Former GM CEO does his Steve Ballmer impersonation


Apple would be crazy to make cars, former GM chief says 
[Via - CNET]

Talk of Apple entering the car market is serious enough that former General Motors CEO Dan Akerson has felt the need to offer his two cents: Don’t do it!

Akerson, who left GM in 2014, told Bloomberg in an interview published Wednesday that if he were an Apple shareholder hearing news of the company considering building an electric car, he “wouldn’t be very happy.”

“I would be highly suspect of the long-term prospect of getting into a low-margin, heavy-manufacturing” business, he told Bloomberg.


The former CEO of the worst car maker in the US doing his best Steve Ballmer impersonation. Here is what Ballmer said about the iPhone in 2007:

There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.

 That sure went well. The iPhone is not only increasing market share but also making most of the smartphone profits. Having your stuff in 60% of anything but making no money will never overcome 10% of the market with all the profits.

Because of Apple’s money, it can leverage all sorts of things to give itself a competitive edge. Few other makers can meet Apple’s prices and make a profit because Apple acts so much like a monopsonist by tying up long term contracts for parts that no one else can meet and even loaning the foundries money to upgrade themselves, as long as Apple gets first dibs.

The profit margin for Tesla is 25%. GM’s is 12%. Apple would love ot get Tesla’s and probably could.

In fact if Apple is going to make cars (something I really am skeptical of) it will follow Tesla not GM.

But if Apple ever does make a car, it will not be anything like what GM makes, just as the iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac were not like anything that was being made before they entered the market.

Speculation is fun. I’m not even sure it will be private cars. Maybe combining auto-guided cars with flight.

Or perhaps coupling an electric car with Musk’s Hyperloop. The Hyperloop itself looks to be moving forward. Maybe you drive in your electric Apple car and get special pricing and perks (like a rest room).


Arctic warming makes the eastern US colder


Why So Cold? It’s the Jet Stream
[Via Booman Tribune]

Yes, we are having record cold snaps here in the East and Southeast. Global warming must be bunk then, right? Not so fast. Out West, its nice and toasty with unusually warm temperatures. Take a look at this map from the National Weather Service.

So why the big divide between East and West? Isn’t the temperature gradient between colder and warmer supposed to be more a North and South thing? Well, maybe once upon a time. Unfortunately, we are experiencing dramatic changes to the pattern of one of the biggest drivers of our climate on the North American Continent – the Jet Stream -and the rapid rate of the warming in the Arctic is the cause.


The map up top shows the areas of the US where the highs (red) and lows (blue) were different from the average January weather. The lows allowed cold air from Canada to spill into the US. 

And here is a map showing the departure from the average temperature for January (red is warmer):


All due to where the jet stream falls.

This is pretty much what the models have been saying for much of the last decade. The Arctic warms at a faster rate than the temperate latitude. As the Arctic warms, it alters the shape of the jet streams, making them wavier, like hitting a key on a piano makes the sound louder.

Here is a larger version of picture at top where you can see the other strong ridge from the Atlantic that squeezed the cold air further down.


This means that cold air from the Arctic now dips down further into the US (for those who want more in depth information).

And the same models show more high ridges off the coast of the western US, keeping our skies clear.

So we get a very cold East while the West is warmer than normal. Plants are already starting to bloom. The skies have generally been clear and when it does rain, it pours, because of atmospheric rivers from Hawaii.

atmospheric river

These rivers bring intense but pretty localized rain. The rest of the West still sees drought conditions. Several of them saw some of the warmest, driest months on record.

This low jet stream also kept a lot of Gulf Coast moisture from coming end, keeping Texas drier than normal.

This also fits the models which have suggested that the Seattle area will get about the same amount of rain as before, just all at once rather than in a long drizzle.

Every once in a while, these strong jet streams are disrupted and we return to the normal pattern of west to east cold fronts. Seattle gets cloudy and rainy, the rest of the country sees a mostly mild drop in temps.

But for now, the new normal may well be like this, with Seattle clear and dry and much of the rest seeing a large drop in temperatures.

How being WEIRD is a good thing

Waves-Clogher Beach 

We Aren’t the World 
[Via - Pacific Standard]

IN THE SUMMER of 1995, a young graduate student in anthropology at UCLA named Joe Henrich traveled to Peru to carry out some fieldwork among the Machiguenga, an indigenous people who live north of Machu Picchu in the Amazon basin. The Machiguenga had traditionally been horticulturalists who lived in single-family, thatch-roofed houses in small hamlets composed of clusters of extended families. For sustenance, they relied on local game and produce from small-scale farming. They shared with their kin but rarely traded with outside groups.

While the setting was fairly typical for an anthropologist, Henrich’s research was not. Rather than practice traditional ethnography, he decided to run a behavioral experiment that had been developed by economists. Henrich used a “game”—along the lines of the famous prisoner’s dilemma—to see whether isolated cultures shared with the West the same basic instinct for fairness. In doing so, Henrich expected to confirm one of the foundational assumptions underlying such experiments, and indeed underpinning the entire fields of economics and psychology: that humans all share the same cognitive machinery—the same evolved rational and psychological hardwiring.


Nice article about how the West has actual cognitive differences from tthe East and just about everyone else. We have created and inhabit a different cultural environment and, like Darwin’s Finches, have evolved different social structures to deal with it. These social structures change the way we think.

This is a good thing, as long as we realize that our adaptations to this environment do not necessarily extend to all of humanity. It also fits in well with a recent paper that has gotten some press.

The acronym, WEIRD – Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic – was coined to describe the social groups that have adapted the dominant cultural environment on the planet. Dominant by its outsized effects not only on natural resources but on other cultures as well.

A major hallmark of this:

In their paper the trio pointed out cross-cultural studies that suggest that the “weird” Western mind is the most self-aggrandizing and egotistical on the planet: we are more likely to promote ourselves as individuals versus advancing as a group. WEIRD minds are also more analytic, possessing the tendency to telescope in on an object of interest rather than understanding that object in the context of what is around it.

This fits in quite well with my model on hierarchical authorities and distributed democracies. Humans have two ways to think about the world – Daniel Kahneman calls them System 1 and System 2. System 1 is fast, giving us rapid responses to the world around us. System 2 is slow, taking a more analytical approach to gain greater understanding.

System 1 is instinctual, rules-based and heuristic. It lives in a world  of metaphor and narrative. It is what allows us to respond properly the first time we see a wolf.

System 2 is slower, analytical and energy intensive. It is fact-based, not narrative-based. It is what allows us to see a wolf and produce a thousand breeds of dogs.

System 2 often is used to produce the narratives needed for System 1 to act to fast. A large part of the necessary adaptations to a new cultural environment is for System 2 to synthesize complexity into the simple narratives that System 1 uses.

This why different cultures are so plastic that they seem to think differently. They have differaent metaphors for System 1 based on the results of previous System 2 processes to assess the environment.

Cultures that failed to do this, to understand the cultural environment they inhabited, by transferring System 2 understanding into System 1 rapid responses, collapsed.

Just as the dodo failed to adapt to humans on the island. 

System 2 is useful when something new enters the environment, requiring deeper examination to understand how to deal with it. System 1 is for things we already know how to deal with, because they are a constant in our cultural environment. 

When someone says “You aren’t listening to me” it is often because  people are reacting with System 1 thoughts about something new that requires System 2 approaches. The listener  really is not ‘thinking’ but reacting. Fast, not slow.

Now on top of these ways of thinking,  we have two modes for organizing our social groups – hierarchical authorities and distributed democracies. The former puts the place of the individual into a specific social structure, atomizing while creating specific roles.

The latter subsumes the individual into a network designed for rapid information flow. Both approaches can use either System. For example, authority coupled with System 1 produces people who instinctually know how is above them and below them in the hierarchy, responding without thinking to commands.

But hierarchy coupled with System 2 produces analysis of a problem, breaking it down into pieces that those in a hierarchy can address more easily.

System 2 coupled with democracy can produce the Scientific Revolution. System 1 approaches here can rapidly disseminate the information from that revolution, by synthesis, not analysis.

So,we can see that WEIRD cognitive approaches have produced extremely large and complex hierarchies and democracies, which both use important System 1 and System 2 processes.

That is what has produced Western civilization. I would suggest that a key adaptation of this culture – something that has allowed it to dominate  has been to make System 2 approaches  external. Tacit System 2 creates shamans and alchemists. Explicit System 2 produces scientists.

WEIRD cultures are more analytical and use System 2 to a much larger extent than any other culture. That is because our rapidly changing cultural environment keeps throwing up novel problems we have to analyze deeply to solve.

We do not have time to relax with our System 1 responses to the world we live in. 

This could explain why there is such a difference in cognition today in America between conservatives in general and liberals. The data suggest that, as a group, conservatives are mostly using System 1 approaches (ie gut reactions and simple narratives) and are less WEIRD than average. Liberals  on the other had, are the mostly WEIRD, using analytical, System 2 thinking much more.

Thus why they have such a hard time coming up with the sort of short pithy metaphors to deal with the world, a world that is rapidly shifting from one stage to another, with the metaphors needed for System 1 thinking ins tremendous flux.

I think this is due to the Information Age, Moore’s law and the exponential economy.

We are living in a rapidly changing cultural environment, one where social norms and System 1 rules are changing. We need to develop new rules, new adaptations to this cultural environment. This requires analysis – System 2 – which is currently found more concentrated in the liberal side than the conservative.

It is a fluke of timing that these different approaches mostly align with political parties. In the 1850s, the thinking was the same – one group responding to changes by deeper analysis while the other retreated to old principles – but the parties were reversed  with the Republicans being the radical party adapting to the new cultural environment.

It doe snot matter which group is doing the analytical thinking. What is important is that we use this analysis to come up with better narratives and metaphors for sustain adaptive System 1 thinking.

The data suggest that less than 20% of even WEIRD cultures spend a lot of time in analysis and deep thinking. So a lot of liberals are also acting with System 1 responses, mostly to old rules for the old environment.

If we fail to adapt to the new cultural environment we are creating, then we will fail as a society. 

This model does not show what the adaptations we need to make will be. But it does suggest where those adaptations, those new stories will come from.

It does explain why the professions most aligned with slow, deliberative, analytical thinking – such as scientists – tend to align with liberals.

And why those most charged with creating new narratives – Hollywood – are also seen as liberal.

I expect this will change as we continue to adapt better to the new cultural environment. The current fluke – where analytical thinking falls more under one political group – may only be seen when our culture is undergoing rapid change. Once we gain better adaptations, creating the necessary narratives to support fast responses, we will all fall under mostly System 1.

Because we will understand the new rules of the culture. In fact, a large part of why System 2 evolved in humanity may simply be to gain understanding that can more easily be implemented by System 1. To create better narratives to explain the world.

And one interesting aspect that unfolds from this data deals with whether urban areas are generally more liberal because they attract liberal people or do they make people more liberal.

I’m falling on the cities make people more liberal. The paper showed that people can easily be trained to use either approach. It is a response to the environment they find themselves and what is required more often – rapid response to something you already know or slower responses to novel events.

I would suggest that having to adapt to the much more complex environment of a large city would require everyone to use more System 2 thinking than living in a rural one.

And right now, more System 2 correlates with being liberal.

I am not surprised that the most liberal cities, such as San Francisco, Washington DC and Seattle, are also home to some of the greatest technology/information/poetical changes driving our new cultural environment. 

The adaptations our culture is acquiring will be driven from those places where greater System 2 thinking is happening. Because they are creating the stories needed to sustain System 1 reactions to the new environment.

Liberal/Conservative – More data supporting intuitive, System 1 thinking vs analytical, System 2

Thinking RFID 

Study: Oh Yes, We Can Change Conservative Minds
[Via Crooks and Liars]

This is something many of us have been saying for a while. A substantial number of Americans hold both conservative and progressive views, and this study indicates that yes, we can change people’s minds — and votes:

Political conservatives in the United States are somewhat like East Asians in the way they think, categorize and perceive. Liberals in the U.S. could be categorized as extreme Americans in thought, categorization and perception. That is the gist of a new University of Virginia cultural psychology study, published recently in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Additionally, the study indicates that thought styles – whether analytical or holistic – can be changed through training, enough so to temporarily change political thought and the way a person might vote.

“We found in our study that liberals and conservatives think as if they were from completely different cultures – almost as different as East and West,” said study leader Thomas Talhelm, a U.Va. doctoral candidate in cultural psychology. “Liberals and conservatives categorize and perceive things differently, just as East Asians and Westerners look differently at the world.”

According to Talhelm, political conservatives in the United States, generally, and East Asians, particularly, are intuitive or “holistic” thinkers, while Westerners, generally, and American liberals, in particular, are more analytical thinkers.


Liberals and conservatives see the world differently and think differently, even across cultures.

Daniel Kahneman has discussed these sorts of thinking, Fast and Slow. Fast is required for making quick decisions needed to survive a threatening environment. It is rules-based, intuitive. But also unable to easily deal with complex systems.

Slow requires deeper analysis, taking more time and energy. It is not something that works well when the tiger is in front of you but absolutely required for dealing with complex systems.

Fast is best for dealing with a dangerous world, but can fall apart when the cultural environment is changing rapidly. Old rules may no longer work.

Slower thinking is better for understanding how to deal with a changing environment  But takes much more time to discern the best new rules.

Humans can use either but seem to naturally default to a specific type.

Here we find that supposed political attitudes fall under this, with conservatives being more rules-based, intutiove and users of fast thinking.while liberals are more analytical using System 2.

Now, the study indicates that what we call politics is malleable, which makes sense since what is called a conservative or liberal based on political views changes with time.

They discovered that if they trained holistic thinkers to think analytically, for example, to match scarf with mitten, they would subsequently start viewing the world more liberally (though not on economic policy). Likewise, liberals, if trained to think holistically, would come to form more conservative opinions.

It does support something that people have connected with conservatives and liberals – conservatives generally see the world as a dangerous place, one to be fearful of. Liberals… not so much.

Someone who sees the world as extremely dangerous would use fast, intuitive, System 1 thinking a lot. It would be a survival trait.

But, given the correct approaches, people can be provided the support for using System 2 thinking. And when they do, they see the world as less dangerous, drop into analytical thinking and act more liberally in their actions.

It does not change their views on economic issues but does seem to change their views on social ones.

Which is very hopeful as we emerge into a new era of organizing ourselves to fit the new cultural environment we have created.

In a few years, we will have discovered which rules to maintain and which news ones are useful and settle back into a more stable set of social organizations.

Climate change denialists bring up argument debunked two years ago

The Piracy Imperative 

Temperature data is not “the biggest scientific scandal ever”
[Via Ars Technica]

Over the weekend, another editor pointed me to this piece in The Telegraph in which columnist Christopher Booker calls scientists’ handling of the temperature data “the biggest science scandal ever.” The same piece also appeared in a discussion today and was sent in via the reader-feedback form. So, it seemed worth looking into.

Doing so caused a bit of a flashback—to January 2013, specifically. That was the last time that the previous year had been declared the warmest on record, an event that apparently prompts some people to question whether we can trust the temperature records at all.

The culprit that time was Fox News, but the issue was the same: the raw data from temperature measurements around the world aren’t just dumped into global temperature reconstructions as-is. Instead, they’re processed first. To the more conspiracy minded, you can replace “processed” with “fraudulently manipulated to make it look warmer.”


This is one problem with denialists – they use zombie arguments that have been shown to be wrong, again and again.

This is what eventually provokes feelings of anger and frustrations. “We have answered this already. Many times before.Why will you not change your arguments?”

This creationists bring up ‘transition fossils” even though this has been seen. Or “actually see evolution happen” even though this has been seen. Or “the chances of an airplane being built from random parts in a hurricane”. Ad infinitum.

Here it is “how can it be snowing if the world is warming”. Or “It’s a conspiracy.” Or “scientists are lying.”

Hey, denialists, asked two years ago and answered. Try something new. 

It won’t happen because what defines  denialists is denying. It is fascinating I guess, to watch people again and again fall  into the same irrational argument, totally couched in pseudo-rationaities.

But it is not helpful at all.

A moderate argument I agree with


‘Made in America’ Just a Political Slogan to Conservatives
[Via The Moderate Voice]

by Walter Brasch

Conservatives in Congress have once again proven they are un-American and unpatriotic. This time, it’s because of their fierce approval for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline, being built and run by TransCanada, will bring tar sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. All the oil will be exported. Major beneficiaries, including House Speaker John Boehner, are those who invest in a Canadian company.

Opponents see the 1,179-mile pipeline as environmentally destructive. They cite innumerable leaks and spills in gas pipelines, and correctly argue that the tar sands oil is far more caustic and destructive than any of the crude oil being mined in the United States. They point out the pipeline would add about 240 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. They also argue that the use of eminent domain by a foreign corporation, in this case a Canadian one, to seize private property goes against the intent of the use of eminent domain. Eminent domain seizure, they also correctly argue, should be used only to benefit the people and not private corporations.

Proponents claim it will bring jobs to Americans. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims the pipeline would create up to 250,000 jobs. However, the Department of State concludes that completion of the pipeline would create only 35 permanent jobs.


A foreign company using eminent domain. 35 jobs. None of the oil for us but for other countries. Environmental damage.

All good arguments but the one that sold me on which side to be on – an amendment that the materials for this pipeline, whose existence was beneficial to a foreign country, come from America.

A Senate Democrat proposed that amendment. That at least if this bill was going to be passed, the damn thing had to be made by American hands using American metal.

It failed.

Every No vote for that Amendment was from a Republican. 53 of them. Only 1 Republican voted for it.

By their own actions—in business and, most certainly, in how they dealt with the Keystone XL amendment—the nation’s conservatives have proven that “Made in America” and “American Pride” are nothing more than just popular slogans.

This pipeline is not for America or Americans. It is for the rich businessman in Canada and America.

Climate model “wrongness” may well be due to volcanoes


Are climate models biased?
[Via Ars Technica]

If you took an average output of multiple climate models, it would predict that the start of this century would have seen a strong warming trend. Instead, the planet warmed relatively slowly over this time.

When models and reality disagree, it can tell us about two things: the models and reality. So far, analysis has seemed to come down on the side of reality. Evidence has indicated that one of the contributors to this century’s climate has been small volcanic eruptions; another suggests that a run of La Niña years has helped hold temperatures down.

Now, a new study is out that turns the focus on the models. It finds no evidence that the models are biased toward predicting higher temperatures and instead suggests that their biggest issue might be in how they handle large volcanic eruptions.


In an intriguing study, the researchers compared the trendlines for a variety of models with real numbers over the last century. They too the models, started in 1900 and rant the clock forward. Then added in the real data to see how well it fit.

What they found was that the real numbers all fell within the error bars of the models. So there was no systemic bias in the models to over estimate temperature change.

Essentially, each model has intrinsic errors around the trendline and the trends always stay within the error bars.

But they did find several periods where the trendline came closer to either the high or low error range for short periods. The temperature would not rise for 10-15 years, getting closer to the low range and then shoot up faster for 10-15 years.

So, while the average trend (and its error bars) has been going up over the last 100 years, there were real periods of slower and faster warming.

These times of slower warming appear to correspond to large volcanic activity. The volcanoes send up large amounts of dust and gases which will affect climates. But as they cycle out of the atmosphere, warming returns.

What seems to be happening is that the models may not correctly model the effects of volcanoes. They overestimate the cooling effects of volcanos, modeling a lower increase in temperature. But then they correspondingly overestimate the heating effects as the volcanic impacts lessen.

They get the average correct but overcompensate because they give too much impact to volcanoes. Better modeling of vocanoes would not change the overall average trends. It would just reduce the error bars.

What this means is that when you look at any 10-15 year trend, the explanation will be mostly due to temporary chaotic’ and unpredictiable conditions, like volcanoes. But these disappear when longer time periods are examined because the system reverts to normal processes.

And by modeling these chaotic events better – ie volcanoes – they will not chaneg the overall trend, only reduce the error bars.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 504 other followers

%d bloggers like this: