Golden Geese

As Brad Delong said, "A golden goose tends to be a short-lived beast." I have to say, though, the Chinese government has shown remarkable restraint in their treatment of Hong Kong. When the transfer first went down, I expected Hong Kong's economy to be eviscerated by the end of the year, so perhaps my low expectations contribute to the feeling of success, but the Chinese government seems to be the world's experts on controlled transitions.

Friday, June 08, 2007


It seems somehow demeaning to blog about the Dilbert blog, but one paragraph in this post caught my eye: "As soon as you tell me “Carl joined a group,” I can tell you Carl is no longer as rational as he used to be. His judgment will start to conform to the group’s judgment, and the group’s judgment will be based on some ever-drifting sense of values that lost its rational connecting tissue long ago"

I would argue that Adam Smith's dictum, one should not make what one can more cheaply buy, applies equally well to thought. If one can have a well-researched and analyzed position on an issue simply by adopting that of a reputable source, a group, for instance, one should abandon thinking about it on one's own. After you've evaluated the group, there's little sense evaluating their decisions on anything more than a quality control basis, as they're probably less prone to error than you are.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Gone Fishing

From my perspective, it seems that there is little that improves conservation more than permitting ownership, because people do not wantonly destroy that which they own. The problem arises with things that cannot be owned by individuals or companies, such as air. Fishing rights have also been seen similarly. Though the individual states have been used quotas and reserves, there is no incentive not to fill your quota as quickly as possible despite the consequences. There is no incentive to improve and protect.

We have, however, a model that we could use to allow ownership, and thus the improvement of ocean life, from, of all places, the oil industry. The oil industry avoids exploitation and destruction by allowing ownership and just regulating the behavior in border areas. We could cordon off areas of our Exclusive Economic Zone, and then auction off the right to the biomass in those areas, (auctioning for a percentage of profits, for example) and sell tracts of ocean. We would only need to regulate the exploitation of areas between two auctioned areas, and because they're privately owned, we would have a very interested watchdog (the owner of the adjoining lot) who would guarantee that the neighbor was not over-exploiting the border area. If the term of the auction was long enough, say thirty years, and renewable, the owners would have a strong incentive to control pollution, ban destructive kinds of fishing, and improve the health of the ocean.