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Comment: Re:What about the public? (Score 1) 127

by Sarten-X (#49173403) Attached to: Supreme Court Gives Tacit Approval To Warrantless DNA Collection

If this is something only the government can do legally, then what law gives them but not me the right to collect other people's DNA and have it analyzed without their permission?

The government could be prevented from collection by the Fourth Amendment... but the Fourth is based on preventing the state harassing a citizen, and "inadvertently shed" DNA rather implies that there was no inconvenience to the suspect, and thus no violation.

More to the point, is there any law preventing me or anyone else from doing this right now? I can see James O'Keefe with a cotton swab and vial chasing Elizabeth Warren across the Harvard campus.

Private citizens are prevented from harassing other citizens by various anti-harassment laws which vary by local jurisdiction. Chasing someone across the campus probably isn't allowed, but pulling a cup from the trash (once, so as not to be considered "stalking") is probably fine.

Comment: Re:I'd expect lots of cross-over branding crap (Score 5, Insightful) 191

by Sarten-X (#49172775) Attached to: What Would Minecraft 2 Look Like Under Microsoft?

Why is this modded flamebait? Is it because there's no "pretty-accurate" mod?

I recall an article a while back about the huge corporate shift within LEGO when they started working with tie-ins. Yes, kids were quite content with building... but they're even happier to be building with their favorite pop-culture characters and settings. The bottom line was the bottom line. Ultimately, LEGO faced a decision whether they would keep their mediocre sales figures and their original characters, or whether they'd cash in their fanatic followers as targets for the movie marketing drones.

It turns out the latter choice wasn't nearly as bad as was feared. LEGO is iconic enough that they can hold their own in negotiations with brands. There are (almost) no remastered LEGO sets, no special promos, and no enforced storylines. Tie-in LEGO sets are still LEGOs, but with some familiar characters. Of course, LEGO still has their original material, which has seen a significant increase in sales because the tie-ins have served as a means to attract new customers. Perhaps surprisingly, LEGO has maintained its fanatic customer base, and yes, that often leads to supply shortages and expensive collector-oriented sets.

I'm afraid I can't find that article now, but here's an informative image.

Comment: Re:Agreed (Score 1) 192

by Sarten-X (#49167527) Attached to: Feds Admit Stingray Can Disrupt Bystanders' Communications

As I understand the location services built into iOS and Android devices, the phone will periodically send a list of nearby access points (with signal strengths) up to Apple or Google's servers, and those servers respond with a guess at the phone's location, which is often more accurate than the location received from cell towers, and more resilient than GPS. The servers know where access points are located due to data collected by mapping vehicles and the aggregated reports of clients' less-accurate reckonings.

I'm guessing that during the previous concert, the audience's phones were sufficient to convince the servers that the bands' APs were located in one particular place. When your phone tried to locate itself using those APs as a reference, it was told a now-incorrect location, because the server was unaware the APs had moved. Multiple APs being used as references could also end up with different locations, giving the erratic reporting you observed.

Comment: Re:Default Government Stance (Score 3, Informative) 192

by Sarten-X (#49166591) Attached to: Feds Admit Stingray Can Disrupt Bystanders' Communications

28 U.S. Code 534(a)(1), 47 CFR 2.701(b), and 47 CFR 15.9, to start.

Of course, let's not forget 47 CFR 15.15(c), which effectively says that interference is unavoidable and should be minimized, and when considered along with 47 CFR 15.5(c), you'll have a hard time convincing a judge (which is really what matters, legally) that the FBI's actions were actually illegal, unless the FCC has told them to stop. Good luck getting that to happen.

Comment: Re:Stingray detector? (Score 1) 192

by Sarten-X (#49166429) Attached to: Feds Admit Stingray Can Disrupt Bystanders' Communications

This is an awesome idea.

From the state's perspective, the worst that happens here is that criminals can avoid creating accessible evidence, but that comes at a significant cost for each private phone call, making their entire operation more costly. That in itself is a bit of justice, and a hindrance on coordinated criminal activity.

Normal law-abiding citizens can choose to be private or not, at a socially-acceptable low cost for the few times privacy might be desired. The truly paranoid law-abiding citizens can choose to be private every time, but their cost is the result of their own choice, not a government mandate.

Comment: Re:Default Government Stance (Score 5, Informative) 192

by Sarten-X (#49166199) Attached to: Feds Admit Stingray Can Disrupt Bystanders' Communications

Also consider the fact that the Constitution ofthe United States specifically limits the function of Government to that which is SPECIFICALLY ALLOWED by Law; any activity which is NOT specifically legislated for is in fact ILLEGAL for Government to carry out. As always, the Constitution wins out absent an Amendment, ergo warrantless wiretapping or active unlawful interference in communications is unconstitutional hence ILLEGAL.

The FBI's activities are specifically authorized by a host of laws. That you didn't bother to learn about them doesn't invalidate their existence.

Comment: Re:Default Government Stance (Score 1) 192

by Sarten-X (#49166109) Attached to: Feds Admit Stingray Can Disrupt Bystanders' Communications

The default government stance is that these things are legal, until proven illegal (challenged in court).

And how exactly is that different from any other government in the world?

Perhaps the more interesting question is how you would rather the system worked. Should new tools and tactics be assumed to be illegal for law enforcement use until such new developments are added to a whitelist of legal tools? Under such a system, what is the defense against a criminal enterprise using that whitelist as a simple checklist for their opsec? Do you expect that the whitelist changes (with proper bureaucratic review) would outpace the criminals' workarounds?

We live in a police state.

No, we live in a state with a strong police force. It lacks the totalitarian and strict political influence usually necessary for the term "police state". Sure, there's occasional overreaches and corruption, but those are the exception, not the norm.

Comment: Re:Focus on "suicide prevention" is obnoxious (Score 1) 186

by Sarten-X (#49144775) Attached to: Facebook Puts Users On Suicide Watch

Unfortunately, what you describe is the result of a very long cultural history of completely misunderstanding mental health. Sometimes it was actually "Big Pharma ... marginalizing psychodynamic therapy or whatever", but more often than not it was simply cultural ignorance.

The first thing to realize about recovering from depression is that it's a long process, often never really ending. I know someone who has been in therapy for twelve years now, and has made remarkable progress, but still has the "bad days" when her husband has to pull her out of bed to get her up in the morning. I know another person with depression who is usually just fine until something reminds him of his triggering event, that happened almost twenty years ago.

I cheated my way out. I spent six years depressed, because that was a side effect of a medication I was taking. Once I was able to change medications, I was happy again within six months. Popular culture, though, would have you believe this was the normal case. Authors have used depression as a plot gimmick in fiction, and we've historically shunned anyone whose mental health wasn't outwardly perfect. People suffering from depression are told daily (often indirectly) that they should "snap out of it" or "get over it". They're expected to simply forget their sadness and be the perfect normal members of society that they think everyone expects them to be.

Getting help is the first step, but it will not magically fix everything quickly, and that must not be the expectation. Getting help starts the recovery process, but the bad days, the dark feelings, and the perpetual ennui will still be around for quite some time.

Comment: Re:Talk versus Action (Score 5, Insightful) 186

by Sarten-X (#49144701) Attached to: Facebook Puts Users On Suicide Watch

This is exactly right.

A person considering suicide usually doesn't announce to the world that they're thinking about it. They know their friends will all say the same "don't do it" lines, and some jerk will try to tell them that they just need a hug, and someone else will point out all the trivial good things they have in their life, which will just make them feel guilty for being depressed. Then there are the assholes, who are quick to point out how cruel the "real world" is, and in doing so they communicate that the person doesn't meet their high standards for living in their precious "real world", further reinforcing the depression.

Fortunately, it's hard to hide depression from a trained eye (or a trained algorithm). Writing styles change significantly with one's mood, often in consistent ways (on a per-person basis). If someone tends to write shorter posts and use stronger language when their depression worsens, it becomes a useful gauge for knowing how they're doing without asking. Interests often change as well, and especially criticisms. If a person stops caring about their adorable newborn cousin and starts obsessing about the size of their various body measurements, it may be cause for concern.

The other thing to note is that depression is a chronic condition. A quick post about how bad your day was isn't as alarming as a series of posts over the last few months saying that you just consistently feel melancholy. It can be described metaphorically as the brain being addicted to sadness, and the detection is similar. One night drinking too much doesn't qualify as an alcoholic, and a trip to Las Vegas doesn't make one a compulsive gambler. Rather, it's a long-term trend in bahavior, and again, an algorithm can easily detect that trend, where friends will likely only see the short-term changes. Friends are also likely to dismiss their concerns by rationalizing, considering it reasonable to be so upset, because of some bad thing that has happened recently.

Attention is the second best thing to help a person with depression. The best is to go beyond mere attention, and offer support. Detach the worthwhile person from their degrading affliction, and show that you care for them. Treat the depression as one would a broken leg or a bad cough. It gets in the way, but it's not the defining quality of the person. That distinction, once accepted, is the first step to recovery. Just like with an addiction, there are good days and there are bad days, but the slow progress eventually bears fruit.

Comment: As a Unitarian... (Score 4, Insightful) 531

by Sarten-X (#49139143) Attached to: Machine Intelligence and Religion

Of course that's assuming that robots are born atheists,

AIs will be "born" as whatever they're programmed to be.

Humans are born with a natural predisposition to see actions as the result of a human-like being, with a stronger prejudice toward more-similar beings. That's wholly unrelated to whether such actions actually are a God's will, but it's how we are built. Similarly, a sufficiently-advanced AI could have preprogrammed knowledge that it was built be humans, or it could be left as a blank slate to form its own conclusions about the world. If we are to play the role of God, we can decide what our master plan is for our creations.

On the other hand, suppose someone did endow a strong AI with emotion – encoded, say, as a strong preference for one type of experience over another...

Then you've created an AI with prejudice, not emotion. Emotion is a fluid thing, as the result of several competing motivations, but that's unrelated to faith.

Faith is a free choice with a conscious acknowledgement of doubt. I choose to believe in the absence of a God, knowing that there's a chance I'm incorrect. Other people choose to believe in one or more deities, knowing there's a chance they are incorrect. Certain other folks have been born into a society that does not permit any other choice but to believe what society demands, so the choice may not necessarily be a free one.

For a robot to have faith, it must first actually understand what it is considering. It must understand what is observable and what is not, and it must understand what of its belief may be observable.

Free faith is a matter of knowing everything you can, and choosing what you want to think about what is unknowable. Yes, we can create AIs that are not free, but I don't see much achievement in that.

Comment: Re:Manual, Schmanual (Score 1) 72

by Sarten-X (#49132951) Attached to: Star Wars-Style "Bionic Hand' Fitted To First Patients

Many realism-emphasizing prosthetic hands are little more than flexible wires inside a synthetic skin. Controlling the position of the prosthetic fingers means reaching over with the other hand and adjusting them.

In other news, I have used two kinds of solar-powered flashlight. One was a lantern with a battery inside, so a few hours sitting in the sun (like on the bow of a canoe) provided several hours of light that evening. The other was a home-built contraption for getting a bit more light inside a cabin with no utility connections. It was a solar panel attached to a regulator and a few LEDs on a long wire. It didn't do much after the sun went down, but during daylight the cabin's window shortage wasn't as obvious.

Comment: Re:This type of technology makes me happy. (Score 3, Interesting) 72

by Sarten-X (#49132899) Attached to: Star Wars-Style "Bionic Hand' Fitted To First Patients

It doesn't really fool anyone, and it actually would make someone stare more, vs. a Sliver or Black model. As their brain will not try to figure out why this dead hand is moving.

I take it you haven't actually ever seen a good prosthetic limb, then... ...or you have, but didn't know it.

As the saying goes, you can fool all of the people some of the time, and that's what prosthetic devices are designed to do. The fellow diner lifting his glass to drink, or the empty hand of a pedestrian walking down the street, or the passenger on the opposite seat on a bus... How often do you actually look at their hands long enough to consider how perfectly their skin color matches your expectations? Do you interact enough with them to notice how their skin folds?

Common situations like that are where a more obvious skin color brings even more staring, questions, prejudice, and pity. Current skin doesn't work well enough to fool someone who's looking, but for most common occurrences, it's close enough to be ignored, and that's the desired reaction. Silver or black will have every child (and many adults) pointing and staring, which is usually not so desired.

The next person to mention spaghetti stacks to me is going to have his head knocked off. -- Bill Conrad

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