Thursday, December 15, 2011

Taxing issues

From the BBC:
Over a five year period up to 2010 (the latest data available) the number of UK taxpayers with an annual taxable income over £10m more than doubled from 131 to 274.
In 2010 they owed £2.1 billion between them. This is a good and hard data. Whilst it doesn't cover all the super rich (after all, some manage to arrange their affairs so they don't have to pay tax on their super incomes); but we know that these 274 people had more than £10 million in earnings in 2010. My rough maths makes that a total of over £5 billion in annual income (or roughly £18 million each) that the tax was paid on. Note the curious fact that the figures increased dramatically after a fall due to the 2008 crisis. Now, inflation will be playing a big part in all this, but it does suggest some are benefiting nicely from the crisis, thank you. Now, some might be footballers, not all will be capitalists qua capitalists (a few barristers and lawyers might sneak in there) but it shows that out of 60 million, much fewer than 1% are doing very well indeed.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A cute one

I love steam engines me. Even little ones. Well, micro-scale Stirling Engines. Of course, as they say, it's not a perfectly reliable power source; but imagine if they break through and we can have powered nano/microscale devices? I know I should flag up the Higgs Boson, but I'm waiting for final confirmation. In the meanwhile, this is a breakthrough to celebrate in a small way.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

About those tins of beans...

...I think I'd add a tin helmet to the shopping list. My favourite source, Der Spiegel strikes again:
This October was the third straight month Chinese exports decreased. Along with it, the hopes of German manufacturers that Asia's growth market might help lift them out of the global crisis as it did in 2008 are also evaporating. This time China faces enormous challenges of its own -- a real estate market bubble and local government debt -- that could even pose a risk to the global economy.
The Germans can't borrow, and Chinese growth is about to hit the skids. *Gulp*

It's worth reading that article in full. In world terms, this is the crisis spreading from the financial sector into the real economy of manufacturing: coupled with a massive balance of trade gap. Remember, China holds much of the dollar debt in the world, and it has been China that has helped prop up the debt bubble in America in order to keep its markets going.

I also note the mention of the ghost cities -- so reminiscent of Ireland's boom/slump situation (and, I believe consistent with David Harvey's model of capitalist crisis).

Part of what this shows is that even state capitalism and pump priming isn't enough to end the crisis: we've seen austerity here and spending for growth there, eventually, someone has to admit that a market economy just doesn't work for the majority of humanity. In the meantime, get tying kitchen knives to broomsticks and start a pike practice squad in your street:you may be needing it soon.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Cometh the Singularity

From the BBC: Scientists at MIT replicate brain activity with chip:
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have designed a computer chip that mimics how the brain's neurons adapt in response to new information.
As Searle noted in his Chinese room essay, the only route to Artificial intelligence is to build a physical brain. Well, it looks like what MIT have done. here's the ominous bit:
Such systems could be much faster than computers which take hours or even days to simulate a brain circuit. The chip could ultimately prove to be even faster than the biological process.
That is, super human intelligence may be around the corner, and with it, the singularity. Rapture those nerds. Come what may, this could very well lead to massive break throughs in computing and our knowledge of human intelligence and neuroscience.

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Monday, December 05, 2011

The ongoing agricultural revolution

At last I am moved by a story to write: German Urban Farms the company's website is here.
The Frisch vom Dach, or Fresh from the Roof project, plans to create a 7,000-square-meter roof garden, complete with a fish farm, to provide Berliners with sustainable, locally-grown food....

The fish will be sold as food and, crucially, their excretions, especially the ammonia excreted through the gills, will be converted into nitrates. That will serve as fertilizer for the plants growing in green houses above the fish tanks. In turn, the plants will purify the water for the fish. The system for sustainable food production is known as "aquaponics."
The first instance of vertical farming, or industrial farming. Bringing the countryside into the city. As the Spiegel article points out, this model is low energy, unlike the more science fictional dreams of vertical farms. It also fits in with the permaculture crowd. That said, it does offer the prospect of advancing the cause of re-wilding (and of driving urbanisation faster).

I'd be interested in how much their prototype container farm manages to produce, since the idea of mass producing and distributing a container/greenhouse strikes me as being an efficient way to spread food production massively.

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