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Comment: Grade inflation at Harvard or other Ivy Leagues (Score 1) 214

Let me play Devil's Advocate on grade inflation at Harvard and other Ivy Leagues. Harvard is so selective that only the best of the best have a hope of getting in. So why would you handicap the best of the best with respect to community colleges and give them bad GPAs? They are *all* A-class students, right? So why not give them all A's?

Second: what's so inherently wrong with the idea of learning without pressure? Who might be more qualified than the best of the best to do that? I.e., those who can get into the Ivies? This also reduces the incentive to cheat, and might create a collaborative environment rather than a cut throat one.

Were I a Harvard professor, I might do this: everyone gets A's and B's at worst, but rank people within the class and never share that internal ranking out of the class. That way, students get REAL feedback, know where they stand relative to each other, and have some incentive, but if they screw up relatively to the other awesome people in there, they don't get branded with a B or a C (or worse). I'd also focus in delivering frank and very critical assessments to these students to help the best become better. But the externally seen grades? Yeah, I'd inflate 'em.

As to "lack of quality", when you have such a grade of material incoming, I doubt that most anyone else will notice a 'lack of quality' in the product. Being lucky enough to be born smart is just such an advantage it's really hard to screw that up.


Comment: Don't be too sure of yourself. (Score 5, Insightful) 279

by PeterM from Berkeley (#46497739) Attached to: The Billionaires Privatizing American Science

What if the Billionaire WANTS a certain answer and lets the scientist know it, so that the "data" can be published for a huge return on investment for the billionaire? Tobacco industry did this.

Or maybe billionaire just has an answer he emotionally wants to hear and funds science to get that instead of sensible science? If Jenny McCarthy had billions what sort of research d'you think she might fund?

Or what if billionaire wants research on life extending treatments for him and him alone and screw publishing?

I don't see any compelling reason billionare science would be any better than publicly funded science. I'd rather everyone own the results, too, than a billionaire.

I mean, one thing a billionare is VERY good at is hoarding good things (money) for themselves AREN'T THEY.


Comment: You want dead babies? I got one for you (Score 1) 747

by PeterM from Berkeley (#46489031) Attached to: Measles Outbreak In NYC

My co-worker's child died of whooping cough. She was too young to be vaccinated, not even three months.

It's not really a tolerable prospect when it is REAL, is it?

Instead of having babies die, how about we make it PAINFUL to not be vaccinated?

No visits to doctors because you might spread disease, no health care coverage because you haven't done the MINIMUM to protect yourself?

Should society even allow anti-vaxxers to have parental rights at all?


Comment: You're dead wrong. (Score 1) 747

by PeterM from Berkeley (#46488955) Attached to: Measles Outbreak In NYC

Vaccines offer ~90% protection. So even if you're vaccinated, there's a ~10% chance you'll GET THE DISEASE if you're exposed.

When the vast majority of people are vaccinated, diseases don't spread, and the 10% of people who are vaccinated but for which the vaccine didn't work don't end up being exposed.

Vaccinated or not, someone unvaccinated is a personal threat to you and your children!

I get it that you can't ostracize your wife, but don't bring HER or YOUR KIDS anywhere near me or mine!


Comment: Re:Kind of echoes my experience as well... (Score 1) 172

Reforms are being put in place, though are being partially ignored.

For example, in our Gov't organization, we are on a 'contribution based' system. In theory, low performers get pay decreases and if not remedied, get fired. In theory, high performers get raises.

In practice, it seems that high performers get raises and the only pay decreases handed out are due to inflation: (I know of only one outright pay cut) outright cuts rarely happen and no one is ever fired. This is argueably a misadminstration of how our system is supposed to work. But at least underperformers don't get automatic raises.

As to how money is managed, in our organization you (yearly) estimate how much money you need, and you either get it or part of it and adjust your schedule/goals accordingly. If you end up with extra money, or aren't using the money you have, you give it back and management finds another use for it. Management doesn't seem to keep a FIRM memory of what happened before: if you under-spent last year you can STILL get your FULL budget request if you argue for it effectively and your objective aligns with organizational goals. No one gets budget automatically.

Budgeting's actually pretty enlightened, not the automatic stupidity you describe.


Comment: How about insulation and whatnot? (Score 2) 712

Just curious, if you improved the insulation on your house, how much would that save you, potentially? Did you try that and how well did it work?

I think I invested a couple thousand on insulation for my roof and it cut my winter heating and summer cooling by 30% and the whole house just *feels* more comfortable. I think I made the investment back in two years--heating done with natural gas, cooling done with electricity.


Comment: Bad genetic diversity, flaws in resurrected genome (Score 4, Insightful) 168

I can't see this working out well. Probably only a small number of individuals could be resurrected, simply because of lack of good DNA samples, and I bet a lot of errors would be introduced in de-extinction given current tech.

Genetic diversity, therefore, in the de-extinct species would be incredibly poor and any second generation would likely be rather sickly and not resistant to diseases. Either that or a continuous and very difficult (impossible?) genetic engineering effort would have to be involved in restoring genetic diversity to the species.

Second, all of a species isn't exactly captured in just the DNA. DNA only gets expressed properly in the right cellular environment, it's a 'chicken and egg' problem. If you don't have a chicken egg, how do you raise a chicken with just the DNA and some other egg? Your other egg may not provide the right environment for correct genetic expression and you may end up with some sort of chimera of dubious viability and authenticity. Incompatible mitochondria are an obvious issue.

Third, given the first two, your de-extinct species is likely to simply go extinct again unless you correct the environmental issues that led to the first extinction. And given the rate at which we're screwing up the planet, is that really realistic?

I think it'd actually be better to devote resources to discovering and preserving as much as possible of DNA and related structures for future de-extinction attempts when technology is better and we've learned better planetary management.


Comment: It's not just when you die, it's life quality (Score 1) 401

by PeterM from Berkeley (#46202123) Attached to: Leonard Nimoy: Smoking Is Illogical

The problem with smoking is it doesn't just shorten your life, it can make your life miserable.

Imagine how horrific it is to be SICK all the time, gasping for breath, always wondering if tomorrow will be your last and almost hoping so because living with a with pain, sickness and a struggle for breath is just so awful.

Smoking not only causes you to die, it causes you to die horribly in a lot of cases.


Comment: So what if it is exported, that's cash for us (Score 2) 301

Seems to me that you should sell domestically produced items wherever it makes the most profit, as a general rule. (Yes, there are exceptions.)

Just make sure that it isn't just a few fat cats, but Canada and the US's general populace, who wins out on the higher revenues.


Comment: *all* Government contracts can be terminated..... (Score 5, Informative) 342

At least any I've come across. Yes, the Gov't has to pay for work already performed, but it's a recognized fact that one Congress can't bind future ones to financial deals, and money to finish a particular contract may never arrive.

So by and large, as someone else pointed out, the Government has a clause in contracts allowing it to terminate the contract for convenience.


Comment: How come you're not being paid 2x as much? (Score 4, Informative) 732

by PeterM from Berkeley (#45949669) Attached to: If I Had a Hammer

Dear PhD AI worker,

    How come you're not being paid 2x what you are now? Yes, 2x. Productivity of the worker has gone up 2x in real terms since 1973. Yet your pay is less than that, even YOURS, Dr. AI worker.

    Suppose most jobs are automated, and the few remaining jobs have many highly qualified people who need that job. What happens to the price of labor? Market forces push wages down--people underbid you just to work. THAT is why your pay doesn't match your productivity. And the trend is accentuating.

Those high paid high level creative jobs you like to imagine? They ONLY exist if there is market for them, i.e., if the 1% (or whoever controls the resources) decides to allocate resources for them.

  And they're not, hence the depressed wages ACROSS THE BOARD. I've got a PhD too, doing creative non-automatable work, and I SURE WOULD like to be getting paid 2x as much. But I'm not, and it's flatly because the rest of the labor market is depressed.

    I'd sure love to keep doing creative non-automatable work, but I can only do that if it pays, which in turn depends on how many creative non-automatable jobs the 1% wants to devote resources for. And guess what: the 1% is apparently deciding that research and technology investment needs to drop because it is a "cost". Government investment is declining too. So capital (the 1%) thrives on productivity increases and everyone who must labor, is, frankly, slowly starving to death.

    At least in the USA.



Comment: All that stuff you think people will move into? (Score 1) 732

by PeterM from Berkeley (#45949615) Attached to: If I Had a Hammer

Those jobs will ONLY exist if people who control the resources want them done. Suppose 1% of the people control the resources. How many hairdressers do the 1% need? With 99% of the people competing for the jobs that the 1% still needs done, how much d'you think with that much labor offered, labor will be worth?


Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"