Browser Newsletter 1131

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Best of the Moment

Debt Brinksmanship

Bruce Bartlett | Capital Gains And Games | 8th October 2013

On President Obama's dilemma, if America reaches the point of debt default. The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution holds that "The validity of the public debt of the United States ... shall not be questioned." But Congress controls spending. "Should Congress fail to raise the debt limit in a timely manner, President Obama will have no choice but to break the law; the only question will be which law to break"

Walmart Can Solve The Inequality Problem

Michael Kinsley | New Republic | 8th October 2013

How to nudge low-wage US employers to pay above the poverty line. Put symbols and stickers on products to show they are “poverty-free” — meaning that no American involved in the manufacture or shipping makes less than $12.50 an hour. "Walmart could lead the way. On some items, they might want to try putting poverty-free and non-poverty-free items side by side on the shelf and see how many people go for each"

The Ethics Of Autonomous Cars

Patrick Lin | Atlantic | 8th October 2013

How can we program driverless cars to cope with life-and-death decisions? "It would be an unreasonable act of faith to think that programming issues will sort themselves out without a deliberate discussion about ethics. Is it better to save an adult or child? What about saving two (or three or ten) adults versus one child? We don’t like thinking about these choices, but programmers may have to do exactly that"

Humans 1, Robots 0

Farhad Manjoo | Wall Street Journal | 6th October 2013

Why human cashiers beat check-out machines at the supermarket. "The human is faster. The human has a more pleasing, less buggy interface. The human doesn't expect me to remember or look up codes for produce, bags my groceries, and isn't on hair-trigger alert for any sign that I might be trying to steal toilet paper. Best of all, the human does all the work while I'm allowed to stand there and stupidly stare at my phone"

The High Seas

Jim Popkin | Slate | 8th October 2013

Meet Mauner Mahecha. Family man, single father of three daughters, and submarine builder to the South American cocaine cartels. "Mahecha’s Kevlar-coated submarines can submerge to 60 feet, go 10 days without refueling, and glide underwater for up to 18 hours at a clip. They were made by hand in the mangrove swamps of Colombia and Ecuador, in desolate outposts with no access to electricity"

Borrowing From The Future

Peter Dorman | Noahpinion | 8th October 2013

The idea that fiscal deficits mean “borrowing from future generations” is a popular misconception. At an individual level, borrowing is truly borrowing from the future. But at a population level: "Government is borrowing from some people to pay other people, and paying back these debts, should it ever happen, simply reverses that flow. Either way, money is making its way from one group to another at the same point in time"

Video of the day: Welcome To Tokyo

Thought for the day:

"Mere absurdity has never prevented the triumph of bad ideas, if they accord with easily aroused fantasies" " — Anthony Daniels

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