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Comment: Being reflective on pros and cons of technology... (Score 1) 455

"In other words, power corrupts. It should really be regarded like super-heroin: no matter your initial purposes for getting it, you will be addicted and unwilling to put it down, until keeping it and getting more is all that really matters to you anymore. Which explains why the world is so dysfunctional: every society is led by junkies."

If "power" is addictive, maybe that explains the outrage on Slashdot regarding a plea to limit internet speed and access? :-)

More seriously, while you may well be right about the political motivation in this case, there was a recent Slashdot article on how social networks make people more depressed, and here are links to stuff by Paul Graham on the "Acceleration of Addictivess" and so on.

And something by Bill Joy on "How the Future Does Not Need Us".

One other example of what we have lost:
"Nature deficit disorder refers to a hypothesis by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. ... Louv claims that causes for the phenomenon include parental fears, restricted access to natural areas, and the lure of the screen. Recent research has drawn a further contrast between the declining number of National Park visits in the United States and increasing consumption of electronic media by children."

So there are many obvious negatives of modern technology. Look at all the concern on Slashdot about ubiquitous surveillance of everyone that was effectively impossible decades ago. I don't know what the general solution is for the USA regarding technological choices. Obviously Iran has its own political and social dynamics and what may be right for that culture may not be right in the USA. But I'd suggest we need a more reflective attitude towards technology and social systems connected to it. Maybe that would be hard in Iran with its current politics and censorship, but at least, in the USA and on Slashdot, we may want to be more reflective on both what we have gained and what we have lost.

For example, the Amish don't shun technology as much as ask whether specific technologies promote community or not.
"Many outsiders mistakenly think that the Amish reject technology. It is more accurate to say that they use technology selectively. Televisions, radios, and personal computers are rejected outright, but other types of technology are used selectively or modified to fit Amish purposes. Amish mechanics also build new machines to accommodate their cultural guidelines. Moreover, the Amish readily buy much modern technology, such as gas grills, shop tools, camping equipment, and some farm equipment.
    The Amish do not consider technology evil in itself but they believe that technology, if left untamed, will undermine worthy traditions and accelerate assimilation into the surrounding society. Mass media technology in particular, they fear, would introduce foreign values into their culture. By bringing greater mobility, cars would pull the community apart, eroding local ties. Horse-and-buggy transportation keeps the community anchored in its local geographical base. ...
    The Amish seek to master technology rather than become its slave. Like few other communities, they have shown the tenacity to tackle the powerful forces of technology in order to preserve their traditional way of life."

My OSCOMAK idea was in part a hope that communities (of any size) could more consciously design their own technical infrastructures. Maybe with a diversity of options, some communities would get a healthy mix and then would grow from that.

It is a reasonable question, when designing a community, to ask what sort of information access promotes a healthy society? Granted, that immediately leads to questions like "What is Health?" and "Healthy for Whom?" And those may be, in part, political and religious questions.

Religions may well get a lot of stuff wrong. But ultimately, religious groups may survive because their beliefs get the most important things right and then successfully raise children in good health who raise more children etc.. Some of those things they get right may include maybe the human need for face-to-face interaction, the need for forgiveness or avoidance of debts, the need to keep sociopathic behavior in check by various means (including perhaps fear of an omniscient God and judgement in an an afterlife), and placing artificial socially-based limits on supernormal stimuli that otherwise may bring us to our doom "like moths to the flame"?

BTW, it's saddening that most people on Slashdot don't know that for many centuries Islam was far ahead of Christianity on women's rights and several other progressive issues. Even Islamic banking has various merits... See for example:
"At the time of Muhammad's birth, women in 7th century Arabia had few if any rights. Even the right of life could be in question, since it was not uncommon for small girls to be buried alive during times of scarcity. In the Qur'an, it is said that on Judgment Day "buried girls" will rise out of their graves and ask for what crime they were killed. Part of Muhammad's legacy was to end infanticide and establish explicit rights for women. Islam teaches that men and women are equal before God. It grants women divinely sanctioned inheritance, property, social and marriage rights, including the right to reject the terms of a proposal and to initiate divorce. The American middle-class trend to include a prenuptial agreement in the marriage contract is completely acceptable in Islamic law. In Islam's early period, women were professionals and property owners, as many are today. ..."

See also, on morality of the respective political systems of Iran vs. the USA:
"Has IRAN ever invaded a country?"

Comment: Re:Game changing big events beyond any planning? (Score 1) 83

by Paul Fernhout (#47803715) Attached to: New Computer Model Predicts Impact of Yellowstone Volcano Eruption

Typo: That should have been "*extrinsic* unilateral military might" not "intrinsic unilateral military might". Extrinsic means the security comes by extrinsically having soldiers defending supply lines, not intrinsically having local systems that can produce what you need or that can take a pounding.

Comment: Game changing big events beyond any planning? (Score 4, Insightful) 83

by Paul Fernhout (#47803701) Attached to: New Computer Model Predicts Impact of Yellowstone Volcano Eruption

Our current economic system has created existential risks by discounting the risks of centralization and just-in-time production and just-barely-works systems without huge margins of resiliency. One tragedy-in-the-making example is the USA recently selling off its emergency strategic grain supplies.

The USA could as a nation be putting in place a more distributed resilient production system (including indoors food production or even space habitats) to ensure the safety of its citizenry even under huge unexpected disasters. The USA has chosen not too because it does not fit with the current economic dogma that discount such "black swan" existential risks. Hurricane Katrina is an example of failure to systemically plan for obvious serious weather-related risks, Given that example, it is unlikely we can expect the USA to plan for even rarer risks like supervolcanoes, solar flares, pandemics, rogue AI technology, asteroid strikes, economic meltdown, civil war, or whatever else. Still, if you add up all the rare risks, taken together, the probability of some sort of "black swan" event may not otherwise be as rare as one might expect -- and they can all be addressed to some extent by creating a more resilient decentralized infrastructure and promoting more cooperation among people (rather than competition).

I find that situation frustrating because I find issues about resiliency to be very interesting civil defense problems to think about (e.g. my OSCOMAK idea), but the current notion of national security is focused on intrinsic unilateral military might, not intrinsic mutual resilient security. The "Lifeboat Foundation" and "The Living Universe Foundation" though are examples of some groups that have concerns in this area -- but with little funding and lots of competition for that funding compared with the effectively trillion US dollars a year the USA spends (or effectively incurs) annually for military-oriented defense.

Like George Orwell said:
"We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, is possible to carry this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield [or a three foot deep ash field...]"

A resilient infrastructure coincidentally is also more compatible with "democracy" since there can't be real political democracy without some level of financial and material independence for the citizenry. At least the Maker movement is a bit of hope there. As are the changing economics of indoor agriculture given LED lights and robotics, even without potentially cheaper energy supplies if either hot fusion or LENR/QuantumEnergy/ColdFusion turns out to be workable.

Comment: Re:For a country so good at engineering... (Score 1) 150

by TapeCutter (#47803613) Attached to: Radioactive Wild Boars Still Roaming the Forests of Germany
Renewables can and will eventually replace coal, that is a GoodThing(TM), sure they have an ecological footprint but (like nuclear power) it's virtually zero compared to coal. The question isn't nukes vs solar, the question is what combination of current technologies will replace coal's market dominance, current nuclear technologies cannot do this alone for several reasons, expense, limited fuel reserves, plain old fear. Solar is now significantly cheaper and certainly much cleaner than imported brown coal, which is why India has embarked on a solar project to supply power to 400M people (40% of the population).

Replacing coal sounds like a massive task but consider that every coal plant on the planet was built during my lifetime, some were even built and rebuilt. The economics is such that I'm now confident they will be replaced with solar/wind farms in the next 50yrs. The hydro dams are already in place and there aren't many suitable sites left for new ones. All forms of power generation must match supply to demand on the grid, ie: they need a buffer to be able to match the "wavy" demand curve of a typical city. Coal produces a flat supply curve (so called "base load"), it already uses the existing dams as giant batteries by pumping water uphill during off-peak times and pulling it back onto the grid during peak times. As renewables start replacing coal why would they not also use the existing hydro infrastructure to similar effect?

Comment: Re:Nickel-Iron Battery -- could we make it better? (Score 1) 159

by Paul Fernhout (#47803579) Attached to: Power Grids: The Huge Battery Market You Never Knew Existed

"Nickel-Iron (Ni-Fe) batteries -- developed over a century ago by Thomas Edison -- are gradually replacing lead-acid batteries at a number of applications, especially for solar PV and renewable energy power systems. Unlike lead-acid batteries, they are highly reliable, featuring a longer service life and pollution-free operation.
    "The Nickel-Iron technology is great, because it's like rediscovering this great invention," adds Williams. "The fact that Thomas Edison developed this technology makes the history even more exciting."
    Modern Ni-Fe batteries are primarily used for stationary applications and usually last longer than their lead-acid counterparts. Williams says he expects at least 20+ years from his batteries, adding that some batteries over 50 years of age are still working well. He cites a "perfectly reversible polish / tarnish reaction" as a principle reason for top performance. As for pricing and performance comparisons, the Ni-Fe battery is more expensive than a lead-acid battery, yet it delivers three times more discharge, in addition to lasting far longer, says Williams."

I wonder what the problem is with making these batteries a lot cheaper?

Compressed air storage (like in salt mines) is also an interesting idea:

Comment: Re:Reall problem: German radiation phobia (Score 1) 150

by TapeCutter (#47803393) Attached to: Radioactive Wild Boars Still Roaming the Forests of Germany
The radiation is harmful to wildlife but no where near as harmful as plain old human habitation. Wildlife thrives in the Chernobyl exclusion zone not because the radiation is harmless but because there are no people. The DMZ on the korean peninsula is the same, no people, plenty of land mines and wildlife.

BTW: Coulter is a troll and Greenpeace did not kill nuclear power, Chernobyl did that, yes there were exceptional circumstances as there was with the BP oil spill but Joe Average doesn't give a shit about excuses when the inevitable mega-fuck-up occurs.

Comment: Gas - problem solved (Score 1) 159

by Anne Thwacks (#47802521) Attached to: Power Grids: The Huge Battery Market You Never Knew Existed
Here in the UK, we have a gas grid as well as an electric grid. If it was not for the commitment to the Victorian solution of massive centralisation, and vested interests, we would convert the energy to gas, send it over the grid, and generate electricity at the point of need. We have "gasometers" (gas holders) everywhere and have had since before electricity - when gas was used for lighting. Sure it would be 10-15% less efficient, but the electricity grid loses 30% of the power anyway! (and the waste heat could be used to heat water and homes - its not very hot here).

For American readers: gas means a gaseous hydrocarbon, and not a liquid one.

Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward.