Wednesday, April 16, 2014

We the Internet: Bitcoin developers' idea for Bitcloud

A developer group is seeding a project that would behave as a decentralized Internet, in a departure from the present model. Posting their intentions recently on Reddit, they said "We will have to start by decentralizing the current Internet, and then we can create a new Internet to replace it." Called Bitcloud, they propose a peer to peer system for sharing bandwidth. Individual users would complete computing tasks such as routing, storing, or computing in exchange for cash. As the BBC explained, "Just as Bitcoin miners provide computing power and are rewarded for solving complex mathematical equations with the virtual currency, so individual net users would be rewarded based on how much bandwidth they contrib ute to the Bitcloud network."

Elaborating on Reddit about this cash model, the developers said this about payments: "One of the many problems of certain free and open source projects in the past has been the lack of a profit incentive. With Bitcloud, nodes on a mesh network can be rewarded financially for routing traffic in a brand new mesh network. This removes the need for Internet Service Providers."

Monday, March 31, 2014

The 'holodeck'

Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking are playing poker together. No, this isn’t a bad physics joke.  
It’s a scene from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” It takes place in a holodeck, a simulated-reality room in the fictional Star Trek universe. The three scientists — or at least computer-generated versions of them — have been transported to the 2300s to play cards with Lt. Cmdr. Data. 
“I don’t even know why I’m here in the first place,” Newton says. 
While the show is set in the future, some scientists and researchers say we could have something like holodecks by 2024. If you have enough money, you could even buy one today, though it would be crude compared to the holodecks on Star Trek.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Study Shows Google’s Dominance of Online Advertising

Old but still good. Via MIT's Technology Review:
Analysis of the mobile Web browsing habits of over three million people has revealed previously unseen patterns in how the major advertising companies carve up the Internet. Among the findings of a new study is that Google’s advertising tentacles extend to at least 80 percent of online publishers. It also found that if only a small fraction of Web surfers opted out of being shown shown ads based their previous online behavior, it would significantly decrease the industry’s profits. 
The new study was carried out by academics at Stony Brook and Columbia universities, with researchers from two major telcos: AT&T in the U.S. and Telefonica in Spain. They used records of 1.5 billion mobile Web surfing sessions from 2011, supplied by an unidentified mobile network operator, to see which sites people visited and which online ad companies provided ads on those pages.

Friday, February 14, 2014 sees new market in Bitcoins

The $1 billion company is tapping into a new market of buyers who use the online currency, and other major retailers will lose market share if they don't follow suit and accept Bitcoins, Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne said.

"I've been hearing from people all over the world—cult followers of Bitcoin—who say they are going to shift all of their shopping to," Byrne told CBS affiliate KUTV in Salt Lake City.

Bitcoin users buy digital money and load it onto a virtual wallet. They can buy things online without having to enter their credit-card information.

Unlike government-issued money, the value of Bitcoin fluctuates rapidly. To protect itself, Overstock uses a Bitcoin broker that immediately transfers the digital coin into dollars.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Is economics a science?

My email to Raj Chetty earlier today.

Dear Prof. Chetty: 
         <stuff deleted> 
[The] claim that "economics is a science" is not really a valid one or even a correct one. It is more than a semantic difference regarding the word 'science'. The fact that is that one can postulate multiple versions of the future (universes U1, U2, ..., Un out of which universe U1 is the one predicted by any particular economic theory T1) in which the predictions of T1 hold only in U1 but not in U2, ..., Un. The difference between the sciences (say, physics) and economics is that the probability of -only- U1 and -not- U2, ..., Un is very high in the case of physics and not -provably- as high in economics. 
Furthermore, economics does not, in almost any scenario worth thinking about, operate in a 'closed system' as it were. 'Closed systems' experiments are possible in certain science experiments. 
With reference to your article: the 10-week extension in welfare payments result that you cite cannot be viewed as being part of a 'closed system'.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Eleven languages

The BBC is running a story on an Oxford undergraduate who knows 11 languages.
Twenty-year-old Alex Rawlings has won a national competition to find the UK's most multi-lingual student. 
The Oxford University undergraduate can currently speak 11 languages - English, Greek, German, Spanish, Russian, Dutch, Afrikaans, French, Hebrew, Catalan and Italian. 
Very impressive.

One comment (based on a discussion on Arun Viswanath's Facebook page)- it seems that certain aspects of languages create the most 'grunt work'.

I am thinking, in particular, of gendered nouns here. Every time you have to add a language like French and Hindi to your repertoire, it becomes a time consuming task to learn and keep track of all the new nouns and their associated genders. (And this is one of those things that is important to know well; otherwise, people will be tipped off as you use more and more nouns with incorrect gender). The term 'combinatorial explosion' came to mind, but it is actually not that. The extra data is only O(n) where n is the number of languages. At any rate, the volume of the data that needs to be learned as you add each additional language becomes so large that, at some point, it just becomes progressively more time consuming and ultimately impractical to remember and refresh one's knowledge of it all.