Monday, November 30, 2009

On Impatience

It seems to me that some part of impatience is related to self-centeredness, or at least, the valuing of one's time over that of another.

When one is impatient with someone or something, it implies that one would rather spend one's time elsewhere, on something that would be more preferable. Implicitly, one priorities one's time over the time taken to deal with that someone or something.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A History of Man's Economic Systems

A long long time ago, Man lived by collecting fruits and berries, or hunting fish and animals. They lived each day by each day. Life was nasty, brutish, and short, and they died early. This was an advantage, since their primitive economic systems did not allow them to survive once they were unable to gather or hunt.

Man progressed. Now, life was nasty, brutish, and long. Now a problem was apparent- how were they to survive in their old age? It was no use being able to gather 5 times the number of berries to live in their prime, or to hunt 5 times the number of animals needed to survive. Food rots and spoils. You die when you pause, regardless of how awesome you were in your youth.

A solution was forged; for the old to depend on the young. A type of social contract was formed; the parent, in his adulthood, feeds the child, and the child, grown up, feeds the parent in his twilight. It was a sound system, fair.

Then, Money was invented. It was a splendid tool; coin did not spoil, did not rot. And, through this unspoilable good, Man was able to accumulate the excess production of his prime, and use it to support him in his old age. The ancient systems of the child supporting his parents were weakened, sometimes even invalidated. It was a reliable system, where no Man had to depend on another, and each was judged based on his own industriousness.

And the system of Money carried on, generation upon generation. Each Man supported himself by his own labor. But this system was not perfect. In each generation, there were those who were incompetent, or lazy, and hence unable to support themselves. But their force was weak, and nothing changed.

Then, one generation, there was a prodigious number of the idle and weak. And further, they were infertile and ugly, and could not have children to support them. In their collective despair, they created a new economic system, designed to steal from the future.

Their system would see them supported in their old age, carried upon the backs of the next generation. Some of their number argued, was this fair? What burden the next generation must face! But these voices were drowned out; it was argued that no such problems existed, for the next generation were themselves to be supported by their own next generation. And the system would continue to infinity, a stable system where everyone would be supported as long as Man survived. (The final generation would be screwed, but the problem of old age would probably be considered minor in the face of Doomsday.)

And the unfair system of the young supporting the old was imposed, where each generation was supported upon the backs of the next. It was a foolish system, akin to the world being supported by a turtle, itself supported by a turtle, ad infinitum. But nobody stopped the system, for a simple reason. Something was already stolen in supporting the first generation, and to stop the system, the present generation would have to bear the burden of this, alone. None ever did, for it was easier to pass the buck without cost to oneself.

But the fundamentals were flawed. People lived longer. People cost more to support in their old age. There were less people in each successive generation. And soon, people knew that the system would fail. But again, it was too entrenched to stop; all they hoped that the grenade would last one more lob, and not explode hot in their hands.

Our time is dire. The wise are revisiting the ancient methods. Some sought to accumulate more money to tide them though on their own strength. Others are reverting to relying on their children.

Ah, the good old days.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

On the Property Tax Hike

I read with interest the news article on the impending hike in property taxes, and the resulting online responses to the hike.

The interesting thing is, despite the framing of the news article, the tax rate has not been raised at all. In fact, the whole article seems deliberately confusing, resulting in much negative reaction online.

It is, however, true that the property tax payable will be higher next year than it is now. But how is it possible for the tax rate to remain constant, while the tax payable is increased? The crux to the matter is that the property tax is rated at a fixed percentage of the annual rental value of the property (named Annual Value). This Annual Value is determined periodically by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS).

Now, logically the AV should be updated yearly to ensure a just amount of property tax is paid; it would be bad if the AV used to compute the property tax is higher or lower than the actual AV. Also, note that the AV is related to the market rates for rental (and hence, indirectly to property prices).

It so happens that the current adjustment of the AV is almost certainly upward due to an increase in the market rental rate (and indirectly, property prices). Hence, the property tax has increased, and yet the tax rate has not increased.

It would be unfair to accuse the Government, or any parties, of deliberate ill-will in causing the tax increase. In other words, the idea that the Government has created or levied a new, increased tax should be put to rest, for it is false.

The more accurate IRAS news regarding the matter can be read online.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Eliminate the Strong to Assist the Weak

The title of this post comes from the Chinese idiom, 除强扶弱. The meaning of this idiom is to assist the weak by standing up (for them) to the strong. However, the literal translation is "Eliminate the Strong to Assist the Weak", which is insane.

It is possible to imagine assisting the weak as a good act, but eliminating the strong is clearly crazy. Taken together, the literal translation seems to be promoting a sort of anti-Darwinist reverse-eugenics. The intent is evil, aimed at evolving a society of weakened beings.

A rearrangement of the idiom to the form 除弱扶强, or "eliminate the weak to assist the strong", is at least consistent with some form of positive social goals.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Journey into the Stars

Earth sent a radio message into the stars. A century later, the same message returned, undiminished, unaltered.

"It is not natural", the scientists said with certainty. They were less certain on whether it was alien, or supernatural. There was only one way to know.

Earth built a vessel to seek out the senders of the message. A three-hundred year sub-light journey, into the abyss. And so they journeyed, taking their first steps amongst the stars.

Time passed, and the journey eventually approached its end. As the ship neared the target, strange readings were obtained. A ship approached! Eerily the ship had similar markings and transmissions. Was this the aliens in a mocking disguise, or were these descendants of Earth, having long since arrived with FTL?

Neither, it turned out. It was a gigantic sphere, made of exotic meta-materials designed to perfectly reflect EM signals of all frequencies. The purpose of the sphere was unknown, and the builders, long gone.

Perhaps, this was only a monument to silently bear witness to the fact that they were once here.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Rocket Science, Revisited

In a previous post, I suggested that it is better to run into a rocket than to run away from it. Recently, a friend pointed out a small oversight on the reasoning.

The oversight is relative velocity. Evidently, running into a rocket means that the rocket will hit you at a higher velocity as compared to when you are running away from the rocket. However, the original considerations on the rocket's acceleration are still valid.

The optimal solution seems to be to run towards the rocket, then to jump back with all your might an instant before the rocket hits you.