08 June 2015

Potable Software

If you watch "Jeopardy!", recall that in the middle of the first game, Trebek chats with each contestant, with the current champion generally getting the most leeway. A couple of times, although many years ago, I took the test (the first when Merv had the first casino in Atlantic City used for the tryouts, a converted hotel) and passed. Never got the call. I called my sister, who lives in the San Diego area, if she could find out what the deal was. What she found was that the producers mostly took walk-ins! Oh well.

Anyway, I occasionally consider what my patter would be during that intermission. Herewith:
I'm a writer, with two projects, one on macro-economics and one on databases and quantitative analysis. The macro folks tend think about what's best for all, while the quant types focus on what's best for just their employer. These concerns sometimes converge like this. Suppose you're an almond farmer in the Central Valley today. In order to beat the other farmers, you drill a thousand foot well and have plenty of water, and get a bumper crop of almonds (they're especially thirsty bits). You get rich, while those other farmers go poor. But what happens if all the almond farmers in the Central Valley drill thousand foot wells? If the strategy works, for the season, all the farmers have bumper crops, which explodes the supply and crashes the price. They'll all be lucky to have enough to pay for the wells. Nobody gets rich. Oh, and there's no more water left in the aquifer for anybody.

Fishermen face a similar problem. Always have.

A fanciful tale, some would say. Just another example of what Your Good Mother taught you: "what would the world be like if everybody behaved like you?". Gentle reader, you've read it here many times.

Turns out, not so fanciful.

Like it or not, the 19th century is long gone; those days of infinite supply of whatever resource made money. Hell, the Dust Bowl wasn't all that long ago.
"You drill a well on your property, you draw it out, even if it means you draw from under your neighbor's property," [Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory] says. "You're drawing water from every direction."
Underground water supply isn't fenced or restricted; it is moisture held in the soil, rocks and clay, and drawn through wells like soda through a straw.


Anonymous said...

Nice job. Something like the tragedy of the commmons, isn't it.

Robert Young said...

Yes, yes it is. When it comes to fighting a war of volition, "we're all in this together", but when it's anything else, "every man for himself". What a way to quantify.