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Wednesday
Jun082016

Thoughts on Elon Musk's confidence that we're living in a computer simulation

I heard Elon Musk confidently proclaim the odds were “billions to one” that we are not living in a computer simulation.

I’ve heard the simulation idea a lot of times and it makes sense. Basically boils down to the idea that, assuming future civilizations create simulations of worlds, then there are, in the long run, many more simulations than there are actual worlds. It does make sense mathematically if you assume simulations are equivalent to worlds in every way. But I don’t think that necessarily follows and I don’t see any reason to have such confidence in the odds being that astronomically in favor of us being in a simulation.

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Thursday
Feb122015

How much does being “out-of-stock” on Amazon affect book sales?

I’ve been using LightningSource since I self-published my first book in early 2012. In the first year, my book sold well and it was consistently listed as ‘available’ on Amazon. Because it was print-on-demand and drop-shipped directly from Ingram/LightningSource when Amazon customers ordered it, it makes sense that it would be listed continuously as Available. Sometimes it would say ‘2 left’ or something, but this seemed like a sales tactic on Amazon’s part because as soon as that number went down to 0 it would say it was Available again.

That changed at some point about 2 years ago. I (and other small publishers) noticed that books were being regularly shown as ‘temporarily out-of-stock’. It’s assumed that this is a tactic by Amazon to essentially “punish” small print-on-demand publishers who are not using Amazon’s CreateSpace. Because being out-of-stock hurts sales, it’s assumed this is a way to strong-arm small publishers to use CreateSpace.

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Saturday
May312014

Learning about self-publishing non-fiction, instructional books  

Since publishing my book, Reading Poker Tells, in April of 2012, I’ve learned a lot about self-publishing. When I first started out researching this stuff, in 2011, I had no idea about publishing; I didn’t know how books got made, I didn’t know how the relatively new process of print-on-demand worked, I didn’t know what a reseller discount was. I learned as I went. All I knew was that I wanted to self-publish my book and I figured I’d eventually learn everything I needed to know.

My main motivation for self-publishing was that I wanted to make the most money possible. I have no doubt that I could have found a publisher if I’d tried, but I thought the type of book I was writing—a non-fiction, how-to book with a built-in niche audience that could easily find the book online—was the perfect book to self-publish. (This is compared to fiction, which obviously is a bigger challenge to find an audience for.) I had faith in my book and thought, through word of mouth and online search results, it would sell well with little marketing expenditures on my part. Instead of a publisher keeping the large majority of the profit, I’d keep it. Typical publishing deals give anywhere from 10% to 20% of gross book sales to an author; by self-publishing, focused on online sales, I keep around 60%.

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Wednesday
Jun152011

5 Explanations for Human Consciousness

I was thinking about human consciousness, and the forces behind it. The age-old question of how a human (or any organism) can have a sense of self-awareness. What prevents us from being just complex organisms with no inner thought?

It seems to me there are only five options to explain consciousness and self-awareness.

1)   There is a certain theshold of interactivity that a data-processing system must reach to become self-conscious. Self-consciousness is based on just achieving a certain amount of complexity in a system. (This implies that computers will be able to achieve consciousness.)

2)   There is some process at an unknown level that creates consciousness, like maybe on another dimensional level, or at a quantum level. (In other words, no amount of computer-power will necessarily lead to a system becoming self-conscious; something must happen at another level of interaction that we don’t know about.)

3)   All physical matter has consciousness. We are conscious just like animals are conscious, just like a tree is conscious, just like a rock is conscious, just like an atom is conscious. Complex systems (like the human mind) could be broken down into a number of separate consciousnesses, each unaware of the other.

4)   We are given consciousness by an outside all-powerful force, like God. 

5)   Consciousness doesn’t exist and is some kind of illusion.  

These aren’t original ideas, of course. And the second option leaves a lot of possibilities open. But I haven’t seen a thorough list of all the possible options in one place before. And it seems to me these are the only options available. Anyone see any flaws in this thinking?

Monday
Oct042010

Language-Based Narrative Structure in Dreams

I’ve long been interested in dreams, specifically Freudian dream theory. I’ve read Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams three times, and several related texts. I used to keep a daily dream journal and over the years I’ve done some amateur Freudian dream interpretation for friends and family.

I believe in Freud’s fundamental theory of dreams: that all dreams are a wish fulfillment in one form or another. I also believe in his ideas about the large role language plays in dreams. While the jury is out (potentially forever) on the concept of dreams as wish fulfillments, I think most modern psychologists recognize the central role that language and words play in dreams (and in psychological disturbances, which have a lot in common with dreams).

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