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Ask Slashdot: Hungry Students, How Common?

Paul Fernhout Great advice; see also seasonal vegetables (331 comments)


Leafy greens especially are really important to preventing many diseases. Cabbage is a fairly cheap one. You can steam the cabbage while cooking the rice. Dandelions are a terrific source of healthy greens (if they have not been sprayed with weedkiller etc.). It's crazy that people have been taught to hate healthy Dandelions.

Our stainless steel "Miracle" rice cooker with a steamer attachment was one of our best kitchen investments ($70) as it does not have Teflon as most rice cookers do, but we worked up to it from cheaper Teflon ones.

Without good food, the mind and body can go into a downward spiral of low energy and depression -- thus a cycle of poverty. Hunter/gathers are more than 100 different types of food over the course of a year. Getting calories in not enough -- you need micronutrients too, and that means a diversity of foods -- but they don't have to be expensive foods.

Of course, so many sick care schemes (Medicaid, Medicare, "health" insurance) will pay for expensive drugs and surgeries but won;t pay for good food to avoid drugs and surgeries. It doesn't help that stressed-out people tend to bulk up on calories as an ages old survival mechanism, not knowing where the next meal may be coming from. This is all made worse by US farm policy:
"Thanks to lobbying, Congress chooses to subsidize foods that weâ(TM)re supposed to eat less of."

Watch out for additives in bullion that might cause headaches and such. Lots of bad headaches could make it hard to keep a job or graduate from college.

Beans are also cheaper to buy dried than canned -- except you need to know how to prepare them and have a place to cook them and the electricity or gas too cook them, which together may not be possible for many students.

People need a healthy source of fat, too -- something lacking in what you outline. The brain is mostly fat, so it is no wonder on low fat (or poor fat) diets that people can get messed up mentally. Nuts can be one, but they tend to be expensive and they may be lacking in Omegas 3s. Eggs might be a good cheap choice of fat including some Omega-3s for many people; some other sources:

Eating vegetarian in general is healthier and cheaper. So is buying the right things in bulk, maybe splitting big purchases with others.

We also got a lot of value from a $100 blender to do smoothies from frozen fruit -- but that is beyond very cheap (although still cheaper and much healthier than a carton of ice cream).

Still, something like a "basic income" may be a needed as a general solution to poverty. The problem with a lot of frugal advice is that it forces people to take on various risks (like health risks of lack of vegetables, or safety risk of a cheap car, or assault risk in a bad neighborhood, and so on). Or it entails doing a lot of time consuming things that prevent more productive activities. Your advice though is very time-saving and practical, which is why I like it (except for quibbles on some of the above points as far as long-term living).


Ask Slashdot: Hungry Students, How Common?

Paul Fernhout C. H. Douglas -- Social Credit (331 comments)

"What sucks is we're so much more productive, you'd think we'd be working less. But why the hell would we give anything to anyone if they didn't 'work' for it?"

If inheriting property is a legitimate idea, what about all of humanity inheriting our collective know how and so being entitled to some of the fruits of our global productivity?
"Douglas disagreed with classical economists who recognised only three factors of production: land, labour and capital. While Douglas did not deny the role of these factors in production, he saw the "cultural inheritance of society" as the primary factor. He defined cultural inheritance as the knowledge, technique and processes that have been handed down to us incrementally from the origins of civilization. ..."

One way to implement that:


Minerva CEO Details His High-Tech Plan To Disrupt Universities

Paul Fernhout Post-Scarcity Princeton: Abundance vs. Elitism (98 comments)

From my essay discussing excellence vs. elitism & privilege: http://www.pdfernhout.net/post...
So, the question becomes, how do we go about getting the whole world both accepted into Princeton and also with full tenured Professorships (researchy ones without teaching duties except as desired? :-) And maybe with robots to do anything people did not want to do? This is just intended as a humorous example, of course. I'm not suggesting Princeton would run the world of the future or that everyone would really have Princeton faculty ID cards and parking stickers. Still, that's a thought. :-) That motel for scholars, The Institute For Advanced Study, is already a bit like this (no required teaching duties), so it's an even better model. :-)

But you might object, who will run the kitchens, repair the roofs, plant Prospect Garden, and so forth? Essentially, who will be the Morlocks to support and maybe eat the Eloi on staff? :-)

Well, that's where this analogy breaks down, although one could perhaps imagine robots as the Morlocks (maybe without the whole eating PU staff for fuel thing).
    "A prototype robot capable of hunting down over 100 slugs an hour and using their rotting bodies to generate electricity is being developed by engineers at the University of West England's Intelligent Autonomous Systems Laboratory."

So, for the rest of this essay, I'll assume the "scarcity" world (at least in the USA) currently works more like, say, G. William Domhoff suggests:
    "Q: So, who does rule America?
    A: The owners and managers of large income-producing properties; i.e., corporations, banks, and agri-businesses. But they have plenty of help from the managers and experts they hire. ... I will try to demonstrate how rule by the wealthy few is possible despite free speech, regular elections, and organized opposition:
                * "The rich" coalesce into a social upper class that has developed institutions by which the children of its members are socialized into an upper-class worldview, and newly wealthy people are assimilated.
                * Members of this upper class control corporations, which have been the primary mechanisms for generating and holding wealth in the United States for upwards of 150 years now.
                * There exists a network of nonprofit organizations through which members of the upper class and hired corporate leaders not yet in the upper class shape policy debates in the United States.
                * Members of the upper class, with the help of their high-level employees in profit and nonprofit institutions, are able to dominate the federal government in Washington.
                * The rich, and corporate leaders, nonetheless claim to be relatively powerless.
                * Working people have less power than in many other democratic countries."

And what is the current result of that system of social organization? We create a self-fulfilling prophecy of scarcity in part through fearing it, and then acting on that fear. (And the only antidotes to fear are things like joy and humor. :-) Consider, say the US military and Iraq. The USA invades Iraq and produces terrorists that now justify having invaded as well as now devoting more money to the military. :-( Now people are saying the Iraq war, promised as a "cakewalk" will cost about three trillion US dollars before it is done. So, now we need to cut back on US social programs like R&D and nursing homes and also reduce aid to poorer countries (which might have truly helped prevent more problems). Thus we ensure more scarcity at home and abroad.

How much of the US monetarized economy goes into managing "scarcity" in terms of person-hours of work?
* A big chunk of the prison system,
* A big chunk of the legal system,
* A big chunk of the military and police,
* Cashiers,
* Most guards,
* Most of the management chain,
* Most of the banking system,
* Most sales people,
* Most of the insurance industry,
* Most of the Welfare and Medicaid government program staff (eligibility and oversight),
* Most lawyers and related proceedings,
* Much of the schooling and grading system, and
* Most of the government.

Add it all up, and maybe it is 90% of the person-hours consumed by the money economy by now? That's just a wild guess, of course. :-) I'm sure someone else better with numbers could refute or affirm that. But it is loosely based on a study mentioned in the essay linked below.

If you consider that a lot of service work is unnecessary if people had more free time (babysitting, restaurants, teaching, home construction, entertainment) then even less hours in the money economy are really needed in a society with a lot of leisure to raise children, cook meals, putter around the house, take on apprentices or educate neighbors on demand, and sing their own songs or make up their own stories.

And of course, child-rearing and day-to-day housekeeping and volunteering probably represents many more person-hours than the 10% or so of the total person-hours that the money economy uses for real production (actual work on factory goods, actual labor in agriculture, actual work making energy etc.). So clearly people will do important tasks for intrinsic benefits.

Things may have been different 100 years ago when most US Americans still lived on somewhat subsistence farms, and so most work was local and for one's own family and business. But somewhere during the past century, I'd speculate a shift happened where the amount of hours spent guarding exceeded the amount of effort spent producing. And then it probably just got worse from there, to the current situation where most work was related to guarding, even though work that is mostly guarding may also euphemistically be called "cashiering", "teaching", "managing", and so on. Pick almost any job and take most of the guarding out of it and it becomes more enjoyable.

It's important to look at the hours people work on various tasks, not the money value assigned to the tasks. If all those person hours are going into guarding functions, then of course there is little time left over for playful productive work.

And note, this estimate is without even giving a long hard look to rethinking how things could be done to be easier or more fun. Down the road, once tasks are redesigned to ignore the guarding aspects, they might be more efficiently done. For example, think of all the time people waste waiting in supermarket checkout lines or at toll booths. Or the time educators devote to attendance and grading.

The above is all an echo of this essay by Bob Black :
        "The Abolition of Work" (written as I graduated in 1985, but I only saw it a couple years ago through the internet)
    "Work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world. Almost any evil you'd care to name comes from working or from living in a world designed for work. In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working."

How might a "post-scarcity" society really work?

So, how might a "post-scarcity" society really work? How could a "post-scarcity" society emerge at all, given this (obsolete) elite social deadlock Domhoff outlines?

What if some people get some "free" stuff somehow, and they use it, and in the process of using it they make more free stuff than they got? Let's assume these people then freely give this extra stuff away for free to others who use it to make even more free stuff. If everyone starts doing this, soon there could be an enormous amount of free stuff going around. A chain reaction (but a good one). Of course, as with any exponential process, with ever more free stuff on the way from more and more people, the problem becomes, where to find the space to put it all? (Hint: maybe "Space". :-) ...


Switching From Sitting To Standing At Your Desk

Paul Fernhout Treadmill desk (310 comments)

I set up a treadmill desk several years ago, with a regular treadmill, with a board across the hand holds for a keyboard (bungie cords and a wooden stick to hold up the board), facing a wall with adjustable shelves that I put LCD monitors on. I use a track ball instead of a mouse. I really like the setup, even if I may end using it less that I thought and otherwise alternating between standing or sitting on a tall stool. I had some intermittent problems with the treadmill motor early on that made it hard to use and requiring repairs and kind of broke me out of the habit of using it regularly.

I never go much beyond 1.5 mph on it, and more often slower (even 0.5 mph). I probably have never used it for more than four hours in one day or much more than 2-3 miles. Still, when I am using it frequently, I've found walking outside for long distances to be much easier. I can't imagine any research saying it is the same healthwise as a sitting desk -- unless it was by chair manufacturers. :-)
Dr. Levine's work at the Mayo is what inspired me to try it:

One advantage of a treadmill desk over a standing desk is that you keep your legs moving more so blood is less likely to pool in your legs.

However, I can see that it is not for everyone. I put one together for my wife but she had trouble typing reliably while walking and so just ran it while on calls or watching videos. Otherwise she mainly uses it as a standing desk or also sitting on a tall stool. She would probably have been happier with just keeping the standing desk setup she was using before the treadmill (since you don't have to get up onto an elevated treadmill surface to use those and have more flexibility where you position it).

For mine, I feel like there have been times it has contributed towards knee strain. I think that may be due in part to the limit of treadmills as unnatural walking experiences? One other downside to getting one was that I felt I was exercising more so I walked less outdoors. That probably contributed towards vitamin D deficiency (correctable with supplements, but you have to know to do that). Overall though it has been a good thing,

While it depends on what I'm doing, I also find that walking on the treadmill can actually contribute to my concentration.

2 days ago

How Does Heartbleed Alter the 'Open Source Is Safer' Discussion?

Paul Fernhout Developers need time to do a good job (580 comments)

To really understand a lot of projects to the point where a developer can make substantial contributions often takes a substantial investment of time by a developer. So some combination of full-time employment in the area, government grants, a basic income, or gifts of some sort are required for experienced developers to have substantial time to look at source code. It's true some developers have time to do it as a hobby, and others might have time as students. But to really dig into complex code and keep at it for a substantial period of time require, in US society at least, generally requires some kind of external support (even if just a spouse who earns money). This issue is not helped by the fragmentation of many software projects via forks, the competition between similar FOSS projects, and the proliferation of languages and not-very-good standards which all chew up vast amounts of developer time.

Of course, some people, like Bill Gates, who was born with a substantial trust fund have inherited the wealth needed to allow them to develop free software the rest of their life. However, for good or bad, he did not pursue that choice.
"How to Become As Rich As Bill Gates"
"William Henry Gates III made his best decision on October 28, 1955, the night he was born. He chose J.W. Maxwell as his great-grandfather. Maxwell founded Seattle's National City Bank in 1906. His son, James Willard Maxwell was also a banker and established a million-dollar trust fund for William (Bill) Henry Gates III. In some of the later lessons, you will be encouraged to take entrepreneurial risks. You may find it comforting to remember that at any time you can fall back on a trust fund worth many millions of 1998 dollars."

A substantial "basic income" equivalent to US Social Security from birth would, in a sense, make everyone a millionaire overnight and give them the time they need to pursue public benefit projects, whether doing code review or raising children well. Linux in part is a result of Finland's generous support for students like Linus.
"Torvalds thus decided to create a new operating system from scratch that was based on both MINIX and UNIX. It is unlikely that he was fully aware of the tremendous amount of work that would be necessary, and it is even far less likely that he could have envisioned the effects that his decision would have both on his life and on the rest of the world. Because university education in Finland is free and there was little pressure to graduate within four years, Torvalds decided to take a break and devote his full attention to his project."

4 days ago

U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn

Paul Fernhout The problem is more "The Big Crunch" (135 comments)

The ending of exponential growth of academia around 1970: http://www.its.caltech.edu/~dg...
"Actually, during the period since 1970, the expansion of American science has not stopped altogether. Federal funding of scientific research, in inflation-corrected dollars, doubled during that period, and by no coincidence at all, the number of academic researchers has also doubled. Such a controlled rate of growth (controlled only by the available funding, to be sure) is not, however, consistent with the lifestyle that academic researchers have evolved. The average American professor in a research university turns out about 15 Ph.D students in the course of a career. In a stable, steady-state world of science, only one of those 15 can go on to become another professor in a research university. In a steady-state world, it is mathematically obvious that the professor's only reproductive role is to produce one professor for the next generation. But the American Ph.D is basically training to become a research professor. It didn't take long for American students to catch on to what was happening. The number of the best American students who decided to go to graduate school started to decline around 1970, and it has been declining ever since."

4 days ago

Jenny McCarthy: "I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'"

Paul Fernhout Re:Jenny Mcarthy is a free thinker vs. "Experts"? (586 comments)

AC wrote: "Jenny Mcarthy is a free thinker ... and embodies the best tennants of 19th century science, when people made decisions based on their observations and in light of the best known understanding at the time. Today we have something akin to a blind belief in whatever the church, ughh i mean experts happen to be handing out at the time. Today an expert more often than nought is somebody who is paid to lobby for a paticular world view. Think about it in 2000 all the experts were saying the stock market is going to be going up and up and up. In 2008 all the experts were saying that real estate is a can't loose proposition, and I just happen to have a house you can buy. Stop believing in experts. Believe in yourself. If it is cloudy, and your skin is getting wet when you stand outside, it is probably raining outside despite the fact that the weather experts are on the radio right now saying you will have a clear and sunny day outside. Stand up and have the courage to say it's raining, fuck the experts. Jenny Mcarthy is a hero. So in spite of the fact that I have no advanced degree in meterology, I feel that I can accurately tell if it is raining or not. This used to be common sense, but today there is a global witch hunt on for whomever decides to believe in their own observations vs what the experts in the media are saying."

Conflict-of-interest definitely makes this all harder to sort through. Compare with the book "Disclipined Minds"
"Who are you going to be? That is the question.
      In this riveting book about the world of professional work, Jeff Schmidt demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. He shows that professional work is inherently political, and that professionals are hired to subordinate their own vision and maintain strict "ideological discipline."
      The hidden root of much career dissatisfaction, argues Schmidt, is the professional's lack of control over the political component of his or her creative work. Many professionals set out to make a contribution to society and add meaning to their lives. Yet our system of professional education and employment abusively inculcates an acceptance of politically subordinate roles in which professionals typically do not make a significant difference, undermining the creative potential of individuals, organizations and even democracy.
      Schmidt details the battle one must fight to be an independent thinker and to pursue one's own social vision in today's corporate society. He shows how an honest reassessment of what it really means to be a professional employee can be remarkably liberating. After reading this brutally frank book, no one who works for a living will ever think the same way about his or her job."

Other social problems with mainstream science:

All that said, a lot of time the experts are right -- for example, expert Civil Engineers designing and building bridges. Thinking is hard work, and a lot of "free thinking" may be re-inventing plausible but otherwise bad ideas. Perhaps the more variables involved, and the less we know about them, the more problematical the notion of "Expertise" becomes, other than to admit ignorance (which does not sound that impressive)? However, 2000 years ago, perhaps bridge building was more by trial and error, same as much medicine today? Certainly Cathedral building shows a process of trial and error before civil engineering became better understood in terms of materials and structures.

Here is a related diagram about different types of problem domains, where perhaps bridge building today is in one area but medicine in another:
"The Cynefin framework has five domains.[12] The first four domains are:
    * Simple, in which the relationship between cause and effect is obvious to all, the approach is to Sense - Categorise - Respond and we can apply best practice.
    * Complicated, in which the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis or some other form of investigation and/or the application of expert knowledge, the approach is to Sense - Analyze - Respond and we can apply good practice.
  * Complex, in which the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, but not in advance, the approach is to Probe - Sense - Respond and we can sense emergent practice.
    * Chaotic, in which there is no relationship between cause and effect at systems level, the approach is to Act - Sense - Respond and we can discover novel practice.
    * The fifth domain is Disorder, which is the state of not knowing what type of causality exists, in which state people will revert to their own comfort zone in making a decision. In full use, the Cynefin framework has sub-domains, and the boundary between simple and chaotic is seen as a catastrophic one: complacency leads to failure."

Disclaimer: My wife contributed to developing that framework,

BTW, other ways to keep kids healthy are through superior nutrition, which is mostly ignored in the USA when looking for a "magic bullet": https://www.drfuhrman.com/chil...
"Scientific research has demonstrated that humans have a powerful immune system, even stronger than other animals. Our bodies are self-repairing, self-defending organisms, which have the innate ability to defend themselves against microbes and prevent chronic illnesses. This can only happen if we give our bodies the correct raw materials. When we donâ(TM)t supply the young body with its nutritional requirements, we see bizarre diseases occur. We even witness the increasing appearance of cancers that were unheard of in prior human history.
    When you have a child, you have the unique opportunity to mold a developing person. One of your greatest gifts to them can be a disease resistant body created from excellent food choices beginning at youth. Ear infections, strep throats, allergies, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADD or ADHD), and even autoimmune diseases can be prevented by sound nutritional practices early in life. Common childhood illnesses are not only avoidable, but they're more effectively managed by incorporating nutritional excellence into oneâ(TM)s diet. This is far superior to the dependence on drugs to which we are accustomed. No parent would disagree that our children deserve only the best."

It would help to have better tools to make sense of all this sometime conflicting advice. My proposal on that: https://www.newschallenge.org/...
"There may well be "experts" out there who know good answers for these questions specifically about salt, but they probably are not you personally. Statistically there might be a small number of experts out of billions of people, so most people thinking about how much salt to eat are not goingto be experts. So, almost everyone is left wondering which experts to trust? Even if all the experts agree, they could still be wrong, or their general advice might be easy to misinterpret for your particular situation. And if you specifically by chance are an expert on salt intake, then you probably are not an expert on phytonutrient intake or cancer treatments, and so you would be faced with this same issue in some other area of personal health. So, there can be a gap between what an expert (or community of experts) know, and what an individual or local community knows and then acts on. Part of the value of better software tools, including educational aspects, may be to help bridge that gap between expert knowledge and individual practice. "

5 days ago

UN: Renewables, Nuclear Must Triple To Save Climate

Paul Fernhout Using nuclear waste to protect wildlife (432 comments)

Like at Chernobyl, as I suggest here: http://p2pfoundation.net/backu...
"At SUNY Stony Brook, I knew one grad student who studied wildlife (turtles) in a reservation around a nuclear contaminated area, and while there was more mutations, in general, the wildlife was thriving [because human activities including hunting and habitat destruction were effectively excluded]. ... So, despite the problems, half-seriously, I suggest designating the NY Adirondack Park (where I live) for a nuclear waste disposal of glassified (vitrified) apple-sized lumps of waste. :-) That would be very good for a resurgence of wildlife in the Park. I might move out, but I would know a place I love would be "forever wild" for sure. :-)"

See also: "Chernobyl Area Becomes Wildlife Haven"

5 days ago

UN: Renewables, Nuclear Must Triple To Save Climate

Paul Fernhout Nuclear risk was never "paid for" (432 comments)

"Keeping old plants online is simply the capitalist thing to do: They're bought and paid for and still work. Why would you shut them down?"

In theory, fission-based nuclear energy is quite workable. In practice so far, within either a Soviet command economy or a Western capitalist economy, the "externalities" of systemic risk of meltdown (like Fukushima) have not been accounted for in up-front costs. So, these plants have never been "paid for". It is just that the general public has been forced to take on a risk, either as individuals or as a society. Fukushima is a tragic example of this. And many people affected by Fukushima are just left to pay many of the disastrous costs on their own, plus taxes go up for everyone, plus there are many other costs (like inspecting Japanese seafood or seaweed for radiation). So, the cost of Fukushima was not paid for up front. If the plants had been shut down sooner, huge future costs would have been avoided. Because capitalistic organizations eventually specialize in internalizing profits while socializing risks and costs and capturing their regulators via revolving doors and (legal) bribes, high risk nuclear power is a particularly difficult thing for such societies to manage. Sure, we could build much safer reactors, including probably thorium ones, but even now plans for new reactors are not fully fail-safe. TRIGA is an example of an alternative that is much more fail-safe.

Of course, I could say much the same for coal plants and their environmental affects. as externalities. Oil dependency also has huge costs in military defense of supply lines and pollution risks like the Exxon Valdez in Alaska or recently the US Gulf Coast.

That is why many renewables (as well as energy efficiency) have been cheaper than fossil fuels since the 1970s, all things considered. But all things were not considered, so we got coal and oil and bug health costs and big defense costs all paid either on health insurance premiums or taxes, not electric bills or at the gasoline pump. Even PV has externalities (including potentially cadmium runoff from some types of panels, as well as potentially blighting the landscape), although overall they are probably much less than coal and oil, and ideas like "solar roadways" may reduce the blight problem, as well as reduce the need for above ground electrical wires.
"The Solar Roadway is a series of structurally-engineered solar panels that are driven upon. The idea is to replace all current petroleum-based asphalt roads, parking lots, and driveways with Solar Road Panels that collect energy to be used by our homes and businesses."

With the costs of PV solar falling as predicted decades ago, to now reaching "grid parity" in more and more areas, it is rapidly becoming uneconomical to install anything but solar, especially as battery and fuel cell technology continues to improve for energy storage.
"Predictions from the 2006 time-frame expected retail grid parity for solar in the 2016 to 2020 era, but due to rapid downward pricing changes, more recent calculations have forced dramatic reductions in time scale, and the suggestion that solar has already reached grid parity in a wide variety of locations."

Hot fusion or cold (LENR) fusion may change that equation. I don't see fission being more cost effective than solar anytime soon though, although maybe factory-made micro reactors (like Hyperion) will prove me wrong on that.

5 days ago

Why the IETF Isn't Working

Paul Fernhout Thanks, Jon; hope you're onto better things (103 comments)

1998: "'God of the Internet' is dead "
"Jon Postel, a key figure in the development of the Internet from its inception, died at the weekend of heart problems aged 55."

Now, thanks to a successful internet, I have learned all about how to prevent and reverse heart disease by eating more vegetables and getting enough vitamin D (a problem for many indoors-oriented technies). Sadly, too late for Jon. Hopefully not too late for Roblimo though?

The failure to adopt SQLite as a de-facto "Standard" for web browsers shows a deep problem, since a shared FOSS codebase is probably the best standard we can have.

Contrast that with suggestions of making de-facto standards by on the ground successes with working code. Which is what SQLite has done in a whole area of embedded storage.

Like Alan Kay has said, any standard with more than three lines is ambiguous. I can agree having had to work implementing a couple standards at IBM.

5 days ago

Jenny McCarthy: "I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'"

Paul Fernhout Please look at vitamin D and mitochrondrial issues (586 comments)

"The mitochondrial dysfunction identified in the JAMA study I've been talking about is ultimately only one downstream symptom of many upstream causes. Other researchers have found systemic inflammation,(ix) brain inflammation,(x) gut inflammation,(xi) elevated levels of toxins and metals, gluten and casein antibodies,(xii) nutrient deficiencies including omega-3 fats,(xiii) vitamin D,(xiv) zinc, and magnesium, and collections of metabolic dysfunction related to quirky genes that make it difficult to perform chemical reactions essential for health in the body such as methylation and sulfation.(xv)
    The take home message here is that the answer to autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders will not be found in one of these factors, but in all of them taken together in varying degrees in each individual. There is no such thing as "autism." Rather there are "autisms"--different patterns of biological dysfunction unique to each child that result in multiple insults to the brain that all manifest with symptoms we call autism."

"To further validate their theories, the researchers cited a study involving Somali mothers, who naturally absorb less sunlight due to their dark skin pigmentation. When they moved north to Stockholm, a less-sunny region, they were found to be 4.5 times more likely to have autistic children, compared to the the country's lighter-skinned natives."

Also may help:

Good luck!

5 days ago

Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

Paul Fernhout IT for my OSCOMAK idea circa 1999 (733 comments)

But, would be nice to develop it before-hand; from: http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/...
Self-replicating technical artifacts such as dogs, corn, and trees have been in use by humanity for thousands of years. While humans cannot lay credit to the original creation of such systems, they can claim the adaptation and selective breeding of these for defense, food, and building materials.

In the past few millennia, many people have become dependent on technology that is not self-replicating. Primarily this technology involves fairly pure forms of metals, plastics, and crystals. These technologies have expanded the earth's human carrying capacity in the short term, but are not sustainable in the long term. Such technologies lack the closed resource cycles, independent operation, redundancy, and resiliency found in natural systems. A symptom of the use of such non-sustainable systems is the fear that a single problem (like Y2K) could cause a major disruption of life-support infrastructure in the developed world.

For example, both Brittle Power (Amory and Hunter Lovins) and Energy, Vulnerability, and War (Wilson Clark and Jake Page), make clear how vulnerable our energy infrastructure is. As Brittle Power (pg.391-392) mentions, this vulnerability also holds for food and manufacturing production:

"The production and distribution of food are currently so centralized, with small buffer stocks and supply lines averaging thirteen hundred miles long, that bad weather or a truckers' strike can put many retail stores on short rations in a matter of days. This vulnerability is especially pronounced in the Northeast, which imports over eighty percent of its food. In a disaster, the lack of regional self sufficiency both in food production and food storage would cause havoc, but no one is planning for such possibilities."

And in reference to energy production:

"The Joint Committee on Defense Production notes that American industry is tailor made for easy disruption. Its qualities include large unit scale, concentration of key facilities, reliance on advanced materials inputs and on specialized electronics and automation, highly energy- and capital- intensive plants, and small inventories. The Committee found that correcting these defects, even incrementally and over many decades, could be very costly. But the cost of not doing so could be even higher -- a rapid regression of tens, or even hundreds of years in the American economy, should it be gravely disrupted."

In a long-term space mission or a space settlement, a self-sustaining economy must be created and supported. Therefore, addressing the problem of technological fragility on earth is an essential step in the development of the development of human settlement in space.
The heart of any community is its library, which stores a wide variety of technological processes, only some of which are used at any one time in any specific environment. If an independent community is like a cell, its library is like its DNA. A library has many functions: the education of new community members; the support of important activities such as farming and material extraction; historical recording of events; support for planning and design. And the library grows and evolves with the community.

The earth's library of technological knowledge is fragmented and obscure, and some important knowledge has been lost already. How can we create a library strong enough to foster the growth of new communities in space? How can we today use what we know to improve human life?
The development of the Oscomak infrastructure will be an ambitious undertaking, requiring the involvement of tens of thousands of knowledgeable individuals over a period of years. There is no way one single entity can fund this work. However, there is a way to allow such individuals to cooperate -- as an "open source" community, sharing knowledge and building a distributed repository over the internet.

The revolutionary aspect of this project is to leverage a small investment into a much larger effort by fostering an internet-based community which develops this knowledge and tools using an "open source" model similar to those used by Linux, GCC, Python, and Squeak. Individuals will participate in this process for rewards of status, advertising, friendship, self-esteem, reciprocity, and contribution toward a common goal.

Open-source software projects such as Linux, GCC, Squeak, and Python are an exploding phenomenon. However, successful open-source efforts still need a substantial investment of human capital to create the initial seed and to shepherd the development process over a period of years until it becomes self-sustaining. To date the successful open-source projects have been primarily in the areas of operating systems and programming languages. The next open-source frontiers are applications and knowledge repositories.

It is the aim of this project to create an open-source community centered around applications and knowledge related to space settlement. To gain the broadest participation, the project will also include knowledge related to terrestrial settlements. The initial focus will be on collecting "manufacturing recipes" on how to make things: for example, how to make a 1930's style lathe. Information collected will range from historical interest (fabrication techniques of the stone age to make flint knives) to current (fabrication techniques to make stainless steel knives) to futuristic (fabrication techniques requiring nanotechnology to make diamond knives). This project will involve potentially hundreds of thousands of individuals across the globe. It is expected that ultimately millions of individuals (many in developing nations) will benefit from use of this database directly or indirectly.

We take our lead from several projects on the internet. For example, the Educational Object Economy is a collaborative effort to collect 10,000 educational Java applets (it currently has about one thousand). There are also numerous food-related recipe collections on the internet.
The Oscomak project is an attempt to create a core of communities more in control of their technological destiny and its social implications. No single design for a community or technology will please everyone, or even many people. Nor would a single design be likely to survive. So this project endeavors to gather information and to develop tools and processes that all fit together conceptually like Tinkertoys or Legos. The result will be a library of possibilities that individuals in a community can use to achieve any degree of self-sufficiency and self-replication within any size community, from one person to a billion people. Within every community people will interact with these possibilities by using them and extending them to design a community economy and physical layout that suits their needs and ideas.

As the internet has grown, it has enabled collaborative work which has created many success stories, including Linux, Python, GCC, Squeak and other projects. We want to harness that power and apply it to organizing technological knowledge in concert with many interested individuals.

The main project goal is to develop an on-line library of technology ideas, techniques, and tools, including a range from high-tech processes like plastics to medium-tech like ceramic houses to low-tech like spinning wheels. Also included will be biotechnology processes, like perennial agriculture, companion planting, sheep farming, and eventually cloning and DNA synthesis.

One process to be included is a way to convert the high-tech computerized library to a low-tech paper one as desired. Key to the whole endeavor will be to present everything in a how-to fashion. Also needed is a way to map out and simulate the interrelations of processes; for instance, sheep raising requires veterinarians, antibiotics, feed, fencing, and shears; shears require a blacksmith, metal, and a furnace. This latter feature also would be used to keep track of the product flows into, out of, and within a community's entire economy.
Vannevar Bush, "As We may Think", The Atlantic Monthly, July 1945: Volumne 176, No. 1; Pages 101-108
    "Presumably man's spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. His excursions may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important.
  The applications of science have built man a well-supplied house, and are teaching him to live healthily therein. They have enabled him to throw masses of people against one another with cruel weapons. They may yet allow him truly to encompass the great record and to grow in the wisdom of race experience. He may perish in conflict before he learns to wield that record for his true good. Yet, in the application of science to the needs and desires of man, it would seem to be a singularly unfortunate stage at which to terminate the process, or to lose hope as to the outcome."

Robert Muller, Assistant Secretary-General (retired), United Nations, quoted in Surviving: The Best Game on Earth by Norrie Huddle, Schocken Books, New York, 1984, pg. 251 - 252.
    "The present condition of humanity was best described by the philosopher Gottfried Leibnitz a few hundred years ago when he said that humans would be so occupied with making scientific discoveries in every sector for several centuries that they would not look at the totality. But, he said, someday the proliferation and complexity of our knowledge would become so bewildering that it would be necessary to develop a global, universal, and synthetic view. This is exactly the time and juncture at which we have arrived. It shows in our new preoccupations with what is called 'interdisciplinary', 'global thinking', 'interdependence', and so on. It is all the same phenomenon.
One of the most useful things humanity could do at this point is to make an honest inventory of what we know. I have suggested to foundations that they ought to bring together the chief editors of the world's main encyclopedias to agree on a common table of contents of human knowledge. But it can be a dangerous idea. Why? Well, when the Frenchman Diderot invented the first encyclopedia, the archbishop of Paris ran to the king of France to have the book burned because it would totally change the existing value system of the Catholic church. If we developed a common index of human knowledge today it would similarly cause a change in our value systems. We would discover that in the whole framework of knowledge the contest between Israel and the Muslims would barely be listed because it is such a small problem in the totality of our preoccupation as a human species. The meeting might have to last several days before the editors would even mention it! This is exactly the point: some people don't want to develop such a framework of knowledge because they want their problem to be the most important problem on earth and go to great lengths to promote that notion.
    So that is what I believe to be most necessary for global security: an ordering of our knowledge at this point in our evolution, a good, honest classification of all we know from the infinitely large to the infinitely small - the cosmos, our planet, humanity, our dreams, our wishes, and so on. We haven't done it yet, but we will have to do it one way or another."
In 1928, J.D. Bernal (in the book The World, The Flesh and the Devil) proposed creating a network of self-replicating space habitats which duplicate themselves from sunlight and asteroidal ore. He wrote:
    "Imagine a spherical shell ten miles or so in diameter, made of the lightest materials and mostly hollow; for this purpose the new molecular materials would be admirably suited. Owing to the absence of gravitation its construction would not be an engineering feat of any magnitude. The source of the material out of which this would be made would only be in small part drawn from the earth; for the great bulk of the structure would be made out of the substance of one or more smaller asteroids, rings of Saturn or other planetary detritus. The initial stages of construction are the most difficult to imagine. They will probably consist of attaching an asteroid of some hundred years or so diameter to a space vessel, hollowing it out and using the removed material to build the first protective shell. Afterwards the shell could be re-worked, bit by bit, using elaborated and more suitable substances and at the same time increasing its size by diminishing its thickness. The globe would fulfill all the functions by which our earth manages to support life. In default of a gravitational field it has, perforce, to keep its atmosphere and the greater portion of its life inside; but as all its nourishment comes in the form of energy through its outer surface it would be forced to resemble on the whole an enormously complicated single-celled plant. ... Yet the globe would be by no means isolated. It would be in continuous communication by wireless with other globes and with the earth, and this communication would include the transmission of every sort of sense message which we have at present acquired as well as those which we may require in the future. Interplanetary vessels would insure the transport of men and materials, and see to it that the colonies were not isolated units. ... However, the essential positive activity of the globe or colony would be in the development, growth and reproduction of the globe. A globe which was merely a satisfactory way of continuing life indefinitely would barely be more than a reproduction of terrestrial conditions in a more restricted sphere."

It is the ultimate aim of the Oscomak project to begin to create the social and technological infrastructure required to bring this seventy year old dream into reality.
Obviously, a project like designing such a habitat network is vast in scope, and will involve many thousands of people. The revolutionary aspect of this project is the use of the internet to allow large numbers of interested individuals to work together to accomplish this goal. A small investment used in this way can have a large outcome by leveraging the collective contributions of large numbers of individuals.

Long before space applications are feasible, this library will someday be at the center of a Community Development Corporation incorporating both the library and physical technology. If the library and CDC proves successful, it will start replicating in nearby neighborhoods until it spans the globe. Someday this network will have the resources to launch a project to create the first Bernal sphere.

The result of the interaction between tools and people will be a library of possibilities that individuals in a community can use to achieve many degrees of self-sufficiency and self-replication within any sized community from one person to a billion people. At the core of this knowledge-gathering process is the notion of a "manufacturing recipe" defining a possible manufacturing process. Within every community people will interact with these possibilities by using them and extending them to design a community economy and physical layout that suits their unique needs.

Aerospace designers will be able to use this knowledge base for designing long duration space missions, lunar colonies, or space habitats that are replicated from sunlight and asteroidal ore. By including such a knowledge base, crews on such long-duration missions will be able to adapt their available technology to new needs by creating new tools and products on an as-needed basis. One can think of this library of possibilities as like the DNA of a cell, with the cell deciding which processes to use based on environmental conditions.

In addition to the obvious result, the knowledge repository, the work will also produce research knowledge on the use of collaborative environments to build shared repositories of technological knowledge. We anticipate writing a series of papers on the project to share the understanding gained by shepherding the repository.

The success or failure of this project can be judged on three counts:

The level of interest as shown by accesses and downloads of the software and knowledge base.
The level of participation as shown by contributions to the knowledge base and collaborative improvements to the software tools.
The degree to which this database is used for education (such as in the Space Settlement contests) and in design (such as in mission planning for long duration space flight).
The race is on to make the human world a better (and more resilient) place before one of these overwhelms us:

Autonomous military robots out of control
Nanotechnology virus / gray slime
Ethnically targeted virus
Sterility virus
Computer virus
Asteroid impact
Other unforseen computer failure mode
Global warming / climate change / flooding
Nuclear / biological war
Unexpected economic collapse from Chaos effects
Terrorism w/ unforseen wide effects
Out of control bureaucracy (1984)
Religious / philosophical warfare
Economic imbalance leading to world war
Arms race leading to world war
Zero-point energy tap out of control
Time-space information system spreading failure effect (Chalker's Zinder Nullifier)
Unforseen consequences of research (energy, weapons, informational, biological)
No single design for such a community or technology will please everyone, or even many people. Nor would a single design be likely to survive. So the project will gather information and develop tools and processes that all fit together conceptually like Tinkertoys or Legos.

The recipes database will consist of primarily macro and micro manufacturing technology. It may also include some information applicable to nanotechnology manufacturing (such as the atomic composition of products, or ways to combine nanosynthesized components). The database will include information about patented processes with an eye towards the future when such patents have expired and can be freely used in space habitat construction.

In addition to the recipes database, a cross-platform simulator will be developed that will allow users to select recipes from the database and simulate an arbitrary technological infrastructure, such as one based primarily on extruded plastics (with feedstock derived from corn or algae). It will also be possible to print detailed reports on such infrastructures.

The simulation will be able to be used in a scenario mode in which simulated settlers are provided for by the users' actions. Several users may collaborate while the simulation runs to support the settlers by building a web of manufacturing processes selected from the recipes database. The goal of the scenario will be to construct a schematic connecting the resources of the solar system (sun, moons, asteroids, comets, etc.) to the web of manufacturing processes in order to deliver manufactured goods to the settlers. The simulation will evaluate the sustainability of the users' choices based on time constants (for example, time to depletion of air, water, or a critical material or tool). This will create an intrinsic motivation to explore the database as well as to contribute to it.

Eventually, various design and simulation tools will be created to assemble and organize this information in order to design communities with various levels of self reliance (given specific inputs of energy, raw materials, and manufactured goods). The software will also help to determine the minimal amount of technology needed to create these various communities and infrastructures (as a "seed" factory deployed onto in-situ resources such as an asteroid). At some point ten to forty years in the future, seed factory designs created using this database and simulator will be created and launched at near-earth asteroids to bootstrap space settlements.
We will develop software tools to enable the creation of the Oscomak knowledge repository: to collect, organize, and present information in a way that encourages collaboration and provides immediate benefit. Manufacturing "recipes" will form the core elements of the repository.

Our choice of software tools will emphasize cross-platform and open-source issues to maximize the potential for collaboration. Participants will download the software (and source) and some subset of knowledge modules in the repository, modify existing modules and/or create new modules, and communicate with other participants by sharing their changes. Many concurrent scales of collaboration will be supported, including local copies of the repository, small-group servers (for individuals with a particular interest, for example), and a central high-speed server which will coordinate activities. Changes to the software tools will work in the same way.

about a week ago

Study Rules Out Global Warming Being a Natural Fluctuation With 99% Certainty

Paul Fernhout Carbon from soil erosion may be underconsidered (856 comments)

The US great plains over the last two hundred years in some places went from two feet or more of topsoil covered with with Prairie grass, Native Americans, and Buffalo to now more like six inches of topsoil mostly due to atrocious soil farming practices by the European invaders more akin to strip mining than stewardship. That is a lot of carbon loss.
"The farming practices of early settlers caused erosion of the topsoil. By the late 1870's the topsoil had vanished in the center of the prairie and the settlers who farmed there moved out to its edges. This was the beginning of the process that would create the Big Prairie Desert. This pattern of land use, dry conditions and soil erosion is what caused the dust bowl that was begining at about the same time in states further west."

Related (although perhaps an underestimate of the total loss):
"These pillars --- located outside a rest area off Highway 80 in Adair County, Iowa -- represent the topsoil Iowa has lost since large-scale farming began 150 years ago. In the 19th century, Iowa had 14-16 inches of topsoil. Today, it has just 6-8 inches of the stuff, and more is being lost all the time. The irony: The very farms that are depleting the topsoil desperately need it, too. "

See also:
"Although the figure is frequently being revised upwards with new discoveries, over 2,700 Gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon is stored in soils worldwide, which is well above the combined total of atmosphere (780 Gt) or biomass (575 Gt), most of which is wood. Carbon is taken out of the atmosphere by plant photosynthesis; about 60 Gt annually is incorporated into various types of soil organic matter (SOM) including surface litter; about 60 Gt annually is respired or oxidized from soil.[2] "

So, three-quarters of more of the carbon-rich top soil of the center of an entire continent (North America) was lost, much of it a century ago. That I think may help explain some global climate changes even more than recent fossil fuel use.

"When we lose soil, we are losing a resource that is, for practical purposes and human timespans, essentially non-renewable. An inch of soil takes between 200 - 1000 years to form, yet it can be swept away in a few seasons."

Ways to create topsoil faster included organic farming (focusing on adding organic matter to the soil) and remineralization from ground-up rock dust.

Still, maybe without all the extra carbon in the air we'd already be in another mini ice age?

about a week ago

NSA Allegedly Exploited Heartbleed

Paul Fernhout Lots of truth but also some wishful thinking (149 comments)

As I'm too often involved in myself sometimes: :-)
"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."

But more seriously, there are a lot of fine dedicated well-meaning people who work at three letter agencies. There are no doubt a lot of not-so-fine ones too. Any big bureaucracy has complex and often self-perpetuating social dynamics. If such places are to improve, IMHO one needs to support and encourage the fine people there and hope their actions can outweigh the not-so-fine ones. For example, IMHO Tom Armour was one of the finer ones:

Saying the KGB, the NSA, the Russian Oligarchy and so on are empty husks is a bit like saying capitalism is full of contradictions and unfairness and so it will fall apart on its own. I've said such things myself sometimes:
"Wikipedia. GNU/Linux. WordNet. Google. These things were not on the visible horizon to most of us even as little as twenty years ago. Now they have remade huge aspects of how we live. Are these free-to-the-user informational products and services all there is to be on the internet or are they the tip of a metaphorical iceberg of free stuff and free services that is heading our way? Or even, via projects like the RepRap 3D printer under development, are free physical objects someday heading into our homes? If a "post-scarcity" iceberg is coming, are our older scarcity-oriented social institutions prepared to survive it? Or like the Titanic, will these social institutions sink once the full force of the iceberg contacts them? And will they start taking on water even if just dinged by little chunks of sea ice like the cheap $100 laptops that are ahead of the main iceberg?"

Yet capitalism is still here and seemingly stringer than ever (as far as control of the US political machinery). And may well be for some time as the underlying power system morphs into new forms. Ancient China went hundreds of years at a stretch with peasants suffering all sorts of things, especially famine, and not much changing. Yet, something like a "basic income" might be a step towards improving capitalism even if it would not fix everything about it (the worst of consumerism, addictions, waste, short--term planning, systemic risks, externalities, etc.).

Short-term power in human societies also translates itself into sexual access and the spread of genes (e.g. Bill Clinton, theoretically). The best we can perhaps due as a society is structure how the competition for mates plays out in our society, as in what is valued. James P. Hogan wrote about that in his sc-fi novel "Voyage From Yesteryear". I'd suggest societies with a scarcity-based world view or at their current carrying capacity for their technology and cultural practices are probably more internally competitive and willing to accept competition and related cruelty than societies with an abundance-oriented world view and which see the potential in their technology and social practices for expansion (into whatever realms, including digital) and producing more than enough for all.

Most of the proto-mammals probably got killed off when the dinosaurs got wiped out too... Only a few small shrew-like creatures of probably large numbers by luck near huge supplies of seeds probably made it through, living underground. Do we really want that kind of global collapse, probably including global thermonuclear war and engineered plagues and killer robots and so on if these organizations become increasingly dysfunctional?
"Visualization of asteroid impact that killed dinosaurs 65 million years ago, based on accurate research and scientific fact. Created by Radek Michalik "

What are realistic and lower-risk ways forward, given all that?

about a week ago

$250K Reward Offered In California Power Grid Attack

Paul Fernhout Thus "War is a Racket" (111 comments)

By Marine Major General Smedley Butler: http://www.ratical.org/ratvill...
"WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. ..."

Of course, "heart disease" is a racket too these days:
"The sad thing is surgical interventions and medications are the foundation of modern cardiology and both are relatively ineffective compared to nutritional excellence. My patients routinely reverse their heart disease, and no longer have vulnerable plaque or high blood pressure, so they do not need medical care, hospitals or cardiologists anymore. The problem is that in the real world cardiac patients are not even informed that heart disease is predictably reversed with nutritional excellence. They are not given the opportunity to choose and just corralled into these surgical interventions. Trying to figure out how to pay for ineffective and expensive medicine by politicians will never be a real solution. People need to know they do not have to have heart disease to begin with, and if they get it, aggressive nutrition is the most life-saving intervention. And it is free."

Possibly could draw an expanded parallel between "terrorism" and "heart disease" as far as causes and cures? As in invading Afghanistan and Iraq was like giving a world with morally-clogged arteries an angioplasty and then a triple bypass? At great costs? And without really solving the underlying problem (from past short-sighted behavior by the USA and others)? While people who sell arms and people who own domestic oil sources and drilling equipment (Bush friends?) profit greatly from all the uncertainty?

about a week ago

Crowd Wisdom Better At Predictions Than Top CIA Analysts

Paul Fernhout So true; diversity & better tools may help too (136 comments)

By someone else: http://www.amazon.com/The-Diff...

By me on the need for better intelligence tools for the public: http://pcast.ideascale.com/a/d...

By me on the security clearance process reduces cognitive diversity in three letter agencies: http://www.phibetaiota.net/201...
"This essay discusses how the USA's security clearance process (mainly related to ensuring secrecy) may [ironically] have a counter-productive negative effect on the USA's national security by reducing "cognitive diversity" among security professionals. "

about a week ago

Michael Bloomberg: You Can't Teach a Coal Miner To Code

Paul Fernhout Job satisfaction -- not just "consumption" (578 comments)

So much of the discussion on this topic ignores that some people like working around plants in agriculture, or like building things with machine tools, or like working with heavy equipment, and so on. Granted, they may not like their boss, or may not like being overworked, or may not like low pay. To suggest such people become programmers (or nail salon workers or whatever) ignores that a lot of a person's life satisfaction may come from doing work they love. I love programming and think it is a useful thing for many people to know, but I accept most people may not like to do a lot of programming, say if they like working outdoors or like working with people or plants or visibly moving machines. It is a deep flaw in our current discussions to ignore the potential positive value of meaningful work in someone's life and just focus on getting people to do work they may not like 40 hours a week so they can get a paycheck to buy stuff, raise a family, and maybe have a hobby they enjoy in their remaining time. "Work" can be better than that.

Two essays on that, one by EF Schumacher:
"The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless. To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence. Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure."

And one by Bob Black:
"What I really want to see is work turned into play. A first step is to discard the notions of a "job" and an "occupation." Even activities that already have some ludic content lose most of it by being reduced to jobs which certain people, and only those people, are forced to do to the exclusion of all else. Is it not odd that farm workers toil painfully in the fields while their air-conditioned masters go home every weekend and putter about in their gardens? Under a system of permanent revelry, we will witness the Golden Age of the dilettante which will put the Renaissance to shame. There won't be any more jobs, just things to do and people to do them."

Still, with more and more AI and robotics, there will be less and less jobs where it makes sense to pay a human to do them. So, we need a mix of a "basic income" for the exchange economy, an expanded volunteer/gift economy, improved local subsistence via 3D printing, solar panels, cold fusion, and agricultural robotics, and improved democratic participatory planning at all levels of government. Then at least parents will be able to spend more time raising their kids well, a job that can take about as much time and energy as most people can put into it, especially if you forgo institutionalizing kids from an early age in prison-like compulsory schools. More ideas on this:

about a week ago

Phil Shapiro says 20,000 Teachers Should Unite to Spread Chromebooks (Video)

Paul Fernhout Mod parent up; big miss in video; my experiences (101 comments)


It turns out they are not that much cheaper though, so I don't really see the value proposition in practice implied by Phil Shapiro since they are not yet $100 and screens still cost money:
"Review: Asus crafts a tiny $179 Chromebox out of cheap, low-power parts"

I'm surprised Roblimo could miss pointing the Chromebox out, just mentioning the Raspberry Pi. Although he was right to point out the SSD speedup is significant for any small computer.

Another big miss is that for US$50 you can buy an Android Smartphone and use it only with Wi-Fi. Example of what we paid $50 for a few months ago, but now is $31?
"The Kyocera Hydro is sophistication and style in a mainstream Android smartphone that can work for everyone. Plus it offers water-resistance, giving consumers the âoeno-fearâ durability and security they demand. With a 3.5 inch HVGA touchscreen, 3.2 MP camera and video, and Android 4.0, you get the best of all worlds."

Although I would much rather use the Chromebook with a keyboard for making content than trying to use an Android phone. But $30 to be connected with the global internet? That is an amazing realization of many educational technologist's dreams (e.g. Alan Kay Dynabook or OLPC XO-1). And perhaps also some nightmares... See also the 1950s short story by Theodore Sturgeon called "The Skills of Xanadu" on where that all could lead.

My own hopes and predictions from 2000 based in part on seeing the "Cybiko":
"[unrev-II] The DKR hardware I'd like to make..."

Also, I don't see why a teacher or librarian is so keen to limit people's mobility (although it doesn't surprise me, going with the "school is prison" meme).

A big value to my $250 Samsung Chromebook is how light and portable it is. I still use my Quad Core Mac Pro Desktop with three big screens for work and running VirtualBox VMs (and the Chromebook could not replace that, especially the screens) -- used to run Debian for about five years until we (my wife especially) got tired of all the random breakage with every "apt-get dist-upgrade" around 2008 (probably much better now). But I use my Chromebook (with Linux under the covers) for just noodling around or surfing the web and posting on Slashdot sitting in our living room, or doing some light for-fun development work. As I said in another post, I wrote this JavaScript-based information manager tool bootstrapping system entirely on the Chromebook:

Why do I use the Chromebook instead of my desktop (treadmill workstation actually) Mac Pro? Psychological and social, mostly. I gain some distance from my daily paying work by using a different computer in a different place. I also have done it partially as an experiment in learning about the next generation of computing. It's true that our two-year old Macbook Pro is still a much better computer as far as keyboard and screen and CPU and what it can do -- but it is often otherwise in use these days. My wife would always complain about me leaving a lot of tabs open in Firefox. And so on. The Chromebook is more a personal computer just for me. And it was cheap enough that I could justify it as an experiment compared to another $1000-$2500 Macbook.

We did however buy a $1000 Win 8 ASUS laptop a few months ago anyway. What a disappointment as a laptop. Even with a bigger screen and much faster processors than the Chromebook, I'd rather use the lighter Chromebook with better battery life and more robustness if I drop it (no HD). The Chromebook is not constantly hassling me about upgrades and reboots and having to install new apps to get basic functionality or get the trackpad to work right and so on (even if it does upgrade itself). Windows (now 8.1) seems to mostly just get in my way. Every time Win8 updates itself it seems to break something or lose a custom setting for the trackpad (maybe an exaggeration, but not much). And the less I use Windows, the higher percentage of the time using it is spend in system administration and reboots. Still, the ASUS would make an OK desktop and in an emergency if my 4+ year old Mac Pro failed (one reason I got it), I could do my day-job work on the ASUS, connecting it to a big screen via HDMI and a USB keyboard and trackball and an external USB disk.

I've been using computers for more than thirty years and have had enough of all that system administration in my spare time (for pay it is different). And for what? What do either the Mac or Windows really provide me for my spare time use and system administration? It would be different if I was a gamer more than an author and programmer, I admit. Both Mac and Windows have value still as gaming platforms -- but less and less for anything else. The web and HTML5/CSS/JavaScript with URLs for everything is such an amazing "platform" for me compared to a desktop -- much better than a conventional desktop in many ways. Yes, the web could be better, and web browsers coudl be better (better standards, better support for local apps, etc.), but I have less and less need or interest in desktop stuff. I can see the value in porting our old educational software from Delphi and Java and Python and Smalltalk and C++ to HTM5/CSS/JavaScript (or using emscripten perhaps).

I still want local storage though. We have a $250 MyBook Live for a local server that can even run Python and PHP code I write. Why don't I run that server code from my more powerful Mac Pro? The MyBook Live uses less power and is always on (maybe a 10 second delay if it spins down the disk). I don't have to worry too much about a clean shutdown of the MyBook Live. I put my work desktop to sleep when I am not using it. From a security perspective too, it is better to not be serving data from my workstation. Chromebooks would be much better if they supported mounting remote drives with WebDav or Samba or stuff like that (they may by now with plugins?). I feel that is a weekness in Chromebooks to not have that connectivity. Still, I can get around it. If I wasn't worried about bricking my MyBook Live with complex upgrades, or working towards my own "Pointrel" flavor of social semantic desktop, I'd put "OwnCloud" on it.

True, after a year of moderate use in my spare time for making Slashdot posts and such, the "space" key on the Chromebook seems to be having issues, so I can see a limit to the life for this device just from that. It might support a USB keyboard, but tethering it to one place would make it less valuable to me. Although it was impressive when I hooked it up via HDMI to a big TV and if just worked with two screens. I remember how much trouble getting two screens to work (and stay working) used to be under Debian around 2004. I can see other possible downsides if Google pushes an "Evil upgrade" at some point for Chrome. On my desktop, I set up Chromium instead of Chrome and I still rely of FIrefox for privacy reasons and NoScript. Once can criticize Google and privacy or spying or mistakes, like a recent bug (?) that lets Chrome provide speech-to-text transcripts of your microphone even when you have not asked it to -- but what bugs do WIndows, Mac, or desktop Linux have?
"A security flaw in Google Chrome, currently the world's most popular Web browser, could allow a hacker to turn on a user's computer microphone and secretly obtain a Chrome-generated transcript of the user's conversations, according to an Israel-based software developer who highlighted the flaw in a blog post this week."

Anyway, I can see the niche for the Chromebox vs. the Chromebook, depending on the context and availability of existing displays. I can even see why some schools would like it for computer labs and ease of maintainability. But I think most people would probably be better served by the laptop or all-in-one form factor in practice, especially for machines that likely have a limited lifespan and given teh cost difference is so small. What I paid for the Chromebook last year is probably less than I used to spend annually on paper and (expensive) inkjet cartridge two decades ago like for reviewing documents and code printouts (and even printing web pages) which I now do mostly all look at now on the computer. You did not used to be able to carry a big PDF document with you on a lightweight device you could read from. So, if I need to replace a Chromebook once a year or so, and re-purpose the old one somehow (perhaps to give it to another homeschooling family who wants to use it with a USB keyboard, or just using it for checking the weather in the kitchen), it is not that big a deal to me. Personally, I would like a 14 inch screen for older eyes, and that is probably what I would get next. A little heavier perhaps for a 14", but worth it to me. A backlit keyboard would be really nice, too, as otherwise sometimes I have to tilt the screen forward to light up the keys temporarily.

For the average home use who is not a heavy gamer (like in "education"), the Chromebook is a great value proposition for most people. Granted if you can spend more money or more time, or have heavier needs for work, or have legacy apps to use, other options may be better choices. But as above for me, it's not like you can;t have a Chromebook as well as something else. Chromebooks make great second or third or fourth computers for a family.

about a week ago

Phil Shapiro says 20,000 Teachers Should Unite to Spread Chromebooks (Video)

Paul Fernhout OT Roblimo: you sound near heart failure/stroke (101 comments)

Sorry to say, from the slurring of the interviewer in the video, which suggested clogged arteries throughout your body. Check out health ideas here for unclogging them through nutritional changes:
"Cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounted for 32.3% of deaths in the United States in 2010, but you can protect yourself. A significant number of research studies have documented that heart disease is easily and almost completely preventable (and reversible) through a diet rich in plant produce and lower in processed foods and animal products."

More in general:

Good luck Rob, I think we may have we met once briefly around 1999 at an Open Source conference in NYC (one where Ralph Nader spoke), and thanks for all the stories.

And the shift does not have to be that unpleasant as your tastes will adapt after six weeks:
"Scientific evidence suggests that the re-sensitization of taste nerves takes between 30 and 90 days of consistent exposure to less stimulating foods. This means that for several weeks, most people attempting this change will experience a reduction in eating pleasure. This is why modern foods present such a devastating trap--as most of our citizens are, in effect, "addicted" to artificially high levels of food stimulation! The 30-to-90-day process of taste re-calibration requires more motivation--and more self-discipline--than most people are ever willing to muster.
    Tragically, most people are totally unaware that they are only a few weeks of discipline away from being able to comfortably maintain healthful dietary habits--and to keep away from the products that can result in the destruction of their health. Instead, most people think that if they were to eat more healthfully, they would be condemned to a life of greatly reduced gustatory pleasure--thinking that the process of Phase IV will last forever. In our new book, The Pleasure Trap, we explain this extraordinarily deceptive and problematic situation - and how to master this hidden force that undermines health and happiness."

Another good health resource if you are willing to take one week to do a medically supervised water-only fast in Santa Rosa, CA for a quick reboot of your taste buds. Compared to a heart bypass operation or years of physical therapy for a stroke, you won't even have to stop posting to Slashdot the whole time during a fast. Posting would help keep you busy and distracted as your body re-calibrates itself and goes into "garbage collection" mode and shifts to new biological pathways during the fast. See:
"TrueNorth Health Center was founded in 1984 by Drs. Alan Goldhamer and Jennifer Marano. The integrative medicine approach they established offers participants the opportunity to obtain evaluation and treatment for a wide variety of problems. The staff at TrueNorth Health Center includes medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors, naturopaths, psychologists, research scientists, and other health professionals. The Center is now the largest facility in the world that specializes in medically supervised water-only fasting.
    The doctors at TrueNorth Health Center have extensive experience in the evaluation and conservative management of high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and a wide range of other health conditions. Participants come to fast and detoxify, lose weight, and make diet and lifestyle changes while enjoying a health-promoting diet derived from whole natural foods. The extensive educational program, including food preparation classes with Chef Ramses Bravo, make this a unique place to rest, rejuvenate, and learn to achieve optimum health."

I gave a book on Dr. Fuhrman's work to John Taylor Gatto who was sounding the same -- about a year before he had a massive stroke. Only afterwards now that he is bedridden is he now looking to follow improved nutritional advice. Don't wait like John did. Clogged arteries can be cleared in most people by aggressive nutritional intervention like Dr. Joel Fuhrman or Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn do (see Bill Clinton). You will start to feel so much better and have more energy for more interviews and posting more stories. At the very least, if not for yourself, do it for your family. Good luck!

about a week ago



LATimes to discard all previous user comments

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about 2 months ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "I just received an email from the LATimes they will apparently be discarding all previous user comments tomorrow as they transition to a new commenting system. They are giving about one day to "save your work". What does this example mean about trusting our content to third-parties, even ones that one might otherwise presume to be a "Newspaper of Public Record"?

The main text of the email: "Thank you for being a part of the latimes.com community. We're committed to providing a forum for meaningful discussion about the topics we cover and have upgraded our commenting system. As of Thursday, February 27, we are giving our readers better ways to connect and communicate, using improved tools to help keep debates spirited, but not mean-spirited. More details will be available at launch on latimes.com/readers. As we bid goodbye to our old system, past comments will not be carried over. If you'd like to save your work, we encourage you to do so before February 27. We look forward to hearing from you at latimes.com. Jimmy Orr, Managing Editor, Digital""

Gates Spends Entire First Day Back in Office Trying to Install Windows 8.1

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about 2 months ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "According to Andy Borowitz: "Bill Gates's first day at work in the newly created role of technology adviser got off to a rocky start yesterday as the Microsoft founder struggled for hours to install the Windows 8.1 upgrade. ... After failing to install the upgrade by lunchtime, Mr. Gates summoned the new Microsoft C.E.O. Satya Nadella, who attempted to help him with the installation, but with no success."

I've read before on Slashdot that Vista took the hate for buggy drivers after big changes from XP. After that all got sorted out, lots of people praised Windows 7. Might we see the same thing here with a more stable Windows 9?"

Link to Original Source

Kickstarter hacked, user data stolen

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about 2 months ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "CNet wrote: "Hackers hit crowd-funding site Kickstarter and made off with user information, the site said Saturday. Though no credit card info was taken, the site said, attackers made off with usernames, e-mail addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and encrypted passwords.""
Link to Original Source

MIT Scientists Report Cold Fusion Success with "NANOR" Device

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about 2 months ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "E-Cat World reports: "[A video] has been posted on Youtube by someone called ‘AlienScientist’ who attended (and filmed) the recent MIT Cold Fusion seminar and reports about what he has learned. He does a very nice job of summarizing the key points from the seminar, pointing out that Peter Hagelstein and Mitchell Swartz mention such things as how the cold fusion reactions can be enhanced by subjecting the cold fusion cell to an external magnetic heat and shining a laser on the cathodes. He also mentions that they say cracking in the metal and rapid gas loading can cause the deuterium to leak out, thus negatively affecting the amount of excess heat produced. The video also includes pointed criticism of the way the scientific community dealt with Pons and Fleischmann 25 years ago, and laments the lost opportunities that could have been realized if more care had been taken in trying to replicate the effect back then. The takeaway quote from the video (I think) is: “This is quite possibly the beginning of the largest technological breakthrough that our generation will witness.” ""
Link to Original Source

Start-up purchases controversial cold fusion E-cat technology

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about 3 months ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "A North Carolina based company called Industrial Heat LLC has come out and admitted that it now owns Andrea Rossi’s ecat low energy nuclear reaction (LENR) technology (also sometimes called "cold fusion"). Industrial Heat has put out a press release in which seems to confirm rumors that it had spent $11 million to purchase Rossi’s device. The press release also confirmed speculation that Tom Darden of Cherokee Investment Partners a North Carolina equity fund is a principal investor in Industrial heat."
Link to Original Source

Willis Ware, 93, Engineer at Dawn of Computer Age, Dies

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about 4 months ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "The NYTimes reports: "Willis H. Ware, an electrical engineer who in the late 1940s helped build a machine that would become a blueprint for computer design in the 20th century, and who later played an important role in defining the importance of personal privacy in the information age, died on Nov. 22 at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 93.""
Link to Original Source

New surveillance tool to track posts about vaccines

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about 10 months ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "Michael Smith at MedPage Today writes: "A new surveillance tool might help immunize communities against vaccine scares, researchers reported. An international pilot project has demonstrated that it's possible to trawl through the Internet and quickly identify places where public fear about vaccines is on the rise, according to Heidi Larson, PhD, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in England, and colleagues. ... The researchers cautioned that the system has not been running long enough to demonstrate "long-term predictive value," but added it will let observers characterize, in real time, vaccine opinions by "topic, negative or positive content, location, time, and risk level.""

The work is funded in part by the Gates Foundation. It is discussed in positive terms at the Daily Telegraph as "Monitoring system to globally track false social media claims on dangers of vaccines" and in negative terms at at Natural News as "Internet monitoring system to stalk social media users who question safety of vaccines"."

European Commission to criminalize unregistered seeds and plants?

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about a year ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "Mike Adams at Natural News writes: "A new law proposed by the European Commission would make it illegal to "grow, reproduce or trade" any vegetable seeds that have not been "tested, approved and accepted" by a new EU bureaucracy named the "EU Plant Variety Agency." It's called the Plant Reproductive Material Law, and it attempts to put the government in charge of virtually all plants and seeds. Home gardeners who grow their own plants from non-regulated seeds would be considered criminals under this law.""
Link to Original Source

Knight Foundation launches News Challenge on topic of open government

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about a year ago

Paul Fernhout writes "The Knight Foundation opened on Tuesday its first Knight News Challenge of the year on the topic of Open Government under the guiding question: "How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?""
Link to Original Source

European Patent Granted for Francesco Piantelli's LENR Process

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about a year ago

Paul Fernhout writes "The European Patent office has apparently granted a patent for the Francesco Piantelli’s invention of process for producing energy from a nickel-hydrogen reaction. This has in the past been called "cold fusion" but now often is called LENR for "Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions" that supposedly take place when hydrogen atoms are in a metal lattice. Toyota and Mitsubishi are working in this area too. There are open source efforts underway to create a cold fusion device. Are we perhaps "slouching towards post-scarcity" despite having an economy where Aaron Swartz recently was persecuted for the alleged crime of attempting to disrupt business models of "non-profits" based on artificial scarcity? More links about this announcement (including controversy about it) can be found in the LENR-to-Market Weekly report for this week. If this technology really worked, it would make it easy to recycle materials, to grow food indoors, to desalinate water from the oceans, to power endless robots, and to launch space vehicles with lasers. Does this once again show that the human imagination is the ultimate resource?"
Link to Original Source

Voxel.js creates open-source Minecraft-like games in a browser

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about a year ago

Paul Fernhout writes "Richard Mitchell writes "Opensource JavaScript project creates Minecraftlike games in a browser Voxel.js is a new open-source project designed to allow anyone to create 3D games that run directly in a browser. Created by Max Ogden and James Halliday, Voxel.js is based on JavaScript and WebGL, and makes it relatively easy to build Minecraft-like games that play in browsers like Chrome."

An interview with Max Ogden about the creation of Voxel.js in 22 days.

The main site is at Voxel.js."

Link to Original Source

Open Source Technologies for Arms Control Essay Contest

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about a year ago

Paul Fernhout writes "The Federation of American Scientists reports that "Members of the public are invited to develop and submit ideas to an essay contest on the potential uses of open source information and technology to support international arms control initiatives. The State Department is sponsoring the contest in partnership with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the Moscow-based Center for Policy Studies. "The contest aims to harness the ingenuity of American and Russian citizens to think creatively about innovative ways to use open source information and communication technologies for arms control verification, compliance monitoring, and monitoring of sensitive facilities," the CNS said in its announcement."

A couple of related essays I wrote people may want to build on:
The need for FOSS intelligence tools for sensemaking etc.
Recognizing irony is key to transcending militarism"

Link to Original Source

Nobel Prize-winning economist on Rise of the Robots

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about a year ago

Paul Fernhout writes "Economist Paul Krugman is finally starting to see the economic implications of continuing automation. He wrote "Robots mean that labor costs don't matter much, so you might as well locate in advanced countries with large markets and good infrastructure... On the other hand, it's not good news for workers! This is an old concern in economics; it’s "capital-biased technological change", which tends to shift the distribution of income away from workers to the owners of capital. ... If this is the wave of the future, it makes nonsense of just about all the conventional wisdom on reducing inequality. Better education won’t do much to reduce inequality if the big rewards simply go to those with the most assets. Creating an "opportunity society", or whatever it is the likes of Paul Ryan etc. are selling this week, won't do much if the most important asset you can have in life is, well, lots of assets inherited from your parents. And so on. I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn't seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism — which shouldn't be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications. But I think we’d better start paying attention to those implications."

Maybe time to start discussing a basic income? Or perhaps we should consider some mix of improvements to technology-empowered subsistence, gift, exchange, and planned economic systems?"

Link to Original Source

World Renowned Scientist, Dr. Martin Fleischmann Dies With Questionable Coverage

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about a year and a half ago

Paul Fernhout writes "D. Chandler at the Guardian Express wrote: "Absent from mainstream coverage, World-renowned scientist, Dr. Martin Fleischmann, one of two men who first demonstrated a tabletop cold fusion experiment died on Aug. 3 at his home in Tisbury, U.K." This is such an unrecognized loss of someone who may have helped transform our society to a post-scarcity basis — as I wrote about in a note I sent to Andrea Rossi: "The key point here is that breakthrough clean energy technologies will change the very nature of our economic system. They will shift the balance between four different interwoven economies we have always had (subsistence, gift, planned, and exchange). Inventors who have struggled so hard in a system currently dominated by exchange may have to think about the socioecenomic implications of their invention in causing a permanent economic phase change. A clean energy breakthrough will probably create a different balance of those four economies like toward greater local subsistence and more gift giving (as James P. Hogan talks about in Voyage From Yesteryear). So, to focus on making money in the old socioeconomic paradigm (like by focusing on restrictive patents) may be very ironic, compared to freely sharing a great gift with the world that may change the overall dynamics of our economy to the point where money does not matter very much anymore.""
Link to Original Source

EvoJazz, the Evolutionary Jazz toy

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Paul Fernhout writes "EvoJazz is a musical toy for Android that amplifies your own natural musical creativity. It uses a new Evolutionary Jazz paradigm of generating new musical phrases as variations from existing musical phrases rather than writing new phrases note-by-note. (Disclaimer: I'm the developer.)"
Link to Original Source

Cold Fusion 10kw heater and social concerns

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "From Pure Energy Systems News: "Italian inventor, Andrea Rossi, claims to have an industrial product ready to manufacture that produces large amounts of energy reliably, safely, and much cheaper than coal or natural gas power. It utilizes the fusion of hydrogen and the common element nickel at relatively low temperatures." I sent a copy of Frederik Pohl's Midas World to Pons and Fleishman on their 1989 announcement out of concern about the social issues. I hope this newer design finally works out and that we can also eventually move beyond the irony of using technologies of abundance from a scarcity mindset to create artificial scarcity. The release of key information about this process is being delayed by proprietary profit-making issues even with work done at a university, but why be so concerned about profit-making when we would have cheap energy that together with cheap computing, cheap robotics, and cheap communications could make everything else cheap or free?"
Link to Original Source

Beyond a Jobless Recovery

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "I put together a knol about the issue of structural unemployment caused by technological change, and what we can do about it, here:
Beyond a Jobless Recovery: A heterodox perspective on 21st century economics To summarize, a combination of robotics and other automation, better design, and voluntary social networks (like those who blog or comment on blogs :-) are decreasing the value of most paid human labor (through the law of supply and demand as excess labor drives down wages). At the same time, demand for stuff is limited for a variety of reasons (some classical, like the credit crunch or a concentration of wealth, and some novel like people finally getting too much stuff or developing an environmental consciousness). As a consequence, real hourly wages in the USA have been flat for thirty years for most people even as productivity has grown enormously — since most humans have less and less bargaining power. In order to move past this, our society needs to emphasize a gift economy (like Wikipedia or Debian GNU/Linux), a basic income (social security for all regardless of age), democratic resource-based planning (with taxes, subsidies, investments, and regulation to reflect social values), and/or stronger local economies that can produce more of their own stuff (with organic gardens, solar panels, green homes, and 3D printers). There are some bad makework alternatives too that are best avoided, like endless war, endless schooling, endless bureaucracy, endless sickness, and endless prisons. Raising salaries (even by union action) is just going to accelerate the trend to replacing human labor with automation, better design, and voluntary social networks. We are seeing the death spiral of mainstream economics, and that whirlpool will continue to suck people into poverty until we transcend the current scarcity-based competitive socioeconomic paradigm."

Link to Original Source

The economic fallacy of 'zombie' Japan

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "Steven Hill writes in an post critical of Paul Krugman: "Japan has been getting a raw deal from the so-called economic experts. Consider this: in the midst of the great recession, the United States is suffering through nearly 10% unemployment, rising inequality and poverty, 47 million people without health insurance, declining retirement prospects for the middle class and a general increase in economic insecurity. Various European nations also are having their difficulties, and no one knows if China is the next bubble due to explode. How, then, should we regard a country that has 5% unemployment, the lowest income inequality, healthcare for all its people and is one of the world's leading exporters? This country also scores high on life expectancy, low on infant mortality, is at the top in numeracy and literacy, and is low on crime, incarceration, homicides, mental illness and drug abuse. It also has a low rate of carbon emissions, doing its part to reduce global warming. In all these categories, this particular country beats both the US and China by a country mile. Doesn't that sound like a country from which Americans and others might learn a thing or two about how to get out of the hole in which we're stuck? Not if that place is Japan. ... The era of US-style trickle-down economies is over for wealthy countries because trickle-down is neither economically sound nor ecologically sustainable. The developed nations must lead the way towards a different path of development. This is not an easy challenge, yet it is the course that Japan and Germany have chosen. Americans would be wise to learn from them. If the US didn't have such a trickle-down economy that has produced so much inequality — if it was, in fact, better at sharing its wealth — perhaps it wouldn't need so much fiscal stimulus and growth." See also a knol I put together related to this general issue of structural unemployment and a jobless recovery."
Link to Original Source


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