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Comment: Self-reported data will never work. (Score 1) 72

by Animats (#47427143) Attached to: How Google Map Hackers Can Destroy a Business

See my 2010 paper "'Places' spam - the new front in the spam wars." As I wrote back then, "The two phases of spamming Google Places are the insertion of fake business locations and the creation of fake reviews. Both are embarrassingly easy." That hasn't changed.

Google doesn't fix this 4-year-old problem because Google makes money from bad search results. If search results take you directly to the business selling whatever it is you want, Google makes no money. If you're detoured through some Demand Media content farm, Google makes ad revenue. If you get fed up with being sent to ad-choked sites and click on a Google ad, Google makes money. Organic search that sucks is a fundamental part of Google's business model.

Technically, it's straightforward to fix this. Business data has to be checked against sources businesses can't easily manipulate, such as business credit rating companies. A business that reports fake store locations to Dun & Bradstreet or Experian will soon have a very low credit rating.

Bing or Yahoo could beat Google at search quality. They have the same spam problem, but it doesn't make them money. That's because Google has most of the third-party advertising market. Web spam on Bing drives traffic mostly to sites with Google ads, not Bing ads.

The real search engines are Google, Bing, Baidu (China) and Yandex (Russia). Everybody else, including Yahoo, is a reseller. Yandex has been doing some interesting stuff lately with linkless search ranking, and Baidu just opened a Silicon Valley office.

Yahoo's Marissa Mayer announced last January that Yahoo was getting back into search. (They've been reselling Bing since 2009.) That appears to have been a bluff to get a better deal from Microsoft. There's no indication of Yahoo actually building a search engine. No relevant job ads, no data center buildout, no increased crawling by Yahoo bots, no high-profile hires, no buzz in Silicon Valley.

Bing ought to be doing better than it is, but they're reported to have management problems. Every year, there's new top management at Bing, and it doesn't help.

Comment: Jurisdiction (Score 2) 146

I'm listening to the recording of the radio communications. The drone was over 2000' altitude. At first, the cops in the helicopter aren't sure what they're seeing, and they first think it's a fast-moving aircraft in a vertical climb, over the East River. It has red and green lights, like aircraft do. They ask La Guardia ATC radar what they're seeing. ATC isn't seeing it on radar. Then they get closer and see it's a drone of some kind. In a few minutes it's over the George Washington Bridge, miles from the East River.

Once the guys who were operating them were caught, the cops are on the air discussing what to charge them with. The cops on the ground call them "tiny little toys". There's some discussion of "if it's over 1000', it's reckless". The cops aren't quite sure what to charge them with.

The FAA can certainly have them prosecuted. They were operating a drone in class B controlled airspace. That's serious, and dumb. Here's the New York City airspace chart. (Yes, there's actually a VFR corridor over the Hudson River; it's permitted to fly along the river at up to 1300' altitude. There used to be one over the East River, too, but after some jock slammed a light plane into a Manhattan apartment building by going too fast there, it was closed to VFR traffic. These drone operators didn't stay in the VFR corridor, and probably had no clue where it was anyway.)

The drone guys were lucky. LGA has two intersecting runways, 4-22 and 13-31. The one in use depends on wind direction. The approach to 13 and the departure from 31 are over where the drones were operating. LGA happened to be using 4-22 that day. If the other runway had been in use, there would have been a large plane in the area ever 45 seconds or so.

Comment: Re:Technically, it's not a "draft notice" (Score 1) 121

I recall some talk during the lead-up to the Afghan war about the potential for a draft. It wasn't clear at the time just how big that particular conflict would get. It wasn't impossible to imagine it turning into World War-sized scenario against a lot of Islamic countries. The resulting conflicts were small compared to that, but we had to scale up the military substantially and if they'd grown any bigger we'd have had to have a draft.

Now that women are allowed access to combat positions, it's going to be very hard to exempt them from a draft should one be necessary. I can't conceive of the legislature passing any such bill right now (I can't imagine this Congress passing any non-trivial bill, and I don't see that changing), but a wise legislature would want to do that ahead of need rather than after the fact. If women are going to be drafted, you'd need to start registering them now.

I sincerely hope that it's never necessary. And if a war of that scope does happen again, we'll probably be a lot less selective with our weapons of war. (Afghanistan and Iraq were fought house-to-house, because as bizarre as it sounds that was a way of reducing civilian casualties, at least compared to just flattening entire cities as was done in World War II.) So we may well not have a draft even in a bigger conflict. But I think that, while it's politically impossible, a really good pragmatic case could be made for starting to require Selective Service registration for everybody right now.

Comment: Re:Most humans couldn't pass that test (Score 1) 261

by jfengel (#47426033) Attached to: The Lovelace Test Is Better Than the Turing Test At Detecting AI

To me, this seems to cut to the heart of it. AI is commonly conceived of as trying to mimic human intelligence, while there are cognitive tasks that cats and even mice can do that prove too hard for computers. A cat can recognize a mouse with essentially 100% accuracy, from any angle, in an eyeblink. No computer would come close, and the program that came closest wouldn't be a general-purpose object matcher.

Vertebrate brains are pretty remarkable. Human brains are an amazing extra step on top of that. We don't know exactly what that is in part because we don't really understand the simpler vertebrate brains. IMHO, we won't have a good mimic for sapience until we've gotten it to first do sentience. We don't have to rigorously follow the evolutionary order, but it seems to me that conversation-based tests are rewarding the wrong features, and even if they get better by that definition they're not getting us any closer to the actual goals of understanding (and reproducing) intelligence.

Comment: Uh... I don't get it (Score 1) 26

by jfengel (#47425133) Attached to: The Video Game That Maps the Galaxy

I did read the fine article, but I'm afraid I just don't get what's going on here. Are the players contributing something in some kind of crowd-sourced "Yes, that blob is a star, and its center is here" kind of way? Or are they using players' computers as a distributed processing system?

It's nifty either way, but I don't the New Yorker's audience has the same kinds of questions about the technology that I do. Can anybody in this audience (more like me) help me out?

Comment: Re:Forget reading, GET AN IMPLANT! (Score 1) 83

by shaitand (#47424627) Attached to: A Brain Implant For Synthetic Memory
"The only reason prosthetics cost a crapload (sometimes upwards of $100,000) is because each one has to be manufactured specifically to match its intended recipient."

That is a factor but not the biggest one. It's about demand. In the US we have a so called medical "free market" so the cost is as much as the market will allow. So, if you are missing a leg, how much is a prosthetic worth to you? You'll find that unlike with say, a stick of gum, the answer will vary dramatically with the key differentiators being how much the person has and whether they have loved ones they must care for who they value more than themselves. Now, abstract that cost from real people and put it on collectives with billions of dollars to spend (insurance companies) and why wouldn't you charge six figures for a prosthetic?

For $100,000 there are thousands of people who could engineer a prosthetic that can be customized with just a few hours labor. So the $100,000 cost is spread among all of them and the customization part amounts to a few bucks in plastic and under $1000 labor and that is at doctor labor prices and not lab tech prices.

But these products require FDA approval. So that is going to cost another $250k. Which is great for you if you have that money. It means that you get legal immunity at the end. It means little to no competition. It means you won't have to worry about actually improving your device anytime soon. It means you can charge ridiculous prices which are easy to justify, you can point to the need for FDA approval, you can point to the importance of making the device safe for medical use, etc. People will pay anything they can afford and since the bill goes to the insurance company, people will sign off on literally any figure. So it's really just a question of charging as much as the insurance company can afford.

The prosthetics end up costing the manufacturer maybe $2000 customized in the end with everything included and that figure goes down over time but they keep on charging $100,000 a pop because they can.

Comment: Re:apply this technology where it counts. (Score 1) 83

by shaitand (#47419781) Attached to: A Brain Implant For Synthetic Memory
You make the fatal flaw of assuming that ethics and prudence are the result of higher cognitive ability. Have you considered the possibility that they understand exactly what they are doing and just don't care?

" This next-generation of politician could one day come to understand the moral and sociopolitical repercussions of things like intentionally shutting down the government."

You mean like having successfully pandered to your constitutes so that you'll be re-elected and can continue to profit from selling out to corporate interests, enjoy the social status of being a congressman, and blowjobs from interns?

Hell most of the the strongest opponents of issues like climate change and homosexual marriage ARE homosexuals. When THEY get busted getting a blowjob it's generally from a male intern or other staffer.

Comment: Re:Forget reading, GET AN IMPLANT! (Score 1) 83

by shaitand (#47419709) Attached to: A Brain Implant For Synthetic Memory
"Implantable memory even if VERY expensive would be very useful. Why go to college when you can pay $40k
and have a college degree without also having to give up 4 years of earning potential to get it."

I think you seriously underestimate what "VERY expensive" means. That is what such a technology might cost when at the dirt cheap and commonplace level. Anytime in the first 20 years I doubt you'd see a BLANK implant that wasn't priced in the millions.

Comment: Re:Forget reading, GET AN IMPLANT! (Score 1) 83

by shaitand (#47419679) Attached to: A Brain Implant For Synthetic Memory
It will happen that way first. They'll do implantable blank memory, then they'll have ridiculously overpriced modules that are able to communicate wirelessly so that you can copy and record. Then...

Why don't we just skip the bullshit and put something with both mesh and infrastructure wireless technology in so that it automatically links both to other modules and to a tunneled network in the internet automatically integrating everyones brains into a massive network of shared memory and artificial memory. We can have datacenters where massive external forms of this are connected to the network as well.

Or hey, why not let go of the conscious reigns, put the implantable chip that interacts with brain electrical and chemical signals both capable of generating detectable responses and receiving them. Still put the mesh and infrastructure wireless technology in, still build the tunneled network, but just put enough designed elements in place to facilitate the massively parallel communication high way and let the brains figure out their own higher level protocols.

Worried about security? Don't be that worried. You are neurally linked to everyone you see with an optical connection already. This just steps it up to having a slower link to lots of people all the time.

Comment: Mysterious "Aurora" attack not so mysterious. (Score 1) 50

by Animats (#47417787) Attached to: DHS Mistakenly Releases 840 Pages of Critical Infrastructure Documents

There's nothing mysterious about this. The problem is that if someone gets control of circuit breakers for large rotating equipment, they may be able to disconnect it, let it get out of sync, and reconnect it. This causes huge stresses on motor and generator windings and may damage larger equipment. This is a classic problem in AC electrical systems. A more technical analysis of the Aurora vulnerability is here.

The attack involves taking over control of a power breaker in the transmission system, one that isn't protected by a device that checks for an in-phase condition. Breakers that are intended to be used during synchronization (such as the ones nearest generators) have such protections, but not all breakers do.

Protective relaying in power systems is complicated, because big transient events occur now and then. A lightning strike is a normal event in transmission systems. The system can tolerate many disruptive events, and you don't want to shut everything down and go to full blackout because the fault detection is overly sensitive. A big inductive load joining the grid looks much like an Aurora attack for the first few cycle or two.

There's a problem with someone reprogramming the setpoints on protective relays. This is the classic "let's make it remotely updatable" problem. It's so much easier today to make things remotely updatable than to send someone to adjust a setting. The Aurora attack requires some of this. There's a lot to be said for hard-wired limits that can't be updated remotely, such as "reclosing beyond 20 degrees of phase error is not allowed, no matter what parameters are downloaded."

Comment: Web programming sucks. (Score 1) 542

by Animats (#47417227) Attached to: Normal Humans Effectively Excluded From Developing Software

Ignoring the racist whining, he has a point. Web programming really sucks. Even web design sucks.

HTML started as a straightforward declarative layout language. Remember Dreamweaver? Macromedia's WYSIWYG editor for web pages. It was like using a word processor. You laid out a page, and it generated the page in HTML. It understood HTML, and you could read the page back in and edit it. Very straightforward. You didn't even have to look at the HTML. Back then, Netscape Navigator came with an HTML editor, too.

Then came CSS. DIV with float and clear as a primary formatting tool (a 1D concept and a huge step backwards from 2D tables), Javascript to patch the formatting problems of CSS, absolute positioning, Javascript to manage absolute positioning... The reaction to this mess was to layer "content management systems" on top of HTML, introducing another level of complexity and security holes. (Wordpress template attacks...)

It's as bad, if not worse, on the back end. No need to go into the details.

All this is being dumped on programmers, with the demand for "full-stack developers" who understand all the layers. Cheap full-stack developers. Usually for rather banal web sites.

Not only is this stuff unreasonably hard, it's boring. It's a turn-off for anyone with a life.

Comment: Being a quant in the early years. (Score 4, Interesting) 88

by Animats (#47413241) Attached to: The Billionaire Mathematician

His fund has an impressive trading record. He had the big advantage of starting early, in 1982, when almost nobody was doing automated trading or using advanced statistical methods. Their best years were 1982-1999. Now everybody grinds on vast amounts of data, and it's much tougher to find an edge. Performance for the last few years has been very poor, below the S&P 500. That's before fees.

The fees on his funds are insane. 5% of capital each year, and 45% of profits. Most hedge funds charge 2% and 20%, and even that's starting to slip due to competitive pressure.

Simons retired in 2009. You have to know when to quit.

Counting in octal is just like counting in decimal--if you don't use your thumbs. -- Tom Lehrer

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