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Comment Language is created by instinct, not fiat (Score 1) 626

I strongly recommend Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct. It will shed a lot of light on the nature of language and help you understand that it cannot be constructed by fiat.

To summarize Pinker's thesis succinctly, language is created by each individual by instinct and at a young age . There are a couple of fascinating examples from recent history that demonstrate the process. One is in a deaf community in Nicaragua: after the Sandinista war when a semblence of calm returned to the country, the authorities were able to create schools for the deaf. Initially, the students were teenagers collected from various villages. They had lived in isolation with their families and no education in sign language. "Instinctively", each had created their own sign language. When they were brought together, the students merged their separate sign languages into a pidgin. The interesting bit is what happened when younger children subsequently joined the school: since their language instinct was still creating language, they were able to adapt the nascent pidgin into a more more coherent sign language complete with grammatical rules; the result was much more expressive and coherent - and completely independent of other established sign languages. Today, it is a recognized sign language.

It is constructive to think of language as something created by each individual; everybody has their own language and they evolve separately and over time, driven by social imperatives.

On the topic of redundancy: it is a necessary part of all languages. It would be a huge mistake to try to design a more efficientlanguage. This is in part because languages must be able to evolve. They are never static.

Regarding rules: one of the reasons that English has been so successful is its forgiving nature and its willingness to absorb shamelessly from other languages.

In short, I think you will find it more enjoyable and fruitful to channel your interest into other aspects of language. Over the past decade there have been huge advances in language recognition and translation; you might like to start with those fields since they are current, topical, and valuable.

You might also wish to check out another one of my favourite books: The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson. Both of these books are targeted at the layman and are very enjoyable reads.

Comment Maybe because 5.0.0 and 5.0.1 have serious bugs (Score 1) 437

I've been waiting for Lollipop, especially for my 2012 Nexus 7 which continues to be slow despite clearing the cache partition. I am also still waiting for an update on my Nexus 4, my daughter's Nexus 4, and my other three family members Moto Gs.

My understanding is that 5.0.0 and 5.0.1 both have serious bugs. One of them is especially bad if you are using Canadian French settings. Since I am located in Canada, I wonder if they are slowing down the rollout here out of an abundance of caution.

I wouldn't mind the wait nearly so much if Google was more forthcoming with explanations. Their consumer support leaves much to be desired.

In the meantime, 4.4.4 continues to work perfectly for me.

Comment A Question about Chromecast stream resolution (Score 1) 82

When I stream video from Netflix, the server chooses an encoding and resolution specific to the device running their client software. I assume that other video streaming servers behave in the same manner: why stream HD to a 320x800 display?

In the case of the Chromecast which is presumably displaying to a 1920x10820 display, is there some sort of passthrough signalling that will let the streaming device use a more appropriate resolution? Or do I only get the same resolution as the intermediate device?

On a related note, can somebody tell me why this device is desirable? I'm still struggling with the use case here. What is the benefit of Chromecast over something like teeny little wdtv box? It's smaller and cheaper but does a lot less.

Comment Great! Cheaper junk. (Score 1) 322

This sounds like it is just what the world needs. Is this stuff economically recyclable? And is the material environmentally benign?

I find it depressing that everybody is so excited about cheaper plastic junk. I'd rather invest in an "unMakerBot" that consumed household clutter.

Now the printed trachea that saved that girls life: that's a worthwhile application of this technology!

Comment Already the case for Queen's University Engineers (Score 1) 564

When I was in engineering at Queen's University (Kingston, Ontario) in the mid-80s, it was already mandatory for students to take a humanities course each year (after the first). I took introductory Classics, Philosophy, and Religion. They weren't bird courses but they were a nice break from the applied maths and science courses that filled the rest of my life.

Of course, some engineers gamed the system by taking the Logic course from the Philosophy Department.

Comment If you could automate solving IT problems (Score 1) 146

then why do we have the problems in the first place?

Seriously, if the problems are that easy to solve, then why aren't they pre-emptively detected and repaired by some of the bloatware installed on enterprise machines these days?

I strongly suspect that this will simply be slightly more sophisticated automated call routing with voice recognition - in otherwords, just a way of delaying the costly, but still inevitable, point where one needs to talk to a human with a clue (i.e. knows where to route the ticket).

As most of us are aware, the standard IT support strategy for the truly meaty problems is simply to delay, delay, delay, until the customer gives up and goes away. Certainly, that's how HP does it (using well-meaning Indian, Malaysian, Costa Rican, and Bulgarian staff who don't have the authority to actually investigate problems).

Comment I've been blocking 3P cookies for years (Score 5, Insightful) 106

and have never noticed a problem. This has always struck me as a no-brainer and it's annoyed the hell out of me that I have to modify the setting on every platform for each of my five family members.

I can't wait for them to change the default behaviour and I'll be very interested to see if they uncover any side effects that could conceivably be considered undesirable by the user.

My biggest worry is what the websites might do to circumvent the change.

Comment The study results are very believable (Score 1) 262

Talking on a phone is different from talking to the passenger beside you. When one talks to a remote person, the brain creates a remote environment and moves its attention to that space. I'm not sure what is going on neurologically but the effect is very strong and I don't see an easy way around the problem. Perhaps we need to create an avatar for the other party that sits beside the driver in the car.

Comment It's about time (Score 1) 248

I'm fed up with banks, Paypal, Interac, and other middlemen taking a cut of every transaction. My governments have a legal right and a need to tax us but I didn't sign up for a 3% premium on all goods just to benefit the banks. I don't particularly trust my government but I don't distrust them as much as banks and other commercial enterprises.

Comment The author is confusing intelligence with ability (Score 1) 629

The author writes How would you change if you were twice as smart as you are now...Or whenever it is you'll think we'd have the technology to travel to another solar system

Having the technology to travel to another solar system does not necessarily require a super-human intelligence. The author's conclusion may be correct but not due to this very weak argument.

One might instead argue that a race that has the capability of travelling to another solar system would be strongly motivated to do so simply because they have nearly exhausted the mysteries of their own system.

Consider an extremely long-lived race with a very slow metabolism. Unlike humans, they might very well have the patience for such a long trip and and a biological advantage that makes the prospect less daunting.

And back on the topic of intelligence, my experience is that curiosity is strongly correlated with intelligence. Furthermore, what would be the imperative driving the development of such intelligence? It would most likely be either curiosity or a threat. In either case, migration/exploration is likely.

People are always available for work in the past tense.