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Comment: Re:Designer babies (Score 1) 153

When you look at communism, you can just look at the result (failed economies, empty shelves) to see how bad an idea it was.

When we look at the arguments against eugenics, they are always about how it was done, not about any results. People were sterilized or killed based on some perceived abnormality or inferiority, it was extremely crude and inhuman, I completely agree. But all those arguments disappear if we do things in a more modern way while respecting human dignity, using today's technology. Unlike communism, where it's hard to imagine a method that might actually work.

If you understand anything about evolution, it is quite clear that the human genome will tend to degenerate thanks to the comfort of modern civilisation. I'm not talking about things like intelligence (because apparently that's one area where evolution is sill alive and kicking, intelligent people being more attractive contrary to what has often been feared), but look at our senses (sight, smell, hearing), physical strength and endurance, resistance to diseases, etcetera. Our genome gets bombarded with random changes all the time, and natural selection isn't weeding out the bad changes (which are the vast majority of all mutations). We do all we can to help people overcome their defects, lead a normal life, and reproduce. Which is great, but it does mean that in the long term we will need some other mechanism to replace natural evolution. Because evolution is not just necessary to evolve a better lifeform, it's also necessary to keep it from degenerating.

Moles evolved from some kind of rat that probably had very good eyes, yet after thousands of generations moles are as good as blind because nearly blind moles have exactly the same chance of reproducing as moles with better eyes. The same is happening to us. Old-style eugenics would simply say "ok, let's sterilize all people with bad eyes, then". Today we can just say "hey, we found the cause of your bad eyesight, it's a mutation in this gene, and we can make sure your children don't inherit it". Or even replace the bad genes with a better version. What's wrong with that?

If we don't do this at some point, we will constantly need to improve all our medical techniques to fix all the defects people have been inheriting. Babies will hardly ever be born without needing immediate medical attention after birth, because we can't allow mother nature to kill the bad genes.

Wouldn't it be better to just start the next phase of evolution by taking things into our own hands? Natural selection, which is cruel and indiscriminate, has all but disappeared for us, and that's a good thing because we can do much better than that now. But we'll have to actually do that some time.

Comment: Re:@medv4380 - Re:Designer babies (Score 1) 153

So what? Look at how many different kinds of dogs there are, and that's even without genetic manipulation. Why not have the same diversity in humans? Some with eagle eyes (from the genome of actual eagles), some with different colors (hell, we've got that already to some degree), why do all humans have to look like "God created them"?

OK, we may have to set up some rules to keep things from getting ridiculous, but I don't agree with this fear of "oh, my god, we must not mess with the Lord's creation!". There's plenty of opportunities for improvement in the human genome.

Comment: Re:Pilots crash planes (Score 5, Insightful) 73

by michelcolman (#46793869) Attached to: DARPA Developing the Ultimate Auto-Pilot Software

This is one of the most often repeated misunderstandings in aviation: the vast majority of crashes is caused by pilots, so we should replace them with automation since that's much more reliable. Errr... no, not by a long shot.

The vast majority of crashes is due to pilot error because the vast majority of possible crashes due to equipment failures are prevented by the pilots. I am a pilot, have never been in a crash, but have had several autopilot and other failures where, if we had not intervened, the aircraft would have crashed. But of course, all those possible crashes due to equipment failures don't make it into the statistics because no actual crash occurred. It's merely a note in the company's safety magazine for crews (along with dozens of others each month). So when an aircraft does crash (even if it's due to equipment failure), it's usually still considered the pilots' fault, and correctly so, because they should have been able to prevent it.

Take the Turkish Airlines that crashed in Amsterdam. Due to a radio altimeter failure during an automatic approach, the aircraft thought it was directly above the runway and pulled the throttles back, while in fact it was still several hundred feet above the ground. Most crews would have seen the speed decreasing (and indeed, this kind of incident had happened many times before to other crews without causing a crash) but this crew reacted much too late and "caused" the airplane to crash.

Or take the Air France that crashed after the pitot tubes froze up. The automation actually failed so the pilots had to take over. Without pilots, the airplane would have crashed anyway. And here, too, this kind of incident had already happened to other crews multiple times, but each time the crew had handled the situation correctly (even though it was not something that was trained in the simulator or accurately described in the procedures). This time the crew did not handle it correctly, in part because they were confused by conflicting warning messages from the airplane's systems telling them the plane was overspeeding and stalling at the same time. They even got aural warnings when they started to, temporarily, apply the exact correction they needed to meke. The automation was not helping them, but actually working against them and telling them they were wrong when they were, in fact, right.

If you want to have an idea of how reliable automation is, just look at the number of military drones that have crashed so far. Their mission couldn't be simpler: take off, fly over some area, come back and land. They only fly in relatively nice weather, there are vaslty less drones than passenger aircraft, yet there are many more drone crashes than passenger aircraft crashes.

It's certainly a good thing that Darpa is trying to make aircraft automation more reliable, but right now pilots are still by far the most important asset for the safety of an airplane.

Comment: Re:I can't use cloudflare, connection is insecure (Score 1) 151

by michelcolman (#46741325) Attached to: Private Keys Stolen Within Hours From Heartbleed OpenSSL Site

In Safari on my Mac, I got a warning saying the security certificate could not be verified, and I could choose to simply continue. So then I got the text saying I shouldn't be able to see that site. Shouldn't the browser have actually said the security certificate had been revoked?

Comment: Re:People need to start with the scale (Score 1) 392

by michelcolman (#46663639) Attached to: How Many People Does It Take To Colonize Another Star System?

The fastest spacecraft we built never got anywhere close to light speed. If we can somehow figure out how to get to those speeds, the univers will shrink through Lorentz contraction and, in theory, it's perfectly possible to get to another galaxy in a few hundred years. Years measured on board, that is. Of course for earth many thousands (or millions) of years will have passed.

Comment: Re:Computable? Simulatable? (Score 1) 199

by michelcolman (#46663113) Attached to: P vs. NP Problem Linked To the Quantum Nature of the Universe

They'll just restart it from a recent backup and we'll never even know it happened. If you were to start your life again yesterday, without remembering anything from yesterday or today, the whole world including your mind restored exactly to the state it was in yesterday, then time would appear uninterrupted. So if you keep trying to generate bus errors which keep getting fixed with a reboot/restore, it will appear that none of the experiments worked and you might conclude that the universe is not a simulation. In fact, there's no way these bus error experiments would ever result in anyone concluding it is a simulation.

Center meeting at 4pm in 2C-543.