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Comment: Re:Life form? (Score 1) 337

A rock is not life because its maintained crystalline structure (eg an NaCl crystal) is a lowest-energy, most-probable configuration, given the thermodynamic regime and material availability in the environment. There is no need for particular information embedded in that structure to influence the surrounding physics and chemistry to achieve greater than thermodynamically expected longevity of the structure.

If you equate the information in the crystal structure (all several bits of it) with the form (and bonding-energy configuration) of the structure, then I SUPPOSE you could say that that information embedded in/ implicit in that structure is related to the structure's thermodynamic stability. In more life-y persistent structures, there is a more complex causal relationship between the information's form and the persistence of the structure. Also, there is typically much more information, and therefore much lower probability of the information pattern's spontaneous formation or maintenance in the thermodynamic regime, so much more NEED for self-causation by the information. If something was inevitably going to happen anyway to some matter and energy, due to its statistical distribution and the surrounding thermodynamic regime and fundamental forces, do we say that that future state (or equivalence class of states) required a particular cause (beyond the operation of the simple physical laws on the situation?) No. So particular local information is not required to cause anything, in thermodynamically and physically stochastically EXPECTED states. Information is only required to be able to be self-causal when the persistence of the information (and the material forms and processes it persists in) are NOT OTHERWISE thermodynamically and physically probable/expected.

Rocks are expected (from operation of simple physics laws), so are not life-y self-causal by particular information.

Comment: Re: Life form? (Score 1) 337

Ok, but the slight problem with your definition is that it's not a particular bunch of matter and energy that is maintaining the state. Matter and energy flows through the lifeform (and the species, ecosystem), Each lifeform (and living system) is an open thermodynamic system, transforming energy and material input, which temporarily becomes part of the lifeform/system, then exits as waste material or heat.
So it is not a collection of matter and energy that actively... bur rather, it is a particular PATTERN of matter and energy (a standing wave would be a good analogy) which actively maintains the state of low entropy. And a PATTERN of matter and energy is in the category "information": not matter or energy or collections of stuff.

By the way, a virus-system is a living-system pattern. It is a distributed system, whose parts are sometimes considerably separated in space and sometimes closer. The best system boundary to draw for the virus living-system's genotype is "all of the virus's codng DNA and some of the host species' coding DNA; that subset that is used by the virus." The best system boundary to draw for the virus living-system's phenotype (instance) is the whole virus body plus some or all of the infected host's body. Those who deny that a virus is living are just drawing the wrong boundary around the "virus-living-system" because they are hung up on the physical boundary of a single virus-body, but that boundary is not that important (it is not an important system-boundary) when considering the fate probabilities, and longevity, of the virus-system.

Fire is not living because its persistence (the persistence of its pattern of process for some amount of time) is not unexpected given the thermodynamic regime and material environment. Fire is the thermodynamically optimum chemical reaction, independent of particular information that is embodied in the fire. There may be (a minimal amount of) stable information embodied in the fire, and that may be connected with the persistence of the reaction, but external factors dominate the lifespan determination, compared to the stable information (if any) in the fire.

Comment: Re:Life form? (Score 3, Insightful) 337

I think the simplest (hah!) and most general/versatile definition of life is:
  An information pattern embodied in a physical mechanism (mechanism here being defined loosely as a class of configurations and processes of matter and energy) which is such that the information pattern is capable of influencing the state and evolution of the physical mechanism and its environment in such a way as to increase the probability of sustained embodiment of that information pattern (or an informationally close relative) in local (causally connected) matter and energy.

To be lifelike, the information pattern must be capable of increasing its own (or its informationally close relative's) sustained embodiment for longer than would be expected by chance, given the physical regime of the environment (the forces acting, and the thermodynamic regime).

Note: It is not sufficient to conserve AN AMOUNT of information (beyond that expected) locally. It is required to conserve the SAME information. The loss of same information (information pattern) with time can be measured in bits/second change in a maximally compressed bitstring representing the pattern. The conservation of information pattern can be measured in bit-seconds.

Comment: Re:government should create a cryptocurrency (Score 2) 142

by presidenteloco (#48627465) Attached to: Will Ripple Eclipse Bitcoin?

Yeah. But which government?

One of the key advantages of today's crypto-currencies is that they are effectively global. Not unduely influenced by any single national government.
I would think that broad adoption of a cryptocurrency by a large fraction of the global population might help make the cryptocurrency's value stable, after initial (and unstable) growth in value due to growth in adoption.

Comment: Re:Because what we need is more gas!!! (Score 1) 113

by presidenteloco (#48627183) Attached to: New Cargo Ship Is 488 Meters Long

Solutions (so sensible that they are guaranteed political suicide):

1. A carbon tax, starting off modest, but with a growth escalator built in and known in advance to assist planning of transition.

Note: Since we know the economy did ok with oil priced double what it is now, the carbon tax need not start out so modest. It could be adaptive, so that for example retail gasoline prices are made roughly what they just were over the last 5 years (average), as a starting point for the tax to kick off system-transition investments.

Carbon trading is not a viable option. A simple at-source carbon tax is more effective and more transparent. Carbon trading is too easily gamed by accountants at the expense of physical reality. e.g. giving you credit for the forest you haven't chopped down yet (how nice of you) so that I can continue to burn more coal.

2.One third of proceeds of carbon tax used to reduce income tax, to keep the economy stimulated.

3. One third of carbon tax revenue used to fund R&D into bleeding-edge alternative energy and transportation technologies.
e.g. better PV, better batteries, hyperloop, magnetized target fusion, thorium, novel grid-scale energy storage, smart-grid, superconducting supergrid

4. One third of carbon tax revenue used to fund non-fossil-fuel infrastructure projects with current technology. Examples:
a) Rapid transit
b) High-speed rail links
c) Energy-efficient building technology (LEED, Passivhaus) - regulations for all new construction, and subsidies
d) Geothermal Energy Projects. Redirect oil&gas industry drilling know-how and workers.
e) Significant feed-in tariffs for clean renewables (as done previously in Germany)
f) Other incentives for solar farms and solar thermal plants with molten-salt energy storage
f) Other incentives for residential PV and solar water heating
g) Deployment of grid-scale storage initially using existing technologies including Li-ion and sodium sulphur batteries, pumped hydro, underground pumped hydro.
h) Addition of long-distance HVDC power transmission lines long enough to cross weather systems. Encourages wind power and solar by evening out intermittency.
i) Expanded subsidy of electric vehicle purchase.
j) Electric vehicle charging infrastructure expansion

Comment: Re:Failed state policies (Score 1) 424

by presidenteloco (#48619209) Attached to: In Breakthrough, US and Cuba To Resume Diplomatic Relations

I didn't say that. I said their system had the resiliency to survive severe sanctions and externally imposed economic isolation. For example, ships that dock in Cuban ports are not permitted to dock at US ports.

Honestly the US embargo is the dumbest policy conceivable. If it hadn't been in place, chances are high that the people in Cuba, immersed in the world economy and saturated by mainstream western "culture", would have made substantial changes to their government policies by now.

Comment: Because what we need is more gas!!! (Score 0) 113

by presidenteloco (#48618625) Attached to: New Cargo Ship Is 488 Meters Long

because it's too damn cold on this planet.

Couldn't the brilliant engineering minds and business minds who built this put their brains to work on some technology that is actually going in the right direction?
Please remember we need to be substantially off fossil fuels by mid-century. Time is ticking.

Comment: Re:Marketshare (Score 1) 205

by presidenteloco (#48583323) Attached to: The Failed Economics of Our Software Commons

Taxation is about diverting a percentage of the energy (or work product) of individuals toward groups, to support organized work for the collective societal super-organism. This is much more efficient than having hundreds or thousands of individuals and micro-hierarchies (gangs) come up with competing and necessarily conflicting plans for collective harnessing and transformation of resources. One thing to remember is that hierarchical governance of human activity will occur, one way or another. It is built into our nature as a species. You get to choose some aspects of the rules or form that the hierarchical governance takes (democracy, inherited or class-based nobility and patronage, dictatorship by seizing control...) and within a spectrum, the slope of the hierarchy; horizontal organization with minimal (but non-zero) hierarchy, or steep totalitarian hierarchy. The reason it is built into our nature is because it is mathematically and thermodynamically an efficient way of coordinating collective activity of intelligent, self-motivated agents and of ensuring stability and cooperation of societal and economic organs.

Organized society often leads to increased security for individual members, and to a productive economy based on competition, but competition within a stable framework of rules and trust.

Anarchy probably entails inefficient scrambling around and squabbling among many competing decision makers, till it settles down and hierarchies of one sort or another, and one level of fairness or another, re-establish themselves naturally because of the efficiencies and power dynamics. And hierarchical governance needs some percentage of resources and member energy (or work output) channeled toward the coordinated collective activities and structures.

In short, some form of hierarchical organization of human activity is inevitable, because it is more efficient than anarchy, and hierarchical organization requires taxation. The grandparent post is correct. All we can and do argue about is the level and focus of use of taxation. Only the most naive argue we shouldn't have it at all, or could sustainably avoid it.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie