March 12th, 2012


Prizes With an Eye Toward the Future

Originally published at craschworks. You can comment here or there.

The New York Times published a great article on prizes recently. 

Charles Lindbergh


“Another big impulse toward prizes comes from the rise of new forms of collaboration and new marketplaces on the Internet.   What eBay does for buyers and sellers, companies like InnoCentive do for problem solvers. InnoCentive got its start as e.Lilly, an innovation unit inside the drug company Eli Lilly.    Now it’s a marketplace where hundreds of companies post problems and a reward amount, and 250,000 solvers around the world get to work.   Can you invent a no-contact way to weigh pigs from a distance?  You can win $50,000.   Have a method for reducing fat absorption in battered fried foods?    Can you find a more ecologically sustainable material that mimics wood?    There are prizes for that, too.

Prizes have other advantages.   They can correct some of the market failures in our current strategy for encouraging innovation, the patent system.  Patents reward innovators with a period of monopoly control over their invention.   This means that there is very little incentive to pursue innovations that don’t promise to be lucrative.  To see the distortions this can cause, look at medicine.  Some very serious diseases attract very little research, because the market they offer doesn’t make expensive research and development worthwhile.  Rare disorders — defined as those that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the United States — get very little research, and there are more than 7,000 of them.  Other diseases may be widespread, but mainly among people who can’t pay.    Nor do companies have an incentive to pursue one-off treatments, as therapies that must be taken every day are far more lucrative.


The reward for innovation — a 20-year monopoly — can also create perverse incentives.  Last year, the Office of Health Economics, a think tank with connections to  the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, wrote a report funded by GlaxoSmithKline recommending that Britain, together with the United States, offer prizes instead of patents to spur the invention of new antibiotics.    The problem is that patent holders try to sell as much as possible before their monopoly expires and generic competition sets in.  The report warned that the patent system was encouraging potentially dangerous overuse of antibiotics, creating drug resistance.


Another market failure in the patent system is that monopoly control can limit access to a new product.    Especially when an innovation is in the public interest, it’s counterproductive to encourage the patent holder to price it out of range of most users.”


Brainwallet: The Ultimate in Mobile Money

Originally published at craschworks. You can comment here or there.


Via Forbes.  

“Now, you are ready to receive bitcoin from anywhere in the world and have the peace of mind that the corresponding private key to unlock, access, and transfer those bitcoin resides solely in your brain. If you forget the phrase or if you die suddenly, the bitcoin is lost and unrecoverable just like if you had burned cash. You can even memorize multiple phrases for multiple accounts, like casual spending and nest egg savings. Why is this so profound?

For starters, it represents the ultimate in mobile money. You have complete financial privacy and asset protection combined with the ability to have those assets fully accessible from anywhere in the world provided there is Internet connectivity or a telephone. You are also protected from theft or confiscation unless a legal jurisdiction can force you to reveal your bitcoin private key that isn’t even known to exist. Possible applications include revealing the secret phrase to a loved one for inheritance reasons or even splitting the phrase into segments with each family member possessing a portion of the total phrase. Off-grid transactions are also possible by simply conveying the phrase via voice or encrypted email. It would also be possible to send bitcoin immediately to someone without an existing address because one could easily be created based on a selected phrase.”


A Frame-by-Frame Rebuttal to XKCD’s Pickup Artist Comic

Originally published at craschworks. You can comment here or there.

I agree with Tynan’s rebuttal to the recent XKCD cartoon that makes fun of the pickup artist community:

“…what about people who CAN’T talk like a normal human being? What happens to people who didn’t happen to develop normal social skills? Why is it so evil and manipulative for them to try to learn them? Things like bantering (a.k.a. negging), good storytelling, good body language and eye contact, are things “normal” people do well. They’re also, not coincidentally, what we teach students. You can’t just tell them to talk like a “fucking human being”, you have to show them what that means.”

I was intensely shy in high school and college.  So I undertook a deliberate program to improve my social skills and reduce my social anxiety.  I still have a long way to go (I haven’t been blues dancing in months because I’m embarassed by how crappy my dancing skills are), but I’m much better than I used to be.  Are there socially maladjusted PUA’s?  Sure.  But that’s to be expected, I think.  After all, if they weren’t socially maladjusted at some point, they wouldn’t have been interested in PUA to begin with.  

I think PUA has been a boon to women.  What does PUA teach?  An incomplete list would include:

  • How to be happy with yourself internally
  • How to be independent, not needy
  • What women find a attractive
  • How to be good in bed
  • How to dress well
  • How to be act confident
  • How to tell a good story
  • How to tell if a woman is attracted to you
  • How to eat right
  • How to work out
  • How to tell a good joke
  • How to banter
  • How to be a good leader
  • How to develop self-discipline

What woman would _not_ want a man who successfully mastered those traits/skills?  Some PUA’s no doubt get some things wrong.  And some prominent PUA’s, such as Roissy, seem to be driven by anger and contempt for women.  But on the whole, PUA’s seek to remake themselves into men who women find irrestible.  And that is something that I think should be encouraged, not mocked.