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Earth In the Midst of Sixth Mass Extinction: the 'Anthropocene Defaunation'

Paul Fernhout Letter from Gaia to humanity on joy of expectation (300 comments)

Good point. Going even further, from something I wrote in 1992:
A letter from Gaia to humanity on the joy of expectation

Don't cry for me. When I let you evolve I knew it might cost the
rhino and the tiger. I knew the rain forests would be cut down. I
knew the rivers would be poisoned. I knew the ocean would turn to
filth. I knew it would cost most of the species that are me.

What is the death of most of my species to me? It is only sleep.
In ten million years I will have it all back again and more. This
has happened many times already. Complex and fragile species will
break along with the webs they are in. Robust and widespread
species will persist along with simpler webs. In time these
survivors will radiate to cover the globe in diversity again. Each
time I come back in beauty like a bush pruned and regrown.

Be happy for me. Over and over again I have tried to give birth to
more Gaias. Time and time again I have failed. With you I have
hope. I cannot tell you how happy I am.

Your minds, spacecraft, biospheres, and computers give me new realms
to evolve into. With your minds I evolve as ideas in inner space.
With your technology I can evolve into self replicating habitats in
outer space. Your computers and minds contain model Gaias I can
talk to; they are my first children. Your space craft and
biospheres are a step to spreading Gaias throughout the stars.

Cry, yes. Cry for yourselves. I am sorry those alive now will not
live to see the splendor to come from what you have started. I am
sorry for all the suffering your species and others will endure.
You who live now will remember the tiger and the rain forest and
mourn for them and yourselves. You will know what was lost without
ever knowing what will be gained. I too mourn for them and you.

There is so much joy that awaits us. We must look up and forward.
We must go on to a future - my future, our future. After eons of
barrenness I am finally giving birth. Help me lest it all fall away
and take eons more before I get this close again to having the
children I always wanted.

(Paul D. Fernhout, Lindenhurst, NY 6/92)


The preceeding is something I just scanned in from 1992, written while I was
in the SUNY Stony Brook Ecology and Evolution PhD program (where I had gone
to learn more towards simulating gardens and space habitats). I had learned
there that it took about 10 million years to regenerate lots of biodiversity
from a large asteroid impact event, and this had happened several times in
Earth's history.

The following is a related statement also just scanned in of what inspired
it written at the same time.

--Paul Fernhout (NY Adirondack Park, Oct 2008)


If one accepted that modern industrial civilization has initiated
a great die-off of species comparable to the one sixty-five
million years ago, how should one feel about this?

Is overwhelming sadness and anger the best emotional response? On
the surface it may seem so. Apparently modern civilization and
the accompanying pollution and deforestation are pulling apart a
tapestry woven over billions of years. Anger at the short sighted
and narrow values driving industry may seem well placed.
Certainly feelings of joy and excitement would seem out of place.

Here are a few thoughts that may affect one's feelings. High
levels of biodiversity can be generated from very low ones in
about ten million years. On the time scales of the earth this may
not be a blink of an eye, but it is a short nap. To humans this
may mean a great loss, but Gaia might barely notice. It has after
all been only sixty-five million years since the last die off.

Not all species will be affected equally. A simplification will
occur where the more specialized creatures will be the most likely
to go extinct. Complex food webs will either loose species to
become simpler or they will be replaced entirely by new simpler
webs. This will create opportunities for generalists to move
into vacated niches. It will also produce more robust species and
food webs. In the long term this may make the biosphere healthier
in the same way pruning a bush makes it grow more.

New forms of life existing as ideas are now living and will likely
continue to expand. Language and culture and technology are
possible with humanity's growth. These allow new patterns to be
created and selected for, giving evolution a new canvas. Also
possible are new combinations of ideas and life as philosophies
evolve in combination with ecosystems.

A process that may well lead to the extinction of 30 to 99 percent
of all species has been initiated unintentionally. Conservation
of biodiversity should be done if only for aesthetic and spiritual
reasons. Anger and sadness should not overwhelm one and keep one
from making the best of the inevitable.- Paul D. Fernhout 6/22/92

2 days ago

The NSA's New Partner In Spying: Saudi Arabia's Brutal State Police

Paul Fernhout Blowback 9/11: Why some young Saudis hate the USA (124 comments)

It's called "Blowback". In order to prevent another 9/11/2001 or worse, it seems important to understand the motivations behind the first one (I'm using the year to distinguish from the US-supported 9/11/1973 coup in Chile). Like you, I also doubt the Saudi government had anything to do directly with funding that 9/11. In fact, that 9/11 seems more a protest against the Saudi government by Saudi citizens, but with the protest directed at the perceived source of funding for the Saudi government by the USA. Let's turn the political situation around hypothetically to try to understand the emotional aspect of it better, imagining what it might be like if the Saudi government was meddling directly in US affairs.

Here is a first cut at trying to understand the social/psychological dynamics of the situation from a different perspective. Imagine Saudi Arabia somehow was sending billions of dollars of campaign donations annually to the USA to keep in power an oppressive administration in the USA (passing laws forcing all US women to wear burkas, only allowing males with brown eyes to hold public office or get university degrees, and with capital punishment on suspicion of premarital sex or homosexuality). Also, imagine that there were millions of Saudi soldiers stationed in US states to ensure a flow of manufactured goods to Saudi Arabia despite strikes and other unrest in the USA and nearby countries. Also imagine that the Saudis were also funding Japanese people who, from fear of earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, had moved to Canada, bought a lot of the land, claimed a right to govern all of Canada because some Japanese people had moved to Canada 10,000 years ago across the land bridge from Siberia, and then forced most non-Japanese Canadian citizens in all of Canada to flee to the USA and were killing non-Japanese Canadians who remained and resisted the Japanese occupation. If you are a US citizen in such a hypothetical world, would you be at all upset by such a situation whatever your eye color? Imagine that some very upset and frustrated young US citizens decide to protest this situation by attacking some big buildings in Saudi Arabia by hijacking airliners to show how unhappy they are with Saudi government foreign policy and to show how they felt their hopes and dreams for a good life in the USA had been thwarted by Saudi meddling in US government. Imagine this attack is then used by Saudi Arabia to justify invading Mexico (where some of the hypothetical American hijackers trained) and Brazil (because it is claimed by the Saudis to have WMDs that hypothetical young Americans might use against Saudis). Imagine the Saudis then start supplying "intelligence" to the US government from listening to all US telephone calls about specific US citizens who might be unhappy about the situation and perhaps plotting unrest in the USA or planning more blowback against the Saudis.

Now flip this scenario around and back to reality (US funding Saudis and Israel and US troops in the Middle East) and does the fact the almost all of the 9/11 hijackers were frustrated young Saudi men make more sense?

Soon after 9/11 I saw an analysis in a magazine (maybe the Atlantic or New Yorker) of why the hijackers did what they did. I have not seen many such articles since. The point made there was that these were mostly young men whose hopes for significant advancement in Saudi society had seemed thwarted and they were led to blame the USA for that, because the USA was propping up the Saudi regime and otherwise meddling in the Middle East. Of course, being promised eternal bliss in "paradise" for becoming murderers can not be ignored as a related aspect of religious fundamentalism (including outrage about the occupation of Palestine), so there are layers of complexity here for that and other reasons. The motivations of the hijackers themselves may also be somewhat different than the motivations of the organizers at higher levels.

See also:
"The hijackers in the September 11 attacks were 19 men affiliated with al-Qaeda, and 15 of the 19 were citizens of Saudi Arabia. ... "

"The 9-11 Commission held its twelfth and final public hearing June 16-17, 2004, in Washington, DC. On June 16 the Commission heard from several of the federal government's top law enforcement and intelligence experts on al Qaeda and the 9-11 plot. It was at this hearing that the question "What motivated them to do it?" was finally asked. Lee Hamilton, vice chair of the 9/11 Commission said, "I'm interested in the question of motivation of these hijackers, and my question is really directed to the agents. ... what have you found out about why these men did what they did? What motivated them to do it?" The agents looked at each other, apparently not eager to be the one to have to say it. FBI Special Agent Fitzgerald stepped up to the plate and laid out the facts, "I believe they feel a sense of outrage against the United States. They identify with the Palestinian problem, they identify with people who oppose repressive regimes and I believe they tend to focus their anger on the United States." But this testimony was kept out of the 9/11 Commission Report and no recommendation was given to address the main motive for the 9/11 attacks."

So, it was not so much that "they hate us because we were free" (although there were some religious aspects of that). It was more that "they hate us because we fund their oppressors". Granted, there are additional layers of complexity including from religion and economics, but that is part of the bigger picture.

To bring this back to the source original article, it says: "The report also notes the MOI's use of invasive surveillance targeted at political and religious dissidents. But as the State Department publicly catalogued those very abuses, the NSA worked to provide increased surveillance assistance to the ministry that perpetrated them."

So, the USA is left in a difficult situation. Saudi citizens who resent their oppression or other treatment by a government propped up by US support still have reason to dislike the US government. But, if the US government does not help the Saudis via the NSA identify and suppress dissenting Saudi young men, then another 9/11/2001 becomes more likely in the short term, even as such a disaster or much worse becomes more certain in the long term if the USA continues to support a repressive Saudi government and otherwise take sides in Middle Eastern politics. What is the morally and politically correct solution to this dilemma? What policies should a US citizen now support? It's the kind of situation best avoided (see George Washington's farewell address which warned to avoid entanglements in foreign affairs) but it is too late for that. Also, to get to a good resolution, we have to acknowledge the truths behind the conflicts, but often conflicts include suppressing or spinning relevant details like misleadingly claiming "they hate us because we are free".

One thing I feel strongly is that given the increasing power of WMDs including bioweapons, the margin for political error grows smaller and smaller. Given that increasing risk, oppression does not seem like a good long-term strategy to ensure peace and prosperity in the 21st century. So, I feel we need to move instead towards some sort of transcendence of these 20th century (and earlier) conflicts. That included rethinking security to be mutual and intrinsic, like I mention here:

But others have been saying similar things for a long time:

And maybe we could create better software tools to help resolve such conflicts in a healthy way? As I suggested three years ago:
"This suggestion is about how civilians could benefit by have access to the sorts of "sensemaking" tools the intelligence community (as well as corporations) aspire to have, in order to design more joyful, secure, and healthy civilian communities (including through creating a more sustainable and resilient open manufacturing infrastructure for such communities). It outlines (including at a linked elaboration) why the intelligence community should consider funding the creation of such free and open source software (FOSS) "dual use" intelligence applications as a way to reduce global tensions through increased local prosperity, health, and with intrinsic mutual security."

2 days ago

'Just Let Me Code!'

Paul Fernhout Re:FONC: Fundamentals of New Computing -- Alan Kay (367 comments)

I certainly understand the frustration of dealing will overly complex systems or also a rushed language like JavaScript where variables are globals by default. Still, did you know that you can compile almost anything to JavaScript these days and have it run in the browser at near native speeds (well, only some browsers, but likely more and more). See:
"While Google is betting on Native Client to allow web apps to execute native compiled code in the browser, Mozilla is betting on its ability to run JavaScript at near-native speeds, too. While they approach this problem from very different angles, both Google, through Native Client, and Mozilla, through its Emscripten LLVM-to-JavaScript compiler, allow developers to write their code in C or C++ and then run it in the browser."

So, JavaScript is just another platform now in that sense. But it is a platform that is almost everywhere significant for substantial human interaction... And installing JavaScript software for the end-user is as easy often-times as just surfing to a web page. If people don't actually install your software, what good is it?

Does JavaScript have problems? Yes. Tons. But it also has a lot of merits.

As for gibberish -- Cantonese sounds mostly like gibberish to me, but that is because I never learned to speak it. :-)

Would I like a simpler software stack and simpler but better languages and tools? Yes. I helped fight that battle over a decade ago like with VisualWorks/Squeak and we lost to stuff like Java, PHP, and JavaScript and the associated tool chains. Squeak showed what was possible, but almost no one would install it (the Squeak licensing confusion did not help there either). See also:
"Regular readers are quite tired of me pointing to this video, Alan Kay: The Computer Revolution hasn't happend yet. Keynote OOPSLA 1997, but I think it's quite fundamental to understand that Alan Kay had a vision for the web, and though his understanding of the role of HTML in the world of 1996 was flawed, it seems the collective web has spent the last ten years building exactly what he described, with HTML/SVG being the display substrate and JavaScript being the code to drive that display. Ten years later we have the Lively Kernel: ..."

But the past is the past. We have to start from where we are -- and today, people live in their HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript browsers or will soon (even on phones, and especially on the emerging Firefox OS phones). I'm writing this from a US$250 Chromebook that is almost entirely just a browser as far as user experience. Any sophisticated-enough system could eventually remake the stack underneath it, like native Squeak could do. So, saying we could build on JavaScript does not mean endless perpetual complexity. Chrome OS shows how a focus on HTML/CSS/JavaScript can sometimes simplify things though from one perspective, especially user experience.

There are several issues related to complexity (inherent complexity, accidental complexity, user expectations, installability, standards, etc.). Regardless of technical merit, HTML/CSS/JavaScript/PHP won in key areas. Sure, you can create the next Squeak, and good luck with that, it is a fun project. And/or we can try to use the current widespread platform as best as we can. For me right now, that means minimizing the backend (PHP or whatever) while emphasizing the front-end (JavaScript) and ideally encoding data in useful long-term forms.

And for those who like their Smalltalk deployed as HTML/CSS/JavaScript, see:
"The Amber language is deeply inspired by Smalltalk. It is designed to make client-side development faster and easier. Amber includes a live development environment with a class browser, workspace, unit test runner, transcript, object inspector and debugger. Amber is written in itself, including the compiler, and compiles into efficient JavaScript, mapping one-to-one with the JS equivalent."

As Manuel De Landa wrote:
"Certain standardizations, say, of electric outlet designs or of data-structures traveling through the Internet, may actually turn out to promote heterogenization at another level, in terms of the appliances that may be designed around the standard outlet, or of the services that a common data-structure may make possible."

And that is what we are seeing with JavaScript now, where you can run anything from a KIM-1 to a Commodore C64 to Linux on it:

3 days ago

How the Internet of Things Could Aid Disaster Response

Paul Fernhout Serval Mesh Networking for Android (59 comments)

From: and http://developer.servalproject...
"Serval Mesh is an Android app that provides highly secure mesh networking, voice calls, text messaging and file sharing between mobile phones using Wi-Fi, without the need for a SIM or any other infrastructure like mobile cell towers, Wi-Fi hotspots or Internet access."
1. Communicate anytime
Mobile phones stop working when cellular infrastructure fails. The Serval Mesh changes this, allowing mobile phones to form impromptu networks consisting only of phones. This allows people nearby to keep communicating when needed most.
2. Communicate anywhere
Cellular networks are not available everywhere. In Australia for example, around 75% of the land area lacks mobile coverage. Letting mobile phones form stand-alone networks provides a cost-effective solution for communities in these remote areas to enjoy mobile communications.
3. Communicate privately
In this modern world private conversation with friends, families and service providers is vital, whether discussing medical issues or other private subjects. The Serval Mesh is built on a foundation engineered to support security. Voice calls and text messages are always end-to-end encrypted using strong 256-bit ECC cryptography. Encrypted calls work even on low-cost Android phones.
4.Communicate with people
The Serval Mesh is about enabling people to communicate with one another, regardless of what circumstances may befall them, or where they live in the world. Because at the end of the day, relationship with one another is what life is all about.

Serval was one of the first things I installed on a trio of cheap Android phones I bought for Andriod development and testing purposes several months ago (the Kyocera Hydro phones themselves ranged from US$35-$55 in price each). Still has rough edges, but getting there.

The Serval project is also working towards cheap rugged repeaters. "The Serval Mesh Extender is a hardware device that helps other devices to join and participate in a Serval Mesh network. ... Mesh Extenders mesh together over short distances using Ad Hoc Wi-Fi, over longer distances using packet radio on the ISM 915 MHz band"

I suggested related ideas back around 2000 based on two-mile range radios:
"[unrev-II] The DKR hardware I'd like to make..."

Very cheap insurance to make sure people have these sorts of devices for an emergency, which these days would not cost much more than a decent US$100 "weather radio" even with basic Smartphone features...

3 days ago

The Psychology of Phishing

Paul Fernhout Solutions -- require tokens & connection phase (126 comments)

In the past, I used whether an email contained my first name as an indicator (a textual token) of whether the email was legitimate, as a sort of password to gain access to your attention. That stopped being useful several years ago as many spammers must have a name database to go with email addresses now. That also would not work for people whose entire first name was in their email address, as is often a corporate practice. Still, the idea of filtering email on a token can make sense, where the token says the sender has been authorized to send you email.

I still have filters for certain keywords like products I support as a way of doing some of this filtering. A next step could be to tell people (on a contact web page) that they need to include some token phrase like "swordfish" in any email to you if they want it to get read as a first-time sender. Or the token could be a random uuid like "f34f775b-3ccb-45e0-a75e-06f845f0c318". It is relatively easy to make filters in many email clients that would prioritize emails with an expected token. After you get such an email from someone the first time, you can whitelist the sender. Granted, phishing or spam often forges sender email addresses. So, there is a problem here that the validity token ideally should be in every email sent to you to avoid relying on whitelisting address.

Ideally, there could be one unique token per entity (or email address) you want to get emails from. Then you could selectively disable and change the token if spammers got one. These tokens then are specific to an allowed communications channel. That requires more complexity though. For example, when you signed up for a mailing list, you could give the list a token such as the above (or perhaps just accept a random one from the list signup procedure), and the list software would store that token to include in a header when it sends a message to you. You would also tell your email client about the token being associated with the sender somehow (either the email address or the sender name or perhaps some other unique sender identifier like a public key). When your client software receives email, it would check if the email has the expected token for the sender. If the email does not have the token, it would be marked as probably spam or phishing. Email tools would need to have this facility built into them, both for sending and receiving. Public mailing lists might need to filter out such tokens from their public web pages of email archives to prevent spammers from harvesting such data to spam the list.

Still, how can people contact you the first time? One answer is to separate the process of getting emails from a trusted source from the process of requesting a token. For example, when someone new wanted to contact you, they could need to go to a web page (or other means) and get a token for their sending email address (or other identifying information, like a public key). That web page might include some sort of captcha challenge or something requiring computational cost or even direct monetary cost (like a small amount of money required to be spent via Paypal or another service, perhaps as a donation to a favorite charity). A web form to do this might need to send a special email to your client that includes both its own token and the new sender and new token, which would need to be processed by your email client to make the association.

This would be a big difference from now, when the first contact you get from someone new might be directly via a new email which could be the spam or phishing attempt. Tokens could also be valid for a limited time. There could even be general tokens not associated with a specific email address, perhaps time-limited ones, ones that need to be paired with other tokens or perhaps topical key words (like a product name) to be considered valid. This does make it harder for senders to send emails, but it makes it more likely they will be read and not ignored as spam.

One advantage of this system is it could build on top of the current email architecture. Clients that don't support such tokens would just not work as well because they would not be able to distinguish Spam of Phishing as well, and emails they send without such a token would be more likely to be ignored.

There are other approaches of course to reduce spam and phishing. There are already mail receivers that will ask a first time sender to confirm identity or do greylisting. There are domain-oriented solutions too like DMARC:

But a token-based system just seems appealing to me because it sort-of worked for me for a time (based on my first name). I'm sure spammers or phishers would find some new way to get around these channel tokens eventually, but it seems like a next step in the evolutionary arms race of validating wanted communications. If tokens were associated with public keys which represented identities, a next step could be to sign the entire email or at least the token and a timestamp and message ID with the associated private key. This approach relies also on the fact that much email being sent is now encrypted all along the way.

There is at least one big flaw in this approach though. What to do about the CC or BCC list? Ideally, each recipient should get a token specific to the recipient. That seems to imply each recipient will have the email sent directly to him or her or it. But that is not how email servers work now, where one server might dispatch a single email to multiple destinations. So, still things to think through, including how much email servers should get involved with such tokens.

Paul Jones has his #noemail campaign as one potential solution to email woes, but I feel that throws the locally-stored email message center baby out with the spam & tl;dr bathwater. Paul Jones pushes social media and blogs as an alternative to email, which have their merits (see below at end), but are still suffering from more and more spam too. Web solutions also make it harder to have a local copy of correspondence. For example, I have many years of emails in my local email archive which I can search and review locally including to mailing lists, but l have little history of what I have read or posted via the web. Still, private email has its limits. As with my immediately previous Slashdot post referencing a post to the FONC mailing list, I can find some of my emails to public lists via Google. Using Google to find emails I wrote to public lists can be easier than searching my my email archive which is on a different machine than I post to Slashdot from often. And it is great to be able to link to such posts via a URL. I've started saying, "if it does not have a URL, it is broken". Ultimately I feel we need something that combines the best of email and the best of the web like perhaps a "social semantic desktop" such as I and others have worked towards. That could have a better infrastructure than email with anti-spam protections built-in (including perhaps public key authentication of senders, and perhaps even using DNS records to associate public keys with domains).

3 days ago

'Just Let Me Code!'

Paul Fernhout FONC: Fundamentals of New Computing -- Alan Kay (367 comments)

We are faced with a need for significant action and the odds are stacked against us. Invention receives no attention, and innovation (even when incorrectly understood) receives lip service in the press but no current-day vehicle exists to to nurture it. This wiki is an open invitation for talented individuals to pool their energy and collaborate towards fundamentally changing computing.

Over the years many groups have debated how to make progress in computing. There were likely as many opinions as there were people in the debates. Nevertheless personal accounts suggest that initiatives were sometimes reduced to a handful and then pursued with vigour. Consider what could be achieved by following the same pattern today, with the added benefit of doing it as a virtual, distributed team.

Our goal could be to capture the significant ideas and initiatives that we have been exposed to, are aware of, or can discover, distil them into groups, reduce them to a handful of concepts worthy of vigorous exploration, and focus our efforts on these common ideas with the eventual aim of making substantial progress towards finding a common set of fundamentals of new computing.

See also:

A big focus of FONC was in reducing lots of complexity. Smalltalk shows what is possible... But in practice new languages and new standards often just add more complexity to the mix and what we often need are better tools for dealing with complexity. And community and trends mean a lot too, as does hireability and ubiquity and easy installability. So, again, in practice, I'm moving to JavaScript with conceptually simple backends (even in, yikes, PHP) -- inspired in part by Dan Ingall's own work with the Lively Kernel which shows what is possible as near-zero-effort-to-install JavaScript apps.

My own thoughts on FONC from 2010:
"fonc] On inventing the computing microscope/telescope for the dynamic semantic web"
Biology made a lot of progress by inventing the microscope -- and that was done way before it invented genetic engineering, and even before it understood there were bacteria around. :-)

What are our computing microscopes now? What are our computing telescopes? Are debuggers crude computing microscopes? Are class hierarchy browsers and package managers and IDEs and web browsers crude computing telescopes?

Maybe we need to reinvent the computing microscope and computing telescope to help in trying to engineer better digital organisms via FONC? :-) Maybe it is more important to do it first? ...

It's taken a while for me to see this, but, with JavaScript, essentially each web page can be seen like a Smalltalk ObjectMemory (or text-based image like PataPata writes out). While I work towards using the Pointrel System to add triples in a declarative way, in practice, the web of calling cgi scripts at URLs is a lot like message passing (just more like the earlier Smalltalk-72 way without well-defined syntax). So, essentially, a web of HTML pages with JavaScript and CGI on servers is like the Smalltalk system written large. :-) Just in a very ad hoc and inelegant way. :-)


4 days ago

US Senator Blasts Microsoft's H-1B Push As It Lays 18,000 Off Workers

Paul Fernhout Look into adequate vitamin D for joint pain (528 comments)

And also eating more vegetables and fruits (such as Dr. Joel Fuhrman's work or Dr. Andrew Weil's work) to reduce inflammation. You might also be sensitive to some compounds in food, such as in the nightshade family (like tomatoes) or possibly other things (food additives, etc.)

If you want true alternatives. gold and guns/ammo won't help. All that can be confiscated.

I collected some better solutions at this link and elsewhere on my site:
"This article explores the issue of a "Jobless Recovery" mainly from a heterodox economic perspective. It emphasizes the implications of ideas by Marshall Brain and others that improvements in robotics, automation, design, and voluntary social networks are fundamentally changing the structure of the economic landscape. It outlines towards the end four major alternatives to mainstream economic practice (a basic income, a gift economy, stronger local subsistence economies, and resource-based planning). These alternatives could be used in combination to address what, even as far back as 1964, has been described as a breaking "income-through-jobs link". This link between jobs and income is breaking because of the declining value of most paid human labor relative to capital investments in automation and better design. Or, as is now the case, the value of paid human labor like at some newspapers or universities is also declining relative to the output of voluntary social networks such as for digital content production (like represented by this document). It is suggested that we will need to fundamentally reevaluate our economic theories and practices to adjust to these new realities emerging from exponential trends in technology and society."

Learning more about health creation for yourself falls in part under subsistence production... And also the gift economy,,,

about a week ago

New Treatment Stops Type II Diabetes

Paul Fernhout The End of Diabetes by Joel Fuhrman, M.D (253 comments)

Glad to here about your success story! If you want to take your success to the next level, you may find this of interest:
"This New York Times best seller offers a scientifically proven, practical program to prevent and reverse diabetesâ"without drugs. Diabetes does not have to shorten your life span or result in high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney failure, blindness or other life-threatening ailments. In fact, most type 2 diabetics can get off medication and become 100 percent healthy in just a few simple steps. This book offers no compromises, it is the most aggressive and effective approach to reverse obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease; which typically accompany type 2 diabetes. The information about Type 1 diabetes is simply life saving. It is a must read for every diabetic, as well as any nutritionally-aware person wanting to understand the failure of conventional medical care for diabetic treatments and the "no-brainer" of using nutritional excellence, not drugs."

And see:

The grand parent poster said quadrupling *vegetables* (many of which are leafy greens like Kale) not "complex carbs"... And there are much healthier things to eat than cancer-implicated processed lunchmeat if you want to eat meat...

Also, exercise does not help much with weight loss because it stimulates the appetite, even though exercise in general is good for health...

Also, for yet another different perspective (on how the recommendations decades ago to avoid fat on the theory it made people fat have instead led to an epidemic of obesity and heart disease by leading people to eat too much sugar):

Good luck staying with what is working for you and maybe even going further which might then free up energy for your titanic plans! :-)

about two weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

Paul Fernhout WordPress powers ~20% of web with 257 employees (272 comments)

See the chart here:

Granted there are many people who contribute to the WordPress ecosystem who don't formally work for Automattic given the FOSS nature of WordPress and related plugins. It's just a very different 21st century way of doing business compared to the 20th century Microsoft model, and is doing a better job of bridging the exchange and gift economies (like I talk about on my site).

Automattic, which shepherds the core of WordPress, sounds like a great place to work for people like me who are comfortable working from home. The future for WordPress looks pretty amazing, especially given ever better JSON/AJAX RESTful support for JavaScript-powered frontend apps. See also:
"For those willing to ignore the prevailing opinions in the programming community, Tom Willmot says that WordPress presents developers with incredible opportunities, and a wonderful sense of community: ..."

I've been looking at shifting my own "Pointrel" and "Twirlip" projects, my wife's "Rakontu" and "NarraCat" projects and other similar work (stuff related to participative narrative inquiry, civic sensemaking, public intelligence, social semantic desktop tools, educational simulations, and more) to have JavaScript frontends that use WordPress as an application server backend (rather than have them run stand-alone). That would make it easy for millions of WordPress users who might want such tools to install them as a WordPress plugin with a couple clicks. As Alan Kay said about Squeak, getting people to install anything to try it is hard. Other benefits would include easy authentication support. I expect more and more projects by other people will be moving in that direction. I'm tempted to apply to work at Automattic myself at some point given their FOSS focus. They are also hiring as they got a bunch of venture financing recently. But I would want to make at least a demo of that integration first. I plan on putting such a demo here when it works:

Of course, JavaScript has problems (globals by default), PHP has problems (such a long list..), and WordPress has problems (no doubt), with many problems coming from their historical roots and a need for backward-compatibility. But I can't deny all three won some battle for mindshare for whatever reasons (especially ease of initial use), and when you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? :-) Like Manuel De Landa wrote in "Meshworks, Hierarchies, and Interfaces", a uniformity on one level can often in turn support a diversity on a level above it.

See also on the value of having a diversity of programmers of a variety of experience levels in an organization:

What I especially envision is that all those millions of WordPress sites could start talking to each other in interesting ways... See also Theodore Sturgeon's 1950s short story "The Skills of Xanadu" for where it all might lead...

Or as I reprise here:
"Gold Leader: Pardon me for asking, sir, but what good are semantic wikis and desktops going to be against [that]?
General Dodonna: Well, the Empire doesn't consider a small cgi script on a shared server or desktop to be any threat, or they'd have a tighter defense."

about two weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: Future-Proof Jobs?

Paul Fernhout Cheaper to robo-bulldoze house and reprint it? BI? (509 comments)

While I agree with the validity of your points for the next 10 to 20 years, in the longer term, better design and better tools will make it cheaper to completely rebuild houses so they are lower maintenance, more energy efficient, and easier to clean and maintain by robotics or by modular snap in replacements like the grandparent poster suggested. The only reason not to bulldoze older housing in a world of cheap energy and cheap robotics would be for historical preservation reasons or perhaps sentimentality (although Virtual Reality could address some of the sentimentality aspect).

This is similar to how people are now generally getting rid of old computer equipment (especially cellphones) when a capacitor or battery goes bad rather and replacing it with something new rather than trying to take it apart and repair the component like 50 years ago. "Computers" used to cost millions of dollars and take up rooms, now you can put a few in your pocket. I don't know what the equivalent shift for housing is, but we will no doubt find out. Some speculations are VR and pods like the Matrix or like in Marshall Brain's "Manna", or even just complete simulation of uploaded humans "living" in silicon RAM instead of air-filled wooden houses?

See also Marshall Brain's "Manna" for a suggestion of how computer-given instructions delivered by wearables could turn almost every profession, even plumbing, into a micromanaged low-wage nightmare before general robotics arrive:
"Depending on how you want to think about it, it was funny or inevitable or symbolic that the robotic takeover did not start at MIT, NASA, Microsoft or Ford. It started at a Burger-G restaurant in Cary, NC on May 17. It seemed like such a simple thing at the time, but May 17 marked a pivotal moment in human history. ... Manna told employees what to do simply by talking to them. Employees each put on a headset when they punched in. Manna had a voice synthesizer, and with its synthesized voice Manna told everyone exactly what to do through their headsets. Constantly. Manna micro-managed minimum wage employees to create perfect performance. The software would speak to the employees individually and tell each one exactly what to do. For example, "Bob, we need to load more patties. Please walk toward the freezer." Or, "Jane, when you are through with this customer, please close your register. Then we will clean the women's restroom." And so on. ... And Manna was starting to move in on some of the white collar work force. The basic idea was to break every job down into a series of steps that Manna could manage. No one had ever realized it before, but just about every job had parts that could be subdivided out.HMOs and hospitals, for example, were starting to put headsets on the doctors and surgeons. It helped lower malpractice problems by making sure that the surgeon followed every step in a surgical procedure. The hospitals could also hyper-specialize the surgeons. For example, one surgeon might do nothing but open the chest for heart surgery. Another would do the arterial grafts. Another would come in to inspect the work and close the patient back up. What this then meant, over time, was that the HMO could train technicians to do the opening and closing procedures at much lower cost. Eventually, every part of the subdivided surgery could be performed by a super-specialized technician. Manna kept every procedure on an exact track that virtually eliminated errors. Manna would schedule 5 or 10 routine surgeries at a time. Technicians would do everything, with one actual surgeon overseeing things and handling any emergencies. They all wore headsets, and Manna controlled every minute of their working lives.That same hyper-specialization approach could apply to lots of white collar jobs. Lawyers, for example. You could take any routine legal problem and subdivide it -- uncontested divorces, real estate transactions, most standard contracts, and so on. It was surprising where you started to see headsets popping up, and whenever you saw them you knew that the people were locked in, that they were working every minute of every day and that wages were falling. ..."

I hope we get a basic income (BI) and/or other broad economic changes before then. Something I put together on that a few years ago:
"This article explores the issue of a "Jobless Recovery" mainly from a heterodox economic perspective. It emphasizes the implications of ideas by Marshall Brain and others that improvements in robotics, automation, design, and voluntary social networks are fundamentally changing the structure of the economic landscape. It outlines towards the end four major alternatives to mainstream economic practice (a basic income, a gift economy, stronger local subsistence economies, and resource-based planning). These alternatives could be used in combination to address what, even as far back as 1964, has been described as a breaking "income-through-jobs link". This link between jobs and income is breaking because of the declining value of most paid human labor relative to capital investments in automation and better design. Or, as is now the case, the value of paid human labor like at some newspapers or universities is also declining relative to the output of voluntary social networks such as for digital content production (like represented by this document). It is suggested that we will need to fundamentally reevaluate our economic theories and practices to adjust to these new realities emerging from exponential trends in technology and society."

about two weeks ago

Peer Review Ring Broken - 60 Articles Retracted

Paul Fernhout See also Dr. David Goodstein's 1990s predictions (178 comments)

You make good points. See also:
"The public and the scientific community have both been shocked in recent years by an increasing number of cases of fraud committed by scientists. There is little doubt that the perpetrators in these cases felt themselves under intense pressure to compete for scarce resources, even by cheating if necessary. As the pressure increases, this kind of dishonesty is almost sure to become more common.
    Other kinds of dishonesty will also become more common. For example, peer review, one of the crucial pillars of the whole edifice, is in critical danger. Peer review is used by scientific journals to decide what papers to publish, and by granting agencies such as the National Science Foundation to decide what research to support. Journals in most cases, and agencies in some cases operate by sending manuscripts or research proposals to referees who are recognized experts on the scientific issues in question, and whose identity will not be revealed to the authors of the papers or proposals. Obviously, good decisions on what research should be supported and what results should be published are crucial to the proper functioning of science.
    Peer review is usually quite a good way to identify valid science. Of course, a referee will occasionally fail to appreciate a truly visionary or revolutionary idea, but by and large, peer review works pretty well so long as scientific validity is the only issue at stake. However, it is not at all suited to arbitrate an intense competition for research funds or for editorial space in prestigious journals. There are many reasons for this, not the least being the fact that the referees have an obvious conflict of interest, since they are themselves competitors for the same resources. This point seems to be another one of those relativistic anomalies, obvious to any outside observer, but invisible to those of us who are falling into the black hole. It would take impossibly high ethical standards for referees to avoid taking advantage of their privileged anonymity to advance their own interests, but as time goes on, more and more referees have their ethical standards eroded as a consequence of having themselves been victimized by unfair reviews when they were authors. Peer review is thus one among many examples of practices that were well suited to the time of exponential expansion, but will become increasingly dysfunctional in the difficult future we face.
    We must find a radically different social structure to organize research and education in science after The Big Crunch. That is not meant to be an exhortation. It is meant simply to be a statement of a fact known to be true with mathematical certainty, if science is to survive at all. The new structure will come about by evolution rather than design, because, for one thing, neither I nor anyone else has the faintest idea of what it will turn out to be, and for another, even if we did know where we are going to end up, we scientists have never been very good at guiding our own destiny. Only this much is sure: the era of exponential expansion will be replaced by an era of constraint. Because it will be unplanned, the transition is likely to be messy and painful for the participants. In fact, as we have seen, it already is. Ignoring the pain for the moment, however, I would like to look ahead and speculate on some conditions that must be met if science is to have a future as well as a past."

I think a "basic income" for all could be part of the solution, because a BI would make it possible for anyone to live like a graduate student and do independent research if they wanted.

about two weeks ago

WebODF: JavaScript Open Document Format Editor Deemed Stable

Paul Fernhout WebODF seems to use Dojo? (91 comments)

I like Dojo in part because it attempts to make all the core widgets accessible. From:
"Dojo has made a serious commitment to creating a toolkit that allows the development of accessible Web applications for all users, regardless of physical abilities. The core widget set of Dojo, dijit, is fully accessible since the 1.0 release, making Dojo the only fully accessible open source toolkit for Web 2.0 development. This means that users who require keyboard only navigation, need accommodations for low vision or who use an assistive technology, can interact with the dijit widgets."

about three weeks ago

Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job

Paul Fernhout See also Dr. David Goodstein on the Big Crunch (538 comments)
"Although hardly anyone noticed the change at the time, it is difficult to imagine a more dramatic contrast than the decades just before 1970, and the decades since then. Those were the years in which science underwent an irreversible transformation into an entirely new regime. Let's look back at what has happened in those years in light of this historic transition. ...
    We must find a radically different social structure to organize research and education in science after The Big Crunch. That is not meant to be an exhortation. It is meant simply to be a statement of a fact known to be true with mathematical certainty, if science is to survive at all. The new structure will come about by evolution rather than design, because, for one thing, neither I nor anyone else has the faintest idea of what it will turn out to be, and for another, even if we did know where we are going to end up, we scientists have never been very good at guiding our own destiny. Only this much is sure: the era of exponential expansion will be replaced by an era of constraint. Because it will be unplanned, the transition is likely to be messy and painful for the participants. In fact, as we have seen, it already is. Ignoring the pain for the moment, however, I would like to look ahead and speculate on some conditions that must be met if science is to have a future as well as a past.
    It seems to me that there are two essential and clearly linked conditions to consider. One is that there must be a broad political consensus that pure research in basic science is a common good that must be supported from the public purse. The second is that the mining and sorting operation I've described must be discarded and replaced by genuine education in science, not just for the scientific elite, but for all the citizens who must form that broad political consensus. ..."

So, the academics you knew were from before the "Big Crunch". Such people advised me, from their success, and meaning well, to get a PhD. But the world I faced was post-Big-Crunch and so their advice did not actually make much sense (although it took me a long time to figure that out).

More related links:

about a month ago

Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job

Paul Fernhout Echoing Greenspun on academia (538 comments)

Why does anyone think science is a good job?

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. ...

Does this make sense as a career for anyone? Absolutely! Just get out your atlas.

Imagine that you are a smart, but impoverished, young person in China. Your high IQ and hard work got you into one of the best undergraduate programs in China. The $1800 per month graduate stipend at University of Nebraska or University of Wisconsin will afford you a much higher standard of living than any job you could hope for in China. The desperate need for graduate student labor and lack of Americans who are interested in PhD programs in science and engineering means that you'll have no trouble getting a visa. When you finish your degree, a small amount of paperwork will suffice to ensure your continued place in the legal American work force. Science may be one of the lowest paid fields for high IQ people in the U.S., but it pays a lot better than most jobs in China or India.

about a month ago

Endorphins Make Tanning Addictive

Paul Fernhout Example Vitamin D reduces cancer risk study: (51 comments)
"This was a 4-y, population-based, double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial. The primary outcome was fracture incidence, and the principal secondary outcome was cancer incidence."

Eating a lots of vegetables and fruits and mushrooms can also reduce cancer risk (see Dr. Joel Fuhrman's summary works like "Eat To Live" with many references). I've found by eating more fruits and vegetables that my skin tone has changed from pale to having more color (even in winter). Adequate iodine can also help prevent cancer.

Reducing risk of incidence is not the same as cure though. Sorry to hear about you father getting cancer. Once you get cancer, everything is iffy, so cancer is best avoided preventatively. Fasting may also help in some cancer situations, and it also helps with chemotherapy by protecting cells from the toxic chemicals (since fasting seems to causes many normal cells to go into a safe survival mode but cancer cells generally do not). And eating better may hope prevent recurrence. In general, the human body is always developing cancerous cells, but generally they are dealt with by the immune system. So boosting the immune system could help with some cancers and there are many ways to do that -- but again, it is all iffy once cancer is established.

See also for other ideas:

I agree supplements and natural sunlight are probably better choices than tanning beds --although there may still be unknowns about how the skin reacts to sun or tanning beds and produces many compounds vs. supplements. I also agree conventional tanning beds are not tuned to give lots of vitamin D.That is unfortunate, even if they produce some. See also about other tanning choices (and supplement suggestions):
"If you choose to use a tanning bed, the Vitamin D Council recommends using the same common sense you use in getting sunlight. This includes:
Getting half the amount of exposure that it takes for your skin to turn pink.
Using low-pressure beds that has good amount of UVB light, rather than high-intensity UVA light."

BTW, if you look into chemotherapy for cancer, for many cancers you'll find it is of questionable value relative to the costs both in money and suffering, where is on average may add at most a couple months of life on average if that. Chemotherapy can apparently even sometimes make cancer worse:
"The scientists found that healthy cells damaged by chemotherapy secreted more of a protein called WNT16B which boosts cancer cell survival."

It's hard to know who to trust regarding medical research results or interpretations:
"The problems I've discussed are not limited to psychiatry, although they reach their most florid form there. Similar conflicts of interest and biases exist in virtually every field of medicine, particularly those that rely heavily on drugs or devices. It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine. (Marcia Angell)"

Good luck sorting it all out. I've suggested creating better tools for medical sensemaking, but still not time to work on them...

about a month ago

Larry Page: Healthcare Data Mining Could Save 100,000 Lives a Year

Paul Fernhout Nutrition and longevity (186 comments)

While you make a good point, nutrition works right now (along with exercise, good sleep, a less stressful lifestyle, avoiding hazards like smoking, community connectedness, and so on like in "Blue Zones"). The rest of life extension is just a hope that maybe we can create new technologies. Also, for most people, if they can make it in good health to 100+ years old via such well-proved things, they will then be around for more breakthroughs in the next 50+ years.

Also, probably most invasive life extension technologies for extreme longevity could also be turned into biological weapons (like rewriting DNA or reorganizing the brain). So, we may end up with technologies that could allow people to live in good health for 1000s of years, have any skin color or nose shape they want, and people will use them to kill off everyone else that has a different skin color or nose shape then they currently have (which would be very sadly ironic). Improved nutrition does not have that existential risk associated with it for the most part.

about a month ago

Massachusetts SWAT Teams Claim They're Private Corporations, Immune To Oversight

Paul Fernhout This is why corporations should have *no* privacy (534 comments)


Fines or imprisoning CEOs do little to change the pattern of relationships and values and policies that make an organization what it is, any more than a human body loosing some skill cells or even brain cells usually changes how a person behaves very much.

Seriously, why should any corporate communications have any expectation of privacy? Corporations with "limited liability" are chartered for the public interest. 150 years ago, US Americans put such creatures on very short leashes because they had seen what trouble resulted from big British corporations in the American colonies. Individuals have now lost pretty much all informational privacy due to large corporations and the current internet. Why should bigger more powerful creatures than humans like corporation have more privacy in practice than humans? See also David Brin's "The Transparent Society". Any argument that corporations need privacy (like for salaries or payments for services) for some sort of commercial advantage is trumped by the public interest in understanding what corporations are doing and also that if all corporations were transparent there would be a level playing field. Granted, it would require new ways of doing business, but books like "Honest Business" also extol the value of "open books". Or perhaps corporations should be forced to choose -- if they want limited liability for shareholders then they need to be transparent; if every shareholder accepts full responsibility for all actions of the organization, then they can have privacy?

And see also my comments from 2000, the relevant section copied below (sadly a lot of links there have rotted):

========= machine intelligence is already here =========

I personally think machine evolution is unstoppable, and the best hope
for humanity is the noble cowardice of creating refugia and trying, like
the duckweed, to create human (and other) life faster than other forces
can destroy it. [Well, I now in 2014 think there are also other options, like symbiosis, maybe friendly AI, and in general trying to be nicer to each other like with a basic income in hopes that leads to a happier singularity...]

Note, I'm not saying machine evolution won't have a human component --
in that sense, a corporation or any bureaucracy is already a separate
machine intelligence, just not a very smart or resilient one. This sense
of the corporation comes out of Langdon Winner's book "Autonomous
Technology: Technics out of control as a theme in political thought".
You may have a tough time believing this, but Winner makes a convincing
case. He suggests that all successful organizations "reverse-adapt"
their goals and their environment to ensure their continued survival.

These corporate machine intelligences are already driving for better
machine intelligences -- faster, more efficient, cheaper, and more
resilient. People forget that corporate charters used to be routinely
revoked for behavior outside the immediate public good, and that
corporations were not considered persons until around 1886 (that
decision perhaps being the first major example of a machine using the
political/social process of its own ends).
Corporate charters are granted supposedly because society believe it is
in the best interest of *society* for corporations to exist.

But, when was the last time people were able to pull the "charter" plug
on a corporation not acting in the public interest? It's hard, and it
will get harder when corporations don't need people to run themselves.

I'm not saying the people in corporations are evil -- just that they
often have very limited choices of actions. If a corporate CEOs do not
deliver short term profits they are removed, no matter what they were
trying to do. Obviously there are exceptions for a while -- William C.
Norris of Control Data was one of them, but in general, the exception
proves the rule. Fortunately though, even in the worst machines (like in
WWII Germany) there were individuals who did what they could to make
them more humane ("Schindler's List" being an example).

Look at how much William C. Norris of
Control Data got ridiculed in the 1970s for suggesting the then radical
notion that "business exists to meet society's unmet needs". Yet his
pioneering efforts in education, employee assistance plans, on-site
daycare, urban renewal, and socially-responsible investing are in
part what made Minneapolis/St.Paul the great area it is today. Such
efforts are now being duplicated to an extent by other companies. Even
the company that squashed CDC in the mid 1980s (IBM) has adopted some of
those policies and directions. So corporations can adapt when they feel
the need.

Obviously, corporations are not all powerful. The world still has some
individuals who have wealth to equal major corporations. There are
several governments that are as powerful or more so than major
corporations. Individuals in corporations can make persuasive pitches
about their future directions, and individuals with controlling shares
may be able to influence what a corporation does (as far as the market
allows). In the long run, many corporations are trying to coexist with
people to the extent they need to. But it is not clear what corporations
(especially large ones) will do as we approach this singularity -- where
AIs and robots are cheaper to employ than people. Today's corporation,
like any intelligent machine, is more than the sum of its parts
(equipment, goodwill, IP, cash, credit, and people). It's "plug" is not
easy to pull, and it can't be easily controlled against its short term

What sort of laws and rules will be needed then? If the threat of
corporate charter revocation is still possible by governments and
collaborations of individuals, in what new directions will corporations
have to be prodded? What should a "smart" corporation do if it sees
this coming? (Hopefully adapt to be nicer more quickly. :-) What can
individuals and governments do to ensure corporations "help meet
society's unmet needs"?

Evolution can be made to work in positive ways, by selective breeding,
the same way we got so many breeds of dogs and cats. How can we
intentionally breed "nice" corporations that are symbiotic with the
humans that inhabit them? To what extent is this happening already as
talented individuals leave various dysfunctional, misguided, or rouge
corporations (or act as "whistle blowers")? I don't say here the
individual directs the corporation against its short term interest. I
say that individuals affect the selective survival rates of
corporations with various goals (and thus corporate evolution) by where
they choose to work, what they do there, and how they interact with
groups that monitor corporations. To that extent, individuals have some
limited control over corporations even when they are not shareholders.
Someday, thousands of years from now, corporations may finally have been
bred to take the long term view and play an "infinite game".

about a month ago



On MetaFilter Being Penalized By Google

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about 2 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 2 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 6 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 6 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 8 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.""
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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?""
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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?"
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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."

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Open Source Technologies for Arms Control Essay Contest

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

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Nobel Prize-winning economist on Rise of the Robots

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about a year and a half 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?"

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

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  about 2 years ago

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

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Paul Fernhout writes "EvoJazz is a musical toy for Android that amplifies your own natural musical creativity. It uses a new Evolutionary Jazz paradigm of generating new musical phrases as variations from existing musical phrases rather than writing new phrases note-by-note. (Disclaimer: I'm the developer.)"
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Cold Fusion 10kw heater and social concerns

Paul Fernhout Paul Fernhout writes  |  more than 3 years ago

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