Bets, Bonds, and Kindergarteners

Bets and bonds are tools for handling different epistemic states and levels of trust. Which makes them a great fit for negotiating with small children!

A few weeks ago Anna (4y) wanted to play with some packing material. It looked very messy to me, I didn't expect she would clean it up, and I didn't want to fight with her about cleaning it up. I considered saying no, but after thinking about how things like this are handled in the real world I had an idea. If you want to do a hazardous activity, and we think you might go bankrupt and not clean up, we make you post a bond. This money is held in escrow to fund the cleanup if you disappear. I explained how this worked, and she went and got a dollar:

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Bucket Brigade: Video

The biggest pain point with Bucket Brigade has been that you generally wanted to be running a video call in parallel. You kept needing to switch windows, and you needed to remember to mute and unmute in the call at the beginning and end of each song. Solstice used Twilio Video, which packages up WebRTC with server-side support and a developer-friendly API, and I decided to integrate it as well. Now when you join you'll see it ask for camera permissions:

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Simultaneous Randomized Chess

David and I played around with the idea of a simultaneous chess variant until we found one that seems balanced. Rules:

  1. Both players secretly select a move.
    1. If both can execute without conflict, both do.
    2. If both can execute only in a specific order, they are executed in that order.
    3. Otherwise, one move is discarded at random and the other executes.
  2. You may not choose a move that would end with your king in check, given the current board position.
  3. You win by capturing or checkmating the opponent's king.
  4. In selecting a move you choose a maximum number of spaces, but a capture before reaching the maximum counts as a successful move.
  5. You may select a move if it could be legal after some opponent move. If it ends up not being legal, it doesn't happen.
  6. To capture en passant you must attempt the capture simultaneously.
  7. If you are using a clock, it only counts the time between the move selections.

Consider this position:

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New Bucket Brigade UI

After using the UI that the Ritual Engine folks built for Solstice, I was feeling a bit embarrassed with how awkward and confusing stand-alone Bucket Brigade was:

I took a pass over it to make the UI more coherent:

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Secular Solstice 2020

Last night, about 225 people gathered for songs and stories. In the spirit of putting in a ridiculous amount of effort to keep doing normal things in abnormal times, a group of friends built a platform where we could listen together, and sing together, as we do every year. This was the biggest gathering Bucket Brigade has handled, and with the vaccines being distributed now it may be the largest it ever handles.

If you missed it, Rachel made a recording of most of the service:


(youtube)

And here are the recordings Bucket Brigade made:

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Adapting to Means Testing

There are some things that we want everyone to have regardless of ability to pay, but providing them to everyone would be expensive. So we means test. A fancy college may agree to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need, which means they examine your finances and charge you the sticker price or the most they think you can afford, whichever is less. This makes a lot of sense, at least initially, but then people start adjusting their lives in response to incentives.

Take Medicaid and long-term care. Medicaid will cover nursing homes, but only if you have exhausted your savings first. To discourage people from transferring their money to relatives to intentionally become destitute, Medicaid has complex asset transfer rules. Still, they only look back five years, which means that with planning this is still quite practical and many people do it.

As the amount of money involved starts to get large enough, it makes sense for people to plan farther in advance and do stranger things to qualify. Here are two that I think are quite uncommon now, but if current rules persist I expect to see more of:

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