Archive for April, 2016

A few thoughts

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

1) Bernie supporters, while it would be great if the government would become more socialist, we don’t actually have to wait for it to live in a more socialist world. If your financial situation is above average, help your friends. If it’s below average, share the problems you’re having so people can help you, and accept help. Whenever possible, trade skills for skills to stay outside the tax system entirely. I’m sure we can think of a whole lot of ways to live in a more socialist way without needing the government’s help or permission.

2) As we’re woe-is-meing about the horrible horrible “other side” in political situations, remember my discussion earlier about how the conservative or liberal neurons in a natural neural network are both playing important roles. If you removed either the right-bias or left-bias neurons from a NNN, the results would not be good. The same is very likely true for big systems of humans. We probably need to find a better way to make this a blending of signals rather than a war – machine assisted telepathy is one of the things I like for this – but whatever your political bias, we need both you and your opposite number to make good decisions.

3) Look at the big picture. Most of us are fed, most of us are clothed, most of us have power, most of us have the ability to send a message anywhere in the world in milliseconds. Increasingly, we’re aware of the places where there are fundamental problems and we’re trying to fix them. Overall, the long term curve for Earth is very positive. If you doubt this, go read some history. The immediate situation often looks very screwed up, but if you look at the big picture, stuff is getting better.


Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

I remember the first Prince song I ever heard. I had bought a FM radio at a yard sale with a misaligned IF, and after twiddling a few tuning slugs in the back, it started bringing in some New York pop station. One of the first songs I heard on my newly operational radio was ‘Kiss’.

I of course loved it. I loved a lot of his music. Since hearing of his death, I’ve only played one Prince song (let’s go crazy), but the playlist in my head has included a lot more of them (Seven, Kiss, Little Red Corvette, When Doves Cry, among others)

I like writing music about sex, which gives me something in common with Prince. I imagine I have some other things in common with him as well, but there are also some striking differences – religion, mostly. I suppose right now he knows whether he was right or wrong. Or he doesn’t know anything at all.

I first heard he was dead on Brig. I think I was laying in my bed. My first thoughts were that it was too soon.

Electronic voting

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

So, I have a humble suggestion for making a good electronic voting network. What we need is widely deployed, hardened, secure, reliable computer terminals with some ability to identify the user. What’s that you say? We already have those, and they’re called ATMs? Why, yes, that’s exactly what I’m thinking.

I figure there aren’t that many models of hardened ATMs, and they’re all X86 based. It would not be that hard to deploy voting software to them. While we’re at it, let’s use modern crypographic methods to make sure that our votes were really counted. The ATM can print a receipt with a signature that you can go look up to make sure your vote made it to the vote aggregation centers.

The government could issue a ATM-esque card to every voter, that they could use to verify their party registration, vote, etc. The way the current ATM network works is probably a perfect model for how to handle this. People who already have bank accounts could even just use their current ATM card to authenticate themselves, although that might be going a little far.


Sunday, April 17th, 2016

So, watching Human has me thinking.. the general prevailing wisdom of religions is that we were engineered by a perfect being. But we’re clearly full of bugs, which people usually call a fatal flaw. If we were engineered, isn’t it more likely we were engineered by a previous version of ourselves?

I’ve talked about the bottom-up rather than top-down model a fair amount in various bits of this blog. I don’t see any advocates for it – people either believe we were created by flipping bits at random and testing the result against the environment, or they believe that we were created by a diety, which for the moment I assume to be a much, much larger and more advanced NNN.

But the bottom-up model makes the most sense to me.

the mechanics of thought

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

So, I have to wonder, if you could build a exact carbon copy of me – with the same neural nets connected in the same way – would it be functionally identical to me? Is there any ‘magic’ to us beyond the mechanics of thought? Would it experience the world exactly the way I do? Is it possible our whole world is the result of someone doing a exhaustive search for a particular neural configuration, one that responds in particular ways to particular inputs? Is it likely?

One of the thoughts I had recently is that we’re always encouraged to ‘be ourselves’. Except that the band of ways you can ‘be yourself’ without getting into trouble is very small, and shrinking all the time. A friend of mine posted on facebook that his community had passed a law against wearing your clothing in such a way that your underwear show. He was pleased – I am not. I am alarmed at how little freedom we have in the “land of the free”, and how fast it is eroding. What you wear is a form of freedom of speech.

Anyway, I seem to have wandered off my original point. Certainly, we don’t want a sociopath to “be themselves”. Of course, “Be yourself within certain boundaries” doesn’t sound nearly as nice.

I think I have widely different definitions of which those boundaries should be than most people. And it scares me that those boundaries get smaller every year. I like the idea of a widely diverse population. But it seems like unless you’re riding the exact middle of human behavior, there’s someone who doesn’t want you doing what you’re doing. And I guess I feel like they should be free to want that, but not able to enforce that. Some percentage of them have some political power, and they *do* enforce their beliefs on our behavior.

As a side note, increasingly it seems there is a move to force people to provide services even to those they disagree with, to fight discrimination. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of discriminating against gays or blacks or what have you – but I’m not sure this is the solution. I do think there should be a minimum subset of rights we all have. I do not think that owning weapons is on the list. I do think the freedom from having them aimed at you ought to be.

I do know that every law passed makes us less free – and we never delete laws, and we add new ones all the time. At this point only someone who does nothing but study the law could even keep track of what is and isn’t legal.

I don’t seem to have any consistent point or even thread of thought here, so I’m going to stop for now.