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Agnosticsherbet

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Gender: Male
Hometown: San Diego/Ca/Nuevo Pacifica
Home country: U.S. of A.
Current location: Planet Earth
Member since: Mon Aug 20, 2012, 04:39 PM
Number of posts: 2,821

Journal Archives

Study: A Little Forethought Can Cure the Urge Toward "Mindless Accumulation"

Study: A Little Forethought Can Cure the Urge Toward "Mindless Accumulation"
At the beginning of the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes made a bold but logical prediction (pdf): In the long run, humanity was solving its economic problems, so that by 2030, in "progressive countries," a 15-hour work week would be the norm. Now, 17 years short of 2030, the world seems to have fulfilled Keynes' prophecy that we would be eight times better off economically than they were when he was writing. So where is the leisure he foresaw? Why are we all still working like fiends? In this paper, Christopher K. Hsee and his co-authors suggest that at least part of the explanation is psychological. Where rational economic creatures would work until they had earned enough to satisfy their needs, Homo sapiens has a propensity for "mindless accumulation": Working until you can't work any more, thereby earning way more than you need. In a series of lab experiments, the researchers write, they've isolated this tendency to "overearning" and found hints of a possible cure.

In their first experiment, 29 women and 26 men were each put in front of a computer monitor with a headset, on which pleasant piano music would play. For the next five minutes, the volunteer had a choice: Keep listening (ie, enjoy a bit of leisure time), or push a key and hear an irritating sound for a fifth of a second. For this annoying task (ie, work), they would be rewarded with a miniature Dove bar. Half the group was told it would take 20 noises to earn one chocolate; the other half got a much lower wage: 120 noises for one chocolate. In the second half of the experiment, the volunteers got their "pay" and could eat as much of it as they pleased. But, as in life, they couldn't take any chocolate with them when they left. So the volunteers had a clear incentive to "work" for as much chocolate as they could enjoy in the lab, and no reason to work for more.

Nonetheless, those in the high-wage group (one chocolate for 20 noises) "overearned" by a wide margin: As a whole, they worked enough to get nearly 11 Dove candies per person, even though they actually ate less than five per person. (There was an outlier—one hungry loon who earned 50 chocolates and ate 28 of them—which created some odd statistics but didn't alter the overall results.) Meanwhile, the low-wage people (one chocolate for 120 noises) earned only an average of two and a half Dove bars each. This was, nonetheless, more than they wanted to eat; they too left some chocolate on the table.

So, the experimenters write, they've shown that their volunteers will work earn more than they need, piling up chocolate that they'll never eat. And this tendency was much more pronounced in the "high-wage" group.

This fascinating study found what appears to be a drive in modern populations to earn more than they will ever need, even though it doesn't make them happy. Read it through and you will find that they also found that, with proper framing, people can be convinced to stop earning once they've earned enough and be happy.
Posted by Agnosticsherbet | Fri May 24, 2013, 04:41 PM (0 replies)

Where's all the money gone?

Where's all the money gone?]
Outside the United States, the Pentagon controls a collection of military bases unprecedented in history. With US troops gone from Iraq and the withdrawal from Afghanistan underway, it's easy to forget that we probably still have about 1,000 military bases in other peoples' lands. This giant collection of bases receives remarkably little media attention, costs a fortune, and even when cost cutting is the subject du jour, it still seems to get a free ride.

With so much money pouring into the Pentagon's base world, the question is: Who's benefiting?

Some of the money clearly pays for things like salaries, health care, and other benefits for around one million military and Defense Department personnel and their families overseas. But after an extensive examination of government spending data and contracts, I estimate that the Pentagon has dispersed around US$385 billion to private companies for work done outside the US since late 2001, mainly in that baseworld. That's nearly double the entire State Department budget over the same period, and because Pentagon and government accounting practices are so poor, the true total may be significantly higher.

Not surprisingly, when it comes to such contracts and given our recent wars, the top two countries into which taxpayer dollars flowed were Afghanistan and Iraq (around US$160 billion). Next comes Kuwait ($37.2 billion), where the military has had a significant presence since the first Gulf War of 1990-1991, followed by Germany ($27.8 billion), South Korea ($18.2 billion), Japan ($15.2 billion), and Britain ($14.7 billion).

With Republicans hyperventilating about overspending, when they are not making up scandals on the fly, that is certainly a chunk of change poured down the rat hole of the big business of national defense. It is way past time we packed up and brought the boys home.
Posted by Agnosticsherbet | Tue May 21, 2013, 12:05 AM (3 replies)

The Extinction Protocol Weird Smelly Mystery Foam Oozes Through Cracks

The Extinction Protocol Weird Smelly Mystery Foam Oozes Through Cracks
May 14, 2013 – CHINA – Something very strange started oozing out of the streets in the Chinese city of Nanjing on Saturday night. Generally, when weird things start erupting from the ground in Asian countries it’s in the form of a giant b-movie monster, but this invasion was a whole lot realer, and a whole lot smellier. At around 9PM, pedestrians began to notice the pavement at the Wende Baiyun Lane cross intersection started to crack and split open, and before long, a foamy white substance was spewing from the cracks, brimming with it a foul-smelling stench. Within a short time, the foam had spread to a 50 meter radius and stood a foot high.

China continues to suffer the consequences of runaway industrial development. Today, Godzilla Poop, tomorrow, who knows?
Posted by Agnosticsherbet | Thu May 16, 2013, 11:59 AM (5 replies)
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