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Comment: Agreed; incremental versions can be useful (Score 1) 229

by Paul Fernhout (#47791839) Attached to: Hidden Obstacles For Google's Self-Driving Cars

I agree (article submitter here). I submitted the article mostly not to complain about lack of progress but because the article covered a lot of interesting details about how the Google technology worked in discussing the limits of the current system. I have little doubt such systems will continue to rapidly improve.

I was involved briefly on a project for self-driving cars in the late 1980s at Princeton involving neural network ideas for image processing, and I suggested we could just train the cars to drive specific routes. However, that suggestion was scoffed at (and I did not try hard to push it). My argument was that most driving is stuff like daily commutes or runs to well known stores, and so pretty much the car could drive exactly the same way every time, seeing the exact same sights. That might make it feasible to train the neural networks from just a few video recordings of drives over the same stretch of roadway. Granted, lighting conditions, weather, other cars, pedestrians, and possible lane changes make that harder -- but is seemed like a good place to start, rather than try to create a car driving system that could drive in arbitrary new circumstances where it has never seen the road before. Solar panels have succeeded much the same way -- the early ones were niche (like in calculators or satellites), but sales drove more R&D that lead to better and cheaper panels in more and more applications. A self-driving car that could only drive me from home to a few local towns and back on fixed routes (safely, while, say, I surfed the web) would still be tremendously valuable to me. Think of how many people commute the same routes every day for years and could use that commuting time more productively in other ways via the internet. If people with an hour commute could use that time to answer email, then maybe they could work one hour less in the office? Also, a car that just knew how to park itself in a standard location and come back to pick you up in front of some building you work at or apartment you live in would be very useful in cities.

Another idea I had several years ago is that we could have an open source software effort to drive cars in various simulated racing games like "Gran Turismo" or other free play driving games like "Driver: San Francisco" or various off-road sims. That would be a inexpensive and safe challenge for college students. Those driving simulators go to great lengths to make realistic looking images (including things like dust clouds and vehicle dynamics), and they continue to improve. You just feed the first-person video generated the game into the car-driving visual processing algorithms, and you have the software control the game via USB outputs. As the software gets better, then you can fuzz up the image more and more by adding more white noise to it, or whatever other distortions you wanted (like bug white blotches over parts of the image) to challenge the algorithms. Or you could introduce delays and noise in how commands for steering were processed. Such an approach makes writing such software feasible for the average software developer without a special car. Granted, the software would have to focus on processing 2D images instead of 3D laser ranging data. Even Google has talked about testing their software in simulations regarding certification. Ideally, the simulations used for testing would be open source too, like Rigs of Rods (or even more realistic) and if so, things like 3D ranging data could probably be extracted too:

Comment: Policy implication #1: Basic income & resilien (Score 1) 338

As I wrote here about the USA: "Right now, a profit driven health care system has sized emergency rooms for average needs, and those emergency rooms are often full. With a basic income and more money going on a systematic basis to the health care system, the health care system emergency rooms will no longer be overrun with people there for reasons they could see a doctor for. So, emergency care would be better for millionaires. Millionaires with heart attacks won't be as likely to end up being diverted to far away hospitals because the local hospital emergency room is full. Likewise, emergency rooms might, with more money going to medicine, become sized for national emergencies, not personal emergencies, so they might become vast empty places, with physicians and other health care staff keeping their skills sharp always running simulations, learning more medical information, and/or doing basic medical research, with these people always ready for a pandemic or natural disaster or industrial accident which they had the resources in reserve to deal with. So, millionaires who got sick or injured in a disaster could be sure there was the facilities and expertise nearby to help them, even if most of the rest of the population needed help too at the same time too. In that way, some of this basic income could be funded by money that might otherwise go to the Defense department, because what is better civil defense then investing in a health care system able to to handle national disasters? So, any millionaires who are doctors (many are) would benefit by this plan, because their lives as doctors will become happier and less stressful, both with less paperwork and with more resources."

We should also reduce the monopoly power of the AMA and related organizations that creates an artificial scarcity of physicians in the USA using quotas and high credentialing prices. See for example:

We should also be systematically rethinking our technical infrastructure to be more resilient rather than depend on long supply lines that need to be "defended" by troops in foreign countries, and also rethinking our security strategy to be more mutual rather than unilateral.
"Biological weapons like genetically-engineered plagues are ironic because they are about using advanced life-altering biotechnology to fight over which old-fashioned humans get to occupy the planet. Why not just use advanced biotech to let people pick their skin color, or to create living arkologies and agricultural abundance for everyone everywhere? ... We the people need to redefine security in a sustainable and resilient way. Much current US military doctrine is based around unilateral security ("I'm safe because you are nervous") and extrinsic security ("I'm safe despite long supply lines because I have a bunch of soldiers to defend them"), which both lead to expensive arms races. We need as a society to move to other paradigms like Morton Deutsch's mutual security ("We're all looking out for each other's safety") and Amory Lovin's intrinsic security ("Our redundant decentralized local systems can take a lot of pounding whether from storm, earthquake, or bombs and would still would keep working"). ... This all suggests that our biggest danger as as society is in putting the *tools* (some being useful as weapons) of a post-scarcity civilization into the hands of scarcity-preoccupied minds. (Especially ones following outdated military dogmas like unilateral security instead of mutual security.) As Albert Einstein said, with the advent of atomic weapons, everything has changed but our thinking. This site is put up towards that end, changing our thinking, through helping change our collective mythology, especially in the non-profit sector. ... And just to show you how these things change, my main graduate advisor at SUNY SB, Lev Ginzburg, had been a Soviet mathematician; he said he learned differential equations helping his father design missile guidance systems (essentially to efficiently and accurately deliver nuclear bombs to the USA to bring death on me and all I knew through the power of mathematics). And there, decades later, I was learning mathematical ecology and so on from him. :-) Again, multiple ironies -- including both the USA and the USSR having great math and a grasp of nuclear energy and advanced manufacturing and space flight, but using it to fight instead of build, and us two, not knowing each other, but unknowingly for a time total enemies back then, and now friends. :-) Or, as good a friend as one can be with a graduate advisor. :-) See: http://www.disciplined-minds.c... "

Of course, I think we should have already *long* been doing all those things regardless of what new potential threats show up in the news. From a 21st century post-scarcity perspective, these policies are all just a new form of "common sense".

+ - Hidden Obstacles for Google's Self-Driving Cars->

Submitted by Paul Fernhout
Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "Lee Gomes at Technology Review wrote an article on the current limits of Google self-driving car technology: "Would you buy a self-driving car that couldn't drive itself in 99 percent of the country? Or that knew nearly nothing about parking, couldn't be taken out in snow or heavy rain, and would drive straight over a gaping pothole? If your answer is yes, then check out the Google Self-Driving Car, model year 2014. Google often leaves the impression that, as a Google executive once wrote, the cars can "drive anywhere a car can legally drive." However, that's true only if intricate preparations have been made beforehand, with the car's exact route, including driveways, extensively mapped. Data from multiple passes by a special sensor vehicle must later be pored over, meter by meter, by both computers and humans. It's vastly more effort than what's needed for Google Maps. ... Maps have so far been prepared for only a few thousand miles of roadway, but achieving Google's vision will require maintaining a constantly updating map of the nation's millions of miles of roads and driveways. Urmson says Google's researchers "don't see any particular roadblocks" to accomplishing that. When a Google car sees a new permanent structure such as a light pole or sign that it wasn't expecting it sends an alert and some data to a team at Google in charge of maintaining the map. ... Among other unsolved problems, Google has yet to drive in snow, and Urmson says safety concerns preclude testing during heavy rains. Nor has it tackled big, open parking lots or multilevel garages. ... Pedestrians are detected simply as moving, column-shaped blurs of pixels — meaning, Urmson agrees, that the car wouldn't be able to spot a police officer at the side of the road frantically waving for traffic to stop. ..."

A deeper issue I wrote about in 2001 is whether such software and data will be FOSS or proprietary? As I wrote there: "We are about to see the emergence of companies licensing that publicly funded software and selling modified versions of such software as proprietary products. There will eventually be hundreds or thousands of paid automotive software engineers working on such software no matter how it is funded, because there will be great value in having such self-driving vehicles given the result of America's horrendous urban planning policies leaving the car as generally the most efficient means of transport in the suburb. The question is, will the results of the work be open for inspection and contribution by the public? Essentially, will those engineers and their employers be "owners" of the software, or will they instead be "stewards" of a larger free and open community development process?""

Link to Original Source

Comment: My hypothesis: Sun of Iron with LENR at surface (Score 0) 140

by Paul Fernhout (#47781135) Attached to: Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

You make good points on the limits of science. Is is possible there is no hot fusion in the sun, and duplicating such a non-existent phenomenon on Earth has been a fool's errand? See also:

I think it possible hydrogen may essentially outgas for statistical reasons at the surface of an iron Sun. It might also be cause by electric currents?

Then the hydrogen fuses at the surface of the Sun's iron-nickel core. The same process may be happening at a lesser scale deep within the Earth (which has an iron-nickel core), both to cause the Earth's heat by LENR and also to produce upwelling hydrocabons from outgassed hydrogen from all the nickel-iron.

In general, the universe may be mostly iron. The history of the universe may be more about iron decaying into hydrogen (for whatever reasons), rather than hydrogen fusing into (eventually) iron.

The Earth from space looks like it is made of mostly air and water. You can't judge a large object by just what covers it. The sun's surface may be hydrogen, but we don't really know for sure what is inside -- it is all indirect guessing. What we know is that the Earth has an iron-nickel core. So why not the sun?

Science is full of data that gets reinterpreted decades later. It was well accepted the Sun was made of Iron until re-interpretation of data in the Early 1900s. Maybe it is time for another bug re-interpretation? Perhaps inspired by the recent scientific reports related to cold fusion / LENR?

Of course, I am at a loss how to disprove my hypothesis... Perhaps people here might suggest ways to do that.

Comment: We need to talk about externalities, fairness & (Score 1) 513

by Paul Fernhout (#47781047) Attached to: Climate Damage 'Irreversible' According Leaked Climate Report

I said this years ago -- the change is effectively irreversible and we should accept it and deal with it. See my essay "On Climate Change vs. the Singularity".

CO2 pollution and related climate change is an externality of centuries of human industrial development and fossil fuel burning, as well as likely poor farming practices leading to topsoil loss (a major carbon reservoir), and also livestock production. As a consequence, many people in low lying areas will be flooded, and others will have bad weather and lose harvests, (negative externalities) while some others will get warmer or wetter weather and have bigger harvests (positive externality). Essentially, global climate change is just a bigger example of, say, a valley being flooded to make a hydroelectric dam. Who pays the costs and who gets the benefits?

We could tax fossil fuel use and topsoil loss and livestock production to discourage it and redistribute that tax as a global basic income. But that is not enough because past advantages are not evenly distributed globally. So, we could tax capital as well (including patents and copyrights) and also distribute that as a global basic income to make up for such losses. Then people who are negatively affected by climate change will at least be able to afford to move elsewhere. In general, we could also look at the specific winners and losers of climate change and also look at taxing and redistributing to just those people, but that seems harder to figure out.

Of course, all this is easier said than done without a world government -- and that has its own problems. I can hope that we transition globally to a post-scarcity society in the next few decades (including dirt-cheap solar, hot and cold fusion energy, widespread productive robotics and AI) and many of these issues become uninteresting or trivial to resolve given global abundance. Of course, abundance and such a AI/robotics singularity also poses its own problems. And those issues related to an economic, political, and/or evolutionary singularity in the next few decades may well be more important to think about and plan for than a, by comparison, relatively simpler problem of global climate change.

Comment: Liquid breathing and vitamin D? (Score 1) 107

by Paul Fernhout (#47780931) Attached to: Eye Problems From Space Affect At Least 21 NASA Astronauts

Some speculations... The US RDA for vitamin D is about 10X too low for adults, so likely all astronauts in the space station have been deficient, which could contribute to bone loss and some other health effects. Also, living in a liquid environment might help mitigate loss of muscle tone by creating muscle-strengthening resistance as astronauts swim in the liquid the same way dolphins stay fit floating essentially weightlessly in water. (Granted, it might not be identical to living in a G-field.) A resistant spacesuit might also provide some of this conditioning too -- however the liquid also doubles as a radiation shield, at the cost of more mass to lift into space. Breathable liquids have been researched, but I don't know where that work is now.

Others have talked about rotating cylinders (like O'Neill space habitats). I'm all in favor of trying that. However, those seem harder to make and maintain and travel between that more modular zero-G Marshall-Savage-Millennial-Project-like-plastic-bubbles with two meter water shields at the exterior for radiation protection. So, it seems like ultimately genetic engineering, nanoengineering, or medicine to adapt humans to zero-G might ultimately be cheaper than rotating space habitats. Or, maybe, like Hans Moravec suggests, space will be the domain of our zero-G-optimized robot "mind children" (and perhaps human minds downloaded into some of them or teleoperating some of them).

Comment: You had a VM w/ VLAN; TechCentral took a big risk (Score 1) 247

by Paul Fernhout (#47761163) Attached to: TechCentral Scams Call Center Scammers

I cant believe more people aren't pointing out how potentially dangerous what the TechCrunch author, Regardt van der Berg, did was. He gave a potential unknown attacker a beachhead inside the TechCentral network, even if only for a few minutes. That is long enough for someone to potentially have compromised other machines on the network.

The article says: "We have a spare PC in the TechCentral office that has been newly installed and that contains no personal information. I used this machine for the next part of the ploy. I installed the application and provided "John" with the access details. ... Because I did not furnish my PayPal or credit card details, the scammers turned nasty and proceeded to my documents folder. I saw the engineer poking around in some folders, but I promptly disconnected the office Wi-Fi connection. After some research, I found out that they'll delete system files and users' personal documents. Fortunately, I disconnected before they managed to delete files on the dummy PC -- not that there was anything of value for them to delete."

At that point, regardless of what was done to that specific PC, they have to assume the attacker could compromise every machine on their network by exploits launched immediately from that machine in the background at all other computers on the network, like through potentially zero-day exploits such as for unpatched Microsoft issues relating to local workgroup file sharing or other services. They cant assume they knew everything the attackers were doing. That's why it's been said that firewalls, like some lollipops, are "crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle". The article author does not say he re-imaged the PC either. Granted, his informative article that may help many other potential victims was maybe worth the risk, but he should at least make clear to his readership what those risks are and that he understood them and accepted them on behalf of helping his readership.

Contrast with what your setup, where the VM was on its own virtual LAN and so presumably could not get to other machines on your local network. And as a snapshotted VM, you can easily roll it back. Still, if you had installed software, how risky that was would also depend on the exact network configuration and how that VM's VLAN interacts with your gateway to the internet -- as in whether the VLAN to gateway interface via whatever virtualization software you were using was set up like guest networking with isolation from other guests. One mistake somewhere in configuration (or even with no mistakes and buggy virtualization software), and your production network could have been compromised. And as you said, there could be credentials on a test machine like SSH keys and such. You did the right thing by not installing anything.

Granted, it doesn't sound like these examples of scammers are doing internal network attacks, but you never can know for sure what they really intend...

Comment: Examples of nothingness as the fuel for something? (Score 1) 7

by Paul Fernhout (#47747899) Attached to: What is Nothing?

Romulan spacecraft in Star Trek: TNG were supposedly powered by an artifical quantum singularity (a black hole).

Robin Williams' life and comedy can only be understood in light of a deep depression and related suffering throughout his life. No doubt many other artists and creators have that sort of (negative) inspiration.

Michael Ende's "The Neverending Story" has an expanding "Nothingness" that drives the plot.

Jack Chalker's sci-fi Well World series, specifically "The Return of Nathan Brazil", has a spreading nothingness as a rip in space-time created via powerful weapons (the Zinder Nullifier) as a major driver of the plot.

Other examples?

+ - What is Nothing? 7

Submitted by Paul Fernhout
Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "Fraser Crain explores the issue of "Whether there any place in the Universe where there's truly nothing?". That article is also discussed at One comment there by Evgenij Barsoukov uses the rules for finding mathematical limits to compute the probability of the Universe coming into spontaneous existence out of absolute nothingness at 0.6...."

Comment: Insightful point on communities; thanks! (Score 2) 507

by Paul Fernhout (#47744657) Attached to: If Java Wasn't Cool 10 Years Ago, What About Now?

I'm moving more of my own work from Java to JavaScript, but that is mainly because JavaScript is easiest to deploy almost every where. I generally like Java+Eclipse better for big projects otherwise. However, with tools that compile other languages to JavaScript, and browsers that can get near native performance from JavaScript if written in a certain way, I'm hoping the "JavaScript" approach will continue to gain in benefits because it is just easier to deploy than Java. It's too bad Java app deployment to the desktop was never a real priority (even with Java Web Start). As an example of the difference (including in sandboxing), some school teachers can get fired for installing new software without permission (which could include a Java app which can do anything), but they can use a web browser to load up an educational web page which uses JavaScript to run a simulation without too many worries.

I fought against Java back in the late 1990s compared to using Smalltalk. Back then Java was just a mess and a mass of hype. But I can accept Java is now a half-way-decent solution for many things now that many of the worst rough edges of Java have been smoothed off. I still miss Smalltalk though, and to some extent (not all), JavaScript recaptures some of the Smalltalk flavor and community -- if I squint just right, I can kind of see the entire Web as one big multi-threaded Smalltalk image. :-)

Comment: Calvin Coolidge on Persistence (Score 1) 441

by Paul Fernhout (#47736335) Attached to: Tech Looks To Obama To Save Them From 'Just Sort of OK' US Workers

From: "Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "Press On" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. (Calvin Coolidge)"

Of course, it has also been said: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. (Albert Einstein)"

Perhaps the difference lies in having some way of validating that you are making some progress through your persistence, even if infinitesimally?

Comment: Insightful! Govt. & US Post Office might also (Score 1) 62

by Paul Fernhout (#47736141) Attached to: UPS: We've Been Hacked

Sharing such rarely changing authentication data is at the heart of the issue as you point out. It seems like a trade-off of convenience and security with some background fraud cost. However, the issue is always convenience for who and fraud for who? In this case, banks have succeeded in mostly privatizing gains from transactions costs from credit card transaction fees while socializing the cost of identity theft to the general public (who have to change their accounts, deal with years of worries, try to straighten out fraudulent charges at riskof not being able to get a job or buy a house, etc.). This is an example of capitalism at its finest from one point of view -- privatizing gains while socializing costs and risks. That is when we need government (as the will of the People) to step in and force banks to internalize the cost of identity theft rather than pass it on indirectly. Ultimately, that might have to be done by big fines for breaches or taxes on unsecured transactions. And if banks had to do that, they would probably rapidly deploy something better because it would be cheaper than raising costs to customers and losing business to other banks that did implement better systems.

Perhaps the only worse thing is when businesses in the USA are allowed to use essentially unchangeable info about a person like date of birth or social security number to authenticate them. Other countries seem to handle this better by having an additional private PIN as part of a SSN. Some also include using the post office as part of the authentication process (like to present your ID at the post-office to approve some transaction or initiate some communications link). I'm surprised the US post office (which handles US passports now) does not get involved with authentication in general, as it seems like a surefire money-maker in the digital age, and the US post office already has procedures in place from passports to verify identity.

SCCS, the source motel! Programs check in and never check out! -- Ken Thompson