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Submission + - Machines Will Outsmart Humans. We Better Be Ready (forbes.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Today, large streams of data, coupled with statistical analysis and sophisticated algorithms, are rapidly gaining importance in almost every field of science, politics, journalism, and much more. How will this affect the labor force? What will happen to the economy in the future, in sight of these rapid changes ahead of us? In a recent Forbes article, computer scientist and author Federico Pistono argues that "the answer to these questions is not trivial, and probably nobody knows with certainty", but "it appears that whenever we believe that computers cannot outsmart humans at some task, we are proven wrong." He goes on to say: "it will depend on us, on how we decide to use the prodigious technology that we are developing, and for what purpose [...] We must start a serious conversation on this issue, before it's too late", echoing the presentation he gave at the TEDxVienna stage last month.

Comment Get the facts, stop the nonsense (Score 1) 848

The summary is misleading, and it seems that there is much confusion and emotion regarding this issue.

Let's look at the facts, shall we?

54,79% of Italians voted. Of those, 94,05% voted against nuclear energy.

I can't undertand why, but some slashdotters, despite overwhelming evidence, seem to believe that nuclear power is the only way to solve global warming, that it actually provides a considerable amount of relatively safe and clean energy, and that's it's the future. All of these propositions are wrong, based on the scientific data available.

Nuclear power provides about 6% of the world's energy, whereas about 19% of global final energy consumption comes from renewables.

A study published in July 2010 by John O. Blackburn and Sam Cunningham from Duke University details how electricity from new solar installations is now cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear plants.

An analysis published in Energy Policy by researchers from Stanford University and the University of California-Davis and authored by Mark Z. Jacobson and UC-Davis researcher Mark A. Delucchi states: "There are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources", and to power 100 percent of the world for all purposes from wind, water and solar resources, the footprint needed is about 0.4 percent of the world's land (mostly solar footprint) and the spacing between installations is another 0.6 percent of the world's land (mostly wind-turbine spacing). And we can do it before 2050, Jacobson said.

Another analysis shows how solar will become the cheapest source of energy of all, even chapter than coal, in justa a few years, while nuclear costs will keep rising.

From TFA:

Notice in the first chart how steadily manufacturing costs have come down, from $60 a watt in the mid-1970’s to $1.50 today. People often point to a “Moore’s Law” in solar – meaning that for every cumulative doubling of manufacturing capacity, costs fall 20%. In solar PV manufacturing, costs have fallen about 18% for every doubling of production. “It holds up very closely,” says Solaria’s Shugar.

The “Moore’s Law” analogy doesn’t necessarily work on the installation side, as you have all kinds of variables in permitting, financing and hardware costs. But with incredible advances in web-based tools to make sales and permitting easier; new sophisticated racking, wiring and inverter technologies to make installation faster and cheaper; and all kinds of innovative businesses providing point-of-sale financing (think auto sales), costs on the installation side have fallen steadily as well. The Rocky Mountain Institute projects that these costs will fall by 50% in the next five years.

And here's the paper from The Rocky Mountain Institute.

So, if you are still blinded by your emotional attachment to nuclear and can't seem to reason straight, think about this:

That 17 GW installed in 2010 is the equivalent of 17 nuclear power plants – manufactured, shipped and installed in one year. It can take decades just to install a nuclear plant. Think about that. I heard Bill Gates recently call solar “cute.” Well, that’s 17 GW of “cute” adding up at an astonishing pace.


This modular technology can be produced and installed at a pace far faster than most energy technologies. And businesses are getting amazingly efficient at doing so.

However, this comparison neglects the “value” of energy. Nuclear is a baseload resource; solar PV is more of a “peaking” resource. To compare 17 GW of global solar PV development to 17 GW of nuclear power plants ignores the fact that nuclear produces far more electricity than an equivalent solar PV plant.

With that said, solar brings a different kind of value to the grid. Not only can it be quickly deployed on existing infrastructure (warehouses, commercial buildings, residences) at rates that are orders of magnitude faster than nuclear, it offsets the most expensive peaking power plants – providing immediate economic value.


This year, the U.S. industry may install 2 GW of solar. The last nuclear power plant to come online in the U.S., Watts Bar 1, has a capacity of 1.1 GW – but that took 23 years to complete, not two years.

When looking at the time and cost of construction of new nuclear – as well as insurability issues – solar PV (in sunny areas) is already competitive with those plants. Again, I believe there is a big difference in the “value” of electricity from nuclear and solar PV given that they play such opposite roles; but these figures do tell an interesting story.

Now, before posting another "go nuclear or you are an idiot" and before modding (+5 informative) those idiotic comments, bring me some scientific evidence of your claims, or shut the hell up.

Comment Re:This can happen only in Korea (Score 1) 136

In any case, a robot will not survive 15 minutes in a classroom with average European (or american for that matter) kids. I know what my daughter will do. If she cannot get her hands on a screwdriver she will craft herself a replacement out of whatever she can find and start disassembling the thing until she has figured out what makes it tick or it is so dead that she will lose interest. That is probably still better than the reaction of her brother who would simply use it for target practice.

However this may be true for some children, today, you fail to recognise the cultural importance of this phenomenon. It is ultimately how we educate our children and the environment they live in that determines what they do. In TFA is described how these robotic teachers will be in support of their human counterparts, they will not substitute them. It is a necessary step, because on one hand AIs need need to develop significantly if they want to handle complex situations on the spot (children behaviour); on the other hand, the cultural spirit of the society needs to upgrade to the point that children will be interested in learning this way. Not to mention the (manly) nonsensical fear that people display in regards to robots, especially in the "Western countries".

It's a double process, technology and culture have to grow together, symbiotically. Let's not rush it, but let's not ignore the immense help that these possibilities could bring. A robot can explain something to a child 20 times over, in different ways, accessing databases of information beyond human capabilities, without getting pissed, bored, or angry. Children can learn without feeling stupid or ashamed if they make mistakes. Robotic teachers do not try to impose religious dogmas and do not abuse of children, unless they are specifically programmed to do so.

The problem is not the robots, but how they are programmed and tested. I propose that the software they run on must be publicly accessible, free and open source, as well as the database they feed from.

Comment Re:Before you do it (Score 1) 1186

I would go for Euler's equation, but using Tau instead of Pi.

e^(i*tau) = 1

At this point, the expositor usually makes some grandiose statement about how Euler’s identity relates 0, 1, e, i, and Pi —sometimes called the “five most important numbers in mathematics”. Alert readers might then complain that, because it’s missing 0, Euler’s identity with Tau relates only four of those five. We can address this objection by noting that, since sin(Tau) = 0, we were already there:

e^(i*tau) = 1 + 0

This formula, without rearrangement, actually does relate the five most important numbers in mathematics: 0, 1, e, i, and Tau.

As mathematician Bob Palais notes in his delightful article “Pi Is Wrong!”, Pi is wrong. It’s time to set things right. (More info).

Most common question in response to this argument:

Are you serious?
Of course. I mean, I’m having fun with this, and the tone is occasionally lighthearted, but there is a serious purpose. Setting the circle constant equal to the circumference over the diameter is an awkward and confusing convention. Although I would love to see mathematicians change their ways, I’m not particularly worried about them; they can take care of themselves. It is the neophytes I am most worried about, for they take the brunt of the damage: as noted in Section 2.1,Pi is a pedagogical disaster. Try explaining to a twelve-year-old (or to a thirty-year-old) why the angle measure for an eighth of a circle—one slice of pizza—is Pi/8. Wait, I meant Pi/4. See what I mean? It’s madness—sheer, unadulterated madness.


2009 Darwin Award Winners Announced 208

Greg Lindahl writes "From the woman who jumped in a swollen creek to rescue her drowning moped, to the man who hopped over the divider at the edge of the highway to take a leak, and plunged 65 feet to his death, 2009 was a year both exceptional and unexceptional for Darwin Award-worthy behavior!"

EU Wants To Redefine "Closed" As "Nearly Open" 239

Glyn Moody writes "A leaked copy (PDF) of Version 2 of the European Interoperability Framework replaces a requirement in Version 1 for carefully-defined open standards by one for a more general 'openness': 'the willingness of persons, organizations or other members of a community of interest to share knowledge and to stimulate debate within that community of interest.' It also defines an 'openness continuum' that includes 'non-documented, proprietary specifications, proprietary software and the reluctance or resistance to reuse solutions, i.e. the "not invented here" syndrome.' Looks like 'closed' is the new 'open' in the EU."

Pirate Bay Closure Sparked P2P Explosion 560

Barence writes to share that the closure of The Pirate Bay seems to have done nothing to stem the flow of potentially copyrighted materials. In fact, there has been an estimated 300% increase in the number of sites providing access to copyright files, according to McAfee. "In August, Swedish courts ordered that all traffic be blocked from Pirate Bay, but any hope of scotching the piracy of music, software and films over the web vanished as copycat sites sprung up and the content took on a life of its own. 'This was a true "cloud computing" effort,' the company said in its Threats Report for the third quarter. 'The masses stepped up to make this database of torrents available to others.'"

D&D On Google Wave 118

Jon Stokes at the Opposable Thumbs blog relates his experience using Google Wave as a platform for Dungeons and Dragons — the true test of success for any new communications technology. A post at Spirits of Eden lists some of Wave's strengths for gaming. Quoting: "The few games I'm following typically have at least three waves: one for recruiting and general discussion, another for out-of-character interactions ('table talk'), and the main wave where the actual in-character gaming takes place. Individual players are also encouraged to start waves between themselves for any conversations that the GM shouldn't be privy to. Character sheets can be posted in a private wave between a player and the GM, and character biographies can go anywhere where the other players can get access to them. The waves are persistent, accessible to anyone who's added to them, and include the ability to track changes, so they ultimately work quite well as a medium for the non-tactical parts of an RPG. A newcomer can jump right in and get up-to-speed on past interactions, and a GM or industrious player can constantly maintain the official record of play by going back and fixing errors, formatting text, adding and deleting material, and reorganizing posts."
Input Devices

How To Enter Equations Quickly In Class? 823

AdmiralXyz writes "I'm a university student, and I like to take notes on my (non-tablet) computer whenever possible, so it's easier to sort, categorize, and search through them later. Trouble is, I'm going into higher and higher math classes, and typing "f_X(x) = integral(-infinity, infinity, f(x,y) dy)" just isn't cutting it anymore: I need a way to get real-looking equations into my notes. I'm not particular about the details, the only requirement is that I need to keep up with the lecture, so it has to be fast, fast, fast. Straight LaTeX is way too slow, and Microsoft's Equation Editor isn't even worth mentioning. The platform is not a concern (I'm on a MacBook Pro and can run either Windows or Ubuntu in a virtual box if need be), but the less of a hit to battery life, the better. I've looked at several dedicated equation editing programs, but none of them, or their reviews, make any mention of speed. I've even thought about investing in a low-end Wacom tablet (does anyone know if there are ultra-cheap graphics tablets designed for non-artists?), but I figured I'd see if anyone at Slashdot has a better solution."

Save the Planet, Eat Your Dog 942

R3d M3rcury writes "New Zealand's Dominion Post reports on a new book just released, Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living. In this book, they compare the environmental footprint of our housepets to other things that we own. Like that German Shepherd? It consumes more resources than two Toyota SUVs. Cats are a little less than a Volkswagen Golf. Two hamsters are about the same as a plasma TV. Their suggestions? Chickens, rabbits, and pigs. But only if you eat them."

Wikileaks Plans To Make the Web Leakier 94

itwbennett writes "At the Hack In The Box conference in Kuala Lumpur, Wikileaks.org announced a plan to enable newspapers, human rights organizations, criminal investigators, and others to embed an 'upload a disclosure to me via Wikileaks' form onto their Web sites that would give potential whistleblowers the ability to leak sensitive documents to an organization or journalist they trust over a secure connection. The news or NGO site would then get an embargo period in which to analyze the material and write the story, after which Wikileaks would make the leaked material public. At the same time, the receiver would have greater legal protection, says Julien Assange, an advisory board member at Wikileaks 'We will take the burden of protecting the source and the legal risks associated with publishing the document,' said Assange. 'We want to get as much substantive information as possible into the historical record, keep it accessible, and provide incentives for people to turn it into something that will achieve political reform.'"

New "Drake Equation" Selects Between Alien Worlds 220

An anonymous reader writes 'A mathematical equation that counts habitats suitable for alien life could complement the Drake equation, which estimates the probability of finding intelligent alien beings elsewhere in the galaxy. That equation, developed in 1960 by US astronomer Frank Drake, estimates the probability of intelligent life existing elsewhere in our galaxy by considering the number of stars with planets that could support life. The new equation, under development by planetary scientists at the Open University in Milton Keynes, England, aims to develop a single index for habitability based on the presence of energy, solvents such as water, raw materials like carbon, and whether or not there are benign environmental conditions.'

Rome, Built In a Day 107

spmallick writes "Researchers at the University of Washington, in collaboration with Microsoft, have recreated the city of Rome in 3D using images obtained from Flickr. The data set consists of 150,000 images from Flickr.com associated with the tags 'Rome' or 'Roma,' and it took 21 hours on 496 compute cores to create a 3D digital model. Unlike Photosynth / Photo Tourism, the goal was to reconstruct an entire city and not just individual landmarks. Previous versions of the Photo Tourism software matched each photo to every other photo in the set. But as the number of photos increases the number of matches explodes, increasing with the square of the number of photos. A set of 250,000 images would take at least a year for 500 computers to process... A million photos would take more than a decade! The newly developed code works more than a hundred times faster than the previous version. It first establishes likely matches and then concentrates on those parts."

Students Take Pictures From Space On $150 Budget 215

An anonymous reader writes "Two MIT students have successfully photographed the earth from space on a strikingly low budget of $148. Perhaps more significantly, they managed to accomplish this feat using components available off-the-shelf to the average layperson, opening the door for a new generation of amateur space enthusiasts. The pair plan to launch again soon and hope that their achievements will inspire teachers and students to pursue similar endeavors."

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