Archive for June, 2020


Friday, June 26th, 2020

I wonder if solar panels would sell better if they were marketed as ‘free beamed power receivers’

The Atari 2600

Friday, June 26th, 2020

So, while a lot of the roots of modern computing hardware can be traced to the Commodore Amiga, and a lot of the roots of modern software can be traced to Xerox Parc (along with modern networking), pretty much nothing can be traced to the Atari 2600 – and yet, it was one of the most influential computing systems of the 20th century.

The design of the 2600 can best be destribed as ‘cheap’. It’s kind of extrordinary to think that the system had so little memory that it could not even represent the first paragraph of this blog entry in RAM. I had wristwatches in the 80s that had more RAM than the 2600. It also lacked a lot in custom chips – there wasn’t a framebuffer, or a blitter, or.. much of anything, really. The CPU spent its time ‘racing the beam’ – taking advantage of the ‘downtime’ in NTSC while the electron beam swept back up to the top of the screen to do any computing needed to keep track of things like score counters or player sprite position (heh heh sprite yah right!) and focing all the effort of the CPU on actually driving the display while the beam was sweeping across the phosphers.

What the 2600 mostly gave us was A: a set of developers who could code for *anything* and B: a entire generation of people who learned that computers could be fun. The 2600 was so cheap that almost everyone either had one or knew someone who did, and it was small and light enough to be passed around amongst circles of friends. It had some surprisingly playable games for such a unenviable piece of hardware, which mostly speaks to just how dedicated humans are when it comes to entertainment. If we put the kind of effort into ceasing war and arranging for love for everyone that we put into moving little pixels around on screens we’d already be living in a utopia. For that matter, I feel pretty sure that if the people who designed some of the later game consoles (like the PS3 and the Wii) were permitted to design a economic system we would no longer have any reasonable reason to have wars.

It is pretty astonishing both how far we’ve come in terms of computing in the last 50 years and how far we haven’t come in terms of political systems. We are still just fine with a president who lies several times a speech, almost half of us still believe that helping people out is a sign of mental illness but lying in order to start wars isn’t..

I think the problem is that democracy is limited to the average intelligence of the group, whereas things like the 2600 – well, computers in general – are driven by the brightest and best. And I also suspect that various organizations – especially “news” organizations like Fox that have heavily spun news and outright fiction in order to fit people’s preconceived notions and make them feel good about voting for the death of their fellow man – pander to the lowest common denominator and try to drive it ever lower.

I can’t help but wonder, though, whether our votes are actually counted at all. The powers that be could have a hybrid paper/blockchain system that would let us all check the aggregation and also look for signs of malfeasance, but they have chosen to go with easily-hackable digital voting machines instead. Normally I tend to look down on conspiracies and “the illuminati are ruling us all” because honestly, Earth does not look that organized. On the other paw, it *really* seems like we should be further along than we are. So maybe the 20-yacht club, who love it when the cops kill the lowly peons because it makes them feel powerful, are in fact leaving us the *illusion* of voting to keep us from rebelling, but actually installing whoever they want whenever they want.

On the other paw, assigning a *toddler* the nuclear launch codes, which is what clearly has been done most recently, doesn’t make sense under *any* scenario I can think of. So maybe I’m just stuck in a video game and don’t know it. Or I’m hallucinating a mile a minute.

No More Dead Wildcards

Friday, June 26th, 2020

So, here’s a bit of movie soundtrack for you all. I like to think the triumphant ending is as the GOP is falling apart, the army and the police have been defunded, and we’re all melting down guns like Ringo Starr – we’ve finally figured out a religion that doesn’t make people get killed, all the Abrahamic religions are going down in flames, the ‘let’s lie to people and kill people so we can make more paper money that isn’t actually worth anything’ political crowd can’t find anyone to vote for them, and Donald Trump finally realizes how much damage he’s done and promises to never even try to lead a boy scout troop again, the people who value money over life have finally figured out that they’re making the world a worse place, and no one ever says again “The only good ____ is a dead _____”

Not likely. I’m sure my conservative friends will continue to defend the awfulness they vote for. But maybe in a movie, eh?

No More Dead Wildcards.

Imposter Syndrome

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

So one problem I do definitely have from time to time is imposter syndrome – the feeling like I’ve been faking things the whole time and don’t really have any idea what I’m doing. This is extra ironic when talking about programming since I’ve written so much code in so many languages, including a fair amount which has seen production or even is still running in production. I’ve also done a fair amount of successful system administration.

I can understand with the building a solar array why I feel like a imposter – I am not in any way, shape, or form a electrical engineer although I do know a fair amount about electricity. but I’ve built *lots* of stuff that used electricity in various ways and I have a very good feel – I think – for how it works.

Of course, I think I’d rather have imposter syndrome than dunning-kruger – I’d *really* rather be me than Trump, for example – but it doesn’t help my paranoia that I keep feeling like my coworkers will discover I’ve been faking it this whole time and I’ll be fired and shortly thereafter end up homeless and hungry.

As I said, I don’t even really think you can accuse me, in a real world sense, of faking it any more. I’ve read thousands of books. I’ve read millions of lines of code. I’ve *written* a million lines of code. I’ve done *all kinds* of stuff..

Ironically one of the places I most feel like a imposter is in my repeated attempts at a music career – and I *really* want to get to a place where I’m earning as much as I am now writing music (or alternately have set up some sort of residual income so I can retain my current quality of life while writing music) – I undoubtedly have thousands of hours spent understanding music, and I’ll also be the first to admit that I am not yet good enough to get paid to do it, although I also feel like I have made some really serious strides this year and might be a lot closer to that dream than I was..

ANyway, as I’ve talked about elsewhere, one of my problems is fishbowl decoration. I know that my conscious experience is not directly connected to whatever senses I might happen to have simply because that isn’t really possible within the architecture of the human mind. As such, I would like it if my CE would get a much more utopic experience than it currently is, but one of my issues is that my subconscious is deeply convinced that I don’t *deserve* a utopic experience.. there are part of me that are convinced that I do not deserve to live at all or if I do deserve to live I do not deserve to live the sort of life I want to live. I’m pretty convinced this is all deeply irrational but there’s not a lot at least thus far that I can figure out to do about it.

Anyway, the imposter syndrome sense is more than a little odd at times.

Individual freedom vs. Group safety

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

So, I’ve seen a lot of epicly dumb posts surrounding COVID. There’s obviously some people who don’t understand the ideal gas law or gas diffusion, there’s obviously some people who are paranoid schizophrenic to levels that make me look totally sane (I especially love the people who are convinced God will protect them. Evolution in action, I tell you)

One of the interesting questions is to what extent the group has the right to restrict freedoms of the individual for the best interests of the group. This is a slippery slope, and it’s very difficult to figure out how down it you should go. Common sense says that given how much wearing a simple mask reduces transmission, that requiring wearing masks is a reasonable thing. After all, we put up with being required to wear clothing (although I do think that there should not be laws requiring wearing clothing – I actually think this is more restrictive and less reasonable than requiring people to wear masks *where there is a demonstratable large safety advantage to the group*)

Anyway, I’m sure it’s a subject that people will be debating for centuries, and I don’t know what the right utopic answer is – I suspect the answer is different people will want different things. I also suspect it’s one of those things where the winning answer might be to have people inside a virtualized world where they have unlimited freedom even though their “real” body is subject to restrictions for the good of everyone.

A few more notes about the CRJ and cops

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

So, my suspicion is that those of you who are conservatives who are defending the police have not had the direct experience of having cops aim guns at you, cops threaten to beat you, cops physically hurt you for not kowtowing fast enough. I have had all those experiences. I have had police come to my door and threaten to beat me because they thought I was squatting in a house I was legitimately renting, for example.

And I also think you’re not thinking about how you’d feel if it was your child, or your wife, or your friend who was gunned down by the police either because they executed a no-knock warrant at the wrong address or because they just decided that that particular person looked threatening. Our police are out of control – as we’ve seen from how they treated protesters, they are *eager* to tear gas, *eager* to shoot rubber bullets, and totally willing to lie about how the protesters were throwing objects in order to justify it. We’ve seen our guardians slash tires, plant evidence, break windows, incite riots..

I think if it had been you, you’d understand the anger of all these people who *it has been*. They’ve ruined people’s lives over bullshit and trivia, over and over. They’ve murdered with impunity. They’ve abused their authority over and over.

At this point I think the system needs disassembled and replaced, and we need to be data-driven and result-driven when we do this. We need to stop thinking that punishing is *ever* a good thing, for example. A eye for a eye just makes everybody blind, and the actual guilty parties are probably usually so far back in history that there’s no way to even know who they are, much less enact any sort of revenge upon them.

I don’t know how we get from our current situation to something less dystopian, but I suspect some of it involves taking a deep breath and not acting from anger, either towards the police or from the police towards the citizens. It also involves recognizing that the bosses who stand on the necks of us all need disempowered – they have already proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they don’t have the best interests of humanity at heart. And I think Trump demonstrates that the same processes that make billionares also, at least some of the time, make profoundly broken people.

Criminal Justice System and who wants to work at it

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

I’m pondering that maybe you should never allow anyone who *wants* to be a judge or a politician be one. I also think you need to watch the cops who want to be cops closely – make sure they want to be cops for the right reasons. The problem is we have a bunch of thugs abusing their power – in general I’m not even convinced you should let the person who wants to run the neighborhood association do so, the issue is the odds of people wanting power not abusing it sooner or later are really, really low.

Distributed Fault

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

One of the things humans seem to love to do is oversimplify problems, fail to identify the root cause, blame a individual, and then punish them and feel good about how they’ve solved the problem. (Hint: They haven’t. They’ve made it worse)

One of the places I see this the most often is the criminal justice system. In the case of the black folk, we have perpetrated a whole bunch of brokenness (slavery, jim crow limiting access to education, and so forth) and then we blame them for being broken after we broke them, and we lock them up with a bunch of other broken people so they can all entrain on each other’s brokenness, and then we’re shocked when there’s a huge recidivism rate.

I agree in general with the people saying defund the police – I’d say let’s also defund the military, because they’ve thugged around in other parts of the world doing massive amounts of damage to humanity as a whole. What we need to do with the funds, though, is figure out where things are really broken and what we can do about it.

In general very few things are one individual’s “fault”. It’s a common failure of abrahamic religions that they paint the idea that we all have ultimate free will and we deserve torture or reward based on our behavior, but the truth is most people do not have a lot of free will as having a lot of free will turns out to be a *lot* of work. It’s the nature of our minds that we are the product of our environment and the box of options we can see open to us is generally fairly small. We tend to build decision trees based on past experiences of what worked and then anneal them until they are very nearly unchangable – witness all the staunch right-wing constitutionalists defending Trump as he shreds the constitution to enrich himself. (Of course it’s not exactly Trump’s fault either, as he is also a product of the life he’s led – he’s broken because his environment led him to be broken)

One can always wonder what would have happened if someone had bought hitler’s art.. and in general I think we should fund artists *regardless* of whether we think they’re any good or not because A: you have to start out bad and get good and B: we have *enough* to feed and house everybody – it’s just the bosses love enslaving folks and so they get off on having us all live in fear. And they are likewise probably the product of a broken culture that *they* grew up in.

Anyway, my basic point is, almost nothing is one person’s fault, and punishment is moronic. Consequences in order to provide negative training are a good idea – we don’t want to have *no* negative results. If you doubt this, try to teach a dog not to bark using only positive reinforcement and you will discover that positive reinforcement has some problems when trying to teach to *not* do something. However, those consequences should be designed to be just enough that the lesson is learned – punish someone out of proportion to their crime and you’ve actually broken their mind worse and justifiably built a desire for revenge into them. It’s true that there are some people who don’t think this way but it still doesn’t make sense to have punishments that are completely out of scale for the crime. (For example, steal $100, spend 10 years in jail, steal $100,000,000, get told what a good capitalist you are)

I do feel like I need to explore the idea of distributed fault that is a probability curve surrounding events more, because I am a product of my culture and I do often fall for the easy trap of simply blaming the most obvious source of the problem. And it’s undoubtedly true that even after we’ve managed to remove Trump and Mitch, the bugs in our culture that enabled them to get so much power and abuse it so thoroughly will still be there. We probably need a constitutional convention, but the bosses like that they can have the police beat us into submission and are not likely to go for having one.

Reminder about the ‘Tinfoil Hat’ category

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Posts marked ‘Tinfoil hat’ are to be taken with at least a few grains of salt. They may not represent the beliefs of my mind as a whole but rather just the beliefs of certain subnets, or they may represent beliefs I hold which I think are contradictory, illogical, or unreasonable.

More on conservatism

Sunday, June 21st, 2020

So, I understand the urge to save what’s good about a society – and after all as I’ve talked about elsewhere we must all have conservative neurons or we wouldn’t function, so there is certainly a *type* of conservatism that isn’t wrong and stupid. It’s just not the type we currently have. (You can almost say that the way our experiences become hardwired in a way that makes deletion incredibly difficult is a way that our entire brain is inherently conservative of experience, and that is also a desirable thing)

You can also quite rightly accuse me of being *incredibly* conservative – after all, I test every operating system update and will often refuse to install further upgrades once the operating system appears to be declining instead of advancing. I insist on rigorous tests before performing system upgrades, be they hardware or software. I like to have several backup plans based on most probable things going wrong at all times. And so on.

If ‘conservatives’ were conservative in the way I’m conservative about installing software, I’d welcome them and say they perform a very desirable role. The problem is, what we actually have is they are either A: in love with 1800 and want to go back or B: in love with paper money and willing to destroy real value in order to make more of it or C: in love with war and willing to kill millions of innocents – originally over things as stupid as whether we should be collectivist or individualist – not here in America, but whether other countries were allowed to try out collectivism – but now, even worse, just over lies and in order to make more money. (Weapons of mass destruction, anyone?)

Part of what’s alarming is that the conservative electorate appears to have no memory. Their side lies to them and kills millions of people but all they can do is pull the lever next to the conservative party because they’re afraid some bum somewhere will get some of their money. We’ve spent far more on our idiotic wars over resource system ideology – and destroyed trillions worth of resources, making the human race as a whole poorer – than we ever will giving someone food or a place to live.

Of course, some of this is that the powers that be have figured out how to manipulate the emotions and thinking of a conservative voter. (probably of a liberal voter and a progressive voter as well.. we’re all at risk of being brainwashed.. but it doesn’t irritate me nearly as much when millions of people aren’t being killed).

For example, they’ve sold some really insane thinking over the issue of abortion. Clearly if you believe in God you should A: notice that abortions happen spontaneously even without human help and B: conclude that God presumably has a perl script in place to route souls only to bodies that are going to be extant. If you don’t believe in God, then that is a blank tape, a empty neural net. But I digress. The point is, the conservatives grab the single issue voters who somehow don’t notice that they murder millions. They’ve got several different single issues that push people’s buttons – and *both* sides of the aisle write emails that are loaded with emotionally laden symbols and are trying to push people’s buttons as hard as humanly possible.

Now, if anyone wants to argue that both sides are corrupt, I agree. We need to not have a two party system.. among other things, with a two party system, the only people you can hire when you kick the bums out are the other bums. It’s great for crony capitalism and corruption, not so good for doing a good job at running things.

Anyway, the basic thesis behind conservatism is that the future isn’t going to be better than the past. That we shouldn’t try new things and see which ones work. Beyond that there’s also the thesis that there isn’t enough and won’t be enough and we need to make sure that everyone who isn’t putting their back into it starves. There’s also the thesis that we need to make sure the bosses are able to make everyone who is putting their back into it barely get by while the bosses have multiple yachts.

Now, we’ve reached the point where I actively loathe the right. Part of this is the posting by the president to a link to a video that says “the only good democrat is a dead democrat”. It’s very difficult for me to not be upset by this – I guess I thought the president was supposed to at least *try* to be the leader of everybody, not just his or her chosen party, and was supposed to consider the points of view of everybody. I would say that I pretty much want the GOP to cease existing at this point and be replaced by two different (or more) right wing parties. Of course, I’d also like the Democrats to *stop being a right wing party*. It also makes me wonder how many of my conservative friends think the world would be a better place if I was no longer in it.

I am pretty amazed at how effective brand loyalty is. I have conservative friends who are defending Trump even as he robs America blind and destroys everything. I am fairly sure if they had been told he was a Democrat, they would be attempting assassination by now. But, they believe he’s part of their tribe, one of their brand, so they are carefully blind to his awfulnes. There’s probably a interesting lesson about input filters and brand loyalty here, which perhaps I will find later.

I think part of the problem is that we should be insisting on everything being evidence based and data driven, but we instead would rather push for our ideologies even when they do not align with the data and fail reality testing. But one of the interesting things that happens is our view of reality bends with our beliefs so it’s actually kind of hard to know whether we’re being even remotely objective or not.