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Comment: China and India are now in the game (Score 1) 638

by sjbe (#48616355) Attached to: Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

Humankind faces a surplus of employable bodies, and a deficit of employer positions, in the industrialized world.

That's because China and India have been on the economic sidelines for the last 100+ years. Now that they have gotten their act together somewhat they have flooded the labor market and created an oversupply situation. This has almost nothing to do with automation - merely supply and demand. We have had 1/3 of the human population sitting on the economic sidelines and now they have entered the market in a big way with a flood of relatively cheap labor. That is naturally going to create an economic brake on wages and employment levels in the rest of the world.

Nature used to auto-correct overpopulation problems, with food supply vs. demand being the major engine. Is that what we're going to see when the whole world becomes third world?

Perhaps you hadn't noticed but when economic conditions improve, birth rates tend to fall. Often they fall below replacement.

Comment: Debt is not the cause of wage stagnation (Score 1) 638

by sjbe (#48616319) Attached to: Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

The banking system should eventually go bust. Probably not tomorrow, but all we have managed to do so far is delay the inevitable

Based on what? Why should I believe that the banking system is suddenly untenable to a degree that it's demise is inevitable? Please present actual evidence rather than soundbite opinions. There are FAR simpler and more compelling arguments (I outline one below) regarding why wages are stagnating recently than debt levels.

The loans they have issued cannot be repaid. The only question is how we are not going to repay them. Either we go bankrupt, or we find some other way to wipe off the debt.

Can't repay them? The US debt as a percent of GDP isn't even the highest it has ever been. It was higher right after WWII. The way to reduce the debt is simple - either raise taxes or reduce spending or both. We merely lack to political will to do this at the present. The notion that we have debts that "cannot" be repaid is nonsense. As for individuals there is copious data showing that individuals and households have been paying down debt levels significantly since 2008. Companies have balance sheets that are historically very strong with large amounts of cash and relatively low debt levels overall.

The Great Depression started with the stock crash of 1929, lasting for the next 10-ish years. But it was the rising debts of the 1920's that were the real problem. Through the depression, those debts started to reduce. But it took the huge spending effort and industrialisation, fighting WWII to really eliminate them. Setting us up for the boom years of the 50's and 60's.

The boom years of the 50's and 60's were largely because the US economy was the only one left standing after WWII. Once the rest of the world recovered the US then had to compete on a more even footing and so the easy money was gone. Our debt level as a percent of GDP was higher after WWII than it is now. That's not to say that our current debt level is responsible in any way but we aren't in uncharted territory either.

The BIG thing that people seem to be overlooking is that we have had about 1/3 of the human population in China and India on the sidelines economically for the last 100+ years. We have a sudden flood of labor into the market in the last 30 years which wasn't a meaningful part of the economy previously. When you have to compete on labor costs against someone else with lower labor costs it tends to hold back wages. The US has among the highest per-capita GDP in the world and the EU on average isn't far behind. There is no reasonable argument to be made that the US is somehow special and will manage to maintain those high wages indefinitely. A reversion to the mean should not surprise anyone.

Comment: Paging chicken little (Score 3, Insightful) 638

by sjbe (#48616181) Attached to: Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

About 33 percent said technology was a central reason that median wages had been stagnant over the past decade, 20 percent said it was not and 29 percent were unsure.

Which means nobody has any real idea and the data isn't conclusive yet one way or the other. Furthermore economists are noted for being unable to come to a consensus. There's an old joke that if you ask 10 economists about something you'll get 11 opinions. If they do come to a consensus about something THAT is worth paying attention to. Otherwise it is pretty much business as usual. I also think that you'll find that those percentages correlate heavily with the political leanings of the economists being polled in this very unscientific poll.

More than 16 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960s; 30 percent of women in this age group are not working, up from 25 percent in the late 1990s.

Umm, perhaps that has quite a bit to do with the fact that we're still recovering from the Great Recession. You know, the economic problems of the last several years that have NOTHING to do with AI or automation and EVERYTHING to do with finance run amok? Hell, prior to the crash in 2008-9 unemployment was at historic lows.

Comment: Not legal (Score 1) 192

by sjbe (#48560011) Attached to: Microsoft To US Gov't: the World's Servers Are Not Yours For the Taking

I could buy this analogy if the email originates in the U.S. or is destined for and accessed by a person within the U.S. But if neither circumstance applies, then like the airmail scenario the U.S. would have no reasonable jurisdiction.

Yes they would if the document was under subpoena. If you mail the document before it is subject to a request for it then you might (emphasis might) be ok, but once the document becomes relevant to a court proceeding you are obligated to produce it AND to ensure that it remains producible. If you mail away or destroy a document then the court generally has the right to treat that action as incriminating. And well they should otherwise everyone could simply destroy any document or mail them away to avoid self-incrimination.

Comment: "Uncomfortable"? (Score 1) 769

by sjbe (#48559953) Attached to: CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

According to this, Bush approved the general program in 2002 but wasn't briefed on the specifics of the brutal methods being used until 2006, with which he was uncomfortable:

I doubt he asked either because then he wouldn't have plausible deniability. And if he was "uncomfortable" with the specifics once he became aware of them it didn't seem to cause him to act on his supposed discomfort. He was the president at the time and if he told them to stop they (probably) would have. If he didn't tell them to stop then he was the spineless misanthrope many of us suspected him to be.

Comment: Hey man Strawman (Score 1) 769

by sjbe (#48559899) Attached to: CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

If torturing one prisoner could demonstrably save millions of lives, the act might still be immoral but it would certainly be welcomed by nearly everyone

That my friend is the very definition of a strawman argument with a bit of Reductio ad absurdum thrown in for good measure.

That's a fancy way of saying your argument is nonsense.

Comment: Plausible deniability (Score 1) 769

by sjbe (#48559845) Attached to: CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

Oh just fuck off. If you actually read TFA, you'd see that it also indicates that Bush had little to no knowledge of the specifics of the interrogations or their brutality

Ahh, plausible deniability. I'm pretty sure he didn't ask either and it wasn't as if no one ever brought the subject up. Almost everyone involved reports to him so he is responsible on some level regardless of whether he knew all the details or not.

Also, waterboarding was done on 3 prisoners, though the media would have you believe every single prisoner in gitmo had it done to them. The onus here is on the CIA, primarily.

The CIA reports to the president. Even if it was just 1 person that is 1 too many. I expect our leaders and those trusted with protecting this country to behave better.

Comment: That there are worse things is no excuse (Score 4, Informative) 769

by sjbe (#48559809) Attached to: CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

They didn't have fun, to be sure, but brutal it wasn't.

Your ability to think of something more horrific does not mean it was not brutal. All you proved is that there are even more horrible things that can be done but that does not in any way mitigate or excuse needlessly harsh treatment of another human being. Just because you don't leave a mark doesn't mean it isn't torture and certainly doesn't make it right.

Comment: Great but unusable? (Score 1) 641

by sjbe (#48555103) Attached to: How Relevant is C in 2014?

C is a great language, it's just that most humans are incapable of using it safely and securely

That sentence is self-contradicting. To my mind C cannot simultaneously be a "great language" and be impossible for most people to use safely. I would posit that to be considered a great language, the ability to use the language safely and securely by someone of ordinary skill in programming is a necessary condition.

Since we are so fond of automotive analogies here... While the power and utility of C is undeniable, it's kind of like a car with too much horsepower and not enough traction. Really talented people can handle it but most should drive something else. It might be amazing in the right hands but that doesn't make it great.

Comment: Test yourself for drugs (Score 1) 717

by sjbe (#48543395) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Can a Felon Work In IT?

Drugs you can show completion of a program, swear you've been clean for two years, have testimonials from your preacher, rabbi and yoga instructor.

Better idea is to voluntarily test yourself on a regular (monthly?) basis. I know doctors who do this so that in the event of a lawsuit they can prove that they were not chemically impaired. If anyone questions them then they can produce a multi-year stack of clean drug tests.

Comment: The line between felony and misdemeanor (Score 1) 717

by sjbe (#48543323) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Can a Felon Work In IT?

However, there's a big difference between a felony and a misdemeanor, depending on the crime.

Often there is very little or very illogical differences. In many places a teenager voluntarily sending a picture of themselves without clothing to someone else counts as a felony (considered child porn) whereas an adult doing the exact same thing to the exact same person for the exact same reason would not be considered a crime at all in some cases. In fact the teenager in that case may get the privilege of registering as a sex offender for the rest of eternity even if the picture was just sent to a boyfriend/girlfriend. It's absurd but it happens. The line between felony and misdemeanor is an often arbitrary and capricious one and not all felonies are particularly serious crimes.

That said, if someone is a cocaine addict I definitely wouldn't want him or her in my organization, especially if he had access to valuable information or resources that he could sell to pay for his next week of fixes.

That's an awfully broad brush you have there. I have an alcoholic who works for me. Served time in prison because of it and lost his driver's license for over a decade. He's been sober for some years now but he'll always be an alcoholic. He's a good worker, nice guy and very reliable. He just had a problem with addiction. You could easily substitute alcohol for cocaine and the situation would identical. Just because someone has/had a problem with substance abuse does not mean they cannot ever be trusted again. They have to prove they can handle the responsibility but a blanket ban against people who have had a problem in the past is needlessly harsh. You have to address it on a case by case basis.

Comment: Not specific to IT (Score 2) 717

by sjbe (#48542707) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Can a Felon Work In IT?

I keep running into potential employers who tell me they'd like to hire me but can't because of my past record (expunging won't work, I'm in Ohio). Does anyone have any suggestions for me? Should I just give up and change careers?

Sadly that problem will not be confined to IT. Even if you try to change careers a felony record is going to follow you and (right or wrong) there aren't a lot of employers who are going to be willing to take a chance on an ex-con. Companies just generally do not want to take on avoidable known risks and a felony makes a job candidate into an avoidable known risk.

Your best chance is probably through personal networking but it's going to be tough. The good news is that there are companies that will work with people with troubled pasts but finding them usually takes a lot of work. If your skill set is in IT and your convictions aren't for things related to IT then I see no particular reason to switch because the same problem will exist regardless of what type of job you seek.

Comment: Not as much as it seems (Score 4, Insightful) 52

by sjbe (#48513977) Attached to: The Moment of Truth For BICEP2

Whenever I read articles about astrophysics, it always sounds very detached from reality.

It's not but I can see how it might seem that way. A lot of the physics is pretty out there and not all of it can be experimentally confirmed, at least not directly. The logical underpinnings and evidence used are fairly sound but there is a LOT we don't really know. There is a lot of "if A is true then B must be true" going on but sometimes we're not actually sure A is really true. It's not faith but much of it is very theoretical. Almost everything relating to stuff like black holes should be taken with a huge grain of sodium chloride.

And then they start throwing around numbers that we couldn't possibly be sure that we're measuring correctly.

Sometimes that is true and sometimes it isn't. There are plenty of measurements we are quite confident about. Others not so much. Unfortunately for the lay person it can be hard to tell the difference. Apparently sometimes it can be difficult for those in the field to tell the difference too sometimes.

Comment: Depends on how you do it (Score 1) 76

by sjbe (#48508977) Attached to: Big Banks Will Vie For Your Attention With Cardless ATMs and VR

In America, a money transfer from one bank to another can take days to clear

Generally only true if you write a check which can take a few days to clear sometimes. Other methods of payment or funds transfer are considerably faster. ACH transfers take a few hours usually. Wire transfers are nearly instant.

Comment: Tax policy is a marginal effect (Score 1) 110

by sjbe (#48500439) Attached to: Armies of Helper Robots Keep Amazon's Warehouses Running Smoothly

Actually, tax rates could be adjusted to bring highly skilled jobs back.

You could reduce the tax rates to zero and it would have at most a marginal impact. The biggest driver by far is wages and benefits. The tax burden on companies is trivial by comparison. When you are talking $1/hour labor in China versus $15/hour labor in the US, it doesn't matter how much tax the US charges if the companies are competing directly. The rate could be zero and most of the business would still move to china if the labor content is high enough. Sure it would affect a few companies right on the fence but that doesn't apply to most of them.

The simple fact is that US labor rates are MUCH higher than in many other parts of the world and you should expect the osmotic gradient of high labor content jobs to flow to where labor costs are lowest. If labor rates in China rise substantially (and they have been) you will see the business move back across the Pacific or elsewhere. Anything the President of Congress does will be a very tiny impact by comparison.

Economists state their GNP growth projections to the nearest tenth of a percentage point to prove they have a sense of humor. -- Edgar R. Fiedler