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Comment: Re:holy crap! (Score 1) 133 133

Hate to rain on your parade, but the mechanism you described (1,2,3) is called a feedback loop, and it's the most basic building block of robotics since forever. Every robotic system uses feedback in one form or another, even those ancient industrial giants doing the same thing over and over are constantly checking everything is in place and minimizing their position errors accordingly.

The nature of feedback is the ability to sense the unforeseen, and include it in the calculations for output. The robot is told what to do if it all goes right, and also what to do if the ball veers off course. The robot doesn't need to know the exact nature of the surface, the air-resistance or the balls weight. The same people that put the ball there tweaked the parameters until it's performance was good enough.

This is actually not very difficult to program in general, but like you said, each specific setup was probably very optimized, which is harder to do and results in a unique (and therefore, less useful) machine. Most of the work probably went into improving the sensors' sensitivities and motor, hardware and software performance, rather than developing machine-vision algorithms or complex AI.

Comment: Re:from TFA (Score 1) 921 921

You've got to be kidding. I'm sorry, but yes, resources are finite. There's no way to argue that.

Yes, resources are finite at any given time, but they're constantly growing, in case you haven't noticed. I don't mean the dwindling oil reserves, I mean that by the time we get to the bottom of the last oil well we'll already be tapping into new, much larger resources we might not even know of yet. Simply because we'd have to to survive. That's the way it's always been in the past and I don't think this generation will be the last one it holds true for, nor the next one or the one after that.

There's only so much arable land on this planet.

Yes, but how much of it just depends on how much effort you want to put into making it arable. The sands of the Sahara can become a fertile paradise if we take on the massive engineering challenge that is making it one. It will cost lots of money, energy and other resources, but if we have to, we'll do that as well.

There's only so much food you can get from an acre of farmland.

That's what Malthus said too, and since his time we've increased the amount of food we can get from an acre of farmland tenfold if not a hundered- or a thousand-fold. This statement is just false.

There's only so much energy available on this planet, most of it in fossil fuels.

Also false. As I said earlier, there's enough energy here - chemical, biological, mechanical, solar, nuclear and types we haven't heard of - to sustain the human race for millions of years to come. So far we've been picking the low-hanging fruit, but if we run out of those, we'll just have to invest some of that energy into opening new fields of vast energy to collect from. I believe you'd agree it's about time we started doing that, and look in the papers - surprise! We already are.

real estate is a limited resource on this planet and always will be.

Just like all your other suggested limitations, this one doesn't exist either. There is no shortage of living space on Earth. There's a tremendous shortage of living space inside cities because all of a sudden the entire rural population of Earth has decided they want to live in one. Guess what? That sort of massive flooding overwhelms cities and they become cramped. But look outside the most crowded cities and you'd see miles and miles of deserted countryside. We haven't really begun to efficiently use the amount of surface area we have, and most of it stands unused.

The only way to get more is to terraform a new planet

That time will come too. Luckily we have thousands of years before we need to.

As as for selfish bastards, who the fuck do you think you are to say that humans are more important than all the other lifeforms on this planet

Nice strawman. I never said this. I said animal extinction was caused by poverty, not overpopulation. I believe that if poverty was not an issue, we could double in population and still keep the ecological diversity in its place. Anyway, animal extinction is not exactly a resource per se, and so is only tangentially relevant to the discussion. I seems to me you only brought it up there to gain sympathy points, to which I have no sympathy. And if preferring living in peace with the animal world and still bringing more beautiful people into a world that can support them over sacrificing billions of real and potential human beings for dubious purposes makes me a selfish fuck, so be it.

Comment: Re:from TFA (Score 1) 921 921

For starters, haven't we discredited Malthusian economics yet? The notion that the human species lives on a finite amount of resources which will be exhausted once the population grows to a certain size has been introduced by many people throughout history and has been shown to be false each and every time. More people means more mouths to feed, but also more people to grow the food, at a better profit and with technology getting better all the time, with smaller land footprints. Not that we have a shortage of arable land, we just don't have enough people to cultivate each and every corner of the globe. Our planet is huge and mostly empty.

Secondly, regarding your main point, all these problems (AGW, deforestation etc.) are not caused by over-population as you suggest. These are caused instead by poverty. When people can't afford food they are desperate and will not listen to ivory-tower ecologists. If there's a forest nearby, they would raze it for a farm to grow food on; if there's an exotic animal nearby, they would kill it for food or for money. If we took poverty out of the equation, if everybody had all the money in the world (contradiction in terms, I know), we could solve all these in half an hour.

But the main thing I wanted to say is - [rant] You selfish bastard! Who the fuck do you think you are? Who are you (or me, or anyone) to decide who starves to death and who can survive, how many people are allowed on this planet, whose babies can be born and which should be aborted? It is obvious that the only reason you can say such a horrible thing (asking whether it's good or bad to have all these poor people alive on this planet) is because you're one of the fucking elite and have no idea what it's like to go to sleep on an empty stomach. Did you think of asking this question of one of the homeless people in your town, begging for his next meal?[/rant]

;) Don't take that last one personally, it was meant more as an emotional catharsis than a logical argument.

Comment: Re:from TFA (Score 2, Insightful) 921 921

We could easily feed the world if the industrial nations wouldn't insist on their daily hamburgers and steaks.

Though I agree that food production would be much more efficient and plentiful if the world turned vegetarian, it's important to note that the reason for world hunger is not shortage of food, but rather political reasons and general apathy. We could feed the world right now if we as a world put our mind to it without growing a single grain more than we do today.

Disclaimer - I'm a vegetarian, and I do believe that the more of us there are the better the food situation will be on our planet, I just don't kid myself that that's The Solution, or that everybody should eat like me.

Comment: Re:Overjustification effect (Score 1) 716 716

I believe all children share an innate intrinsic motivation towards learning (if you have children, I guess you see that all the time).

Schools all over the world seem to spend enormous amounts of effort killing that intrinsic motivation, then spend tons more effort to try and revive it again. Problem is, they can only produce extrinsic motivations (like in TFA) that disappear when the children leave school, leaving them with no desire to learn anything ever again.

It's like what I heard someone say about socialism and taxes on /. (not that I necessarily share this POV) - that when people aren't forced to, people like to give and help their less fortunate neighbors, but when they're forced to do that all intrinsic motivation disappears and everybody starts looking for a way out. Then you have to back the taxes by guns (extrinsic motivation) so people would pay. I imagine if you then remove the threat, nobody pays and the poor starve.

Same thing with kids and learning, I think.

Comment: Re:Placebo effect (Score 1) 621 621

Actually, I think that's a common misperception. The truth is the placibo effect, and other psychosomatic effects can be as real as any other. They may not be able to cure cancer, but they can help (or, in the case of adverse psychosomatic effects, cause damage) in objectively measurable ways.

The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance.