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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.

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 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?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

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:
http://www.child-soldiers.org/
"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?
http://www.rfreitas.com/Astro/...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...
http://www.amazon.com/The-Chro...

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:
http://pdfernhout.net/pledge-t...
"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:
http://pdfernhout.net/open-let...
"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:
http://pdfernhout.net/on-fundi...

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

From: http://web.archive.org/web/201...
===
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". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

See also "The Abolition of Work" by Bob Black:
http://www.whywork.org/rethink...
"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:
http://www.drseussart.com/illu...

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:
http://www.pdfernhout.net/beyo...

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