Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:eh? (Score 1) 762

It is also very strongly wired into our brains insofar that I would consider it part of the human condition. Marginalizing people for showing this behaviour is never going to end well.

Mild objection—discrimination is also strongly wired into our brains. It's only been in the past century that the objectification of women has become so overt. As far as sensitivity is concerned, this event was backward from previous social norms, even though huge improvements in discriminatory behaviour have occurred over the years.

Comment Re:Reprieved ! (Score 2) 63

Exactly; if, for some reason, some form of pre-life began using weird components like a nitrogen-phosphorus backbone or a silane backbone, it's almost certain there would be more Earth-like replacements more readily available—and there are already whole frickin' nebular clouds of bits and pieces of organic molecules, so it's not like the universe is really lacking in opportunities for this sort of thing anyway. Some arguments have been made about silicon perhaps being more viable at extreme temperatures and pressures, but I'm not convinced such an environment is stable enough for Baby Self-Replicating Molecule's First Steps.

Comment Re:Becoming uncivilized (Score 1) 216

You may want to read the Culture series by Iain M. Banks (recently deceased) for an alternative perspective. The system therein is both fully consensual and condescendingly holier-than-thou. It's generally fun to read about, although its villains (in the form of evil empires) tend to be cartoonish in their grotesqueness. Excession, despite widely being considered the most boring novel in the set, spends a great deal of time dwelling on this sort of thing precisely. Despite being a socialist utopia that offers all these things, people are still free to leave if they wish.

That being said, though, mental health matters can make getting permission a tricky task. There are plenty of situations in which a person may not be able to make informed consent, after all. Because of this I think such a system would have to be opt-out in order to achieve its goals. In addition to all of the usual arguably-impossible requirements about incorruptible and sentient computing.

Comment Re:Compiled Windows Binaries (Score 5, Insightful) 176

Hey, you're welcome to say Windows isn't supported. That's totally your choice. Just don't say something is supported when it isn't. There are a lot of half-assed OSS projects out there that do this. (That being said, you don't need the hardware; VMware Player is close enough to native performance. And to some extent, even WINE and ReactOS can provide an alternative to getting a Windows licence if the software's simple enough.)

Comment Re:Compiled Windows Binaries (Score 5, Interesting) 176

Oh yeah, just let me download and build all these libraries your project requires... oh, what's that? One of the libraries requires Visual Studio 2003 Ersatzpress Edition to compile? And another one needs gcc-mingw-0.0.1-super-alpha-pre-release-dinosaur-version? Okay, let me just... get on that...

If Windows binaries aren't provided, it means no one on the dev team could get them to build. (Maybe they can't figure out how to un-#pragma the #pragging #pragma correctly?) That's a big warning sign.

Comment Re:Reprieved ! (Score 4, Interesting) 63

Yeah, that's the biggest difference between "compostable" and "edible." There are a lot of detritovores that don't care about the chemicals they're chewing up; unless it's something toxic enough to kill them, anything just looks like a carbon chain in dire need of stripping. Molecules of the wrong chirality definitely fit in this category.

That being said, chirality isn't the only thing that you can count on being totally arbitrary. The choice of amino acids is pretty fickle (humans only have 20, some species have two more, and we often modify them... and there is a more-or-less infinite number of them that nothing on Earth uses at all.) Nucleotides are similar, and the debate about nucleic acid backbones is open. There are countless opportunities for different preferences amongst sugars (we're designed around glucose, rather arbitrarily) and other metabolites. In a real-life validation of all of this, Archaeans don't even use normal phospholipids in their membranes! (Which seems like such a bizarrely difficult thing to do that I sometimes wonder if it isn't evidence of multiple abiogenesis events, but that's a bit flimsy.)

Comment Re:Becoming uncivilized (Score 2) 216

I think it would be better if we could create an environment where no one felt a need to become a recluse in response to social or developmental troubles. Hiding as a coping mechanism means there's something wrong.

Just to be clear: I didn't mean to suggest that spending a large part of your day alone is an issue. (I do that!) I'm talking about total self-isolation—recluses in the proper sense. Not genetic oddities with an inborn disposition against any social contact, just the garden variety hermit.

Avoiding all social contact in such cases might be evidence of a bad situation, dissimilar friends, or a traumatic experience. Some people can handle and recover from these situations, others can't. The same goes for depression and many other mental disorders; they're are difficult topics that most people can't really self-diagnose and handle properly on their own. And yet, they can be solved trivially if someone else is around and looking for signs of discomfort.

Ultimately, this comes down to a safety concern; I don't think that privacy should not extend to mental health problems that aren't self-correcting or easily manageable. There are over a million young people in Japan who are recluses because they can't keep up with academic and social expectations, and this group has a notably higher suicide rate. Being a recluse means no one can reach out to you. No one can be there to help you stop yourself.

And maybe it isn't outright suicide—maybe the cost is something else, like your creativity or intelligence going underutilized. Even Ayn Rand thinks that's wrong.

Comment Re:Becoming uncivilized (Score 1) 216

I was thinking more along the lines of "obtaining a warrant to search for evidence of what happened to all those prostitutes who keep disappearing on or around your property" or "making sure you don't become a total recluse." As I said further down in my post, this situation is completely unacceptable and needs to be destroyed. Necessity, unfortunately, is subjective; they'd argue it's necessary, no matter how much we opine otherwise. Thus we need to re-educate them and shame them for thinking it's necessary.

Comment Re:Becoming uncivilized (Score 5, Insightful) 216

It's a good soundbite, the idea of mutual respect as a civilized accomplishment—but Rand oversteps. The very cornerstones of civilization are the same as the rules of that tribe; without it, you have something entirely more primitive: solitary animals and the complete abolishment of culture. It is alas a rather tawdry thought that betrays Rand's education, no matter how elaborate the clothes.

Strive for a balance. It's no more unattainable an ideal than an extreme like total freedom or total cooperation. There are, believe it or not, ways in which complete privacy is not optimal. Some small degree of intrusion is always necessary, both psychologically and for safety.

In this case, I am completely on the side of recovering privacy, as these violations are gross and driven by ignorance, paranoia, and greed. They are massively inexcusable, and if I were south of the border I would probably have turned to a career of being a crazy social activist when I was an undergrad.

Schneier hit the nail on the head last week when he pointed out the real issue, though, and I hope you'll agree with me that it is a much bigger priority than the collateral privacy loss itself. Bureaucratic and political need to save face and to manage risk has grown out of control. The post-9/11 culture of safety has led to oppression in every conceivable security-related corner, as well as moves of "me-too" safety fetishism in totally unrelated areas.

The enemy here isn't just a big government, though; it's the individuals in these organisations, departments, and legislative bodies trying to protect themselves and their careers. It's an insurrection of selfishness, regardless of who the campaign promises are designed to appeal to. Without arguing over the rightness of the system, it is at least plain that these people are horrifically mismatched to the jobs they hold, and they need to be very specifically shamed if the fundamental shift they caused is to be reversed. An Edward R. Murrow would really fit the bill right about now.

Slashdot Top Deals

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray