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Comment COBOL programmers aren't all old (Score 1) 361

There's a COBOL shop in my small town that contracts for corporations and the government. I know several COBOL specialists in their 30s. It's actually an extremely lucrative field to get into these days, with good pay and job security.

Rewriting all that COBOL code in some other language would be bound to cause major problems.

Comment Re:This is why we can't have nice things (Score 1) 231

Actually, there's considerable evidence that early humans routinely engaged in mass slaughter - start a stampede, guide it toward the top of a cliff, and harvest the meat and other useful parts from the bottom. Far easier than trying to kill animals much larger and faster than you directly.

The downside is that you end up killing a LOT more animals than you can use, but the problems with that aren't going to be noticeable in any one person's lifetime - at least not until the species is almost extinct. And even if people eventually noticed the problem, and their own culpability, cultural inertia is likely to have kept things going anyway. Just as it did when the Easter Islanders cut down the last of the trees their society depended on, or when modern humans keep dumping CO2 into the atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate.

Comment Re: Political implications for "Native Americans" (Score 1) 231

The fact that the genetic markers of earlier migrations seem to have vanished entirely is actually an argument *against* genocide. In any violent conflict there's almost always quite a lot of women claimed as prizes by the conquerors, and their genetics enter the new culture that way.

To complete absence of the earlier markers suggests either intentional genocide, which is very rare and unlikely to have swept across the entirety of two continents - a process that would almost certainly have taken many centuries, or more likely that the earlier immigrants had already died out before the new ones arrived.

Comment UBI and birth control (Score 1) 518

And so if you're offering a UBI, it would be rather foolish not to offer free birth control as well, don't you think? Heck, I could even see an argument in favor of getting some long-term form installed being a mandatory precondition before you can start collecting an adult UBI - no accidental reproduction by young people just starting out, and they can get it reversed later if and when they decide they want to have kids.

And if you want active disincentives to reproduction, only give a UBI to adults - sufficient to support children as well, but the expense will come out of your luxury and investment income.

Comment Reproductive disincentives (Score 1) 518

I'm not so sure. Practically everybody likes sex, but raising children has a much narrower appeal and comes with much greater long-term opportunity costs. And we're getting increasingly good at making sure the second only happens on purpose.

Also, one possible solution if you want to provide a further reproductive disincentive in the face of a UBI - only provide a UBI to adults. The cost of raising a child to adulthood then comes out of what would have otherwise gone to luxuries and investments.

Comment Re:Robots are good (Score 1) 287

A 94% top tax rate was once acceptable in the US, only about 70 years ago. Of course pretty much nobody paid it because the idea was not to have it paid, but to encourage large corporations to avoid showing huge profits by instead immediately reinvesting them in further development.


Slashdot Asks: Which Wireless Carrier Do You Prefer? 208

Earlier this year, telecommunications giants like T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint were battling to see who could release the best unlimited data plan(s). T-Mobile started the domino chain reaction with the launch of its "One" unlimited plan in August. But the competition became especially fierce in February when Verizon introduced unlimited data plans of their own, causing Sprint and AT&T to unveil new unlimited data plans that same week, both of which have their own restrictions and pricing. Each of the four major carriers have since continued to tweak their plans to ultimately undercut their competitors and retain as many customers are possible.

Given how almost everyone has a smartphone these days and the thirst for data has never been higher, we'd like to ask you about your current wireless carrier and plan. Which wireless carrier and plan do you have any why? Is there any one carrier or unlimited data plan that stands out from the others? T-Mobile, for example, recently announced that it added 1.1 million customers in Q1 2017, which means that it has added more than 1 million customers every quarter for the past four years. Have they managed to earn your business? MyRatePlan has a good breakdown of the current unlimited data plans on the market today.

Comment Re:Robots are good (Score 2) 287

Unfortunately, it's looking like they may be able to replace many/most jobs within a handful of, and that's not "a long time" in political terms. Especially not when we're talking about requiring major changes in a centuries-old social legend ("doing for yourself") embedded in most aspects of our social system.

Comment Re:Gut flora and artificial sweeteners (Score 1) 5

This is probably the most recent, well-cited article on the topic. The authors looked at the effects of saccharin in mice, and were able to determine that there was a significant elevation in blood-glucose level for the mice that were fed saccharin instead of actual glucose over the course of nine weeks. This suggests a mechanism for previous findings that suggest artificial sweeteners cause insulin insensitivity, weight gain, type II diabetes, et cetera. The difference between the two diets went away when both groups were raised with antibiotics, strongly suggesting the underlying cause was gut microbiota. They also found evidence that the saccharin diet led to changes in gut microbiome composition:

In agreement with the experiments with antibiotics, next generation sequencing of the microbiome indicated that mice drinking saccharin had distinct compositions from controls. This distinct microbiome was characterized by enrichment of taxa belonging to the Bacteroides genus or the Clostridiales order, with under-representation of Lactobacilli and other members of the Clostridiales. Several of the bacterial taxa that changed following saccharin consumption were previously associated with type 2 diabetes in humans.

Keep in mind that everyone has different gut flora, so in general these impacts will vary from person to person, which is why the effect is inconsistent, as with obesity and type II diabetes in general. I can't say for certain that these results would directly transfer into humans, but since the bacteria are the same, it's unreasonable to assume they wouldn't. Less clear is whether this effect transfers to other sweeteners; the paper includes a table showing a number of studies pertaining to a diversity of chemicals, some of which found an effect, and some of which didn't.

Non-professionally, my advice would be to avoid artificial sweeteners, and ideally all liquid candy. Some people find that drinking normal, sugary soda produces a state of lethargy, and I'm pretty sure this is a result of the long-term exposure to sucralose. It's sort of a trap!

Comment Re: "Destroyed" is such a harsh term... (Score 1) 88

In my experience "bricked" refers fairly exclusively to a non-recoverable state - at least through "normal" means. E.g. you've borked the firmware badly enough that you can no longer install the updates that would repair it. Hence things like "unbrickable" motherboards that have a second back-up BIOS in case something goes wrong when updating the primary one.

Granted, often times there's internal diagnostic pins that can be accessed by sufficiently knowledgeable individuals with the right equipment in order to get things working again - but it's not something your average firmware-updating geek is going to be prepared for.

Comment Re:Open Source Books (Score 1) 123

Only if it's a collaborative project and one of the collaborators objects. I'm free to distribute only the binaries to my own program under the GPL - as the copyright holder *I'm* not bound by the license, only everyone else. It'd be a jerk move, but legally fine. In which case the GPL would pretty much just grant you rights to resource modification, decompiling, etc.

For a book, where the only "source code" could well be a typewritten or even hand-drawn manuscript, there could be considerable room for argument.

Still, I'd really hope they use something readily editable, kind of kills the long term benefit otherwise.

Comment Re:Which type of graft is best? (Score 1) 5

That's fairly straightforward; as this summary article explains, a synthetic allograph (or xenograph; the terms overlap) that maintains bone mineral density is ideal, as it means no harvesting from elsewhere on your body (eek), no risk of rejection, and good bone density. I'd say start a conversation with your dentist about hydrogel-hydroxyapatite composites and mention you're concerned about sustaining bone density long-term.

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