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Comment So what if only a minority find it useful? (Score 2) 168

IMDb's message boards are no longer providing a positive, useful experience for the vast majority of our more than 250 million monthly users worldwide,"

So what if only a minority find it useful? Turning off functionality that works, and took a fair amount of resources to create, is a waste and a shame.

You know how pedestrian crosswalk signals make a beeping sound for the benefit of the visually impaired? It's a very small minority that finds that useful. By IMDB's logic, that feature should be shut down.

Comment Correcting some fake news (Score 1) 502

Trump has kicked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence off the National Security Council and installed Steve Bannon in their place.

Wrong. CJCS and DNI will no longer attend all meetings of the Principals Committee, which is a subset of the full National Security Council, but
- they will sit on the Principals Committee when matters pertaining to them arise
- they are still members of the NSC.

Comment A car analogy (well, a fuel analogy) (Score 1) 290

Gas prices here in Colorado vary greatly depending on whether you're buying in an elite resort community (Aspen, currently $3.24 / gallon) or a working-class community (Longmont, $1.99 / gallon). There's nothing wrong with that, as long as people are free to fill a couple 5-gallon cans in Longmont and haul them up I-70 to Aspen. I.e., as long as there are no restrictions (other than your own convenience) on your ability to circumvent regional pricing. In the software world, that means no regional DRM.

And unlike the time and effort it takes to haul around a heavy physical commodity like gasoline, a software installer can be instantly downloaded from anywhere in the world. So one might think that a regional pricing scheme (without regional DRM) would be doomed to fail. However, there are convenience issues: the online app store might not be in your language of choice, and it may not sell the software localized in your language of choice. So there's a few ways a seller could exploit regional differences. They should be free to do so, as long as they aren't imposing regional DRM.

Comment Re:instrumentally homogeneous temperature records (Score 1) 502

the attitude of omniscience about a complex topic that nobody actually understands

There's one environmental scientist who has shown some humility in this regard:
"The problem is we don't know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books -- mine included -- because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn't happened." - James Lovelock

If we are right, human life will confront existential threats.

Just a few tens of millions of years ago, natural CO2 levels were "thousands of parts per million" (cf. the current level of 405 ppm). At that time, Antarctica was covered with lush beech forests. As you know, today Antarctica is a barren wasteland, so the subsequent CO2 decrease was NOT good for life.

Also note that there is no scenario of fossil fuel usage that could ever get us back to thousands of parts per million.

Climate change may be a financial threat to those who own beachfront real estate, but given the above facts, "existential threat to human life" is the kind of alarmism Dr. Lovelock is decrying these days.

Comment Re:The road to dystopia (Score 1) 441

Hunter-gatherers were displaced by a less labor-intensive occupation: farming with very primitive tools. But net employment increased -- because the number of workers needed to secure a subsistence-level food supply decreased, freeing up people to work in other fields, such as building temples out of blocks of stone.

Methods continually improved (but very slowly at first). Thousands of years later, the tools got more advanced: using a sharp-edged scythe during the harvest. Net employment increased again, in many diverse fields including supporting infrastructure such as mining ore to make those scythe blades.

Then agricultural machinery came in. Advancements were happening faster, and not coincidentally, even as agricultural employment collapsed, the number of people employed in all fields rose faster than ever. We're talking about this: as all of the old tasks became easier to handle, an even greater number of previously-unimagined new tasks popped up to take their place. There's been a transition from >90% of all workers being needed to grow food, to less than 2%; that's pretty close to ALL the old tasks no longer needing human labor. (90% of all workers were displaced by mechanization, if not by automation; the semantic distinction between those two words makes no difference to former ag workers.) It's indisputable that the new tasks employ more people than the old tasks. We're better off for the disruption.

Physical labor is over and done with soon enough.

It's been done with for a while... look around at the billions of humans employed in 2016. Hardly any of them are doing manual labor. (Jobs like operating a backhoe do not count as manual labor.) And good riddance. Unless you know someone who, say, makes hand-dipped candles for a living, everyone you know owes their job to a modern technology that was disruptive at the time it was introduced, and works in one of thousands of new fields whose existence had not been imagined 200 years ago. From the person who supervises supermarket self-checkout stations, to the person who lays fiber-optic cable. Even the job of a modern schoolteacher is sufficiently different -- utilizing instructional videos delivered over the internet, in an air-conditioned, electrically-lit facility -- to say its existence had not been imagined 200 years ago. These fields were not "visible" 200 years ago, but it would have been silly for the policymakers of the day to wring their hands about that fact. Net employment exploded, in spite of the fact that the new fields of employment were completely unforeseen, and no one would have been able to answer your demands to "again tell me" where the displaced workers will go to get employed.

If I have a company doing manufacturing, and I used to employ 50 people. I automate the whole thing, and I need to keep 5 people employed to do maintenance and oversight. Okay. How then, in your opinion does this translate to companies needing more labor, when what's happening is that 1 person working likely less than 40 hours a week is now capable of performing the labor that used to take 10 people 400 hours? For more jobs to appear to employ the 45 now unemployed people, demand needs to go up. But for demand to go up, people need to have money to spend to create the demand, and it's not clear or automatic under future scenarios that such an increase in demand will happen.

This is exactly the argument of the Luddites 200 years ago. They protested the automation of textile manufacturing; all textiles were formerly woven by hand. They lost their battle, and the results were:
- Clothing became far more affordable. Millions of people were, for the first time, able to wear more than rags.
- There was a huge net increase in employment. Former textile weavers were indeed displaced out of their old jobs, and into the new fields of employment that grew as a result of the populace having more disposable income. Good riddance to the drudgery of weaving textiles by hand.

My grandmother was a middle-class woman who never got a pedicure. She probably viewed them as a frivolous way for the idle rich to spend money. My wife -- also a middle-class woman, but with more disposable income, thanks to the generally-increasing purchasing power of middle-class incomes, thanks to automation -- gets pedicures a few times a year. The number of people employed as pedicurists has spiked, to name just one of the multitude of fields of employment that are currently exploding.

Now, what if my wife someday comes to prefer robot-administered pedicures... at that point, would I start to become alarmed about robots replacing human laborers? No, that would still not be evidence of an end to the pattern that has existed for thousands of years (and grown more obvious in recent decades); it would still not be evidence that previously-unimagined fields of employment will stop emerging. If pedicurists move on to different jobs, which don't involve handling others' feet, they will likely say "good riddance."

Some people make the mistake of thinking "more people are employed today simply because more people exist today." This field-of-dreams philosophy ("if you create people, jobs for them will come") is dead wrong: while there was a population explosion in the last century resulting in 7.4 billion people today, automation is the only reason those people not only have jobs, but are able to support themselves at an unprecedentedly high average standard of living. If the same baby boom had been attempted 3000 years ago, or 300 years ago, it would not have resulted in billions of employed humans; it simply would have resulted in a lot of dead babies.

we cannot assume that current levels of employment, which are already falling, can be maintained when the efficiency goes up across the board.

I see you're still sticking to the assertion that a world where more people are employed than ever before is a world of "falling employment."

In the future, employment can be maintained at or above current levels, by
- encouraging people who value leisure time to negotiate shorter workweeks. (For a given amount of work to be done, a two-hour workweek employs twenty times as many people as a 40-hour workweek.)
- reaping the dividend of falling birth rates in developed nations. (Falling birth rates are a bane if your Social Security system was structured as a Ponzi scheme, but a boon if you're concerned about providing jobs for everyone who wants to earn an income.)
- and most of all, recognizing that workers will be entering entirely new fields, most of which are presently unimaginable. (There will be fascinating vocational challenges for people tasked with, say, building a ground transportation system, and all necessary supporting infrastructure, between Armstrongville, Mars and Musk City.)

I guess you are saying that AIs and robots will truly outperform humans at every conceivable task, so human labor will no longer have any use as an economic input. In that case, we will well be able to afford to do some things inefficiently, and some tasks should be reserved for humans anyway. Maybe the bots should be programmed to clean up litter imperfectly, so the job of some humans could be, once a week, to pick up a single piece of litter. On a superficial level this may seem silly, but it has value. The humans must keep some small amount of "skin in the game." I will say again that a work ethic is an ennobling thing -- perhaps the ennobling thing -- and it must not be stolen from our species. Without it, people will descend into currently-unimaginable levels of brattiness. In a mild form, some people will go about spraying graffiti, just for the amusement of being followed around by a robotic cleanup crew. And who knows what the brattiness would look like in its more severe forms? There's often a lot of truth in the old aphorisms, such as the one about "idle hands..."

Just as there is value in visiting historic sites to retain some connection to what life was like in centuries past, there will be value in performing some work.

If the AIs truly exceed human intellect, the time it takes them to go from intelligent to super-intelligent will be short, and the time it takes them to go from super-intelligent to hyper-intelligent will be even shorter. For a while -- until it becomes impossible -- the favorite pastime among smart humans will be studying what the AIs are currently thinking, and attempting to comprehend the devices the AIs are currently engineering. If we're lucky, there will be scenes like this: a kindly robot approaches you and says, "please consent to this injection of dermal nanobots. They will restore pigment production, so your hair is no longer grey, and cure your psoriasis with no side effects." Because it has been years since any human has been able to comprehend the devices they engineer, you now have a choice. Trust the bot? Or, as the conspiracy theorists have been saying, is this at long last their "final solution" to get rid of the parasitic humans?

And you smile as you think back to the quaint days when the debate of employment vs. basic income seemed like our greatest concern.

P.S. Happy New Year

Comment Um, no (Score 1) 364

As you can see from this animation, when dinosaurs were roaming the forests of Antarctica 70 million years ago, the continent was still quite centered on the south pole.

As seen in Alaska, trees can survive several months of no sunlight, if the temperature is warm enough.

My assertion was that the comings and goings of ice ages did not kill any of the species alive today, which is self-evidently true.

Comment Ice at *either* pole is rare. (Score 1) 364

For most of Earth's history, the planet had no polar icecaps whatsoever.

The only reason we currently have icecaps is, we are still emerging from the most recent ice age. (There's a reason the Quaternary glaciation is referred to as "the current ice age.")

Also note that every species alive today, including polar bears, has survived the comings and goings of multiple ice ages.

Also note that just a few tens of millions of years ago, natural CO2 levels were "thousands of parts per million" (cf. the current level of 405 ppm). At that time, Antarctica was covered with lush beech forests. As you know, today Antarctica is a barren wasteland, so the subsequent CO2 decrease was NOT good for life.

Also note that there is no scenario of fossil fuel usage that could ever get us back to thousands of parts per million.

Comment Temperature increases cause reduced storm activity (Score 1) 364

Linking to Wikipedia articles about two particular hurricanes says nothing about the relationship between CO2 levels and hurricanes.

Al Gore (with no background in science) made alarmist assertions that the frequency and intensity of cyclones was in the process of skyrocketing. Dr. R.N. Maue analyzed actual data and found just the opposite:

Recent historically low global tropical cyclone activity
Abstract
Tropical cyclone accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) has exhibited strikingly large global interannual variability during the past 40-years. In the pentad since 2006, Northern Hemisphere and global tropical cyclone ACE has decreased dramatically to the lowest levels since the late 1970s. Additionally, the global frequency of tropical cyclones has reached a historical low. Here evidence is presented demonstrating that considerable variability in tropical cyclone ACE is associated with the evolution of the character of observed large-scale climate mechanisms including the El Nino Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation. In contrast to record quiet North Pacific tropical cyclone activity in 2010, the North Atlantic basin remained very active by contributing almost one-third of the overall calendar year global ACE.
- R.N. Maue, Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, Florida State University

And there are plenty of studies that show increasing global temperature causes reduced storm activity. One such study published in Quaternary Science Reviews is summarized here.

Comment Speaking of failed predictions... (Score 2) 364

Here is a list of 107 failed predictions made by alarmists:

https://wattsupwiththat.com/20...

But for some people, 107 failed predictions isn't enough to destroy the credibility of the alarmists. One wonders how many failed predictions it will take until the holdouts think "hmm, perhaps the whole thing is not credible."

Comment The road to dystopia (Score 1) 441

Low-skiled workers across the board will be replaced by machinery and automation, leading to an increase in unemployment... automation also creates some jobs, but always less than it takes away.

You are completely fabricating an assertion that flies in the face of all historical evidence.

I'll throw out just one of many possible counterexamples. At one time over 90% of American workers were employed in agriculture. Those low-skilled jobs were replaced by machinery and automation, and now less than 2% are employed in agriculture. Yes, an "entire field of employment" has virtually disappeared. And good riddance. Food is far more affordable now; money that families don't have to spend on food is now spent on other things. Not only did this massive disruption not cause "an increase in unemployment," it (along with other new technologies) caused a massive net increase in employment, in an incredibly diverse number of fields that could not have been imagined back when agriculture was the monolithic employer. There are more people employed today than at any other time in history. And no, to accomplish that feat, it was not necessary for former ag workers to retrain into highly cerebral fields.

In 2016, economic activity is already highly automated. If your assertion were correct, the amount of automation in place today would have already caused an economic collapse. Instead, there are more people employed today than at any other time in history. You simply couldn't be more wrong. This is like having a conversation with someone who stares at the sun and says, "it's so dark."

Despite the certainty that employment will increase in the future, we will always have disabled people, or people with such poor social skills that no one wants to hire them. In developed countries, the social safety net provides those people with food, housing and medical care. Continued economic growth means that the safety net can be made more robust, but it should not be transformed into a scheme where able-bodied people can live comfortably while contributing nothing. How good could things get? Imagine a woman who spends two hours per week lubricating robots; the rest of the week is her leisure time. That's fine. She is contributing if she does that. (The concept of a "standard 40-hour workweek" needs to be discarded, and fast.) The robots she maintains will vastly outproduce a guy who insists on spending 40 hours per week working with 20th-century tools. Were I her employer, I would want her salary to reflect that fact. (And therefore the "guy" with 20th-century work habits is hypothetical; the number of people like him will diminish quickly, by choice.) As the multiplier on what one employee can accomplish grows ever bigger, so does the number of employed people. This is a paradox only to those who have their eyes closed to the entirety of history. When Roman aqueducts began to deliver water, it was one more step away from a subsistence lifestyle -- people no longer needed to be occupied with long walks to fetch water from a distant source. And quite unparadoxically, another net increase in employment arose.

Still, for as long as resources are finite, we will need an economy that allocates resources efficiently. That is to say, we will always need an economy that allocates resources efficiently -- because even when the cost of goods and services drops to 1/1000 of what they cost today, resources will still be finite. Paying able-bodied people to do nothing is anathema to the concept of an "economy." Pay them more to do less? Sure; that's progress. If wages are expressed in Euros per hour, wages by definition go up when the denominator -- number of hours that need to be worked to get a job done -- goes down. (That is another almost magical thing about new technologies and automation; not only have they created more jobs than existed at any other time in history, the purchasing power of employed humans' wages has skyrocketed. The percentage of workers who can afford to have running water in their homes is orders of magnitude higher than it was 140 years ago. The percentage of workers who can afford to own an automobile is orders of magnitude higher than it was 110 years ago. The percentage of workers who can afford cell phone service is orders of magnitude higher than it was 25 years ago.) But if an able-bodied worker does nothing, the denominator goes to zero, and her hourly wage becomes infinite.

Pay them to do nothing? There lies the final dystopia, where the ennobling work ethic is shattered, and all connections with reality are severed.

Comment When has automation ever caused net job loss? (Score 1) 441

With automation taking more and more jobs...

Incorrect premise. Throughout history, new technologies have been net creators of jobs. Moderately disruptive new technologies caused net creation of a moderate number of jobs. Massively disruptive new technologies caused net creation of a massive number of new jobs.

And every time, there were Luddites who feared net job losses -- the opposite of what came to pass.

the consumer-class will collapse, taking away customers from a vast variety of corporations and causing them to collapse

How does this get modded +5? When a corporation reduces its workforce as a result of introducing additional automation, its costs decrease. This is a beneficial, first-order effect. A temporary reduction in sales (to its former employees who have not yet found other employment) is, at best, a third-order effect.

Labor-saving devices put a multiplier on the amount of work one employee can accomplish. Wood was once carved by hand; later it was carved with power tools, and the resulting economic growth caused a net increase in employment. Another multiplier will be applied when each employee can maintain multiple wood-carving robots. If this were truly a net negative, you ought to advocate the elimination of all labor-saving devices: no more power tools. Not even a scythe. We must harvest all grain by hand.

Please don't: if all labor-saving devices were to disappear, then we would truly see a genuine economic collapse.

Milton Friedman recalled traveling to an Asian country in the 1960s and visiting a worksite where a new canal was being dug. He was shocked to see that, instead of modern tractors and earth movers, the workers had shovels. He asked why there were so few machines. The government bureaucrat explained: "You don't understand. This is a jobs program." To which Milton replied: "Oh, I thought you were trying to dig a canal. If it's jobs you want, you should take away their shovels and give them spoons."

This is an almost perfect anecdote. Its one deficiency: some people are not smart enough to figure out all the proper conclusions that should be drawn from it, including that a policy of shunning labor-saving devices (e.g., giving them spoons)
- would benefit only a very narrow interest -- people who like to do manual labor with ill-suited tools
- is not in the general interest, because it would a net destroyer of jobs.

Comment Don't hate on the I.R. (Score 1) 441

Sooner or later UBI will have to happen. Automation is going to remake the working world as profoundly as the Industrial Revolution did.

The Industrial Revolution caused a massive increase in standards of living, and in employment (there are more humans employed today than at any time in history).

Both of these effects made it possible to increase the robustness of the social safety net, while at the same time reducing the proportion of people whose existence depends on said net.

Therefore the continuous trend toward more automation has no downside, and certainly doesn't portend a need for a UBI.

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