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Comment Re:Unintended consequences (Score 1) 489

The problem still remains that "over-abundance" will only apply to labor. It won't apply to capacity nor to raw resources.

When robots make robots, it applies to capacity. And we already have a super-abundance of resources. Just yesterday Slashdot ran the story about Apple requiring recyclers to literally shred iPhones. If that's not resource abundance, I don't know what is.

The only thing the Earth does not necessarily have is a super-abundance of real estate. There is definitely an upper limit there as to how much space a person can exclusively occupy. But if you've ever been in Montana, you'd know that we're a long long way from hitting that particular limit.

And remember that Marxism was always more than merely an economic theory, but was fundamentally a socio-political theory. It was innovative in that it viewed economics as the very core, but it proposed a good deal more than simply "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs", and involved revolution, dictatorship and what really does amount to a sort of single party state (because, after all, who needs more than one political movement when Marxism is perfect).

Not really. It's an economic system. One proposed path to get there was revolution, dictatorship-by-committee, and a single party state. That path obviously failed. There is another path, and we in the West are already on it, despite the efforts of Thatcherites to dismantle it.

Still, this persistent urge to conflate economic systems with political systems really needs to stop. It is possible to have a communist representative democracy, a communist dictatorship, a communist theocracy, or a communist anarchy, just as it's possible to have a capitalist representative democracy, a capitalist dictatorship, a capitalist theocracy, or a capitalist anarchy. They're different words for a reason. The fact that the handful of (premature) attempts at communism were associated with violent revolution and dictatorship is an accident of history, not an absolute requirement.

In the face of actual super-abundance, there is no allocation committee. That position of power doesn't exist. When raw materials are acquired, transported, and refined by autonomous machines, when components are fabricated and transported by autonomous machines, when products are assembled and transported by autonomous machines, you can have whatever you want (and have room for), and there isn't anyone deciding whether or not you should be allowed to have it.

If we tried to just establish such a system today, of course it would fail. None of the prerequisites apply. The autonomous machines don't exist. Yet. They're getting closer every year. Mines in Australia already use autonomous dump trucks. And if it happens too quickly, yes, there will be examples of pathological behavior. But when it has happened, so gradually that people barely noticed, the vast majority of the world will only order one toaster from Freemazon.

Comment Re:Unintended consequences (Score 1) 489

One measure point is: how much money does the administration safe, buy not checking and observing regulations, but simply handing out the money.

Except as a sibling post of mine pointed out, that's not what Ontario is doing. They're means testing the hell out of it. The income is reduced $1 for every $2 earned.

The next interesting thing is to see what the receivers of the money are actually doing. Getting a part time job, trying education they can pay themselves instead of useless forced education by the administration etc. p.p. Moving house, not moving house, being more healthy or spending more on booze ...

People behave radically differently when they think they have an indefinite source of income vs an income with a concrete end date. My example of graduate school precisely echoes what you said: "education that can pay themselves instead of useless forced education". There are other examples much less salubrious. Politicians come to mind. Having a definite end date to their public salaries drives all kinds of unsavory behavior.[1]

Those differences are so extreme that any UBI "pilot" with an end date isn't UBI at all. UBI has no end date, by definition. A system with an end date, especially one so close, is just a short term grant system. It is nothing like a UBI. And we already know what limited grants do, because there are a lot of them available.

[1] Something worth considering. Our political systems might improve with a UBI. The current choice is between poverty and being reelected, a lot of the time. If the choice is less extreme, politicians might behave a little better.

Comment Re:Unintended consequences (Score 5, Interesting) 489

With that said, if they do this pilot correctly it will yield very interesting data.

Pilots like this are useless. They have no predictive power because an actual universal basic income is qualitatively different from an "income you and a few of your neighbors will get for less than a handful of years and then it goes away." We already know what people do in circumstances like that. It's called graduate school.

For the timid politicians among us, I have bad news. UBI is untestable. You can't pretend to have it for a while and then discontinue it. But it doesn't matter. No country is ever going to just decide to have an actual UBI. When it happens, it will have happened organically, by easy stages over the course of decades. Social Security and the equivalents around the world are the beginning of that. The amazing ease with which a person qualifies for disability nowadays is another part of that. That's probably how the US will deal with all the unemployed truckers in 20 years' time. You were a trucker? Ok, now that robots do that job, you're "disabled." Because of the kidney damage you suffered due to all the vibration. Wink wink, nudge nudge, sign here.

What will happen is gradual, targeted expansions of social security/welfare that slowly absorbs sections of the population that are unemployable (just as they already do), and then gradually the means testing of those groups will go away, and in 60 years, if there is still such a thing as the developed world, it will have UBI. The rabid libertarians among us see this coming and are having screaming meamies about it because they think people who used to work in factories who then went to work in construction who then went to work driving trucks who now have nowhere to go should definitely die in the street because they can't become software developers. Not a straw man. I've had a person literally say that to my face within the past year, using the actual phrase "die in the street." A person who self-identifies as Christian, by the way, and who attends church every single Sunday. Yes, these are real people who do exist and do think that way.

I believe Marxism is inevitable, but Karl Marx was way ahead of his time, just as this silly "pilot" is. Capitalism is a reasonable system for dealing with scarcity. It does not deal at all well with super-abundance. Marxism deals well with super-abundance, but except for the idle rich, we do not have super-abundance. I believe it's possible that we will sometime before the end of the century, but I strongly expect it will be much nearer the end of the century than the beginning. And "pilots" like this are a waste of time.

Comment Re:Version Fatigue. (Score 1) 386

Everyone (Many people) are suffering from some kind of version fatigue. It's as simple as that. Owning any software run device these days is like having someone come and and re-arrange all the furniture in your house every week. The novelty might seem nice at first, but after a while, any change that you don't specifically want becomes irritating.

More than irritating when in the process of rearranging the furniture they stack your recliner on top of your dining room table, put the TV behind the sofa, and hide all your spoons.

Resistance to modifications starts to really congeal when so much of the software we use everyday is subjected to capricious, useless changes, chasing fashion or some nebulous architectural Cause, with a capital 'C'. (Firefox, we're looking at you.) When the fundamentals, right down to the OS, won't hold still, people start to get very very cranky about changes to their niche tool that they're actually using to get something done.

Comment Re:Non-starter 'flying car' (Score 1) 175

You don't understand the downforce of the air required to lift a few thousand pounds into the air...

You will never, ever, EVER be be able to do vertical take off from normal residential homes using anything that blows air, ever...

Well sure, but you can never, ever, EVER operate a horse-drawn carriage from a normal residential home today either. The garage is nearly always attached to the house, and horses and their accoutrements are persistently stinky. Houses evolved considerably as the world transitioned from horse transportation to the infernal combustion carriage. Obviously houses would evolve again if powered lift flight ever became a common household thing.

I'd expect something like a rooftop landing pad on your garage, and instead of a rollup door on the front, it would just lower the pad into the structure and close the roof. With the right set of baffles and spoilers, the downdraft felt at ground level wouldn't be particularly hazardous. The opening roof isn't any more silly than the opening door on current garages, when you compare current garages to their predecessors. A door that wide that rolls up vertically? Ridiculous! Why would you need that, when the door that rolls sideways on wheels in your carriage house has been perfectly adequate for centuries?

Basically, if you can afford a personal VTOL aircraft, you can also afford to modify your dwelling to accommodate it conveniently. Who knows, detached garages might become a thing again, just in case you're trying to land in a rain storm and experience an unexpected wind buffet and downdraft simultaneously. (The real reason why personal aircraft are unlikely to ever replace ground transportation.)

Comment Re:Aerodynamics don't look right (Score 1) 175

This thing is incapable of controlled flight using the wings alone. It needs to add vectored lift from the forward blowers, which will add a variety of failure modes which will make this design impossible to certify. And without proper certification it can neither be operated as proposed nor used for commercial purposes.

If you're referring to FAA certification, you're being a little myopic. You are correct that there's no way this thing can be certified as an airplane for fixed wing flight. And it's obviously not a rotary wing, so it won't be certified that way either. What you're apparently unaware of is the FAA has a certification for "powered lift" flight and a corresponding powered lift pilot's license. They've had them for more than 20 years. Funnily enough, they established these rules at the behest of Moller, of Moller Skycar fame (notoriety?). Moller may not be much good at engineering (or possibly he was just before his time), but he's reasonably good at politics. So at least under the US regulatory regime, there is a way to certify this thing. I am unfamiliar with German law, so I couldn't say what they'll have to do at home.

Again, this only works when the engines are running. Engine failure is far too frequent to rely on them for regular flight.

Again, a little bit myopic. You are speaking from a position of experience with combustion engines, be they prop or jet, and from that perspective you would be correct. What you are forgetting is there is no combustion anywhere in this vehicle. Instead, there's a many-cell battery pack, a bunch of power electronics, and a bunch of electric motors.

Electric motors are fantastically reliable. Think of your home appliances. Your refrigerator, your vacuum cleaner, your washing machine, your dryer, your furnace blower. Every single one of these things works for 15, 20, even 30 years without fail, with a duty cycle as high as 60%, and when they do fail, it's invariably something other than the motor that has gone out. Your furnace develops cracks in its heat exchanger, or your refrigerator compressor loses it seals, or your dryer belt breaks. But the motor just keeps working. Even the cheapest of cheap crappy Chinese-made motors are remarkably reliable. Hell, you can hand-build an electric motor and it will work for 15 years. People do. The design of this vehicle, with many small motors, reduces the already low odds of motive failure from miniscule to absurdly microscopic.

As for the batteries, they describe it as "Tesla-style", which means a large pack made of many many small cells, with power balancing and safety circuitry throughout. Battery cells do fail, of course, but by far the most common failure mode is capacity loss, which is slow, gradual, and easily tracked electronically. Samsung reminded us that cells can also fail catastrophically, and the cell phone operating regime is germane to this discussion, with its emphasis on small form factors and light weights, but Samsung's reminder, however cogent, is obviously exceptional. Tesla's experience has shown that a large pack of cylindrical cells basically never fails catastrophically unless its physical integrity has been breached by road debris, a hazard not present in flight. If your battery pack in your aircraft has been breached, you've either suffered a missile strike or you've already crashed. Either way, you have much more pressing concerns than what your batteries are doing. For the common case of capacity loss, the electronics can simply refuse to allow take off if a capacity test falls below a reasonable threshold.

Which brings us to the electronics. The electronics are likely to be the weak point in any electric vehicle, airborne or otherwise. Capacitors fail with dismal regularity even today (my air conditioner compressor lost both of its motor-start capacitors within 3 years of it being installed), ROHS practices result in tin whiskers which cause shorts, and even devices as simple as resistors fade over time. However, all of these factors are quite well understood at this point, and the solution is redundancy. Multiple small motors obviously enforces its own redundancy, and in flight, motor-start capacitor failure isn't relevant, since the motors are already spinning. Of all the things in the vehicle, the electronics are going to be one of the lighter components, so the weight penalty for things like multiply redundant motor controllers isn't excessive. I'm quite confident that a small team of experienced power electronics engineers could come up with a design that could suffer 60% failure of the boards in the vehicle and still get you to the ground in one piece, in a landing you can walk away from.

I don't think there's any question that a small electric aircraft could be designed and built and operate with a better reliability record and a better safety record than current combustion-powered aircraft in the same class. The only questions are how expensive it will be and how much range it will have. It seems unlikely that either number will be very acceptable for quite some time to come.

Comment Re:How did they do before? (Score 1) 20

How did they feed Tiangong-2 with supplies before this achievement?

With the cargo capacity of their manned capsules. Docking was performed manually, by the taikonaut on the spot. Mir was resupplied the same way by Russians using Soyuz capsules, and Skylab was resupplied the same way by Americans using Gemini capsules.

Speaking of Soyuz, the latest Soyuz docking with the ISS was yesterday, 2017-Apr-21, delivering one Russian, one American, and some supplies.

Comment Re:Anyone surprised? (Score 1) 338

The President gets access to a whole lot of eye-opening cold hard reality and quickly finds that what they talked up on the trail is usually either impossible, a really terrible idea, or both.

Except this President declines to avail himself of that information and instead watches Fox and Friends for his news.

We're essentially operating on 2 branches out of 3. How long we'll coast with a massive power vacuum in the executive is yet to be seen.

We were. We aren't any longer. Ivanka Trump now has an office in the White House and a security clearance. As of about an hour ago, it was officially announced that she's hired a chief of staff to go with it. Guess who is going to be reading all those briefing books that Donald Trump literally doesn't have the patience or reading comprehension skills to read? That's right, his daughter. She will read them, and tell her daddy what he should do, and her daddy will do it, because he doesn't trust anyone who isn't related to him.

Feminists don't know it yet, but the US has its first woman President. Her name is Ivanka Trump. They could do worse.

Comment Re:Economics is hard (Score 1) 168

The cost of a decent chair over its 10-20 year lifetime is even smaller.

Until Microsoft yanks my chair out from under me and tries to install a new one. While I'm standing, they tell me how great it will be when I finally get to sit down again.

Then, it will take me a few weeks to find where the new height and seat back tilt controls are.

And then you find out the height control is locked out by a domain policy and the tilt control is buggy, causing you to periodically flop back so far you stare at the ceiling, at which point you're supposed to reset the chair...

Comment Re:Wow (Score 2) 117

The headline and summary are the equivalent of saying "man travels through space safely without spacesuit on!", without mentioning he's inside a spaceship.

Man travels through space safely without spacesuit on! Fetched another beer from the kitchen....

Comment Re:I wonder... (Score 1) 442

It's amazing how quickly you can filter out folks just based on a few quick tests...

e.g. during an interview, give them a laptop with a terminal, and ask them to write a program to read in a number, and output a "yes" or "no" answer depending on whether the number is prime

My answer is one line:


And I can tell you why I would use primesieve and not primegen, the former fast prime searcher, but I'm damned if I'll reinvent that wheel, badly. (Hehe. Wheel. It's funny, 'cause both the sieve of Eratosthenes and Atkin's sieve are implemented with wheel factorization.)

Or we could talk about an implementation that simply looks up the number in a flat file that's a bit field of the primes marked. The first 100 million natural numbers take up 11.9MB uncompressed, and that can be deflated probably by a factor of 5 at least, maybe more. Uncompressed, you just mmap the file and read at the calculated offset. On a system equipped with an SSD, finding the answer is faster than actually printing the letters "y", "e", and "s" or the letters "n" and "o" to the terminal.

And I still won't write that code for you. (But I am job hunting. You hiring?)

Comment Re:Alternate technology, available today (Score 1) 437

Mine captures the condensate in a storage compartment that needs to be taken out and emptied into the sink, so it doesn't need to be connected to anything.

That's... weird. Every single person who has a clothes dryer also has a washing machine, which requires a drain. Surely the same drain can be used for the heat-pump dryer?

Comment Re:And all this time (Score 1) 57

And all this time I thought it was IRC. My whole life is a lie

The article mentions a top five, then doesn't actually enumerate the top five. Piss poor reporting. IRC is probably in there, though it is never once mentioned in the article.

This is why we don't read the damn articles. They're useless.

Comment Re:There are only four programs that matter (Score 1) 249

At 0% taxation you get zero tax revenue.
At 100% taxation (Communism) we get a certain amount of tax revenue.
At an arbitrary % of taxation between those two points, we get an amount of tax revenue higher than at 100% taxation.
If tax revenue is a continuous function of tax rate, then according to the mean value theorem there is a certain percentage between 0% and 100% at which tax revenue is maximized.

That doesn't make any damn sense at all. First, 100% taxation of income is not necessarily Communism. It may still include private ownership. Unless you mean 100% taxation of all types, including property tax, in which case yes, that's some approximation of Communism. But it also means all things of value adhere to the government, including all property and all revenue of any kind. There is no higher tax revenue than that. It's everything, by definition. So there is no arbitrary percent in between that could possibly produce higher tax revenue, all other things being equal.

Perhaps you left out a very important part of Laffer's theory, which is the theory that as government ownership of the economy approaches 100%, productivity declines, perhaps precipitously. There is historical evidence both for and against. In Soviet Russia, productivity was definitely miserable. Whether or not it actually declined, I don't know. I suspect it wasn't much worse than Czarist Russia, which it very closely resembled. It might have been better. They did manage to put the first satellite and the first human into space, after all. Meanwhile in ancient Egypt, where the pharaohs ruled as gods and owned not just the economy, but the people, body and soul, productivity was fantastically high. The Great Pyramids at Giza are the physical embodiment of that productivity, so huge and so durable that they're still standing thousands of years later.

US taxes specifically are below m%. Bush Jr. cut taxes. Revenue went down. That's pretty much the end of the discussion right there, but there's more. Historically, the peak nominal income tax rate in the US was 94% in 1944 and it was over 90% throughout the 1950s, while the US economy absolutely boomed, both during and after the war, so the destruction of Europe's industrial base contributed some, but not all. The effective rate was approximately 70%. Since you're so fond of calculus, let's look at the first derivative of GDP. It varies quite a bit, but there's a clear trend. All years with greater than 10% GDP growth happened before the Nixon era tax cuts. In the past 40 years of continuing low taxes and additional tax cuts, there has not been a single year of > 10% growth in GDP. This is historical evidence within the past century that m% is somewhere above 70%, if in fact it exists at all.

In short, the fundamental theorem of calculus and Laffer's theory are irrelevant in the face of the vagaries of human motivation, which have been and still are all over the map, and Laffer's fundamental assumption is flat wrong.

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