Thursday, August 11, 2016

How will Augmented Reality change us?

Ferocious arguments rage between those who think the Internet and augmented reality powers will liberate humanity, in a virtuous cycle of evolving creativity, vs. gloomy critics who see a kind of devolution taking hold, as millions are sucked into spirals of distraction, shallowness and homogeneity. The pessimists fear we are gradually surrendering what little claim we had to the term “civilization.”
Call it cyber-transcendentalists versus techno-grouches. But is this argument anything new? Certainly science fiction has tended to side with the grouches! Cyberpunk romances portrayed lavish, tech-enhanced realms in which citizens were clueless and the e-wonders were mostly tools for undercurrent battles between oppressive elites and demigod guerrilla hackers. 
Vernor Vinge broke with cynicism in his rather hopeful depiction of augmented reality, in RAINBOWS END. In my own EARTH (1989) kids and citizens wore Tru-Vu Goggles” that empowered them with overlays of useful information. Later, in EXISTENCE (2012), AR gets some updates and surprising uses.
But let’s step back in time. There is nothing unique about today’s quandary. Ever since the arrival of glass lenses and movable type, the amount that each person can see and know has multiplied, with new tools ranging from newspapers and lithographs to steamships and telegraphs, to radio and so on. And every time, conservative nostalgists claimed that normal people could not adapt, that such godlike powers should be reserved to an elite, or perhaps renounced.
Meanwhile, enthusiasts zealously greeted every memory and vision prosthetic — from the printing press to lending libraries to television — with hosannas, forecasting an apotheosis of reason and light. 
Specifically, augmented reality overlays will be tools for instantly validating or questioning the input of our natural senses. Potential environmental hazards will flare at us as we walk. Your “peripheral vision” will include alerts sent to you by a gel lens, floating on a stalk over your head, giving you those proverbial “eyes in back.” Or images from that micro-drone you send ahead of you, down a street or alley.
And you will be tempted into addictions. Just as today’s youths must overcome the allure of endless hours of lavish video games, finely tuned to prevent anyone leaving to pick up a book or go outside…
In reality, the vision and memory prosthetics - ever since glass lenses and movable type - brought on consequences that were always far more complicated than either pessimists or optimists expected. Out of all this ruction, just one thing made it possible for us to advance, ensuring that the net effects would be positive. That one thing was the pragmatically generous mind set of the Enlightenment. 

Yes, for sure, some millions, perhaps billions, will become couch or Net potatoes. Unimaginative, fad-following and imitative. But there is a simple answer.
So what? Those people will matter as little tomorrow as couch potatoes who stayed glued to television mattered yesterday.
Meanwhile, however, a large minority — the “creative minority” that Toynbee called essential for any civilization’s success — will continue to feel repelled by homogeneity and sameness. They will wander away from the opinion echo chambers and the Nuremberg rallies of self-righteously reinforced rage. They’ll seek out the unusual and surprising. Centrifugally driven by a need to be different, they’ll nurture hobbies that turn into avocations that transform into niches of profound expertise.
Already we are in an era when no worthwhile skill is ever lost, if it can draw the eye of some small corps of amateurs. Today there are more expert flint-knappers than at any single point in the Paleolithic. More sword makers than during the Middle Ages. Vastly more surface area of hobbyist telescopes than instruments owned by all governments and universities, put together. Following the DIY banner of Make magazine, networks of neighbors have - among countless projects - started setting up chemical sensors that will weave into hyper-environmental webs.
Imagine how this explosion of hobbies and skills will accelerate when your AR glasses will offer you live tutorials, guiding your hands so that every step comes quickly and clearly? From home repair to lens-grinding all the way to “I know kung fu!” -- won’t this be the start of Neo’s downloaded abilities from the Matrix? Only in a good way?
Addictions? Or a tsunami of skill? It will (as always) be up to us.
(This appeared on Quora, as an answer to: What will be the most important social change that augmented reality will bring?)

== Bio tech insights ==

Using genes (instead of voltages), synthetic biologists design genetic circuits (arrangements of DNA components) that can perform new functions, like AND or OR logic gates, taking an analog input (say the amount of a particular chemical present) and make a binary decision. Note that all this can happen inside a living cell.  In other words Intracellular Computing, which many of us have suspected for decades. If Nature herself uses this approach, it means that there may be hundreds or thousands of “calculations” inside cells for every synapse flash we see on the outside.  Implications for (actually against) AI are huge.

Curious... having three genetic parents appears to make mice age better. 

Each cell in our body contains around 2 meters of DNA. But since our cells are so tiny, DNA strands have to be tightly wrapped into bundles called nucleosomes in order to fit. Now some physicists suggest that the way these lengths are folded also contains information which helps to control which genes get expressed, and when.

New research suggests why the human brain and other biological networks exhibit a hierarchical structure, and the study may improve attempts to create artificial intelligence.  The research findings suggest that hierarchy evolves not because it produces more efficient networks, but instead because hierarchically wired networks have fewer connections. That’s because connections in biological networks are expensive.  

60 comments:

Jumper said...

I multitask so much in life I tire of it. There are some people who take pictures of sunsets or their dinners. I prefer to single task. It's a luxury. I take my book outside and read it. I leave the devices behind. Excitement doesn't really excite me.

ZarPaulus said...

Well, if Pokemon Go is any indication AR will help with the couch potato issue.

Anonymous said...

The presumably Pokemon players sit in silent ranks on the steps, all facing East. No conversation, no motion, flaccid attention only screen-wards. And how would the screen-staring habits of a Dominant Minority so disconnected from reality help the Internal Proletariat who cannot afford rent? Gotta save that parking, says the New York City Council. Can't have affordable housing, oh no! That would hurt property values. Make it hard to car-sit. Can't have that, now, can we?

Will the ever-blinkered optimist even notice the decline?

Jumper said...

While I love Wikipedia, I can disconnect. I observe people who only relate to Siri or Hello Google staring at their devices. They've been trained by now not to talk in public so they can't wait to get away and talk to Siri in private. If people have a visual overlay, their eyes will be glassy and no contact will be possible. Zombies squared; as it's already bad enough. See how they use the devices as social repellent/statement of worth: I have people to deal with! Yet even that is faded and nearly gone. No one speaks into their devices anymore. Maybe that was what the crazies were doing all along, shouting and careening down the sidewalks: I have people I'm talking to! Imaginary people are better than none, I guess.

Hello!
Hello?

Paul SB said...

This is an interesting argument, in that at first it sounds like AR will, for the most part, just be more of the same. Dullards will be distracted from reality by technology, as dullards have always been distracted by something (though most of history it was religion, but 20th C. technology made sports and other entertainments into more dominant distractions - not that distractions are entirely bad, if used in moderation), while creative, intelligent, driven people will use the technology to soar to new heights, and dastardly, evil people will use the technology to rule. This is not a "technology will change everything" argument, it is more like technology will multiply everything. In some ways this will be awesome, in other ways it will be wretched. Big surprise, right? But like all systems, any change will throw it out of homeostatic alignment for awhile, until the system adjusts to the new forces within it and sets a new homeostasis. Change, but in a somewhat predictable way, like climate change.

One thing to consider, though, is that any system has its limits, and feedback loops can collapse in on themselves if they get too big (positive feedback loops, anyway, negative feedback loops diminish themselves out of existence). Think about this in terms of the positive-, zero- or negative-sum game. A positive feedback loop makes for a positive-sum situation, where change feeds more change, while a negative feedback loop does the opposite (deviation extinction loop is the other term for this). When you are at an equilibrium point, everything looks like a zero-sum game. So when change begins to set in, the trick is identify it correctly - is it a positive or negative loop? Clearly assuming that any change is just part of the same zero-sum game is foolish.

Of course, other logical questions to ask are, how long can the loop keep going, and what other systems are interacting with this loop? At one level the technology loop looks wonderful and enlightening, but how does it interact with the human system of instincts, drives and neuroanatomical machinery of decision making, at the organismal level, and with the functioning of communities and social institutions? e are in uncertain times, but times of change are always uncertain. Better careful analysis than knee-jerk reactions.

raito said...

here's unintended consequences to nearly every innovation in communication.

Gutenberg wanted to spread the Bible around. Instead, it led (eventually) to mass literacy.

The movie studios hated TV. Until it made them more money than theaters.

What began as a bunch of mathematicians exchanging data ends up completely disrupting the purchasing of goods.

As for me, I believe in Dale Carnegie. According to him, you need to care about the other guy to have him care about you. Nice sentiment, and true (too bad his work was co-opted by the sociopath who only want to emulate caring on order to extort form another, but that's a different conversation). And it partly explains why I'm not so good with people. I don't like them all that much. Connecting people works really well when those connections are about caring about each other (such as the couple small fora I frequent). They suck when they're about something else (like the big social media platforms seem to be). 'Likes' and 'friends' don't mean squat. It's about people.

Still, there's an upside. Not only is any knowledge less likely to get lost, but people are less likely to get lost. You no longer have to lose a friend because they move across the continent, and writing letters and long-distance calls cost consirderable money. For me, that is, or will be, or ought to be, the prime influence of the internet.

Now show me how augmented reality (an area I could plausibly say I've worked in, in a nascent form) can improve the connections between people.

David Brin said...

raito... you'll like CHASING SHADOWS. Several of the authors/stories address how augmented reality could enhance citizenship.

Anonymous is poetical and should write sci fi! Except it is garbled grammar. But dyspeptic rants sell well in SF! Especially the kneejerk, dullard trope: “all my neighbors are sheep and only I - alone - can see how we are doooomed!”

How original.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451:Not seeing the logic there. Not seeing any logic there.

Well… if the rich people were actually raping you, I’d argue we should charge them with that particular crime instead of chipping away at the money they can pass to their children.

As for logic, I think you are missing the point. An estate tax is more of a moral judgment about what rich people should be doing with their money by people who think they know better. I’m generally FOR the putting together of charitable foundations, but I’m opposed to people pushing others into doing it using the force of regulation. If rich people have behaved so immorally that we have to use force to make this happen, we should go after them for the correct crime in the first place.

Besides, most people who manage to make themselves moderate rich do so by serving the rest of us. (Smith's butcher, baker, and brewer.) They’ve done a good thing, not a bad thing. Where do we get off telling them they must do a good thing to make up for their sin?

Anonymous said...

I have two competing thoughts on Augmented Reality. It seems obvious to me that AR will very quickly go from the bulky gear described in "Ready Player One" to opto-neural implants (such as "Lady of Mazes" by Karl Schroeder). At this point how does a sentient keep track of his "providence of experience"? If I doubt what I am seeing, then I can just lift my visor, but what if these images are going straight past my optic nerves and into my visual cortex? It only gets more Matrixy from there when the other senses are hacked.
My second thought is just how pivotal this shift will be for relationships. Obviously we will see a rise in close, even intimate, relationships between distant people, but that is onlt the tip of the iceberg. What is to stop you from overlaying the face/body/sexy voice of a supermodel/actress/pornstar onto the less perfect form of your most cherished soulmate. Hell, they don't even need to know, because this beauty would literally be in the beholder's eye. Conversely one could give an intimidating co-worker a silly voice or give a sexy secretary or sister-in-law the face of Susan Boyle.

As a wise man one sang: "...for the times, they are a changin'"
-AtomicZeppelinMan

Alfred Differ said...

The more I watch my extended family members get captured by small screens and avoid interaction with people, the less I want to carry my own small screen or wear it in front of my face for augmentation support. There is probably an analogous issue to the uncanny valley with these things where the small screen is useful and used when it is a bit to slow and clumsy and then again when it is lighting fast and well-tooled. In between, though, it gets in the way and I expect it to do better. 8)

When I think of how these things should evolve, I don’t imagine goggles. I’ve worn heavy glasses since I turned four. For those of you with decent vision, trust me when I say they are annoying. Some day when they can be printed instead of ground down, putting a small screen into them would be better than nothing, but I can’t imagine they won’t annoy many people with long term use. I picture hair-thin conducting elements in the brain that can stimulate nerves where the optic nerve fibers go. There really isn’t all that much natural information delivered down the nerve bundles for most people, so bandwidth and power demands shouldn’t be out of our reach for long. THAT approach interests me, but not the vision goggles or silly brain taps from The Matrix.

What REALLY interests me, though, is the nature of the software tools people think will be most useful as augmentations. What are the likely Killer Apps. Extending your eyesight with remote drones sounds interesting, but it also sounds rather mechanical. Spreadsheets had a huge impact on us in the early days of personal computing not for their mechanical calculation features, but for their use to help us imagine the future. They were What If? engines. They extended the lamps on our brows. What new software tool would extend/augment us that way? I suspect it will be one that helps us model the people we meet and anticipate them. It will be one that augments our ability to love. Do that and I don’t think there will be anything blocking the path to transcendence. Who cares if intra-cellular computations occur? We will BE the transcendent elements. Not anytime soon, though. 8)

matthew said...

@ Alfred - The Estate Tax is not a moral judgement. It is a way to improve the velocity of money. Since it is restricted to those holding 5+ million, it is hardly the provence of the "butcher, baker, brewer." You are allowing your desire for propetarian outcome to cloud your judgement regarding morals and using purposely deceptive arguments with your examples. Shame on you, as I know you know better from previous postings.

Deuxglass said...

Affred Differ,

The killer apps could be apps that give the illusion to people that they are much better off than they really are. An example would be an app that would change your shack into a home of one of the rich and famous when you put on your googles. Another would turn your work cubical into a corner office with a great view. The bus or subway commute would become a ride in a chauffeured limousine. Turning mundane tasks and situations into something more exciting would be powerfully addicting and apps that make it happen would sell like hotcakes. In my view the reason people play these games is to stoke their egos. When they are playing they are super people building cities, exploring the galaxy, fighting evil and generally doing things that they never will do in real life. The comedown is really hard. Reality is not much fun most of the time. An app that would allow them to merge fantasy and reality together would sell well. It all started with the Walkman.

David Brin said...

Alfred, it is a fine first order stance to ask what right we have to impose limits on the rich. But that high moral stance is a luxury that we cannot afford, in the face of the existential threat of feudalism. Which WILL (not might) come roaring back at any opportunity. And the opportunity is vast wealth disparity.

The American founders seized and redistributed a third of the land in the former colonies. It was simply essential, and it was a revolution. We tend to forget.

AZM you’ll like some of the AR stories in CHASING SHADOWS.

Mark said...

Imagine the death tax was the only tax we had.* It is hard to imagine a more moral, fair tax than that. You can do whatever you want with your money and all transactions are untaxed, for the entirety of your life. But you can't take it with you.

Moral arguments against the estate tax fall pretty flat.

*(Ignore implementation issues, if it would raise enough, etc.)

Jumper said...

The estate tax is not a moral judgment. It is rectifying tax evasion. I suppose "pay your share of taxes" is a moral judgment, but otherwise no.

Especially nowadays with swaps not seen as points of transfer, it's possible to have the portfolio untaxed prior to death.

Robert said...

I think I've just realized the allure of dystopias in science fiction.

They exist purely to allow the author to create a Heroic Protagonist.

Think on that. The majority of dystopian fiction written in this day and age are those where the heroes manage to do something. (Apocalyptic fiction is a different kettle of fish despite its similarities - apocalypses are meant to tear down and leave no hope against that end even if there are survivors - thus the Hero Who Changes Things is fairly useless in the genre.) If we look at some of the popular dystopias, such as Hunger Games and its ilk, we have a Hero or Heroine who manages to change things. The evil government is overthrown, the conspiracy is unveiled and unraveled. Things. Get. Better. And it's all because of ONE Hero. Or a small group but you better believe that the One Hero is absolutely essential to the change and victory!

Essentially, dystopias are fantasy fiction set in a "real world" setting to draw in people who don't like dragons and elves.

Rob H.

Paul451 said...

Alfred,

Your argument against an estate-tax was, in essence, "There shouldn't be a law because it will make people try to avoid that law. If there's no law, they won't have an incentive to avoid it." And that's what I was saying makes no sense.

"An estate tax is more of a moral judgment about what rich people should be doing with their money...."

{sigh} No, Alfred, it's got nothing to do with what I think about rich people. It's purely about how a society with or without an estate tax will evolve, and which one I'd prefer to live in.

"If rich people have behaved so immorally that we have to use force to make this happen"

As others have said, it has nothing to do with morality. It's you that are obsessed with the moral argument, not us. It colours almost everything you write. Taxation is some kind of undeserved moral judgement on the wealthy. Poverty is a sign of moral failure. People who want less inequality, higher taxes, or regulations, etc, are only doing so to punish the rich for their success (or to assuage their own guilt.)

I'm sick of people trying to frame this kind of argument in such petty and dismissing terms. I don't advocate what I do because I'm jealous of rich people. Nor because I'm guilty about poor people. Nor because I want to control what everyone else does, or even just what rich people do. It's about the kind of society I think is prosperous or not, and things that help/hinder that prosperity. Measures to reduce the accumulation (and especially intergenerational accumulation) of wealth, result in a better society. Estate taxes are a relatively painless method of creating a back-pressure against intergenerational accumulation of wealth.

I don't like having to exercise or eat healthy food. When I do it (not often enough), it's not to punish myself for some imagined moral failure, I do it because it's a thing people need to do to avoid health issues. (If I could skip it and just take a pill, I'd be lining up.) Societies have to do things that the individuals in that society really don't like, taxes and regulations and other burdens and restrictions, but most of those things are not to judge or punish people, they are just things that societies need to do to stay healthy.

The fact that you don't like paying taxes doesn't make taxation a moral judgement against you, it's just the price you pay to be a member of your civilisation.

Jumper said...

Thank you.

Paul451 said...

Re: Phones and social interaction.

"...get captured by small screens and avoid interaction with people"

Why do people assume others aren't "interacting with people", just because they aren't interacting with the people in the same room?

Most people I see fixating on their phones are either A) playing games, B) "watching TV" in a broad sense, C) interacting with lots of other people, messaging, texting, social networking, gossiping, etc, often in groups. They'd be doing those same things if the phone didn't exist, or they'd be bored and looking for some other distraction.

And frankly, most of the people I see fixating on their phones are much more socially connected than I am (or than most people who frown on people fixated on their phones.)

--

Aside:

I always laughed whenever I saw some garbage current-affairs-show story about The Family That Doesn't Let Their Kids Watch TV. (**) Because invariably, in the background of the interview, the kids are shown playing a board game on the dining table. I mean, every single damn time.

I mean, yeah, it's probably good to limit your kids' time watching TV or playing video games, or any single obsessive activity. And apparently structured days (the much maligned helicopter parenting) are pretty healthy for kids.

But to use "bored games" as the signature alternative to mind-numbing TV...? {laughs}

**(And speaking of irony. I usually only saw these stories because my folks were watching it after dinner while I was trying to read a book.)

--

"I take my book outside and read it. I leave the devices behind."

I like reading, but I'm really not seeing the moral superiority in sitting alone reading a book over talking to hundreds of people around the world.

(Jumper, to be fair, was actually saying the opposite. That pointedly switching off from the incessant social networking is what he wants to do. But I've noticed in these "dullards on their devices" topics, you get people saying "I prefer to switch off from the social-media natter and read a book" and "Why don't people interact anymore!?" without seeing the contradiction, because they're both agreeing that the device-is-bad.)

AZM: "It seems obvious to me that AR will very quickly go from the bulky gear described in "Ready Player One" to opto-neural implants"
Alfred: "I don't imagine goggles. [...] I picture hair-thin conducting elements in the brain that can stimulate nerves where the optic nerve fibers go. [...] THAT approach interests me, but not the vision goggles or silly brain taps from The Matrix."

Wow, I really don't think neural-AR could be as quick as Atomic believes (implants are hard), and certainly not as desirable as Alfred believes. (And I'm not seeing the difference between "conducting elements in the brain..." and the brain taps from The Matrix (other than the deliberately '70s-audio looking jacks.))

The line between picking up a phone/tablet or wearing AR-glasses, and having something surgically inserted in your brain is pretty frackin' significant. Technologically, psychologically and even legally (if you've ever priced a medical device.)

Pretty much by definition, at the point you can plug any given technology into your brain, the wearable/holdable/non-contact version will be multiple generations ahead. The implant would be a giant leap backwards, suitable only for people without an alternative (medical treatment of a lost sense.)

Paul451 said...

Deuxglass,
"The killer apps could be apps that give the illusion to people that they are much better off than they really are."

Meh. Modern middle-class people don't model their homes to look like wealthier homes of the past. Cars aren't designed to look like particularly luxurious carriages.

I can see using an AR overlay to change the appearance of your home, but very few people would use it for simple wealth-illusion. How many people with cheap inkjet printers would decorate their walls with print outs of expensive/rare art?

"Another would turn your work cubical into a corner office with a great view."

Why would you have a work cubical? Or a corner office (real or not)? If you can work in AR, then business will soon adapt to put your work in AR. Your AR environment, for most workers, will be whatever your company installs on your company supplied AR computer. The "office" could be an empty warehouse, no cubicles required.

(Enjoy that image.)

"The bus or subway commute would become a ride in a chauffeured limousine."

How dull. Surely it would simply be whatever you would be doing if you were sitting somewhere else. Social networking, watching cats be funny, swiping fruit. Which is also dull, but surely more likely than just people sitting, bored, in a fake car.

Paul451 said...

Me:
"It's you that are obsessed with..."

Apparently I think Alfred is a group.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Anonymous is poetical and should write sci fi! Except it is garbled grammar. But dyspeptic rants sell well in SF! Especially the kneejerk, dullard trope: “all my neighbors are sheep and only I - alone - can see how we are doooomed!”


I'm afraid my brain automatically jumps to the next post at "car-sitting", or in this case at "parking" because I could tell what was coming next.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

An estate tax is more of a moral judgment about what rich people should be doing with their money by people who think they know better. I’m generally FOR the putting together of charitable foundations, but I’m opposed to people pushing others into doing it using the force of regulation. If rich people have behaved so immorally that we have to use force to make this happen, we should go after them for the correct crime in the first place.


See, I never viewed the estate tax as punishment. More like the notion in "Dune" that the individual's body is his own, but his water belongs to the tribe. The idea is to keep wealth sequestered in a gated community forever. You can use it all you want while you're alive, but when you're gone, a percentage comes back into the commons.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451: Apparently I think Alfred is a group.

Heh. That’s not an unfair description. There are days when I feel that way. Anyone who claims to be single-minded about a topic hasn’t considered it in depth as far as I’m concerned. 8)

"There shouldn't be a law because it will make people try to avoid that law. If there's no law, they won't have an incentive to avoid it."

Not really. My concern is that one law incentivizes misbehavior elsewhere. If my neighbors raise CA state taxes, I might be tempted to hide my money (legally?) among relatives in NV, but that isn’t my primary worry. The danger is when people who are rich enough use their estate to alter market rules so what money DOES pass to their children is well protected from competition. If we remove an incentive to mess with the rules, we miss some of the money being passed to the next generation and the misbehaviors THEY might engage in, but we protect viable market rules from corruption attempts. The rules protected aren’t taxation rules. They are much more important as they determine what is fair and just in the markets. THAT is what I worry about here.

Regarding the moral argument, I’m calling BS on all of you. The way some of you defend your positions suggests you think you are defending innocent people from sinful behavior. Rich people are passing along their money to their children! OMG! I suspect we are on different sides of a moral argument when it comes to the estate tax. I recognize that I’m in a tiny minority with no chance of winning, but I challenge you all to look in the mirror when you consider my approximate position that taxation in this case is a form of theft. Look to see if you feel I’ve attacked you because in a respectful way, I have. I’m not convinced the estate tax fixes more problems than it causes. I think blind support of it is stupid and want more consideration of unforeseen consequences from my friends and neighbors.

I’m quite willing to pay fairly to be part of this civilization. What I don’t like are taxation rules that incentivize potentially worse behavior from the very people we must watch like hawks. Wanna-bee oligarchs must be watched and stripped of social honor at every opportunity. Stripping them of their money should require a criminal conviction. Taxes have already been paid on what is left in their estate when they shuffle off to whatever after-world awaits them.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Me:
"It's you that are obsessed with..."

Apparently I think Alfred is a group


Hmmmm, I actually think that first sentence is grammatically correct. "Are" is the correct conjugation to go with "you". I suppose the "It's" confuses things, but you could have said: "You are obsessed with..." or "You are the one who is obsessed with...". Neither implies that the "you" is plural.

LarryHart said...

but speaking of bad sentence structure...

I said:

The idea is to keep wealth sequestered in a gated community forever


When I (obviously) meant The idea is to keep wealth from being sequestered in a gated community forever.

Which is "...a different thing; in fact, the opposite thing."

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: …his water belongs to the tribe.

Yowza! ...and OMG! 8)

Please don’t bring Dune into this. I’m an old-school liberal who would rather shoot EVERY character in those books than live among them. A generous sprinkling of nukes among them all is what they deserved, including the Fremen. I’d cheerfully strangle them all as children if given the chance.

LarryHart said...

@Alfred,

Hey, I don't like any of the characters in "1984" either, but on a list like this, I can expect to be understood by alluding to it. Same with "Dune".

Alfred Differ said...

@matthew: Come now. I try to be nice most of the time, but I’m not trying purposely to deceive here. I’m being sincere. 8)

There are a number of tax rules where I AM inclined to think you ALL are engaging in majority sanctioned theft. You rationalize your support to avoid the moral consequences of your decisions. I think most rationalizations fail the sniff test, though.

I am willing to do my part to be part of this civilization and that means going along with the majority and paying my taxes. However, that does NOT mean I won’t point out occasionally how bad this smells.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: As cultural reference points, the characters from Dune work well here. What they won’t do is convince me to play nice. My first reaction upon recalling them involves teeth-grinding and a temptation to buy weaponry. 8)

You all are a joy to argue with on these kinds of topics, so don’t think I’m slipping into anger or indignation. I wouldn’t open up about this stuff except to people who appreciate CITOKATE. Slash back. Please. I might learn something

Alfred Differ said...

@David: But that high moral stance is a luxury that we cannot afford, in the face of the existential threat of feudalism

If I thought we were in that much danger, I would consider it. I understand that you DO, though. It’s just that I disagree. There is danger present, but not so much that I’ll accept any means to the ends. We are not facing an emergency.

Which WILL (not might) come roaring back at any opportunity. And the opportunity is vast wealth disparity.

I completely agree with the first part, but I’m not convinced about the second part. We’ve faced vast wealth disparity before and the corruptions it causes and that’s not the primary risk I see right now. From where I sit, the bigger risk is from well-intentioned people who want to regulate solutions to problems that have not yet been proven to be moral problems. Even worse, some want to employ older, emergency solutions in the world today and I strongly suspect they are manufacturing the emergency.

I can pivot my neck here and recognize the threat from wealth disparity, but I’m more inclined to try to arrange for their social dishonor than I am to engage in the use of force. As your transparency predictions come true, I think we have other, newer, more humane options available to us.

Jumper said...

Paul451, books and person-to-person relations are not contradictory.I referred to "doing one thing at a time." Because I want to. I multitask a lot. I reserve the right to stop, I find value in stopping, and I suspect I have company in that.

LarryHart said...

@Alfred,
I consider you one of the good guys too. I'm just tired of hearing (not just from you) the old saw about taxes being punishment for success.

As for literary references, I hope you don't despise "Hamilton". My daughter's fandom is contagious, and I'll have the whole double-album memorized soon. Here on this list, I feel like the young Hamilton joining in with LaFayette, John Lawrence, and Hercules Mulligan:

Oh, am I talking too loud?
Sometimes I get over excited and shoot off at the mouth.
I never had a group of friends before.
I promise to make you all proud.


My knowledge of physics and economics is pure amateur compared to many here (I still marvel at the guy who noticed an anomaly in his DNA and fixed it), but I know what seems to make sense to me, and I'm at least conversant in sci-fi speak. I came "here" something like 10 years ago because I'm a fan of Dr Brin's writing, but I stayed for the politics.

Jonathan Sills said...

"Now show me how augmented reality (an area I could plausibly say I've worked in, in a nascent form) can improve the connections between people."

https://www.quora.com/How-are-people-meeting-playing-Pok%C3%A9mon-GO

http://www.wired.com/2016/07/pokemon-go-dating-app/

http://abc13.com/news/pokemon-go-helps-son-with-autism-disorder/1430348/

Alfred Differ said...

@Deuxglass: You are probably right about those illusions selling well. Simpler examples are doing well today that turn boring exercise into competition with others in the program. My wife talks about staying ahead of a guy in Spain in terms of her running distance each month. She’s never met the guy. 8)

The thing about spreadsheets, though, is they augmented us instead of distracted or entertained us. Foresight is a really big deal and What If scenarios extend their human operators in directions evolution didn’t go. Quantitative Precision! I wonder what is next to extend our foresight. When people talk about singularities and transcendence I think about the original evolutionary need for our human foresight. All our animal cousins can do it to some degree, but our brains had to get big if we were going to anticipate each other. Nature’s augmentations for us involved an improved capacity to love, since doing that requires us to pay attention to each other and copy/model each other. A spreadsheet extends me by giving me better quantitative skills, but what app extends me to better predict my friends and neighbors? Heh.

David Brin said...

Paul451 is on fire tonight. Not that Alfred is a slouch! He is sharp and I like having libertarians like him and CarlM around!

But my sense of history is very much more intense and present and imminent than most peoples'. I do not want to waste the struggles of those who built this oasis of sanity and decency and freedom... and above all - less wasting of talent... amid 60 centuries of horror. I will fight for the Enlightenment Experiment: Pax Americana branch, for all its flaws. It is one of the things I am willing to die for.

Not the USA per se. But the experiment it drags on a sledge, painfully and sweating, into the future.

And hence I will do whatever PRAGMATICALLY is necessary to keep it alive, and that means preventing any oligarchic putsch. The one that is looming always but harshly now. The one thing that might render the libertarian dreams of Alfred and Carl utterly moot.

I want the Estate Tax because the Founders did it and FDR did it and it worked. And there is nothing else on the table to replace it.

Robert said...

Let's be honest. In the relatively near future, we will gain some form of immortality. It may be uploading brains into a virtual system. It may be kidnapping young people off the street, hooking their circulatory systems up to old rich people, and literally leeching their youth (and stem cells) out of them, it may even be effective organ transplants (again either by legitimate or crooked means)... but you'll start seeing rich people living to be easily over 100 years old. And if it's the brain upload thing? Thousands of years.

The end result will be people not dying and thus estate taxes being a thing of the past. And if the brain upload thing does work... then you WILL see laws passed allowing the upload to be legally the same person that the mind and consciousness originated from so they can keep their wealth.

And then you will truly see a war between the Oligarchy and the forces of progress.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

RobH... when we get immortality, we will need a Jubilee. A cycle when every (7? 20? 50?) years there is some kind of leveling of property and power. Joe Haldeman showed this in BUYING TIME. And do not weep for the zillionaires when that happens. Even if it were brutally enforced to a completely average level (and it won't be) the rich will have seen to "investing" in the well-being of many clients who will re-invest back into Rich Dude RD as soon as the Jubilee ends. And her connections and skills will not be zeroed.

Indeed, let them spend it that last year on "eminence." doing beneficent things that create non-monetary, non-power status.

Shane Mallatt said...

I am probably way out of my depth here, but just to throw in my two cents. When I am presented with the "taxation is theft" arguments from my libertarian friends, I will generally ask them to pull a bill out of their wallet. I will then point out to them that it says; Federal Reserve Note and United States of America not property of Joe Somebody. This to me indicates that money, and for that matter property cannot exist without government. Taxes to me then are the fee the government extracts from its citizens for the privilege of using money. It follows that the more money that you have the higher the fee that you pay.

David Brin said...

Shane that's an okay rationalization, I suppose. But we are a pragmatic civilization and I base my politics on what can keep this oasis of light shining. Libertarians should want that too. And they do, when their focus is on competition. But too many have been suckered into worshiping Property as the metric of freedom.

It is not.

donzelion said...

Away for a few days, and glad to come back. And for a change in tone from politics.

"Imagine how this explosion of hobbies and skills will accelerate when your AR glasses will offer you live tutorials, guiding your hands so that every step comes quickly and clearly?

Augmented Reality seems to get less attention than "virtual reality." The latter is readily packaged entertainment media, but AR offers a very interesting set of possibilities that are much more far-reaching - instead of the "video overlay tutorial," perhaps a "video overlay tutor" - or rather, a team of advisers (esp. in health fields, real estate, and other settings where expertise really matters).

The great triumph of the 20th century is the fact that so many people live so long. AR advisers would offer a chance for those who have much more to offer, and enjoy doing so, to deliver that expertise when needed. It took less than a decade for us to learn to "Google" answers to difficult questions (AR indeed, since those answers are nearly an extension of our perception) - but instead of Googling and hoping for a 'hit' - why not link directly to a panel of experts, semi-retired but sharp and interesting, and otherwise prone to boredom and tedium?

Robert said...

What the Randian Libertarians say is that money should not be dependent on government and that money has no value. They want a return to the gold standard. Or for that matter the Bitcoin. And they block their ears and start shouting "la la la" metaphorically when I point out all of those forms of currency have no actual value. If I am the only source of food, I can say that your gold has no value. (Indeed, the very end of Jeff Smith's "Bone" has Phoney Bone being told by Smiley Bone that the stale bread circles that Smiley has costs three gold coins each... suggesting by the time the Bones get out of the desert, Phoney won't have any money and Smiley (who is far more devious but operates off obfuscating idiocy) will have all of it. It's a very apt demonstration that using gold or any other "standard" only works if the other person accepts that "value" and thus... gold, Bitcoins, or other "currency" literally has no value except what others accept it to have. Much like U.S. dollars or other national currencies.)

Rob H.

Tim W said...

I find VR and AR to be one of the more convincing explanations for the Fermi Paradox - many people (including some of you here) like to deride the smartphone generation as no longer interacting with the world, but this is almost willfully missing the point. People are communicating all the time using these technologies, positively and constructively, with all sorts of other folks all across the world, just as we happy few are doing right here. (I'm typing this on my desktop now, but only after catching up with Contrary Brin on my phone; and I'm sure to an observer I looked very like a zombie while doing it).

I recently upgraded that phone in fact, and also picked up one of the VR headsets that lets you clip the handset into the front, with the phone providing the screen and processor to run the thing. It is pretty good. It works. The reaction time is great. The headset is annoyingly heavy, and one is very obviously peering through a pair of goggles, but the world you are looking into seems real. I find therefore that it works best with something like a scuba simulation, as the hardware limitations support the illusion rather than hinder it.

It'll take a while for the tech to be sufficiently miniaturized to be properly comfortable, and therefore more generally applicable: but if these early gadgets prove popular then it is only a matter of time.

But then the world really does open up. It's just another form of exploration, and could provide quite an easy explanation for why it seems that technological civilizations don't go loud and expansive, and perhaps dive deeper and deeper into inner space instead.

I'm an unapologetic gamer (although I do still read books and go running about in the outdoors too, so don't worry...!). Games have made me a tourist of other worlds. Books do that as well of course, but in the games I can meet and interact with my friends at the same time, and we share the experience together, and even interact with nascent forms of AI. I've broadened my experiences in all kinds of directions through them, and learned significantly greater depth in fields I thought I already knew. (An obvious example of that being that anyone who is interested in space travel and orbital mechanics owes it to themselves to try Kerbal Space Program. And.... then they should perhaps look into the differences between patched conics and n-body simulation...)

This week a game called No Man's Sky has been launched (not tried it yet, so this isn't a review. It's the idea of the thing that makes my head spin). This game promises a galaxy of procedurally generated worlds and lifeforms to discover. 18 quintillion of them. When you see a creature living and interacting in No Man's Sky, you will literally be the only sentient being to have seen it, and possibly for all time to come. It is a product of the mathematics. No artist designed it, all the developers did was tune the parameters of their algorithms to shape the general look and behaviours that might emerge.

It might not be a close planetary survey of Kepler 452b, and it certainly isn't discovery of real alien life: but it's still pretty mind boggling.

Tacitus2 said...

(wanders into the bar and sits alone off to one side)

Good to see a worthy topic of discussion although it pains me to see the gravitational well of Redistributive Economic Theory pulling the comments thread inexorably off target.

I don't want Augmented Reality. When I saw the abbreviation AR I first thought it meant Artificial Reality and I still have that vibe from it.

I don't regard books or tales told by the fire side as augmentations of Reality. They have been with Mankind since the point at which we differentiated ourselves from our Simian Sibs. OK, cave paintings are a couple steps below LOTR but you get my point.

An augmented reality with coordinated manipulation of sensory input is a whole 'nother thing. It bothers me for the same reasons others have posited, it detracts from interaction on the Material Plane and it accepts prepackaged content that is fed to you. What I have seen of most realistic video gaming is largely unsavory. Addicting, yes, unsavory too. If the future belongs to Adept first person shooters of zombies then it is not a future I would enjoy

But, say you, what about a reality in which you can make your own choices. I live there. It's called the Real World. And if I need some augmentation I have a very vivid imagination for which I am the sole content provider and in which there are no ads and no product placement.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Robert:

What the Randian Libertarians say is that money should not be dependent on government and that money has no value. They want a return to the gold standard. Or for that matter the Bitcoin. And they block their ears and start shouting "la la la" metaphorically when I point out all of those forms of currency have no actual value.


Thank you. I thought I was the only one who noticed that the Randians are weird in their worship of gold as having "objective value", somehow independent from what other humans will trade for it. Furthermore, while they could manage to believe that about gold with a straight face, their similar worship of Bitcoin demonstrates the same hypocrisy that Evangelicals do when they try to portray Trump as one of their own. In fact, in their own damn words, they are "spitting on genius". Referring to Bitcoin as having objective value does not do homage to Bitcoin, but rather spits on the concept of "objective value".

What they really seem to mean is that neither gold nor Bitcoin can be created or managed by government. What they fail to recognize is that that is not necessarily a good thing. The dollar has been surprisingly stable and robust as a store of value and a medium of exchange because of my man Hamilton. :) Bitcoin, with its wild fluctuations in speculative price and its incidents of wholesale thefts from exchanges doesn't seem to pass either test.

I have as much (little) faith in the integrity of Bitcoin as I do in the integrity of Diebold voting machines, for much the same reasons.

Thu Hang said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Paul SB said...

Sehr seltzam! I types a little reply (like I write anything brief!) and when I entered it, the thing vanished. I'm going to enter this, check to see if it posts, then see if I can remember what I wrote.

LarryHart said...

the sorely missed Tacitus2:

(wanders into the bar and sits alone off to one side)


Nothing wrong with that. I did that alot during the early Bush years, when detractors of that president were looked-askance at. There's nothing wrong with sitting back and observing.


Good to see a worthy topic of discussion although it pains me to see the gravitational well of Redistributive Economic Theory pulling the comments thread inexorably off target.


...but sniping from the sidelines is something else. I'd say you can participate in a conversation or watch quietly from the sidelines, but not both at the same time.


I don't want Augmented Reality. When I saw the abbreviation AR I first thought it meant Artificial Reality and I still have that vibe from it.


That's probably somewhat intentional, similar to those who use "speculative fiction" instead of "science fiction", keeping the initials intact. Or those who claim the Q in LGBTQ stands for "Questioning".


I don't regard books or tales told by the fire side as augmentations of Reality. They have been with Mankind since the point at which we differentiated ourselves from our Simian Sibs. OK, cave paintings are a couple steps below LOTR but you get my point.

An augmented reality with coordinated manipulation of sensory input is a whole 'nother thing.


I think you might have slipped into arguing percentages. I see your point on literature, but cave paintings are the first step on the way to Thomas Nast political cartoons, which begin the slope toward manipulating sensory input. Dave Sim once remarked to other comics professionals (Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman?) that what they do is akin to hypnosis. There's much to be said for that point of view.

It bothers me for the same reasons others have posited, it detracts from interaction on the Material Plane and it accepts prepackaged content that is fed to you. What I have seen of most realistic video gaming is largely unsavory. Addicting, yes, unsavory too. If the future belongs to Adept first person shooters of zombies then it is not a future I would enjoy


I think you're conflating two different things into one. Metaphorically, you can appreciate the comics form without liking superheroes.


And if I need some augmentation I have a very vivid imagination for which I am the sole content provider and in which there are no ads and no product placement.


I feel much as you do, but we have the temperament (though not the profession) of writers and artists. Not everyone can do that well for themselves. There's something to be said for those who can provide for those others' needs.

David Brin said...

Tacitus... always welcome here. As for Augmented Reality explaining the Fermi Paradox... that one is called the "honey pot." SOme alluring attractor state that sucks sapient races into doing something addictive instead of colonizing space.

The answer to such "universal" explanations is always. "Show us how there won't be exceptions." The alien equivalents of Hells Angels or Nature Nuts, who prefer real life adventure over ersatz make-believe worlds, even if it does leave them lobotomized, by comparison. In fact, the main race is likely to sponsor such deviant groups, to keep an eye on objective reality for them.

Paul SB said...

Okay, that worked. My disapparacinto (not sure I spelled that right, no habla espanol!) comment began with me saying that I wanted to say something to Tacitus, since he comments here rarely, and with the school year starting soon I won't be able to participate very much.

Re: Redistributive theories, I know this sounds like BS to a lot of people, but do you remember what I said about seeing history as trajectory rather than precedent? Redistribution has been the name of the game since at least the time our ancestors started painting on caves. It is something that grows in scope and volume as the population grows, along with social complexity, social role constraint and hierarchy. This is because it is simply not possible for a human economy to operate without some measure of redistribution. A better way to look at it would be to emulate God and the Devil (as Gould might say) and pay close attention to the details regarding how much, from whom, to whom and for what specific purposes.

On another issue, though, I am almost entirely in agreement with you.

"An augmented reality with coordinated manipulation of sensory input is a whole 'nother thing. It bothers me for the same reasons others have posited, it detracts from interaction on the Material Plane and it accepts prepackaged content that is fed to you. What I have seen of most realistic video gaming is largely unsavory. Addicting, yes, unsavory too. If the future belongs to Adept first person shooters of zombies then it is not a future I would enjoy"

BUT, I can see a huge missed opportunity with AR (more so than VR) in terms of education. When a person has to learn a physical skill, like assembling some device, putting IKEA furniture together, etc. having a virtual overlay that can show you, step-by-step exactly how to do it would be tremendously useful. Educators use the term /scaffold/ to describe anything that helps a person to learn to do something to the point that they no longer need the scaffold - like an elementary teacher having the alphabet as a poster on the classroom wall. The wise educator eventually takes that poster down when the kids no longer need it. This is a different thing from a crutch, though describing something you rely on permanently as a /crutch/ is rather stupid, since people who have broken their legs generally heal and stop using the crutch. A calculator is a crutch, because people never stop using them and never develop their mental math skills.

Paul SB said...

On another level, imagine you are in an airplane and the pilot has had a heart attack. No one else has the requisite skill to land the plane safely, so you jump in the pilot's seat and call air traffic control. They try to "talk you down" meaning that they have to verbally describe the zillions of controls and gauges on the console and hope that you can translate their verbal descriptions into correct actions quickly enough to save lives. But if there were a set of training AR goggles, you could put them on and images would light up, flash or point virtual arrows at the controls your eyes are passing over. Your chances of landing safely have just improved tremendously. And if I could come up with this scenario off the top of my head, I am sure more, smarter people can come up with other uses of AR that would make real differences in the world.

Overall, I agree that technologies like this have a huge potential to mess with people in bad ways. In a way they are like guns. Most murders are not premeditated, they happen when someone loses their temper, and happen to have a tool that makes expressing their anger too easy. For a bored kid, a TV is real easy entertainment, much easier than going out and learning woodwork or a musical instrument, reading a book, writing poetry, etc. Most people get bored with TV after a few hours, though, because it is so passive. Video games, or the endless opportunities to engage in malicious gossip through texturbation or other social media platforms, releases a lot more epinephrine than just watching some hapless fool get chopped up with a chainsaw. This is why people, especially young people, whose receptors are still relatively intact, can keep doing these things for 15 hours a day.

The problem may be finding ways to get the benefits of the technology while making the neural hijacking phenomena more aversive. I wish I knew better ways to do that than just shaming and pointing out better role models.

Paul SB said...

"The alien equivalents of Hells Angels or Nature Nuts, who prefer real life adventure over ersatz make-believe worlds, even if it does leave them lobotomized, by comparison."
- Then there's those who can spend hours in fantasy worlds (reading, role playing) on the one hand, then turn around and go hiking, biking, kayaking or other more real-world oriented activities. I'm sure you will remember how much of the crew in Poul Anderson's "Tau Zero" dealt with the ennui of space flight, but some went in and out of their equivalent of the holodeck, spending time in both real and unreal environments.

LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

Educators use the term /scaffold/ to describe anything that helps a person to learn to do something to the point that they no longer need the scaffold - like an elementary teacher having the alphabet as a poster on the classroom wall. The wise educator eventually takes that poster down when the kids no longer need it. This is a different thing from a crutch, though describing something you rely on permanently as a /crutch/ is rather stupid, since people who have broken their legs generally heal and stop using the crutch.

Perhaps "cane" would be a better metaphor?

But as Isaac Asimov once put it, "We've known for 400 years that 'oxygen' is a misnomer, but what are you going to do?"


A calculator is a crutch, because people never stop using them and never develop their mental math skills.


Agreed. It used to be amusing to note young cashiers who couldn't make change without the cash register telling them what to do. Now, that's the preponderant rule rather than the exception, and no longer amusing.

Orwell's "1984" posits that totalitarianism solidifies once the citizen substitutes instruction from authority for his own judgement, and the evaluation of "two plus two" becomes not four or even five, but "whatever the Party says it is." Once the correct change for a purchase becomes "whatever the cash register says it is", we've all lost except for the owners of the cash registers.

Ioan said...

PaulSB,

I really have to jump in here. The "pilot-gets-a-heart-attack" scenario is as rare as getting eaten by a shark the day after you hiked next to flowing lava.

1. Planes are VERY safe these days
2. There's a pilot who can take over and fly the plane (the main pilot is called the captain).

donzelion said...

@Tacitus - (joining off on the side of the bar, as he's tired of political economics)

Hmmm...AR isn't necessarily all that different from tools our simian sibs have also long had - e.g., the 'attentive wise elder simian who batted the poisonous berries out of the hand of the foolish young simian that was about to eat them.' The key word is "attentive." A wise elder simian had to be (1) physically present with the youngster, (2) watching the youngster (instead of doing something different), and (3) not watching other youngsters.

AR 1.0 will redisplay information we already have available - a shopper buying a home sees the details on Zillow/Trulia 'hovering' over houses. Yawn.

AR 2.0(?) will focus on interactions.

Case study: real estate. Mr. Shopper found a promising home, wants to put in a bid. He convenes his panel of 'experts' - who all share the same visual information he does through a two-way camera system and a 'meeting' app. Mr. Shopper's panel consists of (1) contractor/construction adviser, (2) his personal lawyer, (3) termite inspector, (4) zoning rules/HOA adviser, (5) spouse, and (6) Dear Ole Dad.

Termite inspector: "Hmmm...old houses like this have often had a few termite issues by now. Could you zoom in on that corner over there? Yep, as I expected, that looks pretty bad."
Lawyer: "If it is termites, how much would it cost to repair?"
Termite inspector: "Can't say how far along it is without coming down, but there's a good chance it goes into the main walls..."
Shopper: "How much would that cost?"
Contractor: "If it's that whole wall, probably around $100k. That's a significant job and change to the structure."
Lawyer: "We can always have the seller pay to repair any defects before you buy it. Or just knock it off the price."
Spouse: "I don't really care for that color of wood anyway. Too dark. I'd want something brighter, or rip out that wall to make a '1-way window' thingy - the kind that lets light in, but looks like wood from the outside."
Zoning Rules: "Ma'am, the HOA bans any change to the 'look' of this neighborhood, or it's ultimate quality.'
Spouse: "Oh, then I guess it's just a cost for buying the house. Have the seller pay to repair it."
Dad: (whisper - aside) "Son, you do realize that your wife just told you she doesn't really like something fundamental about this house, but is willing to compromise with you. She may accept it, but I'd explore that with her..."

None of that is anything new - and all of it could be achieved by convening that 'panel' and inspecting a property together - but that would only tend to happen for super-valuable purchases, and would be out of reach for most people.

I want THAT kind of AR. Not "popup billboards" and games - but conversations which benefit from distinctly trained sets of eyeballs.

donzelion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...

You guys are having fun here. So linger if you like.

I put up a new posting and will be there.

onward

onward

Paul SB said...

Ioan,

If you are assuming commercial passenger jet, yes, you are absolutely right - pilot, copilot and navigator, whoa are all at least somewhat capable of doing each other's jobs. But commercial passenger jets are not the only things with wings. :]

Larry,

Several years ago I walked into a Taco Bell, and found the place rather dark inside. It was the middle of the day, but the electricity had gone out only minutes before. The cashier said I could still order, but when I did, he couldn't figure out how much change he owed me. I did the math in my head and told him. If I had been a dishonest person, I could have cheated him out of some meager amount of money. No biggie, but the point is, our technology does fail on us, so we need to try to keep up these basic skills, just in case.

I like your Orwell point, though in your example it is the business owners who have the potential for dishonesty, rather than the government. I could see some manager somewhere deciding to rig cash registers to make very small "mistakes" in the business's favor that wouldn't amount to much individually, but would add up over time and volume. It's a different thing from the restaurant I worked at when I was 18 that had two cash registers - the one that the customers saw, and the one in the basement where the managers redid every single transaction for the day, so the tax agencies would see different numbers. Honesty in business...

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred

On "Estate Taxes" or Death Taxes - I agree we make it far too complex

What we should do is simple Tax it as INCOME - that is what it is after all
Why should "earned money" be taxed and "found money" be tax free??

Any money transfer should be taxed - probably want a threshold just to make it easy - say $200,000 per year?

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