Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:Hang on WTF? (Score 1) 191

by ThosLives (#48855283) Attached to: Japanese Nobel Laureate Blasts His Country's Treatment of Inventors

That someone provided him with all the equipment and capabilities to do the research why the hell should he be awarded the patent?

And herein lies the great virtue and vice of capitalism: the assignment of profits to the owner of capital, rather than the one who made the capital useful.

It doesn't have anything to do with fairness - it's just the way capitalism is set up. There are many good and bad things with this setup; most of the good came about during the time of physical wealth; most of the bad is showing up with the "intangible" wealth.

Let's say you own the lab in which the guy who invented LEDs (original, not just blue). Should (economically? morally? how do you avoid rent-seeking?) the guy who invented LEDs get income from every single LED ever produced, or every device inspired by the LED? Should the lab? How do you fairly allocate possibly infinite income to any individual or corporation? When does an inventor's or capital-owner's interest (and share) get exhausted? Should this interest be exhausted in the first place?

It's sadly not as simple as "without patents there would be no incentive to invent" or "all patents should be abolished."

Comment: Re:Sounds suspiciously like welfare. (Score 1) 109

by ThosLives (#48781955) Attached to: Cryptocurrency Based Basic Income Program Started In Finland

I had a slight error - I shouldn't have said "supply and demand for currency" but rather "supply and demand for things purchased by currency".

That is - as long as currency is separate from actual goods and services, if you don't balance the demand for those goods and services, a "basic income" is almost futile because the value of goods and services relative to that currency is always going to be a moving target.

If all you do is give people currency, but don't actually give people more of the things that are useful to buy with that currency, it's only an accounting exercise.

It doesn't help that it's a very multi-variable problem. Sometimes there is incentive to increase supply when prices increase, thus helping mitigate price increases - but only in instances with low barriers to entry to increase supply. Sometimes - especially in situations where there is a physical or legal constraint on supply (such as housing, or professional sports say) - there is incentive to keep supply low and simply extract higher rent. Basic income alone cannot ameliorate that type of situation.

Comment: Re:Sounds suspiciously like welfare. (Score 1) 109

by ThosLives (#48781561) Attached to: Cryptocurrency Based Basic Income Program Started In Finland

I think I generally agree with what you're saying, but let me paraphrase to make sure: Basic income would work, so long as there wasn't such a thing as supply and demand for currency.

The only way I can see "basic income" working is if we also mandate that prices cannot be raised; to make (more) profit this would mean production must be increased, rather than just make profit based on increased demand for a scarce good.

Something tells me the problem thus isn't a technical one related to the existence of basic income or welfare, but rather a social one.

Comment: Re:Time to end it (Score 1) 232

by ThosLives (#48720215) Attached to: Aircraft Responsible For 2.5% of Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Shipping as well as cruise ships also are major polluters

Yup. Something like 4.5% of all direct CO2 emissions, give or take. So about twice as bad as air travel, but probably 10 times simpler to fix than for aircraft because of easier constraints on weight and much less stringent safety requirements, etc.

Of course, aircraft are basically going to be switching to carbon-neutral* bio-kerosene in the next two decades or so anyway, so the argument against air travel is kind of moot.

*Assuming the energy used to make it is not carbon-combustion based.

Comment: Re:noooo (Score 4, Insightful) 560

by ThosLives (#48717309) Attached to: 2014: Hottest Year On Record

But the net is hugely negative. 1/3 of the world's people are close enough to a coast that they will have to do something when sea levels rise.

So why don't people move now before they're underwater? Put another way - have all the people who are proclaiming coming disaster started moving their assets away from the coasts? Why are we focusing on emissions rather than moving people now? Surely moving people is cheaper (and more direct - that is, localized) than trying to control emissions. Such a thing would avoid depending on other people to fix their behaviors - it would also guarantee an outcome, rather than a probabilistic estimate of what happens if we curb emission X.

People must really place a huge time preference on things to delay moving in spite of the proposed huge future costs. Or, they just don't believe it... or the "speed" of things isn't really as fast enough for people to care.

Climate Change is happening too fast for much life to cope. The speed of the change is all negative.

This is both defeatist and probably more political than technical. If political will is high enough, humans can do crazy things in short (e.g., decade-span) timeframes, especially when we don't have to invent anything but just have to move people inland or build hydroponics or desalination plants etc. It's all political, not technical. If we want to reduce the cost of sea level rise, why not tax people closer to the coast, and reduce tax away from the coast? Rhetoric talks, but money walks. And hitting the individual harder (rather than corporations) will motivate people much faster than not. Hell if you think the future disaster is high enough, you should ask your governments to build everyone living within X of a coast a brand new house inland and giving it to them (and personally be willing to be taxed for it), because that will cost less than the future cost of disaster mitigation later.

I guess, at the end of the day, the focus is too one-sided on emissions, rather than on relocation or adaptability. I know if I lived close to a coast, I would move inland rather than rely on some disparate group of companies and nations to reduce their emissions which will maybe prevent my land from eroding away or getting hit with bad weather in my or my child's lifetime.

I would rather put in policies to avoid turning inland (midwest US for instance) farmland into subdivisions - I hate to see our local farmland turning into cookie-cutter homes; reducing farmland seems to make us more sensitive, not more robust.

So that's what I mean by too narrow focus, in tech, in media, etc - everyone is focused on emissions, not on adaptation. If we don't adapt, we die - trying to refuse to adapt is actually worse in my mind.

Comment: Re:noooo (Score 5, Insightful) 560

by ThosLives (#48716605) Attached to: 2014: Hottest Year On Record

And, at the same time, it was the coldest year in Chicago's recorded history. Who knew?

Well, yes, because "global" warming isn't really global - a global average is kind of meaningless for determining the local effects in any given region.

The problem I have with global climate change "debate" is not that climate is changing, but that there is an assumption that the net effect will be negative. Some regions will surely become less hospitable, and some will become more hospitable. I'm disappointed that more studies haven't shown which will prevail (or if there will be a net neutral effect). Instead we just get fear mongering about famine and war.

Also, I still believe the focus is on the wrong thing: rather than try and stop climate change (after all, if it doesn't change because of CO2, it may change due to something else) we should try and work on technologies so we can survive - no, thrive - regardless of the climate. (Isn't that what humanity has done for most of its existence anyway?)

Comment: Re:Externalities (Score 1) 222

by ThosLives (#48434515) Attached to: Lessons Learned From Google's Green Energy Bust

If A and B have to decide whether to make a transaction, while C will be harmed if the transaction happens but has no say in whether it happens, that's an externality and market forces do not account for it under any economic model I've ever heard of.

Except with the environment, it's a little murky, because A, B, and C are all affected (perhaps not equally or at the same time, I'll admit). So it's not a "pure" externality at least.

...pretty much all economists agree that a carbon price is the most market-efficient way of doing that...

But what price do you pick? There's no "free market" way to do this. Cap-and-trade will result in a free market price for the available credits or whatever, except the amount of credits is arbitrary. If there was a way for the "market" to determine the available credits, that would be one thing - but there isn't; it's all done by decree. (Kind of a reverse externality if you will - groups A and B decide that this is the level of emissions that's allowed, C's opinion or needs be damned.)

That said, yes, an artificial price on emissions may result in people reducing consumption of those things that emit, depending on the elasticity of demand for those things.

Comment: Re:That was 3 years ago (Score 1) 222

by ThosLives (#48426367) Attached to: Lessons Learned From Google's Green Energy Bust

This is one place I wish market purists would get on board--put a price on carbon, and solutions will come out of the woodwork and plummet in price.

Except market purists balk at this because "putting a price on carbon" is an artificial thing - it's screwing around with the markets. The markets have already spoken: the externalities of climate change (relocation costs, war, health costs) have a lower cost than trying to develop alternatives. These costs are already really accounted for, even though they aren't necessarily applied at the source of "carbon" emission.

Comment: Re:Priorities? (Score 3, Insightful) 231

by ThosLives (#46912263) Attached to: How To Prevent the Next Heartbleed

Rigorous testing is helpful, but I think it's the wrong approach. The problem here was lack of requirements and/or rigorous design. In the physical engineering disciplines, much effort is done to think about failure modes of designs before they are implemented. In software, for some reason, the lack of pre-implementation design and analysis is endemic. This leads to things like Heartbleed - not language choice, not tools, not lack of static testing.

I would also go as far as saying if you're relying on testing to see if your code is correct (rather than verify your expectations), you're already SOL because testing itself is meaningless if you don't know the things you have to test - which means up-front design and analysis.

That said, tools and such can help mitigate issues associated with lack of design, but the problem is more fundamental than a "coding error."

Comment: Re:Clock Radio! (Score 1) 702

by ThosLives (#46789393) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

Mine is similar - I have a GE AM/FM alarm clock radio with red LED segmented display, but mine is a bit newer - I got I think in 1993. 21 years is pretty good - 100% fully functional (go go pre-ROHS analog radio!) and still keeps accurate time. Only thing wrong with it is the tab on the 9V backup battery compartment broke, so the door falls off if you lift the thing off the nightstand. I refuse to keep my phone by my bedside, so I still use the alarm function.

Contrast to a new one - it was either Emerson or Panasonic, can't remember which - I bought while on an extended work trip where I was put up in an apartment. This was in 2008, and the clock was so inaccurate it would gain 15 minutes a month.

Comment: Re:Living in 1925 kinda sucked (Score 1) 516

I'd rather choose "Make it easier for people to make their own widgets or form companies to make widgets."

IP laws, some zoning laws, licensing laws, tax laws, accounting laws, and the like all make both making your own stuff or forming companies difficult; limited availability of low-cost machine tools and education makes it difficult to do stuff yourself. These are the things I would reform, not minimum wage or windfall profits tax.

Comment: Re:Living in 1925 kinda sucked (Score 1) 516

I suppose I could have been a bit more precise: when I said we don't need higher incomes but things to cost less, what I should have said was "things to cost less relative to income, regardless of level of income." That said, my original assertion still stands: raising minimum wage will not reduce costs of items relative to wage in the long run (in the immediate short term it does, granted; but prices for most goods change much faster than wages so catch up quickly.)

Incidentally, removal of barriers to market entry is exactly the method to "rein in" corporate profits: profits are a sign of an inefficient market. Huge profits can only exist when it is too hard for competitors to enter a market - no invisible hand necessary. (Note: "too hard" to enter a market doesn't always mean something like a regulatory barrier; if a company out-innovates others, that is also a type of barrier.)

Kiss your keyboard goodbye!