Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Comment: Re:Funny, that spin... (Score 4, Insightful) 258

by hey! (#49765025) Attached to: What AI Experts Think About the Existential Risk of AI

Spin, sure, but it's a waay bigger minority than I expected. I'd even say even shockingly large.

The genius of Asimov's three laws is that he started by laying out rules that on the face of it rule out the old "robot run amok" stories. He then would write, if not a "run amok" story, one where the implications aren't what you'd expect. I think the implications of an AI that surpasses natural human intelligence are beyond human intelligence to predict, even if we attempt to build strict rules into that AI.

One thing I do believe is that such a development would fundamentally alter human society, provided that the AI was comparably versatile to human intelligence. It's no big deal if an AI is smarter than people at chess; if it's smarter than people at everyday things, plus engineering, business, art and literature, then people will have to reassess the value of human life. Or maybe ask the AI what would give their lives meaning.

Comment: Re:Truth be told... (Score 4, Interesting) 126

by hey! (#49764209) Attached to: Al-Qaeda's Job Application Form Revealed

Dear moderators: "Troll" is not a synonym for "I disagree with this".

That said, I disagree with this.

We've known since the investigation of 9/11 that suicide bombers are not necessarily dead-enders except in the literal sense. Economic powerlessness might play a role in the political phenomenon of extremist violence, but it is not a necessary element of the profile of a professional extremist. These people often come from privileged backgrounds and display average to above average job aptitude.

Mohammed Atta's life story makes interesting reading. He was born to privileged parents; at the insistence of his emotionally distant father he wasn't allowed to socialize with other kids his age, and had a lifelong difficulty with relating to his peers. At university he did OK but below the high expectations of his parents. He went to graduate school in urban planning where his thesis was on how impersonal modern high rise buildings ruined the historic old neighborhoods of the Muslim world.

That much is factual; as to why he became an extremist while countless others like him did not, we can only speculate. I imagine that once he decided modernity was the source of his personal dissatisfactions Al Qaeda would be attractive to him. Al Qaeda training provided structure which made interacting with his new "peers" easier than ever before. And martyrdom promised relief from the dissatisfactions of a life spent conscious of his own mediocrity. Altogether he was a miserable and twisted man -- but not economically miserable.

Comment: Most guys here are missing the point. (Score 1) 280

by hey! (#49763589) Attached to: Study: Science Still Seen As a Male Profession

And that point is encapsulated in a single adverb: still. "Still" is what makes this news; it wouldn't have been news twenty or thirty years ago.

I am old enough to remember when genital equipment was considered employment destiny. When my wife went to oceanography graduate school the sysadmins of the school minicomputers were all female. The all-male faculty called them -- I kid you not -- "Data Dollies". Data dolly was considered a good job for a technically inclined woman because it paid well for an entry level job, involved computers, and was an easy job to hand off when you quit to marry the professor you'd snagged. Plus they'd have a hard time getting work in industry. Clearly that was a transitional moment because there were a substantial minority of women graduate students in the program, but *no* female professors, much less senior administrators.

But given the strong cohort of women in that class, it is surprising the thirty years later there is still a lingering perception in this country that science isn't for women. But maybe it shouldn't be surprising. Change doesn't happen instantaneously, nor does it necessarily ever become complete. When I was in college the notion that women had to become full time homemakers was still predominant -- not among students, but of people over thirty or so, practically everyone in positions of hiring and authority. That attitude seems weird and foreign to a young person today; I expect it's hard for a young person to grasp how pervasive and indeed how genuinely oppressive that belief was. It's a bit like the difference between the way I experience watching Mad Men and the way my kids do. I actually *recognize* that world where smoking was everywhere, big shots drank during office hours, and "womanizing" was a word people actually used without irony. It was fading fast, but still there. To my kids it's like an alien civilization in Doctor Who. So yes, the news that many Americans see science as a profession that somehow belongs to men is a bit like discovering a Silurian in the closet.

The women of my generation fought hard to establish a beachhead in male dominated professions, and if they're sometimes a bit snippy about it, well they earned the right. It wasn't easy to be an oddball among your peers and freak to your parents, teachers and and people in authority generally. And this was at a time when there was no such thing as geek chic to offset the disadvantages being an oddball. Being a geek was bad, period.

Now that cadre of pioneering women is at or approaching the apex of their careers. They're still a minority in their age cohort, but they left a wide open hole in their wake for the next generation. It's taken awhile for that hole to fill up because when opportunities open for a group they go for more high-profile professions (47% of medical students are women, as are 48% of law students). But in another generation I am sure the view that science belongs to one sex or another will be a truly fringe belief.

Comment: Re:Whistleblower (Score 1) 363

"Accidentally" isn't certain here. If I was part of something that was wrong and I wanted it to be known, I would very well "accidentally" leak it too.

Except I don't see how that applies in this case. Stay or leave -- it's not the bank's call. But if politicians are putting leaving the EU on the table, even as an empty gesture, then naturally the bank has to start thinking about contingency plans. That's just common sense, even if you think the very idea of leaving the EU is mad.

It's also common sense to keep that on the DL to prevent misguided overreaction to what is after all still a hypothetical scenario. The Bank of England a central bank and so people must be constantly scrutinizing it hoping to glean inside information on future monetary policy. That's to say nothing of having to deal with the conspiracy theory nutters.

Comment: Re:Tolls? (Score 4, Insightful) 825

by hey! (#49736133) Attached to: Oregon Testing Pay-Per-Mile Driving Fee To Replace Gas Tax

Well, with electronic toll-paying that could work, but it would still shift the burden from low MPG to high MPG cars.

The great thing about a gas tax is that it's a simple way to kill two birds with one stone: encouraging higher mileage and paying for infrastructure. The problem is that not everyone agrees that both birds are important. Two-birders think that high mileage vehicles should be discouraged because of externalized costs -- pollution mainly, but also space required in parking lots, greater risk to other road users etc. One-birders don't care about externalities but understand that the roads and bridges need to be repaired. Zero-birders are just idiots.

I'm a two-birder myself, so raising the gas tax is a no-brainer. I'd also issue everyone a flat rebate per driver, because in fact I'm a three-birder: I'm concerned about the effect of a regressive tax on the working poor who have no options but to drive to their jobs.

But I'm also a realist. There are a lot of one-birders out there and the roads need repair. It's also politically easier in one-birder territory to sell something as a fee rather than as a tax, even though from my perspective that's an irrelevant difference if you're raising the same revenue either way.

Comment: Re:I wonder how long... (Score 3, Insightful) 50

Well, they're already opting to have damaged natural joints like hips and knees replaced. That's a case of upgrading from natural to artificial to gain function. As the performance of artificial limbs increase, it might become an increasingly commonplace treatment for older people, just like knee or hip replacement.

If we project that trend forward for twenty or thirty years I wouldn't be surprised at all to see artificial legs that outperform natural legs for the purposes of walking or even running. But I don't think people with normal abilities will be trading in their limbs just to be able walk a little longer, run a little faster, or carry more weight. That won't happen until the replacement is subjectively indistinguishable from the real thing; until you can feel the grass under your toes.

I'm comfortable predicting locomotion parity in the next fifty years, but I wouldn't care to speculate on when we'll see sensory parity.

Comment: Once more into the breech, dear friends. (Score 3, Insightful) 100

by hey! (#49735075) Attached to: US Levels Espionage Charges Against 6 Chinese Nationals

I have no problem with going after people who steal trade secrets, anything more than I have a problem with going after people who steal nuclear secrets. The only thing is that the FBI has a long history of racist paranoia about Chinese scientists, from Quan Xuesen in the early 50s to Wen Ho Lee in the 90s.

Rhwew may well of a legitimate case against these guys and if they do I hope they nail the bastards. But I'm not jumping to any conclusions based on FBI say-so.

Comment: Re:beat that straw man, beat it hard (Score 1) 150

by hey! (#49735011) Attached to: Survey: 2/3 of Public Sector Workers Wouldn't Report a Security Breach

You're the one worried about passwords that can be broken in 25 years; that's a non-issue. The issue is security that works well enough for long enough and is workable for the users. Impressive sounding, inflated requirements means something else has to give: price, performance, or usability.

Comment: Re:Password updating (Score 1) 150

by hey! (#49734339) Attached to: Survey: 2/3 of Public Sector Workers Wouldn't Report a Security Breach

Well, once you've cracked the VPN traffic the password is almost a secondary concern, isn't it?

This is the wrong way to think about security, e.g. for a hypothetical world where users adhere to anything you demand of them no matter how intrusive or onerous that is. In reality if you decide that usability and convenience aren't factors in your planning then that's actually an oversight which will come back to bite you on the ass someday. The only thing you can say for that approach of wishing usability away is that when disaster comes you'll be able to point the finger of blame at the users -- even though their non-adherence is a predictable result of your poor understanding of system requirements.

Comment: Re:Bottom Rising (Score 1, Insightful) 228

by hey! (#49730113) Attached to: Marvel's Female Superheroes Are Gradually Becoming More Super

Originally Susan Richards' powers were turning invisible and creating a force shield around herself. This wasn't for doing cool things, it was for staying safely out of the way while the boys did the fighting. By the mid 70s when I was buying comic books her purely defensive powers were upgraded to being able to produce a shower of spherical force bubbles, which on the offensive force scale was about one step up the awesomeness scale from telekinetically throwing couch pillows.

I don't think the reason for this change was to throw a sop to feminists, or because fans were demanding strong female characters. In either case she'd have got a more impressive upgrade. I think it was simply upgraded storytelling. A character that can basically hide and shield herself is not as versatile as a character than can do useful things. So this kind of incremental upgrading naturally gave her more of a swiss-army knife skillset.

As for modern superheroines having multiple, I have not much to add, other than an observation. This multiple super-power thing kind of mirrors what we expect women to be like today. We expect them to be able to multitask, to juggle several very different roles on our teams. Versatility has become a cultural expectation for women, so it might not be coincidental that female superheroes get more of toolkit rather than one very big hammer.

Comment: Re:One Assumption (Score 1) 607

by hey! (#49728127) Attached to: The Demographic Future of America's Political Parties

A second assumption is that parties don't reinvent themselves. Of course they do; if they're to last they have to reinvent themselves every generation or two. Go back through the history of both parties since the 1850s; ideological continuity in both cases is a fiction that papers over a series of opportunistic shifts in focus.

An empty shell of a party in a two-party system is like the shell of an abandoned building in Manhattan; the real estate is too valuable to remain unoccupied. So some time in the next twenty years as its demographics becomes untenable the Republican party will radically shift focus, with some kind of face-saving formulation that presents the fiction of continuity, or even a return to longstanding principles. This is just like the post-Reagan rightward shift in the Democratic party as the DLC became dominant in national Democratic politics. The old style social democratic (using European terminology) FDR Democrats remained with the party because they had no place else to go in a two party system.

Likewise the rump of the current social conservative and Evangelical Republican party will be made a welcome but impotent minority in the new Republican party. They'll get occasional lip service at in-party functions but they won't be allowed near the mic lest they spout what sounds like grandpa's crazy talk -- pretty much like the FDR style Democrats were treated by their party in the 90s and 00s.

Comment: Re:I wonder why... (Score 1) 289

by hey! (#49722481) Attached to: North Carolina Still Wants To Block Municipal Broadband

Show me the part of the US Constitution that says the Feds can tell a State it can't regulate its political subdivisions.

Easy-peasy. I don't even have to google it. The Interstate Commerce Clause. All you have to do is find some pretext that says the regulation affects interstate commerce in some way and the feds can quash it.

In this case the issue to use is plain as a pikestaff. By preventing municipalities from providing high quality internet service the state is hinder access by out-of-state vendors to consumers in that community. That justification is WAAY stronger than other that have held up to scrutiny.

It is not well to be thought of as one who meekly submits to insolence and intimidation.

Working...