Algorithms are Important
Not surprisingly it looks like the so called “super committee” is going to fail to meet the mandated budget cuts. That doesn’t mean much since the cuts required as a result don’t take place until 2013, after the next election, and there is nothing to stop congress from just repealing the cuts. That’s not what I want to bother discussing though because it’s more important that the whole effort was doomed from the start.
The super committee was formed by each party choosing 6 members to represent their side in discussions. As a result, each side naturally chose the members of their party they felt would give them the best chance of getting what they wanted, or in essence, those least willing to compromise.
In order for there to be any hope of compromise you instead need to get the members of each party which are closest to each other. The solution then is to have each party take turns eliminating one member of congress until the desired number of members for a committee are reached. If one party has more members and that for some reason was deemed unfair (never mind that they were elected in such a proportion) the party with fewer members could eliminate extra at the beginning to where they are equal.
As always this substitutes one problem for another. In general parties will probably try to get the most moderate members of the other party and this is unlikely to match up with who might most knowledgeable about the problem (ultimately I wish the goal of government would be to have decisions made by the people best able to make them). However, at least in this case some progress might be made to better our situation.
Inevitable Video Games Post
A good portion of my free time goes to playing games and it’s one of the things I want to write down my thoughts on. I’m generally interested in principles of game design and enjoy dissecting why I enjoy one game more than another. To that end I want to use this space to help me get a better idea of my preferences.
As a result I want to do something that is part review, part reflection, and part ranking. In general I won’t touch something at a critical level until I’ve finished the game, so I expect I won’t be avoiding spoilers in “review” posts (maybe I’ll do separate recommendation posts or something). To try to provide some structure I’ve decided on a few aspects to note.
- Narrative: Quality of the story and characters.
- Game-play: Quality and variety of the game mechanics.
- Audio: Quality of the music, how it fits the game-play and story.
- Aesthetic: Quality of the art design, not necessarily how realistic the art is.
- Pacing: How well the game avoids repetition and introduces new elements.
- Enjoyability: How much fun the game was to play, takes into account all other elements as well as intangibles.
All of these are completely subjective and I don’t plan on trying too hard to avoid my personal preferences. I like numbers so each category will have a score from 0 to 100 along with a reason why. And I mean 0 to 100, I’m not afraid to rate at both ends of the scale although I won’t make any promises on where my average will fall.
Dealing with Efficiency
One of the big issues in politics lately has been the high unemployment rate. There has been a lot of finger pointing at the last two presidents but the executive branch can only really make suggestions on most matters of the economy. Congress is a mess because rather than making sure local differences are not overlooked in national policy, a perhaps under-educated voting public bases their choice of representation on how much local policy is injected into national policy. So changes probably need to be made at a societal level and that usually has to start with education.
Aside from the political complaints, I read a lot about how the unemployment rate is due to immigration (both legal and illegal unfortunately), outsourcing, or technological advancements. Another issue, which pops up at an academic level but not as much in public discourse, is the mismatch between employer needs and employee skills. I’d like to write down some thoughts about each of these from the perspective of one American.
Immigration and outsourcing fall under the same idea because the crux of how they cause problems is the same. In both cases they are jobs occupied by, for lack of a better term, “non-Americans” and contribute to the country’s number of unemployed. This is really more of a question about what is a globally sustainable for a standard of living. Can we produce enough in order to maintain the car and cell phone/television/other luxury we want or do we need to isolate our wealth from the rest of the world to reach that goal. Ultimately, if the third world and emerging economy populations are given the resources needed to produce it should be possible to come close (environmental issues aside). I think the biggest problem is that we’ve been fortunate to have such a big advantage and are now reluctant to give that up. It’s going to be difficult to avoid global influence and I hope we don’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming.
Skill mismatches are one of the main problems that employers complain about when asked how the economy can be improved (setting aside politics and profit motives). Employers can’t find people looking for work who have the qualifications they need. I can think of two reasons for this. The more talked about of the two is our weakening education system. While it might seem like we don’t have a problem here because more people than ever are receiving college education, the nature of a college degree has changed significantly. I could go into how, but that’s another post so the main problem here is that the education being received does not match up with the skills needed by employers. The other reason is that employers are unwilling to provide on-the-job training in order to help create these skills. Many of the jobs that are not being filled because of mismatch are staying that way because employers want to provide average pay for their dream candidate.
The technological advancement issue is loosely related to the skill mismatch problem in that the jobs being replaced have changed the distribution of the skills needed for available jobs. This one always causes me problems though because machines replacing human labor being seen as a problem is a little silly. We can produce goods more efficiently that ever and instead of embracing that we’re more worried about how it messes up the system. We may need to consider whether or not we need as much labor to provide for our needs as we have previously. Personally I think we might reconsider the 40 hour work week. Doing that is difficult because either employers have to give up hours of work, or employees have to give up pay, but there is some precedent given the establishment of overtime pay in the first place. Another approach may be to find a way to reduce the impact of physical capital. Currently producers are mainly the ones benefiting from technological advancement. Sure, consumers get better products, but these products don’t always lead to increased quality of life, specifically if no one can afford them because the lions share of monetary gain from the technological advancement is being taken in by producers. The problem here is that any change made to address this symptom will smell of socialism, which we’ve decided is purely evil.
The big question I have is whether we are culturally flexible enough to reconsider how we approach jobs.
Goals and Expectations
This is a post about nothing at all, almost. Hopefully anyone who might read future posts will think they contain an idea about something even if the blog as a whole is about nothing. I’m doing this to try to get ideas out of my head and relieve some stress. I don’t do much producing outside of work so maybe this will fill that void.
I would expect to see ideas about technology, education, economics, and video games but not be too surprised if any of those cross into more cultural matters.
I’m always interested in other people’s ideas on the same topics so feel free to add thoughts (in a reblog here?)