Blabberbox:Random blog-like posts from pftq.Share on Twitter

Flagging Uber, Lyft with QR Codes

June 9th, 2019 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
For me it's still easier to flag a taxi in #NYC. It'd be great if you can flag @Uber or @Lyft the same way and just swipe QR codes to pay. Then you don't have to wait 5 min for the app to find drivers or for someone else further away to circle the block after accidentally passing you a few times.  Since many drivers already label their cars with Uber or Lyft signs, this is sort of part way there already.  The only thing missing is for a way to pay without driver searching, which would be solved by QR scanning the driver's phone when the passenger steps in to bypass the search process.
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May 29th, 2019 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
Overhead a couple people having one of the more interesting philosophical conversations in a long time and wanted to join in, only to then realize they were middle school students doing homework. Sigh.
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Saitama vs Suiryu Fan Animation

May 26th, 2019 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
Thought this fan animation was more exciting to watch than the actual scene in the anime, which sadly often felt more like still images panned across the screen. #onepunchman
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Brightburn at Dolby Cinema

May 25th, 2019 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
Just watched @Brightburn but was actually more impressed by @DolbyCinema. The bass was so heavy + directional that it felt like the sensation of a train speeding by (or coming right at you), which made it scarier than the scene itself.
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Conversation with a Doctor

May 24th, 2019 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
One of the more frustrating experiences I've had in a while... part of what makes the healthcare here feel pretty worthless.  Obviously not reflective of all doctors... just many my own experiences.
Doctor: Here's a prescription drug that will relieve the symptom.  Just take it everyday from now on, and you won't feel it anymore.
Me: Is there a test or something we can do to check why it's happening? Or if it might be more serious?
Doctor: Like what?
Me: Maybe it's...[More]
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If People Talked About Internet Like They Do Blockchain

May 10th, 2019 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
Person B: Have you heard of this thing called the Internet? It's the future. You should buy as many dial-up modems as you can before the price goes up.  Once the Internet becomes mainstream, we'll all be rich.
Person A: Why would the price go up?
Person B: Because adoption.  Everyone will start using the Internet.  You could use it to store information, transact, compute things... everything will be on the Internet.
Person A: Isn't that just computers in general?
Person B: No, unlike just your home computer, anything that is on the Internet stays there forever.  It's also decentralized, meaning no one can shut it down or control it.  And most importantly, it's global.  Everything has to be global nowadays.  That's the future.  Personal computing was the first revolution.  This is the next one.  Imagine if you could go back in time to the 80's before personal computing was mainstream.  This is that opportunity.  You could buy up everything before anyone else gets a chance.
Person A: But why would modem prices go up?
Person B: There's no Internet without modems.  Every person needs a modem to use the Internet.
Person A: Couldn't you just make more?
Person B: That's why you have to pick the right modem brand.  Some brands inflate the supply.  You should buy AOL modems.  It's a fixed supply.  There will never be any more AOL modems made again.  It also has the highest usage and market cap.
Person A: Market cap?
Person B: You take the price of a modem and multiply by the number of modems out there.
Person A: How many AOL modems are there?
Person B: Theoretically, once the last modem in store is sold - 21 billion.
Person A: That's more than we'll ever need.
Person B: Yeah but each person can buy more than one.  Some people who were early got to hoard millions of modems.  People also lose their modems or their logins.  Supposedly 20% of all modems right now are lost or not usable by anyone.  You have to imagine a future beyond your wildest expectations where everyone and their grandma know about and use the Internet.  It's hard to visualize, but that's how people felt when personal computing first started too, and now everyone has a computer in their home.  Everything in the future will use the Internet in one form or another, and this is our chance to own part of that infrastructure.

Person A: So what does your startup do?
Person B: It's an Internet company.
Person A: But what does it do?
Person B: We create applications that run on the Internet.  People are calling them Websites.
Person A: What kind of applications?
Person B: Anything that clients demand.  We're trying to help build the Internet ecosystem.  The more people we get using the Internet, the more modem prices will go up.  Everyone wins.  We've had clients from restaurants to banks.  Everyone wants to be on the Internet now.
Person A: Why would a bank need to be on the Internet?
Person B: Banks still keep things in books and binders.  We help them store things digitally on the Internet.
Person A: But couldn't you just store it on computers and digitize things in general? That would already solve the problem.  What about just a database and network? Wouldn't that be faster? Also wouldn't being on the Internet put their information at risk of being hacked?
Person B: The Internet can't be hacked. Everything you read is the user getting hacked or the Website being insecure.  The Internet itself has never gone down or been compromised.  It is the most secure and resilient thing out there.

Person A: So what does your Website do?
Person B: We're building a revolutionary ecosystem so anyone who checks out a library book does it through the Internet, and everyone will have to use our Website to be part of that.  It'll change the world.
Person A: Would I get to read the book digitally?
Person B: No, you would just log on to the Website to check it out on the Internet, but you still go to the library to pick up the book.
Person A: Why wouldn't I just go to the library and check out books the old way since I'm there anyway?
Person B: Because the Internet makes things more efficient and secure.
Person A: How does that translate to a business model for your startup?
Person B: If everyone is using our Website, then the Website has value, unimaginable value, and the price will reflect that value in the long run.  Think about how many people in the world read books.  Billions.  Imagine if they all used the Internet.  Even if every account was only worth $1, that's billions of dollars flowing through the Internet.  And then think about how many books a person reads, multiply those numbers and you get trillions of dollars.
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Prions and Synthesized Foods

April 23rd, 2019 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
More an open-ended question here.  Prions, or misfolded proteins, are the cause of mad-cow disease when eating meat.  The animal itself is more likely to be produce misfolded proteins when eating brain tissue, but sometimes it's also just luck (or perhaps environmental, stress, etc).  The prions themselves cannot be destroyed by heating or other means once created, as it's more a mutation than a "disease." Once in the body, it causes other proteins to be misfolded as well in a tumor-like fashion.  With regards to new synthesized foods like vegan or fake meats,  I wonder what ways (if any) are there to unintentionally create misfolded proteins in the process as well.  Right now, it seems that they try to mess with the vegetable ingredients as little as possible when creating the meat flavor and texture.  Some of these opt for a non-GMO label to make it distinct.  It would probably be more a concern if in the future companies become more aggressive with manipulating or modifying the proteins themselves as they refine the meat.
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Net Prices

April 7th, 2019 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
Prices should be shown net of cost. Then everything would be clearly shown relative to each other as they actually are, and people would see when things are getting more expensive vs the illusion of everyone having more money.  It would also make clear who is overcharging with unnecessary premium, creating a stigma that socially discourages excessive spending or pricing.  For example, if every house on sale was at a net price of $1K but yours was randomly at $1M, it would reveal you are charging way more than what it cost you, making yourself look a little shameful but also making buyers think twice before blindly handing over money, driving prices up higher, and rewarding the greed. Since all businesses have to track expenses for audit by the IRS and most even already calculate cost of goods sold, it actually is practical in real life with all the pieces ready to go if a law passed for it.

Other side benefits indirectly permeate throughout the economy. It would conversely reveal when big corporations are selling below cost to unfairly bankrupt the competition (often local businesses).  People who care would not be willing to pay negative dollars to a corporation when they realize a smaller business is fairly asking for very low profits already.  If the corporation can make the case that something ought to be free, then consumers are fine with it and things go their natural way.  It only discourages unfair hostile business practices.  Along similar lines, it would make fraud or fake goods much more difficult if merchants are selling something but have no cost (they are selling hot air or operating a Ponzi scheme); their net price would skyrocket and they would also now risk tax fraud if they lied about their expenses to get a realistic net price.  Lastly, it becomes much easier to see when your own buying power actually increases, instead of it just being inflation, and who actually has more money than they'll ever need, instead of it just being a high cost of living.  For example, a $100k salary sounds like a lot in most of the country, but it's not even enough to afford a tiny studio in San Francisco (the 3x rent to pass the rental application is over $100k).

A good transition might be to show both net and nominal prices side by side at first, like they do with calories on a menu.  Then as people get used to thinking in net prices, the nominal ones can be phased out and replaced with cost of good, which is paid like a fee or base rate alongside the net price by the consumer.  Comparable goods would usually have about the same base rate cost, and those that don't would also quickly be revealed, only adding to the transparency.  If it is too difficult to pass in law immediately, perhaps it works better by example if large merchants like Amazon took the lead first to get consumers acclimated.

The main counterargument to this idea would be that it discourages innovation and cost efficiency.  Why innovate to lower costs if that makes you look bad with higher net prices? I would argue that's not a bad thing.  If cost to make is the only difference between two goods, then it would encourage innovators to make higher profits by selling more quantity rather than by having higher margins.  In other words, an innovator is rewarded for building the same thing more efficiently only when society as a whole benefits from having more goods to more people.  The nice part of all this is that it doesn't forbid higher pricing, just makes it transparent.  You can still sell at high margins if supply is short or if you are intentionally only targeting the wealthy who don't care; it wouldn't be illegal.  Alternatively, it means if you want to charge higher net prices and still convince the masses, you have to actually make a better and more interesting product, not just a more cheaply made one, so that people are willing to see past the stigma and justify paying the higher net price.  In other words, you are incentivized to add quality and no longer have a reason to use lower quality materials or cut corners to reduce cost.  Rather than a race to the bottom, it encourages a race to the top.

Nothing really changes in terms of freedom to do what you want to do in the economy.  The only things lost are the illusions and lies by numbers, while society gains transparency and better alignment of incentives.
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