Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Letting future self have more say on decisions

After having two nights out drinking last week I have question: How do I let future me have more input into decisions present me makes? Apps, behaviour modification, etc. Our brains have evolutionary survival feedback mechanisms which are obsolete and somehow need to be overcome / hijacked.
Brainstorming I can think plan and review calendar for work but coming up short on finances and health. Finances you have "you have spent X" notifications, health you can have a "go for a run" notifications which are pretty primitive.
What I'm kind of thinking you need is a C3PO whispering in your ear a predictive behaviour outcome feedback... e.g. your google maps location shows an 80% probability that you are walking to a bar. Given it's a Tuesday you are likely to consume >5 drinks which will likely mean you will carbload and skip exercise for 4 days. This means in 1 week you will be X kg heavier and your like expectancy will have decreased by X days. A more medium long term feedback would be: given you are entering a bar towards the end of a 16 day period not going to a bar, you are at risk of not completing a 21 day behaviour modification of reducing bar attendance which will lead to a projected uplift of bar attendance events of X per year, leading to a projected.... you get the point.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Chomsky, Sanders, SOPA, TPP and the migration of popular movements online

Bernie Sander's campaign is going very well, rising in the polls massive online presence, he may not be winning in the main stream press but his online presence towers over Hillary's. Need to flesh this out a bit, facts & figures on social media engagement, Hillary trust issues etc.

Noam Chomsky has a more pessimistic outlook on Bernie's campaign. For a start e doesn't believe Sanders will get nominated, and even if we were nominated he doesn't believe he would be able to implement the policy change that appeals to his base due to a lack of clout within the American political & financial establishment.  

Instead Chomsky would prefer it if Bernie prepared his support base for a long term populist uprising, independent of election cycles. This is taken from an interview with the Institute for Public Accuracy titled: Noam Chomsky: Electing the President of An Empire

Noam Chomsky:Take, say, the Bernie Sanders campaign, which I think is important, impressive. He’s doing good and courageous things. He’s organizing a lot of people. That campaign ought to be directed to sustaining a popular movement that will use the election as a kind of an incentive and then go on, and unfortunately it’s not. When the election's over, the movement is going to die. And that’s a serious error.
The only thing that’s going to ever bring about any meaningful change is ongoing, dedicated, popular movements that don’t pay attention to the election cycle. It’s an extravaganza every four years. You have to be involved in it, so fine. We’ll be involved in it, but then we go on. If that were done, you could get major changes.

Noam believes that using the parliamentary system to make popular policy change is impossible in the United States, rather the political establishment now serves the interested of the Plutocracy exclusively:
There’s very good polling evidence on what people think about things. So for example for about 40 years, a considerable majority of the public has thought that taxes should go up on the rich. Taxes go down on the rich. A substantial part of the public, often a big majority, thinks that we ought to have a national healthcare program. Nothing. Impossible. In fact when the press discusses this they call it “politically impossible.” Meaning the pharmaceutical companies won’t accept it, the insurance companies won’t accept it, and so on. So it basically doesn’t matter what the public thinks.
About 70% of the public, the lowest 70% on the income scale, are pretty much disenfranchised. Their attitudes have no detectable influence on the policies of their own representatives. As you move up the scale you get a bit more influence. When you get to the top, policy is made. 
Now the top can mean a fraction of 1%, so it’s kind of a plutocracy with democratic forms. And the elections, I mean by now it’s almost become a joke but it’s always been true that campaign financing plays a very substantial role in not only who’s elected but what the policies are. That goes back 100 years. Mark Hanna, the great campaign manager 100 years ago, was asked once, “What are the important things that you have to have to run a campaign?" He said: “There are three things. First one’s money. The second one is money. And I forget what the third one is.”
I'm necessarily not sold on this argument. There is ample evidence that popular movements can influence policy, provided the public have a powerful advocate. In more recent times these powerful advocates seem to be concentrated in high tech companies which rely on online social networks such as Wikipedia, Google and Facebook.

Case in point - The "Internet blackout" to stop SOPA legislation

For instance, when media companies tried to push through SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) which was arguably detrimental to the common man, it was met with a very effective campaign by Wikipedia, Google, Facebook and others which managed to derail the bill by crowd sourcing an online petition and email campaign to elected representatives:

The campaign led to one million emails being sent to elected representatives protesting the bill along with a petition containing the names of 10 million voters. This lead to the scrapping of the bill.

Now arguably this could just be large technology platform content providers protecting their own interests as opposed to a true grassroots movement. In my opinion, the true nature of this phenomena will become apparent when TPP legislation is attempted to be enforced.

The next test will be the TPP

In order to validate whether this approach will continue to be successful will in my opinion come if the implementation of elements of the transpacific partnership (TPP) which are deemed to be detrimental to society at large is met with similar online protests orchestrated by the big tech and social media players. I can see protest arising regarding intellectual property law, as well as new pharmaceutical regulation.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Journalists I read

This is my regular reading list: I'll add more detail on why I like these guys when I get round to it, but take it from me, if you want to know how the world really works, read these guys.

Taki Theodoracopulos

His spectator column the high life is probably the best column you can read on a week by week basis. The man exudes crass intellectualism and refined vulgarity. He can also write.  He also runs The American Conservative, which has a rather reasonable take on what America's role should be on the world stage.

Gary Brecher: The War Nerd

Best geopolitical analysis on the Internet, and like Taki, he can write! He now has a patron podcast, radio war nerd

George Friedman

Second best geopolitical analysis on the net

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Bernie Sanders - No Empire at the expense of the people

I can see strong parallels between the American and Roman elites who benefit from an international system which favours their military and economic hegemony at the expense of the middle classes which got them their initial military victories.  

In the case of Rome, Empire lead to the decline of the economic livelihood of small tenant farmers of the Italian peninsular as the Roman republic transformed into the slave based economy of the Roman empire, following victories against the Carthaginians, Gauls and Greeks. In the case of the United States, military victories against the Germans, Japanese and Russians have lead to a financial system dominated by the U.S. dollar where neoliberal economic policies favour free trade, deregulation and labour outsourcing to the detriment of the American working and middle classes.

As both Bernie and Trump are pointing out, the outsourcing of manufacturing and services jobs to low cost countries like China and India provides a short term economic gain for fortune 500s but creates a long term structural weakness in the American domestic economy. This the the true price of military victory: the hollowing out of the victor nations middle and working classes, which lead to the eventual decline of both the Roman empire.

I haven't done a great deal of "stitching" on this one, but I want you to look at some excerpts around current US economic policy and compare it to the economic policy of the Roman empire, once it moved from a free hold peasant farmer based economy to a slave based economy.

Bernie Sanders on the Late show with Stephen Colbert
Sanders and his host had a lengthy discussion on problems facing the U.S., calling it a "moral outrage that the top one-tenth of 1% today owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, and that 58% of all new income is going to the top 1%." He explained that, while he wanted an entrepreneurial society, Sanders didn't believe there could be one while so much economic power was in the hands of the ultra-wealthy.

Bernie Sanders is presenting himself as the champion of the middle class who is not in the pocket of the wall street financial elite, like "establishment" candidates, America's Neo-aristocracy: Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush

To what extent were economic factors to blame for the deterioration of the Roman Empire in the Third Century A.D?

After the second Punic war many new economic transformations began. During this time, many of the best agricultural lands in Italy were devastated. Many wealthy opportunists had profited during the war and were no longer inclined to finance small farmers. There were new possibilities for business of a less insecure and therefore more tempting nature. Contact with Carthage had opened the eyes of many greedy Romans to the profitability of scientifically managed large-scale agriculture. This combined with a new abundance of cheap land and slaves initiated two new economic developments. Men with money started to buy these huge areas of land, formed large estates, and set about working them for profit with the new cheap and plentiful supply of slave labour. Connected to this was the increasing tendency of small cultivating owners to choose not to resume their interrupted occupation or to even be driven to abandon their holdings. The only hope of halting this economic development lay in the political sphere but power was steadily passing into the hands of the very men who profited from this new system.
The growing number of provincial taxes brought into being a large class of investors whose speculations tended to generate substantial returns. This ever-expanding and highly important class known as the Knights (equites) had little care for the rapidly disappearing peasantry. Initially their main activity was to squeeze concessions from the Senate thereby meaning that for a time popular leaders were able to engage their support against the ruling nobility. However, selfish interests gradually became the guiding force and they joined with the senatorial nobles to form a party of property. In light of this it is hardly surprising that efforts to restore free peasants to Italian land were a failure. The main area of commerce in the latter days of the Republic was the slave trade and therefore Roman financiers were deeply interested in this. Any attempts to reform the system were normally met with hostility. 
Empire and budget deficits go hand in hand

The system fell into such disarray that that by 284 A.D, the condition of the small tenant farmer had generally become one of semi-servile dependence. His legal freedom became very limited and his economic position increasingly depended on the preservation of a holding often blighted by encroachments. If he left his land he would probably starve but if he stayed then he effectively be a serf. Legal changes later on made it the case that to be a colonus was to be attached to a specific plot of ground with which he himself was transferable. This change, however rational it may have been under the circumstances really only confirmed what a mess Rome had made of its economy and all this did was to effectively consummate agricultural stagnation by law.

This very same economic conundrum is affecting the United States: there is the same misalignment between the interests of the financial-military industrial complex and the middle class that there was in the Roman Empire.

Here is an excerpt from a ZeroHedge article on the economic policy decisions the United States has made over the last half century:

The Unlikely Rise Of Donald Trump And Bernie Sanders

Although the economy successfully created a broad path to the middle class, it was inefficient. Persistent inflation became a serious issue. To address inflation, President Carter implemented a series of supply side measures designed to improve the efficiency of the economy. These included the deregulation of financial services and transportation. He also appointed Paul Volcker as Federal Reserve Chairman; he implemented a “hard money” monetary policy. President Reagan took Carter’s reforms and expanded them further, leading to additional deregulation and globalization.
The good news was that the policies brought inflation under control. The problem was the broad path to the middle class in the developed world was dramatically narrowed. To now survive in the labor force, workers needed to rapidly adapt to new technologies and methods and compete on a global scale. Those who could were greatly rewarded; those who could not were left behind.

This chart shows the share of total income captured by the top 10% of income earners and inflation as measured by CPI. As the data shows, when this share is above 42%, inflation tends to be non-existent. When the top 10% share is below 42%, the CPI average is 5.3%. Inequality isn’t necessarily the cause of low inflation, but deregulation and globalization, which are effective against inflation, tend to cause increasing income inequality.
This led to a conflict between domestic and foreign policy. Containing inflation was a key domestic goal, but widening income differentials weakened the average household’s ability to consume, which undermined the reserve currency role of the superpower. The way the U.S. resolved this conundrum was through debt.
Using debt to address the requirements of providing the reserve currency was never going to be a permanent solution to the problem of running a domestic economy and meeting the requirements of global hegemony. However, as long as credit was widely available, the political situation was manageable. The financial crisis of 2008 has made it clear that the debt option is no longer viable. And, to a great extent, the election of 2016 should be about answering these two questions:
  1. Should the U.S. continue to act as global hegemon, which includes providing the reserve currency?
  2. If the answer to 1. is yes, then how should the economy be restructured in order to fulfill the hegemon role in a sustainable fashion?

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Kevin Kelly - Critical Uncertainties

About 4 years I made a list of critical uncertainties for me. Things I had no clue which way they would go in the future. Would you add any?
What, if anything, will slow down China?Possible answers: internal revolution, population decline, environmental realities, absolutely nothing.
What information will people not share with each other?They share medical records, purchases, dreams, sex fantasies. What about their taxes?
How many devices do we want to carry?Ten, two, one, or none?
What will modernize Islam?Will Islam's "Reformation" be political, theological, violent, or glacial?
How much bandwidth is enough?We have enough pixels in a camera, enough hi-fi in our music, how many gigs/s before we no longer think about it?
Will we trust governments or corporations more?Who do we want to run our education, libraries, police, press, courts, licenses, and communication networks?
What is the "natural" price of a book, movie, or song?Once distribution and production costs fall or disappear, what will we charge for creations?
Will (or where will) the future ever become cool again? Optimism is a necessary ingredient for innovation. What will renew it?
How bad are the harmful effects of surfing the net?Are the bad effects of short attention temporary, inconvenient, or fatal?
Is nuclear fusion (synthetic solar) economically possible? Making energy like the sun does might too cheap to meter or as uneconomical as a perpetual motion machine.
When will Moore's Law stop?At least 90% of our progress today hinges on cheaper, faster computation every year. Stop one, stop the other.
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Saturday, 13 December 2014

Obama's valedictory should Echo Eisenhower's: Beware the Military-Industrial Complex

Fifty years ago, Dwight Eisenhower delivered what has become, with the possible exception of George Washington's departing speech, the best-known presidential farewell address in U.S. history. In his valedictory, Ike famously warned against "unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex." That final phrase entered the political lexicon almost immediately, signifying the notion that a permanent ruling class, encompassing the Pentagon and its corporate suppliers, was on the verge of controlling the American government, even in peacetime.

Eisenhower's advice has largely been ignored, but remains a strong ideological stand against the power elite, also known as the plutonomy, that controls the United States.

Obama is NOT a lame duck president. His flagship initiative, the Affordable Care Act, also known oft derisively as Obamacare is a great step forward for most Americans. But I feel he needs to make a stand on foreign policy, the plutonomy and America's emerging police state.

I am sure that time will validate Obamacare, it aim's to introduce some of what we in the rest of the Anglosphere take for granted, namely affordable healthcare for all citizens. Fox news and the Plutonomy that governs America may rail against it but the key to America's success in the 21st century is to remediate the inequality  that separates the financial elite from the rest of American society.

When the Roman Empire had reached its height, and was already in terminal decline, Rome had 1.2 million people, dwarfing other major cities. 600 thousand of them were slaves to the top one percent. Rome, like America had by this point stopped serving its citizens and instead served the interests of it's military industrial complex and their global ambitions. In Rome's case what this lead to was the outsourcing of war to cheaper 'barbarian' Germanic forces. These German warriors went on to turn on their former masters and gain absolute power and in the process ravaged and destroyed much of western civilisation, bringing on which we now regard as the Dark Ages.

I know Obama does not support the military industrial complex. He has kept America out of middle eastern conflicts even at the expense of being perceived as a foreign policy 'lame duck' . Obama is a power speaker who can make his thoughts resonate in a way that Eisenhower's valedictory speech did, even if it takes 50 years to be appreciated.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Analytical engines will breath life into your online identity

I've wanted to write something about data for a long time, as I work in big data & data analytics for a living. My thinking has come together around real-time decisioning systems so I am going to throw an idea out and see if it gains traction.

We are reaching the point where something exciting is going to happen to the 'data profile' we all have online. It is about to start making decisions for itself. Your digital self is about to start buying, selling, booking and ordering for you.

“Your appearance now is what we call residual self image.
It is the mental projection of your digital self.”

Imagine this: 
I get home from work, a pizza is delivered as I arrive, which is great as I've had a long day and I want to pig out on something unhealthy. The thing is I didn't order the pizza, neither did I receive a real-time personalised offer for a pizza. The system made an offer to my online digital self, and my digital self determined that yes I will take it. This in turn means now my digital self is generating its own behaviour by making decisions for me, making it as alive as my arm is.
Yes that's right - your online profile: all of the data you provide about yourself and all of the behaviour that is recorded in your photo's comments, blog posts etc. is about to start thinking for you.

I specialise in designing systems that build a '360 degree view' of customers and prospects for my clients. I take data from internal systems, external providers and peoples online social profile such as facebook to gain a deep understanding about who they are. Next I help my clients use this knowledge to improve their capabilities in Marketing, Sales, Customer Service and Product development. 

There are a lot of interesting things happening in this space around the personalisation of products and marketing offers to a specific individual. What that means is I take the '360 view' of a person and tailor a set of products that are best suited to them, determine the marketing approach for reaching out to them and personalising the customer service they receive.

In the past I have always viewed a 360 degree view of a person as a lifeless collection of facts, a reflection of life but not living. My thinking is changing. Your online digital self is in a primitive state right now but it is emerging. It will become an organism coupled to your flesh and blood self. 

Here's my argument:

A number of services are now moving to data driven real time decisioning. As an example, I design systems that make a marketing offer specifically based around your profile: where you live, your taste in music, how much you earn, how old you are.... and determine the best offer to make you. But you still make the decision as to whether to accept that offer.

But if you think about it, as this technology improves, these real-time decisioning engines will be so advanced and have so much data that they will know what decision you will make. 

At the moment I use this technology to help my clients sell. The next step is to help consumers by designing a decisioning agent to buy goods and services for them. Currently your personal data is stored all over the web in different forms. A 360 degree view cloud based offering could consolidate all your information for you and allow different decisioning engines to access it based on your preferences for sharing your information.

You will train buyer agents using your private personal data to make the best decisions that can be made for you. The great thing about this approach is it makes your data profile work for you, empowering you as an individual. The more comprehensive your online profile is, the better the decisions your decisioning agent can make on your behalf. The personalised marketing agent will use the limited data you make available to it to present an offer to your personal buying agent, which will use your complete data profile to evaluate the offer.

Going back to the Pizza example above. I will set up by decisioning agent to buy me dinner when I'm heading home from work. By tracking my GPS location it will know when I have got on the bus to go home. It will also know what I've been eating during the week, what I like to eat on a week day, what's good for me to eat, what deals are going on and what my budget is. It will use all that information to make an educated guess as to what I want to eat. If I don't like it's decision I can retrain it or buy a better decisioning agent.

Empowering the Individual:

I believe that many of the concerns we all have about the amount of data corporations store about us stem from the lack of control we have over how the data is collected and how it is used. By allowing individuals to build their own single consolidated profile of themselves and maintain the level of access external parties have to the data, the current information asymmetries are corrected and the individual is empowered. 

The Individual will now have a clear understanding of how their data rich profile is used to add value to their own lives and not just to a corporation's bottom lines.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Franco-British Empire - Alternative History

What would have happened if the French and British had combined forces after world war II? It isn't as far fetched as it sounds.

I believe that a combined Franco-British empire with American financial support could have staved off decolonisation and communism whilst maintaining peace and stability in the middle east and, more importantly its colonies would now be independent healthy, wealthy, well-educated countries instead of the poverty, war and corruption ridden wastelands that has been left behind after the departure of empire.
The sun never seats on the Franco-British Empire

A Franco-Anglican union was first proposed during World War II, to try and keep the French fighting the Germans.

Anyway why didn't it happen? Here's the first attempt - WWII:

They first tried to combine when the Germans took Paris in WWII, de Gaul loved the idea. But the French under Pétain decided Vichy France was a better proposition.

Churchill and de Gaul loved the idea

Reynaud supporter Charles de Gaulle had arrived in London earlier that day, however, and Monnet told him about the proposed union.[1] De Gaulle convinced Churchill that "some dramatic move was essential to give Reynaud the support which he needed to keep his Government in the war".[2] 
The final "Declaration of union" approved by the British War Cabinet stated that[1]
France and Great Britain shall no longer be two nations, but one Franco-British Union. The constitution of the Union will provide for joint organs of defence, foreign, financial and economic policies. Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately citizenship of Great Britain, every British subject will become a citizen of France.
However not all French agreed, leading to a German controlled Vichy France winning out:

Other French leaders were less enthusiastic, however. At the 5 p.m. cabinet meeting, many called it a British "last minute plan" to steal its colonies, and said that "be[ing] a Nazi province" was preferable to becoming a British dominionPhilippe Pétain, a leader of the pro-armistice group, called union "fusion with a corpse". While President Albert Lebrun and some others were supportive, the cabinet's opposition stunned Reynaud. He resigned that evening without taking a formal vote on the union or an armistice, and later called the failure of the union the "greatest disappointment of my political career".[1]

Second attempt - The Suez crisis (1956)

The second attempt was during the Suez crisis, when the British and French combined forces to take back the Suez canal from Egypt, but Eisenhower pulled the plug on it by threatening the withdrawal of American loans to Britain. This lead to the end of the British and French empires.

Before decolonisation commenced everything came to a head at Suez in 1956. The Suez crisis occurred when Egyptian president Nasser nationalised the Suez canal. Without the revenue stream of the canal as well as the subsidised shipping tariffs the British Empire was doomed. So the French and British hatched a plan to take back the canal with Britain's middle eastern proxy force, Israel, contributing most of the man power.

In September 1956, due to a common foe during the Suez Crisis, an Anglo-French Task Force was created. French Prime Minister Guy Mollet proposed a union between the United Kingdom and the French Union with Elizabeth II as head of state and a common citizenship. As an alternative, Mollet proposed that France join the Commonwealth. British Prime Minister Anthony Eden rejected both proposals and France went on to join the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community and strengthened the Franco-German cooperation.[3][4]

British and French attach Egypt to 'liberate' the Suez canal.
Israel provided most of the manpower

Why didn't it happen? Britain was heavily in debt to the USA. Eisenhower was worried that Eisenhower Soviets would gain the upper hand in the middle east if he didn't reign the Franco-British-Israeli axis in. Eisenhower threatened to recall American financial aid to the British that was being used to rebuild Britain's economy after WWII devastation if they did not immediately pull out of Egypt. His main concern was that the Arabs would side with the Russians in the cold war if he didn't reign in 'the western imperialists'. 
Richard Nixon wrote in the 1980s, “I talked to Eisenhower about Suez;
he told me it was his major foreign policy mistake.”

Face with Eisenhower's financial aid threat, the English wimped out and the French instead cozied up to the Germans, signing the Treaty of Rome in 1957 which lead to the eventual creation of a German dominated European Union. Britain on the other hand has been in a state of decline ever since.

Wait a minute, Israel was a British pawn??

YES. See the state of Israel owed its existence to the British wanting manpower to defend the Suez canal.. that was the main reason for the Balfor declaration.. but you wont hear about that in History class:
I myself had not previously thought of Zionism as much more than a sentimental fantasy. But Sykes soon persuaded me that, from the purely British point of view, a prosperous Jewish population in Palestine, owning its inception and its opportunity of development to British policy, might be an invaluable asset as a defence of the Suez Canal against attack from the north and as a station on the future air routes to the east....
Amery had entered a similar thought into his diary on July 26, 1928: "Our ultimate end is clearly to make Palestine the centre of a western influence, using the Jews as we have used the Scots, to carry the English ideal through the Middle East and not merely to make an artificial oriental Hebrew enclave in an oriental country."

Third and final attempt, before the treaty of Rome: 'Plan G' Inviting Europe to join the British Commonwealth

At a time when Germany and France, together with Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, were planning for what later became the European Union, and newly independent African countries were joining the Commonwealth, new ideas were floated to prevent Britain from becoming isolated in economic affairs. British trade with the Commonwealth was four times larger than trade with Europe. The British government under Prime Minister Anthony Eden considered in 1956-57 a "plan G" to create a European free trade zone while also protecting the favoured status of the Commonwealth.[19][20][21] Britain also considered inviting Scandinavian and other European countries to join the Commonwealth so it would become a major economic common market. At one point in October 1956 Eden and French Prime Minister Guy Mollet discussed having France join the Commonwealth. Nothing came of any of the proposals.[22]

What could a Franco-British Empire have achieved?

  • Prevention of decolonisation of British & French Empires. A combined British and French war machine controlling the Suez canal and financially supported by the Americans could have held nationalist movements and communists in check, preventing the need to decolonise. 
  • Former British colonies would have been better off: The British always planned to give colonies dominion status once they reached a level of political and economic development. If you look at what happened to British colonies once they left the empire, war and poverty overcame most.
  • Prevention of French military defeat to in its former colonies. The British had already defeated an insurgency in Indo-China during the Malayan emergency. Their help in south east asia probably would have helped turn the tied against the communists in the Vietnam war. The same goes for Algeria.
  • Prevention of German political and financial takeover of Europe.  After Suez, French plans for Union with Britain were dashed as was plan G, which was to bring western Europe into the commonwealth. This lead to France signing the treaty of Rome, leading to the EEC which was followed by the EU and ultimately to German domination of Europe.
  • A more stable world order, especially in the middle-east. The Americans have done a rather terrible job at maintaining world order since the fall of the Soviet Union. They just don't get it. Do I think the Sykes–Picot Agreement would have done a better job of maintaining peace in the middle east than the current Israeli-Saudi Arabia-USA axis? YES.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Cloud data an extension of the Self

What if we represent our online profile / data as an extension of ourself? Able to carry out actions as well as be mined for marketing insights?

Amazon is building machine learning algorithms which suggest items a customer would like to purchase, google is building AI / algorithms to suggest search answers before a customer even searches for them. I think from a smartphone perspective we need to talk in terms of 'assisted decision making' and 'augmented reality'. The smart phone & individuals online presence (the sum of their customer data) form a symbiotic relationship with the individual, both suggesting activities and connections as well as advising on the best way to execute on a task being carried out

More to come.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Religions explained

Here is a map showing the dominant branch of religions across Europe and the middle east. In the Good old days of the Roman Empire these were all one religion. So how did these splits come about? 

Blue - Roman Catholic
Purple - Protestant
Red - Eastern Orthodox
Light Green - Sunni Islam
Dark Green - Shi'i Islam

Like most things it had much more to do with politics than religious ideals. 

If I was to blame one person it would be Constantine the Great  as he organised the following
  1. The Council of Nicea - I would argue that by vilifying arianism in favour of trinitarianism, would become became a fundementally seperate religion as it did not believe Jesus is God.
  2. Founding Constantinople and which lead to a Greek vs Latin political divide which eventually led to the East-West Schism

Constantine made some bad calls

Christianity - Islam Split

The reason for the Council was that Roman Emperor Constantine wanted to enforce one religious doctrine across the Empire, in order to ideologically unify the Empire's citizens. The main ideological issue is the nature of Jesus with Christians arguing Jesus is God (as part of Trinity) whereas Muslims (and Christian Arians) argue Jesus was just a Prophet. 

Islam views itself as a more pure form of the same monotheist faith. Islams main issue with Christianity is due to Christianity's insistence on the divine nature of Jesus. Now arguably Muhammad's teachings and military might may have made Islam still irreconcialable with Christianity (like Joesph Smith & Mormonism), but it's hard to know for sure. It's also hard to know where Muhammad picked up his ideas as well, see hereFor example, John of Damascus (d.749), a Christian writer, states that Muhammad "having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy."

Arabs Conquer half of the Roman empire
At the time of the Arab conquests, Christianity remained united, with the Patriach of Constantinople being the dominant leader, not the pope in Rome.

Sunni and Shi'i Split in 656 AD Sunni split from Shiite
Originated from Arab infighting over who was the rightful successor to Muhammad. The Sunni's beat the Shiites at the battle of The Camel which is why most of the Muslim world is Sunni.

Arabs get into a fight over who's boss of the new Empire. Sunni's win. Persians
hijack the Shiite cause to retain their territorial and political independence.

The Persian Empire began force converting it's land to Shia Islam, starting with Ismail I who began the Safavid dynasty and wanted an additional instrument for preventing the Ottoman Empire from easily conquering and assimilating it's territory. So this ideological split was introduced to unite peoples within the persian empire against the rest of the muslim world.

Christianisty split into Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox

Constantine split the running of the empire between the Greek run portions of the empire became managed seperartely to the Latin run portions. This had happened before, but he also set up a second centre of power to rival Rome, Constantinople. Rivaly between the Pope in Rome and the Patriach in Constantinople lead to the east west schism. The Eastern empire became eastern orthodox (and spread this to the slavs in Kievian Rus), while the successor states of the Western Roman Empire (notably the Carolingian Empire and it's successors France and the Holy Roman Empire) became Catholic.

Constantine splits Roman Empire into East and West. This went on to become the
Roman Catholic - Eastern Orthodox split. He also enforced the doctrine of the Trinity and outlawed

East - West Schism leads to Roman Catholic - Eastern Orthodox divide. Basically
boils down to The Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of  Constantinople getting in a
pissing contest.

Roman Catholic - Protestant Split

After the Romans lost the battle of Teutoburg Forest against German tribes, Rome never again tried to conquer and assimilate the German people. Protestantism spread almost exclusively among Germanic successor states (where Germanic languages are spoken).

Language Map - There is a complete mapping of Protestants with Germanic speaking peoples. The only Germanic speaking people that Remained Catholic are those who were part of the Hapsburg Empire.

As these regions never spoke a Romance language they felt especially disconnected from a church who's religious ceremonies were carried out in Latin. Once the bible was translated well by Martin Luther into German and disseminated by the printing press, people began to question the 'corruptions' in Roman Catholic contemporary teaching and challenge papal authority.

This could have lead to a reform of the Catholic church without a split from the Church, so why did Germans, Scandanavians and English split from the Catholic Church? Because the Rulers of these regions wanted more power over the Church, and the pope's main enforcer, the Holy Roman Emperor no longer had the power to enforce unity.

This lack of power was ironically due to the Pope's own policies against the Holy Roman Emperor in previous centuries. The pope supported the Northern Italians and German Barons against the Emperor leading to defeat in Northern Italy and appeasement in Germany. In time this lead to further decentralisation of the empire which culminated the a religious 'civil war', the thirty years war that destroyed Germany and German religious unity. The Holy Roman Emperor could not enforce Catholicism on his subjects, it's princes chose there own flavors of Protestantism (Luther, Calvin, etc.)
30 years war between protestants and Catholics in 17th century.


Islam (Green) splits from Christianity (Blue, Red, Purple) with Mohammads teachings & Muslim Conquests
Sunni (Green) splits from Shia (dark green) with Ismail I of Persia
Roman Catholic splits from Eastern Orthodox with Pope Leo IX
Protestants (Purple) split with Catholics (Blue) after Martin Luther

So why blame Constantine?

Putting it simply, Constantine shouldn't have just deferred the decision making at the council of nicea to bishops and shouldn't have accepted such a divisive outcome to the council. He was the ultimate decision maker and had been using Christianity for political gain. It happens all the time with politicians who don't necessarily care too much about what the ideology they're using for their own succes is actually about... For example Trump said the bible is his favourite book, but when asked about what his favourite verse is - just says "I like all of it". Now the irony that Constantine didn't care or believe in the religion he contributed to the institutionalisation of isn't lost on me, but it's just life.
On the assumption that the critique that St. John of Damascus made of Islam is true, and further on the assumption that had the resolution to the arian controversy been more moderate, then either islam would never have arisen (arguably it would anyway, given say Joesph Smith) OR it would have arisen as a more reconcilable "heresy" (Islam was originally classified as a heresy not a seperate religion).
If that assumption holds true, then the church ends up being more flexible around doctrine, Muhammad's heresy could fit in the envelope (and the east west schism would have been less likely, which is likely to have impacted the crusades, especially the 4th). Therefore, even if the saracens (how arab desert dwellers were identified originally, not by their religion but by where they came from) had conquered large swathes or all of the eastern empire, they would likely learn greek and be assimilated much like the mongols were in china into the christian 'greek' religion (let's face it, the new testiment was written in greek) would be far more compromising and therefore more unifying.
Now, specifially to asia minor this does assume that inland anatolians would not be assimilated if a christian religion was more tolerant of heresy, while a counterpoint could be made that inland anatolians were assimilated by the turks because they had more in common with nomadic turks then costal dwelling greeks.
Why is this Constantines fault - well while he had the 'divinely inspired' dream about Christianity, used it as a rallying call and won a civil war, he didn't even necessarily believe in it, and if he did maybe he was an arianist. So why the big push for trinitarianism? The reason is he didn't care - he just wanted a unifying ideology, and he deferred complete authority over the proceeding to bishops who excommunicated and exiled arius, but his 'heresy' lived on for centuries, arguably 'inspiring' (if not divinely inspiring) islam. If he had taken a more active role in the proceedings, he would have no doubt elected for a more pragmatic outcome. He didn't see what the big deal was, he jusrt wanted a unifying force for the empire that wasn't emperor worship (which had been the way things worked previously).
St John's view: "From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy." - This is a statement I believe because I don't believe in God or divine inspiration: I don't think angels visited Muhammad, or that a gospel written in greek in ~70 ad about an aramaic guy who died in ~30 ad is factually correct. I do however understand how a religion can act as a catalyst for cultural assimilation. Look at latin america, or wesern europe, or the arabic word if you need examples.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Social engineering and brain computer interfaces

One of the discussions that I feel is important for us to have is how we will overcome the 'social inertia' around a set organism hierarchy in this brave new world we are entering.
My own personal pet causes, are David Pearce's abolition of suffering and ending factory farming, but I differ on how I would implement it. David argues we should all become vegetarians and therefore end the need for slaughterhouses. But this also ends the need for a large percentage of our farm animals. Pigs if given a choice may prefer the butchers knife to non-existence.
What I feel is important is developing brain computer interfaces (BCI) for not only ourselves, but also for our domestic animals. There is a large untapped reservoir of thought capacity within our cows, pigs and sheep which we should utilise. Not only that but it would make our domestic animals too valuable as knowledge workers for us to slaughter them!

The next step (unless you are a die hard Kurzweilai) is genetic engineering in conjunction with BCI with weak AI supporting subsystems. Things get rather hazy after this point, the binding problem comes into play etc... I would rather focus on the near term as we can use our shared morals / ethics (which we as members of western society share 99% of, lets face it) to evaluate an incremental change.
One proposed change which has received a heated response is around the gender ratio that is best for society. We have been manipulating the gender ratio's of our domesticated animals for millennia (for instance, most bulls are killed as they don't produce any milk) so I think it is fair to evaluate what is best for human society.
There are many science fiction stories which do a good job of presenting an all female, or female dominated society. One of my favourites is 'Houston, Houston, Do You Read?' By James Tiptree, Jr, which is the pen name of Alice Hastings Bradley. She didn't want the publicity of being a female SCI FI writer and so chose a male pseudonym to write about an all female future society (no the irony isn't lost on me).

Any way.... getting to the point... Yes I have been waffling on for quite some time.. this is going somewhere people! In the book the astronauts learn that all men have died out and there rescue party is from an all woman society who have no intention of reintroducing men, which could challenge to current ruling elite. The men are to be studied and eliminated.
I would argue that it isn't so much about what society is right or wrong - but rather - how can you change society without facing severe 'blowback' from the incumbent elite who will stand to lose from the change you wish to implement? Regardless of whether you want to increase human potential through genetic engineering (eugenics), increase the participation of biomass in society (BCI for animals) or even the removal of men from society (I would argue that once artificial wombs come online the all female argument is diluted substantially). How can we make the big changes without the mass violence that normally comes hand in hand (think the social revolution occurred in tandem with industrialisation).
Finally, the book below by the woman Sci Fi writer pretending to be a man about a future society where men have been eradicated is a great read!!