Prison population in democracy and totalitarianism

Quite often, the data on repressions are used to demonstrate that a country is not “sufficiently democratic”. Here is some rather interesting data on the prison population in different countries from the International Centre for Prison Studies.

Let’s start with Russia, as it is now again the new enemy #1 of the “democratic world” as announced by the leaders of USA. In Russia, the number of prisoners equals to 467 people per 100,000 of national population. Is that a lot or not?

Let’s compare with other well-known totalitarian regimes. Their neighbor – Belarus with their totalitarian leader Lukashenko sports 335 people per 100,000 of population in jails. Uhm, okay, so Belarus is not as totalitarian as we thought. But certainly Iran would qualify as a totalitarian state, where people are thrown into jail for minimal brushes with the Muslim laws, right? Iran has 283 people per 100,000 of population in jails. No, this cannot be right. China! China is the totalitarian state of the century! China’s oppression of the “small man” is iconic and this is confirmed by their prison rate of … 124 people per 100,000 of national population. Strange, isn’t it?

Okay. Let’s get to the democratic side then. How are the things in the leader of the world democracy – United States? United States welcomes you to democracy with a prison rate of 707 detainees per 100,000 of national population. Oops. USA has 5% of the world population and 25% of the world incarcerated population.

Does this mean that to reach proper enlightened democracy Russia has to put double the number of people into jails and China would have to get five times as fast at locking people up?

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ECC memory – what’s the deal?

I remember back in the nineties we were all trying to get the ECC memory for the computers we built. The ECC memory was expensive and we all discussed whether a particular configuration would justify the expense of ECC memory or might just survive without. The amounts of memory at the time were measured in megabytes, not gigabytes, like now. So we all thought that some time in the future, in five years or so, the ECC memory will cost the same as the non-ECC memory and all computers will finally come equipped with ECC memory by default, because the amounts of memory would simply require the use of error correction.

What is ECC memory?
Error-correcting code memory – Error Checking & Correction, ECC – is a type of computer memory that detects and corrects the most common data corruption as the data is passed in and out of the memory. ECC memory has additional memory banks that store checksums of data stored in the memory.

At the time, the calculations showed that with the “typical” desktop the error rate in the memory would be sufficiently low and not present a danger. However, the amount of memory in a typical computer has increased by several orders of magnitude since then. Only while we talked about a few hundred megabytes of memory the errors were negligible. Once you step over the gigabyte threshold, memory errors become a statistical reality. Without the ECC memory, we accumulate errors in our data and algorithms every single day.

It is surprising that with the current state of technology we are not using ECC memory everywhere, just as I thought back in the nineties we would. At least, for your own good, do get ECC memory on the computers you use.… -->

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