Empathy And Google

FalconSorry about not posting yesterday, I’m still sick, and just wasn’t up to posting. I am feeling much better today so I’m going to try and get some extra stuff up to day to make up for it. Now for today’s written post.

If you are here for today’s Painting follow the link.

When Google was first hitting it big my dad became very annoyed. He was annoyed because he had read up on how the search algorithm worked. See, he knew that the algorithm looked at what everyone else was clicking and moved those links to the top, a bit of knowledge which has since lead to untold amounts of abuse. What he would say was “just because it more popular doesn’t make it better.” No as a logical statement this is perfectly sound. just because a thing is popular, does not make it better. But there are two things that my father had failed to realize. The first is that all of those people you had started to use Google back then had access to all of the other search engines that he has access to, including his favorite, Dogpile. Dogpile is actually  a meta search engine, which is to say that it searches other search engines. This is actually a great idea in principle, but in practice leaves something to be desired, since in the results are mostly not what you want, and since it searches Google anyways you usually end up clicking on its link, not always but still.

The second thing, and this is the one that made me want to talk about the subject this morning, is that in many cases something being popular does mean it’s better. Let me elaborate. There are two scientific principles that are essential to this line of thinking, the first is the regression to the mean, which states that the more test samples you have the less extreme the average will be over the course of time. the second principle is the law of large numbers which says that the larger the sample pool is the more precise the average will become. These two closely related principles combined with a fairly new theory called Crowd Wisdom, reveal the true power of Google.

Crowd Wisdom works like this, if you have a large number of level headed individuals, from a diverse set of backgrounds and have them all just guess, their average will be incredibly accurate. The Ideas is the all of the outliers, the high guesses and low guesses will nullify each other leaving only the most accurate guesses. The same principle is in action with the Google search algorithm, they bank on the majority of inquiries will be satisfied by the best available link. It also makes an assumption that is more and more at the heart social values today, that we are all essentially the same. It assumes that if I am interested in a certain website when I make my specific search, that you will be interested in it too.

This level of assumed empathy is incredible, and I think that it is an indication of this to come. I think that the world is really finally coming around the idea that in essence we are all equal, that are values, as far as what really important are the same. People are being to see that there are no bad guys, there are no good guys we are all just people trying to do what we think is right.

And that’s my take on Google and empathy.

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Warp Cruiser

WarpCruiseToday I finished up a painting of a warp speed cruise liner. I was inspired by the theoretical technology that has been outlined for a practical solution for faster than light travel through space. It’s still taking more time than I’d like, but on the bright side I do find that flow that I keep harping on about, and that not bad.

So here the link for the banner image in full.

The Internet

InternetIt is not an uncommon opinion that things are worse than it ever been, people committing atrocities against each other and there is such a lack of sympathy for our fellow man that there is probably no saving us as a species.

I think this is bullshit. The fact of the matter is that while there may be less sympathy than ever I would argue that there is more empathy than there has ever been for the rest of the world. Empathy in my opinion is a more more powerful motivator for helping other than sympathy could ever be. Sympathy is the act of feeling for someone else’s plight, while empathy is the act of actually feeling someone elses pain. With empathy you are not only helping someone through their struggle you are helping yourself. There is one major contributor to this newly found empathy of the world that I think has brought us the farthest in terms of caring for one another. The factor is the Internet.

Since the popularization of the internet we have found and continues to find new ways of communicating with each other across all media platforms. We were, not so long ago, a sprawling behemoth that was too big to manage, like a person Gigantism whose heart struggles to pump blood to everywhere that needs it. Now we have an ever improving set of tools for finding information and collaborating with the rest of our world, and I for one am certain that a new cultural awakening is right around the corner, when we will stop thinking of ourselves as separate countries and nations, and begin seeing ourselves as one species.

The internet is truly a miracle, and not just from a cultural perspective, it’s also just fun. giving the average person access to every form of entertainment from video games to e-books, from forum debate to porn, the internet has it all. It even does a decent job of providing for lots of utilitarian needs, like right now I am using Google Drive to write this, so that I don’t have to buy a copy of the exorbitantly expensive, Microsoft Office. I also use the internet form most of my other electronic interactions.

I use Magicjack instead of a land line, and we also don’t get cable, we now use a combination, of Hulu.com, YouTube.com, Netflix, and downloads to completely substitute TV in general, we don’t even watch public broadcast and I can’t tell you how nice it is to be so commercial free, even dealing with the new commercials in Youtube and Hulu is nothing compared to the practical onslaught of ads that cable companies and television networks make you sit through. I’m not the only one either, more and more people that I am talking to especial people my age are switch nearly completely to internet for all of their communication and entertainment needs.

It’s building to the point where someday in, maybe as soon as, a decade their maybe be a collapse in the television industry as we know it and will take some fancy footwork on the part of the television networks to survive the switch to ‘Internet Broadcast’ as I am calling it. Also I think the these new wireless internet companies are the first step in that direction, since the Internet will be available anywhere and will become a wireless net covering the globe, as reliable as cell phones and conventional television. Making it all the easier to use the internet for television and radio broadcasts, where the raw systems like Hulu and I ❤ Radio will evolve into sophisticated and complicated networks for a new kind of programming.

I for one am excited to see all the new ways in which the internet will be used and it is all bring us all that much closer to that utopian Star Trek world, that I would very much like to see before I die.

And that’s my take on the internet.

Free Energy Scams

PerpetualMotionOne of the most common intelligence distracters available on the internet is the Free Energy video/article/design. There are literally hundreds of design available in all manner of media for some version of a perpetual motion machine. Some of the more clever purveyors of these miracle generators rely on hard to come by chemicals to unleash the might power generating abilities of their invention, making it impossible to test. And some slightly less clever but still just as tricky folks will use photo and video manipulation to convince the unsuspecting web travel. The laziest form of this dubious form of “entertainment” is the written design, it is however very insidious since the one thing all “free energy machines” have in common is that they always work better in theory before the hard math is done.

Most of these “devices” (I use quotes here because in a lot of cases the thing has never even been built) are simply some variation on the gravity generator. That is to say, they try to harness the “power of gravity” this seemingly all powerful and ubiquitous forces that chains us to our planet with such unrelenting zeal. The only problem is.. gravity isn’t that powerful. After all you beat gravity every time you stand up or jump in the air. Bird practically laugh at gravity, and we have our fair share of giggles whenever we get in a plane or fly a kite. In fact most forces in the universe are much more powerful than gravity; Electricity, Light, Magnetism (and yes I realize I am being a bit redundant, but I think that is is worth stating that the electromagnetic force beats gravity in two forms)Heat.

But! Even if it isn’t the strongest force out there, you might say, it is certainly one of the most abundant! This is true and by the one saving grace gravity generators might seem a worthwhile endeavor  and in some respects it is. After all what is a water wheel if not simply a way of converting the force of the water falling down hill into usable energy. And its exactly this reasoning that makes these invention seem so credible. But the truth is that any device that supposedly uses gravity to move… anything really, must reconcile the fact that whatever is being pulled down on the one end must be pulled up on the other. Now in the case of the water wheel this fact is dealt with by the water cycle. all of those tons of water is lifted by up and deposited at the tops of mountains and hills by evaporation. But in the case of most of these scam generators simply try a counter weight and balance thing, but these tactics don’t actually result in a buildup of potential energy.

And, for the sake of argument, lets say you build a device that moves perpetually, or even near perpetually for that matter. a good example of this kind of device is something called Heron’s Fountain. This type of fountain is powered, once again, by gravity and anyone who has ever seen this little invention was naturally impressed. The basic idea behind this is that you are using the pressures that gravity creates when pulling down on water to create air pressure in a lower chamber that will in turn push the water up to the top of the system. Now in its written form and indeed even when looking at the fountain in person for a short time one can come under the mistaken conclusion that this system can continue generating a flow indefinitely. But if you take a few minutes to track the flow of water in this system you will realize that once the lower chamber is empty that’s the end of the show, since there is no new water coming into that lower chamber; air comes in and pushes the water out.

Most “perpetual” motion machines have a similar flaw, they rely on the impressive quality of something driving itself with no motor and glaze over the fact that the energy that does drive it was first built up by the user, when first setting it up.

The point is if a solution seems miraculous, take a moment, ask the right questions, and don’t take it at face value. And never spend any money on the thing before you know for a fact the it works. You wouldn’t buy a car before you knew it ran, so why would you spend you money on something like this without proof of functionality, and a shaking YouTube video is not proof. If you can’t get a look at the device itself in person than test the concept, read some peer reviewed articles on the subject. When in doubt ask the internet, search for the name of the contraption and the words “Scam” or “Hoax”, see what you get, and don’t stop at the first confirmation, get it verified by at least three different sources, and then maybe you have something worth investing in.

And that’s my take on free energy scams

Transporter vs. Holodeck

TransporterVHolodeckSo you find a genie, you get one of two wishes. Transporter or Holodeck? Which should be real? This is a question that has circulated around the internet in one form or another for quite a while now and I have been giving it some thought.

On the one hand you have the transporter which would be amazing because you could go any where on earth instantly. The basic idea is that you are getting your molecular structure scanned and dismantled simultaneously and the data is then transferred to the receiving end where you are materialized, whole and intact, at you destination. Goodbye commute, hello sleeping in. Also with this technology scaled up to an industrial size you would solve a lot of the worlds pollution problems by elimination our shipping infrastructure. This would be a fantastic form of transportation, not as cool as suction tubes but still pretty awesome.

The Holodeck on the other hand is a totally different proposition. The holodeck uses a series of force fields and electromagnetic fields to shape photons into something resembling matter. The effect is basically a virtual reality so detailed and rich that you can eat non existent food. And for all intends and purposes you feel like you are not is some small room covered with a dayglow graphing grid, but instead you are convinced that you are on a beach in Maui or in the surface of an alien planet or maybe just at school, for you online sculpture class.

These two technologies are similar their effect on the senses, both transport you to another place. The difference between them is clear, one transports you literally and the other transports you figuratively. so the choice you make is a telling one in most cases. You either would like the opportunity to go where you like in the world, or you would like the opportunity to go anywhere in the safety of your own home. So presumably you are either eager to travel and see the world or you would rather just learn about and experience the world through a filter of safety, but i think there is another difference that is just as important to the decision.

The transporter can only take you to places that exist. now in the Star Trek Universe, where they have discovered hundreds of worlds and are exploring more everyday, this is plenty. But on earth in 2013 the options are varied but limited. If you had access to a holodeck with all the features and functionality as the ones depicted in Star Trek then you could not only visit every city on earth in any time period but you could experience holo plays based on any of your favorite books or movies. you would also be able to run simulations of prototype designs, imagine being able to wear or use any invention you could dream up, that is something the transporter just can’t compete with. Given the choice I’m going with Holodeck.

And that’s my take on Transporters versus Holodecks.

As an after note I have thought of a third option that in my opinion is at least as tempting as either of these two, though I think that it is clearly not in the same spirit of the original choice. The Replicator, this epic piece of technology enables the user to transform raw matter into any material they wish. It’s most common use one an individual level is to create any meal you want nearly instantly and at any temperature you decide. But another use once you scale the system up is in generating objects, even complex mechanisms. This I think is a real competitor is this hypothetical choice. this means that anything you can design , you can make. And the coolest part, in my opinion, is that this particular bit of technology is just around the corner.

The folks over at MakerBot have been developing an open source prototyping machine that they plan on bring the price for down to around one hundred dollars. They Ideas is that once the tech is cheap enough to get out in the homes of everybody, that some truly innovative strides will be made in the area of rapid fabricating. So in the end a genie may not even necessary for this one.


SuspicionThis morning I woke up and found myself humming a song which frequently gets stuck in my head, Selling the News by Switchfoot. Is it the best song? No, not even the best Switchfoot Song, but it is catchy nonetheless. I particular I get stuck on the hook bit. The line goes like this:

I wanna believe you, I wanna believe
But everything is in-between
The fact is fiction
Suspicion is the new religion

And while I Know that this songs primarily meant to entertain and not to enlighten or educate, I can’t help but feel that there must be a lot who share this line of thinking and find encouragement from this song.

I consider myself to be a skeptic, that is to say that I trust science first and anecdotes last. It does not mean, however, that I am a cynic. I do not walk around disagreeing with every bit of good or hopeful sounding information. In fact I would say that I am very much an optimist. I believe that we as people will do many great things and that at the rate technology is progressing we are going to paradoxically make magic real, and kill magic at the same time.

I think that with the mastery of nanotechnology trust around the corner  we will be able to perform miracles. We will be able to solar energy a reality, we will be able to make clean healthy water available to everyone. we will be able to repair skin instantly and even cure cancer. And for most people this will mean the death of the spiritual, alternative healers everywhere will find themselves without a client base. Because when you can perform the miraculous without magic then what do you need the magician for?

So when I hear those words “the fact is fiction”, something in my head screams. The fact is fact. Now I know that the overall sentiment of the song is basically a criticism of the commercialization of the media, which is something that I happen to agree with, but the truth of the matter is that while the news industry has become… well, an industry instead of a public service. everything that they report has happened, though they tend to use liberal amounts of hyperbole and selective reporting they do, to their knowledge, lie. they couldn’t afford to, no one can shut them down for deciding to report something scary instead of something upbeat, but they could shut you down for making the stuff up all together.

Its the mental of always questioning one body of information or another that leads people down terrible trains of thought. After all just because the owners of hospitals are interested in making money doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to a doctor’s medical opinion. The fact is that the world is not run my monsters and it certainly isn’t populated by them.

Whenever I hear about some sort of conspiracy theory, I remind myself that the supposed perpetrators of the conspiracy are human beings, and then I ask my self which is more likely? that a groups of humans has become so powerful and so ruthlessly brilliant that they can perform unspeakable deeds on untold millions with no repercussions, or that a group of human were so incompetent that something really bad happened and now everyone involved wants to pass the buck as far from themselves as possible.

I use the same sort of approach when I hear about some supposedly paranormal event. Given the fact that our senses are so easily fooled that children can do it; impressions of animals. We have even built whole industries around optical illusions, three dimensional movies and video games are specifically design to fool us. About half of the worlds entertainment professions rely of the fact that humans have a flawed and weak system for observing the world around us. So taking all this into consideration, is it any wonder at all that human beings are capable of fooling ourselves into believing we saw something unbelievable. Honestly its a scary thought how easy it is and often it happens. What if something incredible actually happened one day? I would be like the boy who cry UFO.

Anyways, what I am saying is that what really should be trusted, is not figures of authority or your friends anecdotes or even the news. The only source of information that should be taken as truth is Science. Science as a whole system developed specifically to eliminate the weaknesses of human perception, and while it is not always perfect, it is self correcting which more than can be said for most other sources of information.

And that’s my take of being suspicious.