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Comment: Re:Helpful links for intelligence community devs (Score 1) 275

by madro (#46591941) Attached to: TSA Missed Boston Bomber Because His Name Was Misspelled In a Database

Health care applications typically don't have access to a master list of names. They use multiple criteria in addition to names to do master patient indexing. Similar names are an important component (Jaro-Winkler is a nice metric to consider), but are given less weight when the last name or first name is common. But if you include birth date, government identifiers (ssn, driver's license, medicaid/medicare), current/past addresses (allowing again for transposition or similar errors), your accuracy gets much better.

No idea if government intelligence apps do this, but I would expect they do (or at least there are staff members who know what to do, if they could only convince higher-ups).

Comment: Re:If they charge $15,000 for a ten week course... (Score 1) 374

by madro (#46120337) Attached to: California Regulator Seeks To Shut Down 'Learn To Code' Bootcamps

There are price levels where the risk of fraud and abuse may outweigh the costs of enforcement and compliance. People who travel to other countries cannot carry more than $10000 in cash without reporting it. The risk is money laundering and drug running.

Regulating everything or regulating nothing always leads to huge Type I/Type II errors. Reasonable people can disagree on the appropriate level of compromise.

Comment: Re:More garbage (Score 2) 353

by madro (#45969791) Attached to: Programmer Privilege

The article was adapted from a longer blog post. In the adaptation, they linked to Psychology Today (ugh) to discuss "micro-inequities" as the initial term for phenomena that were later covered under the term unconscious bias or implicit bias. Having it doesn't make you racist or sexist; it's as human as risk aversion and loss aversion, both well studied. But like risk aversion or loss aversion, implicit bias can dissuade humans from making an optimal, economically rational decision. It takes self-awareness and practice to overcome these tendencies (and then only sometimes).

If you can't explain it, and you can't define it, and you can't trace it back, perhaps it's not real.

These have been studied for decades in psychology, social psychology, and sociology. Do you really expect a full lit review in an article in the popular press, adapted from a blog post by an academic who is speaking from personal experience about topics not in his core field?

We are scientists.

We are humans. With quirky, bug-prone wetware.

Comment: Da Vinci was great for me, maybe not for others (Score 5, Interesting) 99

by madro (#45334737) Attached to: Robotic Surgery Complications Going Underreported

I needed mitral valve repair surgery, and I was a good candidate for robotic surgery: relatively young, good health (other than the valve), not obese (fat gets in the way). Instead of sawing my sternum and spreading my chest open, the surgeon (who has a lot of experience in both robotic and open heart surgery) was able to go in through my right side and leave a 3-inch scar and three puncture wounds. I was in the hospital Tuesday morning, and out Friday afternoon. I'm grateful to have had access to this technology. The benefits of robotic surgery compared to open heart surgery are clear (at least in my case).

But when a hospital has a large fixed cost to acquire technology, it is all too tempting to spread that cost out over a greater number of surgeries. The benefits are not nearly so clear in surgeries that don't require bone-breaking or bone-sawing. If someday I need gall bladder surgery, or if my spouse needs a hysterectomy, I would have a strong preference to avoid robotic surgery unless a skilled surgeon can make a compelling argument that the specifics of our case are a good fit for robotic assistance. (And believe me, I read as much of the medical literature as I could in making the decision: when one of the surgical steps is, basically, "shut down the heart," you want to know as much as you can. Open heart surgery for valve repair is a well-understood, well-practiced technique, but for me the decision to use the robot was about the reduced shock to the body, shorter recovery time, and reduced scarring.)

Comment: Re:Americans doing the right thing (Score 1) 999

by madro (#45151809) Attached to: US Government Shutdown Ends

Part of the credit for the deficit decline under Clinton goes to George HW Bush, who broke his "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge for the good of the country. I remember being really concerned about the revenue increases that Clinton signed early in his first term because I was familiar with Republican talking points about taxes being automatically bad for the economy. Then I saw that the world didn't end, I took some basic econ courses (micro/macro) and learned to take macro theories (left or right) with huge handfuls of salt when considering the real world.

Comment: Re:Wow. (Score 3, Insightful) 999

by madro (#45151743) Attached to: US Government Shutdown Ends

A common fallacy is that governments should run their finances like a family. A family does not (1) live forever, (2) print its own currency, (3) collect revenue as a matter of law, or (4) have a duty to provide public goods like a national defense. Maintaining debt in perpetuity makes sense as long as the economy grows over the long term and as long as that debt doesn't get "too big" (with pretty fierce debate over what that means -- 100% of GDP is not necessarily too big by historical standards, but reputable minds can disagree).

But in terms of the maturity level of *this* particular Congress, this is pretty spot on.

Comment: Re:All? (Score 4, Interesting) 491

by madro (#44875539) Attached to: Can Internet Pseudonymity Be Saved?

There are exceptions to first amendment protections. Speech that incites imminent lawless action, or "fighting words" (speech that leads to immediate physical retaliation) are not protected, at least in the US.

The purpose of letting people speak freely is to allow venting of grievances as an alternative to violent confrontation. But when those words in fact degrade civility to the point that violence increases, then we've reached diminishing returns for the first amendment. When individuals or groups can bully with impunity and induce violence against a person (sometimes by suicide), then I can start to see the problems with unfettered free speech rights.

It's not enough to justify the banning of anonymity, but civilization needs at least a little civility.

Comment: Re:Why so few women sanitation engineers? (Score 1) 608

by madro (#44677037) Attached to: Could a Grace Hopper Get Hired In Today's Silicon Valley?

For cognitively demanding jobs and careers, we need to attract the best and brightest regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. So if a career path is not pulling from the full population, it is a fair question to examine why. We are faced with a long-term shortage in the supply of nurses. Why don't more men pursue that career?

To compare with a slightly different field: my spouse works in a manufacturing environment, and she's the best engineer there (IMHO). They would like to continue improving the department by hiring new staff, but they can't find qualified people. Maybe if women and men were pursuing mechanical engineering in equal numbers, there'd be a better pool of candidates to draw from?

(Also: Garbage trucks are becoming more automated. Pretty soon, we won't need women *or* men hanging off the back of a truck.)

The Universe is populated by stable things. -- Richard Dawkins

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