Thursday, July 5, 2018

Virtual Reality, Blockchain, and the Brave New Future

I've been rather starry-eyed for the last few months. I've been swept up in the potential of blockchain, and how it will change our way of life on the internet. I've daydreamed about how all our digital purchases in world will eventually be neatly pigeonholed for use in numerous games and social worlds. And the possibility of being able to cross over those items to worlds that never had such items previously. Heady stuff, to say the least!

The looming potential for all this hyperbole is a proposed Ethereum token ERC-1155. The standard was introduced by enjincoin.io. I won't go into the fine details of it, but it basically lets you make a digital purchase of several items under one transaction, rather than several items with several transactions. You should do some further research if you're unfamiliar with the concept.

So being the virtual world enthusiast I am, I let my mind wander to the ownership of digital land again.  Wouldn't it be cool to actually own that decentralized sim, rather than the ugly physical reality of leasing it from the parent company controlling the servers? So Then I started looking into blockchain controlled VR. The prominent one in my sights is decentraland.org. I needed to get Mana tokens in order to buy the plots. Sadly, I fell thru the cracks on that, because I couldn't afford the token price.

But today, I got a big awakening. I read this article on the Bloomberg site. The price of the token was miniscule compared to the valuation of the digital plots quoted in the article! Then it hit me: humanity is porting the haves and have-nots into the internet. This Genesis City in Decentraland has already been carved up by the default world investors with default world money. These guys bought hundreds, even thousands of tokens, and have the equivalent in blockchain land holdings. I quote the article here: "Today, resellers can reliably get as much as $30,000 for a Genesis City plot." I encourage you to read the article in its entirety.

Those of us in Second Life that have whined about tier cost being high should count our blessings. While we have been at the mercy of Linden Lab and their pricing structure, they have at least allowed common folks like us to run simple businesses and a few of us to make a living. Affordably. Blockchain simply gives the ability to the wealthy to enter virtual worlds to earn hundreds of thousands of fiat currency that they would never have bothered to do before because there was no previous value for them to do so!

Have I soured on the concepts of blockchain? Not really. It still holds potential for everyone willing to invest. And the important word here is invest. But the mom and pop stores on Second Life are about to find themselves with the possibility of a Walmart for a neighbor across the digital street selling digital trinkets that the Asian coders will crank out for a few Enjin Coins. Because that's going to be the only place you can buy them at for a fair price.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

'Winning the Cultural War' Charlton Heston's Speech to the Harvard Law School Forum February 16, 1999

I've been quiet for a while. Not much to say that has been worth saying. Been playing on the computer. Cleaning files. Then I found this again. And decided it needs to be shared. Again. It's just as fresh and poignant as ever, and a dire warning for today's society.

'Winning the Cultural War' Charlton Heston's Speech to the Harvard Law
School Forum February 16, 1999
I remember my son when he was five, explaining to his kindergarten class what his father did for a living. "My Daddy," he said, "pretends to be people."
There have been quite a few of them. Prophets from the Old and New Testaments, a couple of Christian saints, generals of various nationalities and different centuries, several kings, three American presidents, a French cardinal and two geniuses, including Michelangelo. If you want the ceiling re-painted I'll do my best. There always seem to be a lot of different fellows up here. I'm never sure which one of them gets to talk. Right now, I guess I'm the guy.
As I pondered our visit tonight it struck me: If my Creator gave me the gift to connect you with the hearts and minds of those great men, then I want to use that same gift now to re-connect you with your own sense of liberty of your own freedom of thought ... your own compass for what is right. Dedicating the memorial at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln said of America, "We are now engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure." Those words are true again. I believe that we are again engaged in a great civil war, a cultural war that's about to hijack your birthright to think and say what resides in your heart. I fear you no longer trust the pulsing lifeblood of liberty inside you ... the stuff that made this country rise from wilderness into the miracle that it is.
Let me back up. About a year ago I became president of the National Rifle Association, which protects the right to keep and bear arms. I ran for office, I was elected, and now I serve ... I serve as a moving target for the media who've called me everything from "ridiculous" and "duped" to a"brain-injured, senile, crazy old man." I know ... I'm pretty old... but I sure ain't senile. As I have stood in the crosshairs of those who target Second Amendment freedoms, I've realized that firearms are not the only issue. No, it's much, much bigger than that. I've come to understand that a cultural war is raging across our land, in which, with Orwellian fervor, certain acceptable thoughts and speech are mandated. For example, I marched for civil rights with Dr.King in 1963 - long before Hollywood found it fashionable. But when I told an audience last year that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or anyone else's pride, they called me a racist. I've worked with brilliantly talented homosexuals all my life. But when I told an audience that gay rights should extend no further than your rights or my rights, I was called a homophobe. I served in World War II against the Axis powers. But during a speech, when I drew an analogy between singling out innocent Jews and singling out innocent gun owners, I was called an anti-Semite. Everyone I know knows I would never raise a closed fist against my country. But when I asked an audience to oppose this cultural persecution, I was compared to Timothy McVeigh. From Time magazine to friends and colleagues, they're essentially saying, "Chuck, how dare you speak your mind. You are using language not authorized for public consumption!" But I am not afraid. If Americans believed in political correctness, we'd still be King George's boys - subjects bound to the British crown. In his book, "The End of Sanity," Martin Gross writes that "blatantly irrational behavior is rapidly being established as the norm in almost every area of human endeavor. There seem to be new customs, new rules, new anti-intellectual theories regularly foisted on us from every direction. Underneath, the nation is roiling. Americans know something without a name is undermining the nation, turning the mind mushy when it comes to separating truth from falsehood and right from wrong. And they don't like it.
" Let me read a few examples. At Antioch college in Ohio, young men seeking intimacy with a coed must get verbal permission at each step of the process from kissing to petting to final copulation ... all clearly spelled out in a printed college directive. In New Jersey, despite the death of several patients nationwide who had been infected by dentists who had concealed their AIDs --- the state commission announced that health providers who are HIV-positive need not..... need not ..... tell their patients that they are infected. At William and Mary, students tried to change the name of the school team "The Tribe" because it was supposedly insulting to local Indians, only to learn that authentic Virginia chiefs truly like the name. In San Francisco, city fathers passed an ordinance protecting the rights of transvestites to cross-dress on the job, and for transsexuals to have separate toilet facilities while undergoing sex change surgery. In New York City, kids who don't speak a word of Spanish have been placed in bilingual classes to learn their three R's in Spanish solely because their last names sound Hispanic. At the University of Pennsylvania, in a state where thousands died at Gettysburg opposing slavery, the president of that college officially set up segregated dormitory space for black students.
Yeah, I know ... that's out of bounds now. Dr. King said "Negroes." Jimmy Baldwin and most of us on the March said "black." But it's a no-no now. For me, hyphenated identities are awkward ... particularly "Native-American." I'm a NativeAmerican, for God's sake. I also happen to be a blood-initiated brother of the Miniconjou Sioux. On my wife's side, my grandson is a thirteenth generation native American... with a capital letter on "American." Finally, just last month ... David Howard, head of the Washington D.C. Office of Public Advocate, used the word "niggardly" while talking to colleagues about budgetary matters. Of course, "niggardly" means stingy or scanty.
But within days Howard was forced to publicly apologize and resign. As columnist Tony Snow wrote: "David Howard got fired because some people in public employ were morons who, (a) didn't know the meaning of niggardly, (b) didn't know how to use a dictionary to discover the meaning, and, (c) actually demanded that he apologize for their ignorance." What does all of this mean? It means that telling us what to think has evolved into telling us what to say, so telling us what to do can't be far behind. Before you claim to be a champion of free thought, tell me: Why did political correctness originate on America's campuses? And why do you continue to tolerate it? Why do you, who're supposed to debate ideas, surrender to their suppression? Let's be honest. Who here thinks your professors can say what they really believe? It scares me to death, and should scare you too, that the superstition of political correctness rules the halls of reason. You are the best and the rightest. You, here in the fertile cradle of American academia, here in the castle of learning on the Charles River, you are the cream. But I submit that you, and your counterparts across the land, are the most socially conformed and politically silenced generation since Concord Bridge. And as long as you validate that ... and abide it... you are - by your grandfathers' standards - cowards.
Here's another example. Right now at more than one major university, Second Amendment scholars and researchers are being told to shut up about their findings or they'll lose their jobs. Why? Because their research findings would undermine big-city mayor's pending lawsuits that seek to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from firearm manufacturers. I don't care what you think about guns. But if you are not shocked at that, I am shocked at you. Who will guard the raw material of unfettered ideas, if not you? Who will defend the core value of academia, if you supposed soldiers of free thought and expression lay down your arms and plead, "Don't shoot me." If you talk about race, it does not make you a racist. If you see distinctions between the genders, it does not make you a sexist. If you think critically about a denomination, it does not make you anti-religion. If you accept but don't celebrate homosexuality, it does not make you a homophobe. Don't let America's universities continue to serve as incubators for this rampant epidemic of new McCarthyism. But what can you do? How can anyone prevail against such pervasive social subjugation? The answer's been here all along. I learned it 36 years ago, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., standing with Dr. Martin Luther King and two hundred thousand people. You simply ... disobey.
Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of course. Nonviolently, absolutely. But when told how to think or what to say or how to behave, we don't. We disobey social protocol that stifles and stigmatizes personal freedom. I learned the awesome power of disobedience from Dr. King ... who learned it from Gandhi, and Thoreau, and Jesus, and every other great man who led those in the right against those with the might. Disobedience is in our DNA. We feel innate kinship with that disobedient spirit that tossed tea into Boston Harbor, that sent Thoreau to jail, that refused to sit in the back of the bus, that protested a war in Viet Nam. In that same spirit, I am asking you to disavow cultural correctness with massive disobedience of rogue authority, social directives and onerous laws that weaken personal freedom. But be careful ... it hurts. Disobedience demands that you put yourself at risk. Dr. King stood on lots of balconies. You must be willing to be humiliated ... to endure the modern-day equivalent of the police dogs at Montgomery and the water cannons at Selma. You must be willing to experience discomfort. I'm not complaining, but my own decades of social activism have taken their toll on me.
Let me tell you a story. A few years back I heard about a rapper named Ice-T who was selling a CD called "Cop Killer" celebrating ambushing and murdering police officers. It was being marketed by none other than Time/Warner, the biggest entertainment conglomerate in the world. Police across the country were outraged. Rightfully so-at least one had been murdered. But Time/Warner was stonewalling because the CD was a cash cow for them, and the media were tiptoeing around it because the rapper was black. I heard Time/Warner had a stockholders meeting scheduled in Beverly Hills. I owned some shares at the time, so I decided to attend. What I did there was against the advice of my family and colleagues. I asked for the floor. To a hushed room of a thousand average American stockholders, I simply read the full lyrics of "Cop Killer"- every vicious, vulgar, instructional word.
"I GOT MY 12 GAUGE SAWED OFF
I GOT MY HEADLIGHTS TURNED OFF
I'M ABOUT TO BUST SOME SHOTS OFF
I'M ABOUT TO DUST SOME COPS OFF..."
It got worse, a lot worse. I won't read the rest of it to you. But trust me, the room was a sea of shocked, frozen, blanched faces. The Time/Warner executives squirmed in their chairs and stared at their shoes. They hated me for that. Then I delivered another volley of sick lyric brimming with racist filth, where Ice-T fantasizes about sodomizing two 12-year old nieces of Al and Tipper Gore. "SHE PUSHED HER BUTT AGAINST MY ...."
Well, I won't do to you here what I did to them. Let's just say I left the room in echoing silence. When I read the lyrics to the waiting press corps, one of them said "We can't print that." "I know," I replied, "but Time/Warner's selling it." Two months later, Time/Warner terminated Ice-T's contract. I'll never be offered another film by Warner's, or get a good review from Time magazine. But disobedience means you must be willing to act, not just talk. When a mugger sues his elderly victim for defending herself ... jam the switchboard of the district attorney's office. When your university is pressured to lower standards until 80% of the students graduate with honors ... choke the halls of the board of regents. When an 8-year-old boy pecks a girl's cheek on the playground and gets hauled into court for sexual harassment ... march on that school and block its doorways. When someone you elected is seduced by political power and betrays you...petition them, oust them, banish them. When Time magazine's cover portrays millennium nuts as deranged, crazy Christians holding a cross as it did last month ... boycott their magazine and the products it advertises.

So that this nation may long endure, I urge you to follow in the hallowed footsteps of the great disobediences of history that freed exiles, founded religions, defeated tyrants, and yes, in the hands of an aroused rabble in arms and a few great men, by God's grace, built this country. If Dr. King were here, I think he would agree. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

TokenStars and UBI

I just read an article about a blockchain project called TokenStars. I thought it was kind of weird at first, but then I reconsidered. What if instead of all this nonsense about taxes and redistribution of wealth to pay for a universal basic income, we just start a blockchain foundation dedicated to the creation of funds to pay people in bitcoin?

Then it struck me to do a search for that very idea. and I found this: http://www.grantcoin.org/ So I signed up. If you're curious, please use my reference code: yknrfpz7tg. If you sign up, you'll get one as well. There are other site attempting this as well, but I thought I'd try this one first.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Social Burn-Out

I knew this moment was coming. The one when you realize that for all the time you spend engaged digitally, fooling yourself into thinking that you can keep up with everything you have joined online, you really can't.

I was looking at Instagram when it happened. One of the guys I follow there, which I follow almost everywhere else as well, said "I suppose I'll start using Instagram more often". To which I replied out of the blue, "Heh, I'm thinking about deleting my Instagram account". You can't really delete Instagram if you're using Facebook, as it's part of Facebook. Unless someone had found a way to do it. I just decided to count how many social networks I AM a part of in one way, shape, or form. I'm sure you're list is similar:

Instagram
LinkedIn
Facebook
Twitter
Google Plus
Foursquare
Amino
Fur Affinity
Tunblr
Deviant Art
Second Life
IMVU
High Fidelity
iBotta
Kik
Facebook Messenger

And a few others that I can't even remember, and maybe have closed up shop and left the internet. I know in a previous blog I said that we all need to get on social networking. But wow, there has to be a point where we just say "enough is enough"!

At my age, I'm throwing in the towel, and admitting that I just can't do it all anymore. Over the next few weeks I'm going to be scaling back. I've already stopped using Foursquare and I'm eliminating my use of Instagram. I gave up on Flickr quite a while back, on the principle that Yahoo was willlingly evil. Even though Verizon owns Yahoo and all its properties now, I still won't return there. And I will be giving up on Tumblr as well. I just can't do them all.

For those of you that follow me on all of these, you're awesome, but I need to consolodate in order to keep my sanity.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

NY Times Rebuttal

I just read an article from the New York Times about another "AI is gonna destroy humanity" concept. Ho-hum.

I'm kind of getting tired of people crying "wolf!", and hollering "the sky is falling!". The only reason I'm taking issue with this one is the concept that the author, Kai-Fu Lee, makes in his second to last paragraph:

"So if most countries will not be able to tax ultra-profitable A.I. companies to subsidize their workers, what options will they have? I foresee only one: Unless they wish to plunge their people into poverty, they will be forced to negotiate with whichever country supplies most of their A.I. software — China or the United States — to essentially become that country’s economic dependent, taking in welfare subsidies in exchange for letting the “parent” nation’s A.I. companies continue to profit from the dependent country’s users...."

Seriously?

Why does the rest of the world still think that we are some monstrously rich nation-state that can just pay for the rest of the world? Granted, AI is eating our lunch right now. But come on, people, let's use some common sense. There are hundreds of thousands of people in America that are just as displaced from AI and machines taking their jobs. Do you hear them hollering that India needs to pay their way? Well, some actually are, but most of us know better. And frankly, Mr. Lee, you should too.

Massive taxation will NOT solve where the money will come from for a universal basic income. What WILL solve this dilemma is all the stinking data that EVERY individual human on this planet generates. Even the smallest backwoods company taps into that data for streamlining their operations. What needs to happen is tieing that data into a blockchain that places a monetary value to it for the individual that generates that data. Then the individual gets a portion of the payment that the backwoods company paid to XYZ megacorp that audits and compiles the data stream.

Until this happens, the mega corporations are gonna fight taxation tooth and nail. You think there is a problem with offshore holdings now? You ain't seen nothin' yet.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Acronym Soup

I'm watching a Miku Miku Dance video by Anonymous Boat F***er in YouTube today, and I read this comment to him:

lychanking 13 hours ago
Have you thought about doing these kinds of vids in vr?

To which I replied to lychanking:

Joe Nickence 1 second ago
I understand your question, but I had to smile and suppress a chuckle. Think about what you just asked. XD

Miku Miku Dance is broadly defined as Virtual Reality. Albeit more of a gaming engine for dance motions, along the lines of Unity and Unreal.

For a while the industry had it all figured out. We had "Virtual Reality", "Augmented Reality", and "Mixed Reality". These separated us from "Real Life". Occasionally I started to see "3D". Not too bad. Most understood that it meant old style flat screen virtual reality. I read a page many years ago by a person that used the term "Default World" to define what many call RL. I personally like that definition, so I use it a lot. And I prefer to use MR whenever possible. Now we have "Internet of Things" to add to the list, being powered by "Artificial Intelligence". But now I've recently come across a definition called "eXtended Reality". I actually do like that one, because it attempts to pull in and combine the blending of MR, IoT, and AI. Let's add "Immersive Computing" to the list. Oh, let's not forget "eSports", perhaps the most blended activity of the last five years.

Confused yet? You're not alone. As the big four, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and now Apple, attempt to jostle each other to be the ones to precisely define this hodge-podge of acronyms. Microsoft, perhaps, should be lauded for stubbornly sticking to the Mixed Reality label. However, they are choosing to simply ignore the individual acronyms AR and VR, that make up MR, never mind that they want to be your hub platform as well for IoT in the foreseeable future. Mixed Reality just doesn't reach far enough to blanket IoT as well.

I'm going to go out on a limb in this post, and officially say that I believe that XR, eXtended Reality, will eventually be the acronym that triumphs. So I'll be using that as I move forward.

Don't anticipate the gaming industry to capitulate to that one any time soon. For them, it's VR, with a respectful nod to AR. And most people that haven't curled up in a whimpering ball in the corner will keep to MR. IoT will interchange between commercial and residential applications and trudge along in parallel to MR, possibly dipping into XR as needed. It's an uphill fight, folks. One that has no clear winner for some time to come.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Backpedaling

Every once in a while I sit back and take stock in some of the things I've popped off about that irked me. The last one I posted about in my blog was about apps. I wasn't going to use apps anymore. they distracted me from what I perceived as a pure internet experience. I was going to do everything through my browser. Yeah, right. That lasted about two weeks. I'd find something, and I was encouraged to use my app. It turns out I needed the apps more than I realized. Most are back in my daily routine.

Another rant I did that was posted on my Facebook page. That concerned my use of the Steam platform. I felt it was becoming more of a nuisance than I cared for. Then I read an article about how Valve was allegedly ripping it's player/members/partners off. So I uninstalled it. Sorry I don't have a link. You'll have to do a search. I'm now seriously reconsidering reinstalling Steam. There are some things on it that I'm discovering that are becoming increasingly necessary to me, in terms of social interaction.

I equate these actions to the last century's dilemmas with railroads as they expanded across the continents. You knew the industrialists were taking excessive liberties against cultures and resources in order to achieve their goals. But that stopped no one from continuing to use the railroads, because it was something that had woven itself into the very fabric of society quickly. If you stopped using the railroads, you were missing out on opportunities. And outright sabotage was met with heavy handed justice in both the courts, and public opinion.

Apps are at the stage now that the railroads were at in the 1960s. Still quite necessary, but increasingly irrelevant as newer technology and concepts surge forward. Insiders are starting to whisper about how immersive computing is changing the way of the app economy. Which I feel it is as well. As for social networking? We are a social species. People used to gather around a communal fire in caves. We gathered in outdoor forums to spout off our opinions about senator's excesses. And now we are fully absorbed in our social apps. But apps are going to take a back seat in our lives, They will never go away. They are just computer programs, after all. Just like the railroads, ribbons of steel crisscrossing the globe was expected to evaporate as ribbons of asphalt took over. Railroads still serve an essential function, running in our background, and still annoying us when we need to wait for a train to go past.

I'm sure I'll discover something that I dislike about immersive computing in the future. Some smarmy app will break the immersion. Or a specific standard to get everything to play nice together will stall in committee. But accept that I'll rant and fuss. It's who I am. It's who we all are.