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Comment: Re:Manufactured straw computer controversy (Score 1) 176

by flopsquad (#49351627) Attached to: German Auto Firms Face Roadblock In Testing Driverless Car Software
Not sure if the "you" in your post was me or the Googles of the world making self-driving cars. If it's me, I'll just point out that I never proposed that handwringing over decisional ethics was the one thing holding SDCs back.

My point was that questions like the one in TFS are matsurbation. The question ought to be, are we at a point where they're safer (aggregate) than humans, driving in real world conditions? You and I both agree that currently the answer is no. For optics and liability reasons, they'll probably have to be an order of magnitude safer than the average human driver before they gain wide traction. I think that day is closer than you seem to, but that's just fortunetelling.

I disagree about rushing to a blanket ban, and I don't grok your main complaint about jackasses with half capable systems. Is there a big mod/DIY community out there outfitting their Suburbans with hand-rolled CarLinux or something?

FWIW I agree the whole "don't worry the driver's gonna be right there to take over at a moments notice" line is absurd. I buy it for these early test runs where the drivers are paid to make sure no one gets flattened by a Google logo, but a real self-driving future actively discourages engagement and driving skill.

Comment: Manufactured controversy (Score 2) 176

by flopsquad (#49349729) Attached to: German Auto Firms Face Roadblock In Testing Driverless Car Software
1) Cars are not technologically at a point where they have omnipresent awareness of the constituents of every vehicle around them and the locations of every pedestrian (add in crowded street-facing cafés, structural members for buildings, and everything else you could possibly think of). Neither, for that matter, are people.

2) The most brilliant philosophers still disagree over the ethics of choosing who dies when someone's gotta go. See also the Trolley Problem, most other ethical dilemmas, and generally the eternal struggle between various consequentialist and deontological systems of ethics.

3) This precise scenario is highly contrived and seems (1st approximation) to be vanishingly rare.

Given the above, maybe the question shouldn't be if a robot can make a perfect (or any) ethical decision. Maybe for now it should just be if the robot can do better than a human at not killing anyone at all in these sorts of situations. Maybe "I did my best to protect my owner from death and just happen to average out safer for everyone" will have to be ok for now.

Comment: This is fun! (Score 1) 515

by flopsquad (#49330595) Attached to: A Bechdel Test For Programmers?
Ooo hey I like making up arbitrary tests too!

The Bach-Dell Test
A movie is not pants if, at any point, two characters named Del Bachman are in a dell listening to Bach on Dell laptops.

The Bake 'Til Test:
A pastry passes this test if it was baked by bakers, for bakers, for a number of minutes equal to the number of bakers involved.

The Beck Tell Test:
A joke is only funny if it's about the musical artist Beck, and told by Beck to himself.

tl;dr: it's basically a yo dawg gag

Comment: Re:Spiked drinks? (Score 2) 190

by flopsquad (#49247475) Attached to: Powdered Alcohol Approved By Feds, Banned By States
You know what? I think you're right.

I was about to launch into this counter story, "Well, one of our high school teachers actually had her coffee spiked with ecstasy and wigged out" etc etc. Then it occurred to me that this didn't actually happen on our watch.

It was some apocryphal account of events that had happened "a few years ago"... looking back, it has the same hazy mythical quality as the one about the goat that those "sometime in the late 70's" seniors actually got on the roof, and the one about the mechanical whiz kid who actually took apart our principal's car and rebuilt it in the courtyard.

Like for real. Really happened, dude, my older brother knew the guy.

Comment: Re:Fair use? No. Copyright infringement? Not anymo (Score 1) 255

by flopsquad (#49175713) Attached to: Gritty 'Power Rangers' Short Is Not Fair Use
This! Well, very close. AC gets this concept, but for the uninitiated:

You can copyright Batman the comic book drawing; you can copyright photos, images, scripts, etc. from Batman the movie; and you can copyright the *specific* character of Batman/Bruce Wayne, whose billionaire parents were shot in front of him on the streets of Gotham, who had a father-figure butler named Alfred, etc etc. You can trademark the logo on the Batsuit, and possibly even the whole suit if it's distinctive enough.

BUT you cannot copyright stock characters or concepts like "rich vigilante dons black suit and cape to fight crime" or "dapper British spy beds femmes fatales and saves the world." And you cannot copyright costumes (clothing is functional in the US, unless it's so completely unwearable that its only function could be as art). Which is a great reason to put trademarkable things like a logo and unique-looking suit on a character you want to protect.

Let's apply these to this case. What makes a Power Ranger a Power Ranger?

The Visuals:
--"Space-looking" spandex jumpsuits suits? Costumes are not copyrightable, possibly trademarkable.
--There are five different colors and white diamonds on their chests? Concepts are not copyrightable. A distinctive 5-color logo incorporating the rangers or some visual element like white diamonds could be trademarked, although the actual logos are all a variation on "lightning-y" words.

The Name:
--"Power Rangers" and "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" are certainly protectable (and protected) under trademark. They are too short and functional to be protected under copyright.

The Characters:
--Desire to fight various space assholes who want to wreak nonspecific space evil? Sounds pretty generic...
--Five teenagers fighting together? And they sometimes combine into one big ass robot? That's not even unique amongst futuristic crime-fighting robo-tweens in children's television, let alone all of fiction.
--They.... are one dimensional do-gooders who are so devoid of individual characteristics as to be interchangeable and known entirely by suit color, race, and gender? Now you're getting it! These "characters" are stock at best, meaning they are not protectable under copyright. The individual kids that donned the suits apparently had some half-assed backstories, but a) these too are stock and b) I don't believe the director referenced anything of the sort.

Comment: Re:Alcohol is better for you than water (Score 1) 398

Mea culpa, I should know better than to rely on Slashdot for my facts--in this case, that 1oz of hard liquor is a "drink." I should've consulted an authoritative source like urbandictionary, which tells me one drink is actually equal to casual sex.

Could I still try to argue that my 1 glass was closer than 8? Well, yeah, but a) that would be pretty obtuse, and b) drinking any positive integer number of 8oz glasses of vodka is inadvisable in any case.

If I'd known computer science was going to be like this, I'd never have given up being a rock 'n' roll star. -- G. Hirst