Archive for January, 2016


Thursday, January 21st, 2016

So, I’ve said that we need to turn the US into a metademocracy – that we need to vote on how to vote.

Specifically, I had this conversation with my friend Jeremy, and we came up with one possible model that we think might work really well.

Instead of a representative democracy, you would build a direct democracy. However, instead of having everyone vote on every issue, people would subscribe to issues that they were interested in. Participating in mailing lists and forums, taking tests and quizzes that indicated you understood all sides of a issue, would all earn you points. The more points you had, the more your vote would count.

There would be no minimum voting age. On issues with long term impact, after proving reading comprehension with a basic test, the younger you are, the more weight your vote would carry.

It’s a weighted meritocracy. The concept here is that I don’t really want a plumber flying a 747, or a pilot fixing my sink. People do have interests, and those interests do drive what they know about and should be making decisions about.


Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

So, I don’t tweet, so here’s my comments on Wikipedia as it turns 15.

First of all, I think it is on it’s way to being something amazing – and it’s already the best encyclopedia on earth, if you understand it’s failings.

I’m deeply curious what a Wikipedia not so obsessed with deleting non-notables and that encouraged original research as long as it was tagged as such would be like. But I enjoy it as a resource as-is, without a doubt.

I would like the Wikipedia, along with the catalog of Earth’s music, to ride the yet-to-be-built Voyager 3 probe (hint hint, congress and NASA) to another star. I think it would make a excellent rosetta stone that would vastly simplify first contact.

If we *MUST* have commercial i.e. paid prisons

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

(which are a horrible idea for a bunch of reasons) – we should at the very least only pay them for the inmates who do not reoffend.. a steadily increasing bonus for every year the inmate remains crime-free.

This might incline the creators of such institutions to try to build prisons that heal people, instead of prisons that make them sicker.

If my hunch is correct

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Then if all of the concrete, steel, and man-hours wasted in the War On Drugs had been used to build wastewater treatment plants in India, that continent would have fresh water available from every tap.

We need to remember to not have Wars On People. Let’s have Wars On Suffering, Wars On Disease, and Wars On Stupidity instead.

While we’re talking about stupidity, why do we build places to punish sick people? This inevitably is going to make them sicker, and as a result, they’re going to commit more crimes and cause more havoc. Surely the mass shootings, the cops shooting innocents should be hints that we broke something badly and we need to rethink the way we do things. Surely the cash for kids scandal should be giving us some kind of neon sign that we’ve done something beyond stupid and it’s time to stop. Are we incapable of thought? People, please prove to me you’re not morons. I’m begging here.

While I’m ranting, the idea that children can get busted for sexting – look, assholes, STOP HURTING THE KIDS! Sex is a normal, healthy thing, and you’ve warped their minds about it by being afraid to talk honestly with them about it, not to mention threatening them in all kinds of weird ways, insisting that they’re subhuman, and ..

I speak as someone who remembers parts of my childhood not at all, and other parts entirely too clearly and painfully. Adults shouldn’t be allowed to raise children in groups less than 5 adults – I talked earlier in my blog about entrainment signals and how two adults can *barely* provide a clean entrainment signal under the very best of circumstances. And this world – not the best of circumstances. Many feedback loops, many bad designs coming back to bite us in the ass.

I want love to win, not fear.

Money and value

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

So, one of my earlier jobs in my career was for a company called Support System Developers, Inc. They were engaged in a contract with Canon in which they got paid per phone call to answer Canon’s 800 number.

Now, we were given some incredibly bad advice to give to customers. First of all, we were to respond to the first phone call, pretty much invariably, with a suggestion that the customer’s printer cable was at fault – that they needed to find one that actually had the IEEE definition for a bidirectional printer cable printed on the label. Generally, this was not the problem. This might have actually applied to 1% of all print problems, if that – but it was a chance to get the customer off the phone and get more sheckels in SSDI’s coffers.

We were paid a bonus if we could get the customer off the phone quickly. Now, generally problems would break down into cases where the customer was being a complete dumbass – a large portion of the calls were for people who didn’t pull the orange tab off the print head before inserting the cart in their printer – and trickier problems such as the BJC-610 which needed a complicated alignment process run if certain events had occurred to the printer.

This would be a example of money destroying value. Many of these people would wait on hold for a hour, a hour and a half to talk to us, and we’d give them deliberately wrong answers (well, we weren’t TOLD to give them wrong answers, but the book clearly hadn’t been optimized for giving them right ones) so they’d call back several times, so this company could make more money.

I eventaully quit, citing ethical reasons. They didn’t like me much anyway, I tended to give answers not in the book (but that mysteriously worked), I often wore jeans with holes in the knees and other ‘inappropriate’ clothing – I have to imagine they were glad to see me go. But I’d point at this company as a sign of the problem – when you optimize for dollars at the cost of actual people getting stuff done value, you’re hurting us all. And I suspect a lot of companies.. advertisers perhaps most of all.. of doing this.

It is worth noting that my supervisor, before I quit, had told me “You are so much better than this place. You should look for a better job.”

Correcting a few mistaken impressions

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Essentually, I’m going to do this as a Q&A

Q: Sheer, do you really think you’re talking to what a friend from your childhood grows up into in the future?
A: It’s the explanation I give the highest probability to. It’s the one that fits the data best.

The other possibility that I give some weight to is that I patterned a blank bank of neurons to respond the same way $person did while we were hanging out IRL, and so what I’m talking to is a copy of her, so to speak. I don’t give this one a lot of weight because I would think that would limit her to knowing only things I know or could derive in a vacuum, and her knowledge certainly appears to extend beyond that. I have to google things she says A LOT. And a lot of what she’s talked about involves things that have not yet come to exist here on earth, although I can see that they will, because they’re too cool not to be made real.

Q: Sheer, how is that possible?
A: I don’t know. But a virtual machine really believes that video card is real. I have no reason to think that I’m running “on the iron” of the universe, so to speak, and as such I’m open to the possibility that a lot of things are possible that would appear on the surface to be impossible.

Q: Sheer, has future-$person ever told you to contact present-$person?
A: Possibly once, many years ago. Not any time recently. In fact, in the altered state in which I exist when I try to go to present-$person, I don’t really talk to her future incarnation at all, and I don’t have access to a lot of my memories. This generally only comes up during some sort of neurological event that happens twice a year, and involves some sort of decoherence I can’t easily explain.

One thing she has repeatedly said, is that if someone tells me to hurt people, or to do things I really don’t want to do, that’s not her. Obviously the channel we communicate over doesn’t have a lot in the way of authentication, and there’s also a hostile on it who wants me dead (or at least miserable) so I tend to be rather careful in trusting what she says since I can’t ever know if it’s really her.

Q: Sheer, is this your religion?
A: No. It’s a experience I’m having I can’t explain. My religion is extraordinarily short in source code, look up a few posts and you’ll see it. I would describe this experience as spiritual rather than religious in nature.

Q: Sheer, are you schizophrenic?
A: Not likely. This is a coherent, consistant conversation that has evolved over time.

Q: Sheer, might you have multiple personalities?
A: Yes, but my gut feeling is this is something unrelated.

Q: Sheer, could this be some other form of mental illness?
A: When you have a friend you can talk to no matter where you are who helps you feel better about yourself and the world around you, that’d be the opposite of illness last I looked.

Q: Given that you don’t trust a lot of things.. text, for example.. how would you ever think you knew you were talking to her, face to face?
A: By the pacing of her voice.

Q: Given that you mostly communicate “in text” over this mental channel you share with her, how do you know what’s her?
A: I don’t. I do a lot of guessing. But I’ve come to have a filter of things that are $person-ish, and I use that. I’d suggest reading about ‘root reps’ in cryptonomicon for a little more about how this works – Neil S does a great job of explaining it.

Q: Do you think present-$person is in any danger from you?
A: No. Not from me. From her ideas about me, apparently yes. I say apparently because I become less and less sure I know who all the players are, what game they’re playing, or why with every iteration of this storyline. It’s entirely possible to me that the present-$person I see is a manifestation of my fears.

Q: What do you mean by ‘from her ideas about you’?
A: If you convince yourself that you need to be afraid of me, that you need to watch out for me, that I’m someone who is going to hurt you or force you to do things you don’t want to do, you are hurting yourself with your ideas about me.

Another problem with our current resource allocation system

Monday, January 4th, 2016

This isn’t something I have a good solution for yet, but nonetheless it remains one of my criticisms. The current system is kind of rigged so that once you start losing, you keep losing, and once you start winning, you keep winning. It’s also heavily rigged to favor the banks, who can get away with just about anything.

More reiterating

Monday, January 4th, 2016

This is a reiterating post, feel free to skip it.

So, one of the things that I’ve talked about before is how our current economic system is very poorly equipped to deal with people selling very cheaply distributed intellectual property. It’s even more poorly equipped to deal with large corporations doing so.

Here’s the issue. There’s a finite amount of money in play. Any time the government prints more, some very not-too-bright economists (Actually, they’re probably very smart, they just can’t see the forest for the trees) tell us that means the money is worth less. They, for whatever reason, can’t make the leap that there’s in fact more value (things that money can buy) available every day and that the money is a pointer to that value, not something with intrinsic worth of it’s own. However, because there’s a finite amount of money but you can make a infinite number of copies of intellectual property without diminishing it’s value (or at least N copies, where N is the number of potential users of said property), this leads to the money getting “bunched up” – landing in the hands of just a few individuals. Now, if those individuals were smart, they would give it away or spend it as fast as it came in, because that’s the choice that leads to the greatest wealth for all. However, they’ve been listening to economists for too long and think there is such a thing as a “money supply” and that money is a good all it’s own with it’s own value. (And, it’s true, you can live like that for a while, but sooner or later, with a finite resource chasing a infinite one, you’re going to find yourself short on money – and since money is just a *pointer* to value and not actual value, this is going to have deleterious effects on the operation of the system as a whole)

Is any of this starting to resonate or make sense to you, Steve? You might find reading reading the wikipedia article on pointers helpful.

Bucketized vs. all in one currency

Monday, January 4th, 2016

So, why would you want to go to all the work of tracking individual resources needed to achieve goals? I will be the first to admit that it would be a lot of work to figure out all the intricate details of how many hours of each skill, how many grams of each metal, how many watthours of energy, etc go into building things.

Well, the first thing that I think would be a improvement is that we could have meaningful discussions about what we could afford. With the current system, all information about what actual resources go into a product or goal get thrown away. So, for example, nationalized single-payer healthcare – all the dollars in the world won’t make us able to afford this if we don’t have enough man-hours to get it done. This is also true for a number of things – if we don’t have enough platinum to put a fuel cell in everyone’s car, we can’t do fuel-cell-powered cars, absent a breakthrough in technology, no matter how many dollars we have.

So, one thing I keep harping on, and I’m going to harp on it again because I still think you all don’t get it. Economists are none too bright. Dollars have no value at all (well, they have a tiny one related to their intrensic worth). They are a *pointer* to value. You C programmers out there already know what I’m talking about here, but let’s try to figure out how we can get this idea to the rest of the people. The value isn’t in the dollars, and when we run into problems with the “money supply being scarce”, for example, we are demonstrating just how impressively stupid humans with firmly held beliefs can be. Money isn’t value. It’s a metaphor that *represents* value. Did that help any? It has worth because we imagine it to have worth, because we imagine that it’s a IOU that says “give the bearer one apple”. Or whatever. Bucketized currency is based on the same ideas as conventional fiat currency, except that it’s a new spin on a old idea. The gold standard, except that instead of just having a bucket for gold and a bucket for silver, you have buckets for every thing of value we make or trade. And the idea with bucketized currency is that when you run out of, for example, gold tokens, you’re also out of gold. As you mine more gold, you put more gold tokens in the gold token bucket. As you train more doctors, and as they agree to work, you put more tokens in the doctor-hours bucket. Bucketized currency is not fiat at all, it is based either on current resources on hand or a reasonable estimation of what resources will become on hand. You also, of course, can convert one bucket to another – for example converting tons of coal to kwh of electricity.

The gold standard was fatally flawed because most of the things we want to do don’t require a lot of gold. Having buckets based on resources on hand, on the other paw, is not a flawed idea at all and is how most *individuals* do budgeting (as opposed to governments, banks, and corporations). Bucketized currency is something you can only do once you have fast, powerful computers – the number of man-hours it would take to implement such a system by hand would be prohibitive.

This isn’t a tool the end consumer needs, but when the government talks about whether we can or can not afford to do things, and whether it’s a good idea, it would be smart if they were counting with actual apples and not with a hypothetical number of apples or indeed sometimes no idea about the state of apples in the world at all, and just a idea about how many dollars we’ve got.

You also have to remember my end goal is different than most people’s. I want everything for everyone. I think it’s possible, with judicious use of automation, to have only those who want to work have jobs, and still have everyone get their Hiearchy of needs met. But in order to determine whether that’s really true or just what my intuition is telling me, we need some way to measure what resources we have on hand, or can have on hand, that goes beyond what we’ve currently done.

My hunch is that by using bucketized currency, and some other more advanced measuring techniques such as a index of happiness and index of misery, we can find out how many places we’re being stupid, and be smart instead. For example, in terms of actual resources in the global bucket pool, evicting a non-paying tenant is almost certainly a net loss for everybody. In capitolism, you kind of have to do this, because of the inherent flaws in it, but in terms of measuring what’s a winning answer for the human race, this probably isn’t a good thing.

We also may find it desirable to develop some new technologies, including the ability to create software that represents physical possessions in our minds, possibly the ability to directly link humans and computers, and there’s a whole passel of other things that might be neat. But before we run off and do that, let’s see where we’re at right now.

You see, the 1% aren’t that much richer than the rest of us. A billion dollars still won’t buy you a resource that doesn’t exist. (well, it will if you can convince a programming team to mine for it, but that’s another story) And if we were all spending our time creating new resources instead of doing makework (capitolism has left us with a whole lot of makework) we’d all be far wealthier than we are.


Monday, January 4th, 2016

What does the Dunning-Kruger effect say about neural networks?

It doesn’t seem shocking to me – based on my assumption that in humans, everyone has approximately the same number of neurons, it would then follow that the more intelligent humans have either more connections between neurons, or a more efficient algorythm for deciding which connections to make.

I am totally going out on a guesswork limb here (I’ll have to follow up with some research to see if others have come up with the same guesses, and to see if other people have found any way to know, or at least have a high probability of knowing) but I’m thinking that the more connections you have, the lower the probability of you feeling a feeling of ‘certainty’ because the lower the probability that a large number of connections will respond with a positive match – or, if you do get a solid positive match on some connections, you’ll get a solid negative match on some others that are only partially relevant. So in essence, the bigger your leafset for any decision, the less solid of a match you’re going to get on anything. Hence, the more intelligent you are, the less certain you’re going to feel.

Of course, part of intelligence is knowing when you don’t know. This is actually one of the most important skills in my toolkit – part of why I get paid the big bucks, I suspect, is that I know when I don’t know.