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Comment: Talking to "different" people is bad for you (Score 3, Informative) 68

by Animats (#47787707) Attached to: Study: Social Networks Have Negative Effect On Individual Welfare

This is fascinating. It's not the classic "people don't have social lives in the real world because they are on line too much" argument. The authors argue that following people who are "different" from you is bad for you. They write:

"Compared to face-to-face interactions, online networks allow users to silently observe the opinions and behaviors of an immensely wider share of their fellow citizens. The psychological literature has shown that most people tend to overestimate the extent to which their beliefs or opinions are typical of those of others. There is a tendency for people to assume that their own opinions, beliefs, preferences, values, and habits are âoenormalâ and that others also think the same way that they do. This cognitive bias leads to the perception of a consensus that does not exist, or a 'false consensus' (Gamba, 2013)."

"The more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt afterwards; the more they used Facebook over two weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time. The effects found by the authors were not moderated by the size of people's Facebook networks, their perceived supportiveness, motivation for using Facebook, gender, loneliness, self-esteem, or depression, thus suggesting the existence of a direct link between SNSs' use and subjective well-being."

This is a new result, and needs confirmation. Are homogeneous societies happier ones? Should that be replicated on line? Should efforts be made in Facebook to keep people from having "different" friends?

Comment: Re:Beyond what humans can do (Score 1) 509

by swillden (#47770815) Attached to: Climate Damage 'Irreversible' According Leaked Climate Report

Global warming exists. Anyone who denies that is also a moron. But it's certainly not manmade.

I don't get the focus on whether or not the warming is anthropogenic. Should we ignore all problems that we didn't make?

Supposing that the warming isn't primarily anthropogenic, there's still plenty of reason to believe that the greenhouse gases we're adding are making it worse, and in fact we can even make some reasonable estimates of how much worse they're making it.

At the end of the day, you'd really better hope that you're wrong about our ability to modify the climate. Because the current climate of Earth is not typical. In fact, there isn't really a "typical" climate for the planet. Ice core histories show us that it swings between much hotter than it is, and much, much colder (by "colder", think "equatorial oceans frozen 30 feet deep for millenia"). Both extremes will be unpleasant for us, and I say "will", not "would", because it's gonna happen. When? We have no idea. We know that climate changes can happen very rapidly (couple of decades), even without an obvious precipitating event (big meteor, supervolcano eruption, etc.), and that they come at apparently-random intervals.

So if we want this planet to be nice for us long-term, we'd better learn to engineer our climate. Or get even better at adapting our local environment. Or both.

Comment: Re:Damage or Change? (Score 1) 509

by swillden (#47770731) Attached to: Climate Damage 'Irreversible' According Leaked Climate Report

Climate has always changed, the concept of "Damage" is only relevant to those affected by it.

You mean, the same way as asteroids of various sizes have impacted into the Earth throughout the history of the planet, and "Damage" is only relevant to those affected by it?

Yes, I agree.

Yep. In the long run, the climate will change no matter what we do... unless we learn to actively manage it. Similarly, we will get hit by a catastrophically-destructive meteor, unless we develop the technology need to identify and deflect dangerous asteroids. It's worth noting that while without our intervention the climate may stay as it is for thousands of years, it may also change in decades. The ice core records tell us that the planet is capable of warming or cooling as much as 7C in as little as 20-30 years, even without any obvious catastrophic event, and even faster given a supervolcano eruption, or a big meteor. It WILL happen.

IMO, while it certainly makes sense to take reasonable steps to limit greenhouse gas production, we really need to focus on investing heavily in climate research, with an eventual goal of learning not only to understand but to manage our planet's climate. Actually, we should also invest a little in more strategies to cope with unpleasant climate. I say "more" strategies, because we already have a lot of them. The regions of Earth in which humans can survive comfortably without technological assistance are really small. The "natural" human carrying capacity of most of the places people live is basically zero, but we're very good at modifying our environment to adapt it to our needs. When the planet warms substantially, no doubt we'll have to apply more of those skills, so we should be thinking about which ones and how to improve our capabilities.

Comment: Re:And this is how we get to the more concrete har (Score 1) 519

by swillden (#47770487) Attached to: Limiting the Teaching of the Scientific Process In Ohio

I really appreciate the scientific method and I agree it's a major milestone but it's not our most important discovery, that would be rule of law. Without rule of law there can be no civilization and without civilization there wouldn't be much science going on.

I'd argue that the rule of law is a result of applying the scientific method to social structure and governance.

The scientific method really consists of making conjectures and analyzing them critically. Some of the criticism comes from experimentation and analysis, but most conjectures never reach that point because simple thought can identify reasons they should be discarded. This process is closely related to (but vastly more powerful than) the mutation and selection process of evolution. At bottom, both are about creating and testing ideas, and selecting the ones that are objectively better (for the relevant definition of "better"). The scientific method does the selection through a tradition of criticism, natural evolution does it via replication (favoring the gene that replicates itself better).

How does this apply to the rule of law? Three ways. First of all, applying the same principle of progress to social structure, trying new methods and keeping those which work well while discarding those which don't, will lead to rule of law because it clearly is a superior social structure "technology". Second, without the rule of law, you really can't apply the scientific method to social structures, because there is no defined structure beyond the whim of the ruler(s). You have to fix the rules firmly so you can see what the outcomes are, and you can observe how to vary them. So any attempt to apply scientific reasoning to governance demands rule of law.

Third, and most important, the tradition of criticism inherent in and necessary to scientific progress inevitably leads people to criticize their government and to demand, among other things, the ability to understand the rules by which they're governed. I don't believe it's possible for any society with a significant number of scientific thinkers with any sort of influence to remain governed by fiat.

I think history bolsters my argument, too, simply based on the sequence of events. The Enlightenment was all about scientific reasoning and learning how to apply it to nearly all areas of human endeavor, not just science, and the Enlightenment came before the spread of the rule of law, not after.

Oh, actually I think there's a fourth reason scientific thinking creates the rule of law. It's even deeper, and is probably the truly fundamental reason, though it's a harder argument to make. That is that moral values are scientifically determined (even if we don't realize it), and the rule of law is morally right. It would take me a few pages to detail how and why I think that moral rightness is a real, determinable thing, derivable from the laws of nature, and not merely an artifact of culture, so I won't bother. Note that I'm not arguing that correct morality is easy to derive. It's not, any more than it was easy to derive General Relativity by conjecturing about observations of reality. But it can be derived, and in the same method: by conjecturing moral positions and then criticizing them, both logically and experimentally, discarding positions that lead to undesirable outcomes.

Comment: No, it's not anonymous. It's full tracking. (Score 4, Informative) 256

by Animats (#47769815) Attached to: DoT Proposes Mandating Vehicle-To-Vehicle Communications

Here's a more technical discussion from NHTSA. At page 74-75, the data elements of the Basic Safety Message I and II are listed. The BSM Part I message doesn't contain the vehicle ID, but it does contain latitude and longitude. The BSM Part II message has the vehicle's VIN. So this is explicitly not anonymous.

Back in the 1980s, when Caltrans was working on something similar, they used a random ID which was generated each time the ignition was switched on. That's all that's needed for safety purposes. This system has a totally unnecessary tracking feature.

Most of this stuff only works if all vehicles are equipped. It also relies heavily on very accurate GPS positions. However, there's no new sensing - no vehicle radar or LIDAR. The head of Google's autonomous car program is on record as being against V2V systems, because they don't provide reliable data for automatic driving and have the wrong sensors.

If something is going to be required, it should be "smart cruise" anti-collision radar. That's already on many high-end cars and has a good track record. It's really good at eliminating rear-end collisions, and starts braking earlier in other situations such as a car coming out of a cross street. Mercedes did a study once that showed that about half of all collisions are eliminated if braking starts 500ms earlier.

V2V communications should be an extension of vehicle radar. It's possible to send data from one radar to another. Identify-Friend-Foe systems do that, as does TCAS for aircraft. The useful data would be something like "Vehicle N to vehicle M. I see you at range 120m, closing rate 5m/sec, bearing 110 relative. No collision predicted". A reply would be "Vehicle M to vehicle N. I see you at range 120m, closing rate 5m/sec, bearing 205 relative. No collision predicted". That sort of info doesn't involve tracking; it's just what's needed to know what the other cars are doing. It's also independent of GPS. Useful additional info would be "This vehicle is a bus/delivery truck, is stopped, and will probably be moving in 5 seconds.", telling you that the big vehicle ahead is about to move and you don't need to change lanes to go around it.

Comment: Re:The death of leniency (Score 1) 601

by swillden (#47769257) Attached to: U.S. Senator: All Cops Should Wear Cameras

That's a problem. But it's a smaller problem than the one we live with now, which is that there are so many obscure laws that if anyone in a position of authority has it in for you they can find something to nail you for. The rule of law matters.

And just-world-hypothesis believing assholes just go on without thinking they must've deserved it.

What an idiot. You kan't reed.

Comment: Re:Federal vs. local decision (Re:I like...) (Score 4, Insightful) 601

by swillden (#47768263) Attached to: U.S. Senator: All Cops Should Wear Cameras

The federal government has acted as a check on the tyranny of state governments

Utter red herring.

The tyrannies to which you refer were fought by amending the federal constitution and enacting appropriate federal laws to curb the abuses. That's a Good Thing, both the process and the outcome. But it has nothing to do with mi's point. The things the federal government manipulates through funding are things that it has no authority to control, and for which there is no national political will sufficient to give the government that control. Hence this back door method.

If cop cameras are sufficiently important that the federal government should mandate them, then Congress should pass a law mandating them. If the courts knock the law down as unconstitutional (as they would), then we should amend the constitution to give the federal government the authority required. This sneaky backdoor manipulation of state policy via federal funding, though... it's a tool that has no essential limits and no constitutional controls. It's a bad idea, and we should stop it.

Comment: Address space randomization does not help. (Score 5, Interesting) 98

by Animats (#47763103) Attached to: Project Zero Exploits 'Unexploitable' Glibc Bug

64-bit systems should remain safe if they are using address space randomization.

Nah. It just takes more crashes before the exploit achieves penetration.

(Address space randomization is a terrible idea. It's a desperation measure and an excuse for not fixing problems. In exchange for making penetration slightly harder, you give up repeatable crash bug behavior.)

Comment: What's MediaGoblin? Do we care? (Score 4, Informative) 69

by Animats (#47760275) Attached to: MediaGoblin 0.7.0 "Time Traveler's Delight" Released

The Slashdot article doesn't tell me what MediaGoblin does, or what it's for. Nether does the MediaGoblin site. The documentation, in typical Gnu syle, starts out with "how to participate" and continues with installation instructions.

It's sort of like Wordpress, but with different features and support for streaming media. There's a list of sites that use it. Of the public sites listed, all but one are demos of MediaGoblin. The first site on the list that isn't a a demo and works is this set of baby pictures. There's one site that lets you upload stuff. It's a collection of uploaded pictures with no organization.

This seems to be a publishing system for people with nothing to say.

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer

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