Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Meh. Not cross-platform enough. (Score 1) 42

I may be out of date. UE4 used to be $20/month (i.e. essentially free) and 5% royalty all the time; it's now 5% when you ship. Unity 3D lets you go free, but makes you pay $75/mo or $1,500 all at once per seat if you make over $100,000 of income as a business (1.5% per seat). As mentioned, UE3 was expensive as ass--starting around $1.5 million when first released and eventually falling to $375,000 for a full, unrestricted license with engine source code (it was still $750,000 when UE4 came out).

Comment Re:Math is a Chore (Score 1) 182

They train first-graders with this in every Japanese primary school. They start using a Soroban, which is a 4/1 abacus where the top bead represents 5 and the lower 4 beads represent 1, which provides a visual and mechanical representation of numerical computation.

As I said: the first set are complements on 5. (1,4) are complements across 5: 5 - 1 is 4, 5 - 4 is 1. If you have 8 on a 4/1 abacus, you have 5 + 3. If you subtract 4, you have to toggle 5 and add 1: you get 0 + 3+1. Mechanically, this is just moving the 5 bead and moving one of the 1 beads. You'll notice that's a lot of abstract bullshit, and yet ... it gives you 4. 8 - 4 is 4. It's a rote mechanical action.

The other set is on ten. (7,3) tells me I'm just running 5-3, which is of course 2 (3,2). Since I'm adding 7 + 5 and I know 5 is greater than or equal to 3 (again: 7 and 3), I know to increment the next column to the left and toggle 5. I'm left with 12. Somehow. I see two things: a conversion to 2 and an increment in the next column, so I get 12.

In America, we only use this system to teach kids with severe learning disabilities, since they can't follow the standard math curriculum.

People often underestimate what small children will understand. You can get pretty technical in some subjects, notably in the psychology and some of the neuroscience of memory. That's a specific example: human memory is such a universal experience that even a three-year-old can verify anything you explain about its mechanisms simply by thinking for about four seconds. More abstract topics like numbers are *extremely* difficult to grasp for the uninitiated--children aren't special in this regard; just try teaching direct arithmetic in hexidecimal or *universally* to any random adult--and a Soroban quickly turns that abstraction into something concrete. More complex topics are removed from human perception: you can't get into engineering without math; you can't get into chemistry without an understanding of the elements; a lot of things require a *lot* of background knowledge, and that doesn't change when you're no longer five years old.

When I was in 10th grade, one of my teachers spent 3 weeks trying to get his class to learn subnetting of IPv4 networks. It didn't work very well. The first day, I looked over the subnets, then recognized that the mask was a simple AND mask. Eventually I drew up a logic table, gave a quick explanation of basic discrete operations to several of my classmates, and outlined the rules specific to subnet masking (e.g. your subnet mask is a stream of 1s and then a stream of 0s, not an arbitrary binary sequence). They got it.

Most people think I'm a genius because of shit like this; I've more recently been inclined to acknowledge this as fact when explaining how human intelligence operates. In this case, my teacher made note of my explanation and showed me the results for the next two years: his students picked up subnetting in half an hour. All of them. Nobody took weeks to sort-of get it working; nobody was frustrated, nobody dreaded subnet masking for all eternity. They picked it up *immediately*. None of them were any smarter than my classmates had been, either.

I understood the mechanism. I showed my teacher how to *explain* the mechanism. His future students understood the mechanism *immediately*. They didn't get an explanation of some rote process; they got a full understanding of how and why that process works, and then carried out that rote process *repeatedly*. Instead of stumbling over pieces and wondering if they messed something up (and frequently doing so), they could constantly and continuously verify the process. When something didn't make sense, they could go back and find the error in their understanding, and *self-correct*. That's exactly the same way I had approached the problem.

That ideal you have in your head about talent, giftedness, and intelligence is all backwards. It doesn't exist; we just suck at teaching. We haven't shown them how to use their brains.

Comment Re:Math is fine! (Score 1) 182

Technical knowledge expires quickly, education lasts a lifetime.

I remember all my chemistry from college. All my math, too. Those history classes really changed my life.

Wait, no they didn't.

Even if I remembered all of this, it wouldn't be much use. What's of use is what's used in my other knowledge areas, the active ones. Engineer? You'll remember your math. Chemist? You're going to remember some chemistry. Computer programmer? I bet you've forgotten your history and physics.

No, that "education lasts a lifetime" thing is a platitude. You haven't suggested what education *does* for you, what it provides, how it strengthens the individual, much less the economy in aggregate. That last point is important: taxing the economy with dead weight means that maybe you, as an individual, have benefited from the effort that's dragging us down, but you've benefited over a lowered baseline. In other words: Rather than having what might equate to $100,000, you have $80,000, *and* part of that $80,000 is only available to you because of your education (or other dead-weight factor).

Businesses will find the most efficient way to reduce costs. They'll then find they can make a smart phone for $150, while Motorola makes the same one for $220 and sells it for $600. Then they'll sell their smart phone for $190 and Motorola will sell theirs for $250, and then fade into irrelevance as Americans decide they don't care for overpriced junk.

If giving you a lifetime continuous education in your ever-changing field minimizes their expenses and maximizes your productive output, they'll do that. If padding that education with supporting skills minimizes their expenses, they'll do that instead. Riddle me this, though: Why do you need to learn history or biology if you're never going to use that stuff? Why not learn paralegal, since everyone can use the ability to wiggle their way out of a frivolous lawsuit?

Fix the K-12 education system. College gen-ed is a waste. It's a good political sell, as evidenced by your complete lack of a solid argument and your romantic, starry-eyed recitation of a glowing platitude as a substitute for careful thought and reflection.

Comment Re:Meh. Not cross-platform enough. (Score 4, Insightful) 42

Unity 3D even has continued support for years and years, whereas Mighty No. 9 is all like, "We're having trouble and have to mess with the source code and maintain and bugfix UE3 ourselves because it's no longer updated even though it cost $350,000 per seat!" That was fucking irresponsible, and I called it from the start: they initially budgeted under a million dollars and wanted a (then) half-million-dollar engine instead of the $1,500 Unity 3D engine; they're struggling now even though they got nearly five million dollars of funding.

Maybe if you're Blizzard or Bethesda you can use UE4. It makes sense, even though it's expensive: Ubisoft dumps like 30 huge games every year, so of course they get a lower marginal cost (no matter how low you go, when you divide up a licensing cost across dozens of units, there's a limit to how much you're going to save by taking the less-expensive option). If UE4 does something Unity 3D doesn't and your game will be significantly harder to develop without that feature, deal with it; if this happens and you generally develop dozens of games each year, then maybe you should buy UE4. Of course this applies less now than it did with UE3, since UE3 was ridiculously expensive compared to UE4.

The financials don't make sense. I'd try to fund a moderately-complex game on $100,000 with Unity 3D Pro. It can be done. I computed $58,000 for art for a 2D top-down ARPG, plus another $19,000 for music; I can do the story-writing and much of the programming myself, but a competent programmer will cost you $26,000 in under a full-time 4 months. I'm also a project manager, so I can plan these sorts of things out with reasonable effectiveness, instead of dicking around on a long tail of things going wrong on top of other things going wrong, turning a $100k budget into a $6 million, 9-year project; again, a competent project manager will throw you $100k a year himself. Your real resource costs for a simple 2D or 3D game might be $150k per development-year, plus a relatively fixed cost for assets (3D models, textures, music, animation). If you're making *one* *game*, the cost of your engine is your biggest factor.

That leaves a big question: What are the marginal costs of Lumberyard? Is low cost plus royalty, like UE4? Subscription, like Unity 3D? High cost, like UE3? Answer: It's free plus monetization, like UE4, but with monetization being tie-in service: you can either build an in-house support infrastructure for your online experience, or you can use Amazon. That means if it comes down to engine cost, you might want to go Unity 3D or UE4. The cost of internal infrastructure would exceed the cost of almost *any* outsource service--Amazon, Azure, Verizon--and being tied to Amazon might cost you a lot more than $1,500 for each developer. If so, you need to decide: Will the royalties on UE4 cost you more than Unity? Between all three, will selecting any given one save you enough programmer time to offset the *lifetime* cost of any of these factors?

Financials. I love it.

Comment Re:Journey to the Center of Dearth (Score 1) 182

My father taught me binary in the early seventies when I was still in elementary school, with black marbles and a grey egg carton. I got it right away. Numbers were one thing, representations of numbers was another thing, and these could be whatever you found convenient, so long as you obeyed certain rules

This is why the Japanese start on the Soroban and then move the damn thing out of the classroom.

Comment Re:Math is a Chore (Score 1) 182

I use the same technique on every arithmetic problem.

If you show me some numbers to add--5736 + 7452--I go left to right. 5 + 7 is 12. How do I know? Because I have the sets {(1,4),(2,3)} and {(1,9),(2,8),(3,7),(4,6)} memorized. I know 8 is 5+3; I can also re-derive this: (2,8) gives me 2 on 5, which swaps via (2,3), and so now I have 3. 5+3 = 8. Check it; I didn't bother doing the math, just like I didn't bother verifying that 5-3 = 2 (because I'm adding 7 to 5, thus (3,7), I subtract 3 from 5 and increment the 0 to the left).

Scan the numbers. 13188.

Is that right? I don't know: I just glanced at the two 4-digit numbers. Let me count it on my fingers. 13188. ... Yes.

Subtraction goes the opposite way. Multiplication just calls up the appropriate entries from the 0-9 multiplication table (5x7 = 35?) and drops them down to an accumulator (add them), which *really* grows the number of computations. Division is as annoying as ever: guess what's close and perform multiplication, *then* subtraction. Take a guess about where I got this.

Friendly numbers and equation rearranging are cheap. They're easy to learn with low effort, and abstractly attach to any advantage you might have by seeing the same numbers added again and again. You remember what 7 + 9 is? then 7 + 4 + 9 becomes 7 + 9 + 4. Multiples of five are universal; doubles are common. This isn't an algorithm, but a strategy.

Algorithms are expensive, but *efficient*. You'll work harder to get these Soroban-derived techniques down. You'll expend effort making them autonomic. You're going to suck down ATP, choline, and glutamate trying to burn this into your head. It's not as heroic as it sounds, but it *is* effort. Once you've done that, you'll glance at numbers, blink once, and spit out a computation. You won't even be sure it's correct because you won't remember doing any math; you'll just see 15 numbers to add, subtract, and multiply, and you'll run through it with numbers being swapped out for other numbers. You won't expend any *effort* doing the computations, either: for all that up-front study, you *never need to think about arithmetic again*.

This is why asian kids freak us all out.

Comment Re:Math is a Chore (Score 2) 182

Things you need to rote memorize in math: Complement sets {(1,4),(2,3)} and {(1,9),(2,8),(3,7),(4,6)}; Multiplication tables; Computational algorithms (addition and subtraction using the complement sets; multiplication and division using the multiplication tables; mental calculation for square roots, and the generalized nth root algorithm); Algebraic rules. Have these at your fingertips and a computation is equivalent to its result: glance at a page of numbers and recite the result immediately, without thinking.

Things you *should* memorize in math by network: Algebraic formulas; Trigonometric identities; Geometric formulas; Methods of derivations of the prior. These are things which tell about each other. You'll remember how they work by working with them; you'll associate them together by how and why they function; and you'll begin recognizing that pieces of equations are related to pieces of other equations, allowing you to put them back together when you forget. That association will let you walk your memory back to any equation you need if it isn't immediately familiar; if you *do* forget something like the Law of Cosines, you can recreate it based on what you do remember.

The set of required rote memory--stuff you're going to need to repeat to yourself again and again--is minimal. Even then, you'll likely memorize the compliments, the algorithms, and the algebraic rules by habit of doing; you'll need to memorize the multiplication table by brute force, since you're only ever going to focus on recalling a few elements here and there, instead of all elements *constantly*. Everything else fits into large, complex systems which you can map out in your mind to develop a broad field of organized, associated information, thus strengthening the links to all these facts by making them cognitive.

When *I* was in school, they just made us memorize each new concept and equation. We had to recite equation when prompted, and were only given them in the form of "This equation solves this type of problem." Rote memorization in inappropriate places.

Comment Re:Math is a Chore (Score 2) 182

Learning is not hard; it is, however, *effort*.

It's also technology. I've been collecting some of the high technology--spanning modern, classical, and *lost* technology--and trying to turn that into a primary education system. That's a complex feat of engineering *well* beyond my personal capability. I'm trying to put something together that adults can understand and which skilled teachers can stream in the same rough order and detail I provide to teach first-grade children; I can't create a viable classroom curriculum, but I can probably figure out what you'd need to put in one.

I remember going through school with teacher telling me to study and take notes. That's where all this started for me: I was never taught how to study or take notes. Now I'm aware of SQ3R, SQW4R, OK5R, MURDER, OARWET, PQRST, and the other dozen or so nearly-identical study systems; I also know about Cornell Notes, three-column notes, and a few specialized concept maps. I've learned about Soroban mathematics and the transition from the Soroban to Anzan--arithmetic computed in your head faster than you can punch it into a calculator. I've learned about mnemonics fundamentals (visualization, organization, association), tools (rhythm, rhyme, acrostic, mnemonic numeracy), and systems (peg, link, PAO, mind palace). I've learned a lot about maximizing human efficiency in studying and learning--minimizing the time and sheer mental effort applied.

I've taken this out pretty far. I know about the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that enforces your direct decisions on other parts of your brain. I know your brain tries to hum along doing what it *usually* does, and the dlPFC expends its ATP reserves forcing your brain to expend *more* energy in other places, what scientists call "willpower". I know all the things I listed above, all the strategies I've devised, serve to reduce that energy expenditure, increasing the amount of action you can take per day (less effort means more learning and more time spent on-task; more effort means you lose focus quickly). You need these things, and you need to drill them into your brain as basic processes so you don't expend much energy invoking them, thus ensuring a net-gain.

Want to know where geniuses come from? They're made. They're the kids who happen to stumble across fancy mental tricks that reduce the amount of thinking they do. Those of us who were attentive enough to think about things, to reflect, learned to associate information to other information: I never had to memorize my math formulas because I would pick them apart to understand how they worked, and then *re-derive them* during every homework assignment and every test. I've seen people who are just incredible geniuses and people who are masterfully creative; they're doing better than I am, but we're all doing the *same* things with our brains: gluing bits of information together. It's the time I spend not putting in the effort that cuts me down.

Of course it's not always fun. I spent 4 hours today thinking about how I should study on Duolingo, meanwhile staring at IRC scrolling by while not really reading it; I zoned out to avoid the labor of thinking, when I could have spent an hour learning and solidifying new information. The guy who's studiously pouring over his Japanese books and whining about how hard it is is learning Japanese faster than I'm learning Esperanto, and I can learn Esperanto 20 times faster than *anyone* can learn Japanese. Everyone is like this. We think some people are just dumb, but they're just not using their facilities effectively.

Comment Re:Math is fine! (Score 1) 182

Jobs are a complex economic concept. You don't get a job because *you* are useful; you get a job because the economy needs you to produce something. Failing to understand this has lead to things like the public push for state-supported college, although that's got its major roots in other misunderstandings.

The main driver of employment--and unemployment--is efficiency. Each time you increase efficiency, you *lose* some employment. Given time, market pressures move prices toward costs, which are lower because employment time (labor time, and thus wage) invested into the production of some goods is lower. That leaves buying power (as currency) in consumer pockets, and the consumers purchase more stuff; this requires more production, thus more labor, restoring the lost jobs. The speed of turn-over controls the stable unemployment rate.

Inefficient economic systems lose jobs. College--workforce development mislabeled as "education" (while we ignore K-12 primary education!)--is actually a good example. Our plan is to get everyone through college, make them trained for a particular job. In the process, we waste a lot of labor time... well, training people. The faculty and staff running the college spend their time carrying out this workforce development, which we pay for via tax money (free college) or debt money (college tuition loans). It's wasted because we train so many workers as to create career unemployment: some of us go to get a job and constantly have 20, 50, or even 3,000 other applicants trying to get the same position; we don't all get hired.

That wasted labor costs money (tax, debt) and labor. The money is diverted to the labor, and invokes the broken window fallacy: sure, college staff get paid; but that's a lot of labor devoted to making engineers who can only work at McDonalds, when they could have done that *without* training as engineers. Were the money not tied up in tuition, it could buy other products, which would invoke employment making those products. Overall, we don't need as many McDonalds workers as we'd need people making these other products if we could buy them instead of college, so we lose some employment for no real gain in the process.

The alternate strategy is to let the market find labor shortages and fix them. Businesses will send their employees to college, and then whine because employees are "valuable" and they have to pay appropriate salaries and benefits. Businesses don't want to invest their time and money into building employees. The businesses can more accurately identify what kind of laborers *they* need than any arbitrary student can speculate on the job market (even high-level speculators aren't as good at trading stocks as insider traders, so why would you leave job market speculation up to anyone *but* insider traders?), but they don't want to look like they have a need; often, when I bring this up, people tell me businesses will just not hire people and take even *more* profit, as if jobs are essentially charity.

That said, education *is* technology. If we can teach high-level statistics to high school students, we don't need to spend that time teaching them in college. If we can improve educational strategies and classroom management to maximize academic success, we can reduce the time spent in remedial education (summer school, special education) correcting deficiencies in our education system. If we provide generally-useful education and academic skills, our workers become more functional in their careers and can perform more efficiently.

Improving education leads to a more wealthy society. We haven't figured this out yet, and have mislabeled workforce development as education.

Slashdot Top Deals

If you are smart enough to know that you're not smart enough to be an Engineer, then you're in Business.