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Comment Re:I don't get it,... five a day? (Score 1) 397

Exactly: it's saving time on cooking, shopping, and deciding what to eat. I suppose the ideal food would be cheap, tasty, healthy, and fast. Soylent is not the cheapest, tastiest, healthiest, or fastest, but it aims to do very well on all of those metrics. There are many ways to eat cheaper food that tastes better, but these are either less healthy (candy bars) or slower (shopping and cooking). The older I get, the more I get fed up with the time and effort it takes to make and consume a decent meal. I have always seen food as a necessary annoyance, made even more annoying by the fact that the market caters to people who enjoy food. If I could save 1 hour a day on food, I would jump at the chance.

Comment Labor will decrease, not profit (Score 1) 231

The smaller amount of claims will result in fewer payouts, and also fewer employees needed for claims administration. But this is just a decrease in costs which will (presumably) be passed on to the consumer through cheaper premiums. The reduction in costs should exactly match the reduction in premiums, so profits should remain stable. A reduced number of claims should not have an effect on profits in the long term as long as the number of drivers stays constant. TFA guesses that the number of drivers may decrease, but I doubt the decrease will be significant; in any case, the focus is mainly on a better safety. So the result will be vastly inflated profits for several years as the number of claims drop, and then a bunch of layoffs as companies cut costs to compete on price. If you WORK in insurance you should be worried. If you OWN an insurance company, you should buy champagne. Warren Buffet says "we would not be holding a party at our insurance company.” Of course not, everyone there will lose their jobs. He will have the party in his house, with the other stockholders.

This is not at all the same as Napster, which resulted in drastically fewer customers for music. I'm no economist, so perhaps I am missing something; feel free to enlighten me.

Comment Radical Feminism (Score 0) 557

Much of the acrimony regarding feminism in the tech industry seems to stem from the inherent contradictions in Liberal Feminism, as opposed to Radical Feminism. Radical Feminism holds that gender categories should be abolished, and that the male/female distinction conceals inherent domination and marginalization of women. It is impossible to move beyond the inequalities of the male/female distinction as long as this gender distinction exists. Radical feminists are not "essentialists" -- they think there is no inherent or natural difference between men and women, but rather that men and women are made, not born (in terms of gender categories, rather than biological sex).

Liberal Feminism, by contrast, seeks to preserve the distinct categories of male and female, but to work toward equality between the sexes through reform. In theory, it seems that Liberal Feminism is a reasonable position: men and women can be "separate but equal" as long as we have the right laws. But in practice, the inherent contradictions of this theory become apparent quickly. The first and most obvious problem is, if men and women are different, who decides what "equality" means? There are essentialists who claim that women have different needs from men, and that our concept of equality must take those needs into account. In order to make sense of this claim, we need to have a clear definition of what a woman is, what women want and need, and how these wants and needs differ from men. But who has the authority to answer these questions? Not men certainly, and not individual women talking about their own personal needs and wants. What we end up with is a frenzy of people, all claiming to represent "women" as a universal category, and denouncing everyone else as unqualified to speak for "women" universally. It is impossible to resolve this situation; the debate quickly spirals into incoherence. Radical Feminism, by contrast, offers us a way out by rejecting the very categories which give rise to these irresolvable contradictions.

TL;DR: Radical Feminism says to gender what we all want to say to everyone involved in gamergate: JUST FUCKING GO AWAY.

Comment Thank God (Score 1) 116

I'm a lawyer, and I breathe a sigh of relief whenever I hear about the automation of the drearier aspects of my profession. Nobody goes to law school to fill out forms and file the same document 10,000 times, but that's what most attorneys end up doing. I can't wait for routine bankruptcy work to be fully automated, for example. Much legal work is just cleaning up messes, and like other janitorial work, we are quickly making robots to do it for us.

Comment Re:Acquired skill (Score 4, Insightful) 159

Like most abilities, getting only a few hours of sleep and feeling fine the next day is an acquired skill. Yes, it requires time, discipline and willpower, but blaming your genes for being a lazy bum is not an excuse.

This would seem to be refuted by all of the literature I've ever read on the subject, as well as my own experience. I used my discipline and willpower to sleep less, and all it did was make me a low-functioning zombie at work. After a few months, I had to give up and get my 8 hours every night.

But even assuming that you can train yourself to be a more efficient sleeper, there must be a limit to that as well, which may vary by person. So some people may "enjoy" 8 hours but only "need" 5, and others may "enjoy" 10 and "need" 8.

I will go along with the idea that you can get better sleep quality and thus require less total sleep, but there is still a wide genetic variation in the amount of good-quality sleep that particular individuals need. Even if I get perfect-quality sleep, I still need 8 hours. I wish I didn't but at this point in my life I know better than to get less. Based on what I've read, there are other people who only need 6 hours or less of perfect-quality sleep, and I can never be like them. I'm no expert on the subject, but I've never read anything that seriously claims you can train yourself to need less sleep (as opposed to increasing the quality of your sleep).

Comment Fallacy? (Score 1) 300

There are billions of consumers in the world. Some of them will always pick failures just by pure chance. It doesn't mean that the next thing they pick will also be a failure. This is the same fallacy that leads us to venerate mutual fund managers that outperform the market. Even if everyone picked stocks randomly, some funds would still outperform the market for 10 years straight by sheer luck. There are actually fewer funds of this kind than random chance would predict, indicating that entrusting your money to a fund manager is worse than picking stocks by random chance.

Comment Re:small and steady wins the race (Score 1) 154

I think that the scale itself is one of the biggest engineering challenges. It's difficult to keep a tube depressurized when it's that large. So building a very small-scale model doesn't give you any useful information about one of the most important aspects of the project.

Comment I don't mean to be a grump, but... (Score 2) 154

...isn't this basically just a model train in a tube? It sounds like the only thing from the hyperloop they are actually using is the "electromagnetic motors." It's using roller bearings, and the tube is not depressurized. As far as I know, those are the two most important things about the hyperloop, which speak to the goal of increasing speed by reducing drag. The speed is 160mph, which is less than half the speed of the fastest trains currently operating. Using electromagnetic acceleration is pretty cool, but I remember riding on roller coasters that used this method of acceleration back in the 90s. I don't fault the students for doing a cool engineering project, but the headline chosen by the journalist is more than a little disingenuous.

Comment Looks a lot like Doom 3 (Score 4, Interesting) 113

There are a bunch of imps throwing fireballs, and it's too dark to see anything properly. Run up to them and shoot them with a shotgun. Strafe around the pillars and backpedal around the corners. The hardware is being pushed to the limit, so there are no large areas with lots of monsters; it's all close-quarters corridor fighting with very little room to maneuver. I guess there are some new visual effects if you look closely, but it really looks like exactly the same gameplay experience. Also, I am old and video games were better in 1994 and get off my lawn.

Comment Re:Reckless borrowing and spending (Score 1) 1032

This is a good argument for giving bankruptcy relief for student loans. When we want people to make risky investments, we offer bankruptcy as a way out. The Economist periodically runs articles about how the bankruptcy system in the US is more debtor-friendly than in Europe, which leads to more risky entrepreneurial behavior. Encouraging people to take risks that lead to a social benefit is good, but we should not punish people too severely when such a high-risk bet backfires for them, because we have encouraged them in the first place.

I suppose that another alternative would be to freeze or modify interest on student loans in the event of a default, or to offer limited bankruptcy protection.

Comment Reckless borrowing and spending (Score 2) 1032

"It struck me as absurd that one could amass crippling debt as a result, not of drug addiction or reckless borrowing and spending, but of going to college."
The implication is that going to college can never involve "reckless borrowing and spending," but it can. He went into debt from buying lots of books and paying lots of people to give him lessons about them -- and he never had a plan for paying the money back. This is not economically different from spending your money on other things that you find pleasurable, such as booze and fast cars. Going to college can be reckless borrowing and spending, if you are reckless in your choices.

There is an argument for subsidizing higher education because it yields positive externalities, and that is his best argument. He makes it in a silly way, opposing choices between a high-paying job he didn't want, and a low-paying job he did want. He is basing his choices on his personal preferences, and again making himself seem reckless -- as if he had spent his time on booze and cars because that's what he "wanted." Instead, he could argue that his worth to society is not correlated with his income because he creates positive externalities, and therefore he should be subsidized. This is basically saying that our economic system is seriously broken in its incentives. This is a reasonable argument, but it requires a more nuanced analysis than saying "Everyone do what you like and to hell with everything!"

His arguments could be used to justify reckless spending on anything. In order to justify subsidizing higher education in particular, he would need to make a more careful analysis of incentives and benefits. Such arguments have been made very successfully, but not by him.

Wherever you go...There you are. - Buckaroo Banzai