Thursday, September 12, 2013

Non-uniformly Enforced Rules

Just read a story about OSU football players openly using drugs before games:

http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/9664845/report-former-oklahoma-state-cowboys-players-describe-widespread-drug-use

The main point is that good performance in games allows drug use to be overlooked. This not only allows drug use to be overlooked, but also establishes drug use as a status symbol. The more weed you smoke while still remaining on the team, the more valuable your play must be. In a college system where cash payments aren't allowed, smoking weed could become a replacement signaling method for high status.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kanye messes with the metadata

Kanye lists God as his co-creator on "I Am A God".  I guess I'm particularly sensitive to this transgression. It's one thing to issue an album cover that is just red tape, its another to pollute Spotify's DB. You've gone too far Yeezy.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Telepresence vs. High Speed Rail

Elon Musk announced the Hyperloop to great excitement yesterday, presenting it specifically as a challenge to California's proposed HSR. I don't really have much to say about Hyperloop or its merits, but I have another proposal which solves the same fundamental problem as those two systems in a way that is far cheaper and can be finished by the end of the year: build state-of-the-art telepresence centers for the state of California.

To understand why telepresence  is a competitor to actual physical transport, we must realize that cars and planes will continue to be a huge source of traffic between LA and SF even in optimistic HSR/Hyperloop scenarios.   If our real job is to build a system that reduces the demand for dirty cars and planes, then options which discourage travel altogether will have the same effect as a method of transporting people efficiently. I propose that telepresence can be an effective discouragement for unnecessary transportation.

Building upon California's dominance in information technologies, companies like cisco could accomplish amazing feats of realism with conference rooms and convention centers built around modern telepresence systems. High-def cameras and screens, great audio, and even added benefits like 3D or haptic interfaces could significantly improve communication between urban centers. Businesses in the cities where these centers are built would immediately see gains in productivity without having to travel more than a few miles.  In off-business hours, these same centers could be reused for families to reconnect. The business-class and private individual alike would benefit, while utilizing these services day and night, 7 days a week.

Are we really trying to solve California's problems, or are we more interested in feeling futuristic?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Google is going to kill e-mail

For everyone who isn't already outraged at Google for killing Reader, prepare yourself.  Google+ has a new victim in its sights, Gmail.

I've come to this conclusion after I was in a chat session on my main Gmail account and I was asked for my email address. I responded, "this is my email address". It turns out the person I was chatting with is no longer able to see what email account is associated with that chat session. Clicking my name only goes back to the G+ user page.

This fact adds to a sinister set of trends. Disconnecting Google Hangouts from XMPP, and the aforementioned death of Reader (RSS) have forced more and more activity onto G+. Making hard for your friends and coworkers to figure out your email address is another huge step toward a G+  future, at the expense of Gmail (SMTP).

This all makes a ton of sense for Google. It must really hurt to hear about Facebook's enormous time on site per day per user when G+ gets no credit for my 16 hours a day in front of Gchat (now Hangouts) and Gmail.  For now I feel more paranoid than prescient, but I am going to stay on alert for the death of the email address at Google.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Art is memes

An article in the NY Times criticizes the buyers of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" who spent $120 Million for  the iconic painting (they could have purchased a slide sharing website instead!).  The painting is notable for it's popularity, but it is popular not because it is especially beautiful or deft. I believe the paintings immense popularity and value are derived from it's power as a meme.



Thursday, April 19, 2012

Miniature Cold War.

The brinksmanship of the cold war was based on the idea that, in a game of chicken, it was best to make the other side think you are crazy.  Even if you had absolutely no plans to nuke the Russians, it's in your best interest to make them think you really want to. This game show gives a pretty good demonstration (most likely staged) of this principle.




Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thieves and Lawmen

I had the lights stolen off my bike a few months ago in San Francisco. The price of replacing them compared favorably with a parking ticket, so I was not upset. How could I be too frustrated, leaving my bike out like that in front of a karaoke bar late at night. I had it coming.

When I was a child that's how violence and theft were justified. If someone was beaten, or shoes were lifted from a store, there was always a ready reason that the victim deserved it.  I had violated the code myself by leaving the lights on my bike, the thief was just reminding me.

In this way both thieves and lawmen reinforce the current equilibrium. Lawfulness pushed on either side, with thieves punishing naivety and lawmen punishing rashness. Sometimes they push from the same side, with both the lawman and the criminal in agreement that you shouldn't have been here.

In the current discussion of Trayvon Martin, the child that was killed by a self-appointed neighbor-hood watch, the lawman/thief have fused together.  The criminal/victim should have known better than to be in that neighborhood.   The lawman/thief (like the war/lord) is a sign of chaos. That we can't tell the two apart is a sign that there is no law at all.