September 10, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM



Solar power innovators in Europe, Asia, and North America are launching flotillas of solar panels on open water with shocking results. 

In this case, electricity and water are a great combination, sometimes providing new life for forgotten lagoons that were created for past industrial efforts. Bloomberg reported that an old coal pit can be turned into a "green powerhouse" when covered with floating panel systems, and such a project has the potential to replace fossil-fuel generation entirely in certain communities. 

It's part of the effort to expand sun-catching surfaces while limiting the land acreage needed for solar farms. Floating systems can be placed on reservoirs, lakes, or other man-made water bodies, according to the U.S. Energy Department. When deployed, the panels can also help conserve water by reducing evaporation. 

Bloomberg's report detailed projects in Europe that are using floating systems to help meet solar demand with limited land. 

"Most of these former gravel and sand pits aren't used anymore. They're low-hanging fruit," Matthias Taft, CEO of European renewable energy developer Baywa r.e., told the outlet. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM



Ever since Thomas Paine published Common Sense, many Americans and many American historians have seen and explained the Revolution as Paine had - as a war of national liberation. They claim that over the course of the colonial era, Anglo-American colonists underwent a transformation - a process of Americanization - at the end of which they were no longer conventional Englishmen. They became something different: Americans, a new national group, with uniquely American ideals, values, and sensibilities. The settlers had changed, and they therefore wanted to change their system of government to reflect their current ideas and sensibilities. Thus, the Revolution of 1776 was merely the formal culmination of the "real" revolution - the gradual change in mentality, values and political culture that had taken place in the hearts and minds of Americans during the colonial era.

Other historians - a minority opinion - argue that this was not a war of national liberation. They hold that Americans were not and did not see themselves as distinct from other Englishmen, and that they did not see themselves as connected to one another by a bond of nationhood before 1776. These historians hold that the American Revolution was a conservative revolution, a revolution designed not to change the status quo and create a new social and political arrangement, but to preserve the status quo. Americans were conventional and backward-looking Englishmen who wanted to resist changes that the British government was introducing to the Empire's system of government, such as new trade restrictions and tax measures, strong enforcement of imperial regulations, undercutting the jurisdiction of local courts, and otherwise expanding the reach of the central government at the expense of local autonomy.

The Albany Congress and Ben Franklin's Plan of Union play an important role in both interpretations of the American Revolution. Both groups of historians claim Franklin and the Albany Plan as evidence that supports their own understanding of the Revolution and its purpose. The Albany Congress convened (in Albany) in the summer of 1754, as the western and northern frontiers were warming up before the official outbreak of the French and Indian War (1755-63). It seated delegates from the middle and northern colonies and from as far south as Maryland to discuss matters of common concern - primarily Indian relations and frontier defense. Ben Franklin, who represented Pennsylvania, proposed his famous Albany Plan (supported by this popular propaganda cartoon: see below) which called for the formation of a supreme governing body over the American colonies. This government would be headed by a "President-General of the United Colonies" and a deliberative representative council composed of delegates from the different colonies. This continental government would deal with matters of common concern, like inter-colonial commerce, Indian relations, common defense, westward expansion and the like. Moreover, this government would have the right to tax the colonies to finance its operations.

Historians who argue that English settlers in America were being transformed into Americans during the colonial era see in the Albany Congress evidence that the colonists were already thinking of, and tinkering with, plans for union 20 years before the Revolution. These historians point to the Albany Congress as proof that these colonists were thinking of what connected them with one another - what common interests, concerns, and values they shared. They see in the Ben Franklin's Plan of Union evidence that American settlers were looking beyond their own colonial borders and seeking support from their fellow Americans, seeing their security and prosperity tied to some sort of continental union between their different colonies. To these historians, the Albany Congress was an important middle stage that arose from colonies that were disparate and atomized, and from colonists who were English in their frame of reference, to the Stamp Act Congress and the Continental Congress, and to settlers who saw themselves as Americans.

What is lost in this temptation to see the Albany Plan of Union as a precursor to the United States - specifically, to the US Constitution - is that the Albany Congress was convened not by any of the colonies, but by the Board of Trade in London. It was a British initiative, rather than an American one. Ben Franklin saw his plan as a way to strengthen colonial ties to Britain, and to integrate the colonies into the fabric of the British Empire. Moreover, not one single colony approved Franklin's Plan of Union. The colonies rejected the Albany Plan because they were not interested in an American government coordinating the policies of the different colonies and having jurisdiction over and within these colonies.

The Plan would have been a vastly better solution.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


M.B.A. Students vs. ChatGPT: Who Comes Up With More Innovative Ideas?We put humans and AI to the test. The results weren't even close. (Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich, Sept. 9, 2023, WSJ)

The academic literature on ideation postulates three dimensions of creative performance: the quantity of ideas, the average quality of ideas, and the number of truly exceptional ideas.

First, on the number of ideas per unit of time: Not surprisingly, ChatGPT easily outperforms us humans on that dimension. Generating 200 ideas the old-fashioned way requires days of human work, while ChatGPT can spit out 200 ideas with about an hour of supervision.

Next, to assess the quality of the ideas, we market tested them. Specifically, we took each of the 400 ideas and put them in front of a survey panel of customers in the target market via an online purchase-intent survey. The question we asked was: "How likely would you be to purchase based on this concept if it were available to you?" The possible responses ranged from definitely wouldn't purchase to definitely would purchase.

The responses can be translated into a purchase probability using simple market-research techniques. The average purchase probability of a human-generated idea was 40%, that of vanilla GPT-4 was 47%, and that of GPT-4 seeded with good ideas was 49%. In short, ChatGPT isn't only faster but also on average better at idea generation.

Still, when you're looking for great ideas, averages can be misleading. In innovation, it's the exceptional ideas that matter: Most managers would prefer one idea that is brilliant and nine ideas that are flops over 10 decent ideas, even if the average quality of the latter option might be higher. To capture this perspective, we investigated only the subset of the best ideas in our pool--specifically the top 10%. Of these 40 ideas, five were generated by students and 35 were created by ChatGPT (15 from the vanilla ChatGPT set and 20 from the pretrained ChatGPT set). Once again, ChatGPT came out on top.

We believe that the 35-to-5 victory of the machine in generating exceptional ideas (not to mention the dramatically lower production costs) has substantial implications for how we think about creativity and innovation.

One fondly recalls how intellectuals predicted that average was over because machines could do manual labor but not replace brain work.