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Sucker bet (a thought experiment)

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Here is a thought experiment for our age.

You wake up to find your fairy godmother has overachieved: you're a new you, in a physically attractive, healthy body with no ailments and no older than 25 (giving you a reasonable propect of living to see the year 2100: making it to 2059 is pretty much a dead certainty).

The new you is also fabulously wealthy: you are the beneficial owner of a gigantic share portfolio which, your wealth management team assures you, is worth on the order of $100Bn, and sufficiently stable that even Trump's worst rage-tweeting never causes you to lose more than half a billion or so: even a repeat of the 2008 crisis will only cost you half an Apollo program.

Finally, you're outside the public eye. While your fellow multi-billionaires know you, your photo doesn't regularly appear in HELLO! magazine or Private Eye: you can walk the streets of Manhattan in reasonable safety without a bodyguard, if you so desire.

Now read on below the cut for the small print.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs takes on a whole new appearance from this angle.

Firstly: anthropogenic climate change will personally affect you in the years to come. (It may be the biggest threat to your survival.)

Secondly: the tensions generated by late-stage capitalism and rampant nationalist populism also affect you personally, insofar as billionaires as a class are getting the blame for all the world's ills whether or not they personally did anything blameworthy.

Let's add some more constraints.

Your wealth grows by 1% per annum, compounded, in the absence of Global Financial Crises.

Currently there is a 10% probability of another Global Financial Crisis in the next year, which will cut your wealth by 30%. For each year in which there is no GFC, the probability of a GFC in the next year rises by 2%. (So in a decade's time, if there's been no GFC, the probability is pushing 30%.) After a GFC the probability of a crash in the next yeear resets to 0% (before beginning to grow again after 5 years, as before). Meanwhile, your portfolio will recover at 2% per annum until it reaches its previous level, (or there's another GFC).

You can spend up to 1% of your portfolio per year on whatever you like, without consequences for the rest of the portfolio. Above that, for every additional dollar you liquidate, your investments lose another dollar. (Same recovery rules as for a GFC apply. If you try to liquidate all $100Bn overnight, you get at most $51Bn.)

(Note: I haven't made a spreadsheet model of this yet. Probably an omission one of you will address ...)

The head on a stick rule: in any year when your net wealth exceeds $5Bn, there is a 1% chance of a violent revolution that you cannot escape, and end up with your head on a stick. If there are two or more GFCs within a 10 year period, the probability of a revolution in the next year goes up to 2% per year. A third GFC doubles the probability of revolution, and so on: four GFCs within 40 years mean an 8% probability you'll be murdered.

Note: the planetary GNP is $75Tn or so. You're rich, but you're three orders of magnitude smaller than the global economy. You can't afford to go King Knut. You can't even afford to buy any one of Boeing, Airbus, BP, Shell, Exxon, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, or Google. Forget buying New Zealand: the annual GDP of even a relatively small island nation is around double your total capital, and you can't afford the mortgage. $100Bn does not make you omnipotent.

What is your optimum survival strategy?

Stuff I'm going to suggest is a really bad idea:

Paying Elon to build you a bolt-hole on Mars. Sure you can afford it within the next 20 years (if you live that long), but you will end up spending 75% of your extended life expectancy staring at the interior walls of a converted stainless steel fuel tank.

Paying faceless realtors to build you a bolt-hole in New Zealand. Sure you can afford a fully staffed bunker and a crew of gun-toting minions wearing collar bombs, but you will end up spending 75% of your extended life expectancy under house arrest, wondering when one of the minions is going to crack and decide torturing you to death is worth losing his head. And that's assuming the locals don't get irritated enough to pump carbon monoxide into your ventillation ducts.

Paying the US government to give you privileged status and carry on business as usual. Guillotines, tumbrils, you know the drill.

So it boils down to ... what is the best use of $100Bn over 80 years to mitigate the crisis situation we find ourselves in? (Your end goal should be to live to a ripe old age and die in bed, surrounded by your friends and family.)

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WorldMaker
12 days ago
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In this scenario, I’m increasingly thinking I’d lean towards liquidate with extreme prejudice. So what if you lose like 49% of the paper value in the process? Who’s keeping score? Do I need billions for my current life style, no? Keep in mind that keeping say a million or three for myself in the process is a rounding error in this exercise and drops you below the “head on a stick” concern threshold. More interestingly is how that paper loses its value in the process, because you can game that: cause some concern in the shares you dump as you dump some of them, especially companies with no climate awareness, sew discord among fellow investors that there is a reason you are quickly selling those shares and manufacturer doubt that they could survive coming crises. Try to gift shares in companies that are more aware and trying better ideas to charities without liquidating. The remaining question is what to do with cash above your “little rounding error” lifestyle project. Might also be a case of gift it to charity, I’m not sure, and figuring that out is a hard problem according to the Gates Foundation. As nice as it could be to live on passive income, find some way to get the money active and involved in some projects.
Louisville, Kentucky
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2 public comments
LeMadChef
20 days ago
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In addition to living my Gentleman Driver lifestyle, I would support every anarchist/socialist representative at the local and regional level around the world.
Denver, CO
cjheinz
20 days ago
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Nice!

John Mulaney: Defender of Dogs, Hater of Your Stupid Scooters

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John Mulaney performs onstage

When it comes to loving your dog, John Mulaney is one of the best. He constantly is posting about his dog Petunia, shows how much he loves her, and she’s often been the focus of jokes in his sets. That doesn’t mean that she’s anything less than perfect in his eyes, though. So, when she almost died because of a rogue electric scooter user, Mulaney took to social media to tell us all of his hatred of the new trend.

Petunia Mulaney is honestly more important than John Mulaney. Yeah, I said it. My love for John himself runs deep, but sweet baby Petunia has taken our heart with her flat little snout and run with it. So, when John Mulaney went on Instagram to share that Petunia was almost run over by one of these scooters that have popped up in cities around the country and carry out his personal vendetta against them, I understood his John Wick-ish quest.

Twitter user @Nellanndee captured Mulaney’s stories (because, you know, Instagram), and they honestly make a lot of sense:

Sure, we’re trying to find eco-friendly alternatives to cars (though this may not be it), and we’re certainly into public transit solutions, but we also have to recognize that putting pedestrians in danger isn’t a great solution, either. Often, I’ve found myself fighting a biker off the sidewalk in New York because they didn’t feel like biking in the street, so imagine a dog on the sidewalk having to worry about additional vehicles.

So, when you really think about it, Mulaney is right. Scooters, while fun and helpful for transportation, can be dangerous, and the idea that you can just leave them anywhere is gross, but also his point is more against those who use them recklessly. So often, in big cities, we’re under attack from those on wheels because they have the basic understanding that if you have wheels, you go on the road, not on the sidewalk.

Mulaney using the near-death experience of Petunia to bring this issue to light is courageous and what we need. (I know I sound facetious, but also if something happened to Petunia, I would hunt down the culprit myself because that sweet baby deserves NOTHING but the world.) We, as humans, often just get angry and roll our eyes and continue in our ways, but I know I personally did not think about the potential of dogs and what would happen if one of these scooters hit an unsuspecting pup.

I mean, now I kind of want to see John Mulaney go full John Wick, because I think THAT could be the movie of the century, but alas, we’ll have to deal with him taking to Instagram to yell about the irresponsible nature of scooter users in Washington D.C. instead.

(image: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for NRDC)

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WorldMaker
51 days ago
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Welcome to the club, John. Adding “one almost killed Petunia Mulaney” to my curmudgeon’s list of grievances with the scooter companies.
Louisville, Kentucky
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I Finally Watched Alien and It Blew Me Away—Also, Everyone Should Have Just Listened to Ripley

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Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto, and Harry Dean Stanton in Alien (1979)

This year was the 40-year anniversary of the 1979 movie Alien, starring Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, one of the iconic heroes of science-fiction. Being the fake-film-geek-girl I am, it was a movie I hadn’t seen until just recently, despite having watched the Alien vs. Predator movies and being familiar with the story through its place in the cultural zeitgeist. Going into the movie, I knew three things: Ripley is the sole survivor, the chest buster scene would happen, and of course, what the final Xenomorph would look like. I didn’t know anything.

**Spoilers for Alien in case anyone is late like me.**

Alien is a 1979 science-fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O’Bannon. The film stars Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, and Yaphet Kotto.

We begin with the crew of the commercial space ship Nostromo being awakened from their stasis during a return trip to Earth. Our crew of redshirts is made up of Captain Dallas, Executive Officer Kane, Warrant Officer Ripley (the hero we don’t deserve), Navigator Lambert, Science Officer Ash, and two engineers, Parker and Brett (the true heroes of this story). After begin awoken, they realize that they are not actually in their own star system. That’s because the ship’s computer, Mother, had awoken them early because of a distress signal that they are required to investigate. Otherwise, they would have to forfeit their money.

They land on the moon LV-426 and end up taking damage from the atmosphere and rocky terrain. Parker and Brett repair the ship while Dallas, Kane, and Lambert head out to investigate the signal as Ash looks on from the ship. As they journey, Ripley deciphers part of the transmission and figures out that it isn’t a distress call; it’s a warning.

From this point on, shit gets crazy. The three outside crew members explore an alien ship, and Kane ends up finding a bunch of eggs. While he’s leaning over one, it opens, and a facehugger breaks through his helmet and attaches itself to his face. When the crew tries to bring Kane back aboard the Nostromo, Ripley, who is technically in command, says they can’t let them in because of the need for a 24-hour quarantine. If only they had listened. Ash overrules Ripley and lets them in, and because of that, the majority of the crew is doomed to death. The facehugger implants an alien baby inside of Kane, and it explodes from his chest during dinner (rude), and the rest is man vs. monster in its purest form.

Watching the film, it struck me that the only people with any sense at all are Parker (Yaphet Kotto), Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) and Ripley. All three of them are uncomfortable with the situation. Parker (along with Brett) is already frustrated they are underpaid for their work and isn’t interested in sticking their necks out any more. Also, in the book, he agrees with Ripley about the quarantine. Lambert spends most of the trip outside saying that they should term back. She is instantly unnerved, but Dallas and Kane go forward. Not only is Ripley the one who decodes the message and tries to save everyone else, but she is the only one who is suspicious of Ash and paying attention.

When Ripley finally takes over following the death of Dallas, and finds out that Ash has been working with the company to return the alien to Earth; the crew is expendable. That’s when we find out that Ash is a robot, and I did not know that and I screamed. That was such a twist, and I had no idea that robots were a normal thing in the Alien franchise. It was so good, and his final line: “I can’t lie to you about your chances, but … you have my sympathies”? What a dick.

It makes sense that the three of them are the last ones to survive (before it becomes one), because they were the ones most going against the company line. Even Parker, who might have seemed crude at the beginning, dies because he’s trying to save Lambert, rather than just taking the shot when he the chance.

I’m not going to bring up Jones, because that cat would have survived them all without any help because he was by far the most capable.

There is something beautifully simplistic about Alien—the practical effects, the design of the alien, and how the tension just keeps ramping up. We spend so little time with the alien onscreen, but we do feel the terror because of its ability to just maneuver easily in the vents, not to mention the inky blackness of it blends into the darkness so that you can’t tell it’s there until it’s too late.

Alien and the character of Ellen Ripley helped change science fiction for the better, and I’m so glad that I finally get the hype. All the twists work out perfectly, and I can tell that watching it again, knowing all the secrets, will only make it more interesting.

Also, capitalism is bad.

When did you first see Alien? Which movie in the franchise is your favorite?

(image: Paramount)

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WorldMaker
51 days ago
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It’s funny how popular culture doesn’t spoil only the one twist, probably because it was utterly mundane in context of surrounding sci-fi films at release, but will surprise modern first time watchers.
Louisville, Kentucky
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Steam should let users resell games, French court rules

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French Steam users have the right to resell games, a Paris court has ruled in a case brought by a consumer group. The years-long case isn’t fully settled because Valve can yet appeal, and why would they not? This is still a big decision. The official line so far has been that games bought in a downloadable form, without a physical form like a disc backing them, cannot be resold. The court also ruled against several other clauses of Steam’s terms, like keeping your Steam Wallet funds if you shut down your account.

(more…)

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WorldMaker
80 days ago
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Digital asset law is going to be a huge battle over the next few decades. These sound like potentially good first steps. (My personal fascination is digital asset inheritance. There's probably going to be a few years before the first major fights over "my parent's Steam library", but that's going to be an important fight, because none of the digital asset providers allow for survivorship in their terms of service.)
Louisville, Kentucky
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Human

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
The correct response is 'Oh yeah, well your FACE is punctuated by the deaths of loved ones!'


Today's News:
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WorldMaker
102 days ago
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😭
Louisville, Kentucky
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Bubble Bobble 4 Friends

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We've added Bubble Bobble 4 Friends for the Nintendo Switch to our database of Co-Op games!

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WorldMaker
113 days ago
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This title is nearly perfect. Excellent use of that 4 😺
Louisville, Kentucky
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