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Comment: Re:Foolish (Score 1) 44

by jandersen (#48128283) Attached to: Pro-Democracy Websites In Hong Kong Targeted With and Serving Malware

That move seems just really childish for a government. Couldn't the government just take down the DNS entries of those sites, rather than install malware? Also, this will only help to legitimize the pro-democracy movement. It makes more sense that this was done by script kiddies with an agenda.

Indeed. Whatever one can say for or against the Chinese government, fools they are not. And whatever one can say about the CIA/NSA or whatever they are called these days, fanatical proponents of freedom and democracy wouldn't' top the list. My expectation of the Chinese government is that they wish to deal with these problems calmly and pragmatically, whereas the American secret services have a track record for stirring up shit. I may be wrong, of course.

Democracy is a very good idea, even for a government. It is much easier to govern a nation, if the citizens feel they are stakeholders rather than captives. The Chinese government are well aware of this, and as far as I can tell from me more than 10 years of regular travel to China, the majority of Chinese have a lot of faith in their central government. The protests that keep occurring are generally against corrupt local officials colluding with rich business owners; I think people in America recognize the situation.

The problem with democracy is not that it is unpredictable (as Americans will know, it is very easy to manipulate, any way), but that it takes a long time to educate people about what it is and how it works. Democracy didn't happen overnight in Europe - it several generations for it to unfold, and embarrassingly, it was still being discussed whether it was a good idea at all up towards WWII. On that background, I think it is optimistic, not to say hopelessly naive, to imagine that China could just say, "Yeah, OK, we'll start having democracy tomorrow". Just look around in the world and see how often that has simply ended in civil war, because the osing factions didn't get what they wanted, or because the winners on think about what benefits their own supporters. Democracy can not work, unless everybody understands the implications and are willing to accept that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose; and that whoever wins has to govern for the benefit of the whole of the population, even their opponents.

Is Hong Kong there yet? Have the population been educated to accept the rules of the game yet? I don't know - but if we in the West, and especially the American secret services, keep fanning the flames of unrest, then it will never happen. No government can sit idle by and let protest become civil war.

Comment: Re:well duh (Score 1) 228

by jandersen (#48123137) Attached to: Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs In China and Germany

Isn't this EXACTLY what the NSA's job is?

It probably is - what I am worried about is not spying, in the sense of gathering intelligence, or even stealing industrial secrets - it's the complete lack of transparency and real oversight. And the very real and likely possibility, that agencies lie NSA and CIA instigate civil unrest in other countries. Take the infamous Tiananmen Square Massacre - there has been persistent rumours ever since, that this was largely a CIA operation that blew up. It may or may not have been the case, but the point is: we just don't know, and with these revelations all the time, we can't even say that it sounds unlikely. And are they at it again in Hong Kong now?

Trust takes long and hard work to build up, but it can be blown apart in an instant. And it seems that we send our most immature and narrow-minded people out there to do this kind of hugely sensitive jobs; what could possibly go wrong?

Comment: Re:Pixie Dust (Score 4, Insightful) 252

by jandersen (#48118377) Attached to: Lego Ends Shell Partnership Under Greenpeace Pressure

Aww, how sweet - my original post got modded down as 'Troll'! - simply for suggesting that people should be reasonable and level headed, and not let the fact that an unpopular organization like Greenpeace is mentioned, confuse their judgement.

So, to your questions:

1: Yes, I drive - why not? I am not the one claiming that everything done by oil companies is by definition "EVIL!!!!" - I just say, they are not our friends, even if they try to sell that image to us. They have resisted any movement towards producing more efficient car engines, sustainbale energy etc - in fact, anything that might affect their bottom -line. It is the logical thing for them to; they only exist to generate profit for their shareholders. Popular pressure has been among the things that have persuaded them to modify their actions. If you had read and understood what I wrote originally, you would have realised that I don't say we must all stop driving cars. But it makes very good sense to me at least, that we should try to get away from our dependency on fossil fuels as soon as possible. I am willing to give up some of my luxuries to get there.

2: Extraordinary people are just ordinary people who made a decision to no longer just following the beaten path and simply do as they are told. It isn't easy, of course - if it were, then it wouldn't be extraordinary. But everybody can do it, it just requires courage. Not the idiotic 'courage' to drink yourself legless and play chicken across a busy motorway, but the real courage to open up your mind and risk having to confront your own dishonesty, and probably having to leave behind all the old fallacies that you used to believe in. As an American you ought to be in a better position to understand this than us tired, old Europeans; it's only been a century and a bit since your nation was established by ordinary people, who had no other choice than becoming extraordinary.

No, ordinary DO make a difference, if they dare to stand up against those in power, for what they really believe in.

Comment: Re:seems like good news, but really? (Score 1) 100

by jandersen (#48109423) Attached to: Scientists Coax Human Embryonic Stem Cells Into Making Insulin

Because, how much easier does it get than lifting stuff from a dead guy?

Price, as you mentin, is an important factor, of course, but taking out just the insuling producing cells from a pancreas isn't extremely easy, as they are embedded in other tissue (from Wikipedia):

The part of the pancreas with endocrine function is made up of approximately a million[7] cell clusters called islets of Langerhans. Four main cell types exist in the islets. They are relatively difficult to distinguish using standard staining techniques, but they can be classified by their secretion: α alpha cells secrete glucagon (increase glucose in blood), Î beta cells secrete insulin (decrease glucose in blood), Î" delta cells secrete somatostatin (regulates/stops α and Î cells) and PP cells, or Î (gamma) cells, secrete pancreatic polypeptide.[8]

The islets are themselves not necessarily easy to transplant, as one would have re-establish the necessary blood supply for each, I suspect; and distinguishing - let alone separating - the four main cell types is probably not trivial either.

Comment: Re:Pixie Dust (Score 4, Insightful) 252

by jandersen (#48109381) Attached to: Lego Ends Shell Partnership Under Greenpeace Pressure

People shouldn't let their prejudices against Greenpeace, 'tree-huggers', 'hippies', climate change or whatever blind them to the fact that:

1. Big, polluting corporations need to be challenged. The oil-industry is not really your friend, and I doubt the changes we have seen in pollution levels since the 50es would have happened without somebody putting serious pressure on them.

2. Whether you like Greenpeace or not, their example shows us that it is possible for ordinary people to make a difference, if they are able to work together. Is that not something worth knowing?

Comment: What this isn't about... (Score 3, Insightful) 385

by jandersen (#48100767) Attached to: Chimpanzee "Personhood" Is Back In Court

A brief scan through the comments on slashdot so far comes up the usual, lame list of "reasons why this is just so stupid, like".

So, this is not about whether chimpanzees should get the vote.
It isn't about whether they should be considered human.
It isn't about whether they should be allowed/forced to take part in human society on an equal footing.

What it is about, is how we treat the animals in our care; part of that has to touch on whether animals have anything like personality: do they 'feel' rather than simply 'react'? Do they have wishes, intentions, thoughts, or are they simply 'flesh machines'? As our insight grows, it becomes harder and harder to deny that many, if not most, animals are like ourselves in that respect; what separates us is a matter of degrees rather than something fundamental: humans are more intelligent etc, but there is no reason to think we have a 'soul' which other animals don't have.

The other part of the problem is to decide what we ourselves are, or want to be. When we don't want to torture prisoners, when we don't just get out the popcorn and watch the Ebola epidemic etc, it is because we as a society have the choice to care about others. It wasn't always so, and not everybody agrees. But we have chosen to be the kind of people who care and therefore we find it hard to deliberately cause suffering.

Whether legislation is the right way, I don't know; in my experience people often resent rules and laws that are imposed on them, even if they agree on the sentiment behind them. Basically, it is about respect; we should certainly respect other animals on their terms, but having rules imposed on you doesn't feel very respectful.

Comment: Why? (Score 2) 249

by jandersen (#48083619) Attached to: Why Do Contextual Ads Fail?

Because the advertisers overreach and try to push stuff that their audience is unlikely to want. Advertising is full of wishful thinking about how powerful adverts are etc - many advertisers seem to believe that it is simply a matter of "targeting" their adverts and then people will invariably buy, no matter whether they like, need or can afford the product. The reality, meanwhile, is probably that by far the largest part of adverts are unwelcome, simply because people were not looking to buy and they feel affronted, when they are being slapped in the face with some irrelevant distraction. If you want to sell a product, you have to persuade your customer to like you, but nobody likes SPAM, whether it comes in emails, inserted into your favourite tv-program or through your letter box, and all that kind of advertising achieves is to alienate huge numbers of potential customers.

Comment: Re:Intelligence (Score 1) 154

Well, I suppose it is because we want to find an universal measure of 'mental ability'. When we look at people across populations, we find that there seems to be at least some element of 'mental ability' or 'intelligence' that is universal - some individuals seem very good at learning, thinking, others seem less so - across cultures. (As you can already see, I am not an expert, and others will no doubt have more insight) The big question as I see it is whether this 'intelligence' is all context or not; it probably doesn't matter too much in practical terms, but it is very interesting.

Comment: Intelligence (Score 3, Insightful) 154

I don't think this is entirely unexpected; there has long been controversy over what intelligence is or indeed whether it is a meaningful concept at all. It has certainly proved difficult to construct a practical test that doesn't depend on things like cultural context etc.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.