[FoRK] Malthusian machinations

Dave Kammeyer kammeyer at kammeyer.org
Fri Jun 11 11:56:54 PDT 2010


On Fri, Jun 11, 2010 at 7:50 AM, Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> wrote:
>
> Since Frank brought up Malthus, it's worth asking ouselves:  why was Malthus
> wrong? (So far, that is.)

Malthus was wrong because children are a substitutable good.  Malthus
thought that overall, people would have as many children as they could
support, but they don't.  People really want sex, and sex requires an
input of either children or birth control pills!

> Last bit: anybody catch the bit about wet-phase uranyl extraction from sea
> water that made the rounds last week?That was one of the first things I've
> seen in a while that makes me optimistic that the race against time can be
> won w/o a serious die-back.

Haven't seen it.  Can you provide a link?

On the nuclear energy front, this BP clusterfuck brings into sharp
focus again the problem with having profit motivated people with their
hands on the levers of very dangerous machines with multiple safety
systems.  Any time you have a company with typical compensation and
promotion systems (i.e. good rewards for small-moderate successes),
people will cut corners on mitigation of low probability, high-impact
negative events.  We install safety systems which should improve
things.  However, making the negative events lower probability makes
companies more likely to take on more dangerous work and cut more
corners.

I'm quite pro-nuke, but this is the biggest problem with really
widespread and advanced nuclear plants.  Not having a meltdown doesn't
get you promoted like saving a million bucks on maintenance does.



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