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Comment: The Problem (Score 1) 888

by mtrachtenberg (#46246473) Attached to: Star Trek Economics

One of the funniest moments in the Star Trek series came when they brought aboard a frozen 20th century businessman. The tragedy of the commons became all too real when the businessman discovered he could just touch the wall and demand to see the Captain.

Federation society was based on an ethic of getting along, not demanding everyone's attention for yourself. If that ethic exists in humanity, it is certainly not nurtured by the corporate capitalism that now controls the world's resources. Sadly, this may explain why we never hear from technologically advanced society's -- either they destroy themselves or they learn to hide.

Comment: Re:Stunning. (Score 1) 227

by mtrachtenberg (#46204575) Attached to: Snowden Used Software Scraper, Say NSA Officials

They tried to use an automated tool in developing healthcare.gov but were told it was classified. Someone argued, I think, but top management fired him. Automated tools are no way to get more direct reports, you know. And we need unemployment to go down, not up.

Did you know you can double your "lines of code" output with just a few keystrokes? Write for more info!

Comment: Re:Debate? (Score 2) 593

by mtrachtenberg (#46152095) Attached to: Watch Bill Nye and Ken Ham Clash Over Creationism Live

It will be a complete waste of time. Mr. Ham isn't there to change his opinion of anything.

It's not about convincing Ham. It's about exposing Ham's congregation to actual arguments. If fundie parents sit down and watch this with their kids, the kids might come away with a few new ideas. That's a good thing.

In America, at least, it has long seemed that watching a debate is more about choosing one's side and cheerleading on its behalf than about analyzing facts.

Facts can backfire and increase certainty in falsehoods -- http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/07/11/how_facts_backfire/

“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”

Comment: Virtual slave (Score 5, Funny) 664

by mtrachtenberg (#46141495) Attached to: Virtual Boss Keeps Workers On a Short Leash

In related news, I am pleased to announce my new "virtual slave" hardware, which intercepts communication from the "Virtual Boss" device to PHBServer and provides an excellent replacement stream of communication indicating you always participate in meetings, visit precisely three fellow employees for ten minutes each day, and never go to the bathroom. ("Virtual Slave eXtreme" will be available soon, with many customization options.)

Comment: Re:Japan needs their reactors restarted.. (Score 1) 222

by mtrachtenberg (#45907093) Attached to: Japan To Create a Nuclear Meltdown

I agree with xtal that one or the other of the "nuclear options" is not unlikely. But I doubt that nuclear in its existing implementation is a solution, in that the more existing-style plants there are, the more accidents there will be, the more public resistance there will be, and the more likely the plants will be permanently shut down.

What is needed, and I'm not saying it's about to happen, is to rearrange economies so that energy is priced at or higher than its real cost to the environment. I don't know how that happens in a democracy, so maybe China really will lead the way. For any jurisdiction to impose the extraordinarily high fuel taxes that this would require, it will have to become the common understanding in that jurisdiction that all of economics has been fatally wrong for at least fifty years, and that material growth is not a good thing for an economy if the economy happens to exist on a finite planet.

Comment: An Enemy of the People (Score 1) 796

by mtrachtenberg (#45847611) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Are the Books Everyone Should Read?

Ibsen's An Enemy of the People. Too many of us put too much faith in the media and in democracy, and Ibsen's masterwork is an accurate corrective. Newspapers engage in crusades as long as it doesn't hurt their bottom line. People will ignore facts that are inconvenient. Politicians will do what majorities ask for, even if it means trashing the truth. We live in the tobacco company era and are still ignoring the global science community's warnings about climate change -- unless enough of us learn to think for ourselves, our prospects are not good.

Never appeal to a man's "better nature." He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage. -- Lazarus Long

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