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Comment: Re:They nailed it 500 years ago (Score 1) 80

by iluvcapra (#47446785) Attached to: How To Fix The Shortage of K-5 Scholastic Chess Facilitators

Careful, Richard Feynman once said something very similar about computer programming:

Well, Mr. Frankel, who started this program, began to suffer from the computer disease that anybody who works with computers now knows about. It's a very serious disease and it interferes completely with the work. The trouble with computers is you *play* with them. They are so wonderful. You have these switches - if it's an even number you do this, if it's an odd number you do that - and pretty soon you can do more and more elaborate things if you are clever enough, on one machine.

After a while the whole system broke down. Frankel wasn't paying any attention; he wasn't supervising anybody. The system was going very, very slowly - while he was sitting in a room figuring out how to make one tabulator automatically print arc-tangent X, and then it would start and it would print columns and then bitsi, bitsi, bitsi, and calculate the arc-tangent automatically by integrating as it went along and make a whole table in one operation.

Absolutely useless. We *had* tables of arc-tangents. But if you've ever worked with computers, you understand the disease - the *delight* in being able to see how much you can do. But he got the disease for the first time, the poor fellow who invented the thing.

Comment: Re:Good? (Score 4, Interesting) 273

The next one will be automated "city cars" built by Google, that will pickup and drop off people at work and take them shopping and whatnot.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, such a car has yet to be demonstrated. Google's demo vehicles are incapable of taking riders anywhere apart from a set track of stops, like a Disneyworld people-mover ride.

There's still probably a need in some cities for street-hail livery, which is what classic yellow cabs are -- in NY you can wait 5-10 minutes for the Uber or hail a cab in 30 seconds, and frankly the cabbie will be less of a pain -- my experience with Uber drivers in Manhattan has been a pretty mixed bag. As long as humans are doing the driving it might still be advisable for the drivers to get background checks and have commercial licensing and insurance, such things are prudent and won't kill the magic free market pixies that flutter about e-hailed car services.

As I understand it, city governments have a few simple problems with Uber-

1) Ubers can avoid poor neighborhoods at will, and there's really nothing the city can do about it. I live in LA, and if you live in, say, Watts, you must call a cab if you want a car, no Uber will find you there, because it's "the ghetto" and there's never an Uber within 20 minutes. Taxis can be and are required to pick up from all parts of the city, and their statistics are closely monitored by regulators to make sure they do.

2) Uber's trip pricing structure is very free-markety but it conflicts with most city's basic taxi regs, wherein a trip's price is a fixed formula of distance and time, no special charge for time of day or pickup/destination location. Uber can't provide this, because they use rate premiums to recruit drivers. Again the system is completely open to various kinds of discrimination, and the pricing process is completely private and not open to any sort of public accountability or scrutiny -- even they drivers, who are nominally the service providers ("Uber is not a transportation company"), can't control it.

3) These of course lead to the more philosophical dispute, namely, Uber handles the hailing, transaction processing, driver and rider ratings, and branding of the interaction, but whenever there's any sort of trouble, Uber can vehemently claim they have nothing to do with the driver or the ride, that it's none of their business, and governments and harmed parties must direct all their laws and lawsuits at little sole proprietors. This is a little too clever by half for some people and while following the letter of the law tends to skirt the equities a little too close.

All of this is totally fine as long as e-hail livery is a "premium" service, but some cities rely on taxis as a critical part of the transport infrastructure, and that's when price disparities and availability blackouts start to be problematic, politically.

Comment: Re:ithkuil (Score 1) 176

by iluvcapra (#47341433) Attached to: Meet Carla Shroder's New Favorite GUI-Textmode Hybrid Shell, Xiki

We used to think something like a simple text web search was "too impercise" and you needed a hierarchical organization or semantic web to organize information on the Internet...

When the domain is restricted natural language can be quite sufficient- SHRDLU had a workable natural language system in the 1960s, and the relevant Siri/Android solutions today are quite up to the task of creating and copying logical objects, selection by attribute, transformation...

Comment: Re:Hmmm .... (Score 5, Insightful) 73

by iluvcapra (#47307451) Attached to: Long-Lasting Enzyme Chews Up Cocaine

And, this will do nothing at all to fight addiction.

Nope, but it will save lives from overdoses.

There's a line of reasoning that's somewhat common, it goes: "We should never do anything altruistic ever, because it will create a moral hazard, and the mere potential of moral hazard is always worse than concrete good." Similar arguments are used against drugs that treat opiate overdoses, and relatedly, drugs used to fight alcoholism. Some of this is bound up in the idea that addiction is a moral or character failing, or strictly a psychological disorder that can only be treated with therapy and "getting to the real problem," and anything else we do is simply palliative and forestalls treating the "real" problem.

To your point, what needs to be done is a real epidemiological study, to see if people really end up taking more drugs, or if the trauma of OD'ing, being revived by the paramedics and spending a week in the ER with heroic interventions isn't sufficient to make some people hit bottom and scare them straight.

Comment: Re:Designed for safety & performance (Score 1) 636

by iluvcapra (#47158845) Attached to: Apple Announces New Programming Language Called Swift

The Apple people do some significant jiggery-pokery to keep the atomic retainCount mutations down to a minimum in the Objective-C runtime.

ARC makes a lot of deallocations deterministic and static, I'm not sure of the usage stats but the biggest graphs people have in running applications are usually either their UI View tree or their model object graph, the retain/release calls for the former generally reduces to a malloc/free after static analysis, and the latter lives almost solely in autorelease pools.

Comment: Re:Actual Facts (Score 1) 389

I'm not saying it's OK, I'm just saying the assertion that the NSA is "currently breaking the law" is doubtful. They shouldn't be doing what they're doing, but if you have congress passing acts authorizing X, a president who's regulations basically affirm X, and courts that refuse to rule on X, that's sorta the definition of legal acts.

There's a difference between "legitimate" and "legal," the NSA is doing the latter, not the former. Snowden is (claiming) to do the former, and freely admits to be in violation of the latter.

Comment: Re:Actual Facts (Score 1) 389

To be honest I'm not actually sure the NSA is breaking the law, they've got FISA rulings, the Protect America Act 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, all of which basically legitimize the known aspects of PRISM -- PRISM's who schtick is basically implementation of Title 50 USC 1881a. I don't think these laws are constitutional or legitimitate, but we'd need new law or a constitutional amendment to clear the air, because a lot of lawyers (and the SCOTUS for that matter) seem to disagree with me.

How can you advocate punishing Snowden while the NSA continues to break the law? At least Snowden is done with his law breaking.

I would definitely advocate trying Snowden.

Comment: Re:Actual Facts (Score 1) 389

We have a right to know what our government is doing, and the people voting for these idiots are responsible, but that does not mean they agree with their candidates 100%.

I don't see what "agreeing" with a candidate's actions has to do with it, we're responsible wether we agree or not. We're responsible regardless of who we vote for, or even if we vote or not. If you're a citizen, you're responsible -- if you don't like the candidates, you're responsible for changing the system to produce better candidates. Nobody else is going to do it. It's counterproductive and obnoxious to always vote for some marginal third-party and loudly assert "none of this is MY fault!" Your job is bigger than just turning in a ballot.

Did you ever consider why third parties in the US always lose? A protip: if your theory of politics insists that commanding majorities of people are persistently lazy, stupid or evil, you've got a bad theory.

Considering the situation, why would anyone have an iota of respect for the ignorant general public?

This sentiment seems completely at odds with his stated intentions. Again, if your theory of politics...

Another false dichotomy you're setting up. It is possible to believe that the general public is being fooled by the government or is ignorant, and still believe that there is a non-zero chance that positive change could happen if things are leaked.

I think this chance is significantly lessened by his refusal to stand trial, and his insistence on disclosing information that's patently intended to weaken the data collection of western powers to the benefit of his benefactor, Russia. His loyalty and intentions are definitely in question -- his actions are either fantastically principled, or he's epic trolling all of us. Most epic trolls, however, tend to lose track of exactly how serious they are and how much they're trolling. In this sense I agree with you, and Snowden is definitely not one thing or the other, though I suspect he's so deluded that even he isn't sure how much he's serious and how much he's just doing this to troll authority.

Insofar as he's leaking classified information just to tr0ll authority, though, he definitely belongs in jail.

Comment: Re:Actual Facts (Score 1) 389

That we elected someone does not give them a free pass to fuck everything up and say it's our fault.

It might not be our "fault," implying moral or direct culpability, but as citizens of a republic, the actions of our government are our responsibility, even if we didn't vote for the guy, even if we didn't vote at all. We have elections and we agree to be bound by the rules of them, and we confer great powers upon the people that win elections.

Do votes hold zero consequence for voters? If an elected leader does poorly, is it always just his fault, and the voters don't have to reconsider anything?

(I would add that, in the case of Bush, it's pretty clear the voters did want him to start wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, considering they reelected him by a healthy margin subsequent to those events, so I'm not even sure your concrete example applies. He didn't "fuck things up," he gave people pretty much what they wanted, they just wanted really fucked up things.)

Comment: Re:Actual Facts (Score 1) 389

Again it's like this total double-bind. If you think that there's a good chance that people won't properly debate the NSA after you've released the information, if you don't trust the American people to take it all in and take responsible steps one way or the other, there's absolutely no reason to release the information in the first place.

Unless, of course, you're motivated by pique and a desire to embarrass powerful people and institutions, because you're a radical that just likes to break things.

The reason that every major university maintains a department of mathematics is that it's cheaper than institutionalizing all those people.