It makes little sense to send people to Mars to build a city, as people need a level of infrastructure that makes living there impractical until you build the infrastructure needed to survive.
It makes a lot more sense to send machines to build the environment and send people later.
What if robots could mine raw materials, build the factories to process the raw material, build the infrastructure to build more robots that could then build everything needed to sustain life.
There is no reason why this cannot be done!
Phase 1 – Robots investigate available raw materials (survey)
Phase 2 – Robots mine raw materials (mine)
Phase 3 – Robots use the initial raw material to build refineries to produce building materials and factories (Build)
Phase 4 – Robots build more robots out of refined material (replicate)
Phase 5 – Robots now build everything needed to sustain life (buildings, machines, infrastructure) (Implement)
Phase 6 – People arrive (Immigrate)
How long would it take? 50 years, 500 years? Probably somewhere in between.
I believe phases 1 and 2 are almost practical today. While phase 3 is partially possible today.
It could be started on Earth right now. Build the technology to build cities from nothing, anywhere on the planet, and potentially beyond.
A few square miles of barren land, a lot of smart minds, enough investment to make it happen.
This is the project that is needed!
Every year the quality of phishing attacks seems to get better. It wasn’t too long ago that you could spot a fake message from a bank, because of the terrible use of english and awful formatting of the images, but it is not a lot harder. The syntax, grammar, formatting, images and event the URL’s they point you too look identical to those of the real institutions that they are purporting to be.
In fact, some of the emails you receive from scammers, now actually look better than the ones from your bank.
The simple answer (of course) is to NEVER trust an unsolicited communication from anyone, it doesn’t matter of the bank calls you, emails you, writes to you, or knocks on your door directly. If you didn’t expect the communication there is a very high probability it’s fake.
The best answer is to always either visit the institution in person, or call the number on the back of your card (and I can even think of a few ways this can be faked, but it’s much harder)
Here are a few of the attempts to scam me, that I’ve received just this month:
“Hi I’m calling from Microsoft, and we have detected a virus on your computer, and you need to give me access to remove it”
“Hello dear friend, I’m the daughter of the late finance minister of an African nation, and am in trouble and need your help to get funds out of the country, I’ll pay you well for your service in this matter”
“There is an issue with your iCloud login, please click below to resolve the issue”
“This is a IRS calling to tell you that you will be arrested unless you call this number immediately”
“I have been contracted to kill you, but will not kill you it you pay me the same amount of money as the contract”
“This is a fraud alert from the bank, please login below to confirm the transactions”
Some of these were via email, and some phone calls. All were ignored, and most entered spam folders.
For the phone calls I use an amazing service called norobo, which checks every incoming call for know garbage (including charities and political parties) and diverts the call as soon as the caller id is identified. A brilliant free service for the home line (and they charge for cellphones)
For email, the built-in spam filters seem to work quite well, and I needed to actually look in the spam-folder to see what I received.
The simplest answer is to just not believe anyone who calls or emails, assume they all lie, and you are right virtually every time.
I think anyone who wants to be a politician must be crazy. The question is what type of crazy do you prefer?
- Evil Crazy
- Egotistical Crazy
- Delusional Crazy
- Paranoid Crazy
- Hippy Crazy
- Religious Crazy
- Power Crazy
- Money Mad
- Sex Mad
- Or a combination of the above
Some shops now have use the phrase “following guest” or “I can serve the next person” to indicate that they are able to serve the next person.
Other shops have tried to mimic this process, but clearly do not have the same quality of store management, and this can immediately be seen when the cashier says “following” .
Not “I can serve the next customer now” or “can the next customer please come to the register”, just “following”
I am tempted every time to either not move and wait until they use a complete sentence of just say “you” which I believe is the equivalent contraction for the sentence “fuck you”
The human mind is a complex device, but it is not perfect. Everything we learn, we learn through a combination of comparison to previous experiences and then using learned logic techniques to extrapolate new information, which we then can use to compare to already learned information. This is not a simple process, and much of the information we learn is interpreted by filters before being made available to the comparative engines of the brain.
I’m simplifying everything of course, because this is a short blog and I’m an opinion that is based on my own experiences, comparisons and logic.
But simply this process is fraught with potential errors. It’s very easy to learn things which make no sense outside the framework you have already learned.
When you were a child you were taught many subtle things that were only designed to make your parents lives easier. They may well have not been true. Some of these you will encounter as a child and will cause you to question your earliest beliefs, but some will pass through your experience untested and will become true to you as an adult. If these are then proved to be wrong later in your life, you will have a very hard time deciding what is true.
If you believed Santa Claus was real through to your late teens, it’s very likely you would have a very hard time ever considering that he was not real. Imagine if you had received presents under the tree every year until you were 20, and had absolutely no reason to question where they came from, because no one had ever had that conversation with you. What would it take to then persuade you that it was just a story made up my marketing companies to sell more coke.
We all have our versions of Santa Claus; some believe people of a different skin color are a difference species; some believe that socialism in the form of social security or government run healthcare are inherently evil; some believe that their particular variant of religion is the only one that is “true” and everyone else is going to hell; some believe that their family and friends are superior because they all came from the same country in Europe and all became rich due to their grandparents work. And some beliefs are very subtle, but no less damaging to our ability to learn new ideas.
The basic issue is one of trying to change a “core belief”, something that was learned at a young age and has never been tested by your personal experience.
The way the brain works creates fixed pathways for specific situations that become impossible for you to think outside of.
As a species, we must continuously test core beliefs, and where we see evidence that contradicts what we inherently know to be true, we must be willing to look deeply at the evidence and question our own reticence. It’s hard, but it’s how we become better people.
Here are some statements that cause this form of cognitive dissonance for some people:
- The earth is round.
- The earth revolves around the sun.
- The moon is not a source of light, and revolves around the earth.
- Evolution is the name of the process of random mutations providing variety that make some variants more likely to survive changing environmental conditions than others, and over very large timescales explains the variety of all life on earth.
- Skin color is just a simple environmentally preferential variance in a subcutaneous dye found at a lower level in the skin and is not an indicator or any other attribute.
- The universe was not created for the pleasure of one single species on one single planet out of billions, but is most probably one universe of billions in a much larger system than we can perceive.
- Guns are dangerous, and their use should be carefully controlled.
- Trickle-down economics doesn’t work.
At this point a lot of people’s brains may have exploded (of course since those people are unlikely to read my rant or care about my views, It’s not so much of an issue, but maybe some exploding brains (metaphorically speaking) would do the world some good)
When you challenge a core-belief and break its hold on you, you open a world of personal possibilities.
Democracy is not a perfect political system; it is just the best political system of all those that are known.
America is not a pure democracy, but a fragile psedo-democracy model that relies of the goodness of people to adhere to the spirit of a constitution written hundreds of years ago by a group of amazing people whose shared experiences lead them to a stunning series of ideals around freedom, equality and happiness (happiness, was never a political consideration before 1776, Anywhere in the world, what a truly amazing ideal!).
The process in the US is one of sharing aspirations aimed at like-minded voters during the primary cycle, which is then attenuated during the election cycle to try and draw more votes and then the winner again attenuates their ideas with those of all sides during their time in a role. The result is that everyone is mildly dissatisfied with government, but most people are not furious. It’s not a perfect system, just one that balances experience and power with need and desire.
What happens when a candidate points out that it’s a stupid system, sticks a finger in the air and decides to go all in to win and then do exactly what they said they would do?
What happens is the balance changes, the fragility of the conventions that allow for happiness, equality and freedom are put to the test.
It’s quite amazing that no one thought of it before. It’s a very high risk strategy, “all or nothing”. And we are living it today.
Global history indicates that it’s a bad idea, that the balance shifting in such dramatic ways will lead to hyper-changes to security, economics, the environment and society; not just in the USA but globally.
The security of the world is finely balanced. With borders maintained by a mix of weapons, physical barriers and most importantly economic interests.
The global economy is not based on natural resources, but promises. Currencies are no longer underwritten by gold and silver, but by a mesh of interconnected promises, treaties and subtle winks between national banks. If the largest economy decides to change these rules, every single nation will be looking to garner an advantage from the change, and it’s not clear who would win that battle.
Saying “fuck you” to the world may feel good (really good), but when you play a strategic game, it’s important to know how players will respond to your moves, and it’s not clear that’s the way it’s currently working.
The good thing is, that since no one thought the presidential election would go the way it went, it’s likely that no one built the brain trust to plan a response. So, it’s not just the USA running with scissors, the world is now doing it.
Donald Trump is either the smartest president that every existed in the history of history itself, or he is starting something he will quickly lose control of.
I’m rooting for the Donald to be everything he says he is, but as a scientist I like to see evidence, peer reviewed before agreeing with such a situation. I have seen the evidence of the last two weeks, I’ve listened to the peer reviews, and I’m beyond worried.
As a very smart comic character once said “with great power comes great responsibility”
Lower regulation doesn’t naturally translate to “better”, it can, but why would a business freed from a regulation do the right thing. It takes something else.
Lowering federal taxes, just increases state, local and hidden taxes.
Things that are likely to happen (not guaranteed, but more likely every day)
- Hyper debt
- Hyper inflation
- Hyper unemployment
- Less human rights
- Shorter life span, and a lowering of the quality of life overall
- A worse environment (air quality, water quality, farm land quality)
- Less equality
- Less government oversight
- Less investment in happiness (the arts)
- A greater gap between rich and poor
- Higher overall taxes for the average person (fed, state, local, privatization and deregulation costs*)
- Less global trade
- Higher fuel prices and dirtier fuel processes
- Lower wages
- A less educated population
*Privatization and deregulation costs
- Higher Healthcare costs
- Higher drug costs
- Higher food costs
- Higher Road tolls
- Higher safe water costs
- Higher heating and cooling energy costs
- Higher internet costs
- Import taxes
- Higher school costs
- Higher local policing and fire safety costs
- Uplifts of travel to pay for private security
- Higher fuel prices
- Higher train travel costs
- Higher banking costs
We have become used to all politicians lying, and we know it is wrong.
But maybe a politician telling the truth may be a hell of a lot worse.
Political press officers have been using the technique of “burying bad news” for decades. It’s a powerful technique, you wait until something powerful and newsworthy happens and you release your bad news at the same time in a less powerful way. Most of the time your bad news will then get a lot less coverage.
The time journalists can spend on any single story continually get shorter, as the demand to fill airwaves and column inches increase. There are a lot less journalists each year, being paid a lot less and being asked to do a lot more. The result is exactly what we see, large volumes of lower quality content.
It is much easier to interview a “man on the street” or an “expert in her field” on their opinion on an event or the views of another pundit, than it is to deeply investigate a story.
In today’s climate, every single contentious comment from a politician is jumped upon with gusto. A moronic tweet at 3am can fill hours of TV and radio and many column inches on websites.
I subscribe to the New York Times, get a copy seven days a week, and this gives my access to their online content as well. Why do I subscribe? Well to be honest for two main reasons; One, my wife loves to do the crossword every day on the subway and two, I have a dog and so need a regular supply of paper. Oh, I read the paper online every day, but it’s one of many news sources I go to try and get a perspective of the world. Sure, the New York Times does seem to be one of the better news sources, and they clearly do continue in the tradition of in-depth journalism, but with thousands of news sources available everyone feels the need to check numerous ones to get a fuller perspective.
I’ve given up on TV as a news source. Fox news and MSNBC spend all their time discussing what they think, and not reporting news. CNN is too careful to show that they are not biased and so present all sides if each inane argument without ever making a journalistic assessment. The BBC world news still seems quite good though (but I may have a built-in bias there)
The Huffington post, the drudge report et al clearly have a bias, but their bias is around trying to attract a specific demographic and punch them in the face with as much advertising as they can, they clealy see news content as a means to an end, and not an end unto itself.
There are a bunch of sites that started as aggregators of content as a method of generating ad based revenue, and have since started to try and become valid news sources. But this is hard to do and their failures are becoming legendary (e.g. buzzfeed)
What these competing ad-funded news sources have in common, is that they will pounce of anything that brings in an audience. And contentious quotes are always going to be newsworthy.
Burying bad news has never been easier.
Politicians pass a law that will increase the national debt by billions. Oh, look over there, the president elect just insulted a transgender woman and is tweeting about it.
Voting rights are taken away from people who have the same name as other people in prison. Oh, look over here, a pundit just said we should nuke japan.
It takes a lot of effort to fully investigate and report on a story, and the organizations that are doing this good work must wait days, weeks or months to get all their facts in place, write the story and get comments from all relevant parties. But a pundit can spout an opinion and have it communicated in seconds.
We must slow down the process of news, to the speed of integrity and completeness. We can’t allow critical news to die just because someone let a nip slip or tweeted something stupid.
We need to hold everyone accountable, and this needs high integrity journalists working for long periods of time on each story.
Choose your news source(s) based on their integrity and their tenacity, and not their ability to reaffirm your pre-existing position. A great news source will look at every attempt to bury bad news, see it for what it is and look for what exactly they are trying to bury. When someone shows you a bright shiny new thing for no reason, ask why.
Yes I started getting the New York Times daily for spousal fun and canine sanitary reasons, but I’ve come to really enjoy it as an excellent news source, one of the best I’ve found anywhere in the world.
Ten years ago, I knew a woman who died of breast cancer, simply because she couldn’t get health insurance in time to save her life.
I know people who in the past could not get permanent employment simply because of a pre-existing condition (that had already been treated and they were again healthy) could have placed too high a burden on their prospective employers healthcare insurance plan.
Along came a government plan that tried to stop these situations from happening. Millions of people could get healthcare, and the government system was called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and was quickly given the derogatory (or respectful) name of Obamacare.
Obamacare was an attempt to bridge the gap between the needs of healthcare product providers and the simple need of the USA population of not dying from stuff that the rest of the western world were protected from. It was a flawed first pass at the issue, but rather than fixing it, the opposition used it as a way of trying to destroy the first black president. Calls for making Obama a one-time president as the primary objective of the opposition became a rally cry, and hundreds of attempts were made to repeal the ACA. No attempt was made to improve it, and so the USA population limped along with a flawed, but slightly improved but very expensive healthcare system. Millions more people would receive healthcare, but the costs were crazy, and were underwritten by tax increases (which no one really likes).
Through all of this, the simple fact that the cost of healthcare in the USA is dramatically more expensive than any other western country was not addressed.
The laws in the USA favor health insurance companies and drug and device manufactures. Unlike any other contract entered, healthcare contracts in the US are legal when signed under stress or duress. It’s common for patients entering a hospital to have to sign blanket contracts that demand they will pay all charges that the healthcare provider decides to point their way, and if the insurance companies decide not to pay any part of it, the patient is directly responsible for it. Even the smallest medical procedure can lead to many thousands of dollars in unexpected charges, that the patient has to negotiate on a one to one basis with the legal behemoths employed by the healthcare industry.
The ACA did not do anything to change the closed-market, uncompetitive nature of healthcare.
It is illegal for a USA resident to purchase drugs from overseas. Even though these drugs may well be the same at the ones available in the USA, even in the same packaging from the same vendors, but just available at a significantly lower price.
It is against the law for the US government to negotiate lower prices on drugs or medical devices, by buying in volume.
Doctors in the USA must pay for very expensive indemnification insurance, because there is no control on what types of law suits anyone can file for medical malpractice, even though it is widely recognized that medicine is generally high risk. Costs which must be passed on to the consumer.
Medical professionals in the USA must spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to become registered professionals, and with a for-profit education system and for-profit student loans, they must spend decades paying it back. Costs which must be passed on to the consumer.
Healthcare in the USA is not just big business; it is the biggest of businesses. Generating billions of profits from trillions of revenues every year.
The “pay for influence” USA political system allows, and encourages the whole healthcare industry to spend a very small fraction of their revenue to buy influence at every level, ensuring that the preferential legal framework they have currently, continues.
The fix to the USA healthcare system is quite simple to see, but incredibly difficult to achieve. The costs must be taken out of the healthcare system. Government subsidies in the forms of tax breaks, and payments to consumers and healthcare companies must be reduced and so must the actual charged costs of healthcare. This means healthcare businesses will need to make a lot less money. This means changes to many parts of the law to cap costs, reduce the legal exposure for doctors and hospitals, change the education system, reduce the cost of drug and device development, and place strict cost goals on all purchased products that ensure that pricing is globally competitive. These things will take money out of the pockets of businesses that have been used to getting it, and will not happen without a fight. But while politicians can be effectively paid to take a position, it is virtually impossible.
Healthcare must be a human right. When you are sick you are not able to negotiate. It must be the most basic right of a civilized society. Healthcare must be part of a civilized society, it is social, and the word socialism has been usurped to mean evil and anti-American. Obviously social is not anti-American, unless you believe that the military is anti-American, along with fire departments, the police, power and water services are anti-American (and some people do believe this of course).
This is not a partisan issue; every party currently agrees. Unfortunately, they agree that it’s great that healthcare companies pay politicians huge amounts of money to stand with them and maintain the current model.
Who knows, maybe having a crazed orange thin-skinned self-centered egotist is exactly what is needed to destroy this status quo. Clearly having a Kenyan Muslim didn’t do it…… (you have to love (and laugh at) the propaganda of politics sometimes.
The dream of automating a range of home systems is very close. Today you can turn every light switch, light bulb, fan, window blind, door lock, garage opener or air conditioner into an internet connected appliance, with the ability to turn on or off from your cellphone. And you can turn any wall socket into a remotely controlled on/off or dimmable device allowing any kitchen appliance to be controlled in the same way. There are ways of controlling your audio and TV devices from your phone as well, so it seems reasonable to assume that home automation is here. And yet, these devices and systems are still quite clunky unless you go to an expert company such as Crestron (who are today the rolls Royce of home automation both in terms of quality and price).
The challenge is that all the available home automation devices come from different companies, and so use slightly different methods of control. This means that without a lot of experience the average installer will create a complex system that is hard to control.
Convergence is on the way, with the likes of google, amazon, apple etc. starting to provide platforms for consistent control. But these systems are still for early adopters who are willing to live with significant limitations.
Controlling your light switches from your cellphone or by speaking specific terms sounds fun, but wait until your parents come to visit and can’t turn off the lights at night, you will quickly realize the limitations of the current technology.
Some companies do provide switches that look like classic wall switches and allow for more advanced workflow to be used. For example, a switch can be used to turn on a series of lights at specific levels of brightness, while double clicking the same switch could perform a different task. You may even choose to place light switches in different locations that turn on the same lights to different levels of brightness, so for example the switch your TV watching chair turns on the lights to TV watching levels and the one by main room door, turns on the light as bright as they will go. This would mean to the “uneducated” user the lights will work as expected, but to the “educated” user you can setup lights to work subtly as you prefer.
Not all home automation vendors offer all of the levels of subtlety I’m describing, but some do.
There are (of course) a lot more levels of complexity associated with home automation, even within the products of a single vendor, you may find that not all devices work the same way, and quite a lot of research is needed to choose exactly which components to use.
To provide a simple example of what I’m talking about, consider that most home automation light switches require three wires, a live, a neutral and an earth. If your house was built before the 1980’s it’s quite likely that your wall switches don’t have neutral wire, and this would mean that you are either are facing a major electricians bill for rewiring or you will need to specifically chose a home automation vendor that has light switches that work without a neutral. These devices to exist (for example Insteon have these as an option), but depending on your light fixture these switches may not work with certain kinds of light bulbs, or may not fully support dimming. There are ways around all these problems, but it takes a lot of investigation to work everything out, and if you don’t know what you don’t know, then you won’t find it out until you have an issue.
Home automation using modern IoT devices can provide a level of luxury that you will love, but it is still not simple and low cost. It can be low cost and complex or it can be high cost and simple. Alexa, Siri and Google have started to offer some interesting directions for future automation, but as of today they are in their infancy.
I haven’t even broached the subject of security yet, but suffice it to say that there are significant security issues with any device that is continually listening to every word spoken and is sending it across the internet to be processed looking for spoken commands. There are also issues with having every device in a house containing a processor and connected to the internet. Everything must be continually secured, and this takes experts working hard to keep ahead of hackers.
The world has changed around us, and IoT now means that millions (or even billions) of previously simple devices are now internet connected and can provide information and can allow remote control. What damage can someone do my remotely controlling a light switch? Who knows; But if every light switch and every light bulb contains a microprocessor connected to the internet, that is a lot of processing power that if combined could be formidable. Already we have seen distributed denial of service attacks (DDOS) using a massive array of distributed home automation devices. And I can think of dozens more potential ways that IoT devices can be used for bad. Security will continue to be critical.
My advice – don’t enter home automation lightly, either use an expert or plan on becoming an expert.