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Comment: Re:Science can say a lot about what's good and bad (Score 1) 305 305

We need to preserve the diversity of life to survive.

Right, but what if we engineered ourselves out of this necessity? It's completely conceivable that we could. Do we maintain diversity of living things just because human beings require a diversity of food? Or do species have a right to exist independent of the human need for survival?

Comment: Re:Science can say a lot about what's good and bad (Score 1) 305 305

but go beyond that and the opposite will happen. E.g., catching this many fish is sustainable, but catching more that that will lead to population collapse and you not catching anything -- i.e. that's a bad decision.

But then the fishermen say: "We'll find different fish you'll like better, just learn to like the new fish," and the bioengineers say: "We've got these fish's DNA on file, we'll just clone them and you can eat the cultured flesh." Are these bad solutions? Why do we want to preserve the diversity of life on Earth, exactly? Is it just to serve our whims and appetites (er, "markets"), or do living things have a right to exist regardless of us? And do we have a responsibility to protect living things, even living things which are, to us, worthless?

Is that math somehow morally empty? That's an individual's decision.

Are you able to defend the position that empirical reasoning and math can sustain a moral imperative? It doesn't sound like an individual interpretation to me, I mean, do you know any moral philosophy that connects math and consequential ethics? Maybe Pythagoras...

Comment: Re:Krauss won't like the obvious answer (Score 1) 305 305

I'm really not a spiritual person, I'm not a Catholic nor a Christian and I'm not advocating his position here. I'd also happily concede that throughout the developed world the Catholic Church is viewed with more suspicion now than at any time since the Great Schism, mainly due to it's total failure to address clergy sex abuse.

But I'd say, even given all of that, the Bishop of Rome is still a greater moral authority than just about anyone from Richard Dawkins on down. I'm just describing the situation, Krauss is complaining about the situation, that's the situation.

Comment: Re:Krauss won't like the obvious answer (Score 1) 305 305

The entire structure on which science is built on philosophy, which is grounded in trying to answer exactly the kind of questions that lead us ultimately to issues like whether global trends are good or bad for us.

The question of wether or not a global trend is "good for us" is neither a falsifiable proposition, nor is it derivable from methodological naturalism.

So, trend X might kill people. Okay, that's bad, but stopping it might cost Y, how do you weigh the benefits? And you're going to run into people that'll say, "people on Tonga should have to pay for their own evacuation, they must adapt," okay, so why? Other people might say, "It's wrong to make a people run from their home and destroy it simply because we refuse to curtail CO2 emissions," and that's a perfectly valid position too. Science can't tell us which of these solutions is correct.

And in all these cases we aren't really talking about how we know something is bad. Death is bad, we can stipulate that, but why? Maybe you'd say that it violates Kantian ethics, it violates the Golden Rule, that's fine. Maybe you could say that killing people causes a harm, and harms must be avoided according to utilitarian ethics, that's fine too. But neither of these are science. They're humanistic, they avoid Sky Father, but it's impossible to prove they're right from completely materialistic, naturalistic priors.

Comment: Re:Krauss' claim is not about moral authority (Score 3, Informative) 305 305

Needless to say, the pope couldn't really go there, although he has previously said that people should have fewer children -- never mind how.

That's not true, the Pope goes there and totally disagrees with Krauss, Francis strongly condemns birth control and abortion. I agree I don't think that's workable, though I know what Francis would say: people should be fucking a lot less and only for procreation. This doesn't actually work in our culture, but as far as he's concerned the culture is the problem.

Comment: Krauss won't like the obvious answer (Score 5, Interesting) 305 305

The Pope holds a great deal of moral authority. Scientists not so much.

I've read Laudate Si'. It's not really about the science, or arguing that AGW is true, or that biodiversity is being lost, or that pollution is killing people. It takes these things for granted but it does not marshall evidence per se.

It's main point is that AGW, true or not, is evil and must be stopped, and it ties this into social teaching by associating the consumer culture of rich countries with the exploitation and immiseration of small, poor ones; mankind's moral obligation to protect the Earth, and it asserts baldly things like "man has no right" to push a species, any species, even the smallest plankton, to extinction (Francis actually mentions plankton).

I don't hear scientists talk like this, and that's fine, it's probably not their place. But evidence isn't enough to actually move people to action, you do actually have talk about right and wrong, and why this thing is wrong and must be stopped. And Francis specifically argues against the idea that technology will one day solve this problem for us, to him the problem with the planet is 100% between people's ears, it has to do with the way modern people see the world as a resource to be exploited. Don't ask me to defend this, I think he's a little too pessimistic here, but it just continues the idea that his argument isn't about science, or technology, or even the material world, to him it's fundamentally spiritual.

And he has a point; why should we care about climate change if the Earth if it's just a ball of dirt and we can just fly a rocket to another one? Science can tell us what the planet is and where it's going, but it can't tell us if that's a good thing or not. So does Krauss think scientists should hold more moral authority than a Pope? Is that the paradox here? Should scientists teach us right and wrong?

Comment: Re: Business model? (Score 1) 346 346

But the weird thing about this was that, even though there was driver attrition, prior to the medallions the aggregate number of drivers always went up. You'd have 5 guys walking out the door and 10 guys coming in. It didn't matter that failure was rampant, everybody assumed they'd be different, they'd crack the code, they'd succeed where others failed.

Also it was the depression and people were desperate for any work, and when two taxis saw one fare on the street it wasn't unusual for them to settle it with a fender bender, or even a swing of a tire iron.

Comment: Re:Uber doesn't own the vehicles, correct? (Score 1) 346 346

This requirement to lease the truck from a particular source is one thing that distinguishes these two cases very significantly.

They're definitely different in the specifics, though they're part of a trend of all kinds of share/piecework employers getting hauled into court for using piecework contracts as a subterfuge to avoid regulation. An employer can't really demand you stipulate yourself a contractor for the purposes of an employment agreement, it's not voluntary on your part and it's probably not even conscionable in many cases. You're effectively being pressured to abandon your rights under the labor code or else take a walk.

Sure they can. They can pay themselves whatever they want and offer whatever benefits they want.

Let them eat cake!

Comment: Re:Business model? (Score 5, Informative) 346 346

If you give people something for free they'll strip it to the bone. In a market for something like taxi fares there are also weird paradoxical effects: when there are fewer fares taxi drivers actually work longer because they have to spend to looking for street hails.

Historically NY in the 1930s had three times the number of taxis on the road as they do now, I can't even imagine. Price competition drove rates below the cost of the ride, the drivers were a public hazard and in the late depression, even after the medallion ordinance, a lot of cabbies just let their hack licenses expire due to lack of fares. The NY pre-medallion taxi business was a classic market failure. The medallion system was actually a significant mitigation from the original plan of just monopolizing the taxi system in NY as had been done, with a great deal of success, to the subway system. Fewer fares can actually increase the number of cabs on the street and their overall threat to traffic and public order.

I personally think, on a strictly laissez-faire basis, taxis probably aren't economically sustainable (nor are Ubers), but the city keeps them alive because New Yorkers place cultural value in not owning a car and living on Manhattan island, so as long as the citizens of that city value these things, the rules will persist, and they'll gladly live with the persisting levels of inefficiency, the costs and the corruption.

A somewhat deeper problem is regarding something like the market for taxis as a "natural" phenomenon when in fact it's completely man-made, technological, and determined by various fiats and cultural constructs. And even then we're left with the problem that just because something is natural this does not mean that it is good or desirable...

Comment: Re:Business model? (Score 5, Insightful) 346 346

Well, road capacity isn't an unlimited resource, and it'd be difficult for the city to set a price for road access in such a way that made sure taxi operators were paying for the congestion they were causing while at the same time protected the incumbent homeowner's rights to street access for free. If we're just going to say up front that if you want streets that are passable you'd better pay up the nose for it, that'd make Manhattan effectively unlivable except for the very, very rich, even worse than now.

You can't let "natural" forces limit how may taxis are on the road, it'd be constant deadlock because the road is a commons. If you only want so many taxis passing in and out of the city at any one time you either have to set up medallions, or a congestion charge, or a per mile charge or any number of complicated solutions that have to take into account incumbent stakeholder's proprietary interests.

And yeah the medallion system is a "mistake" in the sense that it's inefficient, it might not be a Pareto-optimal economic solution, and it definitely encourages rentierism, but it was a practical solution that was the most politically feasible at the time. If we're saying we value democratic institutions, a strong city government, the rule of law, and stable consensus among powerful interests, medallions are the perfect solution. On the one side you've got guys who want to run taxis, who think it's their right to run a taxi wherever they please whenever, charge whatever they want and run their cab in whatever way they please, and on the other you've got people who live in a city that don't want their roads clogged with taxis picking up fares, who want the taxis all to follow the same rules, charge predictable prices and be safe. Both of these people have to share a city, they resolve these disputes with politics.

I don't know about this general line of argument as it pertains to NY taxis, since NY taxis are pretty good and Uber doesn't have much on them. It makes a lot more sense in places like, say, Los Angeles or the midwest where taxi service is terrible, but then again taxis in many of these parts of the country don't implement hack medallions.

Comment: Re:Uber doesn't own the vehicles, correct? (Score 4, Informative) 346 346

If a Uber driver decides not to work at any point in time or decides not to take a particular fare I don't think they are at any risk of their relationship with Uber being terminated for those actions.

This dispute is happening in the context of a bunch of shenanigans happening in California, Uber's only on facet of it.

A few months ago there was a big strike between truckers and the trucking companies at the port in Long Beach. the companies insist that the truck drivers are independent contractors because they are paid by the load, not by the hour, and the truckers are "independent operators" because they own the trucks on paper. The problem is the truckers are only allowed to use trucks they lease from the trucking companies, the trucking companies add on various "fees" from the lease bill, they have to make deliveries when they're told (while still not having official hours or a schedule). Critically, the drivers cannot avail themselves of workers comp, overtime or any of the other things an employee would be entitled to. They're employees but the employers have used paper technicalities to reclassify the relationship, strictly for the purposes of evading labor law.

The kinds of disputes are inevitable in a piecework economy, and they were the norm prior to the progressive era in the US. 80 hour weeks with no overtime, paid by the unit, no workplace safety regulations, random fees and wage dockings, and if you complain, maybe we don't need your services anymore.

Comment: Re:One more in a crowded field (Score 1) 337 337

Guard is just syntactical sugar around an if statement. It's nice, I guess, in that it helps to enforce better programming practices, but it's not anything particularly interesting.

Well... the main difference between a `guard` and an `if` is the former can bind names in the enclosing scope, and crucially, fail upon failure to bind, which is a thing in Swift. This is a somewhat peculiar behavior. It's meant to eliminate the standard Cocoa/Foundation habit of putting a bunch of parameter assertions as the beginning of the function and to handle these in a regular way that the compiler can make assumptions about. "Not particularly interesting" stuff has a way of being boring to the programmer but is conversely fascinating to the compiler.

Go, on the other hand, implements multithreading as communication: if thread A writes to a channel, and thread B reads from it, thread B will wait until thread A has its value ready. This is the main feature that makes Go so useful for server applications.

If you know Erlang, Go is Not Particularly Interesting. "Pretty much the only thing" that sets it apart is Google is pushing the language.

The rule on staying alive as a forecaster is to give 'em a number or give 'em a date, but never give 'em both at once. -- Jane Bryant Quinn

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