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Comment: No it isn't that we won't (Score 1) 173

But that we are so far from any kind of AI that worrying about what form it might take is stupid. Yes, there are lots of things that might happen in the far future. Until they are closer, worrying about them is silly. There have been stories from people who are all paranoid about AI and think we need to start making with the rules. No we don't, we are so far away we don't even know how far away we are. We also have no idea what form it'll take. May turn out that self awareness is a uniquely biological trait and we never make computers that are truly strong AI.

Also if you are betting your life (regardless of if this means an actual bet, singular investment of all assets, etc) on something far off, you are a moron. You have no idea when a technology will happen, if it'll even be possible, and if it is if it'll even be marketable. Want a great example? SED, surface-conduction electron-emitter display. Reasonably chance you've never even heard of it. Was a new tech from Canon, basically a flat, large, hig rez take on CRT. Offered extremely high refresh rates (and thus low blur) great contrast ratio, wide viewing angle, etc. Very exciting display technology lots of people looked forward to as an LCD alternative. Wouldn't displace LCD, but would be a better technology for many uses. It was real too, actual working sets were shown at CES in 2006.

What happened? Well as a result of litigation, the financial downturn, and the general market, they decided to pack it in and stop development. They shut down and liquidated that division in 2010, and there's been no further development. So despite it being real and doable, it didn't happen and almost certainly never will happen.

Now compare that to the concept of strong AI, which we have no idea if it even can exist, if it does what form it will take, and if so what technology will be required. Maybe not the best thing to be betting the farm on.

Comment: People worry too much. (Score 1) 266

by hey! (#48446699) Attached to: Blame America For Everything You Hate About "Internet Culture"

It's OK if some people like different things than you.

French people liking to discuss politics online doesn't make them snobs. It just makes them people who like discussing politics online. And I know some very smart and politically involved Americans who are suckers for a cute dog video. Perhaps they'd be up for more poliltical discussion if every two years they were deluged with sly, dishonest, soul-suckingly stupid political advertisements. In France, with a population oif 63 million, presidential candidate spending is limited to 30 million dollars. My state has 1/10 the population of france, and the two leading candidates inthe last Senatorial election spent 85 billion -- and that's in an off year. So we Americans get exposed to a lot more unsolicited political communication than the French do.

But let's suppose that all things being equal, the French enjoy a good political argument online more than Americans do. So what?

I think resentment -- or even excessive concern -- over people who like different things than you is a sign of insecurity. When someone gets to the point where they insiste everyone join their side or be branded a fool or a snob, that's defeinitely someone who's seeking the safety of the herd.

Comment: A lot depends on size of the monitor (Score 1) 291

by Sycraft-fu (#48442765) Attached to: Eizo Debuts Monitor With 1:1 Aspect Ratio

The bigger it is, the wider that is useful. Basically you find that you need a certain amount of vertical real estate to work effectively. So on a small screen like a laptop, a 4:3, or even more square, monitor can be of use. However when you start getting large desktop displays, wide is very nice. Personally I like 16:10 displays for the desktop, in part because I find them aesthetically pleasing (likely because they are near the golden ratio) but also because for the large sizes I like (30" currently) it provides a good amount of vertical real estate, but plenty of horizontal to fill my field of view and allow for multiple things to be displayed at once.

For TV, heck I could go even more than 16:9 if such a thing were standard. I was always partial to 1.85:1 3 perf and 2:1 Superscope for movies myself.

Comment: Re:Unnatural aspect ratio (Score 1) 291

by hey! (#48441543) Attached to: Eizo Debuts Monitor With 1:1 Aspect Ratio

There's no such thing as a "natural" aspect ratio, because sitting with your eyes glued to a monitor isn't what we evolved to do.

Years of designing software have taught me one thing, which is that interfaces have to suit the task. When I'm writing or reading, I like a vertically oriented monitor. When I'm watching a movie, I like wide aspect ratio monitor. When I'm programming, I like a moderate aspect ratio landscape monitor, but very, very big. Bigger than I'd want to read a book on or watch a movie on.

So every monitor used for every kind of task is necessarily a compromise, but some monitors may be just the thing for a certain task. Maybe there's a task or mix of tasks where an 19" x 19" sqauare is a good compromise, or a single task where it's ideal. They seem to be pitching it at CAD users. I can see that. I've got my bridge drawings in a rectangular area on screen, but I still have another generous rectangular area for property sheets, tool palletes etc. When I'm working on my tower I arrange things into vertical rectangles.

Or this thing could be a nutty idea in search of a use. But there's probably one out there.

Comment: I imagine not (Score 1) 138

by Sycraft-fu (#48434371) Attached to: Microsoft Rolls Out Robot Security Guards

However the problem is that it can presumably notify security that you've done that. Given that they'll have full video of it, and know where the unit was, the chances of you getting caught are pretty high.

These aren't the kind of thing that would work well on their own out in the middle of nowhere but on a campus like MS's with human backup I imagine they are pretty effective. Rolling security cameras basically.

Comment: Re:yeah. Except RAM, CPU, and bus bandwidth (Score 1) 98

by hey! (#48434165) Attached to: Intel Planning Thumb-Sized PCs For Next Year

Well, branch prediction doesn't get you much when most of your CPU cycles are going unused. Caching stuff in RAM can be a big win -- under certain circumstances. If adding more RAM means you can increase the probability of a cache hit significantly, good for you. But the fundamental fact remains that if a system is performing well enough, making it more powerful has limited practical utility.

I speak from decades of experience working with database sytems. It's wasteful to take a shotgun approach to performance improvement. You need to find where the bottleneck is, then widen that.

Comment: Re:If it can transcode high bitrate/any file type (Score 1) 98

by hey! (#48431101) Attached to: Intel Planning Thumb-Sized PCs For Next Year

One aspect of optimizing systems is that you don't get any performance boost by adding a resource you already have a surplus of.

Most database servers built from low end technologies have CPU cycles to spare. That's beause boatloads of CPU power is cheap, but I/O bandwidth is expensive.

Comment: Re:Half the story... (Score 2) 233

by hey! (#48430623) Attached to: Does Being First Still Matter In America?

And why had we been developing the engines in the first place?

The "We Choose to Go to the Moon" speech was given, if I recall correctly, in September of 1962. This almost a year and a half after Alan Shepherd went into space on Mercury-Redstone 3, and some four years after the Mercury program had been conceived under President Eisenhower. The purpose was to rally people around a goal that had already consumed almost 2 billion dollars and would consume well over a hundred billion dollars (in today's terms). But why was this important, and important to do fast?

Because putting a man on the moon would be the biggest, most decisive victory in a propaganda war that had been raging for nearly a hundred years.

If you read what people were saying from a hundred years ago, it's clear that many people thought capitalism was doomed. It's hard for people under 50 to believe, but "socialism" was a word associated with futuristic stuff, and progress. These attitudes toward the future of capitalism persisted into the Cold War and were a major thorn in the side of US foreign policy. When India adopted its constitution in 1950 that constituion declared India to be a socialist nation. Socialism played a major part in the foundation of the State of Israel, an Israel's first president David Ben-Gurion was a "Labor Zionist". And across the middle-east, the force radicalizing young Arabs wasn't fundamentalist Islam, it was Baathism -- "Arab Socialism". Across the world, capitalism was seen as an antiquated system imposed by colonial powers to keep people backward and subjugated.

Then on July 21, 1969, the leading capitalist (albeit welfare state) nation in the world put a man on the Moon. It put a stake through the heart of notion that capitalism is an antiquated, reactionary system. That's probably a hundred billion dollars well spent, considering what was at stake.

Looked at one way the goal itself did nothing practical for us, it was all the things we had to learn to be able to achieve it. But it is still amazing to me that nearly fifty years later people around the world see Neil Armstrong taking that last step as a kind of milestone in human progress.

Comment: Re: OMG! (Score 1) 541

by hey! (#48430299) Attached to: "Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer" Pulled From Amazon

And the generations since then have been suffering from this idea that raising the young of the species is less important than filing TPS reports.

You know men can raise children too. And some of us chose to put our careers on hold to spend more time with our kids. I did. When my oldest got to high school I decided to put my career on hiatus to spend the remaining years I could with them. Before that I workng 50-60 hour weeks and spending about 1/3 of my time traveling, and though my flexible schedule allowed me to stay involved with my kids when they were younger, my window of opportunity to spend a *lot* of time with them was closing. Quantity time *is* quality time. It communicates your priorities like nothing else.

Comment: Re: OMG! (Score 5, Interesting) 541

by hey! (#48427925) Attached to: "Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer" Pulled From Amazon

Waay back in the day when my wife was a grad student at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution by an odd fluke the sysadmins and programmers of the Vax/VMS systems they used for scientific data processing were women. Possibly their inability to grow beards disqualified them from Unix jobs. Anyhow, the nickname for them was "data dollies".

Of course there was a long, long history of women in scientific computing. The mom of one of my high school friends graduated from Wellsley during WW2 and worked programming the Harvard Mark 1 -- which meant (although I didn't realize it at the time) she must have worked with Grace Hopper. And of course there were the female code breakers of Bletchley Park. There were a lot of opportunities for smart women to do innovative things in WW2 while many of their equally brainy male counterparts were being fed into the war effort like scraps into a meatgrinder.

Anyhow, I don't think "data dolly" was meant to be as patronizing it sounds to us today. It was a cultural anachronism, like the drinking and smoking on the TV show Mad Men, which appears to us gauche but strangely fascinating. The common assumption back then was that even an intelligent, highly trained woman would quit her job when she got married to raise some man's children. My generation was the first to view automatically assuming that as patronizing. This new attitude was in its day called "radical feminism" -- which was a not too subtle way of associating us with Communists. But of course insensitivity is a two way street. A lot of older women felt insulted by the implication that they'd thrown their lives away.

Comment: The answer is yes. (Score 2) 195

by hey! (#48422091) Attached to: Is a Moral Compass a Hindrance Or a Help For Startups?

IF: you have a moral compass.
THEN: having a moral compass is a help to your achieving your ends.

On the other hand,

IF: you don't have a moral compass.
THEN: not having a moral compass is a help to your achieving your ends.

In other words the question is meaningless unless you stipulate "help or hinderance to what". Also you need to specify the behavioral flexibility of the people in question. Someone who is strictly immoral -- that is to say he never does anything moral if he has an evil alternative -- would have to be irrational. The eviler alternative is not always the rational choice.

Also moral/amoral doesn't capture everything about somebody's thinking and character. Some people are amoral and shortsighted. Others are amoral but can see the long term value of curbing their behavior. On the other hand some people are strictly moral but rigid and unimaginative. Others are highly moral and creative. To a creative person an obstacle is often an opportunity.

Ultimately you are who you are: goodie-two-shoes or amoral bastard or something in between. Whatever you are you have to make that work for yourself.

Comment: Re:absurd generalizations (Score 1) 70

by hey! (#48420687) Attached to: Collin Graver and his Wooden Bicycle (Video)

I certainly remember when Klein's bikes came out; he was a few years ahead of me at MIT. I don't know if the larger tubing idea was actually his; he was part of a group of students working on an aluminum frame. The relationship of diameter to stiffness had neen known for centuries; I think Euler originally worked out that the bending stiffness of a beam is proporitional to the moment of inertia of its cross section. I expect a lot of engineers realized the potential of aluminum. What stands out about Klein is is entrepreneurial energy.

My take on the bike in question is that it's interesting in that it shows the potential of the tools used to make it, but not quite as interesting in terms of what it shows about the potential of wood as a material. I'm hoping that somebody, someday will come up with a very interesting and surprising wood bike that really makes the most of the material and probably won't look much like a conventional bike.

Comment: Re:cost/price per kW hour comparison is nonsense (Score 1) 498

by hey! (#48415525) Attached to: Rooftop Solar Could Reach Price Parity In the US By 2016

True, but if we look at the societal cost (ironic, I know), storing the energy in the grid isn't free. It's paid for by traditional energy customers.

I totally buy the argument that you can store your excess solar energy in the form of unburned fossil fuels, then retrieve that energy later by burning those fuels. At least until the day people are demanding withdrawals of energy at higher rates than the traditional electricity generators can't supply. But we shouldn't think of putting a kWh into the grid then "retrieving" it later as free.

Comment: Re:absurd generalizations (Score 2) 70

by hey! (#48415471) Attached to: Collin Graver and his Wooden Bicycle (Video)

I'd take your post more seriously if you didn't make absurd generalizations like "steel is very stiff and wood is very flexible." From that alone it's obvious you understand nothing about materials.

Alright then. Woods have a Young's modulus (along the grain) of around 3-12 GPa. Typical construction steels have a modulus of around 200 GPa. Therefore a steel beam will be stiffer than a wooden beam of identical dimensions. However, I do realize that *some* wooden objects will be siffer than *some* steel objects. For example an oak beam with a 10x10" cross section will be stiffer than a steel bar of the same length with a 0.25 x 0.25 inch cross section.

There, is that pedantic enough for you? Or do I have stipualte that I'm talking abotu Southern Red Oak (10.2 GPa) vs S275 steel (210 GPa) at temperatures of less than 600C?

Comment: Here's a curious fact about wood. (Score 1) 70

by hey! (#48414823) Attached to: Collin Graver and his Wooden Bicycle (Video)

While a piece of steel is obviosuyly much stronger than a piece of wood of the same dimensions, if we stipulate equal *weights* rather than equal dimensions, the piece of wood may be stronger. The "specific strength" (or "strength to weight ratio) of some woods like balsa are greater than most steels.

That means that the applications of wood overlap the applications of steel somewhat. Some places where you need a little steel you can use a lot of wood and the result will be equally strong and weigh about the same.

Of course ultimate strength isn't the only issue. Steel is ductile and wood is brittle; that means steel has much more forgiving failure modes than wood. Steel is uniform and every piece of wood is different. Steel is equally strong in every direction and wood is weaker across the grain than along it. Steel is very stiff and wood is very flexible. But still it's interesting that wood is not totally obsoleted by steel in every application. Tall buildings would require wooden columns of impractically immense dimensions but we still frame low-rise buildings primarily in wood. We use steel for crossbow limbs but so far as I know nobody has used it for longbows, which are made of wood or fiberglass.

Every material has its limitations, but the ultimate limitation is the ingenuity of the designer.

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