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Comment Re:The War On Drugs is a War On Sick People (Score 2) 53

> If you give addicts enough drugs to OD on, then eventually they will either do that or find a level of addiction which they can manage, or even improve their lives and eventually kick the habit.

That's the whole issue in a nutshell.

Ethanol has already taught us nearly everything we need to know about this. If we are legal adults not under some kind of competency-related guardianship, and we are living in a supposedly free country, there are absolutely no good reasons why we should be punished for altering our consciousnesses as we see fit. Aside from basic safety concerns (i.e. if you have electricity, building codes dictate parameters of its installation, should be the same if you have a laboratory, etc.), it's nobody's business what you do to change your brain waves in the privacy of your own home.

Sometimes I think the conspiracy theorists are right, and our options for exploring our own minds are being limited in order to preserve the power of the elite. Honestly, though, I'm increasingly convinced it's simply yet another clusterfunk of basic human ignorance interwoven with our social structures. With time, I guess we seem to gradually smooth these things out... too much time, it sometimes seems, but oh well.

Comment Re:iCloud marketing team seems to be involved. (Score 1) 324

Yep, a dollar a month for 50 gb, or so I've heard. I can't imagine another contender for their #1 reason to do this.

It's also still a terrible idea, imho.

Having grown up at a time when buy & own was the norm (aside from subscriptions to printed media), I avoid recurring billing like the plague. The world has reminded me of the wisdom in this on a regular basis.

Ditto with anything requiring an internet connection that doesn't *really* need it.

Comment We have the technology (Score 2) 114

> progress needs to be made in natural language processing, machine vision, and human-computer interaction

Natural language processing on my phone is getting pretty damn good.

I've seen machine vision used on security systems that you might find interesting. The object recognition is quite something-- it catalogs every new thing it sees, tracks it while visible, and is pretty successful at remembering things. Even the ol' Xbone is pretty decent; paired with some Roomba features I would think it could mostly suffice for your basic home robot.

Human-computer interaction is also fairly advanced now. Again, my phone does pretty well with this (and is getting better). Then you have something like Watson, which can actually compete on a game show randomly exploring a huge array of general trivia... yes, it had specialized software written for this purpose, but it shows how a simple, formalized style of language can facilitate a wide range of inquiries.

- - -

The big problem is that all these technologies are proprietary, and the rights to their use are divided among a sea of entities who seem to be addicted to squabbling with each other over short-term monetary anxieties rather than cooperating (must... preserve... teh profitz!!).
Ferengis, the lot of them.

One day, someone will transcend all this, get these existing solutions working together, and build a proper robot.
Until then, every other attempt will seem like a turd in comparison with the features we already know exist *right now* but are locked away in war chests behind medieval fortress walls.

Comment Re:Build colonies on Earth (Score 1) 256

I honestly think we'll see habitable spaces being set up far more affordably and efficiently than ever before in arctic & desert climates within the next 20 years, easily-- and I'd expect a number of them to be self sufficient, at least beyond their initial setup (and some occasional long term maintenance). With all the money and research across numerous fronts being firehosed into energy storage, we'll have the power to get it done. I certainly agree that this is a necessary development before we can think about getting offworld, and I hope to live to see it happen.

Comment my experience (Score 1) 498

If I had been able to obtain a gun a number of years ago when I hit rock bottom, I would no longer be here. I'm still not certain if that's a net positive yet (or even how to define such), but I can tell you that I'm deeply glad for all the great experiences I've had in the time since. I expect this approach will help some people. People like me.

Comment Re:TLDR - here's the list (Score 1) 213

Overpopulation is less of a concern now than it was a few decades ago. For starters, research has shown that people on both ends of the spectrum - the affluent and the abysmally poor - tend to have fewer children. This alone makes the situation somewhat self-correcting.

Beyond that, with advances in technology which make more and more previously inhospitable environments habitable with fewer resources (a necessary development if we're going to spread beyond this planet anyway, an ultimate answer to overpopulation), the issue disappears entirely. I expect that cheaper ways to store energy from already-cheap-and-getting-cheaper solar panels will pretty much put an end to the threat-- indoor temperature & humidity control, lighting (for growing food), water extraction from the air, refrigeration and robotics all get much more affordable under a 'better battery' scenario, something I now see as inevitable given the number of fronts on which that problem is being worked.

Comment There is a niche for this (Score 1) 133

Most of the top comments I'm seeing are pointing out the clearly false statement that farming hasn't changed much.

The more interesting thing to me here is the obvious potential for smaller groups of people with smaller amounts of land and money to run much more sophisticated food-growing operations than would otherwise be possible.

If you read the TFA, you might realize that the application of CNC-type tech to maintaining a complex mixed garden and maximizing its output is actually a pretty damn interesting and potentially very useful idea. Decentralizing more of our food production is absolutely essential to increasing our chances of long term survival as a species-- the more time goes on, the greater the likelihood is that a central point of failure (especially in a giant swath of identical plants) will be compromised.

Comment Re:let me correct that for you. (Score 1) 619

> Nor is it likely to ever happen.

I appreciate the general sense of disgust at humankind's continuous and pathetically predictable foibles from which this remark emanates, but come on now. We have no way of knowing this. 'Ever' is a pretty damn long time.

There are a lot of very intelligent and insightful people who've been saying for a long time that a society without a powerful, centralized authority is the only kind ultimately worth striving for. Personally, I doubt we'll survive as a species unless we accomplish some form of this.

Comment Not useful enough yet (Score 1) 180

These things are a joke. Their shortcomings are much like those of consumer robotics-- not enough sensors, not enough automation, dumb software and finicky interfaces. Until I can slap one on my body with minimal to no manual configuration and get accurate, reliable data complemented by accurate, reliable, non-obvious analysis (plus an easy way to get it all in tabular form for my own uses), all they do is add hassle to my life with insufficient justification.

Comment Re:Why two wheels? (Score 1) 144

Furthermore, what specific value is there in paying $24k for a two-wheeled vehicle which only fits one person and is by all appearances far more dangerous than the four-wheeled, fuel efficient vehicle I can buy for half that price, which fits five people plus drinks, snacks, luggage and more? This thing is absolutely ridiculous and completely impractical for the vast majority of people.

Comment Re:FAR better than fossil fuels, and even better t (Score 1) 191

I still don't understand why so many people have their head in the clouds about battery tech. Yes, it's an extremely important, key, vital piece of the puzzle in terms of a better future. However there is absolutely zero reason to believe that advances in energy storage will be in any way similar (in scope or in pace) to advances in microprocessors. It's not magic.

Electric cars, as they are currently being marketed, will simply not be competitive with their ICE brethren in any remotely near-term scenario without advances that are extremely unlikely. Furthermore, if such advances were to occur, the disruption to the global economy would be immense, and there are a lot of major players with a nearly unimaginably tremendous vested interest in slowing - if possible, even stopping - such disruption.

It sometimes almost seems like the public is being lulled into a false sense of security about what sorts of things are going to be possible in the near future (and what aren't).

Comment bridging the abstract-practical gap (Score 1) 594

My biggest pet peeve about education - and the reason I think fewer kids are interested in math & the other sciences than should be - is that most of the time, there is little to no opportunity for the conveyance of useful or interesting knowledge about how stuff works.

Yes, this is a complicated problem, because it's very difficult to find the balance between illuminating the function of a device or program enough to spark interest and overwhelming a child with too much technical information (so much knowledge is dependent on so much other knowledge and it gets exponentially more complex at every layer), but I really think that if more effort was made to craft useful summaries of how their iPods, PSPs and phones actually function, at least some kids would be more excited about learning the underlying 'abstracts'.

When one has at least a glimmer of understanding about how a seemingly dry subject connects to something with a higher 'coolness' factor, it's motivating, as I'm sure most people here know. Once a student grasps that it will give them more control over the tech tools they love so much (whose underlying operation is usually obscured by their interfaces) to be more fluent in math & physics, I think it might just give them the extra push to pursue those subjects a litte harder.

In keeping with this idea, I also think more schools should teach a lot more software design a lot earlier... just the other day I was helping install a Cat-6 network for a local middle school, and I asked what kind of programming classes they offered kids. The answer? None. I think that really sucks. The technology world would make more & better advances sooner if we would just give young people a chance to peek into it under the guidance of properly-equipped teachers & curriculums instead of forcing those who wish to learn more about it to pursue that knowledge only in their distraction-packed free time. Whether on a PC or via chalk on a blackboard, content that relates directly to the fascinating things happening in the real world is something I think schools need to give their charges a lot more of.