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Comment Re:I have a question. (Score 2) 61

What's the motivation for replacing humans in various jobs with a robot?

To cut costs and/or improve quality.

The outcome is going to be terrible

Possibly. Then again, maybe not -- you've seen what the open Internet did for information (which is now easily available to most people at very low cost); perhaps robotics can do the same for goods and services.

"But what about all those people who will lose their menial jobs", you ask? They'll have to find some other way to make a living, is the answer. But with manufactured goods and services practically making themselves, that shouldn't be so difficult to do -- if nothing else, the government could put a tax on automation and use a portion of the wealth they generate to provide every citizen with a guaranteed stipend. People would then have time to learn more advanced skills that would make them employable again, or they could just become (effectively) retirees, and do things they enjoy rather than do menial work most of their lives. Either way, they wouldn't starve.

Of course that will require some political will, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. Our society has absorbed changes of similar magnitude before, it can probably do so again.

Comment Re:Cry me a river (Score 3, Insightful) 191

that's very Libertarian of you, endorsing even more government regulations. "Cognitive dissonance" in operation?

Isn't a strong defense of private property rights a Libertarian principle? In this case, the proposed law would be enforcing property owners' right not to have uninvited guests buzzing around in their private airspace.

Comment Re:Call it what you want it isn't green (Score 5, Insightful) 310

Can we all just start to admit that wind and solar farms have their own negative environmental implications just like everything else.

Straw man argument -- nobody ever claimed otherwise. Obviously, anything humans do has environmental implications.

The claim is that wind and solar farms have less environmental impact than the use of coal and other fossil fuels they intend to replace.

Comment Re:Why are solar and wind not on the same land? (Score 2) 310

There are some drawbacks to colocating wind and solar:

- It's not always the case that a single parcel of land is optimal for both wind and solar

- Wind turbines will cast shadows onto the solar panels if placed together, reducing the solar panels' output somewhat

Which isn't to say that placing both together isn't a good idea, only that there are some tradeoffs. I suspect that doing them separately also keeps the projects simpler to implement on both the regulatory and technical sides.

Comment Re:Unfortunately (Score 4, Insightful) 467

These guys weren't armed with anything more than good training, and the mental preparedness to take action in a crisis, nevermind the guts to do so at considerable personal risk.

"The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with training and mental preparedness to take action in a crisis".

Hmm. It'll never fit on a bumper sticker, but training more people how to effectively handle a violent person might be a better idea than handing everyone a gun and hoping for the best.

Comment Re:buh, bye (Score 1) 494

Primaries have become a curse upon the nation. The people most likely to vote in them are the extremists

A good description of the problem -- are there any realistic proposals for a solution? (The only thing I can think of is doing away with primaries and holding only a general election, but even with a more elegant voting system like e.g. approval voting or range voting, I suspect that the general election would turn into a confusing 27-candidate circus if we did that, and the problems introduced might be as bad as or worse than what we have now)

Comment Re:buh, bye (Score 3, Insightful) 494

How long has it been that the Republicans have been holding primaries with something approaching two dozen candidates? It seems like a relatively recent phenomenon, like in the last three elections or so.

I think you can largely attribute that phenomenon to the Citizens United ruling, which effectively allowed billionaires to give as much money to a campaign as they feel like giving. Before that, most candidates had to raise money from many sources, and therefore only the candidates who were widely seen as viable and acceptable could afford to stay in the race. Post-Citizens, any candidate with his own billionaire sugar daddy can now run and keep running for as long as the sugar daddy continues to pay the bills, regardless of what the party would prefer. Hence the large number of candidates.

My prediction is that in another election or three, the novelty of buying your own personal Presidential candidate will wear off, and not so many sugar daddies will be interested in throwing their money away on unlikely campaigns. So the number of candidates will probably go back down again.

Comment Re:Effectively removes only reason to own an apple (Score 1) 434

I can't speak for other people, but I buy Macs because I can't stand using Windows, and MacOS/X is the best-supported and easiest-to-use Unix-like OS that's currently available. The extra cost isn't a problem, since I only buy a computer once every 5 years or so anyway.

Comment Re:This is why we like C (Score 4, Interesting) 234

I have actually seen something similar to this before, also involving an Air Traffic Control.

They were having some problem in handling "Large Messages", I am not sure of the exact details / circumstances - I was only peripherally involved. Anyway, the programmer wrote these to a file, then they were processed asynchronously and deleted. This minor change was tested - as usual at the site - by someone shooting an hour's production traffic through the test system and checking for unexpected aborts or other abnormalities. All was fine, the spooling file was 1% full.
The patch went online. 4 days later (it was a Sunday morning and it was snowing) the file hit some limit and refused to accept new messages. At that moment things went "Keystone Cops".

  • All department heads were informed, except programming. Given that only one the patch had been applied in the previous week, not very helpful. Headless chickens ran around trying to find a solution.
  • Standard practice in this type of situation was to switch to the backup/standby system. Since ATC data is very short lived, the backup system had an empty database which would then be populated dynamically. All "Station Chiefs" had to approve this step. One refused because he could not see any problem. Finally someone managed to make him understand what the problem was, then it was "oh yes, we are seeing that as well". His was the smallest station of course.
  • Standard procedure was also to switch to manual control - rather than automated - and cancel short-haul flights. The railways could take up the slack. This was done.

The switch was duly made and everything was working again.
It turned out that the deletion of the processed records had a bug. One hour of live data left the file 1% full. 100 hours . . . do the math. It took 5 or 10 minutes for the programmer to fix the problem, he could have done it live on the Sunday if anyone had bothered to tell him what was going on.

One of the lessons from that is also relevant here - one hour of live data left the file 1% full. I'd bet that they were testing that the new feature worked, not looking for hidden side-effects.

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