Saturday, December 04, 2010

Grand Design by Stephen Hawking

The theory of everything is what this book is about. For hard core scientists, the book starts slow by reviewing alot of material that you would have studied in school before combining these ideas into the proposed 1o dimensional theory of everything 'M-Theory'.

The book does a great job of explaining Feynman's sum of histories concept, and how this impacts the way quantum systems behave - including our universe's origin.

I still don't get how Hawking radition causes black holes to evaporate to nothing (sadly the book doesn't really talk about that). Why doesn't the black hole just stay the same mass if an equal number of paired matter and anti-matter particles form at its event horizon and only one of the coupled pair falls in, leaving the other as a tell tale radiation? It would mean that an equal amount of matter and antimatter should fall in and radiate away; a net zero in change of mass of the black hole. Is there some preference for only antimatter to fall in and for matter to radiate away? It would seem for the black hole to radiate away this would have to be the case? Why should this be?

1000 years before Galileo and Coprenicus

Aristarchus (circa 310-230BC) used careful geometric analysis of the earth's shadow cast on the moon during a lunar eclipse to conclude that the sun must be much larger than the earth. Perhaps inspired by the idea that tiny objects ought to orbit mammoth ones, and not the other way around, he became the first person to argue that the earth is not the center of our planetary system, but rather that it and the other planets orbit the much larger sun. It is a small step from the realization that the earth is just another planet to the idea that our sun is nothing special either. Aristarchus suspected that this was case and believed that the stars we see in the night sky are actually nothing more than distant suns. P21

What a genius! Why don't we ever hear about poor Aristarchus? Robbed of his glory by Galileo, Corprenicus.

The illusion of free will

A study of patients undergoing brain surgery found that by electrically stimulating the appropriate regions of the brain, one could create in the patient the desire to move the hand, arm, or foot, or to move the lips and talk. It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behavior is determined by physical law, so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion. P32

For example, we can't solve the equations governing the gravitational interactions of every atom in a person's body with every atom in the earth. But for all practical purposes the gravitational force between a person and the earth can be described in terms of just a few numbers, such as person's total mass. Similarily we can't solve the equations governing the behavior of complex atoms and molecules, but we have developed an effective theory called chemistry that provides an adequate explanation without accounting for every detail of the interactions. In the case of people, since we can't solve the equations that determine our behavior, we use the effective theory that people have free will. The study of our will, and of the behavior that arises from it, is the science of psychology. Economics is another effective theory, based on the notion of free will plus the assumption that people evaluate their possible alternative courses of action and choose the best. That effective theory is only moderately successful in predicting behavior because, as we all know, decisions are often not rational or are based on a defective analysis of the consequences of the choice. P33

A model is a good model if it:

  1. Is elegant

  2. Contains few arbitraty or adjustable elements

  3. Agrees with and explains all existing observations

  4. Makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out p51

To paraphrase Einstein “A theory should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.”... Though added complexity could make the model more accurate, scientists view a model that is contorted to match a specific set of observations as unsatisfying, more of a catalog of data than a theory likely to embody any useful principle. P52

Feynmann was able to figure out why this happens

Firing electrons (or any other particle) at a double slit – one at a time – still produces an interference pattern. To physicists this was a startling revelation: If individual particles interfere with themselves, then the wave nature of light is the property not just of a beam or of a large collection of photons but of individual particles. P70

What happened before the big bang? Why not ask, what's south of the southpole?

Time can behave like another dimension... Suppose the beginning of the universe was like the south pole, with degrees of latitude playing the role of time. As one moves north, the circles of constant latitude, representing the size of the universe, would expand. The universe would start as a point at the south pole, but the south pole is much like any other point. To ask what happened before the beginning would become a meaningless question, because there is nothing south of the south pole. In this picture, spacetime has no boundary – the same laws hold at the south pole as in other places. In an analgous manner, when one combines the general theory of relativity with quantum theory, the question of what what happened before the beginning of the universe is rendered meaningless. The idea that histories should be closed surfaces without boundary is called the no boundary condition. P135

Inflate or die

A few of the possible universes will be like bubbles of steam. Many tiny bubbles (universes) will appear, and then disapper again. These represent mini-universes that expand but collapse again while still microscopic size. They represent possible alternative universes, but they are not of much interest since they don't last long enough to develop galaxies and stars, let alone intelligent life. A few of the little bubbles, however, will grow large enough so that they will be safe from recollapse. They will continue to expand at an ever increasing rate. These correspond to universes that inflate. P138

How the present changes history, according to Feynmann

There will be a quantum probability amplitude for every number of large space dimensions from zero to 10. The Feynman sum [of histories] allows for all of these, for every possible history for the universe, but the observation that our universe has 3 large space dimensions selects out the subclass of histories that have the property that is being observed. In other words, the quantum probability that the universe has more than or less than 3 large dimensions is irrelevant because we have already determined that we are in a universe with 3 large dimensions. So as long as the probability amplitude for the 3 large dimensions is not exactly zero, it doesn't matter how small it is compared to the probability amplitude of other numbers of dimensions. It would be like asking for the probability amplitude the present pope is Chinese. We know that he is German, even though there are far more Chinese than there are Germans. Similarly, we know our universe has 3 large space dimensions, and so even though other numbers of large dimensions may have a greater probability, we are interested only in histories with 3. p141

Be nice to your robot

How can we tell if an alien or robot has free will?... As we said earlier, we can't even solve exactly the equations for 3 or more particles interacting with each other. Since an alien the size of a human would contain a thousand trillion trillion particles, even if he were a robot or machine, it would be impossible to solve the equations and predict what it would do. We would therefore have to say than any complex being has free will – not as a fundamental feature, but as an effective theory, an admission of our inability to do the calculations that would enable us to predict its actions. P178

The big net zero

One requirement any law of nature must satisfy is that it dictates that the energy of the isolated body surrounded by empty space is positive, which means that one has to do work to assemble the body. That's because if the energy of an isolated body were negative, it could be created in a state of motion so that its negative energy was exactly balanced by the positive energy due to its motion. If that were true, there would be no reason that bodies could not appear anywhere and everywhere [at anytime, all of the time!]. Empty space would be unstable... If the total energy of the universe must be zero, and it costs positive energy to create a body, how can a whole universe be created from nothing? That is why there must be a force like gravity. Because gravity is attractive, gravitational energy is negative: one has to do work to separate gravitationally bound systems. This negative energy can balance the positive energy needed to create matter... Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing in the manner we have described. P180

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Survivor's Club by Ben Sherwood ***

If this book helps to save your life at least just once, it is well worth a read, don't you think?

You'll learn the best place to sit on a plane, and what do when it crashes, because - yes - over 95% of passengers survive the impact. So get moving; you only have 90 seconds to safety.

When it pays to be optimistic (when you have some control in your outcome), and when it doesn't (when you have no control).

The odds of surviving a leap from the Golden Gate Bridge, and the best way to enter the water to increase them.

You'll discover the steps to becoming luckier and more resilient.

And last, but not least, if your luck runs out, the book will tell you the best place to have a heart attack.

Being optimistic can be hazardous to your health

When Admiral James Stockdale (a POW of the Vietnam war) was asked to explain which prisoners perished in captivity, the admiral replied 'Oh, that's easy. The optimists.' Everyone was perplexed, so he went on 'The optimists were the ones who said we're going to be out by christimas. Christmas would come and go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart. This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end - which you can never afford to lose - with discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.' p41

Catching a plane? Here are the odds of making it back...

What are your chances of dying on your next flight? 1 in 60 million. That means you could fly every day for 164,000 years before your odds would be 1 to 1... Even if you did crash, your odds of survival are 95.7%. Excluding those accidents where no one had a chance at survival, even in the most serious accidents your odds are 76.6%. Contrary to popular opinion, the most likely outcome of an accident is that most occupants will survive... But this is the danger. When people believe there's nothing they can do to save themselves, the put themselves at even greater risk. They drink on the plane, sleep with a mask, take off their shoes, etc. If the plane crashes, they figure it doesn't matter if they're drunk, barefoot and blindfolded: they're dead anyway... But 40% of fatalities in plane crashes occur in situations that are survivable. p59

Why plane crashes freak us out, even though more us will exit from disease and auto accidents

Page 1 coverage of airplane accidents was 60 times greater than HIV/AIDS, 1500 times greater than auto accidents, and 6000 times greater than cancer. p58

Don't sit and wait to be told what to do in an emergency

People don't often panic in the crazy sense, but more often they do nothing to save themselves; this is called negative panic... The current theory of behavioral inaction goes like this: as your frontal lobes process the sight of an airplane wing on fire, they seek to match the information with memories of similar situations in the past. If you have no stored information of a plane crash, your brain can't find a match and gets stuck in a loop of trying and failing to come up with the right response. Hence: immobility. The military calls this the dislocation of expectation... Researchers believe this has less to do with fear and confusion and more to do with the novelty of the situation and the lack of leadership... People do nothing. They just wait for instructions. And they often die. p63

Get younger, lose weight, and be a guy to get out quicker

According to FAA safety research, the best odds for surviving a plane crash go to young, slender men. Agility and strength make the biggest difference when you're trying to wriggle out of airplane wreckage... 31% of difference in evacuation time depends on personal characteristics... The bottom line is that older, bigger women are less nimble and strong; they have suffer the worst odds. p65

Rules for surviving a plane crash.

1. You only have 90 seconds to escape if there's a fire. The aluminum skin of the plane will melt after that.

2. The first 3 minutes and the last 8 minutes of the flight are the most dangerous (80% of all crashes occur during those times). If you're paying attention you can increase your odds.

3. Always have an action plan. Know where the nearest 2 exits are, and count the rows. In thick smoke you won't see them.

4. Decide ahead of time who will take care of the kids or elderly between you and your flight companion. Don't wait until the heat of the moment.

5. Be prepared to claw and climb your way out over other who are frozen or incapacitated. The FAA calls this 'competitive' behavior, and suggests that you compete.

6. Avoid bulkhead seats, because the seat in front of you is part of your safety system. In an accident, you ARE going to hit something.

7. Always assume the brace position. It really does help.

8. Always buckle up. The seatbelt can withstand 3000 lbs of force or 17g's.

9. Forget about your luggage or belongings.

10. Cover your skin and feet with non-synthetics. They will melt on your skin.

11. Make a big fuss to those around you about the safety card and exit plan. Influence those around you so no one freezes and blocks your way out. p73-76

The safest seat on the plane

Other factors to consider. Aisle seat survival rate is 64% vs. 58 for a window seat. Front of plane (1st class) is 49% vs. 56% for ahead of and over wing vs. 69% for rear of cabin. So the safest seats on the plane are rear aisle seats within 5 rows of 2 exits. p79

115 million people in the US visit the emergency room each year. That's 315,000 per day or 13,125 per hour. p92

Showing up the ER with a heart puncture and no vitals, you only have a 37-40% chance. A gunshot wound to the heart with no vitals lowers your chance to 4%. Worst of all is blunt trauma from smashing into something like a brick wall, your chances are less than 1%... So here's what to remember: knives are better than guns, which are better than brick walls. p93

Golden Gate Bridge: The world's most exclusive survivor's club.

You have 4 seconds before hitting the water 240 feet below at 75 mph. On impact you'll feel 15,000 lbs per square inch, ripping your organs loose... Even if you survive the impact, you're almost certain to drown. Jumpers can plunge 80 feet under... Since it opened in May 1937, 1250 people have been recorded as suicides. 98% of jumpers die. Compare that with poison - 85%, drug overdose - 88%, wrist slashing - 95%. There are only 28 known survivors... Your best odds are entering the water feet first, but at a slight angle, so you arc through the water instead of plunging straight down. p104-108

Where's the best place to suffer a heart attack?

In major cities like LA and NYC, the odd are less than 3% of surviving. In cities with the best emergency response like Seattle and Boston, it rises to 9%... But the best place in the world has a rate of 53%. It's the Las Vegas Strip, where nearly all casinos have defibrillators and trained staff. p109

USAF's rule of 3 states that you CANNOT survive without:

3 seconds without spirit and hope

3 minutes without air

3 hours without shelter in extreme conditions

3 days without water

3 weeks without food

3 months without companionship or love

Make peace with your maker, or else you're likely to meet him

Patients in religious turmoil had a 6 to 10% greater risk of dying compared to those who weren't.. Patients who felt alienated or unloved by god and attributed their illness to the devil were 19 to 28% more likely to die during a 2 year study. Why can tussling with god kill you? Well, first you have to ask what kind of God do you believe in. Does your belief in god broad enough to encompass both the good and bad in life, or do you have a sugar coated view of god, that he'll always be there for you, and he will never let anything bad happen. If the latter, when something bad does happen, you won't have any way to reconcile that with your view of god. p145

It's who you know that counts when it comes to luck

Most people know about 300 people on a 1st name basis. That means that you're only 2 introductions away from 90,000 people who could bring chance opportunities to your life. If you invited 50 people over for dinner, that means you're only 2 degrees of separation from 4.5 million potential lucky breaks. p192

Trust, not ignore, your gut

Lucky people listen to their hunches and make good decisions without really knowing why... In contrast, unlucky people often ignore their intuition and regret their decision... Lucky people persevere in the face of failure, have an uncanny knack of making their wishes come true. They expect good things to happen... Unlucky people expect bad things to happen... When given an impossible puzzle to solve, 60% of unlucky people say the puzzle is impossible, while only 30% of lucky people said the same... Life's best survivors react to disruptive change forced on them as though it is a change they desired. p192-4

5 Step Luck School

1. Sign a 'Luck Declaration' in which you pledge to incorporate these principles for 1 month

2. Identify your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to fortune. Do you maximize chance opportunities in life? Do you listen to your lucky hunches? Do you turn bad luck into good?

3. Meet new people and expand your network of luck, and practice a relaxed attitude to life, open yourself up to new experiences, paying more attention to your gut instincts.

4. Keep a luck journal, jotting down fortunate events.

5. Take your time creating a lucky life. Lucky people have developed ways of thinking that make them especially happy, successful and satisfied with their lives. p204

The average increase is 40%. One english computer company tried it and raised productivity by 20%.

Hey lefties, wanna live 9 years longer? Switch hands ASAP

The older you get, the fewer lefties you'll find. Among 10 year olds, 15% are left handed. By age 50, it shrinks to 5%. Jump to age 80, and its only 1%. And only .5% by 85... One explanation is that lefties become righties, but researchers reject this because it's too difficult and unlikely for so many people to change... After studying 2857 CA death certificates, they discovered that left handers die 9 years earlier than right handers (4 years and 10 months for women, and 10 years and 1 month for men). Lefties are 89% more likely to end up in severe accidents, and 6 times more likely to die in them. p205

Asians should take an aspirin on the 3rd of every month

On the 4th of every month there's a 13% spike in heart attacks among Asian Americans. In CA, there's a 27% jump among this group. In many asian languages the words for four and death are almost identical. Indeed in the far east, many hospitals and hotels avoid the number 4. p225

Fight on, never surrender, and skip the stiff upper lip nonsense. It's life or death.

A 1979 British study of breast cancer victims found that 75% of women with a 'fighting spirit' had a favorable outcome vs. only 30% for the helpless and stoic groups... It should be noted that 88% of the women in the study fell into the helpless or stoic groups, but they only represented 46% of the 5 year survivors.... The authors concluded after doing research that the fighting spirit won't prolong your life, but helplessness and hopelessness may actually shorten it. p236

Have something to live for

A researched studied 1333 famous people from history, and discovered a dip in deaths before their birthdays, and a peak afterward. He went to study regular people, and found that they too can postpone death for special occasions. "People postpone death in order to participate in social ceremonies. Because they are so attached to society, they die post-maturely." p249

Maybe surprise birthday parties after age 50 aren't such a good idea

Women are more likely to die in the week following their birthday than in any other week of the year. Men's deaths peaked before their birthdays... Thus a birthday is a 'deadline' for males, but a 'lifeline' for women. p250

A spoonful of sugar helps the post traumatic stress go down

Studies of soldiers who endured severe physical and mental stress during survival training revealed that ingesting carbohydrates helped the troops recover quicker physically and cognitively... In the future, medics may pump soldiers full of maltodextrin or other carbs to accelerate their recovery from stress to get them back into the fight. p270

The Resilience Prescription

1. Practice optimism. Look for the bright side. Don't be delusional or live in denial, but focus on what you can control towards a positive outcome.

2. Choose someone you know or who inspires you, and imitate their example as a resilient role model.

3. Develop a moral compass of unshakable beliefs in ideals and principles greater than yourself.

4. Practice altruism. By helping others you can help yourself feel better during tough times.

5. Develop cognitive flexibility, meaning an ability to learn and adapt your knowledge and thinking to new situations

6. Face your fears, and learn to control negative emotions

7. Build active coping skills to handle your problems

8. Establish a supportive social network to help you

9. Stay physically fit

10. Laugh as much as you can

p271 - see Dr. Dennis Charney of Mt Sinai School of Medicine NYC for more details

Killer Initials

In 1999, researchers studied 3500 men and women with good and bad initials (good included ACE, WIN, WOW & VIP; bad included RAT, BUM, SAD, & DUD), and determined if they had anything to do with how long people lived. The results were stunning. As far fetched as it may sound, they concluded that your initials can actually influence the time and cause of your death. It can add 4 years to your life, or subtract 3 years from it.... How do bad initials kill? Cumulatively over a lifetime. They build up as a little tiny source of stress or they crush your will to live in some way. The impact isn't immediate. Instead, like compound interest, it accumulates over years... Conversely seeing FOX, HUG, or GOD as your initials on your key chain or robe every day can add up to something positive over a lifetime... 2 Pomona economics professors examined the same data and concluded that initials have no effect. p275


- Spock, Star Trek

Sunday, October 24, 2010

** The Secret Life of the Grown Up Brain by Barbara Strauch

There is a silver lining to the dark cloud of your aging brain. You'll perform better and longer than you thought possible, after Strauch shares what science knows about aging brains.
Key takeaways:
  • Leverage your knowledge, and realize that the older you are the slower you will learn new tasks.
  • Your brain is going to slowly waste away. The more interconnected it is by education and challenge, the longer you will delay the negative symptoms of this fact of life (and death).
  • Exercise will help your brain stay healthy and young.
  • Diet may also help, but not for the reason you originally thought, and it may explain why you have to eat the whole food, not just pop a pill. Surprisingly, it's the toxins in the food that may be helping you.

Wisdom proven
Researchers found that 40-60 year olds did better on test of the most important and complex cognitive skills than the same group of people had done when in their 20s... In 4 out of 6 categories tested - vocabulary, verbal memory, spatial orientation, and inductive reasoning - people performed best between the ages of 40 to 65. p14

Faster doesn't always mean better
In areas of processing speed, younger flight controllers did better. But in 2 important cognitive areas - visual orientation, and dealing with ambiguity, - older controllers did just as well. Studies of pilots find the same thing... Older pilots took longer to catch on to the new tests, but they outperformed younger pilots when it came time to doing what was most important - keeping planes where they were supposed to be. p21

Empty nest syndrome is a hoax
Every year incoming freshman to college say that their parents must be devastated by their absence. But nothing could be further from the truth. Researchers have found that the parents are doing just fine. p60

Why you can't remember what's his face's name
If our brains are doing so well in middle age, then why do names go missing in the first place? Researchers speculate that it is because of the way words are stored and organized in the brain. The sound of a word - phonology- and the meaning of the word are stored in different areas and the connection between them weakens as we age. And since the link between a name and a person is arbitrary, this weak link doesn't give us much to go on... At the same time we remember well what a person does, that's because a person's occupation embodies a wide range of information that's stashed all over the brain, and can be retrieved through various paths. p72

Education; instant gratification's mortal enemy
The one social factor that researchers agree is consistently linked to longer lives in every country where it has been studied is education. It is more important than race; it obliterates any effects of income. Education may somehow teach people to delay gratification, a habit that might mean you give up that cookie or cigarette and instead take a walk. p112

Education doesn't ward off disease, it just helps cope with the symptoms
Was it simply that those with better brains sought more education and then developed even better brains as a result? Or were those who were inclined to become more educated simply people who had better nutrition while young or had lives that were generally more protected from toxins that could harm the brain?... Researchers found that those with less than 8 years of education were twice as likely to become demented and those who had even lower education were 3 times as likely. The only way these folks differed was in their education... In two other studies, demented patients who had higher education declined and died faster AFTER being diagnosed, but this diagnosis occurs later in life on average. While on the surface that seems counterintuitive. It seems that the education doesn't stop the ravages of Alzheimer's or other brain wasting diseases at all, rather education provides more neural interconnections such that the brain can better cope with the damage caused by aging and disease without marked overall decrease in performance, until the disease progression finally overwhelms the brain. Then the decline is steep and quick. It suggest that those who can call on more brain power can hold back the outward signs of the disease. Then by the time the disease becomes outwardly evident, its affects are much further along and those patients get worse and die faster. But these patients have less time to live with the effects and that seems like a good thing. p113-4

Exercise helps your memory, but will it help me remember to exercise?
Exercising mice created twice as many new brain cells as non-exercisers... Exercise was not only a potent producer of new neurons, but also seemed to selectively target the brain's dentate gyrus - the middle of the brain's memory machinery - an area that appears to decline with the normal aging process. This means that exercise may, in fact, help boost our memories as we age. p128

Brain food is real, at least for rats
Test tube experiments have shown that brain tissue taken from older animals is more sensitive to oxidative stressors than similar tissue from young animals. By middle age, there are already indicators of increased inflammation in the brains of animals. But food seems to help. Older rats fed a diet of spinach learned new tasks much faster than those fed plain rat chow. Rats fed blueberries, spinach, and spirulina had less brain cell loss and improved recovery of movement following a stroke. p156

And for dogs too!
Beagles fed a diet of fruits, vegetables and vitamins and allowed to exercise could, even in old age, learn new tricks faster than other dogs. The dogs that did the best had their diets fortified mostly with anti-oxidants, including tomatoes, carrots, citrus, spinach, and vitamins E & C. p157

Nietzsche was right! That what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger
Reducing calories activates mild stress that upregulates growth factors that protect cells against aging and disease. And this may very well be how antioxidants are really working as well. Researchers think it is the TOXINS in such things as the skin of a grape, which is there to ward off insects giving us resveratrol, that produce this mild stress that prompts beneficial repair... The benefit of fruits and vegetables might not be because of the antioxidants and vitamins, but because the toxins are producing mild stress. p165 - See Mark Mattson, Chief of Neurosciences at National Institute on Aging.

40 really is the new 20!
Stanford economist, John Shoven came up with entirely new way calculating when we are over the hill. He argues that our true age should be determined not by years, but by years left to live... That means if you have less than a 1% risk of dying within a year, you can consider yourself 'young', and you're not old until you have a 4% chance of dying within a year. In between, you're middle aged... Under this interpretation men don't become old until 73, and women until 78. Middle age starts at 58 for men, and 63 for women. p195

Sunday, April 18, 2010

You are not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier **

The internet and new technology has brought us many things to be thankful, but Lanier is concerned that it is actually slowing down our creativity, and that Moore’s law will help to actually slow down cultural change. He points out how the new technology is stifling us in ways, and he suggests some alternatives. But I have to say that evolution is not one to pick the best design or best possible solution, only the most expedient solution given the tools at hand. That is how I view the path that technology takes and the solutions that win out. It is in a sense survival of the fittest. I view Lanier's approach as a desire for intelligent design opposing the laissez faire approach of invisible hand. - Ben

Emphasizing the crowd means de-emphasizing individual humans in the design of society, and when you ask people not to be people, they revert to bad moblike behaviors. This leads not only to empowered trolls, but to a generally unfriendly and unconstructive online world. ..Finance was transformed by computational clouds. Success in finance became increasingly about manipulating the cloud at the expense of sound financial principles... Pop culture has entered into a nostalgic malaise, dominated by mashups of the culture that existed before the onset of mashups. P20

Lanier talks about how crowd/cloud solutions should be limited to domains where the cloud cannot frame it’s own questions and its answers should never be more complicated than a single number or multiple choice answer… Problems that have both complex outcomes and unknown distributions of outcomes should be taboo for crowds.

Crowds and clouds do a very poor job of innovation. They do an excellent job of polishing an existing solution or framework. The open source movement is an example of that. Linux is really a 1960’s operating system based upon a Bell Labs innovations from that era. It is not a fundamentally new construct. Using the crowd to take a new construct, and extrapolate and refine it might be a worthy utilization of the crowd. Asking the crowd to come up with a new, well architectured solution is probably a waste of time.

People will focus on activities other than fighting and killing one another only so long as technologists come up with ways to improve living standards for everyone at once… Expanding wealth is necessary if morality is to have any largescale effect on events, and improving technology is the only way to expand wealth for many people at the same time. P80

If the crowd is so wise, it should be directing each person optimally in choices related to home finance, the whitening of teeth, and the search of a lover. Paid persuasion ought to be mooted. Every penny Google earns suggests a failure of the crowd – and Google is earning a lot of pennies. P83

If money is flowing to advertising instead of the content creators like musicians, journalists, and artists, then society is more concerned with manipulation than truth or beauty. If content is worthless, the people will start to become empty headed and content less. P83

The social contract that exists on the web today is that authors, journalists, musicians, artists, etc. are encouraged to treat the fruits of their intellects and imaginations as fragments to be given without pay to the hive mind. Reciprocity takes the form of self promotion. Culture is to become nothing but advertising. P83

Can the internet spawn new middle classes for the creation of content? Wouldn’t be nice if today there were 3000 musicians making a decent middle class living solely from their music on the web? Then in a few years, 30,000. Then the S curve would manifest itself in full, and there would be 300,000. A new kind of professional musician would thunder onto the scene with the shocking speed of a new social networking site… To my shock, I have had trouble finding even a handful of muscians who are able to survive on the web even after 15 years of the web existing for the masses. P91

The people who are perhaps the most screwed by open culture are the middle classes of intellectual and cultural creation. The freelance studio musician, the stringer selling reports to newspapers from warzones are both crucial contributors to culture. Each pays dues and devotes years to honing a craft. They used to live off the trickle down effects of the old system, and like the middle class at large, they are precious. They get nothing from the new system. P93

Planet of the Help Desk

Computer technologies built by humans are endlessly confusing, buggy, fussy and error ridden. The icon of employment in the age of information is the help desk. This includes knowledge management, software consulting, data management, etc. We are headed toward Planet of the Help Desk. P94

China’s economic model focuses on manufacturing and thus the routine. India’s economy excels in non-routine services. The US has chosen a different path entirely, by controlling the network that everyone else is forced to pass through… I’ll be an optimist and suggest that America will somehow convince the world to allow us to maintain our privileged role. The admittedly flimsy reasons are that a) we’ve done it before so they’re used to us b) the alternatives are potentially less appealing to many global players, so American centrality is a least bad option. P96

Save those pennies!

Even if robots in the future are able to maintain your health and well being for just a penny, how will you ever earn that penny competing against them? Manual labor will be unpaid because the robots own that work, your creativity and expression would also be unpaid since you would be a volunteer in the army of the long tail. That would leave nothing for you… The only alternative would be to establish a form of socialism. P103

Digitially connected mobs will perform more and more services on a collective volunteer [or super cheap] basis, from medicine to solving crimes, until nearly all service jobs are done that way. The cloud lords that control the network behind these solutions [LiveOps, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Elance are examples today] encourage this way of thinking. This trajectory begs the question of how a person who is volunteering all day long will earn rent money. Will living space be doled out socially by the hive lords? Would be it awarded Digg style? Would you only inherit your space, so that your station in life was predetermined? Or would it be allocated at random? P104

We routinely spend more money incarcerating a thief than the thief stole in the first place. You could argue that it would be cheaper to not prosecute small crimes and just reimburse the victims. But the reason we do is to create a livable environment for everyone not riddled with petty crime… In the same way, the maintenance of liberties of capitalism in a digital future will require general acceptance of a social contract. We will pay a tax to have the ability to earn money from our creativity, expression and perspective. P106

You could stop paying your ISP in exchange for signing up for the new social contract in which you pay for bits. If you access no paid bits, you pay nothing. You would also have the potential to earn money for your bits – such as photos, music, and writings. You’d also pay when you visited the bits of others. The total you paid would on average initially work out to be similar [or less to encourage you] to what you paid for before because that is what the market would bear. Because people are entrepreneurial and would like a chance to try to make money, more and more people will make the transition. P106

About ½ the bits flowing on the internet originated as TV, movie or traditional commercial content. P123

An honest empiricist must conclude that while the open approach has been able to create lovely polished copies, it hasn’t been so good at creating notable originals. Even though the open source movement has a stinging countercultural rhetoric, it has in practice been a conservative force. P125

If you start searching for sequences of letters or characters that appear in each text under similar circumstances, you can start to build a dictionary of correlations. That could produce significant results, even if the correlations don’t always fit perfectly into grammar… Such approaches are incredibly inefficient, often involving 10,000 times as much computing as older methods… But set loose on the internet such a project could begin to erase language barriers. P166

In the 1st story of language, a protohuman says his 1st word ‘Ma’ for mother, and teaches it to the rest of tribe. A few generations later, someone comes up with ‘Wa’ for water. Eventually the tribe has enough words for language. In the 2nd story, the protohumans are making all kinds of weird sounds because evolution allows experimentation as long as it doesn’t interfere with survival. The protohumans are doing a lot of things in groups, and their brains start correlating certain distinctive social vocalizations with certain events. Gradually, a large number of approximate words come into use. There is no clear bound at 1st between words, phrases, emotional inflection and any other part of language. P169

In the wild songs probably had to be rigid in order for mates to find each other. Birds born with a predilection for musical innovation most likely would have had trouble mating. Once domesticated, the finches are assured the luxury of mating, their song variety exploded. p168

Which word is spiky and which is cloudlike? Bouba and Kiki. Across all cultures and languages Kiki is spiky and Bouba is cloudlike... The ability to make connections across senses might have initially evolved in lower primates as a better way to grasp branches. Here's how it could have happened: the image hitting the retina caused by viewing a tilted branch with an oblique sequence of muscle twitches leading the animal to grab the branch at an angle. This remapping ability became coopted for other kinds of abstraction that humans excel in, such as the bouba/kiki metaphor. p172

The UI for search engines, which have been around for well over a decade, is still based upon the 1960s command line. The UI for the Apple 2 to the Mac took less than a decade to evolve. At this rate, by 2020 we can expect software development to have slowed to near stasis, like a clock approaching a black hole. p181

People live longer as technology improves, so cultural change actually slows, because it is tied more to the outgoing generational clock than the incoming one. p182