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The ironic challenge of nuclear power safety

Posted in Analysis, Geek, Physics, Societal Values, Technology on March 15th, 2011 by leodirac – 15 Comments

In studying the history of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the ongoing events at Fukushima, a subtle but important connection appears.  The problems at Fukushima today share a fundamental similarity with the cause of Chernobyl’s disaster. Moreover, within that similarity lies a path to making nuclear power safer. Obviously there are huge differences.  Chernobyl was a massive […]

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Why Amazon Kindle might succeed where others have failed

Posted in Amazon, Analysis, Business, Technology, User Experience on February 27th, 2008 by leodirac – Comments Off on Why Amazon Kindle might succeed where others have failed

Amazon has a history of facilitating disruptive change. First by selling books online, they demonstrated the advantages of a well-run online store. Then with music, movies and just about everything else, they have shown that centralizing inventory and customer experience allows for reduced costs and an improved experience over a traditional distributed retail model. Today, Amazon Web Services is starting to disrupt IT operations similarly by providing a higher quality service at lower cost than most companies can manage themselves. They achieve these scale economies through centralization. With Kindle Amazon is attempting another disruptive change, this time in the way…

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Intellectual Property in the Music Industry

Posted in Analysis, Business, Music, Technology on February 13th, 2008 by leodirac – 2 Comments

[I wrote this for my excellent class on Open Innovation. With mere weeks to go until I finish my MBA, I haven’t found much time to write original stuff for this blog, so I’m recycling a bit.] The music recording industry is in trouble. Disruptive changes in music playback technology have seriously reduced demand for their mainstay business, physical CD sales. CD sales comprise 80% of the industry’s total revenue, but have dropped sharply in recent years. Last year sales dropped by 19%, and the channel is in danger of freefall as retailers start to re-allocate store space currently assigned…

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Social mixing at foo camp 2007

Posted in Community, Ego, Psychology, Technology on June 25th, 2007 by leodirac – 1 Comment

I just got back from foo camp, a small unconference-style event held on the Sebastopol campus of O’Reilly. FOO stands for Friends Of O’Reilly. (The name came out of a joke about having a “foo bar” at a conference. This bar served me too much wine over the course of the weekend.) Tim O’Reilly likes the conference because it helps him spot upcoming trends early, which is an important part of O’Reilly’s business both as a publisher of technology books, and as an organizer of large public conferences. The conference is small and invitation only, and pretty much everybody there…

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Posted in Music, Tech Industry, Technology, Transhumanism, User Experience on June 17th, 2007 by leodirac – Comments Off on

A little while ago I heard an interesting story on NPR about collaborative music software. They described a series of websites that empower geographically separated musicians to create music collaboratively. Using sites like ejamming, Musicians can find additional band members, share tracks and mix your own tracks with those of your partners across the net. They even hint at being able to practice with each other live, although I’ve never tried it. All this reminds me of the story behind the fabulous first album by The Postal Service, Give Up. For those who don’t know the story, this fabulous album…

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Stephen Hawking is half right

Posted in Technology, Transhuman Morality, Transhumanism on April 27th, 2007 by leodirac – Comments Off on Stephen Hawking is half right

My old pal Stephen Hawking has been in the news a lot today for going on a vomet-comet ride. (Okay, we’re not really old pals, but we’ve chatted a couple of times, notably at my grandpa’s memorial service where he gave a really touching eulogy.) At a press conference before his flight, Stephen said: “Life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers.” On this point I completely agree with him. This idea was a key point I made in…

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Apologies for the downtime

Posted in Humor, Technology on April 24th, 2007 by leodirac – Comments Off on Apologies for the downtime

The house where my nameserver lives lost power today. I’ve moved DNS service to a professional hosting service to avoid similar problems in the future, thus continuing the trend of moving services into the server cloud. It’s probably best since the server closet at that house is also the laundry room. When we set up that house we understood something few MIS folks do — computers really love warm damp environments. Anyway, sorry for the inconvenience. Everything should be back to normal in a few hours. (If you’re reading this, it almost certainly is.)

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Preparing for External Brain Failure

Posted in Gadgets, Technology, Transhumanism, Travel on April 18th, 2007 by leodirac – 1 Comment

Charles Stross’s book Accelerando has a hilarious scene where a highly-augmented human loses his glasses which are his primary interface to the computer systems which support his thinking. The character is so used to relying on these external systems for support that his immediate response is “Who am I?” In first aid, we learn to rank somebody’s level of alertness and orientation by asking them if they know their name, where they are, what time it is and what happened, getting additional points for each successively harder question. Without his glasses, this human was unable to answer even the easiest…

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Problems relying on network time

Posted in Technology, Transhumanism, Travel on March 10th, 2007 by leodirac – Comments Off on Problems relying on network time

Tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM I’m flying to Mexico to enjoy spring break. And tonight, according to congress, Daylight Savings Time begins, which means the clocks should move ahead an hour. The real question is if the computers which are running the clocks are going to listen to congress or not. Normally I preach that network time is so much more reliable than manual, independent clocks that drift. But today is totally different. I’m trying to figure out what alarm I can set to wake up in time to get to the airport. I can’t trust my “smart” cell phone….

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Free Will and Turing-completeness of the Brain

Posted in Chemistry, Computer Science, Philosophy, Physics, Science, Technology, Transhumanism, Uploading on February 22nd, 2007 by leodirac – 9 Comments

In this essay, I’m going to explore the question “If the human brain is Turing complete, what does that imply about the existence of free will?” And moreover, what does that mean about the ability to upload our consciousness into computers? First, a little computer science background. Turing completeness is the idea that a computing system has the same capabilities as a universal Turing machine. This theoretical machine moves along a long tape which has various symbols on it that the machine can read and write. The machine itself is always in one internal state, but will change to different…

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