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Comment Cheap Mathematical Headlines (Score 2) 85

Why does Slashdot seem to buy in so often to spinning the recurrence of mathematical tools across various fields as some kind of scientific breakthrough? Correlation is not causation, not all structural similarities imply some kind of necessary physical theoretical account. We as empirical agents use logical tools for the formation, quantification and application of theories - so of course some functions will occur in several different settings, because we're bringing the same resources to the table each time.

Comment Performativity? (Score 1) 136

So Judith Butler quite famously put forward the thesis that gender in society is primarily a matter of social role performance, as opposed to any kind of physiological reduction. Being Man or Woman (as opposed to Male or Female, though Butler does also throw those conceptions into question) in a particular social setting is not so much about how someone is socialized or their brain structures as such, but more how they subsequently go on to express certain behaviours and phrases, modes of self presentation or verbal habits that mark them out in the social sphere as being of one particular category or the other. Moreover, that this kind of performance type view helps us explore exactly what it is about the gender roles of, say for example our society, that gives rise to both traditional, heterosexual patriarchal views about men and women and also new kinds of gender expression that might subvert those old standards or work towards values that we want to encourage in the world we live in.

One thing Butler often talks about is how tied up sexuality is in issues of gender performance. After all, performing gender in a culture of rigidly enforced masculine heterosexuality is a very different challenge to performing gender in a culture where gay men will not be (as) institutionally judged as deviant from permissable social standards. Alan Turing would have spent much of his life not in a position of denial about his gender but rather in a position of having to practice his masculine gender outwardly in such a way as to deliberately deflect suspicion from him as a gay man. That is, in affirming his gender, the world he lived in would have proscribed him to do so in a very self-negating way.

It's really interesting to see that Turing might have looked at gender in similar lines to the way he looked at intelligence - as something that needed to be outwardly demonstrated in order to be put forward for effective analysis. It speaks to something of the struggle he must have faced in his private life. Huge respect for him for speaking up about it!

Comment Communication!! (Score 1) 165

Notably missing from the article is of course the question "Should the robot attempt to communicate its intentions to the injured, and change its decision on the basis of the response it receives"? Responsively communicating with people other than through a keyboard and ethernet port is the key bridge to gap before giving machines this kind of autonomy, and it's one that neither back-room military techies nor Policy makers seem to have quite grasped yet.

Comment Re:Mostly functional works quite alright (Score 1) 237

I think the issue is more that a 99.9% secure system with a million accesses every day still has maybe a thousand security vulnerabilities a day, whereas a 99.9% secure system being used a hundred times is reasonably likely to not have any. Scaling things up makes what looks like reasonable endemic risk into something that, while still not proportionally significant, is also quite likely to nonetheless happen.

Comment Anxiety! (Score 1) 169

A culture of intense security awareness is a scared culture. Knowing that your colleagues are not going to leave a gap in to your file servers is important from the perspective of keeping your data safe from potential outside threats, but a state of persistent distrust is going to ultimately hamper the work of your organization through dehumanizing its members and tying them up in procedure.

A few simple policies and a few general guidelines should be the extent of an active security presence in the wider culture of an organization, with the exception of people specifically there to deal with security issues or sensitive items.

Comment Secure, yes, but Reliable? (Score 2) 179

Having a look at the paper, I can absolutely see that the encryption technique seems on the face of it to exceed computable solution. What I would need to be convinced about is the integrity of the communication; is what you get at the end of it guaranteed to be perfectly reflective of what you put into it?

(I can also see a sketch proof to the effect that the overall system can be made reliable with a probability approaching 1 - for arbitrarily small , but that's macroscopic behaviour. Microscopic, the system looks like it's capable of handling very regular systems very well, but given the reliance on Bayesian inference will drop reliability for anything with some very likely inputs and some less likely outputs.)

Comment Re:MIT Can fix this or go away (Score 1) 106

For your own good, you might be wise to stay out of this one. In much of this debate the role of industry in determining who should and should not have access to certain empowering resources gated by the universities, for the sake of creating and managing a skilled workforce, is seriously contentious. To step in and attempt to use your power to force through certain changes risks a serious lose of customer and social confidence.

Comment Poor kid (Score 1) 106

I'm not sure that guilt is the right response. His father is probably feeling absolutely destroyed by this, and I don't think he needs to be dragged through the muck by people looking for someone to blame.

Kids like Aaron are probably all over the place - young people who think the only moral thing to do in the world is to try to steal from those with power because of how that power has been so abused by its bearers. I don't blame them for thinking that way, but it's really sad that there's nobody other than disenfranchised radicals to give them a sense that there might be a better world on the horizon.

Institutions like the universities have it in them to give people hope for the future. I hope they try to take this as a chance to explore why people want to take from them and look at how to broaden access to their research to make it more widely accessible, rather than just closing up shop and keeping everything behind the locked doors of the academy.

Comment RIP Philosophy of Mathematics (Score 2) 114

If this is how things stand, then the Philosophy of Mathematics to date is a catastrophic failure. When there is no better methodology than "fumble around in the dark a bit until suddenly you're convinced" then the project of attempting to guide students in understanding maths has done no work at all.

Is this the fault of the philosophers or the mathematicians? I'm inclined to think that the philosophers have at least failed in their advocacy, if not in their actual subject.

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