Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Comment: Re:It does not matter (Score 1) 559

by urusan (#43600103) Attached to: Robots Help Manufacturing Recover Without Adding Jobs

While I agree with your overall sentiment (push on through and adapt to the change), I worry about one major issue.

Socialist policies of the type that completely provide for an individual can very easily strip a person of their dignity. A person on welfare continues to live at the pleasure of the state. Without some sort of gainful employment for a person to take pride in, many will lose hope and self-determination. With complete control of a person's income, the state has exceptional power over the affairs of that person and the state has great leverage to dictate how they live. Welfare is a prison, though perhaps a very nice one.

Make-work employment does not help. As make-work it is by definition purpouseless and thus not gainful. Such work would help few psychologically and would prevent any sort of alternate improvement in this area such as some people finding pride and purpose in volunteer work. Worse, it makes the nice prison of welfare into a form of slavery, but without even the usefulness of labor that some slaves took pride in. It is the worst kind of human dedigration. It also does nothing to abate the total power of the state over the individual. I am totally opposed to make-work employment.

Unfortunately, solving this problem will be very difficult. My main thought for the moment is the formation of an "ownership society", where each person owns capital and acquires the majority of their income from the production of capital. People tend to take pride in ownership, and those who need something more hands-on can do volunteer work, creative work, or aspire to work in a job that can't be automated. The state will definitely play a role in this, providing a safety net for those who lose their fortunes to bad luck and can no longer sustain themselves, but their job would be to give such individuals a "jump start" to get them going again and not to hold on to them indefinitely.

However, I feel that the initial creation of this situation will be very difficult (though I am sure it would work given we are in a situation where capital replaces most/all human labor). The main problems are the process of grading between our current situation and the new one without destroying the economy that we require to move us toward the new situation while still taking care of those who fall through the cracks early...and competing ideas, such as state welfare, make-work, not changing anything, and others.

There might also be better solutions that I haven't thought of. I'd be happy to hear them, but they must address these issues if we are to avoid a dystopian future for the majority of the population.

Comment: Re:Somewhere... (Score 1) 244

by urusan (#43483945) Attached to: Researchers Report Super-Powered Battery Breakthrough

The sun outputs 384.6*10^24W. Of that 174.0 PW reaches the Earth directly. Of that 89.0 PW reaches the ground and is absorbed by it. The gross efficiency of modern solar power facilities is around 2.6%, so that cuts it down to 2.314 PW. Split over 10 billion people, that leaves each person on Earth with a maximum energy budget of 231.4 MW. If we capture only 1% of that energy (as clearly we don't want to cover the Earth in solar panels), it comes out to 2.3MW of sustainable energy per person (23.14 TW total compared to 16 TW today). At 1MW, a car is less than half of this budget.

Additionally, each person is not travelling by car 100% of the time. On average people drive close to 3 hours a day, so it only takes 12.5% of the above figure. That means that we would only use about 5.4% of our energy budget on transport. Now of course, this assumes everyone is driving alone in 1MW personal vehicles, which isn't true, there's lots of larger vehicles as well as carpooling. However, the real figure is unlikely to exceed the 20% we use on transportation currently, and personal transport is only a portion of that pie.

Finally, my initial assumptions are fairly conservative. We could gather more than 1% of the Earth's energy by building more solar or using other sources such as wind, hydro, geothermal, etc. We could capture energy that would normally miss the Earth entirely by building solar arrays in space. Increases in efficiency could improve the situation as well. Lastly, although it's not as sustainable as fusion power from the sun, fission power from the Earth could dramatically boost our total energy budget for a very long time.

My point is that there's plenty of sustainable energy for personal transport. It really is sustainable.

One last note...I'm not saying this will be easy either. There's a lot of challenges to be overcome and infrastructure to be built to make sustainable energy a reality. In particular the power grid needs a great deal of rework. There may even be some changes that many people do not like (such as longer refuelling times or having to use communal batteries). However, I don't see any insurmountable obstacles to keeping up our present energy usage while switching to sustainable sources.

Comment: DDT gets a bad rap (Score 3, Informative) 114

by urusan (#43432901) Attached to: Organic Pollutants Poison the Roof of the World

DDT is villianized far out of proportion these days. Although admittedly they are both POPs, setting it rhetorically alongside Agent Orange as though they are the same is absurd.

DDT's carcinogenic properties are not really all that serious. We expose ourselves to more carcinogenic substances all the time, such as gasoline fumes. These minor effects were played up by DDT's opponents back in the day to scare people into accepting a DDT ban. Similarly, the acute toxicity is minor. To my knowledge, there's only one case where someone died from consuming DDT, and in that case the DDT may have contained other harmful chemicals.

On the other side of the coin, DDT saved millions of lives by eliminating malarial mosquitoes and other harmful insects. It easily saved more lives than it took.

Agent Orange on the other hand has caused awful damage in the areas where it was used extensively. If DDT was even close to as dangerous as it was made out to be by its opponents, then the present day impacts would be like a worldwide version of the Agent Orange boondoggle...times 1000.

Comment: Missing the point (Score 1) 115

by urusan (#43316759) Attached to: Laser Fusion's Brightest Hope

Several comments here have criticized the NIF for being a poor candidate for practical fusion power. Ok, fair enough.

This misses the point. The NIF is not supposed to produce power or even produce a method that will be able to produce power. The NIF's real contribution is research. Achieving ignition is a grand scientific goal, a huge and difficult challenge that drives research and engineering to new heights, much like going to the moon.

Why did we go to the moon? In JFK's famous speech he said: "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

JFK was an unusually forward thinking fellow, and he was absolutely right. While the Apollo program was extremely expensive and the accomplishment of its primary goal did not substantially change our lives for the better, the program more than paid for itself in spin-off technologies that were only created due to needs that would not arise under normal circumstances, but nonetheless turned out to have terrestrial applications. We are better off for undergoing the Apollo program than if we hadn't.

It's not easy to motivate the public to back challenging projects such as these despite their long term benefits, so they must wrap themselves in a popular cause. The Apollo program was only possible because it could be framed in terms of "beating" the Soviet Union. JFK's rhetoric about taking on hard scientific challenges would have had little impact on the public without the competition that the Soviets provided during the space race. The entire program cost $145 billion in 2007 dollars, more than the present day GDP of the entire state of Kansas, or enough to run the National Institute of Health for over 4 years, and all this back at a time when the national GDP was only a fraction of its current level. This frankly absurd amount of money would have certainly been earmarked for more mundane uses had Sputnik not shaken up the nation a few years earlier, and had this occured instead of the Apollo program then we would be worse off today. Smaller projects like the NIF must also wrap themselves in popular causes like energy research in order to get funded, even if that makes little practical sense.

Now that's not to say that every large scientific program is worthwhile. Some projects are too easy, and thus don't push the boundaries enough, and so these projects should directly produce something useful whenever possible. This was one of the many problems with the Space Shuttle program, which was overly focused on easy goals which it achieved poorly and at a high cost (though the Shuttle program too spawned many interesting spin-offs, so in the long run it too may have been worth it, but that's a topic for another time). Some projects are way too hard for us to handle now or could only be realistically solved in a destructive manner. For instance, it would be crazy to think we could get a manned flight to Jupiter in the next decade, and the only real solution to such a challenge would be to build an Orion-style spacecraft. These insurmountable challenges can be broken up into smaller pieces, for instance by tackling more reasonable challenges like getting to Mars first or building a permenant habitation on the Moon before thinking about Jupiter.

Is the NIF worth it? I can't say for sure. However, the fact that they're running into problems actually makes the program more likely to pay off in the long run. Why? Well according to our theory, this should work...but it doesn't. Why doesn't it work? This is a mystery that could lead to important practical physics breakthroughs, and the research and engineering needed to properly investigate this mystery could lead to valuable spin offs and new research directions that could open totally new doors.

Comment: Re:Load of Crap! (Score 3, Insightful) 219

by urusan (#42257377) Attached to: Gov't Report Predicts Cyborgs, Rise of China for 2030

We already recycle most of our metal:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steel_recycling
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium_recycling
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copper#Recycling
In the future, scarcer metal supplies will probably lead to even better recycling technology and more incentive to save or even recover already disposed of metal.

Fully recycling plastic and producing synthetic oil and oil products is expensive, but quite possible. Once extracting oil becomes expensive, we'll lean on and improve these technologies more and more.

Material isn't the problem, energy is...and really that's not too big of a problem between nuclear, coal, natural gas, solar, and eventually fusion.

The main potentially troublesome thing is our environmental impact (especially if we don't use nuclear and thus end up leaning heavily on coal), as this issue is a textbook tragedy of the commons situation, and we humans are terrible at dealing with those.

Comment: Re:Automation and unemployment (Score 1) 602

by urusan (#42236693) Attached to: A US Apple Factory May Be Robot City

Well...compared to 1712's standards, we have a lot fewer problems like the kinds you mentioned.

The unfortunate thing about such problems is that they will always exist. 120 Americans died of starvation in 2004. That's substantially less than one-in-a-million, but it still happened. Getting enough food to not starve is not a problem for even the poorest of the poor in the US (getting killed by yourself is over 4000 times more likely), and yet 120 people managed to fall through the cracks and starve anyway.

The two specific problems you mentioned are even tougher to deal with because they involve some amount of lifestyle choice. If someone is dying from self-imposed starvation, you can legitimately strap them into a hospital bed and feed them back to health. If they resist then it is clearly attempted suicide and the state is allowed to restrain them for their own good. However, if someone is living out on the street or in the wilderness, can you really force them into living in a shelter or a home? If someone refuses to see a doctor about the early symptoms of some curable disease, can you really force them into a hospital? What if nobody notices until it's too late?

As strange as these scenarios may seem, I've actually met people who fit them perfectly. While I was in college, I met a fellow student who seemed ordinary enough. He was studying to be a Japanese translator and was quite a nice guy. As it turned out though, he was homeless throughout much of the year (which I discovered when he asked me to store some of his furniture in my apartment until he could find a new place in a few months). When I asked him why he went homeless, he said it was much cheaper than renting an apartment and he had gotten quite good at getting what he needed. I can even sympathize with his decision, as I put most of my pathetic college-era income into keeping a roof over my head and essentially ended up as a studious shut-in (I once decided to celebrate the end of a particularly important series of final exams by going out to eat pizza with my friends, what a luxury!). Faced with the same situation, he simply chose a more exciting option.

The other person is my alcoholic uncle. He too was homeless for many years despite considerable financial support from his mother, and even today he has a great deal of pride about his homeless experiences. Based on what he's told me as well as what I know about him, I feel he was primarily motivated by his love for exploration (and getting into trouble), as well as reducing his costs so he could buy more booze and cigarettes with the money he had. At the moment though, my main concern for him is the other problem you mentioned. He's a long time smoker and alcoholic, and now that he's getting old his health is deteriorating fast. I'll spare you the details, but l'll just say that blood is involved in many of his symptoms. Despite this, he refuses to go to the doctor for even a basic checkup. He mainly cites money as the cause, but this is BS as I offered to completely cover his expenses and he still refused (it's not like he didn't believe me either, as I was in a position to seriously do it at the time). My family refuses to force him into it (and I had to leave the situation behind due to a new job in another state), so the problem continues to fester and grow and will probably end with him being rushed into the emergency room...or worse.

In both of these examples, they weren't even suffering from any obvious mental illness. My college friend made a conscious choice to be homeless and last I checked he was doing great and has probably graduated by now and moved on to better things. My uncle is of sound mind and although his body is messed up after decades of self-abuse, he's not crippled either. I'm certain that a professional psycological evaluation on the two of them would not come up with anything serious.

I'm not saying that there aren't real problems here, or that it's all the fault of the people suffering from these problems...or that money isn't the issue (you'll notice that it's a contributing factor in both of my examples). My point is that these problems are much more complex than they seem on the surface and realistically they will never completely go away.

Also, when deciding whether something is a problem or not, mere occurance is not an acceptable criteria. At 120 deaths per year, starvation is not a problem in the US.

In the US, you are around 4.5 times more likely to die from cigarette smoking than from infectious diseases. You're also more likely to die from obesity or alcohol. How much of a problem is this really? This isn't to trivialize these deaths, but when you consider the difficulty of preventing all infectious disease (especially infections in those dying of old age, who are the primary group dying from infectious disease http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Causes_of_death_by_age_group_(percent).png ) we're doing pretty great. Also, in terms of years of life lost things like motor vehicle accidents are much worse problems (half as many deaths but often 2 to 6 times the number of years lost).

Homelessness is even more difficult to evaluate, as few people die directly from it but there definitely are a lot of homeless people and they certainly do suffer from disadvantages. You also start to get into some serious issues of personal freedom versus public health.

In developed nations, we've reduced such problems down to relatively hard cores. Going further is possible but difficult, expensive, and may involve trampling on personal liberty to achieve our goals.

Now if you really want to make a big difference and aren't particularly picky about whether the people you help are similar to you or not, there are many places in the developing world where we haven't gotten down to the hard core of these problems yet. A little help can go a long way.

Even here though, these problems are more complex than they may seem on the surface. After all, it doesn't matter how much food you produce and ship if men with guns confiscate all of the food before it can get to the people who need it. Also, the most impactful help in the long term is generally to help people help themselves (though immediate direct relief certainly has its place).

Ah, if only the world were such a simple place that one could blame all of its ills on one simple thing...

Comment: The Real Story Here (Score 1) 239

by urusan (#42212621) Attached to: Thorium Fuel Has Proliferation Risk

Leaving aside any discussion of whether or not this is new and its possible impact on the thorium fuel cycle...there's an even bigger story here that nobody seems to have mentioned.

If someone could make fissionable Uranium easily and covertly from Thorium using only readily available equipment, what's stopping them from just doing it? We don't need a thorium fuel cycle for someone with nefarious plans to use this information.

We've only been able to keep uranium and its byproducts under control because commercially viable reserves are concentrated in a few relatively stable countries and the amount of naturally-occurring uranium that needs to be mined to make a bomb is huge compared to the amount that goes into the bomb itself. Thorium is readily available worldwide in massive quantities, most of which is the right isotope. Controlling the Thorium supply is going to be a nightmare.

It seems to me that this blows the lid totally off of the proliferation situation. Pretty much anyone with the resources needed to build an atomic bomb could do this to get the material they need. How can we possibly hope to keep this situation under control?

Comment: Re:Confusing data and information (Score 1) 64

by urusan (#41274837) Attached to: Twitter Based "Ted" System Warns of Earthquakes Earlier

The main issue here is that we're using different definitions of education. I'm more specifically thinking of a liberal education. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_education In particular, when I say that someone has an education I'm really talking about the state that a liberal education strives to create.

So training is bad education? Every talent can be reduced to (possibly multiple simultaneous) walks of a graph, wisely choosing from a set of alternatives at each node.

No, it's a compliment to education. It's what makes one fluent at whatever they're doing. For instance, when I typed that last sentence, my training in the English language allowed me to realize that outcome quickly and efficiently. Without my training, I'd be constantly stopping to look up words and remember grammatical rules. It would be slow and tedious. Training is critical for any function that isn't purely instinctual. Most of what you learn in any realistic educational system is training.

However, learning to think independently is much harder. If one cannot think independently, one can't learn to think independently by themselves. Worse yet, it can't be externally trained. How can one learn to be an independent person when there is a teacher (or book) to be dependent upon? The best a teacher can do is set up an environment that is likely to lead to independent thought. Even in the best situation there is no guarantee it will work. In fact, this is true even assuming we're deterministic machines like computers, because questions about independent thought gets into self-referential territory and proving stuff about it becomes undecidable (or intractable if you want to get really technical, as we don't have infinite memory...but the size of your tree for a human is exponential with an input number somewhere around the number of neurons in the human brain...easily more than 2^100,000,000,000 which is way more than the 10^80-ish atoms in the universe).

a general knowledge of "geology" is education

A general knowledge of geology is (extensive) training.

By the way, I have known several scientists and programmers with a relatively low capability for independent thought. It's much rarer than in the general populace, but it's still there. Also, I've noticed that certain national educational systems create large numbers of graduates that can't think independently. I was recently in a training program with nearly 40 programmers from such an educational system and it was almost comical how few of them could do anything substantial without external support.

On the contrary, some (not all!) sports played at high level require a sharp mind: to analyse the field, to predict, to respond at the right moment, etc. It is the cunning, unpredictable players who will shine.

This is true, but I used it as an example because: 1. most people call sports preparation training and 2. it's undeniable that it takes a LOT of training to succeed at a sport.

OK, but good training encourages self-improvement. Back to the tree-walk, the organisation of learning ("learning how to learn") is itself a talent which can be learned. Looking at education this way, is it not just another subject to be trained? Components of this training are part of all good "training"/"education" in any field.

Learning to learn is another one of those tricky self-referential skills (how do you learn how to learn in the first place when you don't know how to learn?), so it can't be deterministically trained. The best we can do is set up the environment so it happens most of the time.

In an egalitarian society, there is certainly no "upper class" from which to differentiate a "non-upper class", and education is not only offered to the bright.

I guess that's true in the strictest sense, but if so there is no such thing as an egalitarian society...and furthermore I believe there can never be a human-run egalitarian society. It's kind of a useless label in that case.

What do you call societies that are not caste-based but are not truly egalitarian either? I use "egalitarian" because it's more useful that way.

This is only a transitional step to creating AI more intelligent than humans, surely? If AI is a threat then it is a threat to everyone. You may say that at some point AI becomes strong enough to deserve rights, but humans are great at denying rights to things which look sufficiently different.

I agree, but I don't know how long this will take. It could be in a shockingly short time or we could be dead and gone by then. The rise of weak AI is happening right now and may even be a major factor in the recent international economic woes.

As someone who went to an uppity private school on scholarship, I'd have to agree: the people around me were only marginally educated. Boarding school was training, if you like, in saying the right things to the right people.

Wow, burn.

Actually, this is a great example of what I'm talking about. Even with the best education money can buy, many still fail to become educated.

Three more quick things I was thinking about that don't well fit into the narrative above:
Humans start out with little to no capability for independence. A baby is completely dependent on its parents to care for its basic needs, and would die if left to their own devices. This is mostly mental, as a human baby doesn't have many critical instincts that other animals have at birth (like walking). Since independence is not instinctual, every human has to learn it for themselves, potentially running into the problems I mentioned above.

Independent thinking is not a binary skill. It has many degrees from total dependence up to (theoretically) total independence. For instance, there's a stage of development where a child can take care of their basic needs at home without their parents being there, but couldn't run their own household yet. This is certainly more independent than a newborn, but less independent than your average adult. Here's another perspective of what I'm talking about that focuses more on morality than independence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Kohlberg's_stages_of_moral_development As mentioned there, many people never reach the highly independent post-conventional level. A further problem caused by the non-binary nature of this problem is that a person never really knows when they've reached the summit. Do you think as independently as you could? How can you tell?

Lastly, independent thought is useful. It's definitely useful for the individual, as they will be better able to make good decisions for themselves instead of thoughtlessly following the orders of people who might not have their best interests at heart. It's also useful at the community level. A group with no independent members will muddle around and accomplish little. Injecting a few independent thinkers into such a group makes a massive difference.

A group with all independent members may not be as focused as a group with just a few independent members, but it will have a lot more integrity. It's hard for any one member to hijack the group for their own purposes when any member might stand up and object...and when the other members will consider the objection and decide based on the merits of the objection rather than going based on authority or some other easy measure.

Of course...there's an incentive to set things up so you're the only independent thinker in a group of conventional thinkers. It makes it easy to steer the group and they generally can't escape from their situation without your support. Furthermore, it's easy to educate conventional thinkers but harder to educate independent thinkers. Unless we struggle hard to prevent it, this leads to a situation where relatively few independent thinkers run things. They ensure that their children and protégées get the best chances of joining the fun, but don't put much effort into educating everyone else. Hmm, that sounds familiar...

Comment: Re:Confusing data and information (Score 1) 64

by urusan (#41210081) Attached to: Twitter Based "Ted" System Warns of Earthquakes Earlier

I'd say that education and training really are two very different things. Training is specific to an individual task or set of tasks while education is broader and has more to do with cultivating independent thought.

In this example, the training is specific to earthquake detection. In theory, you could train someone to just detect earthquakes given a set of input data (from seismometers and such) and leave them worthless at anything else geology-related. In practice though the specific training rests on top of a deeper education (at least for most scientific and analytical jobs). As another example, in programming when you learn a new technology or language you're training in those things, despite the fact that this training rests upon a deeper education.

It should also be noted that a lot of what we commonly consider "education" is actually training in disguise. For instance, arithmetic and calculus are just methods to produce a desired result. When we spend time learning how to do these methods by hand, we're doing training. It's no different from training to do a sport, as the end goal is to be able to fluently perform a desired action so you can perform on command. Even highly educated individuals spend more time training than being educated.

Education is more meta and has more to do with the effective use of training (including training one does not personally have) as well as some even more meta concerns (which is to say less practical stuff that enriches you as a human being, but is really only interesting internally). From a practical standpoint, an educated person can effectively organize their own training to great effect as well as (hopefully) organizing the training of others into a cohesive whole (though leadership has its own required training).

The "class-obsession" you talk about has more to do with how training and education are used in practice. Most non-upper class students receive the minimum required education, with most of their "education" being composed of training. In egalitarian societies, a real education is additionally offered to the brightest non-upper class students, as they are very useful when they are properly educated. I should know, I was born into a working class family and received both classes of education at different times.

A bit off topic, this is why I'm worried about the economic and social impact that weak AI will have. We're able to train computers now and only those with a real education will have value to add as weak AI becomes smarter and more common. Since a large percentage of the populace is only marginally educated, this does not bode well.

Comment: Solar is the only good bet in the long run (Score 2) 589

by urusan (#40853215) Attached to: Existing Solar Tech Could Power Entire US, Says NREL

I'm a proponent of nuclear power and I'm a bit skeptical about the practicality of renewables in the short term, but I believe that in the long run solar is going to dominate the energy scene. The amount of energy the Earth recieves from the sun is staggering, and the amount of solar energy we could generate if we created huge sun-orbiting solar power plants is pretty much unimaginable in modern terms (the sun outputs enough energy to sustain a population of 24 trillion billion humans at present rates of consumption). As such, I have no doubt that we will one day be able to meet our basic needs using solar power. It would be conservative to predict that eventually we will be drawing in massively more energy from solar power than we consume today from all sources.

In particular though, solar is the most direct and efficient power source that does not suffer from Jevons Paradox. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox If we perfected fission and fusion power, we'd simply amp up our power usage massively. Cheaper energy means we can afford to do more with it. Suborbital commuter flights? Launching city-sized spacecraft? Colonizing the solar system and maintaining the colonies with regular shipments of supplies? Not a problem...but with such massive energy consumption, we'd eventually face yet another energy crisis. Although it may seem rediculous now, supplies of easily obtainable, high yield fusion and fission fuel would probably be depleted to worrying levels within the timeframe of a human lifetime.

This doesn't apply to the sun. You can't mine the sun, it's simply too hot. Plus, it's already a fantastic fusion power plant, so there's no need to try it. The only "downside" is that the sun has a production limit, which is fairly stable and not easily increased. However, this is really a blessing in the long run as we can't consume more than what the sun gives off in a given time period, leading to long-term stability. Therefore solar is the only notable power source in the long run.

That said, non-solar nuclear still has an important place. In the short term, fission can help reduce our reliance on coal during the gap between fossil fuels and solar. In the medium term, nuclear has an important place in space colonization and turning the sun into a giant fusion power plant. In the long run, it may still have a place as a high-density energy storage medium. The point here is that the energy we use doesn't just vanish. What we make out of it can have a big impact. We wouldn't have gotten to the point where we could make the leap to nuclear and solar without fossil fuels...or at the very least it would have taken much longer to get where we are now. The use of "consumable" nuclear power will jumpstart our next big push.

Comment: Re:PMP Backlash (Score 2) 491

The biggest problem with developing software is that any non-trivial system takes time to deliver regardless of the methodology, You can take time to properly spec out and design a bridge over a river because it'll be good for 50 years. But the world of software changes so fast that any system is obsolescent by the time it's done, and if you spend a few months specing/designing it's time for a redesign before you even start writing the code.

This is true most of the time, but there are a few shockingly old systems in places where high reliability is required. They tend to show up as controllers for things that last a long time (like nuclear power plants or airplanes), in work environments with a highly conservative culture (hospitals), or in places where uptime trumps many other concerns (financial backend or power grid calculations). In these cases, it's critical to treat software similarly to building a bridge you expect to last 50+ years, because you really have no idea how long someone is going to keep using it (and anyway, you really don't want it to fail even if it is new).

Of course, this kind of software represents a tiny percentage of all software. In most cases today, you're right. It certainly doesn't make sense to ensure that a new video game or office productivity feature is perfect if by cutting down on quality a bit we can get it to market faster. That said, you never know when your non-critical software might be used to make this kind of critical software. OSes and libraries are particularly likely to be pulled into such a project. Furthermore, the amount of critical software is likely to expand in the near future. A good example from the recent past is that back in the really olden days there weren't computers small, light, and cheap enough to put into aircraft to control their flight, but nowadays fly-by-wire is common. There aren't any 50 year old fly-by-wire aircraft because the first ones were built 40 years ago. How long will some people hold on to their early model self-driving cars? As computers become more cheap and ubiquitous, these issues will become more widespread.

Durability and reliability requirements are important to consider early in any project, and different answers will lead to the need for totally different approaches to developing the software.

Comment: Re: Ex-Military (Score 1) 559

by urusan (#40296123) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Ambitious Yet Ethical Software Jobs?

I'm a different guy, readin's argument probably hasn't changed.

Nobody is perfect and neither are governments composed of imperfect people. People make mistakes, people do selfish and even evil things, and people are behind all of the decisions made by governments. Sometimes this is pretty direct (Stalin led the USSR pretty much directly during his reign) and other times this is filtered through lots of other people and laws (made by imperfect people).

For a large government, small imperfections are often magnified a million times and on the small scale will seem overwhelmingly massive. This isn't made any easier by the fact that large governments have to deal with *all* of the most ridiculous people and governments out there. For instance, the US can't just ignore North Korea. If we took a neutral stance towards NK, then we'd soon have American citizens (and others) trading with NK. Then soon we'd have US civilian hostages and a revitalized NK. What do we do to rescue those hostages? A more powerful NK would lead to NK's neighbors reacting. SK might consider a pre-emptive invasion and it might start its own nuclear program over fears that NK will have nukes and they won't. Japan would also likely decide that it can't rely on the US anymore and militarize. They would likely have nuclear weapons within a year. Who knows how China might react, as they've been allies with NK for a long time but they also seem tired of NK's BS and the reactions of SK and Japan will have a profound impact on their new stance. A big war between NK and somebody else is almost inevitable and the region might even spiral into a much bigger bloodier war between nuclear armed nations. Who's to blame? The US. What did we do? Nothing!

The US can't ignore the world like a small country can because our residual influence is so massive. This isn't unique to the US either, it applies to all really huge nations and nation blocs. We have to make choices, and some of them will be hard and the imperfect people making these hard decisions will inevitably mess things up.

The best we can hope for is high quality and ethical decisions more often. I think the US has a pretty decent track record in that regard compared to those with comparable influence. The Soviets and Chinese each outright murdered tens of millions, and we don't know how much more they quietly swept under the rug. The Axis powers did so much evil and killed so many people, they seem more like comic book villains than something real. The British Empire starved millions in the late 19th century (when there were a lot fewer people). The Mongol empire obliterated Baghdad and turned the whole region into a desert. The Roman republic and empire was built on slavery. etc. etc. It doesn't matter where you look, if there's a major power there's blood, corruption, exploitation...and lots of it.

When you make historical comparisons, the US isn't really so bad.

it didn't enter World War 2 because they need to stop the Nazi's, they did so because they were attacked by Japan, hell, the US didn't even declare war on Germany! Germany declared war on the US.

This still doesn't explain why the US spent the resources they did against the Nazis. Just because some far away country declares war on you doesn't mean you have to respond beyond protecting your borders. The US threw more resources into defeating the Nazis than the Japanese who they were worried might start knocking on their doorstep. It also does nothing to explain the lend-lease program. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lend-lease It's pretty clear that the US administration of the time had its sights set on the Nazis well before Pearl Harbor, and that attack simply gave them the excuse they needed to pull out the stops.

It is only by examining history can the US realise they can't use force to overthrow governments, they will only be fragile and short lived and the unintended consequences usually create a worse situation.

Clearly using force to overthrow governments did not work on Japan and Germany. That did not work out well at all and it certainly didn't last for over 60 years. Oh wait.

Of course, it is true that supporting dictatorial coups is a bad idea...but that's much more specific. It also doesn't prove that the strategy used in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars will fail (or succeed for that matter).

Have you ever heard of confirmation bias? You're letting your own ideology put blinders on you. There's not just two sides with you as some sort of unindoctrinated outside observer, there are thousands of sides at least. You're focusing too much on what you believe is right and how things should be to see what is merely workable or unworkable. Other people with different biases see things differently, and you likely think they are crazy as a result. These differences in view are what mainly drives the solutions you disagree with so much.

Everyone is biased...me, you, everyone. I'm not singling you out here, it's just that this is a good example.

Comment: Re: Ex-Military (Score 1) 559

by urusan (#40291273) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Ambitious Yet Ethical Software Jobs?

Though I disagree with you in many ways, here's some help:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodo_League_massacre
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War_casualties
Yeah, the US arguably has millions of deaths on its hands from the cold war era.

That said, the communists topped the US over and over again:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decossackization
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Purge
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Chinese_Famine
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pol_Pot
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_killings_under_Communist_regimes

If you want puppet states and economic corruption, there was plenty to go around:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupation_of_the_Baltic_states
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forced_labour_of_Germans_in_the_Soviet_Union
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_republics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blat_(term)

In my opinion though, we shouldn't care so much about the sins of the past. Even an 18 year old in 1970 would be 60 today, and the vast majority of the people who made these decisions are dead or dying today. The USSR doesn't even exist anymore. Learning history is important because we don't want to repeat the bad parts, but we do a terrible disservice to ourselves when we use the past to excuse our present positions and actions.

panic: can't find /

Working...