Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:I can't see this happening... (Score 1) 439

We can legislate -some-. Since over-specialization inherently makes an inferior product, lemon laws will sometimes apply. In at least some cases, the product will simply not be fit for the purpose for which it was sold because purpose is inherently flexible whereas excessive specialization is inherently incapable of flexibility.

Software cannot be made completely "reliable", but then neither can any mechanical device. The system is quite capable of understanding what is reasonable vs. what is unreasonable, so the limitations of software correctness should be immaterial.

The best legislation, then, would be to require computational devices and software to be subject to lemon laws. Where lemon laws are themselves too cookie-cutter to comprehend flexibility then they themselves are not fit for purpose and should be replaced under the very same principle.

Impose "fit for purpose" and only the general-purpose can survive.

Comment Re:Alarmism (Score 4, Insightful) 439

I disagree. What people don't want is unnecessary complication. Give a person a Swiss army knife and there'll be functions they'll never use but it will still be useful to them. They simply won't use the stuff that doesn't apply.

Give someone an appliance, however, and you have a product that does one thing badly. It can't do that one thing well because nobody has the same one thing that they want to do. Nobody uses all the functions of a DVD player, but equally nobody uses exactly the same set of functions on a DVD player either.

Toasters are no longer simple mechanical devices for a reason. If an "appliance" concept really worked, all you'd need is a 555 timer chip and a variable resistor. There hasn't been a toaster that simple in almost 2 decades! Why? Because even the simplest task the human mind can possibly imagine, the most uniform and consistent task a human can imagine, still has too much variability and uncertainty in it.

The "appliance" market in domestic products is DEAD. We don't have single-purpose kiosks that look one thing up, we don't use PDAs, I don't even remember the last time I saw a shop selling single-function clockwork alarm clocks. I think it was some time in the early 70s. Appliances are a failure. People WANT general purpose tools, not over-specialized ones, because you can make the tool work the way YOU work, you don't have to work the way the tool does.

Half the reason older generations despised the evolution of appliances is precisely because it didn't adapt, they had to. Why should they? People are the masters of tools, the tools exist to serve people, it is never the other way around. The move in computing from general-purpose to excessively specialized is to go down a path that is well-trodden and one history has marked as a failure EVERY time.

Comment Re:Failure on our part. (Score 5, Interesting) 439

That's because most users care about personal freedom -- where they're the only person that matters. Insular thinking is way too common and is way too corrosive. However, it does go a little bit beyond that. Metronets almost don't exist except in a few more enlightened places, because people were conned into thinking of it as a tax. They would be paying for someone else's Internet access. Well, no. What they'd be paying for is the freedom to choose your Internet access. Most places, the ISP is nothing more than a shell company that "provides" access to a single actual Internet provider - your "choice" is what illusion you want. It's not a real choice, which means that if the real provider decides to implement a specific restriction then ALL your "choices" implement that specific restriction.

In short, Joe Public is easily tricked into giving up real freedoms because real freedom means someone else gets that freedom too and Joe Public would go through hell or high water before contributing to someone else's freedom. Real freedom is never individualistic, it's binary. It's there or it isn't. By deceiving people into thinking that they're gaining by inhibiting the freedom of "others", freedom becomes impossible. There is no gain in loss. Ever.

Comment Re:I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my Da (Score 1) 646

You don't pay for Google, the advertisers do, because the advertisers are the real customers.

And, frankly, I find your elitist view of education to be Medieval at best. Well, no, Christ's Hospital is medieval and offered free education. So that doesn't work.

Corporate? No. Robert Owen demonstrated that mill workers were more profitable when they were given free education and free housing, and that is the basis of the corporate relationship with universities in Britain ever since.

Senile. That seems more appropriate. There is simply no evidence for your assertions, whereas the last 600 years (and the last 3 generations of my own family, myself included) contain ample evidence that mine are indeed correct.

Comment Re:I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my Da (Score 1) 646

Well, yes. (I think I noted myself that traditional CPR could only meet requirements if 2 people were performing it.) The dispute I alluded to was what a single individual (no matter what their background or training) should do, and the linked article would imply that when a single individual performs CPR that there's uncertainty as to whether continuous blood flow is the overriding concern or whether you should mix compression with breathing.

I don't think there's any dispute - at present - that if two people are performing CPR that you should have both (since that should improve the chances of success). I emphasize "at present" because if CPR has as low a success rate as is implied in the original article, then the method may have additional problems. Further studies might well alter the technique even for 2-person CPR. Personally, I think that the stats for CPR are conflated with all the different methods to the point where it's impossible to infer anything about the success rate of doing it properly -- whatever "properly" turns out to actually be.

Comment Re:Also (Score 5, Interesting) 865

There's a limited number of plot lines known, but given the number of Hollywood scriptwriters out there looking for new plot lines, it's hard to say that the problem is with the number of (good) plot lines possible.

However, I absolutely agree that the key problems are with regurgitated scripts, half-dead actors, a passion for not thinking, and a chronic paranoia towards originality.

Cinemas are partly to blame - there are occasionally good independent movies. Hell, there are occasionally documentary box-office hits (March of the Penguins out-sold The Fantastic Four first on limited release and then nationally in the multiplexes). The cinemas are quite capable of mixing in all kinds of stuff that might not appeal "to the masses" but which could certainly stuff one seating area full for more than enough showings to make a very healthy profit.

Also, box-office hits don't remain hits forever. A local cinema, back in the 70s, got Star Wars and retained it in month blocks until the audience numbers fell off. The last month it was retained, the cinema nearly went out of business. It was an expensive film to hold with near-zero audiences at that point. Modern cinemas have obviously far more screens and book in more rational blocks of time, but even so they must be wasting vast sums on holding onto too many copies for too long. Diversifying would not only increase the number of people actually going to the cinema, it would also reduce wastage from excessive rights.

Comment Re:I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my Da (Score 4, Informative) 646

"There may be additional benefits to this method as well. The survival edge may occur because interrupting chest compressions --- even just for rescue breathing-- may further hamper blood flow, and it takes longer to get that blood flow back when it is time for more chest compressions, explains study researcher Bentley J. Bobrow, MD, of the Arizona Department of Health Services in Phoenix."

I'd call that a very reasonable dispute. If you have papers falsifying the hypothesis, please share the links. Otherwise, I think it is reasonable to maintain that there is a dispute over whether blood flow is more important than oxygen injection. You can achieve only both, to the satisfaction of the above hypothesis, if two people are involved (one involved in compressions, one doing the breathing on a periodic basis).

I'm not saying the doctor was right, wrong or purple, only that one of the researchers involved in the study disputes the interpretation that it is solely because of scare factor and that this makes it a significant hypothesis until disproven. It may have been disproven, and if so I'd like to see the evidence, but no amount of pointing to paramedics, St. John's Ambulance, etc, will convince me that a counter-claim by a knowledgeable person was not made and that it should not be taken seriously. Habits die hard and most paramedics were trained prior to 2010, so without actual hard medical evidence I cannot tell from modern practice whether practice is governed by the knowledge now or the knowledge of several decades ago.

Things change, things evolve, but not all practitioners change and evolve with them.

Comment Re:I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my Da (Score 3, Insightful) 646

Oh, and free education (as per Christ's Hospital in the UK, and universities prior to the abolition of the grant system) produced superior numbers of graduates with superior skills to the education produced by the "free" market of loans and deprivation. At this point in time, with the skills demanded by modern trades, there should be no such thing as paid tuition up to BSc level in most fields and MSc/MPhil in the medicines. 100% of students should be in school to 18 and 80%+ should remain in schooling until they complete either a university, technical college or trade school course of a "higher education" standard. What they learn would depend obviously on what they need, but you need to know more today, not less. There will always be a pyramid of employees, with people at the bottom working the hardest for the least rewards, and nothing can change that. Mechanization and technological improvements should raise that pyramid, though, not trim it. A greater population needs a greater range of opportunities and a greater set of skills to make use of them. Less is never more.

Comment Re:I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my Da (Score 5, Insightful) 646

You mean this one:

I swear by Apollo the physician and Aesculapius, and Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation -- to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgement, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons labouring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further, from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional service, or not in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times. But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot.

Taken absolutely literally, it only forbids one kind of abortion. I would interpret this, in light of "I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgement, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous" to mean avoiding any kind of abortion that is likely to be destructive to the patient, but that any kind that is likely to be helpful to be entirely legitimate. The requirement of being for the benefit of the patient is, IMHO, the ruling clause and all others are contextual interpretations of it.

Urological surgery, the Oath states, should be performed by a specialist. I don't see any technical problems with this -- I wouldn't want a GP to be performing it either. Surgery is best left to surgeons, as the Oath says. ("will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work"). General Practitioners are not brain surgeons, heart surgeons, urologists, etc, and should indeed refer the patient to a specialist. (I don't consider surgeons to be doctors in the sense meant by the Oath. The Oath seems to make it clear that it is intended for village doctors making house-calls, or GPs in local practice, with similar but suitably-adjusted Oaths being required of those trained in highly specialized areas of medicine.)

Frankly, the Laws of England would be better served if attempts to revise or delete elements of Common Law were examined in light of the original intents of such law, and if both the Houses of Parliament and the practicing lawyers were familiar with the purpose of Alfred's Book of Dooms, the elimination of Sovereign Immunity in the Great Charter, and the reasoning behind the English Bill of Rights. Sure, nobody would want to revert to Saxon law, but the reasons for why it was what it was have changed surprisingly little. It was a careful balance of revenge, punishment and mercy, a balance a lot of modern laws don't have. We've progressed a lot in theory and can strike a much wiser balance today, but unless you start from the notion of a balance in the first place, you cannot hope to ever do so.

As for medical ethics having progressed, I must have missed that, what with a maker of structurally dangerous breast implants going on the lam. It was reported that the faults were spotted in 2000, but production stopped in 2011? The saline contamination at Stockport's Stepping Hill hospital is still untraced - the nurse who was suspected has since been cleared, but investigation is minimal. Dr Harold Shipman -- a name to strike fear into any reputable medical establishment. Started in med school, too. Yeah, I've some... doubts over this medical ethics bit. I may be being unfair -- certainly, much of the NHS loss of quality in the past couple of decades has been due to budget cuts, "reforms" and moving too much paperwork to medical practitioners. Long ago, the idea of the local doctor doing rounds in the neighborhood has been crushed to oblivion over the fetish for centralization. (Doctor's offices, once almost outlawed to the seriously sick to prevent disease spreading unnecessarily, have become disease central.)

I would consider the Oath to be more than a historical curiosity, just as I consider Florence Nightingale's admonishment for proper hygine and sterilization to be entirely relevant today, and consider Mrs. Mary Seacole's surgical notes to be more than a mere historical footnote. Had the Lady of the Lamp been listened to in modern days, AIDS prevention schemes (such as dispensing clean needles) would have been enacted far sooner, contamination due to unclean implements would be rarer, cross-contamination by superbugs would still be largely unheard-of, etc. I'm not saying to take these old texts literally, I'm not a fundamentalist, but rather their lessons are important and failure to listen to them in the modern world has never produced a good result.

SARS was stopped when people performed proper isolation of the disease. Sure, Florence Nightingale didn't talk about modern quarantine regulations. You have to extrapolate into the modern times, allowing and adjusting for more modern knowledge and more modern technologies. But she did talk about the dangers of allowing illnesses to spread uncontained - a lesson demonstrably not learned a hundred years later.

The Greeks were great at updating --- there's narry a single scientific, mathematical or philosophical text from ancient times that isn't riddled with corrections, updates, clarifications and replacements as understanding improved. They replaced entire lines of thinking wholesale when they were no longer useful. The same should be done today, certainly. But ethics should always start from first principles and never from modern sensibilities.

The same applies to the Oath itself. Much of it is sensibilities "modern" to that time. Extract the first principles from it, then derive the "correct" modern form of the Oath from those first principles and modern understandings. Modern political, social and religious thought should not enter into the equation. At all. Ever. The modern science and the ethical first principles should be the sole arbiters of what is ethical in medicine today. As I said in my prior post, society and the law should be subordinate to what is ultimately intended and the best way to achieve that. Society should never be in a position to mandate inferior standards and the law should never be in a position to impose impossible dilemmas. I don't care what the dollar/pound cost is, in any absolute sense. Economists should not dictate standards of living either. They may be able to say where the "sweet spot" is, where the benefits of the higher standards and superior care equal in value all of the benefits and superior standards achieved in consequence of it, but since they've done such a lousy job of even direct bean-counting I'd not hold my breath waiting. But ultimately, that should be advisory. One parameter amongst many. The ripple effect is not the only one to consider and not all ripples will be quantifiable anyway.

So, no, I don't consider it a red herring. I consider understanding the foundations on which the Oath is predicated to be sound, to understand prior architectures of ethical systems to be entirely reasonable, and to base a modern architecture on these pieces of knowledge to be entirely rational. Modern failures are almost invariably the consequences of ignoring past lessons, but you cannot learn from a history you don't know and you cannot know what it is you're to learn from history if you don't interpolate as needed but merely take texts as they stand, unchanging.

Slashdot Top Deals

The difference between a career and a job is about 20 hours a week.