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The Singularity Is Sci-Fi's Faith-Based Initiative 339

malachiorion writes: "Is machine sentience not only possible, but inevitable? Of course not. But don't tell that to devotees of the Singularity, a theory that sounds like science, but is really just science fiction repackaged as secular prophecy. I'm not simply arguing that the Singularity is stupid — people much smarter than me have covered that territory. But as part of my series of stories for Popular Science about the major myths of robotics, I try to point out the Singularity's inescapable sci-fi roots. It was popularized by a SF writer, in a paper that cites SF stories as examples of its potential impact, and, ultimately, it only makes sense when you apply copious amounts of SF handwavery. The article explains why SF has trained us to believe that artificial general intelligence (and everything that follows) is our destiny, but we shouldn't confuse an end-times fantasy with anything resembling science."

Comment Placebo Effect is a Positive (Score 5, Informative) 517

Research clearly indicates that fake therapies can trigger the body to heal itself. In acupuncture studies, sham needling often has very high efficacy, some times higher than needling the proper points, and sometimes similar or higher efficacy than traditional medicine. It does this with far less side-effects. If it works better with less harm, it should be used - even if we don't understand it.

Medicine is a practice. There are many things modern medicine does not understand. Physicians often follow a treatment path without understanding the underlying mechanisms of the disease (e.g. autoimmune disorders) or treat to simply alleviate symptoms. Someday we may have the body figured out but that day is a not today.

The Placebo effect is probably one of the more powerful tools available.

From the NY Times:
In the study, published in the May 4 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, German researchers divided 302 migraine sufferers into three groups. The patients were told that one group would receive acupuncture "similar to the acupuncture treatment used in China," and that the second would receive a type of acupuncture that did not follow the Chinese principles but "has been associated with positive outcomes in clinical studies."

The patients did not know which group they were assigned to. A third group was put on a waiting list and received treatment later.

Although the patients in the second group were unaware of it, they received a faked version of acupuncture.

The treatments went on for 12 weeks, and success was defined as having 50 percent fewer days with headaches in the weeks after the end of treatment.

By this measure, real acupuncture succeeded with 51 percent of the patients, and the sham procedure succeeded with 53 percent, a statistically insignificant difference. Only 15 percent of the waiting list group attained the 50 percent reduction in headache days.

The effectiveness of both the sham and the real acupuncture, the authors write, is about the same as treatment with drugs and has fewer side effects. The results, they conclude, "may be due to nonspecific physiological effects of needling, to a powerful placebo effect, or to a combination of both."

Comment my reasons for running xp (Score 1) 860

This thread has lots of speculation about the people running xp but none hit the mark in my case. Two of three machines in current use here run XP, and there is a fourth machine running Windows 98. Generally, the operating system choice comes down to software.

One XP machine is used for 2 hours of accounting work (quickbooks) a month. It also keeps an operating instance of various software that was used for various projects in the past. The unit is too old (12 year old P4 box) to upgrade to Windows 7/8 and upgrading to a different operating system would break lots of installed software. Most of the software on this machine could be reinstalled but I would have to find the disks (yes disks in some cases), reinstall and remember any custom configurations. A lot of work for what might otherwise be a 30 minute job. Much easier to keep an operating instance for the odd occasion ( once every 3-4 years) requiring Microsoft Fortran. This machines XP will be updated to the last day and then disconnected from the web. The Windows 98 machine has a similar reason from existing.

The other XP machine will be upgraded to windows 7 soon. This is later than planned but the pieces are in place and the license came with the machine. It was my main machine until I purchased a new laptop with Windows 7 and transitioned to it. Now it's just a backup and when there is a break it will be upgraded. It will not be online or actively used until it is upgraded.

So that is the story of 2 instances. Hard to put us all in the same box.

Comment dams down river (Score 5, Insightful) 168

There are 5 dams down stream of wanapum, 1 above the free flowing hanford reach and 4 dams below that. River "operations" involve a complicated coordination of all the dams and reservoirs to provide adequate flow for fish and year-round power generation. It is an interesting engineering problem - hacking a river. There is also a computer angle here in that several data centers are located in Grant County (which owns the generation rights) to take advantage of the cheap reliable power. Presumably those data centers are watching this closely. Power rates for everyone in the county will rise if they have less power to sell or if they have to buy power from outside the county. The system is dependent upon storage for of moving water down stream the river is very interesting in that water flowing through one dam

Comment Re:It all comes down to experience. (Score 1) 504

Your spot on about being self-taught as an asset. In IT, the tools and in many cases the problems to be solved are changing many times over a span of 30 years. Showing that you can attain a functional understanding of tools and problems on your own is worth alot as it will be a skill you need. It might also demonstrate the willingness to work long hours to get the job down which is a double edge sword, good for managers, not so good for the general working conditions.

Comment Re:Dual Use Tech or How I Saved The World (Score 1) 688

Simulation studies of residential buildings in Seattle and other northern US heating climates generally find 50% of lighting energy (and computer energy) is useful in offseting space heat (on an annual basis). For every kilowatt-hour saved in lighting, the heating energy increases by half a kilowatt-hour (or the heat equivalent if heating with gas/oil/??). Also, if the building has cooling (again in a northern US climate) there is a reduction in cooling that is equivalent to the around 10% of the lighting change. That is for every kilowatt-hour saved in lighting there is a further savings of 0.1 kilowatt-hour in cooling. In warmer climates the heating interaction gets smaller and the cooling interaction gets larger. In florida there would be a large benefit from decreased cooling and almost not impact from heating change. To figure the economics you need to factor in the difference between your electric and heating fuel costs. This is often very significant. Seasonally it varies as one would expect. The "waste" heat is nearly 100% useful in the winter and near 0% in the summer (northern climate). All of this assumes we are talking about a small amount of electric use relative to the heat loss of the space and the space is a home or small office. If one is operating more than 1 computer in a small room, or 2 or 3 in a larger one, then the available heat is likely to be more than the space requires. Likewise if the computers are located in a warm climate. In any of these cases the winter utilization can approach zero and if your cooling equipment is running then it will even be negative (increase the cooling). Larger work settings with multizone heating/cooling systems are completely different and difficult to generalize, but basically the cooling reduction is very important. A good rule of thumb might be, if your heater is operating during the day then the computer heat is useful. If your heater is not operating at all then the computer heat is somewhere between 0 and 50%.

Every nonzero finite dimensional inner product space has an orthonormal basis. It makes sense, when you don't think about it.