Raw thoughts from Alex Dong

GMO crops mean more herbicide, Apple and app developers, Detecting outliers and Information theory and Financial market

GMO Crops Mean More Herbicide, Not Less: The nature never ceases to amuse us. But human beings are the true master of drama. Monsanto seems to be doing really well by having an increase in its pesticide product and GMO seeds.

One of the main arguments behind creating these engineered crops is that farmers then need to use less herbicide and pesticide. This makes farms more eco-friendly, say proponents of genetically modified (GM) crops, and GM seeds also allow farmers to spend less on “inputs” (chemicals), thereby making a greater profit.

But a new study released by Food & Water Watch yesterday finds the goal of reduced chemical use has not panned out as planned. In fact, according to the USDA and EPA data used in the report, the quick adoption of genetically engineered crops by farmers has increased herbicide use over the past 9 years in the U.S.

Both reports focus on “superweeds.” It turns out that spraying a pesticide repeatedly selects for weeds which also resist the chemical. Ever more resistant weeds are then bred, able to withstand increasing amounts – and often different forms – of herbicide.

At the center of debate is the pesticide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto Round Up.

Apple has been burned by productivity apps before: An interesting theory but I am not sure I agree. I think Apple is strong enough to have walked out of its youth insecurity. But still a fascinating to read:

As I just noted, the great thing about productivity apps is that they add value, and the more you use them, the more valuable they become – the potential value of a productivity app is limited only by the amount of data you are willing to put into it.

The trouble for Apple – or any platform provider – is apps that cross that line from nice-to-have to completely irreplaceable. It’s at that point a user’s loyalty shifts from platform to app, and there are no greater examples than the aforementioned Photoshop and Microsoft Office.

Detecting Outlers: I love the sanddune metaphor and how much clearer a light layer of color adds to the graph. Nice data visualization.

Information and Order: A fresh perspective of treating Gold as a low entropy device in the finance market.

Predictability and order are notspontaneous and cannot be left to the invisible hand. It takes a low-entropy carrier (no surprises) to bear high-entropy information (full of surprisal). In capitalism, the predictable carriers are the rule of law, the maintenance of order, the defense of property rights, the reliability and restraint of regulation, the transparency of accounts, the stability of money, the discipline and futurity of family life, and a level of taxation commensurate with a modest and predictable role of government.

Also from the Forbes review of the same book.

On Dodd-Frank

“The goal of financial reform should be to end this divorce between knowledge and power and ensure that most capital flows to the people who can wield it best, the entrepreneurs. By contrast, the reform that was enacted, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, with 2,323 pages of bromides and legalese enhancing the power of regulators, moves in the opposite direction. It increases the distance between the people in authority and the people with entrepreneurial knowledge. It concentrates yet more power in the leviathans and their Treasury sponsors and Federal Reserve supervisors, and it imposes hundreds of new regulations on entrepreneurial finance. Dodd-Frank sacrifices information on the altar of ignorant power.”

On monetary policy

“Could it be that the fundamental cause of the [2008 financial] crisis was that the monetary system, alone among the structures of capitalism, lacks a low-entropy physical layer?

“Over the centuries of monetary history, the remedy for unstable money has always been gold. Critics who say the gold standard has been eclipsed by an information standard based on the Internet do not grasp the essence of information theory, which measures the information content by its ‘news’ (expressed in digital form as unexpected bits or entropy). It takes a low-entropy carrier to bear a high-entropy newsworthy message.

“The 130,000 metric tons of gold that has been mined in all of human history constitutes the supreme low-entropy carrier for the upside surprises of capitalism. Without guidance from gold, currency markets are subject to political high entropy. They resemble a communications system without a predictable carrier that enables the information to be distinguished from the noise in the line.

“…Without a baseline of gold, entrepreneurship in the world economy degenerates into the manipulation of currencies for the interests of profiteers and government insiders. This is a pathology of capitalism ….” (p. 122)

Have you told you that I love the concept of Bitcoin yet?