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Comment Is it still relevant? (Score 1) 373

I've occasionally thought about reading it, but one of the things that always stopped me is doubts about how relevant it still is today. Could you comment on that?

This book was written when computers only had one core and multithreaded algorithms weren't a thing. When there wasn't such a thing as vector units, to say nothing of massively parallel processors like GPUs. When performance was entirely determined by computation, whereas today it's often dominated by memory access. The factors that go into designing a good algorithm today are really different from what they were in the 1970s.

Even aside from that, there's been a lot of progress since then. Maybe it's a great reference for 50 year old sorting algorithms, but there are better algorithms known today.

Comment Re:Electoral college does reflect the popular vote (Score 2) 1426

Let's start by toning down the rhetoric, ok? If you begin by saying "you're an idiot" to anyone who disagrees with you, you've pretty much promised not to listen to anyone else or learn anything. So let's approach this as sensible, rational people (I know, we aren't, if we were we wouldn't be human, but let's at least try) and have a calm, respectful discussion.

Your position seems to be based on the assumption that geographic units are more important than people. You mention three different ones: states, cities, and counties. Strangely, you speak approvingly of states and counties, but disparagingly of cities. I don't really understand what you're getting at with that. Maybe you can explain. But anyway, I don't see why you think that a "county" or a "state" is a relevant unit for picking the president. Do you think that Loving County, TX (population 82) should be given the same weight as Los Angeles County, CA (population 9.8 million)? Seriously? If not, then why does the number of counties have anything to do with it?

So let's not talk about "a handful of cities". Let's talk about "the majority of voters in the country". Those voters are widely distributed through the country. They come from every state, and probably every county. Some are in cities, others in the country. But they're all citizens of the U.S. and all have equal reason to care who becomes president.

So please explain, as clearly and explicitly as possible, why you think some of those people's votes should count four times as much as others. Or to put it differently: you objected to "the rest of the nation" being "completely ignored", so why are you ok with the majority of the country's population being, in fact, completely ignored?

Comment Re:Try for a longer-term solution (Score 1) 275

Unless something magical happens, I don't see wind and solar cell systems generating enough power to run factories to replace themselves.

That's because you haven't looked up the numbers. Fortunately, you have me to do it for you. :)

First for wind power. According to, "Globally, the long-term technical potential of wind energy is believed to be five times total current global energy production, or 40 times current electricity demand, assuming all practical barriers needed were overcome."

That's a lot. But it's nothing compared to solar. From, "The amount of solar energy reaching the surface of the planet is so vast that in one year it is about twice as much as will ever be obtained from all of the Earth's non-renewable resources of coal, oil, natural gas, and mined uranium combined."

Of course, we'll never harvest more than a tiny fraction of that energy. But then, even a tiny fraction is way more than we need. And it's not going to run out for as long as the sun keeps shining.

Comment Re:"Likley grow" - Bullshit (Score 2) 275

realistically nobody believes China and India or the other developing nations will stop modernizing to keep emissions down.

China is working hard to shift away from coal too. See In particular where it says, "Accounting for the fact that 2016 was a leap year with an extra day, they estimate that China’s emissions will drop by about 0.5 percent (largely due to coal use declining nearly two percent)."

They have huge pollution problems, and they know that shifting to cleaner energy sources is necessary to do anything about it. From "In 2015 China became the world's largest producer of photovoltaic power, at 43 GW installed capacity. China also led the world in the production and use of wind power and smart grid technologies, generating almost as much water, wind, and solar energy as all of France and Germany's power plants combined."

Comment Can you spot fake news either? (Score 1) 403

So you just read a summary on slashdot. I bet you believed what it said without question. Am I right?

Did you follow the link to see what the original story said? Did you check the URL to make sure it was really Engadget, not a fake page designed to look like it? Did you look up the study to see if it really said what the super short, not at all detailed article claimed it said?

No? Then you can't spot fake news either. You just believe what you read, as long as it sounds reasonable, without doing the work to find out if it's true or not.

Comment Re:Finally (Score 1) 540

1. Who could have anticipated the field of web programming in 1800? Thats what I mean by completely new fields.

"Web programming" is not itself a field in the sense I'm talking about, it's just a means to an end. Many different ends: publishing news, selling goods, etc. Those fields have become massively automated. There were newspapers in 1800, and they had to be printed by hand, one sheet at a time, then distributed by hand by teams of people carrying them around. Today, a few web programmers can do work that used to take hundreds of people. Selling goods was a low thoughput field in 1800. Modern stores sell far more with far fewer people. No one cares about "web programming" as such, any more than they care about "buggy whip manufacturing".

But that's all really beside the point. Whatever new jobs come up, whatever new tasks need to be accomplished, most of them will eventually be done by machines, not humans. That's the future we're heading toward.

The field of strong AI has stagnated ever since ELISA. That computers could someday surpass us is simpy a far away theoretical possibilities, if that. The AI hype machine and actual AI research are two very different things.

That's... um... a bit of a distortion. In fact we're right in the middle of an amazing explosion in AI. I've never seen anything like it before in any field. Practically every few days there's another new paper describing some major advancement. And they aren't just theoretical. As often as not, they're describing something that's already been put into production. It's amazing.

I don't know where it will end. "Strong AI" is poorly defined, and mostly a red herring anyway. We may never create a sentient computer that thinks just like a human. Or maybe we will. If we do create one, it won't necessarily be any more useful than a much simpler, non-sentient computer. Real AI research is about getting computers to do useful things, not about getting them to say, "I think therefore I am." And it's making amazing progress at getting them to do useful things.

Humans, and particularly our brain do not stay the same, this is the whole principle behind neuroplasticity.

No. That's a misunderstanding. Neuroplasticity just means you can learn new skills. It doesn't mean you have no limits. Brains today are no more plastic than they were in 1800. We have the same number of neurons, they hook together in the same way. We're no smarter or better at learning skills than our ancestors were. Newton is just as much a genius by modern standards as he was in his own day. Same with Mozart and da Vinci and Socrates. The limits of the human brain are very real and we all hit them every day. And those limits haven't changed. The rare people whose limits are slightly beyond most people's limits stand out as geniuses, even when we look at them hundreds of years later.

Your fear of bein rendered obsolete by computers is just as nonsensical as a hypothetical fear of the heat death of the universe, this is what I was trying to say.

Who said anything about being afraid? :) I can't wait for machines to replace us as workers! You think I like having to go to work every day? There are so many things I'd rather be doing.

Comment Re:Finally (Score 1) 540

It is far too general, it does not take into account the passage of time nor the creation of completely new fields that today simply do not exist.

Could you elaborate what you mean by that? The passage of time is exactly what it does take into account. And I don't know what you mean by "the creation of completely new fields". Here's the simple fact: every year computers become more powerful and humans stay basically the same. Once computers surpass all the abilities of a human brain, that's it. If a new field comes along, computers will be better than humans at that field too. They'll learn it faster and do it better.

By that logic we may all commit suicide since clearly the entropy of the universe will get us all one day, or the heat death, and there is nothing we can do about it.

Um. I think that was a non-sequitur. In a few billion years the earth will be swallowed by the sun. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether that means you should commit suicide. But it tells us nothing about whether automation will lead to unemployment. I guess if you kill yourself, that will be one less unemployed person. But that's the only connection I see.

Comment Re:Finally (Score 1) 540

But predicting that we will be seeing 95% unemployment in the future is just plain silly.

Why do you think it's silly? "The future" covers a lot of time. It's not going to happen in the next 10 years, but what about the next 50? Or the next 150?

It's hard to predict the future, but some extrapolations are easy to make. Machines already do a lot of things better than humans. That set of things is growing quickly. If technology keeps progressing (and there's every reason to think it will), eventually we'll reach a time when the machines are better at almost everything. If you want to argue against that, you've got a really hard case to make. But if you accept it, what do you think it will do to human employment?

Comment Re:Translation (Score 1) 1081

I think you have that backwards. Clinton has been incredibly gracious. She conceded the election as soon as it became clear she wouldn't win, and called on all her supporters to accept the result. If it had gone the other way, do you think Trump would have been half as gracious? This is the man who has been claiming for months that the election would be rigged, who refused to say he would accept the results if he lost. It's also the man whose response to anyone who criticizes him is to swear at them and mock their appearance.

Comment Re:No (Score 1) 1081

In my view, that system would be even worse than the current one. The fraction of congressional districts that are competitive is much smaller than the fraction of states that are. It also would mean that gerrymandering would start affecting the presidency. No one is redrawing state boundaries to get a political advantage, but congressional districts get redrawn every ten years, and in a lot of states, that's done by whichever party controls the state legislature specifically to give themselves an advantage. That would really really suck if you believe in "one person, one vote".

Comment Re:Short answer: No (Score 1) 1081

The broad but sparse rural population has different concerns than suburbanites.

Agreed, and they should have influence exactly in proportion to their population. No more and no less. One person, one vote.

But what does this have to do with the electoral college? We don't give votes in rural Pennsylvania more weight than votes in Pittsburgh. But we give votes in Rhode Island (a tiny almost entirely urban state) more weight than votes in Arkansas (a larger, much more rural state).

Comment Re:yes they should (Score 0) 1081

Indeed, they should have influence exactly in proportion to their populations. Just like every other division, whether it's race, religion, urban vs. rural, rich vs. poor, whatever. Each group gets votes exactly in proportion to its population. Except large states vs. small states. We're talking about a national office, not a state one. Why should a vote cast in Alaska count 3 times as much as one cast in California? It's insane and undemocratic and completely unjust.

Comment Re:yes they should (Score 3, Insightful) 1081

You left out the main reason the electoral college works the way it does: the small states insisted on it. They wouldn't agree to the constitution unless they were given outsized power relative to their populations. It was a devil's bargain from the very start: build an undemocratic system into the constitution, or the small states would walk away and there wouldn't be any constitution. Everything else is just rationalizations that people have added to cover that fact.


NASA Scientists Suggest We've Been Underestimating Sea Level Rise ( 258

Our current estimate about the global sea level is "way off" according to a new study. The study published in Geophysical Research Letters this month suggests that our historial sea level records have been off by an underestimation of five to 28 percent. From a report on Motherboard: Global sea level, the paper concluded, rose no less than 5.5 inches over the last century, and likely saw an increase of 6.7 inches. The reason for this discrepancy was uncovered by earth scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. By comparing newer climate models with older sea level measurements, the team discovered that readings from coastal tide gauges may not have been as indicative as we thought. These gauges, located at more than a dozen sites across the Northern Hemisphere, have been a primary data source for estimating sea level changes during the last several decades. "It's not that there's something wrong with the instruments or the data, but for a variety of reasons, sea level does not change at the same pace everywhere at the same time," said Philip Thompson, the study's lead author and associate director of the University of Hawa'i Sea Level Center, in a statement. "As it turns out, our best historical sea level records tend to be located where past sea level rise was most likely less than the true global average."

Comment Re:Why? (Score 1) 1028

Personally, I find this very reassuring. In the old days when a missile could only take out one city, I was really worried about the future of the human race. Think of all the people who might get missed! But now that one missile can destroy a decent size country, I'll find it a lot easier to sleep at night.


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