Ming the Mechanic:

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 Optimizing2005-05-24 17:44
picture by Flemming Funch

Robert Cringely had a couple of articles recently, DayJet May Be the First Peer-to-Peer Airline and Jet Me to Work
DayJet Software Could Revolutionize More Than Just Air Travel
. Essentially about a private jet company called DayJet, which has made a piece of software that makes it economical to provide relatively cheap business flights from just about anywhere to just about anywhere in the U.S. on cheap jets that have seats for just 3 passengers. They plan on having between 40 and 300 planes like that. The big deal is their optimization software. All airlines have to do a big optimization calculation, to figure out how best to utilize their aircraft, and transport the most people to places they want to go, for the lowest cost. But even for a major airline, the number of planes and routes and destinations is relatively small, and they don't change their routes very often. What DayJet has in mind is a much huger set of optimization calculations, done not every month, but every time somebody wants to go somewhere. The use of the planes will change all the time, and any little airport might be used, as long as the jets can land there. So, the whole calculation needs to be done basically for each customer, in relation to whoever else wants to fly around that time. You know, it isn't economical to fly just one person, so the optimization will figure out how best to serve everybody and fill up the seats as much as possible.

I don't think I'll ever fly in one of those seats, so that's not why it is interesting. What's interesting is the general possibilities of optimizing a whole bunch of things, if you have the software and the computing power for it.

Our society is a rather inefficient machine in many ways exactly because we don't have very efficient means of coordinating what is available with what is needed.

If I have a book I've read and I don't need it any longer, why don't I give it to somebody else who'd like it, particularly if they live just around the corner, and they can come and pick it up this afternoon? Because we don't know of each other, that's why. And there's no good means for us to do so. I'm not going to go around and put up notices on the lamp posts for my book, that's too expensive in effort expended. And if everybody did that, there'd be too much information to wade through. But software could do it. It is a matter of representing what is available and what is needed in some kind of useful manner, and then it is an optimization problem.

Why don't everybody on a street share a small number of lawn mowers, instead of having to maintain their own? It could be much cheaper to share. The reason is that it is too much trouble to coordinate the sharing, and figuring how the right number of lawn mowers and the scheduling. In the absence of some kind of optimization program, it is just much easier to each have our own.

Why do I need to have my own bicycle or car? If I could always find an available vehicle standing close by, and it was reasonably cheap and somebody took care of the maintenance, it would probably be more economical for everybody that we shared. And, indeed, there are now companies that deliver that service in various major cities. Cars or bicycles with GPS systems, coordinated by optimization software.

Really, our whole society is not much more than one big optimization problem. We've got these resources, we've got these needs - how do we bring them together in the most optimum manner? On a micro level.

In a way the solution to that could be a synthesis of free market capitalism and centralized communism. Better than either of them. Both of them bog down because it is just too centralized and there's no good capability to give most people what they need, or to use their resources well. So the solution has been to just make up some product that a lot of people ought to want, and make a one-size-fits-all version of it, and market the hell out of it, and not worry about if it isn't perfect for everybody. Or, in the communist version, to decide what kind of appartment everybody ought to have, or what kind of bicycle, and then just manufacture the same for everybody, in a big dull centralized factory.

If we had the infrastructure for it, it could both open up a great many more business opportunities, and at the same time it can cheaply solve many social issues. As to the book I no longer need, I might either be happy giving it away for free, or I might participate in a business that gives me an appropriate amount of money for it. If I have a restaurant that throws away all the left-over food every day, it would be no extra trouble for me to let somebody come and pick it up and feed it to poor people. All based on that the communication infrastructure is very cheap and easy to use. And that it optimizes both the use of resources and the result or profit gained from their use. I might either want to get the most possible dollars for my book, or I might want to give it to whoever will have the biggest benefit for it. It is merely an optimization problem either way.

The way it will happen is probably that comparnies carve out a niche, delivering more personalized service more efficiently, and we start getting used to expecting custom solutions, rather than general solutions that don't quite fit. We'll start expecting that there will be public transportation in front of our door, rather than half a mile away.

It would be better if it were a transparent open-source system that did it, but competing business solutions would be a good start.

The more transparent, the better. It can potentially be a huge shift in how things are done. See, most traditional businesses are based on hiding from you what the optimum solution would be. In part because they might not know, but also because their economics are based on giving you roughly what they give everybody else, and making you believe that it is the best that is available. Imagine that instead you had your own optimizer, which was plugged into a vast and finegrained infrastructure, which pretty instantly could point out to you the shortest route between what you have and what you want.

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24 May 2005 @ 23:13 by Alan Little @ : re: optimisation and transaction costs
Some people (including Cringely if I recall correctly) had quite high hopes of ebay being that kind of coordination/optimisation mechanism. I've tried it for things like used books and CDs, but it doesn't work very well for me. It's quite good for tracking down rarities and out of print items, but as a way for me to get rid of stuff I don't want any more, the transaction costs are just too high. It just isn't a worthwhile use of my time to type in descriptions, watch auctions, wait for payments, trek to the post office ...  

25 May 2005 @ 00:01 by ming : ebay
I've known people who made a business out of buying and selling lots of little items on ebay, like $5 kind of toys and things like that. They just had the whole thing very streamlined and partially automated, to manage hundreds of active auctions.

But for a regular person who has a little item they might consider selling, it just doesn't work well. Too much trouble. Taking pictures, uploading them, watching the auction, making sure people pay, going to the post office to ship it, etc. Just doesn't make any sense for 5 bucks.

So it would have to be a very low transaction cost, somehow. Which probably means it needs to be wired in with how I do things otherwise. You know, if my books had an RFID tag anyway, and when I was done with it, I just pushed a button somewhere, and the rest would be automatic. I.e. taking a picture of it, or downloading it from a database, uploading it, negotiating a reasonable price, etc. Isn't going to happen before my life is more automated already. As I'd not go and buy some fancy and expensive sell-your-used-books system either. It would all have to be next to no cost in order to catch on.  

25 May 2005 @ 08:58 by vaxen : Ah yes...
if only Marcab gets its' way then there will be no more problems and everything will be so "EFFICIENT!" Get rid of Marcabs' winning ways and let things return to the way they were meant to be and maybe you will see that Natures way is the most efficient after all?

Besides, the internet, per-se, with the addition of the 'WWW' and 'WWW2' is becoming very 'optimal' once you know how to use it and stop being 'pushed' around by the Marcabian 'Elite!'

Revenimus! Hell, man, we are back! Now who said that? ;)  

25 May 2005 @ 13:48 by ming : Nature's way
Nature's way is in part that everything is happening, well, naturally, organically, relatively effortlessly. There was a lot to say for being a hunter and gatherer or native of some aboriginal culture. Even though it seems harsh with our eyes, it really was a lot less work. You pick fruit off the trees, catch a few animals to eat, you play and tell stories, and you don't worry much about the future or about anything terribly complicated.

But we modern humans got very mental and abstract and complicated. So much so that it is really complicated to live a normal life. All sorts of things one needs to be aware of, keep track of, so many more things one can do wrong. Our ability to think abstractly undeniably allows us the possibility to operate at a higher level. But it also makes our living very fragmented and confusing and complicated.

So, there's the possibility that we include some technology in our evolution, solve a few problems very well, and return to a more simple type of living. You know, if I need an apple, it is there, if I need a bicycle, it is there. If I want to go to the other end of town, I go there, and I don't have to spend a half hour deciphering bus plans.

There can be "optimized" from some central perspecitive, where we're all just cog wheels in somebody else's efficient machine. Or there can be "optimized" from my perspective, where the world just works for me, without me having to get a headache over it. So that my life can be efficient, and I can spend the most time on the endeavors I find most valuable, rather than wasting most of it on solving stupid little problems.  

25 May 2005 @ 17:21 by astrid : To Be -or Not To.....
-that's the Q, like we all know.... When are things truly OPTIMIZED and when did we indeed MAXIMIZE them?????..... do we really stay on top of this????? and what's the diff anyway?...
Dangerous, dangerous!... I personally do not believe any Mainstream For-Profit- Business is able to stay within the Cosmic Requirements of OPTIMNIZING, but slide ever so discreetly into the mode of MAXIMIZING, which is to say using slow -and sometimes not so slow- suicide maximization methods and means to "make ends meet" of REQUIRED Maximum PROFIT for every Calendar quarter (I think that is how often business have to report to their Corporate Chairman of the Board )
Maybe there's something to what Vaxen, once again, implies: CHANGE LIFE STYLE!!! and besides, why not optimize our efforts in recovering our Spiritual /Mental Inner skills/gifts as for instance Teleportation in this case!...
I personally am really leary of using ANY "Airline Traffic".... I'd rather teleport.... ah, well, I do admit.... I'm not very good at it yet.... in fact not good at all.... but hey, I haven't given up either!

I think "these things" will become more and more interesting as Time goes on ( well, it's not my fault that these are Platitudes!... ) I think we will see an ever increasing rift between two modes of thinking; those who are willing to try something New -as it were. Check this out: http://www.research.ibm.com/quantuminfo/teleportation/braunstein.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3576594.stm and last, but NOT least: http://www.netalive.org/topics/4139
Now, THIS is OPTIMIZING AIR TRAFFIC NATURE'S WAY!... I'm rooting for this one!... : ) how'bout you?  

25 May 2005 @ 20:45 by vaxen : Your...
"Individuality," Ming san, is a threat to the Marcabian Global Enslaver, Implanter Org, Administration. There can be NO individuality in the Marcabian collective! The Not Is-ing of 'your' reality is the prime directive of the invader force. You MUST be 'MADE/implanted' to tow the line and tow the line you will! How does a fifth level static feel about that? From whence the phoenix (phoenicia), from whence the 'grail?'

The Reverse Org Board is well in place so what is a good OT to do? You know the answer, so do I. Nice thing about it is that we are not alone. So we've been down the shoot a time or two to Mud Universe. Well, we got out didn't we? How does one get out of a trap that one has made? Become the trap?

I earnestly think that when the Marcabian 'rapture' takes place and people world wide are clamoring for deliverence and starships from the North Star Federation abound and chaos seems to be rampant and ruling it will be just then, in that little moment, that your true self will be revealed and all will be understood. You are not alone Thetan! We all agreed to 'play' this game! How did we win?  

25 May 2005 @ 22:56 by Ed dawson @ : peer to peer book network
Hi Flemming,

There is a book lending network for situations where you have finished reading one and wish to pass it along, sort of like the example you used above. Not done by heavy computing though, merely an online "book dating service" so to speak. ;-)

check it out: http://www.bookcrossing.com/

These people send books all over the planet to one another.

6 Jun 2005 @ 11:18 by Andrius Kulikauskas @ : I'm ready to write
Hi Ming, I did my taxes and am ready to work on our paper. Do you know, will you be coming to Milan (I hope so!) I'm wondering what you would like us to be at the heart. I note your post on 'Optimizing' and will try to think about that with regard to Civilization Networks. Andrius  

23 Nov 2005 @ 22:24 by jonah @ : natures way
problem;ineficient opptimization;path of closest,least distructive,harm minimisation lies in re use .not recycling .the cycle goes make a bottle ,break a bottle..no no no make the bottle use the bottle ,store until you have many bottles then build a neighbour hood local industry endlessly refill ing re using
open a local neighbourhood 2 de hand store upened even once a week ,begin ain a cuboard log it all into a communal web site out of every cubboard local discount is immedatedelivery and no delivery cost ,
create a register of possesions you have for communal use
if i pour water into new orleans what was resource became wet slime ..but keep our ..garbage free of dirt and contaminations we yet have resource
it is possable if your refuse is clean that 10 to 100 percent return on your purchase can be credited just on your garbage ..the person whose right of salvage in picking up the bottle holds investment in this by percentage of sepperate value added procedures they performed,say salvage of bottle..price dependant on rarity sets its price ,washing it ..aclean bottle gains you a higher %its allready to begin once the faulse prophet reveal  

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