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Month: April 2013

by David Veksler David Veksler No Comments

A good photo has three elements: good composition, nice light, and an interesting subject.

A great photo transcends the present moment. It connects with the viewer emotionally and invites them to tell their own story about the subject.

Afgan Girl

picture shot by National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry. Sharbat Gula was one of the students in an informal school within the refugee camp; McCurry, rarely given the opportunity to photograph Afghan women, seized the opportunity and captured her image. She was approximately 12 years old at the time. She made it on the cover of National Geographic next year, and her identity was discovered in 1992.

Ultimate limits on computation

by David Veksler David Veksler No Comments

1: The computer cannot be denser than that which would create a black hole (Bekenstein bound)
2: The temperature of the cosmic microwave background radiation sets the minimum operating temperature
3: Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Planck’s constant,E = mc2 set a maximum on the energy processing per unit mass (2 x 1047 bits per second per gram of its mass)
4: Due to the second law of thermodynamics, there is a minimum to the energy consumption per computation (Landauer limit)

More: Wikipedia

Understanding biology

by David Veksler David Veksler No Comments

In my opinion, biology is about just two things: the why and how. The why is evolution. The how is protein synthesis.

Evolution is basically just applied game theory. Protein synthesis is basically nanotechnology which is basically self-replicating information systems. Combine the two and you can explain just about everything about living systems.

You can learn these two relatively simple concepts in a few days. Everything you learn about biology afterwards will be filling in details. Most students who spend years in biology classes understand neither.

If you learn the game theory behind evolution, you will understand much more than biology. Human psychology and behavior, individual, social, economic, and political can be understood as a set of iterated game theory scenarios. You cannot truly understand history or society until you can see them in terms of game theory principles.

Incentives in markets vs politics

by David Veksler David Veksler No Comments

People tend to become better at doing the thing they are rewarded for doing. Entrepreneurs are good at turning money into products, politicians are good at getting votes, bureaucrats are good at increasing their budgets and influence, and welfare recipients are good at becoming more needy.

In markets with well-defined property rights, there is a tendency for explicit and actual motivations to match.  For example, Apple, BMW, or Wal-Mart want to make stuff I want because they are rewarded to the extent that they make stuff I want.

In politics, the trend is reversed.   Incentives in politics are often the opposite of political promises or goals.

For example, politicians and bureaucrats may honestly want to fix poverty, pollution, corruption, and terrorism, but they are more often rewarded for making all these things worse.

The worse the problem becomes in the voters mind, the larger the politician’s power and scope for action.

The more efficient a democracy, the more it tends to reward those who re-direct resources away from problem-solving activity and toward towards vote-generating activity. In an inefficient or indirect democracy, someone who is a good problem solver can win though the support of a minority that directly rewards success.  In a popular democracy, the ability to get votes will tend to triumph over the ability to achieve campaign promises.

The intentions of politicians and voters are mostly irrelevant – whether they are good or evil, the outcome depends only on what kind of behavior is incentivized. Studies show that most voters are altruistic, not selfish — and this is very destructive. Selfish voters tend to vote based on their own evidence and reward problem solving. Altruistic voters tend to vote based on campaign platforms, have no empirical basis to evaluate a candidate’s proposals, and no incentive to follow up on outcomes.

The Future of Bitcoin

by David Veksler David Veksler 2 Comments

This is not a prediction, but one plausible timeline out of the many I can imagine:

  • Late 2013: The media reports that organized crime, tax evaders, and “terrorists” are using Bitcoin.
  • Early 2014: Politicians call for investigation of claims that Bitcoin is being used to facilitate illegal activities. The rhetoric is ratcheted up over the course of the year.
  • Late 2014: Bitcoin transactions have grown exponentially for several years. The world’s established financial institutions cannot compete with the lower costs of unregulated financial markets and pressure governments to act.
  • 2015: Western governments raid and shut down all the major BitCoin exchangers and effectively kill the currency. Operators are put away for lengthy sentences, while others are found to have cooperated with authorities for some time.
  • 2020’s: Bitcoin (or something very much like it) revives on a small scale as an underground currency and slowly grows over the next two decades.
  • 2020-2030: The US empire collapses. The EU has already fallen.
    China tries, but fails to replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. People hoard gold, but governments prevent it from being effectively used as money.
  • 2030’s: 3D printing takes off. Established industries attack unlicensed home printing as a violation of their IP. The major non-affiliated (“pirate”) pattern markets are blocked from handling financial transactions, and for a while, a pirate industry matures.
  • Late 2030’s: Something very much like BitCoin resurges. This time, it has a killer app: micro payments for 3D printing patterns. Ubiquitous encryption prevents governments and corporations from monitoring transactions and hoarded gold provides the base for monetary exchange.
  • 2040’s: With much of the economy being conducted in unregulated 3D pattern markers and most transactions being conducted over BitCoin, the tax base collapses.
  • Late 2040’s: Governments seize fiat-denominated savings in a desperate power grab, but fiat money is now worthless compared to an untraceable currency like Bitcoin. Governments attempt to seize real assets to replace lost income, but are met by large-scale protests backed by homemade 3D printed weapons. Mass chaos and violence follows.
  • 2050’s: Stability re-emerges, as new judicial systems evolve backed by anonymous transactions. Large states become increasingly irrelevant.
  • Late 2050’s: The last stand of centralized governments: politicians call in the military in an attempt to rebuild the surveillance state and kill digital currencies for good. Assassination markets, long used in organized crime, are turned against politicians, as the populace fights back.

 

See also:

“….IT security specialist David Veksler and writer Tim Swanson discuss alternative digital currencies currently being developed and deployed including cryptocurriencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin. In addition, cyber security and hacking issues in China are reviewed.”