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Comment Re:I have no fear of AI, but fear AI weapons (Score 1) 240 240

Well, robbery would be a bit tougher than general mayhem. In the foreseeable future you'd probably need a human in the loop, for example to confirm that the victim actually complied with the order to "put ALL the money in the bag." Still that would remove the perpetrator from the scene of the crime. If there were an open or hackable wi-fi access point nearby it'd be tricky to hunt him down.

This kind of remote controlled drone mediated crime is very feasible now. It wouldn't take much technical savvy to figure out how to mount a shotgun shell on a quadcopter and fly it to a particular victim (if you have one). That's a lot less sophisticated than stuff terrorists do already; anyone with moderate technical aptitude could do it with off-the-shelf components. I'm sure we'll see our first non-state-actor controlled drone assassination in the next couple of years. Or maybe a hacktivist will detonate a party popper on the President or something like that.

Within our lifetime it'll surely be feasible for ordinary hackers to build autonomous systems that could fly into a general area and hunt down a particular victim using facial recognition. People have experimented with facial recognition with SBCs like the Raspberry Pi already.

You can forbid states from doing this all you want, but as technology advances the technology to do this won't be exotic. It'll be commonplace stuff used for work and even recreation.

Comment Re:Same likely holds true... (Score 1) 226 226

The same thing could likely be said of all obtrusive advertising: it is a nuisance not a benefit.

They aren't exactly the same, because interstitial ads aren't just obtrustive, they're interfering. You can't simply mentally resolve to ignore them; if you want to continue you've got to either follow the ad or find a way to dismiss it. This presents the user with a Hobson's Choice: physically respond to the ad, or go back.

A lot depends on how motivated you are to get at the content. If it's something you've clicked out of idle curiosity, you'll back away. If it's something you really want to see you'll fight your way through. Since so much traffic on the Internet is driven by idle curiosity, the 69% figure doesn't surprise me at all. What would be interesting is to disaggregate that figure by types of target content.

Comment Re:There's Very Few Things (Score 3, Insightful) 78 78

You are conflating a world that is becoming warmer with a world that just *is* warmer. It may be true (I take no position) that a world that is 4-5 C warmer is better for certain classes of poor people (e.g., subsistence farmers). But a world that is changing rapidly is a calimity to poor people tied to the land, especially in a modern world with national boundaries and private property where you just can't pick up and move like our paleolithic ancestors would have.

Comment Re:If it's not _real_ bacon? (Score 1) 174 174

This guy is entitled to use the word "plant" as he will, but it doesn't agree with modern systematics. For example he calls "kelp" a plant, but it is taxonomically closer to the parasite that causes malaria than it is to land plants.

"Macroalgae" is a multi-phyletic category, including eukaryotes of the Archaeplastida group that includes red algae and green algae and the land plants that evolved from green algae, and of the super-group Chromalveolata that includes red tides, brown algae (such as kelp or Plasmodium). Green algae and land plants are grouped together under the kingdom "Plantae" in modern taxonomies.

So "seaweed" as a category includes organisms which are (cladistically speaking) closely related to land plants (green algae like sea grapes or sea lettuce), middling-related (red algae like nori or carageenan) and not very closely related at all (brown algae like kombu/kelp). Of course all organisms are presumably related to some degree.

The seaweed in question is a kind of dulse, a red algae. It's more closely related to land plants than a brown algae like kelp would be, but less related than sea lettuce. Red algae are specifically not included in the Kingdom Plantae. However, layman are free to call whatever they want a plant, even if it's in fact something else entirely, the way they call any small arthropod a "bug", even through true bugs are one of the 75,000 species in the order Hemiptera (out of over a million insect species).

Comment Re:If it's not _real_ bacon? (Score 1) 174 174

Technically it's not a plant. Its a macroalgae and thus belongs to an entirely distinct taxonomic kingdom from plants and animals. Of course halakhically it probably counts as a plant because Jewish law isn't based on modern scientific concepts.

Many years ago some of my wife's friends inhabited a kosher apartment near her engineering school that had been passed down through generations of orthodox students. A dispute arose over whether a particular bowl was glass or pottery. Finally they called in their buddy the material science major for a scientific ruling. "It's neither," he said. "It's ceramic." Which was technically accurate, but irrelevant to the question of whether it could be kashered.

Comment Re:bumblebees have range? (Score 5, Informative) 225 225

I thought bumblebees are everywhere except maybe the desert?

Bombus sonorus -- the Sonoran Bumblebee -- is a common North American desert species.

To answer your question every critter has it's range. Even you do. Visited Antarctica recently? Or Mars?

If you were a bumblebee you'd have a range of about a quarter of a kilometer from your nest. In rare instances you might go as far as 800m distant. And therein you can see why climate change poses an adaptation challenge to bumblebees.

Bumblebee colonies die every winter. The old queen perishes and the new queens hibernate until the spring then disperse to a new nest site. So you can see that the species can only relocate northward at a fraction of a kilometer per year -- although it may have better luck moving vertically -- to higher altitudes where a convenient mountain is handy.

Species that adapt well to climate change either have individuals with large ranges, or they hitch a ride on critters that travel long distance. For example mosquito species have lifetime ranges on the order of 2-3 km, but the Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus), which breeds in small containers of water, usually spends its life within 100m or so of where it hatches. The Tiger Mosquito species was introduced to the US at Houston in 1985 and fifteen years later it was found all over the United States. How is this possible if an individual lives its entire life within a 100m radius of its hatching place? I went to a presentation at CDC Fort Collins where their arthropod borne disease doyen plotted out the spread of Ae albopictus and showed it followed the route of the US Interstate Highway system. Eggs and pregnant individuals hitched a ride. That's because cars and trucks provide things that mosquitoes are attracted to: people to bite and tiny pools of water trapped in spare tires or crevices of the machine for egg-laying. Note that Ae albopictus larvae are known to arrive in the US in a shipments of that "lucky bamboo" you can buy in Chinatown; those stalks hold maybe 20-30 ml of water. It takes a "container" with only a tablespoon or two of water to transport viable larvae.

Now back to bumblebees. Because bumblebee colonies are small (typically 50 individuals to 50,000 for honeybees) and temporary, bumblebees don't stockpile honey. So unlike honeybees humans have no reason to transport them deliberately. Likewise cars and trucks aren't attractive to bumblebees so it's rare that a new queen will get an accidental ride north with a human. So bumblebees are poorly adapted to a rapidly changing climate.

Comment Re:I get a call EVERY DAY from cardmember services (Score 1) 215 215

It's a scam that's been shut down, but it's impossible to put a nail in its coffin because it's not one company doing it. The FTC tracked down a bunch of companies at the start of this year and forced them to fork over $700,000 in compensation, and it didn't even make a dent in the volume of calls.

"Cardholder service" scams are low success rate, high volume affairs which require only a small number of people to run and thus are easy to shut down and start up again under a different corporate entity. The only way to stop them is to make all low success rate, high volume telemarketing businesses intrinsically unprofitable, and the only way to do that is to charge for all calls.

This can be a nominal amount that wouldn't interfere with normal calls, it just has to be enough to deter calls that have very little chance of accomplishing anything useful. Ten minutes of a US minimum wage employee's time will cost a company $1.20, so let's set the level of pain at less than 1/10 that: every time a call is connected, $0.10 should be deducted from the caller's account and credited to the recipient's account. That way parties that call each other equally will tend to come out even.

Comment Re:pardon my french, but "duh" (Score 4, Insightful) 288 288

Well that may be so. But as you get older you get less patient with people wasting your time.

Let's say you're 90 years old. You're using a webmail system which does everything you need it to do. Then some manager has a brainwave and suddenly all the functions are somewhere else. How much of the 3.99 years the actuarial tables say you've got left do you want to spend dealing with that?

It's not just 90 year-olds. Take a poll of working-age users and find out how many like the MS Office Ribbon; how many people are cool with the regular UI reshuffling that takes place in Windows just to prove you're paying your upgrade fee for software that's "new"?

Comment Re:Therac 25 (Score 3, Informative) 288 288

I was working as a developer when the news of the Therac 25 problems broke, so I remember it well. You actually have it backwards; it wasn't bad UI design at all.

The thing is mere functional testing of the user interface would not have revealed the flaw in the system. What happened is that people who used the system very day, day in and day out, became so fast at entering the machine settings the rate of UI events exceeded the ability of the custom monitor software written for the machine to respond correctly to them.

If the UI was bad from a design standpoint the fundamental system engineering flaws of the system might never have been revealed.

Comment Re:"Harbinger of Failure" = Hipsters? (Score 2) 300 300

Actually the exact opposite is true.

Which is necessarily true in any kind of fashion, even if it's anti-fashion. Hipsterism is a kind of contrarianism; the attraction is having things that most other people don't even know about. But strict contrarianism is morally indistinguishable from strict conformism.

Now outside of major metropolitan centers like Manhattan when people say "hipster" they mean something else; there's not enough of a critical mass of non-conformity to cater to an actual "hipster" class. What they're really talking about is "kids taking part in trends I'm not included in." In other words its the same-old, same-old grousing about kids these days, only now by people who've spent their lives as the focus of youth culture and can't deal with their new-found cultural marginalization.

As you get older the gracious thing to do is to age out of concern, one way or the other, with fashion.

Comment Re:"Harbinger of Failure" = Hipsters? (Score 2) 300 300

I thought hipsters all owned iPhone and Macbooks, and shopped at The Gap. I.e. they are all about conformity, fads and Buzzfeed.

No, those things are actually anti-hip. As soon as something gets big enough for Buzzfeed it's for a different audience.

"Hip" implies arcane knowledge possessed by a select few. A great band with a small local following is "hip"; when they make it big they're no longer "hip", although they may still be "cool". The iPhone is pretty much the antithesis of hip, no matter how cool it may be. If I were to guess what hipster phone model might look like, it might be something low-cost Indian android phone manufactured for the local market and not intended for export -- very rare and hard to get outside of India. Or even better, hard to get outside of Gujarat. Or even better only a few hundred were ever manufactured then the company went bankrupt and the stock was sold on the street in Ahmedabad. Provided that the phone is cool. Cool plus obscure is the formula for "hip".

It follows there is no such thing as "hip" retail chain. It's a contradiction in terms. A chain may position itself in its marketing as "hip", but it's really after what the tech adoption cycle refers to as "Early Majority" adopters.

Hipsters reject being the leading edge of anything; as soon as something becomes big, it is no longer hip. This means they're not economically valuable on a large scale, which some people see as self-centered and anti-social. Compare this to cosplayers; the media always adopts a kind of well-the-circus-is-in-town attitude when there's a con, but while they're condescending toward cosplayers the media can't afford to be hostile because those people are the important early adopters for economically valuable media franchises.

Let me give you a more authentic hipster trend than the one you named. Last year there was a fad for hipster men to buy black fedora hats from Brooklyn shops that cater to Hasidic men. While as soon as something gets big enough to draw media attention it's dead to hipsters, this fad illustrates the elements of hipster aesthetic: (1) resurrecting obscure and obsolete fashions; (2) exoticism or syncretism; and (3) authenticity.

Now from an objective standpoint there's no good reason to favor or disfavor fedoras as opposed to, say baseball caps. It's just a different fashion. Likewise there's no practical reason to value a hat from a owner-operated store in Brooklyn over an identical one purchased from Amazon. But it does add rarity value, and that's the key. Something has to be rare and unusual to be hip. As soon as hipness is productized it appeals to a different audience.

Comment Re:"Harbinger of Failure" = Hipsters? (Score 3, Insightful) 300 300

Is this just another term for hipsters? People who seek out things that everyone else has dismissed for (usually) good reasons.

No. Because the "good reason" usually is "most people aren't doing that anymore." The article is about things that *never* become cool, not things that were cool in grandpa's day.

The real problem with being a hipster is that the ideal of non-conformity is inconsistent with the idea of fashion.

Comment Re:Drop the hammer on them. (Score 5, Insightful) 1307 1307

"Drop the hammer on them."

That's the easy part. The hard part is dealing with what happens after the hammer has been dropped.

Someone once said that the definition of a bad policy is one that leads to a place where you have nothing but bad options. I believe everyone (not just the Greeks) thought back in 2000 it woudl be good policy to bring Greece into the Eurozone. But now we've now reached the point where otherwise rational people are talking about "dropping the hammer", as if having an incipient failed state in Europe is a small price to pay for 600 euro in your pocket. The frustration is understandable, but the the satisfaction of dropping the hammer on Greece would be short-lived -- possibly on the order of weeks depending on the scale of financial disruption.

The unhappy truth is that bad policy choices fifteen years ago means all the options available today lead to long-lived, complicated, and expensive consequences.

We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge. -- John Naisbitt, Megatrends

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