2011-05-30

Toast

Like Wireless, Toast is another collection of Charles Stross short stories lent to me by Janos. For me, Toast maintains a higher average standard than Wireless, although Wireless does have some cracking stories.

I hugely enjoyed Toast, and of all the sci-fi I read, these stories come the closest to my own notions about our future. Stross has been influenced by the sort of things Ray Kurzweil talks about; the singularity, computronium, uploading living things neuron by neuron.

Btw, I asked Janos the robot cars question, and he gave a considered 'no'.

2011-05-22

The Goldilocks Enigma

The first 3/4 of The Goldilocks Enigma is the best explanation of the current state of cosmology that I've ever read. The last 1/4 is speculation on the future of cosmology, trying to answer the 'why are we here?' question. That too is incredibly gripping reading. Davies leans towards teleology. Teleology in physics? That was new to me, but interesting.

One idea is that we're living in a simulation, a fake universe Davies calls it. From reading The Fabric Of Reality, I've became convinced that even virtual reality can tell us a lot (maybe everything) about reality. So it was with a jolt that I read:
If the universe is a sham, why bother to find out how it works?
I'd answer that even an illusion is real, it's just not what we think it is. A virtual reality simulation of a car isn't a real car, but it is modeled in a computer, which is real. So each part of the simulation maps onto a part of the computer, so you get a mapping between virtual reality and reality. If you can work out this mapping, you can understand reality!

2011-05-21

Red Tape Challenge

I've taken the government's Red Tape Challenge on industrial emissions and carbon reduction. Here's my submission:
I accept that the world needs to curb its greenhouse gas emissions. The problem is that the UK has saddled itself with a huge bureaucratic burden in trying to deal with the issue, and all these regulations aren’t working properly. I advocate the abolition of all the GHG schemes, including EU-ETS, ROCs, LECs, CRC, CCL, REGOS, FiTs and CHPQA, to be replaced with a carbon tax. The revenue raised from the carbon tax should be divided up equally amongst the population, and returned to people through the income tax system. In this way it would be a revenue neutral tax for the government.

A carbon tax is easy to collect, because there aren’t many points that fossil fuels enter the country, eg. ships and pipelines. This is in contrast to the current schemes that involve large numbers of people both in government and industry working on endless form filling.

One of the criticisms of a carbon tax is that it causes fuel poverty. If the revenue is divided up equally amongst the population and returned through the income tax system, fuel poverty would be avoided.

The question arises as to the level that the carbon tax should be set at. I suggest that parliament sets an emissions target, and then every month the carbon tax rate is adjusted by an independent committee to ensure we hit the target. It would work a bit like the Monetary Policy Committee sets interest rates to meet an inflation target.

Thank you for considering my comments.

Driverless Cars In Nevada

In August 2008, I wrote in Home James, and don't spare the CPUs that by the time my eldest nephew is of driving age (2023), most cars will be driven by robots. I'm still sticking to my assertion! Ben at work agrees, but Laura doesn't. My friend Andy disagrees, but thinks that robot managed convoys of cars may be on the way. My brother still thinks it won't happen. I'm encouraged by Google's attempt to make driver-less cars legal in the US state of Nevada.

2011-05-19

Dynamics Of Online Interactions

I was invited through SourceForge to take part in a study of Microfoundations and dynamics of online interactions and behavior. They repeated traditional experiments, but online. Eg. they grouped people into pairs and said that one of you gives an amount between $0 and $10, and the other one receives 3x that amount, but then has to choose an amount to give back. It's real money, and you get it paid into your Paypal account at the end. There were 4 games, and you receive your earnings from a random one of them, plus a guaranteed $10. Unfortunately I earned $0 in the game that was picked (random:-)).

2011-05-02

Imprimatur-021

I've just released Imprimatur-021. The main change is that the <session> element has been removed. There's now just one session for the whole test script. The reason is that I felt that session information didn't fit with the hierarchy of XML. At the moment there isn't a way to start a new session part way through the script. It would probably be done with a 'new-session' attribute of the <request> element. Let me know if that would be useful to you.

With this release I've changed from CVS to Git, simply because Git is more fashionable :-) I used cvs2git and it worked really well.