Archive for August, 2016

Business idea

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Here’s a business idea for you enterprising types. Someone needs to create a business that does donation anonymization. In particular, I want to be able to donate to various causes without them having any idea what my mailing address, phone number, etc are. I don’t ever want them to spend my money asking me for more money. You could just take 1% off the top in exchange for providing this valuable service to the public, and then arrange with the various charities to never mail you, because after all your purpose in life is to provide anonymization. Long term it might not be that viable because as charities realize that people don’t want to be begged for more money, especially in paper mail while knowing what it cost to send those paper mailings.

I would suggest limiting the size of financial transactions through such a system to $2500 or so, to avoid a whole host of problems, including the one Centauri mentions in his comment below.

SEO

Monday, August 29th, 2016

I added a new feature to my website where it looks at the last 1000 access log lines and shows any mp3s that are in the list. I’m hoping this will help various web spiders be more aware of the fact that we’ve got lots of music here for the downloading. Anyone know how effective this is likely to be and what else I should be considering doing to have google and other web spiders notice me more?

Moody Blues, I know you’re out there somehow

Monday, August 29th, 2016

I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know I’ll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
And somehow I’ll return again to you

The mist is lifting slowly
I can see the way ahead
And I’ve left behind the empty streets
That once inspired my life
And the strength of the emotion
Is like thunder in the air
‘Cos the promise that we made each other
Haunts me to the end

I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere you can hear my voice
I know I’ll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
I know I’ll find you somehow
And somehow I’ll return again to you

The secret of your beauty
And the mystery of your soul
I’ve been searching for in everyone I meet
And the times I’ve been mistaken
It’s impossible to say
And the grass is growing
Underneath our feet

I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere you can hear my voice
I know I’ll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
I know I’ll find you somehow
And somehow I’ll return again to you

[Interlude:]
You see I know you’re out there somewhere
O yes I know you’re out there somewhere
You see I know I’ll find you somehow
O yes I know I’ll find you somehow

the words that I remember
From my childhood still are true
That there’s none so blind
As those who will not see
And to those who lack the courage
And say it’s dangerous to try
Well they just don’t know
That love eternal will not be denied

I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere you can hear my voice
I know I’ll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
I know I’ll find you somehow
And somehow I’ll return again to you

Yes I know it’s going to happen
I can feel you getting near
And soon we’ll be returning
To the fountain of our youth
And if you wake up wondering
In the darkness I’ll be there
My arms will close around you
And protect you with the truth

I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere you can hear my voice
I know I’ll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
I know I’ll find you somehow
And somehow I’ll return again to you

—-

Note to $person – if you read this blog, which I kind of doubt – I probably should create a separate tag for future-$person. I know you are not her yet. I have no idea how I ended up in such a strange situation – well, that’s not true, I have some guesses, most of which have to do with the futility of committing suicide inside a hypervisor that’s programmed to not let you die or possibly the concept of quantum immortality as part of MWI – but I won’t be showing up on your doorstep again unless something goes seriously wrong with my mind. If you ever discover that you have a Sheer-shaped hole in your life, feel free to approach me. I will understand that you’re not her yet, but still welcome you in my life.

You might want to review quantum immortality and MWI if that last bit didn’t make any sense to you.

And for the rest of you, no, I don’t think I’m currently any crazier than usual, or approaching insanity any faster than usual. I do think that my recent spate of creative activity has, as my friend Jeff would say, loosened my fibers some. But not anywhere near redline. I am sleeping every night.

good things about Christians

Monday, August 29th, 2016

To balance out the post in which I roundly criticize Christianity, I thought I’d list a few of the things that I see in Christians that I think are *good*. Obviously, as with the other list, Christians are such a large and diverse group that it’s difficult to say anything which would be true of all of them, so let’s go with things that I think you’d find in, say, 70%.

1) Belief in forgiveness, and that forgiveness is a positive trait

2) Belief in charity, and supporting and loving your fellow man

3) Belief in working together to solve problems

4) The idea that there might be something bigger than us, and that we might have been engineered

5) Encouraging the hope that the future will be better than the past

6) Encouraging empathy with your fellow man

7) Encouraging gratitude, which has certain neurological benefits I discuss elsewhere in this blog

It’s my intention that this be somewhat a dynamic and collaborative document, so feel free to comment with your own list entries.

Do I believe in God?

Monday, August 29th, 2016

So, with the recent post on religion, the question might come up whether I believe in God.

And the answer is, I don’t have a absolute, I am certain I am right, religious faith on the subject, but I tend to lean towards there being something larger than us, possibly many orders of somethings larger than us. I don’t believe in the God described in the bible – something that powerful and capable, which nonetheless is so insecure that *e has to refer to his name in all caps and has to have a throne with angels singing about how great *e is flying above it. I tend to think it’s very difficult for us to imagine beings smarter and more capable than us, something Larry Niven has talked about when discussing the challenges of writing aliens smarter than humans.

To the extent that I do believe in a God, it’s a God far better than the Christian one. Remember, I tend to think we are experiencing suffering for artistic purposes, not because we’re being punished – or possibly because of stupidity or technological foul-up. Despite what it says on the label (all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful) the diety described in the bible is fairly reprehensible and not at all all-powerful. (I could cite verses, but this isn’t that type of post)

I would like to see a better religion authored, but I don’t feel like I’m yet in a place of knowledge to be able to author such a thing myself – although I would refer people to a number of books which are really good tries, books like The Four Agreements and Conversations With God. I also think that The Great Divorce, even though ostensibly by a Christian, is a great book on the subject, proof that sometimes we transcend our religions or possibly that there’s a good way to load Christianity.

It’s also true that whether or not there is a explicitly defined diety, God must exist insofar as the concept has a number of reserved neurons in a number of neural networks – everyone who imagines that God exists helps God exist. This is part of the problem with Christianity – by imagining a inferior and undesirable God, they are degrading the potential God if God exists as the sum of the neurons that all of us assign to imagining God.

I do also think that insofar as our neural networks form filters which selectively inhance and inhibit data coming at us from our senses, if you have a religious-level belief in God, you will experience God even if God doesn’t exist. See earlier posts about the amount of computing power our minds represent. If this is going to happen to me, I want to make sure the God I exist is not the God of the bible.

Genesis, Keep It Dark

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Found that man reported missing,
He wandered in his home.
It don’t seem to bad if you consider
Just what he’s been through.

Seems he met up with a gang of thieves,
Who mistook him for a man of means,
They locked him up then found he had no money,
So they let him go again.
Now he’s back at home and happy
Just to see the kids.

I wish that I could really tell you
All the things that happened to me
And all that I have seen.
A world full of people their hearts full of joy,
Cities of light with no fear of war,
And thousands of creatures with happier lives,
And dreams of a future with meaning and no need to hide.

Oh, keep it dark.

It seems strange to have to lie,
About a world so bright.
And tell instead a made-up story,
From the world of night.

I wish, that I could really tell you,
All the things that happened to me
And all that I have seen,
A world full of people their hearts full of joy,
Cities of light with no fear of war,
And thousands of creatures with happier lives,
And dreams of a future with meaning and no need to lie,
No need to hate,
No need to hide.

Oh, keep it dark.

Heaven vs Hell

Monday, August 29th, 2016

So, one of the quotes that I’ve often given of my internal version of $person is “The people in heaven and hell inhabit the same physical space. The difference is in what’s going on in their minds.”

And, this may be one of my more tinfoil-hat thoughts, but it occurs to me it would be much easier to immerse people in a utopia and then degrade it inside their minds to be hellish than the other way around. Anyone who has studied information science knows that it’s much easier to take a optimal signal and degrade it than to take a suboptimal signal and enhance it – this is kind of the point of the oft-mocked Enhance Button trope.

Now, it’s really not unreasonable to think that I might be in $UTOPIA, experiencing $DYSTOPIA – since not a lot of horrible things are happening to me personally and almost all of them involve communication streams from other people, it would not be that difficult for my neural network to be ‘green-screening’ things – subbing out news and facebook with alternate signals to make it look like the world is a much worse place than it is.

I’ve talked about how our conscious experience is at some distance from our senses – there are many layers of neurons between the part of us that is on the ride, and the part of us that is detecting the ride. So, this isn’t as insane as it sounds on the surface. Of course, you kind of have to play it as it lays – you can’t know if what you’re experiencing is real or not, but you have to treat it as it is – if for no other reason than you wouldn’t want to risk the other individuals on the ride by treating it as if it was a video game unless you had absolute proof that there isn’t a monolithic reality and everyone is getting a custom feed of the ride, something which is rather hard to prove or disprove either way. (One of the things I’ve talked about is the challenges of authenticating God, or determining whether what you’re experiencing is a diety or mental illness)

And, I know there’s something wrong with my mind. It appears to me to be a rare and intermittent fault, but it could be that it’s far more prevalent than I think and that in fact most of what I’m experiencing is in some way altered by it. Debugging the system that’s damaged from inside the system that’s damaged is a challenge, which is why I have so much hope that my friends will choose to help me figure out what’s real and what isn’t rather than retreating from me in fear because there’s something wrong with my mind. Of course from my perceptions, I’m not the only one who’s a bit on the sick side – in fact, almost everyone I see here is crazy in one way or another. It may be, if evolution is the correct backstory for us, that we’re pushing the bounderies of the size or configuration of neural network that’s stable. Or, if you like my personal pet theory, the problem may not be the hardware but rather the memetic cruft that has built up over the years – bad software, malware even, which is resulting in suboptimal results.

As I’ve talked about before, it’s possible the reason I’m experiencing $DYSTOPIA is that I chose to do so, either because I wanted the experience for artistic reasons (This seems extra-reasonable when considering the current track I’m working on) or because I wanted a challenge. It’s also possible that I’m being punished for some previous behavior (karma) although it seems like if the purpose of the punishment is to help me grow, it might help to know what the behavior was. If the purpose of the punishment is just to punish, then the universe is governed by forces that are at least partially evil, and it could just be random or sadistic.

Anyway, if it’s not the work of a agent at all, but rather simple random chance that has led to me experiencing something less than utopic even though I’m immersed in a utopia (which is possible, see the thesis at the top of this post) then it seems like it very much behooves me to debug whatever’s wrong with my mind and figure out how to get back to the ideal experience. And, of course, if it’s possible within the confines of the amount of CPU I have available to me, it seems like it behooves me to be able to experience a utopia even if one’s not actually there. Clearly our minds have ample CPU to make up reality out of whole cloth (as I discuss in this article) so the question is how to I motivate the rest of my mind to work with my conscious experience to make this happen. In general, the ability to be a Bal Shem – to hack my neurological software to do whatever I want it to do – is a ability I often cultivate.

Christians in the process of making Hell

Monday, August 29th, 2016

So, one of the things that I think I’ve gone on about a few times before is how Christians, who ostensibly want Heaven, are busy making the world Hell.

I thought I’d list a few things that Christians – not all Christians, mind you, but enough of them – do which make the world less like heaven and more like hell. Whenever someone engages in one of these behaviors, I feel they are doing the work of the devil

1) Encouraging people to believe that if they are members of any other religion, they are wrong and are going to hell

2) Encouraging people to believe that $SUPERUSER is in the business of torturing people *e doesn’t agree with – or in general, that you should fear God. We’ve got enough to fear in the world we’re actually in.

3) Slut-shaming. Sex is one of the most positive experiences on earth, but Christians have this disturbing idea that you should only have it under certain circumstances, and if you do otherwise, you’re a bad person.

4) Encouraging people with alternate sexualities to think that they are less-than, sinners, incomplete

5) Encouraging everyone to believe that they are so flawed that someone “had to die for their sins”

6) Starting or promoting wars which are primarily over resource allocation (i.e. not sharing) or religion

7) In general encouraging people to think that they are less than, often for things which have no direct bearing on the Christian doing the less-than-ing at all. “If you’re not a member of my religion, you’re not as worthy of a person” “If you don’t do well on standardized tests you’re not as worthy of a person” “If you’re not interested in learning what *I* think are the important things to learn, you’re not as worthy of a person” “If you enjoy playing with your body chemistry, you’re not as worthy of a person”.

8) Promoting monogamy as the only true way, even though we seem to be neurologically and biologically wired to fall in love more than once. The bible even alludes to the fact that in heaven things would work differently (Luke 20:34-36). Why exactly are we not doing the optimal path now?

9) Making and promoting laws against freedom, even when the freedom doesn’t harm another person. Blue laws, laws against nudity, laws against flag-burning, things of that nature. Even worse, laws against people who like to have sex with members of the same gender, even though if we were really engineered, clearly said being had to put in a fair amount of neurological work in order to make things like being on the receiving end of anal sex feel good.

10) Encouraging people to believe that they should be required to have children if they conceive, even though it’s inconceivable that a omnipotent being would connect a soul to a body that wasn’t going to be extant and, if one is of a more scientific bent, highly unlikely that bodies that don’t have a large, functional neural network are self-aware.

11) Encouraging people to embrace a system of beliefs that contains unresolvable logic failures, which damage their ability to think rationally

12) Encouraging parents to try and encourage their children not to be sexually active, promoting a inevitable neurological war

13) This may be kind of a repeat, but thinking that they are “God’s Chosen People”, and by extension, everyone else isn’t. This is again the kind of ‘I’m better than you’ thinking that I feel like is at the root of a lot of the evils of the world. In the old testament, this “I’m better than you” goes as far as “It’s okay for me to slaughter you like cattle even though a you’re thinking, feeling, self aware creature just like me because God Said So”

14) Encouraging children to imagine a being of pure evil – children have a lot of unassigned neurons, and imagining the devil literally brings him to life in their mind. (Of course, as my friend Jeremy points out, it is far from clear that the devil is evil – if he was against the being described in the old testament, he was at least sometimes for humanity, although clearly from the story of Job he wasn’t all good either)

15) Encouraging people to wait for heaven, instead of building it here now.

16) Encouraging people to believe in a $DIETY that builds traps into the world – Just one of many examples is that the bible says “Suffer not a witch to live” (Ex 22:18) but if witchcraft works, it’s clearly because the universe has a built in API for modifying reality which $DIETY would have had to have created – and if it doesn’t, then it’s pretty harmless.

17) Promoting the idea that the bible is a book we should be using as a yardstick to measure our lives. It was written by people thousands of years ago wandering around in a desert, people who knew far less than we know now, people who mistook their prejudices for natural laws. It contains numerous irresolvable logic failures, one of which I discuss above. Yes, it’s got some beautiful ideas and some beautiful poetry in it, but it’s far from a perfect book that you should make the center of your universe, in my opinion. I’m not the only person to have doubts on this subject, see this and this.

18) Attempting to slow down medical technology – in particular I’m thinking of things like Stem Cell research but I suspect this is going to come up with cloning, artificial neural networks, and all sorts of other things of that nature. Look, there’s supposed to be a all powerful diety, why exactly do you need to be the moral guardian of things which don’t hurt self-aware beings in any way and could alleviate suffering

19) Encouraging people to spend time in prayer that they could otherwise spend actually figuring out how to fix the problems that they’re praying about

20) Encouraging people to ‘trust the $SUPERUSER’ for things that in fact there might not be a superuser watching – I’d use global warming as a example of this, but I’m sure there are numerous examples

21) Encouraging the idea that if $DIETY does it, it must be moral – the “Where does a 900 pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants to..” theory of reality.

22) Promoting the idea that women are “less than” men and should be silent (1 Corinth 14:34) or submissive. This is abusive to both women and men.

23) Giving a group of people temporal power who probably should not have it – I’m thinking of the catholic church here, and the pope in particular – although I like the current pope, I’ll like him a lot more when and if he comes out and says that birth control is not immoral.

24) Encouraging parents to brainwash / indoctrinate their children while they are still too young to understand the isuses and questions involved, which seems to have a very bad effect on neuroplasticity.

Christians, it’s not that I hate you – I hate the software you’re running. I love you and want you to stop making the world a worse place, because among other things you have to live here too, so you’re not just hurting me, you’re also hurting yourself.

I also recognise that it’s possible that the religion is perfect and it’s being degraded inside my neural network or that the problem has more to do with the fact that different people want different things. However, what do you do when the things you want are getting in the way of the things I want?

(See also a list of good things about Christianity)

It’s my intention that this be somewhat a dynamic and collaborative document, so feel free to comment with your own list entries.

marketing

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

So, I’ve been thinking about the challenges of getting my upcoming solo album to turn a profit. In terms of Sheer Time, if we estimate each track at 20 hours, I’ve got to sell a total of 20,000 units, or have people stream 2 million times in order to break even with my hourly rate at my day job.

This is harder than it looks. Even if we assume that I’m skill-wise the equivilent of Pink Floyd (probably a questionable assumption, but let’s run with this) we still have to figure out some way to get the public to notice I exist. With a band, there’s at least some hope that friends of all four or five guys are going to notice and tell their friends. With me, my word-of-mouth seed starts from one person.

Also, I’m definitely tuning this album for my personal tastes, rather than what’s currently ‘the popular sound’. As a result, it’s going to be that much more difficult to get people to notice it. I think this makes sense insofar as I’m not likely to move enough units for it to make a profit, so I might as well enjoy myself, but it’s still worth noting that I’m not exactly taking the shortest course here.

My gut feeling is that it will be my next album, not the one I’m releasing in December, that breaks even. I’m guessing by my next album I will be past that magic 10,000 hours that everyone says you need to have to make it.

It’s a little frustrating that if I were a pointless political facebook meme, I’d have no trouble getting 2 million views.

House of the rising sun

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Recently I realized that while I’ve played it many times live, I’ve never done a studio version of House Of The Rising Sun.. as it’s my favorite blues song to cover, I figured I should do something about that.

http://sheer.us/stuff/2016/Sheer.HouseOfTTheRisingSun.mp3 is the result. I gotta say, I dig it. I haven’t decided if it’s going on the album yet or not.. perhaps you all can vote 😉

Complete credits:

Everything: Sheer (it reminds me of the Pump Up The Volume bit where Nora asks HHH “You did this?” “Me and Radio Shack”. Only it’s “Me and a multitrack deck..” )