Douglas Adams The Party – The Greatest Show in The Galaxy

Oggi, 11 marzo 2012, Douglas Adams avrebbe compiuto 60 anni, se non fosse morto a 49 l’11 maggio 2001.

To celebrate this event, Douglas’ family and friends, in association with ‘Save The Rhino’ (one of Douglas’ favourite charities) are holding a very special birthday celebration in his honour at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. An evening’s entertainment from some of the finest names in the world of science, comedy, entertainment and music, with a very special premiere performance of Douglas’ material, this is one event that is definitely not to be missed.

Get Tickets for Douglas Adams The Party – The Greatest Show in The Galaxy

Douglas Adams The Party - The Greatest Show in The Galaxy

Vorrei ricordarlo in 2 modi:

  1. Con le parole che scrisse Richard Dawkins il giorno della sua morte: «Science has lost a friend, literature has lost a luminary, the mountain gorilla and the black rhino have lost a gallant defender.»

    Douglas Adams

  2. The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything (di cui per la verità abbiamo già parlato qui) tratto dalla versione televisiva BBC (e non dallo stupido filmetto di qualche anno fa).

    There are of course many problems connected with life, of which some of the most popular are Why are people born? Why do they die? Why do they want to spend so much of the intervening time wearing digital watches?
    Many many millions of years ago a race of hyperintelligent pandimensional beings (whose physical manifestation in their own pan-dimensional universe is not dissimilar to our own) got so fed up with the constant bickering about the meaning of life which used to interrupt their favourite pastime of Brockian Ultra Cricket (a curious game which involved suddenly hitting people for no readily apparent reason and then running away) that they decided to sit down and solve their problems once and for all.
    And to this end they built themselves a stupendous super computer which was so amazingly intelligent that even before the data banks had been connected up it had started from I think therefore I am and got as far as the existence of rice pudding and income tax before anyone managed to turn it off .
    It was the size of a small city.
    The subtlest of hums indicated that the massive computer was now in total active mode. After a pause it spoke to them in a voice rich resonant and deep.
    It said: “What is this great task for which I, Deep Thought, the second greatest computer in the Universe of Time and Space have been called into existence?”
    “I speak of none but the computer that is to come after me!”
    Fook was losing patience. He pushed his notebook aside and muttered, “I think this is getting needlessly messianic.”
    “You know nothing of future time,” pronounced Deep Thought, “and yet in my teeming circuitry I can navigate the in nite delta streams of future probability and see that there must one day come a computer whose merest operational parameters I am not worthy to calculate, but which it will be my fate eventually to design.”
    “O Deep Thought Computer,” he said, “the task we have designed you to perform is this. We want you to tell us . . . ” he paused, “. . . the Answer!”
    “The answer?” said Deep Thought. “The answer to what?”
    “Life!” urged Fook.
    “The Universe!” said Lunkwill.
    “Everything!” they said in chorus.
    Deep Thought paused for a moment’s reflection.
    “Tricky,” he said finally.
    “But can you do it?”
    Again, a signifi cant pause.
    “Yes,” said Deep Thought, “I can do it.”
    “There is an answer?” said Fook with breathless excitement.”
    “A simple answer?” added Lunkwill.
    “Yes,” said Deep Thought. “Life, the Universe, and Everything. There is an answer. But,” he added, “I’ll have to think about it.”
    Fook glanced impatiently at his watch.
    “How long?” he said.
    “Seven and a half million years,” said Deep Thought.
    Lunkwill and Fook blinked at each other.
    “Seven and a half million years . . . !” they cried in chorus.
    “Yes,” declaimed Deep Thought, “I said I’d have to think about it, didn’t I? And it occurs to me that running a programme like this is bound to create an enormous amount of popular publicity for the whole area of philosophy in general. Everyone’s going to have their own theories about what answer I’m eventually to come up with, and who better to capitalize on that media market than you yourself? So long as you can keep disagreeing with each other violently enough and slagging each other o in the popular press, you can keep yourself on the gravy train for life. How does that sound?”
    “O people waiting in the Shadow of Deep Thought!” he cried out. “Honoured Descendants of Vroomfondel and Majikthise, the Greatest and Most Truly Interesting Pundits the Universe has ever known . . . The Time of Waiting is over!”
    Wild cheers broke out amongst the crowd. Flags, streamers and wolf whistles sailed through the air. The narrower streets looked rather like centipedes rolled over on their backs and frantically waving their legs in the air.
    “Seven and a half million years our race has waited for this Great and Hopefully Enlightening Day!” cried the cheer leader. “The Day of the Answer!”
    Hurrahs burst from the ecstatic crowd.
    “Never again,” cried the man, “never again will we wake up in the morning and think Who am I? What is my purpose in life? Does it really, cosmically speaking, matter if I don’t get up and go to work? For today we will finally learn once and for all the plain and simple answer to all these nagging little problems of Life, the Universe and Everything!”
    There was a moment’s expectant pause whilst panels slowly came to life on the front of the console. Lights ashed on and o ff experimentally and settled down into a businesslike pattern. A soft low hum came from the communication channel.
    “Good morning,” said Deep Thought at last.
    “Er . . . Good morning, O Deep Thought,” said Loonquawl nervously, “do you have . . . er, that is . . . ”
    “An answer for you?” interrupted Deep Thought majestically. “Yes. I have.”
    The two men shivered with expectancy. Their waiting had not been in vain.
    “There really is one?” breathed Phouchg.
    “There really is one,” confi rmed Deep Thought.
    “To Everything? To the great Question of Life, the Universe and Everything?”
    Both of the men had been trained for this moment, their lives had been a preparation for it, they had been selected at birth as those who would witness the answer, but even so they found themselves gasping and squirming like excited children.
    “And you’re ready to give it to us?” urged Loonquawl.
    “I am.”
    “Now,” said Deep Thought.
    They both licked their dry lips.
    “Though I don’t think,” added Deep Thought, “that you’re going to like it.”
    “Doesn’t matter!” said Phouchg. “We must know it! Now!”
    “Now?” inquired Deep Thought.
    “Yes! Now . . . ”
    “All right,” said the computer and settled into silence again. The two men fidgeted. The tension was unbearable.
    “You’re really not going to like it,” observed Deep Thought.
    “Tell us!”
    “All right,” said Deep Thought. “The Answer to the Great Question . . . ”
    “Yes . . . !”
    “Of Life, the Universe and Everything . . . ” said Deep Thought.
    “Yes . . . !”
    “Is . . . ” said Deep Thought, and paused.
    “Yes . . . !”
    “Is . . . ”
    “Yes . . . !!!. . . ?”
    “Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with in finite majesty and calm.
    It was a long time before anyone spoke.
    Out of the corner of his eye Phouchg could see the sea of tense expectant faces down in the square outside.
    “We’re going to get lynched aren’t we?” he whispered.
    “It was a tough assignment,” said Deep Thought mildly.
    “Forty-two!” yelled Loonquawl. “Is that all you’ve got to show for seven and a half million years’ work?”
    “I checked it very thoroughly,” said the computer, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”
    “But it was the Great Question! The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything!” howled Loonquawl.
    “Yes,” said Deep Thought with the air of one who suff ers fools gladly, “but what actually is it?”
    A slow stupe fied silence crept over the men as they stared at the computer and then at each other. “Well, you know, it’s just Everything . . . Everything . . . ” o ffered Phouchg weakly.
    “Exactly!” said Deep Thought. “So once you do know what the question actually is, you’ll know what the answer means.”
    “Oh terrificc,” muttered Phouchg flinging aside his notebook and wiping away a tiny tear.
    “Look, alright, alright,” said Loonquawl, “can you just please tell us the Question?”
    “The Ultimate Question?”
    “Yes!” “Of Life, the Universe, and Everything?”
    Deep Thought pondered this for a moment.
    “Tricky,” he said.
    “But can you do it?” cried Loonquawl.
    Deep Thought pondered this for another long moment.
    Finally: “No,” he said firmly.
    Both men collapsed on to their chairs in despair.
    “But I’ll tell you who can,” said Deep Thought.
    They both looked up sharply.
    “Tell us!”
    “I speak of none other than the computer that is to come after me,” intoned Deep Thought, his voice regaining its accustomed declamatory tones. “A computer whose merest operational parameters I am not worthy to calculate – and yet I will design it for you. A computer which can calculate the Question to the Ultimate Answer, a computer of such infinite and subtle complexity that organic life itself shall form part of its operational matrix. And you yourselves shall take on new forms and go down into the computer to navigate its ten-million-year program! Yes! I shall design this computer for you. And I shall name it also unto you. And it shall be called . . . The Earth.”

L’un per cento svedese, quello americano e quello italiano

Nel suo blog sul New York Times, il 10 marzo 2012 Paul Krugman (premio Nobel per l’economia, editorialista del NYT e liberal militante) interviene in una polemica sulla distribuzione del reddito negli Stati Uniti: The Swedish One Percent –

Premessa che potete saltare se siete persone informate sui fatti. Il movimento Occupy Wall Street (OWS) con lo slogan “We are the 99%” ha attirato l’attenzione sul tema delle crescenti diseguaglianze in termini di distribuzione del reddito e della ricchezza negli Stati Uniti tra l’1% più ricco e il resto della popolazione.

Recentemente (9 marzo 2012) è intervenuto sul tema Allan Meltzer sul Wall Street Journal (A Look at the Global One Percent) sostenendo che l’andamento di lungo periodo delle diseguaglianze è simile in tutti i principali paesi sviluppati e dunque non può essere attribuito alle politiche economiche (che sono state diverse da Paese a Paese e da epoca a epoca).

The remarkable similarity in income distribution across countries over the past century means domestic policy has less effect than many believe on who gets what.

Meltzer basa la sua argomentazione su un paper di due economisti svedesi (Roine, Jesper e Daniel Waldenström. “The Evolution of Top Incomes in an Egalitarian Society; Sweden, 1903-2004“. Journal of Public Economics, Vol. 92, Nos. 1-2, 2008 ) e ne trae queste conclusioni:

[…] an examination of changes in income distribution over nearly 100 years, not just in the United States but elsewhere in the developed world, does not bear this out. […] Jesper Roine and Daniel Waldenström compared the income share of the top 1% of earners in seven countries from the early 1900s to 2004. Those countries — the U.S., Sweden, France, Australia, Britain, Canada and the Netherlands—all practice some type of democratic capitalism but also a fair amount of redistribution.
As the nearby chart from the Roine and Waldenström study shows, the share of income for the top 1% in these seven countries generally follows the same trend line. That means domestic policy can’t be the principal reason for the current spread between high earners and others. Since the 1980s, that spread has increased in nearly all seven countries. The U.S. and Sweden, countries with very different systems of redistribution, along with the U.K. and Canada show the largest increase in the share of income for the top 1%.
The main reasons for these increases are not hard to find. Adding a few hundred million Chinese and Indians to the world’s productive labor force after 1980 slowed the rise in income for workers all over the developed world. That’s the most important factor at work. The top 1% gain relatively because they are less affected by the hordes of newly productive workers.
But the top 1% have another advantage. Many of them have unique skills that are difficult to replicate.

Roine Waldenstrom / Roine Waldenstrom

Prima di tutto, Krugman contrappone a queste tesi quelle di Daron Acemoglu e James Robinson – due economisti che stanno per andare in libreria con un volume intitolato Why Nations Fail e che sul loro blog hanno pubblicato il 9 marzo 2012 una risposta a Meltzer (Is the one percent the same everywhere?) articolata in 3 punti:

  1. Non è vero che l’andamento della quota di reddito dell’1% più ricco è andato crescendo nella stessa misura in tutti i Paesi sviluppati. Il lavoro di riferimento in materia è quello di Anthony Atkinson, Thomas Piketty ed Emmanuel Saez (“Top Incomes in the Long Run of History“. Journal of Economic Literature2011, 49:1, 3–71), che mostrano come gli Stati Uniti (e in misura minore il Regno Unito) si discostino nettamente dagli altri Paesi per andamento della quota di reddito dell’1% più ricco.

    Top 1%

  2. Nel periodo considerato i salari mediani negli Stati Uniti hanno ristagnato, negli altri Paesi sviluppati no.

    Salari mediani

  3. Non è chiaro come i cambiamenti della domanda di lavoro per le professioni a elevata qualificazione possa avere spinto così verso l’alto le retribuzioni del top 1%. Anche ammesso che ci sia un crescente premio retributivo per l’istruzione, questo non spiega come esso sia andato a vantaggio di una frazione così sparuta della popolazione a elevata istruzione.

Anche la critica di Krugman muove dalla critica delle fonti statistisiche e del loro uso e rinvia al poderoso database messo in piedi dai citati Atkinson, Piketty e Saez:

And you have no business talking about international income distribution if you don’t know about the invaluable World Top Incomes Database. What does this database tell us about Sweden versus America?, addresses the growing income inequality and wealth distribution in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population.

USA e Svezia

Il grafico presentato da Krugman gli permette di concludere sarcasticamente:

Hey, it looks just the same — or, actually, not.
Yes, the top one percent has risen a bit in Sweden. But how anyone could look at this and see the story as similar boggles the mind.

E l’Italia?

La medesima fonte permette di collocare l’andamento della quota di reddito detenuta dall’1% più ricco a metà strada tra quello statunitense e quello svedese. Nel 1978 il top 1% deteneva il 6,71% del reddito (contro il 4,47% della Svezia e il 7,95% degli Stati Uniti), mentre nel 2009 la quota era salita al 9,38% (nello stesso periodo, in Svezia sale al 6.72% e gli Stati Uniti al 16,68%). In altre parole, nel periodo d’osservazione negli Stati Uniti l’1% più ricco della popolazione – che pure partiva da una quota di reddito a sua disposizione più elevata – è riuscita ad appropriarsi di una quota doppia di quella iniziale, con dinamiche particolarmente sostenute nei periodo 1986-1988 e 2002-2007; in Svezia, che partiva da una situazione relativamente più equilibrata, il guadagno di quote è stato dell’ordine del 50%; in Italia, infine, dove la situazione iniziale era più diseguale (è da notare che soltanto nel 2009, alla fine del periodo, il top 1% svedese giunge ad appropriarsi della quota di reddito che caratterizzava l’Italia all’inizio del periodo), la crescita è stata particolarmente lenta (+40%) anche con riferimento a questo particolare fenomeno.