Ode to critical thinking

Generally, we humans tend to intellectual laziness. As Daniel Kahneman showed through decades of research, our ‘system 1’ intuitive, emotional and frequently erroneous thinking is easiest to access, where as our ‘system 2’ functions of methodical analysis, reason and assumption-checking take a lot more work, time and energy.

A unique challenge to our system 2 today, well beyond anything seen in history before, is the constant supply of easy, short, shallow info bites flowing around the internet day and night.  Fast food for the brain, they can fill and distract us without fueling the growth of mind muscle and strength.  Centuries of experience have shown that humans need rigorous systems, discipline and challenge in order to test and evolve our thinking and understanding of the world.

Another feature that has ‘dumbed’ the past 15 years has been the unprecedented proliferation of  ‘easy money’ and speculation courtesy of the finance sector and complicit politicians.  This has had the unfortunate effect of allowing weak hands to wield money and influence for years at a time, before intermittent, catastrophic wipe-outs reveal truth once more.

This video on the scientific method, reminds of the importance of critical, fact-based thinking.  In a world, where we are constantly urged to abandon the discipline of math and measurements and go with the flow, thinking people must keep lifting heavier weights.

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New battery tech likely to spread electric vehicles faster than most can imagine

Racing after Tesla, every week now another car company rolls out the timeline for its own fleet of electric vehicles. Neanderthal naysayers notwithstanding, the world is moving to EV and most people are recognizing that the business opportunity here is massive. Last month, John Goodenough, coinventor of the lithium-ion battery, announced a battery breakthrough, that is likely to accelerate EV tech and adoption faster than most imagined. Exciting stuff. This is what innovation does. See: Will a New Glass battery accelerate the end of oil?

Electric car purchases have been on the rise lately, posting an estimated 60 percent growth rate last year. They’re poised for rapid adoption by 2022, when EVs are projected to cost the same as internal combustion cars. However, these estimates all presume the incumbent lithium-ion battery remains the go-to EV power source. So, when researchers this week at the University of Texas at Austin unveiled a new, promising lithium- or sodium-glass battery technology, it threatened to accelerate even rosy projections for battery-powered cars.

“I think we have the possibility of doing what we’ve been trying to do for the last 20 years,” says John Goodenough, coinventor of the now ubiquitous lithium-ion battery and emeritus professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin. “That is, to get an electric car that will be competitive in cost and convenience with the internal combustion engine.” Goodenough added that this new battery technology could also store intermittent solar and wind power on the electric grid.

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Ultrasonic dryer: twice as fast, 5 times as energy efficient

Smarter more efficient solutions are coming fast and furious all over the world.

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are about to change the way that you do laundry. They recently developed an ultrasonic drying concept that uses vibrations instead of heat to dry clothes. This technology is expected to be up to five times more efficient than today’s products and will dry your clothes in half the time. Here is a direct video link.

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Net zero homes are obvious part of lowering living expenses

After years of asset bubbles and building debt, the future is all about going in the opposite direction: lower asset prices, expenditures and costs. Net Zero homes are an obvious part of the solution needed.

Welcome to the future, a time when your home is energy self sufficient, very comfortable and produces almost no utility bills.

Landmark Homes of Edmonton, Alberta has announced one of the lowest-priced net-zero homes in Canada. The Pisa sells for $399,737 all in (incl. GST), a real breakthrough in the evolution of buildings that produce all their own energy on a net-annual basis.  See:  The Dawning of the age of affordable net-zero homes.  Here is a direct video link.

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Nightmare on Main Street: Canada’s real estate/debt bubble

Canada’s out-of-control real estate market has now gone totally mad­—and there’s no turning back.  See: How Canada completely lost its mind over real estate.  Here’s a direct video link.

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Personal prosecution of finance executives and directors necessary

News yesterday that the Wells Fargo board voted to clawback a further $75 million in bonus awards from two former senior executives who it says were largely to blame for driving a culture of fraudulent sales activities.  Still, it is clear that long-running fraud at this bank was aided and abetted my many parties within and around Wells Fargo, including the Board of Directors (see the esteemed list of members here) who collected rich compensation while failing in their duty of oversight.

Some 5000 employees lost their jobs and a few executives lost bonuses, but while the company has issued an official apology it has also blocked the efforts of affected customers to sue for the resulting damage inflicted on their credit record, housing and employment opportunities.  The bank asserts that the small print of mandatory arbitration clauses signed by customers when they opened accounts at Wells Fargo, also applies to fraudulent accounts opened in their names, without their consent.

This type of bank behavior is outrageous, but common.  See my recent discussion of entrapment and misrepresentation being used by Canada’s CIBC, where salesmen dressed in Tim Horton’s uniforms hang out in student centers tricking university kids into signing up for credit cards–by saying they are offering free Tim Horton’s gift cards as a present to help kids get through exams.

It also reminds of a recent CBC Go Public investigation which revealed the fraudulent tactics used by representatives of PC Financial to get customers shopping in Loblaws-owned stores tricked into applying for its MasterCard products.  See:  “Whatever means necessary”, how these insiders tricked Loblaws shoppers into signing up for credit cards with a special focus on poor and illiterate customers who offered the easiest marks.

At the end of all of this and so much more, one thing is abundantly clear:  fines, firings and public apologies to date, have been woefully inadequate to curtail a runaway finance cartel gone wild.  Personal prosecutions against actors and directing minds–those responsible for oversight–are our only hope of getting a message of intolerance and reform into this socially destructive sector.  See:  Plenty More Villains at Wells Fargo:

Finally — and this is a lesson learned over and over after the financial crisis — prosecutors at the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission need to pursue individual wrongdoers, civilly or criminally, as the situation warrants. Unless and until clawbacks are combined with private litigation and public prosecutions, misconduct and negligence will endure.

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