Brainstorm tonight

Regardless of what it said on your invite, it is tonight at 7 PM EST. While their system is quite good for the most part, I’m still wrestling with the way they handle time zones. So, it’s at 7 PM. It’s quasi-open, which means that at 6:55 PM, I’ll release the password here to fill up the remaining spots. (We only have 100). So, if you’re an invited Brainstormer who intends to attend, please try to log in by then.

I already have a request in to create reserved seats. For some reason, none of these webinar services seem to grasp the obvious need for them.

UPDATE: We have about 40 open seats tonight. To attend go here: https://voxday.clickmeeting.com/open-brainstorm-february. Password: idka

Phone Participant PIN: 361133#



Best of Brainstorm

I received this email today:

The webinar “Open Brainstorm with Steve Keen” you ran on our GoToWebinar platform made it to our Top 100 PERSONAL_DEVELOPMENT webinars in 2017. Congratulations on a webinar job well done! ?

So, that’s nice, I suppose. We’re all about the PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT here, right? In more important news, I’ve just about resolved our issues with the webinar provider and will be able to start doing Brainstorms again. The short version is that their company was bought or otherwise reorganized, somewhere along the way a billing mistake was made, and it took an impressively long time to convince someone with sufficient authority there to fix the issue. It was almost amusing when an account representative called today to ask about finally settling the unpaid invoice, I explained that I still had not received any corrected invoice nor did I even know what amount would settle it, to which the woman cheerfully responded she had it right there before promptly producing one with the original incorrect amount.

You know it’s bad when you don’t even get irritated any more, let alone angry, but simply chuckle a little as it gradually begins to dawn on the person on the other side of the line that you have, in fact, been telling them the simple truth all along.


Brainstorm tomorrow

The member’s only session for July is tomorrow night, at 7 PM. Invites have gone out, and what I’d like you to contemplate in the meantime is what sort of video lectures you would be interested in seeing me produce.

What my Periscopes have taught me is that there is an entire body of people who much prefer to learn by watching rather than reading. As with rhetoric and dialectic, you cannot hope to reach these video-learners with books or blog posts. Furthermore, it is evident that this is increasingly how the younger generation prefers to intellectually explore. And there is little point to rewards such as books when I am already an author and the editor of a publishing house.

So, I’ve selected a video artist from the Dread Ilk and the focus of my future pseudo-Patreon will be producing several videos each month, in lieu of my nightly Periscoping, which I’ll cut to 2-3 times per week. The question is, what topics would be of most interest to people and how long should they be?

I assume between 30-45 minutes would be ideal, which means that more complicated topics such as inflation or credit money or responding to atheist evangelicals, or listing the many errors of Sam Harris would need to be multi-video series, whereas simpler topics like the idea of time-to-civilization or omniderigence might only require a single video. Anyhow, I’d welcome hearing what people think here, and then we’ll discuss the various ideas that come out of this at Brainstorm tomorrow night.



Open Brainstorm with Steve Keen

Last night, we held a Brainstorm with Steve Keen and discussed his new book, Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis? And his answer was clear: that depends upon what you mean by “we”, kemosabe. TL;DR: in a global context, no, we cannot avoid it, but it should be about half as bad as 2008. And we’ll probably get 6-12 months of warning from his model.


As usual, Professor Keen was brilliant, informative, and entertaining. And now that he’s embarked on a paper relating to David Ricardo and free trade, I don’t think he’ll object to me posting the email he sent me a few months ago when I asked him about the implications for free trade of the demand-based break between micro and macro caused by the Sonnenschein-Mantel-Debreu theorem. Or, as I memorably renamed it last night, Sonnensomething-Niederbopp-Whatever.

In this context the key point of the Sonnenschein-Mantel-Debreu theorem is not the failure to derive a demand curve, but the inability to represent the interests of everyone in a single country using a “Community Indifference Curve”, which is an essential part of the Hecksher-Ohlin model of free trade, which has of course supplanted Ricardo’s original model.

Samuelson’s defence of doing so is frankly comical, and also highlights one of the two key weaknesses of the model: it only works if income or wealth is compulsorily redistributed to equalise the “ethical worth” of every dollar earned/possessed, and he thought this was a reasonable assumption. From “Social Indifference Curves”, Paul Samuelson, 1956

  1. It is shown that the various defenses which have been offered for the use of community indifference curves are all open to some serious questioning.
  2. The Scitovsky community indifference contours are shown to be “minimum social requirements” contours of total goods needed to achieve a certain prescribed level of ordinal well-being for all. The dual properties of the Figures Ia and Ib, relating points in the commodity and ordinal-utility spaces, are demonstrated.
  3. By means of mathematical reasoning or by the demonstration of intersections of Scitovsky contours, a fundamental impossibility theorem is proved: Except where income elasticities are all unity and tastes are absolutely uniform for all, it is proved to be absolutely impossible to solve for unique market price ratios in function of market totals; hence, we must lack collective indifference curves capable of generating group demand.
  4. All this is shown to entail the nonoptimality of any shibboleth rule which once and for all and independently of changes in technology and taste data predetermines the initial distribution of income or endowments.
  5. Since most “individual” demand is really “family” demand, the argument can be made that such family demands have been shown to have none of the nice properties of modern consumption theory. However, if within the family there can be assumed to take place an optimal reallocation of income so as to keep each member’s dollar expenditure of equal ethical worth, then there can be derived for the whole family a set of well-behaved indifference contours relating the totals of what it consumes: the family can be said to act as if it maximizes such a group preference function.
  6. The same argument will apply to all of society if optimal reallocations of income can be assumed to keep the ethical worth of each person’s marginal dollar equal. By means of Hicks’s composite commodity theorem and by other considerations, a rigorous proof is given that the newly defined social or community indifference contours have the regularity properties of ordinary individual preference contours (nonintersection, convexity to the origin, etc.).

This is the key problem from the demand side: free trade is only universally of benefit to a given nation if the gains are shared; this requires redistribution mechanisms in addition to the market, which both don’t exist, and contradict the model of free competition if they were to be implemented.

The key problem for the supply side is easily stated: How do you turn a wine press into a spinning jenny (to use Ricardo’s examples). The standard model assumes the costless reallocation of capital between industries in response to a change in relative prices caused by reducing tariffs. But this is impossible. Capital is physical and attuned to specific industries. Free trade therefore makes obsolete some capital in a protected industry, while making that in a benefited industry more expensive, but not more productive.


Steve Keen on Brainstorm

We’re doing an Open Brainstorm with economist Steve Keen tomorrow night, June 22nd, at 7 PM to discuss his new book. Clear your schedules if you’re interested. I’ll be sending out the invites to the Brainstorm members later just to make sure no one fails to hear about it.

To sign up for this free online event, please do so here.


Brainstorm tomorrow

I’ll send out the invites tomorrow morning, but this is a head’s up that we’ll be doing the Closed Brainstorm for April tomorrow night. We’re going to discuss two of our upcoming games and Brainstormers will be able to access the playable pre-alpha of one of them.



The disruption continues

A reader comments:

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, is on BBC1 flagship news program. Talking about Wikipedia’s new and revolutionary innovation, a news page on Wikipedia.

Where have I heard that before?

It’s interesting to see that both Twitter and Wikipedia are already having to play catch-up with to Gab and Infogalactic with regards to features. And the disruption of the two social media giants has barely begun.

We’ll be having an open Brainstorm about Infogalactic tomorrow evening at 7 PM Eastern. Rifleman and I will be talking about the latest additions to the project, what is currently in development, and what we plan to do next. You may have noticed some new ads, particularly if you happen to visit one of the 10,237 (video game) or (computer game) pages. (Before you helpfully “alert” us to anything, please note that pages such as World of Warcraft, which lack any such appellation, are not included in those, because the Wikimedia engine is woefully outdated.)

And, of course, you can always keep up on current world events with Infogalactic News. We got off track over the Easter holidays, but that will not happen again, as we will be adding more volunteer news editors soon.