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Comment: Re:Technically, it's not a "draft notice" (Score 1) 199


Given MAD, it's hard to imagine another WWII-type scenario (though it would be a bad day if China invaded Taiwan). But I could foresee something like Afghanistan spreading to the entire Middle East, where they couldn't nuke us (at least, not more than a couple of times, not like Cold War-style "nuclear winter" barrages), and we'd be strongly pressured not to nuke them. But the theater would be so wide that we'd need vast, vast number of ground troops.

Comment: Re:Technically, it's not a "draft notice" (Score 1) 199

The closest we get to that is the airport, where rights have been considerably and visibly curtailed (as opposed to the comparatively invisible loss of rights due to government intrusion in electronic communications). People seem to have accepted that more or less gracefully: they bitch, but it's not seen as a massive imposition on most people's daily lives.

I don't know if we'd ever get to the point of rationing food. Even if we declared a full-scale war, technology means we grow a lot of surplus food in this country. Prices might rise, but I don't think we'd ever see "grow victory gardens" posters as we did in the last unlimited war.

Oil, however, would skyrocket, and technology might be severely curtailed. It would be interesting to see how people reacted to that. It's hard to say whether that would be a bigger factor than outrage at a draft of manpower. In Korea and Vietnam, a lot of the public seemed to take the draft with equanimity since it came without the kind of rationing we saw during World War II.

Comment: Re:Technically, it's not a "draft notice" (Score 1) 199

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) 279

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) 27

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:How about measuring the temperature of the food (Score 1) 228

by jfengel (#47370401) Attached to: Nathan Myhrvold's Recipe For a Better Oven

I'd really like to see a stovetop with a thermostat. Bains-marie have recently become popular for certain kinds of low, slow cooking, but they're not common and they're unfortunately pricey (and usually require a vacuum sealer that adds even more to the cost).

I end up doing a lot of things in the oven instead, where I can simmer a pot roast at at a reliable 150F. But it's not as precise or consistent as I'd like, especially at the low end.

Getting the stove top to do both precision heating and ultra-high temperature blasting for searing would be a bit of a challenge, but I'd like to see it.

Comment: How about just a good thermostat instead? (Score 3, Insightful) 228

by jfengel (#47363877) Attached to: Nathan Myhrvold's Recipe For a Better Oven

Something cookbooks harp on: most ovens do very poor temperature regulation. Baking books in particular recommend getting a separate themometer, and adding thermal ballast (such as stones) to your oven to get it to keep an even temperature.

That's not just for ultra-high-end stuff; that's for just making good bread. Bread is fairly sensitive to temperature, because you're trying to orchestrate a complex set of reactions including yeast production, internal steam, setting the internal protein structure, and browning the crust. Swings of 25F are enough to throw off that balance, yielding loaves that are too high or too low or too brown or other problems.

Most home ovens do it very badly. It seems to me that's a much more fixable problem without spending a fortune on the ultimate oven.

Comment: Re:Cost (Score 2) 228

by jfengel (#47363841) Attached to: Nathan Myhrvold's Recipe For a Better Oven

I could imagine, say, pastry chefs, who are already famous for being control freaks. Producing truly great pastry, reliably, is an extraordinary feat of both science and art. I could imagine them wanting this for a high-end patisserie.

But beyond that, it seems to be a solution looking for a problem. This is Myhrvold, who already wants to see you a $600 book containing a recipe for a hamburger requiring several thousand dollars worth of tools you don't already have in your kitchen (including a dewar of liquid nitrogen). To make a hamburger. I'm sure it's a very, very, very good hamburger... but in the end, it's a hamburger, and I do a pretty fine burger with a cast-iron skillet.

Comment: Re:One disturbing bit: (Score 1) 484

by jfengel (#47319261) Attached to: Supreme Court Rules Against Aereo Streaming Service

I guess the real question is going to be "how similar is similar?" Aereo won't want to pack up and go home; they're going to want to tweak their business model to see if they can get it just different enough to be not "extremely similar".

If they were a big company, I suspect they'd just make some trivial change and wait to be sued (and wait even longer while it works its way up to SCOTUS again). "Narrow rulings" tend to favor those with the power to claim that they don't apply. And I find it kind of annoying that SCOTUS never seems to recognize that: they pretend they're not laying down general rules, but since it takes so long to get them to issue specific rulings it acts like a general rule anyway.

Comment: Re:the internet doesnt know what a superpac is (Score 1) 209

by jfengel (#47283051) Attached to: Steve Wozniak Endorses Lessig's Mayday Super PAC

You are absolutely right about the way Super PACs work. Real change comes only from a concerted, long-term effort. Campaign finance reform is going to be a very hard sell, not just because of entrenched interests but also because it's easier to get people to agree to "something should be done" than "let us do this particular thing". It will take a steady, well-thought out effort.

I'm slightly less cynical about the ability to get media. The media sell air space, and they don't much care to whom they sell it. Capitalists will happily sell you the rope to hang them with. They do so because (a) they don't really believe you'll hang them, and (b) they know that if they don't, somebody else will. Their success won't impact this quarter's bottom line, or even next year's, and they're simply not going to worry about anything further afield than that. Too many other things change too quickly for them to forego cash on the barrelhead.

Comment: If they're taking requests, can I have a unicorn? (Score 1) 619

by jfengel (#47276125) Attached to: 2 US Senators Propose 12-Cent Gas Tax Increase

I've always wanted a unicorn. We'd play together, and I'd get to ride it. It would have much better gas mileage than a car, and because unicorns only poop rainbows, it would be much better for the environment.

My proposal has about the same chance of passing the Republican-led House as theirs does. This is an election year, and no Republican (and few Democrats, for that matter) is going to vote for a tax-raising bill in an election year. (Note: all years are election years now.)

(Besides, this is a revenue bill; they have to start in the House anyway. What gives?)

Comment: Re:Are thieves that selective? (Score 1) 137

by jfengel (#47272949) Attached to: Google and Microsoft Plan Kill Switches On Smartphones

iPhones do have the advantage of being particularly distinctive. Android phones come in a stunning array of models and colors, but iPhones are rather restricted. If you're going to invest brain cells in "Don't take that phone" it would be easiest for it to be iPhones.

If so, it sounds as if you'd need a fair bit of "herd immunity" to make other phones safe. Either that, or some highly distinctive branding, which is not the way Android manufacturers tend to work; they make their living offering everything to everybody.

"Be *excellent* to each other." -- Bill, or Ted, in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure