Cash for Vote(r)s

August 19th, 2014

This seems to be the week for dumb ideas about better ways to do politics. First this, and now this:

On Southern California Public Radio, Fernando Guerra, a researcher at the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, suggested a radical solution to increasing voter turnout: Enter all voters automatically into a $1 million lottery.

"Wouldn't we get a lot of people who know nothing about politics or the candidates jumping in and voting and just checking the box so they could get a million bucks?" the radio host asked Guerra.

"Absolutely," Guerra responded. But, he added, that might not be a bad thing. "That might produce better results. There is no data to show that uninformed voters make worse decisions than informed voters."

Let's just hear that last line again…

There is no data to show that uninformed voters make worse decisions than informed voters.

Good to know…

[Via The Risks Digest Volume 28: Issue 18]

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Algorithms As The Champions of Workers

August 18th, 2014

Danny Crichton's argument that Algorithms Are Replacing Unions As The Champions of Workers is a doozy:

At the heart of this movement is the right of workers to choose how and when they work. Uber, for instance, doesn't require strict hours for drivers, instead letting them choose schedules that match their needs. If a driver wants to take a two-hour lunch break or pick up their kids after school and only work late mornings and evenings, the system provides them the flexibility to do that. Carefully-tuned algorithms provide incentives through prices to ensure that the market is meeting the demand of customers and workers. The same flexibility holds true for most on-demand startups including TaskRabbit, Postmates, oDesk, Crew, and Guru.

Such convenience used to be the exclusive preserve of elite talent. Professionals like lawyers, doctors, engineers and consultants have had the flexibility in their work to take vacations and use "flex time" policies for many years now. Such policies make it easier to do everything from building a family to improving one's skills through education.

It also helps that all those professional types were earning hourly rates that allowed them to forego a week's work without substantially affecting their ability to make that month's mortgage payment.1 As if that weren't enough, Crichton also has some strange ideas about how a startup-driven labour market might work:

There is a long-tail to labor markets that startups are finally exploiting. Maybe I want to do a mix of cooking, Egyptian hieroglyphic travel blogging, and some regression analysis of health data. In the past, that would mean getting a job in marketing and living a corporate life until such time that one could quit and pursue their interests. Today, it is entirely possible to stitch together a set of opportunities to bring all of those passions together.

Let's just hope that the guy who is paying for the health data analysis doesn't want his report finalised the very same week in which you'd promised to supply one of your patrons with pre-publishing access to a meaty piece you're just getting to grips with about the hieroglyphs at Amenemhet I's pyramid at Lisht.

We can but hope that our multi-talented individual doesn't have a passion for, say, eating regularly, or being able to plan more than a few weeks ahead. Startups and those who make money from the sharing economy ideally want people with no family complications to mess up their schedules, and who will be at the beck and call of the business on what amounts to a zero-hour contract. Also, it'd be nice if as many regulations as possible governing established industries could be swept away/regarded as not applying to those doing exactly the same type of work but as part of the sharing economy. And this is an environment in which trades unions are obsolete?

Shoulda been published in The Onion.

[Via @Pinboard]

  1. Also, I know that attitudes to paid time off are a bit different in the USA, but might these sort of professionals not also be salaried employees and thus allowed some paid leave? Or is that another of those socialistic notions that has dragged down the living standards of citizens of western Europe's various social democratic nations?

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Geography as a matter of opinion

June 24th, 2014

I was vaguely aware that occasionally Google Maps deals with disputes over sovereignty between nations by showing different search results according to the searcher's location, but I hadn't realised just how frequently, and how rapidly this sort of action is required:

Abroad, Google Maps has waded into raw, tender issues of national identity. For example, take its depiction of Crimea on, where a dashed line reflects the U.S. view that the area is an occupied territory. But in Russia, on, the boundary line is solid – Russia has officially annexed Crimea.

[Via Quartz, via Memex 1.1]

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9% of Brits think that pop music is better now than it was 20 years ago

May 14th, 2014

15 weird things that 9% of Britons say they believe:

If Labour are having a tough time in the polls, the Lib Dems are facing a European wipe out.

The latest YouGov figures on how people are intending to vote in the European Elections put Lib Dem support at 9%. Our friends at UsVsTh3m noticed this was significantly lower than the number of people who would be prepared to have sex with an android.

We wondered what other things more than 9% of the British public believe, would be prepared to do, or have done…


10. Eat testicles
Not just the preserve of Bushtucker Trials in I'm A Celeb, 9% of people in the UK said they would be prepared to eat animal testicles. Remember, that's the same amount of people who say they'll vote Lib Dem.

Gloating? Perhaps. But it's a welcome distraction from contemplating UKIP's polling numbers.

[Via LinkMachineGo!]

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A Really Bad Idea

April 9th, 2014

Charlie Stross has yet another bad idea:

Now, it occurs to me that the Republican Party over in the USA have a bit of a problem coming up in 2016, namely who to run against Barack Obama's successor. Whoever they are. (Hilary is looking a little old and Al's cardboard has mildew.) But the RNC isn't in good shape. They don't have anybody out front with the charisma of the Gipper (dead or alive), or the good ole' boy appeal of George W. Bush: just a bunch of old white guys in dark suits who're obsessed with the size of their wallets and the contents of every woman's uterus, or vice versa. Guys who make Karl Rove look like Johnny Depp.

And so it occurred to me (after my fifth pint of IPA) to spin my speculative political satire around the fact that there is only one man on the global political scene today who has what it takes to be a plausible Republican candidate for President Of The United States at the next presidential election. […]

The name he's come up with isn't remotely feasible as an actual candidate for president, but then that's not exactly the point, is it?

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Spin, spin, spin…

February 12th, 2014

From the [pen|keyboard] of The Yorkshire Ranter: Dave from PR in the French Revolution

Being a Salmagundi from the Talking-Pointes of the late Sieur Davide du Camerone, Gentleman of the Privy and Counsellier upon the Fourth Estate to his most Catholic Majesty, the late King Louis XVI

An unexpectedly large forecast error in the Budget leads Finance Minister Necker to call an emergency Estates-General:

We’re all in this together. Only a balanced parliament reflecting the national consensus to deal with the debt can keep us from ending up like Spain. M. Colbert didn’t fix the roof while the sun was shining, but His Majesty is determined to get our finances in surplus by 1792. That’s on a rolling five-year cash basis excluding interventions in North America and royal mistresses.


[FX: Applause]

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Simon Hoggart

January 6th, 2014

Today's Guardian commemorated the passing of their parliamentary sketch writer Simon Hoggart by reprinting some of his finer moments. I always liked Hoggart best when he turned his attention to some of the less consequential figures From the back benches:

"Does Sir Peter Tapsell actually exist? I ask the question following his own question – nay, speech – on Wednesday, which was magnificent. It could have been a pastiche of the perfect Tapsell address.

I imagined his words being carved into tablets of polished black basalt, mounted in the British Museum, etched dee

p so that even the partially sighted can feel their way to his eternal wisdom.

Possibly Sir Peter is a mass thought form, created by Tory MPs, for whom he recalls their party as it used to be, and Labour MPs, who wish that it still was. Certainly it is true that the whole House looks forward keenly, yearningly, to his every word.

When the Father of the House arose in the middle of prime minister's questions, a great throb of excitement ran along all benches, rather like the moment in a Victorian seance when the eerie manifestation of a dead Red Indian appeared above the fireplace. This moment of glee was followed, as it always is, by a hushed and expectant silence."

– 14 September 2011

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Refusing to be 'useful'

January 5th, 2014

I can't remember where I found a link to this, but the Columbia Journalism Review's profile of my favourite internet sceptic, Evgeny vs. the internet Is well worth a read:

Evgeny Morozov wants to convince us that digital technology can't save the world, and he's willing to burn every bridge from Cambridge to Silicon Valley to do it.

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Oh, (Little) England…

December 31st, 2013

The Daily Mail in a Nutshell:

DAILY MAIL IN A NUTSHELL: Top rated comment - refuses to read... on Twitpic

[Via Memex 1.1]

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The Bible Tells Me So…

December 31st, 2013

The Bible Tells Me So:

Everything He said...

[Via Slacktivist]

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