Links May 2008

The Daily WTF has published an interesting essay on why retaining staff is not always a good thing [1]. The main point is that good people get bored and want to move on while mediocre people want to stay, but there are other points and it’s worth reading.

Following the links from that article led me to an article comparing managing IT departments to managing professional sports teams [2]. They chose US football (a sport I know little about and have no interest in) so I probably missed some of the content. But they have some good points.

John Goerzen gave a good presentation to the idea of increasing petrol taxes and decreasing other taxes to have a revenue neutral result while also discouraging petrol use [3]. I credit him with presenting the idea not inventing it because I have heard similar ideas several times before (but not nearly as well written and not written from a right-wing perspective). Hopefully some people who read his presentation will be more receptive than they were to the other versions of the same idea.

Craig Venter spoke at TED about his work in creating artificial life [4]. He spent some time talking about the possibilities of creating artificial organisms to produce fuels directly from CO2 and sunlight.

Nick Bostrom published a paper explaining why he hopes that the SETI projects find nothing [5]. His theory is that the fact that our solar system has not been colonised and that we have seen no immediate evidence of extra-terrestrial life indicates that there is a “Great Filter” which is a stage of evolution for which it is most unlikely that any species will pass. If the Great Filter is in our past (he cites the evolution of multi-celled life as one of the possibilities, and the evolution of prokaryotes into eukaryotes as another) then it means that our future might be more successful than if the Great Filter was something that tended to happen to advanced societies.

Jared Diamond (the author of Collapse), has written an interesting article about vengeance [6]. He focuses on an example in New Guinea and uses it to explain why personal vendettas tend to run wildly out of control and how society is best served by having the state punish criminals.

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