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Comment dumbass politicians (Score 1) 506

Too stupid to have understood the basics of this science when it was realized 30-odd years ago.
Too stupid to have acknowledged the scientific consensus til it (and fires, droughts, cyclones) was hitting them over the head.
Too stupid to manage their own government science program, believing there was only one simple question, and it's answered already.
Dumb. Dumber. Dumbest. Are these the only choices we can elect?

Why is that exactly?
Why is above average intelligence and knowledge with a tinge of reality-bias not a prized attribute when we select our national leadership?

Do we follow some principle of not wanting to elect someone smarter than ourselves because, who knows what they might get up to that would just go right over my head? Instead, we seem to be way more comfortable electing "Joe nice bloke down the pub. Solid handshake on 'im.". What gives?

Comment No jobs for bad programmers (Score 1) 246

On the one hand, low-grade unskilled programming is a job that will be automated out of existence soon enough, so promoting this as "jobs for the new economy" strategy is misguided.

On the other hand, introducing things like "logic" and "arithmetic" and "logic + arithmetic" into the thinking of the average American cannot be a bad idea.

Comment Related story (Score 1) 81

In my city,
there used to be a sign at the public beach that said something (in red circle with bar through) like "No fires"

Nowadays, the sign says
"No fires"
"No dogs off leash"
"No Vehicles"
"No smoking"
and about 4 other things I can't remember, probably including "No frisbees"

It would be much more efficient if they just put up a sign which says along the lines of:
"Whatever we haven't explicitly permitted you to do is forbidden, obviously!"

Comment Trump is hoping his base won't think of robots (Score 1) 875

when they hear this policy proposal.

If American robot factories are going to be cost-competitive with Chinese manual factories or the upcoming Chinese robot factories, then why not bring back the "robo-facturing" (the new word for "manufacturing") to America.

Just don't expect it to bring job growth with it, as he is trying to sell.

Comment Re:The most serious potential problem with GMO (Score 1) 357

Human-managed hybridization and selective breeding are by nature incremental modifications of living systems that have evolved their current form through billions of years of incremental evolution, tested by natural co-evolution and co-habitation uncountable numbers of times throughout those billions of years. The processes of modification used in hybridization/selective breeding mimic the well-tested change-processes of natural evolution.

In the near future, on the other hand, arbitrary genomes (assembled under computer program supervision from individual nucleobases) will be constructable with genetic engineering / synthetic biology science and technology.

The number of different possible living systems/subsystems/mechanisms thus constructable is literally, not figuratively, exponentially greater than the number that have already been incrementally designed/constructed by evolution or evolution+selective breeding.

Are you really trying to tell me that the risk level from that arbitrary synthetic biology is equivalent to the risk from selective breeding and hybridization?
Mathematically and logically, that is not a supportable position.

The risk level of synthetic biology (the unknown, perhaps unpredictable risks component) is a function of the number of possible novel mechanisms/subsystems/systems and the extent to which those novel mechanisms are different from pre-existent, evolution-tested mechanisms/subsystems/systems.

One can say, and tactically, one would say, that most arbitrarily human-designed and engineered synthetic biological mechanisms/subsystems/systems will obviously fail to thrive, but that is a red herring, because with enough cleverness, a proportion of them will thrive, and that proportion, still potentially an enormous variety and sometimes with substantive difference from existing living mechanisms, is what poses the risk.

Comment The most serious potential problem with GMO (Score 1) 357

Is not whether there are currently proven harms in any existing GM Organism.

The real problem is the following:
0. Every GMO case (and ecological context it is introduced into) is unique.
1. Therefore unanticipated issues may be novel with each case.
2. Problems could include direct toxicity or reduction in nutrient value or what have you.
3. Or problems could be ecological, in that the newly introduced artifical variety may outcompete a native organism, and or may change the balance of an ecosystem.
4. AND HERE'S THE KICKER
If ever such a thing as 2. or 3. occurs, it is occurring in a self-reproducing organism, which like all organisms, tries to proliferate itself across as much of the environment as it can (that's what life does, in general). You may not be able to put your genie back in the bottle. You may have achieved a widespread, unstoppable change or harm to an ecosystem (of difficult to guess in advance scale and severity).

Read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... , granted, a science-fiction novel, but Sci-Fi authors are often scientist-class thinkers with a decent amount of foresight and imagination. The kind of people you need to include in your risk assessments.

Comment Could we be certain enough (Score 4, Insightful) 63

of impact of a really dangerous one

in time to expend a lot of money on an active defense launch?
(e.g. a launch of an ION thruster which would sit on the object and when at correct orientation, would fire to push it slowly into a safe trajectory)

1. The farther out the object is, the less certain the prediction of Earth impact is.
but
2. The object has to be quite far out for active defense to work.

Has anyone run the numbers on this?

We seem to have a lot of trouble investing in EFFECTIVE levels of action on a certain unnamed problem that science is, say 97% certain is going to affect us.

Assuming we had built one just in case,
wouuld we send a $100 billion defense system out on a 1% chance of asteroid impact?
10%? 50%? 90%? 97%? How about a 1/1000 chance? or 1/1000,000 chance of catastrophic impact?

Comment Try several others seriously first (Score 0) 645

Let's first fully exploit:
- Solar, wind, wave, ocean-current, and deep geothermal, supplemented with
    - large-scale grid-storage (not rocket-science, just some capital investment)
    - transcontinental high-voltage DC transmission lines to move power across weather-systems, ground-temperature zones, and daylight timezones.

And let's invest 50x more funds to speed up fusion reactor research,

Then and only then let's invest in the safest new nuclear technologies if needed, given the known high-impact risks including nuclear weapons proliferation.

Comment It's not that open source is ugly (Score 1) 402

Ok so there's a small problem about lack of aesthetics in open source user interfaces.

But that problem pales in comparison to the poor usability of many FOSS applications.

I think the usability problem there is a lot to do with an Aspergers-like (focussed on own knowledge and context, non-empathetic) trait among developers.
A developer often makes the mistake of developing a UI that they themselves find easy and fast to use.
They can't or won't empathize with another, non-technical user. They can't or won't think "As that person(a), what do I know and not know? In general, and specifically as I approach and go through the UI) What are my goals? What is my vocabulary and set of concepts?"
They can't or won't even put themselves in the place of a user who is another technical expert but doesn't have the particular same technical knowledge, goals, assumptions, or focus of attention that the developer does.

Non-FOSS software products often benefit because the company can afford to bring in UX specialists to work alongside the pure software developers, whereas many FOSS projects are pretty much software developers only.

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