Category Archives: Uncategorized

September 19, 2013

How much does parenting matter?

Not much. This and many other questions are asked and answered in Freakonomics Radio: “The Economist’s Guide to Parenting”.

One of many great outtakes.

I think that the hardest thing as a parent is to admit that you’re going to take risks with your child’s life, to actually admit out loud, I take risks with my child’s life. If you said that at a cocktail party, people would look at you like you were a monster.

But of course we take risks with our lives everyday. I take Matilda out on to the sidewalk and we cross streets. Every time we cross a street we’re taking a risk. It’s not risk free to cross the street, or to ride the subway, or to go in the car. Almost everything we do has risks, and as economists I think Justin and I are really comfortable with thinking about risks and making decisions with them. And that means we have to face the really painful thing, which is we take risks with our child’s life.”

Plastic or Paper? (banknotes)

The Bank of England plans to move to cash made from polymer instead of cotton paper. But we have some illusions as to what constitutes money – and from where it gets its value.

I recall two musicians, Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond – famous as dance band The KLF – filming themselves burning £1m of their own money almost 20 years ago.

There was outrage at the waste – despite the fact that, as Mr Drummond himself pointed out, all they had done was burn a pile of paper. He had destroyed his own ability to purchase goods and services, but no actual productive capacity had been destroyed – so, logically speaking, he’d donated £1m (in the form of lower inflationary pressure) to the nation. And, if the BoE had objected, it could have printed another £1m quite easily. Yet few people can bring themselves to accept that argument.

September 18, 2013


What would happen if the smartest people on Earth were forced to major in biology and subsequently pursue a career in medical research?

A bunch of interesting answers. Like this one the most.

No. We want intelligent people to delve into their passions. That is the most efficient use of intelligence. I don’t know my IQ, I suspect most really smart people feel the same way I do about this: I’m going to work much harder at stuff I love than stuff people force me to do.

How evil should a video game allow you to be?

The question of whether—or to what extent—literature should allow readers into the minds of terrorists, murderers, and abusers both fictional and historical is one that continues to trouble authors. But if video-game creators share such qualms it hasn’t stopped the production, in the course of the past forty years, of games that ask players to march in the boots of legions of despots and criminals, both petty and major.

Labels for GMO Foods Are a Bad Idea

We have been tinkering with our food’s DNA since the dawn of agriculture. By selectively breeding plants and animals with the most desirable traits, our predecessors transformed organisms’ genomes, turning a scraggly grass into plump-kerneled corn, for example.

Compared with conventional breeding techniques—which swap giant chunks of DNA between one plant and another—genetic engineering is far more precise and, in most cases, is less likely to produce an unexpected result.

Stanford and its Startups

But here’s the most serious question raised by the investment: Is Stanford starting to agree with Peter Thiel’s vision for universities? Two years ago, Thiel, a Stanford alum and billionaire investor, decided that university education was one of the last remaining bubbles in America. Students pay a lot, accumulate debt, and graduate with little to show. Going to work is often better than going to class. Thiel offered to give a hundred thousand dollars each to a select group of promising students who drop out of college. Last year, a hundred Stanford students applied.

September 17, 2013

The Beginner’s Guide to Unschooling

While in school, learning happens in the classroom at certain times, in unschooling learning happens all the time, and there is no division between learning and life.

Let me emphasize that for a minute: in unschooling, life itself is learning. There is no “doing school” … you are learning all the time.

Unschoolers learn just like you or I learn as adults: based on what interests them, figuring out how to learn it on their own, changing as they change, using whatever resources and learning materials they find, driven by curiosity and practical application rather than because someone says it’s important.

This is how I learn as a self-employed writer, as an entrepreneur, as a parent. It’s how our children will learn when they’re adults. Why not have them learn like that now?

September 16, 2013

The World Is Fucking Insane. Exploring aisles 9-13 at my local supermarket.

If you said to me, go and design a Diabetes store, I would just take you to the supermarket.

This 4×6 index card has all the financial advice you’ll ever need

  • Max 401K contribution.
  • Invest in Index funds.
  • Don’t buy individual stocks.
  • Pay off your credit cards.

Freeing Willy – Retro Report (video)

What happened to Keiko – the killer whale from Free Willy that was eventually returned to the ocean?

In the Hollywood version of it, it had a really great ending. In the real world, kinda complicated.