Ethics

I consider myself a secular Buddhist: I try to follow a modified Eightfold Path. Here is a list from the Wikipedia article on the Eightfold Path, edited to remove anachronisms or beliefs I otherwise don’t adhere to: mostly reincarnation, complete renunciation to the material (I think there is a more pragmatic middle way) and abstaining from sexual activities (which doesn’t make sense to me now we have birth control): my ethics.

  • Right View: Our actions and beliefs have consequences beyond us and after death. I see humanity as a cultural organism. My actions and beliefs, as they are seen and heard, might send ripples through history. This is true for everyone.

  • Right Resolve or Intention: the giving up of comfort to follow the path; this concept aims at peaceful renunciation, into an environment of non-ill-will (to loving kindness), away from cruelty (to compassion). Such an environment aids contemplation of impermanence, suffering, and non-Self.

  • Right Speech: no lying, no rude speech, no telling one person what another says about them.

  • Right Conduct or Action: no killing or injuring, no taking what is not given, no harmful sexual acts or material desires.

  • Right Livelihood: Only possess what is essential to sustain life and happiness; decide what is needed in life, and commit to give away the rest.

  • Right Effort: preventing the arising of unwholesome states, and generating wholesome states, the bojjhagā (seven factors of awakening). This includes indriya-samvara, “guarding the sense-doors,” restraint of the sense faculties. [to be reviewed, probably good].

  • Right Mindfulness (sati): being mindful of the dhammas (“teachings,” “elements”) that are beneficial to the right path. In the vipassana movement, sati is interpreted as “bare attention”: never be absent minded, being conscious of what one is doing; this encourages the awareness of the impermanence of body, feeling and mind, as well as to experience the five aggregates (skandhas), the five hindrances, the four True Realities and seven factors of awakening.

  • Right samadhi (Passaddhi; Ekaggata; sampasadana): practicing four stages of dhyāna (“meditation”), which includes samadhi proper in the second stage, and reinforces the development of the bojjhagā, culminating into upekkha (equanimity) and mindfulness. In the Theravada tradition and the Vipassana movement, this is interpreted as ekaggata, concentration or one-pointedness of the mind, and supplemented with Vipassana-meditation, which aims at insight.

I’m a beginner (at everything, really). I practice meditation.

Philosophy

I realized I’ve been beating around the bush but haven’t got round to actually writing down my personal philosophy; what I believe to be beautiful and good and true. Writing down stuff is sometimes conducive to actually making sense, so here goes.

I am agnostic. I do not believe we can (currently?) know the principle that put the universe in motion, if any.

I consider myself a sort of secular Buddhist: I try to follow a modified Eightfold Path. I do not usually try to label myself, but I say I follow this Buddhist path to summarize: I agree with it to a great extent and it also gives a salient place to meditation, which I practice, but I do not restrict myself to the principles of Buddhism. I am interested in all philosophy as a vehicle for the pursuit of knowledge and the reduction of suffering; I admire classical culture, although unfortunately it was built upon oppression and slavery (we need to do better), and appreciate Stoic and Epicurean thought. I am an admirer of science and culture. I believe in the enlightenment.

I think the purpose of humanity should be to thrive in peace, advancing knowledge through science and technology and culture, and using said knowledge to reduce and eventually eliminate the suffering of all living beings, starting with fellow humans.

More concretely and to the point: I support the causes of feminism; wealth and power redistribution; and universal basic income. My default stance to open questions is liberality; I believe humanity is a robust distributed system and history has proven time and time again that humanity can gain a lot from trying new solutions to old problems.

Thus I intend to make the following my personal goal in life: to support worthy causes and seek ways to improve humanity within the means I’ve got, with honesty and sincerity, even if it means risking ridicule by making earnest mistakes in public. I believe if everybody did this we’d potentially end up in a better world; you can call it an utopia. You might know what I call my personal utopia by now.

I believe in civilized, fact-based debate and cordiality. If you disagree with any of my positions, I’d love to hear from you! I would like to change my mind or otherwise improve my positions wherever I’m wrong. I know I’m statistically certain to be wrong about many, many things, and I look forward to finding out which those are.

Thank you.

Experiments with replicating elements of style with Transformer

I’ve been toying with this idea for a while and I think it might have some interest.

It is related to the concept of “Narrative Author” by Dehennin or the older “Implicit Author” in Literary Analysis terms.

I will try to pick it up more seriously in my free time, perhaps in collaboration with my dear partner, who was a better and more current background in Literary Analysis and Linguistics. It goes like this:

  • Transformer-based generative language models (GPT-2, BERT) can generate text (prompted or unprompted) with a degree of coherence not reachable by previous models, although still of course short of human performance.
  • Said models can be fine-tuned on smaller corpuses in the same language they were trained on. I’ve run some quick experiments fine-tuning GPT-2 on Jane Austen (unpublished) and Philip K. Dick. The results are only sometimes coherent, but they seem to maintain the original’s style to some extent.

Thus the planned experiment:

  • Define a set of style markers in the context of the Narrative Author theory. These are markers present in texts that might be maintained or not maintained by the generative models trained in such texts.
  • Fine-tune models with these texts and generate prompted and unprompted texts.
  • Analyze which style markers remain present in the generated texts (or can be found by a reasonable reader, with or without knowledge of their generated nature).

What the hell just happened to Kanyo West?

What the hell just happened to Kanyo West?

After his sexist outbursts, after his comments about slavery; after supporting Trump… to go ahead and convert to Buddhism?

Nobody saw it coming. He toyed with Christianity for a while, and that seemed like the obvious move — the whole Born Again Christian thing, Jesus is our savior and all of that. Islam would have been less surprising as a next step, given Raekwon and Ghostface Killah from the Wu Tang, but Kanyo didn’t seem to acknowledge that tradition much, if ever. The results in any case probably wouldn’t have been this dramatic — but more likely than not would have been equally interesting, given his other sudden turn towards history and the scholastic. One can now almost imagine the kinds of rhymes he could have pulled off while discussing the nuances of the trinity, Thomas Aquinas or even the Zakat. But I guess we’ll never hear those verses.

I have to admit that when I first heard we, humanity, had just found our RPG party included (1) Buddhist Kanyo West, troll and rogue extraordinaire, my initial reaction was of course to wonder how much of it he really meant. But he seems quite serious and… earnest about it. Like he means it; this is not a matter of vacuous spirituality. Of course Buddhism is not really a religion, and Kanyo actually raps about that… but, like all philosophy, it does fill the place that religion would more often use up in many people’s lives. The interest makes the time, and Kanyo sounds like he made the time to get reasonably deep in Buddhist philosophy. Disconcertingly, it feels this might be the best possible move for him, and humanity, at this point in history.

What’s next? What comes after philosopher Kanyo West, shouting to the world at large: “if you are interested in your mind, sit down and watch it”? Telling you to know yourself — and to then use your knowledge to reduce human suffering? Can I dare to dream of him rapping about universal basic income? I can almost see him starting a privately funded program with all his rich friends and society, and the state, just having to catch up with them.

After the apparent downward spiral of the last few years, I wonder if we could suddenly find ourselves, once and for a change, in the best possible timeline; or at least a good time to be in a good enough timeline. With potentially only six more months of Trump to go, it sure feels like the beginning of a respite.

Meditation for programmers

I’ve been meditating regularly for about six months now, doing it daily for around the last two. I’m far from an expert, but at this point I’m convinced both about the absolute benefits of meditation and its relative (opportunity-)cost-benefit ratio, so I feel like it’s an appropriate time to write down my thoughts as they are.

I’m writing this with “programmers” in mind as my audience, although “computer enthusiasts” could be used instead equally well; if you like computers and have some level of interest in how they work, and you’re curious about minds, you should be able to get something useful or interesting out of this. If you don’t, please let me know and I’ll try to improve the piece.

Sidebar: on our models of the world and our models of the mind

There is a common thought in the fields of theory of mind/psychology/neuroscience, and that is that each generation uses the models they are familiar with to try to understand the brain. Our generation has computers, and we have taken a liking to them; so it is not surprising that a lot of our contemporary thinking on cognitive science starts from the assumption that brains are meat computers.

In many ways they are, of course, but there is a risk in pushing the metaphor and the model too far. Some computer-like models may just make sense to us because we’re immersed in a reality in which computers are ubiquitous, and may look quaint in a few centuries once the prevailing paradigm shifts. Imagine quantum computers change the world and displace our current digital computers to a significant enough extent; then our model of thinking about the universe and the mind may shift naturally to them resembling quantum computers. People looking back to us and our quaint digital computers would perceive us as wrong as us looking back to Medieval physicians and their theory of the humours.

I think this is the reason that some neuroscientists work towards finding neural correlates of our experiences; our experiences are, to some extent, mediated by our models, but finding the minimum sets of brain activity that correlate strongly with a subjective experience seems to be a good way to “corroborate” some of our cognitive models — make the argument that they match how the brain actually works, at least on a high level structural sense.

This is all to say that this post is, basically, the result of applying a slice of neuroscience and our models of computing to the mind as perceived through meditation. It’s not original work; it is my reading of common positions that smarter people than me have arrived at. It is hard to debate whether it is true or not, given that we’re talking about models. So, caveat emptor. But I hope someone else can find it useful, which is the most we should ask for from most of our models.

Meditation is a tool for introspection

After that long preamble in which I lost 50% of my readers, here’s the deal: meditation is a tool to train attention, awareness and meta-cognition. Let me define those so we’re sure we’re on the same page:

  • Attention is the sense of focus you can direct by applying willpower. You probably know what I mean: you can direct your attention to an object or task and prioritize it over all others, at least while your attention lasts. As usual, our visual system provides a very good example (or is it a metaphor?) for this cognitive phenomenon: you can focus visually on an object and see it in detail, while the surrounding field of view is sort of blurry.

  • Awareness is whatever your mind is conscious of that you are not focusing on. In the field of view example, everything but the object of focus that you can still see is in your field of awareness. I’ve slipped a reference to consciousness here and it’s problematic (we haven’t defined it) — bear with me here, we’ll get back to that later.

  • Meta-cognition is the skill of directing attention and awareness to the mind itself — your thoughts, feelings and other mental processes.

Here’s the kick: we all have these tools. And we are all thinking, all the time. We are just not meta-cognitively aware of it. It takes effort and skill to be aware of more things, more of the time. It takes even more effort to be able to direct our mental processes instead of defaulting to doing whatever happens next.

Now, this is a model. It may or may not resonate with how you intuitively think (or feel) about your own thinking. In this model, though, meditation is the tool that lets you build up these traits and skills. Meditation is exercise for the mind, like other kinds of learning; but it is more directed to meta-cognition than other kinds of learning.

Meditation also lets you see for yourself. When you sit down and meditate, you learn how to observe your mind. What you find will likely surprise you. You will learn how to notice attention, how to notice awareness, how to notice your mind drifting — all the time at first. Then you will learn how to accept its drifting, and then how to control its drifting, and finally how to stop its drifting and direct your thinking.

The actual process of meditation is deceptively simple: you try to focus on your breath (or, later, a different meditation object). You discover you failed — your mind drifted somewhere else. You acknowledge that thought, reward yourself by appreciating the fact that you realized you had drifted, then go back to the meditation object. Repeat.

Meditation has been described as first person science because of the fact that it’s based on insight, observation and experiments. You learn by seeing how you fail, accepting it and then correcting it. But, of course, this could all just be a model that you’re learning and not ground truth reality; you are using introspection and not advanced technology and brain scans (although, of course, such studies of meditation and its benefits exist).

Getting root

I promised you a tie-in with computers and I’ll try not to disappoint.

I do currently believe our minds are computers. They are more than that, perhaps, but it seems to me (and others) that they are at least that. It could be a mirage of the times, as I mentioned earlier; it could be that, if I were writing this in a steampunk parallel universe, I would be equally convinced our mind is in many ways like a steam machine. But I think computation might be special in this universe; we are where we are (us, humans, apex species) mainly because of how we think (as individuals and as groups), and not because of physical attributes (although we are good enough in those aspects as well). And thinking is computation.

Our minds compute all the time; we think all the time. You do not notice it often; thinking just happens, and usually you only have to pay attention when something goes wrong or is somehow surprising. A lot of the computation is unconscious.

The process in which something catches your attention is the correlate of a computer interrupt; some subsystem declares its output to be of interest, or needs inspection for being able to resume regular processing, and raises an interrupt. The mind then addresses the interrupt as well as it can and tries to carry on.

But the mind is itself a complex, distributed system; not a monolith. Meditation has its roots in Buddhism (and Hinduism), and Buddhism has had a modular theory of the mind since about the fourth century C.E. What I got my hands on, of course, is a modern interpretation of it (see references section), but the roots are definitely quite old and seem sound to me. While researching this area I found it surprising how in many ways the Buddhist theory of the mind and Minsky’s Society of Mind have significant overlap.

Each sub-mind (adapted from the Buddhist categories) or agent (in Minsky’s parlance) mostly operates unconsciously. I’ve been thinking about them more and more as Unix processes, chugging along in the background. These processes can generate interrupts (raise attention). Some of these interrupts bring them to the foreground (into “store-house consciousness” in the Buddhist tradition); while they are in the foreground, they execute consciously.

Put another way, consciousness is an interface that processes use to interact; in one canonical definition, it is the place and process where information is integrated. You can picture this setup as akin to that of a complex shell command doing processing through subprocesses and pipes and outputting the result of its computation at the end. Or, alternatively, you could think of it as a chunk of shared memory. Either work, I think, and the analogy is fuzzy here; consciousness is one of the perennial hot topics in psychology and neuroscience, so we won’t settle it here.

Consciousness can also be seen as a succession of slices of attention. The mind probably does not really have a fixed clock cycle like our binary computers; the brain is both actually very slow to propagate impulses and ridiculously parallel, so definitely not your run of the mill simple-but-fast Von Neumann architecture. But through meditation you can become more aware of the fact that the mind does seem to have something like a clock, or at least a series of sequential slices of attention that can be distributed — assigned to mental processes. This seems akin to the function of the OS scheduler in our digital computers: the scheduler assigns slices of CPU time according to a policy, which enables (for example) co-operative multitasking. If you support interrupts (and both modern OSes and our minds usually do), you also can leave the door open to urgent messages from subsystems getting ahead of their place in the queue when needed: think of the evolutionary advantage of the visual subsystem communicating the fact that it just saw something shaped liked a snake, as quickly as possible.

Now, if you accept that our minds have something like a scheduler, and our thought makes use of resources that sub-processes have to compete for — what difference does it make?

Well, meditation tells you that you can first observe how your system works: what kind of processes catch your attention repeatedly? How many slices of attention are you investing in practice in each process? Does the distribution match your expectations?

Then, and more importantly perhaps, it can show you how to change the system. If consciousness is at all like a shell, or shared memory, meditation can get you root.

Tuning the system

One of the tenets of meditation is that meta-cognition influences cognition: if you find yourself lost in thought, and you reward yourself for it while also correcting your attention, over time your unconscious processes will learn to make you (and themselves) less distracted and follow your conscious will.

If you’re trying to focus on an activity, you usually don’t want your sub-minds to distract you with irrelevant information. You don’t want to remember the silly thing you said yesterday, and you don’t want to worry about the other stuff you need to do later; worrying is only useful if you do something about the thing that worries you (for example, solve a problem or prepare a solution). But worrying about something when you’re trying to focus on something else is often counter-productive; it is better to solve the task at hand and then focus on the next. Put another way, there is a context switch cost between mental activities, and too many interrupts actually reduce the effective throughput of the system. Switching all the time due to worries and irrelevant interrupts just isn’t the best possible behaviour. More importantly, though, worrying does not feel good. A distracted mind is usually an unhappy mind, and most people prefer to be happy.

This mismatch is present because, out of the box, we all run with our “natural” scheduler; whatever the combination of our genes, our upbringing and our personal experiences left us with. Our genes probably count a lot here; humans evolved being worried and unhappy, living meal to meal in small groups before the dawn of culture. When you’re fighting for your survival daily, relaxing probably doesn’t get you far; you want to react to every stimulus as fast as possible and accumulate resources without bound. Most of us now live privileged lives in post-industrial society, though, and it is easily arguable we can now do better than our natural scheduler.

I wrote a very simple toy OS with a toy scheduler once for a CS class, and I enjoyed it a lot. You’d have to do the same for your own hobby OS if you coded it; if you have only N processors and M>N processes that want to run, you need a scheduler.

So, what’s the easiest scheduler you can implement that works, in the sense that every process gets to run eventually? Probably a random scheduler: for each slice of time you want to assign, choose a random process and run it. The nice thing is that it doesn’t require any memory; you don’t need to know anything about the past to choose a random process. It’s cheap. The bad part is everything else: it is, of course, quite terrible as a scheduler. Processes might take long to schedule. Useless processes may be scheduled time after time while processes that need CPU time starve.

Through meditation you might find that your built-in scheduler, although not as bad as random, is uncomfortably close to it at times. I did. My mind is all over the place; most minds are. I lack focus. When I think I’m focusing I’m getting distracted ten times a minute, at least.

What if you could improve your scheduler, bit by bit? Tune its policies?

Meditation starts by letting you become aware of (some of) your context switches. Eventually you gain some control over them; you may start to successfully preempt low value ones. Eventually you may be able to override the scheduler completely for some length of time; think of dedicating all available attention slices to the task you’re trying to solve. In Unix terms, you get nice. This kind of override is an evolutionary trade-off, so it makes sense you would have to work hard (practice) to get this mental tool. But, as long as you know your apartment is snake-free, it is likely advantageous.

Fixing bugs

There is another tie in between meditation and programming, and it’s perhaps more obvious: we are all a collection of programs. Most of our programs run as unconscious processes — the processes we discussed earlier. Of course not all of them run at the same time; they get instantiated as needed, or as prompted by other programs.

This structure can be spotted in our own thinking and feeling through meditative introspection. We react to things so very often; we actually spend most of our lives just reacting. But what is reacting? It is, very often, to follow unconscious programs.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Unconscious programs and processes are good. We depend on them, and they are often solid. Some of them evolved; some of them we picked up in our early age. There is a saying in AI about how “easy is hard”: when people were starting out in AI they thought teaching computers to play chess and do logic was going to be the hardest thing to do. In reality, though, that was cracked way before we could teach computers to do simple stuff like object recognition (now finally advanced through deep neural networks) and robots how to move reasonably (still very much a work in progress). This is because a lot of our unconscious programming, and consequently a lot of our brain, is dedicated to “simple” things like movement and perception. Because we assess complexity in our consciousness, we miss the point often.

But some unconscious programs we host are definitely very inefficient. They carry baggage — evolutionary and personal. Consider your natural reaction to thinking about a problem: often you cannot think about a problem without also feeling unhappy about it. Feeling anxious, or unhappy, or stressed — they are all part of the program; there is an if-then-else that points to a stress response, and your consciousness is executing it.

Meditation lets you introspect (debug) and recognize that some of our reactions — some of this unconscious programming — are not necessary. They are optional. Yes, it’s hard to think of something upsetting without getting upset — but you can learn how to do it. Yes, it’s hard to think of something painful without feeling pain — but you can make great strides in at least tolerating that mental pain by recognizing it is mental, and separating it from the stimulus that caused it or the thoughts that you’re having about it.

This detachment also allows you to break loops. Our thinking is full of loops. Loops can work as reinforcement, but some loops are clearly negative and counterproductive; you want to be able to break out of those. Consider anger, a quintessential suboptimal state: anger by itself lasts only a few seconds. If you ever spent more than ten to thirty seconds angry: you were doing it to yourself by thinking about your anger, keeping it alive, running the loop. There is a reason why “take a deep breath” is common advice: focusing on something else breaks the loop.

Once you learn that something is optional, you can stop doing that automatically. Stop reacting, and start managing your actions. Keep the useful thought or action, discard or deprioritize the suffering.

Fix the bug.

References

I’m not an expert, just an enthusiast. You should considering going to the source if you’re interested. These are the books I’d recommend to anyone wanted to dive into these topics.

  • Yates, John, Matthew Immergut, and Jeremy Graves. The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness. 2017. Print.
  • Minsky, Marvin L. The Society of Mind. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2007. Print.
  • Harris, Sam. Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015. Print.

If you want to try meditation, I’d recommend Sam Harris’ Waking Up app. It’s subscription based, but worth it. Other apps such as Headspace are also good starting points, but in my experience Waking Up is superior.

Blockchain

On the other hand I’m pretty sure my other idea about the blockchain must be bullshit. I mean, it has ‘blockchain’ in it; I would assume dumb or scam the minute I saw it on any random blog, and I’m not sure why I should pretend of myself better standards. So I see it as an exercise in finding out why my intuition is wrong. It could be useful to think about the errors of reasoning I’m prone to.

Towards the Agora

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Agora. It seems crazy — is it a trivial idea? I have a lot of those, and I write about them all, just in case. I write about my ideas as if they were fiction, because they likely are fiction; they don’t work, or they are trivial to the point in which they are not really ideas at all; just thoughts about the world as it is, in some way, or after some trivial transformation. Shallow.

But about the Agora: what if it were true? What if we could build an Agora, right here, right now, on the internet? It seems doable enough: a website where we can all agree to discuss earnestly, not to bicker or put the other party down but to understand the other, learn from each other, perhaps sometimes indeed convince another? The rest of the internet could remain as is; bitter, divided, misguided, petty. But the Agora would try harder.

Is it trivial because it already exists? We have many sites that could work as an Agora: hackernews, reddit, stackoverflow, twitter. Even Facebook. But those sites aren’t the Agora; the Agora is a social platform with extra rules that none of them have. The Agora is any social media, with an intention.

Or perhaps the issue is that those already exists, but I don’t know about them because nobody uses it. Or because I’m an ignoramus.

But, really, even if that is the case, I want to write about it because I want to know where it is. If it is out there then please — you, reader, if you ever exist — point me to it. Because I want to get in there.

Embracing piracy

I had an idea yesterday and it seemed so good on the surface that I immediately assumed one or more of the following were true:

  • It was trivial and probably already done to death.
  • My reasoning on the subject is flawed, incomplete or unreasonable.

This happens very often to me as I think about new ideas a lot (it’s sort of my hobby), way beyond my area of expertise. It’s fun and I find the process interesting but by definition I’m looking for diamonds by digging randomly. So it’s important to not get overly enthusiastic about everything that seems to sparkle at first glance.

Anyway, I did some googling today and I did not quite find this exact idea, so here goes. Trigger warning: the idea includes the word ‘blockchain’, which is a buzzword so will make you want to groan. Stay with me for five minutes and see what you think, though. I’d appreciate it.

The industry seems to be trying to “solve” piracy with the blockchain. There are some ideas here, some more promising than others, but none of those seem to truly get it.

I believe we should be using the blockchain to embrace and improve piracy; not try to fight it.

Have you pirated a movie recently? I live in a country where piracy is essentially legal as long as you don’t seed, so I’m privileged in that way (that and many others). Here’s what it looks like for me: you look for a movie or a series in Pirate Bay, which is usually up even though it’s probably one of the most resourcefully hated sites on the internet (on the basis of dollars belonging to people that hate it), then click on its magnet link. You then wait a minute (with my internet connection) and have a copy of the movie in question. It has the following characteristics, most of them probabilistic:

  • It might or might not be good quality. But a lot of the recent stuff is essentially perfect quality; as good as Netflix, with no buffering ever once the download is over.
  • It might or might not have built-in subtitles, which are nice. I’d say about 50% of recent series and films come in a container that supports subtitles, like Matroska, and include at least English language subtitles, which are useful enough for English as a Second Language Speakers (and there’s a lot of them in the internet). Note that these subtitles are very often fan-made, at significant effort by random people around the internet. When something doesn’t have built-in subtitles, you can use a subtitle downloader that just finds the right subtitle for you in one click or command line — most of the time, anyway.

Honestly, I’d be fine just pirating everything with this procedure. It’s easy, and it can be made easier still (you can use something like Popcorn Time to make the whole process look even more like Netflix). The only issue is that it’s pirating. So the people that made an effort in producing first the movie, then the digital file, don’t get rewarded for it:

  • The producers don’t get money from me.
  • All the other people involved in the making of the actual movie probably don’t get that extra bit of money from the producers. This includes the most visible, like actors and authors and directors.
  • Piraters don’t get money from me. This includes the subtitlers and encoders whose work I also get to enjoy.

So here I am thinking: if I could watch a movie, determine how much I liked it, and then pay one to ten bucks for it, I’d do it. I swear I would — if the money went to all the parties that were involved in the making of the movie and the file that contains it, in a way I would find fair.

See where this is going? Matroska could somehow embed the wallet addresses of the people involved in making the movie. The wallets should probably be in a tree-based structure, containing also a set of rules for the distribution of funds from each node to their children. People could keep things easy by sending money to the root node, and accepting the distribution rules set in the file; or fine-tune and send the money directly to the nodes that they care about the most.

Of course the devil is usually in the details: how do we validate this tree and its addresses, allowing updates but not letting the system be taken over by scammers? Well, you know the semi-answer already. It’s the buzzword.

The participants should vote in some way and reach a consensus. Different groups of people could even converge on different solutions: lawful people would probably always compensate the studios, and go through the existing wealth distribution system, while other groups might want to mostly give their money to authors and performers.

Once this system is in place, I see no reason why it should be restricted to video files. Every digital file could be in scope here. I find a picture in GIS, find it useful for my purposes, download it an use it. I could send a buck or two to whoever bothered to claim ownership for it.

Once this system is in place, every person and company has an interest in being part of the system. Why not sign all your files and put your wallet address in them? It can’t hurt, and most modern files include metadata anyway. The process of embedding wallet information in every file you touch could be made quite straightforward.

So, there goes. It’s not a complex idea. Surely someone is building this.

Where are they?

Cover

If Flancia were a book, I would like the following to be its cover: a silhouette of a person, head and torso. It is a stylized drawing.

A small garden is growing off the person’s head. One can notice a tall lotus.