Nov 06

It’s a mistake

I know it’s a mistake to read anything in the mainstream press almost always, but this article that purports to discuss why health care costs rise so much in comparison to inflation only half-touches on two partial reasons and doesn’t actually discuss the root causes at all.

The first and main reason that health care costs spike skyward every year is that insurance is itself inflationary. No, I am not saying eliminate insurance but just like a loan for a house or student loans, the more money available in a market the more prices rise. This is one of the few completely correct areas of economics IMO and this is what has happened in the health care market and will continue to happen absent some other huge force counteracting this tendency.

That the insurers and hospitals have adversarial relations probably does more to promote that than if they were all one entity (no, I am not advocating that hospitals and insurers merge — also a terrible solution). By the way, inflation doesn’t just mean raising prices in the medical context, it means unnecessary tests, procedures, surgeries and all of that too.

This is not like car insurance (though that is inflationary too in some markets) because medical care is more obligatory — more akin to an oil change (not insured) or having brake pads replaced. Imagine how much an oil change would cost if insurance were mandated by law for this common need, and everywhere available to perform the procedure accepted insurance, and it was illegal to do it yourself. (Back of the envelope calcs suggest an oil change would cost somewhere around $1,000 in that environment.)

Ok, already tired of the car metaphors.

The second huge omission of the article is that doctors in America and Canada are hugely overpaid (and overtrained) compared to the rest of the world.

The third cause is that human labor — which the health care depends on in spades — gets more expensive relatively in relation to what can be automated. Meaning over time that the labor share of cost rises as compared to say the cost of a scalpel.

There are other causes of rising costs — I am not implying only three. But how can an article like this miss the greatest cause (that to be fair most others also miss) which is that the more money in a market, the more something will cost? So easy but completely outside of the comprehension of the “educated.”

Nov 06

No mystic

I’m not into mysticism. I’ve always strongly identified with the more scientific-minded.

However, recognizing that, as one who’s not really math-minded or much interested in contaminating my mind in that way, it’s easy to see how the structure of the supposed impartiality of math is used in “objective” fields to impose and reify pre-existing prejudices. The “science” of economics is mostly bogus* math masquerading as objective truth, for instance.

It must have been a real blow to the “everything can be understood tidily in a neat system of simple equations” crowd then when quantum entanglement was discovered. (Yes, I know about Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance,” but that must have been just the tip of a massive iceberg.)

For instance, take a look at this description from Wikipedia:

The above result may or may not be perceived as surprising. A classical system would display the same property, and a hidden variable theory (see below) would certainly be required to do so, based on conservation of angular momentum in classical and quantum mechanics alike. The difference is that a classical system has definite values for all the observables all along while the quantum system does not. In a sense to be discussed below, the quantum system considered here seems to acquire a probability distribution for the outcome of a measurement of the spin along any axis of the other particle upon measurement of the first particle. This probability distribution is in general different from what it would be without measurement of the first particle. This may certainly be perceived as surprising in the case of spatially separated entangled particles.

You can tell this fundamentally bothers the math-brained people from this description alone. “May or may not be perceived as surprising” and then a bunch of weird equivocating.

Unless one wishes to posit some method of faster-than-light signaling (for which there is no evidence, and much evidence against) well yeah, I’d say it’s pretty darn surprising.

I’m not saying quantum entanglement and that the fact that electrons have memory can never be explained mathematically (though I personally doubt it), or that there is some mystical explanation — rather that Hamlet’s admonition to Horatio is for the most part as true in the “hard” fields as it is in the soft ones: more things in heaven and earth and all that.

I’m not interested in pseudoscience or mysticism at all, except sociologically. Physics is remarkable in that we know so very much about the universe. However, don’t let the math-brained con you into believing that their systems of understanding are that predictive about very much. They simply are not and probably never will be.

See the above about how we don’t have any fundamental understanding at all about some pretty basic features of our universe and likely never will.

Yes, I know quantum entanglement can’t be used to pass information, yadda yadda, so it has no real impact on causality, blah blah, but it’s one area that makes me laugh because it’s clear that something completely bizarre is going on and physicists’ minds glitch when they contemplate it. For that matter, most math-brained people have mental glitches when try to to contemplate something that can’t be neatly systematized (and then they try to do it anyway, and then pronounce it truth.)

*Yes, the economists have equations that work out. Cool. I’ve even worked out some of them myself. But the models having anything to do with reality? Nope.

Nov 05

Lampoon

Apple’s approach to the so-called pro laptop:

griswold-electrical-safety-tips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you don’t recognize that, it’s from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, or the movie Apple used as inspiration for their latest laptop decisions.

Nov 04

Not so pro

The MacBook Pro used to be the best laptop you could buy at any price.

Now it’s a below-average machine in a sea of not-that-good competitors that are still better than it by wide margins.

Great job, Apple.

Nov 04

Hypercap

Rick Yancey’s The Fifth Wave is an extended allegory about the depredations and immorality of hypercapitalism as we currently practice it.

Once I realized that, I began liking the series better.

It is not a great series, but it’s a pretty accurate representation of how our form of capitalism (and perhaps all capitalism) leads to a war of all against all, the destruction of communities, the viewing of humans as interchangeable cogs, and the extreme power of mind-controlling propaganda.

I wouldn’t quite recommend any of the novels, but I thought this allegory was handled well.

Nov 03

Rights and wrongs

No matter how many times the loopier parts of the left attempts to assert some sort of absolute right to migration, it’s not clear to me exactly why existing residents’ rights to control who immigrates and how is overruled or countervailed by any so-called right of immigration — especially if it’s just economic migration we’re talking about (which most of the so-called “Syrian” migrants into Germany actually were*.)

I’m not saying there’s not a philosophical case to be made for immigrants having greater rights than existing citizens and residents, just that I have not seen it. And no, your attempts to raise your status by showing how compassionate you are while never doing anything but meaningless signaling to demonstrate this does not count.

*Hint: if you’re skin is black, you’re probably not from Syria. The black non-Arab non-white population of Syria is so small that it’s not even tracked demographically speaking. So when the press reports all the “Syrians” migrating and their skin is very dark, they ain’t fuckin’ Syrian.

Nov 03

Design by moron

By the way, Apple’s Mac line would be a Fortune 500 business all by itself.

Apple can and is only ignoring it because I am sure the phone side of the business is running things internally now and doesn’t see “old-school” computers as important. Never mind that it’d be nearly impossible to port in any timely manner all the tooling and related infrastructure to Windows to develop iOS Objective C applications on that platform.

And never mind that when you abandon your early adopters, evangelists and power users, your platform soon after in toto soon goes down the toilet.

Absolutely huge strategic mistake. Contra Buffett, if I shorted stocks any longer, Apple would be on my short short list.

Nov 02

Apple Eve’n

Not sure when I’ll do it otherwise, but if my 5K iMac craps out I will buy probably a 5K Dell or LG monitor, build a brand new Windows 10 box (alas) as Apple has clearly abandoned the Mac as an ecosystem.

They see it as necessary, but it wasn’t. They easily could have owned a larger and larger percentage of the consumer and business workstation market by catering to this segment. Instead, they are just going to throw away tens of billions of dollars of revenue thoughtlessly.

There still is an always will be an absolutely huge market or power users who will pay a damn lot of money for a decent machine — why do you think Microsoft is releasing the $3,000 Surface Studio desktop? They recognize Apple is abandoning that market altogether.

Yep, Apple just handed Microsoft the keys to the kingdom.

That Apple doesn’t understand that though computers are a small part of their revenue, they are the key to their ecosystem is just mind-boggling. To this day, you can only develop iOS apps on a Mac for instance.

Without Steve Jobs, it was inevitable for Apple to decline and make bad decisions as internecine wars took over. Just sad to see it happen.

Nov 02

HL

Time for more Héloïse Letissier.

Such a beautiful song lyrically. Poetry better than most written in any language by “real” poets.

Interview with her (in English).

Even the YouTube comments about her are better than usual. Says it perfectly:

sml

Nov 02

Why the humanities

Technocrats operating with all data and no history are less tractable than evil, as evil almost by definition has a goal, an objective. Even if it insane, apocalyptic or deleterious to human health, something with a goal can be resisted and defeated.

Big Data’s ahistorical adherents have the “truth” in the data and the obvious-to-them veracity of their algorithms on their side, which in their minds removes the need for any more nuanced or contextual understanding. They are not evil because they do not even have the cultural or historical comprehension to proceed this far; in that, they are like children with a dangerous weapon they see as a toy: goalless but casually destructive.

Technocratic rule by misapplied data science shows exactly why we need the humanities now more than we ever have.