Friday, November 12, 2010

Funny Things To Say At A Wedding


Human behavior is one of the materials (despite what some psychologists say) less malleable and more difficult to treat in existence. If you want to solve a problem with your car, take it by your mechanic, and chances are good that will fix it. If he loses the sink, call a plumber. It will cost you an arm and a leg, but the sink after work correctly. But if you have a problem to deal with a person, or even worse, with a mass of people, a community began to call all of you know, even those ever (you never know).

Not that it's impossible to make someone what you want, just that sometimes it is less easy than it seems, and there are often unforeseen consequences and repercussions of our "strategy", because human behavior is a very complex thing which does not correspond to strict mechanical laws. One of the most rich in examples is that of traffic, explored with some skill in the popular book by Tom Valberbilt Trafficologia .

Suppose a road as dangerous because it appears too narrow and busy and you decide to remedy doubling the track: the most likely outcome, although paradoxically, this remedy is an increase in the number of road accidents on that stretch street. And this is precisely the cause of the increased perception of security, which is too loose the attention of the driver, which then starts to run faster and do more accidents. In other words, a road is more secure, less the is.

Not only will the road more dangerous, but probably will not even solved the problem of congestion, because as soon as we will spread the voice of many more drivers will decide to take that route first, instead of making an alternative, and thus the number total machines running on that stretch will increase thwarting what was achieved by doubling the track. Not to mention that the new road can attract investment and real estate along its path (a citizen could decide, for example, that that road now that there might also be worth going to live twenty kilometers outside the center), and then again trafffico.

Per risolvere il problema del traffico, quindi, occorre un'altra strategia. Una potrebbe essere quella di convincere tutti a fare un uso maggiore di mezzi pubblici, o della bici, o addirittura andare a piedi, facendo appello alla responsabilità personale e al senso di sacrificio. È un approccio che ha scarse possibilità di successo, come si può immaginare. Le persone sono mediamente egoiste, e non sacrificano volentieri il loro interesse personale per il bene comune, a meno che non siano estremamente ben motivate, tipo i kamikaze giapponesi, che forse però non rappresentano un esempio troppo positivo. Il noto "dilemma del prigioniero", in teoria dei giochi, illustra come questa ricerca del proprio tornaconto possa ritorcersi against us, without persuading us to change our approach.

People respond to incentives, and then, since they tend to think for themselves, a way to force them to change their attitude would be to tax the road. This one could not even define an illiberal measure, because it would simply be to charge individuals in the common resource used by them to the detriment of the community. It is well-known problem of "externalities": some of our actions inevitably have costs (or sometimes even benefits) for others. If I decide to make an orgy at my house at night with six minor Cubist drunk, then maybe the neighbors complain for noise, not to mention traces of vomit and other organic debris on the landing. If I decide to take a road during rush hour, I understand that my action will contribute to general traffic congestion: the ideal would be that fewer people are circulated in order to keep the road clear for others, but who decides who move and those who do not? By introducing a toll (perhaps proportional to their level of congestion in a given time) we made sure that only those who most need to address that cost, however, and he will draw benefit from extra time.

But even this approach of incentives, although most sensible and rational in the previous, does not guarantee results sure, because we talked about the unpredictability, and may even have side effects. An example (taken from an actual case): In a primary school many parents have a tendency to occur later than the closing time to come and take the children, forcing staff to wait for them. The management decides to establish a minor penalty for arriving late, so as to encourage punctuality. Well, the likely outcome of such a strategy is an increase in delays. The introduction of fine parents free from guilt and incentive for the delay, in effect, to rub: after all, are paying to keep children in school over time. A small reminder of the fact that people are not automatons, and social engineering is not a simple science.

Or, better yet, someone could invent a new means of transport. A cheaper version of the reach of all the transporter of Star Trek, for example, would solve a lot of problems. Unfortunately the current state of science does not seem very close to a discovery like this, so we have hope in something less definitive (but do not despair into something that can improve the existing, at least).

As you know, there is a certain problem that keeps many people awake, which is that in recent decades, the global temperature of the planet seems to have raised a few tenths of a degree, which increases could be caused dall'attività umana, e dal rilascio nell'atmosfera di sostanze (i gas serra) che intrappolano il calore solare nell'atmosfera e non gli permette di disperdersi nel cosmo. Fino a qualche anno fa lo scetticismo su tali affermazioni aveva delle giustificazioni, ma oggi il consenso sulla realtà effettiva del riscaldamento è molto vasto, e anche quello sull'impatto dell'attività umana, mentre persiste, a mio avviso giustamente, una certa resistenza all'allarmismo, per non dire catastrofismo, di certi ambientalisti, e ai rimedi proposti da alcuni di loro.

Uno di essi, forse il più famoso di tutti, ovvero Al Gore, ha ricevuto anche un premio Nobel, quindi si potrebbe pensare che la soluzione che egli prospetta al problem is the most pragmatic and effective, and the one with the greatest chance of working. In fact, guess what Al Gore proposed solution? He says that we must all become better people, be more sensitive than the good of the planet, stop polluting and stop the race for progress and material prosperity. And maybe put a bandana on his head and shouting "Banzai!" as we sacrificed for the cause. A genius, of course.

The problem with global warming, which has not yet found an effective incentive system that promises real results, and that is both fair enough. In the sense that after having benefited for more than two centuries since the Industrial Revolution would be a bit ' inelegant by Western nations, claiming that countries like India and China will behave in a more virtuous and responsible (perhaps by threatening sanctions) and give up their economic growth. Not to mention that may be too late, and that even if we succeed with a titanic effort to reduce to almost zero emissions of greenhouse gas effects would be seen, perhaps, a few decades. It is difficult to commit an entire planet to a great sacrifice in view of the results by no means guaranteed, and long term. We can speak of selfishness as you want, but with the rationality that we should take.

Or we can invent the equivalent of teleportation and solve the problem of global warming globale (quasi) senza sforzo. È l'approccio della geo-ingegneria che, ahimè, non sembra molto ben visto da molti ecologisti. Per esempio, e secondo quanto prospettato, fra gli altri che se ne occupano, nell'ultimo capitolo di Superfreakonomics (il seguito del bestseller di Steven Levitt e Stephen Dubner), si potrebbe riempire la stratosfera con relativamente modeste quantità di biossido di zolfo (che avrebbe l'effetto di riflettere i raggi solari e quindi raffreddare il pianeta). Come? con un piccolo tubo, ovviamente il più leggero possibile, tenuto su con dei palloni. Di primo acchito sembra un po' fantascientifico, ma fra le soluzioni studiate potrebbe essere la più economica e pratica, e avrebbe un costo minimo, soprattutto se confrontato con gli enormi costi degli accordi di Kyoto. Oppure, se non piace, si potrebbe aumentare artificialmente la quantità di nuvole negli oceani sparando ad alta quota i nuclei di condensazione (il sale marino) adatti alla formazione delle nubi (che rifletterebbero, ancora una volta, i raggi solari).

Rimedi che sono visti come eresie da moltissima gente (compreso il genio premio Nobel di cui sopra, Al Gore) per il fatto che… non sta bene alterare il naturale equilibrio del pianeta. Ma perché, fino ad ora cos'abbiamo fatto? non è proprio perché (a quanto si dice) abbiamo immesso troppi gas serra in atmosfera che ci troviamo in questa situazione? si dice anche che the remedy may have, even in this case (as well as ecosystems are complex) effects of unplanned and potentially catastrophic. To which this objection does not take into account is that in a sense it is instead of remedies already tested. Sulfur dioxide gas is also not the most effective way to cool down the atmosphere but it is what is sometimes shooting into the stratosphere by volcanoes erupting, getting quite a cooling of global climate. The idea is simply to not wait for a fortuitous series of catastrophic eruptions, but ourselves to enter the required amount of sulfur dioxide (process control and stop at any time).

As for the other idea (increasing cloud cover over the oceans) is what is already happening, in part, thanks to the contrails of the aircraft, which seems to have just some anti-heating (chemtrails conspiracy theorists, here's a bone to gnaw) .

These remedies, again, that appear to cause an immediate movement of revulsion in most people (just do a search on "geoengineering" and read a bit 'comments to turn), and therefore could not fail because it is intrinsically unsuitable, but because politically unfeasible. Yet, I find it very amusing that the greater the degree of catastrophe against possible future scenarios, the more skepticism nei confronti di questo tipo di rimedi: "Moriremo tutti! ma non fate niente, perché sarebbe peggio, preghiamo e basta". Questa naturalmente non è scienza, è millenarismo. È una religione fondamentalista, non troppo diversa dal fanatismo dei kamikaze di una volta.


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