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Comment: You Tube as Evolution (Score 3, Interesting) 191

by jimbirch (#42588145) Attached to: How the Internet Makes the Improbable Into the New Normal
Unlike other animals we have some specialized biological equipment to handle very low probability events, but then we are special. If you're a nematode worm you're pretty much restricted to "Death learning" aka genetic learning where the species learns by individuals being ejected from the gene pool. Over time the species comes up with a time-integrated behaviour function that produces optimum responses to what the environment is chucking at you. So you tend to eat the right foods, mate with the right guys and avoid the nasty guys. The behaviour function is strongly weighted to the probable events, for obvious reasons. Rare events can kill you, but not as often as probable events.

The next big step up the evolutionary ladder is "Suck It and See Learning" where the individual modifies behaviour based on its past experience: that stung me, this tasted good, etc. The individual no longer has to die to learn something. Progress. An extension of this mode is learning not just by personal trial and error but also by watching other members of your species, usually mom and or dad. A baby bird learns how and where to catch worms not just by endlessly scratching around in random patches of dirt until it jags a worm, but by doing the rounds with its parents. It can also learn signs of danger so it doesn't need to be eaten by a cat to find out why cats are interested in birds.

Humans add another even more sophisticated layer on this, which might be called Narrative Learning. This is basically creating and swapping stories. It might also be called knowledge, but isn't knowledge just stories that happen to be true, or true enough to be useful. This is what allows us to handle very low probability events, things that might occur once a year, once in a lifetime (water flowing underground) or even once in several generations. If you happen to be living out on the plains of Africa half a million years ago this kind of stuff would give you a wild advantage over all the monkey-see-monkey-do types around you. How to choose a good spear, how to predict the seasons, when to shift camp, what plants can kill you, etc. Science is the ultimate form of narrative learning; stories are picked not because they sound right/are interesting/are sexy/worked once, but by relentlessly grinding them up against reality.

And this capacity for narrative learning is, of course, why we find the improbable events on You Tube - or the Bible - so very compelling: we have evolved to love and collect the improbable, just because it just might save us one day. I know that next time I crash a truck, I'm going through the window, and landing on my feet. It works.

Comment: Re:I remember when... (Score 1) 142

by jimbirch (#41929185) Attached to: Fox's Attempt To Block Ad-skipping TV Recorder Autohop Fails
Get over it Princess. When people stop believing simplistic nonsense the system will stop producing it. But don't hold your breath. Prices are based on loads of factors. Subscription model could eliminate ads but only if people were willing to pay enough to eliminate ads. Turns out they rather pay less and get some ads. Seatbelts reduce injury so reduce premiums. Other things put them up. We don't live in a world where one thing happens at a time and everything else stays in 1990. Everything is changing all the time. When someone throws out a simple explanation don't take it as a promise. It's not a promise, it's just a simple explanation of how something might work in a simplified theoretical universe. Recreational outrage makes us even more stupid than we already are.

Comment: Re:suicide with cyanide? (Score 2) 121

by jimbirch (#40433743) Attached to: Turing Archive Director Questions Alan Turing Suicide Report
It has been established that the sisters of gay men have more kids. The exact mechanism is unknown but presumably the genes that tend to make them gay tend to make their sisters more prolific mothers. They might not have kids themselves but could still have better inclusive fitness.

Comment: Music makes you happy (Score 1) 405

by jimbirch (#40162867) Attached to: Do Headphones Help Or Hurt Productivity?
A recent survey of happiness used a phone app that beeped randomly once a day or so. On the prompt the the subject would report their current activity and self-rate their happiness. Results: The most happy people were: engaging in sex (gap) People listening to music (gap) People doing other stuff. So, a very good reason for listening to music at work is that you can't have sex. Or looking upwards, you'll probably feel better, and cope with work better with the negative aspects of work if you can listen to music. You may be partially distracted but you'll feel better.

Comment: Re:Broadcast rights (Score 2) 77

Well... that's what the legal cases have been trying to decide. The telco does NOT (re) broadcast it. It provides a remote recording service. It records a copy for each subscriber then transmits that specific copy to the subscriber who requested it. It's not that different to programming your home PVR from work, except that there is a system capable of doing it in bulk... Australian law says you can record your own copy of a broadcast program for your own replay but you can't then sell it to a third party. The single copy for each subscriber is designed to fit that definition. Whether this is an artifice or not, whether it is in effect the telco recording and selling it, are the legal questions. So far, the lower court says it's ok, middle court says not, now heading to the top of the list, the Australian High Court. If the High Court says ok, the content owners may lobby the parliament.

Comment: Re:Windtrap (Score 3, Interesting) 227

by jimbirch (#39730321) Attached to: Wind Turbine Extracts Water From Air
The RH in the Sahara could be typically around 25%. This feels dry at 30 degrees C but the air contains 8 g/m3 water. It feels dry, potential evaporation is high, but there's still a lot of water there. If the process can get the air temp down to a near freezing most of the water would condense. The amount of water air can hold increases "exponentially" with temperature. (Which is why tropical raindrops are big.)

Interchangeable parts won't.

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