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Comment: Specs never really mattered (Score 2) 135

by nine-times (#47973057) Attached to: Do Specs Matter Anymore For the Average Smartphone User?

I think sometimes people fail to recognize that the specs never really mattered. Not for any of it.

Does it matter what resolution the screen is? No. It matters whether the screen appears to be sharp. Does it matter how much RAM you have, or how fast the clock speed is on your processor? No, it matters whether applications are responsive. What really matters to people is the qualitative experience of using the object.

Specs and benchmarks are ways that you might try to quantify that experience. For the sharpness of the display, you can give the screen resolution and that can serve as an indication of the sharpness. For the speed of the device, you could measure how long it takes to complete a specific task, and that benchmark serves as an indicator of the speed. Those indicators may be more or less helpful. Some of these indicators (clock speed of the processor, megapixels of the camera) are often not that helpful anymore. But either way, they're just pieces of information that are helpful for shopping, for turning the qualitative aspects into quantities that make it easier to perform a direct comparison between products, and that's the only reason they're meaningful.

But a lot of the time, people lose sight of that. Especially when they have an agenda, and want to say, "my gadget is fancier than your gadget because it has more sneezelflopits." It doesn't matter what a sneezelflopit is, or whether it serves any purpose.

Comment: Re:Interest != a position (Score 1) 122

by nine-times (#47972957) Attached to: Nobody's Neutral In Net Neutrality Debate

I explicitly said I have and do participate in debates in where I don't care about the eventual outcome.

Geeze, I'm getting really tired of explaining this to people who obviously just haven't bothered to think. You do care. Obviously you do, or you wouldn't bother. The debate might be between A and B, and maybe you don't care about A or B, but the outcome of real debates (contrary to what they teach you when you're a little kid) is not the choice between A and B. If you want the debate to be fair, or you want the debate to be interesting, or you want to avoid a certain kind of outcome to the debate, then you care about the outcome.

And true neutrality would mean that you don't have *any* agenda and you aren't exerting *any* influence. If you're participating, you are doing those things. I'm guessing you're a guy who's maybe a math guy, to think about it like this: You have two force vectors pushing in opposite directions on the same object. A "neutral" party to the situation would be one sitting idly by, watching, having no effect on the outcome. You think you're being that "neutral" party when you engage in debates when you "don't care about the outcome". But in reality, you might be a 3rd vector pushing along another dimension. You're not pushing one way or another, but you're pushing to the side, moving the object in a completely different direction. Or maybe you're pushing straight down, and instead of moving the object, you're increasing the friction along the ground, making it harder for either of the other forces to cause the object to move.

When you look at it that way, you're not neutral. You're just another force in the system. Your mistake is in thinking that "debates" are ever a simple one-dimensional binary question of "either A or B", and so if you don't care about A or B, you're neutral. But those debates only exist in the mind of extremely small-minded people who fail to see the other dimensions to the problem.

I don't think I'm going to bother to respond anymore, unless you actually have something to offer.

Comment: Re:Why did he lose tenure? (Score 1) 115

by nine-times (#47972325) Attached to: Anonymous Peer-review Comments May Spark Legal Battle
That was my thought. I don't know anything about this case, but if you get fired from your job because an anonymous nutjob posts some unfounded criticisms of your work, then your boss (or whoever had you fired) is to blame. If there's a connection, I'd sooner guess that he was fired because some influential people at his school didn't like him, and the comments were posted by one of those people.

Comment: Re:Android sells one and Half Billion every day (Score 5, Funny) 180

by nine-times (#47969061) Attached to: Apple Sells More Than 10 Million New iPhones In First 3 Days

We're what, 9 billion people on this Earth and closest part of space and you want us to belive that 1 billion Android devices are sold every day?

Actually it's more like 7 billion (I think 6.9?) people on Earth, and he's saying that 1.5 billion Android phones are sold every day. I had no idea, but that's pretty impressive.

Comment: Re:You can debate without taking a side (Score 1) 122

by nine-times (#47968441) Attached to: Nobody's Neutral In Net Neutrality Debate

Unless what you are interested in is something other than the sides of the debate, in which case, you may be neutral to the sides of the debate

And to repeat, "Ah, I see, you're thinking of some kind of high-school debate format..." Which is nice and all, but not terrifically helpful. Debates and arguments in the real world aren't so easily broken down into two sides. Like if I said, "Let's debate the following idea: America should go to war with other countries. Either you're in favor of this idea, meaning you want America to always go to war with all countries, or you're against, and believe that America should never go to war with any other country under any circumstances." That's a great little nice dumb false dichotomy.

Now you probably don't agree with either side, but you probably also aren't actually neutral. You have an opinion. You have a position. If opinion doesn't fall neatly into the false dichotomy as presented, that doesn't mean you're neutral.

I think what's unimaginative is, you seem to think that opinions fall on a neat, nice little spectrum, and being "neutral" is falling dead in the center between two endpoints on the spectrum. The reality is that, if you're involved in the debate and you care about the income, then you've got something at stake. All kinds of people have different things at stake. Not everyone in favor of net neutrality have the same interests, and neither do all those who oppose it. People will be in-favor or against for different reasons and to different degrees, with different degrees of passion. There will be those who are undecided, or people who are in favor of some other solution, some "middle road" solution. They may be passionately in favor of a "middle road solution", or even passionately "undecided", feeling that there are just too many complex factors to make a real decision right now. Those passionate positions are not "neutral".

What's more, you could be arguing in favor or against, not because you genuinely believe in either side, but because you want to sound smart, or because you have some other agenda you're interested in pushing. Those people aren't neutral, but the people who refuse to alignment themselves with one side or the other, for those same reasons, are equally not-neutral. They've taken position in the argument, and may be just as hard to sway from their position.

If it helps, how about a metaphor: Each of the two "sides" of the argument are like a team playing tug-of-war. One side pulls in one direction, one side pulls in another. You're saying that their are "neutral" people in between, because they're sitting in the middle, holding onto the rope, but not pulling in either direction. My point is, if they're holding on tightly, then they're not neutral. They're still having an effect on the game by adding inertia to the system, making it harder for either side to win. The only way to be truly neutral would be to let go of the rope.

Comment: Re:You can debate without taking a side (Score 1) 122

by nine-times (#47966769) Attached to: Nobody's Neutral In Net Neutrality Debate

Ah, I see, you're thinking of some kind of high-school debate format, where I take the pro- position and you take the against- position, and we have a formal silly little discussion that gets graded by an English teacher, or some nonsense. That's not what I'm talking about. In fact, my point in my original post was partially to point out how silly it is to approach an argument/debate that way.

There's no such thing as being truly neutral without being indifferent and disinterested. If you are not disinterested, then you must have some aspect of the debate which interests you and which you care about. Everyone who cares is going to have specific points of the debate that they care about, and reasons why they care about those things. That doesn't necessarily mean that they have a strong binary position on the issue that's being discussed, either 'yes' or 'no'. The fact that someone has some kind of interest in the debate is not a good reason to dismiss their arguments as biased, since if they had no interest, they wouldn't participate.

A position in an argument may be subtle, complex, conflicted, ambivalent, and altruistic. That's still a position.

Comment: Re:Yes you can be neutral (Score 1) 122

by nine-times (#47966639) Attached to: Nobody's Neutral In Net Neutrality Debate

To give a rather silly example I genuinely do not care one way or the other about the relative merits of emacs versus vi. I understand the arguments and can articulate them if someone seems to misunderstand something but I genuinely do not care about either side of that debate

So then you won't participate in a debate, because you don't care at all.

Like ask me whether I think the best college football team is, and I'll tell you, I don't care. I just don't. If you say it's the University of Alabama, I'll say, "Yeah, sure. Whatever." I don't care. If I engage, it's because I care and have some kind of position.

(Actually my opinion is something along the lines of "a pox on both your houses")

Ok, so that's still a position. If there's a debate between emacs and vi, and I say, "I don't like either," that's a definite position, even if it's neither pro-vi nor pro-emacs. If I bother to argue that position, then it must mean that I have some interest, I have something at stake in the argument, even if it's not really about emacs or vi. In fact, when people argue about things, it's very common for them to not-really be arguing about the thing that they're officially arguing about.

Comment: Re:The article is more extreme than the summary (Score 1) 659

by nine-times (#47966191) Attached to: How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

Absolutely not. Science is indeed in pursuit of Truth.

It's not. It's a process for developing improved models our material world. "Truth" is a much broader field.

This is completely incorrect. A core goal of science is to understand the cause of things by developing abstracted understandings of them (i.e. theories).

Not necessarily the "ultimate cause", though, depending on what you mean by that. I mean, I don't necessarily know what the original author means, but I could make some guesses. At least one of those guesses would basically amount to "God". But regardless of that question of "what exactly does he mean?" it's true that science inquires into some kinds of causes, but perhaps not others. Just to give a completely weird example, proper science wouldn't begin to tell us why Brutus participated in the assassination of Caesar. You could use science to try to model psychology to determine reasons why people betray their friends, but there's no scientific experiment to determine a historical or fictional character's motivation.

All this just to say, there are different kinds of causes.

Comment: Re:I've been saying the same thing for a while now (Score 1) 659

by nine-times (#47966037) Attached to: How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

I agree with you somewhat, but on the other hand, there's a real problem with "basing words on usage" without clarifying what each usage is, and which one you're using. People confuse concepts quite a lot because they use the same word for multiple concepts, without ever understanding that's what they were doing.

So if you want to say, the word "science" has multiple definitions, including these 4 (listed above), I have no problem with that. But keep them straight. When you use the word, be clear about which meaning you're using. Because according to those definitions, I could say any of the following: I think science is the most important development of the past few hundred years. I think science is often quite stupid. Science constantly brings people to incorrect conclusions. Science is unreliable. Science is in terrible shape these days, and doesn't really work. Science is essentially a religion to most people.

I can say all of those things honestly, and you don't actually know what I mean well enough to argue. Which sense of "science" do I mean, and what do I then mean by each statement? The result of such muddled language is that people go around either thinking that science (in all 4 senses you list) is either stupid and unreliable, or completely infallible-- so much so that I'm probably going to get flamed for a lot of those statements, even though the people responding won't understand what they mean.

So sure, we can go with words having a bunch of unclear definitions that nobody knows what they mean. I keep trying to clarify the situation, but I know there are a lot of people who will resent that effort for a lot of different reasons.

Comment: Re:You can debate without taking a side (Score 1) 122

by nine-times (#47965861) Attached to: Nobody's Neutral In Net Neutrality Debate

Usually I do this to point out that there is another side to an argument that has some validity that the person I'm debating is not acknowledging.

So you're not neutral. You're picking a side that you feel is under-represented, and you're taking that position. You're doing so... probably either to educate, or because you have some feeling that the under-represented side is important somehow.

I'm not saying that, in order to debate, you need to be biased and serving selfish ulterior motives. It's just that, on some level, you need to be interested, and you need to have some kind of agenda-- even if that agenda is just "entertainment at flexing my intellectual capacity".

Comment: Re:The article isn't any better. (Score 1) 659

by nine-times (#47964839) Attached to: How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

Engineering and science are linked, at least. Science could be described as a sort of "engineering of our understanding". It's improved through a lot of trial and error, and we pick a solution that "works" in providing predictive results.

Also, engineering is generally performed with some level of scientific understanding. The first airplane may have been a bit stumbled-upon, built without understanding exactly all of how it worked. However, the Wright brothers were working within a certain level of scientific understanding. Also, once the airplane existed, it was studied, and an understanding of the forces at work were refined using the scientific method. New designs were proposed based on those new understandings.

So he's not wrong, there. An engineer working on a new vaccine will be making use of the scientific process, and making use of prior scientific knowledge.

Comment: I've been saying the same thing for a while now (Score 1) 659

by nine-times (#47964743) Attached to: How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

I'm not going to go on a full rant, because this is something that people here on Slashdot have gotten very angry with me for in the past, but I very much agree with the author of this article.

I would say it this way: People make the mistake of talking about "science" as "a body of knowledge that is certain, due to having passed through a set of processes." But science is not the body of knowledge, "science" is the process. It's actually not the whole process even-- the processes of peer review and developing consensus within the community are not scientific. They're social/political processes that we've developed to help us judge whether someone else's scientific process was valid.

And science does not provide all kinds of knowledge. It doesn't deal with "truth", or even really "fact". It doesn't deal in particulars. Science can't tell us what happened in a particular historical instance, but only helps us develop general causal interpretations of material processes. For example, medical science's aim is not to tell you that your granfather developed cancer because of smoking. The aim is to develop the general idea that "smoking causes cancer" into a theory that provides improved predictive capabilities.

And science does not provide certain knowledge. It just provides (hopefully) improved interpretations. Hopefully the interpretations will continue to improve, but science doesn't have the capability to tell you that an interpretation is "correct", even if there is such a thing.

I would not, however, agree with this:

Aristotelian "science" was a major setback for all of human civilization. For Aristotle, science started with empirical investigation and then used theoretical speculation to decide what things are caused by. What we now know as the "scientific revolution" was a repudiation of Aristotle...

That's a pretty poor understanding of what happened. It's pretty clear from reading Aristotle that he in fact did perform experiments of various kinds, but his focus was broad enough to include topics that we would now split between "scientific" and "philosophic" realms. A lot of our heritage of science and logic can be traced back to Aristotle. The problem was that, for a few hundred years, scholars were inclined to take Aristotle's writings dogmatically, as though they were religious texts.

For example, Aristotle does say that heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects-- which is, to some extent, true. Drop a rock, and drop a sheet of paper, and the rock may very well hit the ground first. So Aristotle accepts this without testing extensively, but there's no real evidence he intended that to be the be-all-and-end-all explanation. I don't recall any passages saying, "don't study things for yourself, just take my word for it all" It was just the best understanding that he could offer, as an individual man studying almost every subject rather than focusing on one or two intensely.

People took that understanding as authoritative. They didn't study it for themselves. And then after several hundred years, due to social changes that enabled greater scientific investigation, people started finding that not everything Aristotle said was true. When they suggested Aristotle might not be correct, they were met with a stubborn refusal to entertain new theories, which lead to a backlash against Aristotle.

So yes, there was a backlash against Aristotle during the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Some scholars/authors (e.g. Bacon) talk about how stupid they think Aristotle is, but if you pay attention to their thinking, it's also very clear that they're informed by Aristotle. Rather than dismissing Aristotle and starting from scratch, as they claim, they're taking Aristotelian ideas and methods as a starting point, and expanding/refining/fixing/improving them.

Saying that Aristotle is "a major setback for all of human civilization" is a bit like saying that, "Shakespeare was a huge setback for the English language. I find his writing impossible to understand. Thank god no modern writers follow his example."

Comment: Everyone has an interest (Score 1) 122

by nine-times (#47964325) Attached to: Nobody's Neutral In Net Neutrality Debate

Whenever you enter into a debate on any issue, no one debating is neutral. If they're neutral, they wouldn't debate. They need to have some level of interest, and some set of concerns about the outcome of the debate. You can't expect people to be neutral, but you should know what their interests are and let that information inform your understanding of their argument.

Me, for example. I have an interest in the net neutrality debate. I'd like to have a good/fast internet connection that is not filtered/throttled based on business interests that don't align with my personal interests. I'd like to have access to things like Netflix. I also work in IT, and I don't want to have to deal with, fix, or work around any random/stupid restrictions that I might face due to Verizon deciding that some kinds of traffic don't suit their profit targets for this quarter. Beyond that, I also believe that free and unfettered access to the Internet has become a 'free speech' issue, to some extent. I'm in favor of net neutrality because I'd like to live in a free and well-functioning society.

So those are my interests. What are the interests of some of the people who oppose net neutrality?

Comment: Re:Contribute for fun; accept the risk (Score 1) 191

by nine-times (#47964155) Attached to: Kickstarter Lays Down New Rules For When a Project Fails


Even if they have a great idea and the best of intentions, the people running the project may not be successful. Running a business is more difficult than most people imagine, and it may be even harder to run a business with discipline after receiving millions of dollars in free money, donated with no strings attached.

When you donate to Kickstarter, you are neither making a purchase nor investing in the business. You're making a donation.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton