Tyler Cowen's 2015, Free Will, Difficult Conversations, America's Army , Curing AIDS, Fossil Fuels

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What Are The Big Economic Unknowns For 2015?

Tyler Cowen | Marginal Revolution | 29th December 2014

Tyler Cowen's expectations for the year ahead are generally gloomy, with the uncertainties mostly on the downside. "The major economic and indeed geopolitical question of 2015 will be whether the Russian economy can manage a graceful decline. I’ll say no, they can’t". Latin America will languish. Greece will "vote itself out of the eurozone". The bright spot is India, which can "continue and indeed extend its recent momentum" (625 words)

The Truth About Free Will

Daniel Dennett & Nigel Warburton | Salon | 28th December 2014

"Suppose you had a complete atom-by-atom history of every giraffe that ever lived, and every giraffe ancestor that ever lived. You wouldn’t have an answer to the question of why they have long necks ... The difference between an organism that has free will and an organism that doesn’t has nothing to do with the atoms. You have to go to the appropriate design level, and then it sticks out like a sore thumb" (2,400 words)

How To Make Difficult Conversations Easy

Eric Barker | Barking Up The Wrong Tree | 28th December 2014

Notes from a psychologist on dealing with hysterical and psychotic interlocutors, also useful in less demanding encounters. Seven main insights, including the advice to say something along the lines of: “Please speak more slowly. I’d like to help”. It signals that you are interested; it will probably cause the distressed person to lower their voice; it works better than saying "calm down", which tends to have the opposite effect (2,250 words)

The Tragedy Of The American Military

James Fallows | Atlantic | 29th December 2014

Thirteen years of fighting in the Middle East have cost America $1.5 trillion, thousands of lives, and achieved nothing. Yet nobody is held to account. American politicians glorify the military, but they have lost the expertise and the confidence to manage it effectively. "The result is a chickenhawk nation in which careless spending and strategic folly combine to lure America into endless wars it can’t win" (10,400 words)

Can AIDS Be Cured?

Jerome Groopman | New Yorker | 22nd December 2014 | Metered paywall

AIDS has been transformed from a fatal into a treatable condition. Antiretroviral drugs suppress the human immunodeficiency virus, but they do not eradicate it. Reservoirs of HIV lie dormant within the cells of the affected body, invisible to current drugs, and liable to reactivate when treatment stops. A permanent cure will require tricking these last viruses into revealing themselves, then destroying them (4,500 words)

Please Steal Our Fossil Fuels

Adair Turner | Project Syndicate | 23rd December 2014

The world is "cursed with fossil fuels in dangerous abundance". Falling oil prices "threaten to undermine investment in green energy and stimulate wasteful consumption". Humanity would be much better off if "some extra-terrestrial thief came in the night and stole two-thirds of the planet's oil, gas and coal reserves"; we would still have enough energy to maintain our quality of life, and more incentive to innovate (930 words)

Video of the day: Sympathy For The Devil

What to expect: Jean-Luc Godard films the Rolling Stones rehearsing and recording in 1968 (12'40")

Thought for the day

Democracy is government by explanation
A.J. Balfour

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