Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Discretionary authority vs. Freedom

Discretionary power is the greatest systemic evil we face, and understanding this will allow us to create fairer societies that minimize discretionary power.  Minimizing discretionary power is as simple as considering its effects in policies.

Discretionary authority is the power to interpret rules with whatever thoughtless indifference, bias, prejudice, or preference that might maximize your or your friends' benefit.  Judges, Prosecutors and Police/Regulators have the most pronounced discretionary authority and can affect peoples lives by their choices.  The 2 primary abuses are persecuting the innocent, and choosing to interpret rules and facts to favour the powerful.

Kings and other rulers have the ultimate discretionary authority.  They don't have a pretense of rules that apply to them, and their discretion includes budgetary authority.  The primary abusive power though is the discretion to persecute, murder and destroy, and perpetuate policies of systemic misery.

Freedom is freedom from the discretionary authority that others have over you.  Money can buy both freedom and discretionary influence over others.

God, if he exists, is first and foremost a humanist.  I prefer to wish that he believes more in the prosperity, growth, and happiness of humanity, than in whether groups choose to eat bacon wrapped shelfish after sunset on Fridays.  God exists independently of any mythology or church.  I prefer to insist that God believes in truth over worship.

There is no statistical relationship between prayer and earthly rewards.  If God believes in truth then prayer would be ineffective as your rewards or lack thereof are what you deserve regardless of what you ask for.

The relationship to discretionary authority is that nearly all of us understand God to be an all powerful king, and prayer as a telepathic audience before your benevolent ruler to grant you wishes.  If you understand God that way, then it validates the similar power of your king and the hierarchy below him as well.

Having slaves is awesome.  Machines are the ultimate slave in that there is no risk of disobedience.  Being a slave is less awesome.  While the ultimate protection against you becoming a slave is to protect everyone else from the same fate, most of us support slavery:  We support systemic oppression because:

  1. After they come for the others, they will hopefully stop there.
  2. Somebody has to pick the cotton and enlist in the army.  Helping systemic desperation to be deflected onto others, might hold off your oppression
  3. The contentment of having classes below you.
  4. The understanding that you are worthless maggots that deserve to be controlled by rulers and their hierarchy since that is as it has always been.
The article I linked (most of us support slavery) is worth reading.  While we fully support abolition, we continue to support the closest possible equivalent to slavery.

God part 2
There are 2 mutually exclusive understanding of God:

  1. He is first and foremost a dictator with a will to be enforced.  Secondarily that will may support truth, justice and humanity.
  2. There is first and foremost truth, justice and humanism, and loyalty to God is first and foremost loyalty to truth justice and humanity.

The significant implication of the first model is that your loyalty to God and his earthly hierarchies is a loyalty to "us" vs "them", which is incompatible with truth, justice and humanism, and so promotes systemic oppression and conflict.

Basic income and social dividends as the core solution

Basic income is an equal social dividend paid to citizens unconditionally that is sufficiently large to eliminate poverty and eliminate most discretionary authority social services.

The funding formula is a simple combination of income tax increases, program cuts, and (optionally) money printing.  No one who has ever faced an income tax bill is oppressed.  They've earned money higher than the tax bill, and so have any freedom they wish to buy.  The philosophical objection to taxation is entirely rooted in the concentration of discretionary authority accumulated to the king.  Basic income channels taxation to the entire population, and so eliminates this discretionary power accumulation.

Because basic income guarantees everyone's survival needs, survivalist desperation is no longer a motive for employment or crime or any other behaviour.  By definition, this eliminates systemic oppression within a society.  The survivalist desperation motive for work is equivalent to slavery in that it forces you/them to choose a master without the equal bargaining power of fair transactions.

The rich and powerful can be richer even if they give up discretionary power
Denmark has higher wealth innequality than the US.  If we accept the simplification that it is a high taxed utopian redistributive society, then the only explanation is that the rich get richer because the poor and middle classes have little reason to save, and thus trade all of their money for goods and services to those who have more money than they know what to do with.  Jobs still get done in Denmark, and the rich are still able to buy discretionary influence over minions, they just have to pay a little more than under a slavery system, and still the money they pay helpers flows back to them anyway.

Wealth innequality is not a problem.  Poverty and misery is.  Higher taxes does not prevent the rich becoming richers, but through basic income/social dividends gives everyone else the freedom to enjoy and pursue a happy life.

The idea that we need to control everyone else to have a productive economy is as stupid as the proposition that everyone else should control you.  Your security is enhanced by non-oppression as there is less reason to make threats against you.

Prison is the ultimate discretionary authority power that can negatively impact your freedom.  Maximizing systemic oppression to funel as many people into prison as possible maximizes the discretionary authority benefits to police, courts, institutions, and kings, and promotes fear of the king, and in turn the king creates fear of the future prisoners into his loyalists.

Basic income both reduces the desperation motive for crime, and so lower the core basis for fear,  It can both disarm the king's power to use that fear to accumulate more discretionary power, and lower the budgets of the institutions that exist to institutionalize the scary, and provide savings to social dividend recipients and tax payers, while reducing the abuse of power through a reduced institutionalization sector.

Terrorism and war
Promoting the legitimacy of "our" violence while making "their" violence illegitimate is an eagerly acceptable proposition.  In addition to this extensive list of confirmed false flag terrorist actions (which includes the believable statement that more terrorist attacks are false flag than not), there is the nearly as important issues of discretionary authority to shape the narrative of violence as acts of terrorism, and the active infiltration of groups by agents in order to create terrorism plot arrests if the targets and hapless, slow and reluctant, or, at discretion, terrorism.

All of these acts promote the fear necessary to enhance discretionary authority to protect you from such fears.  Terrorism is a political recourse to violence caused by a lack of democratic political recourse.  Choosing suicide bombing is an act of protest that your government will easily manipulate you into acting as its human shield, rather than consider discretionary policy revisions.  Basic income and the elimination of as much discretionary disappointment that can be felt, will influence more constructive choices than suicide and self-destructive vengence, and if not, perhaps a clearer framework to assess "our" evil, or who is most responsible for your expendibility.

The military recruitment base fundamentally depends on systemic desperation.  Reducing war can be accomplished by increasing the cost of soldiers, and the freedom to refuse committing atrocities.

The 2nd amendment of the US constitution is one that explicitly allows and promotes insurgency as a remedy for abuse of discretionary authority.  It was foresight, that did not presume the approval of insurgency by future kings.

Shaping Democracy
The discretionary authority to shape allowable opinions shapes the continued discretionary authority of the ruling class by limiting democratic options.  Beyond the false blaming of groups not allowed an opinion with terrorism, widespread discretionary spying allows discrediting those opinions that are not allowed.

Retaliations against whistleblowers of discretionary abuse is the most glaring corruption of democracy.

Reducing the number of laws
The main source of discretionary authority among lower hierarchy levels are laws.  Selectively applying or selectively ignoring the proper interpretation of rules.

Basic income can eliminate minimum wage regulations, and much labour regulations.  The freedom to refuse work should ensure fair conditions.

Drug and prostitution laws are very expensive, create violent conflicts over their markets, prey on the systemically oppressed to participate in such dangerous markets, and enable discretionary power to enable these markets and participate in their profits.  If the worst possible outcome of basic income is that more people choose chronic drug use, then they will at least do so with no negative effect to the rest of society.  The reduction of violence and institutionalization of society is both a significant expense reduction, and a tremendous source of hope and opportunity for those that would be affected.

Regulatory overhaul
Regulatory capture is a valid right wing criticism of the ease of coopting the regulatory agencies charged with overseeing the powerful, to instead serve those they are supposed to oversee.  Today, in every western state, the environmental, securities, and judicial overseers exist more to tell us that everything is always ok instead of actively searching for abuses.  Their jobs depend on serving the hierarchy.  Selective actions against outsider non-sponsors of the ruling class are enacted  to maintain an appearance of activity and to strengthen the hierarchy's will.

Assuming that we want a clean environment, and fair securities and judicial systems, then we need regulators directly accountable to the electorate, and thus not hierarchically subservient.  Independent, narrowly focused directly electorate accountable overseers necessarily provides the best oversight as there is no one else to deflect blame to.

This model also generally applies to creating laws and oversight that limit the discretionary abuse of the powerful, where those limits are needed.

Other opportunities for freedom from discretionary authority
Another definition of freedom is the freedom to do something without asking permission.

Creating your own energy (solar/wind) allows you to escape from the discretionary pricing power of centralized utilities.

Publishing your own video and other content is possible through the internet compared to models that require you to seek permission and support from publishers.  The sharing economy for transportation and lodging similarly enables trade without permission access to employment.

There are forces that want you to keep begging for permission.   Doing so only for the protection of their hierarchies is a fundamental assault on your freedom.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

General purpose robots sooner than you think

This paper details an approach to making cheap and useful general purpose robots.  No scientific breakthroughs are required to achieve the goal, but there is still considerable engineering work needed.  The biggest insight from this paper is that the science fiction portrayal for a general purpose robot of possessing some "intelligence" is completely unnecessary in order to be useful.

Before I discuss the design, I will outline 3 current technology developments.  The last part will discuss the important social disruption that these robots will bring.

The self driving car
Google is leading this development.  The easy part of a self driving car is something we've been able to do for 40 years with remote control toys.  Make the car go faster, slower, reverse and turn.  Using GPS to tell a car to go to any address is also easy (with our current advanced GPS ecosystem).  A slight challenge is recognizing and following a road, and traffic signals, and a crititical challenge, that seems to have been accomplished successfully, is to get from point A to point B safely without harming other vehicles, animals or toddlers.  There was scientific breakthroughs in the area of image processing needed to overcome all of these challenges, but if that was possible and accomplished, then the general purpose robot is just another application. I would be curious how Google's self driving car deals with a trashbag floating along the road.

The self driving car is exceptionally disruptive, because it destroys most transportation jobs.  Car insurance may no longer be needed, or at least less costly, and less profitable to insurance companies, and government revenue dependent on licensing, fines, and income taxes of those in transporation industry are affected.  Self driving cars will make sharing of cars easier, as any idle car within 5 miles of you can come pick you or your parcels up within a few minutes.  So fewer total cars will need to be made.

My general purpose robot design can replace a car, and a self-driving car.

Electric Cars
Electric car motors are much simpler, cheaper, and longer lasting than conventional auto engines.  The major cost in an electric car is a high capacity battery pack.  One design for an electric car, uses the same approach as electric bikes, and places small motors in each wheel instead of one larger motor.

A configurable general purpose robot can transform itself into an electric vehicle, and so make your car/tricycle/bicycle/segway useful when you are not using it, make your robots useful when you are not using them, and bring them with you wherever you go.

3D Printers
3D printers assemble (usually with plastic) a complex solid shape by repeatedly placing drops of melted plastic in precise locations following a computer drawing file.  This dries into a usealbe real world object.  The concept has been extended to being capable of producing most car body and interior components, and on a large scale, using cement, fabricate entire houses.  The core technology is a "print head" that heats and deposits plastic, and a simple microcontroller that tells the printhead where to deposit drops.  A fairly large machine is required in order to move the print head precisely, and a very large machine is required to make large objects, because all existing designs build the finished object within the machine.

The drawback to 3d printers are that it uses much more energy and time than conventional plastic manufacturing (molds) for large runs.  To be truly useful, it requires to be in use 24/7 making truly useful products.  Another disadvantage is there is always a size limit, due to requiring that it be produced inside the machines, and a large size limit, requires a lot of space and a lot of (expensive) materials to build the large machine with.  The advantage compared to traditional manufacturing is being able to make exactly what you want.  If there is an unlimited number of things you want, that can be made, then keeping the machine busy 24/7 would tend to make even generic products cheaper than having them delivered to you.

A general purpose robot can carry a heating plastic-depositing printhead creating objects of unlimited size.

The General Purpose Robot Design
A general purpose robot must be able to assemble and transform itself from interchangeable components.  Most people find the process to accomplish this clever, and I will provide an overview after I list the components in question, but the process does not involve any difficult science.

A computer much like a tablet
It needs camera(s), image processing computing power, its own small battery (for detachability and use as a general computer, tablet or phone), and connectors to other components.  A swiveling base that allows the computer cameras to be pointed at an intentional direction is also needed.

Robot USB connector standard
The USB standard for computer interfaces provides both data and power through a single connector and cable.  That needs development for Robotics, likely with higher power transmission capacity.  Standardized mechanical fastening interface (could be as simple as screws bolts, plates and/or clamps) can be part of the "USB" standard or separate attachment points.

Batteries/Power source
Batteries that can be stacked and connected vertically in unlimited amounts would generally be placed under the computer swiveling platform.  Some applications might use steam or compressed air "engine" power source.  Ideally, the batteries would be able to "rout" data streams from outside connections to and from the computer tablet, but separate data and power cabling is easier to manufacture.

While the batteries can sit on the floor, attaching them to a mobile base, makes the robot mobile.  Mobile platforms need a micro controller that allows them to process commands such as move forward 20mm, turn right 90 degrees, and move forward another 5mm.  The computer tablet takes care of observing where the robot is moving and commanding to the platform to pause if it detects a possible collision.  Wheels are faster, more energy efficient and simpler than articulating legs, but cannot deal with obstacles or stairs easily.

Scaffolding above platform
Simple potentially cubic scaffolding cage that connects to the platform and contains the battery stack.  Tablet computer's swiveling system would be connected to it, as is any cranes/arms (below).

Specialized machines or general cranes used to manipulate the world by the robot.  They contain a micro controller that allows the crane to respond to move hand to x-y-z position, grab (with x pressure), move hand to other x-y-z position, release.  The tablet computer takes care of issuing pause commands to prevent accidental punchings.

One alternative that would allow standardizing on a wheel platform would be to use arms for stability, and to crawl up stairs and over obstacles.

For outdoor use, above the scaffolding, and attached to it, might be umbrellas or solar panels to protect equipment from rain.

The importance of configurability
The reason for the variable sized battery pack is that sometimes you need very high power delivery to your robot appendages (need to go fast, or lift heavy item).  Some very specialized "arms" include heating elements to cook or iron with, stitching machines, 3D plastic printing "pens", sophisticated arms with multiple degrees of freedom and human-like joint movements that might be able to use a hammer, or sculpt with 3d plastic printing pen, and use general cooking and cleaning tools.

Configurability into an electric car is likely very useful.  Consider a single robot platform that is normally configured as a motorized wheel that can turn with 2 adjustable small balance wheels.  It simply takes 3 or 4 such platforms with the adjustable balance wheels placed out of the way, with a large "car floor" platform spread above the 3 or 4 wheeled platforms, battery stacks above each, and a single computer (with maybe a few extra cameras) to drive the car where it needs to go.  A nice-to-have roof can consist of solar panels.  Weatherproofing the front and sides does not have to be with transparent material, because only the computer needs to be able to see the road.

From a hardware perspective, the expensive components will tend to be the mechanical arms and legs.  Small screen tablets with powerful processors are not that expensive.  Having a high amount of battery capacity can be expensive, but if you use them for your vehicle as well, can be useful enough to be worth it.  The key point is that with  4 platforms and significant battery capaciy, you have 4 general purpose robots with only the hardware cost of 4 small computer tablets and various arms, tools, and stair climbing.

If that cost still seems too high, you can rent or rent out any extra battery capacity, extra arms, platforms, or entire robots from/to others.

Robot self assembly
While all of the above components are likely made in factories, it's important that the robot be able to assemble and transform itself.  There only needs to be a data connection between the tablet computer and one powered arm in order to start the process.  One directed powered arm is enough to attach any other amount of arms.  One directed powered arm can move the computer to a charged battery back.  Arms can lift the scaffolding onto a new platform, then attach any arms to that scaffolding (including themselves if there are 2+ arms).  Arms can move the computer out of the way in order to unload discharged batteries and load charged batteries, and if low on power, branch their arm connections into new power sources beforehand.

Precise positioning system
In order for a robot to build a house, it needs to know exactly where it is to the milimeter or higher accuracy. Technically, it only needs that precision to within a specific reference point, so one low tech solution is to place two stakes down to define an x axis, and the robot immediately knows where the y and z axis are.  With Proper calibration of wheels, tires and/or legs, it should be possible for it to know its exact x,y,z position of every part of its "body".

With a precise positioning system, having a robot build a house using traditional construction techniques is "easy".  Foundation, walls, roof all line up into a series of steps.  If no humans are involved, then all raw materials are exactly where a robot last placed it.  3D Printing is "easy" because the printer knows exactly where all previous drops of plastic are.  Its an obviously easier manufacturing process to use a single material in a single application step, but it is still relatively easy to work with a handful of materials, and a finite set of application steps, and sequencing those steps.  As a robot owner, creating or posessing a design drawing is the only human intervention in having robots build a house.  Not yet developed is the engineering of the software necessary to translate a design file into a sequence of steps, and the engineering of executing each step with each material, but this is easy in the sense that for qualified individuals, it is worthwhile work that is very likely to succeed if attempted.  Much like building a house, itself.

Relative ease of robot tasks
What makes the above house building process easy is the lack of any visual image processing requirement.  For cooking, the robot can know where all the cooking tools and ingredients are if it was the one that purchased and/or stored them.  If some items existed in the household prior to the robot, the robot must be trained/programmed to understand what and where  they are.  While different burners and frying pans will perform differently, the same equipment should perform consistently.  Sensors can be used to measure actual pan temperature, and program instructions can be based on pan temperature, rather than more abstract human guidelines applicable to any burner and pan.

egg handling
If a robot knows exactly where a carton of eggs is, than by opening it and holding it a known distance from his camera, and knowing that the egg carton contains only eggs, the visual processing step of identifying each egg and its exact size (size is variable egg to egg) is easy because size has an exact mapping to image pixels, and determining the edges of eggs to surrounding carton is obvious when the scope and context has been predetermined to only consist of eggs and its container.

Once size, location and edges are determined, it is easy to pick up any object.  required pressure is a function of weight, but eggs have a narrow weight range, and predictable weight to size ratio, and at any rate, the pressure to lift a 70g egg will not crush a 40g egg.  Cracking an egg similarly involves known objects at known locations of determinable size.  Someone, somewhere, (perhaps from the egg industry) needs to develop robot egg handling routines, but once that is available, your robot can cook with egg recipes.

cleaning the kitchen
If the robot cooked and served the meals, then it knows where every cooking tool is.  That makes cleaning those easy.  It has a visual processing task of finding any plates and eating utensils it served, but it has the hint of knowing exactly what they looked like and weighed when they were clean, and the general location of where they should be.  Identifying plates and utensils within a framed picture should be relatively easy, and by picking up the items and testing for weight.  If it can't find them, it can ask for human assistance.

cleaning clothes from the floor
Finding something unusual on the floor and determining whether it is dirty laundry is more difficult than previous tasks.  There are still hints available that can be very useful.  If it knows all objects in the house's "proper" location, it is easy to determine that there is something on the floor that does not belong.  Identifying it as trash, laundry, or misplaced object is still more involved than previous tasks.  Additional hints include seeing the clothes on its master(s) recently may make them a more likely solution for identifying those as the item on the floor.  Misplaced constant-shaped objects are easy to identify as long as the object is known to the robot and its visual and weight caracteristics can be measured and matched.  So picking up the unknown laundry item, and holding it by its edges can give clothing items a recognizable shape that further hints that it might be laundry.  Items it does not have instructions for, can be brought to a human to assist in processing.

While tilling, planting and scheduled watering are easy in the sense that very little interpretation of visual feedback is required, picking fruits and vegetables, weeding and pruning involves a lot of visual interpretation.  Robot assisted remote gardening and farming would still be a tremendously useful service.  For picking fruit, asking the robot to find the 3 largest apples on a tree is relatively easy, and can be presented as a simple human choice for which apple(s) he might select as the nicest.  Identifying potential weeds is relatively easy, and asking a remote human to confirm each weed is helpful.

Programming model
The core system for a robot is safety.  Whenever it is moving, it must guard against hitting anyone or anything unexpectedly.  This has already been accomplished by the driverless car.  For an indoor robot, the general rule of only walk on the floor, and stop whenever you are about to collide with something are both relatively easy.  If someone is about to walk or run into you, then backing up to avoid them or cushioning collision would be a helpful feature.  The safety system is provided by the robot (tablet) computer maker.

Recharging and configuration system is also a core system feature provided by the robot computer maker.  The robot must know when to go replace his batteries with freshly charged ones and set the old batteries to recharge.  The robot must also know how to add and replace arms, platforms, sensors and scaffolds.

The next systems level is the arm and leg interface for responding to movement commands, and specialized commands of attachments such as grabbing, releasing, heating and injecting.  The core safety systems layer has over-riding control to issue a slow down cautionary command, or emergency stop command.  This systems code level is provided by the leg and arm manufacturers.

The Application Programming Interface (API) is the next layer.  It includes specialized egg handling robot movement routines discussed above, how to hammer a nail, and every other specialized task that a robot can accomplish.  The purpose of the API, is to allow other programmers to simply issue the commands get egg, crack egg, heat egg, serve egg as part of their cooking repertoire software.  The APIs are domain specific, and will tend to be created by the world's large number of software experts, but they are also accessible projects for beginner self-taught programmers.

Visual Processing (and other sensor) Engines is the hardest software layer to create.  Ideally, it will allow programmers to provide all of the relevant hints that allow the engine to choose answers among a narrow list of possibilities.  The engine must then provide candidate solutions to a visual processing match together with a confidence level for that match.

Large Application Software such as translating a design file into a sequence of steps for building something are fairly large projects that require software expertise.

Customizing Application software can be done as small software projects.  Examples are enhancing the capabilities and repertoire of cooking applications.

Robot User interfaces include robot training procedures to help the robot incorporate an end user's specific home environment into the software applications used by the robot.  The robot interfaces also allow users to issue simple commands such as make tea, water flowers with appropriate customization options to any such command.

At the basic end user level, a robot master manages his robots much like he manages a music playlist.  A series of tasks is queued, with some scheduled, and pausing, inserting or promoting any task to a higher priority is possible.

24/7 use of robot
In addition to the configuration option of transforming your robot into the core components of a self-driving electric car, your robot can make your car platform, you house, all of the furniture and other non-electronic objects in your home, cook, brew, serve, clean, garden, sew, and farm.  It can also help others build any of those items, and so earn you rental income.

Robots would also be able to work with fiberglass/carbon fiber/kevlar which usually involves labour intensive work with toxic glues.  Automated blacksmithing and forging should also be possible, and so making simple tools and sports equipment is to be expected.

On the electronics front, a robot can assemble solar panels from solar cells, assemble and erect wind turbines. The Arduino platform and tinkerforge platform is quite similar to this general purpose robot platform.  It allows plugging in sensors and other electronic functions and programming applications to use the electronic device.  It further allows reusing all of the components.  The robot will be able to assemble arduino-based projects, and thereby reconfiguring a series of electronic components into an electronic device that is needed for a short period of time.

Even if you and all your neighbours have 10 robots each, there would be no downtime for any of them, as any idle time could be put to community projects such as improving roads, power generation and transmission, trash pickup/disposal, taxi, delivery service, and park maintenance.

Cheaper than industrial robotics
By leveraging general purpose tablet computers and their software development systems, and massed produced mobility platforms (motorized wheels) and power systems, a general purpose robot can be given a much wider range of operation than special purpose industrial robots, and homogenized development systems makes sharing of applications easier, with more features pre-developed, and so development of new applications easier and cheaper.  Economies of scale makes both the hardware cheaper, and any software have more potential users.  Its the latter that is the most important.  The world makes expensive and ambitious films, computer and phone software because a large number of people can afford to consume them.

Most industrial robots and automated processes all fundamentally move an arm in precise x,y,z space with sequenced steps.  3d printing, laser and water cutting, cnc milling, and assembly robots all do this.

Part of the expense of industrial robots is that they require high power in order to move quickly or lift heavy objects.  Speed at the cost of high power does not allow the robot to operate more cheaply than a slower low power personal robot arm.  Only faster.  For the consumer though, they get the end product faster and cheaper if they can have their own robot make it.

High power "industrial" robot arms would still be useful in a personal robot world, but mostly as a shareable item.  A high powered general purpose arm that can accomplish many tasks including holding a 3d printing head, water cutter head, lazer cutter head, and grasping device can likely be kept busy 24/7 as well if they are close enough to end consumers.

Challenges to the vision
The key challenges are precision of movement and image processing.  Milestone projects include:

  • Building a lego model house from steps
  • Building any lego model from a digital file
  • Place 3 objects over 100 meters apart to form an equilateral triangle within 1mm accuracy.
  • Assembling an (old style) mechanical watch.
The first one seems like a high school student project.  The second, not so hard in that the simple rule is that bricks on the bottom need to be placed first, and software modeling already exists.  The only real obstacle to translating a software model to the real world is the precision of the instrument in determining x,y,z positions. The 3rd challenge is addressed below, and the 4th challenge is easier than the 3rd in terms of positional awareness capabilities, but requires very precise motor steps to execute.

Measuring distances 200 yards away visually

Golfers frequently want to know exactly how far away a golf flag (precise standard size) that is about 200 yards away is.  Using a low definition camera, a computer would see the flag as 5 pixels high.  At exactly 190 yards distance, the flag would appear 6 pixels high, and at exactly 220 yards away it would appear 4 pixels high.  To know exactly how far away a specific point (golf ball) is, one simply needs to move the camera forward until the flag appears to be 6 pixels high, and then measure the distance of the ball away from the 190 yard point.

With a higher resolution camera and 10x optical zoom, the golf flag would appear 51 pixels high at 199 yards away, and 49 pixels high at 201 yards away.  A precise measurement can be made by measuring any point from the 199 or 201 yard points.  Mathematics can provide sub-millimeter precision of distance to any object of precise known size.

Measuring distances through wheel revolutions
Another mathematical measurement technique is made by taking a wheel of known radius, and measuring by counting the revolutions it makes while travelling from point to point.  This can lack precision, because the measurements will vary with tire pressure, dirt on tire, and any wheel slippage.  One solution to this, is to use a robot platform that uses a wheel for main mobility, but also uses walking sticks for additional balance, and to provide slip free precise distance counting for its travelled motion.

Precise motor control by chaining arms
The simplest robot arm design is a ball socket than can move a stick extending from it, and a claw that can grasp objects.  If that claw can grab a ball then an arm can be infinitely extended with other ball-stick-claw attachments.  The 2 advantages of this approach is that each ball-stick-claw can have a single range of motion (so a disk instead of a ball which is the simplest shape for servo motors), and very precise fine tuned precision can also be accomplished by combining arms.

One solution for precision is to have a final arm with a very short stick portion, and small motor designed for precision, but another solution is simply to have many arms with crude but variable precision:  If one arm can only go to positions that are 1mm apart, then chaining it with another arm with 1.1mm incremental motion, and a 3rd with 1.025mm increments, then 0.025mm precision is possible by adding the motion of one arm, subtracting the other, and adjusting with the 3rd.

Cheaper robot arms by using the tinker toy model
Although not directly related to precision, an even cheaper design model for robot arms than a series of connected ball-stick-claws, is to use the tinker toy model of disk-and-stick connections, where the disks are fairly simple motors, and the sticks may transmit power and data along the connections.  Fine angled axes may be created by using some curved sticks.  Only one claw is needed at the end of the arm, and the claw is the most complex type of machine and motor within a robot arm.

Social implications
The driverless car eliminates transportation jobs.  Personal manufacturing eliminates most industrial jobs, and the need to deliver their output.  The ease of personal farming, and the lack of importance of delivery centers, might eliminate the need for cities.  Since building greenhouses tend to involve more labour time than material costs, there is a capability to grow more food in northern climates and remove the roofs in the summer time.

While there will be a lot of work available in improving robot design and software, as well as in creating product design files, that is far fewer created jobs than the loss of practically every low skilled job.  Art, entertainment, science, social interaction "industries", and some knowledge work would still be valuable.  But it still means massive unemployment, and total unemployment in the truly essential fields of food and shelter industries.

We might have the ability to generate infinite renewable power, grow all needed food, and fabricate every product we wish to consume, but if too few of us can find employment to buy our robots, then too few robots will be made and too few of their benefits will materialize.

Many people's vision of a robot future is robot driven factories.  The personal robot makes factories irrelevant, except for highly localized specialized processes that can in fact simply be cooperative purchases/development that rent out access to the specialized process.

The solution of basic income and social dividends
Basic income is meant to allow every citizen to survive by giving an equal amount in cash to all citizens.  It is paid through tax revenue.  Social dividends is providing sharing excess tax revenue, the result of either tax increases or program cuts, and distributing that surplus as a supplemental equal cash amount to all citizens.  Both basic income and social dividends solve many additional social problems than income innequality insecurity, and have no disadvantages.

If robot makers, software developers, designers, raw material and building material producers, artists, scientists and philosophers make Trillions of dollars, then they can pay most of those earnings as taxes, and the rest of the population is supported through basic income.

Everyone's wealth is substantially improved through basic income and social dividends, because without it, the producers cannot be paid for their production.  The producers will stay much richer than non-producers, and there will remain plenty to purchase with excess wealth:  Raising children, fine wine, 200 foot yachts, solid gold toilets, beachfront land, social status symbols and memberships.

The point is important enough to repeat.  You can only become rich if people depend on your production, and they are able to pay you for that dependence.  The more people that want and can afford your services, the richer you are, even if you are taxed at a high rate, because if your taxes flow to them, they will purchase more of your services.

In addition to cash basic income, its possible to consider giving robots to people on certain birthdays.  There remains an energy and materials cost to making any item or service.  Poor people might prefer to do their own housework and rent out their robot for other people's work projects.

The complete non-solution of every other alternative
No other alternative has any value

Government regulation against the use of robots
Preventing the use of robots is destructive.  We have a duty to not force anyone to do something useless or inefficient if we have the technology to not force them into useless activities.  Other countries won't necessarily follow your country's stupidity.  It is similarly stupid to force people into useless work for the purpose of deserving welfare.  It prevents those people from creating or finding useful activities.

The goal of society should be to maximize wealth and  wealth distribution.  Broad wealth redistribution always feeds further total wealth, because more people are able to afford other people's help.  Basic income is the most efficient possible means of wealth distribution because there is no bureaucratic filter needed to decide who is entitled to how much.  Everyone receives the same amount.

Force work sharing for the few remaining jobs
If one person would prefer to work 40 or 60 hours per week for high wealth, while another prefers complete leisure with comfort, there is no reason to interfere with both of their choices.  Some income inequality is actually productive since some entrepreneurs can develop a new and improved device that might initially cost more than the standard affordable version.  If some richer people can afford the better device, then it will be produced, and purchased, and likely in a few years, cost the same as the inferior device, but be affordable by everyone by then.

If a person wants to work 60 hours, he is better off if no one else wants his job, because he can obtain higher wages because of it.  If that job pays attractive wages, someone else may give up part of their leisure time to help out with the work.  No regulatory intervention whatsoever is needed to keep everyone happy.  Basic income creates a balanced free market for labour, instead of the corrupt imbalanced market of forcing slaves to depend on and accept some master's patronage.

Organize labour for high paying union and government jobs
This is an attempt at political corruption by the left, hoping to fight against the usual right wing political corruptions.  Labour unions are only strong when there is a high demand for labour.  Very few people would be lucky enough to receive a union job.  For general youth and unemployed, few of them would be convinced that supporting labour unions will result in their employment or union benefits. The more people that actually receive a great paying job, the higher the cost on the rest of society.

Instead of choosing lucky labour winners over corporate winners, basic income simply and fairly equalizes wealth and opportunity.  Labour and the unemployed both receive a pay raise as a result of basic income.  Middle class income levels would enjoy a net after tax pay increase, and only high income levels would see a slight reduction in after tax benefits.

Right wing security solutions
Massive poverty and desperation can be thought to be solvable through massive security.  Why not robot security?  One disadvantage to the rich of an evil war on the poor is that they might risk their own death, and their robots stay unproductive and risk damage.  Wars are waged because some people aspire to win through war, but the core stupidity of supporting someone else's war benefits, is that you would be far richer, and at least as healthy, in a peaceful society where, while some inequality still exists, wealth is redistributed broadly.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

New building design: OctaYurt

Hexayurts are an incredibly simple, and affordable design  to make a self supported fully enclosed building using common materials with a few simple cuts, and no material waste.  If made out of plywood, they are animal proof, and if made out of insulation foam board, they are light and foldable.  A Hexayurt has 6 sides, and with light materials, can be held together with tape.  The link above shows how easy they are to make.

I've designed a variation called an OctaYurt because it has 8 sides.  In addition to being substantially larger than a Hexayurt, it has a steeper initial roof pitch, allowing more headroom throughout.  Here is a link to a google sketchup model.  Using 8'x4' boards, an octayurt is 309 square feet.  The core physics principles behind both hexayurts and octayurts is that the roof stays up as long as it has something pushing it in, and the connected outer ring provides that stability.  The roof is resistant to too much force pushing it in because it reciprocates against the roof pieces next to it.

The easiest way to understand an octayurt is from the roof down.  The roof is made with 8 isosceles triangles.4 are made by cutting an 8x4 along its long diagonal, and the other 4 are made by cutting an 8x2 along its diagonal.  Here is what the roof looks like flat.

There are 3 levels to an octayurt.  The 2nd level is made up of 4 8x4s attached to the large roof triangles, and 3 trapezoids attached to the smaller triangles.  The trapezoids are made by cutting away a 4x2 triangle from each side of an 8x4, such that the trapezoid has a top side that is 4 wide, bottom side 8 wide, and height of 4.  The reason there are 3 trapezoids instead of 4, is that one of the short sides of the roof is used for a door.  Each section of the middle level is angled at 45*, and this causes the trapeze and rectangles to flush and reciprocate.  On the door side, 2 middle level rectangles rest against shaped walls that act as a brace support.

The 3rd and last level is simply 7 8x4s stood vertically on their long sides on every side of the octagon except for the door side.  The 6 2x4 triangles cut out to make trapezes, can be used to make an awning for the doorway.

Unlike the hexayurt, the octayurt does not have perfect math with these standard building materials.  You can notice, on the south west corner, that there is an 8" "window" at the base of the top roof.  This needs to be braced somehow.  An approximate 27* angle will allow the top roof to be flush against each adjacent triangle, but a steeper angle for the large triangles allowing for narrow triangles to float on top a bit, and rest atop an extra strip of wood at its base that also spans between two large triangles in the roof.  Another support strategy may be to use a steeper roof and have each adjacent triangle support the next, and ultimately supported by the door braces.

The Octiyurt is likely to require the same bracing techniques as the plywood hexayurt, and is too big to be practical as a festival tent replacement anyway.  Uses include homeless and emergency shelters, but also retail kiosks, school and office space, and cabins in areas that allow temporary buildings without a building permit.  The plywood hexayurt techniques still allow the building to be fairly easily dismantled by unscrewing braces.

If you have built a hexayurt before, you can reuse almost all of the parts for an octayurt.

Friday, April 13, 2012

In recent Canadian budget, Conservatives stole up to $30,528 from Canadians under age 54

By raising eligibility of OAS and GIS to 67 (equivalent to US social security), the Canadian Government took $30,528 from the poorest (1278/month), and at least $13000 (540.12/month) from all Canadians (who will live in Canada for 20+ years before retirement) . They may take even more from you by raising the eligibility age again before you reach 67, or canceling the benefits altogether.
The root of the problem is that young people will be paying taxes to support the old, while only the current old get the benefits. The baby boomer generation who has been spoiled by past social programs will naturally be more willing to bankrupt the country (and others in OECD) destroying society within 50 years (after their death) if they get to maintain or increase their social benefits at the expense of everyone else. This makes democracy corrupt and unworkable, and at a crisis point over the world
The answer, IMO, is to reduce the eligibility age for OAS to 18. All adults would receive it. Can get rid of welfare, GIS, EI to help pay for it. Another name for this is basic income, and at $7000/year would actually not be an extra expense on the government/tax payers
While lucky and successful working people would still be subsidizing those who are less fortunate, by paying more than they receive, they would at least be paying for a safety net they not just merely eligible to receive, but actively receive it each month themselves.
For young people, they could use the money for university or booze or help pump up the economy in other ways. They're all free to work as much as they want ontop of the OAS funds, and not trapped into staying poor or unemployed in order to keep qualifying for handouts.

The retirement social contract
National pensions and old age security have some philosophical and economic justification.  The retirement social contract justifies that most of the taxes you pay in your youth will be returned to you at retirement in the form of pensions and healthcare.  The human nature and economic presumptions of old age benefits compared to basic income is that it forces the young to enslave themselves until retirement, and so serves corporate masters with a larger supply of slaves.  There is also a principle of reward and compassion provided to those who likely spent their life contributing to society.

The retirement social contract is a bit of an illusion and pyramid scheme because today's taxes are used to pay for today's retirees. It is only reasonably fair if the benefits are guaranteed for every current generation. If today's baby boomers and seniors benefited from generous social programs in their youth, deficit financed useless wars (fought by the young), deficit financed prescription drug entitlements, and calamitous sea level rise scheduled 50 years from now, and then keeping retirement benefits only for themselves, while gutting programs benefiting younger generations, is pure evil theft by conservative politicians and conservative-voting age brackets. Guaranteeing the retirement pyramid scheme for all current generations by taxing enough to create budget surpluses, or eliminating useless and corrupt programs is the only moral option to providing basic income (or OAS to 18+ year olds). If basic income turns out to be unsustainable, then civilization collapses for everyone at the same time, having received equal benefits... having extracted an equal amount of flesh from the carcass. More importantly, it creates an equal say in preventing social collapse.

Timing the collapse of society for just after the full and long life of baby boomers is so digusting that it justifies expelling conservative politicians and their supporters from our nations... treating them like thieves. This abuse is as discriminatory as giving benefits only to the majority race or gender.

If we are going to intentionally allow the destruction of civilization, the only moral choice, is to schedule it to happen 90 years from now.  Alternatively, if retirement or other entitlements have just been discovered to be unsustainable, replace them with basic income that are scheduled to run out in 30-50 years, so that the costs and benefits of that unsustainability are spread out among all generations.  

Another alternative is that if only those over 54 are eligible for some current and future benefits, then those over 54 should pay higher tax rates.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Crisis of Democracy

Democracy for politicians means cobbling together a coalition of interests into a majority.  This often involves packaging individually corrupt programs and promises to enough interest groups such that the coalition defends each other's corrupt gains.  In the US the traditional Republican coalition in the last 10-30 years has been the unholy triumvirate of religious conservatives, large corporations and those influenced by small government demagoguery.  The Democratic party coalition has included unions, and education, but mostly anti-unholy alliance proponents.

Seniors and over-50 baby boomers are an interest group in of themselves, have remarkably homogeneous interests, and will only get larger and more important over the next 40 years.  Older people have more wealth on average than younger people (due principally to the time available to acquire it).  Older people vote more than younger people, and they have the wealth to directly influence elections as well. Global population forecasts estimate 9B people in 2050 and a peak of 10B in 2100. The increase from our current 7B is expected to come entirely from undeveloped nations.  We can imagine that food shortages and competition for food explain these peak population forecasts.  These images can turn horrifying the more we contemplate them.

The logic of the social contract made sense in the 1930s.  At its core, children and the elderly subsidized by working adults makes sense in that we are all once young and hopefully old.     What we pay in taxes should on average amount to what we get in lifetime benefits.  The use of the term "pyramid scheme" is appropriate for 2 reasons though.  1. New adults pay for the benefits of old adults, and 2. Its only sustainable if the population pyramid (birth and death rates) continue to have a large amount of new working adults. We are all destined to become Japan eventually, and Japan expects a 1 worker to 1 retiree ratio by 2050

The crisis of democracy is the silent conspiracy of older citizens who can individually vote their self-interest in keeping the entitlements granted by previous generations, while voting against the other social contract components.  Secondary aspects of the social contract include welfare and economic stimulus.  Does an older citizen want more education spending?  No.  Welfare? No.  Job Creation? No.  Protecting Unions? will just increase consumer costs.  Just lower taxes on their investments and keep medical and pension entitlements.  If we lower taxes on corporations there could still be enough revenue available to pay their entitlements, and (short sightedly)  it might lead to a value increase in their investment portfolios.  The crisis of democracy is that other people's grandchildren paying for your lifetime benefits sounds like the best idea ever to the self, and the collapse of civilization after your lifetime, an inconsequential cost.

At the root of this, is the concept of whether a society/nation carries in its heart the mandate to grow/sustain the society/nation.  Portraying a pretense for this mandate makes politicians and people seem nice, moral and sincerely caring about the society.  The belief is propagandized and instilled in children.  Social growth and sustainability is in the interest of children and working aged people (especially if family focused).  Its also in the humanist/divine's interest/goals to have social growth and sustainability.  However, democracy is a mere collection of self interests and has no axiomatic principles.  If a majority wants prisons for blacks and jobs and opportunities for whites, it can vote to promote such policies while patting itself on the back for eliminating slavery and creating civil rights.  An autocratic king is more committed to social growth and sustainability than a democracy, because the king hopes to bequest rule over the society to an heir, while a democracy does not have tangible concerns beyond the individual lifespan of its members.

While I am finger pointing older citizens for their self-interest to cash out of a society rather than contribute to its sustainability, they are not alone in that self interest, and this phenomenon happens frequently in the corporate world.  Corporate management will always propagandize and sell commitment to future growth and sustainability of the organization.  A board of directors is similar to a congress or parliament in that they have official power over organizational management, but are frequently hand picked by management, and influenced by the same people and factors.  Both management and the board are insiders of a corporation capable of inflating the perceived value of the firm (justifying bonuses, salaries and benefits), while knowing when to sell (cash out) before the rest of the shareholders will hear and understand the news.  Shareholders have the same pretenses of democratic decision inputs that our state democracies do, but are at a significant information disadvantage, and tend to vote for who they are told to.  The  corporate analogy to older democratic citizens is the block of shareholders enabling management and the board to eventually bankrupt the company.  (The eventual fate of all corporations is bankruptcy).  While there is a much weaker religious dogma for the sustainability of a corporation than of a nation, it is useful to management for the employees and stakeholders to believe in the sustainability mandate.

I'll first mention a violent, unpleasant and undesirable solution:  Soylent Green.  Violent war between the young and the old.  The young can win a violence contest with the old, even though the old can win a property/wealth based contest.  Moral examination of this involves understanding the right of property, even if productive and valuable for social growth, as a right only deserving respect if it is accompanied with social justice/fairness.  The current common accusations of class warfare every time a banker is criticized is fundamentally an attempt to escape the burden of social justice for property owners. One side can't morally justify the allowable tools of war if limiting the tools allows their side win.  A more moderate version of this proposal is to simply cancel the pension and healthcare entitlements to the elderly.  This is still violent theft of the contributions they made to the social contract.  Entitlements they counted on.

Part 1:  There is 2 parts to the solution I recommend.  They both involve the basic income aspect of natural governance.  The first part could be skipped, and may at first sound as ridiculous as the violent solution above.  If our nation is a sinking ship, and the upper floor champagne and caviar entitlements will run out before most of us can complete our 45 year term in the engine room bailing out water, then the fairest solution is to open up the champagne and caviar access to everyone, even if that both causes the benefits to run out more quickly and distracts some people from bailing out the water.  Basic income is providing the same old age social pensions to citizens of all ages (or just to adult citizens) without any means (poverty) test.  I've already justified basic income as a social right to a dividend, as an economic growth program, as a comparative cost to an expensive and inefficient bureaucratic empire that filters welfare recipients, and with a social peace and social justice benefit that forgoes the abuse and expense of militaristic justice and prison system.  This new justification is based on the proper reaction to the consensus that the social contract ship is sinking.  It is unfair to limit the benefits of the social contract to a select few who are electorally motivated to sink the ship as long as it carries the full weight of their benefits.

The other unfairness is that of one (age) class insisting that the lower classes in the pyramid work to maintain benefits for those at the top which they are at high risk to never be able to obtain themselves.  Entitling everyone to the same benefits, importantly, provides an incentive to keep bailing water longer if the consequences of stopping means an end to current benefits.  It is a clear tangible loss rather than future retirement benefits that may have been cancelled anyways for any number of reasons.  Its reasonable that shared benefit in society leads to shared commitment to its sustainability.

Part 2:  Although I disagree that basic income creates a net spending drain on a society, that fear is the only justifiable opposition to basic income (though the most common opposition is that all welfare and all taxes are evil).  If granting all citizens basic income leads to overwhelming unsustainable debt that forces a default slightly sooner than the otherwise expected  default, the solution then is to simply default and start a new society under a new name.  I argue that a natural governance society would be the proper replacement of a sovereign, but let's discuss the alternative of USA 2.  First, Sovereignties are artificial entities.  The term sovereignty is still relevant today, even though there are few remaining kingdoms, because Sovereigns issue bonds for the state.   Unlike corporations which have machines, slaves, and Intellectual property which they can turn into cash by either making and selling widgets or selling the assets, and even some levels of government who can put up buildings as collateral for loans or bonds, Sovereign bonds are exclusively backed by the reasonably immoral power of the state to violently extort taxes and duties from people.  All of the major revolutions (US, French, Russian) involved a repudiation of national/sovereign debt.  Though, its not listed on the  link, I recall the US arguing for the repudiation of Iraqi debt after they captured Saddam Hussein.  Another major difference between Sovereign and corporate debt, is that there is no court with jurisdiction over Sovereign actions of any kind, and no power or jurisdiction to enforce any payment or restitution.  The only recourse is war.  In the case of declaring USA 2, and repudiating all debt, the question of who and whose army would/could do anything violent is probably a null set.  In the case of Greece 2 or Iceland 2, though there are powers that could impose their will, it is my hopeful opinion, that shared democratic idealism would prevent military action.

Sovereign bond lenders have likely miscalculated the possibility that a democratic government could be declared corrupt.  Fundamentally, the declaration that USA 1 government is corrupt is the only propaganda declaration (odius debts) necessary to justify repudiating its debt for the new USA 2.  I assume that the majority of Americans consider the US government currently corrupt, considering that the Ebola virus has the approximate same approval ratings.  If a referendum to declare the US government odius/corrupt had the consequence that a yes answer means eliminating over $10T in financial obligations (and growing significantly each year), then many fence sitters would vote yes.  The USA 2 concept is within the current political spectrum because elected officials can envision retaining power, while repudiating debt.

There is an alternative retaliatory option  than war available to creditors.  The threat to never lend any more.  If the US government just declares itself evil, repudiates its debt, but stays in power without good revolutionary theater, then USA 2 will not attract new foreign investors.  An explanation for the delay in the declaration of Greece 2 (default on its debt)  is that the timing for Greece 2 is dependent on foreign creditors refusing to lend it any more.  If foreign creditors haven't yet refused to lend Greece more money, then there is no reason for Greece to default right now.   When creditors do refuse to lend it additional funds, Greece will have no reason (other than fear of war) to not repudiate/default on its debt.   I expect a crisis in all sovereign debt after Greece repudiates its debt, because they will show how easy it is... Better lend Greece more money.

The reasons that a natural governance society is better than a simple rebranding of the sovereign are many.  First, relevant to these discussions, is that natural governance's basis as an association of people means that it can claim a message of being less corrupt than the state it replaces, and so can claim with a straight face that it deserves to repudiate its former state's debt.  The undeniable impression of revolutionary social justice in Egypt's 2011 Arab spring, limited the US's aid to its puppet regime to supplying it more tear gas.  Second, an association of people can form a real basis for borrowing money that a sovereign lacks.  The association of people can be jointly liable for the loan.  So at the very least, foreign creditors may overlook new and innovative ways they could fail to be repaid.  Third, and most important, natural governance has no basis for long term debt.  Each social function and program is proposed, created and continued with a funded budget.  There cannot be an unfunded program.  Furthermore, tax collections should be targeting the overfunding of total program costs, because natural governance targets surpluses to distribute as egalitarian dividends.  Fourth, if there is an accidental or short term deficit incurred, it is to every society member's interest to repay it as quickly as possible so as to resume receiving cash dividends.

To summarize the argument for natural governance over the rebranding of a nation:  It allows the credible repudiation of debt on previous corruption grounds, provides for the shared liability of the people in incurring new debt, doesn't require or use any debt in governance, and its members are deeply motivated to repay debt quickly if it is incurred.

Another basis for natural governance is that even if it promotes a target level of survival basic income as a fixed entitlement, its designed around distributing surplus revenue as a citizen dividend.  If the burden of those not creating taxable income ever becomes too high, relative to the dividend amounts, then the dividends/entitlements can (and should) be adjusted down.  The difference between fixed entitlements that society is obligated to pay you, and shared surpluses dependent and proportional to you and your neighbours' (and thier children's) efforts, is that the latter encourages nurturing society.  Even if nurturing society is against the collective financial interests of many individuals, nurturing society will still make them happier and less shameful.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Customer vs member relationships

Libertarian and anarcho-capitalist philosophies generally espouse the voluntaryism principle that society would be better off if its members formed bilateral contracts among each other as an alternative to socialized decisions or policy. The simplest bilateral contract forms a customer-supplier relationship. The clear advantage of independent customer relationships is the right of the customer to divorce his supplier and seek another alternative.

The evils of a customer relationship, however, are that customer information knowledge is not perfect, and the supplier sales function involves educating/brainwashing its clients that their offering is to the customer's benefit, and the supplier is interested in seeing all other alternatives destroyed.

Our current Citizen-Government relationship very much represents these worst evils of customer relationships. Even if our democracies allow us a small role (1/300M) in participating in the selection of our supreme ruler, and grant us some rights of due process and speech, we are still in a position of being brainwashed/educated that invading Iraq, drug prohibition, and family law are good for us. Our rulers furthermore entitle themselves to a monopoly of rule, and alternatives are effectively prohibited.

In the battle of ideas, it is understandably difficult for people to forecast the preferred social organization because (with the libertarian path) the theoretical possibility of choosing service providers and leaving them for "better" service providers, involves giving up the protections of due process, and the enforcement against the most egregious forms of extortion and anti-competitive violence. It would be a necessarily worst outcome if a completely free market, results in the freedom to corrupt markets, and monopolies that are less accountable and "fair" than our current governments' ensure.

Shareholder-Corporate relationships are also usually customer-like relationships. Shareholders of public companies do have the power to leave easily (by selling their shares at minimal transaction costs). But because public corporations tend to have a large management-loyal shareholder group/majority, management can educate/brainwash its shareholders that it, and its actions, are good for them. Because those who are both not loyal to management and unhappy with direction will self-select themselves to leave, rather than influence management, in public companies, shareholders can be classified as either management loyal or management apathetic. A minority shareholder is just as powerless as affecting the corporation, as a citizen is powerless in affecting his government. Only monumental organization effort can hope to effect change, and even then, failure is more likely than not. The primary abuse of shareholders is to pay them insufficient dividends, and instead keep the surpluses to spend at management's discretion, usually, until the business is eventually bankrupted. One example of management's abuse of shareholders is Intel's purchase of McAffee for an overinflated amount. While shareholders had the freedom to leave upon hearing the news, their option to do so came at a cost of $4B in lowered stock price.

A membership relationship is one where members have both influence over the organization and deserve and obtain their share of operational surpluses. Ultimate membership relationships involve equality in ownership amongst members, and a decentralized organizational structure where no single administrator oversees all organizational decisions, and member initiatives are approved and led independently. The principles of ultimate memberships are the basis of natural governance, natural-finance-communal-equity, and open partnerships. The simplest rule of thumb to determine whether a relationship is customer-like or member-like is whether the administrators have the power to set their own salary, then explain how that is good for you.

The primary benefit of a membership structure is that it solves the monopoly problem. If customers have influence over the pricing and service level of their membership services then if they are overcharged, they at least benefit from the organization's profits through dividend payments of the surplus. So the harm of monopoly on its customers is neutralized. If alternate suppliers would be to the benefit of customer members, then customer members would not authorize the destruction of competition. If the membership organization is decentralized then would-be-competitors can join instead, and propose a member initiative for an alternative/supplementary service.

Car sharing services are a recent innovation leveraging the appeal of sharing culture, and modern communications infrastructure. There are 2 distinct business models: One where a fleet of company owned vehicles is made available for sharing, and the other where individual suppliers offer their car for sharing when they do not need to use it. Both models offer attractive new customer propositions compared to both traditional car ownership and car rental models. Even if they are forced by market alternatives to offer attractive customer proposals, car sharing services, even if highly democratizing the customer experience could benefit from real membership models. For instance, the real value of the organization in the business model where consumers (renters) and producers (car sharers) are matched is the marketing and matching software and processes. A membership driven organization can use its members for financing. That is consumers and producers can buy a share of the organization and/or lend funds to the organization. Spreading risk among members allows the organization to charge its members less, and still be sustainable (or charge more and pay surpluses back to members), and so can outcompete alternative capital structures and business models. Therefore, not only can membership organizations prevent the harm of monopoly on its customers, it can also provide the most efficient organizational structure possible.

An explanation for the basics of communal equity and membership organizations (at link).  A question I cannot yet answer is whether it is possible to have partial (rather than ultimate) membership features.  Membership at its core means influence and financial participation.  While a corporate or governmental PR department would appreciate creating an illusion of influence (white house petitions) or illusions of financial participation (theoretical possibility of corporate dividends), its unclear how limited influence in decisions or dividend policy can properly constitute influence rather than powerlessness.

Under libertarian philosophies, it is unclear how extortionist mafias don't become an overwhelmingly powerful protection force.  If you can't stop them, it is at least better for you to be a mafia member than an extorted mafia customer.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Deficit Adjusted GDP - An improvement to measuring economic health.

This is essentially a basic-intermediate economics post that hopes to fix distorted public policy discussions.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the sum of all income during a year/quarter in a nation.  It is used as an economic benchmark for the health of nations. So it becomes a politicized tool of economic policy management: Calling on government to create economic activity and jobs.

The single most important simple fix to economic distortion and mismanagement would be to use a new benchmark:  Deficit Adjusted GDP (DAGDP).  This benchmark simply substracts from GDP, social (governments for every level) annual growth in public debt.

The key reason for this benchmark is that any $10T(rillion) economy (as measured by GDP) can become an $11T economy by incurring a $1T deficit/public debt increase.  To remain at $11T, the economy must maintain that $1T deficit/public debt increase each year.

Gross Public Debt Fiscal Years 1996 to 2013
$ billion
Gross Public Debt -total -delta
$ billion
growth in public debt

a - actual reported
e - out-year estimate in US fy12 budget
g - 'guesstimated' projection by usgovernmentspending.com
b - budgeted estimate in US fy12 budget

Deficit increases can be effective (or inneffective)  in growing the economy by more than the deficit amount through what is known as the multiplier effect.  This is dependent on the kind of deficit, the tax rate, the proportion of deficit funding that is saved, and the proportion that remains within the society.  A $1T tax cut given to the wealthiest who will not spend any of it will not increase GDP at all.  A $1T spending increase that will be entirely spent within the society on taxable activity, whose recipients in turn spend it all on taxable activity within the society will not only increase GDP far more than $1T (through the respending), but will increase tax revenue by the full $1T (through infinite respending that creates more economic activity that is eventually taxed as someone's profits).

Comment on above US chart and table: From 2002, US debt increase has been above 500B/year, and grown dramatically to over 1T/year since 2008. DAGDP for 2009 (12,117B) was below DAGDP for 2006 (12,733B). This doesn't mean that 2008/09 stimulus programs were a poor reaction (or smart), but rather that there would have been substantial more economic collapse without them. The econometric labelling of a depression is a 10% reduction in GDP. That was practically achieved in 2008 in DAGDP terms. Political economics can avoid every depression or recession label by simply sufficient skyrocketing deficit increases. The practical future policy basis for DAGDP in dealing with current unsustainable budget deficits is to achieve stable to slight (0%-2%) GDP growth while targeting smart deficit reduction initiatives. DAGDP growth of 4%-6% can be targetted and achieved even while traditional economic measures show relative stagnation. Without DAGDP as a benchmark policy tool, it is too easy for politicians to keep increasing unsustainable deficits (or download to state governments) in order to keep apparent (GDP) economic measures, and short term electability prospects.

Another general argument against even broad tax reductions is that it tends to not affect the "beer money" component of average disposable income much.  Average citizen tax reductions mean that they can afford more for gas/food/rent/healthcare, and this causes price inflation in those sectors which capture most of the disposable income increase that is created by the tax reductions, and so very little true (job creating) economic activity is created by tax reductions.

A focus on disposable income, and especially the truly discretionary part of disposable income, is the key to sustainable economic growth.  Just as important is the reduction of the necessity of saving through lower healthcare costs (ideally socialized) and the existence of social safety nets.  A purely market approach to healthcare could allow individuals to think that they can buy infinite life, but they need to save millions to cling to that hope.  Socialized healthcare even if some end of life treatments are deemed socially unaffordable, are highly economically stimulative because they allow individuals to consume instead of saving throughout their life.  If you eliminate social safety nets such as healthcare and old age pensions, then you reduce disposable income more than through equivalent progressive taxes because every individual is forced to save/insure for future expenses, and  the flat/regressive nature of the forced savings significantly reduces the proportion of society able to afford homes, vehicles, and other consumer goods.

While natural governance focuses on the only truly fair entitlement of basic income (citizen dividend-as-equal-share of social tax income), there can be obvious other entitlements (healthcare) that are a net benefit to society's welfare and economic health/growth.  Even with our relatively corrupt current governance models, benchmarking economic performance through DAGDP instead of GDP would ensure that sensible policies are discussed, and underline the destructiveness of war spending, and crony giveaways to the wealthiest.  In the US specifically, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO - relatively independent analyst of policy proposals) should adopt DAGDP to score policy.

A More comprehensive alternative to using GDP as an economic benchmark was initially discussed.  That different approach focuses on aggregate social wealth.