Sunday, December 30, 2012

Smart Meters(?) and the DECC roll-out

"[Smart meters will provide consumers with] near real time information on their energy consumption to help them control their energy use, and avoid wasting energy and money. [How?]. Smart meters will also provide consumers with more accurate information and bring an end to estimated billing, helping them to budget better." (According to DECC - the UK "Department for Energy and Climate Change").

While it is remotely possible, assuming that people pay attention to their meters, that these will reduce base-load electricity use, my meter of this sort has had zero effect on my peak consumption. And it cannot possibly do anything to match demand to efficient supply.

Hence, compared to what could be achieved, it seems possible to me that DECCs current rollout (by 2014) is just a pointless gimmick?

I have not been able to find anything much about this, other than some non-committal comment from "Which?".

Is there any reliable discussion of what this 0.7 per cent of GDP will achieve?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Crooked Corporations and Forgetful Customers

In a market where consumers have cognitive limitations (for example, where they forget bad experiences, or frequently resort to cognitively cheap heuristics) - and where quality is costly - firms that cheat on price signals will win out.

Even if the firms are just retailers, instead of manufacturers.

Who polices the quality controllers, in a market where customers are forgetful, and not very clever?

An even bigger role for the incentive to 'be good' and not to 'reward bad behaviour'. What makes people 'good'?

Friday, June 22, 2012

How to Treat the Feeble Minded

From around 1840 to 1970, people who were diagnosed as 'feeble-minded' in Cambridge (UK) were confined in the Fulbourn Mental Hospital. Especially dim young girls who had a baby out of wedlock. And they were buried there, as rejects from the local community. It was something to be ashamed of.

How do we treat, today, the less-capable?

We spam them with deceptive pricing - so that they get a worse deal. We follow up purchases with 'would you like to buy insurance for that' - which, for consumer goods, is a truly rotten deal. We idolize baubles and meaningless celebrity, for them. And litter their lives with reminders of lust, fattening morsels, and addictive substances. To fund such consumption, we offer easy 'consumer-credit' - which only serves to make their life even more expensive. And, again, penalises the lazy, the ill-informed, and the incompetent.

Why is it that most smokers are among the poor in our society? (A habit costing GBP £5 per day here - when benefits are about GBP £100 per week). Is it, perhaps, because we offer them smoking as something that is 'manly', 'sexy', 'tough', or as an (illusory) way of feeling better about their lives?

Given the right attitude to commercial success, and to commercialism in society, is it any wonder that one can make 30% of a society obese (and 70%[?] overweight)[as now in the UK]?

As Michael Sandel points out there is a lot of virtue that cannot be measured by commercial success, and as Robert Sirico says there is a lot of virtue in rewarding that which is frugal and satisfies peoples choices. But there is more.

All of us are unable to keep more than a few of thoughts in mind at any one time, or of safely controlling motor vehicles at speeds much over 60 miles per hour, obsessed with sex and plumage, and weak and slow. Cetaceans are in all probability a lot smarter.

Given the environment of unfettered commercialism that we seem to think is best - with its rewards for 'marketing' and 'selling', as opposed to 'being good', or actually disseminating accurate information - is it any wonder that the poor are among the most resentful in our society?

Their young men come around to our houses and smash up the place trying to steal a few gadgets. Or do thousands of pounds damage to our offices when stealing a couple of computers they might get GBP £20 for from their drug dealing 'associates'. They blame scapegoats - and so often vote for hate and populist measures. (Like blaming bankers for crises of unpayable debts).

In some countries they keep virtually all such people in jail. (Where, I think, they give them cigarettes...).

Surely there should be much more investment in: Better rewards for socially productive interventions. And in innovations that spread good norms and values - often called 'education' and 'faith'.

After all social innovations and values are 'economic public goods', and so are under-provided by free markets.

The Christian church proved to be a pretty good, and durable, way of doing that in the absence of an effective state. And states, too, need moral and ethical foundations.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Great Technological Watershed

Will the internet, with its ready information, lead to a "Great Technological Dumbing Down" - and, to even smaller elites making the real choices? Or will it give more power to all - make it easier to find out; easier to publicise; easier to coordinate; easier to get just things done?