Category Archives: Technology

Today’s page 1 Wall Street Journal story…

This (an article entitled “Software, Design Defects Cripple Health-Care Website“) is THE page 1 story in today’s issue of the Wall Street Journal. It provides a fascinating case study which corroborates historian John Steele Gordon’s essay from May 2009 entitled “Why Government Can’t Run a Business” (available from http://on.wsj.com/BZpZW); in that essay, Gordon notes (among other things) that “Politicians need headlines. Executives need profits.”

Software, Design Defects Cripple Health-Care Website

online.wsj.com

The federal government acknowledged for the first time Sunday it needed to fix design and software problems that have kept customers from applying online for health-care coverage.

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Colleges Stampeding to Online Ed

Colleges Stampeding to Online Ed

This article discusses the ongoing experimentation by elite colleges and universities with online education.  However, unlike previous efforts by the likes of Coursera and Udacity, this latest effort by a consortium of 10 prominent universities (including schools such as Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Northwestern) called “Semester Online” is fully monetized.  While students from consortium member institutions do not have to pay any additional tuition in order to participate, apparently non-consortium students have to apply, be accepted, and pay tuition of more than $4,000 a course.

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Lies My Newspaper Told Me

An article entitled “Lies My Newspaper Told Me” is a somewhat humorous (and R-rated) essay that I bumped into this morning; The 5 “lies” are:

1. Home solar is the wave of the future
2. Eating local will save the earth
3. Hybrid cars will solve our carbon woes
4. Home ownership: your best investment
5. Hands-free cellphones make multitasking effortless

What piqued my interest was the author’s reference to an important insight by the 19th century British economist William Jevons called the “Jevons Paradox”. The “Jevons Paradox” predicts that an “unintended” consequence of technological progress (e.g., hybrid cars and CFL’s) is that increased energy efficiency encourages encourage more (rather than less) energy consumption. So the same person who would otherwise be careful about turning her incandescent lights off and driving her gas powered car less will think nothing of leaving her CFL’s on and driving her hybrid car more. Basically, by lowering the cost of energy use at the level of the individual, the “paradox” is that technological innovations such as hybrid cars and CFL’s may actually increase overall energy consumption by society.

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