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Comment Goals are not enough (Score 1) 301

The argument against distributing, as opposed to producing, child porn is that people seeing the images harm the victims. That harm is believed to be very great, resulting in long jail sentences for people who distribute or view child porn.

If that is true, then the FBI did great harm to those innocent victims by distributing the pictures.

If that is not true, then we need to re-evaluate why viewing child porn is such a serious felony.

It is NOT OK for the the FBI to do a few contract murders to try to catch criminals in the mob. I don't see this as any different.

Comment What else is searched for (Score 5, Insightful) 284

Once the government has the ability to scan files belonging to hundreds of millions of users for a specific document, it might be easy to broaden that. Searches for similar documents. Searches for a standard set of illegal materials - say known child porn images. Searches for copyrighted materials like movies and audio.

Specifically searching for a specific document with a known like to terrorism doesn't bother me, but the extensions do. I absolutely do not want to give the government the right to search for anything illegal - and I don't see a clear way to enforce the distinction.

The innocent have nothing to fear, but there are few absolutely innocent people

Comment Re:Left out the most obvious and best specific pow (Score 1) 330

Its a pretty tricky feedback: I think the power goes as 1/m^2 , I'm too lazy to figure out what sized black hole generates enough power to accelerate at say 0.01G, but its going to be pretty small and really hot. You will need a beam of low energy matter (where low energy means C) that can be focused into the black hole. Its not clear even neutron star material is dense enough.

Comment Re:Left out the most obvious and best specific pow (Score 1) 330

Both black hole and antimatter can in principal get you near mass energy equivalent (not better of course), but both have serious technical issues:

Antimatter is much easier. Still it seems impossible to produce with high efficiency (> around 1e-4) because anti-protons are unlikely to emerge from any interaction . Mostly you get mesons which decay away. Once you have anti-protons its very difficult to convert to anti-hydrogen and collect the atoms. Positrons can in principle be produced with good efficiency, but there is no neutrally charged, stable way to store them (positronium doesn't last). Even for antimatter atoms, storage is problematical, One can imagine storing frozen anti-hydrogen or something, but it seems difficult to manipulate, and difficult to cool enough to keep the vapor pressure low enough to avoid unwanted heating.

Black holes are a LOT worse. Small black holes - say the mass of a mountain - radiate a lot of power, but that radiation increases very slowly, then suddenly increases until they explode. The radiation is so strong that there is no way to get matter into the black hole - its gravity isn't strong enough.

Once you get to planet mass black holes you can generate power, but they are rather awkward to carry around (being the mass of a planet!). Its also not at all clear how to build a small black hole. (one that doesn't evaporate almost instantly). Below ~solar mass, kilometer scale black holes, it isn't at all obvious how to get high enough densities.

Comment Re:Physically feasible? (Score 1) 330

Its not so bad.
A fission rocket can get you to a coupe % of C. Since the exhaust velocity is very high, the acceleration will be very low for reasonable power densities but you have lots of time.

I did some hand-waves and it looks like 1e-4 Gs isn't crazy for a fission powered, ion drive rocket. (that is a power density comparable to a modern jet engine). That gets you 10 light years in under 1000 years of travel time.

You can build the rocket structure out of a breedable material like Thorium, and get a pretty good mass ratio.

Comment Not used much anymore (Score 1) 132

I haven't used mine in over a decade. Even when I was leaning to fly it was very rarely needed, VORs and other electronic navigation aides made a flight computer unnecessary for most flying. GPS of course makes it even less useful. Pre-GPS there may have been areas with minimal ground based navigation aids where a flight computer was more necessary.

Its still a cool device though.

Comment Better not have any mistakes in their database (Score 1) 149

At one point my phone company thought I had missed a payment. After a long dispute they finally admitted that they had made a mistake and that nothing was owed. If they had publicly slandered incorrectly for failing to pay my debts, they would have been facing a large lawsuit.

This seems like an extremely unwise approach for a company.

Comment Re:"Laser Strikes" define? (Score 3, Informative) 161

I've been lasered when flying my plane. The beam is big at these long distances, so ti isn't a tiny beam going into your eye, it lights up the cockpit and looks like a very bright point of light. Since your eye focuses the light to a point, lasers can be dangerous at fairly low power levels.

In a plane even if the beam is not damaging it is very distracting, and distraction is a major cause of aircraft accidents. in my case they kept the beam on the plane for many seconds so it was clearly intentional.

Its pretty common - several pilots I've spoken to have been lasered. This is the second time its happened to me.

Comment Re:Yes, but they're not discriminating on race... (Score 1) 386

Imagine that members of a particular ethnicity are on average less likely to pay their debts. If a person is of that ethnicity, I do not believe that it is desirable (or legal) to deny them loans based on that ethnicity - that should only be done based on their individual ability / likelyhood of paying.

A fair system might still result in fewer loans to people of some ethnicity, but that would be due to the behavior or the individuals, not due to their group membership.

Comment Re: Problem with Artifical Stupidity: discriminati (Score 1) 386

I think it is a very general problem with machine decision-making. We have laws that prevent using certain protected characteristics (race, gender, etc) in hiring, loan, housing or other decisions). An automated decision making system could act on things that were proxies for these protected characteristics in a way that would not be immediately obvious. This provides a way for organizations to (intentionally or not) get around anti-discrimination laws.

Comment Problem with Artifical Stupidity: discrimination (Score 3, Interesting) 386

Its possible to come up with algorithms that are statistically valid, but discriminatory. For example, in the US African Americans are on average lower income than whites,so it it is likely that average they are less able to repay debts. Anything that correlates with race might statistically be valid, but is racist and if done explicitly would violate all sorts of laws. How do you prove that you are not using proxies for race, or other protected classes in an analysis like this.

Systems that analyze the behavior of friends have a similar problem: people from disadvantaged cultures will have a more difficult time receiving loans, getting jobs etc, not because of what they personally did, but because of what people of their culture did. This is the basis of racism.

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