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Comment Predictions Revisions (Score 1) 174


You have historically made a series of predictions (with impressive fidelity) about technological progress in your past writings.

Are there areas where we seem to be missing the mark, where you've maybe been disappointed by unforeseen practical hurdles or just the stubborn rate of progress? In contrast, where do we appear to be ahead of schedule?

Thanks for what you do.

Comment Re:i haven't bought a car in a while... (Score 1) 252

I've always parked just fine, just like you.

Tomorrow, a bunch of people who always parked just fine, passed a driving test and everything, will be in a hurry / angry / distracted / whatever, make a bad call, and scrape the side of a vehicle.

I'd rather everyone just push a button and that never happen.

Comment Re:WMDs? Chemical weapons? Wait, what? (Score 2) 376

> Anyone who defines chemical weapons as "WMDs" is doing it wrong. Very wrong.

You mean like the Archbishop who coined the phrase in 1937, in reference to Italian chemical weapon attacks the previous year?

More seriously though, one of the reasons they stay included in contemporary definitions is that chemicals can destroy environments or, in some cases, make large areas considered hazardous for long periods of time. Maybe "weapons of mass rendering unsafe with obnoxious cleanup requirements" would be technically more accurate, but WMD rolls a little faster off the tongue.

Comment Re:A full list of possibilities... (Score 1) 686

> I present the full list of possible answers

Not included in that list and thought up in five minutes:

(Assuming first contact unlikely when only one civilization at our current level of development or earlier is trying, and intergalactic communication is too expensive to bother with at all.)

"We're not one of the cool kids"

1. First contact seems exciting before you do it, but is actually just really boring/dangerous/confusing in hindsight.
2. Our most likely first contact partners are in the more dense area of the galaxy.
3. Their best first contact partners (our rivals) are most likely in that same or an even more dense area of the galaxy.
4. Everyone else in the galaxy meets up with someone else first, and after that loses interest, and doesn't try to contact and and just ignores us.

Alternate, related "Bumpkins last":

1. Galactic civilizations are likely to focus searches for other civilizations towards the galactic center (because that's where the greater densities of stars are, so you get more results per area of sky searched, or due to some yet to be discovered reason causing greater expected payoffs there).
2. Other civilizations are likely to be closer to the center of the galaxy than us (because that's where more stars are).
3. Ergo, other civilization(s) are most likely looking and broadcasting "hello worlds!" messages away from our tiny backwater, towards the galactic (urban?) core. (Or at their plentiful urban core neighbors if they're in the posh neighborhood.)

These are related to some of the ideas on the wiki, but they are still distinct. (See "Matroishka brain" for another "Eh, not worth the effort," explanation.) These two probably aren't very cool or likely, but I would contend that they meet the stated criteria of "not on that list" and "thought up in a few minutes."

I hereby demand my honorary diploma in Fermi bullshitting!

(Seriously though, I agree, some people need to check wikipedia before filling up this thread.)

Comment Alternate Titles (Score 1) 145

IGN Parent NewsCorp May Face Corruption Investigation.
Hulu co-owner NewsCorp...
WSJ Parent NewsCorp...
(Any of nearly 100 papers in Australia) Owner NewsCorp...
Dow Jones Parent NewsCorp...
Harper Collins Parent NewsCorp...
National Rugby League Owner NewsCorp...

I don't want to sound like I'm giving a pass to Fox News. But Fox News isn't bad because of what NewsCorp does, Fox News is bad because their content is shitty.
(This subtle distinction allows us to say, for example, that the WSJ, however shitty it is, is LESS shitty than Fox News.)

Also, if you start thinking of NewsCorp as just "that Fox owner," then you're obscuring the terrifying and nigh unfathomable scale of the organization. NewsCorp is like Cthulhu, tentacles in everything, while Fox News is just one homicidal cultist.

Comment Numbers (Score 1) 349

If they are getting an extra $6 per month from the 12 M subscribers who do streaming + DVDs, that's $72M.

Losing 1M subscribers (it's from the DVD only and Streaming only categories) is a loss of $8M.

4/5 of the lost customers were from the DVD only side, the more expensive business they are trying to sideline.

I don't want them to go streaming only. Netflix killed the mom and pop video store in my town that carried a giant library of obscure films for 20 years. Netflix streams a tiny percentage of the movies on my 'to see' list.

But I don't think is a good way to persuade them to reverse course.

Comment Yeah, or worse, they could be Economists... (Score 1) 821

A number of positions held by Economists are rejected out of hand by most outside the discipline.

Free trade is beneficial on net. Price floors cause shortages (and the minimum wage is a type of price floor). Bangladesh has as much to fear from rising energy prices as from rising sea waters.

Please argue with any of these (intentionally provocative) positions, so as to illustrate my main point: there are plenty of experts you disagree with too.

(Yeah, but those experts are WRONG!)

Says you. We all pick and choose.

Comment Debates about Fair Use... (Score 1) 169

This case raises two really interesting undecided questions in fair use which I've heard batted around.


Some friends of mine who are media law defense attorneys always insist that Fair Use is not a "defense," because the phrasing surrounding fair use is always "a fair use IS NOT infringement" rather than the typical language of affirmative defenses, which would say, "an infringement is PERMITTED(/not actionable/shall not result in damages) given fair use." This means that it is the plaintiff's obligation to establish the use was not fair as a very element of the underlying claim. In turn, a judge can independently find this element lacking and deny a copyright claim without the defense ever being raised.

The media law Plaintiff's attorneys I know all disagree, of course, citing common practice, and the fact no judge would actually do that. Well, here we are. And the underlying theory that "fair use is not a defense", while a bit unorthodox, seems to bear at least basic textual scrutiny. I'm not saying it's decided, but there's a prima facie case to be made. I never thought it would be put to the test, but hopefully we get an appeal on this and a judge up the chain explicitly says, "Yes, judges can do this, because a fair use is never an infringement," or "No, this must be raised as a defense."


Some* have noted that the common law fair use considerations are clearly not meant as an exhaustive list in Folsom v. Marsh. As codified in the statute, it appears like an exhaustive list, but the existence of 17 USC 107 does not preclude the possibility of a common law principle which reaches even farther in categorizing some uses as fair. 17 USC 107 does not explicitly preempt the further development of Folsom v. Marsh. In other words, the judge could find that any use by a non-profit organization is fair, on some completely novel grounds, like non-profits promote the public good so we will give them a pass. (I don't think such a broad ruling is likely, I'm just illustrating how a new type of fair use could be created.)

*Specifically, I'm lifting this from some comments Fred von Lohmann made in Kansas City a few years back. Apologies if I misrepresented his position. Also note that I'm not even sure he's committed to this, he may have just been tossing it out as an interesting idea.

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The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.