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Comment Re:Placebos work! (Score 1) 287

Placebos work, so why shouldn't GPs be allowed to prescribe them? .

This is not an uncommon argument, even among physicians. But there's a simple rebuttal, in my view: Giving a placebo conflicts with the patient's right to be informed.

Patients deserve accurate and unbiased information about the risks and benefits of every medicine they are offered. Indeed, at every clinic I've worked in, the patient signs a form stating "I have been informed about the risks and benefits of this medication" (or words to that effect). If I give a patient a treatment that I know for certain is useless- let's say, a sugar pill that is dummied up to look like a prescription medication-- then I would have to inform the patient that I know the treatment to be useless. It's not OK for me to withhold that information, or to keep secrets from the patient, even if I think it's "for their own good".

(There's one exception to this rule: If the patient is enrolled in a clinical trial, they can be randomly assigned to receive either active treatment or placebo. But that's a special case, with special rules. And even in those cases the patient must be told about the process of randomization and how it works).

It *is* OK to give treatments when the evidence that it works is weak, or dubious, or where we just don't know if it is an effective treatment or not. Sometimes, when the risk of the treatment is minimal, that can be a reasonable thing to do (I'm thinking of, for example, folate supplementation for clinical depression). But you have to be honest with the patient about what you're doing.

Comment Behind the times (Score 4, Interesting) 170

People over 45 (like myself) tend to think that learning to operate a computer is an educational experience. It isn't. It was at least mildly educational when we were kids... because the first thing you saw when you hit the "on" switch was a shell for a BASIC interpreter, or something similar. Now the first thing you see are *pictures*, which you point at, like a three-year-old at a candy store.

Even as late as the mid-90s, you would hear a lot of talk about "computer literacy"-- the idea that operating a computer was a core skill, like reading and writing. You don't hear that phrase much any more, "computer literacy". You might as well speak of "microwave literacy" or "Netflix literacy". Yes, there is technically some "learning" involved when you fire up a microwave or Netflix-- you do need to learn which buttons to push-- but it's a tiny area of knowledge which doesn't lead to anything else. And the same is true, I think, of video games.

At the moment, I work with a lot of inner-city teenagers (most of them from seriously dysfunctional homes and communities, most of them "educated" by Chicago Public Schools). ALL of them have computers, tablets, phones. ALL of them can operate their devices like a champion (and most of them love video games). Not one of them, so far, has become a computer programmer.

Comment Re:Slashdot is dying; mod results confirm it (Score 2) 169

Ten to fifteen years ago, a whole lot of my posts were very frequently modded up to +5 and generated tons of replies and interesting discussion.

Sometime between then and now, that diminished and now it seems like most of my posts don't get any moderation or replies or anything. Every now and then there's a thread that generates interest, but for the most part it seems like nobody cares about the things I want to discuss anymore.

If you want to get upmods and replies on Slashdot, the key is to post *early*. I know this is kind of obvious, but it is very much true in my experience. I would guess that at least 80% of comments are made within the first 8-12 hours of a story going live. Once the story has fallen off the "front page"-- forget it. Either people have moved on to other stories, or else the story has accumulated 500+ comments and your own contribution is going to be buried.

In other words... is it possible that you're just not posting comments fast enough (as a result of having a job or a life or whatever), and that's why fewer people are responding?

Comment Re:Caller ID (Score 1) 78

And definitely tell them that, "your call may be recorded for, wink-wink, quality control purposes on this end as well".

I've used that line a few times with collection agencies, and they *always* say "if you are recording we will terminate the call". Evidently it's OK for them to record, but not for me.

Comment Re:No win situation (Score 1) 187

What they've done to the mobile site is far far worse. It now features intrusive banner ads that take up 20% of the screen and WILL NOT GO AWAY. You can't scroll past them, you can't close them. (Also, the disable-ads option is gone). I didn't care that much about the earlier changes, but this is the change that is literally going to drive me away from Slashdot.

Comment Re:Why does an AI need to be "saved" (Score 1) 531

What did the newly-created human do that requires an act of redemption?

Logical argument about illogical premises is illogical.

Yes, but at least with human beings, you can argue that we are born with certain flaws. We're genetically predisposed to be aggressive, violent, selfish, and perhaps racist as well. Even the kindest, most moral person ever to walk the earth has presumably had some thoughts and impulses which were not very admirable.

Christians blame it on "original sin", I blame it on genetics, but it's the same idea. And my point was... how do we know that an AI would have the same flaws?

Comment Why does an AI need to be "saved" (Score 1) 531

Christianity is based on the premise that we are born in a state of sin, and that Christ needs to "save" us from our fallen state. Redemption by the blood of the lamb, and all that jazz.

So what the f*ck did our hypothetical, newly-created AI do that requires an act of redemption? How does Reverend Benek know that this not-yet-invented AI needs to be saved? Maybe it will be created in a state of perfect grace and enlightenment. No lamb's blood needed.

Comment Re:Pope Francis - fuck your mother (Score 0) 894

It's a rare occasion when "fuck your mother" is the most appropriate and insightful response possible. However, this appears to be exactly such an occasion. Dear Pope: Fuck your mom and fuck the Catholic Church, too. I'll be waiting in the parking lot if you want to do anything about it.

Comment Re:I'm amazed (Score 1) 169

Yes, the record stores are mostly gone (still a few in Chicago but they're better suited for browsing than for finding a specific item), and yes, record sales were usually not a big moneymaker for the artist. Still. You can buy almost any music you can think of online-- and today the artist just might earn a healthy percentage off that sale. (Not always, but it's more common than it used to be).

I do understand that sometimes you may want to cue up a piece of music *right now*, without wanting to buy it, but that's what youtube is for. (Still ripping off the artist, but at least youtube does not exist for the *sole* purpose of ripping off artists).

Comment Re:Time to buy vinyl? (Score 2) 169

Vinyl doesn't have a shuffle option.

Novels don't have a shuffle option, either. The songs are in that order for a reason, or at least they should be! I'd hate to listen to Sgt. Pepper's on "shuffle"... Also $10 per record isn't necessarily such a "low price" for vinyl anymore... a lot of people just want to get rid of their LPs, and will sell them to you by the boxload.

Comment Re:I'm amazed (Score 1) 169

Thank you for the 1/10th of a cent.

the bands you like.

In the case of Spotify, it's not even a tenth of a cent; it's more like a quarter of a tenth of a cent. (Put it another way: a MILLION plays, which most musicians would be lucky to see once in a lifetime, nets you about $250).

The Wikipedia article on Spotify is worth reading, if you really want to understand how insanely f*cked up the Spotify business model is. Out of respect for the professional musicians I know, I *will not* use Spotify or similar services. I'd rather donate money to the Illinois Nazi Party than give Spotify my business.

Comment Re:Automation and jobs (Score 1) 720

I'm not sure we are in disagreement here. Yes, I think a lot of the disability patients would be happy to work part-time if it didn't affect their disability (and more importantly-- what I didn't mention-- their health insurance).

I should clarify here that I am talking about people who collect disability but who are not truly disabled. That's a big subset of people, and since I work in mental health, I tend to see a disproportionate number of them. I'm talking about folks who tell me, month after month, "I'm feeling fine, the meds [if they're even on meds] are working great". But they don't want to work because they'll lose their check, they'll lose their health insurance, and if they happen to get laid off from their new job, they're screwed. I can't blame them.

I don't know if I agree with the idea of "mincome" exactly, but I do I think everyone should be provided basic dormitory-style housing and food, with a minimum of questions asked. I've seen too many hundreds of people who wind up in ERs, nursing homes, and psychiatric wards because they need a place to stay. It's obscenely expensive and it turns simple charity into a ridiculous legal charade, where we have to pretend that they have a "medical condition" requiring the services of doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, etc.

Comment Re:Automation and jobs (Score 1) 720

It is an economic impossibility because everyone (well, enough people to make it matter) would just stop working and wait on their check.

This is already happening, to some extent. I work with a lot of people who receive SSDI disability. They're not interested in getting off disability, because "I don't want to lose my benefits". According to Wikipedia, if you got disability in 2004, you were typically receiving 86% of what you would receive from a minimum-wage job-- up from 68% in 1984. (I don't know what the figure is for 2014). If I could make 86% of my paycheck by doing nothing, I probably wouldn't want to work either.

One solution is to make work more rewarding, and that means raising the minimum wage.

Comment Re:Am i on Slashdot? "Johnny appleseed exhibit"? (Score 1) 71

I would argue that American history is a perfectly good topic for a Slashdot article. Look, I read Slashdot because it attracts a decent number of highly educated or knowledgable commenters, and I think that's still likely to be the case when the topic is a historical one.

I'm not disagreeing with you on the whole pre-DICE/post-DICE quality issue, since I don't really have an opinion on that. I just think this article was fine and you chose the wrong example to pick on.

Comment Re:Other variants (Score 1) 66

Really hated Brain Wave.

As I recall, the novel centers around a group of scientists who are supposed to be unusually intelligent to begin with-- at one point Anderson proudly declares that their average IQ is about 165, or something-- and who become freakishly intelligent as the novel progresses. The problem is that we have a not-terribly-intelligent author trying to portray characters who are freakishly intelligent, and he fails spectacularly. He has them engage in witty repartee which isn't even as witty as an average episode of Seinfeld; he has them pepper their speech with foreign words and phrases (because that's what really smart people do, right?); and so on. Of course, it doesn't help that the characters are cardboard cutouts to begin with.

"Sometimes insanity is the only alternative" -- button at a Science Fiction convention.