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Comment: Lucas: Highest form sci fi (Score 1) 409

by michaelmalak (#48886785) Attached to: Disney Turned Down George Lucas's Star Wars Scripts

Science fiction reaches its zenith when it is commentary by analogy to the present human condition. The original trilogy reached this as it was Lucas' protest of the Vietnam War. This was evident even before Lucas' public statements, from the 1976 novelization and its prologue Journal of the Whills. The prequels were, from the strict standpoint of plot and political commentary, a satisfying fulfillment of this 1976 prologue. That the prequels were released during the Iraq War, a mirror in many ways of the Vietnam War, couldn't have worked out better for communicating Lucas' original 1970's message. Everyone caught on for Episode III, but it was all there in Episode II as well. Episode II was released so soon after 9-11, though, that most people weren't able to key in on it then.

The prequels suffered by having too large a budget. Lucas did better in the original trilogy when budget constraints forced creativity. In the prequels, Lucas felt obligated to have ridiculously short filming schedules for the human actors, and then to leave most of it on the editing room floor so as to not waste all the CGI footage. But the stories in Episodes II & III were outstanding.

Now that Star Wars is in the hands of the Bono-seeking corporatocracy, I have dim hope of any continued criticism of government and monopolies -- and certainly not of any drawing of parallels between the Dark Side and contemporary power structures.

Comment: HR underestimates domain knowledge training (Score 2) 261

by michaelmalak (#48867517) Attached to: The Tech Industry's Legacy: Creating Disposable Employees

My blog post today argues that it takes as much or less time to train an existing employee on new skills than it does to train a new employee on the company's domain knowledge.

I.e., yes, companies should be training instead of churning. And training doesn't even cost anything any more except for the paid time to do it -- everything is online now.

Comment: Women Bad at Spatial Relations; But Can Be Taught (Score 2) 218

Statistically, women are bad at spatial reasoning. There are many sociological and political reasons for this, of course, and there is even a natural component. Even the same woman, when at a point in her cycle where testosterone is low, performs worse at spatial reasoning than when her testosterone is high.

But regardless of the source, the good news is that spatial reasoning can be taught.

Comment: Re:Which is kind of a shame (Score 4, Interesting) 314

by michaelmalak (#48821653) Attached to: Radio Shack Reported To Be Ready for Bankruptcy Filing
Indeed, 3D printing would have been an ideal market for them to tap. And they should have been the ones to invent Bluetooth keychain finders, not leaving it up to a crowdfunded attempt. The could have been a Square vendor -- do you detect a theme here? Smartphones are the new "radios" and they could have specialized in accessories for them. And why is a search engine paving the way now for the long-sought dream of home automation? That's just the sort of thing you want a storefront for on a Saturday afternoon. Could also have supplied the emerging meshnet communities (more "radios"). The list goes on.

Comment: Re:The problem with doxing (Score 1) 171

by michaelmalak (#48724799) Attached to: Doxing -- Something To Expect More of In 2015

So if facts uncovered by doxing becomes accepted as legitimate grounds for disqualification, then the only people who will get the good job positions or get elected will be the liars who are exceptionally good at covering up their history or shifting blame onto others.

Such job disqualification is a handy tool for HR departments these days as it neatly addresses the current job vs. candidate imbalance. Think Elysium (which was really about today and not the future) or this week's past Dilbert strips. We're in a state of transition where the mid-20th century concept of "a job" is falling away, and "disqualifications" are a new-found way of blinding ourselves to that fact.

In the future, when no one has a 20th century job anymore, doxing won't matter anymore. But today, it can transition a victim onto the leading edge of joblessness that we'll all be facing eventually.

Comment: Communism (Score 1) 628

by michaelmalak (#48642469) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

Communism spreads through its seductiveness, and the justified fear of technology-driven joblessness is creating a seductive call for New Communism: The Basic Income.

The results will be the same as we have seen in other communist countries: forced abortions and forced sterilizations. I was pleased to see the linked list of possible solutions/outcomes include mention of abortion, but was disappointed to see lack of mention of forced abortion and forced sterilization. We don't need to turn to sci fi novels as these materials do; we need only look to communist countries of today.

Capitalism is no solution either, for that would lead to increased wealth disparity and a situation not too different than communism (total control by corporation vs. total control by government).

Technology won't be able to be put back into the toothpaste tube. The idea of establishing low-technology enclaves or communes won't work because the wealth and military capability generated by those who kept technology will seek to consume all resources. Land will be too expensive to acquire to establish an enclave, and surely too expensive to defend.

Comment: Dirtier than a hypothetical, not an actual (Score 5, Informative) 176

by michaelmalak (#48575837) Attached to: U.S. Passenger Vehicle Fleet Dirtier After 2008 Recession

From the actual abstract:

Using fleet fractions from previous data sets, we estimated age-adjusted mean emissions increases for the 2013 fleet to be 17–29% higher for carbon monoxide, 9–14% higher for hydrocarbons, 27–30% higher for nitric oxide, and 7–16% higher for ammonia emissions than if historical fleet turnover rates had prevailed.

The article shows that the actual 2013 fleet is dirtier than the hypothetical 2013 fleet where the age distribution matches the 2007 fleet age distribution.

It does not show that the actual 2013 fleet is dirtier than the actual 2007 fleet. It's a question not addressed by this study, but I would be surprised if actual 2013 was dirtier than actual 2007.

Comment: Chronology from TFA (Score 2) 77

by michaelmalak (#48542209) Attached to: Pluto-Bound Spacecraft Ends Hibernation To Start Mission

Rather than try to make sense of the broken English in TFS...

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft awoke from hibernation on Saturday and sent a radio confirmation that it had successfully turned itself back on one and a half hours later.

Here's the quote from TFA:

A pre-set alarm clock roused New Horizons from its electronic slumber at 3 p.m. EST, though ground control teams didn’t receive confirmation until just after 9:30 p.m.

New Horizons is now so far away that radio signals traveling at the speed of light take four hours and 25 minutes to reach Earth.

Doing the math, then, there was a two-hour delay between when New Horizons awoke and when it launched its first message. As opposed into traveling in the future by 1.5 hours.

Comment: Re:C language (Score 1) 277

by michaelmalak (#48517207) Attached to: Which Programming Language Pays the Best? Probably Python
According to, actual (i.e. not reported) inflation over the past 25 years has averaged 8.4% annually. Now, take your current compensation and multiply it by 2.24. Do you expect to be earning that much in 10 years? OK, now take your current compensation and multiple it by 7.51. Do you expect to be earning that much in 25 years? Keep in mind there will be long droughts during recessions where your compensation will stagnate or even decline.

Comment: C language (Score 1) 277

by michaelmalak (#48516973) Attached to: Which Programming Language Pays the Best? Probably Python

Hey, in the 1980's, C was supposed to pay the best. What happened?

A more interesting metric would be how many languages and frameworks one must learn per year in order to maintain compensation in inflation-adjusted dollars, and then chart that over time. I suspect a) it would come out as an exponential and b) that this indicates our acceleration toward the singularity.