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Comment Re:Declining value of human labor & what to do (Score 1) 114

Once again, you have produced an essay of astounding length and intricacy.

While I can't possibly answer to all the nuances of your argument, I agree that our social structure is based on scarcity. We are quickly approaching a post-scarcity society - through labor replacements, more efficient technologies and the potential for superstructures such as solar power satellites, space elevators and so on.

I don't think that decisions about the social aspects of this work lie in the hands of the roboticists, though they probably understand more than anyone the long term potential for their machines to replace all labour. I think that those decisions lie with the general populance.

I for one would love the transition to a gift economy (or perhaps something more like the Star Trek economy) - our capitalistic society has worked well for us so far, but soon the few things that humans can UNIQUELY do will have to be encouraged. Capitalistic mechanisms are very good at keeping the rich rich, like you say. Much better to free people from the need to get enough food and shelter to survive and then to capture the public imagination with mega projects that really do require human involvement.

My main point is that we shouldn't fear technology. I agree with the thesis of your argument which seems to be that massive change is coming, so we better embrace it and prepare for it.

It really is just a matter of time until all the unskilled labor is replaced. I hope at this point that every human whose job is threatened is capable of finding a calling that is uniquely human.

Comment Re:Declining value of human labor & what to do (Score 1) 114

Woah. I'll have to come back to this one. But you present a compelling case in both posts Paul.

In general I'm against the idea that there is a limit to how far we can go. There is a lot of uncharted territory, that is for sure. We certainly have come up with ways to keep ourselves busy - ways that seemed unimaginable 100 years ago when industrialization greatly reduced the requirements for raw labor.

We cannot be sure that we don't come up with another higher calling that robots can't do over the next 100 years.

Comment Re:Declining value of human labor & what to do (Score 1) 114

If you are the sort of knowledge worker who can program robots, your labor is not in competition with the abilities of this robot.

In general, people in modern countries are expected to constantly do more and more complex things for the same pay. Think of it as a physical Turing test.

There is no upper limit on how much work there is to do, as you said there is no scarcity - of work. Don't worry about robots making us all jobless.

Comment Re:Not sure if its worth it (Score 1) 330

My startup, GridSpy is a web based power monitoring system and I think that you are totally right.

Most homeowners are relatively minor power users and probably have a fairly good idea where the power is going already. Like you say, the cost of a monitoring solution is more than the likely savings over the course of a year.

However, there are lots of exceptions where power monitoring is useful. You might be considering upgrades to your house and you want to know where to put the money in. If your bill is mostly hot water heating, you might install solar hot water. Perhaps the heating turns out to be the major power hog so you improve your insulation and install a new heat pump.

After you have made these changes, it is very difficult to actually prove that there was an improvement unless you are monitoring the power for the related circuits. GridSpy is perfect for this.

I think that the value add is even more evident for industrial scale power users or for off-grid homes, where the power cost is high enough to dwarf the cost of the monitoring equipment.

Comment Re:Obituary for human menial labor is premature. (Score 1) 92

A robot does fine at packing uniform objects into uniform packages, but good luck finding one that can pack your shipment from Amazon.com, or do basic construction work, or pull the ingredients for 50,000 gallons of Coca Cola off of shelves in a warehouse and mix them all together for you. There is still a lot of dull, brain-killing, menial work for humans to do. If you work in an office and have never set foot in any kind of industrial operation, you'll probably be surprised at how much stuff still needs to be done by humans.

There are already automation systems for warehouses, for instance robotic forklifts http://www.inro.co.nz/

Humans are great at packing odd shaped stuff. But when you have a lot of regular objects, look out for robots. This is just a matter of low hanging fruit - why make a flexible robot when simple robots are cheaper and the market is still huge and unsatisfied.

Grabbing large quantites of ingredients is a large scale logistical exercise. There are very few "moves" and a lot of small difficulties. Humans make sense here.

Construction is moving more in the direction of prefabed portions, where the tree was cut robotically by an operator assisted machine. The frames assembled in a factory under robot control. Humans on the job site are doing less and less of the raw, repetitive framing work - again we are well suited to decision making.

I like to think that Robots are doing all the boring stuff so we can do the fun stuff.

Comment Re:So wait (Score 1) 92

If you watch the video you'll see that the destination platform is under computer control. The pick and place machine probably knows (well in advance) where the wiimote commands have told the platform to move. There is a 100-500ms latency between tilting the controller and the platform velocity changing.

If the platform was attached to a long handle that a human could pull back and forth quickly I'd be more impressed. The platform could have a sensor underneath to tell the robot where it was or you could make the platform trackable by camera (which would add considerable latency).

However, most robots have well defined workspaces that don't have outside influences. A robot doesn't have to pass such a test to be useful.

Submission + - CIS Dept. Teaching Inaccurate Info Knowingly

Archness1 writes: So my CSIS department at school requires all majors to take the intro to computer class to gain access to the middle and upper level classes in their majors. I'm sure many here have painful stories of having to retake the "What is a computer?" class. I have been watching the whole semester as they teach outdated or completely inaccurate information to the students because it is in the textbook. This textbook is a "custom" textbook created by the department. They pride themselves on it and how it helps the students learn. I'm sure that many learn valuable information and skills from this class. Lord knows there are enough PEBKACs. My question to you all is what would you do? I have been contributing small pieces of useful information here and there but the department seems to not care in the least. I am thinking of writing the dean at the end of semester about this.

Comment Re:new plugin for gmail (Score 3, Interesting) 126

It would be great to group all emails marked as spam by gmail into one folder, group it by spammer (or just main contents of message) and make those emails available to lawyers / forensics experts hoping to do some investigative research and bring a class action lawsuit.

If they simply picked the most "popular" spam message every week and got an award of $1000 per email when they located the spammer (keeping say 10%) it would be a nice profitable business.

Comment Re:Can they have it both ways? (Score 4, Insightful) 307

Further - they cannot afford to do this sort of investigation on every single one of the millions of videos on Youtube.


I imagine that they have only had the resources to investigate a sample of the alleged videos well after the fact.


Google Slams Viacom For Secret YouTube Uploads 307

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Reuters: "Google, Inc. accused Viacom, Inc. of secretly uploading its videos to YouTube even as the media conglomerate publicly denounced the online video site for copyright infringement, according to court documents made public on Thursday." As "statements from the corporate counsel's office" go, this post on the YouTube blog is pretty hot reading.

Japan To Standardize Electric Vehicle Chargers 240

JoshuaInNippon writes "Four major Japanese car manufacturers and one power company (Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, and Tokyo Electric) have teamed up with over 150 business and government entities in Japan to form a group to promote standardization in electric vehicle chargers and charging stations. The group hopes to leverage current Japanese electric vehicle technology and spread standardization throughout the country, as well as aim towards worldwide acceptance of their standardized charger model. In a very Japanese manner, the group has decided to call themselves 'CHAdeMO,' a play on the English words 'charge' and 'move,' as well as a Japanese pun that encourages tea-drinking while waiting the 15+ minutes it will take to charge one's vehicle battery."

US Sits On Supply of Rare, Tech-Crucial Minerals 324

We've recently discussed China's position as the linchpin of the world's supply of rare earths, and their rumblings about restricting exports of of these materials crucial to the manufacture of everything from batteries to wind turbines. Now an anonymous reader sends this MSNBC piece on the status of the US's supply of rare earths. "China supplies most of the rare earth minerals found in technologies such as hybrid cars, wind turbines, computer hard drives, and cell phones, but the US has its own largely untapped reserves that could safeguard future tech innovation. Those reserves include deposits of both 'light' and 'heavy' rare earths... 'There is already a shortage, because there are companies that already can't get enough material,' said Jim Hedrick, a former USGS rare earth specialist who recently retired. 'No one [in the US] wants to be first to jump into the market because of the cost of building a separation plant,' Hedrick explained. ... [S]uch a plant requires thousands of stainless steel tanks holding different chemical solutions to separate out all the individual rare earths. The upfront costs seem daunting. Hedrick estimated that opening just one mine and building a new separation plant might cost anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion and would require a minimum of eight years. [But the CEO of a rare earth supply company said] 'From what I see, security of supply is going to be more important than the prices.'"
Star Wars Prequels

Jobcentre Apologizes For Anti-Jedi Discrimination 615

An anonymous reader writes "Chris Jarvis, 31, is described as a Star Wars fan and member of the International Church of Jediism. Said church's intergalactic hoodie uniform is at odds with the strict doctrine of the Department for Work and Pensions, which may require Jobcentre 'customers' to remove crash helmets or hoods for 'security reasons.' Following his ejection, Jarvis filled out a complaint form and within three days got a written apology from branch boss Wendy Flewers. She said: 'We are committed to provide a customer service which embraces diversity and respects customers' religion.'"

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