Monthly Archives: November 2020

The Case for Sortition in America – Harvard Political Review

An ideal American democracy is not beholden to moneyed interests before the people it serves. It dismantles unjust and undemocratic systems. Sortition is not perfect, but it is far closer to this ideal than what we have.
— Read on

A well-explained argument for legislation by citizen conclaves instead of a permanent legislature.

Programming is the wrong level of abstraction

These guys from the 60s and 70s are hung up on the wrong thing. Programs, and programming, are a way station on the evolution of how we deal with machines. Debugging, blah blah, is all going away.

Fairly soon, it will be: here’s some constraints, and some high-level description of the terms we are using to think about them. Now, machine, go from what you know how to do now to incorporate these constraints and ideas into your operation. Programming will be some low level operation that the machine does to itself to accommodate these new ideas.

More on figuring out what I think is important

I’m realizing, everything I’m drawn to in computing, and in my old music, has to do with models of interaction. Listening to Alan Kay, and to the Erlang guy, and thinking about the pieces I’ve written, and why jazz is interesting, and so on. It’s all less about the entities involved, and more about how they interact.

Same with the political stuff. How do you devise systems that allow for the interaction of numbers of opaque entities over unreliable channels in real-time to move in an interesting and useful way from where you are to where you want to be?

Alan Kay

Just watched the talk “The Computer Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet”, from OOPSLA last century (!). I’d heard of this talk, but not watched it. Really good, biting critique of how we think about and work with complexity.

Check out the video here.

The guy really is a genius. I’m off to find more on YouTube.

Update: Another one from 2015. Interesting how many of the ideas, and the metaphors, haven’t changed, even though it’s 20 years later and for a completely different audience of corporate leaders instead of tech academics.

In talking about the Intergalactic Network, Kay says someone asked why it was so-named, and the answer was: engineers always give you the minimum, so the choice was intentional to make them think about the potential. This is so right-on. The accepted practice is: there’s a set of requirements that dictate a series of constraints that circumscribe the design of what you’re working on. They end up describing what’s inside and what’s outside your design, like a cell wall.

One of Kay’s points is that these designs at any given point in time, given a context (how much money do we have? How much memory can we use? How about CPU?) should be the building blocks of the next thing, the machine language of the next thing, with the ability to continuously evolve built in, even at the lowest level, because the context is continually evolving, and because we need to be able to play with these things in order to understand what to do next.

So don’t think about building something and scaling it up. Think about building something huge and impractical, and scale it down.

More on the should-I-buy-this app

Thinking some more about my app idea. In effect, the app (or rather the data driving it) addresses the idea of market failure due to costs that aren’t accounted for in pricing. In a simplistic model, producers communicate with consumers through prices. But it’s clear that when costs like environmental degradation aren’t incorporated into the price, the model breaks down. The app would provide a way to surface costs like this directly to consumers.

‘A gamechanger for musicians’: app offers library of interactive sheet music | Music | The Guardian

Exclusive: German startup Enote working on complex task of digitalising musical notation
— Read on

A few years ago, I thought about adding a foot switch input to an iPad to allow page turning. Boy, I haven’t kept up … of course, the damn tablet can keep track for me better than I can and flip the page itself at the right time.


Ambulation – Extended Soundwalking with Bela

Kinda like this. Calls out some interesting gear, too: a device that demodulates radio to audio without a tuner, which led to a tin box with a contact piezo and some springs, …

I like the walk as compositional structure idea, too. The processing in PD sounds routine, but it’d be good to experience this.

Time for a midlife crisis

K, time to start planning. Extended adventure trip. Douglas, Martin. Overland by … ? Bike? Motorbike? (No). Jeep? Land Rover/Cruiser? Go for a walk? Neither one likes sailing, so …

At least a month or two away, in places we wouldn’t otherwise go. South America? Silk Road? South East Asia?

I’ve got the time, and they do too. And we aren’t getting any younger. Time to realize the cliché.