Feet of clay weekend competition: Ray Kurtzweil edition

People may know of Ray Kurtzweil. I first saw him at a conference in Melbourne where he was introduced as the greatest thing since sliced bread (an introduction he’d clearly had a hand in writing or authorising) and kept talking about how great he was. Anyway, he has some very impressive achievements to his name so good on him.

He’s popularised the ‘law of acellerating returns’ pointing out that for things governed by exponential growth – like Moores Law and the many similar phenomena of exponential growth in technology – a job that looks half done will be nearly finished. If something doubles every x months, decoding 50 percent of the human genome means you’re only x months away from finishing something that may have taken many years.

It’s always seemed to me that this powerful fact is nevertheless not powerful enough to help us make good predictions as to when more complex phenomena based on these technologies will emerge (like if and when we’ll be able to fly around in jet packs or even if and when robots will be able to run on two legs faster than humans) because there are so many emergent phenomena along the road and it’s very hard to anticipate when they’ll emerge. But I’ve never heard him address that in one of his talks. Perhaps he does in his books. (And the successful givers of popular talks seem to know not to address exceptions and caveats. They’re not very entertaining. I think they’re kind of of the essence in these matters, but who am I?)

Anyway I couldn’t help noticing two clangers in this talk – which was quite interesting, but still unsatisfying to me for the reason explained in the preceding para. One is his suggestion that Thomas Hobbes wrote 200 years ago (it’s a wonder he didn’t have a livelier correspondence with Thomas Jefferson) and the other is his quoting of the “Chinese” proverb that you can’t step into the same river twice. (By that well known Chinese sage Heraclitus).

Anyway, since we’ve taken delivery of the latest in Troppo’s fleet of vehicles, now is the time to ask Troppodillians what similar stories of Great Men (and women) with feet of clay they have. The winner will take Bronwyn the new Troppo helicopter to Fairbairn Airbase where they’ll be flown to the Middle East where, once it’s been cleared on the President’s breakfast kill list, they’ll be able to take out the terrorist of their choice from the comfort and safety of Chopper, Troppo’s new drone.

Posted in Geeky Musings, History | 5 Comments

SMSFs and red tape

Illustration: John Spooner.Regulation has a special place in the heart of this blog and superannuation is a particular fave. I’ve offered some connoisseurship of Self Managed Super Fund regulation in the past. I could say that this takes the cake, but really it’s just pretty par for the course. It’s certainl reassuring that the current gov, like the government before it and the one before that and so on back to 1986 are looking for opportunities to reduce red tape. Then again wasn’t the government that set this up looking for such opportunities. Well maybe not, but they told us they were, and they probably thought they were. I wrote to my accountant after waiting until my son duly turned 18 (obviously until he turns 18 he can trust the finance industry far more than he can trust his father to invest money for his retirement). This is what’s required to bring him into the family super fund.

We refer to your recent request for further advice regarding the cost and requirements involved so that the employer contributions pertaining to your son can be contributed to Peach Superannuation Fund.

Currently, Eva and yourself are the trustees of Peach Superannuation Fund. For your son to be able to contribute to the fund, we would recommend the following:

1.   Change the trustee of the super fund from individual trustees (being yourself and Eva) to a corporate trustee, subject to the super fund deed. This is done through resignation of the individuals as trustees of the fund and appointment of a company as trustee instead. Your son can then be added as a member of the fund. A variation of the existing superfund deed would be required, which cost $750;

2.  For the above to occur, a new company would have to be set up, with Eva, your son and yourself as directors. The set up cost for the company will be approximately $1,150. Our current fee to handle the Annual Company Statement, which is an ASIC requirement, is $319. The ASIC Annual Review fee charged by ASIC is currently $46;

3.  There will also be a requirement to update all bank account details and investment holdings to reflect the new trustee structure of the fund.

In a nutshell, the initial set up cost for the above structure would be $1,900 and ongoing annual fees relating to the trustee company of around $365. The above approach is more beneficial in the long term and provides better protection for estate planning purposes.

Before you make your final decision, we would recommend that you incorporate the above approach with your estate planning and advise your solicitor accordingly.

 

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Posted in Economics and public policy, regulation | Leave a comment

Is Julian Assange about to get arrested? And what then?

Queensland boy Julian Assange seems set to walk out of the Ecuadorian embassy soon, hoping that the announcement by the UN human rights panel on the arbitrariness of his detention will protect him from being arrested. The baseline scenario is that he walks out, is quickly arrested by the UK authorities, and is then extradited to Sweden, which will go through its own pantomime but which in essence will just send him onto the US, where they will probably successfully convict him in a secret trial.

Julian surely expects the same, so why is he doing this and how will the Australian government react to this baseline scenario?

I understand that the main reason behind Julian’s move is medical: he is apparently in constant pain and needs to be put under an MRI scanner to ascertain the source. That is a treatment that the Equadorian embassy cannot possibly provide and the UK government refused to allow him safe passage to hospital. So his choice was stark: remain in the embassy in constant pain without hope of relief, or accept the wrath of the US secret services whilst at least getting some medical attention that might relieve the pain. He seems to have chosen the second option, maximising the degree to which he has the moral high ground with the UN ruling under his belt.

How will the Australian government react? As I have said when the Wikileaks case broke in 2010, the Australian government has so far backed the US administration and disowned Assange as much as it could. It will probably try to keep doing this (lib or Lab: doesn’t matter), but the groundswell of support for Julian will surely become quite formidable when he is in the US Continue reading

Posted in Cultural Critique, Ethics, History, Information, Journalism, Law, Libertarian Musings, Life, Media, Politics - international, Society | 8 Comments

Organising a stimulus ≠ organising a ball: #TheInterview.

I haven’t the time to write this up, right now, though I’d like to, but here’s an mp3 file of my first regular interview of the year with Alex Sloan on Canberra ABC Radio which was a nice rollicking ramble on the question of what we do in the next recession.

Posted in Economics and public policy | 3 Comments

In poor communities disadvantaged boys do worse than girls: not to mention being a menace to the community (In the US)

Childhood Environment and Gender Gaps in Adulthood
by Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Frina Lin, Jeremy Majerovitz, Benjamin Scuderi – #21936 (CH ED LS PE)

We show that differences in childhood environments play an important role in shaping gender gaps in adulthood by documenting three facts using population tax records for children born in the 1980s. First, gender gaps in employment rates, earnings, and college attendance vary substantially across the parental income distribution. Notably, the traditional gender gap in employment rates is reversed for children growing up in poor families: boys in families in the bottom quintile of the income distribution are less likely to work than girls. Second, these gender gaps vary substantially across counties and commuting zones in which children grow up. The degree of variation in outcomes across places is largest for boys growing up in poor, single-parent families. Third, the spatial variation in gender gaps is highly correlated with proxies for neighborhood disadvantage. Low-income boys who grow up in high-poverty, high-minority areas work significantly less than girls. These areas also have higher rates of crime, suggesting that boys growing up in concentrated poverty substitute from formal employment to crime. Together, these findings demonstrate that gender gaps in adulthood have roots in childhood, perhaps because childhood disadvantage is especially harmful for boys.

Posted in Economics and public policy, Education, Gender | 1 Comment

The internet of money wherefore art thou?

THE INTERNET OF MONEY Sander Duivestein  My forward to Deloitte’s second report on digital money - The future of exchanging value: Cryptocurrencies and the trust economy.

Exchanging value

Ice becomes water when warmed. Only familiarity prevents us from marvelling at the mysteriousness of this ‘phase change’, as physicists call it. Nevertheless, we’ve witnessed a similar phase change as the physical hardware that delivered the phone network was repurposed to also deliver a new network – the internet.

And where the phone network depended on point-to-point connections, the internet connects people via packets of information that travel through cyberspace until they arrive at their address.

Initially, the old ‘connect first’ phone network was monopolistically competitive. The upshot of that market structure has produced all manner of frustrations and complexities such as incomprehensible pricing structures and prices way above cost for peripheral services such as texting and international roaming. However, all this is different on the net because of the different market structure produced when each node in the network helps out – redirecting digital packets in return for reciprocal help from other nodes.

Thus, all the transaction costs of the old network melt away. If you have a great product – such as Google, Wikipedia, Salesforce or Xero – you can just put it on the net and it’s there for everyone. And we’ve watched on as this miracle has unfolded, just as astounded as if we were watching ice melt for the first time.

This analogy helps us understand the potential costs of a financial system that looks like the phone system – with complex terms, price gouging, etc. For me to exchange value with, say, an American airline, I’ll pay about 2 per cent commission to a bank to facilitate the cross-currency transaction. That amount vastly exceeds the bank’s cost. Large corporates get the same service for a 20th of that margin!

So the hunt is on for the ‘internet of money’ – a technology and overarching architecture to displace the oligopolistic position of the too-big-to-fail banks. Continue reading

Posted in Economics and public policy, Innovation, IT and Internet | Leave a comment

Crikey! It’s on again

As aficionados will be aware, Troppo funds its entire garage of imaginary vehicles (including the latest acquisition – Bronnie the chopper) from its annual group subscription to Crikey.

This is how it works. You email me on ngruen at Gmail with “Crikey” in the subject heading. (This is a new bit, and without it I don’t think Troppo’s Group Subscription Division could aim to be bought up by Facebook in a few years time with 100 million followers.

I then send the names and email addresses to Crikey and they get in touch with you with an offer of a very cheap subscription to Crikey. (Illustrating the glories of crowdsourcing, someone will now look up the group discounts available on the Crikey website and post it for others. Anyway, we have for many years got over 50 million subscribers.

You get the subscription cheaper than ever thought possible, and then the holding conglomerate Private Media – which runs Crikey, The Mandarin and Fox News – sends Troppo all the imaginary vehicles it needs in the coming year. (Stop Press: Private Media appear to have divested itself of Fox News in favour of News Limited – a nice move, given the rise of Donald Trump – this itself coming on top of Troppo’s endorsement of The Donald)

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Posted in Competitions | 2 Comments