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Comment It is code; the clue is in the name. (Score 2) 158

I program by writing in text files too, but that's just important for interoperability with other tools, it's not the definition of coding. Everyone knows that our CPUs don't execute ASCII, right? If it's Turing-complete, then it can be interpreted or compiled (i.e. "decoded") to do anything you want to execute.

Comment To "make it's own calculations" is impossible? (Score 1) 417

I ask, as my computer churns away deleting the millions of temp files that a buggy printer subsystem created.

Stupid software must have been doing what its programmer told it to do instead of doing what its programmer intended it to do. Is the alternative, perfectly bug-free software, almost here yet? If not, then it's not silly to worry about what happens when software has write access not only to /tmp but to the rest of the universe as well.

Comment Re:programming (Score 1) 417

"Self-interest" is an instrumental goal toward any terminal goal whatsoever, because "I want X" implies "I want to help with X" for any goal set X the AI can positively affect, and "I want to help with X" entails "I want to exist". You can avoid this by creating software which isn't smart enough to independently identify such obvious subgoals, but then calling the result "AI" is a bit of a stretch.

Comment Re:That's a garbage lawsuit (Score 2) 286

What you're describing is what TV sets already do to display interlaced video. The reason why "1080p!" is an advertising point is because 1080i, even after interpolation, is inferior; that's why they weren't using that less-deceptive description to begin with.

I mean if you don't like the product you can return it.

If they don't like being sued for fraud they can stop committing fraud.

Comment Did we check for confounding variables? (Score 1) 187

Or is there really nothing other than CO2 levels which correlates strongly with the use of portable classrooms and with absenteeism? Perhaps low socioeconomic status has nothing to do with which school districts have more trouble affording permanent buildings? Perhaps higher numbers of children per family are unrelated to which schools are overcrowded?

It's hard to tell, when the bibliography consists of "studies show".

What's sad is that this is still better-than-average science and science reporting. We got an actual transcript, and the correlation seems to be at least a step above the "people who wear parachutes are more likely to die in skydiving accidents!" level which is so good at grabbing headlines.

Comment If A is evidence, then ~A is contrary evidence (Score 3, Interesting) 279

Had the Guardian not complied, I suppose David Cameron's response would have been "I thought they were guilty, but when they refused to voluntarily cooperate with my national security adviser and cabinet secretary, I started to reconsider."

No? But if not, then he is just trying to rationalize some "damned if you do, damned if you don't" nonsense.

Comment The carriers are trying to scare Google (Score 4, Interesting) 163

Seriously, what else could *possibly* motivate AT&T to announce "Austin" rather than one of the hundred other similar markets they could be moving into? Are they looking forward to making half as much revenue as they would if they entered a city with no gigabit competition? Are they proud that they'll be increasing the maximum speed available to Austinites by 0% rather than increasing the maximum speed available in another city by 9900%?

Of course not. They're showing Google, "moving in on our turf won't be profitable, because we'll try to undercut you every time you make a move, so you might as well give up and leave us with our oligopoly."

It'll be fascinating to see what Google's response (both in terms of words and actions) will be. Does "don't be evil" include "don't concede to evil"?

Comment It doesn't matter if NK or Iran follow suit (Score 1) 615

The USA and USSR didn't build tens of thousands of nuclear warhead because we needed to be able to "destroy the world ten times over" or whatever the pro-disarmament phrase was; we built that many weapons so that even if 99% of them were destroyed in a massive surprise first strike, the remainder would be able to destroy the first striker just once. The threat of retaliation then outweighs any incentives for anyone to commit a first strike.

But none of that applies to threats from NK or Iran. They have neither the technology nor the economies to hit a thousand hardened silos in a massive surprise first strike, and they're not going to be able to change that without decades of obvious development, so even a couple hundred warheads is still more than enough to pave over either country with glowing green glass. The problem with proliferation is a different one: when a nuke in a random incoming shipping container destroys some major harbor city, how do we even know whom to retaliate against?

Comment Re:People don't understand Simpson's Paradox (Score 1) 1063

The report is full of claims which completely neglect all those factors. Do you need direct quotes?

My "blase comparison" is a more apples-to-apples version of a less precise and therefore more misleading claim made in the news article. Is your disdain towards their distortion even a fraction of your disdain towards my correction?

Comment People don't understand Simpson's Paradox (Score 1) 1063

Japan's life expectancy in 2010 was 82.9 years, according to the World Bank. In 2006 it was a little lower.

Japanese-American's life expectancy in 2006 was 84.5 years, according to HHS quoting the NIH.

Everybody discussing this issue without taking confounding factors like Simpson's paradox into account should basically be ignored, if you have no chance to respond to them. If you do have a chance to respond to them, then try pointing out facts like the above and seeing if the conversation turns from trying to explain how "the U.S. health disadvantage is pervasive" to trying to explain the opposite. If it doesn't, then you know that their original "explanations" were generated from bias rather than from evidence.

Comment What predictions become self-fulfilling? (Score 2) 130

Systems don't generally exist in locally-unstable equilbria, because if perturbations generate their own positive feedback and if the system isn't carefully protected from even the slightest perturbation, then it will have already left the unstable equilibrium.

So, although it sounds cynically wise to claim that "people want to vote for whoever they think will win the vote", any such effect must not be very strong. The first partisan victory would have tilted the scales toward a partisan landslide which would have set up a partisan shut-out, and we'd shortly be laughing about "second-party voters who throw their votes away" the way we talk about "third-party voters" (where plurality counting really *does* create such positive feedback) today.

Comment Anybody here encrypt their email? (Score 1) 228

A decade or so ago, we finally admitted that the encryption cat was out of the bag, US rules loosened, and web browsers stopped coming in "128-bit encryption that you can't export" versus "56-bit encryption that the FBI or the teenager down the street can crack" varieties.

At the time, many people were cynical enough to speculate that this new "we won't worry about bad people using encryption" policy meant that NSA mathematicians had discovered algorithms for cracking our strongest ciphers.

Yet I don't recall anyone being so cynical as to realize the truth: we don't worry about bad people using encryption because (most) ecommerce vendors are the only ones not too lazy to use encryption. You'd think that a four-star general trying to hide an affair would at least try out PGP...

Comment Re:Actually, (Score 1) 74

I also tried this; Nautilus displayed the filename as expected, however the statusbar text read:

"SexyL(etyb 1) detceles "exe.jpg

Which was meant to look like this:

"SexyLgpj.exe" selected (1 byte)

Except that the whole thing got confused by the RTL marker. Also, when displayed by ls, it would only work if it happened to appear in the rightmost column, because any other filenames printed to the right of it get similarly corrupted. In my case it happened to say 'SexyLenO utnubU exe.jpg" (and the reversed 'Ubuntu One' folder was displayed in a different color because I have ls colors turned on). So it's pretty obvious either way that something fishy is going on, thankfully.

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