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Comment Rarely mentioned on "comparative advantage" theory (Score 1) 332

is that it only applies if there is full employment in both countries and zero cost to labor mobility...
http://internationalecon.com/T...
"The higher price received for each country's comparative advantage good would lead each country to specialize in that good. To accomplish this, labor would have to move from the comparative disadvantaged industry into the comparative advantage industry. This means that one industry goes out of business in each country. However, because the model assumes full employment and costless mobility of labor, all of these workers are immediately gainfully employed in the other industry."

Comment The limits of the Broken Window Fallacy (Score 2) 366

While of course what you say is true as far as it goes (money can be spent either on repairs or on new stuff), here is a way the broken window fallacy can itself be a fallacy.

If almost all the currency in a society is hoarded by the wealthiest 1% (like kept in the "Casino Economy") and the 1% control the government so it refuses to directly print more currency according to the needs of the 99%, then the economy for the 99% functions as if there were a depression due to insufficient currency in the economy of real goods and services.

The health of an economy for most people (as well as the political health of a democracy) is not just how much currency there is, or how fast it moves, but how broadly the currency is distributed. Many average economic indicators may not reflect this economic depression for the 99% due to currency unavailability -- in the same way that if Bill Gates stepped into a homeless shelter by accident, everyone in the building would on average be a millionaire.

For more on the "Casino Economy" or "Gambling Economy" of abstract finance see the section of Money as Debt II starting around here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

In such a circumstance (which is close to the economy we have now), if a window breaks that a wealthy person or the government wants to fix, then some of the hoarded and speculated cash from the Casino economy may be leaked into the real economy of the 99%. This would temporarily alleviate a tiny bit of the ongoing defacto economic depression until the money is sucked back into the ever expanding Casino economy again via interest on debt or other forms of rent-seeking. Someone breaking a to-be-replaced window of a wealthy person or government in such a situation is then engaging in an indirect form of theft. WWII was another example that led to increased government spending and progressive taxation in the USA, although to great human suffering across the globe in other ways.

To be clear, breaking a window that needs to be repaired by the 99% does not have this currency redistribution effect since no additional currency will be moved from the casino economy to the real economy. Then we are just left with the fallacy in its standard form -- not the fallacy in the limiting case of concentrated hoarded wealth.

Of course, in practice, things getting broken only gives excuses for future crackdowns on "terrorists" and the diversion of what little cash is left circulating in the real economy for the 99% into new taxes for a larger security apparatus to protect the windows of the 1%, so ultimately the path of breaking windows is likely self-defeating.

Better options include alternative currencies, local exchange trading systems (LETS), an improved gift economy like via free software and shared knowledge like with Slashdot, improved local subsistence production like via 3D printing or home gardening robots like Farmbot, better democratic processes leading to better government planning, and political change towards a basic income (with the BI funded by progressive taxation and rents on resource extraction or government-granted monopolies like broadcast spectrum use). I discuss those and more options here:
http://pdfernhout.net/beyond-a...

Comment Name it Chiron for Hogan's Voyage from Yesteryear (Score 2) 345

James P. Hogan's comments from: https://web.archive.org/web/20...
=====
An Earth set well into the next century is going through one of its periodical crises politically, and it looks as if this time they might really press the button for the Big One. If it happens, the only chance for our species to survive would be by preserving a sliver of itself elsewhere, which in practical terms means another star, since nothing closer is readily habitable. There isn't time to organize a manned expedition of such scope from scratch. However, a robot exploratory vessel is under construction to make the first crossing to the Centauri system, and it with a crash program it would be possible to modify the designs to carry sets of human genetic data coded electronically. Additionally, a complement of incubator/nanny/tutor robots can be included, able to convert the electronic data back into chemistry and raise/educate the ensuing offspring while others prepare surface habitats and supporting infrastructure, when a habitable world is discovered. By the time we meet the "Chironians," their culture is into its fifth generation.

In the meantime, Earth went through a dodgy period, but managed in the end to muddle through. The fun begins when a generation ship housing a population of thousands arrives to "reclaim" the colony on behalf of the repressive, authoritarian regime that emerged following the crisis period. The Mayflower II brings with it all the tried and tested apparatus for bringing a recalcitrant population to heel: authority, with its power structure and symbolism, to impress; commercial institutions with the promise of wealth and possessions, to tempt and ensnare; a religious presence, to awe and instill duty and obedience; and if all else fails, armed military force to compel. But what happens when these methods encounter a population that has never been conditioned to respond?

The book has an interesting corollary. Around about the mid eighties, I received a letter notifying me that the story had been serialized in an underground Polish s.f. magazine. They hadn't exactly "stolen" it, the publishers explained, but had credited zlotys to an account in my name there, so if I ever decided to take a holiday in Poland the expenses would be covered (there was no exchange mechanism with Western currencies at that time). Then the story started surfacing in other countries of Eastern Europe, by all accounts to an enthusiastic reception. What they liked there, apparently, was the updated "Ghandiesque" formula on how bring down an oppressive regime when it's got all the guns. And a couple of years later, they were all doing it!

So I claim the credit. Forget all the tales you hear about the contradictions of Marxist economics, truth getting past the Iron Curtain via satellites and the Internet, Reagan's Star Wars program, and so on.

In 1989, after communist rule and the Wall came tumbling down, the annual European s.f. convention was held at Krakow in southern Poland, and I was invited as one of the Western guests. On the way home, I spent a few days in Warsaw and at last was able to meet the people who had published that original magazine. "Well, fine," I told them. "Finally, I can draw out all that money that you stashed away for me back in '85. One of the remarked-too hastily--that "It was worth something when we put it in the bank." (There had been two years of ruinous inflation following the outgoing regime's policy of sabotaging everything in order to be able to prove that the new ideas wouldn't work.) I said, resignedly, "Okay. How much are we talking about?" The one with a calculator tapped away for a few seconds, looked embarrassed, and announced, "Eight dollars and forty-three cents." So after the U.S. had spent trillions on its B-52s, Trident submarines, NSA, CIA, and the rest--all of it.

Comment Other ideas on dealing with social hurricanes (Score 1) 264

http://pdfernhout.net/on-deali...
"This approximately 60 page document is a ramble about ways to ensure the CIA (as well as other big organizations) remains (or becomes) accountable to human needs and the needs of healthy, prosperous, joyful, secure, educated communities. The primarily suggestion is to encourage a paradigm shift away from scarcity thinking & competition thinking towards abundance thinking & cooperation thinking within the CIA and other organizations. I suggest that shift could be encouraged in part by providing publicly accessible free "intelligence" tools and other publicly accessible free information that all people (including in the CIA and elsewhere) can, if they want, use to better connect the dots about global issues and see those issues from multiple perspectives, to provide a better context for providing broad policy advice. It links that effort to bigger efforts to transform our global society into a place that works well for (almost) everyone that millions of people are engaged in. A central Haudenosaunee story-related theme is the transformation of Tadodaho through the efforts of the Peacemaker from someone who was evil and hurtful to someone who was good and helpful. ..."

Comment From US GSA 18F on security and open source... (Score 1) 61

From: https://18f.gsa.gov/2014/11/26...

Security and open source

"System security should not depend on the secrecy of the implementation or its components."
-- Guide to General Server Security, National Institute of Standards and Technology

A codebase is a terrible secret.

Because a codebase is so large, it cannot easily be changed. Furthermore, it must be known, or at least knowable, to the large number of people who work on it, so it cannot be kept secret very easily. This is represented at the bottom of figures two and three. Therefore "security through obscurity" is a terrible idea when it comes to a codebase. In most cases your system will consist of code which you reuse as well as code that your write yourself. Therefore both of these types of code should be open.

Of course, your system will have secrets in most cases -- keys, passwords, and the like -- but you should assume they have been discovered and change them often. We call these secrets a "red thread", because, like a red thread in a white handkerchief, they should be as vivid and thin as possible. By making them thin, such as a single password, you make them very easy to change and keep secret. Although these secrets are tiny, they must be managed carefully and conscientiously. We believe this concept is so important that we have placed it on our reusable version of the Wardley-Duncan map linked to above.

There are risks of defects and complexity associated with using open source modules indiscriminately. There are also security vulnerabilities to any system, either through negligence or by the intention of a bad actor. The key to preventing this is code review.

You must make sure that each component you use is code reviewed. In practice this means either that you must use very popular projects whose code is looked at by a large number of people on a regular basis, or you must use small projects which your team can code review itself. In practice, the criteria for making this decision for reused components is similar to the rules of thumb that we have already laid down for managing risk.However, you may need to adjust these rules of thumb based on how often you plan to update the component.

For example, a small component which is very stable need not be updated at all. If it is small and you can code review it or pay a team to code review it, then you may use it. On the other hand if the project has frequent updates, your team will have to decide how to manage these updates. A large project may have both stable and experimental branches. In general your team will want to update as frequently as the major number of the branch. If the project is very active and many people are looking at it, this does not represent a security risk. If however a project is changing rapidly and producing many releases and your team does not have the resources to ensure that each new release is code reviewed and you do not trust the community to do so, then you probably should not use that component.

With an open source component, it is at least possible to understand how much code review it is receiving.We know of no way to do this for closed source code kept as a secret.A firm which is asked to maintain the security of the code that it has written is placed in a conflict of interest. It isn't in its short-term interest to spend resources on this code review, and it is not in its short-term interest to admit defects.

Security of your own code

Make all your code open and examinable from the start. Moreover, it is best to encourage as many people to look at it, because the more people who seriously review the code the more likely a security flaw is to be found. Programmers will code more securely when their code is in the public's eye from the beginning.

Code that you write or contract to have written should be open source from the start, because it relieves you of the terrible risk and burden of maintaining the secrecy of the codebase. This means not only that it is published under an open source license as explained in our open source policy, but that it is published in a modern source code control system.

Comment Re:Not even risk, loss virtually guaranteed with B (Score 4, Informative) 117

Or, if you were really concerned, you could just Google it: https://eprint.iacr.org/2016/167.pdf
"Broken SHA256: For a broken SHA256, meaningful
collisions or pre-images suggest that new transactions
should not be accepted. However, as we saw in Sec-
tion 4.3, unless a broken hash results in majority power,
an adversary cannot alter historical blocks or transactions.
The same can be said for hard-coding known public keys
with unspent outputs: even if the adversary gets a differ-
ent key that hashes to the same value, deriving the private
key should be infeasible if the signature scheme is still
strong. The plans for SHA256 thus seem to be more pru-
dent than necessary, but since they necessitate a hard fork,
rehashing the entire blockchain to add new checkpoints
or hardcoding public keys can only increase the security
of the transition period, but perhaps at a cost of efficiency."

A little plain-english translation would also be, that BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies (As well as, arguably, the security of every credit card in your pocket and bank transaction and online login and...) doesn't rely on the hash being "unbreakable", it just relies on it being non-trivial, and barring a general quntum computer, we know it to be non-trivial. In fact, the credit-card in your pocket is more vulnerable to single hash being broken, and the whole working principle of BitCoin (mining) is "cracking SHA-2".

The threat-model for BitCoin isn't that the hash will be broken, but that it will become significantly easier for one party; this is a special case of the general majority-hashing-power threat, where the "adversary" covertly through subterfuge or technology obtains majority hashing power. This in fact has happened before (Multiple times at least if you include Satoshi Nakamoto himself) and the world didn't come to an end.

This is not to say that I'm a BitCoin enthusiast, or even that I'm saying it's unbreakable, I'm just saying it's far more complicated and also analyzed, at least by other people than the BitCoin core developers, than a simple "OMGZORZS they gonna crack da hash!!!!111" :)

Submission + - In Memory: Seymour Papert

Paul Fernhout writes: The MIT Media Lab sadly informs us: "Seymour Papert, whose ideas and inventions transformed how millions of children around the world create and learn, died Sunday, July 31, 2016 at his home in East Blue Hill, Maine. He was 88. Papert's career traversed a trio of influential movements: child development, artificial intelligence, and educational technologies. Based on his insights into children's thinking and learning, Papert recognized that computers could be used not just to deliver information and instruction, but also to empower children to experiment, explore, and express themselves. The central tenet of his Constructionist theory of learning is that people build knowledge most effectively when they are actively engaged in constructing things in the world. As early as 1968, Papert introduced the idea that computer programming and debugging can provide children a way to think about their own thinking and learn about their own learning. ..."

Papert created the Logo programming language. He advised the Lego Mindstorms project (named after his book) and the OLPC project. Papert's "Hard Fun" essay gets at the core of why being a techy is enjoyable. Papert's work also helped inspire our Garden Simulator as an educational microworld. How has Seymour Papert's work affected you?

Comment Upside potential: The Skills of Xanadu (Score 1) 367

1956 Sturgeon story about mobile/wearable computing's potential that inspired Ted Nelson and others leading to the web and so the iPhone: https://archive.org/stream/gal...
https://archive.org/details/pr...

Let's hope the upside is realized -- not a surveillance/control downside.
http://pcast.ideascale.com/a/d...

Still trying to help when I can -- just so little time:
https://github.com/pdfernhout/...

Hope others can carry things forward in their won way -- and many are! :-)

Half-way through reading the "The Jennifer Project" new sci-fi novel by Larry Enright, which almost seems like a Skills of Xanadu remake in some ways. Nor sure how it ends. :-)
https://www.amazon.com/Jennife...

Hopefully not the same as "With Folded Hands". :-(
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

Submission + - FarmBot open source gardening robot project raises US$400K

Paul Fernhout writes: FarmBot is an open-source gantry-crane-style outdoor robot for tending a garden bed. The project is crowdfunding a first production run and has raised US$398,708 of their US$100,000 goal — with three days left to go. The cost is US$2,900. The onboard control system is based around a Raspberry Pi 3 computer and an Arduino Mega 2560 Microcontroller. Many of the parts are 3D printable.

FarmBot was discussed on Slashdot two years ago when it was just getting started.

Submission + - SPAM: Trump GOP convention infringed copyright for at least seven songs 1

Paul Fernhout writes: According to Keith Girard, writing for The Improper Magazine, "Donald Trump, the self-pronounced "law and order" candidate, stole at least seven classic rock songs used by his campaign during the GOP convention, infuriating the artists who own the rights to them."

Obviously, "stole" is a loaded word when talking about copyright infringement... Might this indicate a Trump administration could by sympathetic to reducing the scope and duration of copyright?

Link to Original Source

Comment Rose-tinted glasses (Score 1) 73

And how many of their research subjects had been diagnosed with hypochondria? Searching for symptoms and eventual disease isn't unlikely pattern, whereas someone actually suffering from it would be more likely to only ask a doctor. Didn't bother to read the article, of course, but hopefully they did also check whether they did search indicating diagnosis also before, and possibly for other diseases.

I also have to join those questioning the "false positive" rate there. People are perhaps even more liable to search for other people's conditions than their own, and while showing them a banner like "Your searches indicate X" would work just as well, in the context of the study that should count as a false positive. One question on this is exactly how they're counting or reporting false positives. Approximately 5 in 100.000 will get pancreating cancer *in their lifetime*, which comes to neighborhood 1 to 1.000.000 million per year. If their algorithm actually tagges 1 in 10.000 users as having pancreatic cancer then it is next to useless. If 1 in 10.000 tagged didn't turn out to have pancreatic cancer, then it's unbelievable.

And indeed, assuming they were searching for identifiable symptoms, wouldn't they have discovered their cancer earlier? Is this a case of too slow medical system, or just a case of people who already know they have pancreatic cancer sometimes making searches looking like recent diagnosis... the example of "Why did I get pancreatic cancer?" in the summary for example is pretty telling, as that would seem quite likely search for a late-stage patient.

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