Modular home construction

I wonder if one day we will build homes like we do the space station—in prefabricated modules. Perhaps rooms can be built in standard dimensions and standard interconnections to adjacent rooms for electricity, networking, coaxial cable, HVAC, hot and cold water, natural gas, etc. Each room would be somewhat over-engineered, but this extra cost is offset by savings from the economies of scale due to mass-production. A home builder would simply assemble a chosen configuration of modules, and provide some finishing touches, such as the exterior facing, roofing, and utility hookups.

This approach would benefit from guaranteed quality of workmanship, replacing skilled labor (e.g., carpenters) with robots and 3D printing, and rapid construction. Moreover, the big innovation comes years later. As technology improves, and the homeowner wants to uptake improvements, it becomes a simple matter of replacing modules, and possibly reassembling them in a different configuration.

Cosmic inflation unnecessary

There is no time without clocks. There are no clocks without mass. There is no mass above the temperature at which bosons acquire mass through spontaneous symmetry breaking. Massless particles travel at the speed of light. When traveling at the speed of light, all components of its motion are through space and none are through time. All events in the universe become space-like.

Wouldn’t these conditions of the early universe by themselves explain the homogeneous and isotropic qualities without needing cosmic inflation? If energy can radiate arbitrarily far in space without time passing, there is no need for esoteric explanations of how that happened so quickly.

[Paraphrasing Penrose: E=mc^2 combined with E=hf (and f=1/t) means that without mass there can be no clocks and therefore no time.]

Non-Aggression Principle

The Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) is the only criterion for libertarianism. One might expect libertarians to be contemplating deeply and writing the most scholarly articles on the topic. One might expect libertarians to be forming the most precise definition of aggression and non-aggression. Alas, a search of the most prominent libertarians yields only passing references on the topic. Libertarians believe that the NAP must be self-evident, despite the lack of agreement on the precise definition of what constitutes aggression and what does not.

This matters not only as an academic endeavor. More importantly, it is the libertarian position of non-intervention in foreign policy that depends on a clear understanding of what the principled libertarian view is on foreign aggression. Presidential candidate Ron Paul was perceived by many conservatives, who otherwise supported his libertarian positions, to be off putting for his foreign policy, not because they believed so much in US military intervention, but because the libertarian position of non-intervention is effectively silent on when it is appropriate to deploy military assets in the face of foreign aggression to defend American interests. A libertarian candidate for Commander-in-Chief cannot evade this essential topic, because it is the foremost qualification for the job. It is not enough to hand wave a general remark about supporting a strong national defense. Because of the libertarian position on non-intervention it is incumbent upon a libertarian candidate for POTUS to assure the citizens that with restraint also comes an impassioned intolerance for foreign aggression and no hesitation to deploy overwhelming military force and unspeakable violence in retaliation to any foreign power that initiates force against America. Non-intervention does not mean pacifism or appeasement or isolationism or weakness.

Now what exactly constitutes aggression? And what is the proper response to various acts of aggression? Silence on these questions is what is losing libertarians nominations, because a void in leadership on matters of defense is catastrophic to the preservation of liberty at home.

Applied Cosmology: The Holographic Principle

The Holographic Principle says that a full description of a volume of space is encoded in the surface that bounds it. This arises from black hole thermodynamics, where the black hole entropy increases with its surface area, not its volume. Everything there is to know about the black hole’s internal content is on its boundary.

Software components have boundaries that are defined by interfaces, which encapsulate everything an outsider needs to know to use it. Everything about its interior is represented by its surface at the boundary. It can be treated like a black box.

Applied Cosmology: The Self Similar Paradigm

Robert Oldershaw’s research on The Self Similar Cosmological Paradigm [http://www3.amherst.edu/~rloldershaw/concepts.html] recognizes that nature is organized in stratified hierarchy, where every level is similar. The shape and motions of atoms is similar to stellar systems. Similarities extend from the stellar scale to the galactic scale, and beyond.

Managing complexity greatly influences software design. Stratified hierarchy is familiar to this discipline.

At the atomic level, we organize our code into units. Each unit is a module with a boundary, which exposes its interface that governs how clients interact with this unit. The unit’s implementation is hidden behind this boundary, enabling it to undergo change independently of other units, as much as possible.

We build upon units by reusing modules and integrating them together into larger units, which themselves are modular and reusable in the same way. Assembly of modules into integrated components is the bread and butter of object-oriented programming. This approach is able to scale up to the level of an application, which exhibits uniformity of platform technologies, programming language, design metaphors, conventions, and development resources (tools, processes, organizations).

The next level of stratification exists because of the need to violate the uniformity across applications. However, the similarity is unbroken. We remain true to the principles of modular reuse. We continue to define a boundary with interfaces that encapsulate the implementation. We continue to integrate applications as components into larger scale components that themselves can be assembled further.

Enterprises are attempting to enable even higher levels of stratification. They define how an organization functions and how it interfaces with other organizations. This is with respect to protocols for human interaction as well as information systems. Organizations are integrated into business units that are integrated into businesses at local, national, multi-national, and global scales. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has demonstrated how entire enterprises exhibit such modular assembly.

This same pattern manifests itself across enterprises and across industries. A company exposes its products and services through an interface (branding, pricing, customer experience) which encapsulates its internal implementation. Through these protocols, we integrate across industries to create supply chains that provide ever more complex products and services.

Applied Cosmology: Machian Dynamics in Configuration Management

Julian Barbour wrote the book titled “The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Physics” [http://www.platonia.com/ideas.html]. He explains how our failure to unify General Relativity with Quantum Theory is because of our ill-conceived preoccupation with time as a necessary component of such a theory. A proper description of reality is composed of the relationships between real things, not a description with respect to an imaginary background (space and time). Therefore, all you have is a configuration of things, which undergoes a change in arrangement. The path through this configuration-space is what we perceive as the flow of time.

We apply this very model of the universe in configuration management.

Software release management is a configuration management problem, where the things in configuration-space are source files. A path through configuration space captures the versions of these source files relative to each other as releases of software are built. Our notion of time is with respect to these software releases.

Enterprise resource management in the communications industry involves many configuration management problems in various domains. We normally refer to such applications as Operations Support Systems.

In network resource management, the configuration-space includes devices and other resources in the network, their connectivity, and the metadata (what is normally called a “device configuration” which needs to be avoided in the context of this discussion for obvious reasons) associated with that connectivity arrangement.

In service resource management, the configuration-space includes services, their resource allocations, and the subscription metadata (what is normally called a “service configuration” which needs to be avoided in the context of this discussion for obvious reasons) or “design”.

We develop such applications using a notion of configuration-space, because such systems cannot operate in a world that is limited to its dependence on a background of space and time. We need to be able to travel backward and forward in time arbitrarily to see how the world looked in the past from the perspective of a particular transaction. We need to be able to hypothesize many possible futures, perhaps only one of which is brought into reality through a rigorous process of analysis, design, planning, procurement, construction, and project management. Reality is always from the perspective of the observer, and one’s frame of reference is always somewhere on the path in configuration-space.

Software engineering is applied cosmology

Engineering is applied science. Some people believe that software engineering is applied computer science. In a limited sense, it is. But software is not entirely separated from hardware. Applications are not entirely separated from processes. Systems are not entirely separated from enterprises. Corporations are not entirely separated from markets. For this reason, I believe what we do is not software engineering at all. It is not limited to applied computer science. Our engineering discipline is actually applied cosmology.

The future of air combat

The F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II will form the core of America’s future fleet of fighter aircraft.

The F-22 Raptor is America’s premier air dominance fighter. 187 F-22 aircraft will replace 254 F-15C/D Eagle ($30M) eventually, although 178 F-15s will remain in service beyond 2025. In 2012, the F-22 participated in the Red Flag Alaska training exercise, where the less expensive, more agile Eurofighter Typhoon proved to be equally matched in dogfighting. [http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/07/f-22-fighter-loses-79-billion-advantage-in-dogfights-report/] The Raptor costs approximately $150M to manufacture per aircraft, while the Eurofighter costs €90M ($115M). In its air dominance role, the F-22 can carry six AIM-120 AMRAAM and 480 rounds of ammunition for its M61A2 Vulcan 20mm cannon.

To complement the F-22, the F-35 Lightning II will replace the F-16, A-10, F/A-18, and AV-8B. At over $150M per aircraft, approximately 1,200 F-35 fighters will replace thousands of F-16 Fighting Falcon ($18.8M), 345 A-10 Thunderbolt II ($12M), 647 F/A-18A/B/C/D Hornet ($57M), and 175 AV-8B Harrier II ($30M).

Apparently, America’s strategy is to concentrate air power in fewer, more advanced, very costly aircraft. At $150M each, built in such low numbers, losses would be devastating. The weakness in this strategy lies in the numbers.

In such limited numbers, the F-22 will be vulnerable to being overwhelmed by a much larger opposing force, even if every one of its six AMRAAMs finds its mark. Eventually, its weapons or its fuel will be exhausted, or its supporting tankers will be destroyed in a full scale conflict with an adversary whose strategy is based on large numbers of modern, inexpensive aircraft.

It has long been understood that human pilots cannot tolerate the most extreme forces that fighters are capable of experiencing. However, we must rely on humans for the good judgment needed to make critical decisions based on principles, values, and experience.

The solution is to deploy large numbers of inexpensive unmanned combat fighters that operate in close coordination with a human piloted fighter and his wingman. Let’s call these drones swarmers in reference to the small, agile, swarming fighters from the classic video game Defender. Swarmers should operate largely autonomously toward some overall set of goals that govern the squadron. The human pilots would set these goals in the course of the mission, such as which enemy aircraft to engage.

Each swarmer would rely entirely on its programming for maneuvering and tactics. The swarmers decide collectively amongst each other how to work as a team to accomplish their immediate goals. If an enemy air-to-air missile is inbound, the immediate priority is to protect the human piloted aircraft, sacrificing a swarmer if necessary. Offensively, some swarmers can serve as bait, maneuvering to lure the enemy into a position favorable to being targeted by its peers.

This approach puts inexpensive assets into the riskiest situations, while keeping human pilots and costly assets protected. Swarmers can carry missiles, ammunition, flares, and chaff in large numbers—-mutually reinforcing through computerized coordination. This enables a small fleet of advanced fighters with highly trained pilots to increase its lethality while also greatly improving survivability.

seventeenth amendment

The 17th amendment to the US Constitution establishes the direct election of United States Senators by popular vote. This amendment was ruinous, as it took away power from the States to appoint Senators to represent their own State’s interests. Instead, now Senators represent their national party’s interests.

I would repeal the 17th amendment.

I would amend the Constitution for the Senate to function primarily as the protector of the Constitution itself to limit the powers of the Federal government, and to preserve the power of the States and the People. This would be done by giving every State veto power, if both Senators from any State agree. This would force most legislation to be extremely narrow in scope. Virtually nothing could become law with any significant opposition from any part of the nation.

Furthermore, we need the process of repealing legislation and regulations to be far easier than the process for introducing them. Therefore, when both Senators from any State agree to repeal a law or regulation, it is done. This is equivalent to exercising a veto after a bill has become law. This makes perfect sense, because the real-world benefits, costs, and unintended consequences don’t become visible until a law has been in effect for some time.

second amendment

The Second Amendment to the US Constitution reads:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The wording of this particular amendment is obviously poor as evidenced by the conflicting interpretations as to its original intent and meaning. However, regardless of the original meaning, there is a principle that is fundamental to the Constitution’s purpose, which is to protect individual rights. All rights are derived from and in support of the individual right to life.

The Second Amendment should have been focused on the right to self-defense and the defense of others, as well as the means upon which such defense relies. Because life cannot enjoy any liberty if its existence is threatened by force, the defense of life is necessarily a right. The means of marshalling a defense would include firearms, ammunition, and other things that are not sufficiently protected today, such as bullet-resistant vests, helmets, and armor. Even simunition (ammunition that is for paint marking of targets for training with realistic weapons) is restricted to law enforcement and military uses. A right to defense of life would properly protect such liberties from government bans and onerous regulation.

Perhaps something that reads more like:

Congress shall make no law abridging the right of self-defense or the defense of others; or the right of the people to pursue the means of achieving security from aggression and tyranny.

Insights into innovation