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Comment Crime is falling with lead levels from gasoline (Score 1) 113
"So this is the choice before us: We can either attack crime at its root by getting rid of the remaining lead in our environment, or we can continue our current policy of waiting 20 years and then locking up all the lead-poisoned kids who have turned into criminals."

Comment Google's mistake: ignores pyramid of users (Score 1) 262

"Odds are, people who use advanced features are more likely to turn data harvesting off. Thus making those metrics questionable. Then again, anyone who is opposed to being monitored is not part of the Google's target audience."

Sounds likely, AC. But here is Google's mistake. There is a sort of hierarchy or pyramid of users for many application. In rough percentages:
* 1% of users might become superusers making plugins and doing all sorts of fancy things with an application.
* 10% of users might become knowledgeable about what you can do with an app and provide support and encouragement for their friends (and also rely on the 1% for support and new features like plugins).
* 89% as all the rest just use the app and ask the 11% for help.

If you decide to design your platform for the 89%, you alienate all the people up the pyramid who provide free support and evangelism for the product and who guide the product in new directions. As Eric von Hippel at MIT has done studies showing that most (like 80%) of innovations are customer suggestions; so, you also cut yourself off from customer-led innovation.

I'm really going to miss "close tabs to the right" which I use frequently (and yes I have telemetry turned off too). If there is not a plugin possible for that, removing that feature is definitely going to reduce my liking of Chrome (which I use on a Chromebook). Now, maybe by itself that one change won't make me abandon Chrome (as if there are many great alternatives with Firefox/Mozilla fiascos) -- but, add up enough of these misguided decisions, and the odds will continue to change.

Comment License management tools: good, bad, or ugly? (Score 1) 239

From me in 2001 posted to gnu.misc.discuss:

I definitely do not want to see a future world of only proprietary
intellectual property where basically everything I want to do requires
agreeing to endless licenses and royalty payments, such as described in
"right-to-read". My wife and I released a six person-year effort under
the GPL (a garden simulator application) around 1997 ...
so I am obviously sympathetic to encouraging free sharing of some
information and allowing derived works of some things.

However, on a practical basis, living in our society as it is right now,
any software developer is going to handle lots of packets of information
from emails to applications to program modules under a variety of
explicit or implied licenses. If a developer is going to do this in a
way that makes his or her work most useful to the community (under the
terms he or she so chooses), proper attention must be given to the
licensing status of all works received and distributed, especially those
that form the basis for new derived works to be distributed. Note that
even in the case of purely GPL'd works, one still needs to know that a
user contributing an extension to a GPL'd work was the original author
and/or he or she has permission to distribute the patch (if say an
employer owns all the contributor's work).

My question is: should software tools, protocols, and standards play a
role in easing this required "due diligence" ...
license management work (at least as far as copyright alone is
concerned)? ... Usually license management tools (e.g. for music or DVDs) are thought of
as keeping the end user from doing something they might wish to with
content they have paid for. Does it make sense as well to look at
license management tools from the perspective of allowing
(non-technical, non-lawyer) casual users to do things they otherwise
might not be legally sure they can do? Similarly, would such tools help
someone filter out proprietary content with licenses he or she does not
approve of (and would this provide incentives for artists to release
free versions if they want to reach people through those filters)? And
most of all, would such tools allow creative people to be more certain
that they could legally use certain freely licensed materials found on
the internet in making derived works? Would this provide a legitimate
defense of due diligence to minimize copyright infringement suit costs
(or reduce related liability insurance costs)?

For example, when you get an email it could come with a machine-readable
license (e.g. "redistribution OK in entirety", "for your eyes only",
"open content", "GPL"). Likewise, what if every file or zip archive came
with a specific machine-readable license? In effect, this would make the
license a fundamental part of the work.

In part, you may think, perhaps correctly, this it the "right-to-read"
nightmare. Such information could be used to prevent you from making
copies of things you might want to copy (legally or not) under some
notion of "fair use" ...
if the system enforced the license by preventing say you forwarding or
quoting an email that comes in with a license of "for your eyes only" or
with no explicit license at all. Perhaps the feeling that copy
protection systems will prevent fair use underlies much of the
resistance to such automation. It is not my point in this note to
advocate either for or against the enforcement of licenses by the end
user's system. Obviously though, enforcement would certainly be made
easier by machine-readable licenses, and this is a problematical issue
as far as "fair use" is concerned.

On the other hand, license management tools might force everyone to be
explicit about licenses for things they redistribute. Some authors would
explicitly choose free or open licenses. That might mean that when you
get free software (or open source software or anything else) you would
know what you at a minimum can and can't do with it. That clarity and
sense of peace of mind might help promote use and more derived works.

For example, even if MIT puts its course material on-line, that does not
necessarily mean you can make derived works from them or even share them
with a friend (other than by telling them to look at the MIT site). Yet,
without a good free license management system, that fact might not be
obvious to users and a truly free course library may never arise. (Note:
I don't know whether the MIT courses will permit derived works, so MIT
may surprise me.)


Being explicit about licensing (especially in a machine-readable way)
may have great benefits. For one thing, you might decide to set your
email receiver to reject email from most people unless it came with an
acceptable (to you) license. There might be a "license negotiation"
protocol at the start of all transmissions of all works.

For example:
Sender: PERMISSION TO SEND "Windows NT Source" BY "misguided kiddy";
Receiver: WHAT LICENSE?;
Receiver: REJECT;

or perhaps instead:
Sender: PERMISSION TO SEND "GNU/Linux kernel mods" BY "Linus Torvalds";
Receiver: WHAT LICENSE?;
Sender: LICENSE: GPL-2;
Receiver: ACCEPT;

If you ran a peer-to-peer file server, such a protocol might help ensure
only legally redistributeable works were redistributed on it (making it
legally safer to run one). Obviously, people could lie about the license
status of works when they inject them into the system -- but the point
is, it forces such people to explicitly lie, as opposed to just being
careless or neglectful. (Obviously, carelessness and neglect could
affect the system as well if the person injecting the information is
just confused, hopefully other factors like community awareness could
minimize this.) Nonetheless, it might gives users a legal defense from
extreme copyright infringement awards if they screen incoming data. This
in turn might make insurance for such situations affordable. Defenders
of such a file sharing system (in court) could then admit to there being
a few "bad apples" and take efforts to route out such illegally
contributed material in the same way people now use virus scanners or
other filters. This might make it more likely such systems would
prosper, with other attendant benefits for democracy or an open society.

To be clear: I personally am not for supporting sharing of material that
for legal or copyright reasons can't be shared (it's the law; change the
law peacefully if so desired). I instead want to make sure that it is
easy to share material that it is legal to share, and likewise I want to
ensure it easy to make derived works with clear legal titles from
material it is legal to make derived works from.

In the case of software, with such a system, when you build free
software packages (or "open source" ones), you could ensure that all
contributions were under an acceptable license, because that licensing
information would be already there in a machine-readable form (perhaps
including information pointing to works and their licenses from which
you made derived works). Presumably, if someone emailed you a
contribution using such a system, you could see at a glance from the
email record what license it (or the code part) was under. In addition,
information could also come along that was the equivalent of a statement
of either originality for the work or a statement the author had
permission to incorporate other works they used into the new work under
the license chosen. Such information might include an audit trail of all
works and licenses used by various authors in making the final product." ...

Comment Why this is immoral and should be illegal (Score 1) 38
"Foundations, other grantmaking agencies handling public tax-exempt dollars, and charitable donors need to consider the implications for their grantmaking or donation policies if they use a now obsolete charitable model of subsidizing proprietary publishing and proprietary research. In order to improve the effectiveness and collaborativeness of the non-profit sector overall, it is suggested these grantmaking organizations and donors move to requiring grantees to make any resulting copyrighted digital materials freely available on the internet, including free licenses granting the right for others to make and redistribute new derivative works without further permission. It is also suggested patents resulting from charitably subsidized research research also be made freely available for general use. The alternative of allowing charitable dollars to result in proprietary copyrights and proprietary patents is corrupting the non-profit sector as it results in a conflict of interest between a non-profit's primary mission of helping humanity through freely sharing knowledge (made possible at little cost by the internet) and a desire to maximize short term revenues through charging licensing fees for access to patents and copyrights. In essence, with the change of publishing and communication economics made possible by the wide spread use of the internet, tax-exempt non-profits have become, perhaps unwittingly, caught up in a new form of "self-dealing", and it is up to donors and grantmakers (and eventually lawmakers) to prevent this by requiring free licensing of results as a condition of their grants and donations."

Longer version:

Comment Yeah, I remember. So 15 yrs ago I wrote this: (Score 1) 11
"Consider again the self-driving cars mentioned earlier which now cruise some streets in small numbers. The software "intelligence" doing the driving was primarily developed by public money given to universities, which generally own the copyrights and patents as the contractors. Obviously there are related scientific publications, but in practice these fail to do justice to the complexity of such systems. The truest physical representation of the knowledge learned by such work is the codebase plus email discussions of it (plus what developers carry in their heads).
    We are about to see the emergence of companies licensing that publicly funded software and selling modified versions of such software as proprietary products. There will eventually be hundreds or thousands of paid automotive software engineers working on such software no matter how it is funded, because there will be great value in having such self-driving vehicles given the result of America's horrendous urban planning policies leaving the car as generally the most efficient means of transport in the suburb. The question is, will the results of the work be open for inspection and contribution by the public? Essentially, will those engineers and their employers be "owners" of the software, or will they instead be "stewards" of a larger free and open community development process?"

And also, earlier, this to Ray Kurzweil in 2000:
"... It will be difficult for you to change your opinion on this because you have been heavily rewarded for riding the digital wave. You were making money building reading machines before I bought my first computer -- a Kim-I. But, I think someday the contradiction may become apparent of thinking the road to spiritual enlightenment can come from material competition (a point in your book which deserves much further elaboration). To the extent material competition drives the development of the digital realm the survival of humanity is in doubt.
    Still, you are a bright guy. If you study ecology and evolution in more detail, I think you may change your conclusion, or at least admit the significant probability of a bad outcome, and that we should plan
    If you do change your opinion in the future, and wish to fund work related to helping ensure humanity survives the birth of the digital realm, please remember me.
    MOSH to the end I guess!"

The Bayh-Dole Act is a big part of that disaster (letting universities privatize gains and tightly control use of what they make an with public funds rather than insist publicly funded research goes into the public domain):

Anyway, I'm still trying to limp along making glacially slow progress doing free stuff (Twirlip/Pointrel/etc.) on GitHub in increasingly vanishing spare time... My latest small increment:
"High Performance Organizations Reading List"

Comment The politics of science funding (Score 1) 249

Hi meta-monkey! I'm making a "meta" comment on the social-financial framework around battery (or any) science. :-)

Just look at the whole "cold fusion" or now "LENR / solid state fusion" controversy and fight over funding and recognition. The idea that a solid-state metal lattice can induce hydrogen atoms (on its surface, in a micro-crevice, or otherwise absorbed somehow) to behave differently than when hydrogen is in a gas is still heresy requiring immediate excommunication after vilification by a mob of virtue-signalling "disciplined minds" whose social standing and, worse, grant funding is threatened by the idea.
"In retrospect, I have concluded that much of the blame for the "cold fusion war" -- and it certainly has been just that -- stems from a vituperative campaign against the field with deep roots at MIT, specifically at the MIT Plasma Fusion Center. Not exclusively in that lab, however."

Ironically, about thirty years later:
"The Cold Fusion 101: Introduction to Excess Power in Fleischmann-Pons Experiments course will run again on the campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) over the IAP winter break Tuesday through Friday Jan. 20-23, 2015."

Fusion via cavitation also falls into that category of heresy (but may be emerging):

As does power via hydrinos (which may also just be LENR in disguise):

So, that's a third option to either it works or it does not work -- whether it works or not, your science career gets trashed because you even talked about an idea, let alone seriously tried to do an experiment about it. And your career gets trashed because of the *politics* of science funding. Science is a human enterprise after all, and humans being humans...

Comment Implication: no next-door relatives or neighbors? (Score 1) 137

Kudos to the kid saving his mom, but it is also kind of sad about how isolated and dependent on institutions and technology so many of us have become... So much so, we just take it for granted a four year old would have no neighbor or relative nearby to turn to.

Perhaps I was just lucky to grow up (lower-ish) middle class in a suburb in the 1960s with siblings, many stay-at-home moms as friendly neighbors all around, as well as lots of kids playing in the street. That seems to be a world that perhaps hardly exists anymore in the USA for any child... Other countries may be more likely to still have that kind of circumstance perhaps...

And more wealth seems to only make it worse -- see for example:
"The Problem With Rich Kids"
"In a surprising switch, the offspring of the affluent today are more distressed than other youth. They show disturbingly high rates of substance use, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, cheating, and stealing. It gives a whole new meaning to having it all."

"The Culture of Affluence: Psychological Costs of Material Wealth"
"Evolutionary psychologists have suggested, furthermore, that wealthy communities can, paradoxically, be among those most likely to engender feelings of friendlessness and isolation in their inhabitants. As Tooby and Cosmides (1996) argued, the most reliable evidence of genuine friendship is that of help offered during times of dire need: People tend never to forget the sacrifices of those who provide help during their darkest hours. Modern living conditions, however, present relatively few threats to physical well-being. Medical science has reduced several sources of disease, many hostile forces of nature have been controlled, and laws and police forces deter assault and murder. Ironically, therefore, the greater the availability of amenities of modern living in a community, the fewer are the occurrences of critical events that indicate to people which of their friends are truly engaged in their welfare and which are only fair-weather companions. This lack of critical assessment events, in turn, engenders lingering mistrustfulness despite the presence of apparently warm interactions (Tooby & Cosmides, 1996). ...
      Physical characteristics of wealthy suburban communities may also contribute to feelings of isolation. Houses in these communities are often set far apart with privacy of all ensured by long driveways, high hedges, and sprawling lawns (Weitzman, 2000; Wilson-Doenges, 2000). Neighbors are unlikely to casually bump into each other as they come and go in their communities, and children are unlikely to play on street corners. Paradoxically, once again, it is possible that the wealthiest neighborhoods are among the most vulnerable to low levels of cohesiveness and efficacy (Sampson, Raudenbush, & Earls, 1997). When encountering an errant, disruptive child of the millionaire acquaintance next door, neighbors tend to be reluctant to intervene not only because of respect for others' privacy but also, more pragmatically, because of fears of litigation (e.g., Warner, 1991)."

It used to be we lived in tribes and then still close-knit communities...

Daniel Quinn proposes we try to go back to that way of life:
"New tribalists believe that the tribal model, though not absolutely "perfect," has obviously stood the test of time as the most successful social organization for humans, in alignment with natural selection (just as well as the hive model for bees, the pod model for whales, and the pack model for wolves). According to new tribalists, the tribe fulfills both an emotionally and organizationally stabilizing role in human life, and the dissolution of tribalism with the spread of globalized civilization has come to threaten the very survival of the human species. New tribalists do not necessarily seek to mimic indigenous peoples, but merely to admit the success of indigenous living, and to use some of the basic underlying tenets of that lifestyle for organizing modern tribes, with fundamental principles gleaned from ethnology and anthropological fieldwork.
      Quinn argues that modern civilization is not working and will ultimately self-destruct, as evidenced by escalating worldwide trends such as environmental collapse, social unrest caused by hierarchal social structures, discrepancy between the rich and poor, development of ever-greater weapons of mass destruction, unsustainable human population growth, unsustainable agricultural practices, and unsustainable resource exploitation of all kinds. He claims that if we are to find a way of life that does work, we should draw our basic principles from human societies that are working or have worked in the past. ..."

But maybe smartphones used by kids are just something new and better than the tribe or friendly neighborhood? Gotta wonder...

Comment IBM could still be saved -- see my reading list (Score 1) 300

The most important for a company to re-invent itself is the first item and it relates to "shoplifting all of the spare hours":

"Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency (by Tom DeMarco)"

He says there is a tradeoff between efficiency meeting old needs quickly) versus effectiveness (meeting new needs with flexibility & responsiveness).

DeMarco points out that it is precisely the middle management layer that needs some slack time the most to be able to innovate in ways that lead to organizational learning. But everyone needs slack time to take part in that too. IBM is likely going in the completely wrong direction if it is reeling people in to presumably over-schedule them even more.

I last worked for IBM in Research about sixteen years ago myself... The project I worked the most on was the IBM Personal Speech Assistant (a forerunner to Siri and such). The team was very proud that Lou asked for one for his office:

But -- I had enough "slack" then (after a year of hard work) that when my then supervisor (his site above) went on a two week vacation, I build a speech activated display wall out of used ThinkPads which looked a lot like a Jeopardy board. (A coworker said it was a a good thing I was not in the lab when my supervisor first walked in after his vacation. :-) I always wonder though if years later that spark led to the idea of Watson being on Jeopardy?

Still think a conversational display wall is a good idea to pursue further. And I still want to make a programming language tailored to being edited easily via voice recognition. Of course IBM has long since sold off ViaVoice... And while there was some slack in Research then around 2000, I was told it was nothing like what was there in the 1970s and 1980s where a lot more creativity was possible. So, even then, these ideas were unlikely to be pursue-able.

And also around 2000, on teamwork at Research, one thing I heard at lunch was someone saying something like "We hire the top people from the most competitive schools and then wonder why they have trouble getting along.." There is a certain lack of diversity as well from such hiring practices.

Comment Mainframes have been surprisingly resilient (Score 1) 300

I'm all for distributed systems, but for many big companies, mainframes still make a lot of economic sense:
"While some believe that smaller distributed servers provide the agility needed in today's fast-moving cognitive era, the IBM mainframe is the preferred solution for many of the world's most competitive businesses, including:
92 of the top 100 banks worldwide
70%+ of the world's largest retailers
23 of the world's 25 largest airlines"

And see also, on a smaller scale:
"IBM designed IBM i as a "turnkey" operating system, requiring little or no on-site attention from IT staff during normal operation. For example, IBM i has a built-in DB2 database which does not require separate installation. Disks are multiply redundant, and can be replaced on line without interrupting work. Hardware and software maintenance tasks are integrated. System administration has been wizard-driven for years, even before that term was defined. This automatic self-care policy goes so far as to automatically schedule all common system maintenance, detect many failures and even order spare parts and service automatically. Organizations using i sometimes have sticker shock when confronting the cost of system maintenance on other systems.[1]"

In general:
"Why on Earth Is IBM Still Making Mainframes?"
"Business is more mobile than ever. Yet however lightweight those mobile devices feel in your pocket, they can still make good use of a big, powerful machine chugging away in a back room, not going anywhere."

Mainframes are also more than just hardware. Mainframes are in a sense a culture of 100% uptime and reliability.

That said, distributed computing continues to improve... And distributed computing culture continues to improve...

As to the original article, IBM is still shooting itself in the foot with this move away from supporting remote work... What IBM needs to be creative is not colocation but "slack" in the Tom DeMarco sense:
"Why is it that today's superefficient organizations are ailing? Tom DeMarco, a leading management consultant to both Fortune 500 and up-and-coming companies, reveals a counterintuitive principle that explains why efficiency efforts can slow a company down. That principle is the value of slack, the degree of freedom in a company that allows it to change. Implementing slack could be as simple as adding an assistant to a department and letting high-priced talent spend less time at the photocopier and more time making key decisions, or it could mean designing workloads that allow people room to think, innovate, and reinvent themselves. It means embracing risk, eliminating fear, and knowing when to go slow. Slack allows for change, fosters creativity, promotes quality, and, above all, produces growth."

That was the great thing about IBM Research when I worked there around 2000 -- a bit of slack to be creative and good work/life balance. But, IBMers even then said the rest of IBM was not like Research...

Comment Maybe even a hydrino phase change? :-) (Score 1) 249

Perhaps the opposite of:
"The SunCell was invented and engineered to harness the clean energy source from the reaction of the hydrogen atoms of water molecules to form a non-polluting product, lower-energy state hydrogen called "Hydrino" that is the dark matter of the universe wherein the energy release of H2O to Hydrino and oxygen is 100 times that of an equivalent amount of high-octane gasoline at an unprecedented high power density. The compact power is manifest as thousands of Sun equivalents that can be directly converted to electrical output using commercial concentrator photovoltaic cells."

Assuming hydrinos really exist...

But probably it is plain old chemistry...

AC, I like your idea of measuring the weight distribution in the battery in any case.

Comment Unfortunately, even if your experiment works... (Score 1) 249

... you probably lose your scientific career soon enough (sadly).
"This is how things are likely to go for the smartest kid you sat next to in college. He got into Stanford for graduate school. He got a postdoc at MIT. His experiment worked out and he was therefore fortunate to land a job at University of California, Irvine. But at the end of the day, his research wasn't quite interesting or topical enough that the university wanted to commit to paying him a salary for the rest of his life. He is now 44 years old, with a family to feed, and looking for job with a "second rate has-been" label on his forehead. Why then, does anyone think that science is a sufficiently good career that people should debate who is privileged enough to work at it? Sample bias."

Having a successful and informative experiment may sometime even end your career sooner than failing in an ideologically approved way:
"In this riveting book about the world of professional work, Jeff Schmidt demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. He shows that professional work is inherently political, and that professionals are hired to subordinate their own vision and maintain strict "ideological discipline." The hidden root of much career dissatisfaction, argues Schmidt, is the professional's lack of control over the political component of his or her creative work. Many professionals set out to make a contribution to society and add meaning to their lives. Yet our system of professional education and employment abusively inculcates an acceptance of politically subordinate roles in which professionals typically do not make a significant difference, undermining the creative potential of individuals, organizations and even democracy."

Part of the reason why:
"By now, in the 1990's, the situation has changed dramatically. With the Cold War over, National Security is rapidly losing its appeal as a means of generating support for scientific research. There are those who argue that research is essential for our economic future, but the managers of the economy know better. The great corporations have decided that central research laboratories were not such a good idea after all. Many of the national laboratories have lost their missions and have not found new ones. The economy has gradually transformed from manufacturing to service, and service industries like banking and insurance don't support much scientific research. To make matters worse, the country is almost 5 trillion dollars in debt, and scientific research is among the few items of discretionary spending left in the national budget. There is much wringing of hands about impending shortages of trained scientific talent to ensure the Nation's future competitiveness, especially since by now other countries have been restored to economic and scientific vigor, but in fact, jobs are scarce for recent graduates. Finally, it should be clear by now that with more than half the kids in America already going to college, academic expansion is finished forever. ...
    Peer review is usually quite a good way to identify valid science. Of course, a referee will occasionally fail to appreciate a truly visionary or revolutionary idea, but by and large, peer review works pretty well so long as scientific validity is the only issue at stake. However, it is not at all suited to arbitrate an intense competition for research funds or for editorial space in prestigious journals. There are many reasons for this, not the least being the fact that the referees have an obvious conflict of interest, since they are themselves competitors for the same resources. This point seems to be another one of those relativistic anomalies, obvious to any outside observer, but invisible to those of us who are falling into the black hole. It would take impossibly high ethical standards for referees to avoid taking advantage of their privileged anonymity to advance their own interests, but as time goes on, more and more referees have their ethical standards eroded as a consequence of having themselves been victimized by unfair reviews when they were authors. Peer review is thus one among many examples of practices that were well suited to the time of exponential expansion, but will become increasingly dysfunctional in the difficult future we face. ..."

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