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Topics - Captain Utopia

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Apple Talk / War! Zzzz. Etc.
« on: April 30, 2011, 06:05:19 am »
Quote from: mistress meimei
Roger here.  Freeky has graciously allowed me to use her PM to talk to you, so I don't have to bother regging an account, giving up the ID of my clone accounts, or giving you public traffic.

1.  You and I both know that Docktor X isn't me, because I'm not in Toronto, and "he" isn't using a proxy.  You, however, ARE in Toronto, and the 3 votes in your favor are you and your two sock puppets.

2.  You persist in this lie, among others (IE, the Fomentor business), and lack the cojones to talk to me about it directly.

3.  The above being the case, I just wanted to let you know that - as of now - it is now too late to repair the situation, period.  From this point forward, my only motivation with regard to you is to wreck this board and make you as miserable as possible.  This is not a temporary situation. 

4.  Also, given your fucking lies, all bets are off, all agreements void, NO HOLDS BARRED.  Consider our earlier arrangement out the window, you piece of shit.  Enjoy the flood of perverts and barbarians that should start arriving next week or so.  You might consider disabling images, though, as some of their games can be pretty ugly.  Turning off registration won't help, of course, as I have alt accounts here stretching back years.

Any instances of hacking, DDoS'ing, posting of child pornography, giving of computer accounts to hackers - or anybody who has not been authorised to use this computer system, will be promptly sent to the relevant authorities.  Since you've already confessed, this should be interesting.

What you're proposing is illegal.

Or.  You know.  PD could stop trolling EB&G immediately, leave us just the fuck alone, and de-escalate what was some petty-nothing fight, before lives are ruined.

Yours, mate.

Apple Talk / Nigel Appreciation Thread
« on: March 21, 2011, 02:17:12 pm »
Hey Nigel, you rock, and I missed you!

Apple Talk / What ARE We Doing, Anyway? Part 2 - categories
« on: March 03, 2011, 03:36:31 pm »
I've started a new thread to make it easier to keep track of modifications to the OP.  Also, if you already have an account at EB&G, then you automatically have an account on the wiki - it uses the same username+password.

There are no rules to editing the wiki page - anyone can.  There is full version control, so it just takes a few clicks to back-out any changes - so don't worry about breaking anything.  It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission, so just go ahead and do what you think looks right  :)

It might work better to discuss things here, and make edits there?

What I'm looking for at this stage:
Criticism/comments on the way I've split the categories.  Either rewordings or alternative suggestions for the split.

1. Maximize Freedom (7)
  "Make it harder for those who seek to control other people."
  "Encouraging individuals to not only think for themselves, but to get off their asses and do something about it"

2. Reality tunnel escape/intellectual improvement/think for yourself (21)
  "Spread the desire to improve ones knowledge/perspectives."
  "Encourage people to question everything."
  "Show people, who want to, how to attempt a BIP jailbreak."

3. Keep things strange, or more so (11)
  "Demonstrate the fun awesomeness of strange shit which already exists"
  "Make more strange"

4. Have Fun (17)
  "With others - Socialising/Networking"
  "Alone - being exposed to things you think of as fun"

5. Change Political/Cultural climate (2)
  "Change the way politics works"
  "Change cultural norms"

6. Evangelism (4)

7. Reduce Apathy (2)

8. Increase Creativity (2)
  "Through art"
  "In any form"

Literate Chaotic / Fictionpussy Galore
« on: August 06, 2010, 07:35:10 pm »

Question - at what point will somebody who wants to do this idea, no longer be dog piled if they don't immediately and automatically give credit?  e.g. If I want to do a WOMP, hell, I don't even know who to credit.  What is the difference really?  Time?  Whose call is that?

When I saw the OP my thoughts were "Oh cool, Cram is running with that idea Roger was writing about a while ago", comments from other posters brought up things like the tape-worm guys again and so I figured that the OP was commonly recognised from coming from that source.  I don't see Cram denying the influence, or refusing to add the desired reference, so I don't see the need for drama.

Techmology and Scientism / Monkey Economics
« on: August 05, 2010, 05:30:15 am »

This is an interesting video, but it's 20 minutes long and the presenter suffers from AQI?

So here's a summary of the bits I found interesting.

It's known that our brains don't work very well in certain circumstances.  A group of researchers wanted to tackle the question of whether this was something innate, or a result of the environments we've created for ourselves - nature vs. nurture, if you will.

The example they chose to study was loss aversion.  For example:

Code: [Select]
If I give you $1,000 - that'd be great right?  But now I give you a choice:

  A)  I can flip a coin.  If it lands heads then you get $1000 extra, else you get nothing extra.
  B)  I'll just give you $500 extra, so you walk away with a guaranteed $1,500.

What do you do?  Once you have an answer, consider the alternative scenario:

Code: [Select]
I give you $2,000 this time, but give you a less appealing choice:

  A)  I can flip a coin.  If it lands heads then you get to keep all the money, else I take back $1,000.
  B)  I just take back $500.

Take another moment for this one.

As it turns out, the problems are exactly the same - the safest option in all cases is the one which has no gambling or risk, yet consistently people who choose B for the first, choose A for the second.  The desire to keep all that we have makes us take more risk.  Now if you picked the rational option in both cases then you can pat yourself on the back, because you are statistically exceptional.  Then again, this isn't exactly

The researchers created a monkey economy by creating a bunch of metal tokens, distributing them to the monkeys and creating a marketplace.  This was another cage in which a bunch of human merchants would hold out a dish containing 1-3 grapes, and would sell the contents of the dish for one token.   The merchants wore different colours and the monkeys could identify them easily as they remained consistent over time.

The monkeys picked this up really quickly - if Bob was selling 2 grapes per token, and Sue only one, then they'd trade with Bob.  The monkeys also stole tokens from other monkeys and had no concept of saving -- they'd just spend all their tokens and then go sleep off their grape binge.  So, as you can imagine, the similarities with human economies excited the researchers.

But then they implemented the loss-aversion test.  Now with new sets of merchants:

Code: [Select]
First scenario, both merchants hold out a dish showing one grape, but consistently change the deal if they are picked:

  A) Will always add one grape, for a total of two.
  B) 50/50 chance of adding no extra grapes, or adding two grapes, for a total of three.

As with the humans, the monkeys quickly showed a preference for the safe bet.

Then with another set of merchants:

Code: [Select]
Both merchants hold out a dish showing three grapes, but consistently change the deal if they are picked:

  A) Will always take away one grape, for a total of two.
  B) 50/50 chance of taking away no grapes, or two grapes.

As with the humans, the monkeys demonstrated loss aversion by taking the risk to keep more of what they already had.

So the conclusion is that if there are detrimental psychological traits which go back that far - we last shared a common ancestor with these monkeys about 35 million years ago - then we're really completely fucked.


There's a map and they've done an impressive job decoding the report headers into something meaningful.

Plus they've held some back, which probably isn't a bad idea:

We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source. After further review, these reports will be released, with occasional redactions, and eventually, in full, as the security situation in Afghanistan permits.

Aneristic Illusions / E-Democracy
« on: July 21, 2010, 02:58:13 pm »
Sounds like a pie-in-the-sky dream with no pragmatic way to get there?  State your concerns and ask your questions here and we'll see if we can find some answers.


The basic concept is quite simple - use information technology to provide an efficient and powerful mechanism to democratically influence the direction a group takes on any or all issues which face that group.

A group may be anything from a chess club, a city to a nation state.

The medium of participation would be the web-browser, such that you could access the service using anything which can run a browser - e.g. a desktop pc, a netbook, or a mobile phone.  This does exclude some like the computer illiterate and those without a personal internet connect, but put bluntly - this is not a problem we can fully hope to address until we have a working system which is capable of legislating provisions to correct for this.

That's it.  As an umbrella-term it covers a wide variety of implementations and participation models from simple direct democracy to roll-off voting.  So I'll propose a few ideas which I think show most promise.

Design Philosophy:

  Simply, to maximise participation and minimise elitism.  If you look at one of the most famous examples of collaborative models - the wikipedia, two issues immediately spring to mind: it's not 100% accurate; and it has fostered a tribe of wikipedians who jealously control editing and administrative rights.

  It's not completely accurate because it has such an open participation method which makes it vulnerable to laymen mistakes and intentional sabotage.  This is a given.  Both of these factors will be an issue in any system of E-Democracy, you can't design against it, and you certainly can't design as if it's not a problem.  But you can design such that you have methods to recognise and neutralise these effects.

  The wikipedia answer is to have a tightly controlled admin tribe who scour the plains of their respective territories, looking for anything out of the ordinary.  It works quite well to a point, but it is not scalable.  In theory I guess it is infinitely recursive.  The Anime Tzar could delegate authority out to new editors who have specialised knowledge of individual series or characters, and those editors could delegate out authority to new editors who have the most knowledge of specific periods, and so on.

  Instead it turns into a territorial power grab and rather than including new detailed content, reasons are quickly found to exclude and delete knowledge.

  Another famous open collaborative model, Linux, relies on a benevolent dictator.. and I'm not going to waste any words explaining why that isn't a good example to follow.

  I'll go into more detail with regards how to defend against vandalism in the topics below, but in a nutshell - if more energy is put into breaking it, than is put into making it work, then it will fail.  It is, after all, a democratic system.

Decision Making:

  I'm going to use the following terms.  There may be better terms, if so I'll edit this to substitute them in:
  • Issue - a defined problem, e.g. Healthcare, the Iraq War
  • Resolution - an atomic solution, attached to an issue, which can be subjected to a Yes/No vote, e.g. raise income tax by 1%
  • Bundle - A larger scale grouping of resolutions, and/or bundles, in order to express conditionals, e.g. raise income tax by 1% if inheritance tax is reduced by 5%

  Anyone can add their own proposals in the forms above.  If an attempt is made by the person framing the bundle to include unrelated provisions, then by virtue of the fact that anyone can participate, the majority is not subjected to a choice limited to two undesirable options.  Bundles can be copied and those copies modified in order to frame a solution which satisfies the majority.

  This is a move away from monolithic packages such as the Reform initiatives which have successfully tied up the US Government over the last few years.  Rather than allocating months at a time to discuss and fillibuster over 5% of partisan differences, the 95% which is agreeable to most parties can be ratified and implemented right away.

  We're talking about a system that would be impossible to implement without our current state of communication technology.  There would be no way to keep track of all of the stakeholders positions on a large number of a small issues.

  Furthermore - how do we expect an individual to participate in a system of governance which may require any number of smaller-issue votes per day?

Discussion and Communication:

We will need to develop a new method of communication.  A single forum could not scale to allow the inhabitants of a city to have their say and participate equally.  It would be even more useless for a state or country.

So how to you approach a meritocracy and help ensure that good ideas don't get buried?  A participant with only one good idea in their life shouldn't have to network and schmooze their way into some elite club before they gain access to the pulpit.  But it remains somewhat paradoxical that while the experts in that field may recognise the unique benefit to that idea, they would never see it unless it was first promoted by a much larger group of non-experts who would only note that it ran contrary to conventional wisdom.

I think the answer lies in specialisation and social networks.  I might not know much about environmental issues, but my friend Jane does, so I just proxy my vote on issues with an environmental tag, to her.  Now if something attracts my attention, like the Gulf Oil spill, I might have a strong opinion on it, and as such I should be able to override that default, or take back full control whenever I want.  In a group of acquaintances, there is usually one person who may not be a subject-matter expert, but who cares more about that given subject than you do or is just more informed.

The choices given to the individual at this point is to have no say at all, spend time placing votes on all sorts of issues, or to empower a friend, who just may return the favour.  In turn, this friend may vote directly on the issues, or they may in turn proxy their collected votes out to a particular leader they support.  It'd look a little like this:

Now your friends may advertise which specialisations they are interested in, and as such it'd be quite easy to get as detailed as you wish, and in the end your control-panel may look something like this:

  Proxied Votes:

  [Environment] - Jane
  [Environment/Gulf Oil Spill] - Rod Stewart
  [R&D/Biology] - Kai
  [Civil Rights/Sexual Equality:Rhode Island] - Dimo

So the graphs at this point start becoming multi-dimensionally incomprehensible, especially as a single issue may overlap multiple specialisations, and if so you have to ensure that an individual gives fractional votes to each proxy. The implementation details get a bit ugly.

  Participants would do so under their legal names, and their actions and votes would be recorded and made part of the public record.

  I'm not particularly happy with this.  But it is a balance of risks.

  Public votes will ensure that tallies can be independently verified, and that no votes can be stolen by a trusted authority.  I think ensuring this is more important than the risk that peer pressure or intimidation will be used to coerce individuals into voting in a particular way.  Any organised attempt at coercion will find itself vulnerable to a single whistle-blower - these issues would generate indignation and publicity - so immediate protections and consequences could be brought to bear against the offenders.

  Peer-pressure looks at first glance like it may be a greater threat to the integrity of the vote, but since most people are members of more than one social circle then I expect such contradictions to be commonplace - placing a vote will likely be against the goals of at least one group you're a member of.  This won't affect zealots, but most people will have to get used to their working buddies cheering on a decision their drinking buddies deride, or dump intolerant groups whenever possible.


It's a good question.  First step is to get the software up and running in a stable secure state and make it as scalable as required.  I'm going to gloss over that unless there are any specifics which you feel are unanswered.

Once you have the software you have to create a movement behind it.  Personally I don't see this as a major challenge, because there are enough people involved in metagovernment now to prove that it can work in a small-medium scale, such as running a company or cooperative organisation/charity.  If you have a working demonstration, and not just theory, it's a lot easier to convince people that there is some value to what you propose.  I expect very few people to read this, for example, even those who have participated in the debate so far, and as such the idea is an almost impossible sell to a wider public who have no other reason to care.

So the obvious next step is to target local government, such as with Senator On-Line in Austrailia, and a host of other projects around the world.

With the proxy-voting method applied to candidates, and not just issues, this could interface with an existing power structure like this:

In addition, you have the potential to allow the institutional power structure to reflect the actual voting which took place:

That's all well and good.  But all we are doing here is filling positions for elected officials.  The next step is to elect officials who will honour the resolutions as decided by the E-Democracy software system.  I don't think this would take much more additional momentum to achieve.

And from there the implementation plan becomes more vague.  In theory working out the kinks and quirks at the smaller scales will allow it to scale up to handle larger tasks.  I'm too cynical to believe it will be quite that simple though.  As much as I'm sure some establishment leaders would jump onto this ship, others would rally against it.  Assuming it delivers on its promises though, it's a tough sell to paint it as something which is bad for the people.

Rush Limbaucracy:

Will the system be overrun by loud mouth asshole demagogues?  Perhaps.  It's a risk.  But bad decisions have consequences, it's easy to remain a loudmouth when you have no actual power, but when you are accountable for your actions then suddenly things get a little more complex.  What can I say, I'm optimistic on that front.

Mob Rule:

Proxy voting is not direct democracy.  Although on certain highly contentious issues it might be.  In those case though, you would have your more educated peers lobbying against you.  I think it'd balance out in the end.  In the meantime it'd be somewhat chaotic and fun and some terrible decisions would be made.  As long as they don't out-weigh the positives though, I firmly believe that attempting this is better than doing nothing.

Images and proxy-voting concept taken and modified from Votorola.

An old talk, but still relevant, lightly edited partial transcript below:

Flickr is a photo-sharing service that allows people to take photos, upload them, share them over the Web and so forth.  Recently, Flickr has added an additional function called tagging - a cooperative infrastructure answer to classification. If I had given this talk last year, I couldn't do what I just did, because I couldn't have found those photos.  But instead of saying, we need to hire a professional class of librarians to organize these photos once they're uploaded, Flickr simply turned over to the users the ability to characterize the photos.

When you build cooperation into the infrastructure, which is the Flickr answer, you can leave the people where they are and you take the problem to the individuals rather than moving the individuals to the problem. You arrange the coordination in the group, and by doing that you get the same outcome without the institutional difficulties. You lose the institutional imperative. You lose the right to shape people's work when it's volunteer effort, but you also shed the institutional cost, which gives you greater flexibility.

And the tension here is between institution as enabler and institution as obstacle.  Institutions hate being told they're obstacles.  One of the first things that happens when you institutionalize a problem is that the first goal of the institution immediately shifts from whatever the nominal goal was to self preservation.  So when institutions are told they are obstacles, and that there are other ways of coordinating the value, they go through something a little bit like the Kubler-Ross stages of reaction, being told you have a fatal illness: denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance.  Most of the cooperative systems we've seen haven't been around long enough to have gotten to the acceptance phase.

Many, many institutions are still in denial, but we're seeing recently a lot of both anger and bargaining. There's a wonderful small example going on right now.  In France, a bus company is suing people for forming a carpool, because the fact that they have coordinated themselves to create cooperative value is depriving them of revenue.

Steve Ballmer, now CEO of Microsoft, was criticizing Linux a couple of years ago, and he said, oh, this business of thousands of programmers contributing to Linux, this is a myth.  We've looked at who's contributed to Linux, and most of the patches have been produced by programmers who've only done one thing.  And you can see why, from Ballmer's point of view, that's a bad idea, right?  We hired this programmer, he came in, he drank our Cokes and played Foosball for three years and he had one idea.  What if it was a security patch?  What if it was a security patch for a buffer overflow exploit, of which Windows has not some -- several?  Do you want that patch, right?  The fact that a single programmer can, without having to move into a professional relation to an institution, improve Linux once and never be seen from again, should terrify Ballmer.  Because this kind of value is unreachable in classic institutional frameworks, but is part of cooperative systems of open-source software, of file sharing, of the Wikipedia.

Now, this is the part of the talk where I tell you what's going to come as a result of all of this, but I'm running out of time, which is good, because I don't know.  As with the printing press, if it's really a revolution, it doesn't take us from Point A to Point B. It takes us from Point A to chaos. The printing press precipitated 200 years of chaos, moving from a world where the Catholic Church was the sort of organizing political force to the Treaty of Westphalia, when we finally knew what the new unit was: the nation state.

Now, I'm not predicting 200 years of chaos as a result of this. 50. 50 years in which loosely coordinated groups are going to be given increasingly high leverage, and the more those groups forego traditional institutional imperatives -- like deciding in advance what's going to happen, or the profit motive -- the more leverage they'll get.  And institutions are going to come under an increasing degree of pressure, and the more rigidly managed, and the more they rely on information monopolies, the greater the pressure is going to be.  And that's going to happen one arena at a time, one institution at a time.  The forces are general, but the results are going to be specific.

And so the point here is not, "this is wonderful," or "we're going to see a transition from only institutions to only-cooperative framework."  It's going to be much more complicated than that.  But the point is that it's going to be a massive readjustment.  And since we can see it in advance and know it's coming, my argument is essentially we might as well get good at it.

What do you think?  Fifty years sounds like a pessimistic estimate to me.

Or Kill Me / Guarantee
« on: July 11, 2010, 04:23:14 am »
I develop software, I work from home four out of five days of the week and I'm able to make my own hours since I generally have deadlines in three-month chunks and I have very little oversight.  This is both good and bad of course, but I can't lie - it's the best contracting gig I've ever had.  Last summer I started taking my daughter out to the park on nice days.  Being able to bunk off and spend 2-3 hours in the late afternoon/early evening building castles in the sand-pit and teaching her how to climb around the equipment was more fun that I had ever expected.  So this year when the snow cleared we were out there again as often as we could.  Now it was different though, she'd actually pay attention to the other kids, and entertain herself rather than always wanting me to be there.  So I found myself sitting on my ass with time to do nothing think, which had really become something of a forgotten novelty.

In May, the sycamore trees around parts of the city started shedding.  They shed in the sandpit too, big rubbery un-matured wings.  By now the sand was warm enough that my daughter would refuse to wear shoes.  I know I live downtown, but shit, sand between your toes is one of those pleasures which makes life worth living, right?  So although they were not comfortable to walk upon, and in patches so dense that you sometimes couldn't see the sand underneath, I didn't press the issue.

She ran off to play with a reckless joy which I swore that if I only ever accomplish one major thing in my lifetime - I'd be delighted if it turned out to be helping her keep that sense of fun alive until she's old enough to protect it herself.  It's a joy which looked a little like this:

And an intelligent design rebuttal popped into my mind at this point.  Premise - the human body is so perfectly designed and attuned to its environment that it couldn't possibly blah blah.  Rebuttal - the body isn't such a perfect machine, it's continually breaking down, and there are a few nifty tricks, but also a lot of waste and inefficiency.. basically a comedy of dna replication errors, then you die.

I looked again at the thousands of unfertilised seeds shed in the sand - that wasted effort - I guess seed makers of all kinds over-produce wildly.  Millions of sperm for a single egg.  It's not precise, it's not perfect.  It's messy and beautiful.  It's not wisdom, it's assembly line opportunism.

The joke is that any of it works at all.

And then there's me, furrows in my brow trying to outsmart tomorrow.  Impotent regret for opportunities missed.  Vacillating back and forth so fast I spend almost no time in the present.


Because it wasn't meant to be, because I feel the presence of fate even though I logically denounce it at every turn.  Because I believe some things are meant to be while knowing that they're not.

Aha - because I want the guarantee of vindication, as a natural law, to motivate the ruthless tooth and nail fight which is I know is required to give my daughter the chance at life she deserves.

And that's a whole other story - but I realised on that bench, that I wasn't so stupid for wanting that goal, as I was for allowing myself to succumb to the comforting crutch of make-believe in order to ease my path.  There are no guarantees, and in other news, I need a helmet.

Apple Talk / Gah Earthquake.
« on: June 23, 2010, 06:46:18 pm »
Sometimes I hate living in a condo.  It's somewhat disconcerting.

Techmology and Scientism / So what's the deal with online privacy?
« on: June 16, 2010, 08:28:13 pm »

Personally I don't spend much time worrying about it.  Company A might sell some information about me to Company B, who may then send me unsolicited marketing - inconvenient and undesirable but not enough for me to get upset about it.  I don't feel like I have ownership over data which involves me, even though I might prefer to limit its distribution.  Being given a cut out of its sale sounds nice at first pass, but as this affects everyone, any positive effect would merely be short-lived, and thereafter inflationary.  Identity theft/personal safety issues I see as something which need to be worked out since we've moved so much of our lives online, so to me that is a separate issue which does require serious focus.

Am I missing something obvious?  I just don't see what there is to get upset or concerned about.

Techmology and Scientism / Does forgetting aid learning?
« on: June 16, 2010, 06:26:03 am »
I can't recall where I read that it might - by easing the formation and usage of generalities and highlighting exceptions.  We do seem to be able to learn and function while forgetting almost everything we experience - single days, weeks or even entire years.. but I'm not particularly happy with that explanation.

Apple Talk / Bugs
« on: January 13, 2010, 08:45:06 pm »
As a kid, I paid more attention to small things like bugs walking along the ground.  Sometimes I'd give one a little poke, and he'd roll onto his back, retract his funny little legs, and pretend to be dead.  Knowing that was the extent of the fun, and that there were plenty more bugs, I'd ignore it and move on to something else.  Pretending to be dead is an excellent survival strategy, but it goes no farther.  Then one day when I was three, I tried playing with a wasp which was resting on a step.  To this day I'm still wary of wasps.

Which brings me to my question - what is The City afraid of?  Not the same thing as I - it buzzes to life every morning with tightly-packed wasps brought in on the 07:43 Eastbound to Union.  Is there anything to be gained in knowing its fear or becoming something that The City will fear?  We bugs are fun to play with, but easily exterminated, after all.

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