dredmorbius's recent activity

  1. Comment on The Texas Railroad Commission centennial documentary (1991) in ~humanities

    dredmorbius
    Link
    The Texas Railroad Commission (name itself and relation to responsibilities an interesting discussion) is a little known, but immensely powerful, and some would argue, immensely flawed,...

    The Texas Railroad Commission (name itself and relation to responsibilities an interesting discussion) is a little known, but immensely powerful, and some would argue, immensely flawed, governmental institution.

    This centennial documentary is as laudatory as any self-produced account can be expected to be, though it does offer a number of items worth further exploration -- the role of railroads in the 19th century, petroleum, Rule of Capture, proration, "hot oil", the New London School, and more.

    I'd stumbled across this a few years ago, it's proved illuminating.

  2. Comment on What software or service do you use for blogging? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link
    What I'm ... not actually using yet though am slowly progressing toward, is a static-site generator on a Git-managed site. In my case, Pelican and GitLab, though there are other options (Hugo,...

    What I'm ... not actually using yet though am slowly progressing toward, is a static-site generator on a Git-managed site. In my case, Pelican and GitLab, though there are other options (Hugo, Jekyl, and others, on the SSG side).

    Advantages:

    • Write in Markdown, which is a very nearly fully-sufficient format.
    • Keep the overhead of templates and such out of my way.
    • Allow for tags and indices.
    • Minimal complexity.
    • Comments via ... probably email, quite honestly.
    • RSS.
    • Portable and automatically maintain my own archive(s). Given the number of times I've had to pull up stakes, this is no laughing matter.

    Downsides:

    • Search, mostly. There are solutions. None are excellent. Though I'll have a local archive I can grep or swish+ or otherwise search.
    2 votes
  3. Comment on Keybase cancels further Stellar Lumen cryptocurrency giveaways after giving away 10% of the intended amount, due to abuse in ~tech

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    I don't know about account creation per se, but there had been a flurry of noninformational / low-informational comments, along the lines of "great post", etc., often from new ("green") accounts....

    I don't know about account creation per se, but there had been a flurry of noninformational / low-informational comments, along the lines of "great post", etc., often from new ("green") accounts.

    I comment to the HN mods pretty actively, and mentioned this, a few months back. They'd identified Keybase as a cause, and had apparently worked out an understanding to reduce the instance.

    In general the Keybase experiment strongly supports my sense that incentivised communications based on anything other than basic informational quality is a Very Bad Idea.

    Be careful what you incentivise for. You'll get it.

    And, as Keybase demonstrates, others may also get it.

    1 vote
  4. Comment on Tesla made a pickup truck for the end of the world in ~tech

    dredmorbius
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    30 miles a day twice what Musk is claiming (15 mi), and even that is probably optimistic. (Though, noted, Musk has frequently proved me wrong.) The problems with panels permanently affixed to a...

    30 miles a day twice what Musk is claiming (15 mi), and even that is probably optimistic.

    (Though, noted, Musk has frequently proved me wrong.)

    The problems with panels permanently affixed to a vehicle's exterior, is that they're subject to all kinds of wear and damage, they don't generate electricity when shaded, and shapes and angles of automobiles are not ideal for solar PV generation. If a 5-10 km range is going to spell the difference between life or death, then maybe this is worthwhile. But again, almost any alternative mechanism (a tow, a generator, a long extension cord, a dispatchable external battery pack, a set of deployable, non-permanently-mounted, solar panels) is going to be superior.

    Note that "fold-out solar wings" would be one of those additional (and far more sensible) options. Oddly enough, Musk's other hobby, space flight, has proved extremely effective in packing large panel deployments in to very small size- and mass- packages, with reliable deployment systems. Though what's tractable for a one-time deployment in space may not fare so well on planetary surfaces with wind, dust, rain, and other factors -- those mechansism are pretty fragile. Though they can be made more robust, at a cost in mass and stowed size.

    It's simple physics: 1 kW/m^2 at best, as a starting point, of incident solar energy, further reduced through numerous technical and logistical limitations. If you're lucky you end up with 5-10% of that (0.1kW/m^2), and quite possibly only 1%. At extraordinary cost. At (roughly) 6m x 2m, if you covered the entire exterior surface of the Cybertruck with PV, you'd be starting with 18kW of incident solar energy, converted at ~10-20% efficiency, for 1.8 - 3.6 kW. If the battery pack is 500 kWh, then you'd get, again, at best, 1.3 - 3.6 miles per hour of charge, and maybe 4-8 good charging hours per day. (Musk's 15 miles/day seems to match this roughly, within a factor or so of 2.)

    1 vote
  5. Comment on Tesla made a pickup truck for the end of the world in ~tech

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    The amount of solar power which can be generated by panels on a vehicle is going to be minuscule. The 15 miles is a best possible option. If you're stuck beyond civilisation, it might just...

    The amount of solar power which can be generated by panels on a vehicle is going to be minuscule. The 15 miles is a best possible option. If you're stuck beyond civilisation, it might just potentially be useful, but only very barely.

    A set of deployable panels / awning which could be erected in an emergency would make more sense. The panels used in The Martian would be an example. Better: carry a generator and fuel to recharge on the rare occasions you're well off-grid. The energy storage of liquid hydrocarbons is exceedingly hard to beat, and occasional emergency off-grid use would be a high-benefit use-case. (Marine and aircraft propulsion are two others.)

    15 votes
  6. Comment on The voting on topics and comments now ends when they're 30 days old and all individual vote records are deleted, retaining only the count in ~tildes.official

    dredmorbius
    Link
    @Deimos: Thank you so much for this. I've worked on a few social media sites and projects over the years. One of the first, around the turn of the millennium, had me realising that the tracking of...

    @Deimos: Thank you so much for this.

    I've worked on a few social media sites and projects over the years. One of the first, around the turn of the millennium, had me realising that the tracking of individual voting / rating activity presented a hugely sensitive dataset that could give rise to tremendously intrusive profiling.

    My master scheme to prevent this from happening by boycotting working for such projects over the next decade ... failed miserably.

    I'm glad to see awareness rising, and that you've implemented cleansing of personal voting data on Tildes.

    This despite many regrets over the potential utility of such data in coming up with a potentially better collaborative filtering / rating / ranking system. I no longer think those benefits are worth the costs.

    Regarding the 30-day voting window: so far as rating/ranking of comments goes, this is all but certainly sufficient. The majority of value from moderation comes from the early votes, up or down. WIth time, the tendency is for negatives to accrue. The potential value of using votes (or likes, stars, etc., depending on site mechanics) as a sort of bookmarking system, also really doesn't merit the risks (though the mechanism can be useful). But the loss is small.

    I'm pretty sure there's an exponential decay in voting activity after the first few hours of a post in any regard.

    15 votes
  7. Comment on How do we want to handle Podcasts? in ~tildes

    dredmorbius
    Link
    Episode link works best for context or transcripts. Posting a direct link to the media is tremendously useful. I tend to pick those up using mpv these days, which is amazeballs. mpv, a...

    Episode link works best for context or transcripts. Posting a direct link to the media is tremendously useful. I tend to pick those up using mpv these days, which is amazeballs.

    mpv, a terminal/shell media player, can source directly from local or remote media, and can make use of the youtube-dl URL handlers to pull from a huge range of online multimedia services, well beyond Google's viral disinformation video channel.

    Cross-patform, runs on Linux, MacOS, Windows, etc. Also Android, under Termux.

    4 votes
  8. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    Hrm, still hoping for more. There is a Wikipedia article: Human Nature. One view I've been leaning toward is that "human nature" is in very large part an information-theoretic dynamic, and would...

    Hrm, still hoping for more. There is a Wikipedia article: Human Nature.

    One view I've been leaning toward is that "human nature" is in very large part an information-theoretic dynamic, and would be intrinsict to almost any comparable system. That is, most instances are not specific, and most especially, moral failings of individual or collective humans, but intrinsic systemic and emergent properties. The field of cybernetics as originally conceived by Norbert Wiener gets to much of this.

  9. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    Any particulars or references you recall? And yes, addressing Ozone/CFC, asbestos, lead, and smoking are success stories. There are probably a few others that could be added to the list. OT: the...

    Any particulars or references you recall?

    And yes, addressing Ozone/CFC, asbestos, lead, and smoking are success stories. There are probably a few others that could be added to the list.

    OT: the interplay between lead, fossil fuels, isotopic dating, the age of the Earth, and environmental pollution is an interesting one. Short version: the addition of lead to petrol created pervasive contamination that frustrated attempts at dating rock samples and directly contributed to the identification of lead contamination as a major environmental problem, at the same time that the age of the Earth and effects of CO2 concentrations and greenhouse gases were becoming known.

    I think Naomi Oreskes addresses this in her work on the history of the development of the theory of plate tectonics, also fascinating.

  10. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link
    Despite preferring to leave the question open-ended, I've had an interesting exchange on Mastodon, which has prompted this clarification of my intent. mdhughes had suggested "Big Bang or Big...

    Despite preferring to leave the question open-ended, I've had an interesting exchange on Mastodon, which has prompted this clarification of my intent.

    mdhughes had suggested "Big Bang or Big Crunch" as a Big Problem. That is, of course, arguable, but isn't entirely what I'd had in mind.

    His comment does address the semantics and ontology of just what "big problems" are, which is to say, what is a problem?

    I frequently turn to etymology as a guide. Mind, not a definition, but as a hint as to what understanding has been. And we find:

    late 14c., "a difficult question proposed for solution," from Old French problème (14c.) and directly from Latin problema, from Greek problema "a task, that which is proposed, a question;" also "anything projecting, headland, promontory; fence, barrier;" also "a problem in geometry," literally "thing put forward," from proballein "propose," from pro "forward" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward") + ballein "to throw" (from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach").

    https://www.etymonline.com/word/problem

    (NB: The Online Etymological Dictionary is an Internet treasure, and operates on user support.)

    The question of heat death of the Universe ultimately isn't solvable (we can't avoid that), though forming a proper model of that does matter, somewhat. Rather, it defines a total bounds of what might happen within the Universe, the possibility space in which we and all other entities within it might operate.

    I prefer to look at degrees of freedom within some bounded space or sphere of influence. Strongly guided by a definition from sailing:

    The Art of ship handling involves the effective use of forces under control to overcome the effect of forces not under control.

    -- Charles H. Cotter

    That also defines my ontology.

    • If all the forces are not under control, then there is no problem, there is an inevitability.
    • If all of the forces are under control, there is no problem, there is only will.
    • If forces under control cannot overcome those not, again, what exists is an inevitability.
    • Where there is the option of influence and some scope of control, you have a Problem.

    Related to this is the hierarchy of failures in problem resolution, which also gives something of an anatomy of problems:

    1. Awareness of the problem.
    2. Diagnosis of the type of problem.
    3. Often, though not always, understanding of the problem's cause.
    4. An objective, an idea of where you want to be.
    5. A path to that objective: how to get there from here.
    6. Communication where enlisting the assisstance of others is necessary.
    7. Execution toward resolution.
    8. Often, though not always, assessment of performance.

    The next question is what "big" is.

    Lunch is not a Big Problem.

    A Big Problem is one that is not readily tackled, especially not by a single individual, organisation, or at the scope of what I'm considering, even single nations. Rather, a Big Problem:

    1. Involves multiple parties. People, organisations, institutions, models, disciplines, countries, belief systems.
    2. Involves major inputs or resources. Time, money, material, energy, understanding, coordination. In a word, sacrifices.
    3. Has a large and probable consequence. This distinguishes from butterfly effects, which are large, but cannot be probabalistically addressed. The consequence of failure would typically be a serious disruption or destruction of current working systems or order. The consequence of success would be either a continuation of that order or a transition to a better or more sustainable alternative state.

    There should be some rough ordering of Big Problems based on these criteria.

    There's a term, global catastrophic risk which is similar, though I'd argue that the set of Big Problems is probably a superset of these, including GCRs, but going beyond them. Issues of human nature (and defining what exactly "human nature" is), or understanding, or belief systems or world models, might be among the Big Problems, though not necessarily considered as GCRs.

    4 votes
  11. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    Collective social addressing of hard / wicked problems is probably the biggest big problem there is. Breaking down why and how addressing CC is so difficult might make an interesting exploration.

    Collective social addressing of hard / wicked problems is probably the biggest big problem there is.

    Breaking down why and how addressing CC is so difficult might make an interesting exploration.

    3 votes
  12. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    Do you see this as a hard problem or a big problem? Clarifying my intent: "big problems" would generally be something that's facing humanity as a whole, or at least some significantly large...

    Do you see this as a hard problem or a big problem?

    Clarifying my intent: "big problems" would generally be something that's facing humanity as a whole, or at least some significantly large portion of it.

    Nothing against hard problems. And if you do see this as a big problem, I'd be interested as to how or why.

    1 vote
  13. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    So, yes, the bias issues are profound -- Cathy O'Neil has done some excellent writing on this. And it even has some relation to the problem that I highlight above. But the key point I'm looking at...

    So, yes, the bias issues are profound -- Cathy O'Neil has done some excellent writing on this. And it even has some relation to the problem that I highlight above.

    But the key point I'm looking at is that we've had a few bodies of knowledge in the past, most notably in the past 300 or so years a distinction between knowledge of means, or technical knowledge, and knowledge of causes, or scientific knowledge. AI seems to be a different, possibly a new, class: it provides answers to questions, but without explanation. Hence: non-explanatory knowledge mechanism.

    And the answers it provides can be to difficult problems, or performed at speeds or rates that would be difficult to independently vet or check or verify.

    And again, this operates a level or two deeper than the bias effects you mention, or other concerns posed: deep fakes, killer robots, content generation or self-driving/flying systems, to give just a few cases.

    2 votes
  14. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    Could you give more concrete examples or parameters of what you mean by human nature? It's one of those fascinating but frustratingly vague terms. (Not disagreeing, but as with my general question...

    Could you give more concrete examples or parameters of what you mean by human nature? It's one of those fascinating but frustratingly vague terms.

    (Not disagreeing, but as with my general question here, I'm interested in how people define and approach the concepts as well as what specifically they come up with.)

  15. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    My sense is that we need to have a much better concept of what AI is and does. I'm getting the feeling that the current iteration, gradient-descent machine learning, has both capabilities and...

    My sense is that we need to have a much better concept of what AI is and does. I'm getting the feeling that the current iteration, gradient-descent machine learning, has both capabilities and profound limitations. Among those is that it is what I call a non-explanatory knowledge mechanism -- AIs can often achieve spectacular results in some domain, but they can't tell you how they got them. Jonathan Zittrain has explored this space.

    I've also recently discovered Rappaport's Philosophy of Computer Science, which goes well beyond AI, but also looks at it, specifically, in a context of structured philosophical understanding. (And yes, that's 930 meaty pages long.)

    4 votes
  16. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    This has definitely been on my radar for a few years. The realisation that media systems are the sensory, feedback, and control mechanisms of societies, and that changes to media systems...

    This has definitely been on my radar for a few years.

    The realisation that media systems are the sensory, feedback, and control mechanisms of societies, and that changes to media systems (mechanisms, rate, sensitivity, control, biases, modalities) have profound impacts. Books such as McLuhan's The Gutenberg Galaxy and Eisenstein's The Printing Press as an Agent of Change are strongly recommended.

    (There are many, many more, of course. These are good starting points.)

    And yes, the Internet, Social Media, mobile media, and viral media, as well as media and social manipulation and disinformation certainly are game changers.

    6 votes
  17. Comment on What are the Big Problems? in ~talk

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    The challenge especially of mutually conflicting value systems is one that I don't see as inherently tractable. Who is to say that one set of arbitrary preferences has validity over another where...

    The challenge especially of mutually conflicting value systems is one that I don't see as inherently tractable. Who is to say that one set of arbitrary preferences has validity over another where either is equally defensible?

    That might be over something as apparently benign as chirality, driving on the left or right side of a highway, say, where one or the other works, but both don't, or as complex as dietary and cultural traditions. There are both cultural traditions and religious prohibitions, or slighly less strict but still strong cultural aversions, to eating specific foods: pork, beef, dog, horse, or increasingly, any meats or animal products. How do two different cultures get along when they can literally not sit down to eat together?

    Mutually conflicting land (or space) use patterns create similar dilemmas. The Commons is an attractive notion but fails many specific cases. There's a place for exclusive private control and dominion, though even that as an absolute doctrine faces limits.

    3 votes
  18. What are the Big Problems?

    What are the Big Problems? I'm leaving this open-ended, there's no specific criteria for responses. I'm interested in both your list and the reasons why. Submitting your list before reading...

    What are the Big Problems? I'm leaving this open-ended, there's no specific criteria for responses.

    I'm interested in both your list and the reasons why. Submitting your list before reading others' contributions would be preferred.

    Optionally: who is (or isn't) successfully addressing them. Individuals, organizations, companies, governments, other. How and/or why not?

    I've asked this question periodically on several forums (G+, Reddit, HN) for seven years now.

    I've written fairly extensively on my own views, reasonably findable if you wish, but my interest here is in gaining fresh input, resetting my own biases, and not colouring the discussion overly myself.

    34 votes
  19. Comment on Blame Economists for the Mess We’re In: Why did America listen to the people who thought we needed “more millionaires and more bankrupts?” in ~science

    dredmorbius
    Link Parent
    You'll find many of the usual suspects rounded up in the line "In the four decades between 1969 and 2008". Newspaper editorials offer a large audience but limited space, and an exhaustive listing...

    You'll find many of the usual suspects rounded up in the line "In the four decades between 1969 and 2008".

    Newspaper editorials offer a large audience but limited space, and an exhaustive listing of all and sundry, or even more than a very few major players. Volker, Martin, Keynes, Burns, Kahn, Schultz, Schultze, Lucas, Friedman, and Scrooge McDuck are specifically mentioned. That's an extensive dramatis personae already for a 1,400 word essay.

    Though yes, I agree with you on Greenspan's culpability. He'd issued a pretty remarkable mea culpa for that, actually.

    1 vote