1x18: Shows Restraint

Bryan Lunduke, Jono Bacon, Jeremy Garcia, and no Stuart Langridge present Bad Voltage, the greatest podcast in the history of this or any other universe. In this episode:

  • Breaking Down The Bullshit: Gamification - is gamification a useful thing or all smoke and mirrors?
  • Jono leaves Canonical and moves to XPRIZE - what is all this about, then?
  • Review: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
  • A big community update with lots of great things going on in the Bad Voltage community!

Download the show now!

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I luckily have a kindle paperwhite, because I won it on a contest at a event. I would probably not buy one, because I find my Android smartphone pretty comfortable – maybe I should say sufficient – to read on.

But, anyway, it has been 4 months since I have it, and I never used my smartphone to read again. The Kindle is a really amazing and cool device.

I am frequently using calibre – a open source book management software, availably in most distros – to manage my books and sync them with my Kindle, it makes this work much more easier. It also autoconverts unsupported kindle formats (like epub) to mobi.

Of course, Kindle’s integration with the Amazon Book Store is very well designed too.

I also like to track which books I’ve read so far with Goodreads – a mix of social network and book catalog.

Finally, despite of Amazon not providing any official Kindle software for Linux, it works very well out-of-the-box with, at least, my box.

PS.: Good review, @jonobacon.

I wonder if the eink screen would be good on a tablet that you could use for irc. I mean sitting on your front porch watching sun go down and also being able to be on irc sounds awesome. I don’t know of a tablet like that. I wonder if it is good for reading text if you had that screen and a good keyboard if it could actually be really good for using a command line on.

You might find the Adam from Notion Ink interesting. It was pretty heavy, but nails your requirements.

Regarding Peter Diamandis’ vision of the future as the ‘Age of Abundance’ I would quibble with a few points:

  1. The future is incredibly difficult to predict even with the aid of bar charts.

  2. Automation is replacing more and more people and the jobs that it leaves are ones that require years of training. If there is no value in base level labour, where does that leave all the workers that would otherwise be forming the base of the economy? If you need a visual image, picture Elysium where the base level workers are effectively below the drones.

  3. Just because you have technology harnessing energy and creating abundance, doesn’t mean there is the means to distribute it equitably. The rich will get richer and the people at the bottom will be cut off. Capitalism will not be unseated as it will suit the people holding the reins.

  4. People are living longer and longer lives and birth rates are slowing down but probably not enough, so there will be more people after the ‘increased’ resources.

  5. People are not that much different than animals and reproduce in pace with the available resources. All the extra capacity will be swallowed up and some people will still starve. This can be demonstrated by the size of cars in America. The perception is that fuel is cheap and can be squandered. If there is abundant energy people will not learn their lessons and will just squander it.

I’m not trying to say it will be completely dystopian, just not that different from now, with cooler gadgets.

Flying cars for everyone!

Firstly, thanks for the feedback, @GenericJam!

Responses below:

I agree, but this is the nature of prediction. There are, however, a set of pretty consistent growth curves in technology that can give us a better sense for the overall direction of where we are going in terms of performance and capability. As an example, research tells us that in 2025 a computer will be as powerful as the human brain (due to Moore’s Law). This helps us to know the kind of computing power we will have then, and how we can apply it (e.g. more advanced AI) which helps us to start thinking of solving our major problems now.

This is the nature of any kind of technological advancement. I am not denying that there are shorter-term compromises that have to be made to evolve, but I think this will actually be good for society. If we worry about the short-term losses, we never evolve, and we never develop technology that could have a far wider impact than we ever thought.

Also, as our society becomes more technologically advanced and the nature of employment becomes more skilled, the base line for survival will depend more on skills…I think this will raise the importance of education and be good for our overall society. To a reasonable extent, some people today think “I hate school, I am not going to bother, I will just go and work in a factory” - if that option goes away and you need school to work, it will make education a more integral part of society, which I think is good.

Yes and no. The traditional model of capitalism is to build products and services and to build competition that drives the price down and the quality up. Traditionally, capatalism has been seen as something of a curse for bringing people out of poverty (due to all those greedy companies screwing the poor).

In recent years we are seeing more and more companies focusing on “the bottom billion”, that is, focusing goods and services specifically designed to empower the poor. Examples of this have been low cost cell phones, generators, water filtration, and housing. In these cases a company has found a new market in the bottom billion…delivered their product/service…been successful…and then someone else comes in and competes, thus giving the bottom billion choice. This is where the benefits of capitalism apply to helping that most vulnerable part of society. So, capitalism is not all bad.

I agree with you about energy distribution (and also scarcity). The major conflicts in the world today are caused by energy scarcity. This is the reason why solar is so important as it democratizes energy; it is energy abundance for everyone. The major missing piece is storage, and this is why a competitive energy storage market is so important so consumers can choose which particular battery they want to store the energy for their house (or village).

People are living longer, but research has proven that prosperity lowers population growth. For example, in parts of Africa it is common to have three kids. One to take care of the farm, one to take care of the family, and usually one kid dies over there from disease, so the third kid is a safeguard against that. Having better access to farming technology, energy, and healthcare reduces the need for people to grow their own personal workforce. :slight_smile:

Again, I agree that more people living out of poverty will require increased resources, but this is why abundance is so important…technology is making the world better as we speak - this isn’t going to slow down. What is important is that we solve these grand challenges and provide energy, healthcare, clean water etc for everyone to cater to this rapid rate of development.

I disagree. As I said above, research has proven that better quality living conditions reduces population.

I agree with your notion that people will always squander resources, but that is the point! The whole point behind abundance is that we can get to a point where we can squander resources.

As an example, in my house I have multiple computers, televisions, cell phones, tablets, baby monitors, DVD players, toasters, coffee machines, exercise equipment, lights, fireplaces, electric toothbrushes, and more. I don’t even think about my energy needs…if I see something I want that needs power, I just get it. This is because I have an abundance of energy.

This abundance provides so many benefits. It means I can work from home, I can ensure my family are clean and safe, I was able to run my consulting business, I can be social and entertain my friends etc.

The point here is that we want to be able to squander resources without there being a cost, and today for so many things there is an environmental cost.

Hells, yes!

@bryanlunduke I was thinking of things I would like to hear concerning the upcoming shampoo review.

How does the fragrance of the shampoo fit in your overall aroma therapy routine?

Does the Sodium Lauryl Sulfate issue affect your shampooing experience?

How important are the instructions? Specifically the typical last instruction “Repeat”?

Are suds that important?

First of all, I am a big fan of the XPrize, I just don’t adhere to the view that technology is the panacea to all humanity’s ills. I know it has made life better for us and has lifted many out of poverty but if you look into deep history, you will see that no species is likely to last indefinitely so there will be a course correction in the short term growth charts that people like to use. If you zoom out far enough, you’ll see that every ‘hockey stick’ graph is indeed a part of a wave, no progress is indefinite so far.

Example of above is Ray Kurzweil’s unbridled enthusiasm regarding how biology is about to be revolutionised by technology and that Moore’s Law will somehow still apply. Someone like Craig Ventnor is not so keen. From the linked article:

PAUL SOLMAN: Are you regretful that you’re going to miss the moment of immortality?

CRAIG VENTER: I don’t think we’re going to ever get there. I know a little bit more about biological reality. What I have argued, if you want to be immortal, do something useful in your lifetime.

RAY KURZWEIL: Craig Venter is a brilliant, very innovative person, but in this instance, he is not appreciating exponential growth.

I don’t see that technology is going to continue its exponential growth into biology.

Anyway, economics is generally a more important driving factor than the technology which often needs to have a business case before it gets built. Economics is currently meddling with Moore’s Law as our computers aren’t getting (much) faster, we are just getting more cores, unless you have a super computer or something.

I’m not anticapitalist by any stretch but one needs to understand its limitations and the incentives which create all manner of unintentional consequences, such as massive bonuses for people that have parasitically ransacked the economy. It’s like democracy: a terrible system that just happens to be the least worst.

Also, if energy is cheap and plentiful doesn’t mean we should squander it in any way. You’d think we’d learn the lesson we should have learned from oil. Yes, it is handy to have enough energy to run all our electronic gadgets but if energy is really abundant it leads to rampant waste.

A good example to sum up all points is HAARP. Whatever you think HAARP may or may not be. It was actually put into place because they had an abundance of natural gas with no feasible way to get it to a market. So instead of leaving it in the ground for future generations to use, they pull it out, build gas turbines and power some gigantic antennas pointed at the sky. The economics drove the science. Basically what I’m saying is that much of this is up to economics and other factors and economics is incredibly volatile.

I am certainly not suggesting technology can solve all problems, but I believe it can solve a significant chunk of our problems. We will always have poverty, and we will always have problems, but I do believe that technology and people harnessed effectively can things better.

I think it is too early to tell. We are still at the early days of biotech.

I disagree, out computers are getting significantly faster and the economics is driving that; the cell phone and tablet revolution has helped to kickstart that significantly.

I think you are conflating two different things here: exponential technology growth and capitalist greed. Of course, there is greed, but there are also a lot of good people in companies doing good work. I think the greed is the exception, not the rule.

Why? If for example, energy was free and didn’t harm the planet or other people, why not use as much as you like?

Just on the Kindle thing. One of the reasons I first got a Kindle was because I was contracting at a bunch of different places, and regularly had to lug around a bunch of technical manuals to new workplaces. The kindle stopped all that arseache. The one publisher who has realised the benefit of this and embraced the potential is O’Reilly. They automatically update their e-book editions and make investing in their publications worthwhile for the e-book user.

Props to O’Reilly for that.

Regarding gamification - the two examples that work for me are the fitbit badges and habitrpg.

Knowing that walking 45,000 steps in a day will give me a badge is enough of a motivator that If I notice I am close to reaching it I will take the time to make the effort to hit that milestone.

With habitrpg, I have a daily quest to walk 10,000 steps and so now I find myself taking the long way home each day to ensure I hit that target - something that would be easy to skip if there was no (albeit ultimately valueless) external motivator.

Finally - regarding kindle paperwhite - I too have one and after years of “taking a break” from reading, I have rediscovered the joy of reading as the convenience of packing it when travelling cannot be understated.

Are there any opensource (/hardware) ebook readers? I do actually agree with Stallman’s view on the Kindle - the fact they can just remotely remove books (and have done) is a bit of a worry for me, especially in England where we’re losing a lot of internet rights.

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linux action outlaws.

with apologies to Fab and Method Dan.

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@joe, there is this alternative operating system for Kindle (however, it looks like it isn’t available for paperwhite). Not sure if it is open source / free. Another link.

Has anyone ever tried to jailbreak a kindle? There are 1 and 2 that look like reliable sources.

I also found that it is possible to add custom fonts to your Kindle (no need for jailbreaking). However, this procedure didn’t work for mine (currently in version Edit: this (trick?) only works in the Paperwhite 1 (the one launched before September 2013).

Well, that would depend on the nature of the energy. If it is like harvesting solar energy or lightning or something like that where you need to use it on moment of generation, then there is no real argument for conservation as if you don’t use it, you lose it. If, it is like oil or uranium which is a one time use thing, it would be prudent to at least be a bit conservative with it because you never know what the future will be like or what you might need in the future.

Anyway, this is heading into pointless, groundless speculation, so I’ll leave it there.

Congratulations on the new job, Jono.

only if you connect it to wifi. I, personally, never do that; I drop books on it over USB.

This is why everything we do at XPRIZE is about renewable sources of energy. I agree that things with finite resources should be treasured, but something such as solar energy that is in abundance but also does not deprive someone else of energy, I think can be squandered.

Let’s be practical here…if you buy a book from Amazon it is extremely unlikely they are going to remove it. They are a content company…when they start screwing with customer content they are digging themselves a hole. I think it may happen very rarely, but the same can be said for any service…heck we could delete your comments on this forum if we wanted to, but it very unlikely. :slight_smile:

Except when they do:

I have to admit I’ve been a huge Amazon fan and proponent in the past. The recent Hachette nonsense has be rethinking that.


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