in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #275 — Belly dancing

Sunny Sunday
Sunny Sunday

This was my first week off work since Christmas and I was ready for it. Of course, my body decided that it was a fantastic time get sick. I spent most of the week with the various symptoms of a heavy cold. I’m sure it must have happened, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a day off from work because of sickness. Particularly now that there is no technical reason to go to an office, I would have to be at least mown down with a fever not to be able to drag myself to my desk at home.

Despite feeling rubbish, it was lovely to have some time to potter around at home and then later in the week to get things done. It felt like time well spent.

This was a week in which I:

  • Spent a couple of hours writing up the minutes from last week’s Steering Committee meeting. I didn’t want it hanging over me into next week where I should be focusing on the next cycle.
  • Got almost all of the remaining post-kitchen installation tidying done. We took a big load of things to the recycling centre, where for the first time since we moved here 20 years ago they asked us for proof that we lived in the area.
  • Cleaned our small patio and mucked out all of the floor-level gutters that surround the back of our house. A perfect job for a week off at home.
  • Got through my backlog of about 500 personal emails, leaving a small handful of messages that I want or need to do something with. Every time I do a big purge I wonder how it got to this stage and vow never to let it happen again. But then it happens again.
  • Bought a second car, a 15-year old Mini. We’ve got by with one car forever, but now that we have a 17-year old who is learning to drive, with his brother following fast behind him, it made sense to have something that they can get insured on. The first car I bought in the mid-1990s was a Ford Escort that cost about £500, which is £993 in today’s money. Those cars don’t really exist anymore; at least, not safe ones. And insurance for a newly-qualified 17-year old now seems to be about £1,800 whereas thirty years ago it was a few hundred pounds. With both boys learning to drive and thinking about going to university, we’re realising that we’re about to enter a very expensive period of our lives. The new car is great and very fun to drive.
  • Had dinner with some old friends that we hadn’t seen in a couple of years. I had no idea that we had such a good Lebanese restaurant so close by. The food was excellent but the music accompanying the belly-dancing was SO LOUD.
  • Met up with the neighbours in our street for a party in our road. We’ve had a few of them over the years, usually coinciding with a royal anniversary. This one was just because it was a fun thing to do. The sun shone all day and everyone had a great time.



Compare this [nuclear energy] to a solar panel, which is essentially an inert piece of glass. In fact, solar panels are about as expensive as glass right now, and you don’t need any advanced technology, or labor, or understanding, or certifications or anything to deploy, you literally put it in the sun.

To put it in Nick Bostrom’s terms, AI is like philosophy on a deadline, we have these urgent philosophical questions and now we have a deadline to actually answer them because we are instrumenting our society with more AI.

So if you can compress parts of that loop that are easy for automation to do, you can expand more space for humans, if you are the only one doing this. But when your competitor is doing it, they’re accelerating their time cycles too. And now you get into this dynamic where everyone’s just having to make decisions in split seconds. Now we’ve seen this in stock trading. This is not a theoretical concept. We’ve seen this whole domain of high-frequency trading emerge where algorithms are making trades in milliseconds, at superhuman speeds that humans could never try to be in the loop for those kinds of trades.

And then we’ve seen accidents like flash crashes as a result of that because of, I mean in part because of high-frequency trading and other factors too, of just these sort of weird interactions among algorithms because of course you’re not going to share with your competitor exactly how your algorithm works, whether you’re in finance or in warfare. I think what’s concerning to me is the way that financial regulators have dealt with this problem is they’ve installed circuit breakers to take stocks offline if the price moves too quickly, but that doesn’t exist in warfare. Right? There’s no referee to call time out in war if things start to get out of control. So how do you then maintain human control over war when war is being fought at superhuman speeds?


  • We finished watching series one of The Dry on ITVX. It’s not the greatest show I’ve ever seen but it’s very good.
  • Ever wondered what happened to the guy that was found in the grounds of John Lennon’s house in Ascot in 1971? You’re not the only one.
  • Watched Slade in Flame (1975). I’d heard that it was a lost classic, a gritty film about the music business that most people had forgotten. It turns out that they had forgotten it because it’s pretty forgettable. Bizarre characters with a storyline that is simultaneously simple and yet hard to follow. (I don’t understand how Noddy Holder’s character ended up as the lead singer of the band.) See for yourself:


  • Took a trip to Deco Audio in Aylesbury to go crate digging. It’s my favourite place to buy second hand vinyl as the quality is so consistently high. As well as a few LPs I picked up seven CDs for £12, all of which I’ve ripped to my NAS drive so that I can stream them to my ears through PlexAmp.

Next week: Back to it, with an online album club thrown into the mix.

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