Curating @minimal.pads

After building up a small personal collection of neat minimal architecture from across the world I’ve decided to put the very best of them online so that they may inspire others with new thoughts. Instagram seems a better place then my blog as I focus primarily on text here and will focus on images in my curation. If your interested, check it out!

@minimal.pads

Why not make it easier to share the truth? part 1

It’s become increasingly obvious that of all the wonderful things the internet has made possible, the increased ease of sharing lies is one of the downsides. Fundamentally, this phenomena was in part caused by the ways that various interlocking systems, both natural and artificial, have evolved over the past decades to make the truth relatively more difficult to share than lies. And although the truth has also been made much more accessible than before, it’s the relative strength, or more precisely relative incentives that really determines real world behavior. And this is a fight that lies have been steadily gaining in.

There is a growing asymmetry between the relative ease of sharing truth and lies that leads to ever growing incentives to do so. Because incentives are a powerful motivator of human behaviour this then propels new methods to make it even easier to share lies. Thus a negative feedback cycle is formed, one that could have exponential growth. This will eventually lead to deleterious consequences if left unchecked.

So why not realign the incentives? Why not fix this asymmetry? Why not make it easier to share the truth?

There are some downsides that come to mind though upon closer analysis these downsides could likely be significantly lessened through smart systems design to reduce potential for abuse, clear foresight to anticipate trouble, and a willingness to fix any problems that do come up transparently and honestly.

An example would be that making it easier to share the truth involves determining levels of trustworthiness among individuals and organizations. The common wisdom is that this is a fraught endeavor to undertake, yet we certainly do exactly this everyday. It is difficult to imagine that there is some fundamental limit preventing humans from scaling up and making concrete the informal trust systems we use everyday.

A derivative implication would be that a ‘score’ would have to be assigned to quickly tabulate and summarize trustworthiness. This is entirely a technical and logistical limitation of the current paradigms. It is not written in the stars that a ‘score’ must be the one and only way to compare trustworthiness in a real system.

A ‘score’ may be used as a stopgap measure, as a good enough solution i.e. credit scores, or for a variety of other reasons that may or may not be valid. There is nothing inherent about them that makes it the only possible end state of a trustworthiness system, or even more generally of any system whatsoever. Humans do not innately assign trust scores, in the everyday usage of the word, on some imaginary ranking like contest judges.

In mathematical and logical terms there may eventually have to be a ranking of some type to produce the attributes we would desire, I haven’t done the calculations yet to say either way. And philosophically, at a sufficiently advanced state of development it may indeed become ‘scoring’ of some type, if not through technical change at least through human change, since human tendency is to redefine words in more convenient ways as time progresses. Nonetheless, at this more advanced state of civilization there will be a greater capability to address the issues that would occur.

Of course technical limitations due to budget, software architecture, etc., may require some kind of ‘scoring’ somewhere along the way, and even if so a low score doesn’t represent any kind of metaphysical judgement. A number, of course, doesn’t fully describe a person and even though many use numbers to judge pro athletes that still is congruent with the fact that pro athletes are, usually, highly respected. Even in the worst case that low scores do carry some judgement it’s hard to imagine how that would be much more onerous than what already exists with low credit scores.

Thankfully there are more, and probably superior, ways of evaluation. For practical reasons trustworthiness has to be really easy to evaluate at a glance for the everyday use of such a method, remember the key idea is that it has to be easier than current methods and approach, if not exceed, the ease of spreading lies.

A better way might be through simplicity, to have two really broad categories as follows:

1. Verified

2. Not Verified

Yes, anything in the ‘Not Verified’ category could be ranging from totally false to mostly true with difficulties in verification. This is fine. A system like this is not meant to cater to everyone at the beginning. Trustworthiness in general isn’t everything, and keeping tabs on people and organizations in a database/blockchain/etc., which this will likely be at the beginning, is certainly a small subset of trustworthiness in general.

The beauty with this sort of simplicity is that one can simply at a glance see what’s verified or not without the need for a ‘score’. A real world working example of such a concept would be Twitter’s verified checkmark, which mostly accomplishes what it was originally envisioned to do.

Even better, the upsides for an easy to access, easy to use, and widely disseminated trustworthiness system are immense and, literally, too numerous to count.

The most obvious and perhaps greatest benefit is that honest behavior would be incentivized. Positive benefits would accrue from positive feedback loops of ever increasing trust. In economic language, ‘positive externalities’ would be generated, that although might not show up on a balance sheet would greatly improve the fabric of society.

Continued in part 2

Edited from original facebook post on August, 2020

Design and the aesthetic impact

I’ve been reading recently on Modernism, Futurism, and similar things. I‘m a pretty big geek for good design, architecturally, product wise, anything really.

I‘ve thought about the whole minimalism/simplify your life movement going on too. The amount of well thought out design and unobtrusive complexity that’s tucked away particularly in my Apple products really inspired my thinking on this part. Hiding complexity is actually a very difficult task to accomplish!

So much so that I actively avoid buying anything that just seems unnecessarily complex. As there‘s enough stuff to think about in the rest of my life!

Haven’t really put that into practice yet for everything, but I notice after buying my new iPad and some other neat things I definitely feel more comfortable more of the time.

Maybe that’s dependent on the colour scheme too, if you believe some of the literature. I’ve tried to get the most minimal white coloured version of products that offer the choice, like a mug, thermos, etc.

I definitely believe good design and pleasing aesthetics can improve mental and physical wellbeing. Which also ties into this whole personal wellness trend and authenticity in everything that is getting more popular. These ideas mesh very well.

I don’t believe in minimalism/modernism all the way though, you know with the whole “ ornamentation is a crime” and stuff like that.

Practically most aspects of human life in a modern developed country consists of some amount of “fake” superfluous details that people generally just accept.

Examples:

  • In normal home interiors with baseboards to hide uneven floors
  • fake pillars and other non load bearing structures in the common styles of suburban homes
  • fashion (fake pockets!)
  • Automobiles (fake wood, non functional tailpipes, etc.)

So good design, which has a lot of positives, definitely come with some sacrifices for anyone who really wants to go all in on it. Personally, it still seems like a good idea, the less “fake” things and unnecessary complexity in our lives the better.

Edited from original post on facebook March of 2019

Piping and human health

Ever thought about the piping in your home?

Apparently galvanized pipes were popular for a few decades last century, which can easily corrode and are known to be pretty hazardous to drinking water. Makes sense, I’ve heard stories of rusty looking water and stuff. They’re banned now.

Regular copper pipes back then, usually, had lead solder to join the fittings and pipes together. (it’s much easier to work with) This lead solder could leach into the water, if it was poorly applied, and potentially cause lead poisoning. You can only determine if it’s present by a chemical analysis.

This practice was made illegal by the mid 90’s but any home older than that is likely to have some lead soldered joints. I wonder if there’s a correlation between poor plumbing and health problems….

Nowadays many homes are, apparently, plumbed with different types of plastic piping as copper piping has gotten too expensive for many builders. So lead is not an issue anymore in these homes.

But there’s the question of bio accumulation in the pipes, since plastic does not have the same antimicrobrial properties of copper. Like really old homes with cast iron pipes, if you’ve ever seen a picture of that where it’s gunked up.

Apparently the best material is stainless steel for water pipes. Though it’s unlikely you’ll ever find that, in a residence, outside of a custom built and spec’ed home.

It’s cool to realize there’s entire hidden worlds of technology underlying daily life.

Edited from original post on facebook, December 2018