Tag: complexity

A Question for My Fellow Ricochetti


I’ve got a question I’m trying to answer, and it occurs to me that someone here might be able to help me. One of the things I like most about Ricochet is the thoughtfulness and intelligence of the members. Another thing that impresses me is the diversity of this crowd. So I’m going to toss this out there and see if anyone has any thoughts to offer.

I wrote a post not too long ago about the need for a civil dialog across the political divide. A fellow in New York City, one of these young, hyper-educated computer entrepreneur types, read it and invited me to participate in a new podcast he’s launching soon. He wants his first episode to feature someone from the left and someone from the right holding a civil discussion on matters about which they disagree.

Member Post


In an excellent interview by Peter Robinson of Kim Strassel, she repeatedly asked what the end game of the Federal Government was regarding the COVID-19 virus. At first glance, her question seems simple and direct, and certainly appropriate. It is a complicated question, however, particularly since the scene changes daily—testing, virus cases, deaths, equipment needs, […]

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Rob Long’s Data-Driven Utopian Dream


In the first 15 minutes of the latest Ricochet podcast (Episode #483), Rob said a couple of things that caught my attention. At one point, when talking about our communication- and data-centric technical culture, he suggested that the answers to all our big problems were probably in the wealth of data we’ve collected.

What came to my mind when he said that was the movie WarGames (1983), in which a wayward defense computer is discouraged from initiating Armageddon when it crunches the numbers and concludes that there’s no way to win a nuclear war. Setting aside the question of whether or not that’s a correct conclusion (and I recently re-re-re-watched Dr. Strangelove, in which Buck Turgidson makes a compelling contrary argument, so I’m really not so sure), what the computer in WarGames did was reach a kind of meta-conclusion. A thorough examination of the available information suggested that no good answers could be found.

The Opportunity Costs of Government Planners


shutterstock_141130255One of the disadvantages of a complex tax code is that a great deal of human mental effort is wasted trying to figure it out. If a person has ten productive hours a day, any time spent doing busywork is a direct reduction on the amount of time that can be spent doing something productive that might actually create wealth (which, for those so inclined, could be taxed). This is one reason why I was so impressed during my recent visit to Singapore: The government there makes everything easy for productive citizens. The border crossing takes seconds, taxes are simple, even renewing a driver’s license happens as fast or faster than anywhere else in the world. All of this frees up the productive citizen to go and get some real work done.

The problem is compounded when one looks at government support for scientific and academic research. Highly educated and intelligent people — following the grant money — pour their creative energies into stupid and senseless fields. Think of what they could have accomplished if they were not following the research priorities set by not-invented-here senior scientists or, worse, ignorant and corrupt members of the government.

Incentives work out to the same result. Electric and hybrid cars are a triumph of technological achievement. But given low fuel prices, they are — and will remain — uneconomic unless government diverts taxpayer dollars to create subsidies. So all those hard-working and creative engineers have been essentially wasting their talent, building the wrong things because Rep. Nancy Pelosi thought it would be quite nice if there were more hybrid vehicles.

The Ants of Entrepreneurialism


ant picAs election season heats up,  you’ll hear a lot about “investing” in technology, “encouraging” innovation through tax incentives, and praise for the government’s ability to improve research, development, and invention through some form of top-down direction or encouragement. You’ll hear it from Republicans and Democrats alike. Bad ideas. Why?

Consider the nature of invention. Where do breakthroughs come from? How do we maximize growth in research and development of new goods and services? The answer is illustrated by looking at the humble ant.

Like humans, ants live in social groups. Like humans in an ideal free market economy, ants are governed by a very few simple rules, but otherwise free to do as they please within those constraints.