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Comment Re:Lies? (Score 1) 537

Dictionary says, "a person who uses scientific knowledge to solve practical problems".
That raises question, is programming a science or art, or somewhere in between, like a disciplined craft?
Is a cook an engineer because he or she knows the correct way to poach an egg?
Does working with hardware make it more engineering than working with purely software?
Maybe the difficulty with definitions is that engineering often involves the physical world (physiosphere) but approached with a lot of knowledge held in the mind (the noosphere), and whilst there is a lot of discipline in erecting a bridge, there is also a lot of discipline in how to think about the bridge in the first place.
So I suspect that when people say "engineer" they mean that there is a lot of careful, rational, knowledgeable design going on.

Comment Re:Missing Principles (Score 1) 86

Your brainstorming works because while you have not figured out the exact script, you understand the method and concepts to complete the task. This is what I believe would be common among all people who brainstorm successfully as individuals. They use the Socratic method to interrogate the process they have in mind and come up with the best solution.

In a group, brainstorming can work if you have the right set of people with the intellectual capacity to debate and question (Socratic Method), and similar to the individual, knowledge of the concepts and methods needed to complete the task.

That does make sense, and explains times when I've discussed a project with a colleague over coffee, informally, for a few hours, including a lot of "silly" talk, and ended up with a good idea which neither of us would have arrived at on our own.

Comment Re:Bullshit! (Score 3, Interesting) 86

The idea is that if you're stuck in a code, only by explaining line by line your reasoning to someone (or even a rubber duck), it'll help you to find the solution yourself.

Similar principle in designing buildings. When the architect is sketching, it is called "having a conversation with himself",

I do the same writing scripts, when I get stuck, I write (in the comments) what I'm thinking, and by writing down thought 1, that makes space to have thought 2.

Kinda like a pipe, or stack, you pop the first one off, so you can see the next one.

Comment Iteration (Score 1) 86

Sounds largely right, also because in order to understand a problem one often has to try to solve it,
ie. a new idea, and then by wondering why the idea sucks, so start to understand the nature of the problem better.
What people call "iteration".

Meeting with others is a good way to discover why your solution sucks.

Staying quiet in solitude with the mind wandering, is a good way to generate new ideas. [1]

Brainstorming kinda does these in reverse, trying to generate ideas in the high pressure confusion of external stimulus,
and then people go off on their own to wonder why the whole thing sucked so badly.

[1] Under the shower if you're most people, but also drinking ale if you're Inspector Morse, playing your violin if you're Sherlock Holmes, and so on.

Comment Re:Reminds me of a conversation with a colleague (Score 1) 278

Penniless student protesters don't make a democracy. Monied interests make a democracy (or a cleptocracy, depending on your political view). The "peaceful-west" is an illusion, in the west there are major geopolitical conflicts that have involved the west all throughout the short history of democracy, it is simply that they have not recently touched our shores because of our economic/military might. Strength (economic and military) keeps the relative peace, democracy simply allows the tribal factions a temporary pressure outlet. Without the economic might to drown the dissent, democracy simply isn't enough of a pressure relief. You can't give a country an economy (or democracy), they need to learn to fish...

Yes, and, well, there's two aspects, the economic material conditions, and the inner ethics and attitudes of people. And the two develop hand in hand, where advances in one allow advances in the other and vice versa.

So you can't build a modern economy on tribalism, but crucially, once you do have a modern economy, that tends to water down any serious tribalism.

This is more or less same as what you're saying, just that, there's a subtle difference. In a modern society, people don't feel tribal, and so they don't mind which "tribe" wins the election. (Lots of caveats to add to this in a moment.) Yes, Republicans and Democrats are very tribal, but at the end of the day, the people accept the winner, and by accept I mean, they don't start a civil war when the other side wins.

But in a truly tribal society (excuse allusions to no true Scotsman) there can be no democracy because no tribe will accept being led by a figurehead from another tribe. And that is partly what happened to Lebanon. They tried to keep the power balanced between the various different ethnic groups, but because it was all based on trying to keep balance between groups, the thing eventually fell apart at the first insult. Literally it became civil war.

Whereas, in the West, things are less tribal, ie. despite all the identity politics, we are not breaking out into civil wars after each election. And that's the sense in which I mean, "more peaceful". People are just not going to start forming militias just because their own group lost this or that.

Maybe because there is no power vacuum, as a modern nation distributes power around various institutions and elites and classes. Maybe because people just don't want to fight, as they have cultural memory of world wars. But basically, people are more "peaceful". I guess it all goes hand in hand.

But yes, our peace is largely also part and parcel of bombing various places around the world.

Comment Re:Reminds me of a conversation with a colleague (Score 4, Insightful) 278

I don't think most people really understand why the West is (more or less) organised, developed, peaceful, democratic (more or less).

And I wish there was a simple answer. But the list of factors just keeps growing. There are many lands in the world where nation states just will not start up, no matter how much aid is given nor ordinance be dropped.

A major factor is the tribal nature of societies, which don't transition well into nationhood because its government institutions become tribal, nepotistic, and so simply raise resentment amongst the youth who are not well connected. Look at the global corruption index for a measure of why having fair, open, meritocratic, institutions are essential for countries to "work". And how do you make an institution meritocratic and fair if everyone you hire is tribalistic and used to the tribal loyalty and connections way of doing business?

Then, that's just one factor. And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying tribes are bad. They have been humanity's answer to social order for 50,000 years or more. It ain't going anywhere anytime soon.

A place like the UK started to rewrite the social rules starting with the Magna Carta 800 years ago. It has had time to work its way into the institutions.

Then, on top of that, you have a regional war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. They run proxy wars though all sorts of groups, in a region where population growth and failed modernity has provided a lot of young unemployed men who love the idea of brotherhood and so readily form militias and want to kick ass. All that weaponry funding is coming from somewhere, namely the Saudis and Iranians and in turn, their Western allies and their Russian and Chinese allies.

And that's just for starters, before we even get to the 100 shades of Islam and the authoritarian nature of that religion which on the one hand, makes people want to have a peaceful, ordered, highly moral life, yet on the other hand, is quite uncompromising and has a retro-revival ethos going, making it highly puritanical, and is being actively weaponised by various political and religious leaders.

And that's before we even get into more complex factors.

So basically, no, just repatriating migrants and getting tough with regimes isn't going to get very far.

Comment Re:Similar (Score 1) 211

Climate science is "systems science". It is very much a hard science; however, there'll always be uncertainties for political ideologues to talk up. We've got about a 10% of creating a disaster, and no second planet earth yo move to, and that alone means we should be talking about appropriate actions, and not *if* there's a problem. It's very easy for the oil industry to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt over the science, which is just a tried and true political game. The scientists themselves will not (by and large) explain what to do -- that's not their expertise -- but they are convinced that there is a problem, and their reasons are clearly explained. has a summary of "skeptic arguments" and what scientists say. You can always read the peer reviewed literature yourself. But somehow I think you'll just retreat back to your blog and news sites, which give you the information you want to believe.

Look, I am sure you won't like this or agree, but as a human being, I can only say it as best as I have come to see it, and from trying to follow this issue over the last 15 years or so, there's a couple of things I see quite clearly, albeit, had I not read the stuff I read, I would not see it this way, but for what it is worth, as reasoned debate here's a couple of key points:

All of us are part of one sub culture or another and we all make value judgements. The environmental movement is a values driven culture, and is broadly about human's place in the ecosystem, which is a values judgement which says that humanity is one species on the planet. That particular values judgement downplays the role of human, seeing human as just another species. That's kinda the deep ecology view. Now there's variations on that, as not everyone goes that far, but that is an example of values judgements. That humans are less valuable than forests.

Now your values judgements may or may not line up with that. That's not my point. My point is that you are making values judgements, one sort or another, as for example, all the people who say we must act, and then pick solutions which are base do the belief that humans are essentially selfish and consume too much and don't know how to live in balance.

People who say that would not, for example, say that a human is a part of nature, created by nature, and that a human is merely living out their natural competition and drive in evolutionary natural selection to become the dominant species and transform as much raw material as possible into survival advantage, and that therefore the answer to running out of resources is to go to space and mine asteroids, because that's what nature does, expand and propagate life as fas as possible.

Can you see the implied values judgements in saying that humans should cut back on consumption? Now I'm not saying that's a wrong judgment, but it is a judgment, ie. ethics and not facts, it is a human ethical judgement, and only then do people decide what we "must" do to combat climate change. Instead, people who don't have this judgment about selfishness will more normally go for the "adapt" with "new technology" ideas, rather than the "reduce" and "consume less" ideas.

Climate change as an issue about solutions is all about values judgements. And that's why oil companies as symbols of big bad polluting uncaring capitalism are seen as the only ones driving the politics, whereas the good guys like wind are seen as just doing the right thing based on the facts.

Yet, we use lots of energy so any solution will be a big solution, and wind farms are not little friendly wind mills, they are billion dollar installations, and before long they'll be trillion dollars' worth of installations, and that by definition is big energy, and I find it hard to believe that those big companies don't have vested interests in promoting the idea of man made climate change and decarbonisation.

And nuclear has a vested interest too. Now we may say they are "clean" but they will have vested interests in driving the climate change narrative. It is a very simple point. Even that ultra right wing "bitch" Margaret Thatcher took to talking about decarbonisation as a way to break the coal unions back in the 70s. But these days, because "decarbonisation" is morally linked with "less greed", activists overlook the vested interests of the big alternative energy companies, companies which are looking to receive billions, in wind, gas, and nuclear.

Second point, by "soft" I mean it is hard to prove. There are some fields now where they asking whether the work is actually science or more like philosophy.
Why? Because when it strays from hard testability then you wonder whether it is just an elegant sounding philosophy.

The whole "we have to act" mantra largely covers over this flaw, that climate models inside computers are NOT experiments, they never were experiments, and they never will be experiments, but they get called "experiments". That alone, just for starters, should tell you something is slipping in the standards and reasoning. And there is a historical precedent for this kind of slip.

Back in the 50s and 60s there was the idea that eating fat caused heart disease. There was also the idea that sugar was the real culprit. And the experts at the time knew the evidence was not conclusive. But they said, "gee the health of the nation is at stake and we must do something to provide the public with urgently needed guidance to stem this epidemic of heart disease, so we cannot afford to wait for 'certainty', we have to act!" and so they did and here's the real problem: they got it wrong, and actually drove people to eating the very foods which DID give them worse health.

It went from what was a somewhat worrying heart disease problem, into a vastly worse epidemic of diabetes and obesity, which is so bad it may ruin the health systems of some nations, as they struggle to cope with it.

See, there is no "safe" answer around climate change. Whatever you say we "must" do will have consequences. And there is no shortcut to the truth. You either do the science properly (such as for example not calling computer models "experiments" and treating them as validated when they are not) or you simply say, "well, we don't know, we just don't know." and then saying, well, given WE DON'T KNOW, how should we as a society deal with that uncertainty? Um... make backups of key infrastructure for example?

Become better able to adapt to CHANGE, whatever it might be? See, that's a very different set of answers to "we are greedy humans and we must consume less".

So, to stop this getting too long I left a lot of stuff out, but that's really two key points: all sides in this are making values judgments; and there are no shortcuts in science, it is better to say we don't know (because if you stop calling people denialists and actually start to look, you can see it isn't known, and this is not the first time major scientific bodies all rallied behind a theory which was lacking real evidence). Then we can start to look at rapid climate change (warming, cooling, rain bands moving, desertification, re-greening of the planet, etc and whatever) and design ways to protect infrastructure and systems.

And by all means let people continue to champion for a less materialistic, more connected, more humanistic, more united planet, but do so for ethical reasons.

Don't bother trying to shoehorn an ethics into a science theory. Because then the science theory is never allowed to be wrong because it "invalidates" the ethics, which is stupid, as ethics is its own justification, as a real area of human inquiry. Be nice to your neighbour, not because of climate change, but because that is ethically a rational thing to do for a better world and for everyone.

This is why you have the political polarisation in climate change, because it is really both sides turning a science hypothesis into their own "moral" drive. Same happens with abortion/creationism/etc. And it is quite stupid and unnecessary to mix ethics and science so neither can do its job properly.

So I apologise that's a long post but without context I'm more likely to be brandished one of those alt-right denier troll types.

Comment Re:Similar (Score 1, Troll) 211

Um, the point is, dare I say this, that there's very hard science and there's soft science. There's findings which are highly testable, repeatedly, and there's findings which are verging on the non-reproduceable. And whilst science tends to self-correct, sometimes, just sometimes, it can take decades for that self-correction to take place, simply because as you say, it is impossible to remove any bias and error all the time, yet science as a practice must go on.

We are just now, for example, a big example, witnessing a 100% reversal in the thinking behind dietary advice which was the basis for public health advice for the last 50 years. It seems it was soo wrong, that it actually created the epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and maybe even dementia. But this correction is ongoing, and we'll probably need another 50 years to know whether this correction is actually correct.

And it was all science. Albeit, given the limitations of what you can do to people in a lab, it was all soft science, but despite it being soft, the authorities and people in charge still pushed it as pretty definitive and correct. See, that's risk.

Put aside all the politics and questions of morality and ethics and whether humans are too stupid to do the right thing, there is always risk that the big theory is wrong, dead wrong, and that it will have consequences. And when you look at what things like, "97% of scientists are in consensus" are actually based on, you can see it is being oversold, for the sake of "saving the planet".

We cannot, well some people do, rule out the bias of "expert bias". It happens. We know it happens, from time to time. Especially when there is apparent consensus. I used to believe global warming 100% and assume it was all correct, because I normally trust science, but then started to wonder why people were touting consensus and virtual certainty.

Science, the one thing is needs to be in practice, is self-correcting, but once people declare consensus and virtual certainty, we can no longer know whether it can be trusted because that one thing, self-correction, it being open to question by anybody, "on the word of no-one", as the motto used to go, goes out the window.

It cannot self-correct if any dissenting scientists gets lambasted as deniers.
It may be right it may be wrong. Wait another 100 years to find out.

Act in the meantime as you see fit. May the consequences be on your head.

Comment Re:Keep passwords away from web browser integratio (Score 1) 126

I am surprised that anyone serious about security would ever install a web browser password plugin for their password management software. It seems logical that it is just a bug away from password compromise.

Oh I agree. I think people have been recommending password managers despite the, "all your eggs in one internet connected basket" thing.

Unfortunately there aren't many options. All I can think of is an air-gapped encrypted tablet whose sole purpose is to keep passwords. And then physically typing them.

Which makes the bunch of random words the much more attractive way; easy to read and type.

Comment Re:Morons are running the USA (Score 1) 649

We are 20 fucking trillion dollars in debt.

What the fuck so you want?

The US budget isn't like your household budget. First of all, the federal debt is in dollars and not, say, euros. Do you know where dollars come from? The Federal government is the only source of dollars in the world. The dollar is a fiat currency. The Fed can, and does, create billions of dollars with the stroke of a keyboard. So, imagine that, whenever you were short of money, you could put some in your checking account by typing a number in your computer. Then, your budget would be like the Federal budget.

The long and short of it is, the Federal debt isn't really a big deal. The Right likes to harp on it because it's another way to attack "Big Government", one of their bogeymen. Why? Because it's the Federal government which creates the consumer protections big business hates, a.k.a., regulations.
Does the Right really not understand how the economy works? Do they really think giving money to rich people will somehow spur growth, even though we've known for decades that it's quite the opposite? Do they really not understand how a fiat currency works? Are they unable to see that decades of right-wing economics have made the rich richer, and the poor poorer? Or do they just not care as long as they get their way? Clearly the working people voting them in don't get it.

But the trouble is that there is so much fake money piling up.

People want growth, but real growth, not fake growth.

There has been a break between real value (what money should be) and fake value (printing paper, financial derivatives, housing bubbles, etc.)

The system has been grossly corrupted. It is arguably a worse problem than whether some people are more rich, on paper, than other people, when most of the "rich" is indeterminate paper crap.

The fact that it isn't "real" debt is very much part of the problem of why so many people are becoming poorer.

The players all got far too clever and fooled themselves into thinking they were creating real value.

Comment Re:Elon Musk, Tesla, and Robotics (Score 1) 297

Humans will be involved only in maintaining the robots, and not in the actual assembly process, since they slow the entire process down to "human speed".

As long as the robot still needs someone to bring it its alcohol (if it's Bender) then I'm sure we humans can find a job.

Now I just need someone to bring me my caffeine so I can stay awake 24/7.

Anyone managed to train a dog barrista?

Comment Re:The real problem is ISALM (Score 2) 289

This is the big issue, and whilst the monotheistic abrahamic religions are all basically the same, they are also somewhat different. And a big debate is whether those differences matter or not. Some people, Moslem Islamic academics, argue that it is not reformable the way Christianity was. Some argue that the natural progress of authoritarian to modern is a natural developmental process which will unfold for all societies sooner or later.

Of course, a bigoted view will simply paint all with the same brush. The debate for modern liberals though, is more about, how do you estimate how many percent of the hundreds of millions or billions, will tend over the decades, towards a reformed Islam? I don't think anyone can answer that.

There are arguments that, Jesus did something very strange (if he existed), namely, he inserted the idea of personal freedom into what would otherwise be an authoritarian and dogmatic imperialistic religion. He was Buddha for the West. And that kernel eventually helped the empire (Christianity) fall. Whereas other branches of the monotheistic belief didn't have that. There's the argument that Islam is "wholistic" ie. covers everything and hasn't had the necessary separation of church and state which Europe discovered was necessary after decades of wars. There's also the argument that the obsession with purity is part of a "all or nothing" view in Islam which is uncompromising, totalitarian, and without compromise, there can be no modern culture or model. (Moslems themselves write books stating this). Plus Jesus was never a tribal warrior. So many argue that there are differences and they do matter. But those are all opinions.

I think life goes on and I'm a big believer in change being chaotic and unexpected, so regardless of how many reasons there are for why "Islam is different", I figure it'll change as everything changes, in an evolutionary way.

Comment Re:The real problem (Score 1) 289

Yes, and this goes to the question of what makes a modern state. It isn't just ballot boxes. Nor is it a complete absence of tribalistic-minded people.

Every nation has those, because the tribal mindset is a stage everyone goes through at age 8 onwards... and many stay there. So there's always a tribal tendency in society.

What really makes a modern state is probably in the character of its institutions. Like the famous Yes Minister where politicians simply come and go, whilst the real control and continuity is in the civil service.

And in turn, do the people in those institutions retain a sense of resisting corruption. For all its faults, there is a huge contrast between the USA where everyone seems to be clear and hold dear the notion of free gun ownership as a civil right, compared to the "state" of Turkey where Erdogan somehow managed to fire thousands and thousands of people on the spot from their jobs in various institutions, just because he perceived them to possibly have links to his opponents.

I mean who wakes up in the morning and says, hey today I'm going to totally change the character of all the nation's important institutions, and people go along with it?? Of course, Turkey is sitting next to a war zone, and Saddam was praised for at least retaining control, so perhaps this is just Turkey returning to a level which it is more comfortable at. And authoritarianism is a stage that most societies have gone through or are going through. It isn't bad as such. It is what can be managed.

In any case, any pretence of it being similar to Europe is over.

Comment Re: FRost (Score 1) 632

The problem here is people going along with the flow and stampeding into fields which are either fashionable at the time, or else subject to big public messages around skills shortages.


There's no hard and fast secret to avoiding finding yourself in a similar situation, but as a general rule, keeping your skills sufficiently flexible to allow for a bit of direction-change and doing what you can to avoid lemming-rushes will generally help manage your risks.

With ageing population, globalisation, automation, growing debts, etc. the common factor is change, and as has been pointed out decades ago, whilst corporations can move across continents, adapting to change, people are social creatures and do not easily move. So whilst there is truth to "on your bike" to find a job, the logical conclusion of that is that everyone a) act as an individual, and b) not get married, and c) become citizen of every country.

But that's just the start. The old "bureaucratic" model of education (that you go to the building where the desks are with all the smart learned people) is falling, as it is also a model that's too "social" to adapt to rapid change. Universities, wonderful as they are, have to perpetuate their own reason for existing, they have their own culture, and they went with this notion that everyone should go to university.

In the globalised chaotic world, that's not really tenable anymore. Everyone does have to learn, but what they learn has to change according to circumstance and opportunities. People are starting to talk about needing three different careers in one lifetime. There's no way you can just stop for 4 years and go take a new degree style course, not for most people, if that model is based on young people with few or no dependants or attachments.

The model has to change. I think people will simply start incorporating learning as part of working, and the old bureaucratic model will cut back to certain specialties. In the old days, most things were apprenticeships. Before bureaucracies and factories, people learnt by doing. Somehow we need to reincorporate that model even though now is a time when many jobs are more about knowledge. But the alternative is the bleak social disaster towns which are left in the wake of the big companies which got up and left.

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