Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Censorship flamewar

This post is inflammatory and unfair. It argues an extreme position that I don't agree with, but nevertheless find amusing. When writing angry responses, please direct your hate at the straw-man, not at me :)


When a powerful group forces information to be removed from the internet, that is censorship. Some acts of censorship are more acceptable than others depending on what information is being censored and why.

For example, Disney can force people to take certain information off of the internet because they have exclusive rights, and the free availability of that information threatens to undercut their profits, which would undercut their power to make new movies and also new laws to protect their interests (such as retroactively extending copyright, or increasing penalties for violations). In this case, censorship is good because if Disney lost that power, their profits could disappear entirely and then the world might run out of Princess movies. Perhaps someone else would start making Princess movies, but making Princess movies is difficult, and without the ability to censor the internet, they too might fail.

A second example is the Communist Party of China. They can force people to take certain information off of the internet because they have exclusive rights, and the free availability of that information threatens to undercut their power and profits, and without that power they could lose control of China. In this case, censorship is good because if the Communist party lost that power, their control could disappear entirely and they would no longer be able to preserve the peace, stability, and growth of China. Perhaps someone else would start governing China (after a quick revolution), but governing China is difficult, and without the ability to censor the internet, they too might fail.


Monday, January 04, 2010

Books and stuff: three years of Amazon addiction

I'm a slow reader, but that doesn't stop me from buying a lot of books. Inspired by a Blippy review, I thought it might be fun to publish my Amazon order history.

My threshold for buying books is very low, so don't interpret these purchases as endorsements. Also, I haven't read most of them yet, so if you spot anything especially good, please let me know.
  1. Return to the Little Kingdom: How Apple and Steve Jobs Changed the World
  2. Inside Steve's Brain, Expanded Edition
  3. Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
  4. How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life (Signet)
  5. Aquinas 101: A Basic Introduction to the Thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas
  6. Apple MacBook Pro MB986LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop
  7. 6-Pack Tank Tops by Bambini - white, 27-34lbs.
  8. Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain
  9. Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence (Rethinking Theory)
  10. Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives
  11. The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late
  12. The Invisible Kingdom: From the Tips of Our Fingers to the Tops of Our Trash, Inside the Curious World of Microbes
  13. Confessions of a Public Speaker
  14. The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal
  15. Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age
  16. Social Structures
  17. The Organization Man
  18. Coby CA-747 Dual Position CD/MD/MP3 Cassette Adapter
  19. Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash
  20. Alice In Wonderland
  21. Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior
  22. Dr. Nicholas Romanov's Pose Method of Running
  23. ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running
  24. Evolution Running DVD Run Faster with Fewer Injuries
  25. Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason
  26. Injinji Performance Series CoolMax Micro Socks, MD, M8-10.5/W9-11.5, Black
  27. The Atlantic
  28. CamelBak Rogue 70 oz Hydration Pack (Racing Red/Charcoal)
  29. MSR Ground Hog Stake Kit
  30. CamelBak Rogue 70 oz Hydration Pack (Estate Blue/Charcoal)
  31. Wenzel Ponderosa 10- by 8-Foot Four-Person Two-Room Dome Tent
  32. Coleman Queen-Sized Quickbed with Wrap 'N' Roll Storage
  33. Wenzel Pinon Sport 7-by 7-Foot Three-Person Dome Tent
  34. MSR Ground Hog Stake Kit
  35. Teton Sports Mammoth 0-Degree Sleeping Bag
  36. Injinji Performance Series CoolMax Micro Socks, MD, M8-10.5/W9-11.5, Black
  37. Vibram Five Fingers SPRINT Men's Shoes (Navy) FREE SHIPPING (41, Navy/Blue/Camo)
  38. ASICS Men's Transitive Seamless Boxer Size: M/L, Color: Black
  39. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey
  40. The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work
  41. The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa
  42. The Africa Cookbook
  43. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
  44. The Jungle Effect: Healthiest Diets from Around the World--Why They Work and How to Make Them Work for You
  45. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
  46. 21IN1 Multimedia Reader/writer Expresscard 34SLOT Mac/pc Sd/mmc/xd
  47. You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise
  48. Weber 7508 Stainless-Steel Burner Tube Set
  49. Weber 6415 Small Aluminum Drip Pans- 8.5-Inches by 6-Inches
  50. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
  51. Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health (Vintage)
  52. Somatics: Reawakening The Mind's Control Of Movement, Flexibility, And Health
  53. Change Your Mind, Change Your World
  54. Beyond The Dream: Awakening to Reality
  55. VMware Fusion 2
  56. Feed
  57. Arduino Duemilanove Starter Kit
  58. Rayovac Alkaline Batteries, C Size, 12-Count Packages (Pack of 2)
  59. Wired (2-year)
  60. Atlantic Monthly
  61. Omron HEM-780 Automatic Blood Pressure Monitor with ComFit Cuff
  62. French I, Conversational: Learn to Speak and Understand French with Pimsleur Language Programs (Pimsleur Instant Conversation)
  63. Stumbling on Happiness
  64. Human-Computer Interaction (2nd Edition)
  65. Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind
  66. Transcend TS32GCF133 133x 32GB Compact Flash Card
  67. Tiffen 77mm UV Protection Filter
  68. Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook (Maui Revealed)
  69. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (Book & DVD)
  70. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
  71. 50mW Black Dimple Green Laser Pointer High Powered Diode
  72. Canon PowerShot SD880IS 10MP Digital Camera with 4x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom (Gold)
  73. Transcend TS8GSDHC6-S5W 8GB SDHC6 Memory Card with Card Reader
  74. ASUS Eee PC 901 12G (8.9-inch Display, 1.6 GHz Intel ATOM Processor, 1 GB RAM, 12 GB Solid State Drive, XP Home, 6 Cell Battery) Pearl White
  75. The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain
  76. How to Get Rich: One of the World's Greatest Entrepreneurs Shares His Secrets
  77. How to Be Rich
  78. Crossing the Chasm
  79. The Systems Bible: The Beginner's Guide to Systems Large and Small by Gall...
  80. Healing Without Freud or Prozac by Servan-Schreiber, David
  81. Amish Country Red Popcorn - 2lb.
  82. Amish Country Midnight Blue Popcorn - 2lb.
  83. Amish Country Rainbow Blend Popcorn - 2lb.
  84. Amish Country Purple Popcorn - 2lb.
  85. Forgive for Good
  86. The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business (Collins Business Essentials)
  87. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
  88. The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra
  89. Dubble Bubble Twist Wrapped, 180-Count Tubs (Pack of 3)
  90. Political Ponerology (A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political...
  91. The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations
  92. Kingston 8GB SDHC Class 6 Flash Card SD6/8GB
  93. Rules of the Game
  94. 1776 [Bargain Price]
  95. Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge (Collins Business Essentials)
  96. Propaganda
  97. Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls
  98. Multi Directional HDtv Antenna
  99. Cables To Go 16.4FT CBL VIDEO HDMI-TO DVI M/M VELOCITY RTL ( 40323 )
  100. Canon PowerShot SD1000 7.1MP Digital Elph Camera with 3x Optical Zoom (Black)
  101. Netgear GS108 ProSafe 8-Port Copper Gigabit Desktop Switch
  102. Man's Search for Meaning
  103. Axis 207MW Network Camera Network Camera- Wireless Megapixel
  104. Le Chat Chapeaute
  105. The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
  106. The Alphabet Of Manliness
  107. Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another
  108. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition
  109. The Logic of Political Survival
  110. Canon PGI-5 BK 2-Pack Pigment Black Ink Tanks
  111. Canon CLI-8 4-Color Multipack Ink Tanks
  112. Fujifilm Finepix F50fd 12MP Digital Camera with 3 x Optical Image Stabilization
  113. Canon PIXMA MP830 Office All-In-One Printer
  114. Alkaline Battery Value Packs
  115. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Harper Business Essentials)
  116. Hawaii The Big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook (Hawaii the Big Island Revealed)
  117. Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition
  118. The Alchemy of Finance (Wiley Investment Classics)
  119. Freedom: The Courage to Be Yourself (Osho, Insights for a New Way of Living Series)
  120. Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life
  121. Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People 2nd Edition
  122. Why Ducks Do That: 40 Distinctive Duck Behaviors Explained & Photographed
  123. Cat's Cradle
  124. The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker's Essential Writings on Management
  125. How to Kill the Job Culture Before it Kills You: Living a Life of Autonomy in a
  126. Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs - 2nd Edition (MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)
  127. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
  128. Accelerando
  129. Rainbows End
  130. Satanic Purses: Money, Myth, And Misinformation in the War on Terror
  131. A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder--How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place
  132. Pro JavaScript Techniques (Pro)
  133. Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us
  134. Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies, & the Truth about Reality
  135. The New High Intensity Training: The Best Muscle-Building System You've Never Tried
  136. NLP: The New Technology of Achievement
  137. Logitech Z-4I 2.1 Speaker System
  138. SEAGATE 2.5 100GB SATA 5400RPM S9100824AS NOTEBOOK HARD DRIVE (Bare drive...
  139. Apple MacBook Pro MA611LL/A 17" Notebook PC (2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive, DVD/CD SuperDrive)
  140. The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do
  141. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
  142. Influence: Science and Practice (4th Edition)
  143. Using Your Brain--For a Change by Bandler, Richard
  144. Door Gym
  145. On Intelligence
  146. The Design of Everyday Things
  147. Kingston USB 2.0 Hi-speed 15-IN-1
  148. SanDisk SDCFH-1024-901 1 GB Ultra II CompactFlash Card (Retail Package)
  149. Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill
  150. Wired [1-year subscription] [with $5 Bonus] [Magazine Subscription] [Print]
  151. Open Society and Its Enemies (Volume 1)
  152. Griffin Technology 9066-IMIC2 iMic/USB Audio Interface
  153. The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (Penguin Classics)
  154. Power of Spirit: How Organizations Transform
  155. Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
  156. Basic Economics: A Citizens Guide to the Economy, Revised and Expanded

Saturday, January 02, 2010

10 predictions for the world of January 1, 2020

After writing my predictions for the past 10 years, I decided it might be fun to write a few predictions for the next 10 years as well. This is a little more dangerous though, since I now lack the benefit of hindsight and at least one of them will probably turn out to be as dumb as "Palin/Gore win the 2014 presidential election".

That said, here are my (random and probably over-optimistic) predictions for the world as of Jan 1, 2020, assuming civilization doesn't collapse first:
  1. All data lives "in the cloud" and can be accessed from anywhere. Most computers are essentially stateless caches which can be replaced without any data-loss or need for reconfiguration or reinstallation. This prediction was copied from 10 years ago, but this time it's right.
  2. Android and iPhone kill off all the other mobile phone platforms. Android will be bigger (it will run on all of the "free" cell phones), but iPhone will still be "cooler", and will work more seamlessly with Apple's tablet computer.
  3. Facebook will be a big success, possibly as big as Google. I'm probably over-optimistic because I work there, but the people are smart and ambitious.
  4. 3D displays will be popular because people want to watch Avatar and all future 3D movies and games at home (plus porn, of course -- think of the porn!).
  5. No human-like artificial intelligence, but computers get a lot better at both high level and low level intelligence. At the high level, Google will release an amazing question answering service that can answer complex questions and is in many ways smarter than any human. Low-level, insect-like intelligence will become common enough that I'll be able to quickly build a Lego robot that uses computer vision to spot ants and physically squash them (and it will be awesome).
  6. There will be an even bigger economic crash. The system becomes increasingly unstable as we try to paper-over the damage from one bubble by creating an even bigger bubble elsewhere. Nevertheless, things continue semi-working for some reason.
  7. The health care system continues to be badly broken, and attempts at reform probably only make it worse (here is a nice summary). Fortunately, solutions will come from outside of the system. People will get better at avoiding disease (start with Taubes), and bio-tech will start to deliver in a big way. Unfortunately, the bio-tech will probably come from China, since they don't have so many rules to slow things down. The Chinese treatments won't be approved in the United States, but we can simply travel to Mexico for care. Urgent care will be local, but non-urgent procedures will be performed outside the US. Not everyone will do this, but it will be a very visible and growing trend by 2020.
  8. The drug war will be over, mostly. An increasing number of people will realize that the war is causing a lot more harm than the drugs are (it's killing Mexico, for example). The end of marijuana prohibition in California will demonstrate that non-addictive drugs are not as dangerous as the government claims. It's unclear what will happen with highly addictive drugs such as heroin, but bio-tech may offer a solution that removes the addiction.
  9. The energy problem is largely solved by cheap solar. It's not 100% done obviously, but we'll be on the ramp. Nuclear technology (Thorium?) could do it too, but probably isn't politically feasible. Edit: To be clear since not everyone has the same definition of "solved", for me it means that we have a relatively cheap and scalable energy solution, not that we're fully converted to it.
  10. Politics will evolve much faster than in the past due to the Internet and social networks changing the core architecture of society (what people think and how they came to think it -- the professional media and government are no longer at the center). New movements will arise and gain power very quickly. Obama beating Clinton was the first hint of this. Political outsiders will begin winning elections. Steven Colbert will win the 2016 election -- the left will think he's joking, the right will think he's serious, and both sides will think that they are tricking the other ;)

Friday, January 01, 2010

My poorly remembered and partially imagined predictions from Jan 1, 2000

Reviewing old predictions is fun. Unfortunately, I didn't bother to write any down, so I'm working from memory here, and of course human memory is very unreliable and selective, so this is rather bogus.

Predictions for the next 10 years, from Jan 1, 2000 (as remembered on Jan 1, 2010):

Prediction: Linux will continue expanding into new spaces and will eventually make Microsoft irrelevant. Windows 2000 is the last release that anyone will care about.

Result: I was over-optimistic about Linux -- the community is unable to produce anything worthwhile on the desktop, most development has moved to the web anyway (making the desktop OS irrelevant), and OSX popularity among developers took away a lot of energy (I develop in Linux, but use OSX to host my web browser and other apps). Linux is a huge success on the server-side though and continues to grow in more "embedded" contexts, such as Android and Chrome OS. Microsoft made itself irrelevant -- they still make a lot of money, but they are no longer changing the world.

Prediction: Wireless data access (such as that provided by Ricochet) will become fast and practically ubiquitous, meaning that the Internet is always with us.

Result: It took longer than I expected, but we're finally starting to get there, and it is awesome.

Prediction: "Computer Aided Reality" will provide a cool visual overlay by using computer vision to identify objects and then fetching info about them from the Internet.

Result: I was very over-optimistic. There are a few basic "augmented reality" apps around, but nothing major. I still think that this will happen, though the display technology is still very uncertain (I haven't even heard about direct retinal projection lately).

Prediction: All data lives "online" and can be accessed from anywhere. Your computer is a stateless cache which can be replaced without any data-loss or need for reconfiguration or reinstallation.

Result: I was over-optimistic. We made some progress with things like Gmail, but computers still store information (configuration at the very least). Chrome OS may be more like what I had in mind, and the iPhone is too if you set aside the fact that it requires manual syncing.

Prediction: The Java VM will get good enough that people will finally stop using C++.

Result: I was over-optimistic. The JVM got somewhat better (though it still has significant GC problems), but Java got worse due to cultural problems. Fortunately, a lot of other interesting languages became popular, including Javascript, and there are a number of fast virtual machines in the works.

Prediction: Google will be a big success, possibly as big as Yahoo. I'm probably over-optimistic because I work there, but the people are smart and ambitious.

Result: I was under-optimistic. Google is bigger than Yahoo ever was, and is getting close to Microsoft (their market cap is 70% of Microsoft's).

Prediction: Humans will be cloned. After the initial outrage, people will stop caring once they see that the result is just a regular baby (like the "test tube babies" before them), not a "soulless monster".

Result: To my knowledge, that hasn't been any successful human cloning, though I wouldn't be surprised if there has and they are just keeping quiet about it.

Prediction: The stock market will crash, and take Silicon Valley (and other bubble-zone) real estate markets down with it.

Result: The market crash came (sort of), but instead of going down, real estate kept going up! Even when it did finally crash, local prices (especially Palo Alto) remained remarkably high.

Prediction: A meteor strike will destroy all life on Earth on November 5, 2007, so I don't need to waste time writing down my predictions for 2010.

Result: I meant 2012, there was an off-by-5 error in my calculation ;)