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Comment: This might be just a blip (Score 0) 80

by Dr. Spork (#46756005) Attached to: Humans Are Taking Jobs From Robots In Japan
Just wait a few production cycles and the new manager will discover that coders can program AIs that do even better than experienced machinists at making designs that reduce scrap, anticipate points of failure, and shorten production lines. Once the properties of the material being used can be reliably modeled, an AI can start with input data from metallurgy, and supplement it with data mined from authorized repair shops that make accurate reports about what broke, when, where and how. That failure data will update the metallurgical models and refresh the designs. At this sort of thing (massive data integration, statistical reasoning, etc.) AIs will probably always have an advantage over humans.

Comment: Top survival skill: Making friends and allies. (Score 1) 723

by Dr. Spork (#46740379) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

The people most likely to make it through any kind of collapse are ones who can organize or join a social network that functions despite the new challenges. They would willingly watch the backs of their friends and receive the same benefit from them. They would shut up and work on the projects of the group, even if they suspected a "more optimal" strategy was available.

The first people to starve or die from infections would be the individualists who think that as soon as things get tough, they have to retreat to bunkers with their guns. People with social skills, people who are easy to like, people who are good with kids, people who evoke sympathy from others, people who are hard-working, open and jovial - they would be the ones that are in the best position to benefit from the cooperation that will become necessary when things get tough.

The way I see it, the fact that we can survive without the explicit beneficence of others is probably the biggest luxury of our age. We work for money, trade money for necessities and comforts, and this works fine even in the complete absence of exchanging favors. But this kind of lifestyle is a complete anomaly in human history. Actually, even now, the majority of the Earth's people do not live this way. This kind of informal social reciprocity is what we would need to return to. We would become tribal again. On Slashdot, people are under the illusion that the individualism of late-industrial society can somehow survive its collapse. That would be a fatal mistake. The right strategy is to give up a great deal of our autonomy for the sake of being useful to others. What you're ultimately doing after you subordinate yourself to the group will probably not involve much of what you learned in your jobs and hobbies. A lot of it will involve digging, carrying, sawing, gathering and socializing. Grit and attitude are far more valuable for these necessary things than skill and knowledge. Even complete non-experts with the right work ethic will contribute a great deal to their collective group, because of the sheer amount of extra work that will be necessary in a post-collapse society.

Comment: Re:"Obamacare Enrollment"? (Score 1) 720

by wytcld (#46720789) Attached to: Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

The number of people who have actually paid, out of these 7 million, remains a closely-guarded secret.

It's not a secret. It simply isn't a figure anyone has at hand. Generally you can pay for a policy up to 30 days late. The final enrollment date was the end of March. It's not the end of April yet. Even when it is, they will need to time to compile all the different figures from across the country.


More than 9 million Americans have gotten health insurance for the first time thanks to Obamacare, according to a new report from the Rand Corporation.

Most of the people who got new insurance didn’t buy it on the Obamacare exchanges but rather signed up with an employer, the survey found. Rand says that 8.2 million people have gained insurance from an employer since September — more than 7 million of them who had no health insurance before.


So that $95 maximum penalty this year, plus all the increased awareness of the availability and desirability of health insurance, has led to millions more signing up for health insurance. This is bad ... why?

Comment: 13 watts at idle is better than I expected (Score 3, Interesting) 146

by Dr. Spork (#46694085) Attached to: AMD Unveils the Liquid-Cooled, Dual-GPU Radeon R9 295X2 At $1,500
So finally, AMD came out with a power algorithm that reduces power consumption when the resources of the GPU aren't needed. I'm not sure where in their product line they introduced it, but it's about damn time. There are all kinds of good reasons to leave our computers on all the time, but I haven't been doing it because the idle power consumption has been needlessly high - in my case, over 50 watts. This adds up over time. Just how much power does a high-end computer need to idle, serve files, run non-demanding background processes, etc.? Millions of computers do just that, for many hours every day. A focus on reducing the power draw of these basically idling computers could make a huge difference to the world.

Comment: Banks deflecting attention from themselves (Score 2) 342

by FreeUser (#46683107) Attached to: Australia May 'Pause' Trades To Tackle High-Frequency Trading

High frequency trading isn't the issue. The banks are the real "insiders", and are pointing fingers at small, high frequency prop shops to deflect attention from themselves, and to get back to the bad old days when they could really gouge their customers with wide spreads.

High frequency traders make their money by having better pricing models, narrowing spreads in the market, and being able to execute and then get out of a position quickly to lock in their profits and eliminate risk. The banks like to be the middleman, with wide spreads, so that they can pocket the difference.

The net result of high frequency traders is that the rest of us can get a stock much closer to their actual value (due to narrow spreads). Yes, the high freqency traders make good money by selling the stock $0.005 off the "real" value to me and then immediately getting out of the position by reselling it a millisecond later and locking in that $0.005 profit, but I have only paid a premium of $0.005 instad of the $0.35 or worse the banks would love to gouge me for (and used to, a few short years ago).

We get rid of high freqency trading and we'll be back to the bad old days, when the real insiders really did gouge us, and we all paid far too much for our investments, and were able to sell at far too little, with the likes of Goldman Sachs pocketing the enormous difference.

As for the front-running nonsense on 60 Minutes, that's always been illegal (contrary to what we're being told), and it is not at all how high frequency trading works. If someone was in fact doing that, then they're in a whole world of hurt with the SEC (and rightly so), but this entire exercise appears much more like a distraction: blame small outsider firms who've made the marketplace more effecient and tightened spreads for problems created by corruption within the big banks, and hope no one least until the next bank-induced crash.

Comment: Re:No actual advantage? (Score 1) 167

by Dr. Spork (#46673313) Attached to: A Rock Paper Scissors Brainteaser

A very cool problem! Thank you for sharing it and helping us along with the discussion.

You're right that I ruled out the opponent voluntarily using rock, based on the informal idea that it could only make things worse, since the weakness of the opponent comes from what is already a strategy with too many rocks, which will be countered. I also ruled out ever using scissors against that rock-heavy strategy in a similarly informal way. And this makes the problem fairly easy to calculate.

So, here's something I haven't thought about yet: What is the opponent's optimal strategy on the turns where he gets to choose what he throws?

Comment: Re:No actual advantage? (Score 1) 167

by Dr. Spork (#46672055) Attached to: A Rock Paper Scissors Brainteaser
So here's what I have:

First, there is some uncertainty about what ratio of your opponent's throws will be paper. Let's call that ratio x. This means that we can define the likelyhood of his throws this way:

HeDoesRock = .5, HeDoesPaper = x, HeDoesScissors = .5 - x

Now you need to figure out the optimal winning ratio of your throwing either rock or paper.

YouWinIfRock = HeDoesScissors = (.5 - x); YouLoseIfRock = HeDoesPaper = x
YouWinIfPaper = HeDoesRock = .5; YouLoseIfPaper = HeDoesScissors = .5 - x

Winning Margin = FreqRock[(.5 - x) - x] + FreqPaper[.5 - (.5 - x)] = FreqRock(.5 - 2x) + FreqPaper(x)

Now take the first derivative of winning margin and set it to zero to find the maximum:
d/dx .5FreqRock - 2FreqRock(x) +FreqPaper(x) = -2FreqRock +FreqPaper = 0

So 2(FreqRock) = FreqPaper, so you should throw paper twice as often as you throw rock. And surprisingly, you can get this result without ever needing to know x, the optimal ratio of your opponent throwing paper. Is that right?

Comment: What should opponent do on non-forced turns? (Score 1) 167

by Dr. Spork (#46671769) Attached to: A Rock Paper Scissors Brainteaser

To figure out what you should do, first assume your opponent is rational, and will make good choices whenever he is able. Since he knows that you will play a paper-heavy strategy to counter his rock-heavy strategy, it would not be rational to voluntarily choose more rocks. That could only make things worse.

But if he tried to exploit your paper-heavy strategy by throwing scissors on turns when he gets a choice, you'd have a perfect strategy against this: All rock. On forced rock, you get a redo, and on non-forced rock, he does scissors and you win. So on first pass, I think that your opponent should favor paper when he can choose. It's not like you'll ever do scissors. That's auto-lose half the time - basically a complete surrender of your advantage. So paper is a safe move for your opponent.

The problem is that if he did 50% rock and 50% paper, then all-paper will be your perfect counter. He won't let you do that, so he'll have to throw in some scissors. Just how many? It looks now like you will both simultaneously have to determine optimal strategies in order to answer that question, and this will require derivatives of two sets of optimal-choice equations - so that you can solve for the two maxima. Sounds like a fun problem!

Comment: This is kinda gross. (Score 5, Insightful) 564

by Dr. Spork (#46669589) Attached to: Was Eich a Threat To Mozilla's $1B Google "Trust Fund"?

If I still lived in California I would also have been "virulently opposed" to prop 8, but I hate the idea of judging someone's employability based on how they vote. To suggest that Google would treat Mozilla differently simply based on a single-issue stance of its new CEO is really selling them short. They invest in Mozilla for strategic reasons. (Mozilla isn't some sort of lazy couch-crasher that Google supports because of Mozilla's charming personality.)

And for that matter, I don't think we should judge products based on the ideology of the people who created them. To save us some time, I'll get straight to a Hitler example, noting that Hitler personally played an important role in the design of the VW Beetle. But hippies can still drive Beetles without thereby supporting Hitler.

Comment: This is all very heavy, slow and unimaginative! (Score 1) 392

by Dr. Spork (#46665041) Attached to: How Many People Does It Take To Colonize Another Star System?

Generation ships are pointlessly risky, heavy, expensive and tedious for the inhabitants. Accelerating a city of humans to acceptable speeds is just bad scifi. Rather than the colonists being born en route in some miserable spaceship full of stressed cooped-up people, I say it's better that they are born at their destination, in an orbiting nursery that could partially be constructed from local materials. The parenting would have to be done by AI and the gestating would happen in an artificial womb, but both of these technologies will be ready long before a suitable propulsion system is perfected. There are already independent reasons to pursue both parenting/tutoring AI and artificial wombs for terrestrial applications, and I expect that both systems will be usable in the lifetimes of some of today's slashdotters. Children being raised by AI is potentially controversial, but before long, AIs will be better at parenting than the many millions of bad human parents in the world today, who still get to keep their kids. And it will keep improving, even if human parents don't.

The worries about genetic diversity are just stupid. We could easily just bring along frozen fertilized eggs, which will remain viable with proper shielding for even a century-long trip. These could be gestated by the early generations of colonists, or by the artificial wombs that they brought along. But I would think they'd serve as a backup. Much less cumbersome would be to simply transmit some suitable DNA sequences from Earth once the colony ship arrives, and print it to DNA using Venter technology that we basically already have. The process is less likely than freezing to introduce errors. The privilege of instantiating your DNA in another solar system could be a reward for super-awesome human beings that do cool stuff in the decades that the ship is en route - a kind of Nobel Prize for being a worthwhile person.

The point of any stellar colony ship is to travel light - as light as possible. That means bringing 3D printers that could use materials at the destination to make the stuff that the colony will need: initially, a space station and its facilities. If this payload is light enough - just tools that are able to make the necessary tools on site - then conventional nuclear propulsion might be enough to accelerate the ship to an acceptable speed, and we'd be ready to launch in a mere 150 years. In comparison, a cumbersome ship that hosts a city of 40,000 people, plus all the farms they will need to stay alive for a century, plus all the facilities they will need to keep from going insane, will launch ... never. Because it's a stupid, stupid idea.

When someone says "I want a programming language in which I need only say what I wish done," give him a lollipop.