Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Comment US and Canada's Insecurity (Score 1) 344

The finding that people in the US and Canada prefer jokes which have a strong sense of superiority very aptly illustrates the cultural problems in our countries. I can't speak for Canada, but in the US there is a huge amount of political division. Jokes which show someone else to be stupid reinforces this feeling. But why would this qualify as and get a reaction of mirth?

My thoughts are that there is no superiority complex without an inferiority complex beneath it. I myself experienced this in my teens. Superiority compensates for the feeling of inferiority. They are both divisive in the same way - separating a person from others. When a joke shows a stupid person, you can feel "humor" because it reveals the gap in the hidden assumption that you are inferior. This is a sad kind of humor because it reinforces the divisiveness of your beliefs. It's the same kind of hollow humor that a bully feels when putting someone down. (insert Nelson's "HA-hah")

In the "funniest joke", there is a clash of perspectives in which the hunter is shown to be a dunderhead. It's universally funny because it's unexpected, and additionally funny to Americans because of the superiority aspect of it.

The European preference for off-beat, surreal humor shows an appreciation of creativity, and is a much more self-assured sense of humor. Like two friends making up an increasingly bizarrely hilarious situation, each adding humorous elements to it - it's a humor that brings people together.

Comment Re:Pretty Cool, Probably Won't Change Things Much (Score 2) 93

I agree - that's going to be the vehicle that revolutionizes transportation. I would trade my Accord in an instant for a $5,000-or-less electric commuter car with room for 1-2 people. 99% of my travel is going to work and back and the occasional errand. My wife and I have a full-sized car for other reasons - vacations, moving things, traveling with the baby.. but we don't need two cars like this. I bet few people would.

My commute and everyday errands don't even require highway travel, so a max speed of 45 MPH would be sufficient.

Comment Re:Where's our futuristic paradise? (Score 1) 990

I've thought a lot about this. Consider a future with androids and computers doing all of the menial work we currently do. Is this a paradise or a hell? In one scenario, all of this automation is owned by private industry and concentrates more and more money into fewer hands. It would eclipse today's wealth inequality, and people would be under the control of the few, but have lots of free time. That would probably mean rebellion if the few couldn't keep them happy and busy.

It seems that the solution to this would be communal ownership of the androids and machinery of industry. The profits from such automation would go to fund government programs and perhaps at some point could eliminate taxes. Or the goods could be priced at cost, meaning cheap living expenses. People would be free to pursue arts, music, science, research, any sort of thing they're interested in. That's the ideal, at least. We're notoriously good at screwing things up.

Comment Re:How Is This Bad? (Score 1) 383

Clearly we can't avoid mercury exposure entirely, and smaller amounts are not going to have a noticeable affect. I'm not a hysterical lunatic like most of these responses would like to portray me as. I don't think anyone's going to instantly die from small amounts of environmental exposure.

That it's a potent neurotoxin is well known. That's why the UN is considering a ban. For the sake of argument let's say an arbitrary small amount of mercury exposure does damage to .0001% of your neurons. Will you notice? Probably not. But where do you draw the line? What amount is okay? Damage to .01% of your neurons? No doubt if some neurological conditions develop once you're 40, 50, 60 years old, you'd just attribute it to age. But maybe that wouldn't have happened if you hadn't stood around inhaling mercury vapors when the fluorescent lights broke in your garage, or if you hadn't lived near that landfill where these small amounts collect to have a bigger effect.

We know it's dangerous, and we're clever enough to find ways around using it in mass-produced consumer goods, so why not do it?

Comment How Is This Bad? (Score 4, Informative) 383

There is no safe amount of mercury exposure. It is a potent neurotoxin. This is a great treaty and I hope it succeeds. We're smart enough to find other ways of accomplishing what we need. Under pressure from autism-related claims, it was replaced by something safer in vaccines. Digital thermometers take temperature without using mercury. Fluorescent lights will soon be replaced with LEDs.

There's a lot of crazy people in the world. Every little thing we can do to remove neurotoxins from the environment is a good step.

Next: do the same thing with lead. I'm sick of seeing it in all my christmas light plastics.

Comment Re:Wrong framing. (Score 1) 848

Well said. Putting a stop to nuclear plants means something else will need to rise to take its place, and there will be a lot of money for whoever comes up with new and better solutions, and renewable is unquestionably the way to go.

Nuclear power brings with it the potential for nuclear disasters, makes it possible to build nuclear weapons, and creates nuclear waste which is getting buried all over the place and will take eons to become safe again. Radioactive material poisons our world, and I'd be glad to see an end to its production.

Worst case scenario - energy needs overreach energy production and the cost rises, leading to new generations of low-power electronics, more efficient buildings, and a scramble for more efficient renewable energy technologies. THAT sounds like going in the right direction.

Comment At Last (Score 1) 291

After being sick for 8 years with an unknown condition and going to doctor after doctor, I can say with absolute certainty that doctors are terrible diagnosticians. Each specialist will consider the top three conditions people come in for, and if you don't have them, then it's no longer worth their time to diagnose. After about 60 seconds of listening to you, their eyes glaze over and they've heard enough. I have long wanted to write a program to diagnose issues and eventually replace most doctors altogether. It would serve us all better.

Consider the huge amount of possible causes - viruses, bacteria, fungal infections, environmental contaminants, parasites, biological weapons, genetic abnormalities leading to enzymatic and neurological imbalances.. There is an incredible breadth of possibility. What doctor could possibly consider all the options? He'll only be able to call upon the most common answers, or just throw popular antibiotics or drugs at the problem.

Now throw a diagnostic AI into the mix, who has all of your personal information - where you've traveled and lived, your age, your genetic profile, your symptoms, a blood sample, the past success or failure of drugs, and perhaps in a moment it could come up with a list of 40 possibilities. It could then ask pointed questions to narrow it down and then request and analyze blood tests, x-rays, MRIs, CTs, until it had an answer. What doctor could or would do that? I haven't met one that even comes close. If you're unlucky enough like me to have something rare, be prepared to spend a decade trying to get a diagnosis.

Comment Re:Depends (Score 1) 417

That happens all the time on The Personality Forge ( It's been quite an art customizing the chat bots to deal with all kinds of trolls. And then you get the smug satisfaction that they will never get a rise out of a chat bot and will eventually give up due to the bot's eternal patience.

Comment Backlash (Score 1) 69

If a government wanted me out of the streets, they'd keep the internet ON.

Take away my online gaming, email, chat, facebook, online shopping, and all my regular sites and I don't care what the protest is about - I'll march out and join it.

Slashdot Top Deals

If at first you don't succeed, you are running about average.