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Comment Re:Now we need... (Score 1) 183

Despite my self imposed limits, my family generally has tended to be kind of ridiculously fertile - in my generation there are almost forty first cousins (though admittedly some of my uncles and aunts went through multiple marriages to manage this feat.) My grandmother had my youngest and favorite Aunt, a retired CSI who now does medical auditing, when she was 46. ...of course, increased rates doesn't mean the absolute rates are high, just that they're higher than they would have been.

Eh. I've always been extremely careful about birth control (I just had this talk with my sixteen year old nephew, pointing out that the familial rates of fertility might suggest that he be a belt and suspenders man if he wants to avoid paternity), but were I to become pregnant at this point in my life, I would be hard core about pre-natal testing, but it's not unlikely that I'd carry to term. Not something I'm seeking out - and I had a few guys audition for "father of my children" once I left my ex - but an experience I have mixed feelings about missing out on.

Comment Re:Now we need... (Score 1) 183

Being in my forties, it's a toss up whether I'd manage to have children at all, and autism is hardly the only thing that increases with maternal age (I seem to recall that there are some risk factors associated with paternal age as well). This was, in fact, my point - even if it was a high priority for their postulated struggling post-apocalyptic community to make babies (and seriously, I think you want to make sure you have the basics covered before you get on with the breeding) I am just not your best candidate. I'd always figured that if I hadn't had kids by the time I was thirty-five - and I was aiming for late twenties - I wasn't having them. However, my ex rather abruptly decided that he wanted not to have kids, and for me to quit my job and take care of him... well, hence the ex part.

(Between my martial arts students and my undergraduate research students, I pretty much get any need to nurture taken care of, and I might make a better teacher than I would a parent. I have a twisted enough sense of humor than I regret not inflicted my genes on the next generation - but when I looked into donating eggs, while apparently I looked like a great donor, they said I'd have to lay off of the training for a month, and, well, no.)

"(Guess why autism rates are skyrocketing? That's right, women having kids well past their thirties because they were too busy having a job. Thanks feminism.)"

There are so many things wrong with this line. First of all, you're pulling out one factor that is correlated (let us repeat together, correlation does not imply causality) and trying to put all the increase in autism rates (which are hard to track anyway because diagnostics have changed so much) at its feet. The research simply doesn't support this - this is clearly far more about your political agenda than about the science. Especially since the science shows linkages to paternal age as well.

(Just a couple of abstract links: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu... , http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu... )

But it's equally asinine to lay women having children later because they have jobs at the feet of feminism. Hell, you could just as strongly make exactly the reverse argument, that feminism in its current form arose in part because of women entering the workforce and achieving such a degree of economic independence. This isn't something that just happened - you're looking at the results of huge changes with industrialization, better medicine, the rise of birth control*, increasing automation of housework, and so on. Do you want to have an economy that works? Well, from where we are right now, women have got to be in the workplace in large numbers - it's not some hobby, it's economic necessity, both on the individual household level and in terms of our country.

* And seriously, for all the guys who seem to fantasize about a time when women would be forced to be homemakers because they got pregnant just like that, isn't it awfully nice to be able to have sex without worrying about having kids? I am highly pro-birth control myself. Yay, more sex, fewer worries.

Comment Re:Now we need... (Score 4, Insightful) 183

It's hardly a matter of one political bend or another - I just had Jehova's Witnesses on my porch trying to tell about the world that is to come, and how only the really good people will be in it (making for a much smaller population, they emphasized) and God's going to clean everything up...

But you'll see it as a trope in fiction of all stripes. There's some terrible disaster, and mankind re-emerges into a form that somehow fits the political biases of the author. A lot of people imagine that being in horrible circumstances like that, fighting for survival with less technology and an awful lot fewer people would make for a simpler, more real world and yearn for it.

Not that long ago, here on Slashdot, a bunch of people were explaining to me that in such a world, as a woman, I would go back into my biologically ordained role of reproductive servitude, which struck me as saying a lot more about their preoccupations, I thought, than anything else, but then people always seem to project their fantasies into these scenarios. (Especially since I'd already mentioned that I was in my forties, as well as being a martial artist and martial arts instructor and having an awful lot of skills useful in such a society.)

Comment Re:Not normal driving. (Score 1) 436

And, I'm sorry, but the driver with his right turn signal on who swoops across two lanes and turns left ... or the ones who think they can use the oncoming lane because there's something in their lane ... or who randomly brake because they can see a cat a half mile away ... or cyclists who do crazy and random shit ... or any number of crazy things you can see on a daily basis ... all of these things will create situations in which the autonomous car utterly fails to do the right thing.

Your pessimistic prediction is based on a misunderstanding of how autonomous cars are programmed.

You're imagining that the autonomous car's programming is based on a legal model -- i.e. that it is assuming that other cars will always follow the law and do the right thing according to the DMV handbook. And you (correctly) infer that a program based on that assumption would often fail in the real world, since other drivers sometimes do crazy or illegal things.

Fortunately, Google's engineers aren't stupid, and they understand that problem also. Which is why they don't program their cars to rely on that assumption. Rather, they program their cars to assume only that other cars will follow only the laws of physics -- for example, they can safely assume that a car will not accelerate from 0mph to 150mph in one second, but they cannot safely assume that a car will stop at a red light.

Approaching the problem at that level is not only more reliable (since unlike the driving code, it's impossible to break the laws of physics) but also easier (since the laws of physics are simpler and easier to quantify than the US driving code, and they are MUCH easier than trying to predict human drivers' psychology). An autonomous car avoiding other cars on a real street isn't much different than a bot avoiding enemy missiles in a video game -- in both cases, the program knows the missiles' current positions, their velocities, and the possible ways in which they could accelerate/decelerate/change-direction if they chose to do so -- and it plans and executes its own actions accordingly. It's not trivial, and it's not guaranteed to avoid every possible accident -- but it's not rocket science, either. Remember that to succeed, the car doesn't have to be God-like in its abilities, only an order of magnitude or so better than the average human driver.

None of this is to say that the autonomous car doesn't need to understand the rules of the road -- but its understanding of the law is used to guide its own actions, not to make assumptions about the actions of the other cars.

Comment Re:Poor example (Score 1) 436

I imagine that most people occasionally get into this sort of Mexican standoff with a car, in which neither driver is quite sure whether the other driver is going to go first or is planning to wait and go second.

When two humans are involved, the standoff can be quickly resolved with a hand gesture (not the one-fingered kind; I mean either a "thank you" wave if you want to go first, or a "go ahead" motion if you want them to)

I wonder if it would be worthwhile to put some kind of display on the front of the autonomous car that would allow it to communicate something similar? There is no reason (other than minimizing cost) for a self-driving car to be inscrutable.

Comment Re:Bet u another battery tech will beat both in pr (Score 1) 130

Why? Batteries have been researched for hundreds of years and is limited to mixing chemicals with known electric potentials.

The difference is in the amount of research that is going on. Between the laptop industry, the mobile phone industry, and the electric car industry, the amount of money and man-hours being invested into commercial battery technology over the last 5 years dwarfs the previous efforts. Advances in battery technology are being discovered every week.

Comment Re:Depends on what you mean by "camping", and wher (Score 1) 146

I haven't done what the OP is suggesting, but I used to (including in a much lamer age of data coverage) take off hiking while vaguely babysitting database builds - every time I'd hit a ridge or a peak I'd check for connectivity, and if I had it, I'd check to make sure nothing had broken too terribly. (And if I was feeling bratty, snap a picture and send it to my labmates.) But this was up in the Cascades - the terrain matters.

Another of my rules of thumb - more generally than just with the above excursions - was to do as much as possible on my phone (which was much easier to recharge via solar.) The solar sets ups have gotten better, and computer batteries have gotten better - I'm less stingy these days, but still. (But OTOH, the OP is describing activities where much of the time various checks might be able to be done via phone, saving the computer battery.)

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