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Comment: Re:It's sad (Score 1) 349

Actually, they made it COVERT. They have other ways of finding your real name. Like, say, automatically parsing your emails. Or buying your name from the telco which provides your phone service.

You're assuming that getting your real name for their own use was ever Google's goal. I see no justification for that assumption. Even if you assume that Google cares to know your real name, those other options aren't new.

Comment: Re:It's true (Score 1) 236

by swillden (#48022353) Attached to: Former GM Product Czar: Tesla a "Fringe Brand"

It's a fringe brand in that Ferrari is a fringe brand.

Yes, but I think BMW and Mercedes are better comparisons, at least with respect to price range.

I don't think most people wouldn't want one but I don't know a soul who has one. Very few have seen them.

I know several people who have Teslas, but no one with a Ferrari. I've not only seen, but test-driven a Tesla, but not a Ferrari. In fact, assuming you're not in a state that is making Tesla's life hard, getting a Tesla test drive is easy. A Ferrari, not so much.

Comment: Re:Google is pretty good here (Score 1) 42

by swillden (#48020919) Attached to: EU Gives Google Privacy Policy Suggestions About Data Protection

"Hey Joe, you bought those slippers for your wife yesterday, and we've passed this information to the following companies: Nike, Kmart, and Kink.com. Nike has bought an ad to show you a pair of women's tennis shoes at $99.95 tomorrow night when you're reading CNN, Kmart has bought your online purchasing history for the last two weeks, which includes the groceries you bought, the 50m of rope you got last sunday, and the timings of your drive home every monday. Kink has subscribed to your google account update feed, which includes realtime alerts any time you buy bondage related products in the next 6 months, because we told them about the 50m of rope and the average amount you spend monthly on non-essentials."

Google doesn't give any of your information to any advertisers, so a statement of this sort would be empty.

I think it would be really good for everyone, including Google, if Google could find a way to make this point clear to everyone. Google sells ad placement, not user information. Advertisers don't get to control who sees their ads; they don't even have much capability to target specific demographics. Instead, they rely on Google to do the targeting which works well because (a) Google is better at it then advertisers would be anyway, (b) advertisers don't pay except when the user clicks (speaking of adwords here; there's also a smaller display ads business which works differently, but without giving advertisers more information or control) and (c) Google provides advertisers with great tools to determine their return on advertising investment. (c) is really what has made Google the powerhouse in this space: by allowing advertisers to see exactly how effective their ad campaigns are or are not, Google solved one of the oldest problems in advertising, the "I know half of my advertising budget is working, I just don't know which half" problem.

(Disclaimer: I work for Google but I am speaking for myself.)

Comment: Re:free will is not a religious idea (Score 1) 87

i hope we can agree that the whole singularity notion that because of some unscientific conjecture about processor speed that 'ai' is predictable is nonsense...

I agree that processor speed has little if anything to do with it. It's clearly about software. If it were about speed only, then we should, right now, be able to build an artificial intelligence that runs very slowly. Perhaps it would think at a millionth of the speed of a human brain, but the processes of creative thinking would still be recognizable as such. Then we could know that we just need a computer a million times faster to match a human brain, and that further performance improvements would surpass the human brain.

But we don't know how to create an AI running at any speed, because we don't understand how intelligence works.

look, even in this far-flung, completely fictional but theoretically possible scenario, the Commander Data is so complex that in the fictional narrative, the character is depicted as being impossible to re-create...virtually impossible anyway

Yes, that is clearly fiction: If we have the knowledge necessary to create intelligence, there's no reason at all to suppose that we will only be able to do it once. That would imply that we didn't really know how we did it. Technological advances almost never precede the understanding of their function. It's the other way around. In fact, that is the reason AI research in the past has traditionally failed: We hoped that we could create intelligence prior to actually understanding how it works. my point you have to reach beyond any possible logic to pure fiction, where it all kind of breaks down

You're assuming your own conclusion, AKA begging the question. You're assuming that AI could only exist in pure fiction, and using that assumption to argue that AI could only exist in pure fiction.

i have to admit that theoretically the human mind works and is a system and therefore can (and this is very far-flung...pure conjecture) be constructed

Yes, the human mind works and is a system... but why is it such a far-flung conjecture to assume it can be constructed? It is constructed, every day, via reproducible physical processes. It is not a "far-flung" conjecture to consider that it could be constructed via a different mechanism, or from different materials, on the contrary it is a "far-flung" conjecture to suppose that it cannot, because that would imply that in some way human brains violate the laws of physics, or at least rely on some physical processes that are impossibly specific.

For example -- and note that I'm not implying that this is the best, or most efficient way to accomplish it, in fact I'm quite certain it is not -- imagine a traditional computer running a fully-detailed simulation of a human brain. This simulation is an exact replica of a real human brain, and simulates every neuron, every chemical reaction, etc. It even simulates the quantum uncertainty effects at the finest level of detail.

Why would that simulation not evince "free will" (whatever that is)? Even if it did so with agonizing slowness. Unless you can conjecture some reason why it would not be able to think, then you must suppose that thinking machines can take on other forms. Further, there's no reason to expect that the "hardware" of brains, the specific structure of neurons and neurotransmitters, is inherently required to carry out thought. Information processing can be carried out in a bewildering variety of ways, all of which produce exactly the same results. This means that we should also be able to create thought by implementing the same information flows in other physical systems, without resorting to simulating the physical system of the brain.

Unless, of course, there is some element of human thought, or free will, or whatever you'd like to call it, that indeed does not derive from physics. Something supernatural.

Comment: Re:Some realistic space battles in literature (Score 1) 413

by swillden (#48016365) Attached to: The Physics of Space Battles

David Weber's approach for the Honor Harrington series is pretty good.

In order to make somewhat realistic space battles interesting (or even possible), he postulates "inertial sump" technology as well as gravitic drives which combined make possible ship accelerations measured in 100s of gravities, and missile accelerations measured in tens of thousands of gravities. Even with those incredible accelerations, he makes the point that the tactical opportunities provided by being able to navigate in three dimensions make it very hard to make an enemy fight if decides to run. So a great deal of strategy goes into manipulating an enemy into a position where he can't run (e.g. because he has to defend a fixed objective) or getting him to build a vector that brings him inevitably into range of your force because his maximum acceleration on any vector isn't enough to clear your missile range. Oh, and at the incredible speeds obtained (up to ~0.5c; inadequate "particle shielding" generally prevents higher velocities), passing engagements are over incredibly quickly, so you really need to match vectors fairly closely to have any sort of a slugging match.

The result is reasonably realistic, and also makes for interesting, dramatic battles. Only "reasonably" realistic, though, because Weber never explores the full implications of the gravitic technology. If you think too hard about the implications of those, you quickly realize that the fictional society is utterly ignoring 99% of the potential of either their gravitics or their power plants, or both. In that it's something like the transporters and food replicators of Star Trek, though not quite as severe. But ignoring that, Weber's physics are believable and set the stage for entertaining drama.

For fans of sail-age nautical warfare, Weber also manages to construct a scenario where many of the dynamics of wet-navy combat carry over, including, at the beginning at least, the use of the "line of battle", except that in 3D it becomes a "wall of battle". So rather than "ships of the line", you have "ships of the wall". Anyway, it all comes together pretty well.

Oh, and he tells a good story, too.

Comment: Re:free will is not a religious idea (Score 1) 87

So... if free will isn't an emergent behavior arising from complex interactions which are nevetheless inherently limited to the laws of physics, then what is it? And, more importantly, what is it about free will that makes it impossible for a machine to acquire it? What, fundamentally, is special about the computations in human brains that constitute "free will" that makes it impossible to replicate them in different hardware? Or to replicate them in the _same_ hardware? Eventually we will be able to build a human brain from raw materials... will that manufactured brain have free will? If not, why not?

FWIW, I've never read Dawkins. His anti-religion crusade annoys me.

Comment: Re:'teh singularity' (Score 1) 87

Yes and no.

I agree that it's likely that there's no specific line, at least not a sharp one, but there is a qualitative difference between machine learning as we know it now, and human learning. Human learning, at least the best human learning, is about the creation of knowledge, not the acquisition of facts, nor even the identification of key facts from a larger mass (which is what machine learning as done today is about).

A key difference is explanation. A human playing Breakout not only comes up with the strategy of tunneling and exploiting it to knock out lots of blocks from the top, but can explain why that strategy works. This sort of meta-learning, knowledge plus understanding of knowledge, is something that none of our algorithms can yet implement.

every human is unique in the universe and has free will...no machine will ever have these characteristics

This point I don't know about. What you're saying is fundamentally religious, ascribing to people some element that makes us more than the mechanical and chemical interactions that comprise us. That may be the case, or it may not. Even for those who believe in God, it has proven tricky to assume supernatural explanations, because physics often finds natural explanations for them.

Comment: Re:Beyond the law? (Score 1) 353

by swillden (#48011399) Attached to: FBI Chief: Apple, Google Phone Encryption Perilous

Sure, but the FBI seems to be saying that it's wrong to do something that would hinder a search with a warrant. That's not a Fourth Amendment issue. Police getting information off a phone without a warrant is, and actually that's what I'd mostly like to stop.

Ah, I see what you're saying. I agree. The original poster's claim that Corney was attacking the Constitutional right of privacy. He wasn't, since that right is removed (in specific ways) by a warrant, and he's saying his concern is that this technology makes warrants ineffective.

On the other hand, nothing in the Constitution requires that we go out of our way to enable warrants to be effective. Given that encrypting devices is a very reasonable precaution to take to protect our data in the case of loss or theft, there's no reason we should avoid it just to help out the police.

Comment: Re:Folks.... (Score 1) 185

by swillden (#48006105) Attached to: Security Collapse In the HTTPS Market

Eliminate that chain, work out a public exchange and verification program (something akin to bittorrent for gpg signed certificates from other people you trust.) and plug that in in place of the current certificate authority model and you're set.

Or rather than eliminating it, secure it. A couple of proposals:

http://www.certificate-transparency.org/ provides a distributed mechanism for near real-time monitoring of certificates in use, to very quickly identify and block certificates that weren't issued legitimately.

http://convergence.io/ makes the observation that MITM attacks result in some subset of the Internet seeing a different certificate from a given server. A distributed system of crosschecks identifies sessions which are being attacked.

Note that in spite of the fact that Convergence is billed as a replacement for the CA system, there's no reason that we can't use both.

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson

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