6 August 2021

Hackathon

Sagi and Tom organized another meeting on the "Hack of Hope" (hackathon) they are planning in the village. The evening took place in the congenial atmosphere of the cart pub, with a nice crowd of young people. Sagi, Tom, Roi, Ainat and a couple of others presented some of their ideas. I will be hopeful if people actually begin to come together around one or two of them. What I would start with is establishing the basic infrastructure so that we could be independent of commercial services, host our own websites on our own servers, etc. But for that we would need a nut, who is smarter than me, to get it going. I don't think we have one.

Be that as it may, in personal conversations with some of the people attending, an interest in some of the issues that I've been thinking about, like free open source, decentralization, privacy, surveillance, ethics in hi-tech. I might try to bring these up again. I think that they need to do more to bring aboard people who haven't been showing too much interest so far. I might try to write more.

One thing that is certainly true, is that although the ideas are framed in the concept that "the younger generation" are characterized as being open to new ideas, that is not necessarily true. Many of our younger people are actually trapped in traditional ideas, and are less open to new ones than some of the older folks. And it is also true that those who call themselved the younger generation (in relation to the generation of the founders) are already old themselves. The true younger generation are the teenagers who come after them.

One thing that I notice in the books of G R R Martin is a respect for very young people and older people. Some of the heroes are children; others are in their fifties and sixties. The TV series managed to deal with the old people, but not so well with the young. Characters like Podrick and Missandei are much older on screen.

The emerging hybrid reality

The Hindu had a few good tech articles today. If I'm getting my tech news from The Hindu, something must be wrong. All those tech journals and alternative social media services don't seem to delivering for me. I hadn't been exposed previously to the idea of the Metaverse, so I am playing catch-up there.

What's interesting is that it looks like the idea is too big to rely on any one of the existing tech giants, so it may force interoperability, collective standards, federation and decentralization. But somehow I feel, if not a monopoly, we could be left with more of a cartel if we do not proceed cautiously. It would be better if the interoperability is forced now, in advance, to allow federated and decentralized services to gain greater prominence.

I'm thinking that China, in going back to an emphasis on hardware, production, etc. and de-emphasizing the less tangible forms of hi-tech, may be missing something. While it's true that anything like the Metaverse will be dependent on the basics, a country that concentrates primarily on the "raw materials" of our IT era will be less able to come to grips with the emerging reality. A population that is ordered to think according to ideas and guidelines determined by a central authority will not be able to compete in a free marketplace of ideas such as is conceived in the other developed countries. They will eventually be left behind.

Metaverse the next generation of Internet - The Hindu

Ball reckons that the metaverse requires infrastructure that currently does not exist, and the current form of Internet is limited in its design to hold the digital space. The space will need a broader and more complex set of standards and protocols than traditional Internet. This means large technology companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook will need to prepare for cross integrating their systems.

The Metaverse: What It Is, Where to Find it, Who Will Build It, and FortniteMatthewBall.vc

One of these concerns is whether participants will have a single consistent digital identity (or “avatar”) that they will use across all experiences.

There is also disagreement on how much interoperability is required for the Metaverse to really be “the Metaverse”, rather than just an evolution of today’s Internet.
Some believe the definition (and success) of a Metaverse requires it to be a heavily decentralized platform built mostly upon community-based standards and protocols (like the open web) and an “open source” Metaverse OS or platform (this doesn’t mean there won’t be dominant closed platforms in the Metaverse).

The Metaverse will require countless new technologies, protocols, companies, innovations, and discoveries to work. And it won’t directly come into existence; there will be no clean “Before Metaverse” and “After Metaverse”. Instead, it will slowly emerge over time as different products, services, and capabilities integrate and meld together.

One way I try to think about these three areas is via the Book of Genesis – first, “God” must create the underlying universe (“concurrency infrastructure”), then s/he must define its laws of physics and rules (“standards and protocols”), then s/he must fill it with life (“content”) that’s worthwhile, evolves, and iterates against selection pressures. God, in other words, doesn’t create and design the world as though it were a miniature model, but enables one to grow across a mostly blank tableau etc.)

The Metaverse will require an even broader, more complex, and resilient set of S&Ps. What’s more, the importance of interoperability and live synchronous experiences means we’ll need to prune some existing standards and “standardize” around a smaller set per function. Today, for example, there are a multitude of image file formats: .GIF, .JPEG, .PNG, .BMP, .TIFF, .WEBP, etc. And while the web today is built on open standards, much of it is closed and proprietary.

This will be enormously difficult and take decades. And the more valuable and interoperable the Metaverse is, the harder it will be to establish industry-wide consensus around topics such as data security, data persistence, forward compatible code evolution, and transactions. In addition, the Metaverse will need altogether new rules for censorship, control of communications, regulatory enforcement, tax reporting, the prevention of online radicalization, and many more challenges that we’re still struggling with today.

‘Truth has to come out’ in Pegasus issue: SC - The Hindu

A Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana and Justice Surya Kant said the allegations of the government using Israel-based technology to spy on civilians, journalists, Ministers, parliamentarians, activists were “no doubt serious”, provided the news reports were true.

Dark mode on devices may not save much battery life- The Hindu

switching from light to dark mode saved only up to 9% power on average for different OLED smartphones at 30-50% brightness, and said the power efficiency depended on the brightness of OLED screens.

All aboard the hyperloop: How your commute could be changing - The Hindu

Climate crisis: Scientists spot warning signs of Gulf Stream collapse - The Guardian

July 5, 2021

Darktable

Darktable 3.6 has some improvements, and I'm slowly managing to use it a little more successfully, thanks to the excellent documentation
Many of the photos I receive in my work on updating the village websites are really poor. If I can improve them a little without too much fuss, I'm happy. Here is an example:
Before:

After:

Admittedly not great, but better, without too much fuss.
The story and the photos are here.

Multiposting

Every item like, if handled fully, entails a baker's dozen posts:
3 posts on the original website (Hebrew, Arabic, English)
3 redirects from the village website (Hebrew, Arabic, English)
1 post + 1 crosspost on Facebook
1 post + 1 retweet on Twitter
1 post on Instagram
1 post on LinkedIn
1 post on our photo albums site.

Links

The Guardian keeps its promise about highlighting climate news stories, and I don't always read them. The story that made an impression on me today, was by a doctor in Karachi. It really brings home the horror of living in a city that is growing hotter and hotter.

In Karachi, hot weather is normal … but 44C feels like you’re going to die The Guardian

There's also a CNN story summarized concisely in Slashdot:
CNN Reports 'Unprecedented Heat, Hundreds Dead' as Climate Change Hits the Northern Hemisphere - Slashdot

I'm enjoying my email subscription to Cory Doctorow's blog; he's a consistently interesting writer. Today he writes about "conspirationalism".
Pluralistic: 05 Jul 2021 – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow

When we talk about conspiratorialism, we tend to focus (naturally) on the content of the conspiracy. Not only are those stories entertainingly outlandish – they're also the point of contact between conspiracists and the world.
If your mom is shouting about "Hollywood pedos," it's natural that you'll end up discussing the relationship of this belief to observable reality. But while the content of conspiratorial beliefs gets lots of attention, we tend to neglect the significance of those beliefs.
To the extent that we consider why the beliefs exist and proliferate, the discussion rarely gets further than "irrational people have irrational beliefs." This is a mistake. The stories we tell one another are a kind of Ouija board, with all our fingertips on the planchette.
The messages it spells out don't describe external reality but they do reveal our internal, unspoken anxieties and aspirations.This is why we should read science fiction: not because it predicts the future, but because it diagnoses the present.

He also quotes his new book on "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism and provides a link to the full version, which appears on Medium:

How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism, a New Book by Cory Doctorow | OneZero

Cheapskate that I am, I downloaded the complete text and turned it into an .epub so that I can read on my phone (It's 40+ pages of letter sized paper single spaced). I discovered in the process that although LibreOffice offers to export to .epub, Calibre still does a much better job of that.

Back to Karachi

That story about Karachi made my realize how fortunate I am living in a place that is not too hot and not too cold (admittedly very subjective definitions). Although the weather here gets up to about 32 degrees everyday for several months a year, it rarely exceeds 35-36 degrees, and it's a dryish heat, unlike the Eastern U.S. or Southern India, say. When I go to S. India, I manage without A/C, but only because I'm basically just hanging out, and not doing very much. As I've grown older, I prefer warm summers to cold winters and would not want to live further north than here.

Nations

In the conversation we had with Y, the other day, one of the things I said was that all nations basically suck. It doesn't matter whether it's Israel, India, the UK, the EU or the US. Today I was reminded of this by Dave Winer's blog:

America is not great#

I was taught as a youngster that the US was the greatest country ever, both at home and in school. I imagine this is the same education kids in every terrible country ever got. And my parents were biased, they were immigrants who would have died for sure in Europe during WW II if the US hadn't taken them in. #
Over time they came to see the reality that the US is a seriously flawed country. But nothing would have prepared them for what we've seen in the last five years. My mom died in February 2018, so she did live to see Trump elected, but did not see the January 6 insurrection, and all the looney tunes that followed. She also missed out on the 1619 Project which was, for me a real head-turner. #
I knew slavery was part of our legacy, but I didn't know that it was pretty much our whole legacy. We fought and won a Civil War to purge ourselves of slavery, but that wasn't enough, Jim Crow undid a lot of the good that was done in post-Civil War America. The Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 and re-authorized in 2006, has now been gutted by the Supreme Court. And the Republican-run states are rapidly moving to deprive citizens of color their voting rights. #
The fact is the US is an awful fucked up country. It doesn't live up to the promise of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution for a huge portion of the population, and that means it doesn't mean shit for the rest of us. #
I am an American, nothing is going to change that, but if you asked me do I feel this is the greatest country ever, I'd say that's an idea we have to purge from our minds, the US is the opposite, it's a fat, lazy, spoiled, ridiculous excuse for a country. If we want to amount to anything we need to take a 180 degree turn now. #

What I said in that conversation with Y was that "all nations basically suck... all we can do is look for tiny pearls" in them - by which I meant, perhaps, idealistic communities, or places like Brockwood Park (which she had just visited).

But that's not entirely true: you can't take the "suckiness" out of the world; anymore than you can take the "suchness" out of it (a Buddhist term) - if it exists in nations, it exists also in idyllic islands, to a smaller degree - because we carry it with us in our natures. We have to deal with it, whereever we are.

Lately, I feel less idealistic and more pessimistic. I don't know if Palestine will ever be free, if slavery will be abolished, if capitalism defeated, or the world will be able to prevent environmental disaster. But that doesn't mean we need to hunker down and live selfishly. There are a lot of small things we can do to make the world a better place, and if we are "fortunate" we can share some of what we have. I learned that lesson when I first traveled in the east, and found that poor Afghani village people would always share what they had with their fellow travellers. If they had an orange, they would give some to everyone.