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Comment: Re:You're not willing to pay (Score 1) 255

Also, yes, we do buy more than we used to buy. That is called keeping the economy running, and if we weren't buying all those gadgets and trinkets and things *you* don't think are necessary our economy would be in even worse shape. As for the credit card debt, if wages were at least keeping even with what they have historically been people wouldn't have to fall back on so much credit debt now would they.

So what happens when credit cards are all maxed out and people have to lower their spending? Why companies will have to lay off people, leading to even less demand, leading to more layouts, and so forth until the economic tailspin turns into an outright economic and social collapse. Yet no company can unilaterally rise wages to ward off this disaster, because even if it made them more competitive due to a workforce that wouldn't hate them quite so much, the shareholders would complain, since the money could be going to them instead.

If only there were a party who could simply order everyone to rise wages, like it or not, to meet some kind of minimum standard high enough to keep the market working. Or, even better, simply pay a minimal income unconditionally to everyone.

Comment: Re:Done in movies... (Score 1) 224

A terrorist has a nuclear weapon in his backpack and is 10 blocks away from where he plans to set it off. He also plans to die, so if you confront him, he'll just set it off anyway.

The sniper who is supposed to shoot the bad guy has his shot blocked by a girl on her daddy's shoulders. He doesn't have a clear shot.

Do you shoot through the girl to hit the bad guy in that case?

Well, the girl is less likely to die from a bullet wound than a nuclear bomb going off right next to her, so it's not really an ethical dilemma, any more than performing a risky medical operation to save that girl's life afterwards would be.

The problem is, this entire ridiculous scenario is an example of an idea - that ethics can be set aside if needed - fighting for existence. Ideas aren't passive things; they're encoded by living neural cells in human brains, and neurons have a basic drive to be used. So once you accept the idea of ethical exceptions in principle, that idea will always whisper in your ear in every situation, even ones that don't involve any immediate danger.

So the question is: given two imperfect options - absolute ethical commandment and a slippery slope - which one is likely to cause less destruction?

Comment: Re:Done in movies... (Score 4, Insightful) 224

So what you are saying is that it's up to Hollywood to dictate what is acceptable in society?

How do you learn what is acceptable in a society? By watching people do stuff and get praised or reviled for it. What does Hollywood do? Show people doing stuff and get labeled heroes or villains. They're an efficient propaganda machine, for good or ill.

Comment: Re:Silly (Score 1) 118

by ultranova (#49546501) Attached to: Swallowing Your Password

But in that case, what's the advantage of implanting it?

It gives the powerful yet another way to assert their dominance over the less so. And because the powerful are only so because of a system that backs their baseless claims of superiority, and can only continue as long as the powerless keep buying the lie, new ways to propagandize are always needed. All the little ritualistic humiliations society is so fond of, from drug tests to getting groped by the TSA, ultimately come down to the same message: "you are nothing and must obey your masters."

It's a sick, if fascinating, game. It's also one that can't go on forever, since effecively crippling people cripples their society too, yet that society still contains a very strong cultral leftover from feudalism. So what we really have here is a narrative of equality fighting a narrative of hierarchy, leading to very confused people doing completely irrational things - like wiretapping everyone in the name of freedom - without really understanding why.

Comment: Re:Sell it to black hats then... (Score 1) 147

Obviously a good person is not going to sell it to black hats.

You mean a law-abiding person. A good person does not prey on innocents, but Corporate America provides plenty of food satisfying any reasonable standard of sufficient sinfulness you care to set to qualify as an acceptable target.

It's why movies that want robbers seem heroic often use casinos as targets: no one's going to shed a single tear when those who exploit people's dreams to fleece them get victimized in turn.

Comment: Re:Doublethink (Score 1) 680

by ultranova (#49536069) Attached to: Except For Millennials, Most Americans Dislike Snowden

That's because the elderly suffered much more stringent brainwashing as children that leads them to say that they "support those who fight for our freedom" while also promoting a police state worse than Orwells worst nightmare.

It's questionable if even North Korea is worse than Oceania. And the US, where government wiretapping is actually debated publicly, is neither a police state, dystopia nor an Orwellian nightmare. No state that let's you make such claims about them unpunished is, by definition.

Why can't we simply treat the US as an ordinary nation that's mostly benevolent but has its darker side, rather than trying to pretend it's either the Messiah or the Devil? Both titles are already taken.

Comment: Re:It's Just a Euphemism... (Score 1) 194

by ultranova (#49534051) Attached to: Yahoo Called Its Layoffs a "Remix." Don't Do That.

I get that it's a business decision and that sometimes you have to make the hard call, but that doesn't mean you have to be a douchebag about it.

Sure you do. Being a douchebag to your victims inhumanizes them and thus makes you feel less guilty about mistreating them. It's why it's such a common practice of various corrupt security forces the world over.

Comment: Re:A short, speculative cautionary tale... (Score 1) 399

by ultranova (#49527567) Attached to: Using Adderall In the Office To Get Ahead

And if people are willing to risk their lives and freedom to get an illegal drug that just makes them high, what makes you think laws will prevent them from getting a drug that makes them more money?

People risk future revenue in order to get high. Getting high is an end in itself, money is just a means towards an end. So you have the relative priorities backwards there. Not that getting temporarily smarter couldn't be a very pleasant high...

Also, drugs that get you high are almost impossible to stop because they're either made by nature, like cannabis, easy to make, like meth, or ridiculously potent (so a single good chemist is capable of supplying the entire world), like LSD. Custom-designed nootropes would likely have very complex structure and thus require a pharmaceutical company, and a high-end one at that.

Comment: Re:A short, speculative cautionary tale... (Score 1) 399

by ultranova (#49525111) Attached to: Using Adderall In the Office To Get Ahead

Partners have always had the power in law firms -- but how long can they maintain power when their underlings are so much smarter and more ambitious?

They can't, which is why it won't happen. People at the top are there because they're very good at hamstringing competition. So the only legal performance enhancers will be those that are either inefficient, like coffee, or too expensive for you to afford.

Of course the situation will change once more efficient things like direct brain-computer hookups become available to top dogs; but until then, all the little muffs will be kept down.

Comment: Re:A sellout is a sellout (Score 1) 81

If you can't sleep at night because you sold out people who were counting on you, that's your problem.

Profits are private, costs are public. Do whatever it takes to make a buck, for you never have to suffer the consequences of your actions or face your victims. That's the fantasy modern capitalism is built on: that the only thing that matters is you.

The problem is, every now and then you might catch a glimpse of the portrait showing your real face. Because you are nothing but the sum of your actions, them - and their consequences - being your form when viewed from afar, so the being such behaviour harms the most is the same one you did it all for. And thus you're caught in a trap of your own making, lacking the guts to admit the truth and thus being unable to stop harming yourself.

Flesh dies, memory fades, but a push you gave the world to the direction of your choice, however small, remains your contribution for ever.

Comment: Re:Ehhh What ? (Score 5, Insightful) 157

by ultranova (#49507961) Attached to: Mandelbrot Zooms Now Surpass the Scale of the Observable Universe

A law that is violated in my garden every Spring as the seeds germinate, take root, send up leaves, and decrease atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Plants are engines powered by the Sun. The very purpose of those leaves is to tap the flow of solar energy. When the giant celestial nuclear reactor is taken into account, the entropy of the entire system is increasing.

There is something fundamentally wrong about the fundamental "laws" of thermodynamics. Put succinctly, they fail to take into account that these "laws" do not apply to the observer, who is not necessarily decaying into his constituent parts during the process of observation.

Your body is using an external source of energy - the food you eat - to fight the decay.

Comment: Re:Ehhh What ? (Score 3, Interesting) 157

by ultranova (#49507905) Attached to: Mandelbrot Zooms Now Surpass the Scale of the Observable Universe

Incorrect. Abstract mathematical objects are not "encoded within the observable universe"

Sure they are. The set of concepts that humans can conceive are those which human brains, either directly or through tools like computers, can handle. Human brains evolved in the context usually called "the observable universe", so all concepts - including but not limited to abstract mathematical objects - we can think about are encoded within it, just in a real roundabout way. In other words, you can not know anything that isn't encoded in your causal past; even the very notion of abstraction only exists because it's inherent in the physical universe to such a degree that evolution encoded the principle into your brain.

And besides, the notion that math is supernatural - something that exists above physical reality, independent of it - is an unproven and probably unprovable assertion.

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position. -- Christopher Marlowe

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