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Comment: "Should" programming really be easy? (Score 1) 497

by Millennium (#47416595) Attached to: Normal Humans Effectively Excluded From Developing Software

I'm not interested in excluding people from programming. However, there seems to be an underlying assumption from many of the coding-for-all types that programming "should" be much easier than it currently is. I'm putting "should" in quotes here because when many people see that word, they start thinking in ideological or moral terms. That's not my intended meaning. I'm talking about the logistics of programming: specifically, the idea that we have unnecessarily heaped huge amounts of complexity on top of something that is actually quite simple.

In order to open up programming to the masses, it must necessarily be simple and easily-grasped at its core. This is not because most people are stupid, but because most people cannot afford to spend a great deal of time and energy learning the concepts behind it. As currently understood, programming requires a large investment of these things, and most programmers today, by far, are people who have made that investment.

Can that time investment be reduced? To some degree, it probably can. But there are limits to how far something can be reduced, and I'm not convinced that programming can be reduced to a degree that would bring it to the masses. My reasoning for this is that I'm not convinced that the core concepts are as simple and easily-grasped as they're often made out to be. They seem simple to me nowadays -almost second nature, in fact- but I've been programming for years, I studied for years before that, and things didn't really start to click until I was a few years into my studies. Even nowadays, I still get moments where something suddenly clicks and my skills take a noticeable leap forward. This is not a hallmark of a simple field.

I believe that most of the people who set out to "simplify programming" are not too different from me. They might have learned certain concepts at different rates, but the things that seem simple to them now did not seem so simple when they first began. This is, I propose, because they aren't simple.

I am not "elite." All I did was allocate my time a little differently, and in ways that not everyone realistically can. I don't begrudge them this, because a lot of them allocated their time in ways that I couldn't, especially not after I made my choice. I respect and appreciate the skills they have that I don't, and I don't think I'm out of line in asking for the reverse. What makes this state of affairs unacceptable?

Comment: Re:Quite... (Score 1) 463

I'd like a strawman with a side order of false dichotomies, please? Oh, wait, no I wouldn't.

Nobody with any wit thinks that any given piece of technology is going to be well and truly flawless. Not even the technology used to land a plane. That's why we design them with multiple backups, failsafes, and alternatives. Rather than blindly trust the things we designed, we instead design so that we don't have to trust them. Even if something goes wrong, there's always another backup or alternative.

That's what this particular design fails to do. By hamstringing the last-resort failsafe (i.e. the pilots), it requires blind trust in the technology. That is simply not a sane approach.

Comment: Re:And when the video feed dies... (Score 2) 463

Is there really no room for any other sort of reaction, in between blind faith and knee-jerk opposition?

From time to time, technology fails. This is a simple fact of life, and normally, the people making the technology will be the first to tell you this (the people selling the technology, not so much, which is a source of tension between the two). It doesn't take a Luddite to see that one needs to have failsafes in place. This is, in fact, what the word "failsafe" means.

Comment: Re:it depends on what "skilled worker" means. (Score 1) 397

by Millennium (#47398621) Attached to: No Shortage In Tech Workers, Advocacy Groups Say

It's unlikely for any company to get the "best qualified" in absolute terms, because every one of them is competing for the best qualified. But you go for the best qualified among whatever is available.

But ultimately, that's not the only factor. You need someone who will provide a decent value for what they're asking. If the best qualified person is asking well over the value of their work, then you've got to take that into consideration as well. People who you cannot afford are essentially unavailable, and so you're back to looking for the best-qualified person who is.

Comment: Not really sure what to think here. (Score 1) 550

On the one hand, machines will never exceed human intelligence until we figure out how to model irrationality: the source of creative insight. But once we do that, there's nothing stopping them from growing into the same sorts of failings that we have.

On the other hand, maybe that will only make it more likely for them to come to these conclusions.

Comment: Re:So there's 100 or so unimmunized? (Score 2) 387

by Millennium (#47242663) Attached to: California Whooping Cough Cases "an Epidemic"

It doesn't sound to me like the grandparent was an antivaxxer. The rather unkind things they said about Jenny McCarthy should stand as a pretty strong argument that he (she?) isn't.

But it's true: vaccines are not perfect. They give a big boost, and they can help a lot of people, but the fact is that some of their effectiveness really does depend on having very high participation: herd immunity helps the immunized almost as much as it helps the un-immunized. Which only makes it more of a travesty that the antivaxxers are pulling this BS. It's not just that they're screwing their own kids out of immunity, though that would be bad enough on its own. But they're even managing to reduce the protection that the properly-immunized have. One could draw parallels to secondhand smoke.

There's also the fact that some people actually have a legitimate need to be leaning on herd immunity. For example, I've got all my shots except one. I reacted very badly to my first dose of whooping cough vaccine (which needs three doses), so the docs tried a half-dose for my second but I reacted just as badly, so they stopped it entirely. I'm vaccinated against everything else; they even found separate vaccines for measles and mumps (which are usually done alongside whooping cough in a combined vaccine called MMR) and gave me those, and I got through those just fine. But I've got that one hole in my immunity, and I had to get all kinds of waivers for exceptions and stuff going through school because of it. But I'm glad that the waiver system is there, and that I needed to go through it.

I keep up on the rest of my shots, partly out of a sense of duty: I must depend on the herd for protection from one disease, so it's even more important that I contribute back to the herd's immunity from every other disease. I've got no quarrel with those who actually react badly to a given vaccine (being one myself), and I don't even mind the relatively few people who avoid vaccines for religious reasons (though I'm not one of them). But the McCarthyite antivaxxer is another matter entirely: honestly, I'm starting to think that they should be classified as a public menace.

So yes, dear antivaxxers: stop spoiling herd immunity. Some of us need that. No love, me.

Comment: Re:Astounding answer on Evolution (Score 1) 161

by Millennium (#47197511) Attached to: Interviews: Forrest Mims Answers Your Questions

Constant review and scrutiny is supposed to be part of science. The successes of hoaxes like the Lysenko affair, the kinase cascade theory, Piltdown Man and cold fusion (but not the butt-head astronomer), more than one claim of inducing pluripotency in somatic stem cells, and countless others past and present show that even today, science-as-practiced often falls far short of science-as-idealized.

Oftentimes, this doesn't result in much trouble, because even when review and scrutiny don't happen, most scientists are basically honest. Their data is decent (or at least not deliberately flawed), their experiments are more or less sound, and things turn out to work anyway. But it is very easy to get lulled into a false sense of security by this assumption of basic morality (a sentence that could be applied equally well to some other things), and that sense of security is what allows the quacks and hoaxers to thrive even as their colleagues get caught all around them.

Comment: Re:Incorrect Timescale (Score 1) 189

by Millennium (#47026983) Attached to: Understanding an AI's Timescale

The other thing to note is that humans can directly understand distinct moments in time that are well under one second apart. Not all THAT much under -it varies a little from person to person, but it's usually between 1/50 and 1/60 of a second- but the fact remains that even if we try to measure the human "clock rate" as the smallest distinct points in time that we can distinguish, we're faster than 1Hz.

A more appropriate time scale would be to say that 50 clock cycles of CPU time equals one second of human time. The numbers don't look quite as impressive when you do this -a cold boot takes just under 650 years, as opposed to some 32,000 years- but it still drives the point home that humans are slow. Some of the smaller time scales also become useful as metaphors: for example, the main memory access takes 7 "seconds": much like something you have to struggle a bit to remember, but it still seems to come quickly.

Comment: Re:Additional benchmarks? (Score 2) 170

by Millennium (#46998105) Attached to: WebKit Unifies JavaScript Compilation With LLVM Optimizer

I don't know if I'd go so far as to say "a looong" time ago: it's only been a year since Blink was even announced. But you're fundamentally correct.

Webkit and Blink (the engine behind Chrome and, now, Opera) share a common ancestry, but they are no longer the same engine, and have not been for some months. For that matter, even when Chrome was WebKit based, it never used the same JavaScript engine as other WebKit browsers, and this was one of its strongest initial selling points.

Comment: Re:You know what they call alternative medicine... (Score 4, Informative) 517

The tree-bark studies you use are more along the lines of herbalism than holistic medicine or homeopathy. The yew extracts commonly used in chemotherapy should also be considered here.

This is not just a matter of the fact that they use herbs. They fail homeopathy by not relying on the "memory of water" effect that homeopathy claims to rely on: indeed, homeopaths would be horrified at the doses used. Likewise, holistic medicine is generally quite keen on not introducing foreign substances into the body, which these clearly do.

These aren't the only herbs to be shown effective, either. And when they are shown effective, medicine incorporates them. But a great many herbs have been shown to have no effect at all, or even to cause harm, and science has rejected these, as it should. The resulting dosage tables from these tests bear little resemblance to herbalism as the herbalists tend to think of it.

Essentially, herbalists stumbled onto a couple of patterns, and thought this meant they knew everything. When we put it to the test, we found a few accidental discoveries: it's not unlike the way that alchemists accidentally discovered gunpowder. But the methods the herbalists used were bunk, and a lot of the resulting knowledge was bunk, and even when it wasn't, they turned out to know far less than they thought they did.

It is surely a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions. - Robert Bly