Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).

×

Comment: Re:Focus on "suicide prevention" is obnoxious (Score 1) 183

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) 183

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) 506

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.

Comment: Re:Oh i think its overvalued but its much differen (Score 1) 252

by Sarten-X (#49098719) Attached to: No Tech Bubble Here, Says CNN: "This Time It's Different."

This is pretty much spot-on.

I remember the last bubble well. Anything with a dot-com name meant it was on the front lines of technology, and the impending everything-online economy would wipe away the old brick-and-mortar businesses who couldn't move as fast as the upcoming technology. It turns out that economics didn't move as quickly as they thought. Companies still needed a business model, and the established companies were often able to move into online business just as quickly as consumers demanded.

Today's high-value tech companies are trying new business models, either hoping to capitalize on access to a global market or trying to sidestep inefficiencies in the traditional business. Some companies might still be little more than investors' dreams, but it's not a widespread trend.

Comment: Re:Exactly! (Score 1) 149

This is a perfectly predictable ruling. Frankly, I'm amused that a lawyer even took the case to court.

The legal use of the term "imminent" doesn't mean "probably going to happen". "Imminent" means that, barring exceptional circumstances or luck, a particular result will happen before anyone has a reasonable chance to stop it.

Aim a loaded gun at someone and pull the trigger, and injury is imminent. Aim at a vital area, and death is imminent. Leave a knife in an unlocked drawer when a young child is nearby who could get the knife and harm himself... not imminent. In this case, the breach didn't cause any imminent harm. The culprit had an opportunity to not sell or use the data, so there's a break in the causality. From a legal standpoint, the hospital is not at fault for someone else deciding to steal an identity, even though they may have made it easier to do so with their lax security. In precisely the same manner, a gun dealer isn't liable for an apparently-benign buyer killing someone with a recently-purchased weapon.

That's really what the decision means. The hospital didn't directly cause the use of a stolen identity, so they're not at fault for that particular offense. There probably is still a HIPAA violation somewhere in this mess, though, and they'd be liable for that (because the administration would have made the decision not to implement strong enough security), but that's not the lawsuit in question.

Comment: Re:A good strategy (Score 1) 85

by Sarten-X (#49076105) Attached to: Algorithmic Patenting

Having now read TFA, I must partially retract my previous statement. Venturebeat isn't raising the angry mob, but Slashdot is.

TFA is actually mostly focused on the effect such almost-the-same claims would have on the concept of inventorship. Currently, it's straightforward: If someone discovers an alternate implementation, they get credit. However, if an inventor gives a seed patent to Cloem's software, and the software produces a list of almost-the-same implementations, who gets credit for those? The inventor of the seed patent? Cloem's software engineers? The computer itself?

Comment: Re:A good strategy (Score 4, Informative) 85

by Sarten-X (#49075987) Attached to: Algorithmic Patenting

In true Slashdot style, I haven't read TFA, but TFS sounds like Venturebeat is stirring up a good old-fashioned angry mob.

Historically, patent lawsuits have been won or lost based on careful wording. A good synonym can mean an enormous financial difference for an inventor (or inventor-funding company).

Patents must be specific enough to describe a particular set of implementations of an idea, rather than just the general idea itself. Despite Slashdot's love of the phrase, "on a computer" does not a patent make. Rather, the patent must describe exactly how the computer functions with regard to the invention itself. Yes, sometimes that means describing the only reasonable mechanism, but it's still specific.

On the other hand, that specificity can be problematic when it comes time to actually use the exclusivity a patent provides. A car-analogy patent might have been worded to refer to driving on asphalt, but there are some roads that are paved with concrete or bricks. Hiring a specialist to find such trivial loopholes might be a very good investment for an applicant trying to write their patent. Any realistically-equivalent implementations can be added to the patent as additional claims.

Comment: Re:Technology can NOT eliminate work. (Score 3, Insightful) 389

by Sarten-X (#49075851) Attached to: What To Do After Robots Take Your Job

You both agree $2/hour is an acceptable wage

Until someone else comes along and offers $1.50 an hour. Then the next guy offers $1, and so on, racing to the bottom. Now the government is still footing the $7.25/hour bill for the company to have an unskilled workforce at $0.01/hour of payroll expenses. The workers don't care, because they still see $7.26/hour income to sit and play games.

Since the company's able to hire so cheap, they bring in a hundred such workers to boost their employment numbers. Having 150 employees rather than 10 lets the company seem more important. Sure, there's some overhead expense, but it's easily paid for by the huge payroll savings.

Now the government is paying for a huge workforce of unskilled and unproductive labor. They're not producing much, so the taxable economy isn't increasing at all, and of course the tax rate isn't going to be 100%, so there is no way for the government to actually afford to pay its guaranteed wage.

Taking another perspective, your plan essentially gives every employer a $7.25/hour/employee tax credit, with no defined mechanism to recoup the losses.

Even if the employer companies are more productive because of their huge workforce, the government only sees a percentage of the value the employees produce. If the government supports the answering-machine employee at $7.25/hour, will the employee be productive enough (through improving the company's sales) that the government would get $7.25/hour more in taxes from the company? That's a pretty tall order for a phone operator. Considering an (overestimated) corporate tax rate of 50%, the employee would need to single-handedly earn $14.50/hour for the company before the government would break even, $7.24 of which goes to the company's after-tax income.

It's a pretty straightforward government subsidy supporting corporations.

Comment: Re:Document Management System (Score 2) 343

by Sarten-X (#49074523) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Version Control For Non-Developers?

As a librarian's husband, I feel a bit of a duty to point out that a larger company (say, of the size where document control and user training are becoming real problems) may be well-served by hiring a corporate librarian.

Librarians are trained to organize documents and articles in an appropriate manner, and to help users find what they need quickly. Categorization and cataloging should not be left to the whims of the users.

Comment: Re:America's Dark Nuclear History (Score 2) 68

by Sarten-X (#49053791) Attached to: Cosmic Rays To Reveal the Melted Nuclear Fuel In Fukushima's Reactors

the official line maintains that the Salomon Brothers building fell at 4.58pm when in fact it was still standing behind a BBC reporter for an entire 23 minutes after that while she was on the air delivering a live report from the scene.

A quick check shows that the official reports claim it remained standing for an entire 23 minutes after 4:58pm.

I do not believe the official reports when they blatantly lie like that. I want to see the EVIDENCE.

You have the evidence at your disposal. You can do the research to understand the entirety of the situation, and reach a valid conclusion. Instead, you've choose to ignore reality and ask for "evidence" that you refuse to understand.

At least your world will always remain exciting.

Comment: Re:America's Dark Nuclear History (Score 2) 68

by Sarten-X (#49053417) Attached to: Cosmic Rays To Reveal the Melted Nuclear Fuel In Fukushima's Reactors

Um, yes.

My point was to illustrate how atmospheric nuclear fallout behaves in a ground burst vs. an air burst, which is quite well understood, thanks to the many tests conducted during the Cold War. Chernobyl was simply a convenient example of ground-based fallout. The Japan bombings are good examples of air-burst fallout, but that's irrelevant to the Port Chicago explosion.

That brings us back to the original point: if the Port Chicago explosion had been a nuclear accident in any way, it would have had detectable fallout decades later, primarily because it would have been a ground burst. Since there's no fallout, there's no evidence of nuclear material in the blast, either as the source or even nearby ordnance.

Similar explosions can be created with very large amounts of conventional explosives, which is exactly what the official story says happened, and the transport records provide evidence as to exactly how much materiel was present at the time of the incident.

I have hardly ever known a mathematician who was capable of reasoning. -- Plato

Working...