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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) 149

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) 149

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.

Comment: Re:About half (Score 3, Insightful) 284

by ultranova (#49503647) Attached to: Norway Will Switch Off FM Radio In 2017

Meh. Didn't we hear the same argument when color TV was introduced? Or CDs, Digital TV, Digital cameras, Fly by wire, the Internet etc etc every other technology implementation ever?

Cassettes and analog cameras weren't banned. They simply fell out of favor because CDs and digital cameras were way superior as far as the end user was concerned. By contrast, digital tv and digital radio don't benefit the end user, they'll simply let parts of the spectrum be auctioned off; so they require legislation to force the end users to pay the costs for the transition so someone else can profit.

Comment: Re:Scientific American begs to differ (Score 1) 383

by ultranova (#49503611) Attached to: Can High Intelligence Be a Burden Rather Than a Boon?

What is 'general intelligence'? (Anything like Colonel Panic?)

Self-metaprogramming, basically. You are smart if you can repurpose existing neural circuits to handle new problems (because that way your consciousness is freed to consider things like consequences, and specialized circuit is of course faster than general-purpose one), you learn fast if you can build such circuits fast, and you are insightful if you can examine your own mental subroutines and how they work - if you actually learn to reprogram them consciously you'll likely find a new religion or something.

It does not follow that being able to understand calculus gives you peace, happiness and longevity.

70 years is equivalent to 411,222,120,000,000 miles. It might not actually be longer, but it sure sounds bigger :).

Comment: Re:Read "Outliers" (Score 1) 383

by ultranova (#49503573) Attached to: Can High Intelligence Be a Burden Rather Than a Boon?

It's not a debate that I mean to stir up 3-deep in a Slashdot thread, but just to say that the vast majority of people at most places on the political spectrum agree: Those that have the ability to succeed, should have the opportunity to. It's just the mechanics they disagree on that are sometimes, sadly, mutually exclusive.

The disagreement is about what happens to those who won't succeed, to Joe Average and Joe Hobo. Currently, Joe Average's position is getting worse and worse, which is a huge problem because modern economy can't actually work without them having money to act as consumers. And as the economy stalls and enters a tailspin, Joe Succesful shifts the blame to Joe Hobo, closing his eyes from the approaching ground because doing something about it would require taking a break from his personal interests to visit the cockpit, and getting Joe Average to get along with it because pretending bad things only happen to deserving people is a pleasant fantasy.

Of course such situations are always rectified eventually, the only question remains whether it's by recycling the wreckage.

Comment: Re:What? Why discriminate? (Score 2) 699

by ultranova (#49478071) Attached to: 'We the People' Petition To Revoke Scientology's Tax Exempt Status

I would be ok with removing all tax exempt statuses from churches as long as charity work was deductible for them.

Why should charity be deductible, for churches or anyone? You want to give your money to the poor, go ahead; but why should that exempt you from paying your share of the rent?

Remove all special treatment for religions, so the state can get out of the business of judging the sincerity of anyone's convictions, which it is absolutely unsuited for. And stop letting people use "charity" as a tax dodge.

Comment: Re:Too early for criticism. (Score 1) 238

Wouldn't it be better to do things that help all business, like lower taxes and improve infrastructure,

No, because that's not possible. Infrastructure costs money to build and maintain. You can have low taxes or good infrastructure but not both.

Of course there's always the third option of inheriting decent infrastructure from your parents and refusing to maintain it, trusting it to last your lifetime without. That way you can have low taxes and civilization at the cost of screwing future generations.

Comment: Re:Stop trying to cure me. (Score 2) 137

by ultranova (#49462559) Attached to: UW Scientists, Biotech Firm May Have Cure For Colorblindness

This is only slightly funny. I've some colleagues with deaf children who came under enormous social pressure for getting cochlear implants for their children.

People develop subcultures over various real or imaginary similarities or differences, and once created identity with these subcultures. A deaf person who's part of "deaf subculture" would lose the part of themselves they've invested in it if they had their hearing fixed. The same happens if the subculture disappears for any other reason, for example because no new members enter. A solution is altering the subculture so it no longer requires continued deafness as membership requirement; maybe "ex-deaf" or "hearing assisted" could be viable directions?

AFAIK there's no similar colorblind subculture, so there shouldn't be a problem with treating it as a mere medical condition - which might still not make it a good idea to risk gene therapy to fix it, but that's a separate issue.

Comment: Re:better idea (Score 2) 166

by ultranova (#49456649) Attached to: UN To Debate Lethal Autonomous Weapons

War should be costly, difficult, and sap your resources. Otherwise you make mass killing far too easy.

So what happens when you do have a costly, difficult war that saps your resources? Why propaganda of course! And the effects of that propaganda don't simply go away when the war is done. Neither will the military-industrial complex which now represents a huge proportion of your GDP. A costly war requires the entire society to be reshaped around it, and thus acquires a life of its own, which lasts way beyond the cessation of hostilities. The ghost of World War I persisted and took shape again in Soviet Union whose economy was modeled after wartime Germany, then World War II, then in Cold War and its sub-conflicts, and is currently busy guiding Russia in Ukraine.

No, wars should be as cheap and easy as possible, because the less you have to worry about the economic or domestic political effects the more you can worry about things like casualties and global political effects. Also: "I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier." Well, with drones you can take the less ruthless option, since you're no longer risking your own troops but a soulless industial automat, and thus can minimize civilian - or even enemy combatant - casualties.

The less war disturbs a society, the less likely it's to become an essential part of the culture of that society. Just look at Israel-Arab conflict in the Middle East for a good example of a war that's basically chronic and can't end without the societies in question undergoing at least minor cultural revolutions, because at this point it's an essential part of their mythology - people's idea of what it means to live in Middle East.

Comment: Re: Definitions count! (Score 4, Insightful) 173

I bet if Washington state lowered it's tax rate to equal Nevada's MS would consider relocating MS licensing group back to Washington State...

And then Nevada lowers its tax rate to get it back, and then it's Washington's turn again, the end result being that Microsoft pays a nominal tax if any at all. And since that means other people and companies must pay more to make up the difference, their effective tax rate goes up, they do the same, and ultimately all tax burden gets concentrated on those too poor to move. But of course they can't pay, so the state must cut education, infrastructure maintenance, law enforcement, etc. And that, in turn, makes the state an even less attractive location for business.

It's simply another manifestation of the illness that's killing capitalism. But at least the process of decay is fascinating to watch, as pathological patterns become the norm and eat away the structure of society. Sooner or later it's frayed enough that some crisis launches the final domino effect of collapse.

How about it Washington state, do you want the tax revenues or the talking point against MS?

Washington state wants to survive, just like any living thing. Unfortunately, being a cultural organism rather than biological one limits its options, since it must be careful not to discredit the very mythology that justifies its own existence. And in the US, the mythology of the nation has been tightly coupled with the mythology of capitalism. Untangling them or altering capitalism to less toxic form is a job for the prophetic archetype; Washington state can do little but play for time and hope one appears before it runs out.

Of course, the whole reason prophets are so rare is because you always run the risk of being one of those things found wanting and cast out, but at some point the prevalent mythology of the society has been exhausted of its possibilities so there's little choice except to get a new one or die.

Comment: Re:Marijuana's capacity to REVEAL TRUTH (Score 2) 291

Society is ethically obligated to take care of its own, it's part of the social contract. So no, evolution won't take care of them, the tax payers will.

This might surprise you, but us taxpayers also want entertainment. Such entertainment has a cost beyond mere monetary; for example, I might get a concussion while skiing, and that might permanently affect my cognitive functions, and in any case it requires energy to move to and from the resort location and it makes me unavailable for work for a long while.

As it happens, the cost/entertainment ratio of cannabis is very low, so from the point of view of maximum efficiency legislating it is the right thing to do.

Comment: Re: Energy storage in the grid is 100% efficient! (Score 1) 280

by ultranova (#49452053) Attached to: The Myth of Going Off the Power Grid

Solar is also doomed because eventually it will have to scale up to the point where enclosing the entire sun simply isn't enough.

Enough for what? A quick back-of-envelope calculation seems to suggest total solar output works for 1W/10kg of nonsolar matter in the Solar System. That's enough to, for example, nanomotors and slow microchips, or several classes of living organisms for that matter.

We are currently having problems because we've used stored energy that's running out to boost our output for a given technological level, and consequently haven't learned to pace ourselves, not because there's an inherent shortage of energy in the Solar System.

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky