Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Changing from prepay energy meters to normal meters. Be leery of being overcharged!

I'm getting both my electricity and gas meters changed today from prepaid to the normal type of meter.  Since moving into this new flat (apartment) 2 years ago, I have had to keep going to local shops to buy electricity and gas on keys/cards every month or so.   It was a confounded nuisance!  But this flat came with these prepaid meters, and it was going to cost me £60 to change each meter, so £120 altogether.  However, recently I heard they will now do it for free.  So decided to get them changed.

I'm not sure though that the company that supplies my power -- npower (I'm in the UK) -- won't try and pull a fast one and overcharge me, utilising the confusion over changing meters.

My old meter yesterday afternoon read 20579.  I assume this refers to kilowatt hours.  Just had my new meter installed 2 hours ago.  Immediately after being installed the new meter read 21347.  An increase of 21347-20579 = 768 kwhs.

Accessing my npower account, my consumption per day of electricity averaged over 2 years is 9.33kwh's.  So essentially this new meter reading is around 760kwh's more than it should be, representing around 11.5 weeks of electricity usage. This represents roughly £100.

Best to see it in graphical form on excel.  There's a sudden sharp rise at the end.

So, presumably these readings can't be related.  I regard it highly unlikely that npower are trying to nick a £100 off me!  But, I thought I'd better contact them, just in case.  I was informed via webchat that these figures are not related and that their database needs to be updated, and this will take around 45 days.

OK, that's great!  But,  I've just been thinking over the past 30 mins or so. 

I'm going from paying in advance, to paying in arrears. Let's say on the prepay meter I pay upfront for one month, say November's, but at the end of November I switch meters to a normal meter. If I still pay every month I won't pay December's electricity until the beginning of January.  Then it'll be just as before, paying every month.  I'll be better off of course since I skipped one month's payment.  That's the advantage of going from paying in advance to paying in arrears!

Of course, in reality, one won't actually skip a month (I wouldn't imagine?).  Rather over a specified number of months, let's say the next 12 months, one's monthly bill will be 11/12ths of what it was previously (assuming comparable tariffs).  So I should either skip paying for a month, or more likely, be paying less over some specified number of months in the future (if 12 months, then I'll only be paying 11/12th each month for these 12 months of what I paid previously.  Then it'll go back to its normal price).

However! Conceivably the opportunity is there for them to pull a fast one. They could simply screw me out of this 768kwhs, and the amount I'll pay in future months might be comparable to what I've always paid, so that I'll never notice.

That's a very cunning way to screw people out of their money! Who the heck would notice??

UPDATE Same day around 4 hours later.

 A guy has just been round and changed my gas meter.  I was thinking "it looks like the same guy who changed my electricity meter earlier, surely?".

After he finished he said:

"I don't know why I couldn't have done that this morning".

Yep, the same guy!  When I rang up 3 weeks ago to book appointments to get these meters changed, the lady said the same guy wouldn't be able to do both, so 2 different people would need to come.  Sigh...

The reading on this new gas meter is vastly higher than on my old one, so I strongly suspect what I was told in the webchat was correct. 

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Defining Consciousness

When I say science completely leaves out consciousness in its description of reality, people frequently ask what my definition of consciousness is.

But what do they mean by "definition of consciousness"? They must mean either:

a) What do I mean by the word "consciousness".


b) What is the scientific definition of consciousness? i.e how does consciousness fit into our scientific description of reality.

But regarding "a", obviously we all know what consciousness means. It's all our thoughts, feelings, perceptions etc. So, given that the person is conscious, he knows what consciousness refers to. So presumably he is not requesting this (and it's always a he).

So he must be asking for a scientific definition of consciousness. But science completely leaves out consciousness in its description of reality, as I said in the beginning!

This is the type of futile "conversation" I have with people on the net.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Are our lives for the purpose of soul-making?

People tend to either think that their lives are purposeless in the sense of absurd, or that our existence is a process of "soul-making" -- that we're here to learn lessons and for our souls to thereby develop to become better and more enlightened beings. I used to think the latter, but now I reject this dichotomy.

Much of what we do in our lives we do purely for the experience. That might be something as trivial as having a good night out and getting pissed (i.e affected by alcohol). Have any lessons been learnt? Has our soul developed during that one night? Probably not, so why should it be any different for a whole life?

However, that's not to say our lives are purposeless. It is perfectly possible for there to be some ultimate purpose to our existence, some ultimate reason, without thinking that life is like school where we are required to progress to some specific end. What this ultimate purpose might be I don't know though. I'll leave it to those who have had mystical experiences to answer that one.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Wealth Inequality in the UK.


Originally found hereTwo caveats about the video, first of all I haven't independently verified these figures, secondly the video is four years old, and I don't know how wealth distribution in the UK has changed since then. 

So, according to this video, the top 20% of people in the UK have 60% of all wealth. That's 1.5 times as much as all the rest put together (not nearly twice as much as the video claims). The bottom 20% have 0.6% of the total wealth and the top 20% have 60% of all wealth. That's 100 times more! The top 1% have the same wealth as the bottom 60%.

Bear all this in mind next time the Tories talk about "magic money trees". No need for magic, the money exists and there is plenty of it, it's just that it's predominantly concentrated in the hands of the very rich. This is why we need policies that focus on a radical redistribution of wealth so that inequality is not so pronounced.  

Note that I say not so pronounced.  Inevitably, when I say to people a radical redistribution of wealth is desirable, people assume -- or should I say, pretend to assume -- that I mean that everyone should have absolute equal wealth.  I do not think this since clearly those who have invested time and effort gaining skills and qualifications, or who do arduous or dangerous work, should be paid much more than others.  Indeed, my ideal wealth distribution would be somewhat less equal than the average person thinks would be ideal (as depicted in the video), and more like how the average person thinks wealth is distributed in the UK (again, as depicted in the video).

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Hobbes and Rousseau on human nature

An article regarding the contrasting views of Hobbes and Rousseau on whether human beings are innately wicked.

Science shows Thomas Hobbes was right – which is why the Right-wing rule the Earth

In the Right-wing corner we have Thomas Hobbes, founding father of political philosophy, who argued that man is born wicked and must be civilised"
And on the Left we have Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the original romantic, whose gist was that humans start out innocent and get corrupted by society.
The author says that science shows Hobbes was right.  From my own personal experience and thoughts, it seems to me Rousseau was certainly wrong. Society doesn't make us nasty -- peoples' nastiness is innate. But it teaches the innately nasty people to put on an act so they are accepted by others. 

However, I do not believe Hobbes is entirely correct either. In my opinion, not everyone is born nasty. Others are not quite so nasty, and a minority actually nice. However, the nasty people -- the callous, the unfeeling, those indifferent to others -- set the agenda. They bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator. The innately nasty individuals will take advantage of others if given the chance and if it doesn't reflect badly on them. As a consequence, many people tend and should distrust others -- at least until we get to know them and can judge whether they are trustworthy or not

More generally I find the idea that we are born "blank slates" and all differences can be explained by “nurture” and “class” to be preposterous.  However, this emphatically does not justify the gross inequality we find in modern western societies, especially in the USA (I live in the UK).

Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Voyager Spacecraft

From the following article:

NASA marks 40th anniversary of Voyager launches

[O]n board each is a golden record with sounds and pictures from Earth, as well as spoken greetings in dozens of languages.
It’s almost certainly the case these records will never ever be listened to or viewed. The spacecraft will be drifting through space long after the extinction of humankind. It will drift for countless trillions of years. All other signs of the human race will have long since been obliterated. In fact, the whole Earth will have been swallowed up by the death throes of the Sun as it expands into a red giant. Just those discs that no-one and nothing will ever view or listen to as a lasting memento of human culture and life on Earth.


Saturday, 26 August 2017

Fully autonomous cars

I'm reading a lot in the past couple of days essentially saying that people are being irrational for being afraid to use fully autonomous cars.

I don't agree it's irrational at all. We have to bear in mind that computers can't actually see. It's difficult for them to make sense of their environment; certainly if they merely go by light as we do. Of course, hopefully, they'll use lidar. But there's cheap lidar systems, and expensive one's. You can be sure that they'll use the cheapest ones they can get away with. Their number one priority, after all, is to make a profit

Pot holes, debris on the road, crisp packets, rabbits running across the road. The number of unknowns the environment can throw at the car is unlimited. How do you program the car to distinguish between an empty carrier bag which it can drive through, and a rock? If they brake too suddenly, cars behind driven by people might well crash into the back.

What happens when ambulances, fire engines etc with the sirens blasting are in the nearby vicinity? What happens with road works? What about the possibility of remote hacking? How are they going to negotiate inclement weather conditions like heavy snow?

And these cars will be complex. Mechanically complex like other cars, but also complex in terms of all the programming. Suppose a few lines of code cause problems? Happens all the time with computer games and they have to issue patches (which might resolve the original problem, but cause a whole new load of problems). But your life is at stake, you cannot afford to have them programmed incorrectly!

It just seems sensible to me to wait until many people have travelled safely in them, and their track safety records exceed that of people driven cars, before getting into one.

Also see my blog post:

Self-Driving Cars

Changing from prepay energy meters to normal meters. Be leery of being overcharged!

I'm getting both my electricity and gas meters changed today from prepaid to the normal type of meter.  Since moving into this new flat ...