Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:Wishful Thinking (Score 2) 65

by Fire_Wraith (#49789005) Attached to: The Marshall Islands, Nuclear Testing, and the NPT
Go compare the number of dead. Even as absolute numbers, nevermind as percentages of the world population, the number of deaths from war from the second half of the 20th century and beyond pale in comparison to the first half.

World War II killed something like 60 million people, or about 3% of the world population. You hold up the Cold War as being bad - do you think Nukes are what made that conflict? No, they're part of what kept it from erupting into direct open warfare between NATO/the West and the Warsaw Pact/Communist Bloc. Yes, Korea was bloody (roughly about 1-2 million dead). How much more bloody would it have been had the Russians and Americans not been keen to avoid fighting one another directly lest nuclear weapons come into play? Would the USA have invaded Cuba had it not been for the threat of Nuclear War with Russia? Would Russia have invaded Western Europe at any number of points? The Cold War was unprecedented simply because there really isn't a good historical parallel of two obvious antagonists avoiding any direct conflict despite any number of flashpoints.

And why is that? Quite simply, it was that both sides knew the danger and cost of any direct conflict were far too steep and final, due to nukes.

Comment: Re:Wishful Thinking (Score 3, Interesting) 65

by Fire_Wraith (#49787215) Attached to: The Marshall Islands, Nuclear Testing, and the NPT
I'd actually argue that it was considered more than that. MacArthur wanted to nuke China over the Korean War. I'm sure someone suggested nuking the Russians over their development of an atomic bomb, and I know that the Russians considered doing it to China when China was developing one. Each time, cooler heads prevailed, in no small part because of just how awful we realized nuclear weapons are.

And that's in part what you need to ask - how many times did we avert something worse than the historical outcome due to the fact that Russia/China/USA/etc had nukes now? Even the Great War (World War I), a war so bloody that both sides pretty much bled themselves dry fighting it, still wasn't enough to turn people off from another one twenty years later? And yes, I realize there's a lot more to it than that, but I would argue that nuclear weapons are the single sole reason that the Cold War never turned hot.

The bottom line is that Nuclear Weapons make it impossible for one nation to unilaterally impose its will by force on another without triggering mutual suicide. This turns out to make people a heck of a lot more willing to talk things out, or at least to not fight each other head on.

Now that said, I don't think it's a good idea to thereby let everyone have them. The more countries that have them, the more the risk increases that something goes wrong with that calculation, because someone decides to gamble, either from desperation or greed or whatever, and it goes nuclear.

Nuclear weapons are horrible, awful, and terrible things - but their existence also has some very important effects that shouldn't be ignored.

Comment: Wishful Thinking (Score 5, Insightful) 65

by Fire_Wraith (#49786095) Attached to: The Marshall Islands, Nuclear Testing, and the NPT
As horrible as nuclear weapons are, and as ideal as a world without them would be, this is wishful thinking at its best. The level of trust and cooperation required for everyone to give up nuclear weapons is in large part simply impossible given the current state of human and world affairs. We've certainly not managed to eliminate war or armed conflict. All we've done is limit its scope and size.

And speaking of that, it's in large part due to nuclear weapons that there have been no major wars in the past 70 years. The most we've seen were proxy wars that were limited in scope, and while many of those were horrible, they pale in comparison to the two World Wars, or really any of the major power conflicts that preceded them. The world with nuclear-armed major powers is paradoxically MORE peaceful than the world before it was. Prior to the nuclear age, it's difficult to go more than 20-30 years without two or more major powers going to war. The presence of nuclear weapons was the final thing that made "Total War" too costly a concept for rational actors to even consider it.

Reduce their number and scope? Sure, by all means. Get rid of them entirely? That's quite a different thing.

Comment: Re:Forget shit and move on (Score 1) 742

Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them (both in history class, and in the wider world in general). Incidentally, some of those lessons would be about how keeping racial/ethnic/nationalistic/etc hatreds alive never really helped anyone, save perhaps for the ruler or ruling class that was stoking those to motivate the general populace to support them. To those involved in them, those blood feuds are everything, but to those with significant remove, they seem beyond foolish. To some degree, we do need to acknowledge that the present state of affairs was brought about by past injustices. At the same time, if we keep trying to refight those battles, that's all we're ever going to do, because no one wins a neverending conflict (and what it would take to "win" once and for all is absolutely unthinkable for anyone even remotely human). We have to find some way to move past them. Four hundred years ago, Germany and the surrounding regions were torn apart by constant religious warfare between Catholics and Protestants. We've all forgotten that whole bit, and so much the better (though for Ireland and Northern Ireland there was still fighting some echo of that in the 20th century, and they're all better off now that they finally made peace). There are so many other instances in history that it's almost mind-boggling.

Comment: Re:Anthropomorphizing (Score 1) 413

by Fire_Wraith (#49765853) Attached to: What AI Experts Think About the Existential Risk of AI
It's an interesting topic. What are we? Are we our physical bodies? Are we the information that we've associated? Are we souls/spirits within a shell?

It gets even more curious when you look at the cases of people with something like Body Integrity Identity Disorder, where they feel that a limb or other body part "isn't part of them" and generally want to have it amputated. We could also look at cases where the body/brain feels and tries to move a limb that not only isn't there anymore ("Phantom Limb"), but better yet, never was there to begin with ("Supernumerary Phantom Limb"). And then there's the increasing number of robotic limbs attached to people, even ones now controlled solely through thoughts without having to be hooked to existing muscles/nerves in the arm or leg. Where does it end?

Personally, I don't feel like my physical body (fond of it though I am) is "me." If I woke up tomorrow in a different form, I would still be the core person that I am. But I'm weird like that, in that my identity exists independent of it. I don't think that's the case for most people.

Comment: Re:The Sony connection (Score 1) 413

by Fire_Wraith (#49765799) Attached to: What AI Experts Think About the Existential Risk of AI
From one point of view, you're absolutely right. However, I would say it's not quite that simple. (I should probably note that in specific parlance, a vulnerability is there regardless of if there is a threat to exploit it, and threat x vulnerability = risk.)

This is why I think saying that "our information systems are becoming more vulnerable" is sort of stupid in that the specific systems are not "more vulnerable." If anything, the current versions of Windows/Linux/OSX etc are much more secure than their predecessors from 10-20 years ago. The overall information itself? I'd suggest that it's not so much more vulnerable as more accessible, for better or worse. We should be careful about that, since conflating the two does a disservice - for one, it suggests that accessibility is the problem, not that other flaws were exposed. I'd also argue that much of it was more vulnerable, just on a smaller scale. Identity theft was quite possible, and harder to get caught at. Most spies in the past weren't likely to get caught in the act of taking information, so much as they were to be discovered by screwing up in other ways. We're seeing an increase of threats, not vulnerabilities. But I digress.

The overall problem, I think, is not that something can be accessed at some level of remove from the global internet. The problem is that too many people in too many fields do not adequately understand, and do not properly account for the proper level of risk in the same way they can for physical security. It's easy to understand walls and locks and guards and such. It's a lot less easy for senior management to instantly grasp the level of risk associated with operating an internet connected network (or even sometimes a non-connected network), and far too often, they err on the side of taking more risk than they should as a result.

Comment: Re:The Sony connection (Score 1) 413

by Fire_Wraith (#49765089) Attached to: What AI Experts Think About the Existential Risk of AI
More specifically, it demonstrated that Sony Pictures (which is only part of the larger Sony enterprise, and from what I understand, the only part that got pwned) had management that failed spectacularly at security - not that building more secure devices/operating systems/networks/etc is not possible.

It's also patently stupid to suggest that anything is "more vulnerable" now than it used to be. Things may be more interconnected, and are more likely to be attacked in the past, but they are not getting "more vulnerable" unless your management is A) not willing to spend the reasonable cost for appropriate security controls, or B) doesn't listen to their IT security staff when those systems start raising warning flags, or C) fails to hire competent security personnel in the first place.

Target's breach was an example of this - apparently one of the security services they used raised a red flag on the activity, but Target failed to take any action:

Comment: Re:We 'must' compete (Score 2) 117

Like how they're competing over in Syria and Iraq? I've been there, I've seen that kind of competition, and I'm quite happy NOT to have to engage in it here.

What you're missing is that we have already agreed to limit competition, as a society. We've decided that someone isn't allowed come over to your house, shoot you, and take your stuff. Society imposes strict penalties on someone if they do that (or if they try to do that), and for good reason, because unmitigated unrestricted competition is very, VERY ugly.

Furthermore, the USA already 'manipulates' society in the form of taxes and benefits. Things like Social Security and Medicare, or Medicaid/TANF/Food Stamps etc. You don't like those manipulations? What is your suggestion, then, instead? That we go back to people having no safety net at all, with everything that entails - the starvation, the crime, the riots, et cetera?

Maybe you'd prefer to go back to the time of the fellow featured in this exchange:

"... it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."
"Are there no prisons?"
"Plenty of prisons..."
"And the workhouses." demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"
"Both very busy, sir..."
"Those who are badly off must go there."
"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

Comment: Re:Republican Hypocrits (Score 1) 98

Don't worry, our beef and other products are the best in the world, because we make them with less of those nasty job-killing, profi- err quality inhibiting, government regulations! ...what's that you say? No, no, that's not a maggot, that's additional protein infused beef!

Rotten? No, of course it isn't, it's just finely aged to perfection!

Comment: Re:We 'must' compete (Score 2) 117

Like most things, competition has its place and is neither a universal good nor an unmitigated evil.

Generally speaking though, there's a large argument going on in human society/societies about where and how we balance the two. Part of this is because the advance of technology/science/learning/etc, we no longer need to savagely compete for basic resources in a kill or be killed sort of way (at least in most of the world). At the same time, a lot of the arguments and norms based on this have been around for a long time, and it's difficult to just turn your back on the way everyone has always done things. It's also very much in the interest of people who already have severe advantages to keep those advantages, and understandably so.

We do need some form of competition, and it's always going to be with us. What we need is to better mitigate the downsides of losing. We do it to some degree already, although some countries do more than others. There are people (usually rich and conservative) that argue we do too much, or that we shouldn't do anything at all, but quite frankly that's a bunch of shit. I won't go into arguing the morality of it, but let me point out that people who are in danger of starving are desperate (nevermind if it's their kids in danger), and do desperate things like turn to crime. We can still have a competitive society, and still reward the people who excel, without unduly punishing people who 'fail' to excel.

Comment: Re:Arbitrary appendages? (Score 1) 50

I'm pretty sure they've already shown that if you hook a new limb to other muscles/nerves, that you can learn to control it via your brain's signals to those muscles/nerves. Just because those muscles didn't originally attach to an arm, or control one, doesn't mean you can't learn that by flexing them in a certain way you can control the new limb.

There would probably be a significant learning curve, but it's certainly not impossible.

Comment: Re:Stupid reasoning. (Score 1) 1091

by Fire_Wraith (#49736143) Attached to: Los Angeles Raises Minimum Wage To $15 an Hour
There are two sides to the coin, they can't exist without the other. Look at the Soviet Union, who decoupled production and demand - all kinds of things went wrong, because the stuff that was produced was often not the things people wanted or needed. Markets need supply and demand to function, because demand tells producers what to produce. Price for a good rises? Make more of it. Price falls? Make less of it. What does production without any demand get you? A warehouse full of unwanted goods that are either rotting or collecting dust.

Production does not "come first", it comes in response to a demand. Savvy businessmen are the sort that can spot unfulfilled demand, and move to fulfill it, or at the very least do so in a better way than their rivals. We sometimes say they "create" demand, but really, what people like Steve Jobs (for instance) did is understand what customers wanted better than anyone else, and then moved to fill that demand.

Comment: Re:Consumer Price Index (Score 1) 1091

by Fire_Wraith (#49736027) Attached to: Los Angeles Raises Minimum Wage To $15 an Hour
I think you're missing a key aspect here. Production does create jobs, but production doesn't occur just because some rich investor wakes up one day and decides they want to build a car factory, and therefore benevolently create jobs for the impoverished but hardy folk who happen to live nearby. Certainly that's how it works if you listen to the politicians/etc espousing that line, but in the real world, investors aren't nearly that dumb (and those who are don't remain investors for long). No, investment and business creation/expansion occurs in response to Demand. It's nonsensical to make a product that no one wants, and that no one will buy. Businesses don't hire new employees because they have extra money, they hire people because they've got work that needs doing.

As for "Trickle down" economics, the theory was that if you give richer people more money, they'll generate more economic activity with it, which will in turn benefit everyone else. In practice, this is BS, because rich people didn't generally get rich by spending rather than saving. If anything, the opposite is far more true, because most poor people can't afford to not spend money.

Certainly, ending poverty is not just as simple as passing a law, but at some point, productivity is going to rise beyond a point where having people in poverty becomes an active choice on our part as a society, rather than some inimitable fact of economics. Don't believe me? If we had robots that allowed us to generate ten times the production we currently do, why shouldn't everyone have ten times more stuff, or at least 2-3 times more? To take the example even further, if we had Star Trek style replicators, why should anyone have any basic needs that go unfulfilled? I'm not suggesting we're anywhere near that point yet, but we shouldn't try to convince ourselves that poverty is something that will always need to be with us, anymore than hunger, disease, or any number of other scourges that plagued our ancestors.

Comment: Re:This is good (Score 1) 1091

by Fire_Wraith (#49731671) Attached to: Los Angeles Raises Minimum Wage To $15 an Hour
Those prices sound about on par, roughly, with what I see in the area around Washington DC (and San Francisco and New York are probably worse), except that the minimum wage here is less than half that rate.

Granted, that's not the case in most of the US. Mostly what I'm getting at is that the minimum wage is certainly not the only factor in cost of living for an area.

Kiss your keyboard goodbye!