Monday, April 11, 2011

Big Bag: How we learn and where

Using 2-liter bottles of clear water as light sources is very clever (video below the fold). The Grandiloquent Bloviator’s ability to recognize the cons of running out there to outfit every rural hut with these things is also very clever. In part it is solving the same problem as solar ovens: how to get light on a sunny day or how to cook lunch on a sunny day.

I appreciated Cowen’s half- analogy on the effects of technological progress on demand for human labor. His half is to talk about computers playing chess and about human+computer vs. computer. The better computers get, the better the human has to be to make a contribution; and better computers train humans better and faster than before. In the same way, technologies have tended to make the most creative, highest skilled humans earn a lot more while mid and lower-skilled people leave to find other jobs; but computers also train us to learn faster and better, becoming high skilled faster than we used to.

We learn from more than chess games. We are also apparently learning about personnel management from World of Warcraft: “reality is already beginning to learn from its virtual counterpart. Lessons from game design have been used by Nike to encourage people to get fit, by the Guardian newspaper to enlist the help of its readers in digging through the WikiLeaks cables, and even by a school in America to help motivate its pupils.”

Reports of China’s censorship superpowers have been somewhat exaggerated by the NYTimes. Someone was skeptical of its story that phone conversations using the phrase “The lady doth protest too much” was cut off in the middle for using the word “protest.” So he called several people in China with messages of varying protestation and … nothing happened.

Examples for teaching intro economics: 
  • The economics of skyscrapers. We face steeply increasing marginal costs above 50 stories. Now it is finance rather than engineering that most hampers our ability to build into the sky.
  • The economics of terrorism. The price of plane tickets led terrorists to change their plan for which city to attack. 

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