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Tech Looks To Obama To Save Them From 'Just Sort of OK' US Workers 441

Posted by Soulskill
from the right-in-the-pride dept.
theodp writes Following up on news that the White House met with big biz on immigration earlier this month, Bloomberg sat down with Joe Green, the head of Mark Zuckerberg's Fwd.US PAC, to discuss possible executive actions President Obama might take on high tech immigration (video) in September. "Hey, Joe," asked interviewer Alix Steel. "All we keep hearing about this earnings season though from big tech is how they're actually cutting jobs. If you look at Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, why do the tech companies then need more tech visas?" Green explained why tech may not want to settle for laid-off U.S. talent when the world is its oyster. "The difference between someone who's truly great and just sort of okay is really huge," Green said. "Culture in tech is a very meritocratic culture," he added. "The vast, vast majority of tech engineers that I talked to who are from the United States are very supportive of bringing in people from other countries because they want to work with the very best."

Comment: Of course, this means DOOOOM (Score 1) 82

by danaris (#47616783) Attached to: Xiaomi Arrives As Top Smartphone Seller In China

I can't wait to hear from all the pundits why this means Apple—and only Apple—is doomed.

After all, it's not as if they're taking significantly more marketshare and profitshare from Samsung than from Apple or anything...oh, no; every single event that can be broadly construed to be in the cellphone or consumer technology space, no matter how loosely related to Apple, can only ever mean that Apple is in trouble, and all its competitors are poised to take over in everything.


Dan Aris


The AI Boss That Deploys Hong Kong's Subway Engineers 162

Posted by samzenpus
from the running-on-time dept.
Taco Cowboy writes The subway system in Hong Kong has one of the best uptimes: 99.9%, which beats London's tube or NYC's sub hands down. In an average week as many as 10,000 people would be carrying out 2,600 engineering works across the system — from grinding down rough rails to replacing tracks to checking for damages. While human workers might be the ones carrying out the work, the one deciding which task is to be worked on, however, isn't a human being at all. Each and every engineering task to be worked on and the scheduling of all those tasks is being handled by an algorithm. Andy Chun of Hong Kong's City University, who designed the AI system, says, "Before AI, they would have a planning session with experts from five or six different areas. It was pretty chaotic. Now they just reveal the plan on a huge screen." Chun's AI program works with a simulated model of the entire system to find the best schedule for necessary engineering works. From its omniscient view it can see chances to combine work and share resources that no human could. However, in order to provide an added layer of security, the schedule generated by the AI is still subject to human approval — Urgent, unexpected repairs can be added manually, and the system would reschedule less important tasks. It also checks the maintenance it plans for compliance with local regulations. Chun's team encoded into machine readable language 200 rules that the engineers must follow when working at night, such as keeping noise below a certain level in residential areas. The main difference between normal software and Hong Kong's AI is that it contains human knowledge that takes years to acquire through experience, says Chun. "We asked the experts what they consider when making a decision, then formulated that into rules – we basically extracted expertise from different areas about engineering works," he says.

Comment: No longer true (Score 1) 76

by danaris (#47201763) Attached to: Amazon Launches Subscription-Based Billing And Payments Service

If you're a small shop, you will not be able to deal with credit cards except through intermediate handlers, such as PayPal. And most of them have massive up-front fees that you cannot afford.

Well, technically, I suppose that statement may still be true, but there is at least one very prominent "intermediate handler" that does not charge any up-front fees; in fact, they give away the hardware for free: I'm talking about Square.

They are, however, mainly helpful offline, because I believe their fees for non-in-person transactions are considerably higher than the 2.7% or whatever they charge when you actually swipe a card. Though they do have an online marketplace.

Either way, it's definitely good to see a serious (potential) competitor to PayPal.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:wrong assumptions (Score 1) 343

by danaris (#47142443) Attached to: Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot

Is that different for normal people or is the Comcast CEO living under a rock?

When all too many "normal people" notice that something is slow on the Internet, they are as likely to blame the printer they just plugged in, the new game their teenage son installed, or even the new swimming pool their neighbour just put in, as anything that could actually have affected it.

Dan Aris

Comment: Immutable, inscrutable, and sometimes incompetent (Score 3, Funny) 216

by danaris (#46991491) Attached to: Who controls the HVAC at work?

Ostensibly, the temperature in my (University staff, large, single-person) office is controlled by the thermostat in the classroom next door. (Problem #1, obviously.) This means that there have been a number of times where someone in that room (no idea whether it was a student or professor; don't really care) has cranked the temperature one way or the other. Usually down.

However, the aforementioned thermostat is also a bit wonky. I frequently go in there, feeling a little cold, to turn it up, and find that while it's set to about 70, it's reading a temperature of 65 and blowing cold air. Turning it up to 72 will cause it to cheerfully start blowing hot air for a while. (I have also gone in to lower it, and found that while it's set to 72, it's reading 76 or so. Go figure.)

None of this can hold a candle to what I experienced when a teenager teaching myself programming one summer on a computer in my father's lab at the college he teaches at. One of the several heater units in that room was on, and I asked if we could turn it off. Apparently, not only could we not turn it off, but the HVAC for that building was, at that time, managed by a company in a city an hour's drive away. OK, so, call the company, let them know that the heater is on in 80 degree weather.

Nope. "Our computer system shows that heater as off." "Well, I'm right next to it, and I can tell you it's on. It's blowing hot air. The one next to it isn't." "No, sir; our system shows it as off, therefore, it is off."

And that was pretty much the end of it.

(Fortunately, that section of the building was demolished a decade later, and replaced with one that wasn't a) designed in the '70s, and b) intended to be temporary.)

Dan Aris.

Comment: You're in luck! (Score 5, Informative) 465

by danaris (#46895883) Attached to: Lessig Launches a Super PAC To End All Super PACs

What would be cool is if this super PAC returned everyone's money if they don't raise the critical mass of dollars to make a difference. Ultimately that's my main worry. I'd rather donate $1000 to a cause that would give me my money back if it failed to raise enough money to make a real difference, than donate $10 that was gone forever regardless of whether it is used effectively.

Wasting my already-spent mod points by posting, but I think it's worth it:

That's exactly what they're doing. If you look at their FAQ, the second section explains that they will set certain funding targets, people will "pledge" their contributions, and only if they meet their total pledge target will any money actually change hands. Just like Kickstarter.

I've already pledged $20, and I wish I could give more, but our financial situation isn't super-stable at present :-/ I think what Lessig is doing is probably about the most important political action of our time.

Dan Aris

Comment: Largely positive community (Score 1) 116

by danaris (#46707923) Attached to: How Riot's Social Scientists Fight <em>League of Legends</em> Trolling

I've been playing LoL for about a year now, on and off, and while I can hardly claim to be playing at a high level (I think I was Bronze II last time I qualified in ranked play), my experience has largely been a positive one. Sure, there are occasional assholes, and I've even had to mute one or two people, but most games I play don't have any serious negative attitudes, blue-streak profanity, or other jerkiness.

Personally, I always try to have a good attitude myself, since I know from experience that negativity can far too easily breed, especially when more than one person in a given group is acting that way, and cheerfulness can also be contagious.

I have high hopes for the introduction of the Team Builder matchmaking system, which should reduce or remove the contention for roles and positions that has far too often marred the pre-game lobby in League...once they can make sure its wait times are reasonable.

Dan Aris


Environmentalists Propose $50 Billion Buyout of Coal Industry - To Shut It Down 712

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the could-but-won't-because-reality dept.
cartechboy writes "What's $50 billion among friends, right? At least Felix Kramer and Gil Friend are thinking big, so there is that. The pair have published an somewhat audacious proposal to spend $50 billion dollars to buy up and then shut down every single private and public coal company operating in the United States. The scientific benefits: eliminating acid rain, airborne emissions, etc). The shutdown proposal includes the costs of retraining for the approximately 87,000 coal-industry workers who would lose their jobs over the proposed 10-year phaseout of coal. Since Kramer and Friend don't have $50 billion, they suggest the concept could be funded as a public service and if governments can't do it maybe some rich guys can — and the names Gates, Buffett and Bloomberg come up. Any takers?"

Comment: Re:Way to drink the Kool-aid. (Score 1) 712

by danaris (#46305287) Attached to: Are Bankers Paid Too Much? Are Technology CEOs?

Because the rich are mostly the people who look short term. The poor in this country are looking to the long term and have a better handle on that. Right?

You can not see the fallacy there can you.

The outlook of the poor in this case is irrelevant. They have no power to actually change things. The rich do. It is the policies of the rich that are being implemented, which results in the poor suffering., I don't see the fallacy, because none exists. You're reading things into my post that simply aren't there.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:Way to drink the Kool-aid. (Score 1) 712

by danaris (#46305183) Attached to: Are Bankers Paid Too Much? Are Technology CEOs?

You really believe that the rich successful people are too stupid to understand what will and what will not make them money. Good luck with that thought process.

I believe that a significant majority of the rich in this country are heavily focused on short-term gains. Often at the expense of potentially much greater long-term gains. That's been a huge part of the problem in the economy for years now.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:Way to drink the Kool-aid. (Score 1) 712

by danaris (#46304753) Attached to: Are Bankers Paid Too Much? Are Technology CEOs?

The problem here is that you think that every job should be able to support a family. It should not. If all jobs need to put out a living wage where will young people get there first jobs? How will they learn?

They will learnon minimum wage jobs. At $15/hr. What's wrong with that? Do you think there's some kind of deep injustice being committed when teenagers can make $15/hr? Now, most likely, they won't be working full-time—after all, teenagers have school to go to. So they won't be making as much overall as the 50-year-old working the same job because the company he worked at for 20 years laid him off, so that they could pay their CxOs more.

You are pricing students and first job people out of the market.

But this still doesn't make much sense. If the cheapest you can possibly hire someone is $15/hr, how can anyone be priced out of that? If you need a worker, you will hire one at that wage, whether they're a teenager or not.

Every study done on past minimum wage raises will show you the number of jobs it costs.

Yeah, and it's not nearly as many as the jobs it creates.

Any change—any shock to the system—will cause some short-term pain. Raising the minimum wage could very well cause a fair number of job losses at minimum-wage employers over the first few months after it goes into effect.

But do you know what the best, most clearly proven way to stimulate the economy—and thus create jobs—is? Put more purchasing power in the hands of the poorest.

They will spend that extra ~$300/week immediately, on basic necessities. That money will push up the local economy, and make it that much easier for other business owners in their area to hire another minimum-wage worker. This is basic economics.

The rest of your post sounds, to me, basically like, "Things have always been this way, so I don't see why they should ever be any other way" and "It doesn't matter if people are made poorer, teh evul liberals will give them all my hard-earned money so they can loaf around doing nothing." (To be fair, it sounds like you're exaggerating the latter for effect as much as I am.) SoI'm not even going to bother to respond to it.

I don't think you actually want to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. I just think that, as the title suggests, you've drunk the Kool-aid, and have come to believe the lie that increasing the minimum wage will make the poor worse off. And it is a lie; a despicable one that has been sold to the American people in order to prevent anyone from actually improving the lot of the poor. Because that would mean that the super-rich would not be able to take quite as large a slice of the pie as they can now.

The really, really stupid part is that for a significant percentage of the rich, there's a high probability that they would actually make more money if the poor were doing better. They might have a smaller piece of the pie, but the pie would be enough bigger that it wouldn't matter.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:Way to drink the Kool-aid. (Score 1) 712

by danaris (#46304201) Attached to: Are Bankers Paid Too Much? Are Technology CEOs?

When you price people that are only worth $8/hr out of the market they do not suddenly just make more money. They loose their job to someone capable of working at $12 or $15/hr. Set the minimum wage to $30/hr. See what happens to the people who work at McDonalds. Most of them will be out of work.

I understand that you mean well and want people to be happy, but we have to think clearly before we put restrictions on a market based on what would make me feel like a better human being.

Yeah, except that no one I've ever heard is advocating setting the minimum wage to $30/hr. The proposal floated by the president says $10.10/hr. The most radical ones I've heard—the ones that would try to make the minimum wage a living wage, and in line, proportionally, with what the minimum wage was during the country's best times—say to push it up to around $18/hr.

And...I'm really not sure what you mean by "people capable of working at $12 or $15/hr". Do you really think that if the minimum wage was raised to a level that would allow anyone working full-time making it to actually feed, house, and clothe themselves, that suddenly the requirements of every minimum wage job would change to require a significantly higher level of service? That McDonald's and WalMart would suddenly start requiring their cashiers to also be their accountants?

I've heard a lot of arguments against the minimum wage, but this one is one of the more baffling to me, I must admit. It's possible that that's just because I don't quite understand what you're trying to say.

Dan Aris

You know, the difference between this company and the Titanic is that the Titanic had paying customers.