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Comment: Re:Different perspectives... (Score 1) 252

Likewise spectacles like WWE wrestling present a similarly unrealistic picture of both human physiques, and human fighting, and indeed set a poor example of how to behave if people are looking for examples of how to live. Similarly, superhero movies (very popular at the moment) present a heavily distorted picture of reality. Then professional sports give a simiilary fantastical picture of human fitness and how sports are played, compared to what average players of these sports would be like (and it is unrealistic to expect than any amount of training would get my tennis to the level of Djokovic or Federer). Then in fashion and marketing, unrealistically good looking people and unrealistically good images of products are used to sell things.

Unreality is omnipresent in today's world, and porn is just one example. If we instinctively think that 'this sort of thing only happens in porn movies, not real life', and likewise 'only top football teams can get away with playing this way -- when I play, I stick to what is realistic', then the many of the issues that porn 'causes' go away. The 'sex addiction' that is sometimes seen with porn can just as readily happen with an overactive imagination, and in any case, anything that placates a strongly dissatisfied sex drive and end up becoming an obsession. (And there are far worse obsessions than porn.)

The big problem of teaching children to tell fantasy and fiction from reality is one which our education systems desperately need to tackle, but probably won't. Likewise how to prevent the problem of attaching too much unnecessary meaning to things like sex and nudity. In the present world, bringing a new human being into the world is a 20+ year process (building a home, fertilisation, bringing the pregnancy to term, safe delivery, raising the child to maturity). Fertilisatiion is pretty much the most trivially easy of that process, but it is the one to which we have a natural instinctive drive, and it is the one stage over which it is easy to make broad controlling statements from a position of power.

The european countries have a far better attitude to sex and nudity than the US or UK, and we should seriously learn from them.

Comment: History is frustrating (Score 1) 83

by John Allsup (#49773533) Attached to: Attackers Use Email Spam To Infect Point-of-Sale Terminals
The case for the 'principle of least authority' has been made many times. People have even tried to design operating systems around it. But when the dominant PC operating system is simply designed to make its maker money and give them market dominance, stuff like this happens. PCs vulnerable to this sort of thing are the product of laziness and the business obsession with (and present-day necessity of) short time-to-market. Unfortunately modern business reality means people often cannot afford to make things properly anymore.

Comment: Re:The art of doing more with less (Score 2) 170

The biggest benefit of learning how to do hand optimisation is not the hand optimised code that results. It's having a clue, when writing higher level code, what that code will end up asking the processor to do. If you don't understand assembly, you are throwing abstract language into a magic black box, and the thinking and reasoning about what happens next often comes to resemble magical thinking. On the other hand, if you are familiar enough with assembly to actually see what your C compiler does with your code, you tend to reason out how to solve programs with the end result in mind, and this leads to better programs.

Comment: Re:Fuck you. (Score 1) 618

by John Allsup (#49711257) Attached to: Editor-in-Chief of the Next Web: Adblockers Are Immoral
Not that simple. If ad-funded business effectively sew up the market, so that you have to turn to one of them for supply, then it isn't really a free exchange. It's an effect that happens as the market evolves due to competition: site A offers good content, with a small amount of advertising to survive; site B uses more advertising, then uses the increased revenue to produce better content than site A; site A loses visitors and disappears; then site C comes along and does the same, and site B has to compete; then sites B and C use large scale advertising to support their content production, and gradually move more and more to whatever will bring in visitors to see the ads. This squeezes sites that use less advertising out of the market.

If the possible means of advertising were heavily restricted, then yes revenues and ad-funding would drop. But then there would be a market vacuum in which sites and services could develop. At present, those sites and services get out-competed by ad-funded sites, then use more and more intrusive advertising to bring in the money. If you offer competitors in a market the opportunity to use marketing techniques that increase their revenue, they will be pushed towards using them. A crash in advertising revenue caused by heavy and widespread ad--blocking may cause a seismic shift in the web in the short term, but then alternative revenue and business models would find a market to move into.

Comment: The trouble with modern Christianity... (Score 3, Insightful) 866

by John Allsup (#49680405) Attached to: Religious Affiliation Shrinking In the US
Ironically, echoing what was happening in the Gospel accounts, the modern religious establishments have to a large degree lost touch with the purpose of the law of Moses and the teachings of Jesus (and so on). People need to move away from blind tradition, look at all major religions that have survived more than a few centuries, and ask exactly why they have been successful in surviving. When it comes to the actual teachings, effort need to be applied to understand the meaning of those teachings in practical real world terms. That means not just explaining 'sin' in terms of 'disobedience' to 'God' without also fully explaining what 'sin', 'disobedience to God' and 'God' mean in real world practical terms, and why, say, 'sin' in then a problem. Too many people leave these words as poorly defined abstract jargon, and end up doing the eight-year-old English lesson thing of just formally rearranging the words according to rules of grammar.

For a mundane example:

There is a cat called Gerald, who has pink fur.
What colour is the fur of the cat?
The colour of the cat's fur is pink.
What is the name of the cat with pink fur?
The name of the cat with pink fur is Gerald.

Now look at some Biblish:

Sin is the result of our disobedience to God. We need Jesus because he died for our sins.
What did Jesus die for?
Jesus died for our sins.
What are our sins?
Our sins are the result of our disobedience to God.
Why are our sins a problem?
Because... because... erm... because they are the result of our disobedience to God, and that's clearly a bad thing.

And that's kind of where such discussions go downhill. The above discussion is an illustration of what happens when genuine understanding is absent, and this is all too often the case, especially amongst members of the religious establishments we have today. On the other hand, just doing the atheist thing often falls into the same traps, but beginning from a different set of basic sentences (there is probably no God; science can explain everything; what is the scientific evidence for the efficacy of prayer). Without fully exploring what meaning can be recovered from ancient teachings given suitable interpretation (and this ultimately must be done by first exhibiting real world practical scenarios where the meaning can be seen at work) we can neither hold them up as truth, nor dismiss them as backward fairytales. Unfortunately the masses are generally doing one or the other.

Comment: Re:And where are the parents? (Score 1) 187

by John Allsup (#49408453) Attached to: UK's Tories Promise To Enact Age Limits For Viewing Online Porn
What happens is that wannabee leaders with good oratory skills stand on a soapbox, sell the majority a fantasy of a magic easy solution that will work, and then the majority vote them into power, some approximation of the 'magic easy solution' gets put into practice and, what-dya-know, it doesn't actually work. Then we repeat the same insanity again and again, and have been for years. Until people learn (and this is the role of the education system) that real solutions to real world problems actually have to work reliably, not just look shiny and sound nice, this will not change. The whole education system is a joke. My sex education was a joke, or would have been if it was in any way funny. The rest of my education sucked just as bad. That I got a PhD at the end, when there are so many people with PhD's who still make reasoning errors so trivial that Pooh Bear would be embarrassed to make them, really means little to me other than that I can ram the 'Dr' bit up an arrogant medical system's arse when they decide to address medics as 'Dr' and me as 'Mr'. I got so disillusioned with the whole education system in my third year of a maths PhD that I never really recovered from the shock of how bad it really was, once I saw in the cold light of day. Cavemen we are evolved to be, and cavemen we are, unless we learn to be different. Right now we aren't even learning anything properly, not least how to give a monkey's about the long term knock on effects of our actions. Why did the ancient spiritual teachers waste their time on our species??

Comment: Re:And where are the parents? (Score 1) 187

by John Allsup (#49408417) Attached to: UK's Tories Promise To Enact Age Limits For Viewing Online Porn
You've just hit the 'fantasy vs reality' problem, and the need for children to differentiate. Like telling boxing from pro-wrestling from fighting-for-real-on-the-streets, kids need to learn to tell the difference. Denying them examples to train their brains on is just not going to work. Advertising and its use of women gives similarly unrealistic expectations if we base our expectations upon what we see in the media. We must all learn not to do that: not to look at women on billboards and think that that is what women should look like, not to see an advertiser's point of view and confuse it with reality, and not to confuse porn with real sex. People need to be taught about real sex, and shown the difference. This means, quite seriously, that we need videos of actual sex, rather than porn, and kids need to be able to tell things apart. This does not come with a religious-wet-dream of a world with no explicit media, or one where only over-eighteeens can watch explicit media. All you do then is shunt the problem to a time in life when learning is more difficulty, and where critical life-changing decisions are going to come thick and fast.

Comment: Re:Good Luck with That (Score 2) 187

by John Allsup (#49408381) Attached to: UK's Tories Promise To Enact Age Limits For Viewing Online Porn
Parenting 102: your kid is going to turn 18 one day, and your parental responsibilities continue. If your kid is not prepared for alcohol and porn, once they turn 18 they will be able to legally get hold of them. You have until that day to ensure that they know how to consume alcohol and porn sensibly and safely. This does not come from a magic bury-our-head-in-the-sand approach, no matter how much you want it to work. I had a sheltered upbringing, and learning for myself was a nightmare that took years. I wrote my thoughts at http://goodpornisart.com if anybody is interested.

Comment: Good mathematics is an art (Score 1) 397

by John Allsup (#49381513) Attached to: Why America's Obsession With STEM Education Is Dangerous
It is easy to write logical porridge. It is an art to write mathematics that is not just logical porridge. Beautiful mathematics is the birthright of the subject, but it takes learning. To learn to write beautiful mathematics you must learn what art is, and what artistic language is. It is likewise with computer code. This is why (IMHO) Knuth named his opus The Art of Computer Programming: maths and computer programming are arts. To understand them, you must understand what makes poetry and art beautiful, and understand that feeling that people get when the perceive beauty. If not you will lack the ability to tell the best science, and the only science worth bothering with, from all the rest. Personally I am totally disillusioned with modern education, more so with modern business, and I am wondering when sense will be seen. Right now I see a world of desperate manic cavemen running around using whatever magic toys they can to magic food onto their table, and using whatever clublike things they can find to defend their territory. This isn't going to save the American economy.

Comment: Ditch the name (Score 1) 92

by John Allsup (#49368617) Attached to: Arduino Dispute Reaches Out To Distributors
Arduino was never the best name anyway. Come up with a new one, with an amusing competition of some sort, then form a less greedy body to take charge of the name, transfer all the open source rights etc to this new name, replace the rest, and teach these lousy business heads that the open source world is not a magic tree to be cherry picked. If a business does not act in the best interests of the rest of humanity, that business should be considered broken. Likewise between business and open-source and free-software. At times we must be brutal. My vote goes for Dinopod -- it's got a bit of the duino bit, albeit without the u, and a nice sounding syllable on the end. Then we just have to hope Apple doesn't think it owns the pod suffix like it thinks it owns the i prefix.

Comment: It's only going to get worse. (Score 3, Interesting) 161

by John Allsup (#49368597) Attached to: Europol Chief Warns About Computer Encryption
People haven't figured out the half of it. The Theoretical Computer Scientists are still trying to figure out if P equals NP, when there is both an easy solution (I've tried to submit one version of it, and have written another), and that when conditions of physical plausibility are introduced, it turns out to be the wrong problem anyway. Hard problems arise as soon as you need one more peek at a pile of data than you have. Then you have to guess, and you are at the mercy of the guess. If it is a genuine binary guess and nobody is in a position to force your random number source (and this is totally unrealistic) then you only have a 50% chance of being totally wrong. Things go downhill pretty fast from there.  Trust me, my sanity has survived by playing these games in my head for the last decade or so, and there is only one sensible strategy, and it is built fundamentally on sensibly chooing friends you trust. Things then either turn into a lovely blissful world of total cooperation (and I'm still dreaming here), or else devolve into a downward spiral of ever decreasing trust, ever increasing suspicion, and total failure to justify that distrust given that when one determined person want to screw things up, he or she happens to be the 1/1000 that you didn't decide to label a 'madman' and lock up. The law enforcement systems they are demanding don't work even in dreams. They face too many decision processes, can't improve matters by adding more decision processes (and this is the mess that using computers to aid they really gets them), and they are demanding that their task is made artificially simple. Doesn't bloody work that way in our universe. Sorry. We live according to the laws of mathematics and physics, and if you find yourself on the wrong side of them, complaining to lawmakers won't make the problems go away, but can screw up a large number of lives in the attempt.

"When it comes to humility, I'm the greatest." -- Bullwinkle Moose