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Comment How can this work? (Score 2) 206

Since there's no organizational scheme, I assume that the human workers have to be told turn by turn where to go? That for anything but an item that they picked up recently, a human worker would need to be told where exactly to go to pick up the nearest item X. And even if one of the human workers did remember the last place they saw X, that spot probably is not the closest instance of X. This kind of storage scheme means that the human workers are simply meat waldos serving the computer software that runs the place.

Comment In the stated scenario, what? (Score 3, Insightful) 604

No competent engineer would even consider adding code to allow the automated car to consider swerving off the bridge. In fact, the internal database the automated car would need of terrain features (hard to "see" a huge dropoff like a bridge with sensors aboard the car) would have the sides of the bridge explicitly marked as a deadly obstacle.

The car's internal mapping system of drivable parts of the surrounding environment would thus not allow it to even consider swerving in that direction. Instead, the car would crash if there were no other alternatives. Low level systems would prepare the vehicle as best as possible for the crash to maximize the chances the occupants survive.

Or put another way : you design and engineer the systems in the car to make decisions that lead to a good outcome on average. You can't possibly prepare it for edge cases like dodging a bus with 40 people. Possibly the car might be able to estimate the likely size of another vehicle (by measuring the surface area of the front) and weight decisions that way (better to crash into another small car than an 18 wheeler) but not everything can be avoided.

Automated cars won't be perfect. Sometimes, the perfect combination of bad decisions, bad weather, or just bad luck will cause fatal crashes. They will be a worthwhile investment if the chance of a fatal accident were SIGNIFICANTLY lower, such that virtually any human driver, no matter how skilled, would be better served riding in an automated vehicle. Maybe a 10x lower fatal accident rate would be an acceptable benchmark?

    If I were on the design team, I'd make 4 point restraints mandatory for the occupants, and design the vehicle for survivability in high speed crashes including from the side.

Comment Re:Legality of "malware" ?? (Score 1) 234

The in-efficiency of trying to do mind boggling. Most of the malware authors probably aren't even within the U.S. Extradition is very slow and expensive and does not always succeed. It is possible for malware authors to cover their tracks so effectively that even finding out who they are is de facto impossible.

Basically, I see trying to eliminate malware as being about as practical as trying to eliminate bacteria from the planet. Much better to secure your system so it can't get through.

Comment The fine print mentioned in TFA (Score 4, Interesting) 234

All software changes that address cybersecurity threats should be validated before installation to ensure they do not affect the safety and effectiveness of the medical devices.

Validated. That costs a bunch of money. And this basically is saying that if the manufacturer DOESN'T validate the changes to the FDA's satisfaction (meaning do a heck of a lot more testing than just applying the patch real quick and booting it up and making sure it's still working) then they are totally vulnerable to lawsuits.

Also, just as importantly : the manufacturer does not receive money from medical devices already sold. Their new ones (with new hardware which is why they can't back-port the software) are where the revenue is. In fact, it's sort of beneficial if the hospital's old equipment starts running slowly and badly because they can push their new gear (now with enhanced cybersecurity!)

Comment Mission Critical Systems? LolWAT? (Score 5, Insightful) 234

Ok, I'm only a student. So I don't know anything. But I sorta THOUGHT that the standard for a mission critical system (aka something like a heart monitor, blood gas analyzer, etc etc etc) would be to NOT use any software in your system that you don't have 100% control over.

You know, rather than picking some version of windows, use an embedded linux. Add the bare minimum graphics libraries you need in order to draw a gui. Isolate the threads that actually do the mission critical stuff (say, reading the sensor and displaying the output) from the ones that do other tasks (like handling all the complex menus and the network connectivity and so on). Heck, use a separate physical CPU for the mission critical stuff, and give it it's own dedicated display so that no matter what, it keeps displaying the important data. The hardware to do this is cheap.

And firewalls should be integrated into the devices themselves - even Linux can theoretically catch a worm, and so it should apply strict filtering rules on any communications with the network.

I can fully understand the reluctance of the manufacturers to issue software patches. Building the system so that it's practical to not ever patch it (well, maybe patch it a couple times to eliminate any bugs found after release) is a good thing. Everyone here must know that the best way to break a working machine is to shut it down and change something.

Comment Re:Shotgun. (Score 1) 340

I hate to say it, but this kind of escalation has some negative risk possibilities at the end of the encounter.

    a. You might be shot and killed (unlikely, I suppose, if you bring big guns to the party and have a good position to fire from)
    b. You might kill someone else. And just your luck, they might be someone important. You might spend the next 5 years of your life and every penny you have fighting for your life in court.

Versus just paying someone to clean up the trash and installing a better fence. It really isn't a good idea to resort to lethal force (or firearms at all) unless the other guy leaves you no other options.

Comment Re:the ammo (Score 1) 632

The gun is a lot harder to make than the bullets are, however. Someone can make bullets with trivial effort, cutting metal to make a DECENT gun, one that would be a threat to someone else with a gun, is much harder. Sure, anyone could make a piece of crap zip gun, but one that fires accurately and reliably and has a good form factor and good sights...costs hundreds of dollars to make even with a factory.

Comment Re:We should know this already... (Score 1) 287

Case 1 : build artifical centrifuges (massive amounts of structure, complex) in low earth orbit and test life in a habitat. If something goes wrong, the astronauts can get into a reentry capsule that merely has to lose a little bit of velocity to reenter the atmosphere.

Case 2 : build lander vehicles that can put hundreds of tons of materials onto the moon or Mars. Also, there have to be ascent stages to get the astronauts back to earth. Gravity on the habitat is limited to 1/6 or 1/3 G depending, unless you lower heavy centrifuges to the lunar or martian surface.

Any complex product you have to bring with you in either situation because humanity is many decades from being able to design and construct any kind of meaningful manufacturing system that could go on the Moon or Mars. (because our current infrastructure and supply chain to produce any reasonably complex product is absolutely gigantic. Barring something like nanotechnology, we'd need to install on the Moon or Mars many square miles of heavy machinery to duplicate the current infrastructure, even on a small scale)

So the numbers are not as clear cut as they might appear. My hunch is that case 1 is in fact cheaper and easier with today's technology. Building totally artificial habitats in low earth orbit is probably easier than setting up a habitat on the moon or Mars. Even if it isn't easier, the numbers have to be pretty close.

Personally, I think the long term solution for human expansion into space is just more artificial habitats. Instead of trying to terraform planets to support human life, we'd use the mass of celestial objects in the solar system as raw materials for giant artifical habitats that are completely artificial. Doing it this way, you can live at 1 G in designed, engineered places that are a much more efficient use of mass than a planet. Imagine how much internal surface area the artificial habitats would have if the entire mass of Mars were converted into habitats. It would be far more surface area than the actual surface of the sphere of Mars.

I think the habitats would also be safe : instead of 1 vulnerable planet, there might be tens of thousands of artificial habitats, that are free flying and self repairing. What do you think would be easier to kill with a kinetic bombardment? A planet or habitats that can dodge?

Comment Re:Surprising? No. Inevitable? Maybe not (Score 1) 480

Your argument is ultimately based on the belief that you are going to die, and it is impossible to avoid, and so you might as well make weird witticisms about it.

People have been doing things like this for thousands of years.

However, maybe, just maybe, the civilization we live in has developed sufficient technology and infrastructure that it doesn't have to be this way.

Comment Re:Surprising? No. Inevitable? Maybe not (Score 1) 480

Are you being flippant? You don't experience ANYTHING. It does not matter if the universe ceases to exist the moment you die : from your perspective, it does.

After you die, it doesn't matter if you were Jeffrey Dahmer or Neil Armstrong. For YOU, your life experiences never even happened.

To me this prospect is far more upsetting than some religious view of heaven or hell.

Comment Surprising? No. Inevitable? Maybe not (Score 1) 480

It's not like a person's bodily tissues failing after decades of service should be a surprising or unexpected event. Probably, the fault is in our own DNA, causing our cells to give up and fail according to a schedule.

Perhaps instead of arguing over healthcare or corporate taxes or other petty trival issues we should as a species work on stopping these biological decay processes, and since that is a very complex problem, develop methods to preserve ourselves if we fail before the cures can be developed.

I bet if Mr. Armstrong had been successfully cryogenically frozen, the people of our future would make a considerable effort to bring him back.

Comment Some real science (Score -1, Troll) 559

The nasty truth is that actual living plants have so many mutations and gene crossings and chromosomes doublings that you should not think of extant plants as some pristine, perfect creation passed down from God (or Gaea). This is what the nuts in California are actually up in arms about : they believe that "naturally" occurring crops have to be superior to something that has had a few genes artificially spliced in.

Thing is, every crop humans grow for food already HAS been genetically modified, through centuries of selective breeding. In the case of ruby red grapefruit, the crop was developed by exposing the seeds to radiation and causing a LOT of mutations quite fast.

Modern genetic engineering is just a cleaner, and more accurate method. Rather than mixing genes up blindly, the scientists who perform it carefully insert desirable traits and test the outcomes. This can also lead to much safer, faster growing crops. Optimize the Krebs cycle for corn, and it will grow twice as fast. Allow crops to synthesize their own pesticides in the inedible parts of the plant, and humans stop inadvertently consuming pesticide in their diet. Make the crop resistant to pests, and you won't need as much pesticide. And so on.

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