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Comment Same old silly press (Score 2) 230 230

The same articles show up over and over. The first states that computers are about to do consciousness. The second states that consciousness is a mere illusion for humans, whose actions are truly run from deterministic unconscious processes. In both articles, there is some hero scientist, with the article most often based on that scientist's press release.

There is never a popular press article about how computers may never do consciousness, at least by any current definition of "computer," nor an article about how there are things human consciousness can do which no deterministic process can more than imperfectly mimic. Both of these positions are viable, and embraced by experts in various fields. By all current evidence, they may prove right. But it doesn't make for a hero story to write about someone who argues for these positions. "Discovering" that consciousness either essentially does nothing or that some computer advance is just about to do consciousness (or both!) is a "great" story. Editors like it. The public is impressed by the "brilliant" "counter-intuitive" revelation.

Comment Disruption is always good? (Score 1) 176 176

Long-term, established transportation companies with powerful lobbying arms or the newcomer making use of disruptive technology?

Who will win, long-term, established ecologies or kudzu?

Maybe it's inevitably kudzu, but does that mean we should cheer for it? Cancer is also a disruption. Should all laws be dissolved if they get in the way of anyone's business plan? Why insist on anyone having drivers licenses at all, let alone commercial ratings and proper insurance to carry fares? It would be cheaper to build cars without seat belts and airbags. Let's disrupt that!

Comment Beware updating if using KDE (Score 1) 300 300

A 14.10 system that my kid had an elaborate KDE desktop setup on, we upgraded to 15.04, and it totally lost his desktop arrangement. This had originally been Xubuntu, then with KDE installed, so not straight Kubuntu, and we were able to revert to using his old Xfce setup for now, which came through the upgrade okay. But it really was a bad experience losing his work with KDE that way. KDE is just the barest desktop now, which is frankly ugly and it seems it has lost features as well as his prior configuration.

Comment Is there a Dutch RICO law (Score 1) 48 48

Uber is clearly racketeering. Are there special penalties there for it, as in the U.S.? There must be a solid extradition treaty between the two nations. If convicted, could the top Uber execs be facing years in Dutch prison?

Personally, I hope so. The idea that it's legal to be a crook as long as you're using smart phones and unlicensed contract labor to do it is pernicious. The Dutch literally invented capitalism. Let's hope they show the world again what it can be at its best, with the proper controls and ethics.

Comment Re:The Universe is a simulation (Score 1) 183 183

The concept of "simulation" still requires a reality in which simulation occurs. If nothing exists outside the simulation it's not, in any meaningful sense, a simulation. It's just reality. Also, those who experience a simulation exist outside of it. There is no experiencing of the weather going on within your computer simulation of the weather - although you could do some sort of immersive VR and experience it. But that's because you're in the world it's being simulated from, and do not owe your own existence to the simulation.

Comment Re:Been there, done that (Score 1) 214 214

Verizon sold their New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine landlines to FairPoint in a way that had huge tax advantages for Verizon. FairPoint took on so much debt that it went into bankruptcy within a year, as Verizon and FairPoint knew was likely. It's come out of that, but there's currently a strike against it going on several months now which it has been refusing to even negotiate on, preferring to bring in scabs from outside the region. The cause of the strike is that FairPoint wants to lower wages and drastically cut benefits. The union has said it will accept some cuts, but no so much. FairPoint was severly short staffed and months behind in basic line maintenance even before the strike.

There was nothing said about net neutrality when Verizon set up this scam.

Comment Re:New law. (Score 2) 391 391

Robots are mechanistic, deterministic machines. As such they have no consciousness, however complex their programs. Complexity of programs is a sort of "intelligence," especially if they are well-programmed. But that intelligence is an extension of their conscious makers, for instance, us.

Now, your idea of limiting "IQ" of robots is interesting. Clearly low IQ is no bar to gaining political power in our world. But any political power gained by robots would be on behalf of those who had programmed them. A person with the resources and intelligence to deploy a robot army would be powerful, the same as a CEO or general deploying a corporation or human army is. In a sense, the robots might all be avatars of the person behind them. And their sheer calculating ability might be many times his or hers, just as is true of the computers we all use today.

Robots as dangerous machines, yet powerful ones: yes. Robots as able to conduct their own civilization: no. Not until someone has the capability of endowing them with consciousness. We're no where close to that. We hardly know what direction to go to do it. It may not even be an available direction to go in. In this universe, there is some class of imaginable prospects which is nonetheless truly impossible.

Comment Tucows - good and bad (Score 1) 65 65

Tucows has Ting cell service - which if you don't mind being on Sprint's network is quite a bargain, and the staff is friendly. They also have the Hover retail registrar - which refused to support DNSSEC for domains registered there, even if you run your own DNS, unless you pay them $500 per domain for their help with it. Management at Hover is hostile to users.

Comment Both sides (Score 1) 433 433

First, how good your digital sounds depends a lot on the digital-to-analog circuitry. Your speakers are still analog, as are your ears.

Second, all reproduction loses information. The question, as those who developed MP3 and other psycho-acoustic compression models realized, is which losses are more noticeable to human listeners. Also, our brains process information at far higher resolution than we can consciously report. As philosophers say, phenomenal consciousness is broader than access consciousness.

Third, I just got a new turntable after my 35-year-old model quit. It turns out that $250 today buys more turntable than $150 did then. I've got a high-end receiver and decent speakers, and have been spinning the old vinyl collection after ignoring it for years. Some of it - not all but some - has more presence than anything I've got on CD (and I have a very good CD deck). The instruments sound more like they're in the room; it's easier to visualize the performers there. I'm sure someone could devise a proper psychological test for this effect: Have people listen to music, test how effectively they're envisioning the performers, and don't tell them whether the source is analog or digital.

Comment Re:The problem is much bigger than energy (Score 1) 652 652

Are you suggesting that the intelligent response to complexity is surrender to doom?

A dollar here, a dollar there, and soon enough you have a million. An LED here, and LED there, and soon enough you've saved a mountain of coal from burning. Also, you've saved money on the bulb + electricity cost. But if you'd rather waste your money and surrender to doom....

Comment Re:Well if two google engineers say so (Score 1) 652 652

Funny thing, wind is already cheaper than coal, and solar is close. Also, even if the article wasn't a gross distortion of the report, being a Standford-degreed Google engineer isn't all that. I've known idiots with similar degrees and positions, and geniuses with neither.

Comment Re:How (Score 1) 555 555

As far as the init system goes, the vast majority of packages are not daemons. Only daemons require init support. Writing sysv init files is an art, but it's well-refined. It won't give you the fastest possible laptop boot. Laptop users who don't just hibernate or suspend, but do fresh boots frequently, should definitely go systemd. Of course systemd D is a Borg, assimilating far more than init scripts. But the task of maintaining a couple hundred init scripts wouldn't be hard for a small committee of volunteers. For init stuff outside that, if you can't start a daemon from rc.local you shouldn't be a sysadmin. For the non-init stuff, the trick is to convince upstream developers to support diversity, which can be done by continuing to embrace open standards and APIs.

Comment Re:AGW (Score 5, Insightful) 795 795

Yep, coorelation != causation.

Correlation is necessary but not sufficient to scientific proof of causation. To prove causation you need to have a theoretical model allowing you to construct experiements which, with variables controlled for, produce fresh demonstrations of the posited effect. There have been laboratory experiments demonstrating the "greenhouse" effect of CO2 levels since the late 1800s.

Correlation + theory + well-designed experiments + confirming results = causation

Science often starts with observed correlations. But not always. Sometime the theory comes first. It's only on putting all the parts together that science can speak with confidence about causation. If we use the "corelation != causation" slogan as if it refutes all science which follows from observation of correlations, we entirely miss the point.

Comment What's the legitimate topic here? (Score 2) 795 795

religion concerns the ultimate causes of things and, again, by definition, science cannot tell you about them

To whom here is this not obvious nonsense? In systems of geometry we have axioms "by definition." So if you're doing a problem in Euclidian terms, parallel lines don't meet in space. But if you're doing the problem in real, relativistic space rather than an Euclidian idealization, lines that start out parallel locally, and each continue absolutely straight, sometimes do.

Science is not any single geometry, and so has no fundamental set of definitional axioms. There are descriptions of the scientific method, by Popper and others, that generalize about falsifiability and so on. But even those don't exhaust the space of possible science, let alone establish axioms for it. The branch of physics called "cosmology" very properly, and fruitfullly, is concerned with the origin of the universe; and there is a branch of biology concerned with the origin of life. There is no axiom accepted by science that forbids scientific inquiry into origin questions.

We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge. -- John Naisbitt, Megatrends

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