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Comment: Intrinsic motivation vs. Extrinsic motivation (Score 1) 160

by Paul Fernhout (#48642859) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?
"Intrinsic motivation has been studied since the early 1970s. Intrinsic motivation is the self-desire to seek out new things and new challenges, to analyze one's capacity, to observe and to gain knowledge.[5] It is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on external pressures or a desire for reward."

One of the biggest problems most financially successful artists have is that their buying public wants more of the same (say, another Harry Potter novel), whereas their artistic muse may want to move in new directions. That's a reason many commercially successful artists tend to stagnate artistically since doing more of the same is much less risky financially but is often unsatisfying artistically.

Comment: Status still important in Voyage From Yesteryear (Score 1) 160

by Paul Fernhout (#48642841) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

It was just that in James P. Hogan's post-scarcity society you generally acquired status through demonstrating competence in some way (could be anything, even being a good waiter or running some interesting attraction like a steam locomotive), not by acquiring material wealth. Skill in *producing* or repairing high quality goods would be respected, not generally the skill in *acquiring* such goods, especially since most material things were freely available for the taking as they could be mass produced by robots as copies as desired. Even for original works of art, it was the creator of the work who would get the status, not the ultimate possessor of the artwork (who in a way became indebted to the artwork's creator by acknowledging the competency of the creator). There is a section of the book where with some hand waving it is suggested that if you grow up in such a society you just know the rules almost instinctively and also can spot a pretender at competence the way a shopkeeper in today's society could spot a counterfeit hundred dollar bill. Projects there self-organized on the basis of individuals deferring to each other based on specific competences -- not sure what the would have made of the recent "systemd" controversy? :-)

So, projecting that idea into the Star Trek universe, it might be that overall most "red shirts" are just in some sense less competent than someone who had worked his way up, like Kirk or Picard? So, no wonder they are getting killed so easily, if they don't have the competencies the blue shirt characters have? :-) All that said, Worf demonstrated that "red shirt" security on the Enterprise could be highly competent and respected -- although, come to think of it, I'm not sure what color his uniform was? Gold? Anyway, it is all fiction of course. Just something to think about. Iain Banks had his own take on all that with the Culture series as well.

In general, US society has trouble with the idea that status could come from competence and gift giving as opposed to acquiring and hoarding wealth. For example:
"A potlatch is a gift-giving feast practiced by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of Canada and the United States,[1] among whom it is traditionally the primary economic system.[2] ... Typically the potlatch was practiced more in the winter seasons as historically the warmer months were for procuring wealth for the family, clan, or village, then coming home and sharing that with neighbors and friends. ... Potlatching was made illegal in Canada in 1884 in an amendment to the Indian Act[16] and the United States in the late 19th century, largely at the urging of missionaries and government agents who considered it "a worse than useless custom" that was seen as wasteful, unproductive, and contrary to 'civilized values' of accumulation.[17] The potlatch was seen as a key target in assimilation policies and agendas. Missionary William Duncan wrote in 1875 that the potlatch was "by far the most formidable of all obstacles in the way of Indians becoming Christians, or even civilized".[18] Thus in 1884, the Indian Act was revised to include clauses banning the Potlatch and making it illegal to practice."

An example of a modern day laws banning gift giving:
"90-Year-Old Man Charged With Feeding Homeless Says He Won't 'Give Up' "
"The Fort Lauderdale Police told ABC News that Abbott will get his court subpoena in the mail and a judge will decide whether he will spend up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. "Arnold thinks he can feed wherever he wants and the laws say differently. Despite the fact that he's a super nice guy and he's a gentleman and a kind soul we have to enforce the law," Seiler said. Although Abbott has been cited twice in less than a week, he has no plans to stop feeding the homeless, telling ABC News over the phone from his non-profit organization, Love Thy Neighbor, that the only alternative he has is to go to court."

And, in general:
"More Cities Are Making It Illegal To Hand Out Food To The Homeless"
"If you don't have a place to live, getting enough to eat clearly may be a struggle. And since homelessness in the U.S. isn't going away and is even rising in some cities, more charitable groups and individuals have been stepping up the past few years to share food with these vulnerable folks in their communities. But just as more people reach out to help, cities are biting back at those hands feeding the homeless. According to Michael Stoops, a supporter named Tem Feavel submitted this image to the National Coalition for the Homeless in 2007, but there is no record of where it was taken. According to Michael Stoops, a supporter named Tem Feavel submitted this image to the National Coalition for the Homeless in 2007, but there is no record of where it was taken. According to a report released Monday by the National Coalition for the Homeless, 21 cities have passed measures aimed at restricting the people who feed the homeless since January 2013. In that same time, similar legislation was introduced in more than 10 cities. Combined, these measures represent a 47 percent increase in the number of cities that have passed or introduced legislation to restrict food sharing since the coalition last counted in 2010."

If more people lose jobs to robots, will we see more laws against gift giving to try to preserve some notion of the status quo and hide the social problem away?

Copyright laws are also laws against sharing. They may have some political justifications (debatable), but as Richard Stallman points out, sharing is the basis of human civilization. And others like James Boyle have pointed out that building on the works of others is also fundamental to civilization, which copyright also makes more difficult.

+ - What Happens to Society When Robots Replace Workers?->

Submitted by Paul Fernhout
Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "An article in the Harvard Business Review by William H. Davidow and Michael S. Malone suggests: "The "Second Economy" (the term used by economist Brian Arthur to describe the portion of the economy where computers transact business only with other computers) is upon us. It is, quite simply, the virtual economy, and one of its main byproducts is the replacement of workers with intelligent machines powered by sophisticated code. ... This is why we will soon be looking at hordes of citizens of zero economic value. Figuring out how to deal with the impacts of this development will be the greatest challenge facing free market economies in this century. ... Ultimately, we need a new, individualized, cultural, approach to the meaning of work and the purpose of life. Otherwise, people will find a solution — human beings always do — but it may not be the one for which we began this technological revolution."

This follows the recent Slashdot discussion of "Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates" citing a NY Times article and other previous discussions like Humans Need Not Apply. What is most interesting to me about this HBR article is not the article itself so much as the fact that concerns about the economic implications of robotics, AI, and automation are now making it into the Harvard Business Review. These issues have been otherwise discussed by alternative economists for decades, such as in the Triple Revolution Memorandum from 1964 — even as those projections have been slow to play out, with automation's initial effect being more to hold down wages and concentrate wealth rather than to displace most workers. However, they may be reaching the point where these effects have become hard to deny despite going against mainstream theory which assumes infinite demand and broad distribution of purchasing power via wages.

As to possible solutions, there is a mention in the HBR article of using government planning by creating public works like infrastructure investments to help address the issue. There is no mention in the article of expanding the "basic income" of Social Security currently only received by older people in the USA, expanding the gift economy as represented by GNU/Linux, or improving local subsistence production using, say, 3D printing and gardening robots like Dewey of "Silent Running". So, it seems like the mainstream economics profession is starting to accept the emerging reality of this increasingly urgent issue, but is still struggling to think outside an exchange-oriented box for socioeconomic solutions. A few years ago, I collected dozens of possible good and bad solutions related to this issue. Like Davidow and Malone, I'd agree that the particular mix we end up will be a reflection of our culture. Personally, I feel that if we are heading for a technological "singularity" of some sort, we would be better off improving various aspects of our society first, since our trajectory going out of any singularity may have a lot to do with our trajectory going into it."

Link to Original Source

Comment: To agree: The Original Affluent Society (Score 1) 160

by Paul Fernhout (#48641113) Attached to: At 40, a person is ...
"Hunter-gatherers consume less energy per capita per year than any other group of human beings. Yet when you come to examine it the original affluent society was none other than the hunter's - in which all the people's material wants were easily satisfied. To accept that hunters are affluent is therefore to recognise that the present human condition of man slaving to bridge the gap between his unlimited wants and his insufficient means is a tragedy of modern times. ...
    Yet scarcity is not an intrinsic property of technical means. It is a relation between means and ends. We should entertain the empirical possibility that hunters are in business for their health, a finite objective, and that bow and arrow are adequate to that end. ...
    A good case can be made that hunters and gatherers work less than we do; and, rather than a continuous travail, the food quest is intermittent, leisure abundant, and there is a greater amount of sleep in the daytime per capita per year than in any other condition of society. ..."

I really liked Anonanonaon's post above!!!

Comment: Automated FOSS tire plant ideas; simulation tools? (Score 1) 656

Thanks, meta-monkey! Glad someone else thinks it could be fun. :-) While I don't have time to do much on it at the moment, I'd suggest building tire factory simulations that can be used in a web browser is a step forward. After that, who knows?

== Some more rambles on the idea and its implications

Here is a bit of what is involved in making tires:
"How tires are made "
"Michelin tyre manufacturing process"

It looks like each tire is made one at a time, with a lot of labor? And some danger to the worker with spinning wheels and cutting tools and so on. Not sure if all plants are still like that. It might explain why tires can be inconsistent. Safety can drives automaton because automation can generally assure higher quality (not always). Just looking at a guy cutting something by eye which is going to form a seem makes me wonder how often tires are a bit lopsided? No wonder they need balancing...

Costs for products generally drop when people can figure out how to get them produced in a continuous printing-like process such as big newspapers use (solar cells will probably soon be going that way). Often is is cheaper to re-engineer a product to be "printed" than to automate a more complex process. For example, if the tire material was produced by first creating a big sheet, and there was some way to the material could then be formed into shape at the end. Or if there was some new material that would phase change (maybe under radiation?) from liquid to solid and be super strong, then the process could be simplified by removing the need for the steel wires. But that all takes on quickly into research projects -- which have their own fun, but are different from just automating the current process. But no doubt there are people in graduate programs in material science and manufacturing engineering (probably getting subsistence wages there for years) who would love to research that kind of stuff.

Maybe the closest model to this right now is the Linux Kernel or, more broadly, a GNU/Linux distribution like Debian? There are a variety of interest parties involved with something like that. I theory, any Linux user would contribute, but in practice you need to go up a long learnign curve, and so few people do contribute, but some few do. Although by now most of the core Kernel developers are supported by companies that sell related products or services (like RedHat or most lately Samsung).

In the case of tires, who would tangentially benefit from a a great tire factory? In theory, perhaps makers of automobiles, professors of material science, people at places like the US DOT or NIST and similar might all get involved in setting up and running such a plant as something tangential to their other work?

The biggest issue in our current society would be getting the capital together to do that. However, in the short term, we could make a simulation of the factory in some framework.

A couple examples:
"Minecraft 100% Automatic Bread Factory (sounds like by a kid)"
"Minecraft cake factory"
"Cake factory v2, Fully automatic!"

Minecraft probably isn't the right framework for realistic simulations. The electrical engineering in Mniecraft would be fairly limited even with mods for improvements over redstone. However, these videos show that people can actually build factories just for fun. They even may build multiple versions of the factories, learning as they go.

Today, building physical factories is obviously harder than building Minecraft ones. But, as we get better robotics technologies, the gap between designing something from modules and seeing it constructed is going to shrink, in the same way 3D printing is shrinking that distance for individual small parts.

I guess the first thing we need (from a software developers point of view) is a good FOSS tool for simulating factories... I worked on some software to do that on a Symbolics in ZetaLisp about 27 years ago, and even then there were various vendors selling packaged solutions (mostly to understand physical layout and materials flow). I don't know what is available now. If I was going to write something from scratch, I'd focus on a 2D model of material flows, with the thought things could move to 3D later. Individual processes like rolling things on a drum could be done in 3D. I'd also model the human part of things, sicne we are talkign about it -- with some sort of notion of motivation based on (Dan Pink's theory) of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. I'd probably write it in JavaScript, just because I'm working in JavaScript now and then anyone could play with the simulation in a web browser, including perhaps gamify it somehow -- "Angry Tirebots?" :-) I know C or C++ is obviously a more typical language for vision algorithms, and of course I'm not a big JavaScript fan even if I use it for easy deployment. Stuff could be written in C and compiled to JavaScript of course using Emscripten even if the target environment (at first) was a web browser to make the project approachable.

A quick search on software related to simulation shows about 400 packages, so there is a lot to learn about or from or use:

BTW, I just searched on "automated tire manufacturing" and got this as the first result (might be more, Siemens is next in the list):
"Total material flow control with comprehensive tire data tracking. With our Dream Factory solution, we offer comprehensive automation technology for tire manufacturers, providing total control of the material flow and precise, real-time data for production and inventory management. By automating material handling throughout the factory, Cimcorp's systems optimize throughput, minimize buffer stocks and make dynamic use of available space. Computer control of all automation units means that individual tires can be tracked through the whole process. With Dream factory, we can ensure that you achieve the maximum possible throughput of high-qualilty tires. Cimcorp has supplied a significant number of greenfield and brownfield installations for tire manufacturers worldwide. Although a greenfield site offers the ideal platform for Dream Factory, the fact that this system is created from independent modules means that partial automation of existing facilities is also simple to implement. We have solutions for raw material and component processing, green tire processing, curing, testing, palletizing, warehousing and shipping."

One page there:
"As part of our Dream Factory solution, we have developed several fully automated systems for green tire processing: robots for unloading of the tire-building machines, transfer robots and intelligent AGVs for transportation of tires from the building machines to the spraying area, and gantry robots for green tire buffer storage. Our solutions also take care of the weighing and spraying processes, as well as related inspection functions."

And elsewhere on that site: "Cimcorp's material handling solution begins in the raw material and component processing area, where our WCS control system with gantry robots, ASRS or intelligent AGVs can take care of the handling requirements."

And for a sense of the scope of the industry:
"Pneumatic tires are manufactured according to relatively standardized processes and machinery, in around 455 tire factories in the world. With over 1 billion tires manufactured worldwide annually, the tire industry is the major consumer of natural rubber."

However, twenty years ago, most software was produced in proprietary "factories" and we have seen a big shift. Why not tires? (Incidentally, for any jobs lost, I'd advocate for a basic income as a political shift, so I do not have a big issue with automating jobs, even if automation does shift the balance of power in a society.)

So, were we to move forward on this, we end up in the same situation as Linux was in the mid-1990s. There are already companies selling proprietary solutions in this area. So its a bit of an uphill climb there to really get adoption and broad support. And whatever solutions we developed would likely be first resisted by these players, until eventually they might incorporate them in their own ways into their own facilities. And systems like vision recognition software for, say, inspecting something being formed on a rotating drum might then get reused in a variety of applications.

However, obviously a quicker way to get in on the tire action would probably be to just work fro someplace like Cimcorp. They seem to be based in Finland? Or perhaps Siemens or a similar company. But, as in the 1990s, likely then almost everything you are doing is proprietary and you have likely more limits on creative freedom. Still, patents make information public (in theory) and anything an engineer invents or learns in one setting can, in theory, be applied in other places (within the bounds of law). And many open source projects fail despite creative hardworking people because different creative visions end up not meshing well -- or, more often, the realities of needing to earn an income within the current economic system intrude.

I'm currently working on another software project (implementing a software system related to my wife's free book Working with Stories), so alas, I don't have much cycles to put into this at the moment. And in a few months, I'm probably going to get a full time job doing unrelated stuff for pay again, and with a family that would preclude taking on too much on the side. But this issue of simulation remains of interest to me, an interest going back decades:

Ideas from 2002 from a project I started back then but which falters after I had a kid. The links from back then to software probably have mostly rotted:

For me, and for the short term, I know raising capital to build an actual plant or even just a lab filled with a couple robots and tire-making paraphernalia would be very hard. It would be even harder to make the venture work given today's exchange economy.

But, taking a step back, and looking this as a simulation project, making simulation tools, or at least learning to use simulation tools, the whole thing is at least approachable. And then tire manufacturing would be a test case driving the improvement of the simulation tools.

One might think that maybe a company like Goodyear might somehow fund such work to have its name benefit from advertising? Or if that was too controversial though, one might think a car company (GM? Or maybe Tesla?) could help support such work?

Income in today's exchange economy for a typical "Creative" profession like engineering is in many ways not about "rewarding" a person so much as it is about "enabling" that person to spend time thinking about a problem. Fellowships in academia can serve much the same purpose (even if they may have a reward aspect based on, in theory, selection for merit based on past performance or promise from lots of applicants). Related:
"RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us"

In the case of your interest in electrical engineering, the question then is what kind of simulations would you need to work on this in a fun way? What kind do you use now to design and (virtually) test circuits?

Granted, simulations are not the same as reality. And realistically, this all may never happen, at least not involving you or me, for all sorts of reasons. Still, I hope I've presented at least a plausible case that a lot of people might be willing to work on such things without "reward" in an economic sense -- as long as we distinguish getting enough income to have a US middle class life while working on fun engineering projects from "reward". In a "Star Trek" society that would be the case, with essentially a basic income for everyone ("replicator rations" on Star Trek Voyager?). In the USA and some other countries right now, it is also the case for people over 65 on Social Security or who are retired on a pension or, to some extent, for people in school (like Linus Torvalds when he wrote Linux). Although such people tend to have either little energy (retired) or little experience (school). Still, in that sense, anyone over the age of 65 in the USA is already living in the beginnings of a Star Trek economy and a basic income, even if they do so using the Amazon "matter replicator" with two-day delays. :-) It is, of course, also true for millionaires -- of which there are several million such families in the USA. It would only take maybe a dozen people moving beyond the exchange-focused ideology behind such successes to have enough talent as a group to make amazing free simulations.

Bill Gates was born into a millionaire family, but instead he chose to go the proprietary/exchange route rather than use his inheritance write free software to help free other people. he even lectured people on why software could not be free based on the (false) implication he needed to earn money to write it.
"In the letter, Gates expressed frustration with most computer hobbyists who were using his company's Altair BASIC software without having paid for it. He asserted that such widespread unauthorized copying in effect discourages developers from investing time and money in creating high-quality software."

The world might be a very different place today if Bill Gates had used that inherited money and the computer knowledge gained from dumpster diving differently.

"How to be as rich as Bill Gates"
"William Henry Gates III made his best decision on October 28, 1955, the night he was born. He chose J.W. Maxwell as his great-grandfather. Maxwell founded Seattle's National City Bank in 1906. His son, James Willard Maxwell was also a banker and established a million-dollar trust fund for William (Bill) Henry Gates III. In some of the later lessons, you will be encouraged to take entrepreneurial risks. You may find it comforting to remember that at any time you can fall back on a trust fund worth many millions of 1998 dollars. "

And Paul Allen remembers the early years:
"That phase of Allen's life involved taking the bus-sports coat, tie, leather briefcase and all -- down to the offices of local computer gurus. "I would boost Bill into dumpsters and we'd get these coffee-stained texts (of computer code)" from behind the offices, grinned Allen.""

Thankfully, there have been many people like Linus Torvalds, Brewster Kahle, Richard Stallman, and Michael S. Hart who made a different choice, and our world is that much richer for it. So someday, we may have free tires to go with out free electric cars. :-) Comments by me on "free" electric cars:
"Why luxury safer electric cars should be free-to-the-user"
"Real world attempts towards free-to-the-user electric cars"

One import thing to remember about a post-scarcity society is that, because technology is an amplifier, it only (in theory) takes a very few dedicated people to produce a huge output of material goods if the factories are highly automated. Just like it only takes a (relatively) few people working on the Linux Kernel to make software that powers literally billions of machines at this point (from smartphones to Google's servers to embedded computers in automobiles).
"Will your next car run Linux? Cars go open-source with Automotive Grade Linux"

Anyway, the potential is there, even if it might take another couple decades to realize it (including probably a vast social upheaval in assumptions, including from the issue in the original article as most workers lose their job to AI and robotics and other automation and better design and cheap energy and so on). Anyone writing or even using free software (including anyone using Google) is in some sense part of that movement, as is anyone freely sharing knowledge through the internet in a variety of social media platforms -- including Slashdot.

Anyway, back to work on finishing software I've been working on for months for my wife's project and for which we may well never see a dime in *direct* return... But it is something we hope will make the world a better place, like our PlantStudio and other free software (hopefully) did... And so the *indirect* benefits can be enormous.

Comment: Re:Star Trek "waiters" like Guinan likely do more. (Score 1) 656

It's a big a paradigm shift to a gift economy (or improved subsistence), sure. As an example of it, if you really thought you needed "open heart surgery", here is a gift to keep you away from going under the surgeon's knife or robot: :-)
"Scientific Studies Show Angioplasty and Stent Placement are Essentially Worthless"
"Interventional cardiology and cardiovascular surgery is basically a scam based on a misunderstanding of the nature of heart disease. Searching for and treating obstructive plaque does not address the areas of the coronary vascular tree most likely to rupture and cause heart attacks. If there was never another CABG or angioplasty performed or stent placed, patients with heart disease would be better off. Doctors would be forced to educate our citizens that their heart disease risk is determined by what they place on their forks. Millions of lives would be dramatically extended. To abandon the theory of stretching and cutting out areas with plaque would shut down interventional cardiology, nearly all cardiovascular surgery, and many suppliers of the biotechnology. In many cases, interventional cardiology is the major income generator to hospitals. The ending of this ill-conceived, out-dated and ineffective technology would dramatically downsize hospitals in the United States and free up over $100 billion annually in medical care costs. Besides being ineffective, interventional cardiology places the responsibility in the hands of the doctor and not the patients. When patients finally realize they must take control of their heart problems with aggressive dietary modifications (and when needed medications for temporary periods) we will essentially solve the health crisis in America.

There, I just saved you US$100K and a lot of suffering. Please pay it forward if you can and want to. :-)
"Pay it forward is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor."
"Trevor's plan is a charitable program based on the networking of good deeds. He calls his plan "Pay It Forward", which means the recipient of a favor does a favor for three others rather than paying the favor back. However, it needs to be a major favor that the receiver can't complete themselves."

Sadly, I sat next to someone at an automotive shop yesterday who had just spend three days getting the software to work right for such cardiology intervention tools for a local hospital. And I could not bring myself to point that out, not thinking of a polite way to say it. I did obliquely say how various forms of blood testing for nutritional deficiency like vitamin A or vitamin D was a breakthrough, as was various forms of diagnostic imaging. It's a hard conversation to have, about how much of what we spend so much money and suffering on is needless and even harmful.

My father died of a heart attack about half a year after getting a stent put in. A sister died about a year after open heart surgery. Neither procedure addressed the underlying nutritional issues leading to clogged arteries which also affect arteries everywhere like the brain and which also impair the immune system.

Of course, you might say, so OK, cardiology is a scam, but you needed new tires which why you were in the automotive shop and paid about $1000 yesterday. And that is true. But my neighbor had come over before that with an impact wrench to help me get some lug nuts free to get a spare on (a longer story), and my wife used the internet to look at tire reviews on public forums (ended up with Goodyear Assurance TripleTred instead of Nokain WR G3 based on availability, but Goodyear got surprisingly good reviews). And the tire shop people went out of their way to get the tires given I was driving on a donut because we noticed the flat last night, whereas that probably did not affect their own lives that much overall. I previously watched several videos on tire repair which was helpful background. So even the physical exchange economy has a mix of gift transactions built into it.

In the shop I watched an NBC-SN on people restoring classic cards and also building a low cost sport truck -- things most people do more for fun than money.

Tesla may change the whole car repair paradigm back to independent shops and DIY because many aspects of their repair are more approachable, as another Slashdot article from today suggests.

Still, I don't plan on making my own car tires anytime soon. :-) However, my wife and I have managed to get by with only one car for more than two decades, and we don't drive that much. So, in various ways, we've at least cut that problem mostly in half including through being able to consult or work mostly remotely via the internet. So, we've replaced half our tires with broadband. :-) Again though, I'm not making my own ICs. But, I rely continually on the mostly gift economy aspect of the internet (including slashdot) to keep out network and PCs running.

Are we there yet to some sort of post-scarcity economy? No. But we may be a lot closer than most people think -- even if the transition may be much more painful than it has to be (for reasons JP Hogan explored in Voyage From Yesteryear). A basic income (social security for all from birth, not just for old people) might get us there more quickly and painlessly.

Money is indeed a useful signaling device for demand if it is distributed more broadly rather than letting get piled up in a few places. But imagine how long the internet would function if you could only send a packet if you had previously received one, or you otherwise had to take out packet loans based on your packet creditworthiness... We need to carefully distinguish between true scarcity and artificial scarcity.

As for tires, while I might not be that into building one myself from goo, as a software developer, I think it would be a fun challenge to write software to manage a mostly automated factory that makes tires (and ideally recycles them). Vision systems for inspection, software to integrate chemical monitoring and temperature readings into pretty informative displays, fancy tech to ensure zero emissions into the environment, safety interlocks (stressful but challenging) -- a post-scarcity tire factory could be a programmer's playground. :-) I could imagine such a tire factory that I would love going to a few hours every day (perhaps virtually) and hanging out with other techies and having great fun while making sure high quality tires kept flowing. And I'd be proud to know I was helping keep millions of people safe by making great tires. Although in practice, I'd expect most tire factories are likely not quite that *yet* given unaccounted externalties like pollution and using overworked frightened-of-poverty-from-unemployment wage slaves instead of robots. But tire factories could be in theory be such places if the rest of the economy was also such a place. And maybe someday they will be if our broader economy changes. Related, just over three stars out of five for Goodyear employment reviews:

Thanks for reading my rant! :-)

Comment: Good article on file name design; thanks! ShellJS? (Score 1) 144

by Paul Fernhout (#48633411) Attached to: Critical Git Security Vulnerability Announced

Enjoyed skimming through it, especially the point about character encoding and the value of utf-8. Many arguments for name restrictions are because it would make shell commands and scripts easier to write correctly. That suggests to me the bigger issue is the shell.

As the computer language Forth shows, there does not have to be an obvious line between a programming language and a command line. It's unfortunate our systems generally have multiple languages with different conventions. What might be better is a good language with levels of parsing, sort of like the difference between JSON and JavaScript, or HTML/CSS and JavaScript, where some levels are not intended to have executable code and the system knows that. Anyway, just a seed of an idea.

Just to try to grow it a bit, imagine if (shudder, as I prefer Smalltalk syntax) we used JavaScript as a "shell" syntax. When you wanted to delete a file, you might enter:

        $ File.remove(["force"], "file name with spaces or not");

instead of:

        $ rm -f file\ name\ with\ spaces\ or\ not

Actually, I prefer the JavaScript version. :-)

Because JavaScript is so flexible, you could do in some JavaScript shell profile:

      var rm = File.remove;
      var rmf = rm.bind(["force"]);

Then, with assumed semicolons you could write:

      $ rmf("file name with spaces or not")

That seems much clearer to me than the conventional shell script notation.

Commands could return JavaScript objects for results, displayed as JSON. So:

        $ File.list()

        {"test1.js", "test2.js"}

        $ File.list(["long"])

        {".": ["drwxr-xr-x+", "pdfernhout", "staff ", 2822, "2014-12-03Z08:14"],
        "..": ["drwxr-xr-x+", "pdfernhout", "staff ", 2822, "2014-12-03Z08:14"],
        "test1.js", ["drwxr-xr-x+", "pdfernhout", "staff ", "1234", "2014-12-03Z08:14"],
        "test2.js", ["drwxr-xr-x+", "pdfernhout", "staff ", "1234", "2014-12-03Z08:14"],
        "-rf", ["drwxr-xr-x+", "pdfernhout", "staff ", "1234", "2014-12-03Z08:14"],
        "metacharacter & ||||| weirdness!!!! | rm -rf /*", ["drwxr-xr-x+", "pdfernhout", "staff ", "1234", "2014-12-03Z08:14"]}

        $ rm("metacharacter & ||||| weirdness!!!! | rm -rf /*")
        $ rm("-rf")

I'm not sure if there would be other stiff like pipes that might trip you up, especially with JavaScript's syntax and single-tasking assumptions. Probably the results of these functions might have to be some form of Deferreds or something like that?

As a first cut at pipes, assuming the result of a previous operation as a JavaScript object is passed as a final argument to the next operation:

        $ File.list().then(File.grep.bind("test*")).then(File.write.bind("out.txt"))

Or with appropriate aliases via var and an assumption that "then" does a bind for arguments:

        $ ls().then(grep, "test*").then(write, "out.txt")

Seems much easier to me to really understand this. It's a tradeoff of course. You might be typing a few more characters sometimes than for something like Bash, but whenever you tried to do something complex, it might be more understandable than a mess of metacharacters. And then file names (in ut8) without restrictions on metacharacters would not be such a big issue. These functions could even have a case-insensitive option.

with a IMHO human-friendly syntax like one derived from Smalltalk, where you used spaces to separate messages instead of a dot ("."), you would have:

      $ (File ls) then: [File grep: "test*"] then: [File write "out.txt"]

Maybe there could be some variant of JavaScript someday that supports an implict "." where spaces are used between tokens and the expression is not otherwise properly formed? Then you could write:

        $ ls() then(grep, "test*") then(write, "out.txt")

Compare that with Bash of:

        $ ls | grep test > out.txt

But if we tinker with Our JavaScript a bit, adding a new word for redirecting output, we might get down to:

      $ ls() then(grep, "test*") save("out.txt")

However, likely grep might not work as well as we might want, as there might be a mismatch between JavaScript objects or JSON versus line-oriented Grep. So, no doubt there would need to be tinkering with commands like grep and what the expect, and options for what other commands can output, perhaps emitting any of objects, arrays, strings with line breaks, and/or JSON. And choosing those options might add clutter.

Of course, as I was writing this, I started thinking that someone must have done this before, but I waited until now to check, Sure enough:
"ShellJS is a portable (Windows/Linux/OS X) implementation of Unix shell commands on top of the Node.js API. You can use it to eliminate your shell script's dependency on Unix while still keeping its familiar and powerful commands. You can also install it globally so you can run it from outside Node projects - say goodbye to those gnarly Bash scripts!"

Although, I don't know how they handle pipes and whether they do Deferreds or something like that. Possibly not from this example from the webpage:

    ls('*.js').forEach(function(file) {
        sed('-i', 'BUILD_VERSION', 'v0.1.2', file);
        sed('-i', /.*REMOVE_THIS_LINE.*\n/, '', file);
        sed('-i', /.*REPLACE_LINE_WITH_MACRO.*\n/, cat('macro.js'), file);

However, they have a CoffeeScript variant which shows (the hope) that maybe one could have a variant that did not require adding the dots (.) between function calls:

    for file in ls '*.js'
        sed '-i', 'BUILD_VERSION', 'v0.1.2', file
        sed '-i', /.*REMOVE_THIS_LINE.*\n/, '', file
        sed '-i', /.*REPLACE_LINE_WITH_MACRO.*\n/, cat 'macro.js', file

Of course, I use vi a lot for editing config files despite disliking it because it is installed everywhere. So, something like ShellJS faces an uphill battle in that sense. Still, who knows what will be the next exciting thing in system administration? The issue of security might drive the adoption of some new standard for shell commands and shell scripts.

But, in any case, there is an assumption in the essay you linked to that a typical Bash-like shell or similar is how many file names are going to be referenced. If we use a different shell, the issue of "metacharacter" or even spaces in file names may just go away. Still, overall, that essay was a great read, and I hope to review it further:

Comment: Re:Supernormal Stimuli & The Pleasure Trap (Score 1) 88

by Paul Fernhout (#48623733) Attached to: Brain Stimulation For Entertainment?

"Neuroadaptation" is the key issue of what stronger stuff does not taste better in the long term. We just can't always have the rush of the first taste of the potato chip (salt, fat, crunch) if we start eating them all the time. Our tastes just start to expect that level regularly and if we go back to food with less, we feel bad for a time until our tastes readjust again. The same thing might be true of direct brain stimulation?

From the Pleasure Trap article: "Like our other sensory nerves, our taste buds also will "get used to" a given level of stimulation -- and this can have dangerous consequences. The taste buds of the vast majority of people in industrialized societies are currently neuroadapted to artificially high-fat, high-sugar, and high-salt animal and processed foods. These foods are ultimately no more enjoyable than more healthful fare, but few people will ever see that this is true. This is because they consistently consume highly stimulating foods, and have "gotten used to" them. If they were to eat a less stimulating, health-promoting diet, they soon would enjoy such fare every bit as much. Unfortunately, very few people will ever realize this critically important fact. Instead, nearly all of these people will die prematurely of strokes, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and cancer as a result of self-destructive dietary choices."

Still, you said your experience differed. So I wonder what else might have been different. You used the word "almost". One issue is how frequently people eat junk food. Even a couple times a week might be a problem?

Also, there is a certain style to cooking good healthy foods so they taste good. For example vegetables should not be overcooked... Dr. Fuhrman and his wife have some good cooking tips in various videos.

Medically-supervised fasting is another way to reset taste buds (in about a week). That may be why most religions include fasting as part of their traditions (watered down these days). When I fasted for more than a week, afterwards stuff with salt and sugar tasted offensively strong. Simple soups and plain vegetables tasted great, with various flavor nuances. Sadly, over the last few years I've become readapted to stronger less-healthy stuff (living in a family with other people eating other stuff).

In general, it is a good question what aspects of modern technology have overall made us happier or less happy over the long term. Aspects of today's fancy computers (including 24X7 social media) may in some ways be increasing stress for people more than they make us happier? Too many choices can also be stressful. Anyway, a complex topic.

Comment: Rethinking economics for AI and post-scarcity (Score 1) 656

by Paul Fernhout (#48623295) Attached to: Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

LOL. :-)

My own comments on that:
"In general, economists need to look at what are major sources of *real* cost as opposed to *fiat* cost in producing anything. Only then can one make a complete control system to manage resources within those real limits, perhaps using arbitrary fiat dollars as part of a rationing process to keep within the real limits and meet social objectives (or perhaps not, if the cost of enforcing rationing for some things like, say, home energy use or internet bandwidth exceeds the benefits).
    Here is a sample meta-theoretical framework PU economists no doubt could vastly improve on if they turned their minds to it. Consider three levels of nested perspectives on the same economic reality -- physical items, decision makers, and emergent properties of decision maker interactions. (Three levels of being or consciousness is a common theme in philosophical writings, usually rock, plant, and animal, or plant, animal, and human.)
    At a first level of perspective, the world we live in at any point in time can be considered to have physical content like land or tools or fusion reactors like the sun, energy flows like photons from the sun or electrons from lightning or in circuits, informational patterns like web page content or distributed language knowledge, and active regulating processes (including triggers, amplifiers, and feedback loops) built on the previous three types of things (physicality, energy flow, and informational patterns) embodied in living creatures, bi-metallic strip thermostats, or computer programs running on computer hardware.
    One can think of a second perspective on the first comprehensive one by picking out only the decision makers like bi-metallic strips in thermostats, computer programs running on computers, and personalities embodied in people and maybe someday robots or supercomputers, and looking at their characteristics as individual decision makers.
    One can then think of a third level of perspective on the second where decision makers may invent theories about how to control each other using various approaches like internet communication standards, ration unit tokens like fiat dollars, physical kanban tokens, narratives in emails, and so on. What the most useful theories are for controlling groups of decision makers is an interesting question, but I will not explore it in depth. But I will pointing out that complex system dynamics at this third level of perspective can emerge whether control involves fiat dollars, "kanban" tokens, centralized or distributed optimization based on perceived or predicted demand patterns, human-to-human discussions, something else entirely, or a diverse collection of all these things. And I will also point out that one should never confuse the reality of the physical system being controlled for the control signals (money, spoken words, kanban cards, internet packet contents, etc.) being passed around in the control system."

Comment: Star Trek "waiters" like Guinan likely do more... (Score 1) 656

by Paul Fernhout (#48623225) Attached to: Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates "Guinan was the mysterious bartender in Ten Forward, the lounge aboard the USS Enterprise-D. She was well known for her wise counsel, which had proven invaluable many times. She was an El-Aurian, a race of "listeners" who were scattered by the Borg. Q, however, once suggested that there is far more to her than could be imagined. "

Or consider Vincent's sometimes influential role in Eureka's Cafe Diem:
"Cafe Diem is the cafe of Vincent, on the main street of Eureka. It's the place where everybody meets to eat one of Vincent's extraordinary meals or have a cup of his signature "Vinspresso". "

James P. Hogan in "Voyage From Yesteryear" provides other examples of why some people wait tables in a gift economy -- even when robots could easily do it.

Also, in a post-scarcity future many undesirable aspects of any tasks can be engineered out. Tables might be built of materials that were easy to clean. Cleaning cloths might be super-absorbent. You might wear technology that made taking orders easy. You boosted immune system would make catching disease from a diner unlikely. And so on...

See Bob Black on this:
"Liberals say we should end employment discrimination. I say we should end employment. Conservatives support right-to-work laws. Following Karl Marx's wayward son-in-law Paul Lafargue, I support the right to be lazy. Leftists favor full employment. Like the surrealists -- except that I'm not kidding -- I favor full unemployment. Trotskyists agitate for permanent revolution. I agitate for permanent revelry. But if all the ideologues (as they do) advocate work -- and not only because they plan to make other people do theirs -- they are strangely reluctant to say so. They will carry on endlessly about wages, hours, working conditions, exploitation, productivity, profitability. They'll gladly talk about anything but work itself. These experts who offer to do our thinking for us rarely share their conclusions about work, for all its saliency in the lives of all of us. Among themselves they quibble over the details. Unions and management agree that we ought to sell the time of our lives in exchange for survival, although they haggle over the price. Marxists think we should be bossed by bureaucrats. Libertarians think we should be bossed by businessmen. Feminists don't care which form bossing takes, so long as the bosses are women. Clearly these ideology-mongers have serious differences over how to divvy up the spoils of power. Just as clearly, none of them have any objection to power as such and all of them want to keep us working. "

Or listen to or read "The Skills of Xanadu" by Theodore Sturgeon:

Why do people host dinner parties for friends when they involve "work"?

Why do people knit when they can buy machine-woven cloth for less than that of the raw yarn?

In some ways, waiting tables and preparing food are far more important jobs than most of what most people do for "paid" work these days... As Bob Black wrote in the above-linked essay:
    "I don't suggest that most work is salvageable in this way. But then most work isn't worth trying to save. Only a small and diminishing fraction of work serves any useful purpose independent of the defense and reproduction of the work-system and its political and legal appendages. Twenty years ago, Paul and Percival Goodman estimated that just five percent of the work then being done -- presumably the figure, if accurate, is lower now -- would satisfy our minimal needs for food, clothing and shelter. Theirs was only an educated guess but the main point is quite clear: directly or indirectly, most work serves the unproductive purposes of commerce or social control. Right off the bat we can liberate tens of millions of salesmen, soldiers, managers, cops, stockbrokers, clergymen, bankers, lawyers, teachers, landlords, security guards, ad-men and everyone who works for them. There is a snowball effect since every time you idle some bigshot you liberate his flunkies and underlings also. Thus the economy implodes.
    Forty percent of the workforce are white-collar workers, most of whom have some of the most tedious and idiotic jobs ever concocted. Entire industries, insurance and banking and real estate for instance, consist of nothing but useless paper-shuffling. It is no accident that the "tertiary sector," the service sector, is growing while the "secondary sector" (industry) stagnates and the "primary sector" (agriculture) nearly disappears. Because work is unnecessary except to those whose power it secures, workers are shifted from relatively useful to relatively useless occupations as a measure to ensure public order. Anything is better than nothing. That's why you can't go home just because you finish early. They want your time, enough of it to make you theirs, even if they have no use for most of it. Otherwise why hasn't the average work week gone down by more than a few minutes in the last fifty years?
    Next we can take a meat-cleaver to production work itself. No more war production, nuclear power, junk food, feminine hygiene deodorant -- and above all, no more auto industry to speak of. An occasional Stanley Steamer or Model T might be all right, but the auto-eroticism on which such pestholes as Detroit and Los Angeles depend is out of the question. Already, without even trying, we've virtually solved the energy crisis, the environmental crisis and assorted other insoluble social problems.
    Finally, we must do away with far and away the largest occupation, the one with the longest hours, the lowest pay and some of the most tedious tasks. I refer to housewives doing housework and child-rearing. By abolishing wage- labor and achieving full unemployment we undermine the sexual division of labor. The nuclear family as we know it is an inevitable adaptation to the division of labor imposed by modern wage-work. Like it or not, as things have been for the last century or two, it is economically rational for the man to bring home the bacon, for the woman to do the shitwork and provide him with a haven in a heartless world, and for the children to be marched off to youth concentration camps called "schools," primarily to keep them out of Mom's hair but still under control, and incidentally to acquire the habits of obedience and punctuality so necessary for workers. If you would be rid of patriarchy, get rid of the nuclear family whose unpaid "shadow work," as Ivan Illich says, makes possible the work-system that makes it necessary. Bound up with this no-nukes strategy is the abolition of childhood and the closing of the schools. There are more full-time students than full-time workers in this country. We need children as teachers, not students. They have a lot to contribute to the ludic revolution because they're better at playing than grown-ups are. Adults and children are not identical but they will become equal through interdependence. Only play can bridge the generation gap.
    I haven't as yet even mentioned the possibility of cutting way down on the little work that remains by automating and cybernizing it. All the scientists and engineers and technicians freed from bothering with war research and planned obsolescence should have a good time devising means to eliminate fatigue and tedium and danger from activities like mining. Undoubtedly they'll find other projects to amuse themselves with. Perhaps they'll set up world-wide all-inclusive multi-media communications systems or found space colonies. Perhaps. I myself am no gadget freak. I wouldn't care to live in a push button paradise. I don't want robot slaves to do everything; I want to do things myself. There is, I think, a place for labor-saving technology, but a modest place. The historical and pre-historical record is not encouraging. When productive technology went from hunting-gathering to agriculture and on to industry, work increased while skills and self-determination diminished. The further evolution of industrialism has accentuated what Harry Braverman called the degradation of work. Intelligent observers have always been aware of this. John Stuart Mill wrote that all the labor-saving inventions ever devised haven't saved a moment's labor. The enthusiastic technophiles -- Saint-Simon, Comte, Lenin, B.F. Skinner -- have always been unabashed authoritarians also; which is to say, technocrats. We should be more than sceptical about the promises of the computer mystics. They work like dogs; chances are, if they have their way, so will the rest of us. But if they have any particularized contributions more readily subordinated to human purposes than the run of high tech, let's give them a hearing.
    What I really want to see is work turned into play. A first step is to discard the notions of a "job" and an "occupation." Even activities that already have some ludic content lose most of it by being reduced to jobs which certain people, and only those people, are forced to do to the exclusion of all else. Is it not odd that farm workers toil painfully in the fields while their air-conditioned masters go home every weekend and putter about in their gardens? Under a system of permanent revelry, we will witness the Golden Age of the dilettante which will put the Renaissance to shame. There won't be any more jobs, just things to do and people to do them. "

So, are there any people who might find waiting tables in the right context to be fun or otherwise worthwhile? Given that many fun or worthwhile things can be hard or have some unpleasant parts?

Comment: Being a good parent takes a lot of time... (Score 1) 656

by Paul Fernhout (#48623157) Attached to: Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

As does being an informed citizen, a good neighbor, a good friend, a good sibling, a good storyteller tailored for local needs, and so on. So, always lots of important things to do even when we don't need to "work" for someone else for a wage...

Check out:
"When Herskovits (13) was writing his Economic Anthropology (1958), it was common anthropological practice to take the Bushmen or the native Australians as "a classic illustration; of a people whose economic resources are of the scantiest", so precariously situated that "only the most intense application makes survival possible". Today the "classic" understanding can be fairly reversed- on evidence largely from these two groups. A good case can be made that hunters and gatherers work less than we do; and, rather than a continuous travail, the food quest is intermittent, leisure abundant, and there is a greater amount of sleep in the daytime per capita per year than in any other condition of society.
    The most obvious, immediate conclusion is that the people do not work hard. The average length of time per person per day put into the appropriation and preparation of food was four or five hours. Moreover, they do not work continuously. The subsistence quest was highly intermittent. It would stop for the time being when the people had procured enough for the time being. which left them plenty of time to spare. Clearly in subsistence as in other sectors of production, we have to do with an economy of specific, limited objectives. By hunting and gathering these objectives are apt to be irregularly accomplished, so the work pattern becomes correspondingly erratic."

See also my essay: "Basic income from a millionaire's perspective? "

Or more general on post-scarcity:

Comment: Supernormal Stimuli & The Pleasure Trap (Score 4, Informative) 88

by Paul Fernhout (#48613843) Attached to: Brain Stimulation For Entertainment?
"Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett argues that supernormal stimulation govern the behavior of humans as powerfully as that of animals. In her 2010 book, Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose,[9] she examines the impact of supernormal stimuli on the diversion of impulses for nurturing, sexuality, romance, territoriality, defense, and the entertainment industry's hijacking of our social instincts. In the earlier book, Waistland,[2] she explains junk food as an exaggerated stimulus to cravings for salt, sugar, and fats and television as an exaggeration of social cues of laughter, smiling faces and attention-grabbing action. Modern artifacts may activate instinctive responses which evolved in a world without magazine centerfolds or double cheeseburgers, where breast development was a sign of health and fertility in a prospective mate, and fat was a rare and vital nutrient. ..."
"An abundance of food, by itself, is not a cause of health problems. But modern technology has done more than to simply make food perpetually abundant. Food also has been made artificially tastier. Food is often more stimulating than ever before--as the particular chemicals in foods that cause pleasure reactions have been isolated--and artificially concentrated. These chemicals include fats (including oils), refined carbohydrates (such as refined sugar and flour), and salt. Meats were once consumed mostly in the form of wild game--typically about 15% fat. Today's meat is a much different product. Chemically and hormonally engineered, it can be as high as 50% fat or more. Ice cream is an extraordinary invention for intensifying taste pleasure--an artificial concoction of pure fat and refined sugar. Once an expensive delicacy, it is now a daily ritual for many people. French fries and potato chips, laden with artificially-concentrated fats, are currently the most commonly consumed "vegetable" in our society. As Dr. Fuhrman reports in his excellent volume Eat to Live, these artificial products, and others like them, comprise a whopping 93% American diet. Our teenage population, for example, consumes up to 25% of their calories in the form of soda pop!
    Most of our citizenry can't imagine how it could be any other way. To remove (or dramatically reduce) such products from America's daily diet seems intolerable--even absurd. Most people believe that if they were to do so, they would enjoy their food--and their lives--much less. Indeed, most people believe that they would literally suffer if they consumed a health-promoting diet devoid of such indulgences. But, it is here that their perception is greatly in error. The reality is that humans are well designed to fully enjoy the subtler tastes of whole natural foods, but are poorly equipped to realize this fact. And like a frog sitting in dangerously hot water, most people are being slowly destroyed by the limitations of their awareness. ..."

Comment: Subsistence, Gift, Exchange, Planned & More (Score 1) 67

On alternatives to profit-making websites emphasizing other types of transactions than exchange, see my comment: "1. Outdoor Holiday Lights 2. ??? 3. Profit!"

As I mention there, I've been working on-and-off towards software for supporting a social semantic desktop. Many other have of course (like with NEPOMUK), I'm just one more. The Maelstrom sounds like it may be heading in that direction too.

I have some later stuff I have not released yet, but it is pretty similar to this:
"A step towards a social semantic desktop in JavaScript using a NodeJS or PHP backend "

A key idea there is to write applications that spread their content state across a set of files, where you change the content state by adding a new file rather than changing an existing file.

So, for a simple example, imagine you have a document you can find by some UUID. When you make a new version of it, you write out a new file that references the same UUID but has a later timestamp. When you want to display the content, you search through all the versions of the document you have and display the one with the latest timestamp. Every actual file can be referenced by its SHA256 hash value and its length

Now, things can rapidly get more complex that that like by having hyperdocuments where only part of the document is in each file and so on. That requires a somewhat a different style of writing applications than is typical today.

In that version, you can have log files you add to, which can be generated by the system as it accepts new files and sees if they have special indexing tags. You can also have git-like variables that represent a pointer to a specific file and which can only be changed if you present the current version of the variable.

That older version is a bit more complicated than the one I'm working on, which has been progressing mostly by subtraction. :-) In the new version (not yet on GitHub, but I plan to put it there at some point), I got rid of the logs and variables, and replaced them with memory indexes of all content which is always a JSON document. Standard indexing of the files is simple and mainly just enough to find related ones which you can process or index further locally. Indexing in the server is based mainly on files having an optional ID (representing a document potentially with versions under the same ID) and having optional tags (to provide context about hyperdocuments), as well as having a SHA256 and length for direct retrieval. You can also query a server for files that match those IDs. Eventually, I see those queries as being like "magnet URIs".

I've been writing a Single Page Application in JavaScript that uses that new backend to support "Participative Narrative Inquiry" (implementing ideas outlined in my wife's book "Working with Stories");

I think there is a great potential for such tools for community dialog and community planning and community design. I have a video related to that on the front page of site that is currently running the Pointrel20130202 software:

Of course *many* people have been working towards a social semantic desktop (like NEPOMUK). And there are many document-oriented databases (CouchDB, MongoDB, etc.) and a variety of other databases of different sorts. These are just my own experiments and I don't know if they will succeed in being generally useful. I remain hopeful that someone will develop a general purpose system for this and it will be useful for communications, planning, and design. Maybe Maelstrom (or Maelstrom plus some new apps written in the way described above) will be it.

The Theodore Sturgeon short sci-fi story, "The Skills of Xanadu" is part of my own inspiration. Both these links are ironically down at the moment (background info and an audio version of the story):

This is still up, with the text of the story:

Other ideas and inspirations (from 2006 and earlier):
" Hyperscope is a browsing tool that enables most of the viewing and navigating features called for in Doug Engelbart's open hyperdocument system framework (OHS) to support dynamic knowledge repositories (DKRs) and rising Collective IQ. HyperScope works with the Mozilla Firefox version 2.0."

And "Memex" is another inspiration, as essentially a distributed system where people are making copies of information to share (photographically in that case).

Of course, none of that solves the problem you raised of good content being costly to produce because it takes a lot of time. That remains true. But, using Google and reading lots of blogs and sites like Slashdot, and participating on various mailing lists. I've seen that there are many economic alternatives, which I discuss on my site. It is probably only because of cheap and easy access to all that information that I was able to educate myself on these topics as much as I have (always more to learn and self-correct).

There is a lot of truth to this comment by C Mattix:
"Sid Meier is a time traveler"
"I get to break this out again:
                As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth's final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.
                                Commissioner Pravin Lal, "U.N. Declaration of Rights"
                                Accompanies the Secret Project "The Planetary Datalinks"

Of course, here is a whole dictionary of alternatives someone told me about, so it is not like that knowledge is that hard to find if you want to find it:
"The Dictionary of Alternatives: Utopianism and Organization" by Martin Parker, Valerie Fournier, Patrick Reedy
"This dictionary provides ammunition for those who disagree with the early twentieth-first century orthodoxy that 'There is no alternative to free market liberalism and managerialism'. Using hundreds of entries and cross-references, it proves that there are many alternatives to the way that we currently organize ourselves. These alternatives could be expressed as fictional utopias, they could be excavated from the past, or they could be described in terms of the contemporary politics of anti-corporate protest, environmentalism, feminism and localism. Part reference work, part source book, and part polemic, this dictionary provides a rich understanding of the ways in which fiction, history and today's politics provide different ways of thinking about how we can and should organize for the coming century"

Although putting healthy alternatives into practice is generally far harder than just learning they exist in theory. There is a history behind why we have the current systems we have. For example, see Howard Zinn's chapter "Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress" on Columbus and the genocide of the Arawaks in Haiti for gold, just as one example. And the system does not change easily even when almost everyone agrees change make sense (the continued existence of JavaScript's warts like default globals are a prime example even though pretty much every JavaScript developer including Brendan Eich would like the default to be otherwise).

To quote Zinn, on what Haiti used to be like before Western Imperialism arrived:
" Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island's beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:
        "They ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned... . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane... . They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."
    These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus. ...
      The Indians, Las Casas says, have no religion, at least no temples. They live in "large communal bell-shaped buildings, housing up to 600 people at one time ... made of very strong wood and roofed with palm leaves.... They prize bird feathers of various colors, beads made of fishbones, and green and white stones with which they adorn their ears and lips, but they put no value on gold and other precious things. They lack all manner of commerce, neither buying nor selling, and rely exclusively on their natural environment for maintenance. They are extremely generous with their possessions and by the same token covet the possessions of their friends and expect the same degree of liberality. ...""

When the world wide web first got going substantially in the late 1990s, there had been a hope the web would be a different sort of society -- perhaps one more like the (better parts) of what the Arawaks had. Do we all really need to ignore the social and cultural wealth from the web staring us in the face like Columbus did and instead focus on shiny yellow stuff we can't eat and which can't keep us warm and which can't tell us interesting stories?

As Philip Grrenspun wrote more than a decade ago:
"One of the beauties of Web publishing is that it can be free or nearly free. It can be done in such a way that it need not make money. And indeed if your site is destined to lose money it is much less humiliating when you can say that making money wasn't the idea. Nonetheless there are plenty of folks who've forgotten that greed is one of the seven deadly sins. This chapter, therefore, is about how to make money on the Internet. ...
        The Web is a powerful medium for personal expression, for sharing knowledge, and for teaching. It has also made a lot of people very wealthy, but that doesn't mean you can get rich by adding banner ads and referral links to what started out as a beautiful non-commercial site.
        Aside from those who started our with a decades-old centralized computerized database of some sort, the real money in the Internet business has been made by those who operate online communities."

The promise of Maelstrom, or a Social Semantic Desktop, or even pre-spam email or that matter, is to support a distributed community without a need for a business model that makes money to host a few hard-hit servers. If that community is large enough, there will always be useful and interesting content created on it for whatever reasons. The biggest problem these days is more the other ay -- there is too much content of low quality, and someone needs to weed through it. Again, that is a place the community can help. As explained here:
"The Internet, electronic mail, and the Web have revolutionized the way we communicate and collaborate - their mass adoption is one of the major technological success stories of the 20th century. We all are now much more connected, and in turn face new resulting problems: information overload caused by insufficient support for information organization and collaboration. For example, sending a single file to a mailing list multiplies the cognitive processing effort of filtering and organizing this file times the number of recipients - leading to more and more of peoples' time going into information filtering and information management activities. There is a need for smarter and more fine-grained computer support for personal and networked information that has to blend the boundaries between personal and group data, while simultaneously safeguarding privacy and establishing and deploying trust among collaborators."

Those are the sorts of tools needed on top of Maelstrom or whatever other distributed systems we use.

My own suggestions on that:
"This suggestion is about how civilians could benefit by have access to the sorts of "sensemaking" tools the intelligence community (as well as corporations) aspire to have, in order to design more joyful, secure, and healthy civilian communities (including through creating a more sustainable and resilient open manufacturing infrastructure for such communities). It outlines (including at a linked elaboration) why the intelligence community should consider funding the creation of such free and open source software (FOSS) "dual use" intelligence applications as a way to reduce global tensions through increased local prosperity, health, and with intrinsic mutual security.
    I feel open source tools for collaborative structured arguments, multiple perspective analysis, agent-based simulation, and so on, used together for making sense of what is going on in the world, are important to our democracy, security, and prosperity. Imagine if, instead of blog posts and comments on topics, we had searchable structured arguments about simulations and their results all with assumptions defined from different perspectives, where one could see at a glance how different subsets of the community felt about the progress or completeness of different arguments or action plans (somewhat like a debate flow diagram), where even a year of two later one could go back to an existing debate and expand on it with new ideas. As good as, say, Slashdot is, such a comprehensive open source sensemaking system would be to Slashdot as Slashdot is to a static webpage. It might help prevent so much rehashing the same old arguments because one could easily find and build on previous ones. ..."

Do I know how to do that? Not really -- I'm learning as I go, as are so many other people out there. As Van Gogh wrote: "I am always doing what I can't do yet in order to learn how to do it". :-)

As far as software, imagine a system where, for example, you could download this essay, and if you wanted all the related links, and you could always keep a local copy of all the content (including the slashdot page) and you could still follow all the links in an easy way and continue to annotate and comment on and summarize all the content locally, and share such changes with others when you wanted to. We don't yet have such a seamless system for doing that, but someday we might. And overall, I think that would be a good thing.

Comment: 1. Outdoor Holiday Lights 2. ??? 3. Profit! (Score 2) 190

by Paul Fernhout (#48577781) Attached to: Fraud Bots Cost Advertisers $6 Billion

The biggest problem here is ignoring that there are different types of transactions in a community, which include subsistence, gift, exchange, planned, and theft (as discussed on my own website). Selling eyeballs to advertisers to fund a website is primarily an exchange economy transaction. But, as with putting up holiday lights just to make the darkness cheery, there can be gift giving involved in an action (even with a substantial power bill for the lights). You put up lights this year in one place, someone else puts up lights some other year somewhere else, and we all (in theory) enjoy the spectacle. Or, like many towns have tax-funded street lights for safety and convenience, government agencies like NOAA can put up useful websites about the weather with hazardous weather alerts, or NASA can put up useful websites about space science. People can also put up personal websites with journals or "How To" documents just because they are useful or interesting to themselves and their family (subsistence) and accept that it is OK if others look at them.

About a dozen years ago, I read somewhere on Philip Greenspun's website (on making websites), a comment to the effect that, if people announce they are getting a cat, or learning to play the piano, or taking vegetarian cooking lessons, people very rarely ask, how are you going to make money at that? But when people start a website, that seems to be the first question other people ask.

Of course, things have changes a bit now that so many people use Facebook or similar instead of just hosting their own website. It's ironic, since it is so cheap to host your own content now on a paid website (US$5 per month for a cheap one?) or even free on GitHub pages and similar. Or you can get a FreedomBox-like "wall wart" server (in theory) that just serves content through your ISP (in theory, since many ISP's prohibit servers on personal accounts).

I plan another comment related to the Pointrel software ideas I've been working on (including a social semantic desktop) and how it overlaps the ideas discussed in the BitTorrent Project Maelstrom to have distributed content. My work is still in flux (and may never succeed perhaps), as are other options like FreedomBox or Maelstrom which are works in progress. But the point is, more options are emerging for creating and distributing content and we may, at some point, get away from centralized servers and back to the older model where people had local copies of books and papers or went to local libraries for copies of such. The model of the web right now is like than expecting that every time someone wanted to read something of some sort they visit the office of the person who wrote it. And if that person's office door is closed, you can't read it. We can do better as a society. Yes, people can make copies like of Wikipedia pages, but the context is lost and the copies are hard to manage. We could hopefully do better.

However, it is fair to ask how people can survive physically and financially in the 21st century. I feel a basic income for everyone in the USA (not just people over 65 on "Social Security") and other countries too could be part of the answer to that, and that such a world would be overall a better place with more creativity and more subsistence production and more gift giving and healthier participation by citizens in government planning -- and with less theft by "clickfraud" or other means. However, even without a basic income, the "git economy" aspect of the internet has saved me a lot of money and trouble, from people generally freely sharing advice (including links to free software) on personal blogs (or on an advertising supported site like Slashdot). I hope my own contributions as part of that informational gift economy will prove worthwhile and useful at least to some people here and there.

Comment: Encryption is conceptually broken because... (Score 1) 103

by Paul Fernhout (#48552921) Attached to: Neglecting the Lessons of Cypherpunk History

... you can't organize a mass political movement or broad cultural change by hiding what you are doing. You need to convince people to believe in a cause and be willing to commit resources to support it. And overall that requires broad mass communications and engaging more and more people, any one of whom could report you to "authorities". Successful broad change in a democracy is going to be focused on legal & non-violent means to change public opinion. Encryption is generally about hiding communications and their contents, which is the opposite of what you need to be doing to make large scale social change.

Encryption to ensure security is like the same argument for personal handgun ownership. While you can make arguments for such things and personal protection as individual solutions, neither do much by themselves to change the societal culture (including changing spending policies and laws) to make the community healthier and safer. An emphasis on such shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the core social problems that confront us related to building healthier communities around shared values.

Encrypted communications also don't help much when the person you are communicating with forwards everything to someone you don't know. And as an XKCD comic shows, a pipe wrench can defeat most encryption fairly straightforwardly. Encrypted communications can also be compromised in practice any number of ways, which then leaves you with a false sense of security and depending on something you should not be trusting. So, not only is a focus on encryption misleading, it is dangerous.

Sure, encryption may enhance privacy and in that sense affect a balance of power between individual and state, and it is useful for protecting commercial transactions against criminals. It has its place. But that place is not at the heart of making social change of the kind we need for the 21st century -- which I feel relate more to making the most of abundant modern technology despite a culture and habits of mind adapted for scarcity.

Or as I've said elsewhere:
"As I see it, there is a race going on. The race is between two trends. On the one hand, the internet can be used to profile and round up dissenters to the scarcity-based economic status quo (thus legitimate worries about privacy and something like TIA). On the other hand, the internet can be used to change the status quo in various ways (better designs, better science, stronger social networks advocating for things like a basic income, all supported by better structured arguments like with the Genoa II approach) to the point where there is abundance for all and rounding up dissenters to mainstream economics is a non-issue because material abundance is everywhere. So, as Bucky Fuller said, whether is will be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race to the very end. While I can't guarantee success at the second option of using the internet for abundance for all, I can guarantee that if we do nothing, the first option of using the internet to round up dissenters (or really, anybody who is different, like was done using IBM [punched card tabulators] in WWII Germany) will probably prevail. So, I feel the global public really needs access to these sorts of sensemaking tools in an open source way, and the way to use them is not so much to "fight back" as to "transform and/or transcend the system". As Bucky Fuller said, you never change thing by fighting the old paradigm directly; you change things by inventing a new way that makes the old paradigm obsolete. ...
        As with that notion of "mutual security", the US intelligence community needs to look beyond seeing an intelligence tool as just something proprietary that gives a "friendly" analyst some advantage over an "unfriendly" analyst. Instead, the intelligence community could begin to see the potential for a free and open source intelligence tool as a way to promote "friendship" across the planet by dispelling some of the gloom of "want and ignorance" (see the scene in "A Christmas Carol" with Scrooge and a Christmas Spirit) that we still have all too much of around the planet. So, beyond supporting legitimate US intelligence needs (useful with their own closed sources of data), supporting a free and open source intelligence tool (and related open datasets) could become a strategic part of US (or other nation's) "diplomacy" and constructive outreach."

And also:
"Our biggest advantage is that no one takes us seriously. :-)
        And our second biggest advantage is that our communications are monitored, which provides a channel by which we can turn enemies into friends. :-)
        And our third biggest advantage is we have no assets, and so are not a profitable target and have nothing serious to fight over amongst ourselves. :-)"
        Let's hope those advantages all hold true for a long time. :-) "

Other ideas:
"Fresh Start For the Left: What Activists Would Do If They Took the Social Sciences Seriously"

An inclined plane is a slope up. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"