Gongol.com Archives: June 2015

Brian Gongol

June 25, 2015

Threats and Hazards The problem of baseline error
The New York Times notes: "Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims". It is depressing and it is sad. And it's important to public policy that we recognize the baseline error that creeps into our thinking on the subject. "Lone-wolf" extremism of the type described fades in the public's attention because it has become familiar. It's not common, really, but it's been around for a long time -- since at least the 1960s, when white male killers murdered President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and 15 people on the University of Texas campus. It is sad but true that we have established a baseline expectation for those kinds of killers in our collective attention. Consequently, when a new type of killer emerges (like the kinds who attacked America on 9/11), they get a disproportionate share of attention because they are new and novel. Our baseline expectation for those killings starts at zero, so we pay attention when something causes the number to rise above zero. This baseline error has serious consequences for public policy-making; we shouldn't address problems in proportion to how novel they are, but in proportion to their consequences and what we can do to prevent them.

Business and Finance Cartels like to protect their advantages
French taxi drivers protest the rise of ride-sharing services like Uber by blockading the streets

Computers and the Internet Samsung, you're not helping
Samsung appears to be disabling automatic Windows updates on some new laptops

Computers and the Internet Yahoo aims for answers-first search results
On mobile search, Yahoo says "rather than delivering endless links for you to sift through on a small screen, we beautifully assemble the most relevant information in a way that allows you to take action right away". Since its earliest days as a web index (rather than a search engine), Yahoo has always taken a different approach to delivering information. Whether they can use computer-generated results to deliver a curated-style experience that can beat out Google Now and Siri is theirs to prove.

Computers and the Internet Amazon "Echo" drops in about three weeks
Coming July 16th: A product that is combination stereo speaker, Siri, and cloud-computing device. But will people really embrace a product that's always listening?

Recent radio podcasts