Gongol.com Archives: 2012 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

Socialism Doesn't Work China adds some bricks to the Great Firewall
The Guardian reports that they are now using technology to cut off anyone who appears to be using a virtual private network (VPN), which is a system for sending encrypted data from one computer to another. VPNs are widely used in the corporate world to ensure security of communications -- and in places like China, they can be used to allow people to browse content without surveillance by the authorities. ■ If you're looking for exactly one reason -- just one -- why the American economy has a durable advantage over many others in the world, it is that we (generally) reject wholesale the notion that government has a right to control what we think. We undoubtedly have problems with painting the right boundaries around privacy and security concerns -- many people are and should be angry about reports of warrantless spying on our communications. But the level of outrage would be double if the government were to pre-emptively block our access to content. And that would be well-placed outrage. ■ Moreover, it's an economically strategic kind of outrage. Good ideas come from all sorts of places, not just a handful of sanitized reports in the business press. For an economy to grow powerfully and durably, it has to do as Warren Buffett says America has done: "[O]ur system unleashes people's potential...human potential is still untapped to a big degree." A system that tells people what they can and cannot think or read or discuss is one that isn't really unleashing human potential -- though it may, as China has done for a while now, take some advantage of natural human instincts to make life better for our families. But it still treats people like cattle...just harder-working cattle.

Science and Technology Crossing the brain-to-computer barrier
A 52-year-old woman who is paralyzed from the neck down can control a robotic arm with her thoughts, thanks to a brain-machine interface. This is very much just the beginning for these kinds of devices.

Humor and Good News Famous albums with more honesty

Health Take two minutes for a self-exam today
Take a minute or two and conduct some basic self-screenings for cancer. Early detection saves lives. There's lots of misinformation about cancer that finds its way around the Internet, largely because we've been trained to wait expectantly for some sort of magic-bullet solution to cancer. But cancer risks can be significantly reduced through a balanced diet, exercise, and early detection and treatment. Meanwhile, science is making great progress towards improving genetic detection, which holds great promise for some types of cancer. Instead of forwarding hoax-ridden e-mails about "cancer cures" and false threats, people should instead remind their friends and family to assess their health once a month.

Business and Finance Some intriguing economic charts explaining 2012

Humor and Good News Wait: The world didn't end?

News Bold predictions about the future of newspapers

Health Rising incomes and longer lifespans

Business and Finance Is value investing dead?
Value investors can only hope that the rest of the world thinks so...

News Putin wants to ban US adoptions

Business and Finance There is less international economic connectedness now than five years ago
Not surprising, but disappointing nonetheless. Globalization inevitably takes a hit when the economy contracts. It's too easy for politicians to exploit nativist sentiment, even if that's not what's actually best for the people.

Iowa Iowa's in the bottom third for state population growth
From 2010 to this year, Iowa gained about 27,000 residents. It's not a decrease (Rhode Island and Michigan both shrank), but it's about half the rate of increase as the nation at large. Population growth isn't necessarily a good in its own right, but it's probably important to understand why a state is growing faster or slower than the rest of the nation.

Business and Finance How marriage expectations could affect pay inequality between men and women
Put simply, it's hard to find couples where a woman out-earns a man

Computers and the Internet Sharing and privacy in the Internet era
A thoughtful young writer acknowledges the tension between keeping important things private online and exploring important questions about the self using online tools