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God's Flashlight

September 20th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
I was thinking about light the other day and how we only see a very narrow part of the spectrum (visible light).  A funny thought came to mind that if we were able to see higher energy light like x-rays, we would actually not be able to see most of the world, first because there aren't enough x-rays but second because even if there were a lot of x-rays, it'd go through most things on Earth so we'd only see the densest matter like bone and rock.  In other words, something with x-ray vision wouldn't be able to see our flesh and blood.  They might think creatures like us have telepathy or telekinesis because the parts of us that connect our bones or contain our vital processes are invisible.  And then something with even higher-energy vision, such as gamma rays, wouldn't be able to see us at all.  The whole time we think we are living in the day time, to these creatures, it would be pitch-black night.  Such a creature would likely have...[More]
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Free Will from Determinism

September 11th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
Free will can arise from a deterministic universe, just as life arises from the inanimate, just as infinite arises from the finite.  The same numbers that compute finite values can compute infinity, the same atoms that create inanimate matter can create life, and the same laws of physics that lead to cause-and-effect can lead to free-willed agents on the stage that is fate.
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The True Potential of Ripple and XRP

September 3rd, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
"Anything can be traded, issued, and sent in real time anywhere in the world."

Note: This post is my own recollection from 2013, when there were only a handful of cryptocurrencies (before even Ethereum existed).  Most the points made here, however, can be applied to blockchain in general as a high level of what the technology really capable of.

     I first heard of Ripple and its cryptocurrency token XRP back in 2013.  At the time, it was obscure but considered one of the more promising alternatives to Bitcoin.  Not only did it reduce Bitcoin's minutes-to-hours settlement time to mere seconds, it allowed anyone to create new symbols to represent practically anything - new currencies, companies, debt, even countries or people - anything - with just a few mouse clicks.  Just like that, your new symbol was then tradable 24/7 by anyone with its value determined completely by the free market.  Ripple was not just a currency; it was literally a global decentralized exchange.  Already there were symbols to represent the US dollar, the Euro, gold, even other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and just like the base currency XRP, these could all be traded or sent within seconds.  On top of that, the technology did not require mining, meaning the energy costs of the millions of computers crunching computations to maintain Bitcoin would be unnecessary.  Best of all, the technology was already done and live.  Anyone could create an account on the Ripple website and use this functionality firsthand.

    ...[More]
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A Company with No Customers or Employees

August 19th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
    The single greatest achievement of the Autodidactic I project is not its endeavor in autonomous trading with Tech Trader.  It's much more subtle than that.  Autodidactic I itself has become a self-sustaining and autonomous company with no customers, products, or employees.
     Think about that for a moment.  This is a company that will grow and generate revenue year after year completely on its own with no work done anywhere by any human being.  It is completely independent to the world.  It doesn't need to sell anything to anyone.  It doesn't need anyone to work in the company to keep it going.  It neither takes from nor gives to society.  It simply exists, its members benefiting from a fully automated revenue stream that requires absolutely no human input.  It is an Island, an off-the-grid company, dependent on nothing and beholden to no one.
     In the past, people would dream of "living off the fat of the land" or moving to some place isolated from society to be completely free.  That idea is much more metaphorical than literal today due to the near inescapable globalization and the ever-increasing scarcity of land.  You can still buy a piece of land and try to live off only what you grow, but you would pretty much live at the mercy of quite literally the rest of society changing the world around you, always running away rather than truly holding your own.  During the late 1800s and early 1900s, industrialists pursued this idea with a different approach by attempting to build utopias out of corporate towns, where the company both funded and owned every property in the city and quite literally the city itself (see what Disney World was meant to be before Walt died).  The problem is that these companies themselves still depended on the rest of the world as well as on their employees.  When demand for Pullman's products dropped in the panic of 1893, for example, both the company and its town fell apart.  When cultures clashed and people disagreed with how Ford saw life should be, Fordlandia crumbled before it even began.  The closest thing to a success (and closest in spirit to what we later are trying to do here) may be Oppenheimer's Los Alamos, which doubled as both a vibrant community of scientists and a place with unlimited resources dedicated to nuclear research, but that ultimately only existed for the war.  The utopias were an illusion because the prosperity required ideal (or in the case of WW2, need-driven) conditions and the cooperation of the employees keeping them running.
     Autodidactic I completely uproots these past views of what's possible in creating a company as well as what it means to be completely free and unbounded by the rest of the world.  First, it eliminates the constraints and dependencies of past examples by not having any products or customers to tie it to the outside economy and then by not having any employees on which it relies on to keep it running.  Everything is automated and all revenue is generated from within on the sheer merit of the underlying AI.  If you've ever read science fiction novels by Asimov or Clarke about cities or societies maintained entirely by fully autonomous AI with no human intervention, the concept is similar here in that it's been running for over 4 years now untouched, perhaps not yet to the scale of managing cities but enough to allow members of the company to focus on anything except the money making aspect.  That aspect at the moment manifests as trading, which in itself embeds a degree of independence.  Unlike traditional customer-serving companies, nothing anyone else does or thinks has any effect.  There is no one whose decision you must win or consent you must earn.  It is a modern day version of farming, in that what we create for ourselves is done completely on our own with no reliance or ask of anyone else (or in this case, anyone at all).  This cascades into a number of other effects.  For one, the company no longer has to be geographically tied to any one location because there are no physical offices, retail spaces, nothing.  All automation is run online and distributed around the world.  The humans meanwhile can be anywhere at any time and have absolutely no impact on the operations of the company.  The Island and City have become metaphorical.  The independence from the rest of the world no longer requires physical isolation.  This is already a step beyond the previously mentioned ideas of the past that would tie one down geographically, but we can actually go further.  Not only does one no longer need to stay in any particular place, one no longer has to do anything at all to create or maintain the structure.  Your freedom is in both where you want to spend your time and what you want to spend your time on.  It goes all the way.  It is everywhere you go and everything you do.  You can continue to live a normal life in a normal city if you choose, or you can be a free spirit and travel the world (and one day the universe).  That's really who this is for - the adventurer who wants to keep exploring, creating, and doing things that have never been done before.  This is the ship with which such a person can set sail.  It's not about changing society or affecting the masses - and by far not about replacing companies in general - but instead about the fact that we have a new kind of company that's never existed before, never could exist before, and it's exciting to imagine what could come of it.
    ...[More]
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Sound and Light

June 14th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
Sound is vibration across space. Light is vibration across time. You hear sound from everywhere at once but only one point in time. You see light from one direction in space but literally across all of time.
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The Lies We Tell Ourselves

June 2nd, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     Most people struggle to see past their own actions.  The world is dark, the light at the end of the tunnel dim.  I spent my life being told to doubt my intuition, to be more modest, humble, more open-minded, less naïve, to let go of what I think I know, only to realize later that was always the opposite of what I needed to do.  Others lie to themselves to grapple with what they don't know.  They convince themselves they are more knowledgeable than they really are and seek structure to shield themselves from the unexpected, to give themselves a false sense of control and certainty in their lives.  But my lie is to myself when I do know.  I close my eyes, purposely forget things, throw myself into the wind, whatever it takes in hopes that something might surprise me for once, to give myself a false sense of hope, the false hope that there might be more to the world than what I see before me, the mystery and excitement, the possibility of...[More]
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The Universe's Time Machine

April 12th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
Suppose some time in the far future, we figure out how to travel great distances across space in a short period of time.  We figure out how to move light years away from Earth in mere seconds, whether it be through interdimensional travel or otherwise.  Our telescopes become strong enough that we can capture light from ground level activity of a planet or star light years away.  Our virtual reality and hologram technology become sophisticated enough that we can take that light from galaxies far away and cast it around us to recreate and experience a scene.  

At some point, a stargazer realizes he is so far from Earth that the Earth he sees in the sky is actually many years in the past.  He begins to experiment with this, repositioning himself either farther or closer to the Earth by light years at a time to see the Earth either older or younger.  It is entertaining at first, especially with telescopes being strong enough to see things on the surface like you...[More]
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Talking with an Ivy Leaguer on Wall Street

February 15th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
Another memoirs of sorts, this time reflecting the Ivy League alumni I've been meeting in NYC, both in the startup community and on Wall Street.  I've been spending more time in NYC instead of SF for a change of location (and people), but ironically, I'm running into sort of the opposite situation to that I had in my short story, Talking with an Engineer in Silicon Valley.  Whereas many I met in Silicon Valley lacked empathy, considerateness, and other traits but at least wanted them (even if superficially), the circles I'm getting into in NYC seem to simply accept that these traits don't genuinely exist and are always superficial.  Maybe it's just my luck that I'm just somehow always meeting the most 1-dimensional people, but the frustrating part is they always start off seeming normal in the beginning.  As with my other short story, the conversations below are nearly cut-paste from my personal experience, besides obvious name changes and other details to keep individuals anonymous and the story somewhat coherent.  For those easily offended, this obviously doesn't reflect every person from Ivy League or in Wall Street and is just a likely biased, limited subset of the real world from my own experiences.

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Sam: Hi, I'm Sam.  Nice to meet you.
Ivy Leaguer:...[More]
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Buried Memories

November 9th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stories | #
Another dream I had that played out like a movie.  Seems to be how all my ideas to come to me now.
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I am living off in the country side for some time.  There, I have a small isolated plot of land that I planted a farm on and regularly tend to for fun, but the house near it is pretty high tech and is where I do a bunch of more serious work for coding and other hobbies.  One day, some guy shows up while I'm out on my farm and tries to tell me I ought to work for his company and get a real job or something.  He starts telling me how it will be good experience to build resume and get real software skills, etc so I don't have to live on a farm anymore.  I ask if he knows what I actually do, and he says he can't tell, which just annoys the heck out of me that he'd dare even tell me what I should do with my life.  I show him that my farm is actually also a grave for past lives I've had and previous bodies I've...[More]
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Wasting Through Time

October 3rd, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stories | #
This was another story idea I got as a dream.  I suppose it reflects my mood lately with everyone seeming to get older around me, not just physically but mentally as well.

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Two friends have known each other all their lives.  They are able to time travel but only by skipping forward in time.  They've been doing that for a while and have experienced centuries of history past by, but one day, one of the friends loses this ability.  The other is torn between staying with the friend or leaving the friend behind to continue skipping forward.  There was a sense before that both of them were destined to see all the Earth's history to the very end until the world goes dark, but now that seems less certain.  They end up splitting ways, with one living through the years instead of skipping forward while the other continues to jump forward every few years.  Each time they catch up, one friend gets much older while the other remains...[More]
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Skydome Theater

September 13th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
Imagine an open, dome-shaped theater the size of a football stadium, where instead of looking towards screen on the far wall, everyone looked to the sky.  It would be like stargazing, except as the movie is about to start, the stars fade away and another world fills the sky for as far as the eye can see.  People would be lying on their backs instead of sitting hunched forward on their seats.  It'd almost feel like being in a rocket about to take off vertically.  Perhaps there would be chairs that rotate backwards to a lift-off position and actually elevate slightly off the ground as the movie begins.

This is something that's been churning in the back of my mind for a while.  From a design standpoint, the theater would obviously be limited in capacity and can only show one movie at a time for the all the space allotted, but I think the experience would be phenomenal, especially for very visual, cinematic films.  Capacity is also used in a very technical...[More]
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The Power of Fate and Irony

August 26th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     With the advent of my newest project Autodidactic I, which premises itself on harnessing the power of "fate and irony," I thought it'd be timely to explain just what that means and how it is actually more literal than one might think.  At its core, it's about setting up the least likely situations to always be in your favor, what others perceive to be your worst case scenarios to actually be your best case.  You set yourself up such that the most ironic thing that can happen to you is the best thing that could happen to you, and everything else falls in line behind that.  This is a lot of the thinking that bleeds into most of my endeavors, whether it be in my trading, planning my life, or even just making sure I get from point A to point B on time.

     It sounds a bit like superstitution or voodoo, but it really is more about planning, psychology, and just staying ahead of the game.  When planning any sort of event or organization, for example, the biggest mistake one often makes is leaving open that 0.0001% chance that things go terribly wrong.  Instead take that and flip it on its head.  Make the 0.0001% case the case where everything goes terribly right.  In practice, I often *seem* like the more conservative risk taker on any team (despite my super left-field ideas and approaches to things),  but when the unthinkable happens, it's to my favor.  What better irony than the safest plans thriving in absolute chaos? And there's nothing to say you can't simply be so in control (or so impervious to a lack of control) that it just looks like you're passive when you've actually already set plans in motion to take over the world.  It's about always knowing your edge cases and putting them in alignment with your goals.  It's about eliminating chance from the equation and only leaving open possibilities that help your cause.  When the unthinkable happens, you win, and when it doesn't, life just continues as usual.

     The other aspect is just mental, when you declare the most absurd things with no expectation they happen, when you jinx or counter-jinx things, when people give up at the exact moment they should have doubled down, etc.  This definitely sounds much more like superstition now, but think of all the situations in the past where you or your friends jinxed things and how often these ironic situations actually came true.  Words have meaning, whether they leave a guilt chip in the back of someone's mind or make yourself doubt your best judgement (too good to be true, unwillingness to go against what you just said, etc).  The key again is to let the things you think most absurd always be in your favor but also in a psychological aspect.  If someone else is doubting something (often you), let them be on the losing side of the ironic outcome and not yourself.  If someone is about to give up but thinks something will work out right as they quit, be on the receiving side of that luck.  Sometimes, it's almost like witchcraft, where in order to ensure my success, I purposely make sure there are enough people thinking or making a claim they'll regret, where they unintentionally jinx themselves such that, in the (misleadingly) remote chance they're wrong, it leads an outcome most extremely in my favor.  Think of famous last words; often times I purposely get someone to declare verbally the opposite of what I want just to jinx him.  This extends to all other activities mental and psychological - trading, poker, etc. If someone is about to exit a trade they think they'll regret doing so, take that as a sign that trade will probably work.  If someone thinks they'll fold a good hand, let that be in your favor if it comes true.  Often times, my reputation in poker is that of a blind better with beginner's luck, when in actuality I'm letting my opponents self destruct against themselves.  It's letting people's own irrationality and biases get the better of them... at least, that's the politically correct way of putting it.

    ...[More]
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Political Correctness is 1984's Newspeak

July 30th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
I recently read an article about the University of New Hampshire's "Bias-Free Language Guide" this morning.  At first, I thought it was a joke or satirical post of some sort on political correctness, as it seemed like something straight out of Orwell's 1984, but it was on the college's official site as an actual resource.  It's since been taken down, but it's hard to "unpublish" webpages now, especially if it's been up for years. I managed to save a static HTML copy here: University of New Hampshire's Bias-Free Language Guide (as of Jul.29 2015)

One novel that immediately comes to mind is Orwell's 1984.  When I first read it in high school, most my peers and I thought it very unrelatable, but now it's pretty scary how close we're getting to some of its themes.  Here are some comparisons to illustrate the point:

Orwell's ...[More]
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Hear the Pictures and Not the Words

July 5th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     "What do you see when you hear this music?" I once asked someone.
     To my surprise, he said, "Nothing."
     "Really?" I asked.  "Not even a story or anything?"
     "Nope.  I just like how it sounds.  Why? What do you see?"
     It still surprises me whenever I come across others who can be appreciating the same work before us but seeing nothing at all.  It never really occurred to me until after college that others might only hear the sound or see the word, the notes, or the colors.
     I still remember a conversation several years back where several coworkers were debating whether thought was organized based on what language one spoke.  "Of course not," I wanted to say, "Otherwise what would you be thinking as a child before you knew any language?" But the debate simply moved towards whether children had any real thoughts...[More]
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The Perfect Storm for Silicon Valley

June 19th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
"Thoughts on Exuberance in Silicon Valley"

The last few years have been pretty incredible for the San Francisco Bay Area.  You really have to have lived here as I have to see how easily capital has flowed into the area, the effects of it trickling into nearly every industry even remotely tech related.  Just two years ago, there was San Francisco being more expensive than most cities but not quite at the level of New York or other top tier cities.  Now an apartment that once rented for $2500 can command mid-$3000s or higher.  A place the size of a walk-in closet at under 200 sqft can be found at $1700 or more.  When I first graduated college in 2013, the predominant attitude I saw in my peers was still that of caution and skepticism about the job market.  Now I have peers who have literally switched full time tech jobs every 4 months, some who would buy up an armful of snacks at a convenience store only to throw it all away...[More]
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Threaded Thinking

May 25th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     One thing I've come to notice is my thinking style tends to be much different than most when it comes to planning or managing how to pursue multiple tasks.  Some have suggested I think very linearly when much of the world is moving towards nonlinear or multitasking, but I'm not exactly the person one would consider tunnel visioned or laser focused nor is it accurate to say I only do one thing at a time.  Instead, it's more like I plant the seeds of each of my tasks in a way that allows me to shift my focus to other things while each continues in the background.  If you're familiar with business terms, it's like balancing lead time, where one does the things that just need to be started but not tended to for a while so they can be returned to later.  If you're more familiar with engineering terms, it is like pipelining to have multiple things done at the same time, not by having multiple processes but by having one process...[More]
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Death of Spring

April 25th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stories | #
This is another idea for a short film or animation (probably better fit) that I woke up with as a dream.  It was extremely vivid, like an actual animated film being watched.  The colors come off very strong, with death and decay being black and red while life is green and blue.  Both share occasional streaks of purple though.
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Two brothers are living in a somewhat burned down or devastated forest/wilderness/village.  One of them is out in the woods one day when they are cutting down a tree and release a water spirit.  The water spirit takes the form of an innocent child-like figure that heals the countryside.  

One of the friends get obsessed in dark magic upon realizing magic exists in the world and eventually starts becoming some sort of electricity or energy spirit, spreading smoke/decay and mutation but overall kept in a small corner of the woods because the water spirit would find out and destroy him.  He also doesn't...[More]
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Breaking People to Their Core

March 29th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     Where do I find people like myself? That question has consumed me for as long as I can remember.  Over the past few years after college, I've managed to only come across maybe a handful of people out of the thousands I met who I can really relate to or consider like-minded.  In the eighteen years of school before that, there were maybe three, each at different times of my life.  What do I consider as being like-minded or similar to myself? For me, understanding a person is all about understanding the person's motivations - seeing through their actions, breaking them down and figuring out what really drives them deep within, what would cause them to crumble if they lost it but what would also make them truly happy.  While I have never considered this a formal skill or talent, I have gotten quite good at seeing into the motivations of those I meet.  This is a hard topic to discuss simply because it can easily be misconstrued as arrogance or...[More]
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Talking with an Engineer in Silicon Valley

March 17th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
A memoirs of sorts reflecting the talks I've had with most engineers that I met in SF the last few years.  It's funny to encounter at first, but when you're living it everyday, it really drains one's patience.  Maybe I'm having the worst of luck meeting people here, but this has been the bulk of my experience.  All responses are based on real conversations I've had; many are actually toned down from the original statements while others are pretty much direct quotes (besides obvious name changes, etc).  
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Sam: Hi, I'm Sam. Nice to meet you.
Engineer: Hi.
Sam and the engineer shake hands.
Engineer: Sorry.
Sam:...[More]
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Creating Sentient Artificial Intelligence

March 10th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
Much of what people refer to as machine learning today is what's considered "weak AI", in that it is not actually thinking, hypothesizing, or behaving with a sense of self.  The latter is what some would call "strong AI," "artificial general intelligence (AGI)," or just plainly "artificial intelligence" (as opposed to "machine learning").  Below is an approach I've been rummaging for a while on how to create an intelligence that behaves like a person would in any circumstance.  It's something that I've loosely applied to my own projects, but I've not managed to fully explore it in the general sense due to time and resource constraints.  The term I've come to use to describe this approach is conative artificial intelligence (conative AI), in that the AI is intended to behave more like a creature or child than anything mechanical or data-driven.  If one reflects on intelligence...[More]
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