Saturday, June 03, 2017

evidence, experts, discipline

takehome: lets end the numbers racket.

I'm sympathetic to having qualitative reasoned debate, but sometimes once can go look at a body of evidence (from experts, yes, really) that includes numbers, but the problem is that it takes time and discipline, and is simply not amenable to snappy soundbites in a bar room fight/real time debate/tv q&a.

one example of a source of information that I read through (but I doubt more than one in a thousand people bothered with) was the civil services 2012 review of the "balance of competences" of the EU - it gives not just figures, but also background and assumptions about figures, for the cost/benefit for every sector in the UK for being a member. In the geek world, we have a passive/aggressive shorthand for articles where people try to summarise a complex, nuanced and contextualized source of information with a "takehome" - we just put tl;dr ("too long; didn't read). here's the document that would have benefitted a lot of people to have read back last year:- 

when it comes to the current discussions, things that influence me are not that Corbyn wouldn't pull the trigger on nukes (how people get hung up on that, when we'd all be already dead by that point), or that May would have a hard time getting a decent deal from the EU for fishermen (all 3 that are left). I get more exercised by the fact that our kids face insane debt before they get their first job, they wont be able to get a decent place to live in the town in which they were bought up, their job prospects are so so despite good quality university qualifications; their pensions don't look too clever; if they get ill, their healthcare looks less dependable; their kids will have even more trouble getting a halfway decent school. etc etc. I get very cross when the academic economists in the USA that built the model that said we needed austerity (nearly 10 years ago) that was followed by much of Europe after the financial fiasco of 2008, admitted that they'd made an elementary mistake in an Excel spreadsheet, so the result was exactly the opposite of what they'd been flying around the world schmoozing politicans of all colour and odour. see

hmm so i like experts, but I also don't like experts......oh well..

really what it comes down to is adequate discipline being applied in the right context - a qualiative reasoned position in a face-to-face debate, but in a written position, careful citation of data, assumptions, context and so on....

Saturday, March 25, 2017

beyond ironic

so someome ased me yesterday why i havn't updated this blog (which unlike the other two blogs i run, is purely rant&cant [as opposed to computer science or internet related]).

well it has proved impossible to outdo the spectacle of UK-US politics and news - it just is beyond comment.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

christmas special show pitch

while you're all here, maybe you could review my pitch for a christmas
special for a certain long running tv

The real reason the Millenium bridge[1] had to be closed shortly after it
was opened
was that it turned out that it was not just wobbly - it was wibbly[2] too.

Early signs something was a miss was when walking across the bridge
we found ourselves looking across at the earlier London bridges from
time to time, e.g. 50AD, 1209, 1831 etc, or even bridges over rivers on other systems --

We now know that there's a beautiful suspension bridge of sighs over the
chasm of oblivion on a gas giant circling Altair V, or, nearer to home,
the short crossing over the ornamental pond in the Palazzo Schifanoia in 1477.

The trouble really started when it seemed the bridge did not just go from the
Tate Modern to Saint Paul's Cathedral, but to many other worlds as well.
And if we could go there, they could come here. And some of them would
confuse art with religion, sometimes wilfully.

This had to be stopped and there was only one gallifreyan for the job...


Saturday, July 16, 2016

The European Onion - A New Start.

I'm proposing that the UK start a new global movement which for want of a better name I am calling the European Onion (the EO, not entirely unconnected with the excellent american satyrical magazine of similar name). This is quite a serious proposal

Starting with (say) England, Estonia and Greece (for example) we would create a new set of technology based systems of governance.

1. Digital citizenship - based on the estonian system, you can choose levels of citizenship, and pay towards them appropriately - for example, non resident can have some rights, but to get healthcare, you need to be resident and pay tax (or have unemployment insurance, which you may have a right to depending on past history) - this might permit scotland to "stay" in the EU and be part of the UK, whilst England and Wales would be part of some new systems (the bootstrap citizenships of the EO).

2. Currency - a new digital currency, perhaps based on something like rscoin (etherium variant), with various incentive systems, and ability to be used both anonymously, and as an identified part of a distributed ledger, and with the capability to carry tax towards something (e.g. local, or regional, or towards some group affiliation - e.g. a legacy nation or federation, or a new clave).

3. Free movement of people, goods and services will be determined both by the block chain, and by some peering or customer/provider relationships (see "Border Gateway Protocol" bgp) - geographic regions have various local properties (land, resources, schools, hospitals, work, entertainment etc), and can support given populations - movement of people is obviously often beneficial, but on varying timescales - new infrastructure has to be included in the cost, so if an area supports ingress of people, the source of those people has to contribute to the cost of new infrastructure - of course, if the source had contributed (e.g. education) then that has to be factored in to the ingress cost in a fair/balanced way. Peering regions (or legacy nations, e,g, countries staying in the old EU) would have simple free movement, whereas in the new system (the EO) we would have checks and balances.

4. Virtualized Jurisdiction allows complex, nested and intersecting rules to be applied to any relationship between individuals and groups. Legacy jurisdictions (e.g. constitutional systems in legacy nations) can be factored in, but new arrangements can be made - for example, this would be a way to allow Northern Ireland and the Republic to keep an open border and the free movement of people with free residential rights in england (and maybe scotland and wales - depends on them) and voting rights. It would be just like contract law is today, when, for example, companies setting up business relationships (e.g.) between Hong Kong and London might choose to agree that any disagreement is settled under law in New York. Except that we can make up new jurisdictions based in new groupings and new mixes. This could include virtual extradition, border control, tax and criminal law. And rules about surveillance and sousveillance by different groups..

5. Information flow control can be applied using rules similar to Wikipedia, to allow transparent evolution of news and educational material, but to prevent monopoly ownership of sources of verifiable facts and methods.

6. Intellectual property is just another part of the previous rules.

7. The systems will be evolvable - for example, at the least, we could expect new rules to emerge in the currency, jurisdiction and flow control arenas - the DAO stands still for no clave.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The EU didn't exactly help....

...very much - so this current debate is (I think) multi-faceted, but much of the heat is because people are "fed up with this or that" - what are these "thises or thats"?

well, one person puts it down to precarity of the working class. Actually, i think that that is definitely one of the this. but not just for working classes - the middle classes too - we have lost ground on quality of life, but also on predictable futures - this comes from many things - threats to our future in terms of health and welfare, in terms of our kids chances at schools, universities, housing, in terms of our job and personal security, and so on and so forth.

people want to blame someone, so they picked on the elephant in the room - the EU.

however, the roots of our precarity lie elsewhere - from Thatcher (and Reagan) seting in place monetarist policy and deregulating financial services, dismantling our manufacturing industries, and weaking workers rights (unions). Through Blair (and Clinton) doing nothing to reign in the rampant privatization of many state services that actually worked ok. On to Clegg (and Cameron) failing to remove the unelected upper house and failing to remove university fees, and failing to re-regulate the finance sector, and failing to do much about the axis of evil created by Blair  (and Bush) boys own adventures in war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. and on to Osbourne (but not Obama) Austerity programme, with no house building (despite having half a million polish builders ready and waiting) and reduction in real welfare and salaries of state sector and reduction in local government (education, policing, housing) democracy (voting people in who have no money is kind of pointless - which is why a vote for brexit is really really dumb - you'll get poor neo-liberals, which is even worse than rich ones).

So the EU did little to help. Indeed, the troika's stomping on any attempt to fight back against the banks (and loans to ireland, portugal, greece) removed what little fig-leaf of democratic power we thought there still was.

That said, the EU didn't cause any of the above in the first place, and in many ways may have mitigated the harm - it is hard to tell, but my guess is that the overall stability (people shouting about eurozone crisis completely fail to take account of the longevity of the success of the zone, and the trade agreements) has been a force for good that reduced the damage done by all those previous stupidities, which we did. The UK. us. not germany. not france, italy, spain. not the EU. Thatcher. Blair. Clegg. The tories. labour. the lib dems. the brits.

shame on us.

we need the EU to damp down our very own madness.

Monday, June 13, 2016

cognitive dissonance of "balanced" reporting

here's a typical example of "balance" in reporting where the BBC basically completely confuses the reader - in covering the speech (not yet made) by GOrdon Brown, their webpage has five other points, randomly including a fear campaign/gravy train comment from the EC President, a commercial concern (with a union) worrying about business and jobs, a (probably dodgy) prediction of immigration numbers (i.e. 5M more people - wonder where the houses for them wil lcome from eh? and a statement from a tory and labour leader about the campaign....not one of these points is actually germane to Brown's speech, but you could be forgiven for not being able to make use of any of this information in any reasoned response to the referendum vote decision, since it is presented so uncritically, and randomly. Very very poor journalism, whichever way you're voting.
for this example...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Nobody likes a quitter...

Probably unsurprisingly, I shall be voting to remain in the EU - I am flying back early from a trip to HK especially so I can vote in person.


Firstly because the vast majority of what has happened in the European Union has benefited most people enormously, from increased peace and prosperity to better health and happiness.
Given the flaws (plenty) are fixable, and there are plenty of people willing to work on them, I think
the experiment should continue. The last 8 years has seen turmoil in the economy and in the movement of people. It is simply incorrect to blame the EU for these. The banking fiasco started in the US and infected the UK (and notably, Iceland), and because of poor policies on housing in Spain and Ireland, they took a beating. The Greeks got in a mess, and the EU tried to help probably in the wrong way, and still is trying. But notice this. Most of the economies survived and indeed started recovery, despite some obnoxious national austerity policies. The EU has not crashed and burned.
And the migrant crisis that has hit us was from the war in Syria (and Eritrea and Yemen, etc etc) - not caused by the EU, but the opposite - many in the EU are trying to help. How is this not a reason to celebrate our resilience and humanity? 5M refugees would represent less than 1% of the population of the EU, not only not a significant burden, but a contribution -- as is the free EU labour movement, where people go through all the upheaval of moving country/language/housing, schools, to better themselves, and therefore to better the nation they arrive in. I work with people in many places across Europe (Greece, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, at least) and it has been a pleasure, I hope that can continue. I've been in Paris, Brussels and Helsinki for example, more than once each this year already. I just see great things happening all around there. The sky is not falling. We receive students from all these places and more - both when I was at UCL and now in Cambridge, and it is great that it is not such a hassle for them to come here as it would be were the EU not to be there, or we not to be  a part. Or for us to go there - to work or study or retire. There are so many things to like, so few to dislike, in reality. Our quality of life (when I compare it with being a kid in the 60s and teenager in the 70s) is amazingly better. This is in no small part due to being part of the world's largest social, economic and cultural union. It is fantastic.

Why would I not?

I've already written on this blog about the leave campaign. It is often intellectually dishonest concerning the reasons for leaving, and almost completely bankrupt in terms of any actual  longterm strategy about what to do after an exit by our lone island. Many consequences (likely dismantling of the UK as Scotland leave) are dismissed. Problems creating trade agreements as the 5th largest economy, instead of being part of the largest, are bizarrely claimed to be non-existent. Recognition of the enormous benefits for us to go there, as well as people to come here is absent. The wealth of culture that we inhabit as a part, the fact that the UK is in any case a mongrel nation and English a mongrel language and indeed, one of the most successful at absorbing/integrating just about anything and mutating it into something better  - these are all to be thrown out, with only a vacuum to replace them. Nor do I trust a single one of the leaders of the campaign. Many of them live to the right of the Austrian wannabe president. Despite that we have control of more aspects of the place than most the rest of the European neighbours, with our own currency, language, sovereign, army, borders, judges, health system, education including world leading Universities, despite that all these operate while we have been in the EU and have gotten markedly better every decade for the duration, even during the last period with the aforesaid banking fiasco, those wanting to leave do so with a visceral hatred of the evidence. For some (I suspect UKIP voters) it is sour grapes - they only got 1 MP in the general election. For others, it is sadly, simple xenophobia, though how, given the number of people that visit or move here, and the number of brits that go to the continent for summer holidays, I do not understand.  I am amazed at the vehemence of the quitters. Often, bizarre conspiracy theories appear. Perhaps this is just the UK infected with the US online hysteria.  I hope that is all it is.