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Comment Re:no wu, no win (Score 1) 251

PS post.

I was reading Wikipedia just last night after viewing Cave of Forgotten Dreams on the origins of language, which the article proclaims is viewed by many[who?] as one of the hardest problems in science.

Noam Chomsky is a prominent proponent of discontinuity theory. "The views of Noam Chomsky on the nature of UG (innate universal grammar) have long been dominant within the field of linguistics, but they themselves have undergone marked changes from decade to decade" (Christiansen, 59).

He argues that a single chance mutation occurred in one individual on the order of 100,000 years ago, triggering the "instantaneous" emergence of the language faculty (a component of the mind-brain) in "perfect" or "near-perfect" form.

The philosophical argument runs, briefly, as follows: firstly, from what is known about evolution, any biological change in a species arises by a random genetic change in a single individual which spreads throughout its breeding group.

Secondly, from a computational perspective on the theory of language: the only change that was needed was the cognitive ability to construct and process recursive data structures in the mind (the property of "discrete infinity", which appears to be unique to the human mind). This genetic change, which endowed the human mind with the property of discrete infinity, Chomsky argues, essentially amounts to a jump from being able to count up to N, where N is a fixed number, to being able to count indefinitely (i.e. if N can be constructed then so can N+1).

It follows from these assertions that the evolution of the human language faculty is saltational since, as a matter of logical fact, there is no way to gradually transition from a mind capable only of counting up to a fixed number, to a mind capable of counting indefinitely.

The picture then, by loose analogy, is that the formation of the language faculty in humans is akin to the formation of a crystal; discrete infinity was the seed crystal in a super-saturated primate brain, on the verge of blossoming into the human mind, by physical law, once a single small, but crucial, key stone was added by evolution. It thus follows from this theory that language did appear rather suddenly within the history of human evolution.

Does anyone else find it weird that in Chomsky's view, the magic moment in human evolution is something that our computational mechanisms have possessed at least since Turing showed in 1937 that Turing machines equal the lambda calculus in expressiveness?

Or does Chomsky somehow secretly believe that the gene for human mental recursion is more supercalifragilisticexpialidocious than lambda calculus?

Freud and Chomsky share a unique gift in their capacity to make impressive technical accomplishments without uprooting or disturbing too much of the psychedelic wu underbrush.

Comment no wu, no win (Score 1, Interesting) 251

Unless this people building this system have come up with a way to program a creative spirit into the system, I'm skeptical

Daniel Dennett made himself a career out of arguing against this kind of twaddle. Whenever I listen to him, I always wonder what he's making such a big deal about, then I head back out into the world, and sure enough, he's busy saying what needs to be said.

From Daniel Dennett: 'You can make Aristotle look like a flaming idiot':

There's a pattern here, "the story of my life", as Dennett puts it. People assume unrealistic ideals of what free will, selfhood or rationality are and then get upset when Dennett says: "It's not the overwhelming supercalifragilisticexpialidocious phenomenon that you thought it was." But it's still real enough. The problem is simply: "Both free will and consciousness have been, by my lights, inflated in the popular imagination and in the philosophical imagination," and so "anybody who has a view of either one that is chopped down to size" is accused of "a wretched subterfuge", as Kant memorably put it.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious travels under many aliases. One of these is "creative spirit". A calling card of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is that there can be no such thing as incremental progress. You either have it, or you're wasting your time. There's a grain of truth to this. It's hard to sneak up on a moving bar that travels by teleportation whenever encroached.

As I recall, Dennett goes into this in the last third of Daniel Dennett: Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking. It's a virtuous and mildly tedious sermon if you already belong to the choir.

Comment Re:Just another reason not to use The Face Book (Score 4, Informative) 194

part of the problem, not the solution

This kind of logic is itself part of the problem. It presumes that people are engaged in the political dimensions of their life activities everywhere and always. Now perhaps you think the world would be a better place if this were true, and you might have the view—from within the confines of your evidently narrow and sheltered life—that we all have limitless capacity to politicize our every twitch and sneeze. But we don't, and it's not effective.

I have a range of issues where I'm especially well placed (though aptitude, knowledge, experience, and social connections) to speak out loudly and effectively. The rest of the time, like everyone else, I'm merely trying to get through life without succumbing to death by paper cut. Facebook is a cancer, so I don't go there at all, but if I did, I wouldn't regard Social Fixer as part of the problem. I'd regard it as a dry pair of socks, so I could live to hike another day.

But sure, if your boots pinch, burn your socks. It's true: you won't ever buy a bad-fitting pair of boots ever again. Too bad about those refrigerated vaccines you were trekking into a remote African village. Better luck next year.

Comment Re:Why? (Score 1) 527

Regardless, the jump from "you're not doing what we ask" to "we get to install a black box on your network and spoof as you, trust us not to abuse this" seems excessive if not absurd as lavabit's core business is centered around privacy.

Considering the likely demographics of their clientele, if word leaks out that Lavabit's entire service is wearing an FBI wire, the Lavabit proprietors are about as long for the good life as Adriana La Cerva during her Pepto-Bismol phase.

Adriana La Cerva cooperates with the FBI

Comment Re:it's dead, Jim (Score 1) 133

Ah, thanks for that. Without a gratuitous ad distronem attack within the first page of comments, I wouldn't be sure I was reading something about BSD.

As for de Raadt's "unsupportable fuckwittery", the infallably polite are soon back-doored and sent to PRISM. The Philistines didn't send Goliath down to challenge the Israelites in single combat because he was the life of the party. His rawhide posse seems to get a lot done, despite the incessant hail of small stones. If only they'd sent Theo instead. Thirty thousand rueful historical Philistines can't be wrong.

Comment image capture (Score 1) 208

There's many things that Apple might not have invented, but did nonetheless popularize.

It was IBM who "popularized" the PC among the ranks of accountants and economists and statisticians and MBAs who never felt the magic of the cramped Apple II keyboard or the 40 column display with no lowercase letters. These dullards constituted a far larger market than Apple commanded until the distant dawn of gadget manna.

For the tablet, some company that loomed large in the public imagination needed to step up and offer legitimacy that this wasn't just a niche product doomed to forever remain a niche product, just as IBM did with the original PC—this while Xerox already had the bones of the Apple Lisa/Macintosh with mice and networking in an advanced state of development within their research lab.

Funny how the worm turns.

The entirely of the PC revolution was set in motion by a combination of Leibniz/Babbage and the invention of solid state semiconductors and would have unfolded much as it has without any of the companies we know today who muscled their way into the vanguard of brand recognition by some combination of skill and luck (far more luck than usually admitted in the retrospective hagiography).

Bell Labs' attorneys soon discovered Shockley's field effect principle had been anticipated and devices based on it patented in 1930 by Julius Lilienfeld, who filed his MESFET-like patent in Canada on October 22, 1925.

Fifty years later, we arrive at Apple's founding moment:

The MOS Technology 6502 is an 8-bit microprocessor that was designed by Chuck Peddle and Bill Mensch for MOS Technology in 1975. When it was introduced, the 6502 was by a considerable margin, the least expensive full-featured microprocessor on the market, selling for less than one-sixth the cost of competing designs from larger companies, such as Motorola and Intel.

Innovation is a fifty-lap relay race around a marathon track. I'd also give props to Colossus, System/360 (mainframe), the Unix philosophy, and the massive scale of Google's data center search appliance (cloudframe). Apple never made it into this league.

Throughout this period the Colossus remained secret, long after any of its technical details were of any importance. This was due to the UK's intelligence agencies use of Enigma-like machines which they promoted and sold to other governments, and then broke the codes using a variety of methods. Had the knowledge of the codebreaking machines been widely known, no one would have accepted these machines; rather, they would have developed their own methods for encryption, methods that the UK services might not have been able to break.

The scope of PRISM is a big surprise? To anyone? Really?

It's pretty obvious with Coke that cultivating their global brand was their core innovation. This is less obvious with Apple, but closer to the mark than most suppose.

How Amazon Followed Google Into the World of Secret Servers

Pinkham was struck by how different the machines looked â" and how hot they were. Even then, Google was running its website on dirt-cheap, stripped-down servers slotted into extremely tight spaces. They didnâ(TM)t even have plastic cases.

This was at least as central to Google's business model as their brand-building Page Rank algorithm. And it requires building a robust data-center OS.

If I had to name one thing that Apple innovated outside of brand/fit-and-finish (and gleanings from NeXT) while doing the lion's share of the work themselves, it would be this:

The combination of the LaserWriter, PostScript, PageMaker and the Mac's GUI and built-in AppleTalk networking would ultimately transform the landscape of computer desktop publishing.

For me the iPhone is a story of execution, balls, and charisma. I regard the LaserWriter as more innovative in its separation from competing products than the iPhone, for all its sleekness. Spending $150 million to create the iPhone should buy you some kick-ass industrial design. A little more than that buys you Titanic, Avatar or John Carter. Kudos to Apple that the end result of their big, scary investment was more like Titanic and less like John Carter. Kudos that it was the right product at the right time. Still, it's spit and polish innovation, lacking technical depth.

For innovation on steroids, take a look at $1,000 genome:

Human Genome Project 1990-2003: $2.7 billion
Full genome 2007: $1 million
Full genome circa 2015: $1000

One fresh-faced combatant, Genia, has recently received a large grant, and issued a press release proposing commercial introduction at the end of 2014. Here's an older article describing the seriously impressive shit they are slinging together:
Geniaâ(TM)s Nanopore/Microchip Technology Gains Life Technologiesâ(TM) Support

Maybe they do, maybe they don't make this work. That's another clue that real innovation has a pizza baking in the Tokamak pizza oven. For the antipode, consider how Slashcode handles simple Unicode code points.

Comment Re:SubjectsInCommentsAreStupid (Score 0) 319

I dare anyone, especially after mr. Snowden's revelations, to contradict mr. Stallman's points.

Snowden's unprecedented disclosed of hard evidence from the inside was in no way revelatory to those of us who have followed the NSA story since The Puzzle Palace. Stallman's tiresome drone about the collectivisation of digital works as an inalienable freedom has been equally predictable for just as long. Here's the problem. RMS's political philosophy has all the subtlety of Benito Mussolini.

Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.

Let me rephrase RMS:

Everything within freedom, nothing outside freedom, nothing against freedom.

Did I miss anything? For some reason I persist in the view that the good society is far less polar in its optimal constitution. That's all I'm going to give you for a dare offered up (how generous of you) a decade after this debate widely circulated, and two full decades after the broad outlines were firmly in place.

Comment Re:Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra (Score 1) 115

Once again, Star Trek is ahead of the curve.

If you don't count noticing that the gear cogs of the antikythera could be made ever smaller and smaller by ongoing advances in Swiss craftsmen 1600 years later, then Star Trek was indeed ahead of its time in guessing that a large phone might become a small phone with batteries (the Baghdad Battery dates to roughly the same age as the antikythera) and a radio (1887) carried by some exotic flux such as neutrinos (as named by Fermi in 1933).

Comment Re:Lunar clocks? (Score 2) 91

On a sidenote, imagine the horror if all women of the world would have their period exactly synchronized!

From what I've been reading lately—in recent books—about half of the crabbiness is due to women not eating enough to compensate for their increased metabolic rate during their periods. Men also get crabby when we don't eat enough to replenish our willpower reserves. It takes willpower to make the generous response rather than the first lizard response that enters our brain.

Comment Dessica, New Mexico (Score 1) 385

What exactly defines a "good place to build"? If you define it as somewhere with low flooding risk, low earthquake risk, low hurricane risk, etc., there are lots of places in the middle of the U.S. that fit that standard.

Most of those places no longer exist. They blew away back in the 1930s, or had their milkshake sucked out by Homo Hoover.

Certain aquifer zones in the High Plains Aquifer System are now empty; these areas will take over 100,000 years to replenish naturally through rainfall.

So your property is cheap to insure, but your futures contract on bottled water breaks the bank. Nice solution.

Comment genius knackered (Score 1, Interesting) 46

It's been so long since Google moved the bar on search in a substantive way, I've begun to wonder if they still hold true to their original vision. It was something about indexing and knowledge.

Does it take a miraculous growth spurt of Wolfram Alpha to remind Google that innovation is still possible, fifteen years later? No matter if you burst onto the world stage shaming Picasso, any corporation that sits on its hands long enough eventually becomes part of the problem.

For a while Google was so good one almost believed their principal technology was a time machine. Lately I'm beginning to wonder if the time machine has its dial permanently welded at 2010.

Comment Re:Don't think so (Score 1) 631

All Shuttleworth had to do was to put some logic into the "upgrade" box that warned people away from Unity whose present system configuration indicated that Unity couldn't possibly amount to a preferred experience at that stage of Unity's evolution—if ever.

Timing the introduction of Unity around an LTS on the old Gnome with an extra year of support would have gone a long ways to keeping some of us old farts in the fold while the new world order shook itself out.

No, the flow of traffic changed from driving on the right to driving on the left without so much as a single advance sign, or a well-marked alternate route driving on the accustomed side of the road. Also changed were the width of the lanes, clearance height on the underpasses, and the legality of making a left turn at a red light (which used to be a right turn), with no posted warnings.

Those of us driving larger loads were blind-sided and left to fend elsewhere, as fast as our little feet could take us there on short notice.

Comment Re:The old days (Score 1) 259

their methodology results in a pretty pricey setup

You're being pedantic in a way that's annoying and counterproductive, unless you're the kind of person who wallet thickens on discovering the following tidbit:

Audioquest Everest are the most expensive speaker cables in the world at over $21000 for 3m.

Oh come on. This does not properly belong in the category of "speaker cables". If it did, "taking a step back" would land you this:

Pear Cable Corporation's ANJOU Speaker Cable, a 12 foot length of which retails for $7,250

These aren't products, they are honeypots of rarefied nonsense. Navy Investigating Bills For $660 Ashtrays, $400 Wrenches:

The Navy is investigating bills from Grumman Aerospace Corp. to determine why it was charged $660 each for two aircraft ashtrays and $400 each for two socket wrenches.

The costs of the parts, manufactured by Grumman, were revealed during an inspection this month, said Cmdr. Tom Jurkowsky, spokesman for the Pacific Fleet Naval Air Force.

Burch said the Navy officers who authorized the purchases would be disciplined and possibly dismissed.

First cross off anything that will get you disciplined or possibly dismissed, then take a step back toward the sane center. Is that so hard?

I don't build as many boxes as I once did, but it only takes a couple of hours a year to stay current if you know how to parse the tea leaves, and you pick a up quick booster shot from Ars Technica System Guide: July 2013.

When I've purchased bundled systems, I usually discover surprising limitations and short-cuts down the road unless one pays the insurance premium of buying twice the box you really needed.

Apple has a tiny product line, so at least with Apple any warts are soon well known, until the day comes that they change the software underneath you and deprive you of features you had come to depend upon, with little warning and no public rationale. Welcome to an ecosystem with benefits you can't refuse.

The Almighty Buck

Facebook Autofill Wants To Store Users' Credit Card Info 123

cagraham writes "Facebook has teamed up with payment processors PayPal, Braintree, and Stripe, in an attempt to simplify mobile payments. The system allows Facebook members (who have turned over their credit and billing info) to click a 'Autofill with Facebook' button when checking-out on a mobile app. Facebook will then verify the details, and securely transfer a user's info over to the payment processing company. The move is likely aimed at gathering more data on user behavior, which can be used to increase the prices Facebook charges for mobile ads. Whether or not the feature takes off however, will depend almost entirely on how willing users are to trust Facebook with their credit card data."

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