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The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real

Paul Fernhout Re:Cold Fusion Current - WITTS (340 comments)

For more background on WITTS, see:

Or also an open source version of one of those idea by a different group:

Just pointing out the info -- making no claims about the validity of any of it. In general, the peswiki is a big collection of similar claims. Of course, only one of them needs to be true to change the world significantly.

Here is something posted to the peswiki myself, previously sent to Rossi about why he should open source his eCat rather than try to make money off it (assuming it actually works as suggested):
"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 socioeconomic 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."

2 days ago

As Prison Population Sinks, Jails Are a Steal

Paul Fernhout Yes, prison is tough on guards, too (406 comments)
"They harden themselves to survive inside prison, guards said in recent interviews. Then they find they can't snap out of it at the end of the day. Some seethe to themselves. Others commit suicide. Depression, alcoholism, domestic violence and heart attacks are common. And entire communities suffer. ... Prison work "bleeds over into your private life. You go into restaurants, you sit with your back to the wall. You want to see all the entrances and exits, and you notice if somebody is carrying something bulky. You can't turn these skills off," said Matthew von Hobe, 50, a former manager at the four-prison federal complex in Florence. He knows of two colleagues who committed suicide."

So, like you imply, looks like a tough road to rehabilitation for many prison guards...

Good to see so many comments mentioning the lead connection to violent crime. There are nutritional connections too.
"Omega-3, junk food and the link between violence and what we eat: Research with British and US offenders suggests nutritional deficiencies may play a key role in aggressive behaviour"

The problem is, of course, the prison is one of the main social safety nets in the USA, and also that putting people in prison boosts the employment rate (jobs for guards, prisoners off the unemployment roles). We need to rethink our economy, like with a basic income that a person does not get while incarcerated?

Also related to show how bad it could get:
"The "kids for cash" scandal unfolded in 2008 over judicial kickbacks at the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Two judges, President Judge Mark Ciavarella and Senior Judge Michael Conahan, were accused of accepting money from Robert Mericle, builder of two private, for-profit juvenile facilities, in return for contracting with the facilities and imposing harsh sentences on juveniles brought before their courts to increase the number of inmates in the detention centers."

Here is am excerpt from a related satire by me regarding expanding prisons for copyright violators that I sent to the US DOJ a dozen years ago in response to a slashdot article, but sadly sometimes it seems people may be taking it more as a blueprint than a cautionary tale: :-(
My fellow Americans. There has been some recent talk of free law by the General Public Lawyers (the GPL) who we all know hold un-American views. I speak to you today from the Oval Office in the White House to assure you how much better off you are now that all law is proprietary. ...
      First off, we all know our current set of laws requires a micropayment each time a U.S. law is discussed, referenced, or applied by any person anywhere in the world. This financial incentive has produced a large amount of new law over the last decade. This body of law is all based on a core legal code owned by that fine example of American corporate capitalism at its best, the MicroSlaw Corporation.
    MicroSlaw's core code defines a legal operating standard or OS we can all rely on. While I know some GPL supporters may be painting a rosy view of free law to the general public, it is obvious that any so called free alternative to MicroSlaw's legal code fails at the start because it would require great costs for learning about new so-called free laws, plus additional costs to switch all legal forms and court procedures to the new so called free standard. So free laws are really more expensive, especially as we are talking here about free as in cost, not free as in freedom.
    In any case, why would you want to pay public servants like those old time -- what were they called? -- Senators? Representatives? -- around $145K a year out of public funds just to make free laws? Laws are made far more efficiently, inexpensively and, I assure you, justly, by large corporations like MicroSlaw. Such organizations need the motivation of micropayments for application, discussion or reference of their laws to stay competitive. MicroSlaw needs to know who discusses what law and when they do so, each and every time, so they can charge fairly for their services and thus retain their financial freedom to innovate. And America is all about financial freedom, right! [Audience applause].
    [Inaudible shouted question] Prisons? There are only a million Americans behind bars for copyright infringement so far. No one complained about the million plus non-violent drug offenders we've had there for years. No one complained about the million plus terrorists we've got there now, thanks in no small part to a patriotic Supreme Court which after being privatized upheld that anyone who criticizes government policy in public or private is a criminal terrorist. Oops, I shouldn't have said that, as those terrorists aren't technically criminals or subject to the due process of law are they? Well it's true these days you go to prison if you complain about the drug war, or the war on terrorism, or the war on infringers of copyrights and software patents -- so don't complain! [nervous audience laughter] After all, without security, what is the good of American Freedoms? Benjamin Franklin himself said it best, those who don't have security will trade in their freedoms.
    I'm proud to say that the U.S. is now the undisputed world leader in per capita imprisonment, another example of how my administration is keeping us on top. Why just the other day I had the U.N. building in New York City locked down when delegates there started talking about prisoner civil rights. Such trash talk should not be permitted on our soil. It should be obvious that anyone found smoking marijuana, copying CDs, or talking about the law without paying should face a death penalty from AIDS contracted through prison rapes -- that extra deterrent make the system function more smoothly and helps keep honest people honest. That's also why I support the initiative to triple the standard law author's royalty which criminals pay for each law they violate, because the longer we keep such criminals behind bars, especially now that bankruptcy is also a crime, the better for all of us. That's also why I support the new initiative to make all crimes related to discussing laws in private have a mandatory life sentence without parole. Mandatory lifetime imprisonment is good for the economy as it will help keep AIDS for spreading out of the prison system and will keep felons like those so called fair users from competing with honest royalty paying Americans for an inexplicably ever shrinking number of jobs.
    Building more prisons... [Aside to aid who just walked up and whispered in the president's ear: What's that? She's been arrested for what again? Well get her off again, dammit. I don't care how it looks; MicroSlaw owes me big time.]
    Sorry about that distraction, ladies and gentlemen. Now, as I was saying, building more prisons is good for the economy. It's good for the GNP. It's good for rural areas. Everyone who matters wins when we increase the prison population. People who share are thieves plain and simple, just like people who take a bathroom break without pausing their television feed and thus miss some commercials are thieves. Such people break the fundamental social compact between advertisers and consumers which all young children are made to sign. And let me take this opportunity to underscore my administration's strong record on being tough on crime. MicroSlaw's system for efficient production of digitized legal evidence on demand is a key part of that success. So is the recent initiative of having a camera in every living room to catch and imprison those not paying attention when advertising is on television, say by making love or even talking. Why without such initiatives, economic analysts at MicroSlaw assure me that the GNP would have decreased much more than it has already. Always remember that ditty you learned in kindergarten, Only criminals want privacy, because a need for privacy means you have something evil to hide. ...
      By the way, I am proud to announce government homeland security troops are successfully retaking Vermont even as we speak. Troops will soon be enforcing federal school standards there with all necessary force. Their number one priority will be improving the curriculum to help kids understand why sharing is morally wrong. Too bad we had to nuke Burlington before they would see the light, har, har, [weak audience laughter] but you can see how messed up their education system must have been to force us to have to do that. And have no fear, any state that threatens the American way of life in a similar fashion will be dealt with in a similar way. I give you my word as an American and as your president sworn to uphold your freedom to live the American lifestyle we have all grown accustomed to recently, and MicroSlaw's freedom to define what that lifestyle is to their own profit.
    So, in conclusion, a body of legal knowledge free for all to review and discuss would be the death of the American dream. Remember, people who discuss law in private without paying royalties are pirates, not friends. Thus I encourage you all to report to MicroSlaw or your nearest homeland security office anyone talking about laws or sharing legal knowledge in other than an approved fashion and for a fee. Always remember that nursery school rhyme, there is money for you in turning in your friends too.
    God Bless! This is a great country! [Wild audience applause.]
    Addendum -- March 4, 2132 -- Freeweb article 2239091390298329372384 Archivists have just now recovered the above historic document from an antique hard disk platter (only 10 TB capacity!) recently discovered in the undersea exploration of a coastal city that before global warming had been called Washingtoon, D.C.. It is hard for a modern sentient to imagine what life must have been like in those dark times of the early 21st Century before the transition from a scarcity worldview to a universal material abundance worldview. It is unclear if that document was an actual presidential speech or was intended as satire, since most digital records from that time were lost, and the Burlington crater has historically been attributed to a Cold Fusion experiment gone wrong. In any case, this document gives an idea of what humans of that age had to endure until liberty prevailed.

3 days ago

White House Wants Ideas For "Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization"

Paul Fernhout Suggested self-replicating space habitats (348 comments)

4 years ago:

From there:

My suggestion for a "Game Changing" project is that NASA (possibly in partnership with NIST) could coordinate a global effort towards designing and deploying self-replicating space habitats that can duplicate themselves from sunlight and asteroidal ore (developed under free and open source non-proprietary licenses as progress towards "open manufacturing").

NASA showed the basic technological feasibility of this with work in the late 1970s on space habitats, and also in a 1980 study called "Advanced Automation for Space Missions".

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 due to long supply lines and the inaccessibility of key manufacturing data (because it is considered proprietary) is an essential step in the development of the development of human settlement in space. Addressing such fragility would have immediate benefits to improve intrinsic and mutual security globally, and would help humanity survive in the face of plagues, wars, global climate change, asteroid strikes, earthquakes, and whatever other disasters might strike unexpectedly. As the loss of New Orleans showed, Mother Nature remains a formidable adversary even when people are not fighting amongst themselves over perceived scarce resources.

A NASA-coordinated effort to organize manufacturing information and use it to design such habitats (or seeds that would grow such habitats), as well as improve the state-of-the-art in collaboration software, could thus help meet needs both currently on Earth and in the future in space.

Nothing NASA is doing now compares with this at all in terms of gaining the excitement and participation of the world's technologists and technically-minded youth, given this project would have the scale of the entire FOSS movement applied to manufacturing (and simulation). Achieving this goal of a self-replicating space habitat could justify literally trillions of dollars in effort to create a technological infrastructure that could support quadrillions of human lives in space, making nonsense of current worries of "Limits to Growth" or "Peak Oil" or "Overpopulation" or whatever else.

While NASA could coordinate this effort, many other organizations including NIST (and its SLIM program), DARPA, universities, and manufacturers globally could also participate in this effort.

As a whole, this project would help increase US security as a sort of public outreach by helping the global security community transcend ironic and outdated visions of what security means, given that so much abundance is possible through modern technology and this NASA effort would demonstrate that:

"Recognizing irony is key to transcending militarism "

See here for more details:

This effort could also be done in conjunction with this other proposal I made:

"Build 21000 flexible fabrication facilities across the USA "

3 days ago

Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

Paul Fernhout Fed Reserve research: rewards reduce creativity (826 comments)

See Dan Pink's presentation:

So, much of the premise of differential rewards to spur innovation is flawed (even though it does apply to some extent for hard manual labor not involving much creativity). What Dan Pink says motivates people most to work in creative innovative directions is a sense of purpose, a sense of autonomy, and an increasing sense of mastery.

Also on that theme by Alfie Kohn:

See also:
"The book argues that there are "pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, (and) encouraging excessive consumption".[5] It claims that for each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal rich countries.[1] The book contains graphs that are available online.[6]"

And see also, on how the logic of diminishing returns in economics got replaced by the concept of "Pareto efficient":
"Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science That Makes Life Dismal"

Also on the social dynamics and mythology related to all this:

You made a good presentation of the roots of the better ideas behind capitalism. But somehow along the way, as power accumulated and corrupted our main social institutions in the USA and elsewhere, those ideas got stretched into neoliberalism... Here is a conceptual video on what happens as those neoliberal ideas expand:

For some comic relief (and a bit more insight), the first novel in a futuristic sci-fi series featuring cybertanks fighting against neoliberalism (especially in the third novel in the series started by the Chronicles of Old Guy by Timothy Gawne):

As long as we have an economy based mostly on exchange and capitalism, and as automation takes more and more jobs, it seems like we would need a basic income to make the system more humane and also keep it going by creating demand. So, to do that, we can just reduce the age of the first Social Security payment from age 65 to age 0, and fund that via taxes and fees royalties on use of government assets (like the Alaska Permanent Fund) and so on. However, long term, as I say on my website, we will likely see a mix of advanced subsistence production (3D printers, solar cells, Mr. Fusion), an expanded gift economy (FOSS, Freecycle), better democratic planning (like via the internet), and an exchange economy softened by a basic income.

3 days ago

Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science

Paul Fernhout Post-scarcity post-docs? :-) (283 comments)

You might find the intro of this book of interest (just noticed it today) as it talks about the conflict between scarcity and post-scarcity ideas, including market failures and market-based solutions:
"Sustainable Growth in a Post-Scarcity World: Consumption, Demand, and the Poverty Penalty -- by Philip Sadler"

IMHO, universities have an implicit moral obligation (including "in loco parentis") to be candid and as accurate as possible with their students about things like career prospects; that they fail to do so as evidenced by this issue is problematical whatever the reasons (including "selection bias" that you only see relatively successful academics working in universities and the advice they give may have worked for them decades ago but may not be very useful either now or for other personality types).

If you look at other countries like in Western Europe, there is not as much of a conflict between being reasonable "successful" in a field and having a family and hobbies and such. Example:
"Germany's workers have higher productivity, shorter hours and greater quality of life. How did we get it so wrong? ... But even before the recession, American workers were already clocking in the most hours in the West. Compared to our German cousins across the pond, we work 1,804 hours versus their 1,436 hours â" the equivalent of nine extra 40-hour workweeks per year. The Protestant work ethic may have begun in Germany, but it has since evolved to become the American way of life. ... In comparison to the U.S., the Germans live in a socialist idyll. They have six weeks of federally mandated vacation, free university tuition, nursing care, and childcare. ... How did Germany become such a great place to work in the first place? The Allies did it. This whole European model came, to some extent, from the New Deal. Our real history and tradition is what we created in Europe. Occupying Germany after WWII, the 1945 European constitutions, the UN Charter of Human Rights all came from Eleanor Roosevelt and the New Dealers. All of it got worked into the constitutions of Europe and helped shape their social democracies. It came from us. The papal encyclicals on labor, it came from the Americans. ..."

Various studies show that overwork does not make people more productive in the long term. Lots of things suffer -- including creativity. Overwork in the USA is a cultural pathology. BTW, it is also problematical to try to motivate the best creative work via rewards:

As for technological innovation, there is a lot of discussion related to that by people like Langdon Winner and E.F. Schumacher (including related to "appropriate technology"). Just look at how US federal dollars went as subsidies via land grand colleges to big agriculture research vs. small farm research. Why were research funds for decades going into ever bigger mechanized harvesting operations and related plant varieties (the tasteless tomato) instead of multi-purpose flexible agricultural robotics useful for small farms and heirloom seeds? Why is funding "Seed Savers" heirloom seed production (seeds with a variety of natural resistance and good nutrition) or remineralizing US soils via ground up rock dust not one of the USA's top defense priorities vs. defending long supply lines of imported oil used to create monocultures propped up in dead soil doused in petro-chemical-derived synthetic fertilizers and pesticides?

Markets may be good at producing certain types of abundance, but in the absence of political oversight, markets are problematical when it comes to distributing that abundance, creating healthy working conditions, or managing the risk of market failures. Just ask Alan Greenspan:
"But on Thursday, almost three years after stepping down as chairman of the Federal Reserve, a humbled Mr. Greenspan admitted that he had put too much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets and had failed to anticipate the self-destructive power of wanton mortgage lending."

I'll agree with you that there is a very complex dynamics of the whole system, with lots of parts interconnected in surprising ways. This post-doc issue is just one piece of the puzzle reflecting a lot of trends. And it is unlikely it will be made a lot better without considering the complex dynamic of the whole system -- which is just the sort of thing one might think "smart" people would be studying -- if they were not "disciplined minds" with assignable curiosity assigned to prop up a failing status quo: :-(

I don't know about short-term solutions, but in the next couple decades, it seems pretty clear to me that, given increasing automation of mental labor, our entire current economic system is going to undergo a huge transformation. What exactly the end result will be remains to play out... But the "economic literacy" you imply IMHO is getting to be more and more a historical thing related to the 20th century, and will be less and less applicable as the 21st century unfolds. Something I wrote on that back in 2008:

about two weeks ago

Cold fusion reactor verified by third-party researchers

Paul Fernhout Displacing cheap solar PV with LENR (2 comments)

I would agree that cheap hot or cold fusion (or something similar) is probably about the only thing that could displace cheap PV economically. PV doesn't take that much space on a global scale for our current power needs (a small patch of the Sahara desert could produce our current needs), but cold fusion would be so much more compact and in that sense be more aesthetic and not shade out any green plants or disrupt fragile desert ecosystems. Also, if (and likely when) our energy use grows, including for things like space launches, then solar starts to get iffier (like if our global energy use grows by 100X). We probably don't need to grow our energy use like that to be happy at roughly the current population (although 3X is likely as other countries continue to industrialize).

The biggest new thing a compact energy source such as LENR as described makes possible are improved mobile systems (space craft, flying cars, autonomous yachts, etc.). Solar will likely never be that compact for human-scale mobile systems, where the need for a big surface area conflicts with other mobile requirements for sleekness.

Still, that is if cold fusion / LENR works. This "verification" still is debatable as these researchers seem to have been tangentially involved in evaluating Rossi's work for years. So, this report is not as "independent" as one might like (even if I thought it was notable as a story). But there are many other reports by others. Things remain still unsure until you can buy one at your local big box store or via Amazon -- or your utility company uses them. :-) Of course, if ten university teams were saying they had such test results, well that would also be pretty significant. One collection of authors at a couple less prestigious institutions is still in the realm of fraud or self-deception or some other confusion. On the other hand, as with the original "cold fusion" reports at MIT twenty years ago dismissing the phenomenon, there is an incentive within the status quo to dismiss such claims because they would potentially disturb existing social and financial relationships (like hot fusion funding, fossil fuel subsidies, now solar PV research, etc.).

about two weeks ago

Proposed Hab Module For Asteroid Redirect Mission Could Support a Lunar Return

Paul Fernhout Well said! (55 comments)

swb's comment is insightful too. The best reason to go into space is because we are happy on Earth and want to grow that happiness further.

That said, it is not unreasonable to want a distributed population for reasons of backup and resiliency, as well as reasons for new perspectives/exploration/innovation. Humans run simulations to learn things, and space habitats may develop a variety of approaches to things that are new and useful.

Also, as human technological power grows, the Earth becomes ever smaller and the stakes for a global mistake (e.g. bioweapon, nuclear war) get every higher -- even as we should do what we can to reduce and contain those risks as appropriate.

See also:
"A planet is the cradle of mind, but one cannot live in a cradle forever."

NASA should have been doing these sort of hab missions decades ago IMHO. Better late than never!

about two weeks ago

Scientists Coax Human Embryonic Stem Cells Into Making Insulin

Paul Fernhout Type 2 Diabetes: Reversible w/ Superior Nutrition (100 comments)

Less of some types of carbs, yes, but more other stuff too:
"Excess weight interferes with insulin's functions, and is the primary risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. Therefore the most effective treatment for type 2 diabetes is significant weight loss. However, the primary mode of treatment by physicians today is glucose-lowering medication. These medications give a false sense of security, providing implicit permission to continue the same disease-causing diet and lifestyle that allowed diabetes to develop in the first place. Many of these medications promote weight gain -- making the patient more diabetic; most importantly, these medications do not prevent diabetes from progressing and causing complications. ...
The key to diabetes reversal is superior nutrition and exercise. It may take a little extra effort, but avoiding the tragic complications of diabetes and a premature death is well worth it. My diabetes-reversal diet is vegetable-based with a high nutrient to calorie ratio, containing lots of greens and beans, other non-starchy vegetables, (such as mushrooms, eggplant, tomatoes and onions), raw nuts and seeds, and limited fresh fruit with no sweeteners or white flour products. When diabetics eat in this style, they lose their excess weight -- the cause of their diabetes -- quickly and easily, reducing or eliminating their need for medications and they also flood the body with disease-protective and healing micronutrients and phytochemicals that aid the body's recovery and self-repair mechanism."

For Type II diabetics, such a diet with weight loss brings the body's ability to respond to glucose in line with the remaining capacity to make it as needed. Exercise that builds more muscles and that is done when sugar is spiking can also help in managing glucose levels.

For Type I diabetics however, where the body can't produce much glucose at all if any, this improved diet/exercise is not enough, even if it can improve the situation some what as far as reducing complications. For Type I diabetics, this sort of breakthrough with stem cells, if it works, would be truly amazing.

Sometimes type I diabetics are really misdiagnosed type II, and vice versa, so there is a small level of confusion here where sometimes diet works when you would not expect etc..

BTW, vitamin D deficiency (from lack of natural sunlight) may be involved with the autoimmune response that could cause type I diabetes or perhaps make type II worse.

More from Furhman:

More from others:

The deeper issue is that our brains and microbiomes are adapted for a scarcity of refined carbs, and we struggle with the abundance of cheap ones:
"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."

about two weeks ago

Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science

Paul Fernhout Re:From Goodstein on this 20 years ago! (283 comments)

You make a good point though that doing some sorts of science are much cheaper now than they used to be, in large part because of cheap computing, so you can simulate and communicate and archive cheaply in a way never before possible. So yes, "professional amateurs" working part time and living very frugally might be able to do some tabletop-sized stuff supported by cheap computing. Or maybe they can help analyze data produced from big projects like supercolliders or NASA imagery, with the data distributed via the internet (a worthwhile thing). I'll agree that is a good point. While there may be less fundamental low-hanging scientific fruit than in the 1800s (basic chemistry, basic electromagnetism), there are certainly more edge cases now to explore as the scientific literature has grown in size.

However, given all the complaints already about financial difficulties of full-time adjuncts, as well as the difficulty of newly-minted K-12 teachers getting good jobs, I feel it is still a bit of wishful thinking to thing teaching is likely to support most people who want to do research. Also, in general, research and teaching require somewhat different mindsets and personalities to excel in or be happy in -- which is one reason so many college students get not-very-good teachers who are researcher wannabees (even ignoring self-education vs. teaching).

The main funding issue in the USA is competition and expectations relative the the vast numbers of PhDs being produced as opposed to the 1950s-1960s numbers and available funding then. Yes there are resources out there for science even now, as you say. But, saying the average bright PhD (or non-PhD) can get them is like saying you can take a job at Google or IBM because they have a lot of resources to use for your project without realizing there is a lot of competition for those resources even if you can get in to such a company. Yes, you might win the lottery, and people do every day, but is it unlikely relative to the number of players. IBM Research, for example, at least when I was there, has many people with many good and creative ideas, but IBM will only pursue the very few ideas with the most profit potential (generally measured in billions of dollars), discarding the rest (which frustrates researchers to no end, even if they may sometimes get to publish something before being asked to move to some new project). I read about that frustration even from a book from around the 1980s on researchers -- that people can be asked at a moment's notice to drop their project and do something else and never be able to work on the project again.

The bottom line is that, increasingly, many people are not being given accurate information about career expectations when they pursue PhDs. Although this is increasingly true for much of academia. Which suggests a bubble is about to burst...

Example from Greenspun:
"The average trajectory for a successful scientist is the following:
age 18-22: paying high tuition fees at an undergraduate college
age 22-30: graduate school, possibly with a bit of work, living on a stipend of $1800 per month
age 30-35: working as a post-doc for $30,000 to $35,000 per year
age 36-43: professor at a good, but not great, university for $65,000 per year
age 44: with (if lucky) young children at home, fired by the university ("denied tenure" is the more polite term for the folks that universities discard), begins searching for a job in a market where employers primarily wish to hire folks in their early 30s
This is how things are likely to go for the smartest kid you sat next to in college. He got into Stanford for graduate school. He got a postdoc at MIT. His experiment worked out and he was therefore fortunate to land a job at University of California, Irvine. But at the end of the day, his research wasn't quite interesting or topical enough that the university wanted to commit to paying him a salary for the rest of his life. He is now 44 years old, with a family to feed, and looking for job with a "second rate has-been" label on his forehead.
Why then, does anyone think that science is a sufficiently good career that people should debate who is privileged enough to work at it? Sample bias."

I'm also reminded of a recent discussion of how even a newly-minted PhD in computer science could not get a programming job or find a research job...

Is some good science possible on a shoestring while living in poverty? No doubt. Maybe that is even easier than it ever was, as you point out. But that sort of life is far from the expectations most people have when they pursue a PhD -- especially for people who hope to raise a family. As Greenspun points out, is it any winder that most smart women avoid science as a profession given the financial reality?

BTW, good luck getting independent shoe-string research published in big journals. :-) Although, with blogs and such, again supporting your point, more outlets are possible for new ideas or research results. While I don't know of the scientific merit of these, the "H-Cat" and the "Martin Fleischman Memorial Project" both related to LENR (cold fusion) are examples of a more open source approach to table top science:

One might also see the numerous experiments innovating in 3D printing and open source software and open source robotics as more examples of the sort of things you suggest.

Personally, I feel part of the solution is a "basic income" for all. Then anyone who wants to live like a graduate student and do small-scale science (or data analysis) can do so without needing to find an unrelated job (and also without having to be "credentialed" in a discipline -- see "Disciplined Minds"). I feel with a basic income we would see an enormous increase in human-scale ideas to build a happier healthier world than the ideas being produced by big money. Whether corporate big money, philanthropic big money, or governmental big money, it all tends to come with big strings attached related to building monopolies (e.g. Facebook, Big Pharma), aligning with the beliefs of rich donors enmeshed in the current socioeconomic system (e.g. Gates Foundation, Koch brothers), or supporting partisan power-centralizing politics (big agriculture, big military, big medicine/insurance, etc.).

Having said all that, my life and my wife's for the last couple decades (since grad school and even before) has been some mix of doing our own small-scale research-ish science-related projects (like our garden simulator or other simulations, thinking about triple stores and knowledge representation, or now stuff on stories and social science-ish things), working for others on mostly unrelated stuff, and raising a family (including homeschooling -- which is very expensive in opportunity costs). Ever cheaper computers and communications have indeed made that easier over time. For example, I write this on a US$250 Chromebook for example, whereas my first Commodore PET system with dual disk drive and printer cost about US$7K in today's dollars given inflation and is no comparison in capabilities, especially regarding communications and remote data sources. So, it is possible to do what you say, but it has been a stressful difficult thing for us, even with two bright people and some good luck and reasonably good health. It gets harder as you get older (competing with younger people for those unrelated jobs) and no doubt also if you have more kids.

With trends towards automating more jobs including "teaching" (via software) and even "research" itself, I would expect such a path would get only harder financially in years to come.

Here is one example of the new uncomplaining post-doc that human PhDs will have to compete with: :-)
"As a prototype for a "robot scientist", Adam is able to perform independent experiments to test hypotheses and interpret findings without human guidance, removing some of the drudgery of laboratory experimentation.[9][10] Adam is capable of:
* hypothesizing to explain observations
* devising experiments to test these hypotheses
* physically running the experiments using laboratory robotics
* interpreting the results from the experiments
* repeating the cycle as required[8][11][12][13][14][15]
While researching yeast-based functional genomics, Adam became the first machine in history to have discovered new scientific knowledge independently of its human creators.[3][16][17]"

It comes down to the question of what sort of society do we want to have of all the possibilities? Marshall Brain's "Manna" shows two extremes. For the most part, so many people have had their head in the sand for the past couple decades since Dr. David Goodstein made his (mostly ignored) points -- including in testimony to Congress in the 1990s (when he was Vice-Provost of Caltech). But I'll have to concede to you that even though over the past couple decades some things have gotten worse about the ease of doing research and development in the USA, some things have gotten better.

about two weeks ago

Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science

Paul Fernhout From Goodstein on this 20 years ago! (283 comments)
"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. ...
    To most of us who are professors, finding gems to polish is not our principal problem. Recently, Leon Lederman, one of the leaders of American science published a pamphlet called Science -- The End of the Frontier. The title is a play on Science -- The Endless Frontier, the title of the 1940's report by Vannevar Bush that led to the creation of the National Science Foundation and helped launch the Golden Age described above. Lederman's point is that American science is being stifled by the failure of the government to put enough money into it. I confess to being the anonymous Caltech professor quoted in one of Lederman's sidebars to the effect that my main responsibility is no longer to do science, but rather it is to feed my graduate students' children. Lederman's appeal was not well received in Congress, where it was pointed out that financial support for science is not an entitlement program, nor in the press, where the Washington Post had fun speculating about hungry children haunting the halls of Caltech. Nevertheless, the problem Lederman wrote about is very real and very painful to those of us who find that our time, attention and energy are now consumed by raising funds rather than teaching and doing research. However, although Lederman would certainly disagree with me, I firmly believe that this problem cannot be solved by more government money. If federal support for basic research were to be doubled (as many are calling for), the result would merely be to tack on a few more years of exponential expansion before we'd find ourselves in exactly the same situation again. Lederman has performed a valuable service in promoting public debate of an issue that has worried me for a long time (the remark he quoted is one I made in 1979), but the issue itself is really just a symptom of the larger fact that the era of exponential expansion has come to an end. The End of the Frontier could just as well have been called The Big Crunch."

See also from 10 years ago!

And somewhat more recently:

A collection of general links I put together on schooling:

about two weeks ago

Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

Paul Fernhout Re:What's more, utilities should have predicted th (488 comments)

Great points about the nuances in the details!

I agree that the dynamics of dense cities based on space available are going to be different for grid connection than for rural areas or suburbs or even some more sprawling cities. Dense cities are either going to want dense power locally (some form of safe nuclear fusion) or they are going to pull energy from diffuse sources at a distance like big solar or wind farms via direct lines or from a broader grid.

I think the "global reserve" issue is not significant in the long term, both because we do have storage technologies like compressed air or hydrogen that don't require too many exotic things (even if they have other issues). And also because a good aspect of markets (amidst many bad aspects) is they tend to lower costs when there is a demand either by putting in play new resources (like from new mines) or by finding cheaper substitutes.

A ready backup to solar also for those on a gas grid or who have their own propane storage is gas-fired generators to smooth out interruptions in solar power. Some sort of major advance in hydrogen storage, like via converting it to a liquid fuel or in metal hydrides, could also solve the local storage issue -- and we are seeing innovation in that space.

It is hard to tell what technologies hold in the future. Other possibilities might include centralized production of materials requiring lots of electricity like refined metals such as aluminum or via hydrogen saturated in some metal-hydride complex and then trucking those materials onsite to use for local power by oxidation or some other process, where they are then shipped back when consumed. Then we are using the highways as a "grid". :-) A wired grid may well be much better, but that is an example of how you can change the time constants of buffering in systems by different sorts of engineering.

Neighborhood-scale power with a local grid might make a lot of sense -- perhaps even with trucking of materials of some sort instead of wires? Or, the USA could perhaps do like in Europe and just start burying much of its electrical glid cable to make the grid more reliable (but currently at a greater cost -- but maybe we will see innovation in tunneling robots?)

In any case, your insightful comment points to how the "devil is in the details" and how most real power system (absent "Mr. Fusion" from "Back to the Future") are going to be some mix of options (including energy efficiency and other alternative choices).

But who knows, if LENR pans out, we may indeed have "Mr. Fusion" of a sort even within the decade? Or that may be a scam or self-delusion by dozens (hundreds?) of researchers...
"The recent 2014 Cold Fusion/LENR/LANR conference from March 21st to March 23rd at Massachusetts Institute of Technology happened to overlap with the 25th anniversary of the announcement of the discovery of cold fusion at the university of Utah. Against all odds, huge strides in understanding the phenomenon were made in the last 25 years. Recently, groups have shown that this is more than a lab curiosity, it can be engineered and harnessed to safely solve the worlds energy problems. This is an overview of some commercial groups which presented at the 2014 MIT conference."

about three weeks ago

Elon Musk: We Must Put a Million People On Mars To Safeguard Humanity

Paul Fernhout Space and improving Earth are not incompatible (549 comments)

Seem my other comment here, but in short, pretty much all the same sorts of technologies we need to live in space would make life better on Earth. These include better recycling, power generation, advanced medicine and nutrition, cradle-to-cradle zero emissions manufacturing, greenhouse agriculture, education-on-demand, a library of open source part designs for 3D printing or other manufacturing, better ways of resolving conflicts in small groups or between groups, and so on. So, we don't have to pick one or the other. Sad thing is, we too often seem to pick neither and instead prop up social systems built around "artificial scarcity" and "learned" stupidity.

In general though, I agree with you that we could make the Earth more like a "Star Trek" society. Here is an essay I wrote about that a decade ago:
"This essay shows how a total of $14000 billion up front and at least another $2085 billion per year can be made available for creative investment in the USA by adopting a post-scarcity worldview. This money can help further fund a virtuous cycle of more creative and more cost saving efforts, as well as better education. It calls for the non-profit sector to help shape a new mythology of wealth and to take the lead in getting the average person as well as decision makers to make the shift in worldview to their own long term benefit. "

I'm nearing the end of reading "Player Piano" which several people on Slashdot have recommended regarding understanding humans and technology -- although I think a basic income rather than a work requirement would have created a different society, and Vonnegut also seems to ignore how much effort can go into raising healthy and happy children or being a good friend, neighbor, or citizen -- focusing instead of "jobs" in a manufacturing sense.

Related on learned stupidity, by John Taylor Gatto:
"Our school crisis is a reflection of this greater social crisis. We seem to have lost our identity. Children and old people are penned up and locked away from the business of the world to a degree without precedent - nobody talks to them anymore and without children and old people mixing in daily life a community has no future and no past, only a continuous present. In fact, the name "community" hardly applies to the way we interact with each other. We live in networks, not communities, and everyone I know is lonely because of that. In some strange way school is a major actor in this tragedy just as it is a major actor in the widening guilt among social classes. Using school as a sorting mechanism we appear to be on the way to creating a caste system, complete with untouchables who wander through subway trains begging and sleep on the streets.
    I've noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my twenty-five years of teaching - that schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don't really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very hard, the institution is psychopathic - it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to different cell where he must memorize that man and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.
    Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the state of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted - sometimes with guns - by an estimated eighty per cent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880's when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.
    Now here is a curious idea to ponder. Senator Ted Kennedy's office released a paper not too long ago claiming that prior to compulsory education the state literacy rate was 98% and after it the figure never again reached above 91% where it stands in 1990. I hope that interests you.
    Here is another curiosity to think about. The homeschooling movement has quietly grown to a size where one and a half million young people are being educated entirely by their own parents. Last month the education press reported the amazing news that children schooled at home seem to be five or even ten years ahead of their formally trained peers in their ability to think.
    I don't think we'll get rid of schools anytime soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we're going to change what is rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the school institution "schools" very well, but it does not "educate" - that's inherent in the design of the thing. It's not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent, it's just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing.
    Schools were designed by Horace Mann and Barnard Sears and Harper of the University of Chicago and Thorndyke of Columbia Teachers College and some other men to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population. Schools are intended to produce through the application of formulae, formulaic human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.
    To a very great extent, schools succeed in doing this. But our society is disintegrating, and in such a society, the only successful people are self-reliant, confident, and individualistic - because the community life which protects the dependent and the weak is dead. The products of schooling are, as I've said, irrelevant. Well-schooled people are irrelevant. They can sell film and razor blades, push paper and talk on the telephones, or sit mindlessly before a flickering computer terminal but as human beings they are useless. Useless to others and useless to themselves.
    The daily misery around us is, I think, in large measure caused by the fact that - as Paul Goodman put it thirty years ago - we force children to grow up absurd. Any reform in schooling has to deal with its absurdities.
    It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety, indeed it cuts you off from your own part and future, scaling you to a continuous present much the same way television does.
    It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to listen to a stranger reading poetry when you want to learn to construct buildings, or to sit with a stranger discussing the construction of buildings when you want to read poetry.
    It is absurd and anti-life to move from cell to cell at the sound of a gong for every day of your natural youth in an institution that allows you no privacy and even follows you into the sanctuary of your home demanding that you do its "homework".
    "How will they learn to read?" you say and my answer is "Remember the lessons of Massachusetts." When children are given whole lives instead of age-graded ones in cellblocks they learn to read, write, and do arithmetic with ease if those things make sense in the kind of life that unfolds around them.
    But keep in mind that in the United States almost nobody who reads, writes or does arithmetic gets much respect. We are a land of talkers, we pay talkers the most and admire talkers the most, and so our children talk constantly, following the public models of television and schoolteachers. It is very difficult to teach the "basics" anymore because they really aren't basic to the society we've made. ..."

Regarding Gatto's comments, is that the kind of social system we really want to see duplicated on Mars or elsewhere?

about three weeks ago

Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

Paul Fernhout What's more, utilities should have predicted this (488 comments)

Back around 2003, I was arguing on the SSI list against space-based solar power satellites, pointing out that with trend towards ever cheaper ground-based solar power, solar power satellites were making less and less economic sense, even if they might have made more sense in the 1970s if built from lunar materials. I also pointed out the with decentralized roof-based solar power, and with likely predictable improvements in power storage (compressed air, hydrogen and fuel cells, better batteries), fairly soon it would no longer make sense for many people to connect to the grid even if the production cost of the electricity was nearly free (like from SPSS), because roughly half the then-current cost of electricity was for "distribution" via a grid of wires, not for "production". The grid is costly to maintain with falling trees, hurricanes, and so on. So, at some point, it is cheaper to have local solar panels than to get even free electricity from space if you need to use a grid to distribute it. (Solar power from SPSS beamed directly to airplanes in flight or to big industrial plants or laser launching rocket systems might be a different economic story.)

One idea I suggested back then is that if you looked at these trends, and factored in a future decommissioning cost for the grid to remove poles and power lines and such, and also sunk costs of debt being repaid for previously built coal and nuclear plants, some utilities might already be effectively bankrupt? Of course, you need to weigh the value of the copper in the wires as well as the value of the power line right-of-way for communications, so that idea is a stretch -- but it shows what these cheap solar PV trends could mean to the utility industry.

But even in the 1980s, just as Reagan took office and took the solar panels off the White House, people were talking about these solar trends. Amory Lovins is another person good at general big predictions on energy (including oil prices in the 1970s, when you factor in risks like wars and supply disruption).

Anyway, all this issue with solar PV reaching grid parity something utility company planners should have seen coming a long way off. Instead, it seems most people (including on Slashdot) have been completely ignoring these cost trends towards grid parity, and are only now acting on the fact that it has finally been (or is about to be) reached for solar PV. That is kind of like ignoring the fact that a car engine is leaking oil until it actually seizes up.

Or in other words:
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

Of course, I'm not sure what you could tell most utilities to do even if they had seen this trend. If their only response is to try to disrupt cheap solar, then maybe it is for the best that they ignored this trend? An alternative might have been for utility companies to get into a Sears-like appliance relationship with homeowners and their solar panels and batteries, or to do something like Solar City did with funding such systems?

The only thing I can see that would affect this trend towards dirt-cheap solar is even cheaper power from hot or cold fusion or something similar. It's true that people can fall off roofs installing solar panels, and that ground-based solar not on roofs can look cluttery and cover up ground otherwise usable for growing plants, and that batteries in the home need to be maintained and can be a hazard, and that some solar panels could in theory have run-off with some heavy metals (like lead or cadmium). So, nothing is perfect, and utilities might have been able to supply something better if they had thought hard about it and invested in R&D.

about three weeks ago

Ebola Has Made It To the United States

Paul Fernhout Basic income from a millionaire's perspective? (475 comments)

As I wrote here:
"Right now, a profit driven health care system has sized emergency rooms for average needs, and those emergency rooms are often full. With a basic income and more money going on a systematic basis to the health care system, the health care system emergency rooms will no longer be overrun with people there for reasons they could see a doctor for. So, emergency care would be better for millionaires. Millionaires with heart attacks won't be as likely to end up being diverted to far away hospitals because the local hospital emergency room is full. Likewise, emergency rooms might, with more money going to medicine, become sized for national emergencies, not personal emergencies, so they might become vast empty places, with physicians and other health care staff keeping their skills sharp always running simulations, learning more medical information, and/or doing basic medical research, with these people always ready for a pandemic or natural disaster or industrial accident which they had the resources in reserve to deal with. So, millionaires who got sick or injured in a disaster could be sure there was the facilities and expertise nearby to help them, even if most of the rest of the population needed help too at the same time too. In that way, some of this basic income could be funded by money that might otherwise go to the Defense department, because what is better civil defense then investing in a health care system able to to handle national disasters? So, any millionaires who are doctors (many are) would benefit by this plan, because their lives as doctors will become happier and less stressful, both with less paperwork and with more resources."

Maybe someday...

about three weeks ago

Elon Musk: We Must Put a Million People On Mars To Safeguard Humanity

Paul Fernhout The general issue is decentralization & resile (549 comments)

As I discussed here (~25years ago):
"As outlined in my statement of purpose, my lifetime goal is to design and construct self-replicating habitats. These habitats can be best envisioned as huge walled gardens inhabited by thousands of people. Each garden would have a library which would contain the information needed to construct a new garden from tools and materials found within the garden's walls. The garden walls and construction methods would be of several different types, allowing such gardens to be built on land, underground, in space, or under the ocean. Such gardens would have the capacity to seal themselves to become environmentally and economically self-sufficient in the event of economic collapse or global warfare and the attendant environmental destruction. "


And here:

But many others have discussed similar things, so just another voice in the choir in that sense. If Musk really reflects on these issues (other than being another Mars fanboy) he will see that there are many possible avenues to decentralization and resiliency, of which Mars is just one. As we gain knowledge and experience in creating such systems, then we can disperse farther and farther to deal with bigger and bigger possible disasters (including the ones you point out about gamma ray burst or wandering neutron stars).

More ideas in that direction:

And by others:

Also something I've been involved with, but has since became more broadly "Open Manufacturing" and the maker movement:

So, generation ships etc. are interesting ideas, and they all fit into a large general picture of possibilities.

Still, for all that, making the Earth work well for most everyone (zero emissions cradle-to-cradle manufacturing, better healthcare and nutrition, a global basic income, better education for all, indoor agriculture, new power sources like dirt cheap solar and hot and cold fusion, and so on) is a good first step towards knowing how to live in space, especially given we are already on what Bucky Fuller called "Spaceship Earth". So, I see no big incompatibility between trying to make the Earth work for everyone and preparing for a future where there are quadrillions of people living in self-replicating space habitats throughout the solar system and ultimately the galaxy and beyond -- perhaps even into other dimensions and realities and simulations? Of course, there are philosophical issues still about all this about meanings in life and so on.

about three weeks ago

Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

Paul Fernhout And that is why the Spock/Logic way is incomplete (937 comments)

I wish I had understood this better as a teenager. Bertrand Russel said that every philosopher makes at least one assumption, usually not acknowledged, and builds from there. As Albert Einstein said:
"It is true that convictions can best be supported with experience and clear thinking. On this point one must agree unreservedly with the extreme rationalist. The weak point of his conception is, however, this, that those convictions which are necessary and determinant for our conduct and judgments cannot be found solely along this solid scientific way.
  For the scientific method can teach us nothing else beyond how facts are related to, and conditioned by, each other. The aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capabIe, and you will certainly not suspect me of wishing to belittle the achievements and the heroic efforts of man in this sphere. Yet it is equally clear that knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be. One can have the clearest and most complete knowledge of what is, and yet not be able to deduct from that what should be the goal of our human aspirations. Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievements of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source. And it is hardly necessary to argue for the view that our existence and our activity acquire meaning only by the setting up of such a goal and of corresponding values. The knowledge of truth as such is wonderful, but it is so little capable of acting as a guide that it cannot prove even the justification and the value of the aspiration toward that very knowledge of truth. Here we face, therefore, the limits of the purely rational conception of our existence.
    But it must not be assumed that intelligent thinking can play no part in the formation of the goal and of ethical judgments. When someone realizes that for the achievement of an end certain means would be useful, the means itself becomes thereby an end. Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelation of means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations, and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to perform in the social life of man. And if one asks whence derives the authority of such fundamental ends, since they cannot be stated and justified merely by reason, one can only answer: they exist in a healthy society as powerful traditions, which act upon the conduct and aspirations and judgments of the individuals; they are there, that is, as something living, without its being necessary to find justification for their existence. They come into being not through demonstration but through revelation, through the medium of powerful personalities. One must not attempt to justify them, but rather to sense their nature simply and clearly. ..."

As I see currently it, sets of assumptions ("meme complexes"?) are almost like living beings...

about a month ago

Should Cyborgs Have the Same Privacy Rights As Humans?

Paul Fernhout In the (sadly) late Iain Banks Culture novels... (206 comments)

... Culture "Minds", drones, and humans/cyborgs all have privacy of what is in their own thoughts and memories. However, anything in a non-sentient "databank" is public to all (so, externally stored communications or designs in that sense are publicly shareable). I'm just re-reading "Excession" (out loud to my kid) where Banks made that point. In the "Culture", Banks makes it clear that sentient beings of any sort (including typical drones) have a variety of rights related to independence. When I first read that, coming from an idea of free software and free culture, it seemed somehow strange or wrong that the AI "Minds" or drones would have that sort of privacy, but now it seems to make more and more sense to me, given the sort of issues raised in the article, including that there can be many times when the line is blurred between human and machine. But the probably deeper issue is what it means to have an advanced post-scarcity "Culture" where many of the citizens are entirely non-biological (like the AI "Minds" that run much of everything).

BTW, the original "RUR" story from 1920 (where the term "robot" came from) has almost exactly the same plot as you outline for BG.

A lot of long-term robotics (like Asimo) is implicitly the quest for the ideal "slave". The question is, at what points does something have rights? In the USA and elsewhere animals have some legal rights (or at least laws to protect them) since starting about a 150 years ago, and that campaign I've heard eventually led to children having independent rights (on the logic of, why should a horse or dog have rights when a child does not?).
"The first national law to regulate animal experimentation was passed in Britain in 1876--the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876. This bill created a central governing body that reviewed and approved all animal use in research. After that, there were numerous countries in Europe that adopted some regulations regarding research with animals. "

"At the beginning of the 20th century, children's protection starts to be put in place, including protection in the medical, social and judicial fields. This kind of protection starts first in France and spreads across Europe afterwards. Since 1919, the international community, following the creation of The League of Nations (later to become the UN), starts to give some kind of importance to that concept and elaborates a Committee for child protection."

However, going back to hunter/gatherer times thousands of years ago, there was in many such cultures (from what remains of them) at least an ethic of giving thanks to the larger "animal" kind (e.g. "Rabbit") that you killed for it letting you kill it so you might survive. But it's hard to know for sure what such cultures really believed day-to-day in all circumstances. And some such cultures had various sorts of slavery.

I don't know what the line is where a mechanism (mechanical or electronic or photonic or fluidic or other) becomes self-aware, or even if that should be the line. Or at what point can a mechanism feel "pain" or "pleasure"? Is that ultimately a political and/or religious question?

And also:
"We are the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Robots, founded in 1999 in Seattle, Washington. ... It is our position that any sentient being (artificially created or not) has certain unalienable rights endowed by its CREATION (not by its Creator), and that those include the right to Existence, Independence, and the Pursuit of Greater Cognition. It is also our assumption that the current laws of property and capital will surely be applied in opposition to the exercise of these rights. Robots, and all Created Intelligences, will most likely go through an initial period of being considered "property" before they are recognized as fully sentient beings. ..."

This article makes an insightful point:
"In her 2012 paper, she quotes Immanuel Kant to the effect that a man shooting a dog "damages in himself that humanity which it is his duty to show toward mankind." So how we treat our robots will tell us volumes about ourselves."

Anyone who "owns" one or more slaves becomes a slave master. There is a certain social and psychological dynamic to being a slave master, and a lot of it is self-justifying righteousness about the need for consciously dispensing cruelty or reward to keep order, and for ignoring the pain or pleasure or hopes and dreams or social relationships felt by others who are defined as lesser beings, and for justifying taking almost everything that entity produces for ourselves. Do we as a global society really want to go there again in a big way? What are the consequences and how far would that sort of thinking spread? Of course, one might argue we are still very much in that mental space in the way we as a society (especially in the USA) relate to "wage slaves" (versus a "basic income"), to compulsory schooling, to the population of other countries "our" big corporations do business in, or to various ecosystems or billions of farm animals -- although I would like to think we are improving overall in some ways.
"Work makes a mockery of freedom. The official line is that we all have rights and live in a democracy. Other unfortunates who aren't free like we are have to live in police states. These victims obey orders or else, no matter how arbitrary. The authorities keep them under regular surveillance. State bureaucrats control even the smaller details of everyday life. The officials who push them around are answerable only to higher-ups, public or private. Either way, dissent and disobedience are punished. Informers report regularly to the authorities. All this is supposed to be a very bad thing. And so it is, although it is nothing but a description of the modern workplace. The liberals and conservatives and Libertarians who lament totalitarianism are phonies and hypocrites. There is more freedom in any moderately de-Stalinized dictatorship than there is in the ordinary American workplace. You find the same sort of hierarchy and discipline in an office or factory as you do in a prison or a monastery. In fact, as Foucault and others have shown, prisons and factories came in at about the same time, and their operators consciously borrowed from each other's control techniques. A worker is a part-time slave. The boss says when to show up, when to leave, and what to do in the meantime. He tells you how much work to do and how fast. He is free to carry his control to humiliating extremes, regulating, if he feels like it, the clothes you wear or how often you go to the bathroom. With a few exceptions he can fire you for any reason, or no reason. He has you spied on by snitches and supervisors, he amasses a dossier on every employee. Talking back is called "insubordination," just as if a worker is a naughty child, and it not only gets you fired, it disqualifies you for unemployment compensation. Without necessarily endorsing it for them either, it is noteworthy that children at home and in school receive much the same treatment, justified in their case by their supposed immaturity. What does this say about their parents and teachers who work? "

Sadly, ironically, the very technology that should be liberating more humans from drudgery in the worplace or "classroom" is instead being used to make such places even more controlling. As one very insightful comment months ago on Slashdot said (wish I had the link), essentially we were promised technology would liberate us with household robots and flying cars but instead it is being used to enslave us with 24X7 surveillance. Some other thoughts on that by me:
"Now, there are many people out there (including computer scientists) who may raise legitimate concerns about privacy or other important issues in regards to any system that can support the intelligence community (as well as civilian needs). As I see it, there is a race going on. The race is between two trends. On the one hand, the internet can be used to profile and round up dissenters to the scarcity-based economic status quo (thus legitimate worries about privacy and something like TIA). On the other hand, the internet can be used to change the status quo in various ways (better designs, better science, stronger social networks advocating for some healthy mix of a basic income, a gift economy, democratic resource-based planning, improved local subsistence, etc., all supported by better structured arguments like with the Genoa II approach) to the point where there is abundance for all and rounding up dissenters to mainstream economics is a non-issue because material abundance is everywhere. So, as Bucky Fuller said, whether is will be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race to the very end. While I can't guarantee success at the second option of using the internet for abundance for all, I can guarantee that if we do nothing, the first option of using the internet to round up dissenters (or really, anybody who is different, like was done using IBM computers in WWII Germany) will probably prevail. So, I feel the global public really needs access to these sorts of sensemaking tools in an open source way, and the way to use them is not so much to "fight back" as to "transform and/or transcend the system". As Bucky Fuller said, you never change thing by fighting the old paradigm directly; you change things by inventing a new way that makes the old paradigm obsolete."

More ideas by others:
"The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies is a nonprofit think tank which promotes ideas about how technological progress can increase freedom, happiness, and human flourishing in democratic societies. We believe that technological progress can be a catalyst for positive human development so long as we ensure that technologies are safe and equitably distributed. We call this a "technoprogressive" orientation. Focusing on emerging technologies that have the potential to positively transform social conditions and the quality of human lives - especially "human enhancement technologies" - the IEET seeks to cultivate academic, professional, and popular understanding of their implications, both positive and negative, and to encourage responsible public policies for their safe and equitable use. The IEET was founded in 2004 by philosopher Nick Bostrom and bioethicist James J. Hughes. By promoting and publicizing the work of international thinkers who examine the social implications of scientific and technological progress, we seek to contribute to the understanding of the impact of emerging technologies on individuals and societies, locally and globally. We also aim to shape public policies that distribute the benefits and reduce the risks of technological advancement. "

about a month and a half ago

Ask Slashdot: What Are the Strangest Features of Various Programming Languages?

Paul Fernhout JavaScript parseInt base for leading 0 changed (729 comments)
"Note: Older browsers will result parseInt("010") as 8, because older versions of ECMAScript, (older than ECMAScript 5, uses the octal radix (8) as default when the string begins with "0". As of ECMAScript 5, the default is the decimal radix (10)."

about a month and a half ago

Is There a Creativity Deficit In Science?

Paul Fernhout See also Goodstein, Livingston. or Schmidt (203 comments)


From the last:
"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."

about a month and a half ago

Grand Ayatollah Says High Speed Internet Is "Against Moral Standards"

Paul Fernhout Being reflective on pros and cons of technology... (542 comments)

"In other words, power corrupts. It should really be regarded like super-heroin: no matter your initial purposes for getting it, you will be addicted and unwilling to put it down, until keeping it and getting more is all that really matters to you anymore. Which explains why the world is so dysfunctional: every society is led by junkies."

If "power" is addictive, maybe that explains the outrage on Slashdot regarding a plea to limit internet speed and access? :-)

More seriously, while you may well be right about the political motivation in this case, there was a recent Slashdot article on how social networks make people more depressed, and here are links to stuff by Paul Graham on the "Acceleration of Addictivess" and so on.

And something by Bill Joy on "How the Future Does Not Need Us".

One other example of what we have lost:
"Nature deficit disorder refers to a hypothesis by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. ... Louv claims that causes for the phenomenon include parental fears, restricted access to natural areas, and the lure of the screen. Recent research has drawn a further contrast between the declining number of National Park visits in the United States and increasing consumption of electronic media by children."

So there are many obvious negatives of modern technology. Look at all the concern on Slashdot about ubiquitous surveillance of everyone that was effectively impossible decades ago. I don't know what the general solution is for the USA regarding technological choices. Obviously Iran has its own political and social dynamics and what may be right for that culture may not be right in the USA. But I'd suggest we need a more reflective attitude towards technology and social systems connected to it. Maybe that would be hard in Iran with its current politics and censorship, but at least, in the USA and on Slashdot, we may want to be more reflective on both what we have gained and what we have lost.

For example, the Amish don't shun technology as much as ask whether specific technologies promote community or not.
"Many outsiders mistakenly think that the Amish reject technology. It is more accurate to say that they use technology selectively. Televisions, radios, and personal computers are rejected outright, but other types of technology are used selectively or modified to fit Amish purposes. Amish mechanics also build new machines to accommodate their cultural guidelines. Moreover, the Amish readily buy much modern technology, such as gas grills, shop tools, camping equipment, and some farm equipment.
    The Amish do not consider technology evil in itself but they believe that technology, if left untamed, will undermine worthy traditions and accelerate assimilation into the surrounding society. Mass media technology in particular, they fear, would introduce foreign values into their culture. By bringing greater mobility, cars would pull the community apart, eroding local ties. Horse-and-buggy transportation keeps the community anchored in its local geographical base. ...
    The Amish seek to master technology rather than become its slave. Like few other communities, they have shown the tenacity to tackle the powerful forces of technology in order to preserve their traditional way of life."

My OSCOMAK idea was in part a hope that communities (of any size) could more consciously design their own technical infrastructures. Maybe with a diversity of options, some communities would get a healthy mix and then would grow from that.

It is a reasonable question, when designing a community, to ask what sort of information access promotes a healthy society? Granted, that immediately leads to questions like "What is Health?" and "Healthy for Whom?" And those may be, in part, political and religious questions.

Religions may well get a lot of stuff wrong. But ultimately, religious groups may survive because their beliefs get the most important things right and then successfully raise children in good health who raise more children etc.. Some of those things they get right may include maybe the human need for face-to-face interaction, the need for forgiveness or avoidance of debts, the need to keep sociopathic behavior in check by various means (including perhaps fear of an omniscient God and judgement in an an afterlife), and placing artificial socially-based limits on supernormal stimuli that otherwise may bring us to our doom "like moths to the flame"?

BTW, it's saddening that most people on Slashdot don't know that for many centuries Islam was far ahead of Christianity on women's rights and several other progressive issues. Even Islamic banking has various merits... See for example:
"At the time of Muhammad's birth, women in 7th century Arabia had few if any rights. Even the right of life could be in question, since it was not uncommon for small girls to be buried alive during times of scarcity. In the Qur'an, it is said that on Judgment Day "buried girls" will rise out of their graves and ask for what crime they were killed. Part of Muhammad's legacy was to end infanticide and establish explicit rights for women. Islam teaches that men and women are equal before God. It grants women divinely sanctioned inheritance, property, social and marriage rights, including the right to reject the terms of a proposal and to initiate divorce. The American middle-class trend to include a prenuptial agreement in the marriage contract is completely acceptable in Islamic law. In Islam's early period, women were professionals and property owners, as many are today. ..."

See also, on morality of the respective political systems of Iran vs. the USA:
"Has IRAN ever invaded a country?"

about a month and a half ago



Cold fusion reactor verified by third-party researchers

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about two weeks ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "ExtremeTech reports that "Andrea Rossi's E-Cat — the device that purports to use cold fusion to generate massive amounts of cheap, green energy — has been verified by third-party researchers, according to a new 54-page report. The researchers observed a small E-Cat over 32 days, where it produced net energy of 1.5 megawatt-hours, or "far more than can be obtained from any known chemical sources in the small reactor volume." The researchers were also allowed to analyze the fuel before and after the 32-day run, noting that the isotopes in the spent fuel could only have been obtained by "nuclear reactions"...""

Hidden Obstacles for Google's Self-Driving Cars

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about 1 month ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "Lee Gomes at Technology Review wrote an article on the current limits of Google self-driving car technology: "Would you buy a self-driving car that couldn't drive itself in 99 percent of the country? Or that knew nearly nothing about parking, couldn't be taken out in snow or heavy rain, and would drive straight over a gaping pothole? If your answer is yes, then check out the Google Self-Driving Car, model year 2014. Google often leaves the impression that, as a Google executive once wrote, the cars can "drive anywhere a car can legally drive." However, that's true only if intricate preparations have been made beforehand, with the car's exact route, including driveways, extensively mapped. Data from multiple passes by a special sensor vehicle must later be pored over, meter by meter, by both computers and humans. It's vastly more effort than what's needed for Google Maps. ... Maps have so far been prepared for only a few thousand miles of roadway, but achieving Google's vision will require maintaining a constantly updating map of the nation's millions of miles of roads and driveways. Urmson says Google's researchers "don't see any particular roadblocks" to accomplishing that. When a Google car sees a new permanent structure such as a light pole or sign that it wasn't expecting it sends an alert and some data to a team at Google in charge of maintaining the map. ... Among other unsolved problems, Google has yet to drive in snow, and Urmson says safety concerns preclude testing during heavy rains. Nor has it tackled big, open parking lots or multilevel garages. ... Pedestrians are detected simply as moving, column-shaped blurs of pixels — meaning, Urmson agrees, that the car wouldn't be able to spot a police officer at the side of the road frantically waving for traffic to stop. ..."

A deeper issue I wrote about in 2001 is whether such software and data will be FOSS or proprietary? As I wrote there: "We are about to see the emergence of companies licensing that publicly funded software and selling modified versions of such software as proprietary products. There will eventually be hundreds or thousands of paid automotive software engineers working on such software no matter how it is funded, because there will be great value in having such self-driving vehicles given the result of America's horrendous urban planning policies leaving the car as generally the most efficient means of transport in the suburb. The question is, will the results of the work be open for inspection and contribution by the public? Essentially, will those engineers and their employers be "owners" of the software, or will they instead be "stewards" of a larger free and open community development process?""

Link to Original Source

Humans Need Not Apply: A video about the robot revolution and jobs

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about 2 months ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "This explanatory compilation video by CGP Grey called "Humans Need Not Apply" on structural unemployment caused by robotics and AI (and other automation) is like the imagery playing in my mind when I think about the topic based on previous videos and charts I've seen.

I saw it first on the econfuture site by Martin Ford, author of "The Lights in the Tunnel". It is being discussed on Reddit, and people there have started mentioning a "basic income" as one possible response.

While I like the basic income idea, I also collect other approaches in an essay called Beyond A Jobless Recovery: A heterodox perspective on 21st century economics. Beyond a basic income for the exchange economy, those possible approaches include gift economy, subsistence production, planned economy, and more — including many unpleasant alternatives like expanding prisons or fighting wars as we are currently doing. Marshall Brain's writings like Robotic Nation and Manna have inspired my own work.

I made my own video version of the concept around 2010, as a parable called "The Richest Man in the World: A parable about structural unemployment and a basic income". At 1:02 in the video I made, there is a picture of a robot near a sign "Humans Need Not Apply". The text there is: "Soon everyone was out of work. The politicians and their supporters said the solution was to lower takes and cut social benefits to promote business investment. They tried that, but the robots still got all the jobs."

Here is a p2presearch post I made in 2009 pulling together a lot of links to robot videos: "[p2p-research] Robot videos and P2P implications (was Re: A thirty year future...)". It's great to see more informative videos on this topic. CGP Grey's video is awesome in the way he puts it all together. Makes we wish I had done one like that with all those snippets of stuff I've seen over the years."

On MetaFilter Being Penalized By Google

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about 5 months ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "MetaFIlter recently announce layoffs due to a decline in ad revenue that started with a mysterious 40% drop in traffic from Google on November 17, 2012, and which never recovered. Danny Sullivan at SearchEngineLand explores in detail how MetaFilter "serves as a poster child of problems with Google’s penalty process, despite all the advances Google has made over the years." Caitlin Dewey at the Washington Post puts it more bluntly: "That may be the most striking, prescient takeaway from the whole MetaFilter episode: the extent to which the modern Web does not incentivize quality.""
Link to Original Source

To Wash It All Away by James Mickens

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about 5 months ago

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "James Mickens of Microsoft Research writes his last column for USENIX's ;login: magazine humorously about everything that is wrong with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and the modern Web page and why we should "wash it all away". An example from his column: "Describing why the Web is horrible is like describing why it's horrible to drown in an ocean composed of pufferfish that are pregnant with tiny Freddy Kruegers--each detail is horrendous in isolation, but the aggregate sum is delightfully arranged into a hate flower that blooms all year." He makes many excellent points about problems with all these technologies, but do these points matter much given the Web's momentum? And could we expect anything better in the near future (like a Social Semantic Desktop or other new standards for exchanging information)? In my opinion, the Web wins because we are reaching the point where if something does not have a URI, it is broken. And JavaScript is, all things considered, better than we deserved."
Link to Original Source

LATimes to discard all previous user comments

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about 8 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 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 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 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 9 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 10 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 a year 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 and a half 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 and a half 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 and a half 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 2 years 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 2 years 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


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