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    I’ve changed my tune on Bitcoin recently for two reasons, despite still liking its ideals:

    1. The government intervening in the economy is sometimes a feature, not a bug. In times of economic crisis, for example, the government has unique powers to help. Sometimes it is a bug, but Bitcoin seems to assume that any intervention by any centralized entity, at ALL, is malicious. In fact I intend to take an economics class to be better informed on this very issue.

    2. The energy use is unconscionable. We’re already destroying the environment at a ridiculous pace and the Bitcoin space (to me, at least, bearing in mind that I don’t REALLY pay attention) seems to be full of anarchists who are determined to have their uncontrollable system at any cost, with absolutely no regard to seemingly unrelated consequences.

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      The government intervening in the economy is sometimes a feature, not a bug.

      If by “sometimes a feature” you mean “the only thing that prevents repeated economic collapse” then yes.

      If you’re interested at all then definitely take a macroeconomics class. And history while you’re at it, especially pre-industrial and early industrial America.

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        Sometimes == every time bitcoiners fall for a scam and lose money (and suddenly drop all the libertarian stuff and start crying for government help).

        Look at /r/Buttcoin, the amount of fraud in the cryptocurrency space is beyond ridiculous.

        1. 1

          I agree with your observation, but I think understanding the cause is more useful than poking fun at it. I’ve gotten the sense that falling for scams is an expected cost to a certain constituency, specifically the people who are using cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange for things the governments they live under don’t approve of. I don’t expect the prevalence of scams to scare that group away. People who don’t share that driving concern should take note and understand that it’s always likely to be high-risk.

        2. 1

          Not that I’m in favor of Bitcoin at all (and I seriously agree with your first point) but I’ve also seen arguments that Bitcoin is used in some places (perhaps it was China?) to help mop up excess energy from renewable sources when they’re at peak output hours. I think the argument went that when the sun is high in the sky on a clear day, or when the wind is really blowing, energy companies will often turn off windmills or solar panels to avoid producing too much energy. In this case, Bitcoin can help use up that excess energy, and by turning it into cash, become a sort of renewable subsidy that makes it more attractive to build more renewable energy sources. I do know there are definitely places where a renewables-powered grid overproduces so much that energy prices become negative.

          Perhaps this isn’t true, but I think it illustrates that maybe the energy problem is a more complex issue than it appears?

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            Sounds like some fairy tale told by miners implying they are not mining 24h/7d a week.

            1. 3

              Mm, that matches my understanding of how energy production works, but it’s also the case that that energy could go into other things. I think it was actually here on lobste.rs that I learned about kinetic energy storage (roll a ball up a hill, to roll it back down later… that sort of thing) and how it’s used to smooth out energy demand.

              There’s no way that Bitcoin miners aren’t making things difficult for grid operators. I agree with @isra17 that it’s an extremely self-serving claim.

            2. -1

              The energy seems like a fairly trivial cost to me. It’s a fraction of a percent. I’m willing to pay that price, and I’m also optimistic about the future of renewable energy.

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                The per-transaction electricity cost was 215kwh back in November - that’s not trivial in the slightest. At market rates where I live it’s $7 or so.

                Credit cards processors use several orders of magnitude less per payment made.

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                  Well in dollars terms it either is worth it or its not. I’m not particularly concerned about the environmental impact.

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                    And whom do you expect to deal with the environmental consequences?

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                      whoever’s dealing with it for the other 99.9% of the environmental impact from non-renewable energy sources

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                        That would be your descendants.

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                          o/ yo

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                            if their solution ends up involving defining standards for sufficiently useful computations, well, uh, godspeed

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                    A fraction of a percent of what? Energy use? Today Bitcoin is estimated to use as much energy as the country of Denmark. By 2020 is estimated it’ll use literally as much energy as we use in the entire planet today. I don’t particularly see how that’s trivial. Source: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/12/bitcoins-insane-energy-consumption-explained/

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                      Today Bitcoin is estimated to use as much energy as the country of Denmark

                      That’s far out of date. Denmark consumes approximately 3.5GW; bitcoin is now at about 5GW, somewhere between Hong Kong and Bangladesh.

                      https://digiconomist.net/bitcoin-energy-consumption

                      By 2020 is estimated it’ll use literally as much energy as we use in the entire planet today.

                      No credible extrapolation is possible, obviously. Energy usage will drop fast when the bubble bursts.

                      1. 0

                        Because denmark has like 5 million people? I’m about as worried about bitcoin as I am another denmark popping up (the world gains like 12x the population of denmark every year)

                        edit: re 2020: https://xkcd.com/605/

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                        I know next to nothing about cryptocurrencies, but my understanding is that Proof of Stake means we don’t need to use this energy. Many coins don’t use this because they weren’t sure whether it was secure. But recently the IOHK team has proven a secure Proof of Stake algorithm for Cardano.

                        Is there a downside to this approach?

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                          The “Criticism” section on the Wikipedia article on Proof of Stake lists a few:

                          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proof-of-stake#Criticism

                          Note that Wikipedia is an ideological battleground when it comes to cryptocurrencies, so make sure to check the citations for a more comprehensive view.

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                            I can’t find the source for this despite having seen it just last night (sigh) but IOHK apparently makes you generate your own seed, which has resulted in lots of people using web-based generators that then steal your money. This is a really bad idea and it’s not that hard to read from /dev/urandom and then say “here write this thing down.”

                            So I wouldn’t really trust them to have done stuff correctly, including Proof of Stake. Obviously that doesn’t mean it can’t be done or even that they haven’t done it - just that I would like to see a lot of scrutiny from experts.

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                              So I wouldn’t really trust them to have done stuff correctly, including Proof of Stake.

                              The point is you don’t have to, they have proofs.

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                        Still working on an in-browser code/markdown editor:

                        https://www.dropbox.com/s/ixsgpq3wn35dfmj/editor%201.mp4?dl=0

                        It individually places all lines of text using SVG, so I got to write all the cursor movement and text wrapping code from scratch.

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                          I try not to post negative things on this site, but I’m a bit confused as to why this post has so many upvotes, so I’ll try to write a rebuttal. I think this is a (mostly) absurd post.

                          Today many dependency maintenance tools, as npm for javascript, Bundler for Ruby or even pip for Python can access an application source code directly from Github. Free Software projects getting more and more linked and codependents, if one component is down, all the developing process stop.

                          Firstly, even if those package managers were to remove GitHub support today, the alternative is putting things in the public gem server or into npmjs.com itself, which still creates a central point of failure. The points about “legal demands” to GitHub apply just as readily to the actual npm and rubygems servers, and what’s more, it seems incredibly unlikely a company will attempt to DMCA something like leftpad. And even if they do, which again, could happen to any of the possible code sources that these package managers support, it’s obnoxious but also trivial to repoint dependencies to a code server.

                          It’s true, as the author lists in 2.1.1, GitHub does end up being a larger target for DDOS attacks, since an outage could affect more package managers. However, considering they also make substantial profits unlike most package manager websites, I’d argue this gives them more than enough resources to defend themselves from this increased risk. GitHub has withstood DDOS attacks at a nation-level scale from the Chinese government. Would you trust Rubygems to do the same?

                          Those on the side of the viral Free Software will have trouble to use a proprietary software as this last one shouldn’t even exist.

                          Section 2.3.1 repeatedly mentions that GitHub isn’t Free Software, but doesn’t actually list any reason why this is bad. Nobody is forcing GPL projects to move their projects to GitHub. I’d also argue that thanks to its lightweight nature, migrating away from GitHub if you find they are “endangering privacy, corrupting for profit our uses and restrain our freedom” is not terribly difficult.

                          Very popular, it grew fast until it was closed overnight, with only a few weeks for its users to extract their data. It was only a to-do list. The same situation with Github would be tremendously difficult to manage for several projects if they even have the ability to deal with it.

                          This is a issues-to-CSV export script, and this shows how easy exporting a PR to a diff or patch file is. Exporting all of this is completely trivial, and considering how many thousands of programmers are on this website, even in the event where users had only “two weeks” to migrate away their data (already an absurd and unrealistic situation) there would be plenty of tools to do so.

                          A new Free Software project is now a Git repository on Github with README.md added as a quick description. All the other solutions are ostracized? How?

                          I think this is the one fair point of the entire article that I agree with. I think it’s indisputable open source projects are more popular if they’re hosted on GitHub. That said — with the sheer number of open source projects that one must use today, it’s absurd to expect users to create new accounts and learn new tools for every single project that they use.

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                            This seems pretty cool! I was curious if there were any other datastores than the memory-backed store in the examples, so I went to http://docs.rs to see if there was a “Database” trait and any implementations… but it’s not there, so I assume Backtalk hasn’t been published to crates.io yet?

                            A recent project at $EMPLOYER was built on etcd because it supported notifying watchers of updates, it would have been neat to have something like Backtalk to present as an alternative.

                            1. 3

                              Hasn’t been published yet, sorry! Still waiting on hyper to publish their async code to crates.

                              There aren’t any other database adapters published yet, but I’m going to start working on them soon!

                            1. 2

                              Is this really a security vulnerability? Assuming you’re actually running code from that secondary source gem, it seems the other gem could do arbitrary things to your computer in the same way that a malicious rails gem could.

                              1. 2

                                The reason why this is (supposedly) a problem is that you may inspect the gem that you grabbed from that alternative source, but you may not have noticed or had any insight into that alternative server also having a ‘rails’ gem.

                                ‘Rails’ is important because most Rubyists will install it and so a malicious person would have a good possibility of you installing the fake gem.

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                                Does anybody have book recommendations for this?

                                1. 1

                                  I don’t know of a marketing book specifically written for designers. That said, there are plenty of fine marketing books that are accessible for anyone.

                                  Seth Godin’s books are great and fun to read: https://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Seth+Godin&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Seth+Godin&sort=relevancerank

                                  Meanwhile, Marty Neumeier is a design guy who covers a lot of big-picture topics (strategy, brands, etc.): https://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Marty+Neumeier&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Marty+Neumeier&sort=relevancerank

                                  And, in my opinion, everyone can benefit from reading: https://www.amazon.com/Positioning-Battle-Your-Al-Ries/dp/0071373586

                                  There is, of course, lots more. These provide a place to start, though.

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                                  Use Fastmail! It has a built-in contact manager that works perfectly with their email client. The contacts sync to my iPhone and computer, and work just as well as they would if they were in iCloud.

                                  1. 2

                                    I think part of my problem is being on android.. I can’t seem to find a way to sync my contacts with fastmail (I really prefer the iOS layout for settings!)

                                    1. 4

                                      There’s no built-in support for caldav or carddav in Android, unfortunately. The consensus solution seems to be a pair of paid apps (which together are around $5) to sync events and contacts to the internal proprietary event and contact stores.

                                      A better solution, of course, would be for Google to support an open standard for once in their lives, but it seems there’s no chance of that.

                                      1. 5

                                        DavDroid is an alternative application that does both in one app.

                                  1. 3

                                    Right now, I’m reading What Computers Still Can’t Do, only 6% through it, but so far it’s a sort of application of Heidegger and some other philosophers to argue that teaching computers common sense is a next to impossible task that will require jumping quite a few more hurdles than most people think. I think I found this book from reading Understanding Computers and Cognition, another good read on the topic.

                                    1. 1

                                      I like the way you phrased that, “will require jumping quite a few more hurdles than most people think”.

                                      In fact, Dreyfus himself seems to think that true AI is indirectly achievable by simulating the chemical reactions of a human brain:

                                      In general, by accepting the fundamental assumptions that the nervous system is part of the physical world, and that all physical processes can be described in a mathematical formalism which can in turn be manipulated by a digital computer, one can arrive at the strong claim that the behavior which results from human “information processing,” whether directly formalizable or not, can always be indirectly reproduced on a digital machine. (“What Computers Can’t Do” 194-95)

                                      I like the simulation approach because it bypasses the need to understand how consciousness works. There is The Human Brain Project which is probably too ambitious, but I also have high hopes for the OpenWorm project making progress in this area.

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                                      Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong. I’ve been interested in religion lately, mostly from a historical perspective. In the past I’ve read mostly Buddhist stuff (and I was raised Catholic) but I realized that I know almost nothing about Islam, so this seemed like a nice introductory book. I think I found it at a thrift store. So far, the book is great, very approachable but also factual. Clears up many misconceptions I had about Islam, and it seems to me like the Quran is a very modern religious text (more so than the Old Testament, in any case). When I finish this I’ll probably be looking for another, more in-depth book on Islam, or maybe I’ll get a copy of the Quran itself.

                                      I’m also reading A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. Never read it before, but I’m really enjoying it so far. Slowing moving through Buddhism Without Beliefs, which is okay. Not sure what I think of it yet, but that link goes to a nice review.

                                      Oh I also got a copy of bitemyapp’s Haskell Book but I’ve only read the introduction so far. Looking forward to working through it.

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                                        If you want then to go abruptly toward the other side of the spectrum, I’ll dare to suggest reading Sam Harris https://amzn.com/0393327655 or Richard Dawkins.

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                                          Oh yeah, I was very atheist for about 6 years, I even started the RIT Skeptics club in college. But I eventually came to the conclusion that Dawkinsesque atheism is really just another form of religion. Atheism, after all, is a theological position on the question of the existence of god: it is the claim that god doesn’t exist, and the proof of a negative cannot be arrived at via logic, it must be axiomatically taken in the manner of belief. The only purely logical position is agnosticism, which is how I prefer to align myself. In fact, in Buddhism Without Beliefs, Stephen Batchelor basically describes an agnostic Buddhism, which is pretty cool.

                                          So I think that Harris' and Dawkins' treatment of religion as inherently anti-rationalist is way too simplistic. This interview with Karen Armstrong explains really well. Also, I don’t agree with Harris when he says (I paraphrase) ISIL is motivated to violence by the Islamic doctrine primarily

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                                            There’s also nontheism which just considers the whole god-or-not question silly and refuses to even consider it.

                                            1. 3

                                              Atheism, after all, is a theological position on the question of the existence of god: it is the claim that god doesn’t exist, and the proof of a negative cannot be arrived at via logic, it must be axiomatically taken in the manner of belief.

                                              Atheism is actually the lack of a belief in God/Gods, not the positive position that God does not exist. Most atheists, Dawkins and Harris included, acknowledge that they are technically agnostic atheists. But the distinction is unimportant or even meaningless because “gnostic atheism” is such a ridiculous position, as you point out.

                                              I agree that Harris' views on religion (and Islam in particular) are overly simplistic, but his atheism isn’t irrational.

                                              1. 1

                                                Mmm, well I guess I was confused and wasn’t aware Dawkins/Harris made the distinction of “gnostic atheism” and “agnostic atheism”, so thanks for the clarification :)

                                              2. 2

                                                Would you say you are also an agnostic on the question of whether dragons exist, and that the belief that they do not exist is a theological one? How about on the question of whether a dragon exists in my garage?

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                                                  Dragons are not in the category of theology, they would be in the category of biology, which is largely an empirical science. The question “do dragons exist?” is only answerable if you find a real dragon. Since we haven’t found a dragon, we say “we have no evidence that dragons exist.” This does not mean that dragons do not exist, this means that dragons might exist, we just haven’t found any evidence of them. Same goes for bigfoot, sasquatch, lochness monster, whatever. This is how I arrive at agnosticism, because you can’t prove a negative (i.e. the claim that god/sasquatch doesn’t exist can’t be proven) and absence of evidence is not evidence of absence (which ironically is a Sagan saying).

                                                  Now I’m definitely not the type of person to believe in dragons because someone faked footprints in the flour, nor will I be attending church and praying all day. But I do believe there is value in maintaining a sense of wonder and respect for the natural world, which I find in Buddhism. I also find that sentiment in my friends and loved ones. Others might find it in religion, praying to Allah multiple times a day, and I don’t have a problem with that.

                                                  Also, the topic of “god as a corporeal entity” is rather useless, in my opinion, and dealing with religion and god etc. via empiricism will never yield a useful answer. Instead of using empirical reasoning, we have to use something else; I don’t know what that “something else” is (yet), but I really like the way Buddhism approaches spirituality, meaning, and the human condition. The Kyoto School philosophers really challenged me to think of “god” not as a corporeal entity or an “Absolute Truth” like some Western philosophers might (Hagel and Descartes come to mind) but as an “Absolute Nothingness”, which is really hard to think about but is very fascinating. Almost in line with Nietzsche’s abgrund or “groundless ground” for reason. I think the Kyoto philosophers got me interested in the history of religion, because now I want to know where the idea of “god as corporeal” came from originally.

                                                  (Sorry for the long, soap-box reply. I don’t wanna get off topic in Lobsters, just wanted to clarify what I meant. Maybe we could take this to private messages if you want to discuss more in depth)

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                                                    I can see how that makes sense starting from theism - from the reverse, it’s hard to see why there would be a separate category for theology, with different standards of evidence. Thanks.

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                                                      Because standards of evidence are only applicable with respect to the mode of evaluation. You wouldn’t look at a mathematical proof and say “well the p-value isn’t >0.05, so this isn’t true”. Logical proofs have their own standards, just like statistics has its own standards, and empiricism has its own standards. When it comes to meaning-of-life questions, empiricism is one possible way of evaluating the questions, but I and many others find it inadequate. Instead of empiricism we could use existentialist or phenomenological ideas, as they were popular in the 20th century with Sartre and others, but historically religion has been the most-used method of evaluating meaning-of-life questions, so I think that’s important.

                                            2. 2

                                              Ooh, Karen Armstrong! I read Fields of Blood and would definitely recommend it if you’re interested in the history of religion. That book on Islam looks interesting, too, thanks.

                                              1. 1

                                                Oh, man, I love A Tale of Two Cities! I haven’t read it in a long time. Maybe I should re-read it next. You should also see the movie(s) once you’re done.

                                                I’m lusting for the Haskell Book too. I probably will buy it soon.

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                                                It’s not free, but Operator Mono SSm is my personal favorite.

                                                1. 1

                                                  I ran this for a few weeks and the novelty of it soon wore off. I like that it has some personality (specifically the italics) but really didn’t find it especially pleasant to use.

                                                  1. 1

                                                    I do like the look of it, but the price is rather high - $199 for a single computer. Yikes! For $20 I’d be tempted, but not at that price.

                                                  1. 1

                                                    I guess it’s also on the homepage, but in case people haven’t seen it, apparently there’s more to the story.

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                                                      During my Recurse Center batch, I think maybe 3 different people suggested building a BitTorrent client from scratch.

                                                      1. 1

                                                        Awesome, thanks for the reply! I’ll add that to my list, it sounds exciting.

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                                                        Somewhat relevant: my favorite short story is the Library of Babel, by Jorge Luis Borges, which describes a universe-sized library consisting of hexagonal rooms attached to each other. The library contains, in random order, all possible books (with some finite max page count per book that I can’t remember right now). This library is interesting because 1) it is finite in size, although quite large and 2) it contains all possible useful information.

                                                        If we could build this library, could we use it as prior art? Could we even have novel ideas if they already exist in the library? This question is relevant because somebody has created this library, although it uses some math to generate the books on the fly as you browse. That said, it genuinely does contain all books.

                                                        In my mind, the Library of Babel is just as valid a way to combat prior art as this project — both are a massive computer generated list of possible writings, although the Library of Babel is a bit more comprehensive. I’m not sure if they are valid, though.

                                                        1. 5

                                                          What is an idea? Or a patent, to be more specific? It’s a number. Concatenate all the 8-bit chars in a patent and you have a number. Very large, but still a number, and finite in size. All we need is an algorithm that can generate all the numbers up to a certain max. Increment comes to mind.

                                                          This is like infinite monkeys with typewriters. The work of Shakespeare is not rendered unremarkable by the fact that it could, in theory, be generated randomly.

                                                        1. 8

                                                          You all have probably already seen it, but CommonMark is an attempt at a formal spec.

                                                          1. 3

                                                            This title makes it seem like it’s your master password, but it seems it’s just the password for a particular site.

                                                            1. 1

                                                              Yep—and that could also be stolen by any old browser extension anyway. This seems like a nonstory to me, but I guess it’s probably interesting for people who don’t think about attack vectors much.

                                                            1. 3

                                                              Another valid use of forks: I run the Slate documentation template, which is a static site generator template for APIs. We encourage people to fork the project as a way to easily add their own docs and publish to Github Pages. This changed code is never merged back upstream, so our “stupid factor” of 50 is largely due to people making real changes to their personal fork.

                                                              Maybe a good system would be to only count forks as fake if they haven’t pushed any new commits?