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Comment: Re:Renting other stuff (Score 1) 940 940

There are simple arrangements of sales that emulate rent in that capacity (a "rental shop" would sell above market price on long installment terms, and buy back below market price in one lump sum). The same kind of arrangement would also be fine for land, and would serve the functions where people actually want "rental" housing, while automatically becoming more like a sale for people who really just wanted a sale in the first place (or who just find themselves renting for so long that they might as well have just bought one... and it turns out, they technically did, and eventually it's paid of and done).

Ah, OK. Putting it on a long installment plan does makes it work.

Dan Aris

+ - US Supreme Court Declares Same-Sex Marriage Legal Nationwide ->

westlake writes: In a ruling that is the court's most important expansion of marriage rights in the United States since its landmark 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia that struck down state laws barring interracial marriages, the US Supreme Court has declared same-sex marriage legal nationwide.
In the background of an unexpectedly liberal turn in Court, as seen by conservatives, is the growing power and influence of "the technocrat," by which they mean the dominant economic forces of the 21st century, Hollywood in entertainment, Silicon Valley in tech, Amazon in retailing, and so on.

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Comment: Renting other stuff (Score 1) 940 940

Alice gives Bob some stuff. In exchange Bob gives Alice a thing. Then Alice has to give back the thing, and Bob gets to keep the stuff. Bob has profited at Alice's expense; Alice lost some stuff, and didn't get any thing for it. Why the hell would Alice put up with this? Because she has no choice; Bob has the thing that Alice needs to survive, so she either gives up her stuff and accepts the loss in order to buy herself a little more time, or she dies. (Or gives up the stuff to Charles instead, or Doug, etc, but same difference there).

It's not quite literal theft, but it's close enough.

As a somewhat ancillary point, how do you feel about renting things other than land? For instance, a pressure washer? I have absolutely no desire to own a pressure washer for good; I might need one once every 2-3 years, if that, and it's ridiculously inefficient for everyone who needs one once every 2-3 years to own one. So when I need one, I go down to the local hardware store, which has a couple that it rents out, pay them something like $20 for an hour of its use, and then give it back when I'm done.

I've gained nothing tangible from that save the use of the pressure washer (and the products of my labour with it—to wit, a clean deck/house/whatever). In the absence of the ability to rent, presumably if I wanted such a thing, I would have to either pay the full purchase price of the pressure washer with the understanding that I would be paid back almost all of it when I returned it—which ends up amounting to exactly the same thing, with the added burden of needing to have enough money to purchase a big-ticket item like that—or I would have to pay significantly more for an actual person from the hardware store to bring the pressure washer and use it to wash my deck/house/whatever, in which case I'm paying for a service.

So what's your thought on that sort of rent, and how does it—or does it not—differ fundamentally from renting land?

Dan Aris

Comment: All nurture. 100%. (Score 1) 490 490

In the Victorian era, pink was considered a color for boys—it was a lighter version of red, which was considered a very masculine color.

There's absolutely nothing biological about the current trend of girls liking pink. It's entirely a product of our culture, which says "girls should like pink."

Similarly, any research that shows differences in job or academic field preferences by gender had damn well better show some kind of controlling for cultural factors, or it's got absolutely no value in showing what girls "naturally" like.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:Say Good By to the Rainforests .... (Score 1) 851 851

I think I see where you're coming from better now, though I'm not entirely sure I agree :-)

Part of what I'm not sure about is that you seem to be positing a singularity of will—of thought, intent, and desire—that I think is an oversimplification of how humans actually operate.

I think that what you're saying is that a "moral decision" is a decision that you make to do what you believe is best in the circumstances, according to whatever heuristic you're using for "best"—whether that's "it will make me happiest," "it will bring the greatest good to the greatest number," or "it will make the people I care about happy (even if it makes my life more difficult)". (As an aside, I would dispute that definition of a "moral decision," but I think that's getting into semantics, rather than the actual issue of free will.)

What, then, do you do when, within your own decision-making process, whatever you want to call it, there are two or more heuristics weighted close enough to the same as to be effectively indistinguishable? "I really, really want this, but taking it would be bad, and I want to be a good person" would be a nice, (possibly deceptively) simple example. In such a case, the selfish heuristic, "what will make me happiest right now," is in conflict with (for the sake of argument) a genuine desire to be good, as society defines good. So, if I'm understanding your argument correctly, even though both desires and intentions are strong and clearly formed, the person's decision would not be highly predictable.

On a separate note, I am interested in the characterization of people who let the judgment of others strongly guide their actions as lacking (strong) free will of their own. I can actually think of two people I know personally for whom that's true, though they're very different in nature. One has an almost slavish devotion to her particular idea of religion, even though I'm fairly sure that she doesn't actually like doing most of what she feels she's supposed to do—and if she allowed herself to really think about it, she's certainly got enough critical thinking faculties that she'd see that the specific things she feels are required of her make little sense, even within the context of the stated doctrine of her church. But thinking about it, questioning it, is one of the things she's not allowed to do, so she doesn't. The other person is strongly driven to please his significant other, and I see him frequently tell her that she should make a decision—and he's genuinely fine with the decisions she makes either way. He's just an easygoing person who enjoys doing a lot of different kinds of things, and is happy to leave that decision-making to her when she's got a firm opinion and he doesn't.

So while I suspect that you would say that both of these people similarly lack strong free will, I feel that labeling them in the same way is unnecessarily—and perhaps even unhelpfully—reductionist. In this case, one feels that she has an unshakable obligation to follow certain rules in her life—and is unhappy even while fulfilling it—while the other has made a conscious decision to put another's happiness first—and that makes him happy. So, in the end, while this has been somewhat rambling, perhaps I'm coming back around to the same argument as before—that human brains and their decision-making processes are more complex than your definitions can account for.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:Say Good By to the Rainforests .... (Score 1) 851 851

Free will is not just random noise introduced into our decision-making process. Quite the opposite: free will is responsiveness to moral reasoning. Free will is self-control, the ability to direct one's behavior according to what one judges to be right, rather than just whatever one happens to feel like doing. Free will is almost exactly synonymous with moral judgement, and beings with more perfect moral judgement, better able to correctly discern right from wrong, plus the ability to bring their own behavior into accordance with that, would have stronger free will, not weaker.

Forgive me if I'm misunderstanding something; I never studied philosophy formally. But shouldn't free will also include the ability to judge which of two choices is the more moral—and then choose the other one? It sounds like you're saying that "free will" necessarily implies an increase in moral action, when it should imply nothing of the kind. (From my view of it, it should, in fact, imply less ability to predict whether someone will take a moral action when an immoral one is also an option.)

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:I do not consent (Score 1) 851 851

So, no answer to my question?

No, because I don't think it's a valid/relevant question. First of all, it was never about being in the same house, it's about being physically (if not legally) in a place where you are within and surrounded by the territory of the United States, which is governed by its laws, and thus, as I described, benefiting from its resources and infrastructure. (You'll note that I charitably assumed that you were, in fact, going to be taking your libertarian commune off to the wilds of Montana or some similar place where you would never actually interact directly with the people or infrastructure of the USA, since that would open up enormous additional ways in which you would be benefiting from the taxes we pay.)

To (perhaps obliquely) address the point you raise, yes, if you lived in Mexico or Canada you would, indeed, feel some of the same kinds of "halo" benefits from American laws on clean air and water, for instance. However, you would not benefit from them to the same degree as if you lived within the bounds of the country.

Now, if we take your original statement of the "experiment" at its face value, it indicates that you would not isolate yourselves from us: rather, you would live among us, simply "choosing to associate only with" those who agreed with you. In that case, you would benefit from all the physical infrastructure of the United States. Depending how strictly you define your association-by-choice (i.e., if you do not completely avoid all contact, including commerce, with those who do not share your values), you would also benefit from public schools, labor laws, restrictions on food and drug sales, and a plethora of other important benefits of living in the civilized society that is the modern United States of America.

I note that you haven't addressed a single one of the points I raised, instead replying only with a somewhat snarky attempt to deflect the criticism of your plan with a purely rhetorical quibble. If you do wish to continue this discussion, please address these points in a meaningful way. From where I sit, they indicate fatal flaws in any hypothetical attempt to have people who live in this country fairly "opt out" of any of its laws or taxes, whether due to libertarian principles or otherwise.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:I do not consent (Score 1) 851 851

Problem is, by living in the same physical space as us

How do you define that? You're not here in my house; we don't live together. How is it that I occupy the same physical space as you (assuming you are in the U.S.) but I do not somehow occupy the same physical space as somebody in Mexico? Is it because there's a river between me and Mexico?

You benefit from the clean water and air that result from our environmental regulations. You benefit from the police and fire services—even if you personally never interact with them. You benefit from the defense offered by our military—imagine living your libertarian utopia on an island somewhere in the Pacific, and suddenly China says, "Nope, we own this island now!" What would you be able to do?

Just because you're not personally, directly benefitting in an obvious way from the services paid for by taxation doesn't mean you aren't benefitting from them at all. A lot of the things taxes get us in the USA are either subtle enough, or so much taken for granted, that they've become invisible to the average person.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:I do not consent (Score 1) 851 851

I wish there was an island-continent for everyone that believed as he does. Honestly, I'd love to watch that experiment play out as long as I didn't have to participate

There's no reason not to let it play out here. You don't have to participate. I don't want to take away your federal government, your state government, your city and county government. I just want every individual to be free to create their own alternative. You can choose to associate only with people who follow your government's rules, if you wish, and ignore all the rat bastards like me who don't like it and want some other authority. If we try to hurt you, I support you and your government shooting or restraining us or whatever you think is necessary.

Problem is, by living in the same physical space as us, you benefit from what our tax dollars buy. This even extends to living out in the wilderness of Montana somewhere or a similar idea, even if it is to a lesser extent.

This is why such an experiment only works on an island-continent: because only there can you be truly isolated from the effects of other people's attempts to actually have a civilized society, rather than an anarchist free-for-all.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:I'm sure no one will misconstrue this at all... (Score 1) 101 101

Sure, until insurance companies and governments start demanding access to it.

That's certainly something worth worrying about (it would really piss me off, that's for sure), but how does this make it significantly more likely? Who are they going to be demanding access from? The researchers? That's a huge no-no. People who happen to own iPhones with whatever accessory allows for DNA testing? How would they know?

No, the thing to worry about there is just that the general increase in ease of DNA testing and sequencing will lead to insurance companies deciding they need to have the genomes of all their insured on file. Once they decide that, it's possible that they would use a device like this to do the actual testing—or they could use any of the various other DNA testing/sequencing devices around.

Dan Aris

Comment: I'm sure no one will misconstrue this at all... (Score -1, Troll) 101 101

Cue legions of anti-Apple posters and general conspiracy nuts ranting and raving that soon you won't be allowed to use an iPhone without having a sample of your DNA on file with Apple.

In reality, what this will do is enable amazing new kinds of distributed research. I'm not a scientist myself, but I do work for a bunch of them, and having the capability of taking a DNA sample on an iPhone would be an amazing new way to enhance the kinds of research available—both by scientists with an iPhone gathering data easily, and by soliciting (with appropriate legal consent forms and suchlike) DNA samples from a wide variety of research participants across the US and the world.

But nope, the important thing is APPLE EVUL! THEY GUNNA TAKE OUR DNAS!

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:failed industry (Score 1) 67 67

Try this, "drivers are a threat to our road system." They clog it up and very often they crash into each other and cause serious issues to traffic. We need to protect the road system against *drivers*. Can we automate *cars* so they work without *drivers* as much as possible?"

Lo and behold, Google and any number of other entities are working on this very problem.

Except that that's not a valid analogy.

Automobile-based transportation systems (consisting of road, car, and car occupants) will, indeed, work just fine once we have made the cars run without drivers.

But if you remove the user from the equation of computer security, suddenly all you have is a bunch of perfectly secure computers that no longer have any purpose to their existence.

The reason we have computers is so that people can use them to perform a variety of tasks. It is fundamentally impossible to remove the user from the equation while still achieving the desired result—unless you have become so skewed with tunnel vision as to believe that the desired result is a perfectly secure computer.

The result we should all be aiming for is a computer that can perform the tasks required of it by its users without them running the risk of compromising security through their activities.

Dan Aris

Comment: No mutually acceptable options (Score 3, Insightful) 101 101

I would say it's unlikely to the point of ridiculousness that Comcast would ever accept the kinds of restrictions on the merger that would prevent things from getting worse than they are already, let alone start to reverse the merciless devastation of the public interest and regulatory capture that's already happened.

I think the most likely outcomes of this are the DoJ allowing the merger with some relatively superficial conditions (like the 5-year enforcement of net neutrality regulations that was imposed for the merger with NBC/Universal) or blocking it entirely. Much depends on how much the DoJ people in question actually value their role as regulators, versus their role as toll (aka bribe) collectors.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:Obvious (Score 1) 350 350

Hurricanes can strike essentially the entire southeast quarter of the country with devastating force, and can even hit further north along the Atlantic coast. They're possible on the Pacific coast, too, but much less likely, I believe.

Due to the temperature along the eastern Pacific, it is physically impossible for a hurricane to really hit the US West Coast (minor exceptions in CA, but they're mostly just strong rain by the time they hit the shore).

OK, thanks. All I was sure of was that I couldn't recall hearing of a meaningful hurricane hitting the Pacific coast.

Dan Aris

Why did the Roman Empire collapse? What is the Latin for office automation?