September 2015 in Review

What did I learn in September? Let’s start with the bad and then go to the good.

Negative stories (-11):

  • The Environmental Kuznets Curve is the idea that a developing country will go through a period of environmental degradation caused by economic growth, but then the environment will improve in the long run. Sounds okay but the evidence for it is weak. (-1)
  • The Inca are an example of a very advanced civilization that was wiped out. (-1)
  • Consumerism and the pursuit of wealth are not sufficient cultural glue to hold a nation together. (-1)
  • Climate may be playing a role in the current refugee crisis, and the future may hold much more of this. (-1)
  • North and South America would have enormous herds of large mammals if humans had never come along.  (-1)
  • The U.S. clearly has lower average life expectancy than other advanced countries. Developing countries in Asia and Latin America are catching up, but life expectancy in Africa is still tragically low. (-1)
  • People get away with criminally violent behavior behind the wheel because police do not see it as on par with other types of crime. (-2)
  • People are still suggesting a false choice between critical and creative thinking. This is not how the problems are tomorrow will be solved. (-2)
  • This just in – an extreme form of central planning does not work. (-1)

Positive stories (+9):

    • Pneumatic chutes for garbage collection have been used successfully on an island in New York City for decades. This technology has some potential to move us closer to a closed loop world where resources are recovered rather than wasted. (+1)
    • Scientists and engineers could learn some lessons from marketing on how to communicate better with the rest of humanity. (+1)
    • There is new evidence from New Zealand on economic benefits of cycling and cycling infrastructure. (+1)
    • There has been some progress on New York City’s “lowline“, which is what a park in space might look like. The only problem is, it looks to me like a mall. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the exciting science fiction future may look a lot like malls in space. (+0)
    • The U.S. Surgeon General thinks walkable communities may be a good idea. The End of Traffic may actually be a possibility. (+3)
    • Peter Singer advocates “effective altruism”. A version of his Princeton ethics course is available for free online. (+1)
    • Edward Tufte does not like Infographics. (+0)
    • The unpronounceable Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi believes he has found the key to happiness. (+1)
    • The right mix of variety and repetition might be the key to learning. (+1)

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