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Comment problems (Score 1) 84

Let's hope it goes better than BillG school reform!

It won't. Bill suffers from the same ego problem that many successful people suffer from - thinking that because you were good at one thing means you are qualified to solving every other problem. But very few people are great in vastly different domains. Even most geniuses stick to at least one area.

Giving money to people who are real experts in a domain and giving them room to find solutions is a hundred times better than coming in as a celebrity and taking over with your own random idea. This can, in fact, have a negative effect on the actual progress in the field.

Comment Re:Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence (Score 1) 186

What you seem to be missing is that War is a macro-aggressive, acute failure of society. Microaggression is a stealthy, sinister, chronic failure of society that is far more widespread and far more damaging to the long-term health of humanity than is an acute War that has a beginning and an end.

Others have addressed the first major flaw in this argument, which is that killing people is worse than being mean to them.

But there's another flaw, which is your apparent belief that microaggression is something new. It is definitely not. People have always been nasty to each other, and we're significantly less nasty to each other today than ever before. The notion of microaggression is perhaps the best proof: previous generations didn't even bother thinking about microaggression, because it was just normal. Today, we recognize this subtle form of personal attack and work to expose it and thereby reduce it.

You should read the first few chapters of Steven Pinker's "The Better Angels of Our Nature", in which he documents historical evidence of the ways in which people were nasty to each other. He focuses mostly on physical nastiness, violence, but lots of other sorts of nastiness are covered in passing, or obviously implied. Society is much, much better than it used to be. Empathy for strangers is normal today. It wasn't always.

Comment Re:Things are looking up (Score 1) 186

In 1914, there was no entertainment as you imagine.

So radio, films, plays, books, and concerts didn't exist?

Note the correction of the year. 1940 was obviously a typo, the discussion was about 1914.

Radio was demonstrated but not used commercially in 1914. No, films didn't exist. Plays and concerts did, but high-quality productions were pretty much limited to major cities. Books, yes.

books were expensive and rare, etc.

Poppycock, etc.

I have difficulty believing anyone could be so completely ignorant of history. But apparently you are.

Compared to today, yes, books were expensive and rare. Most everything was dramatically more expensive than it is today, in terms of what a person with the median income could afford, and that included books. In 1914 most homes had a small number of books, far fewer than today. But the typical person also had far less leisure time.

Comment Re:Hydro = from the sun (Score 1) 181

Direct solar may sound nice and work fine in small scale, but collectors would have to cover great areas to be effective

The total world energy consumption is somewhere around 100PWh/year. That's around 274TWh/day. The sunlight hitting the Earth is around 1kW/m^2, so 8kWh/m^2 assuming 8 hours of sunlight. If you assume 100% efficiency in conversion (totally impossible, but we'll start there and refine later), then that means that you need about 3.45E10 m^2 of land devoted to solar power. That's a square about 185km on each side. If you assume 10% efficiency (mass produced photovoltaics are 12-25% these days), then you need an area about 342000km^2, or about the area of Germany, to power the entire world. Now, given the efficiency of power distribution, you probably wouldn't want to put it all in one place, but you could easily fit solar panels enough that, even with transmission losses, you could power all of North America in Utah or Texas without anyone noticing. The difficulty is not the generation, it's the storage.

Comment All Energy in our Universe is Nuclear. (Score 1) 181

This Universe only has one basic source of power and it is Nuclear. Stars fuse lightweight elements into slightly heavier elements and supernovas fuse those atoms into all the rest of the naturally occurring elements of the periodic chart. The heavier elements clump together (gravity) and create gradients which give rise to potential energy from gravity, but it was the mass generated by stars that allow that. Gravitational stress heats the mantel of the Earth and allows us to harvest some geothermal power. Other geothermal power is directly harvested from the temperature difference between the Earth's Sun warmed surface and the constant temperature layer of soil several meters down. Solar,wind, and hydro power are indirect methods of harvesting the fusion power of the Sun. Burning coal, oil, gas, alcohol, or other biomass is simply using the Sun's power that was harvested by plants and stored as hydrocarbons. And then there are our feeble attempts at nuclear power using fission.

As we ween ourselves from carbon based fuels we need to keep in mind that none of the so called 'renewable' sources of energy actually are renewable: they all depend on the continuous output of that nuclear furnace we call the Sun.

Comment Re:If I read this right (Score 3, Insightful) 492

Funny how the KKK, an explicitly Christian organization, seems to find religious justification in terror and murder. Plus the attacks on abortion clinics and their staff and patients over the last few decades, perpetrated almost entirely by Christian terrorists. While not explicitly religiously motivated, the Oklahoma City bombings were definitely not the product of radical Islam. Nor the Charleston Church shootings. Nor hundreds of other attacks with explicitly terror oriented goals committed by Christians. While the 9/11 attacks were by far the most deadly, in terms of sheer numbers, attacks motivated by radical interpretations of Islam are still a tiny fraction of the total number of terrorist attacks in the United States. But we're not as frightened of our neighbors for some reason.

Comment The True Problem With Commercial Space (Score 1) 346

As the person credited for the first law commercializing space launch services (credited by the law's sponsor, Ron Packard during his introduction of my Congressional testimony on space commercialization) there truly _is_ a problem with privatized space and it is a capital market failure.

This capital market failure systemically suppresses technology investment and it derives from something that should be obvious to anyone in venture finance:

Economic activity is taxed rather than liquidation value of net assets.

A venture financier, or angle, or anyone else who takes dollars out of a bank account and puts it into a high risk venture, is rendering their capital illiquid. If you cease taxing economic activity (income, capital gains, sales, value added, inheritance, gifts, etc.) and instead tax only the liquidation value of net assets, for all practical purposes high risk investments cease being taxed.

This is why, the year after I testified before Congress on the initial legislative direction for companies like SpaceX, I wrote a white paper titled "A Net Asset Tax Based On The Net Present Value Calculation and Market Democracy" wherein I proposed a shift away from centralized government provision of technology development and, at the same time, a shift away from politically biased government delivery of social goods (ie: the welfare state), by taxing net assets at the rate of interest on the national debt and distributing tax revenues as an unconditional citizen's dividend. Later I clarified the assessment mechanism to be liquidation value as well as some of the further aspects of government to be privatized.

Its obvious why so-called "liberals" don't want this since by-passing the welfare state without regard to any politically defined criteria other than citizenship, it would gut their political base.

Conservatives, in particular neo-libertarians of the Austrian School, on the other hand, have much to answer for here. A net asset tax, so assessed, is a big step toward the anarchocapitalism of the American school of libertarian thought exemplified by Lysander Spooner in his definition of "legitimate government" as "a mutual insurance company". Protecting property rights is according to the American school of libertarian philosophy (as contrasted with the Austrian school), the primary role of government and it is entirely legitimate to charge for that service just as it is legitimate for a property insurance company to charge a premium that is approximately proportional to the value of the property being underwritten. Moreover, it is entirely legitimate for any company to pay dividends and a mutual company would pay dividends to its members -- members who, quite reasonably, could be called on for service in times of emergency such as war and could, therefore, quite reasonably be assigned one share and exactly one share each.

Indeed, I view it as a moral responsibility for men like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg -- particularly as beneficiaries of network externalities aka network effects that could not exist in the absence of government protection of those monopolistic property rights -- to at the very least lend their vocal, if not material, support to such a capital reform.

It would be smart for risk investors like Elon Musk to do so.

Comment Re:You're running a distribution (Score 1) 748

> Post the issue to your distribution not the systemd group.
It's a problem with almost every distro, right? Like what doesn't have systemd, slack?

Yes, Slackware does not have systemd. And, as far as I know, has no plans to integrate it in the future (which is one of the reasons I love it).

On the other hand, OpenBSD systemd "shim" looks better every day, as it allows Gnome to work without systemd. Make of that what you will.

Comment Re:anti-business liberal scoring points (Score 1) 346

If they are publicly traded and their principal business is not risk, then they are required to be by law.


I'm fairly certain there is no such law. What publicly-traded businesses are required to do is to do what they say they'll do in their articles of incorporation and their prospectus. For most, these documents state that their focus is to generate a responsible return on investment (language varies, but that's what it boils down to). However, it is perfectly acceptable for them to include other goals, and even to prioritize those goals over making money.

Were SpaceX to go public, they could specify that their primary goal is to get to Mars, for example, rather than to make money. That would probably lower their valuation, but there would be nothing at all illegal about it.

Comment Re:yet more engineer bashing (Score 1) 492

The real question is not are engineers 9 times more likely to be terrorists. The real question is are they 9 times more likely to hold extremist beliefs, or just 9 times more likely to act on them because to engineers the point is to solve problems.

I suspect it's some of both. It seems to me that engineers do tend to be more passionate about their interests (whatever those may be) than the average person. And they think in terms of how to solve problems.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken