Showing posts from December, 2008

Svoboda in orožje

(Prvotno objavljeno kot odziv na zabaven video na Libertarcu .) Nekateri zagovarjajo splošno pravico do nošnje orožja s hipotezo, da bi bilo okolje, v katerem so vsi oboroženi, veliko vljudnejše in posledično manj nevarno. Levitt in Dubner v knjigi Freakonomics pravita, da dokazov za to hipotezo primanjkuje, oziroma da dokazno gradivo, ki je na voljo, kaže prej v nasprotno smer. Če se gremo te "pravice" do skrajnosti, razmislimo o tem, zakaj ne bi dovolili kar vsakemu imeti najmočnejšega vojaškega razstreliva. Mogoče celo kake male atomske bombe. Ali kemičnega orožja. Konec koncev vse take stvari lahko pridejo kdaj prav tudi civilno. Če si lahko privoščiš malo atomsko bombo, potem si lahko verjetno privoščiš tudi kakšno malo goro. In če hočeš to goro zravnati, ker bi rad imel na njenem mestu golf igrišče, bi ti prišla ena mala atomska bomba čisto prav. Kajne? Potencial civilne uporabe je torej razviden. Da ne smemo imeti atomskih bomb, je kršenje človekovih pravic! Podo

Newcomb's problem

I just recently read again Eliezer's article about Newcomb's problem . To summarize the "problem": It's Christmas, and a superintelligent being called Omega from another dimension comes to your living room and leaves you 2 boxes. The boxes are rigged as follows: Box A is transparent and contains $1,000. Box B is opaque and contains either $1,000,000 or nothing. You can take either both boxes or only box B. Omega has filled box B with a million dollars if, and only if, it has predicted that you will take only box B. If Omega predicts that you will take both boxes, then box B contains nothing. Omega is not present when you make your decision. It has already left, and will not return to you again. However, Omega is superintelligent. It has been observed delivering boxes like this before, and has never been observed to predict incorrectly. People who take only box B always get $1,000,000, and people who take both boxes always find box B empty, netting them $1,000. S

Chinese dishonesty

Freakonomics publishes a Q&A with Leslie Chang , author of a recent book Factory Girls , a closeup of the lives of workers in China. I found the following a fascinating part of the dialog: Q. You followed students for a semester at a school that teaches factory girls how to become “white-collar” workers. A major part of the curriculum teaches students how to lie effectively. How do the concepts and values being taught in these classes affect the manufacturing economy that these women make up? A. A major part of the curriculum involved how to lie your way through job interviews into an office position. This ultra-pragmatism is pervasive in Chinese society today; people are less concerned with abstract notions of right and wrong than with getting things done. In economic terms, this fosters a business climate in which companies copy each others’ products, steal employees and business plans, and compete ruthlessly over tiny profit margins. But with little trust or sense of long-te

Tao te ching

One of my favorite wisdoms: A man is born gentle and flexible. At his death he is hard and stiff. Green plants are tender and filled with sap. At their death they are withered and dry. So it is that the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death. The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life. Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle. A tree that is unbending is easily broken. The hard and strong will fall. The soft and flexible will overcome. Since translations from Chinese vary widely, I took some liberty with the translation to reflect the proper meaning as I perceive it. Specifically, I replaced "weak" with "flexible". Other translations use "lithe", or "supple", which are less clumsy, but would not be as easily understood by my non-English friends. Just to be sure, Tao te ching also contains a lot of crap, otherwise.


Have you noticed that the lyrics to Shania Twain's Ka-Ching! now have a whole different feel? They suddenly sound so... appropriate, and prophetic. :-) We've created us a credit card mess We spend the money that we don't possess Our religion is to go and blow it all So it's shoppin' every Sunday at the mall [...] When you're broke go and get a loan Take out another mortgage on your home Consolidate so you can afford To go and spend some more when you get bored [...] All we ever want is more A lot more than we had before So take me to the nearest store Can you hear it ring It makes you wanna sing You'll live like a king With lots of money and things Ka-ching!

The ineffectiveness of economic stimulus

A number of venerable economists believe in the Keynesian governmental economic stimulus concept, in which big government spending is supposed to boost a flagging economy. To summarize roughly: when everyone across the board starts saving too much, this causes a fall in consumption, which causes a fall in production, which causes a fall in investment, which causes a fall in economic growth, all of which generally harms human well-being. Many economists believe that, when this happens, the cure is for the government to print money and spend it. This ought to have a multiplier effect on the economy: for every newly created dollar the government thus spends, the recipient might save 20 cents, but spend 80 cents. The next person down the line might do the same, saving 16 cents and spending 64 cents, and so on until, ultimately, each $1 thus created ought to result in $5 of trickle-down spending. Venerable economists think that this ought to boost the economy and get the GDP right back

The falsity of formally proven software

Eric Drexler falls into the hole of "imagine we can prove programs correct" : Why does this matter to us ordinary mortals? Because proof methods can be applied to digital systems, and in particular, will be able to verify the correctness (with respect to a formal specification ) of compilers [pdf], microprocessor designs [pdf] (at the digital-abstraction level), and operating system microkernels [...] If this doesn’t seem important, it may be because we’re so accustomed to living with systems that have built on foundations made of mud, and thinking about a future likewise based on mud. All of us have difficulty imagining what could be developed in a world where computers didn’t crash, were guaranteed to be immune from virus attack, and could safely download code written by the devil himself, and where crucial pieces of software could be guaranteed to not leak data. The bolding is mine. Eric Drexler is missing that, if you have a formal specification for a program, then you h