This is a whole other thing:

China says millions of legal cases are now being decided by “internet courts” that do not require citizens to appear in court. 

The “smart court” includes non-human judges powered by artificial intelligenceor AI.

People seeking legal action can register their case on the internet. They can then take part in a digital court hearing.

Robot Justice: The Rise of China’s ‘Internet Courts’

I wonder if there’s a human evaluating how reliable these judgements are and helping train the AI. None of the articles covering this seem to mention it.

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My Personal Notes System

Is there something better than Evernote where I can jot down notes & ideas really quickly that works on mobile + desktop? Must be lightweight & allow me organize the notes into groups of some sort.

It’s time to move on…

@suhail on Twitter.

The personal notes problem has received plenty of attention but still remains unsolved.

People’s requirements are some or all of

– frictionless adding of notes; for some, automation via scriptability

– frictionless search and retrieval across a large number of notes

– organisable – tags, grouping, both

– editable – not just add and search

– inline formatting – bold/italics, bullets, links, tables

– multimedia – should be able to store text, inline photos; for some, even files like PDFs

– portable/open format

– the ability to encrypt specific notes/folders

– synced across devices; for some, self-hosted

– ability to index/reference data stored elsewhere, like say in email

– desktop and mobile, for some a web interface

– collaborative

– version controlled

The landscape is vast and I’m not even going to begin describing it – it spans sophisticated paper-based organisation systems and DEVONthink. Some people I know have fun just evaluating such apps and systems.

But it’s difficult to design and build something that works well for all of these. So most end up optimising for a few of them, often what the developer’s own itch is.

My own priorities are:

– open formats for longetivity. This is very important to me. I have notes going back over ten years, and I’d like that to continue

– frictionless, scriptable addition of notes

– fast full-text search

– synced across at least iOS and mac OS

– I’m ok with not being able to encrypt specific notes as long as the storage itself is secure

– editable with inline formatting. Markdown serves me well, so all I need is a markdown-aware editor

– elementary support for organisation. Inline tags work well enough for me, so I need is for the front-ends to support search as I described above

– support for in-line images would be good to have but it’s not a deal-breaker

My system is plain-text files in a set of folders in iCloud Drive. This used to be Dropbox before the company restricted the number of devices on the free plan.

– I have a number of iOS Shortcuts that run periodically via Launch Center Pro that log readings to files, others that save web pages in markdown. I have other Shortcuts that are home-screen icons that pop up text input boxes to save thought snippets in just a couple of seconds while, say, having a conversation. I invoke still others from share sheets to log to other text files. Shortcuts has of course great support for saving to iCloud Drive. And they’re all synced across devices.

– Files have a simple naming scheme where yymmdd is prepended to file names for easy sorting. Tags are in the file body, the tag name prepended with “@@” for easy searching. All files are spread across a handful of folders.

– There’s great support for markdown-aware plaintext editors on iOS that support online iCloud Drive editing. I use the excellent blockquote app on iPhone and iPad. On Mac OS, I use good old nvalt. The Files app on iOS has good, fast search. Nvalt search is unbeatable.

– While the plaintext files are themselves not encrypted, my iOS devices are protected By FaceID and a long password string, my Mac has a complicated password and FileVault full-disk encryption. On the web, my iCloud account is also protected by 2-factor auth, tied to a non-Gmail email account that is also itself protected by 2-factor auth.

It’s a homegrown solution but works very well for my needs. It doesn’t have collaboration. It doesn’t have a web-based front-end. It’s not version controlled. But it has scriptability and is open-format, and I’m ok making that tradeoff, especially in a world that has Shortcuts, IFTTT and Launch Center Pro. It’s not even tied to iCloud Drive.

PS: I miss the ability to embed inline images. I can do that on Mac OS by referencing an image in markdown, but that path breaks on iOS. So I just avoid it and save images separately in the same folder with descriptive file names.

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“So why is it that we no longer need to be our own personal IT managers, but we still need to be our own personal treasury managers? How is it that we all have an always connected super-computer in our pockets (no IT manager required)—but still suffer the same financial management problems we did twenty years ago?”

“As it turns out, if you want someone who’s truly on your side—if you want your own personal treasury manager—this doesn’t exist today. You either have to do it yourself or hire a team of professionals to do it. This might include a Registered Investment Adviser (an RIA—required by law to act as a fiduciary), an accountant, a tax specialist and a lawyer.”

“The problem is that these people are extremely expensive. The good news is—as software eats money—for the first time this might be possible.”

Why self-driving money is more important than self-driving cars

What a fantastic vision. And within grasp.Software that manages your cash, investments, debt, taxes, risk. Aligned with your interests.

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Jason Fried has a contrarian view on remote work and shared culture:

Om M. On the other hand, there is something to be said about spontaneity of working together and bouncing ideas off each other.

Jason F. We use Campfire for this. We’re in it all day long. And if I don’t want to pay attention I can put the window away. Unlike when you are in person with a bunch of people – you will be bothered whether you like it or not.

Om M. I am new to the whole virtual start-up thing, and I find myself getting the cabin fever, and missing the company of colleagues.

Jason F. When you are in a chat all day long with the people you work with you feel the culture. It’s better than the real thing. Campfire is our secret to success.

I worked remotely from my company for two and a half months recently, in a very different time zone. At the same time I was in a co-working space with other people working remotely, that in time formed its own culture. The culture switch was slightly disconcerting the first week back with my team. I wonder what it’d have been like if I had worked both remotely and alone.

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How does a company expect to build loyalty with ads like this?

I don’t see most web ads because I use a DNS-based ad-blocker on my iPhone and iPad, a content blocker on Safari on iOS and mac OS, and Pi-hole, another network-level DNS blocker at home. This brought home how much bandwidth, battery and attention the average person uses simply dealing with ads. For what? The odd ad that you might like – is the trade off really worth it?

Also: “This isn’t fun anymore

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Paul Graham wrote on Twitter:

The web is 25 years old, and signing up for and paying for things is still broken. Why do you have to create an account and make up a password? Why do you have to type in a number off a card in your pocket? There is a big opportunity here that will seem obvious in retrospect.


To which I wrote the following, a call for a web once again built on open standards and independent commerce:

Compare the amount of money and talent in tracking&advertising systems + heavy web design, compared to in evolving basic components of online life owned business people, not rented from corps: identity, payment, messages, contacts/social graph.

Now as long as you are in a megacorp’s garden of services, all of these experiences work well. No password to be entered. No card number to be read. Often, no address to be specified. It’s all on file.

But since these gardens are proprietary black-boxes overlaid on the open web, every independent seller needs to support hooks into each megacorp’s black-box – it needs to support customers of Apple & Google & Facebook & Microsoft & Amazon.

So instead each merchant rolls their own payments & identity, or rents it from optimised smaller players like Shopify or Squarespace. None of these small/megacorp systems are cross-functional & hence the whole model is broken.

Contrast this, ironically, to tracking & ad delivery. It works wherever you go, cross-device, cross-site, with no sign-in; often through incognito mode & through ad blockers. Seamless and ubiquitous & via brokers, often interoperable. Vastly more sophisticated.

So I n the end the story of the evolution of the web has been one of private capture of attention and data built atop an open commons. Thankfully unlike the physical world, the online one is unlimited. Open commons can be built & adopted any time by any number.

Sellers+buyers, writers+readers can always adopt open, decentralised stds. OpenID. Own domain/hosting of email & contacts. XMPP for messaging. The IETF & EFF & such orgs can learn from megacorps to create simpler to adopt standards for payments & social graphs + others.

In conclusion: @paulg is right. Identity & pmts & much is yet broken. But open standards exist; they must become more elegant/simpler. Sellers will not need to choose between clunky experiences & megacorps’ walled gardens. We can build a better future.

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It feels — intuitively — that software (beyond core functionality) should aim for speed. Speed as a proxy for efficiency. If a piece of software is becoming taurine-esque, unwieldy, then perhaps it shouldn’t be a single piece of software. Ultimately, to be fast is to be light. And to be light is to lessen the burden on someone or some task.

Fast Software, the Best Software
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Starbucks’ rewards cards are a tool for more than just loyalty:

Starbucks has around $1.6 billion in stored value card liabilities outstanding. This represents the sum of all physical gift cards held in customer’s wallets as well as the digital value of electronic balances held in the Starbucks Mobile App.

Now even though this is money that Starbucks owes its customers and is therefore a liability on its balance sheet,

Starbucks… doesn’t have to keep customer funds in a low yielding segregated account or government bonds. Why is that? PayPal allows people to cash-out of PayPal dollars into regular dollars, so for regulatory purposes it must keep an adequate reserve on hand to facilitate redemptions. But the only way to cash out of Starbucks balances is to buy a coffee–a promise that Starbucks can always keep! And so Starbucks can immediately put its customer loans to work in higher-yielding opportunities like funding its operations and expansion.

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Peter Thiel on Piketty

From an AMA on Reddit 4 years ago:

Three parts to Piketty:

1 He describes a world of greater inequality. I think this is happening and is an important phenomenon.

2 He explains the phenomenon as driven by high returns on capital. I think this explanation is incorrect (the real returns have been negative since 2008, with interest rates at 0% and inflation at 2% in the US).

3 He proposes much higher marginal tax rates and a wealth tax. I think this is very bad policy and almost impossible to implement, and will result in massive distortions as people try to shelter more income and wealth.

I think we need to find ways to grow the overall economy faster — without faster growth, inequality will be the least of our problems.

In general, Thiel is a fan of trickle-down economics, focused on wealth creation through the fast growth of new systems of value.

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Extracts from and comments on The Outsiders

This article in an issue of the journal of the high-intelligence Prometheus Society describes research on how difficult people with high IQs find integrating happily with society:

The single greatest adjustment problem faced by the gifted, however, is their tendency to become isolated from the rest of humanity. This problem is especially acute among the exceptionally gifted…

… The implication is that there is a limit beyond which genuine communication between different levels of intelligence becomes impossible. To say that a child or an adult is intellectually isolated from his contemporaries is to say that everyone in his environment has an IQ at least 30 points different from his own.

The point is that the danger lies in having an exceptional IQ in an environment completely lacking in intellectual peers. It’s the isolation that does the damage, not the IQ itself.

One way the gifted adjust to adult life:

And although they may superficially appear to have made a good adjustment to their work and friends, neither work nor friends can completely engage their attention. They hunger for more intellectual challenge and more real companionship than their social environment can supply. So they resort to leading a double life. They compartmentalize their life into a public sphere and a private sphere. In public they go through the motions of fulfilling their social roles, whatever they are, but in private they pursue goals of their own. They are often omnivorous readers, and sometimes unusually expert amateurs in specialized subjects. The double life strategy might even be called the genius ploy, as many geniuses in history have worked at menial tasks in order to free themselves for more important work.

The article then shifts gears:

The genius (as regards intellectual ability) not only has an IQ of say 50 points more than the average person, but in virtue of this difference acquires seemingly new aspects (potentialities) or characteristics…

Wechsler is saying quite plainly that those with IQs above 150 are different in kind from those below that level. He is saying that they are a different kind of mind, a different kind of human being…

… objective self-knowledge for the exceptionally gifted is nearly impossible to obtain. What he most needs to know is not how he differs from ordinary people–he is acutely aware of that–but how he is both like and unlike those of his own kind.

The writer seems to say that when an intelligence is far enough removed from the mean, it’s not only different from ‘ordinary people’, but is also unique among its peers.

The article is supposed to be among the best-known from the society’s journal. It was first published in 1987, thirty-two years ago. I wonder what the current studies of super-high IQ individuals show about the nature of such intelligence, and the coping mechanisms.

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