Archive for the ‘The Big Picture’ Category

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.

Saturday, November 27th, 2021

So, recently in a conversation with someone I was told that I was a demon, because I had been rejected by God. I mean, I can see with all the posts on my web site criticizing Christianity how one could conclude that I had rejected God, although I prefer to think that I’ve rejected the imaginary God of the Christians – for good reason – but remain open to meeting the real God if there indeed is such a creature – if indeed there *can* be such a creature. (Something I remain in considerable doubt about). I definitely want to be on what I think of as the side of love and light but it seems like that is a radically different side than what at least certain Christians think of as love and light. (HInt: The KKK are about as evil as they come and the Black Panther Party were the good guys in my opinion – as one of many examples. Sex and music and dancing are all good things – as are recreational drugs that make people feel good in moderation – and beating people, shooting at people, starvation, and war are bad things. Not sure if that helps anyone determine my alignment)

Anyway, it bothers me, being told that I’m a demon / rejected by God. I mean, I still don’t see any signs that God *exists* – although I still wonder, if I had believed in God as described by the Christians, would I be experiencing said God as existing and therefore having a radically different ride than I am having at the moment.

I’ve woken up several times this week dreaming about Phoebe, and wishing that I had handled things differently in that regard. I’m also a bit sad about many of my other interactions with people. It seems like I don’t do all that great a job at interacting with people long term, and I find I’m even running out of patience on the business side of things – I try to restrain my more antisocial tendencies because I want to continue eating and living indoors, but I really wish that I didn’t have to continue doing IT for the forseeable future. I understand that my music is not good enough for anyone to be willing to pay to come see me, and that’s likely to continue to be true for a while although I do continuet o make progress as I hammer away hour after hour at those skills. But..

I don’t know. On one paw, I’m happy that I have as many friends as I do, and I certianly do have a lot of friends. On the other paw, I’m sad about the friends that I’ve lost, and I’m sad about the feeling that I’ve hurt people in pair-bond relationships repeatedly, and I feel a bit like people have hurt my sanity extremely in pair bond relationships. I also of course feel like I’ve hooked up with a few extremely insane folks and that might have something to do with my experiences therein. (Of course, I can’t claim perfect sanity myself)

I have just been feeling kind of sad lately in general. I can’t complain too much about how my life turned out since I am still at least so far able to progress towards being a master musician, and I certainly have it better than most as far as money in the bank and a place to live. (Well, maybe. From observed reality it appears I have it better than most. Possibly reality is a custom mix per individual or possible taht there are a lot of non-player characters out there. But for now let’s go with wat we see is what’s going on..)


Sunday, October 31st, 2021

So, I’m trying to figure out what bothers me so much about my recent disagreement on facebook over piracy and intellectual property. I think it’s the fact that these content creators would rather people go without than that they get a free copy of their content – they acknowledge these people can’t pay for it but they think that means they shouldn’t have it.

In general digital assets and capitalism are not a great fit, as I’ve mentioned, because you end up with a finite resource chasing a infinite one. For a long time the cost of buying content was mostly the cost of the carrier the content came on – and now, of course, the majority of the profit generally goes to the publisher and not the individual.

I think part of what bothers me about this is these people can see the police abusing the homeless and stealing their tents and be like “this is fine”. They can know we have 40 years of oil left after which we are all going to starve to death and capitalism is blocking us from solving this and be like, “this is good”. It’s like how I can’t fathom how anyone could continue to support religion after how many times religion has been epicly wrong – I mean, we’ve got things like Galileo, sure, we’ve got encouraging abuse of gay people despite a long list of reasons why they shouldn’t which I think I’ve documented elsewhere. I can *totally* understand why places like China want to outlaw Christianiy – it’s destructive! At the same time, I can’t really embrace the idea of outlawing ideas because once you start that, where do you stop? It’s one of the slipperiest slopes there is and I don’t think anyone is ever going to be unbiased enough to make good decisions on the topic.

But, yes, there are many people who *love* the current system and want to perpetuate it – and I’m talking about people who are barely making ends meet. Just as there are many who are convinced Christianiy is the Only True Way and even that it’s totally reasonable to abuse other folks based on them not being Christian.

It’s depressing. I probably need to focus away from the large picture government etc for a while because it’s gotten too depressing.

A timely reminder about business and money

Thursday, October 28th, 2021

So, I feel like some people might be forgetting that, from a big picture perspective, making money is not a goal for humanity at all. Businesses should not be in business to make money – if they are, they’re likely doing damaging and/or stupid things. They should be in business to provide a product or service. The money is a token used to indicate contributions to the group, that can then be traded for other resources the group provides – I talk about this some in resource allocation as a group, but I think people miss the point, so I will belabor it some more.

When the government takes some of “your” income (which it uses to provide services we all need), they’re actually taking the token that was given to you by the group in exchange for your contributions to the group. Money is never “yours” in the same sense that other things are, it’s always a pointer to group resources.

Beyond that, one also needs to bear in mind that corporations exist to make the world a better place by providing a need or want for the group, in return for which dollars are handed over. The whole system is *supposed* to ensure that everyone is contributing to the welfare of the group but in fact it often does the opposite, because owners and upper management feel that, even though they often contribute the *least* ongoing value, they deserve the lion’s share of the tokens (which they will then hoarde like idiots, see this).

I think part of the problem is that a lot of people have lost sight of the big picture. They don’t think about optimizing user experience or happiness for the system as a whole. However, we would all have the best user experience if we *all* were trying to optimize the happiness for everyone in the system as a whole. *Definitely* one of the things that is killing America – and that may well lead to extinction of humanity if we don’t get our heads on straight – is the making of decisions which ultimately reduce happiness as a whole, or even survivability, in order to make money. We see this in companies destroying ecosystems with toxic chemicals, we see this in America’s perpetual war machine destroying overall value in order to give military contractors yet another pile of pointers, we see this in a lot of places.

But, I still maintain, your well-optimized corporation does not make massive profits. We are *all* the richest when it plows the majority of it’s money into either R&D or employee salaries, and beyond that when the salaries are not vastly disparate, because those who get paid the million dollar salaries are likely to just hoard them.

Now, a aside here – America offers you the only safe option for changing jobs or ceasing working is to have a fairly large nest egg stashed away, and thusly I am doing a bit of money hoarding of my own. I’m not happy that this world forces me to do so or risk starving and freezing to death, I’m not at *all* happy that the homeless in my city have their tents stolen and burned and if I had my way *everyone* who participated in that would forfeit all their assets and be forced to be homeless for a year. We clearly live in a world that is far more dystopian than it needs to be, and part of the blame for that is quite rightly laid at the feet of the conservative and the religious, both of whom are provably believing wrong things and taking actions based on them that are holding us all back.

(It’s always struck me as funny that people call America a “democracy” but we’re not, at all. We’re a democratic republic where your options are generally between two folks neither of which would be as good a choice for leadership as a random individual picked by drawing straws – and while we speak of “keeping the world safe for democracy” and “spreading democracy” what we truly believe in is not democracy but capitalism. We have been known even to overhrow democratically elected governments in order to install friendly dictators but we will bomb you back to the stone age if you dare try some form of collectivism. America stands for “don’t share, don’t work together, be enslaved by the bosses until you die, own lots of guns though!”)

Anyway, to return to my original point, in a ideal world corporations are not concerned about making dollars, they are concerned about making goods and providing services. To have it elsewise means the products get steadily more poorly made and steadily less valuable – a example of how capitalism unfettered leads to a worse outcome for everyone. We must teach our children, and always remember ourselves, that dollars *are not value*, they are just a pointer to it. Decisions that make paper dollars but destroy real value (like holding a war over false pretenses) hurt us all and are to be avoided at all costs.

Anti-piracy measures hurt us, piracy helps us

Thursday, October 28th, 2021

So, I wanted to write yet another essay on my opinions about intellectual property. They have become more clearly defined in my mind over time. Now, keep in mind, these opinions are based on a holistic view – if one were looking at the human race from the outside.

My first observation is that anti-piracy measures have cost us all millions of man-hours. the FBI warnings that can’t be skipped, all the thousands of hours developers have wasted on anti-piracy measures despite the fact that ultimately any media (music / movie / what have you) cannot be made pirate-proof because there is no closing the analog hole. Anti-piracy hurts the human race and the only reason it exists is there are some morons who can’t do the math and can only feel tall if they know someone else is short.

It also hurts us in other ways. To the extent that law enforcement and the CRJ wastes time on these frivolous claims by multimillion-or-billion-dollar-entities about people with almost no money, it’s wasting the time of those systems, and to the extent that they actually choose to punish piracy, it’s hurting people who have committed no real crime. It’s a sign of how deeply fucked up our world is that we would put someone in jail for stealing something that A: they couldn’t pay for and that B: that isn’t *gone* once it’s stolen. It shows that we let exactly the wrong people drive the bus.

My second observation is that piracy *helps us*. Now, I’m not speaking here of piracy done by people who could afford the content. They’re being asshats, screw them. Them as have the resources should pay for content – as I do, now that I do – so that content creators will have the resources to continue creating content.

I’m talking about the 12 year olds copying music, the people who barely manage to pay their bills pirating movies, things like that. In the first place, I made a argument a very long time ago that their piracy is just a form of de-facto librarying – humanity has certainly purchased enough licenses of this content that isn’t in use at any given point that you can think of what they’re doing as just using library copies in a more efficient way. but beyond that, they also help us all in several other ways.

First of all, exposure to ideas in movies, music, books, etc, makes people’s neural networks grow. Our brains physically change state when exposed to new input. So these people are helping themselves grow and become more intelligent and capable – or more SOMETHING anyway – which thusly is helping humanity as a whole have more people who are bigger and more complex. And, let’s face it, it’s not like these people were going to pay anyway. They don’t have the money. No one is losing any money, some people are just too awful to share.

Second of all, having a number of people who are familiar with the same books and movies and music gives us cultural references than enable us to communicate more clearly. So these people are aiding humanity as a whole’s ability to communicate.

Third of all, to the extent that these people enjoy their pirated content, they are adding to the net happiness of humanity as a whole.

I want to mention a few more things about intellectual property while I’m at it. First of all, you have to remember that intellectual property *existed before we found it* in potentia. As I’ve talked about before, any digital content is already sitting on the number line, existing in a abstract sense, before we do the work to concretely bring it into this world. Not only that, you can make infinite copies of any digital asset without reducing in any way the value or quality of the original. (In fact, as I discussed above, the original *gains* value when it becomes a cultural rosetta stone)

It’s also true that one number might well mean two different things depending on what codec you run it through. So you may find yourself (in a really odd world) in the bizarre position of, for example, having a digital image that’s identical to a MIDI file that contains a hook that already exists. As soon as you start thinking about the absurdity of, for example, someone claiming they own the number ‘2’, you start to comprehend the insanity of our system that allows someone to camp on any idea – when the same idea might have occured to many, many people. It’s a safe bet that across the universe musicians on millions of planets have landed on the same chord progressions as sounding good – once you start looking at infinity and eternity it becomes clear that we’re never the first to play these notes or think these things.

Intellectual property is a band-aid to try and make our already broken resource allocation system work for content creators. Personally I think – as I’ve discussed many other places – that it’s time to invent a new resource allocation system because ours is deeply flawed in ways that are reducing the net happiness of most of the users – and I do think it’s important to think of the needs of *all* the users in the system, not just the most mercenary.


Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

Be very suspicious of any information that is tagged with instructions to make a copy of it. (This includes most religions). In general, useful truth does not need to be tagged with a engram making it a virus in order to be viral. Therefore you have to question the validity and value of information that is tagged with viral engrams, as well as the motives of the people who made it viral.

The nature of reality and how it informs decisions

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

So, one of the things I occasionally feel resentment about is my desire to spend large numbers of hours exploring music combined with the recognition that the world almost certainly does not *need* these things (and the odds of me being better than anyone else at creating music are vanishingly small). One thing I have thought about is how my actions would be different if I *knew* the nature of the universe.

In particular, if I knew that I was in a single-person video game style simulation, I wouldn’t be concerned about the needs of the world and just what I could get away with.. I work more than I need to to support myself, partially to help out other people and partially to hone my skills in the hopes that I can participate in either the singularity or the mass automation in such a way as to help increase the general freedom of humanity.

But, I have to go with the assumption the reality that is presented to me is “real” and that the suffering of people is likewise real. On the other paw I am not willing to be completely selfless and give all my energy into things that advantage other people. So I try to balance out time to do the things I want to do (like exploring music and artificial neural networks) with things that the world will pay me to do because presumably it needs them done (system administration and a lot of not very exciting coding, mostly)

Some of the possibilities as to “what’s going on” that have occured to me

*) This whole thing could be a accidental side effect of some other system – our type of life inserts itself into entropy flow – we might even be moving from system to system, tapping different entropy flows, without us being aware of it.

*) This could be the work of a creator or creators. That might *also* be us, or it might be a seperate, distinct entity.

*) This might be a massive multiplayer simulation. In that case, it might be that the plot is driven by our decisions or it might be that the plot is on rails.

Unlike other people I have met I tend to think the people I talk to are not me, so I tend to think whatever we’re in has some sort of networking or multiple participants. I do wish sometimes that I knew what the most efficient choices to make were in order to optimize for reducing the suffering of others, and then could do cost-benefit analysis of the various actions I am taking in order to find some sort of optimized path forward that contains adequate time of me doing the things I want to do for my own reasons vs helping others.

What if there *isn’t* a objective reality?

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

One of the topics I do occasionally worry about is what if there just isn’t a objective reality? Since we know that our minds are easily powerful enough to generate a experience of reality being created out of whole cloth, this seems possible. It would explain how for some people the Jan 6 USA misadventure was a bunch of tourists on the lawn while for a bunch of other people it was a armed insurrection, for example. It could of course go a lot further than that. It’s a worrisome concept, because it can’t be disproven – but if there isn’t a objective reality I’d really like to reprogram the simulator so that *my* reality is more what I’d like to be doing.