The Treehouse Blog

Philosophy

Trekonomics

by on Mar.25, 2018, under Philosophy

I just finished reading Trekonomics, a book on the economics in Star Trek, by Manu Saadia.  The book is interesting for trying to accumulate a lot of the economic references in Star Trek and make sense of them.  In the end, I think it falls short – while the 24th century Trek tries to represent a post-scarcity near-utopia where physical needs are met at no real cost, where automation has displaced the need for all labor, this is clearly a contradiction.  Particularly with Deep Space Nine, the Federation has finite limits on resources such as ships and non-replicable materials.  Throughout Star Trek there are people that perform repairs and maintenance – despite ubiquitous automation.  I’m not convinced we’re on the verge of becoming post-scarcity or post-labor.  While our economic progress has meant the improvement in the quality of life of essentially everyone, we are still facing challenges with automation displacing labor, not unlike what we have encountered since the industrial revolution.  Whether we reach a point where automation permanently prevents a large segment of the population from gainful employment, and how we handle it, remains to be seen.  Star Trek, understandably, does not dwell on what place the inept have in its society, instead focusing on the top of the class.  Still, an interesting read.

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Pennsylvania Game Commission and Hiking

by on Feb.16, 2015, under Hiking, Politics

Over the past year or so, there has been the occasional threat of the Pennsylvania Game Commission requiring permits for and partially banning hiking on State Game Lands.  As someone who grew up with Game Lands literally in the back yard, I’ve been following this with concern.

Naturally, media coverage is abysmal, but at least it exists.  But fortunately, the PGC does post its meeting minutes.  Reading from the September minutes (the January minutes are not yet posted… does that wait until they are approved at the next meeting?), the most vocal dissent of the proposal came from Commissioner Martone:

Before this proposal comes to a vote, I want to make it clear the details surrounding this proposal.  As of last Thursday there were 869 comments from hunters and non-hunters opposed to this, while 197 were in favor.  That’s the initial count.  I will admit, that includes 597 Rails-to-Trails comments that were all opposed.  Key legislators, including take 25 member at a House Game and Fisheries Committee and two other legislators are opposed to this.  The Governor’s Advisory Council for hunting, fishing, and conservation unanimously opposed this.  Our key conservation partners, including the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, National Wild Turkey Federation, United Bow Hunters of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, all opposed to this.

Major organizations representing the Pennsylvania Equine Council, Pennsylvania State Snowmobilers Association, International Mountain Bikers Association, Keystone Rails-to-Trails, all opposed to this proposal.  And most important of all, this issue is opposed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission itself.  From the field staff, regional staff, headquarters staff and even senior administration, all oppose this proposal.

I would encourage everyone following this issue to pay close attention to the results of today’s vote and pay attention to who voted and how they voted, I think it’s important.  Thank you.

But Commissioner Martone no longer has his position.  He was replaced by a new Commissioner as one of Governor Corbett’s final acts.  Ostensibly, it was administrative issue – his term was due to expire, and his replacement was named.

Now, we do know that the revised proposal was removed from the agenda of the January meeting.  But it seems likely it’s not dead and buried, and in some form, it will resurface again.  In the meantime, you may want to let your opinion be known on this, through the PGC, PA legislature, etc.

I’m starting to think that my preferred solution would be for all of the State Game Lands to be ceded to the Bureau of Forestry, which of all of the state lands, seems the most accommodating of all uses of public land.  Now, you can cry about Game Fund money having been used to purchase all of this land, but really – with 1.5 million acres already… can’t you give some of us folks who would like to privately buy some land a chance?  Perhaps the license fees need to start contributing back to the state’s general fund, instead of contributing to the Game Commission’s empire building.  I’m sure there’s lots of red tape that causes it to be the way it is (which has Federal fingerprints all over it with money from the Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax involved).

 

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A better change?

by on Feb.16, 2010, under Politics

Upon the mention on podpolia, I began reading The Roadmap for America’s Future.  After more than a week of intermittent reading, I’ve gotten through the parts that were interesting to me.   Two sections that were particularly intriguing were those on Social Security, Budget Process Reform and the Business Consumption Tax.  It’s really a shame that the Republicans did… well, nothing, really, towards any of these seemingly practical reforms of government during their majority tenure in the last decade.  Funny how balanced budgets are always the battle cry of the underdog party, but never considered prudent by those in power.  The only time in recent history it actually happened was when power was divided between the parties, right?  Maybe we can try that again.

Also heard an interesting quote today:

“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” – Ben Franklin.

I think there is some wisdom there.

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Climate Change

by on Dec.28, 2009, under Politics, Science

I’ve been giving some thought recently to educating myself about the studies behind climate change.  It’s a very charged issue and one that could have profound impacts through either its effects or the effects of trying to combat it.  It’s also one that’s difficult to discuss.  The term “global warming” has lost its literal meaning and now connotes the heat-death of the world with dead Polar Bears and permanently flooded coastlines.  But what are models really predicting and with what certainty?  What data are these models based on, and with what accuracy?  I’ve just about concluded that I can’t trust anyone but myself look at the primary sources and not the distilled summaries, but that sounds like a massive undertaking.

It was brought to my attention recently that the late Michael Crichton had given a speech about his skepticism of “global warming” (the non-literal term) and I had to give it a read.  In case you don’t know, he’s the author of books such as Jurassic Park which I thoroughly enjoyed for their technical detail.  Not to mention he was working on the movie adaptation of his book The Andromeda Strain while still in medical school, if I remember correctly – so a pretty gifted guy.  While I think his speech makes some oversimplifications (just as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth does – yes, I have seen it), there is one point he makes that I emphatically agree with: “I [regard] science as the business of testing theories with measured data from the outside world. Untestable hypotheses are not science but rather something else.”  If I do manage to do some reading on this, that sentiment will be the standard I measure against.

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Freedom

by on Nov.06, 2009, under Politics

Our country is supposed to be the shining light of freedom and liberty in the world, something for which we should be proud and work to honor and defend.  Incredibly, the United States Congress is poised to trample our freedoms in its efforts to improve the country’s health care system.

HR3962 calls for the punishment of those choosing to go without health insurance with a fine (assessed as an increase in taxes).  A government mandate of this  nature is contrary to the personal freedom to exercise one’s means as they will.

The bill also calls for the creation of the “public health insurance option” which will be a government alternative to private insurance.  Reducing the cost of health care is a primary goal of the current reform effort.  This goal, combined with a government health care option, would further open the already unlatched door to government regulation of personal behaviors, such as what we eat and what we do, in order to promote health and cost savings.  Such regulations would represent an incredible loss of liberty in the interest of the fiscal responsibility of government-funded health care.

When considering the inherent aspects of this bill that undermine our freedoms, it seems clear that the bill must be opposed in its current form.  The congress should set its sights on fixing the problems that exist in ways that do not erode our liberties.

As always, I hope that everyone takes the time to really consider the implications of proposed legislation, regardless of their affiliations and preconceptions.  As technology and communications open our government process further, we’re given the opportunity to be more democratic, with voiced opinions on individual issues and not just which representative has the least objectionable set of opinions.

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