30 April, 2007

Non-monetary motivation

I am having a cold sore these days, so I have a great chance to think about why don't we have a cure for herpes yet. Just as there's no cure for many things, but lots of fairly effective treatments.

Certainly, our understanding of how our bodies work is limited, and probably never will be complete, but it would appear that -- and I'm certainly not the first one to notice -- there's less incentive to search for cures. Because, obviously, if you cure an ailment, you're shrinking your own market (you may end up eliminating the disease altogether!), while a good treatment provides you with a profit forever. Therefore, those who actually can find cures -- pharmaceutical companies -- benefit more from providing treatments, rather than cures, because, just as any corporation, they are in a business of making money.

So it appears that while monetary rewards do work great for us (the humanity) in some areas (see how cooler our cell phones are getting every year!), maximizing the profit may sometimes take you into a direction opposite to the one that the common good might suggest.

Obviously, this is something governments should regulate, and it is equally obvious that modern "donation"-based governments would never do that. Interestingly, this particular case does not actually require much intervention. A wise monarch would solve the issue with a single edict, something like: "No healthy person should be in the board of directors in a pharmaceutical company". And let the market take care of things ;)

18 April, 2007

Sticking it to show buisiness.

I have recently seen this "Shakira" video on a popular video website. I believe it is a parody, especially since the video title actually says so, but the funny thing is that I have never seen the real Shakira. Or, rather, I have probably seen her on a poster or on a magazine cover, but never knew it was her. So for any practical purpose it can be assumed I have never seen her.

Now, there's an interesting implication of me seeing this video without knowing how the real Shakira looks like: every time I hear her name or hear that song, the image of a fat guy dancing will come up in my mind. When I see a tabloid headline about Shakira's adventures, I'll be thinking: "Wow, the fatso really goes places!". Or, not being able to shield myself from the announcement of, say, Shakira's divorce with a NASCAR racer, I'll be amused that everything is allowed if you're rich and famous. When someone praises the choreography in her videos, I'll be remembering the graceful jumps in the shallow waters. And when (and if) I see the real Shakir, I'll say, "Naw, I don't think it is her!". It is now really hard for the show business to plant the "correct" Shakira image into my head.

This is how the really effective propaganda should work: not just persuading people that black is the new white, but actually replacing white with black in peoples' minds. Of course, this only works well with people who (ideally) have never seen neither black nor white or (at least) have never seen white, and that is why public education is really important ;)

12 April, 2007

How to save resources -- election vouchers.

I have received a request for money recently -- I receive lots of them because apparently some database somewhere thinks I am rich and generous -- but this one was from the Democratic National Committee, no less.

The most interesting part was the return "paid-by-addressee" envelope, which contained a note: "Although this is a prepaid envelope, please attach a stamp anyway, so we'll save our valuable resources". Pretty greedy, huh -- send us not just $100, but $100.37 (39?).

I wonder how many resources were wasted for printing the envelope and the letter, paying for the message writers' labor and moving the letter from the printer to my mailbox. Then some not very valuable, but dear to me my own time was wasted for reading all that stuff and carefully examining the envelope. And to think that all that time and money could have been used for researching the consciousness to machine transfer!

I believe that all political advertisement and discussion should be prohibited -- except for one specially designated federally funded web site. Nothing at all, including the date and place of the next elections should be available anywhere but on that web site. After all, only people who are interested in taking control of their lives politics actually vote, so why waste resources bombarding the non-voting public with political ads?

Steering onto a more realistic road, I doubt the saved money and labor would be used for seeking eternal life in electronic form. Probably it can work as some form of vouchers: after each election everyone is issued a voucher worth, say $5000, which one can immediately exchange for a super-duper wide-screen TV. There is a catch, however: in order to participate in the next elections one needs to surrender this voucher at the polling place.

This way the money that does not have to be wasted on "political process" in its current form gets distributed directly to the people. And by not cashing your voucher you support that one website where the new politics is. No more ugly interruptions of the regular TV programming for debates, no sleazy negative ads -- everyone is happy!

/Or you can use those vouchers to pay for college.

09 April, 2007

How to choose the best resort.

I think the best places to spend a short vacation are those that are close to home. Say, 1 or 2 hour drive. Certainly, it is way less expensive to get there since there's no flying involved and for the same reason you don't have to have your stuff searched and can take all the toothpaste you want with you.

These are all universally known benefits, but there's at least one more: if you go to a resort that is so close to home, you can easily visit your home if you forgot something (like, say, toothpaste or the cell phone charger). Or you can buy groceries and do the laundry, and then return to the resort. Can't do that with Hawaii!

02 April, 2007

Parallel Universes are real -- the proof.

A couple of days ago I've overheard some guy in a diner who was telling his friends about someone named Frank -- a very accomplished individual, I must admit. This Frank has built a few buildings, has a happy family and himself is a great guy and all that -- a modern Hercules, this Frank is.

But one thing about him really stood out. The narrator said that back when Frank was 12 (and he is 57 now), he lived in Florida when the Cuban Missile Crisis happened and saw American missiles flying over to Cuba.

So apparently in the Universe Frank is originally from, the Crisis had lead to an actual nuclear war and, I think, the energy released by the nuclear explosions have ripped the time-space fabric and moved Frank into our more lucky Universe. And certainly, if you survive such an ordeal, the rest of the life's problems would seem trivial, nothing would prevent you from becoming a happy, successful person, just like Frank.