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On Imaginary Property

Publicado por Óscar Pereira em 24 de Novembro de 2019 às 12:45

Last year, for one of my PhD classes, I ended up writing an essay1 where I criticised the notion of intellectual property. It ended up being published in Pirate Times2, which was nice, and that was—or so I thought—the end of the story. Fast-forward one year however, and some of my colleagues made the… ahem… “suggestion” that for one of the lectures of this school year’s edition of that class, I give a talk about that essay I had written.

And give the talk I did (slides). Because the students had the day filled with lectures, to avoid boring them I gave this one in a more provocative style than I might otherwise have done (and hence the name of this post—and of the talk’s unofficial title). The discussion was indeed very lively, and in fact, at times it became more heated than what I had expected. In retrospect though, I did one mistake. When arguing these things, it is usually necessary to systematically deconstruct a number of unexamined assumptions the audience naturally brings to the discussion. But because I accepted (and indeed posed) questions during the talk, that deconstruction got interrupted again again, severely derailing the course of the talk I had planned. In retrospective, I should not have allowed questions, except at the end.

Nevertheless, I am grateful for all the feedback I have received. One of most poignant remarks, was actually made by a colleague of mine, who also attended the lecture. He pointed out that I do not have all the details of how things should function if we ditch copyright in particular, or intellectual property in general (which is correct); and thus I should not outright dismiss them, at least not before being able to provide a suitable alternative. This last part however, is not correct, and here is why.

As far as I can tell, all individual rights are (or can be thought of as) restrictions on the behaviour of everyone else (other than the individual in question). Thus my right to life is a restriction on the behaviours of everyone else, prohibiting them from depriving (or attempting to deprive) me of my life. The same is true of freedom of speech—it is a restriction that prohibits behaviours from everybody else (historically this meant governments), aimed at silencing me whenever they don’t like what I am saying—freedom of religion, and so on.

Put another way, one individual’s rights are always abridgements on the liberty of others. But it falls on the proponents of a given right, to show that the corresponding abridgement of liberty is necessary. It is not those whose liberty is to be putatively abridged that need to show why it ought not to; or that have to provide “suitable alternatives”. Historically this has always been so; in fact J.S. Mill’s influential essay, On Liberty, which I quoted in the lecture, was written precisely to justify why the rights he supports should indeed be implemented. Just to mention one example, he defends the right to freedom of expression, not because the State—that in 19th Britain was the major threat to that freedom—had failed to show that it had any reason to suppress it, but rather because said freedom is vital to the full development of the individual, and that this is sufficient to justify limiting (restricting) the State’s actions in this particular regard.

Back to copyright and ilk, if they are to be construed as author’s rights, then it falls on the proponents of said rights to show why the rest of us should tolerate the corresponding abridgements of liberty—and most definitely not the other way round! Insofar as I know—and yesterday’s lecture seems to have confirmed it—that reason boils down to economics: how should authors make money, without the aid of copyright et al.? I attempted to show, on both the lecture and the essay, there’s mounting evidence that that would not be a problem at all. And thus there is no need whatsoever to abridge anything. But since we are talking about rights, I might as well address the deeper flaw afflicting that copyright-because-economics rationale.

“Author rights” such as copyright are, unlike their moral rights, established for the sole purpose of enabling (or easing) business transactions. But their effective enforcement can only be done by trampling over far more fundamental rights, two of which are the right to privacy and the right to due process (if the reader disagrees, please feel free to provide an effective counterexample enforcement mechanism; I know of none). The usual retort to this is to say that we need to find a “balance”, between the interests of authors and friends, and the rest of society that would like to maintain said fundamental rights intact. This is however, woefully misguided—and I can show so by recalling a similar, albeit far more extreme, example of the same reasoning, that took place in the Southern states of the U.S., in the early-to-mid 19th century.

Back then, the economy of those states was largely based on slave labour. When the Abolitionists began propagandising the, well, abolition of slavery, what did the defenders of the status quo (meaning slavery) replied? That «the sudden end to the slave economy would have had a profound and killing economic impact in the South where reliance on slave labor was the foundation of their economy. The cotton economy would collapse. The tobacco crop would dry in the fields. Rice would cease being profitable»3. This seems outrageous to us today, because we hold the right to freedom to be so fundamental, that it vastly outweighs any economic considerations. In other words, freedom comes first, and if that damns business, then so be it. But if, for some reason, one were to become convinced that freedom actually isn’t that fundamental, then the argument espoused by the Southerners suddenly becomes a lot more palatable.

And that is precisely the problem with the thesis of “finding balance” between authors and society at large. It seems palatable, only because most of us still do not realise how much the enforcement of those “IP rights” imperils rights that are far, far more fundamental. Maybe this is because the net and computers are still relatively new mediums; but be that as it may, those rights should not be sacrificed for the mere sake of economic convenience. And if that damns business, then so be it. In fact, even if that damns culture, so be it. Or just much cultural enjoyment do you think you will have when we are all living in a privacy-less 1984-style world?

Thankfully though, we need not face so bleak a choice. We can have both culture, and the freedom to enjoy it. To be sure, we seem to be going in a direction where cultural proliferation is increasingly less likely to yield good ancillary businesses (think selling copies of stuff). But that proliferation, that development of our collective culture, will continue, there is every indication, long after these intellectual property things have become but mere footnotes in the annals of history.

So, to sum up, I indeed do not have the complete picture of how the post-copyright-et-al world will look like; but that is no excuse for us not to ditch the bloody mess.

PS: If the reader is about to object that most of the objections I put forth above only apply to copyright, I concede as much. This is because, I suspect, as he was talking about intellectual property, my colleague whom I refer to above must have been thinking about copyright. Yet another folly that results from using the redundant and misleading notion of intellectual property… (and if you’re wondering where the adjectives come from, see footnote #1).

  1. folliesIP.pdf



On (the gender of) my hypothetical reader

Publicado por Óscar Pereira em 24 de Novembro de 2019 às 12:45

In my writings, I virtually always refer to my hypothetical reader as “he”. The reasons for doing so were actually very well explained by none other than Richard Dawkins, in his great book “The Blind Watchmaker”1. If I am ever asked about this writing habit, I wanted to have some place to point my inquirers to, and thus I reproduce the relevant passage, from that book’s preface:

I am distressed to find that some women friends (fortunately not many) treat the use of the impersonal masculine pronoun as if it showed intention to exclude them. If there were any excluding to be done (happily there isn’t) I think I would sooner exclude men, but when I once tentatively tried referring to my abstract reader as ‘she’, a feminist denounced me for patronizing condescension: I ought to say ‘he-or-she’, and ‘his-or-her’. That is easy to do if you don’t care about language, but then if you don’t care about language you don’t deserve readers of either sex. Here, I have returned to the normal conventions of English pronouns. I may refer to the ‘reader’ as ‘he’, but I no more think of my readers as specifically male than a French speaker thinks of a table as female. As a matter of fact I believe I do, more often than not, think of my readers as female, but that is my personal affair and I’d hate to think that such considerations impinged on how I use my native language.

English is not my native language, but a similar convention exists in Portuguese—and, in light of the above, I see no reason not to follow it in English as well.

  1. This was before his self-appointment as atheist-in-chief, back when he still wrote interesting things, instead of the fundamentalist anti-religious blabber that seems to be all he cares about these days…

Norwegian blues

Publicado por Óscar Pereira em 24 de Novembro de 2019 às 12:45

Table of Contents:

So early this September I found myself heading for northern Norway, to the beautiful archipelago of the Lofoten islands, where a crypto workshop1 was to be held in the city of Svolvær2. Unluckily for me (but luckily for you, because it gives a much better story), the mishaps started long before I set foot anywhere near my destination…

In fact, they began when deciding how to send me there. Svolvær turns out to be so remote a place, that the most direct route (that still required a train ride to Lisbon, and 2 flights thereon3), also required an overnight stay in Oslo! Which brings me to my first mistake: I decided to stay at the Best Western Oslo Airport Hotel4, a nice 4 star hotel conveniently situated a 5 minute bus ride from Oslo’s main airport (Garnermoen, OSL). So far so good, right? Wrong!

While the hotel is indeed close to the airport, that 5 minute bus ride, costs 70NOK (~8€) per journey5, which is pretty effing expensive! For comparison, to go from the airport to the centre of Oslo (roughly 35km), the fare is 90NOK per journey! This meant that to visit Oslo, I would have to go to the hotel to leave the luggage, and then get back to the airport (where the railway terminal is also located), so that’s 70+70, go to Oslo and return to terminal and then to the hotel (90+90+70). Adding to this returning to the airport the next day, that’s roughly 500NOK in transport fares. At this point I still wondered whether to shell out that cash and go visit Oslo anyway. But alas, when I arrived at the hotel, the receptionist—a nice Peruvian lady6—told me that my room would be ready by three o’clock, which meant I had to wait there for another two hours… (unless I were to go sightseeing with my suitcase tagging along…). So I guess I’ll have to return to Oslo in some other time… and find myself some nice lodgings in the city centre!

 quite nice! Since I could not go to Oslo, I at least managed to get some work done comfortably settled.

My Best Western room: quite nice! Since I could not go to Oslo, I at least managed to get some work done comfortably settled.

By the way, going a bit off-topic, there was one bit of cultural difference that I noticed barely after touching down in Oslo. After exiting the airport, when trying to find what was the shuttle to Best Western, I decided to go ask the driver of a bus that was stopped nearby. He was answering a question from another tourist, and so, as I had a quick question, I instinctively did what seven-plus years living in Lisbon teach you to do: I blatantly interrupted him and posed my question. He didn’t even look at me: he just lifted his hand, palm and fingers spread, a la stop sign, instructing me to wait for my turn. This was to happen yet again, before I interiorised that it was on the list of “do nots”.

Going back to ranting about staying at hotels “near” the airport, another disadvantage is that there is essentially nothing around you (except other also supposedly “nearby” hotels). More to the point, that meant I was also stuck with the prices of the hotel’s restaurant, which—as is the case for every other restaurant in Norway—are ludicrously expensive. I ended up skipping lunch, but I did eat a burger for dinner, which was the cheapest thing on the menu that wasn’t a salad. Which brings us to the topic of food…


The restaurant at Best Western: cozy…

… if a bit deserted.

… if a bit deserted.

The Nordic food conundrums

The Nordic food conundrum, isn’t so much that restaurants are very expensive (although they are); it’s that the price of food in groceries and supermarkets cost a whole lot less! By their living standards, it probably even qualifies as “cheap”. I fail to see any reason for this. Indeed as I was leaving Svolvær and headed for the airport, I got to talk with the cab driver, and he acknowledged that in fact, there seems to be no reason for it, and moreover, he admitted to never going to restaurants in Norway! Put another way, restaurant eating is something at least this Norwegian only does when travelling abroad—which for any Southern European, is quite anathema indeed!7

But anyway, I did end up having a couple of meals in restaurants (some where included in the workshop). Plus, breakfast was included in hotel package (see below)! :-D

Soup fish, the first thing I ate in Svolvær!

Soup fish, the first thing I ate in Svolvær!

The first thing I tried was the soup fish, in restaurant Bacalao. I was told this is typical Norwegian, but, not being overly fond of fish, I was a bit sceptical… In the end I decided to try it anyway, and guess what… it was actually delicious!

See, it wasn’t a typo! More pictures below.

See, it wasn’t a typo8! More pictures below.

And speaking of typical things, the breakfast was anything but! Here are a couple of samples:

Yep, I had salmon for breakfast, almost daily(!) Also note the Lady Grey tea (instead of the usual Earl) – #feminism?

Yep, I had salmon for breakfast, almost daily(!) Also note the Lady Grey tea (instead of the usual “Earl”) – #feminism?

For health-conscious, there was also lots of cereal with yogurt, and good old fruit juices (and more salmon, of course).

For health-conscious, there was also lots of cereal with yogurt, and good old fruit juices (and more salmon, of course).

That brown slice in the left hand side was cheese which flavour bares a somewhat vague resemblance to peanut butter… Several people told me it is a delicacy; while it is nice, I am unsure it it reaches the bar for that qualification9.

The workshop included lunch, and on the very first day, it was—can you guess?—salmon!

Those jars on top contained the—very sugary (but also very delicious)—dessert.

Those jars on top contained the—very sugary (but also very delicious)—dessert.

Note that this was the entirety of the lunch. It was fish on most days, but, much to my surprise, we actually got pork once10:

Pork for lunch.

Pork for lunch.

To drink there was always water, and this something peculiar in Norway: apparently, whenever you go to a restaurant, they always put a bottle of water on the table (uncharged). It is only if you want other drinks that you have to ask—and for those they really do charge you! Case in point: for the below depicted meal, the beer went for a whopping 10€!!

Any guesses as for how much was the full tab?

Any guesses as for how much was the full tab?

Now don’t get me wrong, it was a nice, locally crafted beer (not that that mattered much, all prices were similarly high). But was it worth the cost?

Hell f*cking NO!!

Hell f*cking NO!!

But at least the view from the restaurant was quite nice…

But at least the view from the restaurant was quite nice…

Also included in the workshop was the banquet. Although in Norway I am certain that word has a very peculiar meaning, that hardly carries over to more Southbound lands. Why do I say this? Because that ostensible banquet was supposed to have three courses: the first was the soup, served in a huge plate and with an inversely proportional portion of actual soup. But the winner is definitely the second “course”:

I was so starved I could not even focus properly!

I was so starved I could not even focus properly!

They did serve us white and red wine, along with a more generous third course, so it wasn’t all bad.

Now that I have vented my food-related complaints, I want to end with the one meal that was really, really good. On my last day on the island, having strolled around quite a bit, I discovered a restaurant called Vestfjord 11. Being the last day, I decided to spend the (physical) money I still had, and so I treated myself to some

… Halibut fish …

… Halibut fish …

… and a typical dessert …

… and a typical dessert …

of those parts: a (hot) soup made of orange berries (indigenous to the Northern parts of Norway, it would appear), with a ball of icecream on the middle. The fish was really awesome—and coming from me, this means something!—and the dessert had a strange sour (from the berries) and sweet flavour; it was also nice, but it seemed to be more of an acquired taste. I shan’t bother you with how much that meal cost…

But enough with the food talk already—after all, only a fool goes to Norway for culinary reasons…


Situated at a latitude of 68.23 degrees North12, this small town in the Lofoten archipelago has no runways for jet engine aircraft. Instead one travels in propeller-powered planes—which is exactly what I did:

I rode in this up to Lofoten!

I rode in this up to Lofoten!

It flies at lower altitudes than the regular jet engine ones (24000 feet (roughly 8km) was the top altitude, if memory serves correctly). And the insulation of the cabin walls is definitely worse: I got a chill whenever I rested on them. But for these views, I could not care less! :-D

It was a beautiful journey!

It was a beautiful journey!

Read above caption.

Read above caption.

Ditto (if you’ll excuse the meddling propeller).

Ditto (if you’ll excuse the meddling propeller).

Are words really of the essence?

Are words really of the essence?

Having left a sunny and warm Portugal, I arrived at my destination only to find chilly wind and rain. But I was lucky enough to find that some people from the workshop’s organisation had also taken my flight, and they were kind enough to give me a lift. We were staying at different hotels, but being a small city, we of course bumped into each other afterwords and all went to have lunch.

Where I tried the fish soup.

Where I tried the fish soup.

The workshop started the next day, and although this (post in particular) is hardly the place in which to starting blabbering about math and/or crypto, I did get some nice ideas (even if some of them were critical). I also got to meet very nice people—including fellow PhD students—and to top it all of, hiking and a full day boat ride were included in the program! I’ll talk about these further below.

Although it was rainy when I arrived, for the next week we got sun and (mostly) clear skies—which we were told, is most unusual! That also meant everyone was on the lookout for aurora Borealis, more commonly known as Northern lights! I was lucky enough to get to see them, two days in a row! But alas, I was not a good enough photographer to be able to properly capture so magnificent an event. And I do mean magnificent: on the second of those days, by 22:00 half of the sky was covered in green and purple-ish streaks! But some of my fellow attendees did manage to take good pictures, which I will link here as soon as they are available. I was also lucky enough to see an aurora that had a thin cloud in front (relative to me): from my perspective, it was as if the cloud just became backlit! Another image I won’t forget anytime soon :-)

I stayed for a couple more days after the workshop had finished, but by then, the weather had begun to deteriorate. So whenever it was not raining, I went strolling around. I could not get enough of the landscape, and indeed now I somewhat miss it. Here’s a quick glance:

Even from the workshop room the landscape was beautiful!

Even from the workshop room the landscape was beautiful!

And speaking of the venue, the one thing I had a ton of trouble finding, was drinking water. The reason? Why, because the wretched thing looked like this!

The water dispenser!

The water dispenser!

The workshop took place at the last floor; where you can see the balcony on the left side of the building.

The workshop took place at the last floor; where you can see the balcony on the left side of the building.

And speaking of hotels, this was mine. My room was in the first (left) red block.

Yes, it was right next to the water!

Yes, it was right next to the water!

When I showed these photographs to a couple of friends, they complained that a lot of them contained something “spoiling” the image. I thought they were talking rubbish, but then I looked at this photograph…

… and wondered if they might have a point…

… and wondered if they might have a point…

There are a few other photographs where this also happens; probably it means it need to improve my skills as a photographer, because when I was there actually looking at those scenarios, those buildings/factories did not bother me at all…

They also complained about this one, but here I think they are mad; this one is just beautiful!

Notice how the moon fits as the top decoration of the pine tree!

Notice how the moon fits as the top decoration of the pine tree!

I also got to see a lot of structures like this one, which is where they dry the fish (this is done from March to June, if I recall correctly).

Fish driers, should we call them?

“Fish driers”, should we call them?

One of the last things I did was to visit the Lofoten’s Krigsminnemuseum (a.k.a. the War Museum), which is absolutely insane! The following pictures—while being worth more than 1000 words for sure—still scarcely do it any justice:

So we have Hitler.

So we have Hitler.

And Ms.(?) Hitler.

And Ms.(?) Hitler.

And Churchill

And Churchill

And of course, an Enigma! (the three rotor version)

And of course, an Enigma! (the three rotor version)

They even reconstructed a Gestapo room!

They even reconstructed a Gestapo room!

Please do take a look at the full gallery!

And do go visit, should you ever happen to find yourself in those Northern parts of the world. It’s the best spent 100NOK you will ever shell out!

But before any of this, there was a boat trip, and two hikes. Read on :-)

Boat trip

Midweek, the day started with all of us gathering outside the conference venue for the boat trip. And my day started with clicking a photography of a baby(?) seagull(?)—can you spot what is peculiar about this one (species)?

They have interdigital membranes!

They have interdigital membranes!

It was a beautiful morning, which I spent facing the cold wind on either side of the boat, so as to enjoy the landscapes as much as I could.

It was a beautiful morning (well, by Norwegian standards that is…)

It was a beautiful morning (well, by Norwegian standards that is…)

(Nautical) outskirts of Svolvær.

(Nautical) outskirts of Svolvær.

I can think of worse places to live.

I can think of worse places to live.

Near Trollfjorden.

Near Trollfjorden.

Trollfjorden was not this dark—this was your photographer deciding to begin experimenting! (for more photos of this fjord, do check the album!

Trollfjorden was not this dark—this was your photographer deciding to begin experimenting! (for more photos of this fjord, do check the album!

And speaking of worse things, there a lot of worse ways to spend your mornings than speaking about crypto—and with one the authors of AES, no less!—amidst ever changing (but always staggering) wilderness.

When I got to meet Joan Daemen!

When I got to meet Joan Daemen!

 this was just before arriving!

After Trollfjorden, we went to lunch at Skrova island: this was just before arriving!

And this was the restaurant!

And this was the restaurant!

The afternoon began with more bird-seeing (we had done a little bit in the morning); this is one of my favourites:

Cleared for takeoff!

Cleared for takeoff!

And these ones from Trollfjorden, because the eagle looks totally Photoshopped in!! (in reality they have had no editing whatsoever)

Pseudo-Photoshopped #1

Pseudo-Photoshopped #1

Pseudo-Photoshopped #2

Pseudo-Photoshopped #2

The last visit before heading back to Svolvær was to Henningsvær, home to what is arguably the world’s remotest football stadium field:

A tad bit eerie, wouln’t you say?

A tad bit eerie, wouln’t you say?13

Not to mention how cold it must be when playing in Winter!

Not to mention how cold it must be when playing in Winter!

We were also treated to what I can only describe as some peculiarities of the Norwegian sense of humour!

Cods + Norway = … diamonds?!

Cods + Norway = … diamonds?!


I wonder how this would have turned out in Lisbon… :-D

Cute! ^_^

Cute! ^_^

But of course, the day could not end without me again being close to misfortune. Take a look at the following photographs:

Tilt #1

Tilt #1

Tilt #2

Tilt #2

Both were taken when I was sitting down on a chair—so you can imagine how much the boat was bouncing from one side to the other. It bounced so much in fact, that at one point in time I fell down from my chair, and was thrust against the rails, ending up with head and chest leaning overboard!!

Desperately trying to get a grip on myself—in more ways than one—I finally managed to sit down again, feet firmly pressed against the deck, and did not get up until the boat had docked. And I don’t think I uttered a single word during that time, either. What I did do was to count my blessings. And avoid overthinking things—all’s well that ends well, I suppose…


On the trail I hiked the day after Tjeldbergtind (see below), you actually get a broad view (of Tjeldbergtind):



You can see it actually has two peaks: one on the left hand side, and another, slightly higher, at the right hand side. You can visit both, and in each there is a hardcover notebook and a pen for you to sign your name. Which is a nice touch—adds to the motivation, one can say. Here’s me on the lower peak:

Top of the world (for me), in degrees if not in meters!

Top of the world (for me), in degrees if not in meters!

Of course, in hikes I cannot photograph as much as would in (say) a boat trip, because one tends to be busy, you know, doing the actual hiking. Here are some shots from when I got to the top ridge (which connects the two peaks):

The small peak.

The small peak.

The big peak.

The big peak.

My shadow in the landscape.

My shadow in the landscape.

Just before heading down (through this side of the hills).

Just before heading down (through this side of the hills).

But it is not just upon reaching the summit that one gets to appreciate the landscape; to the contrary, here are two photographs of places our hiking crossed:

Picturesque scenary #1

Picturesque scenary #1

Picturesque scenary #2

Picturesque scenary #2

As I mentioned above—and these pictures should make clear—we were really fortunate to have been able to enjoy really good weather. However, the forecasts indicated that the next day would also be sunny, but that was it—rain was to fall for the rest of my stay in Svolvær. Now this was the last day of the workshop, and thus, understandably, on the next day I wanted to rest. But that meant effectively wasting the last day of Sun, which was a big no-no. So I went for an even crazier hike instead.

Fløyfjellet The beginning. Inconspicous enough, right?

The beginning. Inconspicous enough, right?

As the last paragraph above hints, this one was more eventful (euphemism). To begin with, it is much steeper (and higher) than Tjeldbergtind. The first part you hike amidst dense and high trees, almost literally hopping between their branches to help you.

 in this case there were chains to help you climb!

When there are no branches, you usually find that someone has given Nature a hand: in this case there were chains to help you climb!

When hiking up this part, you are fairly protected against the wind. That completely changes when you reach the next one:

The stillness of the picture does not convey how windy it is.

The stillness of the picture does not convey how windy it is.



Also, despite the very fair weather, on that part with no trees, the hike is very muddy, forcing detours from the marked path, and even then, you still will get your feet wet (or your shoes, at any rate). But at least the path is very well marked—even if at times the marks show up placed like this:

Up is the way, the marks say!

Up is the way, the marks say!

Of course, the path is well marked—on the way up. Getting down is another story (which I shall get to shortly). Before that, however, I managed to get lost on the way up. That was because I reached a point where, for the life of me, I could not find the next mark.

But the trail was clearly not done, and the most promising(!) way up looked somewhat like this:

Up is the way, wouldn’t you say?

Up is the way, wouldn’t you say?

As carefully as I could, up I went. After a little while, it became pretty obvious that that could not be the way of the trail. Not only were the rocks rather loose, but most of them were covered by a rather generous layer of moss—which has that peculiar characteristic of being rather slippery! Specially in damper climates! Having been climbing for a bit, however, and now looking down, I realised that descending back to the point where I first got lost would not be any easier than going up.

So I decided to stop, lay back, enjoy the—spectacular—view, and take some more photos (including some shown above).

Oh, have I mentioned the views?

Oh, have I mentioned the views?

And just in case the descent did not go as planned, I decided to document myself…

And just in case the descent did not go as planned, I decided to document myself…

Anyway, eventually it was time to go back down. Again, with as much care as I could muster, fighting moss, gravity and loose rocks, down I went. It took more time than going up, but I did got back to the place of the last mark—and right then I saw the next one!!!.

What had happened, you see, is that the marks are always on the rocks, cf. the picture above. But that particular mark I had missed earlier, was on a damn stick! I missed it because when I first got to this particular point in the trail, the Sun’s relative position was roughly “up and behind” that stick, in such a manner as to leave the mark on the shadowy part. And as, furthermore, I was not expecting for it to be on a damn stick, I did not give it a second look—deciding instead (after looking to all the rocks and failing to find any marks) to go up the mossy path.

When I finally came down (the mossy path), the Sun had shifted, and just glancing at that damn stick immediately revealed the next mark… But alas, by then too much time had passed (and I had run out of water), and hence I had decided to go back to the city. I was so mad when I realised the mistake I had made, that I just turned back and continued down… (which is also the reason why there are no photos of that f’cking damned stick!!)

Which brings us to the next story. So down the trail I was going, and—just as when going up—I kept looking the next mark to point the way. Having just gone through that vexing story of the damn stick, I was extra careful when looking. But to no avail: I could not find any marks. If I looked back in the upward direction, the marks were very easy to spot, but there simply seemed to be none in the downward direction. Resigned to my luck, I continued down, always turning back to check upward marks were still there (meaning of course, I was on the right path).

Until I wasn’t: I looked back, and the upwards marks were not there. Oops. But there was clearly a path, cut amidst the vegetation. Now I had a dilemma: I could go back until a found a trail mark, but in addition to water, I had by now also ran out of food (and was getting hungry, as it was well past noon…). And besides, I was also growing tired, and going back meant going back up. Or I could continue… and in a sense, the unmarked path I found myself in was going on the “right” direction: it was going down.

Of course, that was no guarantee: the path could end in (say) a cliff, which would force me to double back and go around it. I decided to keep going, even with that very distinct possibility hanging—ever more heavily—over my head. But after all the mishaps, luck finally came through on my side: I found a couple who got lost on the way up, and ended in the path I was in instead. Asking them how long was the rest of the way down, “oh it’s just 20 minutes”. HOORAY!, I thought to myself :-)

So I continued, down and with a (much) lighter head, until I re-encountered the effing trail marks again!

The effing trail marks!

The effing trail marks!

In the picture above, the marks lead you to the left, but the path I was returning from was on the right. It is basically a (quite lessy muddy) shortcut to the alternative that takes you through the plains shown here.

But I couldn’t really give a toss—I just rushed back to the hotel, got under the shower, and let the water wash away my problems… (no such luck with my cuts and scrapes, though!)

The journey back

As I mentioned earlier, after hiking and boating and whatnot, I strolled around Svolvær… until it was time to leave.

Alas, after far too short a journey spent amidst lit skies by night and beautiful natural sceneries by day, it was finally time to go back. As I mention in a previous footnote, it took 3 flights to reach Lisbon. It started at the airstrip in the Northern part of the island and—depressingly predictably—on account of my terrorist Indian complexion15, I was again “randomly selected” (this was the actual phrase I was told) for having even my tooth paste and my shoes checked (this last one was a first…). It actually felt weirder than normal, because the airstrip is so small that I was selected at “random”… in a room that was practically empty!! I wonder if I can use this on the next paper I write about randomness…

Anyway, after I cleared security, I was left on the waiting room (which was actually the next room), next to the runway, where the plane already was. Did I mention it’s a small airstrip?

Anyway, after I cleared security, I was left on the waiting room (which was actually the next room), next to the runway, where the plane already was. Did I mention it’s a small airstrip?

From there it was a short flight16 to Bodø, which to the best of my recollection, is the first airport where I have seen military and civilian aircrafts operate side by side. In fact, while my plane was taxiing on the runway, I saw fighter jets take off! Sadly I have no pictures, because as it was raining, the window was covered with droplets, and my cellphone camera annoyingly kept focusing on those… (leaving only a very blurred background).

Leaving Bodø.

Leaving Bodø.

The last stop, before finally heading for Portuguese skies, was Oslo, where I had a few hours to kill—only to discover afterwords that my flight was over an hour delayed! The reason? French air traffic controllers were on strike. So what else is new, right? The French are always on strike…

So I waited another hour, and then finally I was headed home :-)


The perfect ending scenario :-)

Savouring a nice Douro red wine followed shortly after, courtesy of TAP17! :-D

The complete albuns

Journey from Oslo to Svolvær (including aerial photos): link

Svolvær: link

Boat trip: link

Hike to Tjeldbergtind: link

Hike up Fløyfjellet: link

War Museum: link

  1. Some extra photographs of the event can be seen here:

  2. Pronounced with a strong (tonic) “a” sound, like “Svolvár”.

  3. On the return journey to Portugal, there was no overnight stay, but on the downside, it took 3 flights to get to Lisbon.


  5. At the time I write this, one Norwegian kroner (1NOK) is about 0.11€. So a good rule of thumb to go from NOK to EUR is to slash a zero then add a “little bit”.

  6. Speaking of nationalities, there seemed to be a sizeable number of Filipino employees.

  7. Moreover, in the flight back, I was actually sat next to a Norwegian girl, who turns out had worked in a couple of restaurants (in Norway). And even she thought that 1) the menus totally lack diversity; and 2) it’s way overpriced (specially when you factor for that lack of diversity…)

  8. The Portuguese word for cod is “bacalhau”, which makes “bacalao” look like a (weird kind of) misspelling.

  9. It totally doesn’t!

  10. I actually also got to taste whale meet for the first time: it’s the dark purple thing left of the salmon in this photo. It is nice, but hardly remarkable.


  12. But that, it seems, is no impediment for people to surf over there! Well, no impediment for them—there is no way in hell I’m going to get caught surfing in those cold waters any time soon…

  13. It goes without saying that that’s not my facebook account! (I have no such thing).


  15. Family Guy’s Peter Griffin explains it.

  16. After taking off from Svolvær, the plane actually circled around the mountain(!) and passed just right of the city. Check the video! (in full screen, otherwise it will look rather small…)

  17. Speaking of TAP, one of the ways you know you fly way too much on (always packed to the rafters) low cost airlines, is when you have a regular (i.e. non low cost) flight at indecently early hours, and (after boarding is completed) you spend a long stretch of time figuring out how is it that so many people managed to lose the flight… (due to there being quite a few empty seats on the plane).

On (the algorithm for) the ANF of binary boolean functions

Publicado por Óscar Pereira em 24 de Novembro de 2019 às 12:45

\(\newcommand\funcdecl[3]{#1\, \colon #2 \rightarrow #3}\) \(\newcommand\covered[2]{#1 \preccurlyeq #2}\) \(\newcommand\finitefield[1]{\mathbb{#1}}\)

Given any binary boolean function \(\funcdecl{\varphi}{\mathbb{F}_2^n}{\mathbb{F}_2}\), there exist \(a_u \in \mathbb{F}_2\) such that:

\[\begin{equation} \varphi(x) = \sum_{u\in \mathbb{F}_2^n}a_u\left(\prod_{i=1}^n x_i^{u_i}\right) \label{eq:anf1}\tag{1} \end{equation}\]

This representation is called the algebraic normal form (ANF) of \(\varphi\), and the bulk of this text is about the way we compute these coefficients.1 But first, we need to show that this representation always exists. One way to do so, is by reasoning as follows: define a function \(\funcdecl{\delta}{\mathbb{F}_2^n}{\mathbb{F}_2}\), such that \(\delta(x)=1\) if \(x=0\), and \(\delta(x)=0\) if \(x\neq 0\).2 We can now define \(\varphi\) as:

\[\begin{equation} \varphi(x) = \sum_{z\in \mathbb{F}_2^n} \varphi(z)\delta(z+x) \label{eq:phi_kronecker1}\tag{2} \end{equation}\]

This works because \(\delta(z+x)\) is \(0\) except when \(z=x\), in which case it is \(1\). Equation \(\ref{eq:phi_kronecker1}\) might seem a circular definition, specially if one is thinking of \(\varphi\) as being defined by a “formula”. However, the most general definition of a function from, say, set \(X\) to set \(Y\) is as a subset — that is, a relation — of \(X \times Y\), subject to the caveat that, for every \(x\in X\), there must exist exactly one pair \((x, y)\) in that relation (in the case of function \(\varphi\), we would say that for all \(x\), there must exist exactly one \(y\) such that \(y=\varphi(x)\)). Hence equation \(\ref{eq:phi_kronecker1}\) is just an analytical description of that subset.

Now, we can replace the \(\delta\) function with \(\prod_{i=1}^n (1+x_i+z_i)\), which is \(1\) if and only if \(x=z\), just like \(\delta\). Equation \(\ref{eq:phi_kronecker1}\) now becomes:

\[\begin{equation} \varphi(x) = \sum_{z\in \mathbb{F}_2^n} \varphi(z)\prod_{i=1}^n (1+x_i+z_i) \label{eq:phi_kronecker2}\tag{3} \end{equation}\]

When \(\varphi\) is a concrete function, both \(\varphi(z)\) and the \(z_i\)’s will be concrete \(0\)’s and \(1\)’s — the only variables will be the \(x_i\)’s. Furthermore, the \(x_i\)’s belong to \(\mathbb{F}_2\), and hence we have that \(x_i^2 = x_i\). Thus when developing (\(\ref{eq:phi_kronecker2}\)) for a concrete function, we will end up with an equation of the form of (\(\ref{eq:anf1}\)). This shows that the ANF always exists.

The ANF is also unique, which we can show through a cardinality argument. Consider the set of all the functions \(\funcdecl{\varphi}{\mathbb{F}_2^n}{\mathbb{F}_2}\); this set has \(2^{2^n}\) elements; denote it set \(\mathcal{BBF}\).3 Now consider the set \(\mathcal{ANF}\) consisting of all the expressions of the form of the right hand side of equation \(\ref{eq:anf1}\). Its elements are in one-to-one correspondence with the set of subgroups of the set of all expressions of the form \(\prod_{i=1}^n x_i^{u_i}\). There are \(2^n\) of these expressions (one for each \(u\in \mathbb{F}_2^n\)), and hence the number of elements of \(\mathcal{ANF}\) is \(\sum_{j=0}^{n} \binom{2^n}{j}\), which, by a well-known identity relating the binomial coefficients,4 equals \(2^{2^n}\). As every element of \(\mathcal{ANF}\) corresponds exactly to one binary boolean function — i.e. an element of \(\mathcal{BBF}\) — and as both sets have the same cardinality, we conclude that the ANF is unique.5

We usually abbreviate \(\prod_{i=1}^n x_i^{u_i}\) as \(x^u\), so (\(\ref{eq:anf1}\)) becomes \(\varphi(x) = \sum_{u\in \mathbb{F}_2^n}a_u x^u\). But we can simplify it even further. For any \(x\in \mathbb{F}_2^n\), the set \(\{i\in \{1..n\}\ \vert\ x_i\neq 0\}\) is called the support of \(x\), denoted \(supp(x)\). Note that the cardinality of the support of \(x\) equals its Hamming weight, \(hw(x)\).6 Going back to \(\prod_{i=1}^n x_i^{u_i}\), it equals \(1\) if and only if for all \(i\), \(u_i = 1 \rightarrow x_i = 1\) (otherwise it is \(0\)) — but this is the same as requiring that \(supp(u)\subseteq supp(x)\). Let us denote this latter condition as \(u \preccurlyeq x\) (we thus say that \(u\) is covered by \(x\), or equivalently, that \(x\) covers \(u\)). This allows us to rewrite (\(\ref{eq:anf1}\)) as:

\[\begin{equation} \varphi(x) = \sum_{u\preccurlyeq x}a_u \label{eq:anf2}\tag{4} \end{equation}\]

But how to compute the different \(a_u\)? We are aided by the fact that the “converse” of (\(\ref{eq:anf2}\)) also holds:

Theorem 1. For all \(u\in \mathbb{F}_2\), the following holds:

\[\begin{equation} a_u = \sum_{x\preccurlyeq u}\varphi(x) \label{eq:anf3}\tag{5} \end{equation}\]


Proof. Replace \(a_u\) in (\(\ref{eq:anf2}\)) with the right hand side of (\(\ref{eq:anf3}\)) to obtain:

\[\begin{equation} \sum_{u \in \finitefield{F}_2^n \mid \covered{u}{x}} \left(\sum_{y \in \finitefield{F}_2^n \mid \covered{y}{u}} \varphi(y)\right) \label{eq:anf4}\tag{6} \end{equation}\]

These two nested summations run over all the pairs \((u, y)\) such that \(u\preccurlyeq x \land y\preccurlyeq u\). We can join both conditions in one: \(y\preccurlyeq u \preccurlyeq x\); and this means that we can cover all the pairs \((y, u)\), where both \(y\) and \(u\) verify the same condition as above, by iterating over all \(y\) covered by \(x\), and then for each \(y\), go over all \(u\) that covers \(y\) (and is covered by \(x\)). That is to say that we can rewrite the nested summation as follows:

\[\begin{equation} \sum_{y \in \finitefield{F}_2^n \mid \covered{y}{x}} \left(\sum_{u \in \finitefield{F}_2^n \mid \covered{y}{u} \preccurlyeq x} \varphi(y)\right) \label{eq:anf5}\tag{7} \end{equation}\]

This can be further rearranged as:

\[\begin{equation} \sum_{y \in \finitefield{F}_2^n \mid \covered{y}{x}} \varphi(y) \left(\sum_{u \in \finitefield{F}_2^n \mid \covered{y}{u} \preccurlyeq x} 1\right) = \varphi(x) \tag{8} \end{equation}\]

The last equality follows because of the set \(\{u \in \finitefield{F}_2^n \mid \covered{y}{u} \preccurlyeq x\}\): if \(x \neq y\), then it is either empty (if \(y \not\preccurlyeq x\)), or (if \(y \preccurlyeq x\)) it is nonempty, and has \(2^{hw(x)-hw(y)}\) elements — but in both cases, the inner summation evaluates to zero (remember we are summing in \(\finitefield{F}_2\)). If \(y=x\), the set has just one element, and the result follows. \(\blacksquare\)

The ANF/truth table algorithm

The duality shown in equations \(\ref{eq:anf2}\) and \(\ref{eq:anf3}\) yields a simple algorithm to compute the ANF coefficients (\(a_u\)’s) from \(\varphi\)’s truth table, or vice-versa (i.e. it can also be used to compute the value of the function, given the \(a_u\)’s). I will focus on the former. Let us take as an example the function defined by \((x_1 \rightarrow x_2) \rightarrow x_3\). Here is its truth table:

\[ \begin{array}{c|c|c|c} x_1 & x_2 & x_3 & (x_1 \rightarrow x_2) \rightarrow x_3 \\ \hline 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 & 1 & 1 \\ 0 & 1 & 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 1 & 1 & 1 \\ 1 & 0 & 0 & 1 \\ 1 & 0 & 1 & 1 \\ 1 & 1 & 0 & 0 \\ 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 \\ \end{array} \]

The algorithm goes like this: start in the column that corresponds to the “most significant bit”; \(x_1\) in the table above. Where it has the value \(0\), leave the value of the function unchanged; where it has the value \(1\), add to the value of the function at the current entry the value of the function at the entry obtained by setting \(x_1\) to \(0\). This is illustrated in the table below, where instead of replacing the values of the function, they are shown in an auxiliary column:

\[ \begin{array}{c|c|c|c|c} x_1 & x_2 & x_3 & (x_1 \rightarrow x_2) \rightarrow x_3 & \textrm{aux_1} \\ \hline 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 & 1 & 1 & 1 \\ 0 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 \\ 1 & 0 & 0 & 1 & 1 \\ 1 & 0 & 1 & 1 & 0 \\ 1 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 0 \\ 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 0 \\ \end{array} \]

And now you just do the same thing for \(x_2\), and then for \(x_3\) (if there were more columns, you would just continue until reaching the one corresponding to the “least significant bit”). Again to illustrate, here’s the result, with two more auxiliary columns (aux_2 for \(x_2\) and aux_3 for \(x_3\)). Note that, as we are not replacing the function values, aux_2 is computed using the values of aux_1, and aux_3 using the values of aux_2.

\[ \begin{array}{c|c|c|c|c|c|c} x_1 & x_2 & x_3 & (x_1 \rightarrow x_2) \rightarrow x_3 & \textrm{aux_1} & \textrm{aux_2} & \textrm{aux_3} \\ \hline 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 \\ 0 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 0 & 0 \\ 1 & 0 & 0 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 \\ 1 & 0 & 1 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 1 \\ 1 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 1 & 1 \\ 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 1 \\ \end{array} \]

Now, the values in column aux_3 are the \(a_u\)’s that correspond to \(x^u\); for example the coefficient for \(x_1x_2\) (i.e. \(u=110\)) is \(1\), which means the monomial shows up in the final expression. Doing this for all the values in the table, yields that final expression:

\[\begin{equation} (x_1 \rightarrow x_2) \rightarrow x_3 \equiv x_1+x_3 + x_1x_2 + x_1x_3 + x_1x_2x_3 \tag{9} \end{equation}\]

And as mentioned above, if we start with a table listing of the \(a_u\)’s, this algorithm yields the original function:

\[ \begin{array}{c|c|c|c|c|c|c} u_1 & u_2 & u_3 & \textrm{aux_3 } (\text{i.e. } a_u) & \textrm{aux_4} & \textrm{aux_5} & \textrm{aux_6} \text{ i.e. } (x_1 \rightarrow x_2) \rightarrow x_3\\ \hline 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 \\ 0 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 1 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 1 & 1 \\ 1 & 0 & 0 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 \\ 1 & 0 & 1 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 1 \\ 1 & 1 & 0 & 1 & 1 & 0 & 0 \\ 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 & 1 \\ \end{array} \]

Doing this for a few different functions, it is very easy to get a “feeling” that this works. Of course the high level reason why this works is obvious: because by the time the algorithm get to the aux_3 column, it has already, for each row (where the variables’ columns are seen as an \(u\) value) summed all the function values for all the \(x\)’s that that \(u\) value covers. But how to prove this?

To see the lower level reason why this works, we borrow a bit of notation from Python: indexing starts from \(0\), and \(x[m:n+1]\) means the substring of \(x\) that starts at index \(m\) and ends at index \(n\), including this last element (but not the one at position \(n+1\)) — this is how it works on Python. The element of \(x\) at index \(m\) is denoted \(x[m]\). Also, \(x[m:]\) is the strings that goes from (and includes) position \(m\), to the end of string \(x\). Lastly, if \(x\) and \(y\) are strings, then \(x == y\) means the strings are equal, and \(x + y\) denotes concatenation. A string that contains just the element \(a\) is denoted \([a]\) (this is also a “Python-ism”).

Also, to explain why the algorithm works (we will only look at the case going from the function to the \(a_u\)’s), it is a lot easier to forget the ANF and just think of it as a transversal problem: for a given \(x\), which elements does the algorithm touch? We will show it touches (once and only once) precisely those elements \(u\) such that \(u\preccurlyeq x\).

Indeed, if we are dealing with strings of length \(1\), it is obvious that the algorithm works. The case of length \(2\) can be easily checked by hand, and furthermore, the truth table for length two essentially “doubles” that of the case of length \(1\) — and this provides the motivation for an inductive reasoning. Suppose that for a given string \(x\) of length \(n\) (i.e. when working in \(\mathbb{F}_2^n\)), the algorithm works as expected: i.e., it passes by every string \(u\) of the same length, such that \(u\preccurlyeq x\) holds, exactly once. Consider now the strings of length \(n+1\), where the “extra bit” is added to the left: then, this set can be constructed taking the set of strings of length \(n\), and prepending to it a column of all \(0\)’s, and then doing the same thing, but now with all \(1\)’s column. To take a concrete example, in the truth tables above, observe that the set of tuples of \(x_2\) and \(x_3\) are repeated, once for \(x_1=0\) and again for \(x_1=1\).

Let \(x\in \mathbb{F}_2^{n+1}\), and suppose that \(x[0] = 0\). From the induction hypothesis (and the above discussion about truth table “duplication”), it is clear the algorithm will touch exactly once in all strings covered by \([0] + x[1:] = x\) — which is what we wanted to show. If \(x[0] = 1\), then a similar argument shows that the algorithm will touch exactly once all strings covered by \([1] + x[1:] = x\). However, because the the first element is a \(1\), it will also touch once on the string \([0] + x[1:]\) — which entails that, as it moves throughout the remaining columns, it will also touch exactly once on all strings covered by this latter string. Thus, again we conclude it touches once and just once on all strings covered by \(x\). As \(x\) is an arbitrary string, this holds for all elements of \(\mathbb{F}_2^{n+1}\).

EDIT November 22, 2018: added the table showing how to go from the \(a_u\)’s to the function (the inverse case to what is explained).

EDIT March 30, 2019: simplified the explanation of the algorithm, and of the double summation swap.

  1. \(\mathbb{F}_2^n\) denotes the vector space of dimension \(n\) over the Galois field with two elements. It will be clear from context the field in which the summations take place (i.e. \(\mathbb{F}_2\) or \(\mathbb{Z}\)). Also, this formalism implies the convention — widely accepted within the “discrete domains” of mathematics, but by no means universal outside of it — that \(0^0 = 1\). If the reader finds himself mystified by this, checking out the relevant Wikipedia page is very recommended.

  2. Such a function is called the Kronecker delta.

  3. There two choices — \(0\) or \(1\) — for each element of the domain, and each element of the domain must have exactly one image. Hence we have two choices for the first element of the domain, and for each of those, another two choices for the second element, … which yields a total number of functions of \(2^{2^n}\). More generally, for a function \(\funcdecl{\psi}{X}{Y}\), with \(X\) and \(Y\) finite, the total number of functions is \(|Y|^{|X|}\).

  4. Wikipedia to the rescue.

  5. Actually, this argument also shows the ANF always exists, because the correspondence between \(\mathcal{BBF}\) and \(\mathcal{ANF}\) is a bijection.



Publicado por Óscar Pereira em 24 de Novembro de 2019 às 12:45

Despite all the discursive bravado about how git is “decentralised” and “distributed”, I suspect the vast majority of its users in fact rely on a central… server, for lack of a better name, in one guise or another (e.g. github, bitucket, …). Including of course, me (I have a github account). But I also sync a lot of stuff between laptop and desktop via good old rsync scripts, and herein lies the problem: for some of the code I develop, I don’t necessarily want to throw it on github, at least not just yet. But I still want to have it duplicated on laptop and desktop (so I can work on it in both machines), and I want to use git to have versioning. Syncing .git folders via rsync, however, will likely turn the log into gibberish. Conundrum!

One attempt is to create, on one of the machines, what is called a “barebones” copy, which acts as sort of a surrogate for the centralised server. You then clone it into working copies, both on that machine and on the other one. For reasons that are beyond my current git knowledge, those barebones “repositories” cannot be used as working copies. I do know it is related to being able to do a git push: you can never ever push to working copy!

All that notwithstanding, working copies alone — without any barebones stuff — turn out to suffice for the task at hand. You need some way of accessing one machine from the other; I only tried with ssh. Place the code in one (and only one) of the machines (doesn’t matter which one, it will end up making no difference); let’s call it host1. One the folder which has the code — I assume it is /path/to/repo1 — do:

1 2 3 $ git init $ git add . $ git commit -a -m"initial commit"

On the other (host2), create the directory where to place the code (/path/to/repo2 below), and do the following:

1 2 3 4 5 $ git init $ git pull user1@host1:/path/to/repo1 $ git remote add origin user1@host1:/path/to/repo1 $ git fetch $ git branch --set-upstream-to=origin/master

In the original machine (host1), set the other as the origin:

1 2 3 $ git remote add origin user2@host2:/path/to/repo2 $ git fetch $ git branch --set-upstream-to=origin/master

The reason you need to do git fetch before setting up branch tracking, insofar as I understand it, is that git pull just brings (pulls) content, not branch information. Hence the need for fetching beforehand. Incidently, it might also be more useful to sync the repositories doing first a fetch (rather then a pull), because you can then do a git diff HEAD origin/master to see the changes that are coming (it is a long command, hitting Tab might help ;-) ). If everything is OK, you can then do a git merge to, well, merge the branches. (git pull is basically a git fetch followed by a git merge.)

If you have your hosts configured in a ~/.ssh/config file (google it), you can use whatever names you assigned to the machines instead of user1@host1 and user2@host2. That’s it: the master branch in each copy now tracks the master branch of the other, so you can now do changes in one place, and just git pull them from the other (and of course, vice-versa). Obviously, this is not scalable, but (to me at least!) is useful nonetheless. And never forget the cardinal rule:


November 21, 2018: added information about the need for git fetch.

November 30, 2018: corrected git diff command to use after git fetch.

Thoughts on 日本, part I

Publicado por Óscar Pereira em 24 de Novembro de 2019 às 12:45


Japan, Earth’s pervert uncle.
–John Oliver1

Yes!, yes, on my first week there—on my first bloody week!—I would come to learn just how very true that quote above is. Which may say something about me, but I assure you, it says a lot more about that country! But we will get to that.


So it was early March (ahem, of last year…) when I set out to Japan—the proverbial land of manga, sushi, and cute weirdness in general—for a three month internship.2 En route I passed through Switzerland, home of course to mild winters, and cheap watches.

Zurich airport, going And do click the picture if you want to see just how “mild” it was… It's not a watch, it's a lifestyle! -.-' A “cheap” Patek Philippe.

I touched down in Japan in the early hours of Friday, and much to my surprise, cleared customs rather quickly (“Come to Japan in business or tourism?” “Ah, I am actually an academic, I came to visit a professor…” [stamps passport, and before I could finish talking] “Ok just write that here and off you go. Sayonara!”). Of course, before customs there is the fingerprinting part—yes, since I think ’08, all “gaijin” (foreigners) get fingerprinted—and after stamping your passport, they inquire about your checked luggage.

Next was the adventure of carrying all that luggage through trains and the famously (over)crowded Tokyo Metro, up to the (no less crowded) Shinjuku area, to finalise my lodging arrangements. To account for baka gaijin (“idiot foreigners” – a redundancy, in the minds of many a Japanese), who for some reason almost never speak Japanese (go figure!) the housing agency actually hands out a sheet with images of buildings and shops from Shinjuku station up to their offices. If you are thinking “well, couldn’t they have just given you, you know, a map?”, they could have, of course, but it would have been useless: Japanese maps make next to no sense, and the Japanese don’t seem overly comfortable with them either. This even comes mentioned in tourist guides! Case in point: when, during the weekend, I went to discover where exactly my hosting institutions’ offices were located (so that I would not arrive late on Monday), I ended up showing the address to a security guard in a building I knew was nearby, and asking for the exact location. Always very politely—as is always the case with the Japanese—but not knowing a word of English (which is also very usual), he tried to help me as much he could, but to no avail. Until an employee came in who spoke English, and I showed her the address, and both she and the guard peered over a computer screen, arguing about a Google Maps search. And, fifteen minutes later, they were able to tell me that the building I was looking for, was just behind the one we were in!! So as you can see, maps and address, don’t really help you all that much…3

Shinjuku By Asian standards, the sidewalk on the right is not crowded at all. By the standards of yours truly here, it was packed to the rafters! And of course, that’s the way I had to go, sleep-deprived and with bags included.

But going back to Shinjuku, I finally arrived at the offices of the housing company, only to be handed the paperwork I was required to read before signing the lease agreement. Try to imagine: you are de facto awake for some 30 hours, tired from carrying yourself and your luggage halfway across the city, and before being able to go home for some much deserved sleep, you are made to read reams of paper, about the gazillion of reasons they have to evict you, the other gazillion things that are forbidden, the very detailed protocol for garbage disposal—face palm, right?!—the importance of keeping the place clean because of the moist climate, etc, etc… You cannot just gloss over it either, you have to read once yourself, and then the person attending to you will go over it with you one more time.

By the time I left, I must have really looked like a zombie. And I was given a map to the house I would stay in, so guess what? — I got lost again! By the time I was finally in my room, it was late afternoon (remember I had landed early in the morning). It was small (less than 10m²), but that is quite normal in Japan. The reason is not hard to see: Japan has a population of ~126 million people, which is about half of that of the United States—but the country’s area is less than that of the state of Montana (~4% of the area of the U.S.). So lots of people (roughly 14 million live in Tokyo alone), but not lots of land! This ensures that real estate prices are always at a permanent premium—which in turn causes houses to be built as small as possible.4

And lastly, before beginning with the tales of Tokyo, two of my fellows tenants suffered one of those screw ups that us Westerners usually assume to be impossible to happen in Japan. The flat we were going to, had just recently been converted into a shared house (before that it had been an English school, go figure). Which meant that the tenants that were already there (and me) were living into a brand new share house — which is supposed to be an awesome thing! And for me, indeed it was, but for the first two to move in, things started really badly. The entrance to the building, you see, is always open — as in, you don’t need a key to get into the building — but only from 04h00 until 23h00. If you arrive between 11PM and 4AM, you need to take a sort of service entrance, in the back of the building, which requires a pin code to unlock. I was given the pin when I arrived, but when the first two tenants moved in, apparently nobody thought of this… until one of them returned after 11PM and found himself locked out!! Not the sort of thing one expects in über-efficient Japan, right? But anyway, in the end everything was sorted out, so let’s move on…


As mentioned above, I arrived on Tokyo on a Friday, which was great, I thought — sightseeing weekend! Or so I thought — what actually happened was I was so jet-lagged that I mostly languished in bed, waking up by tea time… (at that time the time difference with Portugal were a whopping 9 hours, after all…). Japan being also the land of (over)work discipline, by Monday I was thoroughly pissed at myself: I just wasted two full days, and from then on I would have to start spending the days (literally!) at the office. What actually happened on Monday though, was that I was told to go there after lunch hour, and just had to take care of a small amount of bureaucracies, and then — to my utter astonishment — was told “see you tomorrow”. So, with the better part of an afternoon to kill, I ended up in Harajuku.

Under normal circumstances—Harajuku being one of the weirdness hotspots in 東京—that would have meant a gazillion of photographs.5 But unfortunately it was pouring showers (the winter in Japan is not the rainy season, that dubious honour falls upon the summer months; when I got there it was half way to Spring already, when the showers gradually become more and more frequent). So I just strolled around until my thick and hooded—but not exactly water-proof—coat had had enough, and then ended up in Starbucks (for the fifth—or thereabouts—time in my life). Which should hint to you that I am not a particular fan of the franchise—so why did I choose it, being in Japan of all places? Well—other than the aforementioned pouring showers—it was because it was the one place where I was confident that you cannot smoke. In Japan, you see, while people are very conscious about pretty much everything, they are so in the typically sui generis Japanese way—and smoking is no exception. And hence, on the hand, you cannot smoke even on the streets (!), except in designated places (I kid you not)—but on the other hand, restaurants and bars are fair game, even if the place is small. You can probably imagine the resulting stench, specially during the meal hours.

Now at this point I should say something about the Japanese concept of restaurant—but given how, when I wrote about Norway, people complained about beginning with food(ie) stuff (“you go to Norway and first thing you talk about is food? Really?!”)—it is perhaps best to consign this discussion to the latter parts of this multi-post writing.6

Going back to Harajuku, I should mention that, a couple of paragraphs above, I actually lied: while facing the drizzle in Harajuku, I did snap one picture:

Hedgehogs! (cafe) Somewhere in Harajuku…

I was told about this “feature” of Tokyo: animal-themed cafés: besides hedgehogs, there also also cats and owls, and there are probably even more. Making a note to myself to check out this later on, I went my merry way – on to Takashita street (“dori”). This is where you buy all the hippie “alternative” stuff – and I found it rather telling that it is just one street from a mega Apple-store (Steve Jobs would have approved). I should have done my souvenir shopping there and then, because the shop owners lower the prices in rainy days – the bigger the pelting, the bigger the price drop. Who said the Japanese cannot be pragmatic? But alas, I only discovered this a couple weeks afterwords – baka gaijin! Speaking of pragmatism, this is one of those things that I only noticed after I had been there for a couple of weeks: the Nihonjin (Japanese people) are notorious sticklers for the rules, often to a bloody fault, but there is a downside to this: to put it bluntly, they suck at improvising. What in Portugal we call “desenrascanço”, basically the ability to Macgyver your way out of trouble, they completely lack. I guess yin and yan do balance out in the end… (in Portugal we excel at that “desenrascanço” thing, but as for rule-following… well, if needs must…).

But I am digressing. In fact, if there was ever a proof that I am not fond of large cities, it is that even in Tokyo – an extraordinary and unique city, in many, many ways – I still found myself thinking that in a way, big cities are all the same, and what I really want to see is the rest of country (that is topic of part II). Anyway, all my whimsical musings notwithstanding, Edo, as Tokyo was originally called, is indeed an amazing place. Not least because, for a population of 14 million, it is remarkably… calm. What do I mean by this? That while there definitely is more than enough stress, confusion, and rushing around, it is still less than what I saw in cities like, say, Lisbon – which has little over 10% of Tokyo’s population! If this is not testament to the organisational skills of the Japanese, I don’t know what is.

To give an example I happened to witness, one morning I got lost inside Tokyo’s main train station (creatively named “Tokyo Station”), but eventually found a known place, a set of four parallel escalators that, if memory serve, lead you to the connecting metro station (Otemachi). Now when I had previously been there, it was not rush hour, and so two of those escalators went upwards, and the other two downwards. But during rush hour, all four were going upwards, churning out people at full throttle. As I happened to pause and observe such phenomenon, I realised that the resulting human flow — with people walking as if guided by invisible lanes — was more organised that some roads I had driven in. Another display of their sans par organizing skills, I suppose.

⁂        ⁂        ⁂

I was lucky enough to work and live near the Imperial Gardens, a huge green islet in the middle Tokyo, that is also where the Emperor’s official residency is located. And top it off, I arrived just before Sakura, the cherry-blossom mania! Although it is supposed to cover streets and parks with lush pink, the reality is that quite a lot was actually white-ish… (and it was not a limitation of the photographer; a lot of it indeed leaned towards white). It’s still very worth seeing!

sakura I remember overhearing a tourist say: “what I love most about sakura is how much they (the Japanese) all love it!”. Well, this is how they enjoy it! sakura_picnic It is also a great time to picnic! sakura_white Of course, as mentioned above, there is a lot of white (as well as a lot of trees that don’t “go sakura”!). sakura_not_that_crowded And it was not that crowded! sakura_not_that_crowded Enjoying sakura “from one of them boats”, as many an American might put it, should also be quite the experience!

Despite being a ginormous city — or maybe because of it? — Tokyo has quite a number of parks, huge swaths of green where one can stroll and blissfully forget the surrounding jungle of concrete. And while I indeed went and got lost into a few of them (story for a next post), this was long after the sakura period (which only lasts a few days) had passed. But, following the suggestion of a flatmate, there was another place I went for sakura-seeing: Naka-meguro. Much like an über-scaled Venice, Tokyo has a lot of streams streaking inside it, and here was a place where you could enjoy the cherry trees bending and sloshing over the water.

Naka Meguro Naka Meguro. Naka Meguro The view from the benches hidden behind the trees (shown left in the previous picture).

I got there only a short period before sunset — miraculously, the place was not crowded! — and discovered that the night offers you no less beauty!

Naka Meguro Naka Meguro Both margins of the canals were dimly lit with these cute lanterns. Naka Meguro by night There was still more than enough light, though! Naka Meguro by night But as so much else in life, in rather depends from where you are standing…

There was another place where I went sakura-seeing: Hibiya park. This was actually organised by the housing agency, but honestly, it was a bit of a letdown, because Hibiya does not have that many trees, so there could never be that much sakura to see… Considering the agency’s name is Sakura-house, I expected a bit more…

Hibiya Park Not much sakura in Hibiya park, but at least we found some genuine pink!

All the talk so far might convey the impression that sakura is a “park-only” phenomenon — but nothing could be further from the truth:

Street sakura Even on the streets people stop and take photos of the colourful trees! Sakura bar And of course, not even the bars escape!

Moving on, one the biggest peculiarities of Japan, the indescribable mixture of modernity and tradition, is exacerbated in Tokyo: being one the world’s most modern cities, it is nevertheless very common to see the old and modern, both in style and actually construction age, side by side.

Asakusa sky tips rickshaw Places like Asakusa make that even more obvious: to the left, contrast the temple (old) with the tower (modern); and to the right, notice a rickshaw, lost amidst the modern city.

But alas, this post is getting too big (and taking too long to write…). So, while there are still some more things I want to say about Tokyo, let’s leave that for another text, and get back to my initial days in Tokyo.

Back to the beginning…

Right, so to recap, arrive on Friday, first full day at the office on next Tuesday, and then… it was Friday again. I thought it would be a good opportunity to, you know, get to know the new colleagues (all also foreigners), go out to dinner somewhere, and maybe a stint at a bar afterwards — which goes on to show that one really must be careful with what he wishes for.

It turned out that there already was a… ahem… night out, planned. An outline of the plan was more or less (emphasis on the “less”) like this: go out to have takoyaki (a sort of deep-fried dumpling made of octopus) for dinner, on a food stall on the street, then go to visit (ipso verbo!) a famous, seven-storey high, sex-shop in the Akihabara district, and go to a maid cafe and have something more to eat over there. Me being the inconvenient person that everyone knows and loves, I pointed out that 1) it was raining, so eating on the street, maybe not the best of ideas (and was then told that that part was optional); and 2) food in a maid cafe will likely be (over)pricey (and was then told that maybe so, but the beers would be cheap). You can probably see where this is going…

Eating takoyaki under the rain was indeed most inconvenient, and like all food portions in Japan, it leaves you nowhere close to satiety (I basically starved for three months). The sex-shop is indeed seven-story high, but each floor is small, and it gets smaller as you go up (and weirder, but that’s another story). As there are floors that are specific to men, and others to women, we agree to meet downstairs in fifteen minutes’ time. We each went our way, and fifteen minutes later I dutifully went down — and found myself on the street, completely by myself: no sign of my colleagues. So I decided to wait, and ten minutes pass, and still no sign of them. Remember I had just been in Japan for a week, and I did not have anyone’s numbers (we used a Korean app, Line, to chat, which does not require a SIM card, but it does require mobile data, which I did not have). Nervously, I decided to take a quick glance around the block, and then come back. Luckily, I then ran into one of the girls, and asked where the hell was everyone! “All the other girls are still in the sex-shop!” Facepalm, if ever there was one.

Anyway, after we all got back together again, we ended up on the maid cafe, and this was next on menu:

Maids! I am talking about the beers, in case you are wandering!

I was later told that the particular maid cafe we went to was one of the more mainstream ones, but I was still quite shocked to see grown men, many probably family men, behave like pre-pubescent teenagers, let of the leash. Imagine the scenario: young doll-ish looking girls singing and dancing on-stage (and often off-stage, amidst the crowd), and adult men singing, shouting, kicking, calling them, indeed yelling for them, like teenagers watching their idol for the very first time. I still have a vivid image of a guy in his 50s doing push-ups (!!!) at the feet of one of the girls — if that’s not teenage bravado, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, eventually it was time to leave, and then I made a most important discovery: the subway closes at midnight (it was way past midnight). So we figured that instead of spending money on a cab, we might as well walk to a bar nearby, and have some more pints, while waiting for the 6AM metro to go home. And guess what?! Before I knew it, four Japanese young women had come to talk to me!! And not the usual chat-up chit-chat either; they went to the point: “are you working here?”, “are you living here?”, basically, “are you here to stay?” (though none of them phrase it like that — well, that I remember). The writing on the wall was fairly obvious, but still, gaijin for the win! :D

Alas, the night came and went, and when I finally arrived home, the sky was already pre-sunrise crimson. And so I spent the rest of my second weekend in Nihon-land recovering from lack of sleep—again!—and started my second week thinking that, as I was not going to be there for that long, this would be all of “weird Japan” I would get to see.

Oh, little did I know…

The complete albuns

The story continues in part ii, but in the meantime, here are Tokyo’s photo albums:

## The top image depicts mount Fuji, photographed while on the Shinkansen to Kyoto. The photo as shown is basically the original, after gimp’s “equalise” operation. Not bad, for a photo taken in a bullet train, uh? ##

  1., 0m:06s. By the way, that Kanji in the title, I (and most people in Tokyo, as far I could tell) read it “Nihon”—literally “origin of the Sun”—i.e. Japan’s name in Japanese. But, as with virtually everything else there, it’s a bit(!) more complicated than that. And if this was just about the country’s freakin’ name, imagine the rest…

  2. For the uninitiated reader, I am referring to manga the comic; see here.

  3. After returning to Portugal, an acquaintance who had studied Japanese culture explained to me part of the reason why addresses in Japan are so weird: for a given area, house number 1 is the oldest, number 2 is the second oldest, and so on. Now imagine what happens when the oldest and second oldest houses are not adjacent, and extrapolate that to a few hundred houses, and you should start to get some idea of the inanity involved in map reading…

  4. Though I wonder if there could more to it than this. In the next post I will talk about the castle of Matsumoto, one of Japan’s oldest castles, which still has its original construction. It dates back to late 16th century, when I suppose the population of Japan was a lot less than what it is today. And yet, at least by any European standard, it is small.

  5. If you are tempted to surmise that that Kanji 東京 means “Tokyo”, you are of course correct. Incidently, which word do you think you get when you reverse that Kanji? Perhaps Kyoto?! Alas, no.

  6. See here for my stories in Norway, and here for the food related ones.

On why I write long blog entries (and other quirks)

Publicado por Óscar Pereira em 24 de Novembro de 2019 às 12:45

Bart Simpson on chalkboard! Generated at

It must be some 15+ years since I first had broadband internet, and I have had it ever since. For all its very real benefits, there were some obvious problems — too much time taken browsing irrelevant trivia (including a lot of mislabeled “news”) being just the most obvious one. But as the years went by, I noticed a subtler problem: as I spent ever more time online (which usually meant “time reading text on a screen”), the length of the texts I read kept getting smaller and smaller (even if I read more and more texts), and it was borderline impossible to end up reading the same text twice.

To be sure, reading vapid tidbits (and watching vapid videos), in addition to the distraction emanating from messengers and whatnots, eventually began to take a toll on my ability to concentrate. Also, I am perfectly aware that reading on a computer screen is harder (and weirder) than reading on paper: even before the “always connected” internet, I have had the experience of trying to read a book in a .txt file — and after fifteen minutes, I was exhausted (with paper books I can keep reading for hours on end). But could there be more to it than this? After all, the digital revolution heralded the spread of an increasing amount of information at a decreasing cost — but as (this human at least) began to realise, I seemed to be gaining less and less knowledge from that information, which was not how this whole thing was supposed to function.1

Or was it? Surely information from which one cannot extract knowledge is usually waste, but, as it turned out, this particular type waste could be turned into a profitable business model. As Jaron Lanier explains,

The early waves of web activity were remarkably energetic and had a personal quality. People created personal “homepages,” and each of them was different, and often strange. The web had flavor [sic]. [And] that volunteerism proved to be an extremely powerful force in the first iteration of the web. When businesses rushed in to capitalize on what had happened, there was something of a problem, in that the content aspect of the web, the cultural side, was functioning rather well without a business plan.2

Lanier, a virtual reality pioneer from way back in the 1980s, wrote these words to criticise the fact that, in the rush to monetise the web, this personal flavour has all but disappeared — to be replaced by the standard formats of the blog/comments, the Wikipedia article, the Twitter message. But another part of that monetisation is novelty: the one thing those standard formats made really easy was to keep churning out new stuff, at an ever increasing pace. This was sold to us as “innovation”, but genuine innovation always takes its time. Placing the emphasis on speed meant — with hindsight, rather predictably — that the “new” stuff would be little more than remixes or rehashes of the old (another aspect of the web 2.0 that Lanier also sternly criticises).3 It also meant the smaller, the better, because the important thing was no longer content per se, but novelty and speed, and “smallness” helps achieve both — this is now called generating “buzz” on social media.

Me, on the other hand, having the privilege of not doing this for the money, decided I had had enough of that. If I take the trouble of writing about something, then there is little point in not making it thorough and informative — otherwise I might as well not write anything. But it is quite true that reading in a computer screen, and especially in a browser, can be troublesome. I can’t easily solve the computer screen part, but I designed the structure this blog so that it prints nicely to PDF. I recommend using the chromium browser, so that you can get a PDF without annoying headers and footers (unlike what happens with say, Firefox).4 You can then read at your own leisure, and plus you will have a local copy to re-read without having to search for it again (or when internet is scarce). This is not as redundant as it may seem: in any book that doesn’t completely suck, you get more out of it as you re-read it, and same is true online — unless, that is, one is aiming for the vapid, flat stuff that yields good buzz generation…5

As for comments, when I used Wordpress, I always ended up having more spam than actual comments… That not withstanding, I still tried using a static comment system with the static site generator I use now (Hakyll), but it was way too much hassle. So I told people to send feedback via email. As an improvement (?), I now put links of my writing on twitter, and tell people that emails are still welcome, but that if that is too weird, then just create your own space online and use twitter to ping me (the hope is that this will be too much effort for trolls, but not for everyone else). This way, I use available tools to make a setup that feels deeply personal to me, and actually informs you, the reader — instead of reducing writing online to another effortless, “off-the-shelf” consumer experience (actually, where social media is concerned, you are not so much a consumer as you are raw material, but enough already).

Of course, one could point to the following objection: I have complained about standard formats of blogs & comments, and twitter so-called micro-blogging, only to then encourage people to ping me on twitter and create blogs/etc to give longer feedback! What gives?! Admittedly, it seems my attentive reader might have point here — but in reality, Lanier himself provides the answers to this apparent conundrum. Here is his advice for twitter users:

If you are twittering, innovate in order to find a way to describe your internal state instead of trivial external events, to avoid the creeping danger of believing that objectively described events define you, as they would define a machine.6

And for bloggers:

Write a blog post that took weeks of reflection before you heard the inner voice that needed to come out.7

What I am encouraging people who want to give feedback to do, is to find their own space online, and write their feedback there, with perhaps not weeks of reflection, but with reflection (and effort) enough to make it valuable, both for them to write it and for me to read it (or to put it in Lanier-lingo, something closer to an inner voice, and farther from just another bit of vapid trivia). Then, using twitter to spread the word, is describing your internal state (albeit indirectly), because the “external” event you are linking to — your blog post or whatever, in your own online space — will have been written by you, so it’s not external at all!

So there you have it: why I am not shy about writing at length about whatever I have decided to write about, and why I have what is arguably the world’s weirdest comment system (which is also briefly described here). Actually, my reality is weirder still, because what often happens is that I write something, and then, weeks later, when hanging out with my friends, someone will tell me “Oh! I also finished reading that thing you wrote some weeks ago…” and the conversation will stem from there onwards to whatever mischief I endeavoured about. Real life social media — enhanced, not replaced, with technology! And having tried both (digital and real life SM), I find the latter far more fulfilling than any of its putative digital replacements!

That last sentence needs to be put in context: I am first generation millennial, who grew up in a small city in the interior of Portugal (close to the border with Spain), during the 1990s. 4 TV channels (two Spanish), computer and internet only in the last year before college (and a cellphone only after I had actually left for college). And of course, no car. The point I wish to make is that nobody understands better than me the appeal that increasing connectivity and internet messaging and social media have — “finally, a way get out of this middle-of-nowhere town, even if only virtually!” And I fell for it — hook, sink and liner, as the phrase goes, and so did virtually all of my friends. But now, with so many years passed, experience and evidence have finally convinced me to let go and stay clear of all that. Your mileage may of course vary, but I hope to have at least tilted you towards the possibility that the way these tools are generally used, might be worthy of a second look.8

  1. In case the dichotomy information vs. knowledge is not clear, let me give an example, that actually would become recurring. I would start browsing the web “just a little bit”, which would almost always end up as a couple of hours reading websites, and at the end I would get the same uneasy feeling: I felt tired — not high-concentration tired, but more like juggling-a-million-things-on-your-mind tired — but I knew I had learned nothing. Later on this would happen even when I tried to read actual books: my concentration never passed the shallow level, and even though I didn’t feel as tired as when browsing, I would be left with the same feeling that I had learned nothing (which was true, of course: learning without concentration is impossible). This was the warning sign that finally prompted me to start rethinking the whole web 2.0 shebang.

  2. Jaron Lanier, You are not a gadget, Penguin Books, 2011. Chapter 1, section “Technology criticism shouldn’t be left to the luddites”.

  3. Lanier, op. cit., chapter 9. A particular passage, at the beginning of that chapter, is worth quoting (original emphasis):

    Let’s suppose that back in the 1980s I had said, “In a quarter century, when the digital revolution has made great progress and computer chips are millions of times faster than they are now, humanity will finally win the prize of being able to write a new encyclopaedia and a new version of UNIX!” It would have sounded utterly pathetic.

    Lanier’s point is that we should be doing things far more original than Wikipedia and Linux. Much as I love and use both, he does have a very valid point.

  4. This recommendation is also shown at the bottom of the post listing page.

  5. Nassim Taleb’s advice to “Never read a book you would not reread” applies, in my opinion, well beyond books. Furthermore, the fact that a book is too long for you to be able to read it in a single seating — which is probably that case with most books — is usually not an excuse for you not to read it. The same should be true with digital media, but the web being what it is, this is easier to achieve by keeping in your computer a PDF that you can access offline. You thus minimise the chances of being distracted with some new trivia while you went online to find said digital media again (trust me, this happens).

  6. Lanier, op. cit., chapter 1, section “Why it matters.”

  7. Ibid.

  8. The deleterious effects of social media and its ilk, and what to do about it, is actually a very deep topic. To get a brief overview, you could do worse than to read this and (for a Facebook specific perspective) this.

Treta da semana: a receita.

Publicado por Ludwig Krippal em 7 de Outubro de 2019 às 23:53

Esta é a receita da moda para combater desigualdades de género: escolhe-se um indicador estatisticamente diferente em homens e mulheres; presume-se causado por estereótipos e fácil de mudar com exemplos ou educação; tenta-se mudar e, quando se descobre que não muda, impõe-se quotas. Por cá, a receita já foi seguida até ao fim na administração de empresas e nas eleições mas, mesmo sem esta fase terminal, o processo todo peca por assumir que as predisposições visadas são fáceis de ajustar e por presumir que é papel legítimo do Estado tentar condicionar a maneira de ser das pessoas.

Pensemos no que faz alguém sentir-se atraído por outrem, sexualmente ou romanticamente. Apesar da a orientação sexual, fetiches e outras preferências variarem muito de pessoa para pessoa, e de ser tudo influenciado por factores sociais, ainda assim há uma diferença média significativa entre o que atrai homens e o que atrai mulheres. Não permite prever muito acerca de cada indivíduo, porque cada um é só como si próprio, mas há uma correlação grande na população que, inevitavelmente, estraga as estatísticas da igualdade de género. Os homens tendem a preferir parceiras com indicadores físicos de fertilidade, o que inclui a idade, por razões óbvias quando pensamos na evolução do nosso desejo sexual. As mulheres também preferem parceiros com bons genes mas, em média, não preferem parceiros mais jovens pois não é o homem quem aguenta a gravidez e o parto. Esta diferença de preferências afecta muitas estatísticas, desde a diferença média de 8 anos entre actrizes e actores quando ganham o primeiro Oscar (1) à diferença de dois ou três anos entre a mãe e o pai quando nasce o primeiro filho (2). Por sua vez, a diferença de idades entre o pai e a mãe quando o filho nasce contribui para que, nessa altura, o pai tenda a ter um salário maior do que o da mãe. Acresce a isto vantagem que a mulher jovem tem por deter quase tudo o que é preciso para constituir família, permitindo-lhe escolher um parceiro com melhor estatuto sócio-económico. Por seu lado, ao homem não compensa ser exigente neste critério porque não só precisa que a parceira entre com todo o capital biológico como a sua confiança acerca da paternidade está dependente de a convencer a concedê-lo em exclusividade. Por isso o homem tende a preferir uma mulher que precise dele, nem que seja para pagar as contas. Isto nota-se bem nas estatísticas das diferenças salariais. Não são simplesmente entre homens e mulheres. A maior diferença parece ser entre homens casados e o resto (3). Considerando as preferências diferentes quanto à idade e nível sócio-económico dos parceiros e outras diferenças como o parto e a capacidade de amamentar, não é estranho que o rendimento das mulheres caia significativamente quando nasce o primeiro filho (4). Tanto a biologia como as escolhas feitas até esse momento contribuem para que seja o homem a trazer recursos e a mulher a ficar com a criança.

Obviamente, não será popular defender que o Estado deve persuadir as mulheres a escolher parceiros mais jovens e mais pobres para que sejam elas a ir trabalhar, ficando eles em casa com as crianças. Isso punha a nu os problema fundamentais da receita. É por isso preciso inventar causas hipotéticas cuja regulação pelo colectivo seja mais aceitável. Os estereótipos são uma opção sempre popular mas, no Observador, João Pires da Cruz dá um exemplo alternativo: o problema é as mulheres serem perfeccionistas (5). É este perfeccionismo que, segundo Cruz, temos de corrigir às raparigas logo na escola. Mas além de não ser claro como se corrige o perfeccionismo, ou sequer que legitimidade temos para o fazer – não será um direito ser perfeccionista? – as evidências que Cruz apresenta para a sua hipótese são pouco persuasivas.

Começa por apontar que, no ginásio, estão só as «magras, vestidas impecavelmente e […] a risca dos sapatos combina com o tom da camisola». Mas isto é o que se espera pela diferente importância que homens e mulheres dão à aparência em potenciais parceiros sexuais. Se um homem pudesse entrar num bar e garantir encontrar várias mulheres dispostas a ter relações sexuais com ele simplesmente pela forma como ele se vestisse, era certinho que os homens andariam todos produzidos. Como, aliás, é frequente nos homossexuais. Outra diferença que Cruz aponta é que «as mulheres só se candidatam a um posto se cumprirem 100% dos requisitos, os homens candidatam-se se cumprirem 60%». Também não precisamos de invocar um perfeccionismo particularmente feminino para explicar esta diferença. É razoável uma pessoa candidatar-se apenas aos cargos para os quais tem as qualificações necessárias. Excepto se está sob pressão para ter um cargo com mais prestígio ou remuneração porque, por exemplo, dificilmente atrairá a atenção de uma mulher se não o conseguir.

O primeiro problema desta receita para conseguir igualdade alterando as mentalidades é não haver, na prática, forma de o fazer. A Comissão para a Cidadania e a Igualdade de Género julga que se atinge a igualdade controlando a publicidade e os livros de actividades para crianças. É pouco plausível. Desde cedo que rapazes e raparigas percebem o que é que atrai o outro sexo. Não adianta insistir com uma rapariga que mais vale ter uma carreira do que ser bonita quando é óbvio o poder da aparência feminina. Até há mulheres que fazem carreira disso. E ensinar a um rapaz que não tem mal nenhum viver com uma mulher de carreira e ficar em casa a cuidar dos filhos não o impede de estimar, realisticamente, que nenhuma mulher de carreira vai querer sustentar um tipo desempregado em casa.

O segundo problema da receita é ainda mais grave. A razão principal para as diferenças estatísticas entre homens e mulheres é que nem os homens querem ser como as mulheres nem as mulheres querem ser como os homens. Isso não se deve corrigir. Deve-se respeitar.

1- Deseret, Oscars illustrate Hollywood’s gender age gap
2- Não encontrei dados para Portugal, mas parece ser bastante constante. Aqui vão alguns links: Noruega, República Checa, Inglaterra e Gales.
3- Quartz, The gender wage gap is between married men and everyone else
4- Vox, A stunning chart shows the true cause of the gender wage gap
5- Observador, João Pires da Cruz, Não há mulheres gordas no ginásio

Legislativas 2019.

Publicado por Ludwig Krippal em 3 de Outubro de 2019 às 15:48

Nestas eleições tenho um problema. Não encontro um partido no qual queira votar, nem mesmo depois de considerar os candidatos elegíveis a ver se, ao menos, me dava vontade de votar na pessoa. Resta-me portanto fazer o que tenho recomendado a quem pensa abster-se: na ausência de uma boa opção, votar na menos má. Mas votar.

Os partidos pelos quais tenho mais afinidade ideológica são o LIVRE e o BE. Isto tem-me facilitado a decisão nos últimos anos. Mas estes partidos estão a defender posições que considero inaceitáveis em questões demasiado importantes para ignorar. Ambos defendem que o Estado discrimine cidadãos em função de atributos como raça ou sexo, pela imposição de quotas. Está na moda mas eu não quero que o Estado trate pessoas de forma diferente em função desses atributos. Ninguém deve ser preterido ou favorecido pelo Estado por causa do seu sexo, etnia ou cor de pele. Pior ainda, o LIVRE e o BE estão a atolar-se numa ideologia que confunde a identidade do indivíduo com estes atributos, segregando as pessoas por raça e sexo e alegando que é preciso eleger mulheres negras para representar mulheres negras. A noção deturpada de diversidade e representatividade como sendo por estes atributos em vez de pelos valores e ideias das pessoas joga a favor das parvoíces da extrema direita. Presume que as mulheres negras são um grupo homogéneo que será representado na Assembleia por qualquer mulher negra. Como se fossem todas iguais. Isto é tão absurdo como achar que basta o candidato ser homem branco para me representar. E implica também que eu nunca poderia ser representado por uma mulher negra, outra premissa obviamente falsa porque a Assembleia é um órgão legislativo e o que me interessa que representem lá são valores relevantes para legislar, que excluem sexo e a cor de pele. Esta ideia de que brancos representam brancos e negros representam negros só dá jeito aos racistas.

Outro problema nestes partidos é o crescente desprezo pela separação entre o Estado e o cidadão. O Estado deve garantir a liberdade de todos e que todos respeitam a liberdade dos outros mas não se deve imiscuir na forma como cada um usa a sua liberdade. Mas estes partidos querem usar as escolas para condicionar a opinião das crianças acerca de matérias privadas, desde a sexualidade à distribuição de tarefas domésticas; querem proibir a expressão de certas opiniões explicitamente para evitar que outras pessoas concordem; querem controlar o que se publica para combater estereótipos e preconceitos sem reconhecer que, bons ou maus, é um direito de cada um ter os seus estereótipos e preconceitos. Isto para mim é um problema grave porque a separação entre o Estado e o cidadão é fundamental para uma sociedade livre. Este problema sempre me levou a votar contra o PCP, apesar de eu ser de esquerda, e agora contribui também para que vote contra o LIVRE e o BE.

O PS também sofre parcialmente destes problemas e, além disso, não quero votar nos partidos grandes. Há muita gente nesses partidos que sente ter o lugar reservado e, por isso, acha que pode fazer o que quer. Não quero contribuir para manter esse regime. À direita do PSD, incluindo monárquicos, “renovadores” e palhaçadas, também não vejo nada de aceitável. O único que considerei deste lado foi o Iniciativa Liberal pela sua posição acerca da liberdade de comunicação na Internet e liberdade de expressão mas, infelizmente, as suas propostas para a economia parecem-me erradas. Numa sociedade moderna quem tem dinheiro tem imenso poder para acumular mais dinheiro e só um Estado forte, capaz de compensar esta tendência pela distribuição, pode manter o sistema estável. A posição do IL de que se deve reduzir os impostos e o peso do Estado é receita para um desastre.

Dos restantes, há dois que me pareceram candidatos à posição de mal menor: o PAN e o “Nós, Cidadãos!” (NC). Mas o programa do PAN é uma mistura caótica de ideias razoáveis, medidas que nem parecem fazer sentido num programa eleitoral (e.g. «112 Criar uma fileira de recolha de resíduos de cortiça») e propostas francamente erradas (e.g. «150 Proibir a produção e o cultivo comercial de Organismos Geneticamente Modificados»). O NC, por seu lado, tem um conjunto de propostas que me parecem razoáveis, começando logo pela defesa dos direitos das pessoas, algo que é cada vez mais importante, e continuando pelo combate à corrupção e sobre-endividamento, ambiente, saúde e afins, mas sem nada de transformador ou radical. Nem para bem, nem para mal. O NC é a papa de aveia da política portuguesa. Não é doce, não é salgado, não é picante nem amargo e até parece vir à temperatura ambiente, tal como o cabeça de lista do partido pelo distrito de Lisboa.

É assim, sem entusiasmo mas de consciência tranquila, que vou votar no NC. A probabilidade de eleger um deputado é pequena mas a utilidade do voto não está apenas nos deputados que se elege. É também uma oportunidade para mostrar aos partidos o que pensamos da sua prestação. Além disso, tenho sempre a esperança de que os eleitores que consideram abster-se para protestar contra o estado da política em vez disso protestem votando em partidos pequenos que lhes pareçam menos repugnantes. Se os 45% de abstenção se tornarem votos de protesto sai uma centena de lugares dos partidos grandes para os pequenos. Seria um safanão sem precedentes nas negociatas montadas e pregava um susto valente àqueles que julgam que ninguém os tira do poiso.

Treta da semana: grande outra vez.

Publicado por Ludwig Krippal em 27 de Setembro de 2019 às 13:25

Tenciono, em breve, escrever o post costumeiro sobre as eleições. Mas, antes disso, queria dar destaque ao Partido Nacional Renovador (PNR) pelo seu slogan, que tem tanto de inteligível quanto de original: «Fazer Portugal grande outra vez» (1).

Olhando para os indicadores de prosperidade e qualidade de vida, não se percebe o “outra vez”. Não houve momento na história deste país com menor mortalidade infantil, maior esperança de vida, maior conforto material para a maioria da população ou maior liberdade para cada um viver a sua vida à sua maneira. Vou supor que a grandeza à qual o PNR quer voltar não é a da peste bubónica, da Inquisição, das sopas de vinho ou das crianças descalças pela rua.

Outra possibilidade é a justiça. Segundo o programa do PNR, «A Justiça, desvirtuada da sua nobre função e prostituída às mãos de criminosos, de corruptos e de toda a sorte de tratantes impunes, só serve os interesses dos poderosos.»(1) Talvez o PNR queira voltar aos tempos em que a justiça em Portugal servia o povo e não os poderosos. Isto também parece difícil. Durante séculos de monarquia a “justiça” (as leis, não necessariamente justas) serviam explicitamente quem estava no poder, que era quem as inventava. Entre 1911 e 1926 houve uma tentativa incipiente de criar uma sociedade mais justa mas Portugal não estava preparado ainda para essas modernices. Só da minha geração em diante é que nos temos aproximado desse ideal da lei ser também justiça. Ainda há muito que fazer mas qualquer regresso ao “outra vez” seria contraproducente.

Mas numa coisa Portugal foi inegavelmente grande. No tamanho, geográfico e demográfico. Por meios moralmente reprováveis mas eficazes, Portugal já foi do Brasil até Timor (Angola, Moçambique, Goa e Macau; bolas, agora a música não me sai da cabeça). Foi um país grande, com uma população numerosa, multiracial e multicultural. No entanto, seria hoje visto como má educação chegar aos países dos outros, desatar à paulada e declarar “isto agora é Portugal, vocês são portugueses e vamos levar já uns para a Madeira que há lá cana para cortar”. Além disso, não parece que o PNR queira que Portugal tenha outra vez essa grandiosidade de culturas e raças que teve outrora. Pelo contrário. Segundo o programa do PNR, «A imigração em massa constitui uma verdadeira invasão e traduz-se numa ameaça à identidade, à soberania, à segurança e à sobrevivência futura de Portugal», propondo por isso o partido «Alterar a Lei da Nacionalidade, baseando-se no jus sanguinis (nacionalidade herdada por descendência)». Se formos grandes outra vez terá de ser só com a prata da casa.

Não vejo no passado de Portugal onde o PNR possa ir buscar grandiosidade. Mas talvez o que o partido queira seja algo diferente. Durante boa parte do século XX, Portugal foi um pais pequeno, pobre nos recursos materiais e miserável nos humanos, de onde muita gente queria era fugir. Nesse Portugal, quem estava menos mal via à sua volta sempre miséria que bastasse para se sentir melhor que os outros. Julgo que é essa sensação de “grandeza” que o PNR quer que volte. Espero que não tenham sucesso nisso.

1- Programa do PNR para as legislativas de 2019

A heurística.

Publicado por Ludwig Krippal em 16 de Setembro de 2019 às 22:50

No Esquerda Republicana, João Vasco defende a «legitimidade do argumento de autoridade» e propõe que «Se não sou especialista numa área, eu uso uma heurística: confio no consenso entre especialistas.» Defende-o, alegadamente, em oposição à tese de que «a Ciência recusa "autoridades", o que importa são as "evidências", "devemos avaliar os argumentos pelos seus méritos, avaliar as evidências que os suportam, e ignorar a quantidade de gente que a eles adere ou a autoridade dos mesmos" e por aí fora». Propõe João Vasco que, aceitando argumentos de autoridade, poderemos ter uma «epistemologia diferente, adequada a uma população que tem de formar crenças sobre a verdade ou falsidade de afirmações relativamente às quais não tem tempo nem disponibilidade para avaliar as evidências.»(1)

A intenção parece boa mas temo que não funcione. Primeiro, “confio no consenso entre especialistas” não é uma heurística útil. Tal como “cuida da tua saúde para não teres doenças”, é um conselho que nada diz acerca de como o aplicar. Vou confiar nos teólogos para saber se Deus existe, nos astrólogos para saber a astrologia funciona e nos criacionistas para saber se o criacionismo é verdade? Não adianta confiar nos especialistas sem saber identificar os especialistas certos. Além disso, esta heurística de nada serve contra meias verdades e outros engodos. Por exemplo, se alguém disser que as Torres Gémeas não podem ter caído por causa dos aviões porque, segundo os especialistas, a temperatura a que arde o combustível dos aviões não é suficiente para derreter o aço. Confiar naqueles que se julga especialistas não é uma maneira fiável de «formar crenças sobre a verdade ou falsidade de afirmações relativamente às quais não [se] tem tempo nem disponibilidade para avaliar as evidências.»

Um equívoco parece estar na distinção que João Vasco faz entre evidências (isto é, indícios de que uma hipótese é verdadeira) e a opinião de especialistas. A opinião de especialistas é também evidência, exactamente como o resto. Na verdade, as evidências são apenas hipóteses das quais, de momento, julgamos não valer a pena duvidar. Aquilo que nos parece evidente que é verdadeiro. Por exemplo, se eu confio na balança então considero o número que lá aparece como evidência para o meu peso. Se não confio, então é algo que tenho de testar. Com pesos conhecidos, por exemplo. Qualquer investigador confia (tentativamente) em muitas fontes autoritárias, desde os aparelhos que usa aos artigos que cita e em cujos resultados baseia o seu trabalho. Tudo isso são evidências que, em conjunto, terá de avaliar para determinar que conclusão suportam. Tanto faz se são resultados de experiências, valores fornecidos por aparelhos, citações de artigos ou alegações de peritos. Não são fiáveis sem “tempo nem disponibilidade” para as avaliar porque é sempre preciso avaliar o padrão que formam. É preciso atenção constante àquelas inconsistências que indicam que este perito está enganado, aquele aparelho está a funcionar mal ou aquela medição foi mal feita.

É por isso que a “heurística” de seguir os peritos não serve de substituto à análise das evidências. A opinião dos peritos é mais uma peça do puzzle e não há uma regra simples para distinguir entre as evidências correctas e as incorrectas. O que funciona, mas que é mais trabalhoso do que confiar nos peritos, é manter uma atitude persistente, consciente e deliberada de atenção ao encaixe das evidências e a disposição para considerar hipóteses alternativas, questionando premissas sempre que algo não encaixe bem. Isto exige treino e depende de ter informação e de compreender como essa informação está interligada. Nada disto é possível sem tempo e disponibilidade para avaliar as evidências.

Infelizmente, isto que João Vasco propõe está a ganhar popularidade. Há quem queira que empresas policiem as “redes sociais” para eliminar afirmações falsas ou prejudiciais. Há fact checkers que se apresentam como fontes autoritárias que nos basta consultar para ficarmos imunes ao engano. Até serve para vender jornais, alegando que, se pagarmos aos jornalistas, eles tornam-se fontes fiáveis de informação correcta e imparcial. Mas nada disto resolve o problema de muita gente não ter «tempo nem disponibilidade para avaliar as evidências.» Para resolver esse problema é preciso, primeiro, dar tempo às pessoas e a formação necessária para que possam pensar criticamente. E, depois, é preciso que as pessoas queiram usar esse tempo e essa capacidade para avaliar adequadamente as hipóteses que lhes apresentam. Confiar em fontes fiáveis é uma boa ideia mas não dispensa a atenção necessária para avaliar se a fonte é realmente fiável, se merece essa confiança e se não está a dizer asneira. Sem esse cuidado, esta “epistemologia diferente” é apenas pôr-se jeito para enfiar barretes.

1- João Vasco, A Ciência e os argumentos de autoridade

Se o dinheiro é público, o código tem de ser público! #PublicCode #SignTheLetter

Publicado por Paula Simões em 27 de Setembro de 2017 às 21:52

As entidades que constituem a administração pública têm, muitas vezes, de desenvolver software: um website, uma plataforma, uma aplicação, etc. O desenvolvimento desse software é pago com dinheiro público, dinheiro dos impostos de todos nós.

O problema é que a administração pública permite que esse software tenha uma licença de software proprietário.

O que é que isto significa?

Esse software, que foi pago por todos nós, não pode ser reutilizado, nem verificado.

Mas se uma entidade pública licenciar o código do software que desenvolve com uma licença de software livre ou de código aberto, então qualquer outra entidade pode reutilizar esse código, para prestar serviços similares, poupando dinheiro, trabalho e tempo, uma vez que não é preciso estar a desenvolver novo código: reutiliza-se o que já existe!

Para além disto, é possível a qualquer pessoa ver o código desse software para verificar que o software não está a fazer nada que não deva fazer: que não está a enviar informação sobre o que têm no vosso computador para quem não deve enviar, que não tem backdoors, que possam servir de entrada a um ataque, etc.

Assim, a Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFe) criou uma carta aberta, a ser enviada aos representantes Europeus, para pedir a criação de legislação, que determine que o software financiado com dinheiro público e desenvolvido para o sector público tenha de ser disponibilizado com uma licença de software livre e de código aberto.

A carta já foi assinada por 80 organizações (incluindo as Portuguesas Associação Ensino Livre, a Associação Nacional para o Software Livre e a Associação D3 – Defesa dos Direitos Digitais). Assinem e enviem para os vossos contactos!

A lista de assinaturas que permite comentários tem vários bastante interessantes, que mostram bem como os cidadãos consideram esta medida óbvia e até que já devia estar implementada. Vale a pena percorrer os comentários aqui.

Para explicar melhor o que está em causa, a FSFe criou um vídeo, que deixo aqui:

Alteração à tabela da #PL118 pelo @cultura_pt @govpt

Publicado por Paula Simões em 25 de Setembro de 2017 às 21:46



Foto por Pexels CC0 Creative Commons

Já na discussão sobre a compensação da cópia privada, a VISAPRESS, entidade de gestão colectiva que representa os editores de notícias, fez saber, numa audição no Parlamento Português (ver o vídeo no final desta página entre o minuto 12 e 14), que os editores de notícias também deveriam ter direito a uma fatia da taxa da cópia privada.

Em resposta a uma pergunta do então sr. deputado Michel Seufert, o representante da VISAPRESS justificava o direito a tal fatia por as pessoas partilharem notícias umas com as outras:

“(…) Eu para mim, é uma coisa frequentíssima chegar a um sítio e as pessoas mostrarem-me um recorte de um jornal que receberam de não sei quem, que emprestou a não sei quem e que está lá, marcado, quem é a empresa que fez, etc. (…)”

Contextualizando, para clarificar:

Qualquer empresa, entidade, ou pessoa pode contratar o serviço de uma empresa de clipping, para recolher todas as notícias sobre um determinado assunto (tipo Google Alerts, mas pago). Mas para prestarem este serviço, as empresas de clipping precisam de uma autorização dos titulares dos direitos das notícias, ou seus representantes, como a VISAPRESS. Assim, as empresas de clipping contactam a VISAPRESS, que emite uma licença, que as empresas de clipping pagam para depois fazer a recolha de notícias e enviarem para as empresas, entidades ou pessoas que contrataram e pagaram o serviço.

Quando o clipping chega às empresas ou entidades que subscreveram o serviço é distribuído por pessoas, que têm direito a receber esse clipping. Na audição parlamentar, o sr. da VISAPRESS queixava-se que essas pessoas partilham essas notícias (que têm direito a receber) com pessoas que não fazem parte da empresa ou entidade que recebeu o clipping e, que portanto não têm o direito de aceder as essas notícias. Como não é possível saber quantas estas partilhas são, diz a VISAPRESS que não as pode incluir no preço da licença que vende às empresas de clipping. Por causa, disto, a VISAPRESS foi ao Parlamento defender que deveria ter direito a uma fatia da taxa da cópia privada para compensar essas tais partilhas, cuja quantidade não se sabe.

Na altura, a VISAPRESS não teve direito a uma parte da taxa da cópia privada. E muito justamente. Porque a queixa da VISAPRESS não dizia respeito à cópia privada. A VISAPRESS queixou-se da partilha de ficheiros sem fins comerciais, ou seja, queixou-se da pirataria de notícias. Uma cópia só é privada se for feita para fins exclusivamente privados, segundo a lei, logo só a pessoa que fez a cópia é que pode usar a cópia, mais ninguém pode usar aquela cópia. Ora, a notícia recebida “de não sei quem, que emprestou a não sei quem” não é uma cópia privada. Se não é uma cópia privada e não está incluída em mais nenhuma excepção ao direito de autor (utilizações livres), então só pode ser pirataria.

Se o Governo queria dar dinheiro aos órgãos de comunicação social por conta da tal partilha de notícias, deveria ter criado uma proposta de lei que alargasse a definição de cópia privada à partilha de ficheiros sem fins comerciais, legalizando essa tal partilha das notícias de que a VISAPRESS se queixou no Parlamento.

Mas nada disto foi feito.

O Ministério da Cultura fez saber hoje que alterou a designação dos equipamentos na tabela da compensação da cópia privada, substituindo as descrições referentes a equipamentos de áudio e vídeo, para descrições mais generalistas de “conteúdos e dados” de forma a que a VISAPRESS possa passar a receber a tal fatia da taxa.

Ou seja:

O Ministério da Cultura fez saber hoje que uma parte da compensação que pagamos por conta da cópia privada vai servir para compensar a pirataria de notícias de que se queixou a VISAPRESS, e que vai continuar a ser pirataria.

As pessoas continuam a não poder partilhar notícias inteiras e, portanto, uma parte da taxa que pagamos vai compensar uma acção que não podemos fazer.

Como se isto não fosse suficientemente mau, o Ministério da Cultura ainda fez saber através de comunicado oficial [PDF] que o Governo Português defende o artigo 11º da proposta de Reforma do Direito de Autor da Comissão Europeia, que estipula a criação de um novo direito conexo a ser dado aos editores de notícias.

Se esta proposta Europeia for aprovada, passamos também a não poder partilhar sequer excertos de notícias, a menos que seja paga uma nova taxa, que provavelmente será gerida pela VISAPRESS.

Um obrigada à D3 – Defesa dos Direitos Digitais, que encontrou o comunicado oficial.

Inscrevam-se: The School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright

Publicado por Paula Simões em 6 de Setembro de 2017 às 17:40

A Associação Defesa dos Direitos Digitais (D3) está a organizar a The School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright, um workshop dedicado à reforma Europeia dos direitos de autor, que terá lugar em Lisboa nos dias 20 e 21 de Outubro.

Neste momento, a Comissão Europeia e o Parlamento Europeu estão em fase de discussão de um conjunto de medidas que irão alterar a Web tal como a conhecemos. Entre as várias propostas muito preocupantes na área da educação, com o aparecimento de licenças e taxas, da investigação científica, com ataques ao acesso aberto, há propostas que se forem aprovadas passarão a proibir a partilha de excertos de notícias, e outras passarão a obrigar todas as plataformas onde os cidadãos partilham qualquer tipo de informação (texto, áudio, imagens, vídeo) a verificar tudo o que queremos publicar antes de ser publicado, criando na prática uma base para um sistema censório.

Estas medidas têm o apoio dos maiores partidos Europeus, existindo uma probabilidade muito grande de serem aprovadas. Só os cidadãos podem travar estas medidas. O workshop tem como objectivo informar as pessoas destas alterações para que possam lutar pelos direitos dos utilizadores na agenda legislativa europeia.

O ano passado estive neste workshop, a convite da Creative Commons, e posso dizer-vos que foi extremamente importante para perceber não só todas estas alterações, mas também como elas funcionam a nível Europeu. É uma oportunidade única para percebermos as mudanças para a Web que estão a ser discutidas.

Da experiência, de largos anos, que tenho nesta área, deixem-me dizer-vos que se os cidadãos não se mexerem, as medidas que estão em cima da mesa vão ser aprovadas.

As inscrições são limitadas e o prazo acaba dia 8 de Setembro. Quem precisar de ajuda para as despesas de deslocação, pode contactar a D3.


Socialistas e Sociais-Democratas das @EPCulture & @EP_Industry atacam #AcessoAberto #Cultura #Investigação #Educação

Publicado por Paula Simões em 6 de Setembro de 2017 às 17:08

Em Julho, várias comissões do Parlamento Europeu discutiram e votaram alterações à proposta da Comissão Europeia para alterar a directiva sobre direito de autor: a comissão do Mercado Interno e Protecção do Consumidor (IMCO) – o segundo voto mais importante; da Cultura e Educação (CULT) e a comissão da Indústria, Investigação e Energia (ITRE). Falta ainda o voto da comissão mais importante, a comissão dos Assuntos Legais (JURI), que terá uma discussão em Setembro e votará em Outubro.

Em que ponto estão as alterações ao direito de autor no Parlamento Europeu?

TL;DR O European Party’s People (sociais-democratas) propôs levar a Europa para a idade das trevas, e o Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (socialistas) respondeu que estava bem.

Agora com detalhes: O que é que está em causa? Que mudanças estão a ser discutidas e aprovadas? Para quando está prevista a decisão final? Como podemos endireitar o direito de autor?

Novo direito conexo para publicações periódicas (artigo 11º)

No final do ano passado, a Comissão Europeia propôs criar um novo direito conexo de 20 anos após a publicação das notícias, a ser dado aos editores de publicações de imprensa.

Notem que as notícias já tinham, e continuam a ter, direitos de autor, pertencentes aos autores/jornalistas, ou seja, ninguém pode partilhar uma notícia inteira nas redes sociais. Mas podemos partilhar um link com um excerto ou título da notícia, como por exemplo:

Mas se este novo direito para os editores for aprovado, passamos a não poder partilhar excertos ou títulos de notícias na Internet. No caso acima, o MCF não poderia publicar aquele tweet. A não ser que o Twitter passasse a pagar a licença exigida pelos representantes dos editores dos órgãos de comunicação social.

Aqueles que dedicam o seu tempo a verificar factos ou a fazer críticas ao jornalismo, como mostra o tweet abaixo, deixarão de o poder fazer se a proposta da Comissão for avante. A menos que as plataformas/sites que usam para fazer essa crítica paguem as tais licenças.

O Negócio omite que a autorização data de 5 de Junho, dando a entender no título e no lead que esta sucede o roubo de material. É falso.

— Os Truques (@ostruques) July 1, 2017

Aquelas plataformas que não conseguirem pagar as taxas, irão desaparecer e mesmo as grandes empresas podem decidir não pagar: em Espanha, onde foi aprovada uma lei similar, a Google decidiu fechar o Google News. Como se isto não fosse suficientemente mau, sociais-democratas e socialistas ainda decidiram estender tal restrição às notícias analógicas. Assim, tweets como este do presidente da RTP, com excertos de notícias de um jornal em papel, também não poderão ser partilhados.

Que barbaridade de posição de Gentil Martins hoje no Expresso. Que desilusão.

— Goncalo Reis (@GoncaloReis007) July 15, 2017

Consequências desta lei, se for aprovada:

  • É um ataque ao direito fundamental ao acesso à informação. A lei irá diminuir a circulação de notícias, cortando o acesso à informação pelos cidadãos;
  • É um ataque à própria democracia. A diminuição da circulação de notícias de órgãos de comunicação social terá como consequência imediata o aumento da circulação das “fake news”. Uma vez que os utilizadores não vão sair da Web, nem vão deixar de partilhar conteúdos, os cidadãos irão partilhar aqueles conteúdos que os deixarem partilhar. Ora, quem produz notícias falsas não quer saber de direitos de autor, nem direitos conexos para nada. Os direitos de autor e conexos servem para restringir o acesso e/ou utilização; quem produz notícias falsas quer é que estas se espalhem rapidamente pelo maior número de pessoas possíveis, pelo que as “fake news” continuarão a circular, mas agora com menos notícias “reais” para contrabalançar;
  • Vamos assistir ao desaparecimento dos órgãos de comunicação social (OCS) mais pequenos. Tem sido passada esta ideia de que a crise no jornalismo se deve principalmente ao facto das pessoas deixarem de comprar o jornal e lerem as notícias na Internet de forma gratuita, mas a verdade é que nunca a venda do jornal, nem a venda de assinaturas, pagou o jornal. Num jornal de papel, a primeira decisão sobre a distribuição dos conteúdos pelas páginas diz respeito à colocação da publicidade que se conseguiu vender para aquela edição. Publicidade na primeira página será mais cara do que nas páginas interiores, publicidade nas páginas ímpares será mais cara do que nas páginas pares, uma página de publicidade será mais cara do que 1/4 de página e assim sucessivamente. Só depois de colocada a publicidade que se conseguiu vender, é que, nas sobras, nos espaços em branco que sobrarem, se colocam as notícias, as opiniões, as reportagens, e outros conteúdos do jornal. A razão pela qual se distribui primeiro pelo jornal a publicidade, que o jornal conseguiu vender, deve-se ao facto de ser a publicidade a maior fatia responsável por pagar o jornal. Se têm ou tinham o hábito de comprar um jornal em papel regularmente e notaram alguns dias em que o jornal trazia mais publicidade do que habitual, é provável que o jornal estivesse a passar por dificuldades económicas nessa altura. Se o número de excertos com links para notícias diminuir, o número de visitantes às páginas dos jornais também irá diminuir. Ora, nenhum anunciante paga para ter publicidade em sites com poucas visitas.
  • É um ataque a quem faz crítica às notícias, que obviamente precisa de usar partes dessas notícias para explicar e exemplificar a sua opinião e, neste contexto, é um ataque ao direito fundamental à opinião, liberdade de expressão e crítica.
  • É um ataque à inovação no sector, esta lei irá desencorajar startups de criarem serviços que podiam criar novos modelos de negócio, novas formas de chegar às audiências, etc.
  • Leis similares na Alemanha e em Espanha não funcionaram: quando a lei entrou em vigor na Alemanha, houve uma quebra tal nas visitas aos sites dos OCS, que os editores renunciaram à taxa; em Espanha, também houve quebras significativas, mas a lei não permite a renúncia à taxa, pelo que desde então há associações de editores a pedirem ao Governo Espanhol para retirar a lei.
Vamos também dar cabo da investigação científica, e de caminho matamos o #AcessoAberto

Como se as consequências de uma lei deste género não fossem suficientemente negativas, sociais-democratas e socialistas ainda acharam que deviam aplicar esta lei às publicações científicas. A proposta da Comissão Europeia sublinhava que este direito se aplicava apenas às publicações noticiosas, deixando de fora as científicas.

No Twitter, o deputado ao Parlamento Europeu, Carlos Zorrinho, disse que a lei não permite separar publicações periódicas:

A lei não permite separar "academic journals" de outros. Mas o acesso geral aos dados para investigação fica muito facilitado

— Carlos Zorrinho (@czorrinho) July 11, 2017

O que não me deixa muito descansada porque a ser assim significa que a Comissão Europeia propôs uma lei, sem saber como a lei funciona.

Mas mesmo que a lei não permita separar tipos de publicações periódicas, qualquer lei pode ter excepções. Porque não se excepcionaram as publicações científicas e académicas? Mesmo no pior cenário de nada disto ser possível, é incompreensível aceitar uma lei que faz tal ataque à ciência.

Consequências desta lei, se for aprovada:
  • Quebra na disseminação de publicações científicas, a menos que as plataformas onde se partilha o título+link ou excerto+link paguem a taxa;
  • Ataque ao Acesso Aberto. Até agora os artigos em acesso aberto dependiam apenas do autor; se esta lei for aprovada, os editores passam a ter também direitos sobre a circulação desses artigos, de forma automática. Assim, se publicarem um artigo em acesso aberto numa editora X e a vossa universidade ou um outro investigador quiser partilhar o título ou excerto com um link para o vosso artigo numa plataforma (site, blog, ou redes sociais) só o poderá fazer se essa plataforma pagar a tal taxa. Ou seja, mesmo que a publicação tenha uma licença livre, que não imponha nenhuma restrição ao conteúdo, linkar com um excerto ou título para essa publicação deixa de ser permitido.
Nova obrigação das plataformas de verificação prévia dos conteúdos (artigo 13º)

Se a proposta da CE for aprovada, as plataformas cujo modelo se baseia em conteúdos criados pelos utilizadores terão de passar a verificar todos os conteúdos antes destes serem publicados. Ou seja, sempre que quiserem colocar o que quer que seja no Twitter, no vosso blog, no YouTube, a plataforma terá de verificar esse conteúdo antes de ser publicado. Espera-se que esta verificação seja feita através de filtros automáticos, que são cegos às excepções. Ou seja, se quiserem usar partes de uma obra numa apresentação, ou se quiserem usar um excerto de uma obra para darem a vossa opinião, podem fazê-lo porque a lei contém excepções ao direito de autor que vos autoriza a fazê-lo. Mas os filtros automáticos não conseguem distinguir estes casos, pelo que os vossos conteúdos serão barrados.

Medidas deste género já foram condenadas pelo Tribunal de Justiça da União Europeia, que proibiu explicitamente um requisito legal para obrigar a monitorização prévia dos conteúdos. E percebe-se bem porquê. Um sistema deste tipo é a génese de um sistema censório: se um conteúdo for barrado, como sabemos se foi uma violação de um direito de autor ou se alguém não gostou daquilo que se disse?

A comissão ITRE, na sua votação, tentou minimizar o estrago, retirando a referência aos filtros automáticos, mas mantendo a possibilidade de medidas para impedir a disponibilização de conteúdos.

Já a comissão CULT tornou a proposta da CE ainda pior, ao incluir serviços de “cloud”. O que significa que deixa de ser permitido guardarem música ou outras obras que tenham adquirido legalmente em serviços como o Dropbox, Drive, ou outros.

Medidas Tecnológicas (DRM)

Uma das emendas submetidas por alguns Membros do Parlamento Europeu refere-se à correcção das chamadas medidas tecnológicas, vulgarmente designadas por DRM. Estas medidas são colocadas nas obras para impedir a cópia da obra. O problema é que também impedem as excepções a que os cidadãos têm direito, incluindo aquelas excepções pelas quais pagamos taxas (cópia privada, utilização para fins de ensino, liberdade de expressão, opinião, discussão ou crítica, utilização para fins de investigação científica, etc.). Estas excepções foram criadas para garantir direitos fundamentais e o próprio legislador reconhece na lei que o DRM não pode impedir os cidadãos de beneficiar destas excepções e, por conseguinte, não pode impedir os direitos fundamentais dos cidadãos. O problema é que a forma como isto foi exposto na lei não funciona, nunca funcionou, nem nunca vai funcionar.

Assim, a proposta é alterar a lei de forma a garantir as excepções, criadas para garantir direitos fundamentais, a que os cidadãos têm direito, mesmo nos casos das obras que tenham tais medidas.

As emendas propostas por alguns deputados são particularmente razoáveis porque não alteram nenhum direito dos titulares. Esta alteração não retira direitos aos autores, nem dá mais direitos aos cidadãos. O único impacto que tem é que os cidadãos passam a poder exercer os direitos, que já tinham, mesmo no caso de obras com as tais medidas.

A comissão com o segundo voto mais importante (IMCO) tinha um deputado Português, Carlos Coelho (PSD), e o sr. deputado resolveu votar contra esta alteração. Aliás, todo o grupo parlamentar EPP votou contra esta alteração. De referir que esta medida foi rejeitada apenas por um voto.

Quanto a este voto na comissão ITRE, não é possível saber os votos por artigo. O sr. deputado Carlos Zorrinho (PS), membro desta comissão, não disse se votou ou não a favor, mas aprovou o documento final, que não inclui esta alteração.

Se esta alteração não for aprovada pela JURI, dificilmente chegará ao Plenário para ser votada.

O que podemos fazer?

A próxima, última e também mais importante comissão a votar as emendas à proposta da CE é a Comissão JURI. Portugal tem nesta comissão um representante português, o sr. deputado Marinho e Pinto, com o qual devemos entrar em contacto e sensibilizar para estes problemas. A votação está prevista para o mês de Outubro.

Email: antonio.marinhoepinto [at]
Brussels Office Phone: +32(0)2 28 45403

Dos deputados Portugueses, e até agora, a sra. deputada Marisa Matias (Bloco de Esquerda) foi a única a defender os direitos digitais dos cidadãos.

Se conhecerem pessoas de outros países, peçam-lhes para contactarem os seus representantes na Comissão JURI. Neste post, encontram os contactos dos deputados por país.

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