[p2p-research] Building Alliances (basic income and entrepreneurship)

J. Andrew Rogers reality.miner at gmail.com
Sat Nov 7 06:51:57 CET 2009

On Fri, Nov 6, 2009 at 7:39 PM, Paul D. Fernhout
<pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:
> The first is that we don't have lots of cheap or free hardware in the
> computing field begging to be used at this point. You can rent cloud stuff,
> for example. And most innovations don't require much of that to work on.
> Some do, but Google's still hiring. :-)

Cloud environments don't do parallel apps (or even distributed apps).
Problems do not fit on single computers any more.

> On domain experts, see, here you are back to circular reasons. You need a
> lot of money for your labor so you can pay other people for their labor.
> What if you can find a domain expert who is willing to help make free
> software?

If I can find someone that can do everything that needs to be done for
free, great. That is a big "if". We have difficulty finding qualified
people now for any amount of money. A good theory guy with mad
polymath skills can pull seven figures at a high-end comp sci shop.

> Also, many of these domain experts get that way by a huge
> investment by the state in their education. But then they want to charge for
> all that? Maybe that's how the system works, but it is ethically
> questionable.

Not by any stretch of the imagination. What makes those guys good has
nothing to do with their formal education. Indeed, when I think about
it most of them don't have a formal education at all related to what
they are known for. For that matter, a good number of them only don't
even have a college degree. These are the kind of people that can pick
up a brand new area of advanced mathematics the way most of people
pick up Harry Potter. I don't think they teach that in school.

> You're talking in abstractions that may evade some key issues of
> accountability. Efficient for what purpose? Efficient to whose ends?

If we are talking about research, I assume we want to complete the
research as quickly and accurately as possible while consuming the
minimum quantity of resources. Anything else is a waste of finite
resources. Unless, of course, it is about research *theater* rather
than real research.

> You're looking at this from a narrow corporate-oriented profit-oriented
> view, it seems to me?

No, I am looking at this from the standpoint of efficient research. I
don't want to waste my time accommodating people who are accomplishing
nothing yet are nonetheless preventing me from accomplishing anything.
 Not much fun, that.

> You are using words like "everything has to scale". Really?

Yes. Welcome to the 21st century.

> Anyway, why be in such a hurry?

Because I don't want to waste a decade doing what can be done in a
year? Maybe your time is worthless, but mine is not.

It is absurd. If I had to do my research at a fraction of the speed I
actually do it, I would not even bother to do it at all.

> There's a reason -- it has to do with profit, and interest charges, and so
> on. But if people are not doing it for money, none of those really matter,
> do they?

Dead wrong. Why should I slow down just because other people can't
keep up?  Forget it, if I seriously had to dumb everything down to the
capabilities of the lowest common denominator, I wouldn't even try.

For all your talk of "fun", you are trying to imagine the most
pathologically boring and un-fun research environment possible.

> There may be a political power issue, but then all you're saying is a bunch
> of rich people can seize control of the future because they can put lots of
> wage slaves under the whip. That doesn't sound like a happy way to be.


> Besides, what are we paying all that public money to people at universities
> for if not to do a lot of the heavy lifting on some of this and give it back
> to the public?

Non sequitur. What do universities have to do with it?

>> No, designing and prototyping a new computing architecture is
>> surprisingly cheap these days, a couple million if you are frugal. No
>> need to make your own foundry, there are companies that specialize in
>> that kind of thing if you like how things work in reconfigurable
>> silicon first.
> Why even that much real cash? There are millions of teenagers out there who
> may want to play with this stuff.

Uh, because custom silicon layout costs money?  At a minimum, it costs
man-years of time, requires expensive specialized hardware, and even
more specialized technical expertise.  Even if the labor was free and
you had the expertise, you would still be out hundreds of thousands of
dollars for the hardware.  It is a highly competitive market so prices
have fallen a lot over the years.

That price tag isn't a made up price, these are small-run highly
sophisticated engineering products that require a lot of resources to

>> Manpower is the primary expense because for bleeding edge work you
>> often need extremely talented people to do work that those people have
>> no significant personal interest in doing. Hardware usually comes in a
>> distant second even for large-scale computing apps.
> If people have no significant personal interest in doing something creative,
> maybe they should not be doing it?

I hate to break it to you, but most interesting engineering products
involve godawful quantities of very un-fun slog.

> Why create a society that forces people to do things they don't want to do?
> What is the point of all this technology if it is just to create suffering
> among talented programmers?

Huh? Life is about tradeoffs, it isn't all ponies and rainbows.

> I assume you use Google search in your research. How much is all that
> hardware it runs on costing you?


> Because you are thinking commercially, you feel you need to be on the
> cutting edge. But for people who are just having fun, they can be a couple
> years behind you, and still do things worthwhile to them.

Nonsense. I'm in it for the challenge of solving genuinely new and
unsolved problems. That's my idea of fun. Unfortunately, it is "fun"
that requires not insubstantial quantities of capital. You don't even
understand the problems we do solve, so it is unclear how you know so
much about what is required.

It boggles my mind that anyone would even suggest that pretending to
do R&D on a problem that has already been solved is either interesting
or of significant value.  We can't all be followers; someone has to
blaze the trail you want to follow.

> So, does the world really need your cutting edge commercial work if in five
> years someone else would do it for free on cheaper hardware?

You are seriously confused about what this type of research is like.
There is unlikely to be comparable hardware to validate on that is
meaningfully cheaper in five years. Some of these problems have 40
years and thousands of pages of academic research worth of attempts to
solve them.  It isn't as easy as trivial as you are imagining.

> Sure. Better tools helps. Again, though, why the rush? Programming is
> interesting to many people. There are millions of people who might think
> that is fun someday.

Great, they can do it on their own time. In the mean time, I'd rather
have something interesting to work on.

> As I see it, the rush is mostly about the money?

No, the "rush" is the speed I normally work at. Perhaps you are just slow?

> And gaining control of some intellectual monopoly to exclude others for
> profit?

What intellectual monopoly?

> Besides, if it is true basic R&D, how do you even know who the right expert
> is? Or what the right problem is?

There are well known questions well-specified questions without
answers.  And there are often proofs that if you can answer that
question, then you can answer several other important questions that
are dependent on the answer.

> Ah, lifesaving.

You have no idea how important the answers to some of these research
questions are to the developing world in very specific ways, never
mind the fat happy people in the industrialized world.  Dismissing the
value is simple ignorance.

J. Andrew Rogers

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