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Comment Re:Burden of proof. (Score 5, Insightful) 810

The problem is that we keep taking colloquial statements from non-scientific people we disagree with and pretending they are properly stated hypothesis to build a strawman so we can feel better about our intellectual superiority.

Finding 'what the heck is going on here?' is the most basic of scientific endeavors, yet the comments here overflow with predetermined conclusion on the theological question of ghost-existence, with a notorious absence of interest in any actual facts or potential evidence for the 'haunting' phenomena. This reflex is precisely why so many non-technical people think science is just like a 'secular faith with its own beliefs'.

To pick an arbitrary example, no doctor would work like that and claim its scientific:
- hey doc, I spent all day in the rain and got a flu...
- you're an idiot, you can't get the flu without being in contact with the virus. Now get out of my office unless you can really prove you got it from standing in the rain!

Instead, the doctor would extract the core of what the patient (not assumed to be a doctor or a scientist) actually means ('I feel bad, like when I've had the flu before'), interrogate the patient for the facts and details (symptoms, timelines, contact with other sick people), and translate that into a useful hypothesis for the disease and its cause... and at least go through the process before yelling hypochondriac.

Of course "there are ghosts" is not a useful scientific hypothesis.It's actually not a question of falsifiability, but specificity: 'ghosts' is not defined well enough to even get to the falsifiable part. Like 'god' most people in a conversation don't mean the same thing with that word, and a *lot* of people won't mean the same thing at different times in the same conversation.

But the people saying 'there is a ghost in this house!' are rarely trying to build a scientific hypothesis, or are even trained to do that either. They apply 'ghosts' as a shorthand for 'something weird is going on' and a blind jump of faith to a lot of cultural baggage of 'stuff people have said in the past was related to similar weird stuff', as a way to communicate that 'unknown' experience through a common meme. Much like people have always done when other stuff happens and they guess at some pattern: health and sickness, weather, economic hardships, magnets, etc - and people are often wrong when they do that, but that doesn't mean there was no phenomenae to feed those memes in the first place.

Maybe an investigation finds nothing more than construction defects, bad insulation, gas leaks or defective electronics - if it was fun enough to spend the time, so what? Maybe it finds something more surprising than the usual (without requiring theological explanations).

Comment Re:Call me skeptical (Score 1) 222

This is all true, but ignores the fact that for a lot of applications and teams RDBMS were overkill in the first place, so they are hardly sacrificing anything by switching to NoSQL.

It's the same reason a lot of people in the early dot-com days believed MySQL was awesome precisely because it was such a crappy RDBMS ('who needs transactions or referential integrity anyway? it just slows things down')... arguably with robust simpler storage now there is more awareness of which facilities are sacrificed, and which advantages the R in the acronym bring to the table when it is needed.


Comment Re:Feudalism and the new serfdom? (Score 1) 87

While I would agree with you, why couldn't Facebook then just hire them?

I'd guess at least one of two reasons:
- Scale: it takes time and money to hire a single good developer with industry experience, even more to fit them into effective teams. If you can acquire a team that is already good/great without much attrition, it would pay off.
- Acquiring Founders + IP: as others have mentioned, it's usually the only way to not only acquire the IP but also recruit the (actively engaged) founder of a startup - so you acquire an executive leader on the area you're expanding instead of a competitor for both market share and talent. It's like a very expensive head-hunter + relocation package. Considering acquisitions are expensive (not just in money, also in time and corporate resources), I'm usually skeptical of this second case as the primary motivator, despite the noise in the interwebs... but it's a nice bonus.

Unfortunately, TFA has scarce information on either the deal (price tag, # of employees, next steps) or the founder's background, etc - so it's hard to say if this is really about either of these two factors, or it's all bloggers reading tea leaves on other blogs.

Comment Re:How does this aid in education (Score 1) 152

Short answer is: we haven't figured out how to do this properly yet.

It took us a few hundred (or thousand?) years of experience with books to make them a constructive part of education, it looks like we'll need a few decades to internalize how to use the interwebs properly.

I have no doubt all this technology will help in education in the long term - the ability of the Internet to connect an individual to both knowledge and data is beyond Vannebar's wildest visions of Xanadu. Even in the most banal sense it is an improvement by raising the bar for often-sub-par educational books and material; consider also the potential for liberating the student for self-directed research and 'jumping ahead of the class' without disconnecting himself from, or derailing, the current lecture - currently we penalize our brightest students by forcing them to wait for the rest of the class to catch up. I'd have loved to have a laptop with web access in high school - then whenever that happened I could have researched tangents and connections from the current topic out of curiosity, instead of finding another opportunity to learn how to sleep with my eyes open. Books don't really scale very well in that way, by reasons of cost and plain physical mass.

But a completely undirected and unrestricted experience is the anti-thesis of education - as it's typically used it offers all the possible distractions without the guidance or focus to understand the necessary material. And as long as the 'learning generation' is a decade ahead of the 'teaching generation' it is bound to stay that way. I don't think it's even a matter of 'understanding computers' as the geek crowd tends to assume; at some point I thought that way, but these days I'm convinced things are moving fast enough that new generations 'get' these technologies fundamentally differently, so it is very naive to think 'we adults' can figure out how to best use tech for our children's education without being hopelessly irrelevant to their own experience unless things stabilize a bit.

It's not that the technologies are that different anymore, it's that the quantitative barriers go away very quickly and each generation cares about and prioritizes technology uses that at some point would have been shallow, or even risible (tweeter anyone?), with unexpected benefits and side-effects... even if we come up with a far more comprehensive and clueful plan to leverage tech in modern education, by the time it's implemented by any national educational system it will be as quaint and irrelevant as France's Minitel system is today.

Comment Re:In Soviet Russia... (Score 1) 1027

Buddhism qualifies as a religion only because the first people to call it a 'religion' didn't understand it, and the buddhists grew tired of trying to correct them. Buddhism is a philosophy, and all sorts of confusion go away once you accept that.

Scientology is a religion for the purposes of tax exemptions and tax returns. The responsible people are smart enough, and oblivious enough, to manage that perfectly - and they're perfectly right to do so.

Comunism is an ideology, not a religion. The inability to distinguish between the two is a significant enough problem in modern thinking, but it benefits enough both sides of the discussion not to fix it, even when the discussion has lost relevance ever since a decade ago.

Comment Re:I am not surprised. (Score 5, Insightful) 1027

You mean the dark ages where fear of heresy stifled secular innovation, or the dark ages where the core of hellenic, roman and islamic learning was preserver in monasteries while the kernels of the renaissance and the core of modern thinking and the scientific method was born between the rabbinical, islamic and christian scholars of the convivencia,?

By your tone, I'm not so sure 'we all know what happened to Europe in the dark ages' - one thing I know is that the foundations of *non-magical thinking* were preserved by the clerical population, not the secular one. Any reasoned study of the Inquisition (the catholic institution, not the spanish one under secular authorities) would be a good exposition of how the simplistic is the idea that removing religious authority out of the picture would suddenly make intellectual advancement flourish.

I say this not as a 'believer' but as someone who divorced himself from a religious tradition for very similar naive intellectual pride - only to rediscover later that much of the scientific and philosophical heritage that I so prized was due to the intellectual traditions that were preserved, cultivated and brought unto the world by brilliant scholars from religious traditions and dispositions.

You can disagree with them all you want (for what's it's worth, I do), but if you feel "it's safe to say the world as a whole would be more advanced" if they had not been there, I'd have to say you have a poor understanding of history.

Comment Re:Some of us are (Score 1) 118

No they don't.

Modern humans do. Arguably, 'healthy' humans do. But humans, as a species, have managed to do with far more traumatized lives on average than the typical iphone user does.

If you have time to worry about whether your facebook updates are up-to-date, you seriously do not represent the minimum requirement of survival for the human species.

You may argue that social interaction is enriching to people overall, but if your argument is that humans *need* such things, that they *require* it, then you're as out of touch with the overall human experience as French aristocrats were before the Terror.

Comment Re:Some of us are (Score 1) 118

People keep bringing up the latest augmentations (mobile phones, apps et al) - but I still find the most compelling example, by virtue of lasting evidence, optical prosthetics (i.e.: eyeglasses).

For centuries we have been able to enable a large segment of the population to be functional and contribute to society while being fully dependent on technological prosthetics.

As a myopic, I'm acutely aware that my whole ancestral line has benefited from our ability to compensate physical disabilities through technical ingenuity. After all, if I'm legally blind to drive without lenses, I'm sure I wouldn't have been of much help hunting mastodons.

And I'm seriously skeptical any intellectual capacity would have saved my skin when I stuck a spear on the chieftain's head because he was indistinguishable from any other animal +/- 1 meters of cubic area...

Comment Re:Are you really worried that much about Facebook (Score 2, Insightful) 451

privacy != security.

Compromising your banking account information is a matter of security - it's about protecting resources or confidential data, and in that case you have all the reasons to go into a rant about not sharing info if you want to keep it secret.

Compromising your family's friends and activities is a matter of privacy - it's about protecting from undue intrusion and interference in their daily private life. The whole point of privacy is that these personal thoughts and activities are not *important* enough to be public, much less secret - it's the quotidian life. And the importance of keeping that private is that quotidian actions are not public speech or performance and are simply 'no one's business'.

It's no secret that public disclosure of the most banal activities modifies their behavior - you don't even need some oppressive authority watching and acting on that information, social pressure is good enough for a conforming/normalizing effect.

If everything in life is assumed to be public and subject to inspection by strangers, people will censor their actions and interactions in different ways - most by avoiding anything socially questionable or even just atypical, others by turning daily life into a clandestine process (and incidentally reinforcing the idea that privacy is about 'suspicious, secret activities').

Comment Re:older developers... (Score 1) 742

Sure, not all pointer arithmetic is unsafe, but the safe operations you do need for data structures can be done in any high-level language. For the cases where you do need to be careful all the time and cover your edge cases, then by definition you're dealing with *unsafe* operations.

That's fine, so are a lot of other very useful things we depend on for our daily lives (cars, electricity, carpentry tools, etc), and I'd agree learning how to deal with system-level languages is similarly important and useful.

But it *still* has little to do with teaching and learning data structures - and frankly I have yet to hear of a good reason to force such a mix, other than blind tradition or silly 'my language is better than your language' arguments.

Perhaps we have different worries about crappy performance on modern machines: my own Core2 also feels slower than it should be, and crappy native code seems to accomplish that just fine by itself - so I'm more likely to blame the guys who can't do heaps and B-trees than the guys who choose not to do pointer arithmetic.

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