On humanity's failures to steer itself properly

Abstract : This text comes to explain what I meant at the end of my essay on maths and physics for the fqxi contest, when I mentioned my project to change the world, that "I could not find anyone else to care understanding it and working on it", while I did not join the Spring 2014 essay contest "How Should Humanity Steer the Future?". I give here a critical review of a number of ideas found among the essays of that contest, inserted in the more general context of humanity's failures to develop proper ideas in this field, and explanations of the precise causes of these failures. Finally I will mention my unsuccessful tries to make that revolution with other partners meanwhile.

Prologue : on the failure of utopias

The science of changing the world : needed skills - Stop Mistaking Denialism as Wisdom

The popular rejection of intellectual abstractions

As I found the abstract and general solution to many of the world's problems, and I see the impossibility to catch anyone's attention around, all the "ordinary people" just rejecting me as a wrong, arrogant or lunatic person, worthless talking with because of "disconnection from real life", actually because of my abstractions kills that they cannot or are not interested to follow because they do not need it to pass any exam, I was usually tempted to consider that the main people's problem is their short-sightedness and their lack of abstraction skills.
Yes indeed, so many people are short-sighted and so terribly unable of figuring out non-trivial things that they cannot directly see. And let's face it : hardly anybody expects any scientific or technological solution to social or political problems. Social and political sciences remain so isolated from hard science and technology.
Many people, and especially religions, despise, and would fight against any idea of the wide applicability and moral value of science and its methods, idea called "scientism", as if it was the worst nonsense and the worst enemy of their "values" (to be safely enclosed in their Ivory Tower so as to not disturb anyone else's sleep). It goes along the circular logic of denying science any mission of trying to change politics (the problem of collective decision making) by assuming that values and choices would be outside the scope of science (as sciences would be about "facts, not values") just because, until now, science seemed to be restricted to the study of "facts, not values" — in fact, because nobody could tolerate to let it be otherwise. As if it made any sense to point out a sacred character of "values escaping science", who could "only deal with the means" at the service of these values that should stay the exclusivity of religions. For example, as if for the decision on the moral value of letting or stopping the consumption of fossil carbon, the study of climate science would be a minor problem, while the question of the value of how good or bad it would be for the sea level to rise a few meters, or for the numbers of hurricanes, heat waves, droughts and floods to multiply, would have to remain a divine mystery whose revelation would need to be found in prayers or in the exegesis of some holy book.

Just try a little to come back a few decades into the past and attempt to explain to the people there what Internet is, without having any computer under hand to show them how it can be used in practice; or, come back to the 19th century and try to explain to the lay people (outside scientific and industrial circles) the wonderful possibilities of long distance radio communications by the virtue of Maxwell's equations, and you'll see what a disgust "ordinary people" usually have at any idea a little bit abstract and complex that they are not familiar with, and that is not yet directly available for intuitive use. Yet the most popular things of today, like Internet, Facebook or Bitcoin, are just the same as some of the most unpopular ideas of yesterday, that nobody could stand to care understanding because they looked like crazily high abstractions ridiculously disconnected from real life. It's just a matter of habit, a little learning and having things actually implemented to show themselves under hand, in order for some specific concept's popularity to suddenly skyrocket while it made everybody run away at the horror of the idea of having to bother understanding some obscure abstraction just a short time before.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Religious "morality principles"

Flaws of economical science

Some say, economics with its mathematical models is too abstract, too mathematical, and thus too disconnected from life.

In The Cartography of the Future: Recovering Utopia for the 21st Century

"Yet, it would be incorrect to think that the distortions of determinism applied to human society have been limited to the totalitarian movements of the last century. The physicist Lee Smolin has pointed out that the problem with contemporary free market economics isn’t that it relies too much on quantitative models, but that its quantitative models built around concepts such as “market equilibrium” are based on a simplified version of science where the future was considered determined rather than open. By thinking the future is determined Smolin thinks we have surrendered our freedom in regards to it. (...)
Unlike most other forms of determinism that flowered in the 19th century and 20th centuries, progressive technological determinism continues to have legs.
I don't think the problem is here. The problem of mathematical modeling is not a matter that it assumes determinism or not. General relativity, relativistic mechanics and even Schrödinger's equation of quantum physics, are mathematical theories whose formulations seem to assume determinism, or a bloc-like universe, but this neither means that the universe is actually deterministic, nor even that its non-deterministic aspects are in any sort of conflict with what can be done in these mathematical formalism expressed as if things were deterministic. Just like the elegant, non-deterministic dynamics of relativistic mechanics can be approached by concepts of equilibrium applied to the 4-dimensional space that plays the role of our space-time once one of dimensions involved in the equilibrium is interpreted as time, so such concepts of equilibrium and global optimization may be relevant to describe dynamical, non-deterministic economic systems and the conditions of their optimization. We just need to be careful about relevantly expressing non-deterministic aspects as free variables entering a general case so as to find out "what remains true no matter the unknown details", and analyzing how the particular occurrence of unpredictable events may be influenced by the rest of variables.

So what is the problem ? I once went to attend a seminar of economics, where was presented an abstract and general equation of macroeconomics, something I had thought of myself well enough so I had not problem what it meant.
And, sorry but... you are writing some equations here, but do seriously want to call this "mathematics" ? As if mathematics was just a matter of using symbolic notations !
Just like music cannot be reduced to the use of a musical instrument to make noise, so mathematics should not be confused with the use of mathematical symbols put together into packs that look like equations supposed to refer to some particular problem. Far from this, true mathematics is a way of thinking. It is the practice of introducing rigorous definitions of variables and other mathematical structures and concepts, caring to formalize them in the exact form that is adequate with the things they are supposed to reflect. To not make ridiculous confusions between constants, variables and functions, nor any other logical mismatches that would otherwise quickly lead mathematical reasoning into contradiction. Otherwise, "equations" mean nothing but to serve as a superficial cover of sheer nonsense and fantasies, an illusion of scientificity just good to impress those who wish to stick to scientific or mathematical rigor but actually have no clue what this should really mean.

And indeed, of course another problem with economics is how it is usually reduced to describing and "explaining" things as they go, not trying to make a leap of trying to design any new system, to describe things as they should be instead of how they are. But I do not see this as formally related to any "assumption of determinism". Things can be determined in a way in a good system, and determined to go in another (better) way in a better system; both deterministic equations can be studied separately.

Unpredictability of new technologies

In Mohammed M. Khalil's Improving Science for a Better Future,
"Predicting the content of new scientific knowledge is logically impossible because it makes no sense to claim to know already the facts you will learn in the future. Predicting the details of future technology, on the other hand, is merely difficult."
As for scientific knowledge, indeed, but how can scientific discoveries be made by professional scientists, unless their recruitment for this task happened in the framework of job openings released by administrators who knew in advance the discoveries that needed to be made ? That also explains why there is no job for scientists to change the world in ways that nobody is expecting yet, as well as for improving the science teaching curriculum.

But I do not think technology is so different. While in principle, technological possibilities are mathematical consequences of already known laws of physics, the problem is that these mathematical consequences have their own time of discovery. The biggest problem in developing a new technology, is to discover the idea of what can be done. Technology would grow so much faster if all the theoretical ideas of what is good to do were known in advance !

Of course it may look otherwise... if you focus on statistics. For example a successful prediction has been Moore's law of increasing power of microprocessor. It was rather predictable that this power would keep growing. We did not actually know in advance which specific technologies would be found successful to operate this growth. The only thing we knew is that it is possible in principle because "there's plenty of room at the bottom !", and that many ideas may be tried on how to do that progress. This way, if a specific idea of technology (choice of material, printing technique) to operate that progress (miniaturization, speeding up) turns out to not work or stand market competition, it is predictable that among all other possible methods that can be tried in parallel, some other method will be found to replace it. So in a way or another, that resulting growth is predictable in average. But this is only so insofar as we focus on a specific parameter of progress, able to enter the f***g statistics table : the speeding up and miniaturization. Much of the rest of technological progress cannot be described in such quantitative terms and is therefore almost as unpredictable as scientific discoveries (except of course, to some extent, the global average of everything which is the GDP growth).

"Crucial Phenomena" and Artificial Intelligence

Stupid Delegations of Intelligence

On the limits of political experimentation

On education

Stop Killing Geniuses who Don't Fit into the System

Changing oneself or changing the world ?

(moved to separate pages, follow the links)

One example of concrete reality

To make it more concrete, what it can mean to observe and classify problems that may occur in real life and be considered global problems in need of global solutions, but which economists usually fail to include in their statistics tables, I will give a few examples.
So many examples can be found, but usually people fail to report such problems in the list of word's problems, even if they are in fact heavily struggling with them. It may be because
I will take a few examples either from my life, from the news or anything I happen to hear. Anyone just careful in this way may find other examples from their respective life, and it seemed to me that ultimately, lots of similarities can be found in the structures of many problems faced by diverse people, that come down to a short list of logical structures, and thus of the kind of solution they may require.

One of the heaviest, most well-known and widespread collective problems of the world is usually shut up and kept restricted to the (more or less) private sphere, ignored from the official list of abstract general problems, due to the very fear of not looking serious.
More detailed comments:

The matchmaking problem

Another example of concrete reality

More examples ? The use of an online voting solution

Well, that's very easy to find. So many geopolitical conflicts are based on propaganda, i.e. false information. So we need better information systems. For example, the Ukraine-Russia conflict was mainly based on the inability to provide well-proven information, first about what is going on in Ukraine and how many Russian soldiers were sent to the front line by force, second about what the people from a given region really want : the cause of the problem of "illegal referendums" whose validity is contested, is the lack of any practical means to make a truly verifiable and anonymous referendum that would ridicule the fake ones that were done by force (and the same voting technology could also serve to let families report and count the true number of Russian soldiers forcefully sent to Ukraine). But a solution would be easy to implement as part of my project - if only there were a few people who really preferred to solve the world's problems over their currently most cherished value of dying stupid.

On the limited value of transhumanism

On the value and tools to preserve the climate and environment

Acting for the climate : Do people have a clue what they really mean ?

Causes of economic inequality


These parts were moved to separate pages, follow the link

Complexity, common good, political issues, justice and foundation of money

The biggest problem to make the world better is to make it more politically coherent, that is, where human action is more precisely and efficiently oriented towards the common good. But this is precisely what my project is all about - much more efficiently than all previous democratic systems considered.

Ray Luechtefeld wrote in Steering Humanity's Future with the Dialogic Web

 Being guided by universal ethical principles. Particular laws or social agreements are usually valid because they rest on such principle
As individuals grow through the stages their ethical foundation becomes less dependent on outside definition and more internally grounded. Habermas describes this as a "de-centering" of a maturing person's understanding of the world. At the final stage there is no need for laws, in the sense that a person at that stage of moral development would act in the best interests of a civil society with or without a set of civil and criminal statutes in place.

Sorry, I see no use for pointing out any morality principles. Of course it may be better if people had better intention. However:

There is a widespread temptation to trace bad actions to bad intentions, such as assumed by

Open Peer Review to Save the World

"... developed technical gadgets that provide access to much of the world’s knowledge from a device we carry in a pocket. Yet at the same instant we spend trillions fighting wars that serve only to destroy the lives of millions based on no more than our tribal instinct for feuds"

but I think it is badly mistaken : most of the wars are caused by people who go to war on the wrong side not because of "our tribal instinct for feuds" but because they are well-intended people ready to give their life for causes which they think are good and selfless but are not, because they are badly misinformed on the real truth about the common good (which side of the war is the right one). So ultimately it is because we did not develop good enough "technical gadgets that provide access to much of the world’s knowledge from a device we carry in a pocket".
Also, trying to save people from death, illness and starvation may result in overpopulation which will be a bigger problem, harming the planet.

So in my sense, principles are nothing, the real problem is to find out how to apply them properly and relevantly.
As I explained there, it depends mainly on 2 things:

  1. In answer to the last problem (that good intentions are worthless in the absence of available information on what is actually good) : making an information system to provide a more direct, efficient, complete and reliable information to the people on the measure of comparison of how each option they may choose would be helpful or harmful, may it be for themselves, their friends and relatives, and for the rest of the world
  2. To cope with cases of lack of good intentions, and to not reward any bad-intended people for their bad intentions : we need to rebuild money so as to more systematically and reliably provide justice, i.e. give back to people the value of how they affect the rest of the world.

The need for such solutions is more or less expressed in some essays:

One Cannot Live in the Cradle Forever
Many powerful people and institutions in particular have a strong interest in keeping their investments from being stranded by social change. As Jason Matheny has said, “extinction risks are market failures”.
Nevertheless, our human diversity is a strength as well as weakness. It is easy for any of us to fantasize about what good we might be able to do if we were given complete decision-making authority for the human race. But as Edmund Burke observed after the French Revolution, idealist schemes are never as well thought out as we imagine. No one knows all the facts or is completely aware of their own biases. Decision-makers almost inevitably end up serving their own interests. Only by working together and building consensus can we harness the wisdom of the crowds. In the end, survival will require the cooperation and insight of a broad cross-section of the human race.
First, we need to conduct more research into the risks we face so we can improve our decision-making . The science of human survival is still in its infancy. Some of the existential risks we face — like the danger of catastrophic climate change — are now being studied extensively. But others — like the danger posed by new technologies — receive much less attention. And much more work needs to be done to determine the most effective ways to survive and prevent a catastrophe.
Second, we need to improve governance of the common resources we depend on. That means building inclusive global institutions that can set and enforce rules about who can draw from those resources. And it means developing fair conflict resolution mechanisms that allow countries and groups to participate in the political process without resorting to destructive force.

Does Our Civilization Have a Destiny by Mark P Aldridge
My second priority would be the creation of some form of political super structure, representative, purely democratic, or some other mechanism, including all of the institutions required to support such an endeavor (e.g. language translation, public education about issues up for debate, etc) such that our species could effectively and efficiently tackle the problems we face on a planetary scale.
while it can coerce smaller member state behavior through various means, it does not have the legal force required to compel the largest and most powerful members to comply with any course of action that might be deemed important to our species' survival.
The proposed institution would ultimately have to be completely transparent if it is to be trusted with collating and implementing overall steerage for our species. It could withhold no secrets and have an open and honest agenda.
How to save the world by Sabine Hossenfelder
For the individual, evaluating possible courses of action to address interrelated problems in highly connected social, economic and ecological networks is presently too costly. The necessary information may exist, even be accessible, but it is too expensive in terms of time and energy. To steer the future, information about our dynamical and multi-layered networks has to become cheap and almost effortless to use. Only then, when we can make informed decisions by feeling rather than thinking, will we be able to act and respond to the challenges we face.
The necessary information for individuals to learn and react to systemic trends may be available, even accessible, but it is too expensive. Information is presently costly, not necessarily financially, but in the amount of effort required to obtain and understand it. Relevant information is too difficult to find or comprehend and doing so requires too much time and energy. Blaming people for being politically disinterested, scientifically illiterate, or plainly unintellectual doesn’t do anything to address the costliness of information and thus doesn’t do justice to the origin of the problem. The individual investment necessary to process information about trends and relations in our systems is currently too high and personal benefits do not outweigh the disadvantages.
humans don’t care what somebody or some thing thinks they should be doing. They’ll do whatever they please. The only way to change their ways is to please them.
We reached this gridlock because the human brain did not evolve to understand the consequences of individual actions in networks of billions of people. We are bad in making good long-term decisions and do not care much what happens in other parts of the planet to people we have not and will most likely never meet.
... frequently decisions which are beneficial on long time- or distance scales conflict with those on short time- or distance scales..this conflict is often resolved in favor of short times and distances. But we know how to solve these problems. We solve them by bringing close that what is far away.(...)
All it takes is a simple and intuitive visualization that lets users immediately grasp how well an action matches with their stated goals. The keywords here are:
Simple, intuitive, and immediate. This is cheap information. The solution to our problems is a generalization of this feedback loop: To give people access to
cheap information about the consequences of collective human actions,(...)
The point here is not to manipulate people into changing their ways because I or you or some supercomputer thinks it would be better if we’d do more of this or more of that. The point is to help people make decisions. The way we presently make decisions, part of our priorities remain neglected because we cannot assess how well we would be working towards them. It’s too complicated, too costly. But it’s not like we are happy with this. Most people notice the tension, the neglect of some of their priorities, and are left with bad consciousness, the nagging voice that says you should make better decisions. If only you had the time and it wasn’t so difficult.
We do not get anywhere with bemoaning that most people do not understand climate models or do not read information brochures about genetically modified crops. It is time to wake up. We’ve tried long enough to educate them. It doesn’t work. The idea of the educated and well-informed citizen is an utopia. It doesn’t work because education doesn’t please people. They don’t like to think. It is too costly and it’s not the information they want. What they want is to know how much an estimated risk conflict with their priorities, how much an estimated benefit agrees with their values. They tolerate risk and uncertainty, but they don’t tolerate science lectures.
The economic system to some extent does what we want. After all, it’s not like we’ve been total losers at steering the future of humanity. But the standard theory of the economic system assumes that consumers have full access to relevant information, that they take it into account, and that their decisions reveal their true preferences. However, monetary value is a one-dimensional measure that inevitably disregards the multi-valued reasons people have to invest money, and this projection on a one-dimensional scale means that information is lost.
Concretely, imagine how much more useful book reviews would be if you knew the reviewers’priorities compared to yours, if you knew what they consider a “good book”. Imagine how much more useful sales numbers would be if companies knew how important economic and social engagement are for their customers. The economic system alone doesn’t give us this information.
I assume humans are intrinsically good and mean well, they just don’t always get it right.
I may be naïve and I may be wrong. If in fact most people do not regard it relevant to get the plastic out of the oceans and to prevent children in the developing world from dehydration, then lowering the cost of information will not make a difference.

But while I do agree with her general diagnostic and what kind of simplicity is needed, I do not agree with the details of her solutions. A main defect I see in her analysis is that she mixes 2 kinds of problems :

And what is wrong with mixing these 2 kinds of problems, is its way of treating moral values as if they were a matter of taste. That sort of materialistic explanation of morality as brain function, as if the problem of how to make the world better was reducible to this kind of subjectivist construction of morality (personal tastes about what someone feels right to do to others and assumes that it will be good to others), as if it was the right reliable source of information about what is really helpful to others.

Sorry, this is nonsense. Because if we want morality to make real sense, then it is up to moral "values" to adapt themselves to the reality of which actions really have the best consequences on the real world. It is not up to anything and someone's actions to adapt to what might fit to his or someone else's individual pictures of imagination about what kinds of events in the world may positively or negatively contribute to the common good. Because most of the contents of ordinary people's "moral values" (pictures of what they imagine good or bad in the rest of the world) is just totally junk information, that is either trivial (to just "wish everyone to be happy") and thus not worth sharing and processing; or most probably plain wrong (because it is oversimplified pictures of a very complex world which the person cannot properly figure out in his personal feelings and opinions without gross mistakes). See the above sections on Religious "morality principles" to see what I mean. Another example is the problem she mentioned of "how important economic and social engagement are for their customers". The problem with such values is that, taken on word, they are irrelevant : of course it would be good if things were produced in good working conditions, but just mentioning bad working conditions is partial information that cannot be relied on just like this: we have to explain why is it that people came to work in such bad conditions, so that if we boycott this production, then what will these workers become ? Will they remain jobless and become beggars or worse ? And if their condition is not going to become worse by closing these bad factories as they will have better options how to make a living, then why are they not already going for these better options ? We first need to answer these questions before considering a system tracing "social engagement" of companies to be of any help.

To know which moral values people feel, is the small problem, and it is junk information irrelevant to the problem of how to make the world really more civilized. But to find out which actions correctly fit those moral values which are worth following, i.e. those moral values, which, to not be most probably plain wrong, most often have to be only the most trivial ones (to just wish everyone to be happy), is THE problem. Here unfortunately, there is no natural experimental feedback loop possible in case a system would be defective (failing to detect some causalities, correctly attributing effects to their cause), so that a careful expert analysis which will escape most people's feelings, either directly of some specific consequences, or of what kind of new information systems can better approach such an information and why, is all we have to develop the right computation of the moral consequences of a given action.

And this problem needs to be handled by processing the information, not about the moral values which are so trivial that they are not any information at all, but about the complex causality relations relating actions to their consequences.
And one of the main information systems able to do this (part of the solution, among other needed systems to solve other kinds of complex problems), is money (yet to be improved to better serve this purpose): it puts a price on actions to express their effects on the rest of the world, and this price is naturally constructed out of the information which other people give about their respective personal interests which can be affected by this action. And the advantage of the monetary nature of how this moral information is expressed, is that it no more depends on people's moral values (intrinsic goodness) to make the right choice !
So it would work based on the expression of individual tastes and preferences, which is THE relevant information to determine which events are really good as they really serve the interests of real people, unlike "moral information" by which some people may try to picture other people's interests but usually do so incorrectly and irresponsibly.
Of course not all problems can be solved in this way : there can also be a place for cases where selfish reactions to money would not be sufficient to give all the correct picture of what is right, and that more tasty moral values would be needed in complement. But this is precisely what the system of charity donations and public expenses is here for : people having tasty ideas on the world's interests may influence the world according to their tastes by paying for actions which they value.

Still there is another configuration, where the problem is how to prevent harm from being done, such as environmental destructions : to prevent other people from destroying the planet because they take profit from it, cannot be solved by paying anything that would formally prevent the harm from being done, if the basic system did not recognize it as harm. But the answer to this problem is by integrating a justice system in the money system, as I explained in my money theory. It works by redefining money as an information, so that if someone makes profit by harming the planet then we can cancel this profit as soon as this profit is monetarily expressed, by creating and properly formalizing in information networks, a consensus that cancels this monetary information. So, such a solution does integrate moral information from people. But it does it in the logical efficient ways,  which dispersed systems of everyone following his own moral values independently of those of others (such as boycotting some products) could not achieve : someone boycotting a bad company is harming himself and cannot prevent other people from buying from this company ; but dispersed subjective values are anyway worthless. Instead, a work of consensus building out of these subjective values is essential, both to approach objective moral truth and to accomplish effective results, a process which is what my new money system would make, by its remarkable way of naturally and powerfully combining consensus building and effectivity as one and the same quality (with "coherent boycott" against someone's money, to be metaphorically described as traced as "money that stinks" so that the rest of the world won't "buy" it even after it changes hands), that does not let any possibility of effectivity to any wrong (non-consensual) "values".

The cult of cryptography and the disadvantage of anarchy

A particularity of the digital economy is that a work of development of a new system done once, can be used without limit. This makes the usual model of market optimization not naturally applicable: each additional user benefits the product without consuming anything from the producer, so that in principle he ought not pay anything ; still the producer had costs, so how will he be paid ?
Possible answers are:
Now much of the development of new IT projects which target universal use (instead of for a specific local business) is done based on the copyleft model: the orientation of the work is determined by the inspiration and motivation of programmers. I mean, not so much in the way users see, but rather in the amount of work that is actually done: tons of projects are developed, but then remain unknown as they could not find their user base. For example : did you hear about Freenet ? OpenId ? Any of the projects in this list ? No ? Well, of course, there is a good reason for this : of course the internet is not as good as it should be, so we can dream to make better functions, however if we want to combine possible elementary functions to form a new system, there are millions of possibilities to do so, and the usual problem is that programmers have no good vision of which combination would be the right one. So they put together functions at random, in hope some magic new result would come, but, in the absence of a good global vision at the start, they have essentially no chance of making things right. The result is that they keep assuming that their stupidly poor imagination is the only way, while all what matters would be, according to them
Their fundamental error here, is in fact not new : it is the very errors experimented by Communism one century ago. You know, all the people whose main value was the "dignity of workers" which consisted in deciding themselves what work they should make according to their own inspiration, ignoring any realistic external feedback such as market prices and the decisions of bosses who care to take that market feedback into account in order to figure out which work needs to be done to be able to meet the demand.
All these people who have those big ego problems consisting in not tolerating the possibility for anyone else to know better than them what they should do.
What do they imagine ? Did you ever see a powerful army with only soldiers and no general nor any kind of hierarchy ? An efficient big high-tech factory with no director ? Just letting everyone do the work they wish can be fun as long as no large serious stuff such as a progress of civilization is at stakes.
Of course it is bad to keep corrupt leaders who just try to preserve the system and are not interested in any breakthrough. Indeed in many administrations, the leading vision is not good, it can be an obstacle to progress. Still a vision is needed, of what a number of people should follow, and there exists a possible difference of skill between the development of the global plan and the implementation of its details, so that some kind of care or structure is needed so as to make those abilities work together. I really wish to believe that it does not require any kind of dictatorship. However, what I see now is that all workers who are trying to make the low-level work of implementation of new systems keep a blind faith that the best they can do is follow their own inspiration, and that no inspiration of anyone else can be worthy of attention if not coming from people who are also programmers undertaking to implement their own ideas.
And as long as it is not recognized that there is a problem here, the problem will remain.
Let's make another comparison : when I see events such as Hackathons, it all feels to me as if these people are only doing something like an athletic competition, rather than trying to do anything useful. Just imagine what it would look like if, for example, musicians behave like this. They would meet and make some kind of competition whose purpose is to demonstrate how good musician they are. And they would choose the compositions to perform precisely for this purpose. So for this purpose they would always prefer to perform compositions which are most difficult from a technical viewpoint, so as to demonstrate how skilled they are in their fingers. But if compositions are chosen to best show how skilled musicians are with their fingers, then the goal of the activity has nothing to do with musical harmony anymore. Listening to that fuss would be just as interesting as watching a football match, to be amazed with the skills of performers and comparing them for those who can have interest for that kind of stakes, but listeners not caring about that would be bored like death.
Another comparison : if we want to show on computer the movement of a particle around a black hole (as I did when I was still in high school), even though the implementation only consists of a computer program, the ability to write such a program is not only a matter of programming skill. It also requires to understand physics. No matter the programming skills, a programmer having no clue about General Relativity cannot make that program properly.
So, here is the point : the real value of programming and new software does not consist in being a good programmer knowing how to program. It also requires to develop another kind of skill and planning : the understanding of the structure of the real problems and needs of humans that we wish new software to be useful for. This is the point that most authors of those wonderful decentralized cryptographic projects completely missed. And as long as they will continue doing just wonderful code according to what looks good from a computer viewpoint, all their works will remain useless.

See also : The cult of cryptography (unfinished)

One example that is not programming but that is still somewhat typical, is what happened to the "citizen media" named Agoravox.
It is supposed to be a decentralized citizen journalism site, where anyone can submit an article and there is some sort of democratic procedure of approval.
One time I tried to publish there an article to talk about my software project. It was rejected, as it may have been considered too arrogant or the like.
One of the crucial functions of my project would be procedures for trust and reputations, including verified voting and also real identification of users (detailed not published at this time).
Indeed, the claim that a solution to many problems of the world is possible and that a clever man found it, is a very unusual claim, that looks odd, and I understand that people may not have felt comfortable with it. But, what do they want, in fact ? To not have any new great solution of new decentralized online political order, just because it would be something too intellectual for them to understand and they would feel humiliated at such a perspective ? Well okay, so let it be, they prefer to not feel humiliated but to collectively choose the way that seems sexy and democratic to them, that is, the idea that there is no great intellectual solution, and that we should just democratically follow the methods that the majority of people can naturally understand and feel enthusiastic about. That is, good old low-thought democratic procedure.
The result ? Now, Agoravox is an instrument of lies and propaganda in Putin's hand in its information war against Ukraine. How did this happen ? Simply because Putin has an army of propagandists who created lots of accounts to write and vote for the articles he wants. So, this is what the democratic version of democracy means in practice. The democratic version, that is the stupid one. The method by which people agree to adopt the methods of democracy which they most democratically understand and enjoy, those that are stupid enough for the majority of stupid people to enjoy and adopt. The more democratic is the democratic method, the stupider it is, and thus also the most fallible, that can most easily become a puppet in the hand of dictators, to make the people follow and serve, believing that they are following democracy. Well, just the same story as the Democratic Republics of the 20th century. There is nothing new under the sun here.

The problem with Bitcoin

The Future Driving Force of Human Evolution

Interstellar future and the Earth's temperature

If we want to consider the future of life in the very long term, a problem will be whether interstellar travels are possible, and how.
The problem is clear: if offered the opportunity to join a spacecraft on the way to another star that will only be reached after a few thousand years, who would be interested ?
Probably, nobody.

Among essays, here are some thoughts:

Ends of History and Future Histories in the Longue Duree by Benjamin Pope
While it is far beyond the scope of this essay to address this political issue, it is within the scope of this piece to consider: does the practice of neoliberalism run risks in the very longue durée ?
The risks, as I will argue, are as follows: first, that unplanned exploitation of finite resources will prevent long-term development dependent on commodities that will become very scarce inappropriate exploitation of the planets and other bodies in the Solar System, for example failed terraforming, geoengineering or deployment of rogue von Neumann constructors, presents a second failure point in the chain of development, whereby we will achieve spaceflight and limited colonization but further expansion is then prevented
Yet another such process is a space- colonisation race in which replicators might burn up cosmic resources in a wasteful effort to beat out the competition
I'm not really afraid of replicators. I do not think they are the problem. I think, things will finally be intelligently controlled, as unintelligent things such as replicators cannot win.
Second, what can really be wasted in the long term, and how ? Just replicators do not waste anything, as they only take elements that exist and put them in a new order; this is reversible.
There are only 3 irreversible things:
In particular the essay With Expanded Vision and Plentiful Nuclear Fusion Energy Full Ahead into the Future by Victor Vaguine, considering to spend so much energy from nuclear fuels that it would be comparable to solar energy and thus would make the Earth significantly warmer, is completely mad.
To make any interstellar travel possible in reasonable amounts of time, the only sufficient source of energy is nuclear fuel. Such fuels cannot be produced from solar energy by any industry. The only way to have it available after millions of years from now, is to not waste it now as we are actually doing. Which is why I consider the use of nuclear energy for energy consumption on Earth a very bad thing, while the solar energy actually available would largely suffice to all needs if only it was better managed (see above).

Now the following question may be interesting, not because of nuclear energy heating the planet (anyway this factor is insignificant as long as the world population is not much bigger than now, something like 100 billion), but because of global warming by greenhouse gases in the first term, and then after a few hundreds of million years because the Sun will get brighter and brighter:
Develop technology to regulate sun radiation reaching the surface of our planet.
We would need to develop technology for regulating solar radiation. How can we accomplish this? One approach would be to install giant adjustable reflectors covering large geographical areas both on the ground and the ocean surface around the equator. One disadvantage would be that due to variable meteorological conditions, it would be difficult to assess how much solar radiation was actually reflected into space. Another approach would be to place giant remotely adjustable reflectors into space at an optimum orbit around Earth. However, the potential problem would be “ solar wind” including direct pressure from the stream of photons .
Instead of an orbit, a good position for reflectors may be the Lagrange point between the Earth and the Sun. An advantage of this point would be that it would be cheaper to send materials there from the Moon. But the problem is its instability. It will need sophisticated systems to stabilize its position by adjusting its interaction with solar radiation and solar wind.

As for interstellar travels in the long term, different ways to cross such big distances are:
We are now in a rather exceptional time, that a stellar system as bright as the Sun: that of Alpha Centauri, is so close to here (about 4 light years). Otherwise in average, since red dwarfs are much more numerous (about 4 times) than bright stars, the closest stars are usually red dwarfs at about 5 light-years distance, then bright stars at about 8 light-years distance.
Proxima Centauri will be closest to us (3.11 ly) after 26 700 years from now. Then Alpha Centauri will be closest 1,000 years later, at a distance of 3,26 ly.A
n important event will be the approach of Gliese 710 at about 1.1 light-year distance to the Sun after 1.4 million years.


Looking Beyond and Within to Steer the Future
The Thermodynamics of Freedom
Humanity is much more than the sum of humans
Peace via Discoveries and Inventions
The Prometheus Factor and Three Key Indicators of an Advanced Society
 Quandary - Are Molecularly Manufactured Burgers
 Removing the Element of Surprise by Aaron M. Feeney
Novelty and the Empowering of Minds
How Should Humanity Steer the Future? -- Sideways!  (where is the point ?)
Protogeometer: Falling Into Future

God and Economic Suffering
Steering the Future of Consciousness? by Wilhelmus de Wilde
Why we know a lot of the past but little from the future

What was I doing in Spring 2014 ?

I was in Kiev, searching for programmers to implement my project. I did a lot of work exploring (through automatic translation) the many projects listed in "Maidan Hackathon" list (there was initially a list of more than 100 posted through google forms), that supposedly aimed to help build a more democratic country. And trying to meet these people.
I expected these people to be open to discussion and understanding of new ideas, and that my own project would get contributors from different other small projects, as it would form a network offering diverse services at the same time.
Unfortunately, they were not. Well, humans as usual. With small thinking, small ideas, everyone for his own little project, everyone desperate about how they are going to find a million dollars to advertise their little holy shit when it will be done, but never interested to understand any other idea or project nor to cooperate with anybody else, even if they are many independent projects supposed to all fill the same purpose (and thus competing against each other), and even if this purpose is supposed to be all about providing tools by which different people with common purposes can find each other and cooperate together. So crazy. Not even any significant chance to talk with them as they are not really ready to discuss and understand anything. Finally I thought I found partners : the team of narodparlament.org who offered to implement my project. Unfortunately, things went wrong : I paid them thousands of euros but they did nothing except idiocies (writing a ridiculous "technical documentation" that is not even worth the time reading it, as they did not even start to understand my plans)

Now only (summer 2015) I am restarting my project with a new team, but I'm still unsure if it will be done well.