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Biomedical and Electrical Engineer with interests in information theory, evolution, genetics, abstract mathematics, microbiology, big history, IndieWeb, mnemonics, and the entertainment industry including: finance, distribution, representation






@elipariser @daphne_manuela Following on this, Robin Wall Kimmerer has some excellent material in Braiding Sweetgrass. I'm appreciating Elinor Ostrom's work on the commons. @AnneApplebaum's articles/books & @KateRaworth's Donut Economics all tie into these areas too.


@tressiemcphd In ever sub-specializing economy, @cesifoti's work in economics & information theory would cover this


Jeremy, One of my everyday-use scrappers is on the fritz, so I've been putting some data in manually and I confused the source. Sorry to have gotten your hopes up. The economics of food angle was interesting, but I'd have preferred a 10 pager over the sparse few paragraphs.


@eatpodcast @jimpick @realkimhansen @abrams @Feedly Jeremy, I agree with you wholeheartedly that SoundCloud is a dreadful option overall--apologies if I gave the impression otherwise. Given it's cost and the fact that it's what I would call a super-silo make it a non-starter unless you're looking for a very sort term solution or if you're a mega-media company and have the money to burn to try to reach another tiny sliver of audience you didn't have before.

Sadly, given their position in the space, companies like Apple, SoundCloud, and perhaps a few others haven't continued building out and innovating. (Marco Arment, who you mentioned in this particular podcast, recently had an episode on being "Sherlocked" that touches on the economics of perhaps why they haven't gone the extra mile ) Given the technology they've already got, they could/should go the next several steps to leverage their position to make things easier for everyone. The search and AI portions could also be done by Google, but presumably they'd need some additional motivation to do this as it's the type of niche area they've been getting out of lately. (And could we really take another GoogleReader-type shutdown?) Perhaps it might be a rich area for a feed reader company like Feedly to get into? Or maybe Jonathan Abrams with Nuzzel has some of the search/algorithm technology to be able to extend into this area, particularly for the discovery portion which Nuzzel is quite good at for articles.

We also need a better/easier solution for the average Jane who wants to create a simple podcast without spending two weeks doing a mini-startup to set it all up and get it going with the widest distribution possible.

I'm honestly puzzled that YouTube doesn't get into the space as they've already got a huge piece of the puzzle built. Just provide the ability to strip out an .mp3 file from a video (there's a huffduffer bookmarklet that allows this: ) and make that available for download/subscription within their ecosystem. I'd suspect that with a week of coding, they could completely corner the entire podcast market from soup to nuts. One of the toughest parts of web is audio/video, and it's one of the few places that indie developers don't/can't touch because of the high technical and even intellectual property hurdles.

I do appreciate larger companies like This American Life doing things like Shortcut [ ] though it would be better if the technology was opensourced. (See also thread at: )

As an aside, I've just noticed at that Kevin Marks' ever useful will apparently "turn podcast feeds into playable HTML5 audio with microformats markup".


.@NewsHour I'd like to hear @cesifoti's take on social links and economics


Replied to a post on :

Brief reply to: Is majoring in liberal arts a mistake for students?

What magisterial sounding pontification! Sadly, it’s not much different than the early philosophies of Socrates and Plato or many of the other early progenitors of the humanities and liberal arts. I get the impression that the author hasn’t read much philosophy and has not much grounding in the liberal arts. While I agree with the spirit in which the piece is written, I find it deplorable that there aren’t what should be obligatory mentions of words like trivium, quadrivium, or philosophy, but rather the corpus of work in which the author seems steeped is that of only modern day authors of popular science (Pinker, Gladwell, Kahneman, et. al.) who have some interesting viewpoints, but ones which require at least a grounding in the liberal arts to pick apart. Several times Khosla demeans the liberal arts and uses the repeated example that a reader should be able to pick apart and think critically about articles in The Economist. To do this requires a knowledge of logic and rhetoric which are two of the pillars of what? — yes, the liberal arts! 

He also seems unaware of big movements within the humanities and sciences like Bill Gates and David Christian’s Big History Project which are going a long way towards providing a more balanced education in history, economics, physics, chemistry, biology and evolution. I find here, no prima facie evidence of his knowledge of Thomas Kuhn or Karl Popper, which might help win me to his argument. In all, aside from the passing references to one or two recent works, this entire argument is not much different from many that could have been written at the beginning of the industrial revolution. How blind so many must be to seemingly think there’s something new here.

Most appalling to me here is that the author doesn’t seem to give even a passing nod or small wink to C.P. Snow or “The Two Cultures” []which, at heart, is really the substance of his entire argument, he’s just blind to it’s existence. 

Yes, we certainly need more emphasis on the quadrivium portion of the liberal arts, and in particular mathematics and critical thinking which seem to have been left by the wayside. It is deplorable that the highest extent of mathematics that 99% of college students are exposed to terminates in the 17th century for the most part. Sadly, many college students are left without the ability to think critically and deeply, not to mention the hordes of students in America who barely make it through high school and don’t attend college. One also only needs to skim through recent issues of Nature [], one of the world’s most pre-eminent scientific journals to discover that a multitude of advanced researchers with Ph.D.s lack the ability to properly design scientific experiments or evaluate the simple statistical analyses to reach the correct conclusions. What does this mean for readers of The Economist who aren’t even presented with any actual data and are supposed to be able to think critically about a writer’s hidden assumptions.

Yes, we need far, far more, but alas, this poor article only touches the tip of the issue and it sadly only does so with less than half of the picture.


Some additional thoughts on information theory and complexity for models in ecology.

In addition to some of my commentary on <a href="">StackExchange</a>, I'll include a few additional thoughts which may be of help/assistance.

First for those who don't have the background, I <i>highly</i> recommend reading the two seminal papers on information theory and statistical mechanics by ET Jaynes and the standard text on information theory <i><a href="">Elements of Information Theory</a></i> by Thomas M. Cover and Joy A. Thomas.

In addition to the information theoretic related areas, you might want to take a look at the discipline of complexity theory, which has primarily grown out of the Santa Fe Institute over the past several decades and which includes information theory as part of its disciplines. If you're unfamiliar with the broader topic, Melanie Mitchell has an excellent overview with her book <i><a href="">Complexity: A Guided Tour</a></i>. Also related to complexity is the area of cellular automata which one could view as a very base model of more complex ecological systems. Here, perhaps Stephen Wolfram's <i><a href="">A New Kind of Science</a></i> or <i><a href="">Cellular Automata and Complexity</a></i> will be enlightening. The broader theories coming out of these primarily mathematical areas may be useful to you.

In particular, given the types of models in ecosystems, I might suggest taking a look at some of the mathematical modeling going on at the intersection of complexity and economics. For a relatively simple introduction to this area, one could look at the relatively introductory text <i><a href="">Complexity and the Economy</a></i> by W. Brian Arthur which is very interesting. The economy is essentially a very specific type of ecology dealing with human beings, assets, and the monetary system.

Another area which I've seen a lot of literature over the last few years is applicable to the ideas of resiliency and complexity in cities, for assisting in designing more robust city planning. This really isn't that far from the naturally evolving systems being looked at in ecology settings.

For those looking for researchers in the area of complexity, I have a <a href="">list of many who are on twitter</a> in a variety of sub-areas. In addition to individuals, it also includes a number of institutes and related organizations as well.

I'd also suggest, that for the broadest theoretical setting, one could actually start with the topic known as "Big History" which takes the broadest approach of looking at history and the evolution of the cosmos over 13.7 billion years since the big bang. This conceptualization includes ideas like evolution, complexity, and emergence on the biggest scales, a set of theories that could be similarly applied to ecologies both large and small. For this viewpoint, I would suggest two works by David Christian including <i><a href="">Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History</a></i> and <i><a href="">Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity</a></i>.

In essence, with many of these topics and viewpoints, one is treating individual animals or even entire species as elementary particles and then using the mathematical models of statistical thermodynamics to tease out specific types of data or trends. As layers of overlapping "particles" interact with each other, they cause emergent types properties, and then these resultant emergent properties combine to create further layers of emergent properties, none of which might have been necessarily deduced from the initial conditions. Within Big History, these types of emergence go from the big bang and basic particles in the early universe to the ultimate evolution of humankind by way of a variety of stages.


My reply to @PeterCoffee "Information should be more ‘force’ than ‘mass’" | Diginomica

You're certainly asking the right types of questions here, but doing so in a somewhat flimsy framework in what is already a fairly solid mathematical theory. Mathematicians would call this a "hand-waving argument." Some of your conceptualization is clouded by mistaking the semantics of the commonly accepted definition of information with Claude Shannon's formal mathematical definition, something which he admonishes the reader about in the opening paragraphs of his seminal paper.

I would suggest that you take a look at Cesar Hidalgo's recent and very accessible book Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies (MIT Press, 2015) [] which provides a more rigorous grounding of what information is and what it means, particularly within the context of economics and global business. In it, he re-frames your questions and provides a firmer theoretical platform for seeing farther and moving faster. The framework he provides will provide a more solid grounding for what is happening within the growing digital economy and proliferation of areas like big data.

For those who want to take the economics piece a step further, one can then delve into the broader topics at the intersection of fields like complexity theory and economics similar to those framed by the Santa Fe Institute over the past two decades. (W. Brian Arthur's Complexity and the Economy, (Oxford, 2014) [] is a fairly good starting point without getting too deep too quickly for most).

From a business perspective, these theories underpin many of the ideas expounded by Judith Rodin's The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong (Public Affairs, 2014) or many of the probabilistic arguments made in Nassim Nicholas Taleb's various works.


It actually looks like you're missing one of the biggest -- and now, according to the Supreme Court, legal -- new loopholes for cheap textbooks.

One of the most important changes in the textbook market that every buyer should be aware of: last year in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. [] the US Supreme Court upheld the ability for US-based students to buy copies of textbooks printed in foreign countries (often at huge cut-rate prices) [see also Ars Technica:]. This means that searching online bookstores in India, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc. will often find the EXACT same textbooks (usually with slightly different ISBNs, and slightly cheaper paper) for HUGE discounts in the 60-95% range.

To stick with your math example: I recently bought an international edition of Walter Rudin's Principles of Mathematical Analysis (Amazon $121 for $5 (and it even happened to ship from within the US for $3). Not only was this 96% off of the cover price, but it was 78% off of Amazon's rental price! How amazing is it to spend almost as much to purchase a book as it is to ship it to yourself!? I'll also note here that the first edition of this book appeared in 1964 and this very popular third edition is from 1976, so it isn't an example of "edition creep", but it's still got a tremendous mark up in relation to other common analysis texts [] which list on Amazon for $35-50.

Hint: Abe Books (a subsidiary of Amazon is better than most at finding/sourcing international editions of textbooks.

The same Calculus textbook you mentioned as a Sixth Edition can be easily found in paperback for $55.44 (I only did one search to find it, but I'm sure a little elbow grease might cut the price further) and ships within the US for less than $10. And because many students are apt to take the multi-variable calculus course as a follow up, this textbook also includes that material as an added bonus as well.

The other option you leave out is purchasing the fifth edition, which isn't substantially different from the 6th edition and which can be easily found for less than $6 in good condition and including shipping.

Of course all this belies the true discussion of the how's and why's for why the textbook market is overpriced in the first place. For some of those ideas and suggestions of how we can fix them, I've written a short essay: "To Purchase, Rent, or Pirate? The Broken Economics of Textbooks in the Digital Age"


Far better than some of these band-aid solutions is to focus on the underlying economics of the problem and remedy those. Giving the end purchasers (aka students) and not the professors (aka middle-men) the power to choose books will drastically help to level the playing field. I've written some more specific thoughts and hints here: "To Purchase, Rent, or Pirate? The Broken Economics of Textbooks in the Digital Age"


This is a great article pinpointing the primary issue along with some more helpful advice on fixing the larger textbook problem than most of the traditional ever-green articles that hit the wire just prior to the start of a new term! However, if Congress is going to take steps, they may be better off trying to regulate the industry back into a more competitive shape, but this as unlikely to happen as the current Congressional plan. Instead, I'd recommend that students, professors, and universities fix the problem for the publishers by changing the word "Required" to "Recommended" in every syllabus in the country. Doing this would help allow students to pay as much for textbooks as they do for the average bestseller, which average about $15 and generally doesn't go over $40, even in hardback.

I've written some more specific details and thoughts on the roots of the issue here: "To Purchase, Rent, or Pirate? The Broken Economics of Textbooks in the Digital Age" for those who'd like to delve more deeply into the problem and potential solutions.

Thanks BI, for helping to not only highlight the problem, but to push solutions. Given the thesis of Cesar Hidalgo's recent text "Why Information Grows", one of the greatest business issues America faces is making it easier for information to disseminate within our culture, and the excessive cost of textbooks and education is going to have drastic effects on our culture and country in the coming century.


The issue of taxes on textbooks is just a drop in the bucket given the price increases over just the last five years. We need to encourage a restructuring of how textbooks are sold - perhpas changing the word "Required" to "Recommended". I cover some additional thoughts here: "To Purchase, Rent, or Pirate? The Broken Economics of Textbooks in the Digital Age"


Great quote in the Telegraph:
"The economics of college textbooks is very different from anything else," says Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan. "Professors select the books, and students have to pay for them, so the normal market mechanisms aren't at play here. Publishing companies charge whatever they can get away with, which is unsustainable."