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Comment Re:There will be no train (Score 1) 408

A subsidy for its initial construction is fine. But if the people using a mass transit system aren't willing to pay enough for it to recoup its construction and operation costs, then it is by definition not contributing enough economic efficiency to pay for itself, and is therefore a waste of money.

Comment Re:Well, duh. Mass transportation is a slush fund. (Score 4, Informative) 408

It may work eventually, but it's a boondoggle for construction companies and mayors/governors

. So I must have been just dreaming when I thought I remembered zipping from London to Paris in just over two hours and sending emails from under the Atlantic seabed.

Emphasis mine. What you say does not contract what OP said. From the Wikipedia article on the Channel Tunnel:

In 1985 prices, the total construction cost was £4.650 billion (equivalent to £13 billion today), an 80% cost overrun.

I suspect what's going on is a bit more insidious than mere corruption. Construction companies bid low so that they'll win the contract. Then they charge the actual construction costs as cost overruns. What's needed is an incentive to encourage companies to bid a realistic estimated cost, rather than a completely unrealistic underbid just to win the contract. Something like, say, not paying for overruns and holding the company to its original bid price.

Comment Re:Indiscriminate antibiotic use in farm animals.. (Score 1) 293

I don't disagree with what you're saying, but according to TFA, the woman acquired the bug while in India - a country with the highest percentage of vegetarians in the world. This would suggest basic sanitation and health care, and being sure to complete prescription antibiotic regimens are bigger factors than the use of antibiotics in livestock.

Comment Re:Well Trump has one thing right (Score 2) 537

The whole point of the H1-B program (or at least what's supposed to be the point) is to encourage extreme talented people abroad to become U.S. citizens. That way you have a net movement of talented people into the U.S., instead of out of it. If they don't stay in the U.S. and eventually become citizens, that defeats the whole purpose of the program.

It's unfortunate that the program has been abused to replace American workers. (Which is in direct violation of how the program is supposed to work. You're supposed to advertise the job the H1-B is supposed to take for a certain period of time, and only if no qualified American applies for the job can the H1-B be approved. You know those job adverts which are ridiculously specific about which certifications and how many years experience in several different fields are required? Those are H1-B ads - they're specifically tailored to match the H1-B candidate they have in mind, while simultaneously excluding any qualified American.) But don't lose sight of the original goal here.

$60,000 is pretty average or even below-average in terms of STEM jobs. $100,000 is up around where you'd start to think of the person as being talented and worthy of luring into the country and granting citizenship.

Comment Re:Is more education, better education . . . ? (Score 1) 495

No, if 100% of the population had college degrees and those degrees actually helped them work better, that would increase each person's economic productivity. That additional productivity would translate into more sales revenue, which translates into more compensation.

The only way what you say can be true is if those degrees don't help increase your productivity - they are truly credential-only degrees. So the problem is a proliferation of college degrees which don't really help you do a better job at things employers want you to do.

Comment Re:you mean capitalism works? (Score 4, Insightful) 372

No, they're able to do it for money because Mylan stupidly raised the price. If Mylan had kept the price at what it was before they acquired rights to the EpiPen, it would not have been worth it for a competitor to pay to develop their own pen, put it through the arduous FDA approval process, and put aside money to settle liability lawsuits in case something went wrong. When Mylan raised the price, it suddenly became cost-effective for someone to do all that, so CVS did. They still would've done it even if there had been no outrage, because overpricing something just creates an opportunity for someone else to swoop in and underbid you.

Comment Re:And mathematicians, including (Score 4, Insightful) 372

The problem with the free market, and lassaize-faire capitalism is that it is destroyed by the first group that has major success. Becuse the greed that fuels the market can become very destructive as people with pathological levels of it inevitably take over. And the simplistic early agriculture type arguments for it just don't work in a highy technical and mechanized world.

There are so many examples which disprove this that I'm amazed it was modded up: IBM PC, Compaq, Apple iPhone, 3dfx, Blackberry, Palm Pilot, Nokia, GeoCities, Myspace, Wordperfect, Lotus, Silicon Graphics, Kodak, Blockbuster, Sony Walkman, Sears, Pan Am, Schwinn, Motorola, Sun, DEC, Yahoo, Xerox copiers, Nintendo (except they managed to claw their way back with the Wii).

All of these were market leaders who in many cases once owned 80% or more of their respective markets, til they were out-competed and were replaced as king of the hill. Contrary to what you claim, it's harder to maintain a dominant market position in a highly technical and mechanized world. The rapid pace of technological progress means it's very easy to fall behind if you misstep (Yahoo, Sony, Pan Am, Blockbuster), or get lazy (Xerox, Kodak, Myspace, Blackberry), or get out-maneuvered (Nintendo - both ways, WordPerfect, Lotus, Apple iPhone, IBM PC).

The free market works most of the time. Monopolies are the exception, not the norm, and I'm fine with bashing those with government regulation when they happen. Believing that monopolies are inevitable and thus everything must be regulated, is just as foolish as believing everything will work just fine if there is no regulation.

Comment Re: Amazing (Score 4, Informative) 373

I've been self-employed for a while, so I've paid for my own health insurance for a couple decades. My experience mirrors OP's. My health insurance cost has increased about 2.5x since the ACA was implemented (vs 1.1068x increase in the CPI) . My deductible has gone up (though roughly in pace with CPI). Vision coverage was dropped. My prescription coverage option tripled in price. And my insurer just switched from being a PPO (I can visit any doctor in their network including multiple doctors if I want) to an EPO (I have to pick one doctor in their network, and s/he has total control over if I can visit a specialist - no real point getting this over an HMO now).

Looking over my past premiums, there was a 18% increase from 2014 to 2015. A 24% increase from 2015 to 2016. And a 18% increase from 2016 to 2017. So that may be why your link found such a small increase in premiums. The bulk of the rise in my premiums has been since 2014, when the stats used by Factcheck.org ended. Crunching the numbers, my premiums rose 47% between 2010-2014 (average 8% per year), but 73% from 2015-2017 (average 20% per year).

Anyway, that's just my experience. I'm curious what other people have seen.

Comment Re:This is why emissions testing should actually t (Score 5, Informative) 125

California reached a nexus point on this issue in the 1990s. See, emissions testing is cost-effective only if a significant fraction of the vehicles are in violation. If a smog test costs $40, and 10% of the cars are failing, then it's costing the economy $400 to detect each non-compliant car. If the excess pollution the car was putting out costs the economy (say) $1000, then testing is a cost-effective way to get these polluting cars fixed or off the road.

But what if the program is successful and compliance rates increases to 99%? Then you're spending $4000 to detect each non-compliant car, and the cost to detect these polluting cars exceeds the damage they do. That's the situation California found itself in in the 1990s.

The companies which made emissions testing equipment came up with a radical suggestion. Get rid of the annual smog tests. Instead, mount emissions detecting equipment at areas where cars normally slow down to pass. Freeway off-ramps, intersections, etc. The equipment would constantly detect emissions, and when it saw a spike in emissions it would snap a photo of the offending car(s). If the same car's plates showed up in multiple photos, you could send that registered owner a fix-it ticket requiring they bring the car in for testing. This way you're not wasting time or money dealing with the 99% of cars which are in compliance, and only spending extra money testing the 1% of cars which are probably in violation.

Unfortunately by the 1990s, smog testing in California had grown into a billion dollar industry. The service stations and smog test stations lobbied hard in Sacramento to kill this idea. They won, and so we still require smog tests today even though the vast majority of cars pass. It's worth nothing that an on-road emissions detection system would've caught the violating VWs nearly a decade ago when they first started cheating.

Comment Re:And what's the point? (Score 1) 186

Because unfortunately, most people are wired to give more weight to a few standout examples rather than to the overall trend. e.g.
  • Planes are safer than cars, but many people are afraid of flying when they don't think twice about getting into a car.
  • People oppose nuclear power because of Fukushima and Chernobyl, when statistically it's the safest power source man has invented. (Yes, safer than solar and wind. They kill more people per unit of energy delivered. The only reason they don't kill many people is because they don't generate much electricity, and when they do it's scattered one here and one there, instead of all concentrated in one place.)
  • The general belief that child abductions by a stranger are a serious problem, when in fact they represent only 0.01% of missing children cases.
  • Bush Jr. being perceived as anti-science because of his opposition to fetal stem cell research and killing the superconduction super collider, when he's actually responsible for the biggest increase in Federal non-defense R&D spending since the space race.

If you want to lead people to a conclusion opposite of the facts, presenting a few contrary examples is a great way to do it. That's why people are obsessed with assigning credit or blame for specific incidents. Kudos to you for seeing the forest despite the trees.

Comment Re:Does this mean that... (Score 1) 186

That's really more a consequence of Amazon's delivery contract with UPS. Apparently it's very generous (probably some sort of flat rate based on cumulative weight) so there's little incentive for Amazon to consolidate your orders into fewer boxes. UPS is the one who will have to put pressure on Amazon to reduce the number of boxes. And with Amazon branching out into its own delivery service, I don't see that happening.

Comment This is still an improvement (Score 1) 209

With cable TV, the company which owns the pipes (your cable) also provides the service. There is no competition for TV service, so the cable company can charge you whatever they want. This is especially true in the U.S. where most of the cable TV companies have a monopoly granted by the local government.

With streaming TV, the company which owns the pipes (your ISP) does not provide the service. Consequently, there is no service monopoly - any TV streaming service on the Internet could conceivably provide your service. That means they are all competing with each other for best channel selection and lowest price. You'll still get ripped off on Internet service since that's a government-granted monopoly in most of the U.S., but you're not also getting ripped off on TV service on top of it.

Monthly bandwidth limits remain an issue, but my ISP (Cox) is one of the better ones with a 1 TB soft cap for all service tiers. If you go over, they simply reserve the right to kick you off; I haven't heard of anyone actually being booted yet. So it hasn't impacted my TV streaming.

Comment Will probably run into the same problem as people (Score 2) 74

Any AI designed to act ethically has a limited set of options available to it relative to an AI designed to act unethically (or rather, not designed to take ethics into account). The ethical AI will just be killed/taken over by the unethical AI. That's how it is for people. The only reason ethical societies manage to exist is because ethical people outnumber unethical people, and are willing to band together and temporarily put aside their ethical code long enough to fight and defeat unethical people. (e.g. Imprisoning innocents is considered inhumane, but we have no problem imprisoning convicted criminals.)

I suspect the solution here isn't to design an AI to act ethically, but to design it to act as the AI or person it's dealing with acts. Basically the tit for tat strategy as a solution to the Prisoner's Dilemma. That gives it enough leeway to protect itself, while also creating an incentive for other AIs / people to act ethically.

Comment Re:So they didn't enable cheat mode (Score 2) 246

My problem with it is that they reported the buggy results instead of the actual ones that a normal non-developer would see

So by your reasoning, if a car manufacturer accidentally made a bug which caused the engine to cheat on diesel emissions tests, it's actually the EPA's fault for not designing their test to more accurately mimic how people use their cars in real life?

Everyone seems to be trying to spin this for or against Apple / Consumer Reports. The no-spin version is that CR was using an industry-accepted practice to simulate web browser usage in a repeatable manner necessary for accurate testing. Apple accidentally created a bug which could cause excessive battery drain during these simulations (we know it's a new bug because previous CR tests didn't have any problems). The CR test occasionally triggered the bug. They and Apple worked together to track down the bug. Apple fixed it. CR is re-testing now. End of story. Nothing to see here. Move along.

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