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Comment: At the airport (Score 1) 409 409

I see this with many of the older light airplanes. Types like the Cessna 150 and Piper Cub were designed when people weighed less, and it's difficult to get two 2015-size people plus a usable fuel load in either. There have been commercial plane crashes due to portly passengers (e.g. Air Midwest 5481).

I can fly a Cessna 152 solo with full fuel tanks, but if I have anybody in the plane with me I have to calculate how much fuel I can carry without being overweight. I can't do anything meaningful with a 150, and I'm not that heavy.

...laura

Comment: Up close and personal (Score 3, Interesting) 151 151

I've seen two quasi-startups go down the tubes from the inside.

One company had some very clever ideas, but were chronically incapable of making reliable hardware, or of making software that worked. They had no internal procedures to track what they were making, what it was supposed to do, or how they knew it worked. Too many releases were "we have to ship something to keep from losing what little credibility we still have".

Another company tried to reinvent itself after its prime business peaked and then started to implode. The idea we tried to develop wasn't commercially uninteresting, but we had major focus issues. What, exactly, do we want to do? Who is going to buy it? For how much? Having owned our old industry we weren't very good at competing with others in our new industry.

Both companies had issues with ineffectual leadership, flavour-of-the-month development, and business decisions made to help friends rather than make money. Both were broadsided by external developments that eventually rendered their products commercially irrelevant.

...laura

Comment: International security theater (Score 1) 510 510

It's not just in the U.S.A.

In Canada we've just had a verdict in a supposedly homegrown terrorism case (do a search for the names Nuttal and Korody), but it's clear that the defendants only have a handful of brain cells between them (heroin will do that...), and the undercover cops had a major part in turning a couple of harmless losers who aren't quite sure what day it is in to a major threat to national security. Needless to say, their lawyer is going for entrapment.

Also needless to say, the media are going entirely with the government/party line...

...laura

Comment: Re:Ozone layer is recovering (Score 5, Informative) 141 141

I can't tell if you are joking or serious, but I'll try to explain. The ozone layer is a completely distinct problem from global warming. The presence of ozone is necessary because ozone blocks UV radiation. Ozone does act as a weak greenhouse gas, as you can see on the list of greenhouse gases here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas but it is one of the weakest. Note that if anything, this would mean you'd naively expect a lower temperature when there's more ozone (in fact the actual relation is more complicated). So the idea that the ozone hole would have caused warming is just deeply wrong.

Comment: Re:What Would We Be Competing For? (Score 1) 421 421

You are made for carbon. The AI can use that carbon and other atoms for something else. Your atoms are nearby to it and it doesn't need to move up a gravity well. And why restrict what resources it uses when it doesn't need to? And if finds the nearby atmosphere "toxic" then why not respond by modifying that atmosphere? You are drastically underestimating how much freedom the AI has potential to do. We cannot risk it deciding what it does and gamble that it makes decisions that don't hurt us simply because you can conceive of possible ways it might be able to achieve its goals without doing so. That's wishful thinking in a nutshell.

Comment: Re:Anthropomorphizing (Score 3, Insightful) 421 421

On the contrary, the primary concern is that people who think it will go well are over anthropomorphizing. If general AI is made, there's no reason to think it will have a motivation structure that agrees with humans or that we can even easily model. That's the primary concern. I agree with most of the rest of your second paragraph is accurate in the sense that it general AI seems far away at this point. But the basic idea that AI is a threat isn't from anthropomorphizing. I recommend reading Bostrom's excellent book "Superintelligence" on the topic.

Comment: My first Windows (Score 1) 387 387

Windows 3.0 was the first version I used to any significant degree. It looked so high-tech, though to 2015 eyes it looks like something from the old stone age. It did some cool stuff. It also gave us General Protection Faults, the predecessor to the Blue Screen Of Death.

For a long time I recommended Windows 98 to non-technical users. Some people claimed there was a USB implementation for Windows 95, but after careful study I have come to the conclusion they were mistaken. My first exposure to Windows 95 was an early alpha (I worked for the evil empire at the time) that crashed and required reformatting the hard disc after attempting to reconfigure the mouse.

I was intrigued by some of the other options out there. I sent my resume to Quarterdeck - I thought DESQview was neat - but only got a thanks-but-no-thanks postcard back.

...laura

Comment: Re:Factor of 10 (Score 4, Interesting) 77 77

A big part of the US shuttle program was that it was a compromise that had to do everything for everyone. For example, the initial plan was going to be fully reusable, but since they didn't have the money for that, it had to have the singe-use fuel tank. It also had to do orbital profiles for the military, such as being able to launch, release a single satellite and come down after making a single polar orbit. The plan was to Vandenberg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vandenberg_AFB_Space_Launch_Complex_6 for the launch. The entire idea was a bit silly since the entire idea was to use it to launch spy satellites faster than the Soviets could shoot term down if the cold war got luke-warm (but somehow not becoming an outright hot war). It is possible that this was actually a cover for another orbital profile that hasn't yet been declassified. But the basic upshot is clear: the shuttle had to many different things for many different people, many who never even ended up using it for the desired purposes. If you make something that has to a hundred different things don't be surprised if is very expensive.

Comment: Fiber is fast! (Score 5, Insightful) 221 221

Fiber is amply fast.

The bottleneck is the cavalier attitude of web designers to network resources. You do not need to load 25 different URLs (DNS lookups, plus autoplay video and all the usual clickbait junk) to show me a weather forecast. Or a Slashdot article, for that matter...

...laura

Comment: Mixed reaction (Score 5, Insightful) 328 328

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, some of these regulations are clear attempts to just protect the taxi industry from new models. On the other hand, some of the regulations (like having some basic insurance to cover if things go wrong) are pretty reasonable. On the gripping hand, both Uber and Lyft are both just blatantly ignoring regulations in many jurisdictions, and whether or not one thinks the laws should be there, it is hard to think that having cheaper car services is such a compellingly necessary service that it can morally or ethically justify ignoring laws.

Comment: Sounds about right (Score 1) 361 361

I came of age in the late '70s and early '80s, and my musical tastes reflect that.

There have been some new discoveries along the way. I adore Sheryl Crow, and thought Lady Gaga was a breath of fresh air. With those exceptions (and a few others) I haven't heard much of interest since the early '90s.

I remain baffled by rap.

...laura

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