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Comment: Re:Wait... (Score 1) 211

by nathan s (#49588917) Attached to: Yes, You Can Blame Your Pointy-Haired Boss On the Peter Principle

I haven't read the book, but I was under the impression that the theory was that higher executives see someone being, say, a great programmer, and assume they'll be a great manager over other programmers as a result. So they promote the programmer, and this happens up the chain until eventually the person is promoted exactly one tier higher than their actual capability.

That said, it seems like the easy solution would be to down-promote this person one final time after reviewing their performance and then you'd have an organization where everyone was running optimally, but that presumes that the highest-tier managers/executives are actually competent too.;)

Comment: Re:Forward thinking... (Score 1) 289

by nathan s (#49520841) Attached to: Robot Workers' Real Draw: Reducing Dependence on Human Workers

It's kind of buried above, but this is actually an important question looking, say, a hundred years into the future.

The problem is that there are two answers to this question. First, it could end up that the "history proves there are new jobs with new tech" people are right, and we end up with a glut of entirely new jobs that we're having trouble imagining right now. (I don't believe actual evidence supports this happening, not yet anyway.)

The second answer is more problematic (and I believe more likely). People who are currently wealthy are the same people who end up owning most of the new robot/AI technology. It is critically important to realize that even design and creative jobs are not immune to automation, so these people will end up with: all the land, all the natural resources, all the manufacturing faciliities, and all the robotic workers and AI designers. In other words, they won't need anyone to buy anything because they won't have any use for money - they can just directly convert physical natural resources into whatever they want with a minimum of other humans involved.

In the second scenario, there's really no need to care about people buying things, or really whether or not they starve en masse for that matter.

Comment: Re:Liberal Arts education is valuable. (Score 1) 397

by nathan s (#49396085) Attached to: Why America's Obsession With STEM Education Is Dangerous

The issue isn't that there isn't enough busywork that we can hand everyone to keep them busy if we really wanted to.The issue is that the value of that work is decreasing to next to nothing, because 1) the truly essential jobs are filled, stagnant, and increasingly automated, and 2) the non-essential jobs are as vulnerable to automation and AI as the essential jobs (there are burger-making robots now, and no, creative jobs aren't immune to this).

As a result, our resource distribution models mean that resources (money, if you like) are not going to be distributed in such a way that will guarantee people a means of living if they perform these non-essential jobs, because 1) the competition for those jobs is going to be ever-increasing, and 2) the value of them is going to drop because of human AND machine competition.

It's pretty simple to see, if you're willing to see it.Sure, there'll always be plenty of work for everyone willing to work for nothing or close to it, but we already have trouble as a society paying researchers or musicians as it is, and your "supportive" jobs are increasingly untenable as career paths outside of fairly specific geographic areas unless you're willing to live from paycheck to paycheck perpetually. Even some of your "essential" jobs are done on a largely volunteer basis in communities outside major cities (69% of firemen in the US are volunteers, not paid, for example).

Hence my initial conclusion:

...it's highly unlikely that there will ever be "enough" jobs again, so we need to consider what to do with people who just don't really cut it in terms of productivity and how we want to treat them as a society.

Comment: Re:Liberal Arts education is valuable. (Score 2) 397

by nathan s (#49380643) Attached to: Why America's Obsession With STEM Education Is Dangerous

I partially agree with you, but I'd point out that you often need a fine arts degree ("Illustrator" or "Graphics designer" typically being concentrations pursued in the course of such a degree) in order to be considered qualified to teach it. You're correct that it probably doesn't help you in terms of selling artwork, but it is essential if you're looking for a job in that field.

As for sociology, if you want a master's degree or PhD in sociology, an undergraduate sociology degree is a much more direct path to such a program than a degree in psychology or anything else, and there is a significant body of literature that a graduate-level sociology student will be expected to be familiar with that most likely s/he will not be exposed to in other disciplines.

I guess my point is that the value of a particular degree is highly dependent on what you actually intend to do with it - if you aren't intending to work in a specific field where you know (by actually looking at job listings) that your specific degree is required (or is a step along one of the direct routes there), there's no reason to get it. And in general, if you are intending to pursue an entrepreneurial path, then any degree at all is mostly useless. Clients and customers care more about feedback from other people who've handed you money before than they do about your educational pedigree.

And really, the whole conversation feels a little silly considering that the evidence is mounting that the value of human labor as a whole is on a downtrend that is unlikely to recover, both in terms of population pressures and automation/AI pressures. My advice to my friends and their children, speaking as someone with a master's degree from a global top-ten university, is that it's only really worthwhile in two cases: 1) if you can get it for free or very near it (scholarships, rich family, etc.), or 2) you're one of those unusually driven people who knows exactly what you want to do with your life and will sacrifice anything, including creature comforts, to get it (since you'll be paying off student loans for years, particularly if what you're driven to do isn't high-paying). I strongly believe that the obsession with educational choices, millennials and their work habits, etc. are all primarily side effects of America's refusal to recognize that the future of work looks pretty bleak and that we need to rethink the means by which basic resources are provided - it's highly unlikely that there will ever be "enough" jobs again, so we need to consider what to do with people who just don't really cut it in terms of productivity and how we want to treat them as a society.

Comment: Re:Fake, not practical (Score 1) 40

by nathan s (#49315355) Attached to: Magic Leap's AR Demo Video

I'm reasonably sure that the gun isn't supposed to be "AR." I'd say it's an actual prop that their AR system is presumably "recognizing" and generating specs on, like other systems we've seen that use game-specific props for AR through cell phone cameras or whatever. That said, who knows how much of the rest is "real" - without some way that the entire room is part of the AR system, there's no way it should know to avoid rendering the lower part of the robots behind that divider...that's the obvious big question mark.

Comment: Re:Comments are predictable... (Score 1) 148

by nathan s (#49134193) Attached to: Artificial Intelligence Bests Humans At Classic Arcade Games

Obviously. The learning is the "something that was previously only our domain," not the playing, which is precisely what people are reacting so defensively to, and what I find funny.

Once AIs using ANN or whatever the ultimate technologies end up being can actually learn at a human level, it'll be "meh, wake me when it can appreciate a sunrise" or "Yeah, but a computer still can't fall in love!" My point is just that we move the bar in order to preserve our collective sense of being special snowflakes.

Comment: Re:BASICally my reply is... (Score 5, Insightful) 259

by nathan s (#48990115) Attached to: Washington May Count CS As Foreign Language For College Admission

This. I love coding and languages both, but they aren't even remotely the same. I think learning actual languages does two things that coding doesn't: it gets you to speak to real people (hopefully, if you're doing it right) and it helps you learn a little bit about another culture. Practicing your ability to deal with differences and similarities and maybe even to empathize with other people is a really important life skill that you aren't going to get at all from coding.

Plus, even from a business perspective, it seems to me that in general people who can talk to people end up making more money than people who only know how to talk to machines.

Comment: Re:It depends mostly on the child(ren) (Score 1) 700

by nathan s (#48976363) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Pros and Cons of Homeschooling?

As someone who was homeschooled off and on (and finished the last ~5-6 years being homeschooled and working part-time), I agree that the answer is "it depends" - this can't be overstated. It works for some kids and not for others, and probably some parents and not for others. I was perfectly happy to have my nose buried in books most of the time and I liked learning new stuff so it worked pretty well for me (and the part-time job in my parents' store gave me plenty of interaction with people of all ages, ethnicities, even languages). My brother, on the other hand, hated doing schoolwork and my parents struggled with him a lot just to get him to do the basics and I think he would have been better off in a more structured environment, realistically - plus, I think he really craved much more interaction with kids his own age than I did, so it was a lot harder on him to be at home and/or primarily around adults all the time.

So agreeing with the parent, the summary question is really strongly dependent on the actual people and kids involved. It probably wouldn't hurt to try out both options. Ultimately, whatever is making the kid happiest and encouraging him/her to learn the most is what's ideal, and I'm not certain that you can make that judgement without having tried both courses.

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