Gongol.com Archives: March 2010
Brian Gongol

March 11, 2010

Health The oldest American alive is in Ames, Iowa
She's approaching her 115th birthday. We need to do a far better job of extending human longevity and the quality of life in old age. There are plenty of people who retire as quickly as possible, ceasing to share their useful knowledge and skills with the rest of the economy well before they're "spent." But then there are people like architect Philip Johnson, who was still designing new buildings at age 95, and Norman Borlaug, who was still developing life-saving food hybrids at a similar age. We don't need everyone contributing productively to technology and the economy well into old age, but the truth of the matter is that we have a certain number of brilliant minds at work in the world, and those brilliant minds produce value far in excess of their fair share. The more value they can create, the better-off all of us are. Just for perspective: If we assume that genius is randomly distributed in the human population, and that it is equally likely to emerge or develop at one time as it is in another, then even if there had been just one Isaac Newton in 1642, at a time when there were only 545 million people on the entire planet, then today with 6.8 billion of us, there should be at least 12 modern-day Newtons. To find them, cultivate their talents, and encourage them to be productive and creative well into old age should be one of the highest priorities in every aspect of government and education. Great ideas move human welfare forward. One hazard we do face: There's lots of attraction to put great minds to work doing things like producing computer games and trying to "game" the stock market. Those are assuredly not the highest uses of those great minds -- even if they should be absolutely free to choose whatever pursuits they like. The difference between what they "create" running hedge funds, for instance, and what they could create in terms of useful innovations is a deadweight loss to society.

Aviation News Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?
Photos and photorealistic illustrations of future Zeppelins and dirigibles, including a few that could serve as a floating hotel. One would carry 40 passengers in the belly of a floating whale. As airlines try harder and harder to achieve what economists call "perfect pricing discrimination" through the imposition of fees for practically everything airline passengers do, it will be interesting to see whether the air travel options of the future include slower but more-luxurious rides. Certainly if we find ways to live much longer, then slower travel would have some appeal -- particularly if it reduces one's risk of injury or death in an accident. Related: The engines on an airplane are 80% of the plane's total value.

Water News EPA fines butter factory owner years after he sold his plant