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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Sheer's LiveJournal:

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Monday, December 5th, 2016
9:51 am
Back to thinking the 1% aren’t the problem

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, after digging more into the system as it currently sits, I’m back to thinking the 1% are not the problem. Why? Because the value of a dollar is a scalable, and because the things they are doing are generally not slowing the velocity of money any. My current guess is that the american corporate model is the problem, but that’s subject to change after I research some more.

By the way: it is a big, complex system. Just the type of thing I like to sink my teeth into. I do not think this is a lifelong enthusiasm – more likely I’ll spend a year on learning about it and move on. (I’ve learned that my life has things that I’m interested in for life, and things that I’m interested in until I learn enough about them or experience enough of them to get my fill.)

One thing I would like to clarify is I’m pretty sure whatever the problem is, it’s benefiting nobody. I’m guessing it’s going to be one of those things like Tesla’s induction motor.. obvious once you see it, but it takes a special kind of bending your mind to see.

I still can’t get over my hunch that whatever the problem is, judicious use of powerful computers and fast databases might be part of the solution.

4:30 am
Hope And Despair

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

Little bit of trance for my fans out there. This will probably get another makeover with some more layers of lead instruments and a few samples or some spoken word.

This was actually just a ‘getting my mojo back’ track – I spent three weeks in CA, not playing at all, and was a little rusty.

Hope And Despair

Sunday, December 4th, 2016
9:50 am
learning

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, for those of you who hadn’t already guessed, there’s no way I’d try to implement any of my economic theories yet. I’m still learning about the subject. (And thanks for all of you who have suggested books, papers, and provided summaries and necessary bits of data.. special shouts out to Steve and James who have both been extra helpful.)

Most of what I’m learning is that I still don’t have the whole picture in my head. For example, one of the criticisms in my mind of the stock market was completely flawed, because I was forgetting that when someone sells stock, the buyer gets the proceeds – the money doesn’t just disappear, it changes hands. It is not true that money sunk in the stock market is not out there in the world making good things happen – because the money doesn’t stop moving when stock is purchased, it goes into the hands of the seller who then goes and does something else with it. (We hope). Even money in a savings account doesn’t necessarily stop moving, because new loans are made against it.

But the question remains – we’re working more efficiently than we ever have, many of us are working harder than ever – two incomes instead of one – and yet many of us are still broke or concave. Why? Is it the additional cost of all of us having instant network access? Is the internet itself that expensive? Is it the increased cost of health care and the fact that a somewhat more toxic world leads to more health complications? Is it the increased cost of education? Or is it the increased cost of interest, and better and more effective advertising that encourages many of us to spend beyond our means? Energy is more or less the same price it’s always been if you adjust for inflation, so it’s not that.

I’d love to hear some thoughts on this.

It’s interesting wrestling with this – I, for now, am doing just fine – but many of my friends seem to be struggling a lot.

Thursday, December 1st, 2016
8:05 am
Fundamental issues with thinking about money

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, I was discussing how large the outstanding money supply is with a friend of mine. His best estimate is there is $20T outstanding, or just about $65k per person currently here.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I see this as likely to be a problem.

We literally do not have enough money to buy even a fraction of the stuff here. If we decided, oh, we want to buy everything that’s in the USA at once, the system would crash, spectacularly. We don’t even have a fraction of the money that we have tangible resource of value.

Now, I understand that most of you take exception to my assertion that the only sane way to think about money in our current system is as being backed by all the real value in the system. It’s clearly not backed by nothing. The value may be propped up by the fact that certain commodities are traded in it, but it’s also clearly not backed by oil.

Backing a currency with a depleting finite resource is exactly the mess we were trying to get out of when we abandoned the gold standard – although, it would appear, in many people’s minds, we abandoned it for the debt standard, which is more than a little nutty. Only 5 countries in the world are not currently in debt to someone – this suggests that loaning money into existence has gotten quite popular – except that I don’t actually think that’s what we’re doing. I think some bean counters have gone ’round the bend. We’re creating real, tangible value – both with intellectual property and scientific discoveries, and with the work we put into building and upgrading physical plant and infrastructure all around the world – as well as, painful as it is to admit, the physical natural resources of the world itself, some renewable, some not.

Anyway, the truth is, if you put on your ‘sane person’ glasses for a minute, that clearly the money is backed by everything you can buy with it. If we could get people to grok this, maybe we could put some more in circulation without people treating it as inflationary. We wouldn’t need to put more in circulation, I should mention, if it wasn’t for the impressive levels of stupidity of the 1%.

We need to give these people something else to use to keep score with, because the money pool – already too small – is spending entirely too much time in their hands. Not only that, ‘interest’ in the financial world does not match what’s going on in the real world. Any time your paper bookkeeping system is out of whack with what’s really happening out there in the world, you’re going to get into trouble. I’ve been avoiding talking about interest for a while now, because I’m still turning over my thoughts about how I would handle it, but I think it is a dangerous thing to do to ask for as much of it as the lenders currently do, because they’re warping the paper tracking system vs. reality. The money is backed by real goods, but while we do have more real goods every day, we do *not* have 27% more of them a year, or probably even 4% of them. I get the temptation to cheat in order to enrich yourself or your corporation, banks, but are you sure you want to court a system crash and play musical chairs with who gets the tangibles when everything comes undone here?

Anyway, back to my assertion that the 1% are being stupid. Every dollar you keep in your bank account beyond your personal needs is a dollar that isn’t out there in the world doing something. In a cash-starved money-based RAS, money that isn’t in motion is useless, worthless. The more money you have in motion, changing hands, facilitating creation and growth and living and the like, the better the quality of life for everyone – including you, none-too-bright 1-percenters, because part of what that money powers is the discovery of intellectual property – which is something you can not buy just by deciding to buy it. Genius is where you find it, and you have no way of knowing which of the many many people around you (some of whom might be starving on the streets) are the genuisi. I encourage you to read about the end of Tesla, and consider that if a few more dollars had come his way, he might have not died when he did, and he might have gone on to create even more cool things that we’d all be using today.

If you read and understood my earlier article on Neurological Wealth, you know that the intellectual property discovered could ultimately be far, far beyond anything that you can currently imagine. There’s good reason to encourage people to get out there and create. This is wealth you can not buy today.. you have to let it grow and accrue naturally, and you’re stifling it so you can *keep score*.

I realize it’s vanishingly unlikely that any of you 1% types read this, and even more unlikely that if you did, you’d understand it. I’ve come to accept that there’s a very small number of people on the globe with both the intelligence and the experience to even understand this discussion, and the odds of very many of them finding their way to my blog are pretty tiny. Nonetheless, I will continue this intellectual exercise, for myself if for no one else.

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016
6:19 am
Maximum wage

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, I was watching a facebook meme which had Jessie Ventura suggesting that we should have a maximum wage. I agree with him, although I think I’d use a somewhat different implementation than he would.

This goes back to my ‘keeping score’ money idea. Basically, your wage should be capped at whatever you managed to spend in the past few years, run through a moving average filter, plus a bit of a cap. There should be a process for appealing that you have some project or idea that means you need to be able to spend more – after all, we don’t want to slow down the Teslas and Elon Munsks of the world – but normally, anything you earn beyond what you spent last year plus, say, 10%, goes into ‘keeping score’ money rather than ‘spendable’ money. There’d be a minimum at which this would take effect – probably somewhere around the 2% marker for overall wealth (so only the top 2% earners would ever have to worry about this)

This is a band-aid, a workaround for the fact that there’s not enough money in the system for the real-value, tangible resources in it, and the fact that our current system has a bunch of features that lead to almost all the money ending up in the hands of 1% of the users.

Sunday, November 27th, 2016
9:10 pm
Why I’m not in favor of in-person or voice status meetings

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, one of the things I occasionally have to put up with in my day job is status meetings. Fortunately, I don’t get sucked into too many of them, and also fortunately, I get paid by the hour. However, recently a volunteer project that I’m coding for attempted to institute regularly scheduled status meetings. I tried two, and then announced my disinterest in participating in any further ones, but I thought I might take a minute to explain why I think these types of meetings are counterproductive and better handled over a text asynchronous channel.

So, a list of the reasons I don’t think they’re the right venue:

1) Voice is not seekable. This means that you can’t ‘fast-forward’ over parts of the meeting that are not relevant to you – and in the case of this particular project, we’ve got two developers (me and A) working on two separate codebases that only touch via a defined API, so by definition anything that isn’t my description of my status isn’t relevant to me. This also means you can’t ‘rewind’ to hear something you missed – and if you’re listening to a bunch of people talk about things that are mostly irrelevant to you, you’re therefore forced to still give your entire conscious experience to listening so that you don’t miss a irretrievable chunk of audio that *is* relevant to you. With text, you can easily skim or skip ahead or look back to any bits you missed

2) Voice is expensive to decode. This is easy to demonstrate by looking at how much CPU it takes us to do even flawed voice recognition. Our minds have a lot of computing capacity, so we generally don’t think about this, but it takes a lot more mental CPU to decode voice than it does to decode text. In my case, reading a incoming text while coding often does not require a full ‘context switch’, while listening to a incoming audio/voice message does. Neural context switches are expensive – they mean wasted time and lost momentum.

3) Voice is fast to send, but slow to receive. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can talk slightly faster than I can type, but read many times faster than I type. This means that a group getting status updates via voice is wasting whatever overspeed beyond hearing their reading speed is times the number of participants in the group.

4) Scheduled meetings are to be avoided whenever possible as they present a spinlock that blocks all CPUs / are a forced synchronous event. I don’t deny that there are appropriate times to have a meeting. A decision which requires group consensus, a blocker which everyone on the group may have input that can help resolve, and a celebration of a accomplished task (major milestone) are all examples of meetings that I would think of as being a good idea to hold. However, let us not lose sight of the fact that meetings are *expensive*. They cost the time of every person in the room, plus the time to set up the meeting and agree on a scheduled time – something that presents a extra challenge in my case because I do not adhere to any type of standard sleep schedule. And status meetings do not, generally, move the ball down the field.

5) Having a scheduled meeting to discuss blockers encourages a counterproductive behavior. If you get hung up on a blocker, the best first step is to see if anyone is available to help you with it, *right now*, and to do research using google and the like to see if a solution is already out there. Beyond that, the next logical step is to document the blocker in a asynchronous communication channel like email or skype and ask the people who can potentially resolve it for help, allowing them to respond in their next available time slice. Having a scheduled time each day or week to discuss blockers discourages treating them as something to be resolved as a interrupt. If your project is experiencing enough blockers that the majority of team members have one to present at a scheduled status meeting, you have other, bigger problems that you should be spending your time resolving. You may have a lack of appropriate documentation or massive technical debt, or very poor communication methodologies.

6) Neural context switches are expensive. I touched on this in #2, but let me amplify my thoughts a little bit. Most of us can only keep a few threads visible in our conscious experience at any point in time. In order to participate meaningfully in a group meeting, we generally have to drop the context of what we’re currently working on. This means that we have to push whatever our current state is into medium-term memory, and then pull it back out at the end of the meeting. This takes considerable time and also breaks up the energy and momentum of whatever we’re currently doing.

7) Hitting exact scheduled times requires some buffer time – whenever you have a scheduled meeting with several participants, you do NOT want to be late, because that’s causing dead time for everyone else participating, but thanks to the realities of modern life, the only way to not be late is to plan to be somewhat early, in case something goes wrong. This is part of what makes meetings expensive, and why they should only be used for purposes that require them.

8) Voice has considerable switching deadtime – handing the baton / token between participants in a voice meeting often involves many seconds or minutes. This is especially a problem over the phone – in person we generally have body language that resolves who should talk next fairly quickly.

In general, as I’m on record as saying, whenever possible, I prefer using a text broadcast medium for status updates (i.e. “I finished this”) and one-on-ones for resolving technical difficulties. I participate in meetings regularly – including some ill advised ones – but you only get to drag me into ones that I think are counterproductive if you’re paying me.

Now, the person who suggested the meeting said one of the reasons it was important was “he didn’t even know what I was working on.”. This is healthy and normal. In general, as long as I’m completing my queue, the only person who needs or should want to know what I’m working on is me. It’s a waste of mental horsepower for more than one person to be keeping track of something that one person can do. I make exceptions for mission critical ops (things like SSL renewal, or race car prep, or whatever) where one person dropping the ball can put people or the project in actual danger. But normally, wanting to know the exact details of something another team member is doing is a sign of micromanagement, which is a very bad idea.

Thursday, November 24th, 2016
11:50 pm
Neurological wealth

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

The most impressive – and disruptive – technology that we could possibly come up with would be neurological. If we could load software on our minds the way we do on computers, we could give the experience of unlimited wealth to all of us, for virtually no cost.

Now, there are some major problems with this. The security implications alone are terrifying – we already have enough problems with viral propagation of bad ideas via religion and just plain ol’ fashioned entrainment.

However, the win is equally huge. Let me give you a few examples.

First of all, whatever your ‘day job’ is, chances are it takes up a very small percentage of your total mental capacity. It would be possible for you to do whatever task helps keep this old ball spinning using background capacity, while never actually having the conscious experience of doing it.

Second of all, everything you experience in this world is made up of information. And there is no doubt that our 10^11 neurons are sufficient computing capacity to generate any experience you care to name out of whole cloth. Get them working in the right way and you can experience anything *anyone* can experience. The software to do this represents wealth of a very interesting kind. It can be copied indefinitely, without costing the creator anything. It can potentially add value to the experience of everyone who uses it. It would reduce our impact on the planet considerably – since we would no longer need physical ‘things’ for most of the adventures we might want to have.

Of course, there’s absolutely no proof that this hasn’t already happened, and that the controls of whatever network is responsible for rendering our experience of reality are just in the paws of someone who favors a less than utopic experience for everyone else. I think there are people who would enjoy the power that denying utopia to others represents.

Anyway, when I talk about giving everyone everything, I do think this is a reasonable approach to doing it. Yes, the hurdles are high – we haven’t even learned to build software that runs well on digital state machines, the idea of us writing software for our minds is a bit shiver inducing. But, the reward is even higher.

Given that everyone’s utopia is different, this is the only reasonable way I can see for us to give everyone a utopic experience at the same time.

Friday, November 18th, 2016
5:28 pm
About credit

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

With the exception of music, any ideas contained in this blog are free to a good home. I don’t need credit for them. I want the current situation fixed more than I want to be known as the person who fixed it. Feel free to claim credit for yourself if you can get something implemented that will improve the situation for all.

2:28 pm
Can I tell you something (Lyrics – Kansas)

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

Can I tell you something?
Got to tell you one thing.
If you expect the freedom
That you say is yours,
Prove that you deserve it.
Help us to preserve it,
Or being free will just be
Words and nothing more.

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016
4:31 pm
Resource Allocation Systems : Intellectual property – possible solution?

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

TL;DR=Treating intellectual property as a resource that has a maximum ROI in real world dollars could prevent some of the IP-related failures our current system has

One possible solution for solving the very real issue that intellectual property presents when working in a money system that has money as a finite resource is to change the way we pay the creators of intellectual property.

It is necessary to pay the creators of intellectual property in some way, because we want to continue discovering it – it’s very high value for all of us makes the continued discovery of it a very desirable thing.

The problem is, wildly popular creations of intellectual property result in large amounts of capital getting stuck in a few bank accounts, and unless the people who get that capital are wise enough to spend all the incoming, you end up with the problem described in this article.

One possible solution is to cap the amount of money that one can generate with intellectual property. I can see several variations on this – one that I like is that once intellectual property has generated more than a set amount of money, it begins to accrue unspendable dollars instead of spendable ones, and the people “purchasing” it are not charged except for the cost of actually moving the content. (Let’s say perhaps a penny per movie, or a tenth of a penny per mp3)

Those unspendable dollars are “keeping score money”, which enables artists to still understand how big of a win for humanity they’ve achieved, but because the customers did not have to pay for the content, they remove the problem of a finite resource (dollars) chasing a infinite one (IP content)

Note that I would set a fairly high cap on this. We do not want to discourage innovation, we just want to prevent having certain innovations break the system. We also would need some system in place to prevent “bogus innovation” to game the system – i.e. the creation of a “new drug” which is actually just two pre-existing drugs in the same pill.

I should mention that intellectual property is not always just content. The surcharge for Apple products, beyond the actual increased cost of production, is a example of intellectual property, as well.

It is possible the idea of “unspendable dollars” – “Keeping score money” will arise again, as we talk about interest.

Friday, November 11th, 2016
3:44 pm
Resource allocation system implementation

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

TL;DR=Go slow, be careful, don’t break it trying to fix it. Do not reassign all the wealth to your new system – any worthwhile system can compete with existing ones and win.

There is something I want to make abundantly clear here.

Some people seem to be under the impression that as I discuss bucketed currency and other alternative resource allocation systems, I want to just go out and grab all the existing wealth, stuff it into the new system, and redistribute.

That would not be a good idea. It is not my goal.

Big systems have inertia for a reason. If my resource allocation system is so superior, it should be able to run in parallel with the existing system and add value without controlling distribution at all, or run standalone competing and trading with the existing system and succeed. If it can’t do either of those two things, then it’s a failure and we should toss it back to the drawing board.

The way to succeed at a big project is to start small, test small, develop small, and scale up. ANY system attempting to reassign the wealth of a economy even the size of a small state would likely fail spectacularly – the people losing the wealth would be justifiably resentful, and the people gaining the wealth would likely be the wrong people, for the wrong reasons – we’d end up just like Communism did, with six sets of boots and no pots.

There are some who want to tear our republic apart and start over. I say to you, unless you have a superior system that you’ve tested small and medium scale, or a idea so good we will *all* agree that it’s time has come, PLEASE DON’T. You will only be adding fuel to the fire of entropy burning against our minds and our land.

Also please consider that the fundamental “bones” of the constitution are sound. Nowhere does the constitution say we are a capitalist society, and we could try alternate resource allocation systems while maintaining the design of government which is, largely, well done in my opinion. It is possible that another, better government is possible – I have a number of ideas on the subject – but I think that most of the problems facing us have to do with the resource allocation system and some of the fiddly implementation details surrounding voting, and that the basic structure of the constitution is a fine work and shouldn’t be tampered with.

People, we can build a better mousetrap – but we must:

1) Make sure it addresses close to everyone’s needs. It must beat the current system, which is doing better than you might think.
2) Treat it like a technical problem. Test. Plan. Work together in teams. Use simulation. Avoid getting overly attached to one idea or set of ideas.
3) Understand that if we damage people’s quality of life, they will not thank us for our revolution.
4) Deal with people as they really are, not as we wish they would be. Deal with our culture as it really is, not as we’d like it to be. A good system may literally require a cultural shift, in which case that must be part of our plans.
5) Do not release it until it is stable enough to run wild and free. If we resist the urge to do anything stupid, we can keep civilization as it currently stands together for quite some time – at least until the oil has almost run out. Let’s not end up starving in the cold because we were in a hurry to release.
5.1) Don’t get so caught up in designing a new system that we don’t also continue to apply band-aids, and look for band-aids that could be applied. However, when band-aiding, remember not to ever think the band-aid is the final solution. Raising the minimum wage is a stopgap solution at best, for example. This is probably my biggest criticism of the plans of Bernie Sanders.
6) There is a compelling reason to keep civilization online. If DARPA’s SyNAPSE project scales according to Moore’s law, in 17 years we should be able to build a neural network bigger than we are. A larger mind than ours might be able to see what we can’t. If we can befriend the entity this network represents, we might be able to get their help.

There will be more.. the next article that is worthy of this series has just not yet been written. If you want to see my meandering thoughts as I try to figure out how to build a resource allocation system that works, check out the resource allocation systems category.

Friday, November 4th, 2016
2:28 am
Go Cubs Go (w/ Jefferson Jay)

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, just for fun, here’s a collaboration with my friend Jefferson Jay, a cover of a Steve Goodman song:

http://www.sheer.us/stuff/2016/GoCubsGo_Song.mp3

All the wrong notes are mine, all the right ones are his. 😉

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016
5:29 am
Pride And Conviction

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

http://www.sheer.us/stuff/2016/PrideAndConviction.mp3

You stand here before me
Saying “Truth Is Absolute”, and yours is the one that’s true
I tell you that this can’t be
Because I don’t see things the way you do

Chorus
You may think, my brother
That you’re the good side and they’re the evil ones
While your opposite number
Stands with pride and conviction in all that they’ve done

Any attempt to sway you
Will meet with nothing but a brick wall
Change is no longer an option
You will hold this belief, stand or fall

*chorus*

So what is about some knowledge
That makes us think it’s irreproachable, beyond disproof
What is it about our memories
That makes us think that we remember absolute truth

*chorus*

Dedicated to everyone in this election who thinks the other side might also be made up of thinking, feeling, capable beings.

Monday, October 31st, 2016
5:17 pm
Tasty Tory Goodness

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

Tory9. This is gonna be a great album.

Sunday, October 30th, 2016
3:51 pm
Lack of faith

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

Now, as a result of some of my activity on facebook, I have been threatened, yet again, by Christians. (Well, threatened-by-proxy, I’ve been assured that they have certain knowledge that God is going to torture me for all eternity for the things I think, believe, and say.)

This strikes me as having a profound lack of faith. They think A: that I’m going to believe that they know anything about love, when they’re threatening me with eternal torment, not for my actions mind you but for my thoughts and beliefs? B: that God is so powerless that he needs people like them to do his dirty work of threatening individuals?

I hate this behavior. I haven’t really come up with a effective response to it – although hopefully at some point I’ll write a article in here that I think is so good that I can just post that article instead of racking my brain for what you say to someone who thinks it’s a good idea to add more pain and fear to a system that already has too much by threatening you about things that are, as far as I can tell, fundamentally unknown and possibly unknowable.

And the thing is, theoretically, I’ve already accepted Jesus’s salvation, back when I was a child. So it shouldn’t matter that I now think the whole thing is akin to a computer virus, except designed to run on human minds instead of state machines. (It’s a collection of information that says ‘make a copy of me or you’ll suffer eternal punishment when you die’. And people tend to infect their children with it when said children are young enough to not think critically about the validity or lack thereof of the information contained in it. Plus, we tend to generally accept anyone who claims authority – see the Milgram effect for more on this)

I don’t doubt that religion has had some good effects, and I don’t doubt that it would be useful to have *something* that virally loads on us. I just doubt a lot that *this* should be the something. Surely we at this point have evolved memetically and in our knowledge about the universe to the point where we can write something better than the Abrahamic religions?

I find it hard to believe that I’m a bad person because I tend to value reality-testable truths over those which fail basic reality testing. I find it *really* hard to accept that the majority of people in the world think that I should be tormented for all eternity. (And, what’s terrifying here is, if we are in fact God as I have hypothesized, and they get to vote, I suppose that’s what they’ll do. I just hope some of them will be at least somewhat aware of the fundamental immorality of their action when they do vote to torture me indefinitely – as I said, not even for my actions, but for thoughts and beliefs which match the reality I’m experiencing.

Now, I have no doubt at all that some of my mental illness and some of my experiences surrounding religion are tied up in each other. I had a nightmare last night in which I was being hugged by $PERSON and it morphed to me being gripped by something hard and metallic on all sides and a voice was telling me “I am SATAN!”. One of those nightmares that is scary enough to wake you up – I don’t know that it was actually valid or sane for me to be as afraid as I was, but it took me several minutes to accept, with some relief, that I was awake and that what I had been experiencing was a dream, not something real.

Now, a conventional Christian would take this as proof that the devil is real. I take it another way. I think that when the devil was described to me as a child I patterned some of my neurons while imagining what such a being would be like and that collection of patterned neural associations / subnets is still in my mind. Your own religion perpetuates the devil, Christians, by having children imagine him you make him real. Is it any wonder that I hate the religion? It seems like all of my periods of insanity have at least some religions subtext and content, and one of the strongest reminders of how little my well being mattered to my parents was them applying pressure to me to go through with confirmation when I already had serious doubts about the validity and usefulness of the religion they were pushing down my throat.

I don’t disagree that neural networks need some form of patterning to be moral – the default behavior of a NNN is to be completely amoral, and if no set of associations that includes morality is loaded, you end up with Hitler. I just think that we could manage to load associations that resulted in moral behavior without loading associations that ended in nightmares, not to mention insanity. I do wonder if part of the problem with religion is that it’s incompatible with my personal choices re: neural topology, which obviously from looking at my experiences compared with other people’s is not the same as everyone else’s.

So, yes, Bill And Ted, please come teach us how to be excellent to each other. And Christians, please stop threatening me with your God that can’t be bothered to show up and explain himself after having left me with a book that contains unresolvable contradictions and things which are obviously false unless *e has been in a regular practice of altering reality, but has mysteriously stopped about the time our ability to take photographs came along. I have enough trouble with religion already without you adding fuel to the fire.

3:34 pm
Faith

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, I got into a argument on facebook with some anti-deists about whether it takes more faith to believe in intelligent design or evolution. The point I was trying to make is that initially, from the perspective of a child or someone from a pre-scientific era, it takes more faith to believe in evolution. Believing that you can get things like a high resolution eye out of randomly flipping bits, then seeing which collection of bits lasts longer does take some faith. You have to have enough faith to continue learning about the process beyond what they will teach you in school. Evolution does stand up as a valid theory after deeper research – but it takes a leap of faith to believe that a process so random and blind could lead to something as advanced as we are.

What takes even more faith is believing that the universe isn’t the product of intelligent design. The number of things that you can do inside it make it seem much more like a sandbox game than anything else. Electricity. Radioactivity. Semiconductors. Photons. At some point it starts to look like it was designed to make it possible to build cool things here.

On the other paw.. Conway’s Game Of Life demonstrates that you can get extremely complex behavior out of extremely simple systems. And we have no assurance that the experience our senses are delivering to us is *directly* from the metal of the universe, so it’s possible that all those nifty things are in fact coming from just a few very simple rules. If you had a really big Game Of Life system that was turing-complete, all the rest of the neat behaviors could be coming from code. Potentially code we created.

Anyway, I wanted to talk for a minute about Christianity, and for once I won’t be ripping it to shreds. I wanted to comment about a somewhat odd subject – Noah’s Ark and Young Earth Creationism

Now, it’s obvious on the face of it that the literal story of the ark is completely impossible under the current rules. That does not in fact mean it didn’t happen.

Why? Well, it’s easy to extrapolate from our current technology and say that in 50 years or so we could create a experience of a universe like this one. It’s *not* a far leap to say that someone already has, and that we’re inside some sort of simulation. Said simulation would not even have to be running on a conventional digital computer – it could be running on the neural network of a life form much more advanced than we are. Hypothesize a world where it’s practical for a whale to have a 10^20 neuron brain, and then have us be the imagination of said whale, and there ya go. Or hypothesize a species that has telepathy, and minds the size of ours, but uses their spare capacity to run alternate personalities behind a hypervisor wall. Again, there you go. There’s a ton of different ways that this story can have gone down that leaves us inside a virtualized environment.

At that point, there is absolutely *nothing* to prevent the people *outside* the hypervisor from messing with the reality *inside* it. So, Noah’s Ark is impossible on the face of it, for a whole host of reasons – https://ncse.com/cej/4/1/impossible-voyage-noahs-ark goes into a lot of detail about all the various flaws, of which there are *many*, in the idea of Noah’s voyage being a real historical event, so I won’t reproduce their excellent work or detract from it by attempting to do a less-well-researched version. This doesn’t mean it didn’t happen – obviously for the flood to have happened at all, we either would have had to have massively different topology, or a lot more water, so it’s clearly something that required some reality bending. Once you start accepting that a operator from outside the virtualized environment was messing with reality, the sky is the limit as to how much messing about could have occurred.

Do I think it actually happened? No. And my biggest reason for this is there isn’t a clear candidate for a deity communicating with us. Aside from voices in our minds, which might be mental illness, might just be us talking to ourselves, and might be any number of other things, there’s no God speaking. Nor is there one religion – despite God having to have the ability to edit reality in order to make things like the flood occur, we’ve got a plethera of religions, all insisting they are the One True Religion. So I don’t believe, because if there is a God, said being seems to be walking me down the path of not believing. But I understand the choice *to* believe, because I recognize that it’s not impossible that those events occurred.

Continued, sort of, in the next article

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016
11:33 am
Ashamed of being a white male

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, recently I was looking at this:

I commented that it made me ashamed to be a person of the male persuasion, but it got me to thinking about all the things white men are responsible for that I have felt ashamed of over the years.

#1) It’s not a *white* man thing, but the idea put forth in the Bible that women should be quiet, should not lead, and whatnot. It’s pretty clear to me that souls have no gender – your gender is a attribute of the body you’re wearing – and it’s sad to think of how many brilliant ideas were lost or ignored and not acted on because they came from someone who happened to be wearing a female body at the time.

#2) The Trail Of Tears, Wounded Knee, and all the other times we invaders gave the local inhabitants of North America the shaft just because we had gunpowder and they didn’t. I think if we had instead befriended them, integrated their culture into ours, and learned from them, we’d be much further along. Yes, we knew things they didn’t.. but they also knew things we didn’t, and a lot of those things got lost.

#3) The cold war – fighting a proxy war over resource allocation systems and religion, getting many people hurt or killed in the process. McCarthyism is also pretty shameful.

#4) In general, the idea of imperialism.

#5) Slavery, and then after that was over segregation. Just as your gender is a attribute of the body you’re wearing, so is the color of your skin. There’s no reason to think that those with dark skin were ever “less than” or that it was ever okay to enslave them or restrict their freedoms and rights. Also, just as with the native americans, probably the africans knew things we didn’t (I gesture you to the concept of ubuntu as something we could really use to learn) and we discarded those by assuming that we were better and smarter than them and they had nothing to give but slave labor

Friday, October 21st, 2016
12:20 pm
And, a counterartument

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

So, since sometimes I like to debate myself, I thought I’d post a counterargument to http://www.sheer.us/weblogs/?p=3122. This is something that literally just happened. I’ve been trying to teach Remus to not bark like crazy, and so I have a bag of treats open and I’m praising him and giving him a treat every time he manages to look out the window quietly or otherwise do some behavior I’d like to positively reinforce.

While I was busy doing some paying work, he just stuck his nose in the bag of treats in order to try and steal some. I of course pulled him away and explained that he shouldn’t do that, but then I got to thinking about our little discussion here. To a certain extent, money paid out by the group is the ‘treat’ to encourage certain behaviors that the group considers to be pro-survival. Giving money for not displaying those behaviors reduces the group’s ability to influence individual members in directions that are presumed to be beneficial as far as the group can tell.

My response to this argument is that we should probably do this – for luxury items. It’s almost certainly desirable to have carrots to help encourage people to grow, especially since their growth may enable us all to be wealthier through creating more carrots for all. However, because of the reasons I discussed in my previous post, I do not think it is a good idea to do this for basic necessities like food and shelter. I also do not think it is a good idea to do this for things that benefit all of us, like education and access to communication networks. (More on that later, I expect).

10:26 am
resource allocation as a group

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

TL;DR=Humans work as a group – entitlement programs are a reflection of that reality and most are in the best interests of all of us

So, on facebook, someone had stated “the only reason anyone would vote democrat is the expectation of a welfare check”. I had pointed out that there are many reasons, and it’s more complicated than that, and one of their responses was “if you want to help other people be my guest but keep your stealing fingers out of our wallets”. I indicated a interest in further discourse on the subject if they were open to it, and said I’d write a blog article with my opening thoughts on the matter.

(This makes it sound worse than it is – I truly believe, at least at this point, that this person is open to trading ideas on the subject. I am of the opinion that we’ll all get further if we at least consider the ideas of people who are politically opposed to us before rejecting them. I am sure he has valid reasons for believing what he does.)

So, first of all, I will be the first to admit that “entitlement programs” are a band-aid. The right solution would be to have a better way of doing resource allocation to begin with. But, here’s my big picture overview.

We as a species are in the business of creating resources and resource pools as a group. A single individual could almost certainly not build a working power generator, for example. (You think you can? I want to see you try. No buying premade *anything* – every raw material must come out of the ground. And if you’re even doing research to discover *how* to find copper, make it into wire, etc, you’re using the work of the group to help you. If you are using knowledge of what copper looks like, or that it conducts electricity, or that you can dope silicon with phosphorus and boron and get a semiconductor that will generate electricity when light shines on it, you’re likely using knowledge you aquired from the group)

Even acquiring and cooking food would be challenging without contributions from the group. (How’d you learn to make that bow and arrow? How did you know how to create fire, or that fire would make the food more palatable and also let you get more calories from it?). We work as a team, and communicate concepts through symbolic language. It’s part of why our species is so able to thrive in what is a somewhat difficult environment.

So, hopefully by seeing that you can accept that we work as a group. My guess is your objection to entitlement programs is that they appear to compensate nonproductive members. I have a number of responses to that.

First of all, it’s difficult to know how productive a member really is. As I’ve discussed elsewhere in this blog, money has a number of flaws as a vehicle for abstracting value, so if you’re just measuring by the money that they make, you’re likely missing a lot of their contributions. We never know where lightning, in terms of a brilliant idea, will strike – and sometimes, you do literally need the idiot asking stupid questions to help the genius have the next great idea. Not all contributions to a society are obvious.

Also, because our society has a number of, hem, weaknesses, some individuals get misprogrammed in ways that make it very difficult for them to succeed via conventional measurements, through no fault of their own. However, they may still make important contributions to the system as a whole – they are somebody’s friend, somebody’s family. Very few of us are completely disconnected from the social mesh that is all of us.

Second of all, you really don’t want to lose a member (or throw them under the bus) that’s just going through a rough patch. Imagine if you will someone like Tesla, who’s very bad at making personal relationships and business decisions, but very good at creating mind-bending technologies like the induction motor. Now, imagine tesla gets sick – and dies – because of a shortage of funding and a health care system that doesn’t want to help him. Humanity as a whole has now lost the value he contributes, because we were more concerned with the valueless money in our wallet than we were in sharing out resources in order to benefit the species as a whole. Because we all basically have the same 10^11 neurons, the only way to be really mindbendingly good at one thing – like Tesla was at invention – is to be weaker in something else. The human history is full of stories of geniuses that had trouble tying their shoes. Ultimately, the money those people “stole out of your wallet” made us all richer, including you, in real value, in knowledge.

I think it’s important to look at the really big picture when considering resource allocation. First of all, it’s important to recognize that fiat money has no real value other than the value we imagine it to have. (Apologies to those of you who have been reading this blog the whole time and have to listen to me reiterate things you’ve already read). Real value is things like food and shelter and clothing – nobody really wants money itself (unless they’re using it to keep score), they want the things it can buy. It may help you accept the loss of some of that worthless paper in your wallet if you recognize that it really is worthless.. it’s just a pointer to value, it’s not the value itself.

As far as value itself, we have as much as we have. The entitlement program dollars for things like welfare are mostly going to things like food and shelter, which we in fact *have a surplus of!*. In the case of food, it’s *extra* stupid to not give it away, because *it has a short shelf-life*. If we were short on food, I could see making a case for not giving it to the “less productive” members of the tribe, but we’re *not*. Food rots. We might as well give it to everyone, because we’ve got more than enough, and more food than you can eat potentially has a *negative* value because of the need to deal with getting rid of it.

Now, you made the point that there are other types of welfare that go to people who will not spend it on things we have a surplus of like food and shelter, and I think you may have a case there, but overall, the important thing to remember is that in fact, dollars don’t matter. What matters is concrete and steel, because what we can ‘afford’ is entirely driven by concrete and steel. It’s also important to remember that not all contributions are easy to measure. One analogy to consider is if you removed all the neurons from your mind which don’t fire regularly (by denying them blood sugar since they were “dead weight”), the results would be *very bad*. Another point to consider is that the “nonproductive” members do in fact contribute by being the friends of the “productive” members and adding to their quality of life.

Another problem is you never really know what skills, worthless now, will be very valuable in the future, and some skills take a lot of work to hone, which appears “nonproductive” insofar as money is concerned. For example, when the first pioneers began playing with computers, it was not at all obvious how much more value we would be able to generate for humanity with these machines. Many of them went broke trying to build computers before the transistor was invented – but they generated *huge* value in terms of figuring out what sorts of things you needed to think about and do in order to build a programmable computer. It’s potentially possible that my “nonproductive” studying of writing music may turn out to have huge value someday – maybe first contact will happen and my music, not commercially viable for Earthlings, will be *very* in desire as a trading material by ET. You really never know. But – assuming we *do* have enough food, water, and shelter – you want people to explore the unknown fringes and the potentially dry holes, because some of them will turn out ultimately to have water. If there is no social ‘safety net’ there is a lot of incentive *not* to take risks – and the risks are where the rewards are. And in any case, you really don’t want the people who have skills that are not valuable now but will be valuable in the future to starve to death, losing us access to those skills.

As a digression, the transistor itself is a good argument for my case. It was invented by a *government monopoly*, by some engineers who were also amatuar scientists playing around trying to build a better signal amplifier. Without the transistor, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion, and it’s unlikely the “free market” ever would have found it. The Internet is another great case of this.. ARPA designed a flexible network protocol to allow computers to talk to each other. Without the “entitlement” money going to the ARPA engineers, we wouldn’t have a Internet at all. (For better or for worse) – and when the Internet went up against the networks and protocols designed by the “free market” it *stomped all over them*. It was, quite simply, better and more flexible.

It’s also worth noting that that money “being stolen out of your wallet” in fact came from the group. You didn’t print it yourself, and you didn’t create the value yourself that it can be used to buy. (otherwise, you wouldn’t need to buy it, because you already would have it). Instead, the group gave it to you in exchange for the value you created for the group. It’s a pointer to the idea of group resources, and as such, it is reasonable for the group to decide what to do with it. I agree that the current system of give it to you, take it back, give it to you again or give it to someone else is very clumsy and at odds with the way humans emotionally react to things. Hopefully we’ll implement something better – although it is worth noting that what we’re currently doing has gotten us a long long way.

I apologize if I have misidentified your argument against things like welfare – if I have, please speak up so I can respond to what your real issue with it is.

Now that you’ve read this, perhaps you might be interested in some cautionary notes on Resource Allocation System Implementation

7:51 am
On the impossibility of omniscience

Originally published at Never been one to let the carrier drop. You can comment here or there.

One of the ideas that I find interesting is that it is basically impossible for anyone or anything to *know*, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are omniscient.

Now, I understand that in the context of the Bible, there was no way that God was going to be able to explain this to people with the level of understanding that the authors of the bible had. (If indeed the bible involves any divine inspiration at all, a subject I leave up to another discussion at another time)

However, from where we sit today, it’s easy to give a mental model for knowing why you can’t know – the virtual machine inside a hypervisor.

As a omniscient being, you have no way of knowing if you’re hypervised. It is entirely possible that it *appears* to you that you are all knowing but your knowledge is limited in scope by a hypervisor. If you’re anything close to really being all-knowing, you know this. The VM running under a hypervisor certainly *thinks* it’s in control of the hardware, and entirely aware of the state of same, but it’s clearly not *actually* in control of the hardware or aware of it’s state.

I see no reason to think that individuals, or even deities, can’t be hypervised – in fact I think it’s likely that we *are* hypervised. I think elsewhere I argued why both intelligent design and evolution would quickly land on hypervision as a way to get more done with less resources very quickly.

I get this is probably too subtle a argument for most people who haven’t studied computer science to grasp, and I’m trying to figure out how to put it into words that don’t require a understanding of virtualization. But I do think it’s one of those things that once you see it, you see it. You can never *know* you’re omniscient. It’s not possible.

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