Monthly Archives: January 2017

Never to the stars

Humanity will never reach the stars.

Why? Well, yeah, why? Humanity will very soon be able to exist fully in virtual reality. Once we have perfect simulation of reality, then our imaginations of what might be in the Universe will greatly exceed what is actually there. Our stories will be much more alluring and billions of times cheaper to explore and investigate. As soon as we can “think” we’re exploring the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe, while being immersed inside VR tanks, or suits or neural implants, then why would humanity spend the time and money _actually_ exploring those spaces?

The scientific community would, one suppose, continue to pursue exploration and discovery, building bots that traveled as fast as they might to other star systems. But the billions of commoners who were more than happy to just sit back and imagine they were on another planet, eating exotic foods, speaking and interacting with bizarre aliens — why would they ever want to risk actually traveling to such locations?

They wouldn’t. And the funding for such actual excursions will dwindle as VR sims become more and more real. The economic reason for exploration of other star systems will fail to compare to the economic reason for delivering an even better virtual world here. And face it, the human imagination is nearly inexhaustible. It’s unlikely that the universe can beat us in the extraordinary portrayal of diversity of life and systems. (Unlikely, not impossible.)

If humanity lives through the next fifty years (no CMEs that destroy civilization, no plagues, no nukes, no asteroids or super volcanoes) then by the time we could actually GO to Mars, we won’t have to, or want to — at least not to experience it. We’ll be able to do that right in our Almost-There-Capsules.

This is one of the solutions to the Fermi Paradox. And, really, humans are almost there.


Off With His Head!

King Drumpf sat in his rumpled skin and garish, foreign made clothing, his pinched pig-eyes and fleshy pout portraying his standard grimace. He shook himself in a quiver of rage and cried “Off With His Head!”

“Senior, I’m only the messenger,” explained the demure fellow, dressed in a dark crisp suit and polished silver tipped cowboy boots.

The Drumpf King leaned forward and widened his eyes to show how earnest he was. “I love Mexico-ans. I do. I own four hotels, south-of-the-border, you see. But Mexico-ans WILL pay for this wall.” He finished with an index finger flourish. “And, one other thing. Now, don’t get me wrong — I love tacos, I do. But face it, all you illegals here in our country, illegally, you’re going to have to go. Grab a ladder, dig a tunnel, whatever. But you’re all officially,” he paused here, lifted his eyebrows and continued, “history.” The Drumpf sat back, his finger still gesturing to the ceiling, lowered to point at the fellow still standing there and then repeated, “And you sir. Off With Your Head!”

An adviser, standing back (to keep out of sight), a mask over her face to present to the King only the expression of agreement regardless of what the King might say, attempted to redirect The Drumpf’s anger. “Sir, your executive order allowing beheadings at your request… it’s still hung up in the Supreme Court.”

“WHAT? That group of geriatric imbeciles? Still think they can block me?” The bulbous man then tried to stand from his gilded throne, but, as the dais was of his own design and too narrow beneath his feet, he immediately stumbled down the three steps to land in a pile of indignity before the messenger from Mexico.

No one ran to his rescue.

“CONWAY! Come help me up! Gaut-dammit! Who designed that gaut-damned chair?”

Having finally learned her lesson, Adviser Conway held her tongue.

The messenger decided to use this distraction as his means of escape and sidled back to the exit.

“Where’d that sly Mexico-an fellow sneak off to? I wasn’t done with him!”

Conway feigned support as the Drumpf King used her to make his feet.  She said through the air hole of her mask, “I’m afraid you’ve scared him off. Those fake tweets showing the guillotine in the Oval Office must have had their effect.”

“I’m in a foul mood now Conway. Help me back to my throne.”

Reseated and out of breath from the exertion, The King busied himself with adjusting his garments and said, now reposed, “I’m in need of some lighthearted entertainment. Send in my jester. What’s his name again?”

Conway lifted her mask to ensure that the King heard her clearly. “That would be The Fool Ryan, sir.”

WellCare SickCare

National Healthcare Idea

The current health care crisis (ACA) is in the process of being “solved” (yeah, right). I have scant knowledge of the proposed plan to fix the problem. However, talking this morning we discussed a possible alternative system which might be palatable to a fairly large percentage of participants (people, insurance, drug, government).

Split health care into two parts:

WellCare and SickCare

WellCare will be government sponsored and available without question to ALL US citizens.

SickCare will be insurance controlled and available only to those under premium/deductible payment systems.

WellCare will provide checkups, immunizations, mammograms, health screening, cancer screening, nutrition counselling, influenza shots, treatment and medication for temporary ailments. Essentially all care which keeps you healthy and/or get you back to health within a month’s time. Productivity of a society is the key here. Keeping society healthy should be the governement’s only health related goal. Beyond that is the responsibility of the individual.

SickCare takes over where WellCare leaves off – and is NOT free. Severe and/or lasting injury, long term ailments, chronic diseases should all be covered under SickCare. Society as a whole should not be held responsible for an individual’s genetic, accidental or situational conditions. Individuals must plan for extending health beyond society’s capacity for general populace care.

Where to place the dividing line between the two care systems is the critical question. If it keeps you healthy or returns you to health within one month then it is WellCare. Otherwise it is SickCare.

This is no doubt simplistic. But the core concept of two systems is sound.

Society has a responsibility – to a point – of taking care of its own. This is good economic sense. Care beyond this point however, is bad economic sense. And if a society cannot be economically viable then it will die.

Torte reform must also be part of the overall solution — got to get those lawyers out of the mix — suing doctors for profit.

Also reference:


Our AI Overlords – a collection nexus

This is a collection point for all things AI, robotic, artilect, singularity focused.

Artificial intelligence is just learning how to walk, talk, move and think. Evidence is showing how that it’s learning how to see, listen, taste, smell, visualize, dream, create and replicate/replace many of humanity’s capabilities.

Robots come in all shapes and sizes. And it’s robots, embodied, that we tend to fear. But the reality is that it should be AI, or artilects, artificial intellects, which we will rise up to squash us.

The comments on this post are where I’ll be placing links (hoping they stay viable over the long term) to sites reporting and portraying AI in all its overloardly manifestations.

CMEs: Fermi Paradox solution?

One of the theoretical solutions to Fermi’s Paradox is the Rare Earth theory.

Fermi’s Paradox, if you’re unfamiliar, is the quandary that asks if intelligent life is probable in the galaxy and/or universe — why have we not seen evidence of it? (Aside from our own?)

There are so called “solutions” to this question and you can research them if you care to, but the one that I find most compelling is the one that supposes “Earth is rare.” Isaac Arthur’s Youtube channel has a Fermi’s Paradox compendium video which explains, in detail, this and the other solutions (Video).

There is one aspect of this Rare Earth solution that seems to go unexamined. And it is this: That Coronal Mass Ejections, CMEs, will have a severe and recurring negative affect on any technologically advanced society.

Humanity has experienced just one CME of a size to do it serious damage. You may or may not be familiar with the 1859 Carrington Event and the government reports on the next CME that will hit us (as well as the July 2012 CME that barely missed us), but you should.

CMEs have the potential, some think slight, but I think enormous, to disrupt electricity generation and transmission. I believe few people, if anybody, have theorized the extent to which a CME (every few hundred years — or more frequently) will have on an advanced technological society…

Or what it will have on OUR advanced technological society. Our electricity dependent civilization has never experienced a CME of Carrington level.

The solution to Fermi’s Paradox would hold that CMEs slamming electricity enabled civilizations anywhere in the galaxy or universe, over and over, each time knocking them back hundreds of years of their progress, wasting resources (like irreplaceable fossil fuels) will, in the end, suppress such civilizations from becoming electro-magnetically communicating / space-faring species.

Periodic coronal mass ejections would continually reset alien intelligence species’ societal progress. After every CME that wipes out their electricity generation and transmission capability their society will collapse. Over and over. CME’s happen again and again, in cycles.

The next massive Carrington level CME to strike Earth is going to, potentially, collapse our technological society. If a pair of massive CMEs were to hit during our summer, 10 to 16 hours apart — say goodbye to civilization in the Northern Hemisphere.

Here’s a theoretical scenario that explores this possibility:
Blue Across the Sea – Epilogue

Most experts who analyze the impact of CMEs, I think, underestimate the destructive force they pose. I believe that, specifically, the millions of miles of wire strung in every city and state, in every business building and home, in every subway, train station, in every airliner, in every container ship, in every facet of society — WILL be affected. WILL react to the magnetic plasma attack that a CME represents. And that this reality, here-to-for unexamined and unrealized, will collapse human society.

When it happens to us then it could happen to any galactic intelligent species. This, in my opinion, represents a valid solution to the Fermi Paradox.

When open markets make sense

When profits align with positive outcome, free or open markets make sense.

When profits align with negative outcome they don’t. In these cases a social system is better for society. And in the end, bettering society should ALWAYS be the goal.

Pencils are good for society. If your company makes a higher quality pencil and more people buy your pencil, your profits go up AND society gets a better pencil. If you make a same quality pencil but for less cost (more efficiently), your profits go up AND society gets a good quality but cheaper pencil. Profits and outcome are aligned. You make money and society benefits.

If your company makes antibiotics what do you want to happen for you to increase profits? Naturally you want more people to get sick so you can sell more drugs. I’d say that was a negative impact on society. If you make a super effective, but more costly antibiotic who will buy it? The wealthy-sick? I would venture that would be a bad business model. If you decreased your production costs and lowered the price, you can sell more drugs to more people, but again, once you’ve (theoretically) cured everybody — where’s your profit going to come from? What company would ever enter into such a business model? Yeah, exactly! (And it’s a real growing problem.)

It turns out there’s a simple rule of thumb to determine when open markets make sense, namely, when profits align with a positive societal outcome.

  • Cars are good for society. The company that makes the best, lowest cost car will profit.
  • Airlines are good for society. The airline that transports the most people, for the lowest cost, safely and comfortably will profit.
  • Smartphones are good for society.
  • Surfboards, skis, yachts, clothes, shoes, food, drink, furniture, hotels, restaurants, and so on and so forth.

If society benefits from the service or product, the company that provides those services or products at the lowest price and the highest quality — will profit. In each of these cases true capitalism and the associated free/open markets make sense.

Profit + positive outcome = free markets.

So, when do free/open markets NOT make sense? Well, as noted above, if there’s a negative in the equation, anywhere in the equation, then free/open markets do NOT make sense.

For instance, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and health insurance corporations only profit when you are sick and are forced to pay for a cure or protection. The sicker you are, or society is, the more money healthcorps make. A negative for society equals a positive for corporations. A bad equation.

In correlation, if society became illness free, if somehow a company created a drug that cured every disease, this would be great for you and me and everyone but would destroy that company’s as well as all other healthcorp’s profits; a rather big negative.

There are other inverted benefit sectors (negative = profit):

Fire. A corporation that benefited from putting out fires would naturally want more fires burning. More fires = more profit.

Police. A corporation that benefited from providing police services would naturally want more unrest, more violence, more mayhem in society. More chaos = more profit.

Hospitals. A corporation that benefited from fixing people’s injuries and illnesses would naturally want lots and lots of sick and injured people. More illness = more profits.

There are many other negative = profit (or positive = loss)

  • Disasters are bad for society (and their response and recovery aspects).
  • Crime and corruption are bad for society.
  • Poverty is bad. Air pollution. Water pollution. Loss of open-space.

If a thing is bad for you, me and society, then making a profit from it is NOT a good use of free and open markets. In fact, I would say that making money off of society’s misery, of any kind, is down right evil.

When there’s a negative in the equation the only solution is to build and manage a social system around it.

Socialism is not all bad. Open markets are not all bad.
Socialism is not all good and neither are open market systems.

We need a mix. The rule of thumb above can help us figure out which to apply when. Right now, healthcare is a for profit system making money on a negative affect on society. This is exactly why we must socialize healthcare.

Decisions as Risk

Writing financial trading software gave me a few interesting insights into risk. Most come across as obvious after you hear them, others not so much.

First off, both taking action and NOT taking action have risks. Do you buy TSLA today or not? Do you sell your EURUSD contracts, or not? Do you drive to that job interview, in the snow, or not? Do you call in sick with the flu, or not? Do you swim in the rip-tide prone surf, or not? Do you try the sashimi plate, or not? Most of us only consider the risk of the action. Rarely do we consider the risk of NOT taking the action.

Daniel Kahneman said: “I think one of the major results of the psychology of decision making is that people’s attitudes and feelings about losses and gains are really not symmetric.”

In line with this would be a decision to spend money on a new car. At the time of the decision most people would only consider the risks of the ownership of the vehicle: the new payments, the extra insurance, the risk of damage, the selling of the prior vehicle. And of course there would be the analysis of the benefits of the new car, which coincide — somewhat — with the risks I’ll mention here soon. Benefits would include safety, pride, conveniences, lower fuel costs, reliability.

Few people would look at the benefits of car ownership as risks of NOT buying the car.

This is my point. One *might* consider examining all choices as ONLY a balance of risks to be assessed. For instance, on buying a new car:

Buy risk:    new car payment,
No buy risk: old car breaks down,
Buy risk:    greater insurance,
No buy risk: greater risk of injury in accident,
Buy risk:    greater chance of theft,
No buy risk: old car does not impress - fail to get promotion.

And so on and so forth. The point is, one can interpret all decisions as a weighing of ONLY risks. Benefits can be considered as inverted risks: If you don’t buy the car, you won’t get that new car pride of ownership; absence or loss of a benefit is a risk.

If you present decisions as a list of risks — only — then you can more effectively make appropriate decisions. As the song lyrics by Rush go “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” There is risk in “opportunity lost.” In the end, by examining choices as sets of counter-risks you may make better decisions.

That’s one lesson.

Another is associated with this lesson and it has to do with money.

That $10 in your pocket is not static. It’s not sitting there doing nothing. By you owning that $10 what you’ve done is decided to place a LONG bet on the U.S. dollar. You bet — maybe unbeknownst to you — that while you hold that $10 (snuggled warmly next to your carkeys), the USD will become more powerful, will increase in value (or at least not lose value). That all other assets you *could* own will decrease in value in comparison.

You are, effectively, LONG the dollar. Most people have no idea that this is true. Every dollar in your checking accounts, in your savings accounts or squirreled away in mason jars is a LONG bet on the USD. And even more importantly, this bet is a risk. A risk you may not even know you are taking.

Every second you hold on to that $10 you are risking its depreciation, either through inflation or through the ebb and flow of world currency valuations. I’m not making this up, this is real. Sure the affect might be slight, and sure, in the last 5 years you’ve made out like a pirate; the USD has only gone UP in value (little inflation and rising comparative value vs all the other world currencies). But this is soon to come to an end.

Money, all money, is risk. Do you stay LONG the USD? Or do you buy that new car? (Thereby going SHORT the USD and LONG the auto industry….)