Global Peace Index

The Economist Intelligence Unit together with several other think tanks has compiled a Global Peace Index by country. Norway ranks first, while the United States ranks 96th and its protectorates Israel and Iraq rank 119 and 121 respectively filling the bottom tier. BBC article.


Mathematica 6.0

Mathematica, the child of Stephen Wolfram, is a Kernel and a Development package and a symbolic language for mathematical evaluation and manipulation. Beyond its core functionality, Mathematica has a vast function library which allows it to be tied in or to glue together many other platforms and languages including Matlab, C++, Python, Java and .Net. A skilled Mathematica programmer can develop extremely complex and sophisticated programmes with ease. Unfortunately, being a closed source platform which retails for around 2000 USD per copy, it remains a niche product for academics and some quantitative professionals. Mathematica 6.0 was recently released as announced by /. I have had the pleasure to use Mma 6.0 and I have been extremely impressed with the the upgrade. Improvements include text coloration for different language types which makes reading the code far easier as well as the new Dynamic evaluation function which allows for greater flexibility in realtime evaluation and animation. Since Mma relies only on a serial number for activation and every previous version of Mathematica was easily cracked, I assume Mathematica 6.0 will soon become common in underground circles.


Economic Thinking vs. Evolutionary Thinking

Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources in the production and consumption of goods and services. Mankind has finally entered a stage where the economy tends to increase at a positive rate owing to scientific understanding and the mastery of the physical world through technology. If humanity survives past its current critical phase (Type 0), the economic expansion will likely continue until the energy of the nearby galaxies has been exhausted and the Universe gradually begins to die a particle death.

During large periods of human evolution such was not the case. Resources and technology were stagnant. One person's average gain was another's average loss. Accepting immigrants into the community or yielding resources to a nearby tribe could have been an existential threat to a population's genetic prevalence. Thus humans have evolved with an inherent suspicion of outsiders and reluctance to trade with them. It works well as an evolutionary survival strategy on the African forest or Savannah, but is a very poor strategy for expanding wealth and resources in a positive-sum, technologically advancing civilisation. Without education to overcome the protectionist genetic instincts of primitive man or similar memetic cultural exclusivity, politics and laws end up restricting trade and immigration in very unproductive and uncooperative ways to the detriment of everyone.

Paul Rubin has written a very interesting piece about this. Via Mankiw.


Euro Monetary Policy

Quite unlike the possibilities for future private currencies, I find traditional governmental monetary policy generally uninteresting. The 20th Century taught us that the most economically and politically stable monetary policy is one in which money supply and interest rates are gently tweaked only to maintain price stability. The US Federal Reserve and the now the ECB have held to this fairly well thus making them the World's reserve currency. A stable money supply also promotes economic activity with participants confident in the future value of their long term contracts.

Price stability really is a one-size fits all solution. Countless models have been able to show circumstances where deviation from this policy could be beneficial. Despite the painful inflationary lessons many countries learned in the last century, there are always some who wish to manipulate the money supply to take advantage of the short term benefits of the Phillips Curve in lowering the rate of unemployment. Sarkozy has been among those calling for monetary policy to target job creation rather than price stability. For the specific case of France, Sarkozy's suggestion likely would be a net benefit since their labour market is so completely bureaucratic, over-regulated and backwards. Some inflation would act like a lubricant on rusted metal. Tyler Cowen explains it a bit better. However, France's focus really should be on firing its State employees, eliminating labour market regulations, and cutting back on welfare benefits. Just because inflationary monetary policy would be politically acceptable amelioration in France does not mean the rest of Europa should have to suffer.


Happy Planet Index

Human Development and quality of life most often comes at the price of environmental destruction. The New Economics Foundation's HPI makes a fair attempt to rank different countries on the basis of human quality of life or happy human years per environmental footprint. Vanuatu has the highest HPI. Maximising measures such as these rather than artificial production or velocity measures such as GDP should be the aim of economists and policymakers.



The title to this blog is allegedly a key to the new HD DVD encryption. Previous Post. Since its publication has caused great controversy, I thought I would help raise awareness on the issue. I am curious to see if the title of this post elicits a "Cease and Desist" response from AACS or a forced takedown from Google.

Incidentally, I believe I previously posted about the cracking of the Blue Ray format, but now that post seems to be missing. I believe that it was removed by Google without my consent or notification. I cannot blame them for avoiding any potential legal exposure, but notification at least would be appreciated.

Limiting users access to media content is at best difficult. Anything which must ultimately be decoded into a form suitable for human comprehension is extremely easy to crack, replicate, or circumvent. Intellectual Property is in general overprotected by International law (and especially US law) beyond a socially beneficial level. In light of tecnological advances, a newer subscription/taxation/library model for content remuneration bolstered by demand measurement mechanisms would be far fairer and more effective than the current model of imposed artificial monopolies over otherwise free, infinitely reproducable media.


Simon Schama

Simon Schama, one of the great public intellectuals of our time, masterfully delivers his erudite historical and artistic knowledge and appreciation through his books and documentaries. His latest documentary, 'The Power of Art,' is now available on MVGroup. One of these episodes focuses on Mark Rothko's Seagram Murals which I was pleasantly surprised to encounter recently at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

'Rough Crossings,' Schama's historical book and documentary relates the story of the establishment of Freetown in modern Sierra Leone. For me, currently mired in a United States of "support our troops" and "spread freedom and democracy" it was particularly poignant to remember that the success of the American Revolution meant more slavery. The founders of Freetown had to struggle immensely and flee from the States to Canada and finally to the jungles of Sierra Leone just to have a remote chance at a "free" and democratic existence. Refugees from American slavery, these slaves in fact experienced the brief 18th century experiment in 'British Freedom.' While there is a valuable mythology of the Founding Fathers and the story of 'American Freedom,' the story of the settlers of Freetown greatly enriches the understanding of 'American Freedom,' particularly in the context of African-American History.

Finally, Schama's 15 part 'History of Britain' stands as his best work to date.

*Update: Regarding Schama's book, 'Rough Crossings,' on his book tour, Schama gives two superb lectures at the Google Mountain View Campus. Lecture 1, YouTube as part of the Authors@Google programme. Lecture 2, Google Video. Both Highly Recommended!


Laws and Principles are meaningless when blatantly violated by those responsible for upholding them. Granting a general amnesty to those who were complicit in violating those laws and principles should be considered with the greatest sobriety. Such actions should not be permitted to reinforce a corrupt regime or to whitewash their misdeeds and those of their traitorous collaborators. More often than not, the proper response is to overthrow the corrupt authority and hold their allies to account. Too many people have sacrificed too much in support of those principles to casually permit their debasement.


Allowing the Extinction of Species

Under the Bush Administration's "interpretation" of the 1973 Endangered Species Act, species need only be listed as endangered whose existence is threatened in its current viable range, not its traditional range. So far 38 prominent scientists have signed a letter of protest.

Larry Summers on Climate Change

Finally, the Global Warming debate is hotting up. Larry Summers begins to call for practical solutions to the crisis in his FT column. The first in a series I presume.

Via DeLong.


Dell and Linux Take a Step Forward

Dell will begin shipping their computers with Ubuntu Linux installed. This is a great step forward for the OS since it will be well supported now by a major hardware vendor. I recently tried to convert my system to Linux, but I ran into some problems because I could not get my video card to function properly. Meanwhile, M$'s lasts advantage is as a former monopolist, they support almost all hardware, or to put another way, almost all hardware supports M$.

Dell is in a unique position to reassert its dominance in the hardware arena while at the same time lowering its variable costs by supporting free software. Dell should be aiming to better assert themselves into peripheral devices such as TVs and DVRs which also could be manufactured cheaply and run Linux (ie MythTV). They ought to be positioning themselves to partner with an Apple or a Google to produce high quality affordable computers with top notch user friendly software and once and for all crush the M$ abomination.

Unfortunately, the executives at Dell seem to be too ensconced in their traditional way of doing business and loathe to adopt or experiment with new ideas. They certainly cannot risk alienating M$ too much and loosing their lucrative OEM status but they should at the same time recognise that M$ is the Titanic and they had better have a lifeboat secured.