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Comment: Re:Tip of the iceberg (Score 1) 113

by Copid (#48682747) Attached to: NSA Reveals More Than a Decade of Improper Surveillance

And as for the analyst who was spying on her spouse, she's damn lucky she got a slap on the wrist. She could have gotten much, much worse for that.

That's kind of the problem. She could have and should have gotten much worse. The fact that she didn't indicates a serious dysfunction in the system. And it's the type of dysfunction that sounds a lot like the type of arrogant, "The rules don't apply to us," and, "If you're not police, you're nobody," attitude you get from dangerously corrupt police forces in countries we sneer at. That's not good. Not good at all.

Given that, I have a very hard time buying the idea that these people take their jobs seriously at all. Anybody who took that job seriously would have immediately stomped down on that person, drummed her out of the service, and immediately made changes to make sure it didn't happen again.

Comment: Re:The only negative reviews are coming from... (Score 2) 187

by Copid (#48682711) Attached to: The Interview Bombs In US, Kills In China, Threatens N. Korea
I think he's saying that a restaurant reviewer who goes into a burger joint and shits all over it in his review because they didn't have sushi is probably not adding much useful information to the review-o-sphere.

I don't like most childrens movies because I'm an adult and I find them childish. But if somebody was paying me to write informative reviews and I had to review a kids' movie, I wouldn't spend a lot of time bemoaning the simplistic plot line, limited charater development or overly bright color pallette. Complaining that the latest Disney Princess movie didn't have the same set of elements that made No Country for Old Men appealing sort of misses the point. It's not even sensible enough to be considered wrong.

Comment: Re:Prediction: (Score 4, Insightful) 179

by daveschroeder (#48680051) Attached to: N. Korea Blames US For Internet Outage, Compares Obama to "a Monkey"

First of all, you say, "North Korea didn't hack Sony," as if it is an indisputable, known fact. It is not -- by any stretch of the imagination.

The fact is, it cannot be proven either way in a public forum, or without having independent access to evidence which proves -- from a social, not technical, standpoint -- how the attack originated. Since neither of those are possible, the MOST that can be accurate stated is that no one, in a public context, can definitively demonstrate for certain who hacked Sony.

Blameless in your scenario is the only entity actually responsible, which is that entity that attacked Sony in the first place.

Whether that is the DPRK, someone directed by the DPRK, someone else entirely, or a combination of the above, your larger point appears to be that somehow the US is to blame for a US subsidiary of a Japanese corporation getting hacked -- or perhaps simply for existing.

As a bonus, you could blame Sony for saying its security controls weren't strong enough, while still reserving enough blame for the US as the only "jackass".

Bravo.

Comment: Prediction: (Score 5, Insightful) 179

by daveschroeder (#48679895) Attached to: N. Korea Blames US For Internet Outage, Compares Obama to "a Monkey"

Many of the same slashdotters who accept "experts" who claim NK didn't hack Sony will readily accept as truth that it was "obviously" the US that attacked NK, even though there is even less objective proof of that, and could just as easily be some Anonymous offshoot, or any number of other organizations, or even North Korea itself.

See the logical disconnect, here?

For those now jumping on the "North Korea didn't hack Sony" bandwagon that some security "experts" are leading for their own political or ideological reasons, including using rationales as puzzling and pedestrian as source IP addresses of the attacks being elsewhere, some comments:

Attribution in cyber is hard, and the general public is never going to know the classified intelligence that went into making an attribution determination, and experts -- actual and self-appointed -- will make claims about what they think occurred.

With cyber, you could have nation-states, terrorists organizations, or even activist hacking groups attacking other nation-states, companies, or organizations, for any number of motives, and making it appear, from a social and technical standpoint, that the attack originated from and/or was ordered by another entity entirely.

That's a HUGE problem, but there are ways to mitigate it. A Sony "insider" may indeed -- wittingly or unwittingly -- have been key in pulling off this hack. That doesn't mean that DPRK wasn't involved. I am not making a formal statement one way or the other; just saying that the public won't be privy to the specific attribution rationale.

Also, any offensive cyber action that isn't totally worthless is going to attempt to mask or completely divert attention from its true origins (unless part of the strategic intent is to make it clear who did it), or at a minimum maintain some semblance of deniability.

At some point you have to apply Occam's razor and ask who benefits.

And for those riding the kooky "This is all a big marketing scam by Sony" train:

So, you're saying that Sony leaked thousands of extremely embarrassing and in some cases damaging internal documents and emails that will probably result in the CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment being ousted, including private and statutorily-protected personal health information of employees, and issued terroristic messages threatening 9/11-style attacks at US movie theaters, committing dozens to hundreds of federal felonies, while derailing any hopes for a mass release and instead having it end up on YouTube for rental, all to promote one of hundreds of second-rate movies?

Yeah...no.

Comment: Re:Don't shoot the dog (Score 1) 323

by Paul Fernhout (#48660749) Attached to: Putting Time Out In Time Out: The Science of Discipline

Yes, that is a great book by Karen Pryor! Inspired by her book, I once made a list of maybe two dozen other ways to deal with behavior issues, but I don't think I put it on the web. The last one was something like just accepting the undesired behavior as a recurring reminder that you have something good (a relationship) in your life. :-)

Comment: Kohn is great; see also Meredith Small and others (Score 1) 323

by Paul Fernhout (#48660693) Attached to: Putting Time Out In Time Out: The Science of Discipline

"Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent"
http://www.amazon.com/Our-Babi...
"New parents are faced with innumerable decisions to make regarding the best way to care for their baby, and, naturally, they often turn for guidance to friends and family members who have already raised children. But as scientists are discovering, much of the trusted advice that has been passed down through generations needs to be carefully reexamined.
    A thought-provoking combination of practical parenting information and scientific analysis, Our Babies, Ourselves is the first book to explore why we raise our children the way we do--and to suggest that we reconsider our culture's traditional views on parenting.
    In this ground-breaking book, anthropologist Meredith Small reveals her remarkable findings in the new science of ethnopediatrics. Professor Small joins pediatricians, child-development researchers, and anthropologists across the country who are studying to what extent the way we parent our infants is based on biological needs and to what extent it is based on culture--and how sometimes what is culturally dictated may not be what's best for babies.
    Should an infant be encouraged to sleep alone? Is breast-feeding better than bottle-feeding, or is that just a myth of the nineties? How much time should pass before a mother picks up her crying infant? And how important is it really to a baby's development to talk and sing to him or her?
    These are but a few of the important questions Small addresses, and the answers not only are surprising but may even change the way we raise our children."

John Holt and Pat Farenga are worth reading too, about "unschooling" as essentially "give your kids all the freedom you can stand, especially in following their own educational interests".
http://www.johnholtgws.com/pat...

Although, I personally feel the more extreme form of "radical unschooling" as some (not all) practice it is like the libertarianism of parenting, emphasizing freedom over all other virtues... Kids are indeed "learning all the time" but the quality of what they are learning can matter too. Also, "supernormal stimuli" of certain media and certain foods may need to be avoided or limited for health reasons because to help kids avoid or recover from "the pleasure trap".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S...
http://www.drfuhrman.com/libra...

Also related on Myers-Briggs for both parent and child to look at various matchups:
http://www.motherstyles.com/

And:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P...

That page talks a lot about Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive and Neglectful styles. But the page goes into more types than that (including "attachment" parenting which may be close to the human historical norm within hunter/gatherer tribes where it sounds like a crying baby was rare).

By the way, kids can be much more a discipline problem when fed junk, not fed enough fruits and vegetables, lacking in sunlight, lacking in good gut bacteria, lacking in exercise, overstressed by an early focus on academics instead of play, saturated by violent and sexualized media, and so on. See also:
https://www.drfuhrman.com/chil...
https://www.vitamindcouncil.or...
http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/0...
http://www.chrismercogliano.co...
http://www.pdfernhout.net/the-...
http://dianeelevin.com/sosexys...

Good luck!!! Have Fun!!!!

Comment: Ideas for better tools to make sense of health (Score 1) 439

by Paul Fernhout (#48660441) Attached to: How Venture Capitalist Peter Thiel Plans To Live 120 Years

My suggestion: https://www.newschallenge.org/...
"When confronted with a health issue, many people turn to their doctor, the internet, or friends for advice. But then what do you and your family do with all the advice you receive? What do even health professionals do with all the often conflicting information out there when they research a patient's health issues? We want to create software that helps with that challenge by making it easier for individuals and communites to collect health information (from whatever public sources including the internet), organize it, prioritize it, reason about it, act on it, and feed back the results of action into a next iteration as a learning experience. "

To add to your list, more vegetables, fruits, and beans can help, too. See Dr. Fuhrman. He may have become too commercial and may also miss a few things (Salt vilified too much? Too low on iodine? A bit low on vitamin D? Discarding some psychological aspects? Overoptimizing a few things? Trusting too much in some studies that are still to mainstream? Ignoring some possible benefits from animal products? Ignoring genetic issues like difficulties synthesizing some things? Not enough emphasis on the microbiome?). But overall he gets a lot ("make the salad the main dish") and his approach is based on science studies -- even if there is a risk of how you interpret limited studies and conflicting studies.

Also see Dr. Weil on lifestyle issues (like stress, sleep, music, community, and so on) as well as herbal remedies.

And see Bluezones for community level issues like sidewalks and walking clubs.

Vitamin D from some source to make up for indoor living is essential too.

Anyway, I'm writing other software right now for my wife (related to her free Working with Stories book) but I hope I can use the infrastructure (JavaScript/Dojo/Node.js/Pointrel) to use for other things like such tools. Probably would be an excellent life-extension choice by Peter Thiel to fund time for several developers to work on such FOSS software though. :-)

Comment: Re:Computer history rambles and what might have be (Score 1) 622

by Paul Fernhout (#48657945) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

Glad the Norris link was helpful. Still hope you check out the"Skills of Xanadu" links... Yeah, it's hard to know when to "barge" and when not to...

Your County Currency link was off, but I found this:
http://countycurrency.org/

Reminds me a bit of LETS:
http://www.lets-linkup.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L...

Although, from the fist link: "Don't think of LETS points like dollars. Think of them as favours. LETS Favours. ... The LETS group's function is to act as a bookkeeper for their members' activities; keeping record of these 'favours' and putting the members' accounts into debit or credit accordingly. An account that is in credit identifies a member who has given more favours than he has received, and an account that is in debit identifies a member who has received more favours than he has given. These credits have no value and cannot be exchanged for cash. Their only purpose is to keep track of each member's involvement in the group so they can aim to bring their accounts back to zero -- a sign of fair and equitable participation in the system. ..."

And:
http://banknd.nd.gov/
"Welcome to Bank of North Dakota (BND). As the only state-owned bank in the nation, we act as a funding resource in partnership with other financial institutions, economic development groups and guaranty agencies."

Although they presumably don't issue currency except as debt like any other conventional bank. But one can wonder how far debt lending could go at he state level these days with Fed support.

See also on having adequate currency as the cause of the American Revolution (assuming it is true):
"How Benjamin Franklin Caused the Revolutionary War"
http://www.opednews.com/articl...

Jane Jacobs was big on cities having their own currencies. She especially values currency fluctuations between cities as markers of how well cities were doing processes like import replacement. She pointed out how national currencies could hurt most cities (while perhaps benefiting the capital city). Reading her work, I realized how the Euro was a big step backwards for most Europeans, especially in a computer age where translating currencies using current values (over a network) was a fairly easy problem to solve technically. The Euro shows the folly of trying to have a common currency without a common form of governance for the people who use it.

When I've thought about currencies, I eventually realized that a currency is implicitly a constitution. It's backed in a sense by an community and is only as strong as the governance of that community, which controls how much of the currency is issued and the official rules for exchange it. When a currency loses value relative to other currencies, it mostly reflects an assessment of the community or its governance that stands behind the currency as a medium of exchange. In that sense, the county currency idea fits a definable unit of governance -- the county.

As for getting back to the countryside with technology, my wife and I moved to the Adirondack park more than ten years ago. When we first arrived we had only dialup, but a couple years after that paid the cable company US$4000 to extend cable about a half mile to us so we could get broadband speeds. Money well spent as far as ROI. It was only computer networking that let us live in such a remote area and still be able to do consulting projects. And dialup speeds were getting more and more problematical, with people sending multi-megabyte files and asking us if we got them, and having to say, well, it will take a couple hours to download... I spent 2.5 years recently supporting NBCUniversal's broadcast operations and writing new software for them to control video routers and their satellite system -- routinely downloading multi-gigabyte log files and only needing to go to NYC for the day maybe a dozen or so times over that time. So, I guess I got to live that dream. :-) Well, ignoring I'd rather have been developing software for more decentralized systems. :-(

I'm not sure living in the countryside does much for demographics though. Industrial society, whether in urban, suburban, town, or rural areas, provides so many distractions while raising the cost of having a kid so high that population growth rates are falling in all such places. Italy is a worst case along with Japan, but the USA is pretty much only still growing based on immigration. Here is something I wrote on that (in part to rebut concerns over Peak Oil etc.):
"[p2p-research] Peak Population crisis (was Re: Japan's Demographic Crisis)"
http://p2pfoundation.net/backu...
http://p2pfoundation.net/backu...

BTW, I just spent about five hours working with my kid (who did the artwork and provided domain design advice) and making a crude browser-based 2D multi-player tank battle toy in JavaScript (both on the browser and with a NodeJS server using socket.io for the networking). I call it a toy as there is no collision detection, score, login ids, or many other features -- and still known bugs like when people reconnect and leave ghost tanks. So, nowhere near WOT (which we play a lot) but I thought it would be a fun learning experience for him and me to do together. Some things have gotten so much easier over the years -- yet another way automation is reducing the need for "jobs" :-) We just put it up on GitHub:
"TanksInYourBrowser"
https://github.com/pdfernhout/...

I have a copy of this book, so maybe we'll get to 3D multi-player eventually: :-)
"3D Game Programming for Kids: Create Interactive Worlds with JavaScript (Pragmatic Programmers)"
http://www.amazon.com/Game-Pro...
"You know what's even better than playing games? Creating your own. Even if you're an absolute beginner, this book will teach you how to make your own online games with interactive examples. You'll learn programming using nothing more than a browser, and see cool, 3D results as you type. You'll learn real-world programming skills in a real programming language: JavaScript, the language of the web. You'll be amazed at what you can do as you build interactive worlds and fun games."

Anyway, thanks for helping get all that started! :-)

Comment: Computer history rambles and what might have been (Score 1) 622

by Paul Fernhout (#48652283) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

Jim, thanks for the reply. It is a pleasure to be corresponding with someone with such a knowledge of computing history (having lived it). My first computer (other than playing with IBM punched cards and building my own circuits) was KIM-1 with 1K of memory in the late 1970s, and I've been working with them ever since. I started networked computing in high school in the 1970s on a TOPS-10/Lyrics DEC PDP-10 system on Long Island, even eventually getting a Commodore PET to dial in (but I could not afford as a teenager the US$10 an hour phone non-local charges -- probably US$40 an hour in today's money -- although at some point we got a local dial-in as I was leaving high school). I was later for a time on AppleLink and BIX and the Well and IGC, but still generally restricted by US$10 an hour long distance charges until the late 1990s. We perhaps both draw from many of the same pool of ideas and interests and likely even sci-fi stories informing our outlooks (even if they are not identical) -- although with my experiences lag yours by a decade or two, and I was never in the kind of communities doing the kind of really new work you were fortunate enough to be in. My father was a merchant mariner, then a machinist, then a manufacturing engineer, so I also has a somewhat more mechanical focus in some of my aspirations (like interest in self-replicating hardware leading to self-replicating space habitats, which overlaps seasteading and some other exponential ideas you talk about for environmental cleanup); but my mother's work as a social worker / welfare caseworker for twenty years and more also is an influence as to bigger picture issues. Due to that lag, compared to you, I also saw and lived in much more of the Personal Computer aspect of the industry compared to PLATO and (to me then unaffordable, even for two decades) computer networking, even if I did use networked computer early on in high school. I put some rambles below on ideas in your essay and other historical links, plus a big quote at the end from Bill Norris hat applies to the main topic of automation and jobs. Anyway, got to get back to "work" or I would make this better and shorter. :-)

=== Ramble mode on

I corresponded with Bill Norris briefly in the late 1980s (when my graduate advisor at Princeton suggested I talk to him), then again in the early 1990s. I had hoped to work with him somehow at his foundation developing software to support flexible manufacturing and information exchange, even hoping to move as a summer volunteer/intern to MN (he said he had no money to hire new staff). However, I met my wife around then and so those hopes ultimately fell apart. My own ideas on that became "OSCOMAK", but it has not really gone far, and it has been eclipsed by other ideas of lesser scope but better social networking. It's a shame he and I never worked together back then, as I feel it would have been a great match with my interests and abilities, and I would have learned so much from him. I can envy you a chance to bask in that environment.

Bill Norris sent me a copy of his biography as well as copies of many of the pamphlets he wrote for Control Data (like "back to the Countryside via Technology"). I scanned and OCR'd some of the pamphlets and had hoped to put them on the internet and we had some correspondence about that too, but the licensing issues remained unclear so I did not put them up. Glad someone else did though:
http://www.cbi.umn.edu/hostedp...

Of Bill Norris' talks there, the most relevant there is this HBR story on robots taking all the jobs may be: "Technology and Full Employment [Nov. 1978]". I quote at length from one of them at the end. However, as much as I respect Bill Norris, and as much as what he said about full employment and technology may have been true in the 1970s, I feel it is a lot less true now that robotics, AI, and other forms of automation, along with better design, better materials, expanded infrastructure, the internet, eventually cheaper energy via PV and fusion, and so on are making *most* human labor less economically valuable in comparison. As predicted in the 1960s and before, the income-through-jobs link is being stretched to the breaking point for *most* people, and wage income is increasingly problematical as being the primary way families gain the right to consume the products of industry. Ultimately, some form of basic income or social credit is needed to distribute purchasing power under 21st century capitalism (or we need to a new form of economics entirely emphasizing subsistence, gift, or planned transactions). *Full* employment is not the solution, if it ever was. Full employment also sidesteps the issue of "good" employment as far as meaningful jobs, worker autonomy, or worker skill increases. *Good* employment is still a great idea though, like E.F. Schumacher talks about in "Buddhist Economics" or "Good Work". Of course, Bill Norris was all about "good employment" and treating workers well by pioneering the Employee Assistance Plan (EAR) and so on -- stuff that other corporations, even Google, have copied decades later but without the "creating jobs for poor uneducated people in the inner-city" focus.

As to perspective on patents and copyrights, in practice I don't feel they work to the advantage of our overall global culture at this point, given the costs of chilling effects and re-invention. The fan produced "Star Trek Continues" shows what is possible when hundreds of volunteers get together to make and fund something:
https://www.kickstarter.com/pr...
http://news.slashdot.org/story...

Lawyers get paid big bucks for mastering essentially a public domain of knowledge and contributing to that public domain by court cases and tailoring application of that public domain to specific individual needs. If the public domain works for lawyers, why should it not work for engineers and programmers and writers?

Independent individual innovators in the USA are particularly disadvantaged compare to innovators in, say, India or China that are less respectful of such things. I can understand the argument for patents and copyrights in an economy based primarily on exchange transactions as a way to get development funds from investors who plan to recoup their investment via imposing "artificial scarcity" via an information monopoly granted and ultimately enforced at gunpoint by the government for the patent of copyright. But at the same time, patents and copyrights hold back the emergence of a gift economy and the systematic organization and distillation of global knowledge and culture. For all the economic arguments, creating "artificial scarcity" remains something of an immoral act. About the only justification I can think of for "artificial scarcity" (other than fiscal survival in our primitive civilization) is perhaps, done for security or "prime directive" reasons like, say, keeping the plans for a zero-point energy device out of the hands of a scarcity-oriented culture that would ironically likely just blow itself up with such a device fighting over oil fields. BTW, my ironic site: http://artificialscarcity.com/

Here is a self-assessed copyright tax idea I put together around the early 2000s, inspired by someone slashdot sig of something like "if it is intellectual property, why isn't it taxed?"
http://journalism.berkeley.edu...
"It may prove difficult in the short term to reduce the term of copyrights which have already been extended. Also, the forces pushing perpetual copyright are strong. However, there is another route, which may be easier, employing the concepts of Aikido -- moving with the strong force and redirecting it in a better way. Rather than fight to reduce the maximum term of copyrights, consider that existing and future copyrights could be taxed annually just like real estate as long as they are kept from the public domain. This uses a market-based approach to limit the external costs of copyright monopolies."

I'm a big Smalltalk/Kay/Ingalls/etc. fan since the 1981 Byte article on it, and I started using it in the 1980s, buying a copy of ObjectWorks the day before the great earthquake in CA, which took weeks to arrive because of the quake (even if they charged my credit card the same day).
https://archive.org/details/by...

I was involved for a time with the Squeak community, trying to get the license straightened out and get the system to be more modular and support more standard widgets -- all to little avail, but years later others did that. I agree JavaScript across the web is the best we have as far as being like it that has received mass option. Following on Dan Ingall's move to JavaScript (with the Lively Kernel), I've been moving my own work there like with the most recent versions of Pointrel/Twirlip/etc. and other stuff.

As for DOS, QNX existed before DOS and was better. It had microkernel message passing and could operate as a (near) real-time OS. It supported multi-processing and multi-machines. DOS is a cheap plastic toy compared to an industrial strength QNX. IBM has its own Forth written by David Frank at IBM Research f(who I worked side-by-side with there). Forth would have made a better DOS than DOS, but IBM's PC division was separate from David's group. Can you imagine what the IBM PC's and large industry's evolution would have been like if the command prompt was Forth? Around that time, IBM also had the industrial/scientific CS9000 personal workstation for scientists that ran a UNIX-like system on top of a 68000. Imagine if that has become the standard -- people would not have spent so many years dealign with a funky Intel instruction set with an odd memory model.

And along the time you wrote your 1982 essay, there was the beginning of the French Minitel system which started in 1978.
http://tech.slashdot.org/comme...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M...

In that essay, you mention one-way vs. two-way communications (as you knew as a possibility from PLATO). My wife's work connects to helping a community reclaim its own stories compared to mass-produced ones. My own (long term, still ongoing for 30 years) ideas connect to knowledge representation via the Pointrel system and a social semantic desktop (but I'd be the first to say the ideas are incomplete, have been passed by in many ways, and have not taken off, although the Pointrel ideas may have helped in some small way to inspire WordNet started by my undergrad advisor at Princeton, George A. Miller as I was graduating).

You wrote: "With the precipitous drop in the price of information technology, computer-based communication has come within the technical and economic reach of the mass-market. ... The central importance of this new market is that it brings the capital cost of establishing a publication with nation-wide distribution to within the reach of the mass-market as well. This means that anyone who is a "consumer" of information on this new technology can also be a "producer" of information."

I wonder if you ever read Theodore Sturgeon's" 1950s sci-fi short story, "The Skills of Xanadu" about nanotech-like crystal belts that crete a distributed computer network for sharing information and more? That story has apparently inspired many technical people from a master inventor at IBM Research (but he focused on the nanotech) to Ted Nelson. I asked Ted about the story when he gave a talk at IBM Research, and he said he had been looking for it but forgot the name -- ironic as the name Xanadu comes from the story. If you have not listened to or read that story, I think you would *really* like it based on your writings and the potential of the internet for digital democracy:
https://archive.org/details/pr...
https://books.google.com/books...

The first all electronic digital computer invented at Ames Iowa (Berry/Atanasoff). Sad about what happened with Berry. For a time, I lived next door in Iowa to someone involved in a group building a replica of it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A...

Between the first such computer and PLATO, the Midwest really pioneered modern networked computing. So, it is strange that Silicon Valley pretty much gets all the credit for essentially just re-inventing or re-packaging decades old stuff. It seems too easy to give huge credit for innovation to companies for, say, introducing new CPU instruction sets that are little different in concept than the previous ones. But, as much as I respect Doug Engelbart in CA and the 1968 "the mother of all demos" and his later work with Augment (and I took his 2000 colloquium and participated with great enjoyment in related discussions), PLATO started in 1960.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T...

Of course IBM in New York did much too, including developing the VM idea in the late 1960s. Although Chuck Moore "discovered" Forth (essentially a VM-like-approach) around the same time.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F...

It can be frustrating to be in Slashdot discussions where so much of this history is forgotten. And no doubt there is tons more I don't know about the history. Wish I had paid more attention in Michael Mahoney's class on the history of technology at Princeton, although that was just as he was playing around with PCs and before he got deeper into the history of computing.
http://www.princeton.edu/~hos/...

The question of who gets "credit" for ideas and innovations in the public eye might be explained in part based on what you wrote around 1982, with perhaps considering people in Silicon Valley and Redmond are often more feudalists than pioneers, even if they claim to be pioneers?

You wrote: "Actually, this is an ancient problem that keeps rearing its ugly head in many places in many forms. In my industry its called the "Whiz Kids vs. MBAs" syndrome. Others have termed it "Western Cowboys vs. Eastern Bankers". The list is without end. I prefer to view it as a more stable historical pattern: "Pioneers vs. Feudalists". Pioneers are skilled at manipulating unpeopled environments to suit their needs whereas feudalists are skilled at manipulating peopled environments to suit their needs. Although, these are not necessarily exclusive traits, people do seem to specialize toward one end or the other simply because both skills require tremendous discipline to master and people have limited time to invest in learning. Pioneers want to be left alone to do their work and enjoy its fruits. Feudalists say "no man is an island" and feel the pioneer is a "hick" or worse, an escapist. Feudalists view themselves as lords and pioneers as serfs. Pioneers view feudalists as either irrelevant or as some sort of inevitable creeping crud devouring everything in its path. At their best, feudalists represent the stable balance and harmony exhibited by Eastern philosophy. At their worst, feudalists represent the tyrannical predation of pioneers unable to escape domination. At their best, pioneers represent the freedom, diversity and respect for the individual represented by Western philosophy. At their worst, pioneers represent the inefficient, destructive exploitation of virgin environs."

Still, we need both the individual (or organization) and the broader network to do good work (and networks can include a lot of "stigmergy" as a means of coordinating individuals via artifact construction). I love Manuel De Landa's ideas on the interaction of meshwork and hierarchy, and I have quoted this over and over because it is one of the most insightful ideas (for our time) I've ever read:
http://www.t0.or.at/delanda/me...
"Indeed, one must resist the temptation to make hierarchies into villains and meshworks into heroes, not only because, as I said, they are constantly turning into one another, but because in real life we find only mixtures and hybrids, and the properties of these cannot be established through theory alone but demand concrete experimentation. Certain standardizations, say, of electric outlet designs or of data-structures traveling through the Internet, may actually turn out to promote heterogenization at another level, in terms of the appliances that may be designed around the standard outlet, or of the services that a common data-structure may make possible."

One has to admit that having *any* standard like DOS/Windows, or HTML5/CSS/JavaScript, no matter how bad, generally provides a lot of value in terms of people being able to build on top of it. I use Macs mostly these days for a desktop after years with Debian, but I have to admit the backwards-compatibility of Windows is better than either (and far better than Mac). It remains a shame that better standards like QNX or Scheme/Self/Smalltalk often existed before those things were created. Which standard "wins" is often so arbitrary and often reflects a "worse is better" approach which pushes needless work out to the periphery that could be avoided by just a slightly better standard (like if JavaScript did not have default globals and if it had a standard module loader from the start). I like your idea of taxing the winner. :-) But that won't solve the issue of a bad standard. In theory, that is what the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is for. But in practice, especially in computing, standards seem to emerge from de-facto market winners.

I liked the "continuous approval voting" (CAV) in your 1982 essay. You wrote: "In CAV, a group of people who associate with each other select a representative from among themselves. Each member has an "approval list" which only they can see and alter. On this list, they give the name of every individual they feel is competent to be their representative. The person whose name appears on the most approval lists is the representative. At any time, a member may change their approval list. That change could put another at the top of the approval heap and therefore force a recall of the previous representative. A hierarchy of such groups could grow to unlimited size, still with no campaigns and everyone evaluating only those who they are in a position to associate with. Of course, thresholds for recall, terms of office and other embellishments may be included to optimize the system for particular purposes. The point is that this represents just one of many new forms of democracy that could change the way privilege and accountability are allocated in our institutions."

While we may not see that in US elections any time soon, in a away, we do see something a bit like it in FOSS projects, where people fork them and walk away from them (like the Debian systemd conflict). I can wonder if the CAV idea could be more directly applied to such FOSS project management, including adapting it to the issue of trademark control and forking? Another related idea to consider is Dee Hock's "Chaordic" model. That has more to do with the boundaries of groups as they exists within larger groups or overlap with each other though rather than choosing "leadership". Perhaps one challenge of applying CAV to FOSS is it assumes well-defined organizations from the start rather than a sort of continuos fluidity in sets of associations based on constantly shifting levels of trust? As Clay Shirky mentions in his essay "A group is its own worst enemy", it is hard to make software that asses reputation, but humans tend to do that internally on their own fairly well (or at least maybe could with the right additional tools like feedback on number of posts and so on, like Stack Overflow or Amazon does, and Slashdot does in its own ways which.

I agree with Hurga's comment from 2012: :-) "You wrote that 30 years ago? That's an extremely visionary piece, I have to admit. And surprisingly current still, considering the fight between established media and social networks."

Still, ideas are often "in the air" in some sense -- not to discount hard work or reflection. You had seen what was possible with PLATO, and so that helped inform ideas about next steps. Still, I can see that people in certain places and time who are part of a social community can learn so much so quickly about priorities and options that individuals, even informed by libraries of books, may struggle to re-invent and re-learn.

On your implementation ideas mentioned there, I to have been enamored of a Forth/Smalltalk hybrid, and have posted on that on the Squeak developer list many years ago. It would be so cool to have a multi-processor Smalltalk easily understandable from the ground up. Alas, I have many half-baked ideas (including OSCOMAK and the Pointrel system) but so little time. :-( And many of those ideas are just echoes of other great thinkers (even back to MEMEX and Sturgeon and also more recently and Kay/Ingalls/Squeak/FONC and William Kent and so on). But in practice though, I'm doing JavaScript stuff at the moment to implement ideas in my wife's free book "Working With Stories", and likely to do unrelated paying stuff in the near future again (generally to shore up artificial scarcity monopolies, sadly).

BTW, if you have any advice on diet/exercise/lifestyle as to how you've managed to remain so sharp and engaged for so long, despite an uphill battle against bad standards and other social woes, I'm all ears! :-)

=== Bill Norris quotation

Of Bill Norris' talks mentioned above, this one is perhaps the most relevant there is to the topic robots taking all the jobs, quoted at length
    "Technology and Full Employment [Nov. 1978]"
    http://www.cbi.umn.edu/hostedp...
"Technological innovation is the wellspring of new jobs. To help solve the problem of unemployment, technological innovation must be increased by making existing technology more available; by accelerating the creation of new technology, and devising more effective means of applying technology.
    The major focus must be on unemployment â" identifying and stimulating the private sector to undertake projects for creating new jobs. The central vehicle for coordinating the resources of all segments of society should be regional development offices. These offices will facilitate programs that create jobs by addressing the needs of society. Suggested programs include fostering entrepreneurial enterprise, developing alternate energy sources, revitalizing urban centers, reducing minority youth unemployment, and developing alternatives to capital- and fossil fuel-intensive methods of farming.
    Legislative actions are required to achieve these goals. The types of projects that need to be undertaken can be the same as those proposed in the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Plan of the Humphrey/Hawkins Bill. All sectors of society must work together to solve the problem of unemployment. Only from this united effort will come the needed jobs and the enduring solutions to the other major problems of our global society.
    The opportunity to participate in this forum is greatly appreciated. It would be most gratifying if I were able to contribute to a long-term solu tion to unemployment, because I believe it is the nation's number one problem.
      Not only are more jobs needed, but almost as important, more skilled jobs. The unemployment problem will become even more critical as in the next ten years another twenty million new jobs will be required. This would be the largest increase of any decade in our history; in the last ten years only thirteen million were created.
      The basic question is whether the U.S. can increase jobs and still improve productivity or whether this is another situation where we only can make trade-offs: are we faced with a choice between more automation, better productivity, and fewer jobs on the one hand or more jobs, less efficiency, more inflation, increased government pay outs and deficits on the other?
    This apparent dilemma is solvable through increased technological innovation. Technological innovation is the wellspring of new jobs. Capital investment is also a source of jobs and capital is required to support technological innovation. A dollar invested in technology will create more jobs and return more income than the same amount invested in capital equipment.
    Technological innovation is one of the key factors in productivity improvement, along with capital investment and employee training. ...
    For example, one of the most serious societal problems that's closely related to employment is the achievement of more abundant and less costly sources of energy. Our economy is utterly dependent on cheap and readily available gas and oil for energy. Within twenty to thirty years, world production will begin to fall off. Considering that fifteen to twenty years are required to get meaningful results from the average new development, there is precious little time available to avoid disaster.
    There are many other major societal problems crying for more attention. These include the improvement in energy conservation, greater environmental protection, new materials, less costly food production, more efficient water conservation, revitalization of inner cities, better education, better health care and improved productivity.
    Solutions to this vast array of major problems, along with a nationwide increase in technological innovation, will in the long run, provide millions of private industry jobs that must be part of a systematic route to full employment. What is required are jobs that are created from products or services to meet the country's long-range needs. This should be our main thrust for job creation. As a businessman, I have been involved for over 30 years in establishing small businesses that have grown and have provided needed products and services and, along the way, more than 40,000 jobs.
    So I believe that leadership for planning and implementing full employment programs must be provided by business, working in coop eration with universities, government, labor unions and other major segments of society. These programs should be planned so that they are in accord with the national goals and priorities embodied in the full employment bill. Our major societal problems are massive ones and massive resources are required for their solution. The best ap proach is that they are viewed as business opportunities with an appropriate sharing of cost between business and government. Economic growth will be stimulated along with job creation. The key resource needed is technology, i.e., the knowhow to solve the problems. In order to create jobs, improve productivity and increase technological innovation at affordable costs, we need to make existing technology more available and to devise more effective means of putting technologies to work. Only by doing this will we achieve the most timely solu tions to our major societal problems. ...
    Policy changes and productive legislation are needed, summarized as follows:
A. A clearly stated redirection of policy to achieve the broader use of government-sponsored R&D results in the creation of jobs.
B. Stimulation of government laboratories and universities to make their technologies more available and to aid in their efficient trans fer. This can be achieved by allocating a percentage (five to ten percent) of project funds to information and technology transfer, and by assigning added responsibility and incentive to scientists and engineers doing the work.
C. Encouragement of government agencies having informational data bases to make them available to the private sector at minimal cost.
D. Provision of tax incentives or direct payments to encourage private companies to sell and/or lease their technology for the public good. This type of government support would only be a front-end requirement to stimulate the initial creation of jobs. ...
    But the increase in technological innovation that could reasonably be expected in today's environment would fall far short of what is required. The reason is primarily the indifference of business toward major societal problems. For too long business has been preoccupied doing the things that are the most profitable and leaving the solutions to most of the major problems of society as the responsibility of government. Meanwhile, these problems are growing to disastrous proportions. ...
    To conclude, what I am saying is that the old ways are not working, partly because solving the unemployment problem is always "Someone Else's" problem. Everyone really only wants to keep doing what he is doing and doesn't want to change. What I am proposing is to enlist all sectors of society to solve the problem of unemployment. In working together to help solve it, there will be not only a better understanding of the origin of jobs, but also of the enormous difficulty to create them. Out of this effort will also come a much better and badly needed understanding and respect for each sector of society by the others. Most important, out of this effort will come more jobs."

Comment: Making ends meet as an artist or writer (Score 1) 622

by Paul Fernhout (#48647117) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

"You will need me and other real humans to document your descent from valued individuals who provide useful services to those who suck resources from the economic totality."

LOL. :-) Good points, but the internet is already replacing *most* paid creative writing with viral essays and videos. What I mean by that is that is it possible for one creative writer to quickly reach millions of readers, but readers have only so much time. That is the power of automation as an amplifier. So, yes, we may indeed "need" one creative writer (or even a thousand) doing what you outline, but there are literally millions of people who want to be creative writers. That means 99.9%+ of potential creative writers can't make a living from it in the internet age. If even the New York Times is struggling, why should any specific writer expect things could work out financially?

Of course, one may point to hundreds of YouTube video creators or bloggers with millions of followers making tens of thousands of dollars from advertising -- but that model just does not scale. There just is not enough advertising revenue to go around. There is also not enough subscription revenue to go around. There are not enough eyeballs and free time to go around.

It's always been that way with a "star" model of success in the creative arts. It seems to me that most people (95% - 99%?) who make a living related to the arts do it by teaching their craft (like a public school music teacher or writing teacher or something similar). Then they do a little bit of creative stuff in their spare time.

Many other artists and writers have a spouse or parents who funds their time. For a personal example I just spent 2.5 years providing (paid) third-line technical support and software development services to NBCUniversal's broadcast operations while my wife worked (mostly unpaid) part-time (we also homeschool) on her free book on "Working With Stories". That book is ironically in part about getting communities to tell their own stories again instead of mostly accepting pre-packaged commercial offerings. :-)
http://www.workingwithstories....

Before that, for years she was making most of the money for our family while I was writing stuff more (including "Post-Scarcity Princeton" and various free software) and doing more of the homeschooling. However, realistically, that was only possible because we both could command six-figure annual wages as professionals and were willing to accept some other compromises (smaller older house, many years without health insurance, etc.). Unless you are really, really frugal, and probably don't homeschool, that model probably won't work for most families without potentially two professional incomes of some sort (unless you have other funding like from parents or savings or investments).

However, in the past, like the 1950s in the USA, before the "two income trap" sprung, it was a lot more feasible, at least for a typical male breadwinner and female stay-at-home couple.
http://www.motherjones.com/pol...
"Two-income families are almost always worse off than their single-income counterparts were a generation ago, even though they pull in 75 percent more in income. The problem is that so many fixed costs are rising -- health care, child care, finding a good home -- that two-income families today actually have less discretionary money left over than those single-earner families did. As the authors write: "Our data show families in financial trouble are working hard, playing by the rules -- and the game is stacked against them.""

BTW, the "Two Income Trap" adds a new twist to this discussion, suggesting that job loss is a lot more devastating to most families now than it was in the 1950s. One reason is that the other spouse can't start working to pick up the slack because he or she is already working and they are dependent on both incomes. You also just can't cut back most fixed expenses like mortgage or car payments which are the bulk of expenses for working families. Also, with two workers in the workforce now, most families have *twice* the risk exposure for job loss than they did in the 1950s. So, families with expenses geared for two incomes but only a single income are still rapidly in trouble.

BTW, writers got to write. You don't depend on consumers to write -- even if you may indeed depend on consumers to get the money to afford to write full-time rather than have some unrelated job. See also:
"he Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet"
http://www.freewilliamsburg.co...
"That bit of uncomfortableness out of the way, the book is actually interesting and does build to a coherent picture of intelligent people living outside the stream, often making substantial sacrifices in personal comfort. Taking unpopular or difficult positions, and doing so with determination takes a certain amount of courage. One area where out dwellers often feel the pinch is within their own families to whom they are hobbyists at best, anomalies at worst. Yet the majority feel they have been supported by those families in spite of the differences. I was surprised at how little resentment came across. ...
    The respondees to Mickey Z.'s thesis generally do, or try fundamentally to care about people. And there is a profound difference. What the contributors have in common is a determination to live among the world rather than through it, as in not using the world for personal gain at the expense of human, animal and natural recourses. The contributors know they have faint chance of ruffling the fabric of the universe, and that in part may be the point. Mickey Z.: "Are the struggles of artists and activists worth reading and sharing and emulating?" He thinks so. And I think the book is worth the read. Though contributor, Rachel F., a multi-faceted activist, strikes a cautioning note, "I think there's a danger in assuming that the person in the mainstream is a slave, and the person on the "alternative" track is independent. For example, an artist could be obsessed with--ruled by--the opinions of the circles he or she travels in, no matter how out in the margin." ..."

Comment: Re:key areas of the economy can't be automated (Score 1) 622

by Paul Fernhout (#48646775) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

If automation enables a human to do the work of ten people, and of demand is limited (a key point), then the need for 90% of jobs in that area goes away. Automation does not have to be 100% to have a have big effect on employment.

The Japanese are working hard on health care robots for their aging populations. Again, a robot that could do 90% of tasks, or let one real person support ten people via indirect means like tele-operation will change the employment dynamics of that field. Even just a doubling of effectiveness could make a huge difference -- even just by removing travel time or data logging for, say, a visiting nurse.

Other ways automation can change health aid employment is if people had more free and then could care for elderly relatives directly. Humans still provide the care, but it is outside formal employment. Also, even without more free time, a telepresence robot could let distant relatives care for an elderly relative, perhaps even doing physical tasks like the laundry if the robot manipulators had haptic feedback through the internet.

By the way, for stuff like showers, there are already machines for that for nursing homes.
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03...
"With an electronic whir, the machine released a dollop of "peach body shampoo," a kind of body wash. Then, as the cleansing bubbling action kicked in, Toshiko Shibahara, 89, settled back to enjoy the wash and soak cycle of her nursing home's new human washing machine."

Also, on robot lawyers:
http://money.cnn.com/2014/03/2...
"The law profession is being reshaped by new automation technologies that allow law firms to complete legal work in a fraction of the time and with far less manpower. Think IBM's "Jeopardy!"-winning computer Watson -- practicing law. "Watson the lawyer is coming," said Ralph Losey, a legal technology expert at the law firm Jackson Lewis. "He won't come up with the creative solutions, but when it comes to the regular games that lawyers play, he'll kill them." That means potentially huge cost savings for clients, though it's not so promising for law school graduates looking for work. The good news for lawyers is that no one thinks the profession can be automated entirely. But lots of legal work is already being computerized by some firms, including the drafting of simple contracts and the search for evidence in reams of documents."

There, stuff you said would never happen has already happened to some extent -- enough to make a difference to employment outlooks! And that is often the case in such discussions, as much as it is also possible to overestimate the difficulty of replacing humans in some tasks. As I mention in a previous post, what often happens with automation is that the task itself gets redesigned to be easier to automate (probably what happened with the bath). Or as in factories, the environment gets systematically structured so robots can navigate it within their limitations. Also, automation can often take the low-hanging fruit from a job (like legal search) which may eliminate 90% of the billable hours from some task while also removing the ladder by which an apprentice provides value to learn a trade and move up the employment ladder.

Of course, the good news is this means consumer prices will drop. But someone unemployed with zero income can't afford legal services or health services even if they are 1/10th the cost.... At least not without some form of "income" from the government or charity. Or, alternatively, some sort of gift of capital of personal robots to be used for local subsistence production or perhaps selling robot-produced products and services for exchange credits (sort of like renting your PC's idle time to bigger number crunching projects).

Also, since when do services have to be entirely *better* to compete? If I told you, you can hire a human health aid for US$4000 a month for eight hours a weekday for your grandma to stay in her home (where a family member needs to be there the rest of the time for emergencies), or you can rent this health care aid robot for US$1000 a month that is not as good but is there 24X7 and lets you help with tougher jobs or emergencies now and then by telepresence, which would you pick? You may love your grandma, but most families with kids are going to have a tough time coming up with the extra $3000 a month and being on site the rest of the time including at night. Granted, a different option could be to work at home and have an extended family living together, so there are cultural aspects of this as well. Or maybe grandma has the money to pay for something better herself.

It's all a set of tough issues. A related 1991 animation from Japan that explores these issues in a comic way:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R...
"Roujin Z is set in early 21st century Japan. A group of scientists and hospital administrators, under the direction of the Ministry of Public Welfare, have developed the Z-001: a computerized hospital bed with robotic features.[1][2] "

And also on the real social complexities you raise:
http://www.slate.com/articles/...
"The path toward robot acceptance may also require something very simple and, for robot manufacturers, frustrating: patience. The process of getting old people to be comfortable with robots, Saxena argues, will be a question of gradual acclimatization. Elderly people will have to get used to having small, nonthreatening observer robots watching them in their homes before they'll allow robots do tasks on their behalfâ"or even touch them.
    And the truth is, boomers who grew up long before the rise of computers or smartphones may never be comfortable with the idea of replacing a human being with a machine. Like other forms of social change, robot acceptance may simply require one generation to replace the previous one. According to Levy, only when today's young peopleâ"already comfortable with Siriâ"become old will we see Robot & Frank play out in real life. By that time, not only will robotic technology be more sophisticated, but the elderly, for better or worse, will be accustomed to service bots as unremarkable tools for everyday life.
    In Robot & Frank's final scene, Frank sees a group of elderly men walking through a large complex, each trailed by a personal robot that will assist them, presumably, until their deaths. For some people, that vision may be a triumph for technology, to others, a defeat for humanity, and for most of us, some combination of both. It's a vivid reminder that the future of old age is coming, and, sooner or later, we'll have to start getting used to it."

Again though, we'll see special purpose devices before then. Even things as simple as Medical Alert Systems or phones that provide captioning for voice conversations with children (both already here) are can make a substantial difference in helping elderly people remain "independent". And those are forms of automation which at least delay things like moves to assisted living or nursing home placements.

Torque is cheap.

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