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Comment Re:Who would have thought? (Score 1) 69

Sure, we knew for a long time that deforestation caused damage to the local aquatic life via several mechanisms. I guess now they claim to have discovered another mechanism, a loss of nutrients (ie, leaves and sticks and fruits and forest insects etc get replaced by erosion-related nutrients). This seems like it would be obvious, although it's not exactly easy to verify.

Comment I'd like a programmable calculator please! (Score 1) 69

This would probably be a better fix to our arithmetic deficiencies than an implanted chip. Someone should inform DARPA that this would be useful in combat, for example in calculating trajectories and eliminating the need for watches and allowing for more complex and coordinated maneuvers. This way it might get done in my lifetime.

Comment Work harder! (Score 1) 53

Google is watching you. Google knows when you cheat on your exercise program. And they'll share the data with your health insurance company, providing a monetary incentive for you to keep exercising, to "help you loose weight" and not because they're evil. In case you're wondering, this means that if you are healthy and use this program, you can save money on health insurance.

"15 minutes a day could save you 15% or more on health insurance!"

Comment Re:Progenitors? (Score 1) 686

You want me to take the opposite view? It's probable that on several planets, life began and proceeded to evolve into an intelligent, more technologically advanced than us civilization in less than 100 years. I estimate that his has a 40% chance of being true, which is also my estimate of the probability that the universe is infinite.

I am in no way arguing that we couldn't have gotten where we are much quicker than we did, perhaps even quicker than you believe possible. My point is that we don't know how well we did compared to the "average case" (nor how events in our past affected that), in this case the length of time between the big bang and the emergence of technologically advanced life. If we did better than 1 in 300 billion per star, then we're probably the galaxy's progenitors.

Comment It's different because it's a profession (Score 1) 314

Picking up your friend, even in exchange for some compensation, is you and your friend exercising your general freedom to do stuff. Your friend doing that for strangers as his main source of income is a profession, and it makes more sense to regulate. You wouldn't actually like it if either everything that someone does professionally got regulations that apply to everyone, nor if everything that someone does non-professionally got entirely deregulated. Either extreme would be terrible, either for personal freedom or for the reliability of professionals.

Comment Re:Progenitors? (Score 1) 686

Yes, but the mass extinction of the dinosaurs was not necessary, nor were some of the ones since then.

How do you know? Were dinosaurs more prone to intelligence than mammals?

Then there's other events, like ice-ages, which would've held back technological progress, and also the issue that any time in the past 10,000 years had human history gone a little differently we'd be, well, thousands of years more advanced then we currently are.

Ice ages also gave a huge advantage to those who can make fire, clothing, and migrate. Maybe also improve sociability to share body heat. For mammals, the extra cold means food has to be burnt for heat -- and it matters little if it is burnt by special food burning cells or the expensive, energy-hungry brain. It would be a different story if the ice age buried some cities or libraries or whatever.

Had the Greeks and Romans grok'd a few key bits of mathematics, the renaissance might have started within their empires and they would've avoided some of the downsides due to the technological boom it would've provided (crucially, without coordinate geometry the calculus results they were looking at didn't generalize to other pursuits. Get calculus and you do optics, get optics and you've got microscopes, steam engines, metallurgy and all the tools needed to understand modern science).

Sure, and had bonobos invented agriculture, we'd have millions of years more technology. Had Earth's early life-forms invented multicellularity we could be billions of years more advanced. I'm not being sarcastic; it's just that I don't know enough of the various pre-requisites for intelligence to know how well we did compared to the average case, nor specifically whether the mass extinctions were a net positive or negative to the development of intelligence and technological civilization.

Comment Re:Progenitors? (Score 1) 686

So sans a few mass extinctions, someone would've been here are a lot sooner - and the Earth is 4 billion years old and we know planet formation doesn't seem to take that long.

This makes no sense. Life has existed on our planet for far longer than intelligent life, and there is no indication that the optimal conditions for life are the same as the optimal conditions for intelligence. For example, the mass extinction that happened when we gained our oxygen atmosphere may well have been a pre-requisite for intelligent life (it allowed for compact energy storage; as usual the oxidizer still weighs more than the fuel but it is part of the atmosphere). Given the energy costs of intelligence the oxygenation extinction could well have reduced the time to evolve intelligence by a few billion years. I've seen nothing to suggest that any of the mass extinctions did more to hinder the emergence of intelligence than to aid it. Eg did the replacement of dinosaurs with mammals increase the difficulty of evolving intelligence?

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