Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Systemic Prejudice (Score 2) 188

I'm faced with a dilemma here: I'm an algorithmist, and believe most questions can be more accurately be answered, in the long run at least, by a well developed algorithm than even the most skilled human being.

I agree, but there are a number of things about this case that are problematic for algorithmic analysis as such:

1) Ten years from now the primary growth industry in tech is going to be rasting, which won't be invented for another three years. How do you predict who is going to be successful in the highly competitive counter-rast and ablatives industries?

2) Related to that, Google is a stable corporate environment in which some kind of prediction has been possible for the past few years. The world is not stable. Never has been, never will be.

3) There is a huge industry of metrics-based success prediction, and it sucks. The entire SAT/GRE/MCAT thing is a lousy predictor of success, with only weak correlations between *AT scores and academic achievement, much less career achievement in the first ten years.

4) To validate such an algorithmic approach you would need to test it, likely by attempting to apply your metrics to people from ten to thirty years ago and seeing how well they did in the ensuing 10 years. If you only apply the metric to people ten years ago you have no idea if it is robust over time, and robustness over time (because: rast) is absolutely necessary.

So the odds of this working well are small. Making algorithms that work in the real world is hard, and these guys seem to have set themselves up one of the hardest problems going.

Comment Re:Amazing (Score 1) 127

Even cutlery,,, how long would it take for an Iron Age blacksmith to craft a single cutlery set?

The fact that most cutlery nowadays is rolled stainless steel still kinda blows me away. When I was a kid (40-odd years ago) stamped mild-steel flatware coated with peeling chrome was commonplace. Today it's almost unheard of, and you can get a decent stainless steel set for $100.

Back in the day we used sterling silver flatware for fancy occasions, which you do still see now and then, but it is so much inferior to stainless that it's extremely rare (and honestly building spoons designed to stir near-boiling liquids like tea out of the best elemental conductor of heat there is was never a particularly clever move...)

If you look around you you'll see an incredible amount of amazing stuff that is of higher quality and lower cost--including lower environmental cost--than the things your parents and grandparents had, and it's only going to get better, assuming the people who don't find any of it amazing at all aren't given the power to screw things up.

Comment Re:Holy moly (Score 1) 116

I remember when this theoretical technology was proposed about a year ago, and figured it would be a decade before they could actually do it.

It would be fascinating to troll through the /. archives and find out what fraction of things that were predicted to come to market in timescale X actually did so. XKCD aside, I don't think this question has ever been properly addressed.

Comment Re:I don't like boost (Score 4, Insightful) 333

I think the reason for omission is simply that the operators are nothing more than syntactic sugar. Anyone that needs those operations can write them quickly without putting much thought into it.

Both the GP and you are wrong about this. Hardware support for exponentiation is completely irrelevant to it being a built-in operator rather than a function call.

FORTRAN, famously, has some extremely efficient tricks for implementing exponentiation by small integer exponents (up to 7, if memory serves) that are independent of MPU support. They are handled by the compiler. Why C/C++ doesn't have this is beyond me, and writing these things efficiently for a given architecture is non-trivial and better handled by the people porting the compiler than application developers.

Comment Re:Just a new way for defense contractors to get p (Score 0) 136

Nice use of the Standard Template for Pro-Government Action:

1) Lead with wildly exaggerated scenario that you make out to be super-scary

2) Middle paragraph that's patriotic and tough-sounding without actually saying anything that anyone doesn't already know, but presented as if its some kind of special revelation that only a super-tough uber-patriot could possibly have come up with.

3) Close with a polite disavowal of the lead paragraph's wildly exaggerated super-scary scenario, so no one can call you out for promoting fear and arguing from completely unrealistic threats.

The only place where you lose points is that your original scenario is too transparently lame. Losing all our cat pics is going to cost the economy a million dollars per person? I don't think so.

Comment Re:If you want peace prepare for war (Score 2) 136

Sure, the saying goes: if you want peace prepare for war.

The saying is military propaganda. If you want peace, prepare for peace.

If anyone doesn't know what "prepare for peace" means--or thinks it means "surrender"--they are part of the problem, too ignorant to partake in this discussion, unable to see that there are options that are better than war (and since war is both on theoretical and empirical grounds the least efficient, least effective solution to any problem there are always options better than war.)

Comment Re:Could be a death blow for vast areas of the oce (Score 1) 154

The ecosystem of the ocean is dependent on the ocean floor and reefs both of which would be devastated by this kind of exploitation.

I appreciate your mention of "reefs", as they are completely irrelevant to the depths in question, and make it easy to completely dismiss your cavil as what it is: the persistent whine of the naysayer, who is opposed to everything.

It's really useful for people with the courage to take risks with the future, and therefore make things better, to be able to spot the naysayers, and concern for "reefs" at thousands of feet below the ocean surface is a good way to do so in this case, like concern for "birds killed by windmills" allows us to spot anti-wind trolls and concern for "polar bears on melting ice" allows us to spot climate change trolls.

There are valid concerns on all these topics, but people like you, who contribute only noise to the conversation, need to be screened out if we are to have the conversations that matter. Thanks for making that easy!

Comment Re:American investors uninterested in manufacturin (Score 3, Interesting) 268

Startups that actually need to produce physical products are starving because investors don't want to put their money into projects that take millions of dollars and several years to break even.

If it ever does (break even). Scaling up is an incredibly high-risk business, because some things just don't scale.

In Canada we recently opened a national chemical engineering facility ( that is specifically aimed at helping researchers scale chemical processes that work at lab-scale (grams) to industrial scale (kilograms to tonnes). There are plenty of things that just don't work outside of the lab, and new processes in particular are often invented by experts who are the only people in the world who can make them work successfully.

The skills required for scaling up are very different from those required for discovery, and having something like this were there is a specific group of experts in scaling up is a godsend to university spin-off businesses, and adds a level of reassurance to investors that simply couldn't exist otherwise.

Comment Re:I want to know the protocol. (Score 2) 176

Clearly we need an RFC for the Brain-To-Brain-Interface Protocol.

You've been modded funny but this is actually insightful.

The fantasy of "brains working together" is based on a transparently stupid idea: that adding more manpower to a late project will not make it later. Communication and thinking are hard, and brains are decidedly non-standard components, with different internal representations of pretty much everything.

As a friend who works in GIS is fond of saying, "If I take a group of geologists out in the field and have them map an area, at the end of the day I can tell who mapped where, but not what they mapped." Our internal representations of the world even for such apparently unambiguous concepts as "granite" are sufficiently different that we have genuine trouble agreeing on boundaries between types of rock. And yet for some reason everyone believe that their own person concept of any given thing is "true" and "real" and everyone else is mistaken.

Even if we could connect two human brains together with high enough bandwidth to do meaningful "co-thinking" the result would look a hell of a lot more like a three-legged race than anything else.

Comment Re:There's already a working system. (Score 1) 126

It always annoys me when people claim to have discovered something new when all they're really doing is reverting to a past method that was recently discarded in the name of "new" and under the pretense of "better". It shows both ignorance and arrogance.

Our knowledge of pedagogy has improved considerably in the past century, which makes it worth revisiting the question. Masters who are ignorant of pedagogy, as the typical master of an apprentice was, are not good, efficient or effective teachers, as demonstrated by the lengthy terms of apprenticeship and the rather high failure rate.

That said, modern "teacher education" is almost completely free of pedagogy. We know how to teach, and we know a number of methods that have been proven again and again under a wide range of circumstances to work. They all look vaguely like the Montessori method, although there are lots of variants that, again, are known to work.

What they don't look very much like is either an apprenticeship program or a modern classroom, neither of which are primarily intended to teach. Apprenticeships are fundamentally about creating barriers to entry for the protection of existing tradespeople. Modern classrooms are about warehousing children for whom society has no place.

As such it is no surprise that we do a bad job of education, because no one is very much interested in educating using empirically valid pedagogical methods. They are rather interested in promoting their political and ideological interests, as you have done here.

Comment Re:Good only for Monsanto. (Score 1) 284

Sterile seed doesn't spread much of anything.

Who is talking about "sterile seed"? Do you understand how the terminator gene works? Terminator plants still produce pollen that can fertilize other plants, but those seeds will not germinate due to the terminator.

The cleverness in the process is that Monsanto has produced a fertile strain that will generate seeds that will grow into infertile plants.

So the detrimental effects of the terminator are not limited to heirloom varieties, they will universally decrease yields for any farmer who is depending on putting aside pollinated seeds from this years crop to plant next years (this is a bigger deal in the developing world, still.)

Comment Re:Good only for Monsanto. (Score 4, Insightful) 284

Negative: If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.

This is not an "if" but a "when". It is as near to a certainty as anything can be.

If anyone other than a large, politically generous American corporation were proposing to do this it would be considered at act of bioterrorism to release terminator seeds into the wild, because cross-pollination with wild-type seeds is a certainty and therefore everyone not buying new seed every year will suffer from yield reductions due to Monsanto's seeds.

Comment Misses the point (Score 3, Interesting) 421

The idea here is that the background state of our universe is a so-called "false vacuum" that will at some future point decay into the true ground state, destroying our universe in the process. That's boring.

By far more interesting is the possibility that the Higgs mass has been driven to just above the line of instability by some new physics. This is the first genuinely "that's odd..." moment to come along in high energy physics for quite some time.

Comment Re:Even China is getting tired of their shit (Score 1) 270

We've been through this for decades, with North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, etc.

Except Iran does not have nuclear weapons nor has it ever seriously pursued them, despite Israeli accusations to the contrary for the past twenty years.

How do we know this?

Because after 20 years, if Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons it can only be because they are not seriously pursuing them. They are simply not that hard to build. Even the North Koreans can do it, and they are nothing like as technologically adept as the Iranians.

It took less than five years to go from "nuclear weapons might really be possible" to Trinity, and that was inventing the basic tech along the way, computing with human computers and timing with mercury switches and tubes. Today, with a budget of a billion dollars and a team of competent high school students you could build a nuclear bomb within five years.

So Iran doesn't have the bomb because Iran is not trying to build one. If they were, they would have had one long ago.

Comment Re:Making Peace? (Score 3, Insightful) 270

Freedom of movement is largely a matter of philosophical and academic concern since most people lack the material wealth necessary to exercise that freedom to any meaningful degree.

I was going to mod you "Funny" because this is so hilariously stupid, but thought I'd reply instead, and point out that fully 1/3 of the population of Canada was born elsewhere, and the US isn't that far behind in this regard.

Want to tell me again how 30% of the population here isn't "really free" by some stupid definition of 'free' you just pulled out of your butt? Or that the greater part of the rest of us couldn't change nations just as easily? "Minor practical barriers" are in a different category from "illegal under the laws of the nation I am currently living in."

"Free" does not mean "effortless", which seems to be the construction you are putting on the term.

Slashdot Top Deals

Quantity is no substitute for quality, but its the only one we've got.