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Comment: This discussion is pretty funny (Score 1) 809

by JMZero (#49049193) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Portion of Developers Are Bad At What They Do?

The OP suggests a weirdly specific Shibboleth, and half the comments are people saying he picked the wrong one - like "public key encryption isn't the right thing to test - you should be testing knowledge of computer architecture or regexes, or how to set up a web page with a specific stack" or whatever.

For developers, we usually test whether they're good at programming. We let them choose whatever language they want (because in the end they're all mostly the same, and a good programmer will be able to use any of them) and have them work through some simple but realistic programming exercises (eg. from this data structure, figure out whether person X manages person Y). Most fail in a way that demonstrates they won't be able to do the job, or will take too long to get going at it. It also usually identifies people who have weird religious attachments to certain tools, languages or methodologies (Many times I've heard crap like "Oh, I can't type this simple answer into a regular text editor, I need XYYXYXZZYX with autocomplete on" or whatever).

Anyway, back to the OP, yes I would expect that most developers should have some idea how they would encrypt a file, even if they haven't used the tools themselves personally (this isn't a core job in most development jobs I know of). But I wouldn't think they're dumb or unqualified if they don't. Why use a weak correlation like "a good developer probably knows how to encrypt stuff" when you could just test whether they can do development stuff directly?

And we do the same stuff for other jobs. When we were interviewing a graphic designer to work integrated with the programmers, we had them do some graphic design in the interview, fixing up pages we had purposefully borked in a real project. Again, most disqualified themselves pretty quickly when faced with realistic job tasks.

Comment: Uninteresting correlation (Score 2) 76

by JMZero (#48990595) Attached to: The Algorithm That 'Sees' Beauty In Photographic Portraits

My guess is what they've really determined is that:

1. Better photographers take better pictures, and also are more competent technically (ie. they take sharp, well-lit pictures)
2. People put more effort into getting technicals right when they're shooting something beautiful

Taking sharper photos of dull objects will only get you so far; the correlation is due to stuff that's deeper and harder to control: the subject and the photographer's skill/effort.

Comment: Re:Lollipop killed my Nexus 7 (Score 1) 437

by JMZero (#48765573) Attached to: Is Kitkat Killing Lollipop Uptake?

If you look around the web, you'll find packed forums full of people complaining about Lollipop being horrific on a Nexus 7. I have 2 Nexus 7's (bought for the kids on a long car ride), and I upgraded one of them... nobody uses that one anymore. Everything about it is slow, and even very simple apps are often unresponsive for a couple minutes after you wake the device. I'm sure someone could explain why this is my own fault somehow for having applications installed or something (that's the responses people are getting on lots of the forums), but for me the solution will probably be going through the pain of downgrading.

I used to recommend Android tablets... not so sure any more. I hate Apple and iTunes and the iOS interface, but my iPad has never screwed me nearly this hard.

Comment: Quite possibly not (Score 1) 437

by JMZero (#48765483) Attached to: Is Kitkat Killing Lollipop Uptake?

I have two Nexus 7 tablets; I upgraded one and am seriously considering downgrading it back to 4.x, even though that's a bunch of fiddling. The new OS is slower, ugly (this is subjective, but their new style doesn't do anything for me), less responsive (especially just as you bring it back up from sleep), and I think lots of the UI is less useful (eg. the drag down system-y menu doesn't immediately have the stuff I want like it used to).

If you search for Android downgrade instructions, you'll find forums full of people with similar complaints who want to go back.

Comment: Re:Don't mess with my jetset lifestyle (Score 4, Insightful) 232

by JMZero (#48719841) Attached to: Aircraft Responsible For 2.5% of Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions

I agree with the idea, but it's not a "simple fact"; coming to that conclusion requires a long argument involving a lot of scientific reasoning, experience, the particulars of our status quo of technology, population, and environmental inputs, and a certain (if reasonable) valuation of the potential trade-offs.

Proper environmentalism isn't "simple facts" - because it's not a religion of Earth purity. It's about legitimately complicated choices and consequences, and evaluating those choices over a longer term.

Comment: Re:Broadly accessible strong AI would empower peop (Score 1) 417

by JMZero (#48567151) Attached to: AI Expert: AI Won't Exterminate Us -- It Will Empower Us

Well, there's a few reasons - but I think the biggest help we'll have is that I expect the change (based on current progress) to be gradual. That is to say, we'll have time to adapt and build measures as the technology improves, rather than have to deal with it all at once. In a lot of ways, the change is well in progress already. Someone who wants to do something bad has, through the Internet, many more knowledge and contact resources than they would have had in 1985 (or 1885). The information age has already created security problems, but we've adapted, and we leverage the same technologies to keep us safe.

Another reason, that is a bit more "out there", is that I believe this sort of technology will likely be able to solve a lot of humanity's problems before it gets to "supervillain's assistant" or "self-interested omniscient being" sort of level. And people who generally having their needs met (or perhaps "overmet"... and may also be watched 24/7... yeah...) are less likely to cause problems with their supercomputer access. People may find that they want to play just one more level before they blow something up. And maybe finish their hyper-Doritos.

Comment: Re:Broadly accessible strong AI would empower peop (Score 1) 417

by JMZero (#48566969) Attached to: AI Expert: AI Won't Exterminate Us -- It Will Empower Us

While they sound kind of hokey, I think there are some credible threats in this "self aware computer gets squirrely" vein - depending on how the AI is developed. If we build an AI based on, say, scanning a brain and recreating it - however that might work - then we end up with a very predictably unpredictable agent. This emergence could be a very "singularity" type event where we go from fairly dumb AI to very smart, world changing AI in a short time. From there on out, it would get hard to predict very fast; a weird mix of scary/great/over that humans may not keep up with.

But if strong AI grows out of, say, a Watson type "oracle" program that just gets smarter over years and years (and this style of development seems more likely), then the kinds of problems I'd expect would be much more comprehensible. Still potentially scary, but likely more manageable.

Comment: Broadly accessible strong AI would empower people (Score 3, Interesting) 417

by JMZero (#48565853) Attached to: AI Expert: AI Won't Exterminate Us -- It Will Empower Us

...and some of those people would want to do bad things. A bad person would be more capable of doing harm when aided by an AI doing planning, co-ordination, or execution. There's no guarantee that AIs on the "other side" would be able to mitigate the new threats (the two things aren't the same difficulty).

I think there's lots of risks associated with the rise of AI (though it doesn't seem that tech is coming all that fast at the moment). That said, there's risks involved with all sorts of new tech. That doesn't mean this is alarmist nonsense; it's worth discussing potential ways to mitigate those risks - but there's also good reason to believe we'll be able to manage those risks as we've managed changes in the past.

Comment: Re:Let me get this right (Score 1) 839

by JMZero (#48160325) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

Yes a flat sales tax will often be regressive, but that's not what I (or Bill) was imagining when I was talking about a consumption tax. My comment didn't really bring that out though - so, my bad on that.

In any case, I'm imagining a consumption tax that wouldn't hit much of what a lower income person is spending (for food, clothing, housing, child care, etc - while still taxing more "luxury" consumption in those same categories). And I think this is more practical than coming at the same "wealthy people's money" in other ways - it's easier to shelter income and capital than it is to hide spending.

Comment: Re:Let me get this right (Score 1) 839

by JMZero (#48159705) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

We charge the people doing the labor (income tax) and then *also* charge them on consumption?

From the summary:

I agree that taxation should shift away from taxing labor. It doesn’t make any sense that labor in the United States is taxed so heavily relative to capital.

So he wants move away from taxing labor. Less tax on labor. That will mean less tax for people doing labor. Less labor tax. And to replace that tax, he wants a progressive tax on consumption. Progressive means rich people pay more than poor people (not just absolutely, but as a percentage of their means). Taxes on consumption tend towards being progressive naturally, and you can exempt basic needs to make them more progressive.

Consumption taxes also tend to be more difficult to dodge, because you're buying things from a variety of sellers. Again, the effect of this is normally progressive.

You're concerned that Gates is suggesting something that would hurt poor people. You are exactly backwards - his suggestion is much more "poor people friendly" than competing proposals. The objection to Gates's proposal would normally be that consumption taxes reduce consumption and slow down the economy.

Comment: Re:The fancy ones are expensive.. (Score 1) 67

by JMZero (#47918629) Attached to: A 16-Year-Old Builds a Device To Convert Breath Into Speech

If you could differentiate between lots of breath strengths, I suppose you could have up/down/left/right. But it might be easier to just alternate (ie. you do a right breath, then a down, then a right). You could do stronger breaths to start/do big movements, then proportionally little breaths to fine tune your position. Again, I think with some training you could hit targets pretty well with few breaths (assuming you have good proportional control, which might require a different sensor than a microphone).. but I'm also just wildly speculating, and it would probably vary a lot based on the patient.

Or maybe do "blow=right, suck=down"? I know many patients would be able to suck effectively, but others wouldn't have the right facial control I imagine.

As to literacy: if users could read, you could have a screen of words. If they couldn't, you could have pictures for many of the things people would be trying to say often (I want to sit up, I need a tissue, I'm hungry, turn on the computer, etc..). I don't have good ideas on how you'd approach more advanced communication without some degree of literacy (you're going to run out of space for pictures..), but if you had, say, 30 common items that's at least a start.

Anyway, I think you could make a basic device like this for $25 (or so, with volume). But I have no idea how many people would want it.

Comment: Re:The fancy ones are expensive.. (Score 1) 67

by JMZero (#47918205) Attached to: A 16-Year-Old Builds a Device To Convert Breath Into Speech

I'm not sure you're wrong - I've never used one of these. The only similar devices I've seen used were based on gaze (which is obviously a different animal).

But to be clear, I would do this as an x-y grid - so there'd be an x-blow and they a y-blow, then either a click or more blows to correct (which I don't think would be necessary often with some practice). And, also to be clear, you'd often be picking words/phrases/actions rather than individual letters. I don't know the best potential scheme - but what I can say for sure is that having some feedback (via a screen) would expand the kinds of inputs you'd be able to reliably accept. Instead of 2 "lengths" of breath, you could differentiate between many (and between more lengths of pauses), if you can see where you're at. Whether a grid is the best answer I don't know - but for expert users, I'm 100% sure you could come up with a more efficient scheme than Morse code. And for more limited users (including users who can't read/spell) Morse code is going to be a non-starter.

And also, to be clear, 4 breaths won't spell many words in Morse code. Have you used Morse code? I mean, it gets a lot better if you allow abbreviated words or something... but again you pretty much need a screen for that so you can see what you're doing.

Parts that positively cannot be assembled in improper order will be.