To Increase Equality Tell People the Rich Don’t Have to Work

The rich keep getting richer because we think they work for it. The thing is, they don’t work for their wealth that separates the wealthy from everyone else. What allows the rich to keep increasing their wealth is capital gains instead of money earned though labour. Most of us have to work to ensure we can pay rent and buy food; however, people born into wealth don’t need to work nearly as much since they can earn money from money. If we want a more equitable society where everyone needs to work to get wealthy then we need to tell people that the rich don’t need to work.

In this paper, Oscar Barrera-Rodriguez and Emmanuel Chávez examine the impact of providing information on the source of income of the top 1% earners on attitudes towards this group. Based on a randomized online survey of 2000 French respondents, they find that:

  • Simply presenting information about the amount of money the rich make is insufficient to change attitudes toward top earners.
  • Information about other aspects of income at the top, especially the sources of income (capital versus labor), does produce a shift.
  • Individuals most responsive to the treatments vote for left-wing candidates and have egalitarian notions of justice.

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Connecting People, Knowledge, and the Environment in Remote Canada

tree with climate knowledge

The Torngat Mountains are gorgeous and after reading this article I now have another place on this beautiful planet that I want to see in person. The article isn’t just about the landscape, it’s about the land and water. There’s currently an effort underway to catalog all the knowledge of locals who have historical wisdom about where they live and combine that with current scientific measurements. This collaboration will help us understand this unique area and repair institutional relationships.

It will also form a part of a 15-chapter research document Laing, Saunders and about 60 other people are putting together as part of the feasibility study for the Inuit-led national marine conservation area — currently dubbed the Torngats Area of Interest. The purpose is to gather all of the information both from western and Inuit Knowledge systems, and to identify any gaps in that understanding of the marine ecosystem beyond the coast of the Torngat Mountains. The two knowledge systems are considered equal. If, for example, western research shows a certain habitat map for char and the Inuit Knowledge study shows an additional area, the feasibility assessment will include both, Laing explains. And climate change is a consideration in every chapter, he adds: what they know now and what the potential implications of climate change could be. “Which is really important because that allows for some forward thinking and planning on that,” he says.

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Thanks to Trevor!

Iraq Looking to the Sun to Power its Future

Solar panels on grass

Iraqi oil fields have a lot of fossil fuels ready to be exported, and that’s a problem. The Iraqi population, like many oil states, don’t benefit from the cheap oil that corporations extract and export. As a result Iraqis have now turned to solar power for their local energy needs. The current installation of solar panels is relatively small, but they are gaining in popularity and being a nation that gets a lot of sun we can only hope that more people see the light. Let’s keep oil in the ground and put up solar panels.

In nearby Sulaymaniyah, the second-largest city in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, only 500 out of the 600,000 households are equipped with solar panels, said Sirwan Mahmud, a spokesman for the province’s electricity department.

Solar power had seen “rapid progression”, he said, after the region’s parliament adopted incentives in 2021 to compensate households for any excess electricity that they generate.

The region aims to build three commercial solar power plants with a total capacity of 75 megawatts (MW), he added.

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Reducing Food Waste by Setting Goals

fruit store

The best way for a regional government to reduce food waste is to set goals. Previous and common efforts focus on messaging and even in increasing the cost of managing food waste for households. New research shows that simply setting food waste reduction goals is enough and even better than other approaches.

This study investigates the effects of food waste (FW) reduction goal setting on waste generation. Using a unique dataset on the status of policy response with goals for household food waste reduction across Japanese municipalities, we estimate the causal effect of setting FW reduction goals in the public plan on household waste output. The results indicate that goal setting reduces waste output by 3.38 kg per capita per year, resulting in a reduction in economic loss due to the discarding of food of approximately US$ 689 million per year. Moreover, we find that goal setting has a larger influence than other waste reducing and recycling policies that do not include reduction goals, such as collection frequency and unit-based pricing systems. Our results highlight the importance of goal setting by local authorities in designing environmental policies for common social goals.

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Figuring Out AI Consciousness

AI generated image

Artificial Intelligence keeps popping up everywhere from generative AI which created the image above to the financial sector. What AI is currently doing is copying and reformatting data into new patterns (but still using the inputted patterns), meaning that currently AI is not conscious and is not “thinking”. This could easily change in the next decade, only time will tell. To prepare for when AIs seem to express consciousness we need to think about what consciousness actually is and how we can confirm its existence.

What might we ask a potential mind born of silicon? How the AI responds to questions like “What if my red is your blue?” or “Could there be a color greener than green?” should tell us a lot about its mental experiences, or lack thereof. An AI with visual experience might entertain the possibilities suggested by these questions, perhaps replying, “Yes, and I sometimes wonder if there might also exist a color that mixes the redness of red with the coolness of blue.” On the other hand, an AI lacking any visual qualia might respond with, “That is impossible, red, green, and blue each exist as different wavelengths.” Even if the AI attempts to play along or deceive us, answers like, “Interesting, and what if my red is your hamburger?” would show that it missed the point.

Of course, it’s possible that an artificial consciousness might possess qualia vastly different than our own. In this scenario, questions about specific qualia, such as color qualia, might not click with the AI. But more abstract questions about qualia themselves should filter out zombies. For this reason, the best question of all would likely be that of the hard problem itself: Why does consciousness even exist? Why do you experience qualia while processing input from the world around you? If this question makes any sense to the AI, then we’ve likely found artificial consciousness. But if the AI clearly doesn’t understand concepts such as “consciousness” and “qualia,” then evidence for an inner mental life is lacking.

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