Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Sudden outbreak of common sense. (Score 1) 169 169

Do we recognize the rights of others as a kind of tribal convention?


Or are we compelled to do so because of something in human nature?


There is no OR. That's a false dichotomy.
We ARE forced to be tribal and social by our biology, we don't get to choose or juxtapose one to the other.
Our biology requires both living in packs and care for infants - those who don't want that get written out of the DNA-pool hundreds of millions of years ago, long before the whole bipedal thing, let alone ethics.
And when such an individual appears through chance or mutation - we don't like those animals.
We call them psychos. Parasites. Evil. Werewolves.

Cooperation forced by biological need for familial, romantic and other relationships is what puts just another set of run of the mill primates on top of the food chain. Plus a lucky roll of the dice or two.
Tit-for-tat is what makes single cell organisms join up in cell colonies.
Other algorithms may seem profitable in short term, but in the long run... it's always cooperation.
We are social beings cause cooperation is a great strategy for survival of both the individual and its genes.


It's an important philosophical question because it potentially colors a lot of mundane ethical questions

No it is not. A question.

Legal personhood can not be based on ethics.
If it were, a society could "legally" give kids and comatose people all the rights that a sane adult has.
There would be no age of consent, drinking age, or any such thing as a state of diminished capacity of the mind.
Got a heartbeat? Full person.
With all rights and oblig... oh... wait... Rights come with obligations.

Be it claims and liberties or positive vs. negative rights - one person's rights include either/or/and their and other persons' obligations.

For a society (and we build those cause we need them) to work all sides in any relationship must agree to and obey both rights and the obligations they entail.
Enough relationships don't work (cause there are way too many for all to work at the same time, plus there is the element of chance, plus there are outside factors, plus there are werewolves...) - society breaks up.
So, we build RULES into societies to hold them together, and we call those rules laws, customs, morals... in order to codify rights and obligations (that we think are) needed for a society to exist.
Enough rules don't work or keep getting broken in order for the society to work - society breaks up.

Ethics is merely a description of our understanding of the underlying rules on which we choose to base our society.
That's why slavery can and was once perfectly ethical. Or racism. Or fascism.
It's a thing we invent to make society work the way we imagine that it should be.
NOT the way it is best for either a person, persons, the society or the humanity as a whole.

And when we base "personhood" on ethics we get societies where people are not persons based on wealth, sex, race, imaginary ethnic and cultural properties, age...
Until that society breaks cause eventually inter-personal relationships in it can't work with such rules.

Personhood AND a society which doesn't get broken up by the rules needed to run that society and which also describe what a person is - must be based on reality.
I.e. Rights that any single person must/might have and the obligations that those rights entail. Tit-for-tat.
Can't agree and obey both - sorry, can't have that right. Here's a nice cage. In a zoo or in a dungeon...
No biggie for the society. Society don't care. Persons care.

Should enough persons care enough to give rights to those who can't also obey obligations, such as chimps because... ethics...

Society breaks.

Input Devices

Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Caps Lock Key Still So Prominent On Keyboards? 686 686

Esther Schindler writes: The developers at .io are into tracking things, I guess. In any case, a few weeks back they decided to track team performance in terms of keyboard and mouse activity during the working day. They installed a simple Chrome plugin on every Macbook and collected some statistics. For instance, developers have fewer keypresses than editors and managers—around 4k every day. Managers type more than 23k characters per day. And so on. Some pretty neat statistics.

But the piece that jumped out at me was this: "What's curious—the least popular keys are Capslock and Right Mouse Button. Somewhere around 0.1% of all keypresses together. It's time to make some changes to keyboards." I've been whining about this for years. Why is it that the least-used key on my keyboard is not just in a prominent position, but also bigger than most other keys? I can I invest in a real alternate keyboard with a different layout (my husband's a big fan of the Kinesis keyboards, initially to cope with carpal tunnel). But surely it's time to re-visit the standard key layout? What keys would you eliminate or re-arrange?

Winklevoss Twins Get Closer To Launching Their Bitcoin Exchange 93 93

An anonymous reader writes: Reuters has an update on the Winklevoss twins plan to launch a regulated Bitcoin exchange called Gemini. The two have filed a New York trust application necessary for them to launch their Gemini bitcoin exchange. If approved, the exchange would be able to accept deposits, and issue loans. The twins say they want to make digital currency mainstream in the United States.

Submission + - New Unicode bug discovered for common Japanese character "no"

AmiMoJo writes: Some users have noticed that the Japanese character "no", which is extremely common in the Japanese language (forming parts of many words, or meaning something similar to the English word "of" on its own). The Unicode standard has apparently marked the character as sometimes being used in mathematical formulae, causing it to be rendering in a different font to the surrounding text in certain applications. Similar but more widespread issues have plagued Unicode for decades due to the decision to unify dissimilar characters in Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

Interviews: Ask Dr. Temple Grandin About Animals and Autism 131 131

Being listed in the "Time 100" of the most influential people in the world in the "Heroes" category, is just one of the many awards received by Temple Grandin. Diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Temple overcame many obstacles and earned a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is a professor at Colorado State University. Dr, Grandin is recognized as an expert in animal behavior and one of the leading advocates for the rights of autistic persons. She lectures, and has written numerous books on animals and autism, and was the subject of the award-winning, biographical film, Temple Grandin . Dr. Grandin has agreed to take some time out of her schedule to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.

Comment Re:It's based on a faulty premise... (Score 2) 191 191

No, the thing that matters is to execute those actions which keep the machine of government moving along

Sometimes you work against your immediate interests in order to promote your long-term interests

No, that's what the career politicians tell themselves to validate their own hypocrisy.

And if the Tea Partiers were the only issue, and compromise and cooperation really are "currency", then rest of the Republicans would be closing deals hand over fist and legislation would be passing like shit through a goose.
Tea Partiers not knowing how the "cooperation currency" works, just sitting on their "currency" and making no use of it, and thus raising it's value - it would be prime time to both cash in AND to make big deals for the future.

Cooperation earned earlier is now worth more cause there is none to get on the market.
Same for the cooperation made now, which can be bargained for more future deals than usual.

Same goes for the other side.
Democrats would be banning gayness and abortion, making guns mandatory for anyone older than 3 and bringing both death penalty and torture across the nation.

Just an old white guy trying to rationalize all those times he had no balls or integrity with bullshit from game theory.
Which works only with perfectly rational actors.
Which no human (other than a psycho here and there) ever is and no group of humans can ever be.
E.g. Tea Partiers and "killing the ACA, which at this point is little more than an old campaign platform that has little bearing on the current issues that the country faces".

Comment It's based on a faulty premise... (Score 1) 191 191

...that essentially, when you get down to it, all political decisions are the same.
Voting in slavery or declaring a war or a rehaul of a transportation system... same shit.
It's all just the stuff politicians do.

They act in concert with other legislators, even at the expense of their own beliefs, in order to bank capital or settle accounts.

Ergo, it is perfectly fine to give up one's own principles and voters in order to curry favor with one's peers and accumulate personal political prestige, which can then be further traded.
So, giving up one's principles to accumulate prestige, and giving up one's voters to accumulate even more...
Clearly, the only thing that matters is the prestige itself - i.e. staying in the game by keeping your seat.
Thus, political system exists solely to supply politicians with jobs and entertainment.

As for voters...
It's politics, stupid. Don't you people know that it is all the same?
Raising taxes, lowering taxes, gay marriage, voting rights, prohibition, segregation, no guns, guns for everyone, free abortions, 1 child per family, mass sterilization of men and women, secular state and a theocracy, war on this or that, war here or there, death camps and summer camps...
You just keep votin like your daddy did, ok? Good.


Barney Frank Defends Political Hypocrisy, Game Theory Explains It 191 191

HughPickens.com writes with a link to Steven I. Weiss's Atlantic article which says game theory can shed light both on what is happening in Washington and on how the bargaining power of its negotiating parties may evolve over time and comes to the conclusion that hypocrisy is essential to the functioning of Congress -- in fact, it's the only tool legislators have after they've rooted out real corruption. "Legislators do not pay each other for votes, and every member of a parliament in a democratic society is legally equal to every member," writes Congressman Barney Frank in his new memoir, Frank: A Life in Politics From the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage. For legislators, cooperation is a form of political currency. They act in concert with other legislators, even at the expense of their own beliefs, in order to bank capital or settle accounts."

Game theory sets out conditions under which negotiating parties end up cooperating, and why they sometimes fail to do so. It does so based on analyzing what drives individuals in the majority of bargaining situations: incentives, access to information, initial power conditions, the extent of mutual trust, and accountability enforcement. Instead of seeing political flip-flopping as a necessary evil, Frank suggests it is inherent to democracy and according to Frank if there's any blame to be doled out in connection with political hypocrisy, it's to be placed on the heads of voters who criticize legislators for it, instead of accepting it as a necessary part of democratic politics.

The Uber Economy Needs a New Category of Worker 273 273

An anonymous reader writes: Uber headlines a new group of companies building out the so-called "sharing economy," in which people can easily hop in and out of employment modes. Somebody can suddenly start hiring out his driving services to others, taking breaks and setting hours as he prefers, and then just as quickly stop participating forever. An article at NY Magazine says we need to define a new class of worker to fit Uber drivers and similar at-will employees. "According to American employment law, though, our driver must be one or the other, a 1099 contractor or a W2 employee. And the gulf between the two in terms of mandated government protections and benefits is as wide as the line between them is blurry. As such, thousands of on-demand-economy employees and scads of lawyers are at war in court to determine what camp our average driver should fall into. ... It might be time for a new standard that splits the difference between the two — a 'dependent contractor,' as some labor experts call it — that would be better for businesses, consumers, and all those workers themselves."

The cost of feathers has risen, even down is up!