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Comment O Captain! My Captain! (Score 1) 1521

Thank you for all the hard work in hosting this little club over the years. I can't begin to tell you how much this site has meant to me through its glory years (and to the loweruid-alias-me I misplaced somewhere along the way). I've discovered more nooks and crannies of the Internet because of this site than I can count. Back in the day, it saved my job more than once with something I learned or was forewarned about here.

I wish I could dream up some proper tribute to say farewell with ... some little wave across the 'net. You were (are) one of the great pioneers of the web and the world is a better place for what you did here.

Comment Distribution of the trail (Score 2) 137

At what point do we start to see a picture of the small/cold tail of size distributions? One of the questions that interests me greatly is the frequency of rogue planets in the interstellar medium. If you could see a curve of brown dwarf sizes (weighted by the difficulty of detecting them), it would be fun to just naively extend the graph and see how common gas-giant sized objects would be relative to detectable stars.

Comment Since the CBC moderators won't accept my comment (Score 4, Insightful) 405

The key metric in the credibility of an electoral system is what is the maximum amount of fraud that can be committed with a small number of people. The paper ballot system is a remarkable piece of engineering when you stop and think about it: you have to be physically present to vote and the physical ballot is accounted for at all times, making ballot stuffing difficult to pull off on a large scale by a small number of people. The observation and counting of votes is distributed, likewise limiting the scope of an fraud.

In any electronic system, the vote moves through countless devices that could be corrupted internally or externally. Any attempt to identify fraud using statistical deviation from polling numbers now trusts the pollsters (whose numbers were wildly skewed in the final days of the last election) as much as the actual vote.

In any centralized counting system, is going to be IT team that the nation has to have absolute trust in: their intregrity, their flawless execution and their ability to detect any tampering.

Note that tampering not only covers changing the results and ballot stuffing, but also removing the veil of annonymity. In an increasingly polarized environment, being flagged in party's database as an enemy voter could easily come to affect how your career prospects in government and how you are treated by a beaurocracy

Finally, its not enough that the election is not tampered with, it needs to be provably tamper-free. It's not enough for the chief electoral officer to be satisfied with the results, the public needs to be confident that for systematic tampering to have occurred that it required a conspiracy too large to realisticly remain secret.

Comment The politics matter (Score 1) 1040

I would argue that the mere fact that the threat of a default was bargaining chip on the table makes a downgrade justified.

Either the last month was all empty rhetoric or it wasn't. The fact that the threat of forcing a default elicited significant concessions proves that it was considered a legitimate risk and therefore, a downgrade makes sense.

Comment Memories of Predictions Past (Score 1) 169

I didn't discover the web until 94 but I have fond memories of going to yahoo and skiimming through all the new websites on the Internet each week.

When I look back at my predictions from those early years, I was right about predicting the emergence of services like ebay, wikipedia, online newspapers and how the web would eventually supplant tv as the number one medium for wasting time.

I imaged social networking would be a bit like slashdot but that everyone would have their own personal webservers and that discussions would unfold as flat files. I imagined there would be tools that aggregated all the homepage discussions of your friends into threads of a single feed of "what's new and hot" and that you wouldn't care so much about modding comments up or down because it was all happening within smaller communities and if you didn't like a thread, you'd just drop it from your feed.

I was mostly wrong about universities (I thought that they would eventually become completely redundant with the web but they actually seem to be enduring more intact and unchanged than any other part of society). I was also worried that the decline of mass media in favour of user-to-user communication and hiveminds would mean an explosion of new relgions and religious-type thinking, but even though hiveminds are a problem on the web, they aren't as much of a problem as I had expected.

I also expected that there would be a lot more sentimental/poetic websites - I imagined a web of maps of the world would emerge, marked up with layers of memories, comments about why people found certain locations, virtual graffiti or game-like systems using real maps. Sort of a google maps / geocaching mix

Comment Re:Not so much that they are weak (Score 1) 185

I think there's another potential actor to consider: large scale organized crime. Investment houses routinely profit off of talking up and down stocks in ethically questionable ways. Small scale organized crime may manipulate a company with a few threats to employees or infrastructure. What if the two combine and the threat of copying/corrupting key corporate databases become a vulnerable spot by which megacorps can be manipulated by criminals safely sitting in a sanctuary country but using the same general tactics as a shakedown of a corner store?

Comment Governments are acting, just ineffectively. (Score 1) 185

National governments send in non-technical spokespeople from their security agencies to talk to company IT departments, giving general ominous warnings along with cryptic and non-specific hints ... essentially the same things you would see on the evening news. Then the IT people go back to their desks and see that in the elapsed hour a new batch of tickets has arrived about failed servers, a meeting invite to discss the state of an overdue project and a voicemail from a manager suggesting a better shade of orange for the spreadsheets to be coded in.

Comment Re:Endless growth is impossible (Score 2) 482

Even in a near-steady state, there are pockets that expand and displace their surroundings at an exponential rate. Within the ecology of the planet, humanity itself is an example of this.

One possible "steady state" economy may be a continuous froth of bubbles - pockets of exponential growth draining money from the rest of the economy. Seen through the eyes of those riding the bubbles, it would look little different than our exponentially growing economy, you just have a much larger percentage of the population of the edges of society dropping off into the gutter during crashes.

As we get closer to the limit of *global* economic growth, is there really any point at which we shouldn't still reward *local* economic growth? Do the merits and flaws of different economy systems really change depending on whether or not you are playing a zero-sum game?

Comment Space is not an answer (Score 1) 482

Space increases as r^3 (give or take a little gravitational bending) and the speed of light limits the rate at which the radius of inhabited space can grow. Any process that depends on exponential growth to maintain stability will quickly overwhelm our ability to expand outwards. At best we buy ourselves a couple more millenia - a blip in cosmic timescales.

Comment Re:logical (Score 1) 230

Something that deserves more study is the question of why a large monolithic company can outcompete an ecosystem of smaller units in the first place. The existance of large companies seems to contradict all the theory of how a free market is supposed to efficiently self-organize and motivate people.

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