Thursday, 2 May 2013

Jeffrey Sachs on the banking system



we’re predators i must admit
it’s human nature too
to seek a better living for
our wives and children too

but animals we’re not you see
it not just fine detail
we keep the law, control ourselves
and the bankers go to jail


Monday, 29 April 2013

Population pressure and model aircraft

When i was about 9 years old i developed a keen interest in aircraft. I guess i was no different to many boys. I wanted to grow up to be a pilot - i guess that's because growing up to be an astronaut was away in the future.

I would devour anything i could find about aircraft and i could rattle off all the specifications of any aircraft from the earliest days of flight right through to the early 50's.

I loved airplanes.

In those days you could buy model airplanes - Airfix, Revelle and the like. But i was not rich and the models were not cheap.

I needed an income that would allow me the freedom to buy and build whatever i wanted.

My mum and dad were animal freaks - we had every animal you could imagine to be had in Australia in the 60's - Birds of every species, dogs, cats, rats, mice, fish, kangaroos...

One day i was in a pet shop and i saw that they were selling mice and after inquiring about them i decided i would breed mice.

My dad got me a tea chest (a plywood box about half a cubic meter used to transport tea from India - these being the days long before tea-bags etc).

I set it up with a wire door and filled it full of shredded newspaper and food and water

and mice.

Pretty soon i had a lot of mice.

I was getting 20 cents for each mouse from the pet shops in Liverpool (Sydney). That money was enough for me to buy my model aircraft and the paints and glues i needed to construct what ended up being a really cool set of planes.

There was not much work to it - all i had to do was, every day or so, clean out all the filth and replace it with clean shredded newspaper and keep them fed and watered.

Money for nothing.

The thing was that i was breeding piebald and grey mice because those were the ones that the pet shop said they wanted.

One day i turned up at the pet shop with my box of mice and they told me "sorry son but we only want white mice now".

Bummer. That was a really big let-down i can tell you because i had already, as usual  planned exactly which model i was going to buy.

No sale, no money, no model.

I took my mice home and released them back into the tea chest.

Now, you have to understand that my parents were animal nuts - they had a big thing about kindness to animals and the idea of cruelty to animals in any way was abhorrent.

I grew up with that so i had no concept whatsoever of cruelty other than it was something that you just did not do.

I had spent my whole life with dogs and cats sleeping in my bed and animals gathering around me whenever i was in the back yard.

Here was i with a tea-chest full of continuously breeding mice and no way to deal with it.

Now, i can tell you i knew mice pretty well as a 9 year old (or maybe i was ten by then i really can't recall). I knew their behavior because i was looking at them every day. I even named most of them.

So, what happened when i could not remove mice from the tea-chest?

They just kept breeding and breeding and breeding.

And then i began to see things that were really quite disturbing.

Remember - i was like 9 or 10 - i did not really understand "sex" except as i was perceiving it in my mice.

So what did i witness?

Abandonment of baby mice - mothers just leaving them to starve.

Adult mice viciously attacking and devouring or partially devouring baby mice.

Homosexuality - now don't get me wrong - i had seen plenty of male mice attempting to mount other male mice but that had always been infrequent and met with aggression.

Now i was seeing homosexuality in all forms and all responses - as if it had suddenly become normal.

Violence, aberration and death.

That is what i witnessed.

It was many years later that i read studies along similar lines so i had to live with these revelations for a long time before i could come to terms with them.

At the time it freaked me out so much that i talked my dad into helping me take them out to the bush and releasing them into the wild.

Washing my hands of it all.

But i never forgot - ever.

I saw first hand what a population will do when everything is available except one thing.


Since then i have watched so may discussions about aspects of what i saw.

I have come to understand there are different levels of "illness".

One of them i call "sociological illness" - those expressions of behavior you only see when a population is under stress.

These days we can see every one of these aberrations occur, almost daily, in our world - from men raping and murdering 6 year old girls to women abandoning their children to men buggering men and worse.

These were all the things i saw in those mice when i was 10 years old.

How do we deal with these expressions today?

We either look on with abhorrence or we rationalize towards acceptance.

Wherever we fit in the scheme of things is no real escape form the consequences of our predicament - we are not so different to those mice and peer reviewed experiments have shown that what i witnessed as an innocent child are the real deal.

People get caught up in the right or wrong of how people think about how people behave relative to whatever "norm" is currently acceptable

But i know the truth.

Population pressure leads to every possible expression of behavior - acceptable or otherwise

How we accept it will vary with time and where we sit in it.

The real issue should not be "are sexually 'deviant' people bad".

the real issue should be how do we deal with population?


An Internet voting system based on bitcoin

Internet voting systems have both strong support (from vendors and committed users of e-voting systems) and what appears to be equally strong opposition (from the technical community).

There appears to be two aspects to internet voting:

  1. Ensuring that only those authorised to vote are the only people who do vote.
  2. Ensuring that there is no tampering with the votes between point of voting and point of counting.

The first of these will always carry some level of risk and that risk is no different from that with traditional paper based voting systems where the identification of the voter is required. How are we to be absolutely sure that the voter is in fact the voter we have on our list of authorised voters? What is proposed here is that solutions to the problem be allowed to evolve with time and advancing technology. Initially we could start with distribution of a "vote authorisation token" to authorised voters via the postal services. Though this is not perfect it appears to carry fewer risks than what might be achieved currently with electronic distribution. Also, the basis for most voter eligibility is residence. Eligible non-resident voters also have some physical connection that authorises them to vote such as being stationed somewhere or having equity in a property located within the electoral area.

Assuming that the distribution of a "vote authorisation token" is viable the next question then is how might we ensure that a cast vote progresses to the counting process without intervention?

The proposal is that the same principles used by bitcoin can be used to both transmit votes (transactions) and count them (account balances).

We propose that the distribution of "vote authorisation tokens" be nothing other than a bitcoin-like transaction of a vote from an electoral commission to the voter. This exactly parallels the payment of an amount of bitcoin money to a voter. The voter's balance then represents the number of votes he or she is authorised to cast. The voter in casting a vote is in effect making a payment-like transaction from his/her vote "wallet" to the "wallet" designated to  be the wallet of the vote counting point for a candidate - in other words the candidate's "account" held on a publicly visible "wallet".

The handling of the vote "transaction" is then exactly the same as that for monetary transactions in bitcoin. The "miners" would then be those organisations and individuals who have the most interest in the outcome of the election or contest. Major political parties would invest the most to ensure their rivals do not have dominance over transaction validation.

Every voter would be able to trace his or her vote through the transaction history giving full transparency.

The results would be available in real time - even where complex distribution of preferences are utilised. In such cases the false "random" nature of distributions would also be eradicated - leaving one and only one path through the distribution.


see also "what is a bitcoin"

i discover i was not the first person to think of this