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Comment: Re:Physics violation (Score 1) 690

by mpeskett (#49013585) Attached to: Free-As-In-Beer Electricity In Greece?

Compare the following two questions:

"If the energy in a computer ends up as heat and information, and the energy in a heater just ends up as heat, isn't there some loss of energy in the process?"

"If the water in a waterfall all ends up at the bottom, and the water in a hydroelectric dam all ends up at the bottom, isn't there some loss of (gravitational potential) energy in the process?"

One dumps all the energy provided into some sort of ground state as quickly and wastefully as possible, the other carefully channels it to extract an additional benefit on the side. The analogy isn't perfect (for one thing, the water at the bottom of the waterfall will land with more energy than the water sent through a turbine, and make a hell of a noise in doing so), but I don't think there's anything thermodynamically wrong with the idea of siphoning off and redirecting some part of a flow of energy to drive a turbine or a calculation, and still have it ultimately all end up as heat.

Comment: Re:Were Hunter-gatherers doing better (Score 1) 92

by mpeskett (#48453579) Attached to: How "Big Ideas" Are Actually Hurting International Development
Agriculture developed independently in multiple places. In each case it would have involved former hunter-gatherers deciding to cultivate crops instead. Clearly there was something attractive about the idea or they wouldn't have bothered with it. Probably just something daft though, like having a stable source of food or being able to produce an excess to survive through a lean period, and allow some of the population to do something other than constantly hunt and gather... but who really needs that?

Comment: Re:As a private citizen (Score 2) 213

by mpeskett (#47893911) Attached to: Congress Can't Make Asteroid Mining Legal (But It's Trying, Anyway)

To look at it from the opposite end, if your country is abiding by their treaty obligations then they may feel compelled to make laws reflecting it, which you are then subject to. That is of course a pretty big "if" - if they've decided not to abide by it then it becomes a question of what consequences they're either willing to concede to or able to have forced upon them by whoever's on the other end of the treaty.

If your hypothetical asteroid miner were from a smaller country, one less able to dictate terms to the rest of the world, they might find themselves subject to rather more outside interference...

Comment: Re:AI is always (Score 1) 564

My point was just that "intelligence" can't be impossible to reproduce algorithmically, because physics is amenable to simulation and has given rise to intelligence.

If it can be produced by a mass of wet jelly sat between two ears, it can be produced by a computer running the right program. The challenge then is to unpick the puzzle of what that jelly is actually doing, and to do so sufficiently clearly to be able to specify that "right program".

Not saying it's easy; it's incredibly difficult. But possible in theory.

Comment: Re:AI is always (Score 1) 564

Current algorithms are not Artificial General Intelligence. What we have now are algorithms for domain-specific intelligences.

But in principle, physics can be simulated by an algorithm. Therefore a human brain can be modelled at the particle level and run in simulation. Therefore whatever a human brain is doing that produces intelligence (assuming for now that it does, in fact, produce intelligence) can, in principle, be reproduced by an algorithm, even if it has to treat the brain as a black-box to do so.

Consider that the brute-force approach to algorithmic intelligence. Obviously the real prize is to find the shortcut - abstract out only the necessary elements of what the brain does and express those as algorithms.

Comment: Re:Infinite Bank Account (Score 2) 385

I may be wrong, but I feel like you missed the point of the post above you... the "$20 trillion dollar bank account", I took to be an analogy for the world's fossil fuel reserves. Which, if we want to avert climate change, we probably have to take a significant fraction of and leave it in the ground.

All the focus is on reducing demand by reducing usage, and that would theoretically force fuels to be sold cheaper until the point where it's not economically viable to extract them. But it seems like an indirect approach compared to convincing a government that controls a lot of fuel reserves to just stop drilling them out and leave them buried.

But of course it's not really 'realistic' to expect them to do that - they're sitting on a bottomless well of wealth just begging to be dug up. It would make them uncompetitive to stop, it would mean other nations continue to profit while they sit on their hands, it would weaken their position of power on the world stage... it would help save the ecoystem of the planet, but clearly that's of no particular importance compared to wealth and power.

Comment: Re:Brain ZAP! (Score 2) 284

by mpeskett (#47396257) Attached to: Consciousness On-Off Switch Discovered Deep In Brain
If you spent most of your prison sentence unconscious, it would make any attempt at either punishment or rehabilitation impossible. Would still satisfy the "removing you from society" goal, and would still offer some deterrence (maybe not as much if prison was now closer to a null experience than an actively unpleasant one), but still... seems like defeating a large part of the point of imprisoning people

Comment: Re:I am using Windows 8 (Score 1) 516

by mpeskett (#47159833) Attached to: Microsoft Won't Bring Back the Start Menu Until 2015

I'm not certain where it fits into your analogies, but I'm using Windows 8 with Classic Shell and the only time I ever even see Metro is the rare occasion when my touchpad driver forgets that I disabled the "Edge swipe" gesture and that goofy little "Charm bar" sidebar pops up.

It boots to the Desktop mode, I have all the default full-screen Metro apps replaced with my own programs, it has the familiar old start menu and control panel and everything. For all intents and purposes, I don't need to know it's Win8. The one thing that hasn't quite gone back to the way it used to be is the network connect/disconnect dialog - that still opens up a full-height sidebar with the names of nearby wireless networks. But I can live with that.

Comment: Re:Bitcoin post = win (Score 1) 177

by mpeskett (#45741149) Attached to: The FBI's Giant Bitcoin Wallet

Or to borrow some actual slashdot headlines...

Formhault C has a huge bitcoin debris ring
Scientists print bitcoin
Police pull over more drivers for bitcoin tests
Apple pushes developers to bitcoin
NASA schedules space walks to fix bitcoin pumps
Bitcoin exchange value halves after... wait, I did this one wrong
Unreleased 1963 bitcoin on sale
Want to fight allergies? Get bitcoin

Dammit, it still works, I would read every single one of these.

Comment: Re:Can it be invalidated? (Score 1) 177

by mpeskett (#45741111) Attached to: The FBI's Giant Bitcoin Wallet

Ownership is established by knowing the private key for the wallet/address. The FBI gained that key --whether by keylogger, wiretap, plea bargain or $5 wrench is unclear-- and transferred all the funds to an address under their exclusive control.

So from the point of view of the bitcoin protocol, the FBI were the proper owners (they knew the key) and therefore weren't obstructed from making that transfer. Likewise they wouldn't be obstructed from further use of the address they control unless a majority of miners collaborated to refuse to include their transactions in blocks *and* refuse to mine on top of any chain that included such a transaction in a block mined by somone else.

Which would, strictly speaking, be a breach of protocol - you're supposed to always mine on top of the longest chain. But nonetheless possible if they patched the mining software to selectively ignore particular addresses. But that would seem like a bad precedent to set and a bad capability to build into the network.

Comment: Re:England (Score 1) 470

by mpeskett (#45563601) Attached to: EU Plastic Bag Debate Highlights a Wider Global Problem

How about we go back to cardboard boxes instead of the damned plastic packaging

Probably heavier and bulkier for the same amount of contents, so the trucks transporting goods to the store will carry less stuff (so there will be more trucks) and burn more fuel. Same with using glass bottles instead of plastic. With food, you also run the risk of increasing damage done to anything fragile, like fruit, if they're not fairly snug in their package - so bundling them loose into bigger boxes means more waste from the squashed/bruised ones.

There may well be better options for packaging; the way the world works now is set up to incentivise minimising cost rather than environmental impact, but some costs also have environmental impacts attached or correlated (fuel especially). It's not as simple as just "get rid of plastic".

Comment: Re:bbc? (Score 1) 429

by mpeskett (#45085801) Attached to: Fusion Reactor Breaks Even

If your "match" has to be fuelled by your "fire", then it's still a bit of an issue.

What they have is a pellet of fuel absorbing energy from a bunch of lasers, then emitting energy by fusion, and having the energy out higher than the energy in. The problem is that the lasers used more energy than was absorbed by the fuel, and the energy out can't be 100% efficiently collected into electricity generated.

It's not just a question of paying some high ignition energy then reaping self-sustaining free energy thereafter - without solving the problems, it isn't self-sustaining; you can't power the lasers from the output of the generator, not even close. Well, not yet. It's a milestone, just not an endpoint.

You are lost in the Swamps of Despair.