Everyone Should Code

or not

7 notes

Money in your Mind

[Copied from my post on G+]

I think bitcoins are an amazing invention. And I think the time is right - or very nearly right. There is a build-up of anger toward corporations and banks, and toward a government that is consistently eroding our freedom and our rights. A way of exchanging value that is under no particular person’s control, where transactions don’t go through self-serving and profiteering middle-men, and which cannot be inflated at the will of those in power, is just what we need. With almost ubiquitous internet (even in some poorer nations) and an increasing number of businesses accepting payment in bitcoins, they are fast becoming a viable alternative to cash for many. “There’s an app” for your phone. The core of the system is protected from manipulation by mathematics - which we can (by and large) trust. The main problems, I think, are things like the degree of usability of the tools and lack of education with regard to digital security - which can be fixed.

Looking far into the utopian, star-trek-like future, I like to imagine a world where the government doesn’t need the option of using force to extract taxes, which is a world suited to a population that controls it’s own currency.

Your bitcoin wallet contains the keys necessary to spend coins stored in your different addresses (like accounts). I was reading today about a way to generate a key, and it’s corresponding address, from a passphrase (which should be long, unique, and hard to guess but easy to remember, like a sentence including your name and pet’s birthday or similar). This means that, just by remembering your passphrase, you can store money in your head!. This implies amongst other things that you wouldn’t need to worry about the security of a digital wallet - just create the key when you need it, spend, and then erase it again. In theory you could also store bitcoins against your fingerprint, or retina scan, or voice signature, in a similar way. You could store them against GPS coordinates.

I’m probably getting ahead of things, but it seems to be a bit like the invention of electricity; there are issues, but bitcoins could solve some big problems, and for now we can only guess at the amazing things that might be built on these foundations.

Info on bitcoins here.

Filed under money business freedom mind bitcoin internet cryptography

24 notes

Mandatory Army survey says atheists are unfit to be soldiers



From the site:

I’m a bit furious about a mandatory survey that I just took. The survey, Soldier Fitness Tracker (SFT), measures individual soldier’s competency in four areas: Emotional, Social, Family, and Spiritual. As a foxhole atheist, I was a little annoyed at first, but I’ve learned that I’ve really got to pick my battles on some issues. This quickly turned into one of those issues. According to the SFT, I’m unfit to serve in the U.S. Army because I’m a non-believer.

This is about dumb. My husband is an unwavering atheist, and he is a stellar Marine. (I’m not just saying that cause I’m his wife. He’s got the creditials to prove it.) Can we waste time and money studying things that are actually relevant to military service??

Kinda makes sense to me. You don’t have any reason to think that some divine entity made you right and them wrong, yet you’re still willing to kill other people because some crazy dude who does think that told you to? I wouldn’t have you in my army either ;)

(Source: savagemike, via think4yourself)

10 notes

There is no Infinity - Rant #2

I think Cantor was wrong when he defined infinity. I think all the mathematicians that built on his work are wrong. When and if you’ve finished laughing at me, read on ;)

Ok so I don’t think those incredibly intelligent guys are wrong about everything. It’s just some of the fundamentals of number theory that I have problems with.

Like the idea of infinity. And the idea that there are things bigger than infinity.

The way this was first explained to me was via Cantor’s diagonal argument. His argument goes as follows: if you write all the infinity of numbers in a list (adding zeros to the front of short numbers to make them all equal length), and then you form a number by cutting diagonally across this infinite square you have created, and then you change every digit in that number to some different digit, you form a new number that can’t be in your infinitely big list since it differs from every number there in at least one of the digits. So you’ve got infinity plus one - a set of numbers called ‘uncountable’.

My problem with this is a little bit technical but it’s not really that hard to understand. Basically, my argument is this: if your list of numbers is anything except infinitely long, then it isn’t square, and you can’t cut completely across it diagonally. Any diagonal number won’t include at least half the list (and that’s just for binary numbers). For any fixed list length, this is true. As the list length grows, this remains true. Why then do we allow this fact to suddenly change when the list reaches the (unreachable) length of infinity? Don’t you see an issue with that logic?

So then to generalise this a little bit further - what on earth makes us think that this idea of infinity makes any real sense? Where does it come from?

In number theory, the first mistaken supposition in my mind is the idea that one can keep counting forever. Sure, there is a pattern to how numbers change as you keep adding one, and adding one, and adding one. There is no reason to think that suddenly you’d be unable to add one - is there? So we can have an infinite number of integers. Oh but wait - we’ve assumed an infinite amount of time, and concluded that there is such a thing as infinity (at least, in a mathematical sense). What if, maybe, the universe comes to an end before we can count that high? What if we run out of energy, or perhaps die, before we get to infinity? Why would we assume that we could have an infinite amount of time?

So here is the crux of the problem: while we’re busy trying to explain the universe mathematically, we’re still holding on to ancient ideas about some pure land of mathematics that differs from this world we live in. It just doesn’t gel.

Filed under math physics infinity impossible pythagoras plato

27 notes

Sick of being Ripped Off - Rant #1

In the last 16 months, my house has been damaged by the weather twice.

First, the car port roof blew off, the night my wife and I went to the Pearl Jam concert. The gate to the back yard went with it.

I had to argue with the guy that fixed the gate - who insisted that the sharp metal edges of the colour-bond were completely normal. Luckily our close friend next door is a builder who knows better and defended my children’s fingers on my behalf. The strange thing was that, when the reconstruction was complete and the building inspector came to see the work, he mentioned that because they had not demonstrated that the brick pillars were actually attached to the car port roof, they’d have to take it down and do it again. Amazingly, the builder showed up the next day and explained that the work had been approved and everything was fine.

The second time my house was damaged, one room was flooded resulting in carpet damage and damage to the painted walls, and the stuff that covers our slate floors was stained in the dining room. The insurance covered new carpet and had the damaged paint redone. They also covered the floor but only in the room where the damage occurred. Unfortunately, according to the carpet guy and the painter and the builder, you’d be able to see the difference between the newly resurfaced slate and the rest of the house if you did not get the whole lot redone together. So we asked the guy who came to assess the floors to do the rest of the house - $2k, but not for a month. Fine with us - we have a 6’ x 4’ x 4’ (900 litre) fish tank that needs taking care of before it could be done anyway - and what’s another two grand on top of the massive mortgage you have to have to own a house in Australia anyway? But not fine with the builder - so he gets someone else to come earlier. This guy only wants $500 to do the rest of the house. We were suspicious, asked a lot of questions, but were kinda happy to pay less and naively agreed. Long story short, the floor is stuffed; there’s crap sealed into it, it looks wet, it makes strange noises when you walk on it with wet shoes, bits are coming off, things underneath it are changing colour, and it marks easily. He came back with a wire brush and tin of resin to try and repair it once - painting over half the crap I pointed out under the sealant. After weeks of asking the builder (who doesn’t return my calls and thinks I’m exaggerating) still has not provided the guy’s details so that I can try and claim against his insurance. I bet he doesn’t have any.

Thankfully, my little brother happens to be an insurance lawyer. And I’m really stubborn. And the courts that could eventually be involved are all free. The consumer affairs people tell me that they’ll have to fix it all. Eventually. That’ll be my hobby for the next - I dunno - 18 months?

So when the pillars started separating from the car port the other day, I was understandably thrilled. I might get them to realign the gate that doesn’t shut properly while they’re fixing that.

We won’t go into my week at work. That might not be politically correct ;)

At least the local veggie shop gave me back the $4 they overcharged my wife last week without demanding a receipt.


So, if "people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it", then buy this: 

I love programming computers. I wrote my first assembly language program when I was 10. My passion is making computers do what I want. I’ve been doing it professionally for many years. I hate being ripped off. I am into artificial intelligence and I think there aren’t many ways to make a mind - so I think we have similarities. I have kids to feed and want a fair price for my work - which I have reason to believe is high quality. My cats love me so I’m a nice person, and wouldn’t think of stealing from you (or your kids), and so I charge fairly and don’t charge people for fixing defects in my work (commonly called ‘maintenance’ in the software industry). I am experienced at leading a software team and delivering beyond expectations on extremely challenging projects on the frontiers of the software industry. So if you want your computers to do something different, or know someone or some business that does, and you’re also sick of being ripped off, get in touch. sje397 at gmail.]

End rant #1. Deep breath. Thanks for listening.

Filed under unlucky weather ripoff insurance overit