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Comment: Drones (Score 1) 129

by Tony Isaac (#49337791) Attached to: Do Robots Need Behavioral 'Laws' For Interacting With Other Robots?

Aerial drones are a kind of robot, and we're already making laws about what they are allowed and not allowed to do. In some cases, these rules are being programmed directly into the drones themselves, similar to Azimov's three laws. But these rules are much more specific and complex than what can be summarized in three succinct rules. They tell the drones where they are allowed to fly, and where they aren't, in minute detail. As robots become more capable, I would expect these rules to become more complex, not less.

Comment: This illustrates why PhD's shouldn't be in busines (Score 1) 485

by Tony Isaac (#49337703) Attached to: No, It's Not Always Quicker To Do Things In Memory

Of course, there are exceptions. But many PhD's I've known make lousy programmers, in terms of producing good software.

I've come to think that the skills needed to be a good post-graduate student are different from the skills needed to be a good professional developer.

Professional developers know (or should know) how to optimize code, when necessary. All else being equal, optimized code will ALWAYS be faster in memory than on disk. The two examples in this research are NOT equal. A more equal test would be to output to a memory stream, vs. a file stream. I'll bet the results would be quite different.

Comment: It's not accuracy that's reviving the arms race (Score 1) 228

by Tony Isaac (#49337397) Attached to: How Nuclear Weapon Modernization Undercuts Disarmament

It's the fact that more smaller countries are now able to obtain or make nuclear weapons. When it was just the US and Russia, as long as the two countries were in a stalemate, the world was (somewhat) safe. But now that the list of countries with nuclear weapons is growing, the calculations become much more complex, and the risk level for the world is higher.

Comment: Popup messages are completely ineffective (Score 4, Informative) 79

by Tony Isaac (#49311705) Attached to: MRIs Show Our Brains Shutting Down When We See Security Prompts

My company had a customer whose nightly backups were failing. Every time every user in the company (hundreds of them) logged in to the system, they were presented with a message pop-up warning that the backups had been failing. This went on for WEEKS before anyone bothered to notify the software vendor (who managed the backup system).

There seem to be a couple of principles at work here:
1. Not my job. Everybody at the company knew it wasn't their job to keep the backups working, so they ignored the warning.
2. In the way. Everybody had something they needed to do, so they simply clicked whatever they had to (the OK button) to get past the prompt and do their work.

It's like the license agreements on software installers. Everybody just clicks "I Agree" because they know they have to do so to get to the next screen, not necessarily because they actually agree.

Comment: Misunderstanding of statistics (Score 1) 320

A drug maker comes out with a new drug that is "twice as effective as a placebo." That sounds scientific, and it is. But the part of statistics that is poorly understood, at least by the public, is the margin of error. Many of these studies show results that are well within the margin of error, so an effect that is "double" that of the control group is actually meaningless.

Comment: The root of the argument is punishment itself (Score 3, Interesting) 1081

by Tony Isaac (#49259349) Attached to: How To Execute People In the 21st Century

There are a lot of posts here and elsewhere saying that we should "just stop," that capital punishment is immoral and should be abolished forever.

Is ANY kind of punishment moral and justified?

Is it logical that the severity of the punishment should be proportional to the offense?

How do you decide what is the most severe form of punishment that is moral and justified, if punishment of any kind is moral and justified?

Comment: Re:Just y'know... reconnect them spinal nerves (Score 1) 210

by Tony Isaac (#49148679) Attached to: Surgeon: First Human Head Transplant May Be Just Two Years Away

It's actually not necessary to connect the "right" nerves together. The brain is able to learn where the new connections are, and even novel kinds of connections like electronic devices implanted in the brain.

That said, it's still going to be hard to get ANY nerves to connect properly to each other.

Comment: It's not actually all that hard! (Score 1) 347

by Tony Isaac (#49144753) Attached to: The Programmers Who Want To Get Rid of Software Estimates

It just takes a little training and practice. The trick is to divide a project into pieces (bullet points are sufficient) where each item takes two days or less to do. If a line item is estimated to take longer than two days, it needs to be broken down some more. At that level of granularity, it's possible for most programmers to make a reasonable guess as to how long that item will take.

Put another way, it's more important to count the line items, than to count the hours. The trick is to get the line items the right size.

Steve McConnell's book does a good job explaining how this works.

Comment: Not so fast (Score 4, Insightful) 257

by Tony Isaac (#49134559) Attached to: 5 White Collar Jobs Robots Already Have Taken

Financial and sports reporters - the examples are the types of stores that are full of facts and figures, and are better done by computers anyway. It's kind of like bemoaning computers taking away the human job of compiling telephone directories (remember those?). Not a lot of human touch needed there.

Online marketers - Really? Creating email subject lines? And I've stumbled onto those sites. They are only effective because they make it hard to click on anything OTHER than an ad. Not exactly stealing a desirable human job there.

E-discovery - i.e., Google for lawyers. And Wikipedia says they have 53K employees. Wait, I thought we were eliminating human jobs!

Financial advisers - good riddance. Most of them are just trying to get you to go for the investment with the highest commission, not the best for you. Computers will follow suit, but whatever.

Here's one they missed: radio DJs. You've heard these stations that are totally automated. No human touch, dry as a bone. The ones you want to listen to are still emceed by humans.

The use of money is all the advantage there is to having money. -- B. Franklin