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Comment: Re:Take your space (Score 2) 290

by stevedog (#49107177) Attached to: How Walking With Smartphones May Have Changed Pedestrian Etiquette
Yeah, that probably was pretty funny. Except that, when accounting for the retail cost of the phone, you almost certainly caused over $500 of damage. Then, when you charged him with assault (which would be dismissed), he would have your name and would then charge you with felony vandalism, for which you would be convicted, probably summarily. Now you can't vote in most states, carry a firearm, or get a decent job. Oopsies!

Comment: Re:How is this a good thing? (Score 1) 115

I think you make an argument worth making, but your argument is about the application of tools, not the tools themselves. If the military and/or intelligence communities are being told to achieve objectives (or are even internally setting objectives) that do more harm than good, then they should be redirected. Even so, just like the military shouldn't lose their guns or cops shouldn't lose the ability to arrest people if they are arresting the wrong people, the intelligence community should not lose the tools that allow them to operate.

To argue that any element of the government is operating suboptimally is often not a difficult argument to make. To say that they (any element of government) should be eliminated or neutered altogether is something else entirely, and I feel like that should be approached with great caution.

Comment: Re:How is this a good thing? (Score 2) 115

I wasn't arguing that everyone should be happy about this. I would imagine that, if China found out about something like this, they would be quite upset. Similarly to how upset they would be when they found a spy in their government. That doesn't mean that our intelligence community shouldn't be trying to do exactly that and, presumably, vice versa (and, I would imagine, each is both trying and succeeding).

To address your other point: I think that, if there is evidence that industrial espionage against the US has been facilitated by NSA backdoors, then the backdoors pose a greater risk than benefit to national security (assuming that the loss from such espionage is, again, greater than intelligence gained). This is all risk/benefit -- that's their job. I would be totally fine with Coke losing their formula to China if that means that they are also able to interdict intelligence that prevents a major attuU.S. (or foreign, if sufficiently significant) soil.

But, to be clear, you are right that part of this equation was the assumption that the U.S. was far superior to all other states in their ability to detect and utilize such backdoors. This has become far less true in recent years, and these policies by their risky nature do require careful constant re-evaluation. Furthermore, there is also something to be said for the inability to "revert" the changes in many of these backdoors, such as in hardware -- so if you later decide that these pose more risk to industry than benefit to national security, you're just SOL on existing backdoors. That makes it crucial that the element of longitudinal uncertainty be taken into account in the initial decisionmaking; hopefully it is, but admittedly foresight is often not government's strong suit...

Comment: Re:How is this a good thing? (Score 2) 115

No, quite the opposite. At the same time, though, what would happen if every soldier's gun had a chip that required "command approval" before any member of a squad could start firing? Sure, individual soldiers kill the wrong people, and for the wrong reasons, all the time. Hopefully, though, most of the time it is for the right reasons. And regardless, to place such restrictions on them limits their ability to safely carry out their intended purpose to such a degree that it is a problem.

The idea is that, if they *do* overstep their boundaries, then that should be handled appropriately (and that is a valid point of criticism with more domestic recent events). But to claim that the intelligence community, whose job is to move about undetected, should be telling people, "you know, these floors make it easy for someone to sneak in undetected. You should replace them with these other floors, where no one would be able to sneak in at all," would be exactly the opposite of their intended job.

They are the intelligence community, not our national cybersecurity consulting firm, and they only ought to be notifying the public if the risk to national security involved in leaving the vulnerability open is greater than the risk to national security involved in losing the intelligence that could be gained from it.

Comment: How is this a good thing? (Score 4, Insightful) 115

I'm not sure how I see that this is a good thing. I know it's fun to hate on the intelligence community (I've done it too), especially when we feel like our own rights have been infringed, but are we really saying that we are in favor of anything which hampers the West's ability to take clandestine actions against other states? After all the complaining we do about Congress and all the bureaucracy that comes along with anything usually related to government, we are then saying that absolutely every hostile action should be subject to the same oversight that produces exactly that molasses-like barrier to actual results?

It is without question that, at times, the intelligence community must have overstepped its bounds, as any entity with that much power would on occasion. Maybe in their case that happens far more often than it should. But does that really mean they should have no real power at all?

Comment: Re: Nonsense (Score 1) 800

by stevedog (#46940285) Attached to: Autonomous Car Ethics: If a Crash Is Unavoidable, What Does It Hit?
Not necessarily true -- any piece of equipment or software that is built to be truly reliable should be able to operate in such a way that it can "fail gracefully" -- i.e., it should have fail conditions and algorithms to manage those, rather than just assuming "this is built so well that fail conditions are impossible." To do otherwise is like programming and just assuming that an exception will never be thrown, because you programmed it so well and accounted for every possible environmental variable.

Comment: Re: elections are bought (Score 5, Insightful) 465

by stevedog (#46896355) Attached to: Lessig Launches a Super PAC To End All Super PACs
Actually, the founding fathers did foresee this. The idea, per the Federalist Papers, was to maximize the involvement of special interests so that no one group would be able to gain dominance. This was one of the reasons why Washington opposed a 2-party system: he felt that it essentially consolidated everything down to a set of 2 special interests rather than a wide spread, which defeated the purpose. Presumably, though, that consolidation is the same thing that happens with super PACs vs. individual contributions, so while several founding fathers probably would've been in favor of super PACs too (given the power that comes along with them), that probably would not have included Washington, likely the most fair and certainly least power-seeking along them.

Comment: Re:It will be nice (Score 1) 182

by stevedog (#43868735) Attached to: Early Brain Response To Words Predictive For Autism
I certainly hope the DSM won't be forsaken, because if it is, then no one will have a definitive way to diagnose autism or anything else psychiatric. Using biological markers (i.e., fMRI, structural imaging studies [MRI, CT], etc.) was the original hope for DSM-5 around the time that DSM-IV-TR was completed (2000), but when the time to write DSM-5 came around, there wasn't enough data to define any such markers with any remote degree of validity.

Trust me, most of us (at least those that take insurance) don't get paid much for sitting there trying to figure out what diagnosis someone has (even though some of us, myself included, still enjoy the human side to that interaction and wish it were still present in more of medicine); for many, it would be much easier if we could do like the internists, send you to get an MRI, and get a diagnosis faxed back to us. Tons of researchers are spending tons of money to try to get us to those biomarkers. Jumping the gun and throwing out the current system without a remotely valid one to replace it, however, is not the answer.

Comment: Re:Short yellow lights are a safety hazard (Score 1) 507

There's a good chance this won't work. If a company has a hold on your account (i.e., they have let the credit card company know they intend to make a transaction within the near future so that those funds will be reserved -- this is usually placed as soon as you rent the car), then the corresponding actual transaction will still go through even if the credit card number changes.

Comment: Re:I'm for it. (Score 0) 351

by stevedog (#43231517) Attached to: Defend the Open Web: Keep DRM Out of W3C Standards
Exactly. No one intrinsically likes regulation of any kind -- we only do it because it's necessary, and by participating in the process of regulation, we have some hope of at least shaping it. DRM isn't inherently the devil. Without DRM, we would still be going to Blockbuster or, at best, waiting for our red envelopes to watch any non-pirated movies. I'm no fan of DRM by any stretch, but acting like it is absolute evil and could never result in anything good makes us just as bad as the **AAs. DRM actually can be done right... just ask Valve.

Comment: Re:upside down keypads? (Score 1) 120

by stevedog (#42848155) Attached to: John E. Karlin, Who Led the Way To All-Digit Dialing, Dies At 94
It says "Putting “1-2-3” on the pad’s top row instead of the bottom (the configuration used, then as now, on adding machines and calculators) was also born of Mr. Karlin’s group: they found it made for more accurate dialing." I think when they said "the configuration used" they were referring to "the bottom" rather than the entire preceding phrase. Admittedly though, whatever they meant, it wasn't very clear.

Comment: Re:upside down keypads? (Score 4, Interesting) 120

by stevedog (#42848125) Attached to: John E. Karlin, Who Led the Way To All-Digit Dialing, Dies At 94
Although it wasn't based on research, it actually is fairly intuitive. Given that calculators were probably most commonly used in finance initially, I would guess that the most common number used (possibly even now) would be 0. Placing that most common number at the thumb position has clear utility, similar to that of the spacebar. My guess is that that served as the anchor, with the other numbers logically flowing from there.

Obviously, all of this is coming out of my ass, but like I said, I don't think it's entirely illogical (though I also think that, for its own purpose, the phone's layout is equally logical, and emulating the calculator on a dialpad would have made the phone look ridiculous when it was released).

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant