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Comment: Re:The end for me (Score 1) 883

by evilviper (#47930673) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

...scratch that. SoylentNews turns out to be just as bad as /. in this regard. They posted this same damn story, too, and the head of the site has stated they don't want to be a tech site at all.

Instead, my last hope rests with pipedot, which is much more like an old-fashioned /. with a focus on sci/tech instead of flamebait crap. Hell, the sci/tech stories even get more comments on pipedot than they do on SoylentNews, which says a lot about the community.

Comment: What is really happening here? (Score 1) 567

by Bruce Perens (#47930483) Attached to: ISIS Bans Math and Social Studies For Children
We are in a War on Faith, because Faith justifies anything and ISIS takes it to extremes. But in the end they are just a bigger version of Christian-dominated school boards that mess with the teaching of Evolution, or Mormon sponsors of anti-gay-marriage measures, or my Hebrew school teacher, an adult who slapped me as a 12-year-old for some unremembered offense against his faith.

Comment: Re:Anti-math and anti-science ... (Score 1) 567

by Bruce Perens (#47930331) Attached to: ISIS Bans Math and Social Studies For Children

Hm. The covenant of Noah is about two paragraphs before this part (King James Version) which is used for various justifications of slavery and discrimination against all sorts of people because they are said to bear the Curse of Ham. If folks wanted to use the Bible to justify anything ISIS says is justified by God's words in the Koran, they could easily do so.

18 And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.
19 These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.
20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
26 And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

Comment: Re:Simple set of pipelined utilties! (Score 1) 253

by hey! (#47930309) Attached to: Torvalds: No Opinion On Systemd

I don't think people understand the Unix philosophy. They think it's about limiting yourself to pipelines, but it's not. It's about writing simple robust programs that interact through a common, relatively high level interface, such as a pipeline. But that interface doesn't have to be a pipeline. It could be HTTP Requests and Responses.

The idea of increasing concurrency in a web application through small, asynchronous event handlers has a distinctly Unix flavor. After all the event handlers tend to run top to bottom and typically produce an output stream from an input stream (although it may simply modify one or the other or do something orthogonal to either like logging). The use of a standardized, high level interface allows you to keep the modules weakly coupled, and that's the real point of the Unix philosophy.

Comment: Re:So, a design failure then. (Score 1) 153

by hey! (#47921919) Attached to: Developing the First Law of Robotics

It depends on your design goals.

In Asimov's story universe, the Three Laws are so deeply embedded in robotics technology they can't be circumvented by subsequent designers -- not without throwing out all subsequent robotics technology developments and starting over again from scratch. That's one heck of a tall order. Complaining about a corner case in which the system doesn't work as you'd like after they achieved that seems like nitpicking.

We do know that *more* sophisticated robots can designed make more subtle ethical systems -- which is another sign of a robust fundamental design. The simplistic ethics is what subsequent designers get when they get "for free" when they use an off-the-shelf positronic brain to control a welding robot or bread-slicing machine.

Think of the basic positronic brain design as a design framework. One of the hallmarks of a robust framework is that easy things are easy and hard things are possible. By simply using the positronic framework the designers of the bread slicing machine don't have to figure out all the ways the machine might slice a person's fingers off. The framework takes care of that for them.

Comment: Re:The protruding lens was a mistake (Score 2) 381

by hey! (#47921441) Attached to: Apple Edits iPhone 6's Protruding Camera Out of Official Photos

I don't think you've really grasped Apple's design sensibility. Job one for the designers is to deliver a product that consumers want but can't get anywhere else.

The "camera bulge" may be a huge blunder, or it may be just a tempest in a teapot. The real test will be the user's reactions when they hold the device in their hand, or see it in another user's hand. If the reaction is "I want it", the designers have done their job. If it's "Holy cow, look at that camera bulge," then it's a screw-up.

The thinness thing hasn't been about practicality for a long, long time; certainly not since smartphones got thinner than 12mm or so. They always been practical things the could have given us other than thinness, but what they want you to do is pick up the phone and say, "Look how thin the made this!" The marketing value of that is that it signals that you've got the latest and greatest device. There's a limit of course, and maybe we're at it now. Otherwise we'll be carrying devices in ten years that look like big razor blades.

At some point in your life you'll probably have seen so many latest and greatest things that having the latest and greatest isn't important to you any longer. That's when know you've aged out of the demographic designers care about.

Comment: I'm biased but ... (Score 1) 377

by wytcld (#47919323) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Any Place For Liberal Arts Degrees In Tech?

My undergrad work was in English and psychology, my grad work in philosophy, and it's done me fine. There's never been an instance where I wished I'd had a computer "science" class. Nor have my most capable colleagues been from computer science, on the whole. The comp sci grads tend to have very narrow views of how to do things, which doesn't work out so well in the real world. You have to like to learn to be good here. The liberal arts are far more capable of cultivating that attitude. Comp sci folks, in my experience, only want to learn enough to get a job. Once they show up on the job they're remarkably uncurious. So they can't keep up with changes in tech and programming methods and style. Also, they tend to be uninventive.

Anyone working with tech should have a class in basic logic, as well as a good command of written English, and know how to closely read a book. Beyond that, it's all just getting experience, preferably in the real world, not from exercises based on idealized and unworldly environments. Those who deeply understand computers do not, as a rule, become professors of it. The rewards are so much better elsewhere.

Comment: Re:Where the pessimism comes from. (Score 4, Insightful) 180

by hey! (#47915329) Attached to: Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future

I'd argue that we do try to write about the future, but the thing is: it's pretty damn hard to predict the future. ...
The problem is that if we look at history, we see it littered with disruptive technologies and events which veered us way off course from that mere extrapolation into something new.

I think you are entirely correct about the difficulty in predicting disruptive technologies. But there's an angle here I think you may not have considered: the possibility that just the cultural values and norms of the distant future might be so alien to us that readers wouldn't identify with future people or want to read about them and their problems.

Imagine a reader in 1940 reading a science fiction story which accurately predicted 2014. The idea that there would be women working who aren't just trolling for husbands would strike him as bizarre and not very credible. An openly transgendered character who wasn't immediately arrested or put into a mental hospital would be beyond belief.

Now send that story back another 100 years, to 1840. The idea that blacks should be treated equally and even supervise whites would be shocking. Go back to 1740. The irrelevance of the hereditary aristocracy would be difficult to accept. In 1640, the secularism of 2014 society and would be distasteful, and the relative lack of censorship would be seen as radical (Milton wouldn't publish his landmark essay Aereopagitica for another four years). Hop back to 1340. A society in which the majority of the population is not tied to the land would be viewed as chaos, positively diseased. But in seven years the BLack Death will arrive in Western Europe. Displaced serfs will wander the land, taking wage work for the first time in places where the find labor shortages. This is a shocking change that will resist all attempts at reversal.

This is all quite apart from the changes in values that have been forced upon us by scientific and technological advancement. The ethical issues discussed in a modern text on medical ethics would probably have frozen Edgar Allen Poe's blood.

I think it's just as hard to predict how the values and norms of society will change in five hundred years as it is to accurately predict future technology. My guess is that while we'd find things to admire in that future society, overall we would find it disturbing, possibly even evil according to our values. I say this not out of pessimism, but out my observation that we're historically parochial. We think implicitly like Karl Marx -- that there's a point where history comes to an end. Only we happen to think that point is *now*. Yes, we understand that our technology will change radically, but we assume our culture will not.

Comment: Where the pessimism comes from. (Score 5, Insightful) 180

by hey! (#47914675) Attached to: Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future

The pessimism and dystopia in sci-fi doesn't come from a lack of research resources on engineering and science. It mainly comes from literary fashion.

If the fashion with editors is bleak, pessimistic, dystopian stories, then that's what readers will see on the bookshelves and in the magazines, and authors who want to see their work in print will color their stories accordingly. If you want to see more stories with a can-do, optimistic spirit, then you need to start a magazine or publisher with a policy of favoring such manuscripts. If there's an audience for such stories it's bound to be feasible. There a thousand serious sci-fi writers for every published one; most of them dreadful it is true, but there are sure to be a handful who write the good old stuff, and write it reasonably well.

A secondary problem is that misery provides many things that a writer needs in a story. Tolstoy once famously wrote, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." I actually Tolstoy had it backwards; there are many kinds of happy families. Dysfunctions on the other hand tends to fall into a small number of depressingly recognizable patterns. The problem with functional families from an author's standpoint is that they don't automatically provide something that he needs for his stories: conflict. Similarly a dystopian society is a rich source of conflicts, obstacles and color, as the author of Snow Crash must surely realize. Miserable people in a miserable setting are simply easier to write about.

I recently went on a reading jag of sci-fi from the 30s and 40s, and when I happened to watch a screwball comedy movie ("His Girl Friday") from the same era, I had an epiphany: the worlds of the sci-fi story and the 1940s comedy were more like each other than they were like our present world. The role of women and men; the prevalence of religious belief, the kinds of jobs people did, what they did in their spare time, the future of 1940 looked an awful lot like 1940.

When we write about the future, we don't write about a *plausible* future. We write about a future world which is like the present or some familiar historical epoch (e.g. Roman Empire), with conscious additions and deletions. I think a third reason may be our pessimism about our present and cynicism about the past. Which brings us right back to literary fashion.

Comment: Re:It's not Google's fault. It's Mozilla's. (Score 1) 129

by Hal_Porter (#47906759) Attached to: Chrome For Mac Drops 32-bit Build

Nobody forced Mozilla to make the stupid decisions that they did. In fact, a lot of Firefox users very vocally said, "No! We don't like that!" time and time again, release after release. But Mozilla didn't want to listen. Mozilla did everything in their power to ruin the Firefox experience. And now the entire web has to suffer.

Opera did the same thing. I still like Opera 12.x. But I prefer Chrome to the newer, Chromium based, versions of Opera. And the problem is that Opera 12.x is doomed in the long run.

The world is not octal despite DEC.

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