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Comment And I'm not laughing (Score 2, Interesting) 147

Solving the technicalities to get pinpoint parcel delivery by drone right is something I'd enjoy doing. A fun problem with potential relevance for society.

What I'm worried about however is safety and security surrounding drone delivery. Buying a drone off the shelf still won't allow you to easily deliver parcels to a location outside your line of sight 5 miles away. But Amazon is solving that problem right now. Great huh?

Only ... I can't be the only one who's thought about the possibilities of hijacking or impersonating Amazon drones for delivery of two pounds of semtex plus plus detonator wired to a phone or a timer to homes of e.g. e.g. veterans or politicians. Or military bases. Or shopping malls. Or schools. Or congress.

Detonating a pound or two of semtex on a docked submarine (worth a cool billion) wouldn't be a bad payoff for your average terrorist either.

What (if anything) is being done to prevent e.g. Al Qaida or ISIS (or whatever you've got) from abusing this system? Has anyone thought about this at all? Is anyone going to do so before the system goes live?

In a pinch you might equip military bases with an anti-drone system. But people's homes? And schools, malls, cinema's ? Worth considering before it all goes live perhaps?

Comment Swamp (Score 1) 136

Mr. Trump is starting to look quite at home in the swamp. Even though he'll probably be the last to realize it.

He's doing deals. He gets a little bit of publicity-generating orders to sign. The crocodiles get fed a few morsels (like consumers and citizens).

Isn't it nice to see how it all works out in the end?

Comment Re:FAKE NEWS! (Score 1) 537

Well ... can you _prove_ that there never was any wiretapping? As in: rigorous, categorical, scientific proof?


Thought so. Absence of evidence can always be conspiracy-theorised away. That means that Pres. Tweety and his trusted staff will be able to keep pushing the story for at least as long as they kept the "birther" story alive. And they will.

I really admire Kellyanne Conway's performance on CNN (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?... ) where she calmly veers off on a tangent with every question asked and keeps on plugging the message and spreading insinuations. You've got to admire her: smart, courageous, dedicated, and totally shameless.

Besides which ninetynine wingnuts will continue to believe him and Mrs. Conway. Well, such is life.

Comment Re:difficult to tell who is at fault from article (Score 1) 513


Impossible indeed ... for someone like you for example who won't even read three lines into the article before hitting the keyboard.

The article clearly states the man's SUPERVISOR was Ok with it. Not a 24/7 standby job then, Ok?

The article illustrates why the US needs to regulate this sort of thing through legislation and your response illustrates why it's why it's not getting it.

Comment In further news (Score 1) 519

Pres. Trump has a documented history of spouting fake news items that range from malicious and deliberate to stupid wishful thinking to ignorance or downright incompetence.

In doing so he has amply earned the moniker "Dirty Donald".

Any claims based on the assumption that anything Pres. Trump says is not suspect to the highest degree are flawed and not to be considered credible.

Comment Match mathod to objective (Score 1) 1001

It all depends.

If your objective is merely to hire a code monkey, adapt the interview to assess immediately applicable coding skills (like knowledge of syntax, coding speed and accuracy, ability to code to specs, code readability and maintainability).

If your objective is to hire a programmer who has to be able to come up with an algorithm to match the specs, by all means review algorithm knowledge and coding skills, but be sure to include problem solving skills.

When looking for a software engineer, ensure the applicant can program, but focus on above-average problem solving skills plus theoretical background plus ordinary engineering skills.

That alone gives you three different types of job interview.

Comment Necessity is being reinvented (Score 1) 142

Teaching has always been about imparting useful or downright necessary skills to young people. What people forget is that it is society (specifically the job market) that decides what skills are useful and necessary. Not the individual (except for exceptional individuals, who may end up famous or millionaire, or both), and not most not parents either.

There's nothing wrong with that. Parents or children don't usually know what's worth learning (unless they've had a successful career). So keeping an eye on the job market is a good start. But it mustn't stop there. Firstly because the job market will highlight required skills for being a good little employee, which is not necessarily your best career path. And secondly because the job market can not even tell you about useful skills for tomorrow's employees, just for today's employees.

Necessary life skills vary (nowadays the ability to spot fake news and to do a little bit of research online are useful) , but necessary job skills mostly include an ability to interface with others and specific skills that are valuable in themselves (processing or specialist effect skills).

Interfacing skills involve the ability to communicate (command of language), cultural understanding (in Western society you need to be able to read a clock, keep appointments, stick to deadlines) some understanding of social dynamics, ability to adopt a role, ability to commit to fulfilling that role (be it a leading or a following role, or one with aspects of both). Unless you're aiming for a job that requires only elementary school skills, you'll need to receive further education. Study skills are essential there. Everyone should learn as much about interface and study skills as they can absorb.

Much of those interfacing and study skills will be taught to you by your parents. That's a natural and intense process that goes on all the time during childhood and it's quite efficient. Which is why children from middle or upper class parents have a head start when it comes to preparing for middle class or upper class type jobs.

Some of the harder skills to learn (reading, writing, grammar, arithmetic, mathematics, structured thinking) are taught by professionals (teachers).

Coding is an aspect of a specific personal skill (and a shallow one at that) that goes into the skill set of a software engineer. Becoming a good software engineer takes talent, time, and effort. A tiny little course in school might serve as an "awareness raiser", but nothing else. Competence (obtained through talent and training) at coding alone qualifies you for one function only: code monkey.

A basic understanding of contemporary machinery (such as gained through learning how to program) is a valuable interface skill in that it allows you to understand a lot more about how our society works.

The question is: what is our objective here?

If our goal is to try and supply slightly more and slightly better code monkeys, start teaching Java or C and integrate that into the curriculum as a full-blown subject.

If our goal is to give children a taste of what machinery is like, and how to work with it, then a short (20 hour) course in Basic or Python plus building a simple web page and (perhaps an elementary app for their smartphone to whet their interest) will do fine.

It shouldn't surprise anybody that after an era where "self expression" and "personal development" were in vogue we're seeing a reappraisal of job-related skills. We shouldn't go overboard with that but continue to teach time-tested (and difficult to learn) interfacing skills. In addition to which there may well be a place for more emphasis on job-related skills.

Comment Stupid and dangerous (Score 1) 110

I think this idea is stupid and dangerous. Just image you have your entire house covered with this kind of wilreless plug.

With ordinary appliances you can be fairly certain they're safe if you pull the plug. With a gizmo that taps a wireless power source in your house you can never be.

If for some reason you want to do something to a device that's less than safe if it's plugged in you run a risk. If you want the device to be guaranteed shut off. e.g. because you want to clean it under the tap, or because it overheats (potentially causing a fire), or because you want to screw it open, you may have a serious problem.

If you want to ensure some sneaky piece of hardware (like a "smart" TV set with voice command operation) is really off ...you're out of luck. If you've bought an appliance with IOT functionality that you don't want on all the time ... tough.

As I've noted before, in this age of networked machines, the real issue is control. Who controls a given piece of hardware? You or the manufacturer? The manufacturer has several ways he can monetise control over an application. Ranging from privacy intrusion to enforcement of policies.

Most ordinary people, good little consumers as they are, have already lost this contest. Their "smart" hardware can be under manufacturer control for all they know and may phone home and collect and transmit personal ("anonimised") data back to the manufacturer as that manufacturer sees fit. This basically applies to anyone who uses a smartphone, a recent car, or any kind of networked piece of electronics in "consumer mode". Only people with interest in (and expertise in) hacking and controlling their stuff can retain control.

It will also allow the manufacturer to enforce all kinds of "policies" on the user of that appliance. E.g. a printer will stop printing when the ink cartridge tells it the allotted number of prints has been reached. Regardless of how much in is left in the cartridge. Or a "smart" espresso machine that refuses to work with any but the manufacturers own coffee cups. Or a console will refuse to play a non-authorised game. Several e-readers will refuse to display files that aren't on "allowed" servers, plus they will tattle about what you read, when, and for how long. If you're unable to run Wireshark on your home network (or simply lack the time) you may never know.

This cordless plug is simply the next step towards a world where individuals' control over their home and the stuff in it is diluted and either off-loaded to whichever party thinks they can monetise a little piece of control over your personal surroundings, or routed through some piece of electronics that exercises actual control instead of the appliances' owner and balk in an emergency.

If I want an appliance to work, I'll find somewhere to plug it in.

Comment On the money (Score 2) 388

Mr. Gates is probably on the money.

Just consider this: in today's society a significant proportion of people (US citizens) are out of work. It's not that they are useless trash ... but by and large they're not worth the wages they need to support a normal life. The labour market has determined that they are surplus to requirements.

The reasons they are discarded vary.

Mostly it's competition from within. Companies always shop for the best price performance ratio. In production machinery, printers, staples, and employees. So they sort applicants and current workers by price-performance ratio, and try to make their workforce structure resemble as much as possible the optimum available in the job market. Through hire and fire policy. Maintaining that "best match" with the labour market is the main reason companies have an HR department. No hard feelings, just business.

Competition can also come from outside though. Examples are H1B visa and illegal immigrants from Mexico. Please note that there could never have been any issue whatsoever with illegal immigrants if employers weren't prepared to employ undocumented applicants. But they are ... because it benefits them directly. H1B immigrants are the clearest example of people being selected on basis of their cost/benefit ratio that I know of.

Approximately the same holds for automation. Throughout the ages, as technology advanced people were expelled from one type of function (e.g. agriculture, manufacturing, mining) and had to seek employ in another function (farmers becoming labourers, labourers going to work in the service industries, etc.). An example is the industrial revolution. Historically that has led to a massive shift in the job market (farming to industry), unemployment, a large drop in wages, terrible working conditions, misery, and widespread exploitation of people by employers. Society finally regained its equilibrium after a century or so, in part due to the threat of revolution.

The only difference is that the current technology is poised to make certain groups of people uneconomical to employ. It's not just that their jobs disappear, it's jobs of the kind they are capable of doing become prone to being automated.

Take the 6 mln. or so truckers.we have now. We can replace one third of them with self-driving trucks, at huge benefits. Now what other work would somebody who likes being a trucker be good at? Not sitting indoors and shuffling paper I suppose.

Take the car industry. Plants today are highly robotised. Cheaper, better, more flexible. More automobile workers surplus to requirements. What type of work would they be good at? What kind of work are they trained for?

Take scores of people in administrative functions like the insurance industry. Doing administration and processing claims can increasingly be done by software. AI or not. Lets replace them. Miners (remember those hopeful Trump voters in mining villages) are on the way out because coal is being pushed out of the market and not coming back.

Take ready made products. Those can be made far cheaper abroad and then shipped to the US. Despite the little temper tantrums by Pres. Trump and his supporters it's not economically feasible for the US to stop that. Other economies would overtake the US and start dominating it. So it's probably not going to happen to any meaningful degree for any meaningful length of time.

The list of labour displacing developments goes on. And on.

All this wouldn't be a problem if we could readily think of other (paid !) work we could let the freshly turned-surplus-to-requirements workers do. But can we? Really?

I don't see it and I'm no longer optimistic we will think of something genuinely new.

In any event, we have limited options to respond.

We could delay or even *temporarily) halt the economic mechanisms that push workers into the surplus bin. And cut our own throat, economically speaking.

We could simply tell the unemployed to drop dead. Dangerous. Gives civil unrest, increased crime rates, and allows even more people like Trump and Bannon to float to the top.

We could provide unemployment benefits for those discarded by the labour market and put them into storage until they're needed.

By and large I think it will be option 3.

Only ... providing lots more employment benefits will cost money. Lots of money. Where to get that without wrecking the economy? Well, a tax on robots and other job-replacing technology is a start.

If just about anybody but Bill Gates had put this idea forward, they would have been trounced as socialists, pinko's, bleeding heart liberals, etc. When Mr. Gates says it ... some people actually start to think. That's good.

I'm sure that a tax on robots is something that can easily be done in ways that cause more harm than good ... but I'm not convinced a way to do it right doesn't exist. So lets give Mr. Gates's idea the courtesy of a thorough study, shall we?

It wouldn't be the first time he saw a trend that everybody else didn't (until it was upon them).

Comment Use the Slashdor moderating system perhaps? (Score 1) 477

It's true. Lots of people post absolute trash that's not even worth the time required to skip, and clutters up threads. The question is how to purge the garbage without stifling informed dissent.

One of the things I like about Slashdot is its moderating system and the differentiation between AC posts and those by re-used nyms in addition to its folding structure. Makes it easy to skip lowly valued posts (which usually turn out to be trash). That does a fair job of helping to sift the grain from the chaff.

Why not try Slashdot's moderating system?

Comment Re:Kindly read the stuff you quote first (Score 1) 660


Kindly read the stuff you quote first

That's just your problem - I did.

Good good good. I see you're ready for the next course then: reading comprehension. Comes after reading. You're making progress here !

If you'd just read my post, you might notice that I don't claim you'll jump into the top 1% as a result of a university education.

See above. Bootstrap bullshit is still bullshit.

Sorry, but I think that bootstrap statistics is a bit too advanced at this point. Let's focus on percentiles for now. I think that subject still needs some work.

American kids have all the opportunities they need to go to university

Not without people like you sneering at them a second time for taking out student loans they couldn't afford, if their degree/career choice doesn't pay out.

I would never do that. Fortunately all Ivy Leage universities offer grants. See e.g. http://www.thebestschools.org/... Means tuition plus living costs are paid for you, without the need to take out a loan. Of course you need to be exceptional to very very good (I personally don't think I would have qualified). So let's skip the subject of scholarships ... I can see why that might not be applicable in your case ... and discuss tuition fees.

For the top schools they're horrendous, meaning you fall into a great big black hole if you don't finish the course. I'd be plenty scared of that myself. So yes, you have a point there.

There are some universities that charge relatively low fees though: see here. http://www.usnews.com/educatio...

If you're hard up for cash there are universities for "ordinary" folk that also provide full tuition, sometimes supplemented by 15 hr a week plus 40 hr workweeks during breaks. See here: http://affordableschools.net/2... Not the easiest route, and you need to show financial need, but doable.

If that's not to your liking, then lets discuss alternatives. For example: getting an education through the military. See here: https://www.topuniversities.co...

That's decidedly not for everyone. You'll need to enlist, you need prove yourself to the military (not the easiest proposition) and you bind yourself to complete your term of service, regardless of whether you pass the course. See here: https://www.topuniversities.co... If you don't mind serving in the military (risk of being send abroad and shot at, must adapt to life in the military) in return for a scholarship (and are confident that you can actually do it), it's a really nice deal.

So, in summary, there are four ways to go to university if you're hard up for cash and don't want to risk a huge loan: (1) through a scholarship or grant (requires high to exceptional talent) (2) by choosing a less well-known university added to (slightly) above average talent and hard work (3) the military, (requires special aptitude). (4) Choosing an inexpensive university and working on-and-off (quite hard, but not impossible).

You're an alcoholic, cocaine abusing draft dodger with a 2.0 gpa? To the White House with you - after being handed a few multimillion dollar businesses to run into the ground, because of your last name.

Yes, that's right. I applied to the White House with evidence of the abovementioned qualifications but it appears there can be only one President at the time and that position was already taken. Boy do I feel out of luck now.

Comment Ban temporary lifted for the wrong reasons (Score 5, Insightful) 476

Whilst I'm happy that the ban has been rescinded (at least in part and until mr. Trump files an appeal with the Supreme Court after he has molded it to his liking) I feel it's for the wrong reasons.

Not one word about translators and guides for the US army in Iraq who have served faithfully and got a visa after intense vetting as a reward. Not one word about the reliability of the vetting procedures already in place, the probability of inadvertently admitting terrorists on visa already issued or about substituting security theatre for security. Not one word about the justification (or lack thereof) of a measure that hits people who have lived here for 10+ years without problems and can't travel abroad because they'll be stopped at the border.

No. The only thing that counted was: Washington state filed a complaint that companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks (not people !) have suffered immediate and irreparable (financial) loss. That was decisive.

Ugh. I'm getting a drink.

Comment Kindly read the stuff you quote first (Score 1) 660


Whilst I could have typed the text you suggest, I didn't because it's not what I mean and in no way equivalent to what I wrote.

If you'd just read my post, you might notice that I don't claim you'll jump into the top 1% as a result of a university education. I do claim that American culture works against success at university, which is true, that American students aren't very motivated to study "hard" (STEM) subjects, which is true, and that foreign students we get here are, which is also true.

Your post can in fact be used to illustrate the point. The blog in the Washington Post you refer to fails to support your claim in several ways.

First it refers to income percentiles, not absolute income. Whilst I would dearly love to claim otherwise, successfully completing one of our university courses does not in itself catapult you into the top income brackets. Being a lawyer, doctor, engineer, researcher doesn't (barring exceptions of course). Going into business or banking does that. The mere fact that you automatically associate success with income percentiles and pronounce upward mobility a failure based on what probability you have to enter the top percentiles illustrates my point. Chinese and Indian students consider becoming assistant professor at a reputable university, or researcher in industry, or a good consultant or generally a definite success. You apparently don't.

Second the graph you refer to only shows that the distribution of which income percentile you'll end up in, depending on how rich your parents were, is skewed. Whilst it does point to rich kids having an advantage, it also shows that 67% of college graduates end up in above-average (actually 40% plus percentile) income categories versus 49% of rich high-school dropouts. Score one for education I'd say.

In third place, have a look at Figure 11: social mobility matrix, college graduate in the Reeves and Sawhill (working) paper your blog reference is based on: https://www.bostonfed.org/ineq...

It shows the strong positive influence of getting a college degree. Note also that the figures those graphs display are based on simulation model outcomes (not observations !), but I'm prepared to accept them as valid for the moment (until proven otherwise).

Can we perhaps get back to the topic at hand now? The question was: do we need universities to "educate American kids first" (i.e. throw overseas students out)?

The answer remains: NO.

American kids have all the opportunities they need to go to university, but then (for various and sometimes quite valid reasons) decide not to. Relieving the disadvantage of an American education and participating in American culture might be a start however.

Comment Find American kids who want to be trained first (Score 1) 660

A passable university education is open to just about every American (although you need to be very bright and/or very rich to enter the top schools). If you have it in you to shine, that will come out in just about any university (after which you can often switch to a better school if you want). That's not the bottleneck.

The problem is: most American kids don't want to study any "hard" subjects.

Part of the reason is that they're saddled with serious deficiencies in high school (which they've got to make up for when they get to university through ... you got it ... steep learning curves and hard work).

Part of the reason is that American culture doesn't sit well with concentration and intellectual endeavours. Students need "encouragement" to switch off their g*dforsaken cellphones during lectures and in class. Many American students have trouble sitting still in a library and concentrating on their studies for single hour without fiddling with their phones, peeking at social media sites, or having background music in their ears all the time. That isn't conducive to STEM subjects at all, although people with lots of talent manage to shrug off that particular handicap.

Last but not least, many students (correctly) perceive that taking a tough STEM subject only sets them for a future as a cubicle-dwelling engineer, to be outsourced, downsized and off-shored by other students they partied with at university (who went for an MBA and were then appointed as their manager). Given the high cost of failing the course (or even getting low to really mediocre grades) and the higher-than-average probability of having this happen to them, the decision _not_ to pursue a STEM subject has certain rational underpinnings.

I'm sure the AC who did the parent post has never walked around, say, the graduate studies area at MIT, Stanford, UCI, Caltech or wherever. Half the graduate students at least are foreign. Simply because they're bright, motivated, and hard-working. Block those from coming and you lose half the brainpower. And half your competitive advantage as a university.

So, no. It's a lot more complicated than Trumpian bellygood duckspeak of "American kids First" suggests.

American kids have all the opportunities they need for STEM studies. What they require is better career prospects, more appreciation, and mitigation of the handicaps imposed by their culture and the high schools they're sent to.

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