Not All Capital is Fungible

There are only two real pools of capital: alternatively natural or human, external or internal, material or informational.

Natural (external, material) capital is the pre-existing wealth of the world, which was not dependent on our organization or existence: the metals we mine, the trees, the fresh water, the fisheries, solar energy, the fossil fuels, the potential for agricultural produce (as a co-location of soil, water, and climate).  Human (internal, informational) capital is the value inherent in technology, skill, organization, understanding, and knowledge.

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Shared Links for Feb 12th

Shared Links for Feb 11th – Feb 12th

Shared Links for Sat, Feb 7th, 2009 through Tue, Feb 10th, 2009

  • Thefts puncture Paris bike scheme – More of Paris' Velib bicycles are being stolen or vandalized than expected. Not sure what their expectations were, but it is pretty annoying for basically every bike in the network to have been either stolen or damaged in only 18 months. The vandalism is probably impossible to stop (since it can be carried out while the bikes are locked in their stands) but the theft should be preventable with secure stands, and aggressive enforcement of responsibility for a bike while you've got it checked out (i.e. if the bike doesn't come back, your credit card is immediately charged for the total value of the bike, or possibly even more). I also can't help but wonder if the same functionality could be implemented with much, much cheaper bikes, especially in a city as flat as Paris. Singlespeeds with fenders and a basket, maybe 100 Euros each? With an RFID tag embedded – and put all the smarts in the racks. (tagged: bicycle bike cycling transportation paris velib )
  • Google Power to the People – Google developing tools to allow you to disentangle your own energy use, when the datastreams from smart meters come on line. Making this information easy to comprehend, pricing electricity to displace demand from the peak times, and allowing the largest energy users to schedule their use in an automated way could (without even changing anything physically) have a large impact on the amount of power generating capacity we (don't) need. (tagged: energy google sustainability green open data transparency )
  • WattzOn and Wesabe Join Forces – This is the post that made me wish the Elevations Credit Union was more internet savvy. I want to be able to apply all these big-brotherly tools to myself! (tagged: open data transparency energy wesabe wattzon money finance )
  • Numbrary – A library for numbers – mass quantities of publicly available data, mostly (entirely?) from the US Government. In a hopefully usable and searchable form. Many automatically generated charts and tables. (tagged: data transparency government statistics open )
  • Mayapedal – People building useful human-powered bicimaquinas, in Guatemala, where human labor is still a common prime mover: washing machines, coffee de-pulpers, corn de-grainers, grain mills, blenders, concrete microvibrators, etc. One kind of appropriate technology. There's also some YouTube videos on them, e.g.:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrqbtUKpSjo (tagged: bicycle guatemala appropriate technology human power energy )

  • Humanity In Motion – An incredible montage of what bicycles can be: safe, enjoyable, cheap, convenient, everyday transportation for young people and for old, for families, in a city largely unpolluted by the exhaust and noise of cars. (tagged: bicycle transportation amsterdam netherlands photos )

Shared Links for Fri, Feb 6th, 2009 through Sat, Feb 7th, 2009

  • Overcoming Obstacles to U.S.-China Cooperation on Climate Change – Guidelines from the Brookings Institute for the US and China to cooperatively address climate change and clean energy issues, without being combative. Executive summary sounds good, whole thing is 80 pages long. Given the positive economics for many energy efficiency measures, I thought there should have been a little more focus on the often erroneous assumption that addressing these issues has to be costly. (tagged: energy sustainability china policy climate efficiency brookings )
  • Amendment to Eliminate Bike Infrastructure in Stimulus – DeMint (R – SC) and Coburn (R – OK) are trying to kill all bike infrastructure investment in the stimulus package. Call them and your own senators and make sure it doesn't happen! (tagged: politics bicycle infrastructure policy transportation stimulus )
  • The Transparent Society – The essay that later became Brin's book of the same name, in which he argues that first, universal surveillance is coming, whether we like it or not, and second, that a world which is transparent – in which surveillance goes both (all) ways, is vastly preferable to one in which the illusion of privacy is maintained, and the powerful are the only ones with access to our information. (tagged: technology privacy transparency surveillance brin wired )
  • Make Love Not Porn – Hardcore (esp. internet) porn has unfortunately come (ha!) to substitute for sex-ed in our culture, so says Cindy Gallop. I think she has a point. And so she made this website, to try and point out the flawed generalizations that one might arrive at from being "educated" by online porn. I think it's worth noting also though, that the diversity of pornography on the web has steadily increased over time, and there's a lot of positive and realistic, and non-exploitive depiction of sex out there now, if you want to look for it. In particular Abby Winters, Beautiful Agony, and I Shot Myself come to mind. It's ironic (absurd?) that the site has an "18+ only" clickthrough on the front page. (tagged: porn sex love ted education )
  • Dept. of Energy to draft energy efficiency rules… 30 years late. – I can't believe I'd never heard of this. Apparently for the last 30 years, presidents have been refusing to direct the Dept. of Energy to draft enforceable energy efficiency regulations, despite being directed under law to do so by Congress. Finally in 2005, 14 states sued, and won, and Bush still failed to comply in a timely manner. How many other instances of the executive branch (both democrat and republican!) completely ignoring Congress on important issues are there? It's rare enough that Congress gets anything right – that the president should ignore them when they do is unconscionable! (tagged: politics policy energy nytimes green efficiency standards regulation )

Francis Collins at Caltech and the future of genomic medicine

Went to Francis Collins’ afternoon talk “fireside chat” with David Baltimore on the future of medicine, as illuminated by genomic work.  Too much introduction and rambling biographical information, but some good discussion anyway.  I thought his best comments had to do with the positive effects of the open data model that the Human Genome project initiated – it’s had a long lasting impact on the entire field of genomics, and thank goodness!  Also, he mentioned that as of now, there aren’t any major studies seeking to correlate and analyze the relationships between genotypes, phenotypes, and environment in the human population, and that such a study is really what’s needed to truly understand what’s actually heritable, what our real low frequency (rare allele) genetic variation is like, and what kinds of effects environmental factors play.  He pointed out, interestingly, that we don’t need to wait until thousand dollar genomes are available to start this study – what we need to do is get people signed up, and start tracking their health history and environmental factors, and we can sequence them when it becomes cheap enough.  He suggested that we ought to do this for roughly 500,000 people, and that it would likely cost on the order of half a billion dollars a year, and need to run for a few decades.  And then we’d know, and medicine would be forever changed.  He also suggested that those $1000 genomes are likely on the order of 5 years away.  Really, once we’ve got fast, cheap sequencing – this study will almost do itself, so long as we can at some point get access to the medical histories and genomes of people.  The real value add is in starting it now, so we have the information as soon as possible, and in getting all the environmental/lifestyle data, in addition to the healthcare records.

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Ideas for Change in America

Change.org is a kind of public idea tourament.  There are a bunch of different subsections: agricultural policy, government reform, energy, etc.  Readers vote and comment on the ideas, and the top few ideas in each category advance to the next round.  Larry Lessig has submitted Citizen Funding of Congressional Elections whereby only public money and small contributions can be applied toward election campaigns.

Not sure how well this kind of system can work.  Many of the highest rated ideas don’t sound very productive…