Off my trolley problem

People interested in self-driving cars keep discussing the “trolley problem” — that is, in the event of an imminent accident, how should the car decide who gets to live, and who dies? The problem is, ethics is a really tricky area of philosophy. So I have A Modest Proposal: Technology can enable a free market solution instead. Each passenger in a vehicle or pedestrian with a smartphone can place accident compensation funds in escrow, and be issued a digital certificate stating the amount.

Celebrating Put Your Children To Work Day

Congressional Republicans today marked their annual celebration of free market child labor. Festivities were started by Ralph E. Reed Jr, who handed out “Put Your Children To Work Day” T-shirts manufactured in sweatshops in the Mariana Islands and labeled “Made in USA”. Guest speaker and noted Ayn Rand scholar Robert Hessen then gave a brief talk on the importance of child workers. “Today’s sweatshop children act as a stark reminder that we need total laissez-faire economics.

Mozilla selects new CTO

The Mozilla Organization today sought to provide further support to beleaguered CEO Brendan Eich, who has been facing criticism over his donation of $1,000 to California’s Proposition 8 campaign to ban same-sex marriage. Mozilla announced that Eich will now be joined by a new Chief Technical Officer, the rotting corpse of Fred Phelps. “Yes, technically he’s dead,” admitted Mozilla HR director Ian Competenza, “But that means his offensive actions are all in the past, and must therefore be forgotten.

How to start an open source project

Here’s a bitter little thing I wrote a couple of years ago, found on my hard disk during a tidy up and updated for the current zeitgeist. How to start an open source project Set up a project on GitHub, Sourceforge, RubyForge, or wherever. Try to pick a name that’s very similar to an existing project or a commercial product. If you can’t think of one, use an unfunny recursive abbreviation.

Homeless hotspots

This week at SXSWi a Homeless Hotspots campaign has been causing debate. It seems there are plenty who approve of the scheme, so I thought I’d come up with a few more ideas for next year. Homeless Coffee Tables. It’s hard to juggle a Starbucks latte and an iPad. Let one of our homeless hold the coffee for you while you Tweet what you just overheard. Homeless Umbrellas. The weather’s been pretty bad, so why not make use of our special mobile umbrellas?

The NCP address crunch

[Note: This text was posted through a time warp from 1979. Special thanks to Dan Bernstein and Avery Pennarun for their technical expertise.] Computers on the ARPAnet talk to each other using NCP, the Network Control Protocol. Each computer on the ARPAnet has its own public NCP address, similar to a street number; for example, 207. The target of each packet of data is identified by a public NCP address.

Google Wishes You Merry Christmas, Launches Google Santa Initiative

Lack of Information at North Pole Leads Google to Draft New Privacy Policies MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – December 15, 2009 UTC – As the holiday season continued, Google Inc. today announced that it is modifying its privacy policies in a new two-part Google Santa initiative. The inspiration for the Google Santa project came from the realization that Santa has very little information to go on when judging whether people are naughty or nice.

Solving the UK’s knife crime problem

From the Daily Telegraph: Gordon Brown should levy a tax on violent video games to help tackle knife crime, according to the Richard Taylor, the father of murdered schoolboy Damilola Taylor. […] The Tackling Knives Action Plan is a £2million programme aimed at reducing deaths and serious violence among teenagers due to knives. Violent games are “too cheap” and taxes on them should be “very high”, Mr Taylor told MPs.

“Oh no, not again.”

Douglas Adams has died suddenly of a heart attack, aged 49. I don’t generally get upset when the death of a celebrity is announced—after all, it’s not like I know them or anything. Sure, in some abstract sense I’m sad, but I don’t really feel like I’ve lost a friend. But this is different. I’ve spent so much time immersed in the various Adams worlds—from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Starship Titanic—that I feel like I know him.