Monday, July 29, 2013

Parable of the Mountain Village

There once was a small, mountain village. It was a happy, peaceful place, at the end of 10 miles of winding road.
Then one evening, a bus full of children was making its way back down from a visit to the village, when a young man in a sporty little car was zooming up the road. The driver of the car had been enjoying himself in the city at the foot of the mountains. He was rather inebriated. In his fuddled state, he crossed the dividing line and struck the bus. Car and bus both careened over the edge and tumbled down the precipice.
The next morning, the news of the disaster spread like wildfire.  The whole community was rocked by the horror of it. Many were silent, consumed with grief. Some clamored for justice, vengeance. Someone had to be held accountable. For many others, the event was a call for action. Something must be done to ensure this never happened again.
Many ideas were suggested – Guard rails, for instance. Another suggestion was to place checkpoints at the top and bottom of the Mountain, and to check every driver’s sobriety before allowing them to pass. Others suggested anyone caught driving intoxicated be removed from their vehicle and bodily thrown over the edge. Surely the threat of death would be sufficient discouragement to prevent anyone else from daring to drive that road intoxicated. Still others suggested banning alcohol altogether. This they reasoned would get to the root cause. If nobody could get drunk, there would be no need to make death threats, or carry out executions, which many felt was a barbaric thing to do. There was, of course a strong opposition to these latter suggestions, by those who said such actions would discriminate against drunks.
Finally, after careful consideration, the village and city governments agreed upon a means to solve the problem. They blocked the road at both ends. Preventing any vehicle traffic up or down the road. Anyone wishing to travel to or from the village would have to do so on foot.
As a result, there was never another incident involving a horrible vehicle accident. An occasional person would go missing, and one or two weaker individuals succumbed to exhaustion while traveling. Many people never traveled again due to the inconvenience, or cost. Those who could afford to owned one car in the village, and another car in the city. And by and large, nobody lived happily ever after. The End.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Info Age Fail 9: The Trustinator

(This is part 9 of a series. Part 1 is here.)

The next crucial component is a means of establishing, maintaining and reporting trust in an identity. This system is closely tied to the previously described identity system, but it is a separate system.

The purpose of this system will be to help establish a level of confidence in an individual, based on the reports of knowledgeable peers, past evidence, and so forth.

With this system in place, a user reading an article on the web, or in a newspaper or magazine (or book, or...) can use an inline link (or for physical material, a barcode), to receive a numerical value representing the level of trust the author has acquired, thus giving some sense as to the 'trustability' of the material. This system could also be used when evaluating individuals in the physical world, for hire, or contract work, or political candidacy, or...

Given the potential power this system has in influencing decision making, it needs to be a very robust, secure system. It will take the collective power of the world's brightest math geniuses to develop the algorithm which defines trust. It will have to account for a number of factors:

  • It will have to account for the level of trust of the individuals rating another person.
  •  It will have to account for the number of individuals rating the person.

  • It might make sense to have multiple levels of trust associated with an individual, for different skill-sets, as an example. An individual might be incredibly knowledgeable in a specific field, but woefully ignorant in another (and ignorant of their ignorance). Thus, when speaking on the first subject, you could have a high level of confidence in the veracity of their claims, while the latter subject... not so much.

  • It will need to keep a history of trust ratings, in order to detect and remediate attempts to 'game the system'. For instance if a group were to target an individual, in an effort to either inflate or deflate the individuals trust rating. This system would need to have a record of the individuals who made those fraudulent trust entries, so that their trust could be lowered accordingly.

  • It needs to be tighly integrated to, but separate from the identity system, to allow the possibility of 'anonymous' identities.
When applying real-world results in the trust equation, it needs to  (at least to some degree) be able to distinguish between an honest mistake, and an intentional lie (The effect on an individual's trust for being caught running a ponzi scheme, would be different than the effect of making a bad stock pick, for example).

This system will be an incredible undertaking. It is not expected to be perfect, it should not be trusted blindly, but it would at least provide a point of reference in decision making efforts in Science, Politics, Money...

<to Part 10>

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Random thoughts on Immigration

I don't want to pay for a 3000 mile Fence. I don't want to pay for the upkeep on a 3000 mile fence. It doesn't matter if it is a literal fence. Dogs and Guards, Drones, Or motion sensor-ed machine guns. It is going to be expensive to build and expensive to maintain. That is wasted resources. resources that could be doing better things.

I want every hard-working individual in the world to come to the U.S. I want them to want to come. I want them to want to stay.  I want to have so many hard-working Mexicans come to the U.S. that Mexico just decides to become a state, so they can get some population back.Then there would be a tiny border to build a fence on, but we wouldn't because it wouldn't be needed.

I want this country to be the place the world wants to come to, because it is the place where innovation occurs, the place where where they can be assured that hard work will lead to quality living. I want them improving infrastructure, I want them producing more, better quality food. I want them curing modern diseases. I want them helping us get to space. I want them helping us to explore space, colonize planets, extend our reach to the stars.

I want it to be easy for people to come here, to become conditional citizens, to obtain or create work, and then to become permanent citizens. I want it to be just as easy to eject those who commit serious crimes, or who expect to get a free ride.