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Comment: Re:Well, uh, yes actually (Score 1) 435

by JMZero (#47477489) Attached to: FBI Concerned About Criminals Using Driverless Cars

If you've got a gun in a crowd, you don't really need to aim much to hit a lot of people. The tape part was facetious, but not that facetious - the system wouldn't need to be complex at all.

And no, aiming is not really that hard (unless you have a long range, or high precision requirements). Lots of non-genius hobbyists have made systems that identify short range moving targets, point at them and shoot (look on YouTube). It's a "science fair" level project that I could have done (with current tech, anway) in high school. If you actually had someone experienced in machine vision and robotics, you could identify specific people and shoot off their index fingers from 200 meters, but you wouldn't need any special expertise to just shoot some dudes.

And being on a quadcopter actually makes it easier, as you don't have to kludge together a bunch of motors/servos (like the people fooling around with paintball guns on YouTube): you can use the quadcopters movement (the hard parts of which are a solved problem from your perspective) to target primarily by translation. Simply put, you just move left until "that moving thing" is in the middle of your field of vision. And, within 10 or 20 feet, as long as your gun is pointing basically the same direction as your camera, you're done. You probably hit a good percentage of the time.

Now it's quite possible you wouldn't get many shots off with each drone (though I think you would, as long as you put any thought into your gun mount and cartridge management) - but if you had even a modest budget you could make up for that with numbers. Again, it's a high damage, "high terror" attack with modest budget requirements, modest expertise requirements, and low personal commitment.

(The reality is that there's lots of attacks like this that you could cobble together if you were smart - this isn't a new thing with drones. But drones do give you options that are particularly problematic to defend against).

Comment: Re:Well, uh, yes actually (Score 1) 435

by JMZero (#47469457) Attached to: FBI Concerned About Criminals Using Driverless Cars

I'm a programmer who has worked on machine vision systems - so, yes I know how to do it, and yes it'd be easy. Sure, sometimes you'd get one of your drones emptying ammo into a floating plastic bag or something - but odds are you'd kill a lot of people too. Lots of non-genius amateurs have done this exact thing in their backyard, to shoot squirrels with paintball guns or whatever. It's easy. And, again, it doesn't matter if some of your drones fail to kill people.

I don't know what you mean by "jam" an automated drone. What, you going to EMP it? Or blind them lasers. That requires absurd precision, and has easy counter measures (eg, a narrow field of view, optically enforced by a tube, or more than one camera, or just a drone that moves fast/eratically and spins, or that isn't really stupid).

Summary: these would be easy to make, and hard to defend against. Really.

Comment: Well, uh, yes actually (Score 4, Interesting) 435

by JMZero (#47468035) Attached to: FBI Concerned About Criminals Using Driverless Cars

The future has a bunch of scary possibilities.

At some point, someone's going to figure out that if they tape a gun to a quadcopter, it becomes a very effective way to kill people - especially if you can afford 50 of them and can do some basic automation (ie. float to these GPS coords, then shoot anything that moves). Defense against this kind of threat is problematic.

And yeah, a driverless car would be a good base to build some effective weapons on. You're going to get "drive here" for free. "Keep driving a bit, then blow up" is pretty easy to add on to that. And it requires very little personal commitment to be effective, assuming you're competent in dealing with the software.

Comment: Re:It's not the infringement that's the issue (Score 1) 59

by JMZero (#47329539) Attached to: Intuit Beats SSL Patent Troll That Defeated Newegg

Yeah certainly. I don't necessarily think they need a new or different test, just to be more rigorous; if they could filter out "obvious" consistently I think that would pretty much solve things (especially if terms were also shorter).

But in practice, there seems to be a lot of bad ones get through - and perhaps more sweeping reform is the only way to fix it.

Comment: Re:It's not the infringement that's the issue (Score 2) 59

by JMZero (#47325531) Attached to: Intuit Beats SSL Patent Troll That Defeated Newegg

I agree with you in principle (and I think it's silly you got marked troll). To me the test for a patent's validity should be vaguely: assuming you wanted to do X, would a skilled person with access to relevant area knowledge quickly or obviously come up with solution Y. In the cases you've listed, I think the answer is "no" - and those smell like valid, patentable ideas (though I couldn't actually judge without knowing the landscape and what was common knowledge/technique at the times of invention). However, in many software patent cases, I feel like the patent is being awarded, essentially, for "doing X" in an obvious way (simply because X hasn't been done or done often).

I also think patent duration should be shorter across the board. Things can spin up faster than they used to; 20 years is an eternity when we're talking about technology or software - on balance, I think we'd be better served by much shorter durations.

Comment: Re:Disruptive technology (Score 1) 507

by JMZero (#47213199) Attached to: Uber Demonstrations Snarl Traffic In London, Madrid, Berlin

Taxi licenses/medallions aren't really about any of that - they're about limiting the number of taxis. After that, it's just supply and demand as medallions are resold.

For an example of how crazy this gets:

So the reasonable complaint here would be something like "there'll be too many taxis if their numbers aren't capped somehow" or "the competition here is completely unfair". Insurance (and associated regulation) would mostly be a separate matter, and have very little to do with that $200,000.

Comment: Re:Isn't that the only way to beat it? (Score 2) 309

by JMZero (#47204289) Attached to: Was Turing Test Legitimately Beaten, Or Just Cleverly Tricked?

A legitimately intelligent computer wouldn't have to do much tricking. It'd have to lie, sure, if it was asked "are you a computer?" - but it could demonstrate its intelligence and basic world understanding without resorting to obfuscation, filibustering, and confusion. Those are "tricks".

By contrast, building a system that can associate information in ways that result in reasonable answers (eg. Darwin), is not so much a "clever trick" as a reasonable step in building an intelligent agent. Both are clever, but hardly in the same way.

Comment: Imagine a similar test for a prosthetic leg.. (Score 1) 309

by JMZero (#47204229) Attached to: Was Turing Test Legitimately Beaten, Or Just Cleverly Tricked?

Maybe you design an obstacle course that required the leg to function in a range of everyday scenarios, that tests its endurance, comfort, and flexibility.

These chat bots would be the equivalent of calling a helicopter a "prosthetic leg" and flying over the course.

In both cases, they're avoiding the meat of the challenge. Yes, arriving at the finish line is the goal, but it's how you got there that is the interesting part. That's not to say these are useless projects - they're fun, and there's some legitimately interesting stuff there. But it'll be a very different beast that truly passes the Turing Test.

Comment: Re:That's annoying! (Score 1) 427

by JMZero (#46954357) Attached to: In SF: an App For Auctioning Off Your Public Parking Spot

Can you describe a lot that simultaneously has sufficient parking but also commands a price in the $100 for a free space? What would that look like? I'm assuming by "sufficient parking" you mean "full but with a reasonable amount of turnover."

My work would be a place like this. Lots of work places rely on public/street parking, and often there's about as much public parking available as there is people who work there. At my work, you'd need to bring in maybe 5 cars to upset the balance - but I'm sure there's other places you could do with less. They probably wouldn't be able to charge $100 (there's a grocery store maybe 500m away you could park at in a pinch), but even if it was only $20, that could certainly be worthwhile for the seller for a few minutes work.

. Although when parking is measured in the hundreds of spaces,

Yeah - I agree it probably wouldn't be a big problem for dedicated lots; I think you'd want to target smaller niches, like city commercial blocks that rely on street parking. And again, to monetize you'd probably want to hit the business owners rather than individual parkers (who likely would just choose to shop/eat elsewhere).

And you'd need some organization. But I think that kind of organization would come together quickly if people managed to make money with an app like this.

Comment: Re:That's annoying! (Score 1) 427

by JMZero (#46953113) Attached to: In SF: an App For Auctioning Off Your Public Parking Spot

2) Any place where the "scalper" price is high is likely to be chronically full. That is, in general, you should expect to be unable to find parking during busy times at those locations. That means that if we ban this practice, more often than not, the people who you describe as desperately needing those spaces won't get them at all.

I don't see any reason this would need to be true. There's lots of places where public parking is sufficient for normal use, but would still be great places to extract a little money (your expected price would mostly vary with the quality of alternatives). You could create parking problems wherever you wanted - heck, you could just go from business to business, ransoming the close public parking with your 20 vehicles.

Would you also think that's similarly benign arbitrage?

Me? I think you'd get a fine under some generic nuisance law (which seems about right to me).

Comment: Try TopCoder (Score 1) 172

by JMZero (#46935611) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Beginner To Intermediate Programming Projects?

Specifically, try doing past algorithm competitions - probably starting with their High School level competitions (that may sound insulting, but there's some very good programmers in that division). Once you've done some TopCoder, the data manipulations and calculations you do in "normal" programming will seem really easy. And they always post good solution explanations (or you can look at other people's solutions) to get you started.

Algorithm work like this isn't the end and and be all of programming, but getting good at it will make you better at everything else you do - and you'll understand algorithms at a much deeper level once you've used them hands on at your own prompting (rather than using Dijkstra at the end of the chapter on Dijkstra). You'll also be directly prepared to implement the algorithms you need for games, physics simulations, efficient data processing, and all sorts of "heavy lifting" programming work that many experienced programmers fail at.

Comment: Re:Economic reasons (Score 1) 384

by JMZero (#46873369) Attached to: How Concrete Contributed To the Downfall of the Roman Empire

You're right, at least in a way. At some point, other money has to enter in order for a valuation to make sense. In practice, this happens a few ways: a company starts paying out profits as dividends, it can use profits to buy back shares (which effectively works a lot like a dividend - a transfer of money from the company to its owners), or a company can stop being publicly traded (by being liquidated, sold, or re-privatized).

If a company doesn't do any of these, and never will, there'd be little reason to own their stock (not zero - there's still control and prestige and other marginal benefits - but nothing substantial). That said, it's perfectly reasonable to buy a company that's not currently doing any of these things - as long as there's an expectation that they'll do so later.

If a company is profitable, and they're plowing money back into effective growth (ie. making more money) that is often better for the investors than just paying the money out now. Apple would not be making billions now if it had not re-invested the millions it made in the past. (And now that it has billions of cash and can't effectively spend it all on growth, it's doing more dividends/buybacks).

Of course in reality, a company's valuation is not always terribly rational and things are often definitely overvalued. But in principle the market makes sense and is not a zero sum game. If nothing else, for those who don't trust "growth stock" valuation, there's certainly stocks that do still operate on a "pay out about 7% dividend, year after year, sort of basis".

Mr. Cole's Axiom: The sum of the intelligence on the planet is a constant; the population is growing.