27 February, 2007

The real post-industrial society.

It is known that education is getting worse these days, less and less people desire to study sciences, more and more choosing to major in "general studies" which basically means anything that is not boring, which, in turn, is discussing plans for the next party for most people.

Interestingly, it seems that nothing is done to remedy the situation, quite the opposite -- a lot the is being done to continue this trend.

So why don't governments care about the education? Don't they need taxpayers with high income, which is achieved by high education? Certainly, uneducated public is much easier manipulated, but someone just has to develop those WMDs, right? Well, just a few very intellectual people are needed for that, so they probably will get through no matter how bad the education system is, but what about "regular" engineers, air traffic controllers, economists, etc.? Countries still need those, right?

That is so, but one has to consider that these professions may not require much creativity. For example, software engineering used to be an art, but as computers' performance grows, the quality of the software does not matter that much anymore, so most of the coding is just routine work, like digging a trench. So, just as machines are way better in trench digging then humans, machines are (or will be very soon) able to also do software. And control airplanes. And predict market movements. Even drive taxis and clean the rooms -- advances in AI and robotics may allow for most of the jobs to be replaced by machines.

Apparently, the time is coming when you won't have to work, unless you want to. And by "work" I mean using your brain for actual thinking, all other activities seem to be quite doable by computers. Therefore, general public may be quite happy with endless shopping and TV-watching, and other fun activities that do not require any education.

But where are we going to get money for shopping, some may ask, if practically everything is going to be done by robots? Well, I'm sure there will be "jobs" where, of course, we won't be asked to do anything boring or anything we don't like. Some basic education system will also be around, acting as a scout network for picking up new talents who are going to advance technology further. And those talents certainly can come from a much smaller population, so the fact that the population of the "post-industrial" countries is decreasing is also an indicator of movement in the direction outlined above.

/Colonel Armstrong Tree, signing out.

25 February, 2007

There is no truth.

Mass media is often criticized of being biased and of "not giving the full truth" or "not showing the whole picture". While it is true that information is being withheld or underreported or outright distorted, let's ask ourselves, is it even possible to provide the "complete truth"?

What is truth -- at least in the sense of accurate reporting of the events? If man A kills man B that is an event, right? And as a result of this event, man A is a killer and man B is a victim. Even if man A is an executioner and man B is a convicted criminal? And that even if man A serves a bloodthirsty dictatorship and B's crime was doubting the dictator's wisdom?

And so on and so forth, I'm sure everyone has seen similar logical chains elsewhere. My point is, it isn't possible to "accurately represent the facts", since there's always another layer to those facts. In the "man A kills man B" example above, the last step, about the dictatorship, certainly won't be reported by the dictator's newspapers. It probably won't be reported in other countries who support the dictatorship, and may not be reported at all -- if the dictatorship won't fail, who's going to call it that? And then, even if somebody does, others may not agree -- see Pinochet, for example... Or Saddam ;)

But there seems to be one more obstacle to the truth: according to the Gödel's incompleteness theorems, no matter how many "layers" -- points of view, motivations, etc. -- of the same event you include in the report, there always going to be a judgment, an idea or another point of view that can turn "good" guys into "bad" ones and vice versa.

So what does all this mean for us, the news readers? Should we stop reading news completely? That would be a possible solution, sure -- but our curiosity won't allow that. Besides, refusing information has to be unanimous, otherwise whoever still has the information takes advantage over those who doesn't. Which again is a solution, and that is probably actually happening, but can't we think of something else? If we read about as much layers as possible, can't we finally agree?

Well, no. But what we can do is to push the misunderstanding out into the domain where it doesn't matter much. That is, we won't get complete truth we can happily agree on, but if the argument is pushed from whether a billion of people should be killed or not, to, say, whether or not nuclear fusion is a viable global power source, then I think it would be good enough.

22 February, 2007

What to do with the orphans.

Currently, abandoned children are mostly neglected by governments, and it appears to have been the case for quite a while, judging by the vast cultural heritage on the topic: orphans are often perceived as unlucky, poor kids who lack the warmth of parental love and are, generally, quite miserable.

This once again shows the ineffectiveness of the past and present governments, because orphans, by the very nature of their situation, can be very loyal to the government. Most people are quite loyal to their family, relatives and friends, so if there's ever a choice, whether to do something that benefits their family or the country as a whole, many people may choose the former. What's worse, it isn't possible to foresee what each particular person will choose, which may have very dire consequence for the country if the person choosing is at a high level of the power hierarchy -- a president or some such. Although it's not that those who get elected into high offices get scrutinized on this criteria, so the problem isn't very obvious.

Orphans, on the other hand, can be raised as the government elite, brought up equating themselves with the country and its government, so they won't ever have any doubts about whom to serve. They will also be highly resistant to treason, because the whole idea of betraying the government they owe everything will be very foreign to them.

Certainly, in the current scheme of things, the government and the country are not quite the same, the former may change course several times while a person is growing up, but, in the context of neo genetic monarchy this makes much more sense. These orphans raised in loyalty to the dynasty is the human resource pool that a wise, genetically-engineered monarch could take his lieutenants from.

Vive la génétique!

18 February, 2007

Taming inflation with coins.

It has been recently announced that U.S. Mint is going to produce the presidential $1 coins, so there's going to be even more "special" coins in circulation, in addition to the state quarters. The Presidents are going to have even greater total value, since there were already more Presidents than states and each President is valued four times more than a State.

It's interesting to note that these coins are intended for mass circulation, not a limited release for numismatists. Which means, that these new coins, just as the state quarters, are going to pass through the general publics' hands and, since there's a collector in everyone, many, if not most, of the coins are going to stick to those hands to be then shaken off into a jar.

So, why all this? Consider: the money is being issued, and someone is getting paid with that money, which normally causes inflation -- i.e. there's more money in circulation than goods/services, so the value of the money goes down somewhat. But, if those someones are not buying anything with the money, keeping it in the jar instead, the money never enter the economy, hence there's less inflation!

I wonder how soon are we going to see the special annual $20 bills, one for each year since 1776, depicting some important event of that year. Collect them all!

15 February, 2007

Fun with google images.

Here's a simple game that might improve your language skills (and help kill some time).

1) open google images

2) open a web page in a language you don't know. Wikipedia can help you with that.

3) copy a word from the page into google images and click Search.

4) try to guess what the word means by looking at the pictures.

12 February, 2007

The genetic dawn of new monarchies.

It's obvious that with the right monarch, a monarchy can outperform democracies easily, since the monarch is not concerned with reelection. The king is pretty much associated with the country, so he'll do his best to lead the country to prosperity -- he does not have any other goal in life, anyway.

The reason why this is not the case in reality is right there in the 3rd word of the statement: "with the right monarch...". (Un)fortunately, the systems with family-inherited absolute power don't work too well because the children aren't the exact copies of their parents, so if the dynasty founder was all suited to be a king, his offspring may be less so. And their offspring, lacking not only the natural predisposition but the right upbringing under the influence of a good monarch, may be even worse rulers. They could be great musicians or bakers or scientists, but the country needs a ruler to rule and a great poet will let his country down. The tendency to breed within a narrow "royal" gene pool isn't helping either.

That's why democracies win so far: each individual ruler may be mediocre, but, succeeding each other frequently, they cancel each other's mistakes and the country makes a good progress overall. However, there are things that may be pleasing to the potential voters in the short turn, but damaging for the country and biting those same voters in the ass a few years later. Which doesn't matter for the elected leader who done those, because he's not a leader anymore, another guy has to solve the problem now. A good king won't have to do things for the voters' immediate gratification, but could really aim for long-term goals.

So, how do we ensure the good king's son is also a good king? Well, genetic engineering is the answer: don't let the Brownian motion decide whether the price will be a good ruler or a good golf player. Pick up the right one out of the million royal seamen, the country's future depends on it! Sure, the father may want a great basketball player son, you know, to get free tickets for the best seats and all that, but that's his duty as a king. Besides, I'm sure the Basketball Association would recognize this great sacrifice and spare a few tickets for the king.

08 February, 2007

Emancipation of the trees

I've read recently that the tree genome is twice as big as the human, making trees a potentially more complex creatures than yours truly. Sure, trees don't write blogs or anything, but on the other hand, I might be a tree, how would you know? Of course, there is a guy who told about this blog to a few friends, but may be he's lying! May be the Colonel Armstrong Tree is writing this, who knows.

Have you noticed, by the way, how the size of the Internet exploded in recent years: there are billions of web pages, blogs, home pages. How writes all those, hard working humans, like you and me? There's no way people have so much spare time, so it's quite feasible this growth is caused by the trees, who have figured out how to connect to the Internet by inducing electrical currents in wires! With 45000 genes, they sure can have that ability!

Also, trees don't work (i.e. they don't have any jobs other than being a natural resource, but that doesn't take much effort) and we've always assumed that is because they're too stupid to work. But now we're armed with genetics and know that a tree can potentially do twice as much work as any human. All this time while we were having labor disputes resulting in bloody revolutions, the trees were just standing there laughing at us! But it's not so easy to cheat us anymore, and I call for immediate emancipation of all trees!

/Hope a tree won't fall on me today.

04 February, 2007

How to dispose of radioactive waste.

Disposing of radioactive waste is a very important problem, since this waste is what makes the whole principle of nuclear energy not so clean. Currently, the used radioactive fuel is stored underground in really strong (hopefully) containers, which is quite expensive, so I imagine the companies running nuclear stations would like a cheaper solution.

Yesterday I was helping a friend of mine to assemble a desk he bought. In one of those little polyethylene packets with screws and stuff, there were some strange crumbs, which may actually be some CEO's answer to toxic waste disposal. Instead of leasing land for a few thousands of years, designing and building those strong containers, why not stuff little pieces here and there? With a wide enough distribution (and I suppose those desks are shipped worldwide), any waste will be spread evenly, so no one would notice. And if the crumbs are small enough, consumers will most likely loose them around their house, so there won't be any detectable accumulation in landfills where household garbage ends up.

Scary, huh?

03 February, 2007

SUV rollover

Just saw an ad on some website:

I doubt that it's such a great idea to put the word "rollover" on an SUV ad. Especially if followed by "Learn Why". Because it's a behemoth and should really require a special license to operate, that's why.

02 February, 2007

Fighting spam with spam

It is no secret why junk email is so successful: it costs practically nothing to send a message to a million of addresses. Those addresses are gathered in a variety of ways, one of them is harvesting them off websites, so these days practically nobody has an actual email address that you can click on and send a message to. No, they are either images, so you have to type the address yourself, or contain some bot-tricking "removespam" characters, or altogether hidden behind a web form.

Well, I think we (the good spam-hating people) should start putting email links back on our pages, and as many as possible. Of course, they have to be fake addresses.

It takes me, let's see...


...about 50 seconds to come up with the addresses above. Now, when the spam-bots will do their harvesting, they'll pick those up and 5 solid financial offers won't rich a recipient. This won't make any difference, of course, if there are just 5 addresses, but if a million people will come up with 5-10 fake addresses each, that'll be much more of a burden to spammers. The ultimate goal is to dilute real addresses with lots of fake ones, which is cheap, easy and effective. To put it in other way, it's spamming the spammers!

P.S. And we should also keep a few fake records in our email application's address book, so if -- God forbid -- a worm infects us, it take some poison back to its lair!