Archive for the ‘Resource Allocation Systems’ Category

Money sucks, part 2

Sunday, August 2nd, 2020

Ok, so leaving aside how often capitalism makes us optimize against the best interests of either the race or individuals, I wanted to talk about a way that money sucks that as far as I can tell applies to almost every single large scale resource allocation system ever built.

Even in “Comminist” and “socialist” countries, they end up using money. And the problem with this is that not all actual real goods are created equal, but every transaction involving money throws away all metadata. So you can trade your paper rubles or dollars or francs or what have you for your resources, and we have completely lost track of what went into those resources. People keep talking about how the “invisible hand of the market” will solve everything, but as far as I can tell, the invisible hand of the market is A: myopic B: slow C: wasteful and D: not really how we should be wanting to do things.

Lately COVID has given us some excessive examples of this. Ideally we would have just stopped pumping as much oil when we realized we weren’t burning as much, but because this didn’t happen, for a while barrels of oil literally had a *negative* value.

Now I get that you could not, pre computers and networks, track every single type of fixed good and inventory on hand. However, things have changed, and I really think someone should be sitting down and working on designing a resource allocation system that is properly tuned to what we can now do.

P.S. Money sucks

Saturday, August 1st, 2020

So, I know I’m repeating myself here, but the whole COVID thing really does underline how we need to be more agile in our thinking regarding resource allocation. At the end of the day we’re likely to get millions of people killed (by the end of this) and a large number of these deaths are because we can’t let go of the idea of money and we can’t just let people have the things they need for free until we’re on the other side of this pandemic.

Now, I understand that a lot of this is that a number of evil ideas are pervasive on earth.. and I know that various right wing friends of mine are horrified at the idea that anyone could get anything for free and are convinced that this would lead to us all starving because no one would work. I think this shows a lack of understanding of human nature, although it may be true that humans should go extinct and be replaced with something else because it may be true that we simply suck too much to continue existing. We certainly are one of the most destructive to other life forms species to ever live – one of the problems we have is that we don’t have any natural predators that can really take us on, and we breed like rabbits, so we’re going to overload the ability of the planet to generate resources sooner or later unless we change the way we think about the world. I’ve made the suggestion that we should start creating software (in the form of neurological interconnects) for our minds such that we can experience having anything we want while not actually placing any load on the planet for physical resources at all – once we learned to do that we could likely also become immortal by moving the software that was us from body to body, and we could do things like using hypervisor-like structures to do the necessary work to keep everyone fed while also providing the conscious experience whatever we wanted.

And we may or may not get there, however, in the meantime we still have this problem that we have a resource allocation system that is fragile as hell. Pandemic? economic crash. Volcano? Economic crash. Flood? Localized economic crash. It also encourages stupid decisions – like building stickbuilt houses in flood areas when we could build houses that could survive flooding without damage – we could also build fireproof houses, cars that need virtually no maintenance, and a number of other similar things but people are too in love with a system where everyone must work. I personally think the system where everyone must work is awful and should be torn down.. it’s one of the many many things about Earth I would criticise. But perhaps I’m just too negative in my thinking and Earth is actually perfect and providing everyone but me with what they want and need.

(Or perhaps not.)

COVID, government response to economic situation, etc

Monday, April 20th, 2020

So, I notice the government is still thinking of economic stimulus in terms of let’s keep those dollars circulating. This makes sense because if all the dollars end up in the hands of the billionares, the dollars are suddenly worth nothing at all and the rest of us will create a new currency. However, in terms of keeping us all alive and healthy during this pandemic, passing out money is not the right thing to do.

We have no idea if the USD is even going to be worth the paper it is printed on when this oil war is over, and certainly if the government keeps printing money idiot economists are going to tell us it should be worthless. (There is some level at which this is true, but we’re obviously nowhere near that level if we’re having to loan money into existence)

Anyway, the right solution is to hand out ration booklets, a la WWII. Except, no money changes hands. You’ve got coupons for N calories of food – you can choose whatever food you want, we probably would exclude luxuries like lobster which would still be paid for in USD, but for the most part anything we can cheaply and easily mass produce goes on the list of things you can buy with your coupons. You’ve got coupons for N kwh of electricity, N cubic feet of water, N gallons of gasoline. We have some sort of arrangement via which you can barter the ones you don’t need for the ones you do, and we also give out more resources to the essential workers than to the folks just staying home.

We combine this with rent and mortgage forgiveness for your primary residence, and 0% interest on all outstanding secured debt until the emergency is over.

You see what I’m doing? I’m putting us on the bucketed currency system. *This will work* much in the way that printing checks for $2000 a person per month will simply result in the price of rent becoming $2001 for each person. Essentially this recognizes that capitalism is flawed, and very poorly suited to deal with this type of situation, but we shouldn’t starve to death in the midst of plenty, so let’s temporarily use production for use instead.

Of course, the powers that be won’t do this. They’re not smart enough, or they wouldn’t want to be in charge of things. They also lack mental agility, and even if they didn’t most of our citizens lack the mental agility to consider this situation a war, and know that we need to use different approaches during wartime than we do during peacetime.

Companies, stop being so shortsighted

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

So, one of the problems I keep running into with $COMPANY is that they are making decisions which make short term profit at the cost of long term profit. They keep encouraging their employees to sell .. with increased commissions.. while not having equipped all the employees to sell online or having prohibited in person events. This is a really dumb thing to do, but it reminds me of my conversation with a carny who was setting up a ride at the Prince William County Fair.

He was being really intent, carefully checking every bolt, every cotter pin, and he told me “Kid, you never want to kill a mark. You want them to come back next year so you can fleece them. Kill one mark, and a thousand marks won’t come next year because they will be too afraid. I check my ride until I’d be willing to let my own kids ride on it.”

The logic which doesn’t escape carnies but does seem to escape $COMPANY is that encouraging selling right now if it risks in person interfacing is potentially killing both customers and employees and therefore costing long term profits. I understand that we are not mentally adaptable enough to switch to a alternate RAS just for this emergency and then switch back – that we’d literally rather die than do anything that smacks of collectivism. All I can do is sit back and watch the carnage. Lately I’m thinking the USA will be 5x the deaths of the nearest competitor.

You Idiots, You’re Not Hoarding Wealth, You’re Hoarding Pointers!

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

So, as I’ve talked about before, money is a pointer in the C sense of the word. It isn’t the actual value, it’s a token that represents the value. If you missed that part, go back to the top of http://moneynotvalue.sheer.us and come back and join us when you’re done.

Okay, so, here’s how our current resource allocation system can actually make real value disappear.

At some point, some jackass who didn’t understand that money is a pointer invented the idea of “interest”. Call it what you like, vig, whatever. Once you have interest in the system, several things happen:

1) The “wealthy” i.e. those who already have too many of the fucking pointers.. get more pointers. Which they can then use to capture even more pointers. However, if the pointer dissapears, the value is not gone. If you destroy the value, the pointer points to nothing. Go ahead, grab a C compiler and try it. I’ll wait.

2) The “poor” i.e. those who don’t have all the tangible resources they need but don’t have the tokens.. get less real stuff, and more of it sits on the shelf. Some types of stuff LOSE VALUE – REAL VALUE – as they sit on the shelf. I gesture you to milk as a prime example. So we end up wasting resources – real resources – because of these stupid clowns who don’t understand the difference between the map and the territory.

2.5) A reminder.. when the creators can’t get enough tokens they can’t create wealth. So by hoarding pointers, the “wealthy” are making us all – *INCLUDING YOURSELVES* – less wealthy. Real wealth isn’t a million dollars, it’s a bunch of friends and a holodeck. And, as I’ve talked about before, if we work together we can write neurological software that will give us all a holodeck! without draining the planet’s resources at all and while our bodies continue to keep the lights on.

3) The “wealthy” become increasingly afraid someone will steal their hoarde. Because we were designed by evolution in a world where resources were scarce and we were competing with tigers and other things that outclassed us until we became tool users, we have built in fear about losing resources because in most of the race’s lifespan, losing resources meant starving to death. That’s hardwired in.

4) The “poor” become increasingly afraid to take risks, which results in less of the ACTUAL VALUE. For example, musicians who end up flipping burgers instead of recording all that great stuff because they’re afraid they won’t be able to eat and live indoors, and thusly afraid they will die.

So, all the brokenness will go away if we make a few basic changes to money, which I’ll talk about in a future article. For now, you assholes who are hoarding too many tokens.. you know who you are.. those tokens are not value, and the only type of power they give you is the power to cause something like the current COVID-19 crisis to blow up enourmously. We can safely bet the USA will be on the *top* of the cases and deaths list, because people are afraid to leave their jobs, because you assholes couldn’t get your shit together to have a plan, and talk it over *before* the next pandemic, where we would temporarily switch to a simple go/no go system for resource allocation instead of dollars in the bank. See “This Perfect Day” for a example of how this can work. (Yes, I know it’s a dystopia, but that part is pretty utopic)

I will also mention, as a side note, that resource allocation systems are like operating systems or any other type of tool, YOU USE THE RIGHT ONE FOR THE JOB! We *need* full on collectivism right now. However, we can’t get there from here, because:

A) No one realizes what time it is. To me, it is obvious that whenever we punch the brakes on the disease, it’s going to be two weeks before we see the output side of that. Procject a moving average filter of the number of cases per day into the future two weeks and tell me that our “built for profit” health care system is even going to be able to pretend to cope. And yet, people are still billing and suing each other. Guys, I am declaring a emergency. Pilots out there will know that at this point we have three priorities – Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. All three are directly related to keeping us alive to fly another day. No one wants to bend a airplane but if you kill yourself trying to save the airframe you are a moron who does not understand we mass produce these things in factories all day long and they are replacible, we are not.

Similarly, companies are replaceable, individuals are not. The company I work for (a multilevel marketing firm i.e. a system where you sell to your friends, usually at in-person “parties”) who will remain nameless has not yet announced they are turning off minimums (the value under which you get no commission for your team and may also be kicked off the island) and they encourage people to prioritize survival above selling. Not only that, they want to raise commissions, incentivizing people to continue to sell. The big risk here is a lot of these people have believed the lies of the president and other conservatives and therefore will have in-person MLM parties, encouraging the spread of the virus and costing us lives. I ask you, if even one employee has to die, is it not better that the company die instead? We can always build another of those. We can’t replace ANY of the people. (To their credit, they do have a option to do the parties virtually. But even though I’ve put them in a position to release it to everyone, to the best of my knowledge they have not done so)

Look at the exponential growth curve on this thing and grow up. It’s time we prioritize survival, we will figure out the bills when we’re done. And if any hospital is still running their billing department, hopefully their charter will be lifted and they will be handed to the government when we’re done. They have failed to understand that as a species, we are all connected, and the thing they are collecting isn’t the value, it’s a bunch of stupid, potentially worthless pointers – but most people are not exposed enough to all the ideas I have been exposed to to be able to see money that way.

B) The milgram effect keeps a lot of the people who *do* see the situation for what it is from doing the right thing. I talk about elsewhere in this journal how we are a loosely confederated collection of subnets and most of those subnets have no great way to authenticate information sources or the validity of information. Therefore, when people project authority and claim authority we tend to follow their directions even when we know they are wrong.

C) Beyond this, a deeply wired fear about starving to death and freezing to death kicks in whenever our ‘Jobs’ are threatened, because the wealthy (who would be far more wealthy if they hadn’t done this) hoarded a bunch of pointers that in fact are just pointers and have no real value. Hint for you rich folks: you *need* the rest of us. Go read my essay on resource allocation as a group, and let me know how you’re going to be more wealthy after the crash you’re causing right now by not just announcing “here, take it all, spread it as needed, avert those people’s fears so they can stay home instead of spreading this fire further and faster.

This is a fast moving wildfire, folks. We gotta smarten up if we’re going to come out of it ahead.

The problem with computers and networks

Sunday, August 4th, 2019

So, one of the things I’ve been saying is that one of the necessary ingredients for a successful collectivist system is good computers and fast networks – and also a *lot* of software designed to protect against corruption and against dictatorship. I could write a book on that subject alone – and maybe I will – but for the moment, I want to focus in on one particularly broken thing which is why I’m thumping the drum so hard for collectivism.

I have friends both in high and in low places. I have hung out with billionaires and with hobos. One of the things I observe is we have made the hoops you have to jump through in America way too difficult to clear – and the billionaires don’t know this, I don’t think, and the hobos do. I seldom see it spoken of, but one of the problems with good computers and fast networks is that it gives the human race perfect memory. That’s a good thing when we’re talking about capturing the latest performance of a musician or ideas of a scientist but it’s not so good when we’re talking about the economic systems.

One thing I’d like to point to – if you rent, and you get evicted, you have a *extremely* short list of places that will rent to you – maybe none in some big cities. Make one mistake, and you’re homeless. And the people who maintain this system feel good and smug and happy about it – but it adds to the chains that make us all a slave. There’s not a lot of margin for certain types of error in America, even though some people are inclined to make certain types of error. We’ll hand you a credit card without explaining compound interest to you, we’ll let you get evicted before we tell you ‘welcome to the ranks of the homeless’, and we’ll charge you with a felony for very small and stupid stuff and then tell you ‘welcome to the ranks of the homeless and unemployed’. And then we’ll throw you in jail again for not having a job.

We need to be a little more forgiving here. With evictions, it should probably be three strikes and you’re out, and after the first we offer you some counseling and education about financial management.

We act as if the human race is barely holding on – as if every dollar counts, as if we’re all about to starve. The media has programmed most of the people here to be horrified that a bum might be getting a free beer somewhere. But the truth is, humanity is the dominant species of earth. We’re so rich it only takes 5% of us to feed all of us, and we can use robots to build houses for us at this point. We’ve just been programmed to believe being horrible to each other is the right thing to do.

I’ll go on more about collectivism later because I don’t want to get sidetracked here, but I do think it’s important to recognize that we have built a system that for no good reason throws people under the bus at every opportunity, and then remembers that it has done so and refuses them again and again. This *costs us all*. People who are frightened don’t take the kind of risks that enrich all of humanity.

Collectivism and money

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

One of the interesting realizations I had recently is that one of the mistakes that has been made in attempts to implement collectivist economies in the past is the insistence of sticking to “money” – i.e. the idea that you can successfully represent the value of everything as a single number. I’ve talked in the various bits about bucketized currency about why you can’t accurately model value in the real world just by using one price, and I’ll probably go on about it at some length again later, but for the moment, let me just mention that if you’re not using flow-based resource management or production for use, you’re still falling into a lot of the fallacies that keep breaking the capitalist system. I know that the USSR, for example, had a currency, which makes me suspect that it was not really all that collectivist.

One of the things that I keep noticing is how various failures to track and respect value tend to make the on-paper accounting system get out of whack with the real world, and how this leaves us with the impression that we are broke when in fact we are not. I’ve come to the conclusion that the powers that be like it that way – seeing Trump has finally convinced me that there really are people like the villains in Disney films, who cackle gleefully at the idea of enslaving others and are overjoyed to know that somewhere, someone is suffering because of decisions they made.

Of course, those disney villain types are a lot of what makes designing a resource allocation system so difficult. If everyone was going to play fair and within the rules, we wouldn’t actually need a RAS at all – a few large warehouses full of stuff per community and a agreement to clean stuff up and bring it back, and to fix anything that gets broken, would be all we would need. But, of course, any time there’s a system someone is going to have to try and game it. And clearly there’s some people who take great joy in making sure they get the biggest slice of the pie – even, ironically, if they’re *getting a smaller piece than they would have if everyone had gotten the same slice*. (That is, as far as I can tell, where we currently are – if we worked together and implemented some of the technologies I have spoken of elsewhere in this blog, we’d all be – at least in terms of the experiences we were having – rich beyond the dreams of avarice. But the people with the most resources – the ones who could most help make that happen – would rather be known as the head cheese, than have more because we all have more)

Anyway, back to my original point. One example of this is overdraft fees. Now, first of all, these obviously don’t represent anything rational in the real-value world. It didn’t cost the bank *anything* that the overdraft occured, other than the very tiny loss of imaginary fractional banking reserve headroom. In the real world, no resources were lost. However, the bank robs (no other word for it) the customer based on the overdraft, thusly making the accounting system get out of whack with real world resources.

I don’t know that the USSR specifically had overdraft fees, but I do know that not all dollars – or rubles – are created equal, so any time you have the idea that you can put a price on something you’re probably falling for the fallacy of price. A dollar that buys a robot-farmed apple is a much “cheaper” dollar than a dollar that buys a handmade item made by a craftsman. A dollar that buys power generated by coal is a much more expensive dollar – measure in suffering or in dead people, your choice – than a dollar that buys power generated by a nuclear plant. We try to use scarcity to set price, but this isn’t that reasonable a thing to do and encourages gaming of the system (I gesture you to Enron shutting down all of California’s peaker plants so it could make millions off of how power had suddenly become scarce). The truth is, the idea that it’s rational to give things a price tag is a fallacy. And yet, we do need to encourage people to conserve scarce resources, and to budget and make decisions based on what’s most important to them. How to do?

We need a new -ism.

Saturday, October 6th, 2018

So, For a long time, I thought I liked communism. Then I learned that communism means the state owns all the resources, and doles them out only to the people it likes. I’ve not yet met a state that I trust with the lives of all my fellow citizens – not while the state is made of fallible people.

Then I thought I liked socialism. After all, socialism is a collectivist system where the resources belong to the workers. That seems fair. But wait, now we have to trust the workers. The phrase that jumps to mind is ‘tyranny of the majority’, courtesy of the founding fathers warning why a direct democracy is a dangerous beast.

What I’m looking for is a -ism that starts where a system is currently at and attempts to crossfade to a more utopic world by replacing wage slavery with automation, and replacing whatever system of governance is in place with a meritocracy that takes advantage of modern technologies to allow direct topic-subscription democracy with weighted voting with the voting controlled by knowledge of the topic being voted on and the opinions of the collective on the individual’s skill level at voting on that topic.

I’ve realized I want a new -ism, a form of collectivism that hasn’t been made yet. I would describe this -ism by the following traits:

a) We ensure that at all times, Earth will remain inhabitable for the foreseeable future. This includes building a skywatch and technology sufficient to swat any pesky asteroids away. It *definitely* includes reducing the amount we live on the capital rather than the interest. One thing we can stop doing is giving people makework jobs that they burn fuel getting to.

b) We attempt to allow people to work in any job they want. To the extent that they can’t do it, we assist them with automation, but we never allow automation to take away a experience someone loves.

c) We attempt to give people any experience they want. To the extent that this is possible, we generate these locally inside their minds with neural software. When this isn’t practical, we use virtual reality techniques for things we can’t actually afford to deliver, and what we can actually afford to deliver, we do deliver. I think we could reach a place where most physical possessions were replaced with neurological software that could easily be copied, reducing our load on the planet while making us far more wealthy than we currently are. I’ve talked about this elsewhere in this blog.

d) For wealth that will always be needed – food infrastructure, housing – we attempt to build wealth that will last at least a thousand years. This will involve it taking longer to build the houses, and using more expensive technology, but it will still be far cheaper than building houses once every hundred years.

e) For any job humans *don’t* want to do, we automate it. We build *good*, reliable, man-rated automation – we take our time, because we can afford to. As #e kicks in more and more, we will have more and more excess wealth.

f) We attempt to *not* make disposable, useless in a few years stuff. We’re trying to build a system that will still be standing tall in a thousand years.

g) We attempt to provide sustenance living for all. Eventually, we attempt to provide luxury for all. Along the way, we offer better experiences to those who work hard, study hard, lean in, and help lift us all. While we might not want to use capitalism in it’s current incarnation, we need to still have competition, and rewards for success, because we’ve got a lot of speed to build up before we have lift, and not a lot of runway left.

h) We acknowledge that we can not afford to do everything for everyone right away. We develop a rigorous scoring system for identifying which goals are the most important and we prioritize those.

i) We recognize that the current system rewards a lot of people that are actually harming us all, and redesign it so it can’t. We need to design a system that actively *expects* to be gamed, and either gains by being gamed or is non-gameable.

j) We need to replace laws with algorithms that we can all agree are fair. We need to replace voodoo morality like religion with morality that we can demonstrate mathematically (i.e. number of people hurt * time of pain * severity of pain = unit indicating how much damage a particular action is doing). More on this later, since I have a pretty functional mathematical system of morality I use. In general, if you can write a meta-statement like a algorithm that solves the problem, it’s a much better solution than a law.

k) If possible, we should be trying to build some people smarter than we are using AI. We *need* help, the current system is running on the edge of disaster and we’ve pretty thoroughly proven that humans find it very challenging to run a planet with 7B souls aboard.

l) We need to focus on the needs of the many first, but eventually, we should try to meet the needs of the one, even when the needs of the one are decidedly out of phase with what the many think is good. However, we should never allow the lone wolves who would hurt us all to have the power to do so. I suggest wide use of simulation to protect us from those who would take more than they give. See #c

m) for the governing of same, I feel we need to have a meritocracy. I’ve spoken elsewhere about the idea of a democracy where your vote counts more if you indicate competence in the area that you’re voting on, and I still stand behind this. A direct democracy, but not one-man-one-vote – instead your vote would ‘weigh more’ if you could indicate knowledge about the subject being voted on, the contrary point of view to the one you hold, and show activity on mailing lists that indicate you’ve discussed the subject with other people. I’d also advocate for the ability to set up and strike or override proxies – so you could temporarily assign someone else you trusted to vote for you, then override them easily on one vote or take back control of your voting. I’ll write more about my thoughts about this later as well.

Anyone got a name for this new -ism?

Y’all right wingers are underinformed.

Sunday, June 4th, 2017

Okay, now that I’ve got your attention, let’s talk about why you don’t want to stop with the green energy craze. I want you to forget money exists for a minute, and just think in terms of raw resources.

A solar or a wind plant is a machine that makes wealth. A coal or a oil plant just transforms wealth from one format to another – it’s the same kilowatt-hours, only now instead of being locked in a hydrocarbon it’s on some wires – but a solar or a wind plant is literally making wealth (in the form of kwh of energy) out of energy that’s otherwise just going to end up as heat. Those of you who want to put the brakes on this are saying, “We’d like to be less wealthy as a race, please!”. See, we only have so much coal and oil.. we might have a lot, but there’s a finite amount. So, every time you use some up, there’s less to use. However, for the next $ABSURDLY_LONG_TIME, the sun is going to keep delivering energy to our planet. If we have machines that can extract that energy, we can leave the stored energy in the ground, for a rainy day so to speak, and continue to live a energy-lavish lifestyle, more or less free for nothing.

So, remind me again why you want to stop? You’d say it was about jobs, but for the short term, it’s going to make far more jobs to build a green grid than to keep running the old coal-and-oil one. And in the long term, if we get the energy without anyone having to go dig for the coal, we can pay the coal miners *not* to mine. I bet they can come up with something better to do with their time..

The problem with communism

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

(cut & pasted from something I posted on facebook, because I thought it might be worth saving)

The problem with communism is that by definition, it means the state owns all the resources. Collective ownership of property can work – does work in some cases – but you can not, generally, trust the state. At least, history suggests you can’t. Think about it, do you want the US government to own all the resources, given it’s track record? The government tends to be made up of people who by choice want to have power over other people – who it would appear are the last people you want to actually have that power.

If you find a way to make the state omnibenevolent (say, replacing the humans with very well programmed AIs – or maybe having some powerful incentive for them to remain benevolent to all), then I’d say communism is a wizard idea. Until then, I think socialism (where the resources belong to the workers) or even capitalism (where the resources belong to the bosses) is a better choice.

(I’d also note, apropos of nothing, that capitalism undoubtedly has it’s place. We probably do not want to remove incentives to compete for the best designs, for example, as without those we would not have the computers you all are reading this on, the network that connects them together, or the efficient power grid that runs them). It seems likely to me that no one ideology is going to solve all our resource allocation woes – that picking the right ideology for the right resource is what makes sense – just as no one algorithm is appropriate for all computing challenges. Don’t use a hammer to drive in a screw..)

Part of why I keep talking about using buckets to track money is that I think we likely should be using different algorithms for allocating non-scarce resources like food than for allocating scarce ones. It makes no sense to make someone starve *while we’re throwing food away*, but it may make sense to not hand a yacht to someone who’s not doing anything productive when we are still in a space where yachts are scarce.