“Oh Wow” Moments in Technology

For anyone who’d like to play, two questions:

  • What technology or product that has come to market in the last five years most indispensable to you? And, for extra points, what, if anything, did it replace?
  • What technology or product most recently made you say “Wow”. It has to be something you can buy or use, not just some onanistic New Scientist article about the umpteenth almost moment for, say, nuclear fusion based on cat entrails or something.

I’ll start: iPhone. As Marc Andreessen likes to say, it still feels like it fell through a wormhole in space. It is also the product I could least imagine doing without.

I can’t honestly think of anything since that has had that effect. Anyone have ideas?

Tracking Chinese Riots, Plus Sunspots

I’ve been tracking the ongoing upswing in Chinese labor riots. Here is a roundup of recent stories:

  • Riots in southern China (Reuters)
  • China Cracks Down in Wake of Riots, Bombings (Bloomberg)
  • Police quell migrant riots in China (FT)

And a bonus story, from the surreal side: S&P on sunspots and the U.S. power grid:

  • The Dark Side Of The Sun: A Potential Threat To The U.S. Power Grid (S&P)


Lottery Effects in U.S. Wealth Skew

I have been giving many talks lately about the macro condition of the economy, including a recent one in Canada to some insurance executives. In… [cont.]

[Full post at my Bloomberg blog]

Inattentional Blindness in Urban Areas

Intriguing new inattentional blindness study:

You do not talk about Fight Club if you do not notice Fight Club: Inattentional blindness for a simulated real-world assault


Inattentional blindness—the failure to see visible and otherwise salient events when one is paying attention to something else—has been proposed as an explanation for various real-world events. In one such event, a Boston police officer chasing a suspect ran past a brutal assault and was prosecuted for perjury when he claimed not to have seen it. However, there have been no experimental studies of inattentional blindness in real-world conditions. We simulated the Boston incident by having subjects run after a confederate along a route near which three other confederates staged a fight. At night only 35% of subjects noticed the fight; during the day 56% noticed. We manipulated the attentional load on the subjects and found that increasing the load significantly decreased noticing. These results provide evidence that inattentional blindness can occur during real-world situations, including the Boston case.

via i-Perception : You do not talk about Fight Club if you do not notice Fight Club: Inattentional blindness for a simulated real-world assault.

Sports is Just a Game, Except When It’s Live?

Not sure I agree with this perspective on why live sports only work when live, but it’s interesting. I have watched events many times on delay — especially cycling, geek that I am — and I don’t care if it’s live, or if I know the results. That said, the perspective makes its own sense.

“If this game has already ended and I don’t know anything about what happened, it was probably just a game”: This sentence is so obvious that it’s almost nonsensical, but I suspect it’s the one point that matters most. It’s the central premise behind the entire concept of “liveness,” which is what this whole problem comes down to.

via Chuck Klosterman: Why the DVR robs sports of all of their drama – Grantland.

Weekend Reading: June 12, 2011

Economic activity next week:Economic indicators (CR)Earnings reports (Earnings.com)

Some articles and papers worth reading:Buffett: How… [cont.]

[Full post at my Bloomberg blog]

‘I’ve Got Nothing to Hide’. Really?

Fresh perspective on tired subject:

‘I’ve Got Nothing to Hide’ and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy

Daniel J. Solove

George Washington University Law School

San Diego Law Review, Vol. 44, p. 745, 2007

GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 289


In this short essay, written for a symposium in the San Diego Law Review, Professor Daniel Solove examines the nothing to hide argument. When asked about government surveillance and data mining, many people respond by declaring: “I’ve got nothing to hide.” According to the nothing to hide argument, there is no threat to privacy unless the government uncovers unlawful activity, in which case a person has no legitimate justification to claim that it remain private. The nothing to hide argument and its variants are quite prevalent, and thus are worth addressing. In this essay, Solove critiques the nothing to hide argument and exposes its faulty underpinnings.

via ‘I’ve Got Nothing to Hide’ and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy by Daniel Solove :: SSRN.

Aspen Ski Cabin, Cheap. $661. Hauling Extra

A 1950s-era tourist cabin for sale by the city of Aspen is proving most difficult to get rid of due to the high cost of hauling it away, although it’s still on the market if anyone is interested.

The Deep Powder cabins were part of Aspen’s lodging inventory for about 50 years, but were displaced by the redevelopment of the Limelight Lodge. Figuring there was historic value, the city saved two of the cabins, and has been looking for preservation-minded owners since 2006. The cabins have been sitting at the edge of Willoughby Park since then.

No one local could be found, so in March, the cabins were listed on PublicSurplus.com, an eBay-like website for government property. The two cabins sold for $500.99 and $661. However, the buyer of the more expensive cabin pulled out, telling the city he could not get a permit to haul the 600-square-foot cabin across state lines. The buyer of the cheaper cabin is still planning to pick up his purchase, and will be breaking it up into pieces for the move to Divide, Colo., said city historic preservation planner Sara Adams.

via A tale of two cabins: History looking for a home — Deep Powder cabin a tough sell | Aspen Daily News Online.

Commencement Speeches

Useful NYT interactive graphic of popular words/themes in 40 commencement speeches around the U.S. this season. Not much “science” sadly, but lots of “world”.