What I'm Reading (Feb. 8)

Related articles

Are you better off now than before? It depends
Illegal markets in sand
A Beginner’s Mind Looks at Immunology
The political philosophy of Silicon Valley


Ed Koch, one of my favorite NYC mayors, always asked, “How am I doing?” This is a good question, and the answer partly depends on what we measure. Econ training suggests we begin with GDP, but are there alternatives?

From EconLife, How Should We Measure Our Well-Being?



“Very few people are looking closely at the illegal sand system or calling for changes, however, because sand is a mundane resource. Yet sand mining is the world’s largest extraction industry because sand is a main ingredient in concrete, and the global construction industry has been soaring for decades. Every year the world uses up to 50 billion metric tons of sand, according to a United Nations Environment Program report. The only natural resource more widely consumed is water.”

From Marginal Revolution, by way of Scientific American The economics of illicit sand markets



Immunology is very complex, and its understanding of self and non-self and how it works and fails has changed so much since I was in school. Then I got this article from Frontiers for Young Minds, an organization that writes explanations for our children. This is a very good introduction, and don’t be put off by its being for the young – it is more for the beginner’s mind.

“As another strategy, the immune system also kills cells that are infected with viruses (Figure 1B). This prevents infected cells from producing many copies of the virus. The lymphocytes that kill virus-infected cells are called cytotoxic T lymphocytes Also called killer T cells; white blood cells that kill virus-infected cells., or killer T cells for short [2]. When killer T cells encounter a virus-infected cell, they kill it by making channels in the cell membrane and triggering the infected cell to self-destruct, through a process called apoptosis “suicide” process of cells that gets rid of damaged or infected cells.”

From Frontiers for Young Minds, Killer T Cells: Immune System Heroes



“Comparisons between Silicon Valley and Wall Street or Washington, D.C., are commonplace, and you can see why—all are power centers, and all are magnets for people whose ambition too often outstrips their humanity. But Silicon Valley’s influence easily exceeds that of Wall Street and Washington. It is reengineering society more profoundly than any other power center in any other era since perhaps the days of the New Deal. Many Americans fret—rightfully—about the rising authoritarianism among MAGA Republicans, but they risk ignoring another ascendant force for illiberalism: the tantrum-prone and immensely powerful kings of tech.”

And then there is this from Marc Andreessen,

“We believe in nature, but we also believe in overcoming nature. We are not primitives, cowering in fear of the lightning bolt. We are the apex predator; the lightning works for us.”

An authoritarian technocracy? A horrified discourse by a Luddite? From The Atlantic, The Rise Of Techno-Authoritarianis