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Comment Economics follows the scientific method (Score 4, Insightful) 141

Economics is not a science, no matter how many times you and your finance buddies tell yourselves that it is.

A science is a formal method of examining and describing the world around us. This method requires hypothesis regarding empirical data which are testable and repeatable. This process is called the scientific method. Economics follows the scientific method and any field of study that follows the scientific method can accurately be called a science. Ergo economics is a science by definition. Some sciences are easier to study than others but that has no bearing on their validity as a science.

That's not a real Nobel prize either, it's a self-aggrandizing fraud that was purchased by the banking industry in an attempt to convince the public that their twisted methods were legitimate and not just common crime.

Since the Nobel organization recognizes the Economics prize it is as real as any other Nobel prize. Your opinion on the matter is meaningless.

Comment Economists are well aware of limitations of models (Score 3, Informative) 141

The difference seems to be that while physicists are aware that their models are incomplete, economists (or, more likely, journalists, politicians, and the people who actually apply these models) etc. disregard these caveats and claim that this model describes the entire financial system in a few differential equations.

Economists don't disregard the limitations of their models at all. If you would spend some time speaking with actual economists (I have) you'd quickly find out that they are exquisitely aware of the limitations of their models.

Where things tend to go off the rails is when financial analysts with a profit motive try to stretch the economists models beyond what they can actually explain. A great example of this is Long Term Capital Management which was described in the book When Genius Failed. They took some models with a long list of assumptions and limitations and tried to apply the models to areas well beyond the limitations of the model. Early success begat hubris which led to greed and ultimately their downfall.

Comment Empirical analysis of chaotic systems (Score 4, Informative) 141

Putting that stuff near "science" or "maths" is an insult to those fields of endeeavour.

Not any more than meteorology or ecology or geology or any other field that gets its data from complex and chaotic empirical sources.

Which economists predicted 2007/2008?

Quite a few of them. Some didn't get their timing right but I can introduce you to economists and financial analysts that I know personally that were warning about a likely crash in the housing market and knock on effects as far back as 2003. They obviously couldn't predict the exact outcome because that is basically impossible in a large chaotic system. (especially when you cannot perfectly model the initial state)

People have this naive idea that economists ought to be able to predict the future perfectly or it isn't a science. Predicting the recession of 2008 was something akin to a geologist trying to predict exactly when and where an earthquake will hit. There are too many unknowns to make anything better than a probabilistic analysis. They can tell you there is an X% chance of an event happening within time period Y. Asking for something more accurate than that is simply unrealistic expectations.

Comment Economics IS a science (Score 4, Informative) 141

Economics is not scientific in the mathematical sense. It takes no account of the irrational human animal.

That's entirely and demonstrably untrue. In 2002 the Nobel prize was awarded to Daniel Kahneman "for having integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty". Much recent economic study has been explicitly examining the irrationality of people and their economic decisions. Economics is a science but it is one where it is challenging to design experiments and so much of the data comes from empirical analysis.

That is why it is more like the weather than mathematics.

Mathematics is a language to describe things. Economics isn't a branch of mathematics any more or less than any other science. It is however a bit like studying the weather in that the forecasting models are trying to make predictions about a very complex and chaotic system. The models get their data from historical real world events but perfect accuracy in the models is nigh unacheivable.

Comment Nobody is perfect (Score 5, Insightful) 138

Yes, but most of us do our "reputation management" by, you know, behaving properly rather than going around trying to erase any record of our misdeeds.

You can behave properly all you want and still get screwed by false information or malicious deeds. A service that helps people combat this sort of problem is fine. Some people are just assholes and will try to ruin your reputation out of spite or just because they can. Ask any restaurant if they get nothing but fair and honest reviews on Yelp. Even if people aren't actively trying to ruin you, nobody is perfect and minor mistakes can sometimes cause major problems - problems far out of scale with the deeds.

Comment Re:C++, hands down (Score 1) 427

Odd. Since C++11 I've used the new features to remove about 15% of my old code base (which is about 300,000 lines), and I find the new code significantly easier to read and maintain. What new feature is giving you trouble?

Sorry for the slow response. R-value move semantics took me a little getting used to, and I still find them difficult to reason about.

But the biggest, ongoing issue is template resolution. The process can be extremely complex, and yet happens without the programmer being able to see if/how it unfolds step by step, especially with SFINAE being an accepted principle. And the resulting error messages are usually indecipherable, especially when trying to use the STL without having a deep expertise in its proper use.

Comment Not bad in principle (Score 3, Insightful) 138

Was there ever a more vile and sociopathic concept than "reputation management"?

Yes. Quite a few of them actually. Reputation management is something we all do to some degree. I don't know how you would exist in a complex society without some amount of effort directed towards maintaining your reputation in the community.

Protecting your reputation is not in principle a bad thing. Sometimes false or misleading information becomes public and can cause problems - sometimes serious ones. Nothing wrong with taking reasonable steps to guard against such things. Of course like most things you can go too far and try to hide wrongdoing but just because something is bad in some circumstances does not make it bad in all circumstances.

Comment Safe driving (Score 1) 401

Unsafe is usually interpreted to mean using an acceleration that may not be available to all vehicles.

No it isn't. Unsafe is operation of a vehicle in a manner that violates duty of care. You can safely accelerate faster in a Corvette in many circumstances than the maximum acceleration of a Nissan Versa. Whether it is unsafe will depend on factors including road conditions, visibility, nearby traffic, nearby pedestrians, driver skill, vehicle capability, etc. There is no requirement to only accelerate as slowly as the slowest vehicle.

Obviously a sports car on special tyres can stop a lot faster than an old banger or a truck, and and therefore you should never use maximum deceleration (emergency stop).

You use emergency stops in an emergency. It is the responsibility of drivers behind you to maintain assured clear distance part of which is evaluating the likely possible deceleration of the vehicle ahead of you.

Whether the driver behind you is paying attention is not your problem.

It becomes your problem when they crash into the back of your car. I've had that happen several times, including several when I was stopped. Every time the other driver was ticketed for failure to maintain assured clear distance. Drivers around you are always your problem if you are driving defensively.

Anybody not paying attention at a traffic light should not be on the road.

And can you honestly tell us that you have never once gotten distracted when the light changed? If you claim that you haven't you either drive very very little or you are lying. It happens to every driver now and then.

Comment It is the programmer's fault (Score 1) 401

The article summary isn't very good. If the software is programmed in a way that causes a car to behave in a way that's dangerous, it IS the software's fault.

No, it is the programmer's fault. Software is an amoral set of machine instructions written by a human. Saying it is the software's fault is like blaming a press for cutting off someone's hand. The actual fault is either user error or faulty machine design. The machine is just doing what it was told so blaming software is misplaced. The fact that the problem of autonomous driving has a lot of difficult and dangerous corner cases is irrelevant.

Software is just a set of instructions given by a human so if the instructions are wrong it is the fault of the person who gave the instructions to the machine. If the car behaves in a way that is dangerous then it is the fault of the person/company/entity that wrote the software controlling that behavior. The programmer is just as much at fault as a driver who made a mistake. The difference is that the programmer probably isn't sitting in the car at the time but just like the driver he/she was the one in charge of the driving of the car. It's really easy to forget that a human is instructing the machine - the difference is that the instructions are time shifted.

I think in time autonomous cars could prove to be safer than many/most human driven ones. There are a LOT of really bad drivers on the road and the tests to qualify for a license are pretty much a joke and there are almost no requirements to re-qualify which is kind of nuts. But the liability for bad or inadequate software should fall squarely on the party that wrote said software.

Comment Hypothetical with easy answer (Score 1) 174

In Holland, MI (birthplace of Slashdot) we're working toward fiber to the home. A handful of people have asked why not go wireless instead?

Because fiber will almost certainly be faster, probably more secure and likely more reliable and less prone to interference. That said, fiber to the home is not and will not be available to most of the country any time soon so it's a hypothetical question anyway. I'm not aware of any near term likely wireless technology that would outperform fiber. Furthermore once the fiber is laid it's relatively future proof for some time to come. Wireless not so much.

I know my reasons (speed, privacy, and we have an existing fiber loop) but are any wireless technologies good enough that cities should consider them?

The answer currently is no. That may change someday but not anytime soon. Wireless has its place but it's not the solution you are looking for here.

Comment Smartphones are barely phones (Score 2) 41

there are phones out now that are more powerful than my four year old LAPTOP. What the fuck do you need to make a fucking phone call??

Smartphones are not really primarily phones. They're small tablet computers that happen to be able to make calls. The phone feature is almost incidental since 90%+ of the time they are used for other purposes. I spend maybe 1-2 hours talking on my smartphone each month and probably 20+ hours doing other stuff with it like reading news, checking email, taking pictures, etc.

Comment House Prices (Score 1) 808

In coastal Connecticut, $100K a year isn't enough to buy a decent house if you're trying to raise a family at the same time.

Quite so. You can find a place to live but it's going to be a dump relatively speaking.

$200K might be enough to get a nice home around here, but $100K a year here is like making $40K a year in a rural area.

It's worse than that. Houses along the Gold Coast area cost something like 3-5X what they do out in the midwest where I live. A house that would cost me $100K in Michigan would cost me something like $400K+ anywhere along the so called Gold Coast. I know because I almost moved there at one point and went house shopping. The house I have now would have cost me well over a million anywhere remotely close to Greenwich CT.

If you steal from one author it's plagiarism; if you steal from many it's research. -- Wilson Mizner