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Comment: Re:Where the pessimism comes from. (Score 4, Insightful) 158

by hey! (#47915329) Attached to: Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future

I'd argue that we do try to write about the future, but the thing is: it's pretty damn hard to predict the future. ...
The problem is that if we look at history, we see it littered with disruptive technologies and events which veered us way off course from that mere extrapolation into something new.

I think you are entirely correct about the difficulty in predicting disruptive technologies. But there's an angle here I think you may not have considered: the possibility that just the cultural values and norms of the distant future might be so alien to us that readers wouldn't identify with future people or want to read about them and their problems.

Imagine a reader in 1940 reading a science fiction story which accurately predicted 2014. The idea that there would be women working who aren't just trolling for husbands would strike him as bizarre and not very credible. An openly transgendered character who wasn't immediately arrested or put into a mental hospital would be beyond belief.

Now send that story back another 100 years, to 1840. The idea that blacks should be treated equally and even supervise whites would be shocking. Go back to 1740. The irrelevance of the hereditary aristocracy would be difficult to accept. In 1640, the secularism of 2014 society and would be distasteful, and the relative lack of censorship would be seen as radical (Milton wouldn't publish his landmark essay Aereopagitica for another four years). Hop back to 1340. A society in which the majority of the population is not tied to the land would be viewed as chaos, positively diseased. But in seven years the BLack Death will arrive in Western Europe. Displaced serfs will wander the land, taking wage work for the first time in places where the find labor shortages. This is a shocking change that will resist all attempts at reversal.

This is all quite apart from the changes in values that have been forced upon us by scientific and technological advancement. The ethical issues discussed in a modern text on medical ethics would probably have frozen Edgar Allen Poe's blood.

I think it's just as hard to predict how the values and norms of society will change in five hundred years as it is to accurately predict future technology. My guess is that while we'd find things to admire in that future society, overall we would find it disturbing, possibly even evil according to our values. I say this not out of pessimism, but out my observation that we're historically parochial. We think implicitly like Karl Marx -- that there's a point where history comes to an end. Only we happen to think that point is *now*. Yes, we understand that our technology will change radically, but we assume our culture will not.

Comment: Re:Illegal to use proxy services [Re: So-to-speak (Score 1) 380

by vux984 (#47914921) Attached to: Comcast Allegedly Asking Customers to Stop Using Tor

But the clear straightforward text is: proxies are listed on the list of things you are specifically not allowed to use or run


The clear straightforward text is: proxies are listed on the list of things you are specifically not allowed to use or run on your premises for the use of people off your premises

You could do the lawyer thing and claim to interpret it the way you say.

  That's not a lawyer thing, that's a basic reading comprehension thing.

I parsed the sentence and I showed you how I parsed it, so that if you disagreed with me you could point to the exact point you disagree with. If you feel there was an error in the parse, point at it.

Comment: Where the pessimism comes from. (Score 4, Insightful) 158

by hey! (#47914675) Attached to: Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future

The pessimism and dystopia in sci-fi doesn't come from a lack of research resources on engineering and science. It mainly comes from literary fashion.

If the fashion with editors is bleak, pessimistic, dystopian stories, then that's what readers will see on the bookshelves and in the magazines, and authors who want to see their work in print will color their stories accordingly. If you want to see more stories with a can-do, optimistic spirit, then you need to start a magazine or publisher with a policy of favoring such manuscripts. If there's an audience for such stories it's bound to be feasible. There a thousand serious sci-fi writers for every published one; most of them dreadful it is true, but there are sure to be a handful who write the good old stuff, and write it reasonably well.

A secondary problem is that misery provides many things that a writer needs in a story. Tolstoy once famously wrote, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." I actually Tolstoy had it backwards; there are many kinds of happy families. Dysfunctions on the other hand tends to fall into a small number of depressingly recognizable patterns. The problem with functional families from an author's standpoint is that they don't automatically provide something that he needs for his stories: conflict. Similarly a dystopian society is a rich source of conflicts, obstacles and color, as the author of Snow Crash must surely realize. Miserable people in a miserable setting are simply easier to write about.

I recently went on a reading jag of sci-fi from the 30s and 40s, and when I happened to watch a screwball comedy movie ("His Girl Friday") from the same era, I had an epiphany: the worlds of the sci-fi story and the 1940s comedy were more like each other than they were like our present world. The role of women and men; the prevalence of religious belief, the kinds of jobs people did, what they did in their spare time, the future of 1940 looked an awful lot like 1940.

When we write about the future, we don't write about a *plausible* future. We write about a future world which is like the present or some familiar historical epoch (e.g. Roman Empire), with conscious additions and deletions. I think a third reason may be our pessimism about our present and cynicism about the past. Which brings us right back to literary fashion.

Comment: Re:Illegal to use proxy services [Re: So-to-speak (Score 1) 380

by vux984 (#47913141) Attached to: Comcast Allegedly Asking Customers to Stop Using Tor

The straightforward reading, however, is that it is forbidden to use proxy services. You're also not allowed to run them, but that's specified separately.

No that's not a straightforward reading at all.

Lets drop the 'or run' to simplify it slightly and read that:

use dedicated, stand-alone equipment or servers from the Premises that provide network content or any other services to anyone outside of your Premises local area network.

now lets apply some plain structure:


use [ [dedicated, stand-alone equipment or servers] from [the premises]] that[ [provide network content or any other services] to [anyone outside of your premises local area network]]

now lets simplify a bit more:


use [ [servers] from [the premises]] that[[provide services] to [anyone outside of your premises]]

Clearly that reads one of two ways, either you are prohibited from providing services to others from your premises, or you are prohibited from using services from your premises that are reachable from outside your premise.

The first reading makes perfect sense.

The 2nd reading prevents you from accessing anything on the internet, unless it only reachable by you, which is ridiculous.

Clearly the straightforward reading is that the prohibition is on 'using' or 'provisioning' something on-premises that provides services to others.

Using a proxy service hosted off premises is not covered by that at all.

Further, any interpretation which does read as prohibiting the use of external proxy services would also prohibit the 'use' of external email servers, and web hosts, which is plainly ridiculous.

Comment: Re:When the cat's absent, the mice rejoice (Score 5, Insightful) 279

Well, I'd be with you if the government was poking around on the users' computers, but they weren't. The users were hosting the files on a public peer-to-peer network where you essentially advertise to the world you've downloaded the file and are making it available to the world. Since both those acts are illegal, you don't really have an expectation of privacy once you've told *everyone* you've done it. While the broadcasting of the file's availability doesn't prove you have criminal intent, it's certainly probable cause for further investigation.

These guys got off on a narrow technicality. Of course technicalities do matter; a government that isn't restrained by laws is inherently despotic. The agents simply misunderstood the law; they weren't violating anyone's privacy.

Comment: Re:Great one more fail (Score 1) 570

by vux984 (#47904867) Attached to: High School Student Builds Gun That Unlocks With Your Fingerprint

Note that this new "smart" gun won't save you from doing this.

The point of the penis shooting statistics is to pointedly refute that claim that gun owners are can be relied upon to be responsible.

Arguing that this particular tech doesn't stop guns owners from being irresponsible in one particular way doesn't refute the point.

Thus the point stands. "Gun owners" as a group cannot be assumed to be responsible. Therefore regulations to prevent the drooling mouthbreathers from being unduly dangerous to the public is reasonable.

Does that mean they should take away YOUR guns? Probably not, but if you accidently shot your self in the penis, maybe, just maybe you can't be trusted with a firearm. Maybe, just maybe, as a society we should prevent people like that from having guns. We require some minimal proof of competency before letting you drive in public, perhaps, just perhaps you shouldn't have a gun until you can at least demonstrate that you know to point it away from yourself when, especially when your finger is on the trigger.

Comment: Re:One Sure Way (Score 1) 275

by vux984 (#47904787) Attached to: California Tells Businesses: Stop Trying To Ban Consumer Reviews

Did you actually read the article you linked to? Take a look at the photo.. you can see the price tags... $10 to $25 for the rip off chargers, putting them smack in the price range for legitimate chargers. (BestBuy house brands Dynex and Insignia for example are exactly the same price range and has all the UL / CE certifications etc.)

Comment: Re:Crude? (Score 2) 96

by hey! (#47904781) Attached to: Original 11' <em>Star Trek Enterprise</em> Model Being Restored Again

Compare that to some of the ST:TNG props that I've seen that look fine on screen, but when examined closely look like someone gave a 5-year old a couple of shots of vodka and turned them loose with a paintbrush.

There's a certain wonder to that too.

I had the same reaction when I saw the ST:TNG props in person. You wouldn't buy a toy that looked that cheesy. The wonder of it is that the prop makers knew this piece of crap would look great onscreen. That's professional skill at work. Amateurs lavish loving care on stuff and overbuild them. Pros make them good enough, and put the extra effort into stuff that matters more.

Comment: Re: Great one more fail (Score 1) 570

by hey! (#47904749) Attached to: High School Student Builds Gun That Unlocks With Your Fingerprint

These kinds of responses are conditioned on certain assumptions that may not hold for all users.

For example, let's assume that you have no need whatsoever to prevent other users from using your gun. Then any complication you add to the firearm will necessarily make it less suitable, no matter how reliable that addition is. An example of someone on this end of the spectrum might be a big game hunter who carries a backup handgun.

On the other hand suppose you have need of a firearm, but there is so much concern that someone else might use it without authorization that you reasonably decide to do without. In that opposite situation you might well tolerate quite a high failure rate in such a device because it makes it possible to carry a gun. An example of someone on this end of the spectrum might be a prison guard -- prison guards do not carry handguns because of precisely this concern.

This isn't rocket science. It's all subject to a straightforward probabilistic analysis *of a particular scenario*. People who say that guns *always* must have a such a device are only considering one set of scenarios. People who say that guns must *never* have such a device are only considering a different set of scenarios. It's entirely possible that for such a device there are some where it is useful and others where it is not.

Comment: Re:I just want the new Nexus. (Score 1) 222

There are three professions where being untruthful is the key to success: Lawyers, salespeople, and marketing. All three are hired to portray their client in the most favorable light possible, and the very best ones lie through their teeth. The worst of these three are the marketers because they have legions of psychologists and scientists trying to figure out the best way to lie to people.

Yes! You're both presenting a perfectly defensible argument against marketing and reinforcing my original point! Because geeks tend to abhor marketing, we dismiss its significance, and are perennially gobsmacked as to why an intrinsically emotional, manipulatable species is so susceptible to emotional manipulation.

So long as humanity is what it is, reason will only ever get you so far. You either need to blow the doors off with a staggeringly amazing thing, or come to terms with the fact that every single entity who might care about your thing has feelings, and bending those feelings in your favor can work wonders.

It's not all bad, though; emotional manipulation works under much the same constraints. Unless you're a Level 80 Snake Oil Salesman with a hat full of luck, you're going to have a very hard time making your thing last if it doesn't live up to the hype--and your reputation will suffer for it.

Comment: Re:I just want the new Nexus. (Score 5, Insightful) 222

The only real feature of note was Apple Pay, which might finally make NFC payments take off in the US. It's been a technology that should have hit it big a couple of years ago, but has never seen much consumer buy-in for some reason.

It's pretty straightforward, to my mind. With the exception of all but the most staggering technological advancements, widespread adoption of new technology typically requires:

  1. a sound implementation,
  2. a robust support infrastructure, and
  3. an effective marketing campaign.

Geeks, for a variety of reasons, tend to respect the first, grok the second, and abhor the third. I personally believe it's what drives our perpetual cycle of incredulity on this subject--because we so detest the last part of this equation, we refuse to see its importance in getting all those squishy, distracted, emotional bags of water to adopt cool new stuff.

NFC has never had the effective marketing campaign in the US, and only kinda had the support infrastructure. The iPhone has incredible inertia on the marketing front, and Apple have clearly done the legwork on building a good starting lineup of financial institutions and retailers for Apple Pay. It remains to be seen whether this'll be sufficient to make NFC catch on, but it's easily the closest we've come to covering all three of the bases above.

Comment: Re:Not even close (Score 1) 193

by vux984 (#47885923) Attached to: The Documents From Google's First DMV Test In Nevada

Though with a bit of luck, that could actually lead to people not driving in conditions where they would be much better off staying put

And if luck goes against us, the inclement weather lands mid-day, and everyone has to get home from work, or is halfway home from work when the car throws up its hands, pulls over, and gives up.

Me, personally, I can generally avoid driving on snow days, but a lot of people simply don't have that luxury. Walmart and McDonalds and the rest of the service and retail industry don't close at the first sign of snow and they tend to be less than generous when staff claim difficulty getting to work.

Comment: Re:I dont know why this is a bad thing (Score 1) 193

by vux984 (#47885373) Attached to: The Documents From Google's First DMV Test In Nevada

All of these tests and such aren't being done so they can release an autonomous car tomorrow, its an ongoing process and will take time.

That's understood.

IEEE Spectrum contributor Mark Harris obtained a copy of the DMV test Google's autonomous car passed in Nevada in 2012

It "passed"?

Would your or I pass a drivers test if we couldn't handle weather, road construction, roundabouts, "specific turns", and had our mom in the back seat reaching over to take the controls whenever we weren't sure of ourselves? Of course not.

When it passes a drivers test that'll be a big day. But that test in 2012 was not that day. There's much to celebrate, and as you said its an ongoing research project. But it didn't pass a Nevada drivers test. So why say it did?

It did very well, impressively well, for an autonomous vehicle even... but its still well short of being issued a drivers license, which is what an actual pass of an actual test would imply.

its a research project and the media seems to have an agenda to make autonomous cars into the boogeyman

Because the hype machine says it passed a drivers test, leading to the inference that its ready to be let loose on the streets, when CLEARLY they are no where near ready in actuality.

Comment: Re:#1 Thank You, #2 Lego Mindstorm (Score 1) 115

by vux984 (#47884597) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Robotics or Electronic Kits For Wounded Veterans?

ISIS is a splintercell that has been cut off of support from Al Queda. Al Qaeda has publicly stated this. It was born of members that were based out of Syria, Iran and Iraq

All true.

. I believe that if Saddam was still in power, that they would most likely be worse then they are now, because they Saddam regime would have politically aligned themselves with their cause,

Assuming it would have existed as a significant entity in the first place. Which it wouldn't have. It would have just been some minor radical splinter with low membership, and no real influence.

You used the phrase "born" when you described it. And that is an apt metaphor -- WE are one of its parents. We planted the seeds that enabled it to grow.

You cannot tell me that you believe that a random sheep farmer with no internet access has the capability of teaching himself how to build a IED or Suicide Vest.

Of course not. If we hadn't been there he'd still be farming sheep. And his sons would be learning to farm sheep instead of joining groups like ISIS.

The majority of civilian casualties happened outside of the primary conflict,

And they wouldn't have happened if we hadn't gone there. You can bleat they were not our "fault" all you like, and I agree we generally didn't go around killing civilians on purpose or anything like that. But the reality remains that our presence there provoked that response.

The infrastructure we destroyed meant they couldn't get their kids to the hospital when they were sick, or led to the water being undrinkable or the food spoiling leading to the spread of disease which culled the older and weaker. And the survivors? What do they do? The economy is screwed, they've lost loved ones... the government is a shambles, the police collapsed, local power groups are de facto in charge, they are angry and they need to blame someone. They are ripe for recruitment and radicalization. To strike back at another religious faction and America and anyone else that is proximate that isn't "them".

Often times our actions aren't to just protect the interests and Freedoms of just ourselves, but to help liberate the innocent from a tyrant as well

It doesn't matter how good our intentions wee, we manufacture groups like ISIS, and Al Qaeda with our so-called 'world police' activity.

Comment: Not even close (Score 0) 193

by vux984 (#47884201) Attached to: The Documents From Google's First DMV Test In Nevada

âoeWe canâ(TM)t fail an applicant for not being able to navigate a traffic circle if they say that there [sic] vehicle canâ(TM)t yet do it.â

They had no trouble failing me for not being able to navigate certain traffic situations correctly on my first drivers test. Had I said, well "I can't do that yet" that would not have resulted in a pass.

So the car failed. Let it fail. Its no big deal that it failed. Constructing an illegitmate pass for headlines just stirs pointless controversy.

This test shows that there's lots of good progress, but that's it.

As for driverless cars actually being ready ? No where near close.

Requiring the driver to be ready to jump in while in action is absurd to the point of not even considering it.

Stopping the car, and handing the controls over is still going to lead to tons of problems. Cars stopping at railway crossings and round abouts and then just sitting there jamming traffic... because the driver fell asleep 30 minutes ago. (And why SHOULDN'T the driver fall asleep -- he's tired, bored, and not doing anything... what do you expect will happen)

Until self driving cars reach the long term goal of being responsible for driving in basically anything a human is currently expected to cope with they can't rise to being more than a novelty, or some limited highway auto-pilot cruise control system.

Because even if it CAN usually handle the daily commute, if it can't handle it ALL THE TIME its a bad idea.

Today when there's snow in a city that doesn't get snow that often its a mess. And that's with mostly drivers who drive every day, know the route they are going like the back of their hand, know where the tricky / problematic spots are etc, and know know how their cars handle at least in normal conditions. And its a mess.

Now, lets substitute that with a city full of drivers who only drive 3 - 4 times a year, are completely out of practice, have no real experience with their car, and only have a general imprecise sense of the route they need to take -- and lets do that on a day the self driving cars collectively decided they can't handle the conditions.

That would be like me driving my grandmother around every day everywhere she needs to go, and then when the weather is at its worst... "Hey grams, yeah, I know you've only driven this car a handful of times yourself in the last 5 years, but your license is still valid, so how about you take the wheel today?". And doing that accross an entire city.

Yes, that will work out well.

I go on working for the same reason a hen goes on laying eggs. -- H.L. Mencken