Two visions of our future

storm shelter or forestry
    by Mike Perry (http://nodicemike.com)

I don’t know what we rolled, but I sure hope it’s not a 1.1

For the robust science behind the green future, see Hansen et al. 2017:

Young people's burden: requirement of negative CO₂ emissions.

  1. Not every place will become this uninhabitable. But almost every place will have huge adaptation cost. See Hansen et al. 2016. Let’s hope we rolled a 2-6; and let’s stop ruining our odds. We need to go green. 

Unwanted pregnancy hits at random

If you do not want to have a child right now, but you want to have a fulfilled heterosexual sex-life, pregnancy is a risk which can hit anyone, however careful he or she is to avoid it. This is an answer I gave someone who equated unintentional pregnancy with questionable morals.

According to "How effective are condoms against pregnancy?":

If you use condoms perfectly every single time you have sex, they’re 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. But people aren’t perfect, so in real life condoms are about 82% effective — that means about 18 out of 100 people who use condoms as their only birth control method will get pregnant each year.

Other means of birth control are around 70-91% effective, with the sole exception of the implant which has 99% effectiveness, so even if people are perfectly hygienic and careful, there will be many pregnancies: if you are perfectly hygienic and careful for 10 years, there will be around one pregnancy per couple (on average).

propagating changes; comment on "Time To Rethink Retractions And Corrections?"

A comment on Amending Published Articles: Time To Rethink Retractions And Corrections? (doi: 10.1101/118356) which asks for making it easier and less of a matter of guilt to change published articles.

Update: Leonid Schneider from forbetterscience notes that there’s a whole dungeon of misconduct which might be facilitated by “living papers”. We need investigate problems in depth before changing established processes. Scientific communication is a complex process. Publication is an important part of it.

Firstoff: The underlying problem which makes it so hard to differenciate between honest errors and fraud is that publications are kind of a currency in science.

You can train to become really, really good in almost anything you decide to do.

Should you do what you’re good at, or rather do what you love? Should you use your talents or follow your passion?

To answer this question, let’s look at actual research instead of gut feeling.1 Is a talent how good you are at doing something? Then it is a function of training time. Is it how fast you move forward? Then you likely already learned from other tasks many of the things you need for your task at hand.

  1. The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance, K. Anders Ericsson, Ralf Th. Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Romer, Psychological Review, 1993 

arctic unraveling

Report: Arctic Is Unraveling, discusses assessment Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost, notes the article rising tide — sounds more like Hansen was right.

Distributed censorship-resistant Wikipedia

Thanks to doublec, there are now distributed censorship-resistant Wikipedia mirrors in Freenet: Distributed Wikipedia Mirrors in Freenet

The current largest mirror is the Simple English Wikipedia (the obvious choice to fight censorship worldwide: it is readable with basic english skills).

With this mirror, information from Wikipedia can be accessed in high-censorship countries:


AlphaGo uses more power than 3000 humans

Update 2017: OpenAI used a single machine to beat a Dota champion → DENDI 1v1 vs BOT AI - TI7 DOTA 2. I may be underestimating the speed of development.

AlphaGo recently defeated the world Go champion. Go was thought to be unbeatable for computers, but machine learning cracked it.

This year, AlphaGo will challenge multiple players — and support players at the Future of Go Summit in Wuzhen, China.


Organize! … That’s the thing that has a chance of preventing all of this, and of saving the most lives when that fails. — Yonatan Zunger

I’m not sure it is a good idea to reply to this article. I am doing it anyway, because it’s already on record that I read this article. Likely even at what pace I read it.

Thank you for this article, Yonatan Zunger. This is frightening, but in an important way. And organized well enough that the essential ideas stick. Important ideas.

With images of cute animals. Added with reason.

What “Things Going Wrong” Can Look Like

Reading deeply recommended.

Thanks for all the fish

AGU publications published "The world's biggest gamble", a short commentary on how to go on with climate change.

I am hard pressed not to become sarcastic. Not because the commentary is wrong. It’s spot on. But because we, as a species, are …

I’ll stop speaking my mind for now. Let’s hope that hope wins against frustration and our children don’t have to pay too dearly for the idiocy of my generation and the generation before.

Oh well, Happy Halloween and enjoy Samhain.

If you do what you love doing, it becomes what you are good at

comment to You’re Not Meant To Do What You Love. You’re Meant To Do What You’re Good At. by Brianna Wiest, who arguments that the skills of people are "a blueprint of their destiny". For support she describes experience with people who try to do something they do not actually enjoy doing.

This whole argument sits on the assumption that skills develop somehow on their own.

Skills develop, because you use them. So if you do what you love doing (note the nuance!), then — except in rare cases — this becomes what you are good at.

BitBucket got big on Mercurial — until they got bought by Atlassian

A comment on largefile support missing in BitBucket, despite being a much-requested feature since 2012.

Note that it’s not Atlassian which got big with Mercurial. It’s Bitbucket which got big with Mercurial, and it was later bought by Atlassian.

I agree with just one of the 10 commandments of judaism and christianity

Many christians and many people who talk about “western christian values” like to say that the 10 commandments are universal: everyone can agree with them. So I checked that. I take them by their name: are they suitable as commandments? Not as a fuzzy general guideline, but as binding rules and a foundation for a shared culture?

(1.0) I am god who lead you from slavery in egypt → uhm, no?

(1.1) You shall not have other gods → uhm, why?

power and deception

A religious leader is nothing more than a media-star who managed to convince people that the tale, in which he or she is special, is actually true.

Just like aristocrats managed to convince people that what their ancestors did gives them the right to control the lives of other people.

And like the rich convince people that money gives them the right to control a larger part of the world than others.

“If you like what I do, why don’t you help me?”

Almost every free software developer made the experience that many people like his or her work, but very few actually provide help. If you experience this, don’t let it disheart you. Verbal support without practical help sounds inconsistent at first, but it actually is the result of limited time.

Most people who have the skills to help are already committed to other projects, so they cannot help you on yours. They can encourage you from the sidelines (“This is cool!

The translation of NSA is Stasi

Just to give you a short note, if you have been surprised by the NSA acting like the Stasi in former DDR (German Democratic Republic).

Here’s the translation of NSA:

  • N: National = Staatlich
  • S: Security = Sicherheit
  • A: Agency = Ministerium

Let’s put that together:

NSA = Staatliches Sicherheitsministerium
(in more regular German: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit)

Well, that’s long. Shorten it to Staatssicherheit. Still to long for casual discussions. So shorten it once more: Stasi.

NSA = Stasi

Do you still wonder why the NSA acts like the Stasi?

Motivation and Reward

Debunking the myth that you can increase the performance of creative workers with carrot and stick.

Update: I got the feedback that some messages in this article are still unclear. High income and long term contracts are no tool to increase motivation in the free software world. They are a tool to allow people to work full-time without reducing their motivation. High income and long term contracts avoid the harmful effect payment can have on performance while enabling people to work full-time on the project. An empirical study found, that the source and intensity of motivation of free software developers does not differ significantly between people who work for hire and people who work without payment, so many companies employing free software developers seem to do it right (or only the companies who do it right can keep their free software programmers).1

A few months ago, the GNU project had to withdraw its article on motivation and monetary reward, because its author did not allow them to spread it anymore. So I recreated its core - with references to solid research.

Executive Summary

For creative tasks, the quality of performance strongly correllates with intrinsic motivation: Being interested in the task itself.

This article will only talk about that.

The main factors which are commonly associated with intrinsic motivation are:

  • Positive verbal feedback which increases intrinsic motivation.
  • Payment independent of performance which actually has no effect.
  • Payment dependent on performance which reduces the motivation on the long term.
  • Negative verbal feedback which directly reduces intrinsic motivation.
  • Threatening someone with punishment which strongly reduces intrinsic motivation.

To make it short: Anything which diverts the focus from the task at hand towards some external matter (either positive or negative) reduces the intrinsic motivation and that in turn reduces work performance.

If you want to help people perform well, make sure that they don’t have to worry about other stuff besides their work and give them positive verbal feedback about the work they do.

Note: In the paper »Why Hackers Do What They Do: Understanding Motivation and Effort in Free/Open Source Software Projects« from 2005, Karim R. Lakhani and Robert G Wolf showed empirically that the payment people get to work in free software projects has no detrimental effect on their intrinsic motivation. In their sample 40% of the developers were paid for their work on free software projects and their intrinsic motivation was as high as the motivation of unpaid developers.

  1. We find […], that enjoyment-based intrinsic motivation, namely how creative a person feels when working on the project, is the strongest and most pervasive driver. The source and intensity of motivation of free software developers does not differ significantly between people who work for hire and people who work without payment. From Why Hackers Do What They Do: Understanding Motivation and Effort in Free/Open Source Software Projects by Karim R. Lakhani* and Robert G Wolf** from the * MIT Sloan School of Management | The Boston Consulting Group and ** The Boston Consulting Group. 

How to make companies act ethically

→ comment on Slashdot concerning Unexpected methods to promote freedom?

Was it really Apple who ended DRM? Would they have done so without the protests and evangelizing against DRM? Without protesters in front of Apple Stores? And without the many people telling their friends to just not accept DRM?

That “preaching” created a situation where Apple could reap monetary gain from doing the right thing.

The generation of cultural freedom

I am part of a generation which experienced true cultural freedom - and which experienced that freedom being destroyed.

We had access to the largest public library which ever existed and saw it burned down for lust for control.

I saw the Napster burn, I saw Gnutella burn, I saw edonkey burn, I saw Torrentsites burn, I saw one-click-hosters burn and now I see Youtube burn with blocked and deleted videos - even those from the artists themselves.

7,26€ through Flattr last month

Last month I earned 7,26€ through my Flattr account (Flattr is a voluntary payment service where people can make micropayments if they like something - after enjoying it). The flattrs came in through just 4 items:

Thank you very much for your flattrs, dear supporters1! Thanks to you I could pay most of my server cost this month via the money from flattr - and that’s great!2

  1. This month I was flattred by eileentso, esocom, Elleo and a user who wanted to stay anonymous. Thank you again! 

  2. And being able to pay the server might become much more important in the following months, as soon as my wife’s parental money runs out and I need to finance the family from a (50%) PhD-salary for a year… 

How to make a million dollars in pay-what-you-want — thoughts on the Humble Indie Bundle

Some thoughts1 on how the humble Indie Bundle managed to get more than 1.25 Million Dollars2 in one and a half weeks — more than one quarter of that from GNU/Linux users.

  1. Originally written as comment to Why Games don't get ported to Linux...A game dev speaks

  2. Stats directly from the Website of the Humble Indie Bundle

Killing the head of a terrorist organization doesn’t stop it

→ A comment to The Effectiveness of Political Assassinations.

Another answer why this doesn’t work is really simple: Consider that you were in a terrorist organization. You work with people in secrecy, but the ones you know are close to you, because they know your most intimate secrets.

Short: You fight alongside friends (though probably assholes by most ethical standards).

Now someone kills one of your friends.

Censorship in the Streets — it’s idiocy everywhere

A man in the streets faces a knife.
Two policemen are there it once. They raise a sign:

“Illegal Scene! Noone may watch this!”

The man gets robbed and stabbed and bleeds to death.
The police had to hold the sign.

Welcome to Europe, citizen. Censorship is beautiful.

→ Courtesy to Censilia, who wants censorship in the EU after it failed in Germany. You might also be interested in 11 more reasons why censorship is useless and harmful.

PS: This poem is free and permissively licensed: Please feel free to use it anyway you like, as long as you provide a backlink.

Powers that be - money concentration vs. democracy

-> written in reply to Bogus Copyright Claim Silences Yet Another Larry Lessig YouTube Presentation on techdirt.

This shows painfully how the powers are currently distributed.

<5% of the people have >90% of the resources, so they have more influence on the media which then influences which people are elected into positions of power, and then these elected pass laws which shift more power towards the <5%.

A downside of networking and public reputation: No communication for the sake of communication (alone)

-> A comment on The Importance of Managing Your Online Reputation.

I read your article, and I found the points you make very interesting, though not only in a positive way.

You tackle the “we have a network others can see” from the active side: “How can I make sure my employer likes what he sees?”.

Don't completely rely on something you don't control (SaaS)

in reply to You do know you can't rely on Gmail, right?

You're citing some of the reasons why I dislike SaaS, but there's one more:

Whenever I use a SaaS application, I trust someone whom I really can't reach, and I trust him without being able to exert any kind of control.

ACTA - A trend to be reversed

A reply to a comment on slashdot named Can we fight the trend?:

There was a trend to having only proprietary software (by former free software being enslaved in the job contracts its creators took) and to having the hacker community die out.

That trend was reversed by GNU with the invention of the GPL and the GNU System.

And today millions of people use free software and we have organizations like the EFF and FSF who work for a free software society.

ACTA horror - what can we do?

a comment to: Embattled ACTA Negotiations Next Week In Geneva; US Sees Signing This Year:

I didn't yet manage to get really safe information on what ACTA actually does (that's a marker for 'this is dangerous' in itself), but what I see on wikileaks sounds horrible:

british telekom wants to block accounts just for using Gnutella or BitTorrent

-> a comment to BT to cut off file sharers from TechWatch.

I can read this article in two ways:
1) They took part in sharing/downloading that music file
2) They just had a bittorrent or Gnutella program running.

1 is unlikely, because not every fourth internet user will have downloaded that song.

And if 2 is the case, BT should be sued to its knees.

Having a Gnutella program is not illegal, and blocking access to Gnutella means vastly reduced service.

Last.fm royalties, question about free music

Written at: http://musicmanager.last.fm/contact/


I licensed all my works under free and open licenses which permit any kind of commercial copying and reuse, but which don't permit taking away rights from the listeners.

I'd like to upload the files to last.fm, but I can only do so, if I can be sure, that no additional restrictions will be placed on the users (no DRM). Else I would violate the license agreement.

These are the terms under which I work together with other artists, so there's no way around that.

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