Sunday, October 20, 2013

Total Surveillance is the Perfection of Democracy

For once I disagree with RMS, re:

I believe that it is fundamentally not possible to "roll back" the degree of surveillance in our [global] society in an effective way.  Our technology is already converging to a near-total degree of surveillance all on its own.  The article itself gives many examples.  The end limit will be Vinge's "locator dust" or perhaps something even more ubiquitous and ephemeral.  RMS advocates several "band-aid" fixes but seems to miss the logical structure of the paradox of inescapable total surveillance.

Let me attempt to illustrate this paradox.  Take this quote from the article:
"If whistleblowers don't dare reveal crimes and lies, we lose the last shred of effective control over our government and institutions."
(First of all we should reject the underlying premise that "our government and institutions" are only held in check by the fear of the discovery of their "crimes and lies".  We can, and should, and must, hold ourselves and our government to a standard of not committing crimes, not telling lies.  It is this Procrustean bed of good character that our technology is binding us to, not some dystopian nightmare.)

Certainly the criminally-minded who have inveigled their way into the halls of power should not be permitted to sleep peacefully at night, without concern for discovery.  But why assume that ubiquitous surveillance would not touch them?  Why would the sensor/processor nets and deep analysis not be useful, and used, for detecting and combating treachery?  What "crimes and lies" would be revealed by a whistleblower that would not show up on the intel-feeds?

Or this quote:
"Everyone must be free to post photos and video recordings occasionally, but the systematic accumulation of such data on the Internet must be limited."
How will this limiting be done?  What authority will decide who gets to post what and when?  And (like any profanity filter) won't this authority need to see the content to be able to decide whether it gets posted publicly?

In effect, doesn't this idea imply some sort of ubiquitous surveillance system to ensure that people are obeying the rules for preventing a ubiquitous surveillance system?

Let's say we set up some rules like the ones RMS is advocating, how do we determine that everyone is following those rules?  After all, there is a very good incentive for trying to get a privileged position vis-a-vis these rules.  Whoever has the inside edge, whether official spooks, enemy agents, or just criminals, gains an enormous competitive advantage over everyone else.

Someone is going to have that edge, because it's a technological thing, you can't make it go away simply because you don't like it.  If the "good guys" tie their own hands (by handicapping their surveillance networks) then we are just handing control to the people who are willing to do what it takes to take it.

You can't unilaterally declare that we (all humanity) will use the kid-friendly "lite" version of the surveillance network because we cannot be sure that everyone is playing by those rules unless we have a "full" version of the surveillance network to check up on everybody!

We can't (I believe) prevent total surveillance but we can certainly control how the data are used, and we can certainly set up systems that allow the data to be used without being abused.  The system must be recursive.  Whatever form the system takes, it shall necessarily have to be able to detect and correct its own self-abuses.

Total surveillance is the perfection of democracy, not its antithesis.

The true horror of technological omniscience is that it shall force us for once to live according to our own rules.  For the first time in history we shall have to do without hypocrisy and privilege.  The new equilibrium will not involve tilting at the windmills of ubiquitous sensors and processing power but rather learning what explicit rules we can actually live by, finding, in effect, the real shape of human society.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Self-Driving Cars Save Lives

The "self-driving" car is on the way and coming faster every day. It can't happen soon enough.  Car accidents kill millions, and maim millions more. Computer-driven automobiles won't drive better just because they drive themselves.

Self-driving cars will also be interconnected and constantly communicating with each other.  They'll "know" their own goals and intentions as well as those of the vehicles around them. Being able to rely on each other to the degree of effectively perfect shared understanding will enable them to plot safe trajectories and prevent nearly all accidents.

Even if someone should dart out in front of traffic, such as a child running for a ball, the cars will be able to react in ways and at speeds that are impossible for humans.

Cars as well as sensor nets in the road itself or built into local infrastructure would be able to monitor conditions and report them to the shared "road database", allowing cars to reduce speed near playgrounds or route around them altogether during games, for example.

Ubiquitous computing, sensors, and networking will make most accidents a thing of the past. They will also prevent such soon-to-be-anachronistic things as traffic jams and car chases.  You won't get moving violation tickets any more either. Driving will be like watching a really comfortable but slightly boring movie rather than the often-nightmarish gamble you take with your life every time you take to the road.

It can't happen fast enough.

It will also be a totalistic surveillance system of such intimacy and perfection as to constitute a synthetic Akashic records. In the process of driving these machines will know everything about everybody around them, and they can be ganged together to track everything they see, and they remember.

This is the price of the universal machine: universal transparency.  We are entering the time when we can make ourselves live to whatever rules we will, so it behooves us to do our best to make those rules indeed liveable (autocorrect suggested "lovable"...  Not bad machine, not bad.)

You are going to be surveilled. That cat is not going back in the bag.

You must make your peace with that, as I did.

But now we will live without hypocrisy (if we can!) and we will no longer mash ourselves up in our car crashes, and kill people just to get from point A to point B, and waste hours jammed in traffic.

We will have to learn to forgive ourselves for a lot of the shit we do, and learn to stop doing the worst of it, and pay for the bits that must be paid (the Devil will have his due, and some of us are very right to be terrified of the panopticon: I almost feel sorry for the ones who are only now realizing that the National Security Agency already has their dirty laundry.)

We will have to learn to be good. There is no other way to get good government. No matter the system it is made out of us, we rule ourselves whether we own it or not.  Yes your privacy is a fiction, but you might notice that suddenly most kinds of crime can no longer be committed!

We can actually detect most kinds of crime already from the existent systems we know about. I am convinced there are much more powerful and extensive systems still hidden, but the results of these systems can be selectively fed to outer levels for reduction of undesirable aspects of civil society. We should not be concerned that this will happen (as there is no way to stop it in any event) but rather that the definition of "undesirable" may be warped by residual power bases.

In the great struggle to govern ourselves the executive power has become perfected by the fulfilment of the Analytical Engine's great promise, and now we can rule ourselves completely for the first time since the fall.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Python as Basin

TL;DR: I am saddened but resigned to not hacking on tree because it's written in C.
I've often said that the only thing wrong with Python is that it ruins you for other languages.

What I mean is that nowadays, having written software mostly in Python for the last few years, when I go to read the source code for a simple tool like the 'tree' program (which reads a directory structure and outputs a simple text-mode graphical "tree" representing it) which is written in C I am struck by the amount of work I would have to do to be able to consider myself a "C programmer". (I used to be unembarrassed to claim "I can write C code." No more.)

Using Python has made me become monolingual.

I'm not suggesting that Python is "the best language" or anything (after all, we all know Forth is the best language...)  I'm just comfortable leaning on it heavily and neglecting other languages.

This is an old folk's liberty.  You young coders better learn as many languages as you can, it's not as hard as it seems and it's the only real way to escape the nest of abstractions that ensnares the unwary specialist.

(Put it this way: Yes there are more Java programmers than Python programmers but don't let that prevent your shop from deciding to use Python because a programmer who knows Java but can't pick up Python should not be hired! That's a baaad programmer! I would never dream of hiring someone to write software who knew Java (or C++) but balked at learning Python.  That poor bastard can go polish his turds on someone else's dime, Real Programmers only here please!)

So if language-agnosticism is so important to identify good programmers why am I so comfortable "degenerating" into monolingualism?

Well, for one thing, the characterization is false: I am still reading about and learning new languages. I just tend not to use them (other than for toy programs to play with them.)

At this stage in my trajectory as a programmer (which is much deeper and more important to me than my career as a programmer) most languages won't have much to teach me.  They also wouldn't enable me to achieve things at work that I otherwise couldn't achieve [with Python].

They are still fascinating. (I read "The Go Programming Language Phrasebook" cover-to-cover, drooling, just for kicks.)  But the romance has worn thin.

I want to get things done and I can do that with Python faster and with fewer errors (and fewer trips to the documentation) than any other available language (plus "ecosystem".)

There are sweet spots though when it would make sense to us another language.  If I had to write high-performance low-level software (instead of the endless succession of poorly-thought-out Django apps that have been buttering my bread for the last few years) I would lunge for Go.  It is a wonderful language and seems to me to be very well-designed.

I am less sure of the niche (for me) of Rust or Dart or (shudder!) Coffee script.

What I think we are experiencing in the field right now is a kind of shift from programming by language to programming by concepts.

The process of translating a high-level language into efficiently-runnable form is already so intricate and esoteric that it pretty much must be left to the crunchiest and most capable of us.  To put another way, it is very unlikely that a newbie is going to make significant contributions to a byte-code or assembly optimization process, but all-too-likely that newbies will inflict new languages on us (e.g. Ruby and PHP, both created by people who really had no business trying to create new programming languages.)

To me, this indicates that the "innovation-space", if you will, for PLs has to do with expressing ideas clearly, rather than some spectacular new syntax or nifty whiz-bang feature.  It is no fun watching languages slowly recapitulate LISP.

Let your language describe what you are thinking and let the accumulated wisdom and sweat and tears of the brilliant people working on translation and new hardware design turn it into efficient, runnable form.

In this regard Python is very satisfying.  It is possible to write very elegant and expressive code in Python. Readability is always the first thing on the list when I'm enumerating Python's strong points.

The PyPy project is beginning to provide a robust and powerful way to use Pythonic code in ways that are very flexible without sacrificing rigor.  (This is not to say that similar efforts aren't proceeding for other languages and "ecosystems"!)

I'm looking forward to the day that PyPy can convert my Python code into something like native code. (And of course there are tools like Cython.)

I only have so many hours in a day to devote to my craft, I can only burn so many calories to produce thought-stuff.  It made good sense to learn and use several languages when I was "coming up".  But now that I've "arrived" I find it makes more sense for me to improve by means of deep mastery of a particular set of powerful tools, rather than continuing to grok yet more variations on what I already know (syntax of languages.)

Learning Category Theory is more likely to pay off, personally and professionally, than learning Rust or Julia.

Friday, June 7, 2013

You cost too much.

So many things to say and they all must pass through these tiny fingers.

As technology begins to automate more and more of the tasks we feel are so crucial to our lives, people are beginning to notice the kinds of things that folks like Bucky Fuller were pointing out decades ago: automation is obsolescing jobs.

This is happening.

Now what to do with all these "left over" people?

But first, before traipsing any further down this merry and utterly tragically hallucinatory path, let's pause and examine some of the typically unspoken underpinnings of this sort of thinking.

Let me start by asking you, in all seriousness, "Do you feel superfluous to yourself?"

I don't mean to inquire about your estimation of your value to some theoretical employer or to "the Economy", I mean are you valuable to yourself?

All estimations of value must perforce carry or imply (or have imputed to them) some criteria or measurement of some kind of utility, and that utility is perforce tied to some agent's goals!

Insensate inanimate Nature has no person and so can have no goals and so provides no basis from which to evaluate (assign a value to) any given phenomenon, such as a human person.

To speak of the value of a human always and automatically implies that some agency is evaluating that human according to its metric(s) of utility.

In discussions of "What to do with the surplus population?" it is very very typical for the people discussing to omit entirely the examination and analysis of the agent or entity doing the evaluation.

I always find it disturbing when people assume the stance of having the right to decide matters of life and death for other people. I especially hate it when folks unconsciously adopt the stance.

I recognize no human authority as having the right to decide matters of life and death. The fact that historically abrogation of that power has been an all too common past-time of "power-possessing beings" has no bearing on the fact that it is utterly and obviously wrong to kill.

One of the grossest manifestations of this mental and emotional error is in the worship of a nominalization called "the Economy". This purely imaginary deity is useful but when people forget that it's just a made-up phantom and start making decisions based on such a logical error we tend to find absurdities.

Unlike philosophical absurdities these bite.

So we find people saying things like "part of why so many people can't get jobs -- their costs do not exceed the value they deliver." [comment on]

This is an extraordinary statement. It is logically meaningless, just noises, but infected minds will treat such statements as though they convey meaning that is valid in the "real world".

Really I can't blame people, the hallucinations run deep and are bound up with how people have learned to get their needs met, but it certainly time for those who don't know what they are talking about to heartily shut the fuck up and start hearing the new hottness.

So, to begin with, what is your value to yourself? How much money would you accept to die? (And I don't mean that you get to give it to your kids or charity or something. I will give you money and then you die, the money reverts to whoever finds it next to your corpse or something.)

Would you take that deal?

You don't get to keep or spend or give away the money, just have it for a moment before you drop dead. How much? A million? Ten million? A trillion dollars!?

It is absurd, right?

Your life has infinite value (to YOU) according to this simple thought experiment. (And, conversely, when "pressed up to it" money is valueless no matter how much you pile up.)

This has been established over and over again.

So, if some bastard were to come along and tell you that your "costs exceed your value" and so climb into this oven here we don't need you, you can suddenly see the error in the stance taken, yes?

Who are you costing? These "costs", what are they exactly? How are they accounted? And by whom?

If I am going to be murdered or left to rot and starve in the street because I "cost" too much I would like to understand the situation a little better, y'know, before I go quietly to the reclamation plant.

Because, see, the necessities of life are free (if you don't fuck it up too badly.) The sun and the rain and the air and the land will naturally and of their own natures bring forth plants and animals that can supply all my needs.

I am a Permaculturist and I know that any spot on earth not ice-locked can be made to bear the necessities of life quite easily (I don't mean to disrespect the farmers, it's not their fault, but normal agriculture is actually about the stupidest way to try to grow food that is possible. If agriculture were any stupider it would actually degrade the land it is practiced on, which, in fact, as practiced today it generally does. Stupid beyond understanding or belief. But that's a different rant...)

So if I can be dropped on a patch of barren desert with a few tools, a water source, seeds, and a flock of chickens, and live comfortably the rest of my life, who am I "costing" and how?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

"Women can't drive! My mom told me so!"

I had a roommate once who actually said that, as if his mom saying it made it true, or somehow un-sexist.  "Your mom saying that makes her sexist, it doesn't un-sexist the remark!"

I'm writing in response to the startling and apparently earnest missive by the members of "Chicks for Douchebags" titled "Open Source Is Not A Warzone. Not Every Man Is A Dick."

I imagined this to be written by some misogynistic man pretending to be a woman but the "sign off" at the end seem to indicate that it was composed and posted by a group of women, which makes it slightly less offensive, but all the more bizarre.

Wow, ladies, what the entire fuck?  Do the douchebags really need your help?

No one should be a dick to you at all, ever (regardless of your gender even!)

Certainly if a person can't understand and accept and practice basic courtesy (that we teach children in kindergarten and that has been commonly known and accepted in every even somewhat civilized society) then we shouldn't encourage them to show off their misfortune in public.

There is an eternal contest of the nice people against the ignorant or stupid or thoughtless or careless or shit-headed, and we do not need to grant quarter to the douchebags.  They deserve to lose, they deserve to feel uncomfortable, and the non-douchebags in the room can take just a little bit of extra care in the quest to make public life free from, say, unwelcome groping!

Here is a passage from the post:
Yes, we encountered dicks in our lives. Yes, we have been assaulted in our lives, maybe in broad daylight, in public. Yes, we've been hit on tastelessly and repeatedly and we have been disgusted and annoyed and sometimes we have been near panic. Some of us have encountered violence. We've gotten grabbed our asses, gotten felt up our boobs, have been stared at, wolf whistles at us and had some drunken moron hang in front of us. Yes, some of us have hit the proverbial glass ceiling in our careers.

This is (a bad) part of our lives and yes, we judge social gathering and human encounters by how comfortable we are and how safe we feel and by their level of open or veiled dickishness.
But this is only ONE aspect of being a woman and we do not like to let this aspect dominate how we live and behave within the tech communities of our choice.

Okay, let me try to be very clear here: the crap identified in that first paragraph of the quote is NOT an "aspect of being a woman"!  It is an "aspect" of people being douchebags!

You have the right to live free from unwelcome advances, uninvited physical contact, demeaning remarks and even staring!  Staring is rude and you have a right to expect to be able to call someone on it and have the good people around you back you up!

This isn't even really about gender at it's basest roots: it's just civil society.

It is the responibility of each and every one of us every day to set and maintain the standards of public conduct that allow us to have basic comfort and safety.

This is an ongoing struggle and there is no reason to yield!

How does one feel "victimized" by a formal written policy that states, in effect, that assholes who can't understand basic human social interaction and courtesy and cooperate to create a safe and inclusive enviroment for everybody will be sternly and soberly dealt with?

If you happen to be the sort of person who can deal with dicks and douchebags and who feels she can "stand up against dickish behavior when it happens" that is really great, and I am glad for you, I am!

But it also means that the policies you describe are not written for YOU!

You are perfectly correct when you say that you don't need them!  But you are being an insensitive asshat to then proclaim that people who feel less strong and powerful than you are not worth supporting, publicly and emphatically.

Is that really what you meant?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Guardians Riddle

The Guardians

You have been captured by an evil wizard and imprisoned in a room.  There are two doors leading out of the room and in front of each door stands a mighty Guardian.  The wizard has informed you that one Guardian always tells the truth and the other Guardian always lies.  He has also informed you that one door leads to freedom while the other door leads to certain doom.  He didn't tell you which door is which, nor which Guardian is which, nor which door each Guardian is standing in front of, but he did tell you that you are allowed to ask one of the Guardians one question to figure out which door to go through..

What question should you ask?

Let us name the door that leads to freedom (O) and the door that leads to certain doom O, and let us name the Truth-Telling Guardian (O) and the Lie-Telling Guardian O.

If you were to ask the Truth-Teller what door he is standing in front of he will tell you the truth. If he is standing in front of the door leading to Freedom he would say (((O))) (which is Void-valued) and if he is standing in front of the door leading to certain doom he would say ((O)) (which is the same as O).

The liar would say ((O)) (which is the same as O) if he is standing in front of the door leading to Freedom and (O) (which is Void-valued) if he is standing in front of the door leading to certain doom.

That doesn't help much, but what if you asked one Guardian what the other Guardian would say if you were to ask him?

The Truth-Teller would tell the truth, so he would say the same thing that the Liar would say, but the liar would lie.  If the Truth-Teller is standing in front of the door leading to Freedom the liar would say that the Truth-Teller would say ((((O)))) (which is the same as O) but if the Truth-Teller is standing in front of the door leading to certain doom the liar would say (((O))) (which is Void-valued.)

This is a little confusing so let's draw a little diagram:

    Door   Guardian   Guardian   Answer
    O      O          (O)        (((O))) -> _
    O      (O)        O          (((O))) -> _

    (O)    O          (O)        ((((O)))) -> O
    (O)    (O)        O          ((((O)))) -> O

It seems that, no matter whom you ask, and no matter which door is which, you can find out the opposite of the answer you want by asking one Guardian what the other would say about his door.

In effect, by asking one Guardian what the other would say you are forcing them both to answer, and because one always lies and one always tells the truth, and it doesn't matter in which order they go, you can always know the right answer, the door to Freedom.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Programming Languages Considered Harmful

Computer programming "languages" were always a bad idea.  We never should have abandoned math.

The Turing Machine is a bit-rattle, an analytical mess.

The Lambda Calculus is a rude hack.

The Combinators have a grace and elegance, but are lotus-eaters.

The Laws of Form...   are themselves.

My father used to say, often enough that I internalized it, "A fool never learns, a man learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others."

For my part, I took this advice to mean that I should use what I think of as the "ratchet effect" which can be put into words as: use the best thing you can find, until you find something better, then use that.

In mathematics (and computers properly understood are "only" mathematics) if a given structure is simpler and more elegant than, and serves to explain or re-create, some other more complex or less elegant system, then it is common to consider the first structure in some way more primal or fundamental than the later system.

But this breaks down when people are confronted with the Laws of Form.

They are too simple.

People tend to "sniff" audibly and say things like, "well, it's just another notation, isn't it?" and "it doesn't add much to the existing literature."  Which, of course, is exactly missing the point:  it adds nothing and takes away much that is then seen to have been unnecessary.

Eventually, if you stick with it, it takes away everything and "you" are back in the un-distinct Void.

The fact that the Laws of Form provide the best system for thinking and constructing mechanical thought are their least-interesting application.


We can say without fear of embarrassment or contradiction "The Laws of Form provide the best system for thinking and constructing mechanical thought", because we know that if some one were to come up with a better system it would be shown to be, in fact, the same system as the Laws of Form.

Two beings calculating Pi will arrive at the same value regardless of their circumstances.  In other words, their "circum"-"stances" (the stance of the Universe that surrounds one) would be identical in that way.  Likewise, the considerations here collected under that title "Laws of Form" are the same in all possible Universes, all Universe begins with the making of a distinction.

In the absence of distinction nothing can be signified.

Try to find the distinction between "you" and the contents of "your" awareness.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Economics, What's That?

With the rapid advent of 3D-printing people are starting to be open to thinking through the obvious consequences.  Let's try it.

If you hang out with plants and help them then you are a Grower.

If you are making something with your hands that involves protons and neutrons then you are an Artisan.

If you are making something that can be transmitted through photons and electrons then you are a Designer.

If you are helping people to feel better then you are a Healer.

If you are helping people to grow then you are a Teacher.

I think that just leaves Artist and Scientist?  I'm going to say that both of those roles are concomitant of the others to a greater or lesser degree per ones own personal tastes and nature.
  • Grower
  • Artisan
  • Designer
  • Healer
  • Teacher
  • Artist
  • Scientist 
Every other role will be eliminated or fulfilled by machinery.  Go take out the phone book, if you still have one.  Flip though it and see what I mean, nearly everybody in there is about to made obsolete by automation.

As for the structure of the economy I foresee three "levels" or "strata".

The first layer is made up of locally grown and consumed food and other wholesome organic products.  We'll soon come to our senses and stop messing around with GMO's and other insane techno-fetishes (or we'll all die. It's that simple and stark.)  On the primary physical level we'll live quite close to the way our "stone-age" ancestors did (and no, billions will not have to perish to let it happen) only with nice houses.

That original organic economy will form the basis or substratum for the other two layers.

There will be an "information" layer where most economic activity takes place that involves people creating wealth in digital form.  More than enough has been said about that.

The last layer is relatively sparse and consists of whatever physical transactions are needed to support the two other layers but that are not strictly "of them", meaning non-purely-digital and not ecological or organic.  This involves things like extracting particular elements from the Earth for specific experiments and projects.

My Favorite Superpower

Look, I don't make a big deal about this. In fact, normally I wouldn't mention it.  (It's a bit like having a third nipple: not really embarrassing but one doesn't tend to brag about it.)

The fact of the matter is that I have super-powers. Now, what do I mean by that? Am I being metaphorical, or telling a story for some fictive purpose perhaps, or do I really mean that I have "magical" powers?

It is the latter. I really do have "magical" powers.  I can fly, teleport, turn invisible, all that shit.  I'm immune to poison, disease, fire, cold. I don't need to eat or drink or even breath. I can dissolve my body and re-materialize it, etc., etc., yadda yadda.

Now, none of this matters. The only important thing to know about these "powers" is that they are a distraction.

That is so important that I'll repeat it: Magic powers are a distraction, leave them alone, never-you-mind.

As a side-effect of spiritual attainment you do actually develop crazy cool powers, traditionally called "Siddhis", but they are just another part of Maya (illusion) to be overcome!

And besides, they aren't useful for anything!

(Did you see the movie "Loopers"?  Some people in the future develop telekinesis but all they can do is levitate quarters and such. It's pretty funny.  This is sort of like that but not really.)

What do you think, that I fly through the air down to the corner store to get milk?  People would go ape-shit.

No. I never use any of my super-special mystic abilities.  Except one.

Out of all the fantastic amazing things that my attainment permits me to do, all the wonderful magical powers and fantastic journeys I might undergo, I stay here on Earth and do just one thing, use just one "power".


Friday, February 15, 2013

Inside and Outside

I originally thought of this as part of a fictional "Future History" that I've been toying with for years.  I don't know if I'll ever get to making anything with the stories but I thought this concept was worth enough on it's own to merit a blog post.

This is fictional, obviously, but I see it as very likely and even perhaps inevitable.

In the future (goes this story idea) the surface of the Earth has been divided into two kinds of zones or areas: "Inside" and "Outside".

Inside: Artificial, Safe, Immortal

There is a single city but it's discontinuous, not connected. It's like islands and archipelagos of built area embedded in a "sea" of wild land and water.  The city is ultra-tech, nano and beyond.  People there do not age, or age and rejuvenate as they please.  All the transhumanist techno-utopian dreams are come to fruition within the City.  Barring accidents you live as long as you want and it is Christmas every single day.

Outside: Real, Dangerous, Reproductive

The rest of the world is one giant Nature reserve. All of the oceans and the great majority of the land masses are kept in a Natural state and evolution is permitted to continue without interference from our human institutions within the City.  People live Outside too, in tribes and homesteads, and although there is first aid and basic medicine and surgery, they voluntarily endure the "slings and barbs of outrageous fortune".  Transhuman modifications and forms are not "worn" Outside.  This is also where all new people are conceived, gestated, and born. If you want to have a baby and raise a child you have to go Outside.

This is Humanity's grand compromise with our technology.  In order to maintain a normative baseline, a "control group", for our wild forays into the Transhuman realms Inside we have to permit our own natural evolution to proceed Outside.


I hadn't figured out what form it would take (it's an ongoing story idea I'm still playing with) but there would be some sort of "intake" or "graduation" process for bringing new humans into the City for the first time.  I have no idea, I'm just mentioning it. ^_^

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"You Can Be What You Won't"

I realized I can state my case succinctly and directly because you and I are sentient: you're at least as intelligent and moral as I, and you are self-reflective and exercise some volitional control over your emotional responses, yes?

So:  I will never deliberately harm you or yours, nor do I expect that you would ever seek to harm me or mine.

If ever our interests were to conflict we, being two sentient beings committed to peace and capable of reasonable discourse, would come together and find some reasonable compromise.

Further, if that were somehow impossible I expect we would engage in that polite rivalry proper to sentient beings as to who would be privileged to make the greater sacrifice for whom.

Real humans, sentient humans, aren't mean or even inconsiderate to each other.  They don't fight because fighting is futile.

Above a certain level of intelligence conflict ceases.

And humans are above that level.

That is why I give people such a hard time about being such asshats: I know they could be better than they are.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pausing the Dendrite Network

I'm "pausing" on the Dendrite Network.  I really think it is a great idea but I don't need it personally and so far I am having little luck getting any "traction" with it.

The idea is simple and I've written it up extensively on this blog, and the code is hosted on GitHub for anyone to read, use, and modify.  I will almost certainly maintain the domain and demo server, seems a shame not to, but I'm not going to work on it or try to promote it anymore, at least for a while.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Carrying Things Through the Atmosphere (this is not a Laden Swallow Joke)

If you want to carry things through the atmosphere you need to be light and have a great deal of resistance to air vertically while having little resistance to air horizontally.

Create three kinds of components:
  1. Sails - equilateral triangles of lightweight material.
  2. Tethers - long bits of light, strong line or rope.
  3. Struts - hollow tubes containing controls and sensors, as well as some way of controlling air pressure, preferably using the Magnus effect but it could be propellers or fans.
  1. Build feed lines to construct and feed components to an assembly area at the rate of three struts, three tethers and two sails per time unit.
  2. The struts are placed into a jig that holds them in the correct arrangement.
  3. Sails and tethers are clipped onto the struts forming a triangular tensgresity prism.
  4. The electronics are activated and perform self-test, on green light the kite is launched directly into operational service. It will not touch the ground during its operational lifetime.
  1. The kite-swarm can link together to create kites of great size and lifting capability.
  2. Individual long tethers from each kite are clustered and attached to loads in distributed placement.
  3. There is no theoretical limit to the size of the kite, and therefore the size of the load that may be lifted. Physical limits apply.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Evolutionarily Stable Strategy

A lot of the subtle details of the design of the Dendrite Network are misunderstood or missed entirely when people first hear about it, and at least some of this is due to the fact that the D.N. is an evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS).

Unlike most business models and indeed most human planning, the D.N. model cannot be replaced by a competing model.  Put another way, any potential improvement to the D.N. that could not be symmetrically adopted by the all the users would be spontaneously rejected, and any potential improvement to the D.N. that could be symmetrically adopted by the all the users would be, and therefore become the Dendrite Network.

By defining the D.N. in terms of a service or goal, rather than a static institution that has to maintain itself to maintain itself, all possible competition is obviated.

This is literally true: If you can invent a better network I will immediately quit work on this one and join yours. Anything else would be stupid.

However, it is extremely unlikely that you can improve on the current version. I am very good at what I do, and I have been thinking about this system for over twenty years.

(At this point it is customary for the listener to inquire along these lines: "If this is so good, why aren't we using it already?"  Of course this seems like a bright question, but in fact is stark idiocy, and I never have any idea how to answer it.  The answer obviously is, "I have no fucking clue why people refuse to do the blatantly obvious better things that are all around them." I am not in that department.  I am in the department of solutions, and I have them all, but very very few people are actually interested.  It is shocking. I am shocked.  It's not like I need the D.N.  I'm not the one who is rapidly being totally economically marginalized faster and faster every day.)

The D.N. captures the fundamental essence of a public-meme-spreading network.  The "campaigns" and usage patterns that run on top of it (like websites "running" on the web) are subject to wild evolution, but the underlying network is not really going to need to change much.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Yet More on the Dendrite Network

I woke up this morning feeling like writing up a couple of the subtle points of the ol' D.N., so here goes.

No Privileged Position

One thing that I feel is crucial, and that I expect many people to overlook or ignore, is the neutrality of or lack of privileged position in the basis network.

In order to explain more clearly I will employ a metaphor: the basis network is like the Great Plains, and the campaigns that run on top of it are like buffalo. Or again, the network layer is like the Internet, while the campaigns are like the services and sites running on the Internet.

As the operator and steward of the network I do not get any special consideration.  Specifically, I do not take a cut of every sale. In fact, I don't even participate in the transaction. If no one tells me a sale happened I won't even know.  If I want to make money using the D.N. I must start a campaign of my own or help spread others', just like anybody else.

The system is symmetrical, egalitarian, diffident even.  Eventually I will found a non-profit to administer it.

Social Feedback

The D.N. is just a way to spread memes and publicly track the spread. It makes no attempt to provide any communication or feedback between the users, other than publicly recording "reject" notices in the log. It does not even have "accounts".

Because you are generally only exchanging "bump URLs" with people you know, I expect that you can use social channels to communicate with them already!

The D.N. is not meant to foster new connections, only to publicly record and illustrate memes spreading through your existing connections.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Nothing Like a Flowchart

I created a flowchart kind of a thing to illustrate the "flow" through the network.
You start at the upper left with a visit to a "bump URL" and follow the arrows around to the point where you generate your own "bump URL" to pass along to the next people.