Some years ago I was very idealistic. I thought much about perfect solutions. What would be the perfect church, the perfect state, the prefect world. And how can I influence the world to contribute to achieving this. Well there are some things to notice that this isn’t so easy. My thinking changed again and again. At the beginning I thought about concepts stating: “If everyone would follow these rules then there would be more wealth and people would be more happy.” But creating a wold that is great but only if no one cheats is easy. But reality tells you that this is impractical. So what should be your aim? First thing to note about that is there are several great imaginary societies that would work. So imagine Person A. She states that in a perfect world when there is no corruption the state can help everyone. The state employees would work hard because they know they help others. They would not waste time for useless things. So she wants to strengthen the state and in the same time also enforce some anti corruption laws. But Person B has a completely different approach. The state should be minimal. Because it would became a too big institution and would not be productive. He says that if everyone has to pay as little taxes as possible everyone has more money. And if everyone would have a strong sense of justice, one that is bigger than their love of money they would all help each other and everyone has more at the end. He thinks that all help provided to the poor or unfortunate should be voluntary. So I don’t want to talk which ideal world is better. Reality is that this is more or less the left, right debate in politics. But they form the political landscape together and the result is a mess. So restrictions are Person A like and some are Person B like. They are working against each other. Both ideal worlds would work if there would be no cheaters but reality is there are. So what is the ideal world? The question makes no sense. The question is what is practical and benefits the society. What can I do to help others. You can think about a ideal world but there have to be at least to following considerations: Is it stable if it once is set up. (Cheating doesn’t destroy it or is not possible.) Really? Is it achievable in small steps? (If everything has to change at once, it wouldn’t happen) How can you achieve it? Are all the small steps stable and wouldn’t change back in the time you’re doing the next step?
As you might guessed correctly. This isn’t that easy anymore. But no one every told you that a social revolution is easy to provoke. So don’t be a Person A or a Person B. Think in intermediate steps. These intermediate steps are then more like life. In life you have to decide many things and the question I ask myself is there: “Will it benefit anyone in the long term?” So don’t stop thinking just stop thinking in unrealistic ideals.
This is a philosophical post. But I wouldn’t write it if I don’t think that it could help your personal life. The present is the time you’re in at the moment. You’re reading this post. Staring at the screen and thinking whether you should really read that post. The present is the most interesting and also most important time. Because it is the only time you can act in. The past is ONLY here to learn. There is nothing else about it. If I would go really philosophical I could say: You don’t even know the past happened. You also don’t know much about the future. The only thing is the present.
But how could this help you in any way? I run into many people talking. They are saying stuff like: “I should never have gotten married/children.” or “When I had studied more I would have passed the exams.” There are many more of those statements. They talk about the past. But in a non-constructive manor. You know there are things in the past that help you for the present. But those don’t. Me myself just got rejected by many master programs but I don’t think too much about it. I am in the present. I have to move on. And the faster I am able to move on the further I can go. So I only think about the consequences of the past. So I need to look for another masters-program. I think about what was wrong with my applications. But I don’t wast too much time, because it was not clear why I have been rejected. So next time I make a better application and repeat the whole process. I’m not sad about the past. So only think about the past for a short time. As long as you really think you can extract any information from it and move on.
But what about the future? Isn’t the future the present of tomorrow? Yes it is. And you have to think about it. But don’t think too much. The present is much simpler. For example you can think too much about the future. You can make plans year for year but you can’t guarantee anything about it. So in reality there are two types of decisions to make. The ones where the present is changing and you have do decide “What now?” and the ones where you realize something new and you have to decide whether you change anything about your life. The last one can also be more subtile, like “Should I start studying now or later?” But the more you think about it the more you see that there are only these two. The one that can come at any time. A moment of realization that you were slacking around and than the decision to do something about it or to reject any change. So you are deciding for the future. You are always only deciding for the future. But the decision is in the present and if you can live in the present you will have a hard time making decisions.
Last but not least I want to tell you how I cope with this. And how I managed to stay most of the time in the present. (It is not the “Power of Now” Present. Your mind is allowed to wander, and to think all the time.) The main trick to achieve most things is to make yourself an emotional bond to the thing you want. This looks like this for me. Whenever I am complaining about the past or worrying about the future. I get intentionally upset when I realize it. Like playing a role. Like I discipline myself. After some time and some realizations it worked for me to get automatically upset about complaining. The downside of that is that I also get upset when others complain but well I just hold myself back.
As I am in computer science I read a lot about what new technology is appearing. With technology I don’t mean a new smartphone. I mean things done differently. My main source is Technology Review from MIT or its German translation. A theme that occurs over and over again is the distribution of some service. I want to explain here what the basic concept is and then a very promising example of it.
Until now most of the services we know are centralized. There is one place to go for everything. Supermarkets are a great example. As society made progress in production and supply it was much cheaper to produce at a place optimal for production and ship/drive it to wherever it is needed. This is true for national and international productions. Because these productions can only produce a low variety of products they needed to work together with other producers. If this happened conscious or not is not so much important. But at the end the consumer has more of everything at one place, the supermarket. This structure has some power over the people. When the supermarket is huge and more or less the only one supplying the community it has a monopoly. You may think there can always be a monopoly and the one having it can rule the smaller ones and also dictate prices and rules. But this is not true. Bitcoin. This money-system is distributed over all participants and no bank, state or single entity can control it. Sadly the post would become too long when I would talk about bitcoin. You can read this easily yourself on the web.
I want you understand to the concept of distributed systems. Which is pretty simple. There are some different things meant by distributed systems. One thing is just redundancy. So you copy your whole system to different places. And you operate on what ever is closer to you. This is not what I talk about. I want to talk about systems that are shared about the clients. Where there is no central instance organizing all the requests to the service. The service is distributed not only the data.
The example I am aiming for is Bittorrent’s: Maelstrom which makes the whole web distributed. A webpage today works like this. You as a user want to watch some video. You ask with help of your computer over the internet: “Where do I finde youtube.com.?” The internet tells you: “Here it is: 126.96.36.199” And you got to 188.8.131.52 and ask it for your videos. This is centralized because there is one number for YouTube. And if someone wants to shut down YouTube they have to destroy this address. But what if the whole process would be different? What if you would ask the people you know: “Do you have an up to date version of youtube?” Some may say no but everyone telling you they have you ask them for it. So you load youtube from the other users and from now on you have it too and if anyone will ask you whether you have the youtube page you can say: “Yes, I have.” And so it continues. You click then on a video and with that you ask around: “Does anyone have the video I want to watch?” And some will and so you will get it. I think I don’t have to say that all that asking and answering happens internally on your computer without you noticing it.
What are the benefits of this approach? Anyone can make a webpage that scales. You can create your own video webpage. And the first few people on it can only download the videos from you personally and it will be slow but after a short time many will have seen it and will automatically share it. So the space you would have to provide as the distributor is very limited but you will have a great performance.
It can also not be destroyed. If someone destroys your computer nothing will happen. Every bit of the page that was watched once is on another computer too.
Now what are the pros and cons of this technology. On the one hand It is almost indestructible. Because everything is shared about the participants. On the other hand do you really want that? If there is like your dick-pic on the distributed web it will never be out of it again. You can say, this is also the case now. And indeed it is but in the distributed web even more. Another pro is that everyone can start a big thing without money. There is no need for big servers because your users save all the data. Well the discussion about a distributed web is equally to the discussion about censorship. This is a technology that makes it almost impossible to censor anything. Some may thing this is great some may not. But another thing to say. A working distributed web once established will not disappear. If it is fast enough and has a good maintainability it will just be there. It is like most new technologies you can discuss about how good or bad it is but if it is cheaper and better than the alternative than it will dominate the other.