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

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 Deep learning about morality and post-scarcity? (Score 1) 128

An aside from the article: "Huang showed a demo from Facebook that used deep learning to train a neural network how to recognize a landscape painting. They then used the network to create its own landscape painting."

So long for such jobs... How about deep learning about post-scarcity economics?

Also: ""Our strategy is to accelerate deep learning everywhere," Huang said."

How about some deep learning about morality? Imagine training children (or child-like AIs) in skills like weapons use without training them in morality, kindness, cooperation, and so on... How would that end?

See also:
"Child Soldiers International is an international human rights research and advocacy organisation. We seek to end the military recruitment and the use in hostilities, in any capacity, of any person under the age of 18 by state armed forces or non-state armed groups. We advocate for the release of unlawfully recruited children, promote their successful reintegration into civilian life, and call for accountability for those who unlawfully recruit or use them."

Maybe AIs should not be asked to replace humans until they have been around for at least eighteen years?

Comment Great news on MIT moving more to FLOSS; next steps (Score 1) 79

A couple months ago I was emailing with RMS about how sad it was that MIT still required copyright assignment by all students, faculty, and staff. So I'm glad to see some more progress. Related:
"The FSF could start a new campaign to get foundations and non-profits to pledge that all content and software they fund or develop for the public using charitable or public dollars will be released under free licenses."

Ultimately research funders are going to need to change their policies drive this, as I suggested about fifteen years ago:
"Foundations, other grantmaking agencies handling public tax-exempt dollars, and charitable donors need to consider the implications for their grantmaking or donation policies if they use a now obsolete charitable model of subsidizing proprietary publishing and proprietary research. In order to improve the effectiveness and collaborativeness of the non-profit sector overall, it is suggested these grantmaking organizations and donors move to requiring grantees to make any resulting copyrighted digital materials freely available on the internet, including free licenses granting the right for others to make and redistribute new derivative works without further permission. It is also suggested patents resulting from charitably subsidized research research also be made freely available for general use. The alternative of allowing charitable dollars to result in proprietary copyrights and proprietary patents is corrupting the non-profit sector as it results in a conflict of interest between a non-profit's primary mission of helping humanity through freely sharing knowledge (made possible at little cost by the internet) and a desire to maximize short term revenues through charging licensing fees for access to patents and copyrights. In essence, with the change of publishing and communication economics made possible by the wide spread use of the internet, tax-exempt non-profits have become, perhaps unwittingly, caught up in a new form of "self-dealing", and it is up to donors and grantmakers (and eventually lawmakers) to prevent this by requiring free licensing of results as a condition of their grants and donations."

Longer version of the above originally prepared for the Markle Foundation:

Comment The Art Of Driving by John Taylor Gatto (Score 1) 173

Now come back to the present while I demonstrate that the identical trust placed in ordinary people two hundred years ago still survives where it suits managers of our economy to allow it. Consider the art of driving, which I learned at the age of eleven. Without everybody behind the wheel, our sort of economy would be impossible, so everybody is there, IQ notwithstanding. With less than thirty hours of combined training and experience, a hundred million people are allowed access to vehicular weapons more lethal than pistols or rifles. Turned loose without a teacher, so to speak. Why does our government make such presumptions of competence, placing nearly unqualified trust in drivers, while it maintains such a tight grip on near-monopoly state schooling?

An analogy will illustrate just how radical this trust really is. What if I proposed that we hand three sticks of dynamite and a detonator to anyone who asked for them. All an applicant would need is money to pay for the explosives. You'd have to be an idiot to agree with my plan--at least based on the assumptions you picked up in school about human nature and human competence.

And yet gasoline, a spectacularly mischievous explosive, dangerously unstable and with the intriguing characteristic as an assault weapon that it can flow under locked doors and saturate bulletproof clothing, is available to anyone with a container. Five gallons of gasoline have the destructive power of a stick of dynamite.3 The average tank holds fifteen gallons, yet no background check is necessary for dispenser or dispensee. As long as gasoline is freely available, gun control is beside the point. Push on. Why do we allow access to a portable substance capable of incinerating houses, torching crowded theaters, or even turning skyscrapers into infernos? We haven't even considered the battering ram aspect of cars--why are novice operators allowed to command a ton of metal capable of hurtling through school crossings at up to two miles a minute? Why do we give the power of life and death this way to everyone?

It should strike you at once that our unstated official assumptions about human nature are dead wrong. Nearly all people are competent and responsible; universal motoring proves that. The efficiency of motor vehicles as terrorist instruments would have written a tragic record long ago if people were inclined to terrorism. But almost all auto mishaps are accidents, and while there are seemingly a lot of those, the actual fraction of mishaps, when held up against the stupendous number of possibilities for mishap, is quite small. I know it's difficult to accept this because the spectre of global terrorism is a favorite cover story of governments, but the truth is substantially different from the tale the public is sold. According to the U.S. State Department, 1995 was a near-record year for terrorist murders; it saw three hundred worldwide (two hundred at the hand of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka) compared to four hundred thousand smoking-related deaths in the United States alone. When we consider our assumptions about human nature that keep children in a condition of confinement and limited options, we need to reflect on driving and things like almost nonexistent global terrorism.

Notice how quickly people learn to drive well. Early failure is efficiently corrected, usually self-corrected, because the terrific motivation of staying alive and in one piece steers driving improvement. If the grand theories of Comenius and Herbart about learning by incremental revelation, or those lifelong nanny rules of Owen, Maclure, Pestalozzi, and Beatrice Webb, or those calls for precision in human ranking of Thorndike and Hall, or those nuanced interventions of Yale, Stanford, and Columbia Teachers College were actually as essential as their proponents claimed, this libertarian miracle of motoring would be unfathomable.

Now consider the intellectual component of driving. It isn't all just hand-eye-foot coordination. First-time drivers make dozens, no, hundreds, of continuous hypotheses, plans, computations, and fine-tuned judgments every day they drive. They do this skillfully, without being graded, because if they don't, organic provision exists in the motoring universe to punish them. There isn't any court of appeal from your own stupidity on the road.4

I could go on: think of licensing, maintenance, storage, adapting machine and driver to seasons and daily conditions. Carefully analyzed, driving is as impressive a miracle as walking, talking, or reading, but this only shows the inherent weakness of analysis since we know almost everyone learns to drive well in a few hours. The way we used to be as Americans, learning everything, breaking down social class barriers, is the way we might be again without forced schooling. Driving proves that to me.

Comment Daily life without trust is very expensive (Score 1) 173

Mistrust is expensive. That's how I've heard it put elsewhere. And just look at unstable areas of the world to see that. More and more money goes into guarding (e.g. armed guards, steel walls and window shutters, armored cars, constant surveillance) and less and less into producing stuff worth guarding. In the same way that the natural ecology provide many vital services to the global economy (like air and water recycling), peace and general satisfaction saves us a lot of money (not just military expenses but day to day costs ranging from locks to insurance premiums).

Although, there are always some who see profit in causing unrest of all sorts -- thus "War is a Racket".

See also "The Abolition of Work" by Bob Black:
"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."

And, for some humor on this, the "Bee Watcher Watcher" story by Dr. Seuss:

In general, I agree the best way to prevent disasters is to have happier citizens (and healthier, more capable, and more optimistic ones). A basic income for the exchange economy may be one way towards happier citizens (and with a BI people on the edge have more to lose by criminal actions, too), but so could be an improved gift economy, improved subsistence technologies like 3D printing, and/or improved government planning through better democratic participation. I discuss those here and why they are a better answer to mass unemployment compared to other options:

Comment "That's also the bad news," (Score 1) 173

And thus my sig on the irony of technologies of abundance in the hands of those still thinking in terms of scarcity, and also this essay by me:
"There is a fundamental mismatch between 21st century reality and 20th century security thinking. Those "security" agencies are using those tools of abundance, cooperation, and sharing mainly from a mindset of scarcity, competition, and secrecy. Given the power of 21st century technology as an amplifier (including as weapons of mass destruction), a scarcity-based approach to using such technology ultimately is just making us all insecure. Such powerful technologies of abundance, designed, organized, and used from a mindset of scarcity could well ironically doom us all whether through military robots, nukes, plagues, propaganda, or whatever else... Or alternatively, as Bucky Fuller and others have suggested, we could use such technologies to build a world that is abundant and secure for all.
    So, while in the past, we had "nothing to fear but fear itself", the thing to fear these days is ironcially ... irony. :-) "

Comment Re:Mozilla should support FOSS for messaging (Score 1) 191

AC, thanks for the additional feedback. That web page was not exactly what I sent Mozilla directly when I applied there (which was about a page or so long), although I said much the same thing as the summary, and as I put a link to it on the tb-planning list someone at Mozilla might have seen it. I could speculate they rejected my application so quickly (the next day) because they had rejected my previous application a couple years before about Thunderbird and probably just consulted a flag somewhere, but I'll probably never know.

That web page itself grew as I pasted additional emails I sent and various notes on the idea and progress at the bottom. I'd agree it is not a great web page and I should present the idea better. :-) And in fact, the whole project is about better peer-to-peer-ish tools to make sense of complex things and incrementally improve shared workspaces. But, so little time, so much to do, and now necessity and chance has me focusing on other things.

You're right to suggest speaking to the appropriate level of understanding of the audience. Of course, one might expect when corresponding with a place like Mozilla it would be technical people talking to technical people. :-) But, as much as Mozilla is no doubt full of very technical people doing great stuff, as the article and various posters point out, apparently there is a significant disconnect between the Mozilla staff and the Mozilla leadership and the organizational direction (especially now that Brendan Eich is gone).

Anyway, again, sincere thanks for taking the time to respond to my messages and for providing well-meant useful advice to always keep in mind. :-)

Comment Re:Mozilla should support FOSS for messaging (Score 1) 191

Thanks for the feedback. I can easily concede that anyone who did not watch "Thunderbirds" on TV as a kid would find confusing any references to stuff like "International Rescue" or "Thunderbirds are Go":

In any case, this is what it starts out saying after providing a contextual quote: "To deal with Thunderbird's technical debt (which Andrew Sutherland described on the Mozilla Governance thread that Mitchell Baker started), I propose Mozilla fund a "skunkworks" team of about seven people for a year to create a new server version of Thunderbird (called "Thunderbird Server", or "ThunderbirdS" for short) that runs initially as a locally-installed Node.js app providing a single-page JavaScript/TypeScript/Mithril/D3 webapp for email handling and other peer-to-peer communications using the local file system. Thunderbird Server would use Firefox (desktop or mobile) as its primary client; Firefox would access Thunderbird Server just like any other (local) web server using web standards. The most significant Thunderbird Desktop plugins (based on downloads or other metrics) would be ported by the team to this new Thunderbird Server platform (ideally, aided by a custom tool for such porting). Some of the most popular plugins might be unneeded though for Thunderbird Server given they could run directly in Firefox (like translation tools and ad blockers). This Thunderbird Server platform would, through plugins, eventually become a social semantic desktop that could change the nature of the web as we know it, reducing the significance of the distinction between local copies shared with peers and centralized content shared with clients."

Lunacy maybe. :-) But hopefully less loony than what Mozilla is doing now like morphing into an IoT software vendor.

Insulting? Well, "technical debt" was (accurate) phrasing originally from a core Thunderbird maintainer...

Anyway, I'm now too busy and with other commitments to do it now myself. Mozilla missed their chance with me (for whatever reason). But, I still hope Mozilla still goes back to supporting messaging like Thunderbird (and conceptual successors like There are thousands of good programmers out there who could do a wonderful job making great messaging tools. And many are already (like with, Mattermost, Kolab and more) -- including dozens still valiantly maintaining Thunderbird desktop in the face of constant upstream breakages in Firefox (as Thunderbird includes an entire copy of Firefox in it -- very problematical given Mozilla's plans to abandon Gecko maintenance and move to an entirely new rendering engine called Servo). It would be great if they all got more support though -- or if everyone got a basic income. :-)

Comment Mozilla should (Score 3, Informative) 191

Or a Thunderbird local server unified messaging platform using Firefox as the client (my proposal):

Mozilla rejected my application to do that project the very next day after I sent it. The rejected a related proposal by me a couple years earlier to improve Thunderbird desktop. From an earlier poster who works at Mozilla, I now understand that situation better. I had not realized how dysfunctional the organization had become.

That Thunderbird server project is currently on hiatus as I just started a new job, but I still hope I can do some bits and pieces of that idea of a FOSS messaging platform now and then that might someday add up to it.

Meanwhile, a proprietary Slack is eating the free/standard messaging sphere:

One year of Mozilla's revenues is about the same as all the VC money that has gone into Slack. Meanwhile the Mozilla CEO says essentially that FOSS messaging tools like Thunderbird do not matter any more and kisses off Thunderbird. To my mind, at this point, Thunderbird is the more viable concept compared to Firefox (let alone any of the other ill-considered projects) -- as the success of Slack shows.

I can be thankful for Mattermost and as free Slack alternatives.

But imagine what such FOSS messaging software could be like with hundreds of millions of dollars a year behind it to fund a team of thousands of full-time developers.

Bottom line: Mozilla is pissing away hundreds of millions of dollars a year of money (and thousands of developer years) that should be earmarked for essential FOSS (like communications tools) on projects with near zero chance of success(a new mobile OS?) or that are unneeded (yet another programming language?) -- while paying huge executive salaries.

Comment My own Marvin Minsky story on neural networks (Score 2) 76

Posted here first this morning (couple of types fixed):

Wow, sad to hear the news. Marvin Minsky and I were academic peers of a sort -- he was one of George A. Miller's first students, and I was one of George's last students. :-) George told my parents something like I was the student who most reminded him of Marvin Minsky, except whereas he spent George's Air Force money, I spent my father's money. :-) Which was not quite true (I paid for a chunk of Princeton with the proceeds of a video game I wrote and with some loans) but it sounded funny. :-) My dad was actually mostly a blue collar worker, and my mother only later in life worked for county social services, so George may also not have realized my family was not that well off financially.

I met Marvin Minsky once in his MIT office in 1985 as I was graduating from Princeton. I likely gave him a copy of my thesis -- "Why Intelligence: Object, Evolution, Stability, and Model". I also wrote to him once in the 1990s about getting computer time for space habitat simulations (he was responsive in a positive way, but then I met my wife and so just let stuff like that drop). And I saw him in passing about fifteen years ago when he gave a talk at IBM Research while I was a contractor there (he spoke about multiple simultaneous mental representations, and picking from the best one). A nephew of his even lived down the hall from me my senior year at Princeton in 1903 hall, too, but I never talked with him about his uncle. But we never really connected any of those times, sadly.

One of the biggest mistake I've made in my life careerwise (or so it seemed at the time) was when visiting Marvin Minsky in his office to talk to him about the triplestore and semantic network ideas in my thesis (stuff that indirectly helped inspire WordNet which George started as I graduated). I casually mentioned in passing to Marvin Minsky very early on in our meeting something about neural networks (MIT had a spinoff then of the Connection Machine), and I guess that may have put him in one of those mental states where some of the 400 different little computers activate. :-) I had not known then that he had essentially written a book (Perceptrons) to discredit neural networks (by only considering a limited version of them) to preserve funding for more formal semantic networks he worked on. He warned me sternly about how many careers had been destroyed by exploring neural networks. Another of George's students had found a copy of Marvin's original SNARC paper (what Marvin spent George's Air Force grant money on), and I can wish I had thought to take a copy to Marvin, as that might have set a different tone for our meeting, as it turned out Marvin had lost his original and wanted to reference it in his book "the Society of Mind" he was working on then.

So, instead of MIT, I spent a year hanging out in Hans Moravec's and also Red Whittaker's robot labs, and that was interesting in its own way. That experience also set me to thinking about the implications of most of the CMU robotics work being funded by the US military, which ultimately lead to my key insight about the irony of using robots to fight about material scarcity they could otherwise alleviate.

I sent Marvin Minsky an email in 2010, with a subject of "Vitamin D, computing, and abundance", warning about the health risks of vitamin D deficiency for heavy computer users. I also thanked him for his interactions with James P. Hogan, an author whose writings have been very inspiring to me (like Two Faces of Tomorrow and Voyage From Yesteryear), as James acknowledges Marvin in the first as a major source of ideas and inspirations, so some big ideas went from Marvin to James to me at least in that sense. :-) I also thanked him for being such an inspiration in years gone by. I had been reading through all the comments at a Wired article on "DARPA: U.S. Geek Shortage Is National Security Risk" and reflecting on my own career and inspirations, and thought I'd write to him. I told Marvin the biggest thing missed in that article is just that most computer jobs in the USA are not given much room for creative expression these days. And, sadly, much the same is true for academia for reason Dr. Goodstein outlines in his "The Big Crunch" essay (as do many other authors) which I also linked to. When you think about it, even as billions of dollars are being poured into proprietary software every year, and maybe a similar amount into academia, most programmers are kept on very short leashes focused on narrow project outcomes. There are very few projects like Mozilla or Chandler with a broad mandate (and when there are, they are often badly managed). When you think about it, for example, where is the broad support for creating better GUI libraries? Sure you can point to Angular or React as spinoffs of big corporations and they are getting most of the mindshare, but the very limited support for truly creative people like Leo Horie who made Mithril on the side in their spare time is more typical. Likewise, Notch and Minecraft got all the publicity and billions but Infiniminer and Zachary Barth, the source of key Minecraft ideas, get very little returns or support. Even Bill Gates learned by dumpster diving and reading the TOPS-10 OS listings and his MS-DOS was purchased as a ripoff of Kildall's CPM, which IBM may have known about and used Gates to stay at arms length from a suspicious transaction. Sigh.

I have since some to think that, short of improved subsistence via 3D printing and flexible home and agricultural personal robotics, or a radical change to a gift economy, or broad government grants totaling in the hundreds of billions of years to any programmer who asked, about the only thing I can think of that would really fix that situation of limited time for programmers to be creative, that would really give most programmers some financial freedom to innovate, not just a few (like Marvin) who manage (often by technical brilliance of a sort, and so seemingly "deservedly") to work their way up the social/funding hierarchy, would be a "basic income" for everyone. Then any programmer who wanted to could live life a graduate student their entire life (but without grad school restrictions like pleasing an adviser) and turn out free/libre and open source software. And others might choose to do other things with that freedom (have kids, teach, write books, paint, whatever). Most such creative programming projects would fail of course, but we might still see a lot of great innovative socially-useful stuff, where programmers would have the time to really support it.

I included in that email links to my Post-Scarcity Princeton writings. That email to Marvin Minsky was also when I first created my email sig, to, as I said to him, sum up the most important thing I've learned over the past 25 years by following the road less traveled (via CMU). :-) The version then was: "The biggest challenge of the 21st century is technologies of abundance in the hands of those thinking in terms of scarcity." I changed "thinking" to "still thinking" later to be a bit more optimistic. :-)

It is a sad day for us and his family, but Marvin apparently had one of the most fun careers of anyone I can imagine, so I can't feel too sad for Marvin himself. I am sad though that I said the wrong thing incidentally in his office and so never got to be part of that fun. But a deep question to ask is, how can more people have a fun and creative life like Marvin Minsky had?

Comment funding policies in automotive intelligence & (Score 1) 276

The below is from me originally from 2001:

Although see also this idea from a couple of weeks ago:
Consider again the self-driving cars mentioned earlier which now cruise some streets in small numbers. The software "intelligence" doing the driving was primarily developed by public money given to universities, which generally own the copyrights and patents as the contractors. Obviously there are related scientific publications, but in practice these fail to do justice to the complexity of such systems. The truest physical representation of the knowledge learned by such work is the codebase plus email discussions of it (plus what developers carry in their heads).

We are about to see the emergence of companies licensing that publicly funded software and selling modified versions of such software as proprietary products. There will eventually be hundreds or thousands of paid automotive software engineers working on such software no matter how it is funded, because there will be great value in having such self-driving vehicles given the result of America's horrendous urban planning policies leaving the car as generally the most efficient means of transport in the suburb. The question is, will the results of the work be open for inspection and contribution by the public? Essentially, will those engineers and their employers be "owners" of the software, or will they instead be "stewards" of a larger free and open community development process?

Open source software is typically eventually of much higher quality ( ) and reliability because more eyes look over the code for problems and more voices contribute to adding innovative solutions. About 35,000 Americans are killed every year in driving fatalities, and hundreds of thousands more are seriously injured. Should the software that keeps people safe on roads, and which has already been created primarily with public funds, not also be kept under continuous public scrutiny?

Without concerted action, such software will likely be kept proprietary because that will be more profitable sooner to the people who get in early, and will fit into conventional expectations of business as usual. It will likely end up being available for inspection and testing at best to a few government employees under non-disclosure agreements. We are talking about an entire publicly funded infrastructure about to disappear from the public radar screen. There is something deeply wrong here.

And while it is true many planes like the 757 can fly themselves already for most of their journey, and their software is probably mostly proprietary, the software involved in driving is potentially far more complex as it requires visual recognition of cues in a more complex environment full of many more unpredictable agents operating on much faster timescales. Also, automotive intelligence will touch all of our lives on a daily basis, where as aircraft intelligence can be generally avoided in daily life.

Decisions on how this public intellectual property related to automotive intelligence will be handled will affect the health and safety of every American and later everyone in any developed country. Either way, the automotive software engineers and their employers will do well financially (for example, one might still buy a Volvo because their software engineers are better and they do more thorough testing of configurations). But which way will the public be better off:
* totally dependent on proprietary intelligences under the hoods of their cars which they have no way of understanding, or instead
* with ways to verify what those intelligences do, understand how they operate, and make contributions when they can so such automotive intelligences serve humane purposes better?

If, for example, automotive intelligence was developed under some form of copyleft license like the GNU General Public License, then at least car owners or their "software mechanics" would be assured they could have access to the software in source form to ensure safe operation. What might be "street legal" in terms of software modifications might be a different story -- in the same way people can't legally drive with a cracked windshield or a broken headlight. For example, software changes might need to first be proven safe in simulation before being provisionally "street legal". But, the important thing is, foundations or government agencies funding code development could insist on some form of free licensing terms for automotive intelligence as a matter of public policy.

There are many other areas of human activities that the exponential growth of technology will effect. Automotive intelligence is just one of them that is here now and which I am familiar with from tangential interactions at universities with people developing it. In enough time similar issues will arise for the software behind household robotics or intelligent devices that assist the elderly or handicapped. The IBOT wheelchair by Dean Kamen using complex software to balance on two wheels is just the beginning of such devices.

Note the IBOT wheelchair was developed entirely with private funds it seems, so the reasoning in this essay does not apply directly to it. Also, in general Dean Kamen is a role model of a socially responsible for-profit inventor. Still, the issue arises of whether "Johnson & Johnson" should be funding such development, as was the case, as opposed to, say, the "Robert Wood Johnson Foundation", as was not, given the public policy issue of whether individuals should be continually dependent for personal needs on proprietary software. In either case it would be worth it to pay billions for such innovation, and the public will pay that in the end as a toll on for such devices.

There is a real question here of how our society will proceed -- mainly closed or mainly open. It is reflected in everything the non-profit world does -- including the myths it lives by. The choice of myth can be made in part by the funding policies set by foundations and government agencies. The myth that funders may be living by is the scarcity economics myth. How does that myth effect the digital public works funding cycle?

Comment An democracy needs confident people & good too (Score 2) 161

On ageism, it's not just whether programmers work, it is the quality of the work and the independence of the workers. Where might that matter? Consider the democratic need for programmers to follow ethical standards about privacy and democracy and openness and user empowerment (in their designs) that much centralized proprietary behind-closed-doors big data CS just ignores.

As I found in academia (for example in the PU CE&OR department in the late 1980s), when half or more of the graduate students in an academic department are foreign nationals being paid by their governments to get degrees, where when going back home without a degree would be a huge disgrace and maybe loss of career, the atmosphere of the place changes. That might explain why dealing with systematic financial risk was not a big topic at the time then.

So, if most programmers are nervous about their jobs with tons of H1Bs and cheap young labor, what effect is that going to have on taking a stand for important issues? And these are not just ethical issues, they are even issues like pushing back on inefficient or brittle designs, or designs users won't like, or whatever. It takes a certain level of confidence to do that (a confidence that includes knowing you can always easily get a job elsewhere, which may be true for a fifty year old civil engineer but is less true for a fifty year old programmer). And I'm not talking the brash confidence of youth or even a willingness for self-sacrifice like Snowden or Manning -- which is a different thing. I'm talking about a well-earned confidence in the context of a supportive community which is the basis of day-to-day successes by a democracy accountable to the needs of citizens.

See also:
"Smile or Die" (which discusses the financial crisis in part resulting from no one being able to point out systemic risks without losing their jobs)


And even my other post here mentioning John Taylor Gatto who talks about compulsory schools as being designed specifically to shape compliant workers.

My latest folly is based on remembering what computers and our democratic culture were like in the 1970s and 1980s, is to want to help create software that respects a citizen's needs for private data controlled locally and shared peer-to-peer (like via email) instead of a typical web business' needs (like Slack or gmail) to centralize and control other people's data: :-) Here is that project:

I started that with the news that Mozilla, supposedly about internet freedom and privacy and user empowerment, is going to kiss off Thunderbird, meanwhile billions of dollars are poured into the web space to make the opposite of Thunderbird (and some of those dollars are going to Mozilla in a way as a conflict-of-interest). See also my post here:

The USA should be funding thousands of people to work on such FOSS tools. Meanwhile, Thunderbird suffers for lack of a funding model. Volunteers and open source go together well -- but relying on volunteers is problematical when you have literally one gigabyte of legacy C++ and XUL source code that need to track every security issue in Firefox.

If this was really about increasing interest in computers, just give green cards instead of H1Bs, insist on overtime for programmers, require every employee have a window (like in parts of Europe) and do basic stuff like that. It might also help if we reduced the churn in "new" technologies that are often not as good as the old one (still waiting for something a lot better than 1980s Smalltalk, for example). Getting rid of software patents would also be a big help in the USA, as would reducing copyright scope and duration to make building materials more available.

Comment Another John Taylor Gatto in the making? :-) (Score 1) 161



More links on how schooling is not about education, and how schooling is a form of (prison-like) adoption:

Check out John Holt, too. That's all a big reason we homeschool/unschool.

More links:

Enjoyed your informative post from the trenches, thanks! Especially your point about teacher incentives. You get what you measure -- so, as you imply, if you incentivize teachers to dumb down kids faster and better, that's what you'll get more of.

Long term, I feel a basic income may be part of the answer:

As for what you can do in the short-term, it's tough. If you walk away, your (virtually adopted) kids will suffer. And you'll lose your income in a tough economy.. And one less voice for change in the system will be lost. But it's a painful situation if you care about what you do (although you run a high risk of burnout). Don't know what to advise, but at least you are not alone! :-)

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