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Comment: And it got started with the Flexner Report in 1910 (Score 1) 139

by Paul Fernhout (#48920317) Attached to: Young Cubans Set Up Mini-Internet

"The Flexner Report[1] is a book-length study of medical education in the United States and Canada, written by Abraham Flexner and published in 1910 under the aegis of the Carnegie Foundation. Many aspects of the present-day American medical profession stem from the Flexner Report and its aftermath.
    The Report (also called Carnegie Foundation Bulletin Number Four) called on American medical schools to enact higher admission and graduation standards, and to adhere strictly to the protocols of mainstream science in their teaching and research. Many American medical schools fell short of the standard advocated in the Flexner Report, and subsequent to its publication, nearly half of such schools merged or were closed outright. Colleges in electrotherapy were closed. The Report also concluded that there were too many medical schools in the USA, and that too many doctors were being trained. A repercussion of the Flexner Report, resulting from the closure or consolidation of university training, was reversion of American universities to male-only admittance programs to accommodate a smaller admission pool. Universities had begun opening and expanding female admissions as part of women's and co-educational facilities only in the mid-to-latter part of the 19th century with the founding of co-educational Oberlin College in 1833 and private colleges such as Vassar College and Pembroke College. ...
    Flexner viewed blacks as inferior and advocated closing all but 2 of the historically black medical schools. His opinions were followed and only Howard and Meharry were left open, while 5 other schools were closed. His perspective was that black doctors should only treat black patients and should serve roles subservient to white physicians. The closure of these schools and the fact that black students were not admitted to many medical schools in the USA for 50 years after Flexner has contributed to the low numbers of American born physicians of color and the ramifications are still felt more than a 100 years later. ..."

What has happened recently though to address the shortage of doctors in the USA is that Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants are doing more of the hands-on work, and new careers like health coaches are showing up, knowledge about nutrition (the basis of health) is spreading through a variety of sources and practitioners from chefs to nutritionists to writers and movie makers, and we are all turning to the internet more for health care advice...

Doctors are becoming more and more like technicians controlling a prescription pad in the process -- which is sad for a bunch of reasons. As Dr. Fuhrman says, many prescriptions are just "permission slips" for continuing bad behavior including eating poorly.

And some specific specialties like oncology and cardiology are being called scams...
"Scientific Studies Show Angioplasty and Stent Placement are Essentially Worthless"
"Exposing the fraud and mythology of conventional cancer treatments"

Meanwhile: http://www.pdfernhout.net/to-j...
"From Marcia Angell:
        "The problems I've discussed are not limited to psychiatry, although they reach their most florid form there. Similar conflicts of interest and biases exist in virtually every field of medicine, particularly those that rely heavily on drugs or devices. It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.""

Comment: Jane Jacobs suggested you want more currencies (Score 1) 273


That is what is deeply wrong with the Euro (although the European Union was probably otherwise a good idea). The Euro went the wrong way. A solid currency needs to be backed by a community, city, state, or nation that has a well-defined common constitution governing the issuance of the currency according to the community's needs. The Euro never had that. Also, Jane Jacobs said currencies need to fluctuate based on the management of those communities -- so the more currencies you have, the finer grained-signals can be sent about people's confidence which helps communities self-correct their policies and manufacturing base and similar factors underlying their overall wealth production (including from "import replacement" as their currency becomes low valued relative to others and imports become expensive). Jane Jacobs outlines how the economic life of cities can be self-correcting if they have their own currencies, but if you have only one currency for many cities, then this only applies to the most powerful capital city and the rest of them tend to suffer relatively. So, the Euro was a dumb idea. Especially dumb in an age of computers and digital currencies that can be instantly converted. And now many countries in Europe (including Greece) are paying for it in human suffering.

Comment: Getting Greece to be 99% self-sufficient (Score 1) 273

My suggestion from 2008 when Greece ran out of tear gas: https://groups.google.com/foru...
"Now, does this make any sense if you understand the possibilities of open manufacturing or an open society? In Greece you have a warm climate, access to oceans, lots of sun and wind, an educated populace with a 2000+ year history of democracy (on and off :-), no obvious external enemies declaring war, and so on. And they are so worried about their future ability to make and use things (which is how I translate "fears for Greece's economic future") that they are running out of tear gas? This all makes no *physical* sense. The place should be a paradise. Instead it is in "self-destruct mode" according to one editor. It must be *ideology*. Or, more correctly, ideology *embodied* in a certain type of productive infrastructure. ...
    So, ironically, we have the worst of both systems. We could have a really centralized system run efficiently with a tiny fraction of the workforce now, with a lot less variety perhaps (that is, all the old Soviet Central Planning stuff would work now that we have the internet and great software and great designs and great computers if we accept some voluntary simplicity), but with everything very cheap (essentially, just given away) and 99% of the population doing whatever they wanted with their time. Or, we could have a freewheeling diverse gift economy of local open manufacturing where people just make whatever they want in an open way, with all sorts of useful and useless items. (Aspects of the two extremes may even converge, since what are the 99% of people going to do with the generic stuff but customize it? :-) Instead, we have a system in the middle that produces some variety at a huge expense of human effort taken away from family and civic duties, and it is a system now with so many questions about its uncertain future (including that anyone who is young will have a dignified place in the economic scheme of things) that an entire country has just run out of tear gas. This makes no sense (except of course, that some people do benefit from this, like tear gas manufacturers, school teachers who get paid to keep kids off the streets preparing them for non-existent jobs, people who are near the top of the economic hierarchy already and feel secure, etc.).
    Anyway, this suggests one target of open manufacturing could be a community of size ranging from Iceland (about 300,000 people) to Greece (about 11,000,000 people). That's certainly an interesting size range. I would think 99% closure of those economies by mass should be easily doable. Computer chips, some medicines, and maybe some other specialized components might be the major imports after the system was set up. Note that while one may not expect Greece or Iceland to "self-replicate" any time soon, the ability do do so ensures it can be self-repairing.
    Anyway, it kind of comes down to how much economic security is worth to a country compared to minimum effort. Given the massive youth unemployment in Greece, and the economic fears of depending on a global economy, it would seem like maximizing productive efficiency through participating in global production would not be at the top of their priority list now that they are out of tear gas. Unfortunately, they did not invest in this research ten years ago. So, this is only theoretical at this point. It might take a very expensive crash program to bring together thousands of researchers for a year to make headway in any time that might make a difference. Still, politically, that is an out for Greece. We could all move there, recruit all the educated youths off the streets, and spend a year figuring out how to make Greece work for everybody and be 99% self-sufficient by mass. :-) But, no need to move with the internet really. Maybe somebody on the list could coordinate moving the rioters off the streets and into internet cafes and start them programming and tagging designs with metadata? Anyway, with the right kind of enthusiasm, I bet someone who was in Greece could turn this whole thing around, recasting the Greek rioters as the potential people who would save the planet by implementing open manufacturing and cradle-to-cradle design."

Comment: Obesity is a sign of malnutrition and stress (Score 1) 317

From: http://frac.org/initiatives/hu...
Due to the additional risk factors associated with poverty, food insecure and low-income people are especially vulnerable to obesity (see the section on the Relationship Between Hunger and Overweight or Obesity and the section on the Relationship Between Poverty and Overweight or Obesity). More specifically, obesity among food insecure people -- as well as among low-income people -- occurs in part because they are subject to the same influences as other Americans (e.g., more sedentary lifestyles, increased portion sizes), but also because they face unique challenges in adopting healthful behaviors, as described below. (For more information on the influences all Americans face, see the section on Factors Contributing to Overweight and Obesity.)

Key Factors
        Limited resources
        Lack of access to healthy, affordable foods
        Fewer opportunities for physical activity
        Cycles of food deprivation and overeating
        High levels of stress
        Greater exposure to marketing of obesity-promoting products
        Limited access to health care ...

Comment: Re:what a charade (Score 1) 317

You might have a typo in the last sentence that changed your intended meaning?

That said, trust is a complex topic, so it is hard to generalize. The story of Jesus said he hung out a lot with tax collectors, harlots, and sinners... Not because he wanted to be one, but because that is where he felt he was needed.

Comment: Overpopulation is a myth (Score 1) 317


I agree some technoligies should be banned or heavily taxed because they create unpaid for externalities like pollution. However, in general, what we need are more efficient technologies, technologies that create new resources out of abundant materials (like fusion of hydrogen), and also technologies that let us expand out into space (or responsibly in the ocean or desert or Antarctic, or underground).

The human imagination is the ultimate resource, The more (educated, well-fed) people you have, the more imagination.
"The Ultimate Resource II: People, Materials, and Environment"

If I told you that someone had (really) just invented fusion energy (or dirt cheap solar), and someone else had invented automated indoor agriculture, and someone else had invented 3D printers that can recycle 100% of everything they print in a non-polluting way -- even electronics and houses, and together these technologies could feed a trillion people on the planet and house them and clothe them and so on, would your feelings change about "over population"? BTW, we are not very far from all three of these technologies or equivalents.

Even if for aesthetic or environmental reasons we might want to limit the population of humans on the Earth at any one time, the carrying capacity of the solar system, even just with essentially known technologies discussed in 1980, is probably in the quadrillions of humans (plus much more of everything else in supporting ecosystems).

In any case, the bigger issue is that populations of industrialized countries are peaking already with non-immigrant female citizens in most generally having less than two or so kids each, so less than replacement.

As I wrote here:
"As with the comment on Ireland, that is why the industrialized globe is facing a "Peak Population" crisis, not a "Peak Oil" crisis, even though people are confusing the two, which is odd given solar is now (or soon will be) cheaper than coal. :-)
    But, think about it, how many of the industrialized world's current problems are better explained by "Peak Population" rather than "Peak Oil"?
    And how much has the "Peak Energy" misrepresentation of the "Peak Oil" fact by people like Catton led to smaller families and made worse the "Peak Population" crisis? Gloomsters and Doomsters are in that sense creating the terrible problems we are facing right now. In Voyage from Yesteryear, James P. Hogan talks about despair versus optimist in a culture, in part based on appreciation of the potential abundance energy in the universe.
    The less peers that are around, the less peers can help each other and contribute to a free commons. Maybe there are laws of diminishing returns, but are we anywhere near them? What would Wikipedia be like with only 100 contributors instead of 100 thousand? Especially in a digital age, it is easy for a peer to add more to the free commons than they take away. What do you take away from Wikipedia by reading a page? A little electricity power perhaps, but Wikipedia shows us how to get all the power we need from the sun.So, even in a physical sense, Wikipedia is helping peers physically power it by giving away such knowledge.
    We can support quadrillions of humans in the solar system (see my previous references to Dyson, Bernal, Savage, O'Neill, and there are many others), or about a million times our current population on Earth. We essentially had the specific technological ideas in the 1970s we needed to do that, even given refinements since then. So, a focus on zero or negative population growth for the human race as a whole right now, as opposed to just limiting the population currently on Earth (which might be sensible, even though I think we could easily grow 10X on Earth), has created a "Peak Population" crisis that we didn't need to have for 1000 years when we filled up the solar system (and by then, we would have better technology and better social ideology to deal with changing demographics of moving from a triangle to a square of population by age)."

Comment: Re:USA invading Canada? (Score 1) 280

Thanks, AC. Yes, that is a typo, sorry, and should be "1775", not "1175".
"The Invasion of Canada in 1775 was the first major military initiative by the newly formed Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. The objective of the campaign was to gain military control of the British Province of Quebec, and convince the French-speaking Canadiens to join the revolution on the side of the Thirteen Colonies. ... The British sent several thousand troops, including General John Burgoyne and Hessian mercenaries, to reinforce those in the province in May 1776. General Carleton then launched a counter-offensive, ultimately driving the smallpox-weakened and disorganized American forces back to Fort Ticonderoga. ..."

Comment: Personal lifeboats vs. better ships for all (Score 1) 317

We could have both perhaps. But in general, this is sad, since with a few trillion invested in R&D, we could have fusion energy (or dirt cheap solar, coming anyway, but more slowly) and automated indoor agriculture and near 100% emissions-free recycling of all consumer goods, and so on. And many actions of the wealthy (especially those invested in oil) have essentially blocked these sorts of efforts politically. As Bucky Fuller says, whether it will be utopia or oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race to the very end. Whatever the legality, for those in charge of much of the world's wealth for whatever reason to cut-and-run from the very problems they have helped create is morally irresponsible and very selfish.

And it probably won't end well -- even for them. A private airstrip in New Zealand (or "Elysium" for that matter, even backed by a large force of security robots), will not protect you against nuclear fallout or rogue nano-tech or air-born plagues or a bunch of other things -- including just "drone" cruise missiles with conventional warheads we have had for decades. Those missiles are getting cheaper and easier to make; there way a Slashdot article years ago about a DIY cruise missile for about US$5K. The damage from such things will of course fall mostly on the poor as with all disasters, but cheap drones will be another destabilizing force if we have a social meltdown (which history shows, happens again and again, see Daniel Quinn's book "Beyond Civilization" for example). A better approach is to work to prevent the meltdown in the first place (like Bucky Fuller worked towards), or at least protect everyone you can (Schindler's list).

That is why I have invested all my (potential, mostly never realized) wealth (as far as primarily time) into trying to make the world work for everyone, and also trying to make it possible for everyone to build any scale lifeboats/ships they want.

After all, I did graduate from Princeton with Michelle Obama, and in the next year were Jeff Bezos, the late Phil Goldman, and many others. I could have picked a different path. I also worked for a short time as an undergrad with someone investing the Princeton endowment, who told me the reason a big investor does better than the typical small investor was more information, cheaper trades, and faster trades (enough to discourage me from trying to be an individual investor).

But more than that, I read the book, "The Seven Laws of Money" by Michael Phillips when I was a teenager. I had gone to the library to read around books on how to become a millionaire. Of about six or seven there on the topic, all but one told me how to do it (the first million is the hardest; start a small business, work hard, be responsive to customers, hope you get lucky -- most small businesses fail in a few years, but keep trying and maybe you'll get lucky when you have enough experience from your failures). But the last book asked me, "Why do you want to be a millionaire?" And that is a very good question to ask yourself...

The basic concepts from that book :
The following laws were published in 1977 in 'Seven laws of Money' by Mike Phillips. Mike, a Bank of America banker, was instrumental in developing Master Charge.
1. Do it! Money will come when you are doing the right thing. The first law is the hardest for most people to accept and is the source of the most distress. The clearest translation of this in terms of personal advice is "go ahead and do what you want to do." Worry about your ability to do it and competence to do it, but certainly do not worry about the money.
2. Money has its own rules: records, budgets, savings, borrowing. The rules of money are probably Ben Franklin-type rules, such as never squander it, don't be a spendthrift, be very careful, you have to account for what you're doing, you must keep track of it, and you can never ignore what happens to money.
3. Money is a dream - a fantasy as alluring as the Pied Piper. Money is very much a state of mind. It's much like the states of consciousness that you see on an acid trip... It is fantasy in itself, purely a dream. People who go after it as though it were real and tangible, say a person who is trying to earn a hundred- thousand dollars, orient their lives and end up in such a way as to have been significantly changed simply to have reached that goal. They become part of that object and since the object is a dream ( a mirage) they become quite different from what they set out to be.
4. Money is a nightmare - in jail, robbery, fears of poverty. I am not expressing a moral judgment. I am making very clear something that many people aren't conscious of: among the people we punish, the people we have to take out of society, 80% or more are people who are unable to deal with money. Money is also a nightmare when looked at from the opposite perspective - from the point of view of people who have inherited a lot of money. The western dream is to have a lot of money, and then you can lead a life of leisure and happiness. Nothing in my experience could be further from the truth.
5. You can never give money away. Looked at over a period of time, money flows in certain channels, like electricity through wires. The wires define the relationship, and the flow is the significant thing to look at. The fifth law of money suggests that by looking at the gift in a larger or longer-term perspective, we will see that it is part of a two-way flow.
6. You can never really receive money as a gift. Money is either borrowed or lent or possibly invested. It is never given or received without those concepts implicit in it. Giving money requires some payment; if it's not repaid the nightmare elements enter into it. A gift of money is really a contract; it's really a repayable loan, and it requires performance and an accounting of performance that is satisfactory to the giver.
7. There are worlds without money. They are the worlds of art, poetry, music, dance, sex, etc. the essentials of human life. The seventh law is like a star that is your guide. You know that you cannot live on the star; it is not physically a part of your life, but rather an aid to orientation. You are not going to reach this star, but in some sense neither are you going to reach your destination without it to guide you."

Between that book plus many other shaping influences including years of Sunday school, :-) as well as a love for the craft of technology itself, I made a choice as to what route in life to pursue instead of "finance". That choice included co-creating a garden simulator to help everyone learn to grow their own food; the idea of OSCOMAK/Stella as a FOSS technology library accessible by all; ideas for self-replicating habitats in pace, the ocean, and on land; the Pointrel system as explorations towards better ways of storing and retrieving distributed information; writing related essays; and other things including my sig ("The biggest challenge of the 21st century is the irony of technologies of abundance in the hands of those thinking in terms of scarcity."). Granted, I have not succeeded that much at any of these efforts (including because of working in too much isolation and maybe being too ambitious at the start, and also alternating work on those with a need to earn a living doing mostly unrelated things). However, I still feel it was the right choice to make -- if I could do it all again, I would -- just hopefully better and more effectively. I hope, even as failed examples, those projects can help inspire others with more resources or skills or connections to do a better job of implementing those ideas in a big successful way.

The bottom line: it takes a skillful healthy community to survive in this world. You can't do it alone. Even one rich person (or one rich family) trying to live isolated in comfort needs essentially a community of robots around him or her to survive, and what do you do when the community of robots go wrong or turns on you or just leaves you behind? And more so, what kind of life is that really? How much fun is it to live that way? What kind of life is that for your kids and grandkids and great grandkids? A funny take on that is the outcome of the first wish in the movie "Bedazzled" where the tech nerd protagonist asks the Devil for "wealth". :-)

Contrast planning to run away with with, say, advocating for a basic income for all, given the research that shows countries with less wealth inequality are overall much happier places to live -- even for the wealthiest. A related essay I wrote after talking to a wealthy neighbor (unconvincingly) about a basic income:
"Basic income from a millionaire's perspective?"

See also a video parable I co-created a few years ago:
"The Richest Man in the World: A parable about structural unemployment and a basic income "

And also, on the problems of trying to cut-and-run, by Michael Ruppert, from his experience of running to Venezuela and then going back to the USA (even if I don't agree with the Peak Oil theory as far as necessary consequences given cheaper solar power and electric cars and recycling and such):
"... The important distinctions about adaptivity are not racial at all. US citizens come in all colors. American culture is the water they have swum in since birth. A native US citizen of Latin descent who did not (or even did) speak Spanish would probably feel almost as out of place here as I do. They would look the same but not feel the same. And when it came time to deal collectively with a rapidly changing world, a world in turmoil, a native-born American's inbred decades of "instinctive" survival skills might not harmonize with the skills used by those around him.
    Another one of my trademarked lines is that Post Peak survival is not a matter of individual survival or national survival. It is a matter of cooperative, community survival. If one is not a fully integrated member of a community when the challenges come, one might hinder the effectiveness of the entire community which has unspoken and often consciously unrecognized ways of adapting. As stresses increase, the gauntlets required to gain acceptance in strange places will only get tougher. Diversity will become more, rather than less, rigid and enforced.
  As energy shortages and blackouts arrive; as food shortages grow worse; as droughts expand and proliferate; as icecaps melt, as restless, cold and hungry populations start looking for other places to go; minute cultural and racial differences will trigger progressively more abrupt reactions, not unlike a stressed out and ill human body will react more violently to things that otherwise would never reach conscious thought.
    Start building your lifeboats where you are now. I can see that the lessons I have learned here are important whether you are thinking of moving from city to countryside, state to state, or nation to nation. Whatever shortcomings you may think exist where you live are far outnumbered by the advantages you have where you are a part of an existing ecosystem that you know and which knows you.
    If the time comes when it is necessary to leave that community you will be better off moving with your tribe rather than moving alone.
    Evolution is guaranteed. Useful knowledge gained by ancestors is incorporated into succeeding generations. It may not be used in the same way that it was when acquired. It may lie dormant for years or decades, safely stored in DNA or the collective unconscious. But it is there, and it will always be available should the day come when it is needed."

Comment: Maybe the "weak" are those who can't cooperate? (Score 1) 280

From: http://www.shareintl.org/archi...
  "We need competition in order to survive."
  "Life is boring without competition."
  "It is competition that gives us meaning in life."
These words written by American college students capture a sentiment that runs through the heart of the USA and appears to be spreading throughout the world. To these students, competition is not simply something one does, it is the very essence of existence. When asked to imagine a world without competition, they can foresee only rising prices, declining productivity and a general collapse of the moral order. Some truly believe we would cease to exist were it not for competition.
    Alfie Kohn, author of No contest: the case against competition, disagrees completely. He argues that competition is essentially detrimental to every important aspect of human experience; our relationships, self-esteem, enjoyment of leisure, and even productivity would all be improved if we were to break out of the pattern of relentless competition. Far from being idealistic speculation, his position is anchored in hundreds of research studies and careful analysis of the primary domains of competitive interaction. For those who see themselves assisting in a transition to a less competitive world, Kohn's book will be an invaluable resource.

BTW, I'm quoting Morton Deutsch there (as indicated). Here is the source link (also on the previously linked page):
" Q: You're starting to see the analogy to international conflict, or intractable conflict on a larger scale?
A: Yes. Well, I wrote a paper about preventing World War III. That was during the height of the cold war, I think I wrote it in 1982, it was called "The Presidential Address to the International Society to Political Psychology." And there I took the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union and characterized it as a malignant relationship, which had some of the characteristics that I was talking about with the couple. It was right for both the United States and the Soviet Union to think that the other was hostile, would undo it, would damage it, you know, all of these things. The relationship was a malignant one. They had to become aware of the malignancy, and the only way out really was recognizing that it's hurting, recognizing that there is a potential better way of relating. And that better way of relating involves having a sense that one can only have security if there's mutual security. And that's true in most relationships. That's particularly true to recognize groups that have had bitter strife where they've hurt each other. They have to deal with the problem of how to get to where they can live together. It may be ethnic groups within a given nation or community. They can only live together if they recognize that their own security is going to be dependent on the other person's security. So each person, each side, each group has to be interested in the welfare of the other.
    On a national level it has to deal with military and other economic security. At the group level and personal level, it often has to do with psychological security. It has to do with someone recognizing, I shouldn't be treating the other in an undignified, disrespectful way. So in an interpersonal relationship, that kind of security, recognizing that not only are you entitled to it, so is the other person entitled to it. And if you don't give that other person that entitlement the relationship is going to move in the other direction, back to bitter conflict."

That said, sure, if you look at evolution, there is a sense that every generation is filtered somehow. Only one sperm of millions gets to the egg... But, what really matters to survival of humans once they are conceived? Cooperation seems very important among humans. Individual excellence is important too though, and is also involved with impressing members of the opposite sex (as is displaying cooperating, depending on who you are trying to impress). So, it is a complex topic.

James P Hogan has some interesting ideas about that in "Voyage From Yesteryear", where people essentially "competed" to gain status by demonstrating excellence in being helpful in a gift economy. :-)

In any case, mutual security is all around us at all sorts of levels. What is a marriage about for many people? What is a neighborhood watch organization? What is a professional association? What are US states about?

What is NATO about (in theory)?
"The organization constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party."

Although, based on what happened with WWI, I've suggested an alternative approach of a "mutual attack pact" against countries in the pact who violate agreed-on borders instead of a NATO-like alliance to attack those outside the pact: :-)
"> Paul, I think your idea is absolutely brilliant, and the way to go. I have
> not seen it anywhere else, and I hope you are able to make the idea more
> widely known, especially to upper echelons. ..."

Comment: On sparks and credit and muses etc. (Score 1) 80

by Paul Fernhout (#48910921) Attached to: Modular Smartphones Could Be Reused As Computer Clusters

Thanks for the pointer! I doubt I'll find my name there. Also, I said the 3X3 display wall panel may have sparked an interest in combining speech research and Jeopardy (perhaps, in an unconscious way?) -- but Watson itself is a much broader system. I wanted to work on such systems then, and talked a bit about "wouldn't it be nice if..." like with a display wall connected to a supercomputer for solving tough problems, but I said nothing detailed as to how it would really work, beyond creating a simple system with a Linux server where you could say things like, "put stocks on panel 3" or something like that. I don't even remember in detail what pattern of utterances I set it up to respond to (it was not very complex). So, my contribution to Watson itself technically -- probably near zilch. It's just the display wall Jeopardy connection I wonder about. But now that you raise the issue, aspects of using an AI to help solve problems was part of that idea. But, sci-fi writers like Isaac Asimov with Multivac or his robot stories have been taking about that for decades...

As for credit for being a spark, do people, say, always even remember some book they read years ago where an idea began to seep into their mind? How do you even quantify a degree of contribution? When I asked Ted Nelson (when he visited IBM once) about whether "The Skills of Xandu" short story by Theodore Sturgeon inspired his work, he thanked me said he had been looking for the story and he claimed to not even be able to remember the story's name! :-) Here is an audio version of that story, which is about a wearable nanotech computers supporting humans wirelessly sharing their knowledge and skills -- hot prescient stuff for the early 1950s:

BTW, I gave a copy of that story to my supervisor at IBM Research, a master inventor with 50 patents to his name. He finally looked at it a while after I left, and thanked me, and said it was the story that got him interested in materials research based on its nanotech angle! But he had long forgotten it. I can wonder how many other inventors that story has inspired? I don't know what inspired it though. Maybe Memex? :-)

I've been tangentially around several development like WordNet (George Miller), "Mind Children" (Hans Moravec, who read my senior thesis written under Geoge about self-replicating robots as he was working on the book), Marshall Brain's early career (where he probably saw a simulation I made of self-replicating robots, and I wonder if that contributed to his later concern with "Manna"), and at IBM Research as mentioned with Jeopardy and Watson. Possibly some others (like my possibly talking with David Gelernter about triples I was enamored of, and him saying tuples were more general, at SUNY Stony Brook), my talking at Princeton about robotics and stores (Jeff Bezos was the year after me), my senior thesis which presaged "Evolutionary psychology" but I doubt that sparked much as not many people read it and that field was already developing in parallel. as I can see now. In no case would I claim to be clearly the driving force behind any of these accomplishments which are full of a lot of hard and inventive work. As with Watson, it's possible I was just a tangential spark to some of these projects to some degree -- or not! It is also quite possible that I ended up hanging around people like Hans Moravec because we already were thinking along similar lines. Also, sometime ideas seem just "in the air" for whatever reason. Or ideas come to people by other paths, often multiple times before we even notice them. (It's said in direct mail as a rule of thumb you need to send the same advertising letter three times before people pay attention to it.) And certainly, in all cases, a lot of sparks went the other way, to me. :-) For example, I worked on this essay in part because Marshall Brain in one of is essays talks about how a "jobless recovery" could be a sign of impending wide-spread automation.

As another case of parallel creation, I won "highest honors" in a regional science fair for a robot that looked like R2D2 *before* Star Wars came out. R2D2 though must have been made around the same time as I made my robot. Likely the relationship is that somehow we both had seen the same vacuum cleaner (which I used as the body) and also both had seen "Silent Running". Or it was just coincidence. Although it bugged me a bit that people thought I was copying R2D2 in later years and versions. :-) I actually did add a light-controlled sound system that sounded like him in a later version though (the one pictured on my site). So, certainly sparks went to me from that film -- as, even greater, from Silent Running.

And really, it is only sometime decades later when one thinks about some connections or sparks or their possible results.

I've always liked connecting up ideas and even connecting up people to each other over some common interest. It is not without its downside. I remember being around CMU and having a grad student come to me after I had said Matthew Mason's brilliant "Uncertainty Reducing Operations" idea (brilliant) about robotic grasping (move the hand in a swipe so the part is likely at the edge of a box) could be applied to better understanding biological processes like protein synthesis. The grad student told me essentially I should not be saying interdisciplinary or speculative stuff like that if I wanted to be in the graduate program there. That was a huge shock to me, to hear someone say something like that around a research labs. That was long before someone else (James P. Hogan) suggested I read "Disciplined Minds" to better understand academia and grad school.

More on me and WordNet for example, where George had also told me he was making WordNet in part to show that having a network of concepts was not enough by itself for AI which many researchers seemed to believe then and was something I implicitly believed then):
"My 1985 UG senior thesis work ("Why Intelligence: Object, Evolution, Stability and Model") with him may have very slightly help inspired Wordnet and so even more indirectly Simpli and Google AdSense: in the sense of my enthusiastically talking to him a lot about networks of concepts for AI I wanted to put on a hard disk for a Commodore PET using Pointrel triads. That hard disk had eaten a document George was writing in his office on a deadline so he let me have it in the lab to play with (rather than throw it out) -- that file incident was the probably the only time I heard him swear. :-) Of course, the actual idea and all the hard work and the psycholinguistic design behind WordNet is all his. ... Being around young people can be inspiring in many ways that are not "plagiarism". Young people bring a hopefulness which can be infectious -- even if in retrospect my plan to build a human level AI using a Commodore PET and an unreliable 10MB harddisk was absurd. George's brilliance lay in maybe later thinking, "What AI-ish thing can I build with all I know and the tools at hand?" He may well have done WordNet whether he had met me in my enthusiastic unreasonableness or not. Still, it is often the annoying seemingly ignorant questions of youth that make us old geezers think. :-)"

But, you're probably not going to find my name on any WordNet stuff. In our society, credit can link to income though, so there is always reason to seek it (at least, until we get a basic income). Sometimes I get a mention (even if hyphenated :-) when I'm more obviously involved in something:

Yeah, and I got on a software patent. :-( Frowny face as I don't like software patents.

Such is life. I'm glad I got (potentially) a chance to contribute, no matter how tangential. Anyway, I hope maybe I've helped the Slashdot community more than hurt it (too many links and long posts), in terms of helping connect up some ideas about technology and society,

And then of course, there are the software programs and essays, and whatever tangential impacts they may have or not have...

Anyway, by now you probably think I'm a loony. :-) Might be right. :-)

Or maybe some muse works sometimes works through me? :-) As no doubt through us all at times...
"The following morning, though, two visitors come to Steven's home, revealing that they are doctors from a mental clinic. They tell Steven that Sarah is an escaped psychiatric patient from their asylum who has multiple personality disorder. They find the whole "muse" idea hilarious. When they try to find Sarah to take her back, they discover that she has escaped."

But whatever our society can say about prizing creativity, for the most part, it doesn't (or at least, it generally rewards others):
"Try to see that an intricately subordinated industrial/commercial system has only limited use for hundreds of millions of self-reliant, resourceful readers and critical thinkers. ... Unless you do "creative" work the company way, you run afoul of a host of laws and regulations put on the books to control the dangerous products of imagination which can never be safely tolerated by a centralized command system."

For example, notice the "hard" part of getting that prototype built at IBM research was things like getting laptop locks for laptops about to be destroyed anyway. :-) Another "hard" thing I did at IBM Research was go through the "proper" process to get Python approved for use in the lab. I was a bit embarrassed when one of the lawyers wrote Guido to ask if he had actually written it .:-) But it got approved eventually.

Although "success" is more than creativity. It's hard work, connections, resources, luck, and so on. And that also shows in big companies like Microsoft or Google buying whatever successful companies they see, and letting all the other experiments just fade away as someone else's cost...

Related, by Calvin Coolidge:
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "Press On!" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

Well, that may be a bit optimistic in some ways. :-) I now understand why the big names we know in technology, the ones in the news often like Gates or Zuckerberg or Ballmer or Scully and so on, were for the most part good, but not great technologists if they were technologists at all, but were excellent at starting or running tech companies, which is pretty much unrelated to actually doing invention or design of any technical sort. Jobs vs. Wozniak is another example, although at least Jobs has a sense of style. Most of them also started with a leg up in various ways (some combination of good health, fancy education up to undergrad, family money, etc.).

And they don't have to actually invent anything as long as they can buy it or just take the idea somehow if not patented (or even if it is) and use it. Around where I live now, a guy invented the railroad airbrake, but the story goes he showed it to a railroad magnate who just took the idea and ran with it (it was not patented). While one might see that as an argument for patents, alternatively, if we had a "basic income", credit in that sense might not be such a big deal... Just think of all the lives that brake concept saved by preventing so many train wrecks...
"Douglas disagreed with classical economists who recognised only three factors of production: land, labour and capital. While Douglas did not deny the role of these factors in production, he saw the "cultural inheritance of society" as the primary factor. He defined cultural inheritance as the knowledge, techniques and processes that have been handed down to us incrementally from the origins of civilization (i.e. progress). Consequently, mankind does not have to keep "reinventing the wheel". "

And often the problem is they don;t get the whole really big idea! See Alan Kay's talk about the Xerox ARC research for example/ He's not lamenting not getting more recognition. He's lamenting that not enough was taken! :-)
"Founder School Session: The Future Doesn't Have to Be Incremental"

Or by my wife on an open source project I've helped her with
"Steal These Ideas"

Also, the older I get, and the more I know, and the more I reflect on the sci-fi and various technical books I was swimming in in my teen years, the more I realize that the building blocks for so many "ideas" I've "had" were supplied by past generations... Even if I may put some of them together in new ways. Or spent my life trying to implement some of them, like Huey, Dewey, and Louie from Silent Running, or the software implied by the crystal belts in the Skills of Xanadu, or the self-replicating space habitat from "The Two Faces of Tomorrow" and so on.... When I was a kid, I rarely paid attention to the author's name on a story, and often times did not even pay attention to the title...

Anyway, now that I'm getting older, it seems like those years may be mostly behind me... Like George in his last decades, he just took that one idea, WordNet, and put years and years of hard work into it, to make it succeed. And a big part of that was convincing Princeton University to let him set it free legally. Wherever you are now, thanks for setting a good example about that, George! :-)

Of course, my obsession with triples for storing information is probably is not as good a choice as WordNet was. :-) Older stuff (pre RDF, going back to the 1980s):

But even that triple store idea may have come (not sure in the mists of time) by maybe thumbing through William Kent's "Data and Reality" for a bit while visiting an library at IBM San Jose when I was a teenager? So, William Kent would deserve some WordNet credit too, assuming I did?

Victor Serebriakoff's book "Brain" was influential, "Steps to an Ecology of Mind" by Gregory Bateson. "The Human Use of Human Beings" by Norbert Weiner. All these and many more were influential on me. Hard to say where I got one mental building block or another. How much do you pay attention to "sources" when you are a teen soaking up everything form everywhere?

A funny/ironic thing is, I remember once telling George about how I wanted to work on a problem before reading what others had to say about it so my "creativity" was not "contaminated" by their approach or solutions. I still think that is a good idea, for a time. But what I failed to realize, is how much my own creativity or problem solving strategies were based on learning so many strategies from reading about or seeing others wrestle with various problems. And I was also selling my own creativity short, by assuming that if I tried some approach and it did not work, or even if it did, that I might not think of another approach anyway. "Standing on the shoulders of giants" is so often true. As is never really noticing or quite recalling where some spark years ago came from...

My wife likes to say that big idea are like whales. If you are lucky, you get to swim with them for a time. But eventually they swim off on their own, leaving you behind. Sigh.

And of course, there have no doubt been many, many sparks in my own life, most of which I did not notice at the time. I remember, in the 1980s the (Indian) girlfriend of my roommate saying I needed to get more color in my diet. And wow, she was right :-) But I only started paying attention to that idea a years ago for other reasons, and then remembered and better understood her words....
"What Color Is Your Diet?"

That's just one example form my own life. No doubt there are many, many more. Most of which I might not even be able to remember, including as I was not paying attention to sources at the time, just "ideas". :-)

Anyway, I hope I did not overstated the case too much for my involvement in some things I was tangentially around.

Comment: Community working together to adddress threats (Score 1) 280

"(AC:) There's always someone who wants more than safety."

And how in practice are you going to deter someone or defend yourself from someone "who want's more safety" (or even know such a person exists and is out to make trouble for you) unless you are part of a community who are all looking out for each other?

Of course, you also have to be willing to listen and pay attention in that case. Example:
"Hoekstra on Underwear Bomber: "We Missed Him at Every Step""
"In November the suspect's father went to the US Embassy in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, to warn that his son was being radicalized in Yemen."

Still, I have to agree that the challenge of what to do about mentally ill people or politically ill countries, when they become violent, is a challenging one for any community.

Related movie:
"The Day the Earth Stood Still"
"Klaatu warns the professor that the people of the other planets have become concerned for their safety after humans developed atomic power."

Or, as Einstein said: "The release of atomic power has changed everything except our way of thinking ... the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker. (1945)"

Although, in an age where even watches have enough CPU power to do the calculations that produced the original atomic bombs, retreating from the problem gets a little more complicated...

Comment: Re:The early 70's are calling. (Score 1) 280

As said by someone who studied primitive technology, when asked why he did not just go off to live by himself in the woods, "It takes a village of skilled people to live well int the wilderness" (or something to that effect).

Yeah, so most hippies were naive and also lacking technical skills and resources.

"Free love" is another "Hippy" ideal which did not work out too well either in most cases for various all-too-human reasons. Even when one rejects marriage, rejecting "relationships" is a completely different issue.

But, that the mistakes of many hippies do not prove anything about the general issue of decentralization for resiliency.

I agree with you that "equity" though is a big issue in any emerging social system. That is something that gave me pause long ago, as I write about here:
"Basically, this all made me realized there is a difference between being an "employee" (even an employee-owner) with revokable rights or loseable equity, and being a "citizen" with irrevokable rights."

Still, the "Co-housing" movement has been addressing some of these concerns as far as US cultural expectations.

A successful US co-housing example:
"EcoVillage at Ithaca is part of a global movement of people seeking to create positive solutions to the social, environmental and economic crises our planet faces. Since 1991 we have developed an award-winning ecovillage that invites you to live, learn and grow. Our mission is to promote experiential learning about ways of meeting human needs for shelter, food, energy, livelihood and social connectedness that are aligned with the long-term health and viability of Earth and all its inhabitants."

Healthy communities have rules and norms and stories that help manage them. Humans have been living in mostly independent tribal situations for hundreds of thousands of years. It is not like it can't be done, if you are willing to make certain sacrifices. The question is, how could we or should we do it now, with more technical and social knowledge?

Also, some random collection of strangers in the modern day does not have the social cohesion of an extended family or tribe from centuries ago who have known each other from birth. A random collection of strangers, sharing little more initially than some ideal, is probably going to need more formal structure and more formal processes. Also, millennia ago, there was not such a possibility of a huge rich/poor divide in such communities as regards outside work, where one person makes minimum wage at a job cooking or doing child care while another member of the community makes 100X that as a lawyer or a doctor -- or maybe a plumber in some areas these days. :-)

See also:
"Sahlins gathered the data from these studies and used it to support a comprehensive argument that states that hunter-gatherers did not suffer from deprivation, but instead lived in a society in which "all the peopleâ(TM)s wants are easily satisfied.""

However, much of my own thinking about this came from an interest in space settlements... This is an issue anybody creating space habitats, moon bases, Mars bases, or whatever needs to think about.

Another aspect of that was figuring out how to create communities that could survive nuclear war and economic collapse. My concern about surviving war might be a bit easier to understand when you consider that this is what my Mother's home town looked like after WWII:

For her, as a young teen at the time, such destruction came apparently out of the blue, losing her home to fire during the initial invasion (actually, accidentally from Dutch defenders she said, but I wonder about that).

Comment: One other thing -- C# is Delphi in drag :-) (Score 1) 478

by Paul Fernhout (#48909755) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Is Pascal Underrated?

"Anders Hejlsberg (born December 1960)[2] is a prominent Danish software engineer who co-designed several popular and commercially successful programming languages and development tools. He was the original author of Turbo Pascal and the chief architect of Delphi. He currently works for Microsoft as the lead architect of C#[1] and core developer on TypeScript."

I would have used dot net and C# alone for that reason based on liking Delphi -- except that the main line of those has long been proprietary and single platform compared to other language options which are free and/or multi-platform.

I'd be curious if you have by any chance tried C# and what you thought of it in comparison to Delphi?

The sooner you fall behind, the more time you have to catch up.