Archive for the ‘The Big Picture’ Category

Google is officially evil, pt 2

Thursday, February 23rd, 2023

So, once upon a time Google had in their corporate charter “Don’t be evil”. They removed it. Unsurprisingly, evil ensued.

One clear indication that they have become evil is that they are laying people off. They’re profitable – they have plenty of money – but they’re happily throwing employees under the bus so they can have more money. This is evil behavior.

I do not actually believe it’s possible to be a publicly traded company in America and not be evil, because of minority shareholder lawsuits. As long as shareholders can sue and win for companies not taking the most profitable path no matter how much damage it does, publicly traded companies will repeatedly behave in evil ways.

In general I think companies need some sharp reminders from us as workers and consumers that they *do not exist to make money*. Making money is a side effect – companies exist to *do things* – and as a side effect take care of their employees. We need to make sure the bosses accept that taking care of the employees is more important than the board of directors buying another yacht.

Am I being too hard on Elon Musk?

Thursday, December 1st, 2022

So, over the years my opinion of Elon has varied a number of times. Obviously we’ve got a lot of things in common, and there was definitely a week or so where I would have considered myself a muskrat and defended him. But increasingly I’ve been disappointed – both by the sense that he’s not as bright as I thought he was and by the sense that he’s a horrible human being and not someone who should be put in charge of decision making.

So, reasons I’m hard on Elon lately:

1) The hyperloop. It was never going to work. Anyone who’s worked with hard vacuum themselves would have already intuitively known why it wasn’t going to work. It underlines that Elon’s never actually gotten his hands dirty building stuff in the real world – I’m not even sure if he’s done any coding.

2) Taking the radar out of the tesla. If Elon were a little brighter, he’d recognize that while humans can navigate and operate vehicles without extra senses, we have a 100b neuron neocortex supervising our 8b or so visual cortex to make sure that common sense gets applied to the output. People have already died because the Tesla can’t tell grey semi from grey sky. Elon is willing to have people die to save a few bucks – and doesn’t seem to recognize that SDR will get cheaper and cheaper as it’s widely mass produced because it’s literally made out of sand – but every single human cannot possibly have a price tag placed on them and what their loss would cost us.

3) Having more children than he can possibly provide good entrainment signals for, despite the fact that he himself was abused. Clearly not interested in breaking the cycle of abuse.

4) Believing we need *more* humans, when we’re not clear on where we’re going to get the water and food and whatnot for the ones we have, and we’re not clear how to make earth not a dystopia for the ones we have

5) Increasingly I’ve come to suspect Elon is really good at selling how brilliant Elon is, but less good at actually making stuff work. He’s clearly abusive to the people he works with, and he’s also clearly *not* prioritizing a good outcome for humanity over stroking his own ego. He doesn’t care about ruining people’s lives, and is willing to hurt them – and fire them – for no particular good reason. He also fails to give good positive feedback for successes. Elon is a bad leader.

6) He doesn’t care about anyone but Elon. he didn’t have any kind of worldwide vote before filling the sky with his ISP, for example, and he’s not concerned about the impact on radio telescopes. He also hasn’t asked himself the question about whether it’s really a good thing for humanity for us to be reachable everywhere

7) He seems to surround himself with yes-men. This means he doesn’t get people telling him, for example, the hyperloop is not a good idea.

8) He overpromises and underdelivers. (He has that in common with Nicolai Tesla). I can point out everything from the vegas tunnel to the cybertruck.

9) He doesn’t do a good job of triaging, and he takes on more than he can do a good job at. Hm, me too.

On the other paw. No one is perfect. He’s done more to promote electric vehicle transition than anyone else I can name, and I think he deserves credit for that. TSLA made a car, but Elon contributed to making it sexy, and making it sell. If he doesn’t always knock it out of the park, well, at least he’s still swinging. And, I hope he doesn’t stop. There might be people that I would wish weren’t with us any more, but Elon is definitely not one of them. I wish he would grow – but I’m glad he’s here and hope he stays.

My final verdict is yes, I am too hard on Elon Musk. I should leave Facebook threads about him alone and stick to achieving my own goals. There’s nothing to be gained by tearing him down and there’s far, far worse people in the world if I want to criticize.

I am really glad I am not Elon. I would imagine he probably is really glad he is not me. I prefer to steer the ship from the rear of the pack – like Buckminster Fuller, I am a trim tab, a very small thing which makes enormous waves a long way away. He prefers to steer the ship from the front. But, one man’s heaven is another man’s hell, and it was ever thus.

Denatured alcohol – a clear case of money is more important than people

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

So, I was watching Call The Midwife the other day and they had someone who was dying from being a broke alcoholic who was drinking methylated spirits – aka denatured alcohol. And I had a interesting realization – we do often see places where humanity chooses money over people’s lives – a recent example was Tesla removing the radar from self-driving EVs, increasing undoubtedly the number of people who will die so that Tesla can make slightly larger profits. And of course we get outraged in cases where this is done.. like the Ford Pinto.

But.. denatured alcohol is a clear case of us deciding killing people is acceptable if the alternative is threatening the government’s profit. There’s no reasonable reason for denaturing alcohol.. other than, it enables us to sell alcohol and know it will only be used for sterilization. The reason this matters is that there’s a huge tax on alcohol. We do the same thing with kerosene – we sell it for heating and aviation use untaxed and for road use taxed and we dye it and trust people to follow the rules based on the dye. We *could* do the same thing with ethanol, but we don’t – instead we risk killing people – *knowing* that people will die – and the government officials probably feel smugly satisfied about this solution.

Now, the government is well aware that broke addicts will buy denatured alcohol and be killed by it. It’s more important to them to not lose whatever tax dollars they would lose to people knowingly cheating by buying denatured alcohol than that those people live.

This isn’t surprising. The government has always acted as if there’s a fairly low price on human life. We accept our police murdering innocents, we accept the government executing innocents – in both cases possibly because there’s no alternative.. we accept the government not enforcing environmental safety regulations, we accept people destroying the water table with things like fracking – in general, the government puts a very low value on life. (We routinely commit mass murder so various corporations can make more profit). But denaturing alcohol demonstrates just how low – of course the government probably thinks it’s a feature, not a bug, that broke addicts are who gets killed off..

Conflicting Interests

Thursday, October 20th, 2022

So, I just learned that one of my best friends from high school has cancer – hopefully is beating it, but has been paralyzed. The awkward bit here is that she’s from the era before I pretty much eschewed all religion and is very religious. I’m already on record as saying from my point of view cancer is proof that we’re not the product of intelligent design as a intelligent designer would freeze mutations with something like a CRC-32 after the initial mitosis of the egg.

And, we haven’t talked in like ten years, so odds are she isn’t going to call me out of the blue. If she did, though, I would likely not mention that theory because the last thing I would want to do is take any energy away from her healing.

I hate that I’ve gotten old enough that friends are dying, getting cancer, etc. I know it’s a normal part of life – that indeed I myself will be dying in 30 or so years. After which persumably I’ll know the answer to whether there’s life after death – or I won’t. 😉

I wish there was something I could do for this particular one – I’ve sent messages of support to her and her partner (who is also a lifetime friend), but since I’m 3000 miles away it’s not like I can pop in to do baby-sitting for them. I guess if they need money I can send some of that. I hate the powerlessness as well.

There is the part of me that worries – and I think this underlines to what extent religion is a mental illness in me – that if I *had* believed this wouldn’t be happening.. possibly that I’m seeing a custom mix where my friend dies while she’s seeing a custom mix where everything is fine to punish me for not believing the right things. But on the other paw I also think that idea is absurd and not in any way compatible with anything other than evil being in charge of the universe.

Anyway, so, apparently if you’re fighting cancer, you get a pass on believing absurd things. I wish I could stop worrying about the situation.

Additional thought – I would ask the CEPT team at alt.callahans to do a CEPT, but the last time I did, the guy died. In addition, scientific research suggests remote prayer does nothing at all if the person doesn’t know, and makes things *worse* if they do. And, I don’t really believe in remote prayer doing anything useful anyway, other than making the person doing the praying feel better. (But then, see above bit about mental illness, I wonder, if I believed different things, would the results be different?)

Entropy and human systems

Wednesday, September 28th, 2022

So, I’ve been doing some more thinking (partially because of reading Einstien’s Fridge, which I’d recommend as a great read) about entropy and human systems. Specifically human systems tend to get progressively more corrupt as they age and/or grow larger until eventually they collapse and new systems are created out of their ashes. This is also true of individual human bodies.. our bodies run well for 30 years or so and then various forms of aging start to win – a form of corruption, if you will. And then, obviously, we die. Again with the reset.

Life in general seems like, while it’s not violating the laws of thermodynamics, it’s doing something funny on the stage of ordering information. Of course great writers and musicians and actors and whatnot are all ordering information in their own uniquely recognizable ways, and therefore resisting the tendency of the universe to slowly remove all ordered all information and move towards a totally random – and energy-equal – state.

It does make me wonder if it would be possible to create a religion that would do the *opposite* of growing steadily more corrupt, and what would have to be written into it to make it do that?

Interesting thought to mull over.

Tuesday, September 6th, 2022

Someone really needs to create a religion to be what Scientology *should* have been.

The assholes over at are well aware that we now have things like FMRIs but their idea of a major advance is to make their skin conductivity tester (e-meter) *digital*. Yah, that’s going to help a whole bunch. Seriously, can we get a religion that is

1) Based on only observable or derivable truths
2) Not written by old men wandering in the desert thousands of years ago
3) Designed to be positive to the lives and experiences of it’s users and everyone they come in contact with
4) Carefully designed so that it *never* ‘freezes’ like the bible has (i.e. gets modified in such a way as to become unmodifiable)
5) Is not inherently internally contradictory
6) Bonus points for being based on science
7) *Major* bonus points for accepting that some things are unknowable instead of pretending to know them because it was written by a bunch of lying old men who craved power
8) I’d like it if it promoted hedonism and encouraged solidarity and helping each other
9) I’d also like it a lot if it did not claim to be the one true way
10) Anti-war would be a big plus, especially if it laid out what war costs us, both in the sense of the destroyed resources and in the sense of the generational trauma that has to be healed
11) Bonus points if it smashes the patriarchy and builds a system of equality in its place
12) Bonus points if it smashes the idea children are property
13) Bonus points if it promotes the development of tasty synthetic meat and a transition to synthetic meat
14) It’d be nice if it promoted living within the means of the ecosystem we’re in, either by developing technologies that permit us to grow food more efficiently or by promoting a smaller population than we currently have
15) Would be *great* if it could include a long term search for a understanding of how to construct neurological software – how to literally edit the structure of our mind to do what we want it to do
16) Would also be awesome if it could include long term searches for cures to every known disease for every form of life that can be considered sentient

I’ll stop there for now. But Scientology.. you could have been so great, and you so aren’t. I mean, people have been writing religions for a loooong time. Clearly the bible is made up, clearly the book of mormon is made up, humans are storytellers. Can we get a better one, with baked into it perpetual improvement until it is freeing and empowering and encouraging of love and life?

(The list of things I find *not* freeing and empowering about Christianity, for example, is quite long)

Let’s say the quiet part out loud here

Wednesday, July 20th, 2022

The current pope is almost certainly aware that Earth is above carrying capacity and that post peak oil it’s very likely a lot of people – many of them Catholics – are going to starve. He’s still egging on the fork bomb that is religious humanity by not encouraging birth control. Why? Market share.

That’s also what this abortion thing is really about. A bunch of scared old white dudes afraid that whiteness might lose market share. (God I Hope so. We are quite often a plague on the world)

It’s true that if you don’t care about misery – and obviously abrahamic religions like to *cause* misery whenever they can get away with it – probably gives the priests a feeling of power but certainly boosts their pocketbooks – pushing people to have Babies Ever After is a good way to boost your market share.

And, lately, we’ve observed another interesting problem – if the minority is willing enough to cheat – and majority is not willing to call them on it and do whatever it takes to undo their cheating – then the minority gets to have tyrannical power over the majority. I get the feeling this was predicted in the federalist papers.

I guess it’s not a surprise that religious folks are authoritarian. It is kind of a surprise how many people believe the blatant and easily proven false lies of the right. One of my favorites is about how we can’t switch to electric vehicles because the power grid can’t take it. Get this – a gas car uses more electricity (by the time the oil is pumped and refined) than a electric one. And if we count *total* watts – well, let’s just say moving oil around has a lot more line loss, so to speak, than moving electricity around.

But, the conservatives never stop the lying. They’ll claim that solar panels and wind turbines use more power to make than they generate – when the amount of power either generates in a week would turn it into incandescent gas several times over.

My ability to control the future (humor)

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022

So, occasionally I find my ability to control the future amusing. I’ve stopped transacting in bitcoin because I find the amount of power that it uses unacceptable and the lack of evolution of the bitcoin network distressing. However, I still have some bitcoin. If I were to sell this bitcoin, the future value of bitcoin would exceed $1m/BTC – after I sold it, of course. If I HODL it for the rest of my life, the future value of bitcoin will asymptotically approach zero.

Peak Oil and Global Warming

Sunday, January 9th, 2022

I Just had a interestingly cynical thought about why we might not hear more about peak oil in the USA.

One of the most destructive Big Industries is Big Politics. I’ve talked about how the USA carefully keeps people divided on hot button topics while making very little progress on them so it can continue to donation farm the suckers. (Lately this has been combined with the right out and out selling total falsehoods to their constituents, who are apparently not bright enough to figure out they’re being lied to or even remember that the past has changed over and over and over so that whatever’s Pravda now can be Pravda. )

Anyway, one of the things I’ve been deeply puzzled by is why people don’t talk about peak oil more, because while we might be arguing over the science of global warming it’s just about impossible to argue about the fact that Earth’s oil wells are going dry at a prodigious rate and that subject matter experts estimate 35 years of economically recoverable oil remain.

I think the reason global warming is pushed is because Peak Oil is something that there’d be bipartisan agreement about. Like infrastructure renewal, we carefully have to keep peak oil off the table to discuss because we’d all agree something needs done – and even worse, the things that we’d all agree need done are for the most part the same thing those global warming nuts want anyway! It’d be a very bad day for Big Politics.

(One consistent distraction from all this is the bullshit hydrogen economy. A few reminders, just to get them out of the way

1) There are very few metals that can catalyze hydrogen and oxygen to make electricity i.e. make a fuel cell for hydrocarbons. They’re all *very* rare and very expensive. There’s no way we have enough of them to put a FCV vehicle in every driveway in america
2) Hydrogen has a much lower energy density than any other hydrocarbon. This is a problem for several reasons. The first is that if we wanted to burn it in a conventional engine that engine would need enormous displacement per horsepower output. This makes using conventional engines to use hydrogen impractical
3) ALso because of the lower energy density, combined with the fact that it is a cryogenic gas (cannot be liquefied at room temperature, requires significant refrigeration to maintain in a liquid state), hydrogen is very difficult to store. Absent some sort of catalytic storage system (and it is possible such a thing could be found, ammonia seems tempting) storing hydrogen requires storing it at hundreds of atmospheres in order to get usable energy densities. Such a container is fantastically dangerous if it is ruptured because everyone near it will freeze to death – and that’s before we talk about fires etc.
4) Because hydrogen has to be compressed to hundreds of atmospheres, there’s some significant challenges in making it energy efficient because of the Boyle’s Law impact of compressing a gas to hundreds of atmospheres. Various challenges ensue to try to recapture all the waste heat of the multistage compressors required.
5) Hydrogen is very slippery. IT’s a tiny molecule that likes to leak – in fact many of the Los Angeles based hydrogen fueling stations have burned to the ground because of such leaks. It’s not the easiest material to work with.
6) It is not practical to have a fuel cell battery big enough to provide for the peak power (100kW) required during acceleration of a modern car. Therefore a FCV by definition is also a BEV, with all the complications that implies plus the complications of moving energy between the fuel cell and the battery pack. Even if it were possible to make fuel cells big enough, fuel cells must go offline from time to time to purge the water they are generating from their membranes.
7) Oh, yes, as well as being stupidly expensive (and if you thought having your catalytic converter stolen was bad, wait till you get your fuel cell stolen) fuel cells also *wear out* much faster than batteries do. Expect to change your fuel cell every 100k miles, as opposed to 200k for battery packs. (oh, yes, and expect to change your battery pack too, see above about how a FCV is a BEV)

Fuel cell vehicles may well be the answer for very large things, like trains, boats, and possibly tractor-trailers. But they are not a good candidate for everyday drivers and therefore using “let’s wait for the hydrogen economy” as a excuse for not settling the issues surrounding peak oil now is bullshit. Naturally the republicans love it.)

Anyway, all that said, Global warming *will be inconvenient*. It’ll cause crop failures, bad weather, heatstroke, etc. Peak Oil *will kill us*. Our entire food network runs on oil. It takes us more than a calorie of petrochemicals to *make* a calorie of food (counting fertilizers) and that’s before we even start to talk about moving it around. And it will kill us *soon*. If you are my age and have children, *they will starve to death* unless we change our ways.

What are the solutions? Well, for crops, Monsanto could stop being assholes and start working on crops that need less fertilizer and do less damage to the soil. For cars, battery electric vehicles – there’s plenty of lithium in seawater and for many of us nickel metal hydride would be adequate to our needs. For trains, overhead or rail fed power – although that’s less of a desperate need because trains are very efficient. For airplanes, BEVs for small ones and biofuels for big ones. Many different solutions exist – but we should begin transition *now*. We don’t want to wait until we have 5 years of oil left – among other things, humans are such idiots that we will spend the last of the oil fighting wars over the last of the oil. Also, almost all of this stuff is going to have bugs. None of it is going to work right immediately. We need to kaizen the designs (iteratively and slowly improve them)

For energy – the obvious big winners here are wind, solar, and nuclear. Not just because they’re carbon neutral, but because they’re the cheapest per kwh options in terms of deaths per kwh. Nuclear probably will also become the cheapest in terms of dollars per kwh as we design better plants. We’re already well on our way to replacing our peaker plants with wind and solar. Now we just need to slay the baseline load dragon – and if you all *really* hate nuclear even after you understand it, I guess we can talk about pumped storage, mechanical storage, and battery storage. We will come up with something.. if we try.

One thing we do need to figure out what to do about is republicans out-and-out lying about technologies to try and block them. I’m sure you’ve all heard the *absurd* claim that a wind plant or a solar array takes more power to make than it generates. We really do, as a side note, need to figure out how we can possibly survive as a country *at all* with one side willing to *lie repeatedly* about *everything* in order to try and make a few billionaires richer.

Gratitude and anger

Saturday, December 11th, 2021

So, I recently decided to take another facebreak – possibly because I ran into one person telling me there “wasn’t a pandemic any more LOL” and another saying that the USA should do anything it can to win wars with a minimum of casualties on our side, and who cares how many people on their side we kill (I think I talked elsewhere earlier about how dumb a position this is, but most libertarians haven’t really grown up yet so it’s not a surprising position for them to take. I love the meme going around comparing libertarians to house cats – convinced of their independence while having no understanding or appreciation of the system which permits their continued existence.)

Anyway, I have noticed that facebook is supremely good at not showing me the posts I’d *want* to see and instead showing me the posts that make me angry. I really don’t like feeling anger, and yet at the same time I have a hard time disengaging from it – the software they are running to ensure engagement is very, very good at it’s job. And a very awful thing. I do think if I were king I would declare that Zuck had to open the breakers and probably spend the rest of his life doing community service in exchange for the damage he has done. And yet, I keep getting sucked back into it.

Part of it is the illusion..a nd I’m convinced at this point that it *is* a illusion.. that facebook can help further my music career. It seems extremely unlikely – the engagement engine is never going to find my music compelling – in a recent post of a new song, I think *one person* saw it. If I pay for engagement, they’re going to deliberately show it to people who won’t like it, because that way they both get my money and get what they’re trying to provoke – anger and discontent, because that keeps people online and arguing more.

With that said, whilest I am on facebreak (I drop a zone file on my name server that redirects facebook to – undoing that is enough work that generally it stops me from going back on until I have real valid reason like a new song to post) I am going to try to spend a little more time thinking about gratitude. My friend Andy wants to build a whole social network built around the idea of gratitude but of course there’s no VC money for that – among other things, a healthy social network woudl generally encourage you to get offline and go do something that is likely to be more rewarding, and this doesn’t exactly bring in the advertising dollars.

However, I was pondering the other day about how I eat too quickly, and about how I should be more grateful for the astonishing array of tasty nibbles available to me every day. I do think that insofar as we clearly have a subconscious mind, thinking about things we’re grateful for probably helps clue our subconscious mind (which isn’t necessarily aware of the state of the entire system, see elsewhere in this blog for more about that) into the things our conscious mind would like to experience. So I’m going to try to keep some notes in my personal wiki about what I’m grateful for, and I’m acknowledging that I should have more gratitude than I do.