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Comment Re:Is this really helping people in 2nd or 3rd wor (Score 1) 64

Except, as noted and described in that article I linked, there are already some deployments in place that accomplish exactly this. They successfully allowed illiterate children to not only learn basic written english, but also to learn the tablet technology to a level that they were able to override system-level modifications made by the admins who set them up.

Also as awesome as Archer is, I don't think it exactly qualifies as a reliable source for geopolitical fact. Most warlords would likely have very little interest in equipping their soldiers with outdated solar-powered tablets pre-loaded with alphabet games.

Comment Re:Is this really helping people in 2nd or 3rd wor (Score 1) 64

Or they could get laptops that are set to speak aloud and accept speech input. Or they could be be pre-configured with shortcuts to online language learning programs, allowing literacy to spread. Or they could rely more heavily on video, which can be incredibly helpful as a learning tool for people who are barely literate but have rudimentary written language skills. Need I go on with really easy solutions?

As a real world example:

But way to go; if your goal was to make me look momentarily stupid for trying to point out the possible benefits of a philanthropic program, mission accomplished.

Comment Re:For those that cannot afford things... (Score 1) 64

See, you say that as though it was fact, but I don't see any evidence of that anywhere in their stated goals or intended actions. They want to bring the Internet to people, and I can't see any way to give them Facebook without giving them everything else as well. Though I'm certain he sees the chance to expand Facebook as a welcome bonus, how much revenue do you really think he intends to extract from people who can't even afford internet access? Targeted ads to southern Nigerian farmers aren't going to be worth very much...

You could choose to assume a cynical viewpoint and expect the worst, but its entirely possible that Zuckerberg has realized he's got more money than he can ever spend and decided to put his considerable wealth and internet-clout towards a worthy philanthropic goal. (See: Bill Gates, who was also once considered a selfish jerk interested only in profits.) A middle ground might be to assume that his only way to increase profits is to get a whole new group of people into the wealth levels required to be useful to him. If the side effect of his business goals was the economic prosperity of half the world's population, I'd be okay with that on the whole.

Also, my example directly referenced how facebook could be helpful, in that it would let people in these remote locations connect with nearby people and share common solutions to their problems. My insights about how to solve problems like non-potable water aren't going to be very useful, since I make assumptions about what's available (tools, power, people who can read, etc.) that simply aren't true in the context of a person in different situation.

Comment Re:Not a top priority... (Score 1) 64

I think that's his point: Nobody should have to choose between accessing the world's repository of knowledge and buying food. If we can give them both, maybe they can use that big pile of information to improve their lives in more meaningful, long lasting ways.


There have been some studies on this that show how much people can improve their lives by getting access to the knowledge we take for granted. We may not be able to do a lot with Wikipedia's article on crop rotation and fertilization techniques, but I bet a farmer in southern Nigeria could.

Comment Re:For those that cannot afford things... (Score 4, Interesting) 64

Facebook update #248: Location: Ethiopia: Thanks to user NamibiaYOLO33 who sent me to that Instructables article. We're making some carbon filters from our firewood ashes tomorrow to see if they work!

Facebook update #253 Location: Ethiopia: Wow, no cholera for a week! Who knew we were throwing away valuable filtering supplies every day? Next up, I think we can take the alternator from that broken down bus outside down and make a wind generator, so we can work at night.

Just because you think that social media is useless doesn't mean everyone does. There are some parts of the world where a bit of knowledge sharing could go miles.

Comment Re:Is this really helping people in 2nd or 3rd wor (Score 5, Insightful) 64

There actually have been some studied connected to the OLPC project that suggest internet access is incredibly valuable to people in developing nations, but not for the reasons you're thinking.

These people we're talking about might be 150 miles from the nearest library with a full set of encyclopedias; for that matter, they might not even know how to read. How good do you think their agricultural practices are, given that level of background knowledge? When presented with the challenge of cleaning their drinking water, how far do you think they get? How about diagnosing diseases, planning for weather, or being aware of potential politcal danger? Do you think they could do a bit better at those things given access to Wikipedia, WebMD, Instructables, Reuters and YouTube?

On the same route, perhaps they could even begin to improve their own infrastructure given a bit of access to the world of modern industry? Maybe a small village could save up to invest in a solar array, and have lights inside at night? Or a water purifier so they don't die of cholera anymore?

Knowledge is power, the internet is distributed knowledge. It could do a lot more to help people than a bit of financial aid or temporary food supplies might.

Comment This just in: (Score 2) 64

Incredibly generic website name had former owner, who at one point posted jokes. More at 11.

I don't even really get why this would be in poor taste? The idea that egyptians used slaves as labor is pretty much accepted as fact, and seems to be in safe territory for a joke to me (despite recent studies that suggest most of the meaningful labor in ancient Egypt was actually done by paid workers). And shocker, there is pornography on the internet; can we not make jokes about that anymore?

I really don't get what all the fuss is about, even if Zuckerburg were somehow actually connected to the content the site formerly hosted.

Comment Re:Phew! (Score 1) 85

It's at least good enough to teach some of us armchair astronauts a bit more about engineering and orbital mechanics!

And yeah, if you want to be reliably successful at it you have to go and learn at least some of the core concepts of the related fields of engineering and physics. There are some crib sheets and whatnot online (like delta-v charts and optimal orbital insertion guide tables) but they still require that you understand things like delta-v and design your ships in a way that puts the center of mass, aerodynamic resistance and control points in the right places.

If you want to do less orbital mechanics calculations you can get the MechJeb autopilot that does a lot of the basic work for you (as seems to be the preferred method lately among real-world satellite launches). It won't figure out things like orbital transfer sequences or slingshots or anything really complex. What it will do is get your orbit perfectly circularized (or properly elliptical), help you rendezvous with another orbital object, hold your orientation along some orbital axis (prograde, retrograde, etc) or help control a descent burn so you hit a given target location.

Comment Re:too busy deciding to be busy or not (Score 1) 533

From TFA referenced in that slashdot post you linked to:

Musk said the Hyperloop "can just be out there as an open source design that people can keep improving. I don't have any time to focus on it as I have to focus on SpaceX and Tesla."

He never said he was cancelling the plans, just that he can't do it himself right now.

...the 42-year-old also said that if no progress on Hyperloop has been made in a few years, he might attempt to "make it happen".

Comment Re:In Soviet Russia (Score 4, Interesting) 411

Except that by asking him to do something illegal, the NSA invalidated their own contract. Under U.S. law no contract may require a person to commit an illegal act, nor may it prevent them from reporting a criminal act so long as they have first attempted to report the criminal activity using internal policies. As long as Snowden tried to get his bosses to stop the illegal wiretapping and reported their actions to his supervisor, he should be protected under us whistleblower protection laws.

That said, this is the NSA, and they seem not to care about the law. Running away is smart, to keep them from doing something illegal to punish him for reporting the OTHER illegal things they did.

Comment It probably depends... (Score 1) 277

It probably depends on what their job is. Asking this as an open question is like asking "Which is a better tool, a hammer or a saw?"

If they're your UI designer, Software Architect, or User Experience Designer? It's probably better to err on the side of "talent" (creativity) rather than technical skill. These people don't need to output elegant and functional code, they just need to come up with clever ideas and solutions from a broader more holistic perspective.

If they're your Frontend Developer, UI Developer, or a high level programmer of some kind? They probably need a mix of the two, with an emphasis on technical skill. Their job is output code, but it won't usually need to be perfectly optimized and they will often need to solve new problems in unexpected ways.

If they're your backend dev, production software engineer, or other nitty-gritty code writer? Technical skill will be the more important trait. These guys will usually not be expected to solve the weird UI problems themselves (That's what the UX Designer is for!), but their product needs to be rock-solid from a technical perspective.

Comment Re:Well (Score 1) 510

This has been brought up on several occasions, and the counterargument is that the chain of information relating to the pickup is much more secure for rideshare operators.

Taxis are scary because people essentially just hop in a passing car without telling anyone, and hand the driver some cash. Fake taxis were a great way to abduct or rob people, which is the origin of a lot of the "safety" based regulations. Erratic or unlicensed drivers were another risk, since they could pose a threat to their fares and everyone around them.

With these rideshares, the passenger is submitting a request over the internet to a public facing company. That company in turn sends out a pickup request to a specific driver, who accepts it and logs their intent to pick up the passenger. With most of the services, the passenger in turn gets a chance to confirm that they have actually been picked up. Since these requests only go to their drivers, the company has the opportunity to do background checks, ensure their drivers are regulated, and keep appropriate records as a chartered ride service. It also creates a chain of responsibility that leads to the driver, if anything were to happen to the passenger.

The rideshare companies in turn have a strong incentive to get rid of unsafe drivers. They might be legally liable for letting a driver continue to operate with a dangerous history, and they have to keep at least basic records of who got picked up when and by whom to avoid getting in trouble for financial violations.

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