Court ™! The Justice Computer!

Crown Industries proudly present the new Court ™ justice computer! Designed for countries needing a world class solution to fair justice dispensing, the Court ™ allows you to punish miscreants with an error rate far below competing solutions!

Showcasing our revolutionary I.M.P.A.R.T.I.A.L. modular design, and a first-in-class transparent case, the Court ™ is able to offer a dramatic reduction in false positives! Never again will you have to worry about accusations of vindictive convictions – in the unlikely event of an error, the Court ™ can be rerun in a different configuration to verify the result!

Central to the design is the proven Judge module, known for its data storage and processing capabilities. Rather than operate a Judge in isolation, or running a hardcoded script, the Court ™ harnesses it as a central control unit, arbitrating messaging between other modules.

Modern justice requires the input of increasing amounts of data, due to international regulations baring decisions of basis of social class alone. Here at Crown Industries, we understand this, and the Court ™ is fully ECHR compliant. Data input is handled by two sets of Lawyer modules, one each dedicated to positive and negative data. This guarantees your justice has balanced input, offering peace of mind for a fair result.

What truly distinguishes the Court ™ is its handling of core processing with a Redundant Array of Independent Jurors (RAIJ). This combines twelve readily available Juror cores into one processing module, and its parallel execution offers unparalleled reliability. Whereas processing by a single core allows that core’s previous settings to interfere with the result, running twelve randomly chosen cores in parallel cancela out most of such interference.

To ensure backwards compatability with your existing laws, both Judge and Lawyer modules can be programmed in the established and trusted LATIN language. However, we at Crown Industries understand that LATIN support in jurors is deprecated, and offer Clerk communication modules to assist.

We are also aware of concerns over earlier, LATIN only, Judge modules suffering from the infamous MM bug, causing them to wrap around and function in MCM mode. Thankfully, the Court ™ has a transparent case, so such modules can be detected and, thanks to the modular design, replaced with an up to date model.

Don’t be ousted from power by accusations of unfair justice – invest in a Court ™ today!

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The State is not a Charity

I reflected a while ago the coalition’s “big society” suggests an ill-founded conflation of the state with a charity. Various policies and opinions since then seem to fit this. This bothers me, as the state really isn’t a charity. Mistaking it for one could cause some damaging decisions to be made.

At first glance, the state looks like a big charity. Taxes are donations, and the charities work is caring for the citizens of said state. Dig a bit deeper though, and cracks emerge. A donation is voluntary, and what it is spent on is at the control of the donor. A taxpayer has little direct say in how much tax they pay, or that tax is spent Thinking of state provision as charity is also unhelpful – whilst charity can be universal, we tend to think of it’s recipients as exceptions from the average. States provisions tend to encompass anyone within certain criteria.

So, where does this confusion manifest? The first example is “big society”; the idea that state services can be replaced with charity, reducing spending and fostering community spirit. It sounds good, and if you think of the services as charities to start with, then it could seem like a clear win; charity via public funds replaced with charity via community. Some may even suggest a higher standard of sevice from enthusiastic volunteers than from box ticking wage slaves.

These services are not charitable though, and there are often major practical and ethical issues with replacing them with a charity. First, reliability. A state service will have some required level to meet, and whilst that can be cut, it is by a political decision that the decision makers can be held accountable for. (Key word there). A charity is voluntary, members can leave, or the group can disband entirely. Where does this leave those using the service? Standards are potentially less enforceable, largely due to the lack of aforementioned accountability.

Allocation of resource is also compromised. The state can prioritise greatest needs (it may not do this well, but it can do it, and we can assess it’s success). Using separate charities prevents this; resource is allocated to those courses that donors and volunteers *think* needs them; or just what interests them.

Ethically, there is a perceptual risk. Those using a charity may be viewed differently than those using a state service. The work of a charity may be seen as less essential, a luxury even, and open to cuts if resources are limited. As noted above, such cuts are unpreventable, and potentially disastrous.

This same attitude extends beyond “bug society” however. A direct example is recent suggestions to allow tax payers to voluntarily pay extra council tax. It sound great in principle; those with spare cash who want to pay more tax can do. The problem is this makes tax a donation, which it really isn’t. Once you accept people choosing to pay more, you allow them to choose to pay less. Trivially as those topping up can choose to stop, but also perceptually. If you make tax even partially voluntary, and more importantly voluntarily for the wealthy, then you leave the expectation of being able to choose to pay less.

Turning tax into charity also loads it with other aspects of charity, such a donor control. If you donate to a charity, you get a say on how that money is spent. Allow voluntary taxation, and the same is not only going to be assumed, but pressured for. Voluntary tax payers could threaten to stop donating if they didn’t like what the money was spent on. Loading control to the wealthy is hardly democratic.

The same perception appears to be part of the problem of “benefit shaming”. This “scrounger” narrative driven by media and politicians alike casts recipients of state aid as dimished by this, and even as hate figures. The confusion with benefits and charity can’t be helping here – needing to rely on charity is conceptually different from using a universal service that one is entitled to. Donor authority also applies – taxpayers believing that having paid the tax gives them authority on how it is spent. This doesn’t just extend to the state (which benefits they feel are worthy), but also the recipients. We have paid for yiur benefits, so you can’t spend them on a widescreen telly. Not that 4:3 tellies are sold anymore.

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Press regulation – an alternative

Let me start by saying I’m actually broadly in favour of press regulation as currently being proposed by parliament. However, it is facing considerable headwind from both the press and from some liberals. I’m not going to critique the objections at this point, but their existence means considering alternatives is prudent.

Let’s focus on a specific issue of regulation that’s hard to object to: factual accuracy. Yes, there are many problems not covered by this, so addressing it in isolation will never be a complete solution. It is a very important issue, however, and one not exclusive to the press, so giving it special attention may be justified.

How do you police factual accuracy? An existing approach is via corrections – the offending publication notifies its audience of the inaccuracy. As long as the correction is given due prominence, then it is likely that anyone previously misled will now be aware of the error.

Voluntary corrections already exist and are good in their own right, but a means of press regulation might be an independent regulator with the power to demand them. With appropriate measures to determine if something is definitely inaccurate, this could provide an accessible recourse with minimal impediment on the press. Parties could submit a complaint, with evidence and a fee, and the publisher be given a chance to respond. The regulator could then require a correction, of specified wording and prominence, based on the evidence provided.

This obviously isn’t a complete solution, and is not without drawbacks. However, it deals with some key issues without introducing anything too controversial – only factual inaccuracy would be policed, and no punitive measures deployed. What forms of media were covered is less critical – including blogs, for example, merely means blogs could end up being asked to publish corrections.

There’s an issue over thresholds – too strict restricts speech, too lax makes the system toothless. One solution might be multiple thresholds – if false beyond reasonable doubt, then a retraction is ordered. If only false on balance of probabilities, then a more discreet correction. Another level might be borrowed from wikipedia – for biographical facts, require some form of acknowledgement if they cannot be shown to be true.

I’m not claiming this would be better than options currently tabled; however, I think it’s constructive to consider alternatives, even hypothetically.

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I’m sorry, I don’t care about your schism

I lurk round the fringes of a few different movements, such as organised scepticism, and it is an essential value of such groups that they aren’t homogenous. A variety of views coexist, and healthy debate is to be encouraged. What I’ve no patience with are the personal feuds.

I’ll clear one thing up first: I’m not objecting to people defending themselves. If someone is being abused or genuinely wronged, they are utterly justified in calling that out.

My objection is to individuals or groups, often nominally on the same side, resorting to public slanging matches. I’m not going to give examples, as I don’t want to call attention or get dragged into squabbles; but I’m sure that I’m not the only one who’s found debates descending into “who” not “what”. Groups are categorised as “enemy”, and their actions judged primarily on that ground. It’s an old joke about socialist movements, but it seems to be universal, and progessive or evidence based groups are especially undermined by it.

I do wonder if twitter doesn’t help – it’s a marvelous communication tool, but it’s enforced brevity is a double edged sword. It’s too easy for tone to be misunderstood, and for a critical tweet to lack enough detail to be constructive. The persona displayed on twitter may be unwittingly distorted, damaging it’s effectiveness and encouraging a more hostile response.

So I’m sorry, I just don’t care about your schism. Don’t be offended if I miss any nuggets of wisdom lost amongst a playground feud. Please don’t try and drag me into your row . Also, since no one is perfect, please feel free to call me on it if I’m ever guilty of the above!


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Why Growth?

Short post.

Was wondering why “growth” is assumed as a good thing – relying on an ever changing state seems counter intuitive.

I guess the point is that absolute growth is needed to maintain a stable state; localised growth is inevitable since progress in certain areas is trivially necessary (eg. healthcare), so any areas not growing are effectively going backwards. So we need to run to stand still.

Hmm, this seemed a bit more meaningful before I started typing…


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More content on the way

Articles on the way on press regulation as an engineering problem, and mature gaming. Stay tuned…

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Santa Tech, part 3


Whilst whatever device you have to manipulate time does reduce the requirements of whatever your propulsion system is, it still achieves another impressive feat, so my third item is your engines.

Even a conservative estimate of your cargo (0.5kg per recipient) come in at a total of 500000 tonnes, about the capacity of a supertanker. Do you you carry the whole year’s consignment at once, or does your route include regular passes over lapland to reload? Even allowing a generous 500 passes, that still means 1000 tonnes of gifts, and possibly fuel/provisions, although I believe the latter is traditionally provided on route. Offerings of fuel raise interesting questions about your power generation, and your engines mechanism. If the fuel provided by recipients is anything more than a token gesture, you are clearly extracting engine from it by non-chemical means, and the quantities involved are inadequate for reaction mass.

Carbon based products seem poor choices for nuclear fusion or fission, suggesting some form of mass to energy conversion. Is this a separate device, or part of your engines? It would certainly have it’s uses in standalone applications. Without resupply of reaction mass, unless you carry this as well (and the amount required would start to dwarf the gifts), your engines are either some form of jet, or do not rely on thrust. The latter is given weight by the lack of reports of thrust damage, despite you landing in residential areas. Snow covered ground would also likely show evidence of enough thrust to get thousands of tonnes airborne. I assume conservation of momentum is maintained with the planet itself, perhaps via the magnetic field?

So, I’d like one of your engines please, and at least one of your carrot-and-oat power sources.

More to follow… 

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