Samstag, 12. September 2015

The undervalued virtue of being lazy

"Laziness is a sin." 

"Socialism promotes laziness, capitalism promotes ingenuity"

Laziness is a virtue

I argue, that --- on the contrary --- laziness is a virtue. It is the origin of invention, ingenuity, and creativity. It is the main driver of the increase of productivity we've experienced in the last centuries.


You are employed to perform a certain task. A task which is one of many which lead to the production of a product. You do the task once, you do it twice, you do it three times. At the end of th day you did it a thousand of times. The next day as well. And so follow the days. Every day the same thousand tasks, one equal to the next. Of course your hands get faster, you stop thinking about the task. You increase your productivity. After a month you already do one hundred tasks more a day than in the beginning. But there is a limit. At some point you are not able to perform the task faster. But your manager to the rescue. He knows how to augment your productivity. You just have to work longer. Hence, you work longer. But there is a limit, because each day does just have so many hours a day has. Well, the manager is not out of ideas yet. He is interested in maximizing the productivity per dollar spent. Since he cannot increase your workload any more and more training wouldn't make you any faster as well, he has to reduce your salary. This is the main principle of capitalism. And nothing would change that if it were not because of the lazy people.

The disliked lazy people

A lazy person wants to reduce the energy and time spent per unit she produces and by task she performs. The manager doesn't like her, because she's not fully committed to her boring workload and she is not fully committed to increasing the productivity of the company and the shareholder value and --- not to forget --- indirectly the salary of the manager by just being f***ing more productive. The manager pays for her time and for her suffering. If she isn't bored enough or struggling enough or suffering enough, he has the feeling that the money is not spent efficiently on her. And

Lazy people to the rescue

But the lazy person doesn't aim for not doing her job. She just wants to do it the smart way instead of the hard way. Of course this is difficult to grasp for the manager who is the equivalent of the man hitting the drums in a galley forcing the oarsmen to row to his rhythm. The lazy person cannot stand doing the same simple and stupid task a thousand of times per day. Her brain doesn't let her doing it something a thousand of times if she could invent a machine which does the thousand of tasks in her stead. That's where the spore of change starts to grow.

She invents a machine which does her job. The invention takes time. That's many tasks not performed. That's the manager freaking out because her lack of performance. But once built, the machine does ten thousand tasks a day. Productivity is increased ten-fold, not just by ten percent.

She writes a program which controls the machine and many more machines, thus increasing productivity (for this product) one-hundred-fold.

Lazyness is the root

Laziness is the root of creativity. Creativity is (in this context) the process of conceiving how to be able to spend less energy creating something without ceasing to create it, or improving the product by maintaining the same energy expenditure.

Laziness is the root of ingenuity. Ingenuity is the process of transforming the creative idea into a real plan, a true idea. Something from which a machine can be built, a program can be written, an algorithm which can be executed.

Laziness is the root of invention. Transforming the creative idea into a machine/program/workflow using ones ingenuity is---finally---invention.


The root of all progress we see is laziness. If it were not for laziness, there would not have been the industrial revolution, there would not have been the invention of computers, or mobile phones or robots or anything else we relate with progress.

Donnerstag, 4. Juni 2015

Anti-GMO is not anti-science - or - why sound science doesn't validate all its applications

Ab food 06

Sometimes an article pops up in my social media streams which basically equates an Anti-GMO stance with being anti-science in general. (like this one The psychology of why so many people are anti-GMO ). And I am Anti-GMO in a certain sense. 

Being a scientist by training and by heart, I obviously don't like being accused of being ignorant or stupid which is the main conclusion of these articles --- although being dressed in somewhat less insulting words. 

I feel obliged to respond what I am against, what I am in favor and why I think that these articles all argue into a complete irrelevant direction. 

I think that advances in biotechnology are great! The ability to genetically modify organisms is an immense achievement. For example the production of insulin from E.coli. bacteria or yeast is a prime example of the value of the biotechnological advance and the benefits it can bring to humans.

Hence, I'm all impressed by biotechnology and it's methods. In general at least.

What's my issue with GMO

You could think that given my strong admiration for biotechnology I must be a strong proponent of the use of GMOs everywhere. Like really everywhere. On the fields, in my backyard, in Africa, USA, Europe, whereever there are people planting something. But I am not. 

In my opinion GMO as it is used now is a means. It is a means to control farmers, to make them dependent and rip them off. Not only farmers are being ripped off, but as well us consumers. Big seed producers (of seeds on GMO basis) are imposing a kind of tax on each ton of food which is produced, worldwide. Not that farmers --- especially in the developing world and especially small scale farmers --- are not ripped off without GMO, but I argue that GMO makes it easier to rip them off. 

It is not the science that is the problem, it is the application

The issue is not the scientific basis, but rather the way how GMOs are used. They pave the way for non-diverse monoculture. Of course, monocultures are existing already, but GMOs cement that. One can see this in the USA where monocultures are the main way of farming. And each and every voice which argues against such things is suppressed by large multinationals. It frankly doesn't matter if some genetic modification seems safe in a lab experiment because A) if it doesn't, try to get the study published, you'll encounter a lot of resistance from these big multinationals and you will be wiped from the scientific landscape (see Seralini et al.: instead of addressing and maybe refuting arguments and ---whohooo making studies which contradict Seralini's results --- there was immediately a concerted, mostly non-scientific (i.e. ad hominem), attack and B) you have to extrapolate to large scale monocultures. Sorry, the often brought up argument that "because we think that GMO is completely safe, we don't have to produce studies which show that it is safe" it is not a valid argument, it is just a cirular argument. 

The economic incentives rig the scientific process

Whilst I'm a firm believer in science in general and in the scientific process, I don't see the scientific process working in the field of biotechnology. The issue is similar to pharmacological research. It's nearly impossible to publish a study which doesn't show what has been the desired outcome. And if you by chance succeed in doing so, you'll be stomped upon.

Another issue is patents. If all GMOs were patent free and thus independent from the big multinationals and they wouldn't have to squeeze every penny out of these patents in a time as short as possible, one could assess the positives and negatives in a less biased manner. But due to the system which is in place currently all this assessment ist completely rigged. 

The great possibilities of GMO which are never realized (because there is no money to grab)

Then, biotechnologists are always talking about the great possibilites like golden rice and producing stronger roots which help the plant survive in regions where people couldn't plant anything so far. All great, but nothing of these ideas exceed the preliminary trial stage. Why you may ask? Because there is no money in there for multinationals. What do they care if people can feed themselves or not. They rather want them not to be able to feed themselves. 

And then there are many measures which would lead to similar outcomes than GMO, but with a much improved biodiversity. Imagine not planting large monocultures, but to plant many smaller fields with varying crops and rotating these crops yearly. And planting rows of bushes and trees between these fields to attract the natural enemies of insects etc. You'd increase biodiversity and you'd be in general much better protected against all possible insects and fungi and so on. Of course, it is a tad more involved for the farmer and -- whooohoo -- big multinationals wouldn't make such a large profit, because farmers would probably need less herbicides and pesticides. 

GMOs are not really needed, not even in large scale farming

As we can see, GMOs are not planted in the EU (except in trials) and may not be sold there as food for humans. Still, the EU feeds its 450 million people. How is this possible if feeding so many people is argued to be impossible without GMOs?

The "let's talk only about the science, not about the application"-argument

Often in the discussions about GMO, the flawed argument comes up that one shouldn't judge GMOs by its applications, because the science is sound. But science can never be separated from the application. Think of nuclear reactions. It's truly great science. And it's sound science. It's understood science. But you're still not allowed to build your own nuclear bomb. Why? Hey, the science is well understood. It is, but that doesen't validate all it's applications. And the same is true for GMOs. The science might be well understood and "under control", but that doesn't validate or even mandate it's use in all circumstances and on a large scale. And especially it doesn't validate its use against the will of the people even if they are not biologists with a specialty in genetic modifications. 

Look for example at neonicotinoids. We are fairly certain, that they are the culprits of bee colony collapse disorder. But reducing their usage faces immense resistance from the producers. 

Look at how EPA is being starved from funding, because it takes care of the rules made to protect environment, humans and animals. 

Look at climate change. It is clear that we humans are warming the world and acidify the oceans. But supposedly because of economic arguments by big multinationals we are not allowed to modify how our science and technology is applied. Hence, the application or non-application of science depends on economic interests. 


Anti-GMO is not so much a distrust in the science and the scientific process as a whole, but a distrust in the working of the scientific process in this specific field and a distrust in the big drivers (large multinationals) behind the applications of the results of this scientific process. Not every application can be applied and should be applied --- or on the other hand should not be applied --- just because the science behind is settled.

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Anti-GMO is not anti-science - or - why sound science doesn't validate all its applications by Peter Speckmayer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Donnerstag, 7. Mai 2015

The Platinum Tax-payer card

We people pay money.

  1. We people pay money if we are forced to do so. We pay our taxes, we pay fees.
  2. We people pay money for items we need. We pay for food, we pay for cloths, we pay for housing. 
  3. We people pay money for items we like. We pay for a new TV, a smart phone, going to a restaurant, going on vacations.
  4. We people pay money to show off our status, or to feign a status. We buy brand name clothing, brand name cars and travel to hip locations. Sometimes we do that because we enjoy the holiday destination or we like the feel of a certain shoe or the look of a certain T-shirt, but often we do it to pretend. 

Whether it's poor people, average people or rich people, there is no difference in that behavior. Except maybe, that rich people are more avaricious, because that's one ingredient to becoming rich in the first place --- apart from inheriting wealth.


For a wealthy Person there is no immediate gain in paying taxes. They gain more if all the other citizens pay their dues and s/he does not. Someone with a lot of money has also more possibilities to avoid paying taxes. Just pay a little to an advisor who knows how to circumvent taxes and jump through loopholes to drastically reduce the large tax payment. 

People have to WANT to pay taxes

That sounds ridiculous, because who ever wants to pay taxes. I personally understand the need for me to pay taxes and the need for everyone to pay taxes. Still the deduction of the taxes from my salary hurts a bit.
Of all the reasons to pay money we only exploit the reason number 1). We are forced.

We probably will never like paying taxes for we don't get the immediate return of investment we get if we buy new shoes.

But what if we exploited reason 4)? What if paying taxes meant that people could show off their status?

The platinum tax-payer-card

The pay-more-premium based on this premise is all around us. We can see it with credit cards, we can see it with the "miles" in flying. It is nothing new to provide a bit of status which makes people feel more special to those who pay a lot with their credit cards. They get "gold member cards" or "platinum cards" and they are happy to pay more, just so that other people can see that card and can assume wealth and status. For all the "Senators" with loads of miles can just skip the long lines of common people waiting to be checked and go through the special entrance where they are patted down a little bit less humiliating and then sit down in the VIP lounge where they are invited to pay double prices just to sit in the fake leather chairs and to feel special. 

I propose to create a very visible tax payer status. Someone who pays 1 Million Euros or Dollars in taxes a year should be given the opportunity to show this to all the people around her/him. If it's more than 10 Million the sign should be more special. And for someone who paid 100 Million Dollars of taxes in his lifetime there could be the platinum tax payer card.

Invite them to a very special dinner to those who reached the status this year the first time or again. Give them a valuable pin reflecting his contributions. Provide them with incentives honoring their contribution for society.

And then ask everyone who claims to be rich: "Hey, aren't you supposed to be rich? Didn't you claim to have a status? If so, why don't you have at least gold-tax-payer-status?" and "hey look over there, he's a platinum-tax-payer. Whoooa!" Everyone can see it at the big charity event, because the bit tax payer got his pin and his card.

This --- at least that's my thinking --- provides an incentive to wealthy people to not dodge their tax payments because of peer pressure within the group of wealthy people.

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The platinum tax-payer card by Peter Speckmayer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Montag, 2. Februar 2015

MiniMetaMessenger, Concept of a meta-data-minimizing communication platform



Intelligence agencies grab our data, and they grab our meta-data. Data is what we write and what we read, meta-data is who is writing it, who reads it and when. From that meta-data one can derive graphs of who is connected with whom and analyse the structure of a certain group, for example people with a differing political opinion. Having this information one can now take out the most important nodes of this graph (i.e. the most important people of the group) and thus destroy it.

In a sense meta-data is even more important to intelligence agencies than the data itself. Because the data that --- for instance --- two people meet to have a cup of coffee is not very meaningful by itself, but if one of the two people were known to be part of a group which threatens the current establishment and the other one a journalist, this message might indeed be of importance. At least it would show a potentially important connection.

Collecting communication data and meta-data threatens democracy. Because if people who speak out against current politics are by default under surveillance --- because everyone is under surveillance --- they will often refrain from speaking out. Surveillance stifles free speech.

Minimizing Meta-data and Data

I want to sketch out a concept of how a messenger could be produced which removes much of the meta-data: the Mini-Meta-Messenger.

Imagine a large dashboard on some server in the internet. Imagine if everyone posted her/his messages to other people on the board. Everyone could just read them. Obviously we don't want everyone to be able to read every message. That's why all these messages would be encrypted with the private key of the sender and the public key of the receiver.

To retrieve the messages for a particular user, this user just has to download all the messages and try to decrypt them with his private key. This will succeed for all the messages which have been encrypted with her/his public key. Hence, s/he would "receive" all messages which belong to her/him.

The remaining data and meta-data is, that a particular person uploaded a message (which cannot be read easily) by the intelligence agencies and many persons downloaded *all* the messages at some later time. There is no exploitable correlation between the two persons who send messages to each other, given that they are not the only ones using the service. Further more, the messages are encrypted, hence as well the data cannot be read by a third party. The only meta-data which would be left is: when is a person writing, how many messages does s/he write and on the other hand who is reading messages and how often.

Of course there is freenet which can do dezentralized full encryption of many services. But it requires effort and skill and time to get started and many people will not find stuff there which matters to them. That's why I think that maybe a simpler approach which is also easier for the people might attract more.


Each person would --- upon assigning to this service --- upload her/his public key. Like that each participant could in principle send messages to every other participant.

Whilst everyone has to download every message (for the sake of hiding the meta-data), one could choose to decrypt only those messages which come from a certain group of persons. Although providing the information of who has sent which message may reveal already too much information.

Probably instead of always decrypting the whole messages, a shorter header could be encrypted separately. A message has been addressed to a particular person if this person succeeds in decrypting the message-header.

A lot of messages are created in a service like facebook etc. A "read all messages" approach doesn't scale well with the number of people. This can be mitigated somewhat by every person posting into a specific channel. Each reader listens to a couple of channels. That way, not all of the members are mixed (and thus the number of messages to read explodes), but still may are mixed and the extraction of meta-data is severely limited.

You are very welcome to leave your comments! Let me know what you think.
Creative Commons License MiniMetaMessenger, Concept of a meta-data-minimizing communication platform by Peter Speckmayer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.