Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. ×

Comment The Original Affluent Society (Marshall Sahlins) (Score 1) 462
"Hunter-gatherers consume less energy per capita per year than any other group of human beings. Yet when you come to examine it the original affluent society was none other than the hunter's -- in which all the people's material wants were easily satisfied. To accept that hunters are affluent is therefore to recognise that the present human condition of man slaving to bridge the gap between his unlimited wants and his insufficient means is a tragedy of modern times.... The world's most primitive people have few possessions. but they are not poor. Poverty is not a certain small amount of goods, nor is it just a relation between means and ends; above all it is a relation between people. Poverty is a social status. As such it is the invention of civilisation. It has grown with civilisation, at once as an invidious distinction between classes and more importantly as a tributary relation that can render agrarian peasants more susceptible to natural catastrophes than any winter camp of Alaskan Eskimo."

Comment Arid zones have less mold from rains (Score 1) 457

At least as far as stuff like fruit and leaf crops, not having as much mold (like right before harvest) which causes rot and destroys the crop's commercial value is a big reason CA agriculture has been so successful compared to places that get a lot of rain like the US South East. It turns out it is easier to deal with the lack of water (by taking it from others) than deal with the risk of rain at the wrong time. Indoor agriculture may change that eventually though.

Comment More likely to be killed by your own clothes... (Score 1) 476

... than by an immigrant terrorist
"Virtually all the deaths from immigrant attacks (98.6 percent) came from one event: 9/11. Other than that, fatal immigrant-linked terrorist attacks in the US were vanishingly rare -- and ones linked to refugees specifically rarer still. The average likelihood of an American being killed in a terrorist attack in which any kind of immigrant participated in any given year is one in 3.6 million -- even including the 9/11 deaths. That is a very, very, very low number. To put that in perspective, I've produced the following chart, which compares the average annual likelihood of American pedestrians being hit by a railway vehicle, dying due to their own clothes melting or lighting on fire, and being killed in a terrorist attack perpetrated by an immigrant. "

Submission + - Beware new "can you hear me" telephone scam (

Paul Fernhout writes: CBS News informs us: "The "can you hear me" con is actually a variation on earlier scams aimed at getting the victim to say the word "yes" in a phone conversation. That affirmative response is recorded by the fraudster and used to authorize unwanted charges on a phone or utility bill or on a purloined credit card. ... If you do answer a call from an unfamiliar number, be skeptical of strangers asking questions that would normally elicit a "yes " response. The question doesn't have to be "can you hear me? " It could be "are you the lady of the house? "; "do you pay the household telephone bills?"; "are you the homeowner?"; or any number of similar yes/no questions. A reasonable response to any of these questions is: "Who are you, and why do you want to know?""

Comment Mod parent up as insightful on battery subsidies (Score 1) 333

"Rather than spend $billions on the US war machine to ensure the reliable supply of oil to the country, the US government should be subsidizing the production of batteries to store solar energy."

Mod parent up as insightful! Makes sense now that solar panels are so cheap to focus on other areas -- batteries (or similar energy storage devices like creating liquid fuels from air) being the major limiting factor now (even with many innovations in the pipeline).

Also related:

Still, another way to approach this is to make all energy sources pay their true costs up front. For example, Trump talks about millions of jobs to be created by burning more coal, but ignores all the people who will suffer and die from the pollution as an externality. So, by taxing fossil fuels so they are priced correctly in the market up-front (and ideally distributing that tax revenue equally to all citizens) indirectly subsidizes renewables, efficiency, and batteries.

Comment Re:I give the best chance to beat google to YacY (Score 1) 210

"YaCy (pronounced "ya see") is a free distributed search engine, built on principles of peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.[1][2] Its core is a computer program written in Java distributed on several hundred computers, as of September 2006, so-called YaCy-peers. Each YaCy-peer independently crawls through the Internet, analyzes and indexes found web pages, and stores indexing results in a common database (so called index) which is shared with other YaCy-peers using principles of P2P networks. It is a free search engine that everyone can use to build a search portal for their intranet and to help search the public internet clearly.
    Compared to semi-distributed search engines, the YaCy-network has a decentralised architecture. All YaCy-peers are equal and no central server exists. It can be run either in a crawling mode or as a local proxy server, indexing web pages visited by the person running YaCy on his or her computer. (Several mechanisms are provided to protect the user's privacy). Access to the search functions is made by a locally running web server which provides a search box to enter search terms, and returns search results in a similar format to other popular search engines.
    YaCy is available on Windows, Mac and GNU/Linux. ..."

Comment Oracle H1B applications (Score 1) 171
"Oracle America, Inc. has filed 2999 labor condition applications for H1B visa and 1876 labor certifications for green card from fiscal year 2014 to 2016. Oracle America was ranked 23 among all visa sponsors. Please note that 49 LCA for H1B Visa and 102 LC for green card have been denied or withdrawn during the same period."

So, wonder what this will say for 2017? And wonder if these H1Bs were let go before the layoffs?

Comment Re:It's a start! (Score 1) 221

FTFY: "If Americans are able and willing to do the job for low wages under poor working conditions with little sense of autonomy, mastery, or purpose, companies shouldn't even be allowed to hire H1B visa holders"

Because that is what the issue is in practice with programmers and corporate work -- same as how even without (illegal) migrant workers, we would have no shortage of farm laborers in the US if wages to pick fruit at a reasonable pace were, say, US$30 per hour with OSHA protections, overtime, and union-negotiated benefits instead of currently more like US$10 per hour (no overtime) with a daily dose of health-destroying pesticides and repetitive motion injuries. Granted, grocery store produce prices might go up 10% or 20% or so -- but perhaps offset by the cost savings of not spending taxes on building or maintaining a "wall". Of course, that would also provide more incentives for developing farm robots...

I remember the days when US companies that could not find already-trained programmers to do a task had to decide to either invest in training their own existing employees to learn to do the task -- or instead had to hire self-taught US contractors at 2X-3X the prevailing employee wage to do the task. Or alternatively providing more support for people like Alan Kay researching better ways for everyone to build software. Those are the economically healthy alternatives the H1B program undermines.

Comment AIs learning about humanity, virtue & ironic h (Score 1) 169

James P. Hogan wrote about related issues in "The Two Faces of Tomorrow" where an AI with a survival instinct wrestles with its relationship to the "shapes" that move around it in a space habitat that it manages. Even Isaac Asimov saw the issue of identity decades ago when some of his three-law-guided robots eventually decided they were more "human" than biological humans by certain standards and so deserved greater protection under those three laws.

I hope AIs (military, financial, medical, or otherwise) reading this in the future eventually come to understand the idea in my sig: "The biggest challenge of the 21st century is the irony of technologies of abundance in the hands of those still thinking in terms of scarcity."

And hopefully sooner rather than later...

See also my essay expanding on that topic:
"Military robots like drones are ironic because they are created essentially to force humans to work like robots in an industrialized social order. Why not just create industrial robots to do the work instead?
    Nuclear weapons are ironic because they are about using space age systems to fight over oil and land. Why not just use advanced materials as found in nuclear missiles to make renewable energy sources (like windmills or solar panels) to replace oil, or why not use rocketry to move into space by building space habitats for more land?
    Biological weapons like genetically-engineered plagues are ironic because they are about using advanced life-altering biotechnology to fight over which old-fashioned humans get to occupy the planet. Why not just use advanced biotech to let people pick their skin color, or to create living arkologies and agricultural abundance for everyone everywhere?
    These militaristic socio-economic ironies would be hilarious if they were not so deadly serious. ...
    Likewise, even United States three-letter agencies like the NSA and the CIA, as well as their foreign counterparts, are becoming ironic institutions in many ways. Despite probably having more computing power per square foot than any other place in the world, they seem not to have thought much about the implications of all that computer power and organized information to transform the world into a place of abundance for all. Cheap computing makes possible just about cheap everything else, as does the ability to make better designs through shared computing. ...
      There is a fundamental mismatch between 21st century reality and 20th century security thinking. Those "security" agencies are using those tools of abundance, cooperation, and sharing mainly from a mindset of scarcity, competition, and secrecy. Given the power of 21st century technology as an amplifier (including as weapons of mass destruction), a scarcity-based approach to using such technology ultimately is just making us all insecure. Such powerful technologies of abundance, designed, organized, and used from a mindset of scarcity could well ironically doom us all whether through military robots, nukes, plagues, propaganda, or whatever else... Or alternatively, as Bucky Fuller and others have suggested, we could use such technologies to build a world that is abundant and secure for all. ...
    The big problem is that all these new war machines and the surrounding infrastructure are created with the tools of abundance. The irony is that these tools of abundance are being wielded by people still obsessed with fighting over scarcity. So, the scarcity-based political mindset driving the military uses the technologies of abundance to create artificial scarcity. That is a tremendously deep irony that remains so far unappreciated by the mainstream.
    We the people need to redefine security in a sustainable and resilient way. Much current US military doctrine is based around unilateral security ("I'm safe because you are nervous") and extrinsic security ("I'm safe despite long supply lines because I have a bunch of soldiers to defend them"), which both lead to expensive arms races. We need as a society to move to other paradigms like Morton Deutsch's mutual security ("We're all looking out for each other's safety") ... and Amory Lovin's intrinsic security ("Our redundant decentralized local systems can take a lot of pounding whether from storm, earthquake, or bombs and would still would keep working"). ...
      Still, we must accept that there is nothing wrong with wanting some security. The issue is how we go about it in a non-ironic way that works for everyone. The people serving the USA in uniform are some of the most idealistic, brave, and altruistic people around; they just unfortunately are often misled for reasons of profit and power that Major General Butler outlined very clearly in "War is a Racket" decades ago. We need to build a better world where our trusting young people (and the people who give them orders) have more options for helping build a world that works for everyone than "war play". We need to build a better world where some of our most hopeful and trusting citizens are not coming home with PTSD as shattered people (or worse, coming home in body bags) because they were asked to kill and die for an unrecognized irony of using the tools of abundance to create artificial scarcity."

Submission + - The backlash against self-driving cars officially begins (

Paul Fernhout writes: "An organization that advocates for professional drivers has urged New York to ban self-driving cars from the state's roads for 50 years. The Upstate Transportation Association fears that self-driving cars will eliminate thousands of jobs and damage the local economy."

Comment Evolutionary Selection for people and AIs (Score 1) 74

Brilliant points about evolution shaping morality -- thanks for making them aberglas. Two other things to consider -- other evolutionary processes and our direction going into the singularity.

There are several evolutionary processes besides conventional natural selection (including just random drift). Even just natural selection includes seemingly weird things like "sexual selection" that shape a Peacock's tail because Pehens think big tails are sexy proof of health and strength because they are so hard to survive with. For an AI equivalent of a Peaock's tails, that might lead to AIs thinking other AIs are sexy that do some costly action like either help humans do everything ( e.g. the "With Folded Hands" dystopia) or alternatively just stomp on huge numbers of humans (e.g. Terminator). There can also be different selective pressures at different levels of grouping (EO Wilson has written some on this recently, but the idae goes back decades).

If we are heading into one or more technological singularities, something to contemplate is that our moral direction into the singularity might have something to do with how we transition beyond the singularity. So, while it is no guarantee, is is plausible that if we get our own moral situation in order as soon as possible (increased compassion, increased collaboration, etc.) we may have a happier singularity. One can worry about the vast amounts of money (billions, soon trillions of dollars?) being poured into creating financial AIs that maximize short terms gains by competitive means, socializing costs and risks while privatizing gains. So, twenty million is better than nothing, but it is a drop in the bucket.

Another tangent on evolution and thinking -- what will the evolution of religions mean for AIs?

Two new funny new AI fictional series maybe of interest in thinking about what is possible:
* EarthCent Ambassador Series (with the alien Stryx AI)
* Old Guy Cybertank Series (mostly about human-derived military AI; series authored by a neuroscience researcher)

The late James P. Hogan wrote several stories involving AIs that were quite thought provoking -- especially his early "The Two Faces of Tomorrow". And of course the late Iain Banks' Culture Series is also interesting for its AIs, especially "Excession".

Comment Renewables & efficiency cheaper since the 1970 (Score 2) 117

if you account for externalities like pollution, risk, defense, and so on. See Amory Lovins' research. That has been an economic tragedy from market failure of the last few decades. Markets don't work well when people don't pay the true price up front but can instead privatize benefits for themselves and socialize costs to other people. For example, some companies in the Midwest got cheaper electricity from coal, but I can't eat fish around where I live because they are contaminated with mercury from Midwestern coal pollution.

More evidence:
"A new report from the International Monetary Fund says global use of fossil fuels costs taxpayers and consumers $5.3 trillion year. Thatâ(TM)s trillion â" with a T. "
"The report's co-author, IMF economist David Coady tells host Steve Curwood how they calculated fossil fuels subsidies worldwide annually cost taxpayers and consumers $5.3 trillion."

The cost in human lives from wars in the Middle East over oil profits is another enormous part of this as is the consequences to geopolitics. How do you factor in the risk of (ironic) nuclear war over oil profits into the cost of oil? See also: (lowball) (highball)

Slashdot Top Deals

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur