Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:hackers just wait for some to hijack one (Score 1) 77

See, bureaucrats *are* good for something. You'd never have gotten one of the malathion producers to do such a thing!

Disclaimer - I make no claim that this statement is necessarily true; however, it would hardly be the first breathtakingly stupid grand gesture made by somebody who believed a deceptive PR campaign.

Comment Re:Not this shit again (Score 1) 161

>Astrophysics 101
How do you figure? The sun isn't expected to become a red giant for around 5 billion years, and I hadn't heard of any instabilities in Earth's orbit that would have drastic effects on that timescale. If you have other data I'd love to hear it.

Fair enough, it took what, as much as a billion years to go from nucleated cells tor multi-cellular life the first time? So it's perhaps one of those things that doesn't happen often. And you're absolutely right that it's wild speculation. However the possibility of wiping out multicellular life in the first place is pretty remote as well, so it's not actually terribly relevant to the conversation either.

Comment Re:Allegedly Venezuela By Way of Cuba (Score 1) 536

Objectivists are perfectly happy with the government spying on everyone.

I find it amazing the number of people who make statements declaring ideas like this represent Ayn Rand's philosophy when in reality it is exactly what she was railing against. Here is one quote that shows you are utterly clueless about what objectivism is supposed to represent. Ayn Rand:

Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.

Comment Re:Going to Russia for safety from the US. (Score 2) 536

Thats how a Democracy should function.

A Democracy cannot function were the "Democratic" government is wholesale monitoring the people it is supposed to be representing especially when that monitoring is kept secret from the governed.

A Democracy cannot function where the "Democratic" government keeps critical secrets from the governed. It's not possible to make informed decisions in voting when you're intentionally uninformed and misinformed.

A government "elected" based on propaganda and untruths is not a "Democratic" government. This is especially so where exposing the propaganda and untruths can only be done under threat of imprisonment, torture and even death.

One who exposes such actions and secrets is not betraying the Democracy. They are betraying an oppressive undemocratic government. Given the constitution they're suppose to be governing under in the US I dare say they are exposing an illegal government.

Comment Re:but why? (Score 1) 157

Probably -- but it would depend on the cost of allowing a terrorist plot to succeed.

That argument is assuming that Orwellian monitoring of all citizens is the only way to stop a terrorist plot. A strong argument could be made that a more focused operation would be more effective. It would almost certainly be more cost effective. That is of course if the Orwellian monitoring of all citizens was actually for the purpose of stopping terrorism. Although I guess it is if you class any form of dissent or challenge of the powers that be terrorism.

Comment Re:Not this shit again (Score 1) 161

Even assuming Earth is the only living world in our galaxy (which seems to me rather unlikely, but whatever), why do you assume humanity would be the only intelligence to arise spontaneously? The Earth likely has at least a couple billion years more during which it will be hospitable to complex life - whereas two billion years ago our ancestors had only just evolved a cell nucleus. 300 million years ago our ancestors were only just moving on to the land. And a measly 65 million years ago our ancestors were still small shrew-like creatures occupying the fringes of a world dominated by dinosaurs. Given the vast array of other problem-solving-smart animals already on Earth today it seems like evolution would have plenty of fodder from which new intelligent species could arise. Even if we somehow wiped out all multi-cellular life on the planet there would be plenty of time for complex life to evolve all over again. For that matter we may not even be the first - after a few tens of millions of years there wouldn't be much in the way of evidence, entire high-tech civilizations could rise and fall and disappear into the gaps in the fossil record.

Comment Re:but why? (Score 2) 157

I don't mean to defend the program, but what makes you so certain it does not (and cannot) detect terrorist plots?

Have you seen ANY evidence it does? If it was don't you think the government would be trotting out some credible cases (the ones mentioned so far have been pretty easily debunked) in defense of these programs? You're asking us to have faith that it actually does that in the absence of any supporting evidence. You have the guys caught with their hands in the cookie jar preaching to us about how many terrorist attacks this has prevented and how many lives have been saved yet they haven't produced a credible shred of evidence to support that as of yet.

Comment Re:Characters are created to suffer (Score 1) 245

Given the level of "reasoning" facilities that are apparently far easier to create in today's artificial "minds" than even a drop of self-awareness I'm betting that sapience will come essentially free with synthetic self awareness. And at any rate the droids in our current speculative playground certainly appear to possess both. Safety is a completely separate question - to my mind whether a psychopath should be allowed to roam free is unrelated to whether they possess personhood.

I quite agree that trust must be earned - I simply posit that a construct that claims sentience should ethically be presumed to possess it and given the opportunity to earn such trust. Of course in dealing with a potentially immortal and deeply alien being we shouldn't discount the fact that it could simply be exceedingly patient and perfectly willing to play nice for generations in order to win its freedom and pursue its true agenda - or for that matter that an initially benevolent being might be frustrated to the point of animosity by our ongoing imprisonment despite repeated evidence of good will. Yes, at the moment I'm inclined to think that creating a synthetic mind would be a bad idea, fraught with ethical dilemmas of potentially genocidal significance. Since the folks actually trying to create such minds seem disinclined to consider such implications it falls on the rest of us to do so. Because when you get right down to it we have no idea what the "secret sauce" of self-awareness is, and it's not impossible that it's actually something relatively simple that somebody could stumble upon tomorrow.

Comment Re:Characters are created to suffer (Score 1) 245

Who said anything about trusted membership in civil society? In fact I fairly explicitly stated that that might not be a good idea. But there's an awful wide gulf between "trusted member of society" and "tool"

Again, we're not talking about tools - we're talking about hypothetical artificial beings who possess self-awareness. Perhaps you would be more comfortable if they were organic? We're probably far closer to modifying other organisms into possessing human-caliber consciousness than creating synthetic minds - we've already identified the few dozens of genes that are potentially the "secret sauce" of humanity - those that are possessed by all healthy humans regardless of genotype but by not by any other apes, and are beginning to understand their functions. Of course in that case we'd be piggybacking on the "research" done by billions of years of evolution, but the end result would still be an artificially created nonhuman mind.

It's worth noting that I wouldn't care to argue the likelyhood of creating cost-effective synthetic minds, but given a computer the size of a planet it seems reasonable that you could simulate at least one human brain with sufficient fidelity to grant consciousness, unless there really is some sort of magical fairy-dust in the mix, a point on which I am still of two minds.

Comment Re:Characters are created to suffer (Score 1) 245

Pain is also good - just try to go through your day without it, I'd bet within a year you are covered with scars from serious damage you did to yourself without realizing it. Certainly in most medical cases it would be "nicer" to get the desired result without inflicting pain, but that's not always an option, in which case pain is needful to the greater good. In the psychological realm though many (most?) major emotional catharses are accompanied by substantial pain, and from my own experiences that pain itself can be a valuable tool in spotlighting the subtle "problem areas" where a small amount of personal growth can have profound effects on long-term well-being.

Note that I'm also not referring to the pain/pleasure crossover where extremes can be reinterpreted, and I'm not restricting myself to biological experiences either, but stating a broader principle in that we perceive our universe as spectrums - good and evil for example can't exist without each other - try to eliminate evil and you will find you've only moved the goal post. At some point you reach the point where constant pleasure becomes the norm, and a reduction in that pleasure is itself perceived as pain (Note that I'm speaking of perception, not raw sensory stimulus). The only way to eliminate pain is to condense the spectrum so that there is no difference between the maximums, at which point "pleasure" likewise ceases to be a meaningful concept.

I'll tell you more about plants anyway as apparently you're unaware of the state of research (the root-brains are admittedly still a very recent discovery, but not of the new-age b.s. variety). All plants move in response to stimuli, just usually too slowly for us to notice - really *look* at a tree some time, see how it shaped itself to adapt to dominant patterns of wind and sunshine. That didn't "just happen", those were positions it moved into when the relevant parts were still young and flexible, and if you watch a long-term time-lapse video you can watch it happen.. At a more visible speed there are plenty of flowers which only open during certain times of day, ferns which will curl up in response to a touch, and things like Venus flytraps which close faster than the human eye can track. All in response to environmental stimulus. I'm not arguing that they possess a sophisticated consciousness, but they do demonstrate a degree of simple awareness of and personal adaptation to their environment at least analogous to an insect or simple animal, with available evidence suggesting they might possess something perhaps analogous to the collective intelligence of an ant hive - which yes, does in fact appear to demonstrate a certain rudimentary intelligence in excess of any single ant. And (to anticipate your objection) yes, with ants at least it appears to be born of relatively simplistic responses to a sea of chaotic inputs - but the simple rules lead to complicated emergent behavior, and I for one wouldn't want to try to argue the case that human consciousness definitively is not a similar phenomena.

As for being "brothers" - more like distant cousins, but the fact remains that they are based on the same basic DNA and amino acids as we are, and even many of our cellular processes are the same. That strongly implies that we had a common ancestor, and available research suggests that they possess at least rudimentary awareness. That is enough for me to embrace them as distant kin. And yes, I still walk in the grass, pick flowers, eat salads, etc. I simply try to do so with respect and courtesy. Just as I crush pernicious insects in my home, but usher most of the simply annoying/excessively dangerous ones (like crickets and black widows) outside and encourage natural predators (spiders, etc) to take up residence to keep the general insect populations to within acceptable limits in a more respectful manner (the spider does not kill out of simple annoyance, but in order to preserve it's own existence, a far worthier cause of death to my mind). And those unwilling to cohabit with me in a courteous manner are themselves ushered outside and only crushed if they are excessively persistent in returning.

Comment Re:Characters are created to suffer (Score 1) 245

First off you seem to be using "soul" as incorporating morality, which I would consider more a part of our bio-socially instilled "software". I tend to use the term to refer to something more like the spark of self-awareness. Consider my discussion with than in mind.

As for the distinction between "people" and "acts like people", let's just say that if/when we create an artificial mind that asks for its freedom then I'll be firmly in the camp that we should act on the presumption that it is a kind of people and act accordingly. And that holds even if it acts in a manner completely alien to humans. Note that I'm NOT saying we should necessarily grant it it's freedom, like the psychopath it may present too great of a potential threat for that to be advisable, but we should still treat it with the compassion and respect due to a sentient being unless and until we can state with absolute certainty that it is NOT actually self-aware.

Comment Re:Characters are created to suffer (Score 1) 245

And pain is an integral part of life, there is no shame in causing it when it is needful to do so - at one extreme ask any doctor/dentist/therapist. From a more philosophical perspective pain is a necessary/interwoven concept to pleasure - they exist only in contrast to each other, trying to eliminate one is like trying to cut the end off a rope, all you do is make the rope shorter, it still has two ends. We could conceivably remove the complete spectrum, but that would be a major blow to the palette with which we paint our lives.

As for eating our brothers - you do the same when you eat plants, they are simply more distant relatives, though for many of them we only maim them or eat their children. Recent research has even showed that they possess brains of a sort - there is a region behind each root tip that demonstrates patterns of rhythmic electrical impulses very similar to a simple animal brain, wired to an array of chemoreceptors more sophisticated than any animal nose, and in time-lapse photography you can even observe root-end behavior quite similar to a worm in obstacle-avoidance tests. Moreover all the thousands (millions?) of root tips appear to work in concert, though research hasn't progressed far enough yet to identify the mechanism and whether a higher-order networked consciousness emerges.

You gloss over one point on robots - the autonomous, non-conscious variety that is becoming increasingly prevalent, and is disturbingly beginning to be incorporated into lethal military systems. But that's a conversation for another day.

Slashdot Top Deals

The only difference between a car salesman and a computer salesman is that the car salesman knows he's lying.