Does it make you feel more alive – A personal framework for approximatively evaluating ethics of technology as a user as well as technologist

I subscribe to the notion that ethics is entirely rational and maps to game theory. Ethics is about the principled resolution of conflicts of interest between autonomous agents under conditions of shared purpose when playing long games. [1] With this in mind, it is crucial to model incentives and their consequences for systems to evaluate ethics. On the most general level, we can take the goal of avoiding suffering as the shared purpose of all humans on earth. Additionally, maintaining the global civilization might be another high-level goal. Technologists with the ability to create and change technological systems should do so ethically by considering these goals and projecting the impact of the system they create into the distant future. Making this difficult, the complexity of networks of human and non-human entities interacting through technology on a global scale has become overwhelming. Additionally, technology changes at such a fast pace that national and global elites cannot anticipate its full impact anymore, leading to increasing randomness in societies trajectories without anyone being able to formulate and implement a coherent plan projecting them into the future. Therefore it is even more critical that technologists evaluate the ethics and impacts of their actions, especially given the enormous leverage that computer technology offers.

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Creating a FreeCAD 3D view inside Jupyter Notebooks - GSoC 2020

Accidentally while creating a lamp I ended up learning FreeCAD. FreeCAD is an amazing open source CAD program. It still amazes me that people created this for free in their spare time. The software is still in it’s alpha version and is far from perfect as you can tell by the current release version number 0.19 and the heated discussions around how soon a 1.0 release could be reached. Still it’s very usable and once you get the gist of it you can create powerful and complex designs. FreeCADs approach to CAD is a parametric design. That means that you specify shapes with parameters. E.g. you base the 3D shape on a 2D drawing. The geometric figures of the 2D drawing - circles, recatangles, lines - are all constrained with parameters. Then you create a 3D shape out of your 2D sketch, for example by extruding it. And every step is based on certain parameters that can reference previous parameters. It’s basically visual programming. Is FreeCAD NP-complete? Probably, but that’s a topic for another time. Anyways. The parametric approach allows you to easily modify your design at any time just by tuning these parameters. For example with my lamp design the number of aluminium bars is a parameter I can simply tweak at any point in time. All the relevant details depending on this number will be automatically recomputed by FreeCAD. This gives great flexibility and allows for fast customization.

Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is a program run by Google that gives stipends to students who over a period of three months implement an open source project with a mentor organization. Among the organizations are well known ones like Arduino, Ruby or Wikimedia. But there are also more niche organizations that are not so widely known. The great part about GSoC is that students apply for specific projects, so you yourself determine how exciting the thing you work on is if you get accepted. This and the work from home aspects are definitely something a lot of internships can’t offer. For me it started with seeing the potential of first designing a parametric lamp and then creating a custom web page where you could change the parameters to your liking and see a live 3D rendering of the changed lamp. Then you just download the 3D files and 3D-print the lamp. I was heavily inspired by the card1o cover generator created with OpenSCAD. After some research I realized that something comparable to rendering OpenSCAD in the web browser does not exist for FreeCAD yet. I already knew about GSoC and to my suprise FreeCAD was one of the open source organizations taking part in GSoC 2020.

The result from printing the cover generator customized card1o badge cover. It's such a cool experience to customize something so effortlessly and to then have it in your hands. Unlike designing everything you don't have to think a about it too much, but you still feel more connected to the end product since it has a personal touch. That's the experience I wanted to create for my lamp design.

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Digital RGB LED guide

I need LEDs, a lot of LEDs. About 13.000 for a lighting project. That should be about 1400$ worth of LED. Therefore here is the result of the research I did to prevent wasting a huge load of cash I do not have anyways.

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Automating LaTeX compilation in Gitlab-CI

The problem

You are pushing LateX documents into a repository with all of your friends. Your friends compile the PDF files locally and sometimes push garbage into the repo. Also you want to email your assignments to your tutors. But you are already annoyed by writing commit messages. Opening your email client and dragging and dropping that PDF, for you it’s pain in it’s purest form. This makes you very sad. You ask yourself: What could I do about it?

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