From March 2014. We live on the cusp of an amazing age. It will save us all.
From March 2014. We live on the cusp of an amazing age. It will save us all.
As regular readers here on Techdirt will know, I’ve been talking about the importance of understanding what happens to economic equations when the marginal cost of something is zero for over 15 years already. It’s a very common theme around here. One of my complaints has been that those who came out of an economic world viewpoint in which economics is entirely about dealing with the efficient allocation of scarce resources, tend to fall into a weird intellectual black hole when they try to put a zero in the equation. But I’ve long argued that this is the wrong way to look at things. The basic equations still work fine, it’s just that you have to recognize the flip side of zero is infinity. When you have a zero marginal cost item, you are creating an infinite good — a resource that can never run out. When you begin to realize that you have a new form of resources — inputs in economic terms — suddenly you realize that you’re massively expanding the pie, allowing incredible new things to be created from that limitless pool of resources. That’s powerful stuff.
So, as you can imagine, I was excited when the publisher of Jeremy Rifkin’s new book, The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism, reached out to send me a promo copy a few weeks ago. I am only halfway through it, so I’ll probably write more about it when it’s done, and there’s an awful lot of really interesting examples and profound thinking going on. So I’m really enjoying the basic part of it. However, there’s one aspect of the book that I have trouble with, and it’s exemplified in Rifkin’s op-ed in the NY Times a few weeks ago, called The Rise of Anti-Capitalism. You can probably already suspect the problem I’m seeing, based on the title. The explanation of zero marginal cost and how more and more of our economy is heading there is spot on. And, as we’ve been noting for over a decade as well, this goes way, way beyond just “content” like music and movies. It’s going to impact nearly every important industry in our lives:
Nice discussion. The endeavors that are most disruptive right now, as marginal cost begins to move to zero, are those that enhance social activities and collaborative needs.
And most are acting in very capitalistic ways. But in ways that mirror more closely just what Adam Smith hypothesized in Wealth of Nations than we have grown used to calling capitalism today.
Add in increased resources from space and things will change a lot.
(A monster Kelvin wave, possibly more powerful than the 1997-98 event, is now rushing toward the surface of the Eastern Pacific. Image source: NOAA/ESRL.)
We are observing an extraordinarily powerful Kelvin Wave, one that was likely intensified by factors related to human global warming, traveling across the Pacific. It appears to be an epic event in the making. One that may be hotter and stronger than even the record-shattering 1997-98 El Nino. What this means is that we may well be staring down the throat of a global warming riled monster.
Good times might be over. If this new El Nino is anything close to the one in the late 90s, temperatures could begin rising fast. That first animation is shocking.
There appears to be more heat in this water than was in the huge El Nino of 1997.It was the largest such event in the 20th century. The global temperatures due to that event increased to such hugh levels that it would be almost a decade before the world became that hot again.
This is what happened along the Washington Coast during the 1997 event: huge rises in sea levels making storms much more destructive along the coast.
Sometimes the sea level was almost half a meter higher than normal, with wave heights a full meter higher than normal. It will not be a good year to be along the West Coast.
And while it may break the drought in Texas, it could well bring huge amounts of flooding due to extreme weather events. That it, lots of frog stranglers hitting dry ground and running off instead of penetrating.
The West Coast will get little rain and be much hotter, so the food producing areas of the state will be hard hit.
Some U.S. sports arenas have begun pushing ticket upgrades to fans in the cheap seats through Apple’s iBeacon technology for iPhone, offering users the ability to upgrade their seats quickly and easily.
Nice win-win. The team gets some money for a seat that would already be empty and gets to make sure that the staium looks fuller.
The fans get to experience the game in a much better location. All because they had an iPhone.
Researchers know that high-voltage power lines have some strange influence on animals. Creatures from reindeer to elephants to birds tend to avoid the areas around power lines. This was mysterious because the structures seem passive and simple to walk or fly past.
However, scientists now say this may be because power lines emit ultraviolet light, invisible to human eyes, that appears as frightening flashes to animals that can perceive ultraviolet light.
This paper is the first to offer a simple explanation for the power line-avoidance behavior. If true, the theory could explain fragmentation of wild habitats.
Nice explanation. And it helps support why these power lines are helping create fragmentation of local animal populations.
The herds avoid the lines, which now act as physical barriers like mountain ranges, to prevent groups from crossing over to other ones.
I wonder if we would have developed a different system if we could see in the UV also?
An iOS security white paper published by Apple on Wednesday offers a deeper understanding of the company’s Touch ID fingerprint sensing system and the so-called “Secure Enclave” found in the A7 SoC, both of which were introduced with the iPhone 5s.
This is nice to see. The key is building their own processor and devoting space to a Secure Enclave.
What will Samsung do? I wonder what patents Apple holds here?
People in much of Minnesota, northwestern Pennsylvania, and Tucson, Ariz., are getting the best bargains from the healthcare law’s new insurance marketplaces: premiums half the price or less than what insurers in the country’s most expensive places are charging.
The 10 regions with the lowest premiums in the nation also include Salt Lake City, all of Hawaii, and eastern Tennessee. This ranking is based on the lowest cost of a “silver” plan, the mid-range plan most consumers are choosing.
The cheapest cost regions tend to have robust competition between hospitals and doctors, allowing insurers to wangle lower rates. Many doctors work on salary in these regions rather than being paid by procedure, weakening the financial incentive to perform more procedures.
This is the sort of data we will begin seeing more and more of. There are reasons why insuracne costs are so different and it appears that a major one is how competitive the healthcare market is in n area, not how good the healthcare actually is.
We see the same trend in the most expensive areas of the country – lack of competition in the number of hospital systems.
It is fascinating that, even though Tennessee some of the lowest premiums in the country, even though it has a lot of people with severe health problems
Consolidation of hospital systems does not save us money.It increases insurance costs tremendously.
We hear about narrow networks costing people their doctors. But this is the flip side of the insurers having negotiating strength by being able to pick and choose networks.
Here we have examples of how having multiple hospital systems drops insurance costs substantially.
These competitive markets are quite different than in southwest Georgia, the second most expensive region in the country. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia had no choice but to include in its network the Phoebe Putney Health System, which controls 86% of the market. The lowest premium in southwest Georgia is $461, two and a half times the rate in Chattanooga.
So, when there is a single system in the area, they can command very high prices raising the insurance rates. But when there are multiple systems, the insurance companies can negotiate much better rates, lowering insurance costs.
Yes, they then have a ‘narrow’ network but the expensive guys now have to make a choice - negotiate better rates or be left out.
This is how a free market approach is supposed to work. The balance of a narrow network versus substantially lower costs. How many people would stay with a doctor if they were paying $450 a month for that service versus $150?
These data demonstrate that the healthcare is not actually three times better. It is the lack of competition that permits hospital systems to charge so much.
Competition provides cost savings. A monopoly on healthcare produces huge costs.
I would expect that the next step would be to offer insurance plans with different networks to people. So one could choose the $150 a month plan with a narrower network or pay $450 a month for a wider network.
We will not get there in one year, but as the market adjusts to the new paradigms, as people see that they are not getting 3 times the benefits and as hospital systems begin to have market pressure brought to bear, things will change.
With the quick stroke of a pen, a circuit court judge in St. Louis has singlehandedly silenced more than 22,000 city residents, who had sought to bring a ballot initiative to end tax breaks to fossil fuel companies to a citywide vote in April.
Last summer, volunteers with the Take Back St. Louis coalition gathered over 22,000 signatures to put onto the ballot a measure that would amend the city’s charter to include a “Sustainable Energy Policy” and end taxpayer-funded support of fossil fuel companies.
According to Take Back St. Louis, the “proposed charter amendment would end public financial incentives, such as tax abatements, to fossil fuel mining companies and those doing $1 million of business with them per year, and requires the city to create a sustainable energy plan for renewable energy and sustainability initiatives on city-owned vacant land.”
On Tuesday, Judge Robert Dierker sided with Peabody Energy (in a decision you can read here) to grant a temporary restraining order that would, in essence, keep the initiative off the April 8th ballot.
First declaring the initiative “facially unconstitutional,” Judge Dierker proceeded to cite the Citizens United decision in explaining why the policy would represent a “patent denial of equal protection” to fossil fuel energy companies. Specifically, Judge Dierker wrote:
business entities (which, after all, are a species of associations of citizens coming together in the exercise of economic freedom) are entitled to constitutional protection as citizens and may not arbitrarily be denied basic legal rights. See Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm., 558 U.S. 310 (2010).
It does not matter what the company is. Giving any of them the same rights as citizens results in twisted decisions like this. By this logic, no city can regulate any business because to do so would deny basic legal rights to the companies.
I guess since the companies cannot vote, it violates their rights to regulate them. So I guess the next step is to extend voting rights to companies.