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Comment Re:Is the smartwatch fad stillborn? (Score 1) 60

Some tech writers have made this point already, and I probably won't get it out as clearly as they have, but the problem with smartwatches and our perception of them is that we're thinking about them in the here and now, and not in the future. Microsoft (well, Ballmer) famously laughed at the iPhone as too expensive and useless before it took off and crushed the Microsoft Mobile business into dust. He was thinking of the here and now, and not the future.


I think there's a difference though. When the iPhone came out it had this tremendous aura of Cool about it. I say that as someone who is in no way an Apple fan. I think just about everyone (or everyone who didn't have a vested interest in a competing product) could see that.

This is where Apple's so-called fanboys can be used to bootstrap a tech shift that would've taken much longer otherwise. When enough people start wearing these watches, they'll start to have more applications.

The thing is, I don't get that "Cool" vibe from these watches at all. I mean if the bootstrapping effect takes off then that's great, but I'll be surprised if they have the impetus needed to carry the change. Maybe I'm just not part of the target audience :)

Comment Re:Politicans don't understand science (Score 1) 320

There are a lot "constitutional democracies", in particular in Europe, that try to limit power to an intellectual elite.

I suppose we could start to have a "my-country-has-a-better-system-of-government-than-your-country" argument. I can't quite see how it would be either relevant or helpful, however. Perhaps if we stick to the matter at hand?

Of course, politics should say something about science: it should pick which scientific theories to believe and decide what policies to derive from them.

Of course. Someone with no scientific background and whose main priorities are getting re-elected and protecting the corporate issues of his campaign contributors is going to be much better placed to make objective assessments than someone whose training and career has been about quantifying objective phenomena. Yup. Totally buying that one.

Where did I say that they weren't "allowed to tell anybody"?

You said "scientists should not become politicians and they should not favor or advocate particular policies". If you say "should not" in the context of politics and lawmaking, you may well find that a lot of people interpret that as a call for sort of legislation or other prohibition.

There is a difference between telling people "an asteroid is going to hit earth" and "I want a law doing X".

If a scientist says "a giant asteroid is going to hit Earth" you can bet that someone will say "you're only saying that to force us to spend money on space exploration. Also the asteroid doesn't exist and will probably miss". Any public statement will be taken as a political one by someone who feels the data works against their interests.

As such, there are no purely neutral scientific publications. And the only way a scientist can stay aloof from accusations of politics is to remain silent.

Why is it always about "forbidding" with you people?

See previous point about "should not" in the context of politics. Perhaps you haven't been explaining yourself as clearly as you might have wished?

Scientists can do whatever they want, but as a society we should recognize that people who lobby for laws cease being responsible scientists and treat them accordingly.

We could apply that more broadly. I mean doctors are pretty much scientists. We should probably ignore them when formulating medical policy. Likewise we should probably not give any special consideration to teachers when it comes to Education. And we'll probably have to stop all those lawyers from exerting undue influence over lawmaking. And stop the bankers and financiers from influencing fiscal policy.

OK, so those last two almost seem like good ideas. I still think it wouldn't work :)

Actually, I really do think that's just an opinion.

No, sadly, it's historical fact.

Umm, which bits? The "all politicians are venal and corrupt" part? Or the implication that "only the political left has abused science in support of genocide, racism or political extremism"?

There may be facts in there somewhere, but I really don't think they come close to supporting the conclusion you appear to have drawn. Sorry, but it remains just your opinion.

Comment Re:Politicans don't understand science (Score 1) 320

So basically, you support the use of referenda to determine policy on important scientific matters? That seems to be what you're saying. So who decides what's important enough for a plebiscite and what isn't?

Plebiscites are usually held once people collect enough signatures indicating that they want one to be held.

Doesn't work that way in my constitutional democracy :) Still I'm quite happy to discuss the matter with reference to US electoral procedure. Just bear with me if I'm ignorant on some points. Like I say, I don't know my plebiscites from my cenobites.

My point is that science by itself has nothing relevant to say about politics at all.

I don't actually disagree with you about that. Of course, by the same token politics shouldn't say anything about science either, which doesn't seem to be the case at the moment. That brings me back to my initial point: politicians tend to see everything as politics and they any publication of scientific findings as either an attack on their position or welcome support for what they've been saying all along.

The trouble is that, at the level of formulating policy, too many politicians think that evidence is something you commission a think-tank to write for you. They see "science" as another think-tank and if they don't like the findings, they assume that they must be politically motivated. I don't think this is entirely helpful.

These days, of course, it would be easy to give the people the power to vote on pretty much every law. What objection would you have to that?

None whatsoever. Although it would seem to require electronic voting, and are still issues around the technology that, until they get resolved, it's unlikely there'll be enough trust in the technique to make it viable for wider use. But that's wandering off into a whole other discussion.

Quite the opposite: scientists should not become politicians and they should not favor or advocate particular policies; it corrupts the science.

I'm not sure that's consistent with your earlier declaration that "The only way science should ever influence policy in a democracy is by convincing a majority of voters". I mean if scientists aren't allowed to lobby for laws based on their findings and if apparently they're now not allowed to tell anyone about those findings, then what are they allowed do? Going back to the case of the hypothetical extinction event asteroid, the human race may well perish while the scientists are waiting for an actual politician to read their papers and learn that a threat exists.

Also, it does seem as though you're forbidding people from participating in the political process based on their profession. I'd have thought that you'd have had problems with that, yourself.

And more to the point, isn't this the very activity that the political right have used to brand scientists as hypocrites and liars in the past.

And the political right is correct on these points. That's not just an opinion or a preference, it's a lesson that history has taught us painfully in the form of racism, socialism, and genocide: all of them justified by science and scientists, and often motivated by a crisis that scientists claimed to have recognized.

Actually, I really do think that's just an opinion.

Comment Re:Politicans don't understand science (Score 1) 320

It's pretty easy to hold a plebicite in such a case on short notice

I'll take your word for it. I always get my plebiscites mixed up with my ammonites and my cenobites.

It's pretty easy to hold a plebicite in such a case on and the question certainly is important enough to do so

So basically, you support the use of referenda to determine policy on important scientific matters? That seems to be what you're saying.

So who decides what's important enough for a plebiscite and what isn't? I mean the extinction event asteroid is a clear enough case, but what about the edge cases? How do you do that without setting policy based on scientific evidence?

Are you sure you've thought this through?

You certainly haven't,

No. No I haven't. The proposal that "The only way science should ever influence policy in a democracy is by convincing a majority of voters" is your idea. That means that thinking it through is your job. I'm just trying to find out if you have in fact done so as well as you seem to think.

since even your absurdly literal interpretation of my statement, combined with your unrealistic straw man

Given that a straw man argument is where you deliberate misrepresent anothers's position in order to discredit it, I don't think you can combine a straw man with an absurdly literal interpretation - that would be a contradiction in terms.

I gave you a hypothetical situation and asked my interpretation of your idea was correct. You corrected my understanding of your idea. I believe that's called "debate". (I will admit to poking fun at your argument, but that's not in itself a logical fallacy.)

still admits a simple democratic solution.

I suppose the simplicity of the thing is one of the aspects that bothers me, really. Solutions that propose a single inflexible criteria for deciding potentially complex cases are very often ill-conceived in my experience.

For instance, aren't you basically saying that if a scientist has data that he feels demands a change in policy, the scientist has to stop doing science and become a politician? I mean since that's basically the profession of swaying public opinion in order to affect electoral results. Wouldn't that then stop them from doing the things they get paid for? Or from refining their results?

And more to the point, isn't this the very activity that the political right have used to brand scientists as hypocrites and liars in the past? You know, the idea that they're playing at politics when they should be doing science?

Do please correct me if I've misinterpreted anything that you've said. I'd hate to think I was putting words into your mouth.

Comment Re:Politicans don't understand science (Score 1) 320

The only way science should ever influence policy in a democracy is by convincing a majority of voters

So let me see if I've got this straight. Let's suppose:

  • Astronomers detect "dinosaur killer" scale asteroid on collision course for Earth. ETA three years time
  • Project is proposed to divert asteroid. Time needed two years
  • You say "sorry, that's scientific information. we can't act on that until after the next election when the Will of the People will have been heard".
  • Everyone else: "but it's due to hit the planet before then!"
  • You: "Sorry, it's a matter of principle. Nothing I can do about it."

... and so the entire human race goes Gently Into That Good Night rather than base policy on scientific consensus.

Are you sure you've thought this through?

Comment Re:Politicans don't understand science (Score 1) 320

I don't generally complain about downmods, but on the off chance that someone genuinely doesn't see the relevance:

The question is "Why Does Science Appear To Be Getting Things Increasingly Wrong?"

My answer is "because it suits politicians to try and discredit science at this time".

How is that off topic?

Comment Politicans don't understand science (Score 2, Interesting) 320

I tend to blame the modern political mindset rather than capitalism. I think the problem is that politicians tend to treat "science" as just another political party. I better explain that a little...

There seems to be an idea in political circules that perception == reality. i.e. whatever people believe to be true is effectively true, at least for purposes of governemnt and re-election. Because of this, politicians tend to state as truth whatever they want the truth to be, in the hope and expectation that if they convince enough people then that statement will become true, for political criteria of truth, anyway.

So when a scientist finds evidence for something that that works against a politician's aims, the politician tends react as if it was a political statement. It's automatically held to be false (because perception == truth) and the politican immediately move to discredit the offending notion by whatever means necessary. It's a fundamental clash of mindsets.

Lately, I think science as a whole must have been causing more than the usual amount of headaches in some quarters, because the we seem to have moved from attempting to discredit particular scientific opinions to discrediting science as a whole. So we have attempts to apply moral relativism to scientific opinion, attempts to paint scientists as basically corrupt and venal, etc, etc.

That's my take on it anyway.

Comment Re:What? (Score 2) 75

$10B?! I find this utterly staggering.

The weasel words here are "could be worth as much as..."

So, by the same token, my cat's old scratching post could be worth as much as 27 trillion dollars on the open market. I mean the probabilities are strongly weighted towards zero, but with the right buyer it could be worth that. I just need to find an insane trillionaire is all :)

Add to that the fact this is all just someone's opinion ("according to the people behind the web-based Playstation software SingOn") and basically it's a non-statement containing zero information.

Comment Re:Death (Score 2) 299

On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony.

Hmmm... not quite the same case, to my mind. Pratchett showed us an impersonal force of the universe that had come to resemble, and ultimately empathise with, the souls that he collected.

Anthony gave use a job description and let us follow the story of one successful applicant. Anthony's Death wasn't learning to be human, he was a human learning how to do the job of Death. It seems like a fine distinction, but it resulted in a completely different narrative.

That said, I enjoyed On A Pale Horse a lot. It's just a pity he largely abandoned the modern techno-magic setting and reverted to Xanth (or someplace very like it) for the rest of the series.

Comment Re:Death (Score 2, Insightful) 299

Not to disrespect Terry Pratchett in any way, he was completely awesome. You, however, are incorrect.

Meh. The Death of Diskworld was talking in BLOCK CAPITALS long before Morpheus' big sister showed up.

Which isn't to say that Gaiman didn't do a bang up job either. Just that Sir Terry's version came first.

Comment Re:This Song? There's Nothing Tricky About It (Score 0) 386

I don't get the hoopla about how this will change the "industry". This was a case of blatant infringement, much like the Tom Petty issue. If you could not hear that for yourself, then perhaps you should be following another "industry" for your entertainment needs.

Sure, no problem. Just give me a minute here.

Pay Attention Everyone! Would everybody who disagrees with this legal opinion please stop listen to all music, now and forever! This is necessitated because moehoward doesn't "get" the "hoopla". Thank you for your co-operation.

OK, that should sort out your cognitive dissonance problem. Is there anything else I can help you with while I'm here?

Comment Re:i'th Post (Score 2, Funny) 366

Incorrect, not shocking. Evolution doesn't become any more or less true if it becomes a political issue in churches. The laws of physics don't change if you're a wealthy industry that can afford to fight back politically against physicists

Do you ever think that maybe, just maybe, we're not trying hard enough?

I say we form a commitment, here and now, to vote the Law of Gravity out of office at the next election and replace it with something more in tune with the 21st Century. We'll see how long it takes to get flying cars and Mars colonies once we have a law of gravity that works with us rather than against us.

Once we've done that, I expect we'll find the First Law or Thermodynamics will suddenly be willing to compromise its principles a little. And as for General Relativity, don't get me started!

Comment Re:Easy of porting over is the key (Score 1) 199

The Linux fanboys can scream and curse me all they want, but time will prove me right.

Well obviously they're going to curse you. I mean you have just single-handedly ensured the demise of SteamOS by virtue of grumpily posting a pessimistic opinion on a nerdy discussion board. Because that's the way Cause And Effect works, right?

Seriously, a bit of perspective here?

Comment Re:Pointless (Score 1) 755

It takes real effort to support multiple init systems, so the question becomes, is it worth it?

Define "worth". I mean, can you put a dollar value on not fragmenting the whole Linux community, for instance?

The people actually doing the work in many distributions don't think it is.

Some of the people. The Debian decision was only carried by the chairman's casting vote. So in that case at least people doing the actual work seem pretty damn undecided to me.

You can either work to change that by putting in your own time/money, try to convince them that it is worth the time, or just use systemd.

*Yawn* Or I can use Gentoo or Slackware or (pretty soon) Devuan. Currently I'm using Gentoo and a systemd-free Wheezy. I do hope you're not going to tell me that disqualifies me from having an opinion here?

If systemd is as good as its supporters suggest, then it'll become widely adopted without all this ballyhoo. Conversely, if it's failings are severe enough that it can't gain widespread acceptance without politicising the entire debate, then I don't want it anywhere near me.

This is exactly what is happening. Distribution maintainers are choosing to use systemd because they find it the best of the options available.

Well, except for the whole "without all this ballyhoo", since that is definitely happening. And without the implied unanimity of opinion on the part of the developers: see the previous point about Debian. So, you know, no that isn't exactly what's happening. Sorry.

Also, once again, the only people I see making this political are those who seem to find systemd emotionally repulsive.

It takes two to make for a political debate. We can argue about who started it if you like, but it still takes two. Like the two of us, for instance. Now personally I don't think that either of us are aguing based on primarily emotional or aesthetic grounds. Of course, we can talk about that a bit more if you want.

But if you want a purely technical argument, immature software still under heavy development, lacking an interface spec should be sufficient for most reasonable people.

All of the arguments I've seen in favor of systemd are purely of the "it works better and has more features" variety.

Meh. There's also been plenty along the lines of "systemd just works and if you're too stupid to see it then that's your problem because it's already been decided by people far more intelligent than you so just sit down and shut up already".

If fact, absent the rudeness, that's pretty much the substance of your own argument, if you don't mind me saying so.

Comment Re:Pointless (Score 1) 755

Literally the only argument I've seen that is even close to reasonable is that some people like text logs and journald is a binary log format, and fixing that requires adding one line to a config file.

Please, someone explain this to me.

I'll give it a shot

See, traditionally, this isn't how things are done in the Linux world. Generally, if you have a snazzy idea for an init system (for example) what you'd do is offer it as an option and let users decide.

The idea is to minimise the changes that will be made by the new system (other than improvements to the boot system). That way people who are interested in the new technology can try it and report benefits, problems, make suggestions and, if the new software really provides tangible improvements, more people will start using it and in time it'll probably end up as the default init system on a good many distros. Even then, you'd expect other init-systems to be available as options.

What doesn't work so well on the whole is taking your new init system, declaring that anyone who can't see its benefits is either an idiot or a luddite, and bringing political pressure to bear to get distros to adopt your baby as the default choice. Especially at the same time as trying to tie it into as many other pieces of software as possible thus making it very difficult to replace it with any of the alternatives.

That goes doubly when, as is the case with systemd, we have an immature solution under heavy development, with no firm specification, and developers who have a reputation for being less than helpful. This isn't Microsoft. Solutions don't get invented by some privileged few and adopted because Word comes down from On High. They get adopted because a lot of people use them and find them useful.

And any time it looks like someone is trying to subvert that process ... well, it makes a lot of people skittish. And in those cases, I'd just as soon not have the offending package on my computers.

If systemd is as good as its supporters suggest, then it'll become widely adopted without all this ballyhoo. Conversely, if it's failings are severe enough that it can't gain widespread acceptance without politicising the entire debate, then I don't want it anywhere near me.

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