Friday, May 24, 2013
Thursday, May 23, 2013
- The above is Markit's PMI index for Chinese manufacturing. The scale is from the beginning of 2008 through May 2013. Thus the big dip near the beginning is associated with the great recession. The recovery, initially strong, has become anemic in the last couple of years. It was a bit better in the last six months, but May's number is anemic again. This is presumably associated with weak demand for manufactured goods in contracting Europe and the weakly growing US.
- America's greenest office building.
- Asset values probably are being propped up by the Fed.
- Norbert Wiener back in 1949 on the coming age of the machines.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
It appears that in April there was a noticeable uptick in production of around 100-150kbd. That is nowhere near enough to offset the cut in late 2012, but since it shows up in both sources with data available for April, it's most likely a robust feature of the data.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
- The above is Eurostat's European construction index. The great recession never ended as far as this is concerned - it's still falling rapidly six years after its peak.
- Syria may break into pieces.
- Losing the High Plains Aquifer.
- Google getting into the massive cloud computing business.
- Bruce Schneier on the future of privacy: none.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Thursday, May 16, 2013
- Above is European and US GDP from Eurostat, including the latest data for Europe (Q1). The European economy continues to shrink. Some enterprising university over there needs to make Paul Krugman an offer he can't refuse so that he can nag their elites endlessly to reinflate the economy.
- The weather is really losing it in the US midwest.
- A bibliography of papers on artificial intelligence risk.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
- The above is the Yen/$ exchange rate since 1970. The uptick on the far right is the initial effects of Abenomics (essentially making somewhat credible threats to increase inflation by increasing the money supply). Some more interesting charts here from Edward Hugh, along with a rather sceptical take. I'm inclined to think it's a bit too soon to draw any firm conclusions.
- Someone may be studying how to perform destructive cyber-attacks on energy infrastructure.
- The children of the upper class and upper middle class are increasingly stressed out by the process of being prepared for today's hyper-competitive globalized society.
- Related: student debt and the crushing of the American dream.
- There are severe financial consequences to firmly predicting global doom and being wrong.
- Kevin Drum has a very good piece about the economic consequences of approach to singularity. His views and mine are rather similar in the short to medium term (and he even uses one of my graphs). In the long term, I'm rather less optimistic about the "robotic paradise of leisure and contemplation" than he is. That assumes that a highly intelligent economic system with no need at all for humans will continue to prioritize their welfare for many generations. Building the system to guarantee that strikes me as very hard to do.
- This Bertrand Russell essay on the value of idleness was written in 1932, but still seems trenchant today (I'm personally struggling with how to think about these issues in the context of the approaching singularity). H/T Ran Prieur.
Monday, May 13, 2013
The April numbers are out from the IEA and OPEC, and the overall pattern of flat supply since 2012 is continuing (graph above, not zero-scaled).
I refer you to last month's update for a much more detailed explanation of the context. April seems to have changed the picture so little that it doesn't make sense to repeat everything in there.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Friday, May 10, 2013
I don't feel like blogging this morning. Accordingly, this post is being outsourced to poet and farmer Wendell Berry:
Even while I dreamed I prayed that what I saw was only fear
and no foretelling,
for I saw the last known landscape destroyed for the sake
of the objective, the soil bludgeoned, the rock blasted.
Those who had wanted to go home would never get there now.
I visited the offices where for the sake of the objective
the planners planned
at blank desks set in rows. I visited the loud factories
where the machines were made that would drive ever forward
toward the objective. I saw the forest reduced to stumps and gullies; I saw
the poisoned river, the mountain cast into the valley;
I came to the city that nobody recognized because it looked
like every other city.
I saw the passages worn by the unnumbered
footfalls of those whose eyes were fixed upon the objective.
Their passing had obliterated the graves and the monuments
of those who had died in pursuit of the objective
and who had long ago forever been forgotten, according
to the inevitable rule that those who have forgotten forget
that they have forgotten. Men, women, and children now
pursued the objective
as if nobody ever had pursued it before.
The races and the sexes now intermingled perfectly in
pursuit of the objective.
the once-enslaved, the once-oppressed were now free
to sell themselves to the highest bidder
and to enter the best paying prisons
in pursuit of the objective, which was the destruction
of all enemies,
which was the destruction of all obstacles, which was the destruction
of all objects,
which was to clear the way to victory, which was to clear the way
to promotion, to salvation, to progress,
to the completed sale, to the signature
on the contract, which was to clear the way
to self-realization, to self-creation, from which nobody who
ever wanted to go home
would ever get there now, for every remembered place
had been displaced; the signposts had been bent to the
ground and covered over.
Every place had been displaced, every love
unloved, every vow unsworn, every word unmeant
to make way for the passage of the crowd
of the individuated, the autonomous, the self-actuated, the homeless
with their many eyes opened toward the objective
which they did not yet perceive in the far distance,
having never known where they were going,
having never known where they came from.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
- Above - continued decline of retail trade in Europe.
- Vaunted venture-capital fund Kleiner Perkins has lost money on its green-tech investments. I think probably this bet will be a winner eventually, but, as a sage investor friend once told me "Being right too early is just as bad as being wrong". Making this kind of portfolio pay is going to take stronger government action to even up the playing field between renewables and fossil fuels (which don't currently pay their externalities of wrecking the global climate).
- One for the Annals of Unnecessary Innovations.
- How the town of Dryden, NY banned fracking and has so far made the ban stick in court. I live in Dryden, and Marie McRae, mentioned in the story, lives just up the road from me. I think the story underplays a bit the influence of Ithaca/Cornell in Dryden; the western part is very heavily influenced by commuters and I think it makes the town quite a bit more affluent and progressive than a typical rural upstate town.
- Another computer scientist concerned about what automation is doing to the economy and the middle class.
- It'a a good time of year to do an energy audit of your house, if you didn't already do so.
- The paradigm seems to be shifting away from austerity. If more expansionary thinking were to take hold, particularly in Europe, it considerably raises the odds of an oil price shock in the next few years.
- Return on equity for oil and gas producers in the US (2011/2012). Pure oil producers did ok (not fantastic) with about 12% ROE, but pure natural gas producers were losing money hand-over-fist. So US natural gas prices were unsustainably low, but US oil prices (ie mainly WTI probably) were roughly where they needed to be.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
- Even Hollywood script writers are now getting help from machines, it seems.
- Weather whiplash impacts Georgia - extreme drought to floods in four months.
- The scientist who saved more lives than any other in the 20th century: wow, there's an epitaph. Mildly O/T.
- US government accuses China of cyber-attacks on US defense infrastructure.