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Comment: Re:Cry Me A River (Score 1) 571

by DuckDodgers (#47418897) Attached to: Normal Humans Effectively Excluded From Developing Software
I am of course only speaking anecdotally, and I have no sense for the correct threshold.

Inventing a quicksort requires a lot of luck and a high intelligence. Learning to apply a quicksort instead of a linear insertion sort is within reach of someone of average intelligence. Inventing a build automation tool, continuous integration servers, a unit testing framework, etc... all requires a great deal of intelligence. Learning how to use them is just patience. I probably wouldn't invite someone with average intelligence to a Google design meeting while you discussed some radical new way of manipulating large data sets. Or I would invite them, but not expect them to provide much input. But for implementation? Why not?

I wouldn't expect an average guy to write a new scheduler for the Linux kernel and get it accepted. But modify some network driver to work with a new piece of hardware very similar to something that already exists? Why not?

Comment: Re:Cry Me A River (Score 1) 571

by DuckDodgers (#47418657) Attached to: Normal Humans Effectively Excluded From Developing Software
I think anti-intellectualism is a problem, but I think the bigger problem is teaching people persistence in the face of discomfort and frustration when learning.

I lucked out into the perfect learning environment through my own incompetence and laziness. Early in my career I was laid off, and I wasn't skilled enough to land a good job. I took the best job available as the lone developer at a company too poor to hire anyone better. In that environment, when problems appeared and features needed to built if I couldn't figure out the work it did not get done. In school and in previous jobs I would give up after an hour without progress and hand the problem to someone else. That wasn't an option, I had to keep trying different approaches until I got it right or quit and lose my income. Sometimes it took weeks for me to puzzle out features that required a five line code change. It was the most frustrating and stressful three or four years of my career - and I emerged from the other side somewhere near competent or at least three times more skilled than when I started. Now I seek out that kind of challenge, because every bit of mental anguish is just a small sign I'm broadening my horizons.

It's clear most people in this field - most people in general - don't share this attitude. But I'm at a loss as to how to foster it.

Comment: Re:Professional athletes and "unfair advantage" (Score 3, Informative) 571

by DuckDodgers (#47415127) Attached to: Normal Humans Effectively Excluded From Developing Software
I say the professional athlete is luckier than you are. There are hundreds of thousands of kids every year working as hard as they can to become professional athletes, and that hard work combines with two big patches of luck - good genetics and the fortune to avoid a career-ending injury - to make success. The ones who get hurt can't do it, no amount of hard work offsets poor genetics, and the pool of available paid athlete positions is relatively small.

In our field, average talent or at most slightly above average talent and a lot of hard work is all you need to succeed. You don't need to be born a genius, average intelligence and a willingness to learn is sufficient. And there are a huge pool of open positions plus the possibility of creating your own niche. The only thing "elite" about most of us is that we learned not to be lazy and in the modern world that appears to less common than it was a century earlier.

Comment: Re:Cry Me A River (Score 5, Insightful) 571

by DuckDodgers (#47415007) Attached to: Normal Humans Effectively Excluded From Developing Software
I think they're right about the problem, but wrong about the solution. They think the solution is to make it easier, but that's just not practical. Most people can drive, few can design engines. Most people can learn to use a blood pressure cuff, few create them. Most people can learn to use a spreadsheet, few know how to create one. Learning how to write software that's more than just user interface tweaks on something that somebody else built is inherently difficult.

But the real problem is this impression that you have to be born 80% as smart as Einstein to get into this field, and that the learning curve is impossible for regular people. That's totally wrong. Average intelligence plus persistence is all you need. You won't be Linus Torvalds tomorrow, you won't be Steve Wozniak next month. But put your time in, try things out, get used to being frustrated as you learn and keep learning anyway, and in a few years you'll understand what's going on and be able to do anything this side of the most advanced work as well as anyone.

That's the lesson we the progressives should be teaching people. And to be clear, it fits all of my original examples too. Few people walk into an automotive engineering program and instantly grasp all of the concepts involved - years of persistence matter more than raw talent if you want to design engines. Few people start building medical equipment and have an instant knack for getting it right - years of persistence matter more than raw talent again. If you were born with an 80 IQ, sorry there's only so far you can go. But the difference between a person with 110 IQ that contributes code to the Linux kernel and one that works at a gas station is their persistence, not raw intellect.

Comment: Re: "The real problem..." he explained (Score 1) 131

by DuckDodgers (#47388795) Attached to: Damian Conway On Perl 6 and the Philosophy of Programming
I think that's a fair point. I hate Java - I work in Java :) - but you can use compatibility flags for the compiler and jave.exe to compile and run Java 1.1 code from 1998 on the latest Java SDK. I think that's one of the big reasons the language is so wildly popular in business.

Comment: Re:It's a problem... (Score 1) 118

fuzzyfuzzyfungus was just asking for modern empire builders, not ethical modern empire builders. So I responded with modern empire builders.

Obviously I would much rather see more people like Elon Musk and fewer like Ellison, Bezos, and the Waltons.

My belief is that the world is loaded with people like Elon Musk, but in most industries they get plowed under by people with similar goals and fewer morals. I have no suggestions for fixing that aspect of capitalism, to me it seems to be inherent to the whole system but I can't come up with any better alternative.

Comment: Re:It's a problem... (Score 1) 118

No, you're describing what unions do today. What they were started to do was protect workers from employer abuses like being worked to death, having to work in hazardous conditions, being denied pay and medical coverage when injured on the job, being disciminated against or fired because you refused to let the manager screw your spouse or refused to clean his house on the weekends.

But somewhere in the second half the 20th century many unions switched from "protect members against abusive employers" to "protect members no matter what". I think we still need a lot of the original unions in the U.S., but I'm at a loss as to how to switch from the new form back to the old one.

Comment: Re:It's a problem... (Score 1) 118

I think you're looking in the wrong places then. While Comcast and Verizon are content to legislate their positions so they can rest on their laurels and get fat by fucking consumers, companies like Amazon, Walmart, Google, Microsoft, and Apple are doing the same kind of empire-building that happened in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are arguably more ethical about it than Walmart and Amazon, but in all five cases the companies are relentlessly trying to extend their businesses both in breadth by going into more countries and in depth by more aspects of consumer life. Walmart and Amazon are trying to be the world's store, the only world's store, and they're innovating in that direction. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are each trying to be the cloud provider for the world, and right now Amazon is king in that arena. Google and Apple are working on products for cars, and self-driving cars. Google and Microsoft have projects to bring internet to remote parts of the world.

As an aside, three years ago I would have said Google was the most powerful of the five in terms of diversity of interests and global reach. Now I'm starting to think it's Amazon. They're working on being the world's store, the world's cloud provider, the world's favorite tablet manufacturer, and now they're attempting to establish a serious foothold into the Android market - and it may work. Unfortunately they also squeeze suppliers, squeeze content creators, work their warehouse employees to exhaustion, and avoid releasing any software as open source. So I'd say Jeff Bezos is making it a personal goal to teach Walmart and Microsoft a lesson in cutthroat business.

Comment: Re:About time (Score 1) 118

But that's capitalism - the capitalists lobbied to get government granted monopolies, and they got them. It's fundamental to the system - businesses will attempt to influence lawmakers to gain an unfair advantage.

The libertarian fantasy is that you can remove these legal advantages and the market will improve by being fair. But it's a fantasy because once you deregulate, nothing short of divine intervention will prevent companies from lobbying to get favorable legislation again. It's their ticket to easy street, they'll never stop reaching for it. The best that can be done is what we already do - try to keep the regulators honest.

You can't say "it's not capitalism when the capitalists corrupt the legislators" any more than someone can say "it's not communism when the communists use secret police to identify and eliminate people that disagree". They're both fundamental parts of their respective systems.

Comment: Re:About time (Score 1) 118

2 points:

1. Even in the areas of highest population density in the US: New York City, Los Angeles, Orlando, etc... the internet connection cost far more for far poorer bandwidth than the average internet connection in some foreign countries.

2. 31% income tax. Oh no! Let's see, I pay 1% local income tax, 3% state income tax, 20% federal income tax, 8% Social Security and Medicare tax. Well damn, looks like Sweden isn't so bad. Now imagine if I lived in America but instead of having a nice middle class income from my job, I had a 10 million dollar investment portfolio. The portfolio grows in value 4% for the year, so now it's 10.4 million dollars. But I only cash out $100,000 for my living expenses. I pay a 15% federal capital gains tax on the $100,000, plus state and local income taxes, and no Social Security or Medicare tax. That's a 19% tax rate - so I pay considerably less than the equivalent person with a job. But it gets better - my actual net wealth went up $400,000 for the year, but I only paid that 19% on the $100,000 I cashed out, so really my "income" tax for the year was 19%/4 = 4.75%. Let me know when they change the preamble to our Consitution to "Of the Rich, By the Rich, for the Rich". Sweden's doing it right, not us.

Comment: Re:About time (Score 1) 118

As opposed to blind patriotism and the blanket acceptance of the status quo as the best of all possible outcomes for the US?

The right and the left in the United States spend too much time making speeches about how awesome our country is. If George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were satisfied with the state of the 13 colonies, we would still be part of the United Kingdom. If Abraham Lincoln was satisfied with the state of the United States, there would still be slavery. Our national motto is not and should not be, "Look at how awesome we are." We should never forget the good that's already been accomplished, but the national motto should always be "We can do better." More freedom, more justice, more economic opportunity, better education.

Looking at other countries for ideas isn't a sign of weakness or laziness, it's just practical. It's absurd to believe without any doubts that no other nation can do better than the United States at anything important.

Comment: Re:About time (Score 1) 118

But the point is that the cable provider is collecting probably $60 per month from every person on the plan. So if there's 500 homes sharing your connection and hogging the bandwidth, the cable company is collecting $360,000 per year from your neighborhood. They could replace all of their copper wiring with fiber and upgrade your connection speed so that everyone in the neighborhood has all the connectivity they can use, and recover the cost of their investment within a few years and have plenty of happy customers.

But why should they bother, when they have a natural monopoly and effectively no competition. They can let you and your neighbors fight for bandwidth on the copper cables, ignore your dissatisfaction, and just cover their operating costs and stick most of the $360,000 per year right into the "net profit" category.

"Can you program?" "Well, I'm literate, if that's what you mean!"