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Comment Re:Who is Kurzweil? Why should I care? (Score 1) 181

I'm particularly troubled by these comparisons of DNA to source code. First of all, any programmer that would create code as sloppy and filled with junk sections would probably be canned. While the analogy works in simple terms, the way DNA and RNA encode and then transcribe that back into proteins is far far more complex than how a computer runs code. In some ways, DNA is far superior, because it tends to be a lot more fault tolerant, but in other ways it is much less efficient and tends to be much more error prone (which is a good thing, those transcription errors are one of the major ways in which life evolves).

Ultimately the analogy fails because cells are not computers. They do not function like computers. DNA could almost be more compared to something like a printing press, except that on occasion letters get inserted into the process, sometimes even entire sequences, and on other occasions letters go missing, not to mention the odd occasion where another press's sequence of letters get transferred.

It is a useful analogy for introducing certain concepts surrounding cellular activities and protein production, but it remains an analogy only at that basic level, and fails on the details.

Comment Re:Who is Kurzweil? Why should I care? (Score 1) 181

It doesn't keep me up. Even if we are cosmic accidents (and I happen to believe we are, though I suspect life, mainly unintelligent, is widespread throughout the universe). There's no "why" to the fact we are here, beyond explaining the biochemical origins of life and the peculiarities of hominoid evolution that lead to the rise of genus Homo. We are here, and that's what counts, and to my mind, the fact that we are the end result of a series of many probable and equally improbable events makes human life incredibly precious. Without some big sky god who can do it all again any time it wants to, it means if we wipe ourselves out, we may be wiping out something that is rather rare in the universe.

Comment Re:Question (Score 1) 497

They did more than that. During the NEP they electrified the whole Soviet Union. They also built houses for every family in Russia after WWII. Supposedly, according to people who lived through it, it wasn't that bad to live in the post WWII period in the Soviet Union. But then again that was after a civil war, the Stalinist purges, and WWII. So I guess there were low standards back then.

Comment Re:Question (Score 4, Insightful) 497

No centralized, planned economy has ever outperformed a free market, capitalist one. Ever.

You would be wrong. There are several examples of this happening. One case would be the War Communism period of the USSR. They had double digit growth rates that outperformed every other economy in the world. How else do you think a country which was known for most of its population being indentured serfs not so long ago came go to being the power that produced the most tanks in WWII even while it was being bombed in the process? Not to mention that arguably the T-34 and KV-1 were among the most advanced tank designs in WWII when they went into active service (gun, armor, engine, suspension, etc).

The problem is that the planned economy works well when its about playing catch up with other economies or doing specific near-term projects. But do anything long term or fuzzy and it fails. I pointed out cybernetics research. Stalin was actively against it (on principle and in practice) and it was one of the reasons why the computer industry in the Soviet Union fell behind the West both in terms of technology and productivity. The fact is you can't plan and add equations for unknown factors. It's one thing to optimize an already existing system. It is quite another to design the next generation system.

To a large degree the successes of the War Communism period were based on mass producing technology licensed from the West or directly derived from it. So unlike what Marxist said central planning actually works best to quickly grow backwards, agrarian even, economies rather than improving advanced economies.

Planning fails in the medium-long term even discounting the other issues inherent in a Communist system.

Comment Re: Read some Engels (Score 1, Insightful) 497

Marx and Engels big mistake was in not realizing that despite the abuse heaped upon them, the powers that be at that time recognized at the very least that the notion of class struggle as a driver of history had at least some merits. Marx fully expected a series of revolutions in the latter half of the 19th century, and in some cases it almost came true, but then suddenly you see several nations, even the Austro-Hungarian Empire, for goodness sake, enacting liberal constitutions. In Britain, in particular, within 20 years of the Communist Manifesto's release, the Reform Act of 1867 greatly expanded the voting franchise, enfranchising a large number of working class members. This inoculated a good deal of Europe against any kind of Socialist Revolution.

What went really wrong for Marx's economic and political theories was that first Communist states were fundamentally agrarian states; Russia and China. These, even by Marx's own theories, were not yet at a point of economic evolution that they should become Communist, and in fact, the Communist rulers of these states, to keep with Marxist ideas of evolution, had to introduce vast industrial programs, almost trying to create a Bourgeois middle class just so they could fulfill the checkboxes on Communist revolution. The industrialized states that became Communist were pretty much the states that the Soviet Union forced into its sphere after the Second World War, and who had initially gained their industrial capacity through fundamentally capitalist means.

No one has ever actually seen a Communist revolution the way Marx foresaw such a revolution happening, mainly because, as I say above, the Western nations, whether intentionally or by accident, liberalized sufficiently that the working classes could join political parties, or form new ones (like the Labour Party in Britain). I like to imagine that Disraeli, crafty fox that he was, was at least partially cognizant of the potential for a revolution if Westminster didn't let at least some of the lower classes in, and it wasn't all about just taking the piss out of Gladstone.

Comment Re:Read some Engels (Score 3, Insightful) 497

You are aware that the last three or so generations, at least in the West, are overall the richest human beings that have ever lived. Yes, some are a lot richer than others, but the mean still is so much greater than the past that it's pretty stunning. Only the most impoverished go without food, and even the relatively poor have what can only be described as luxuries.

That's not to say any of it is perfect, or that there aren't people with boatloads of money that really should have that money. There are issues surrounding tax shelters (legal or illegal), corporate influence on politics, and many other issues, but to imagine those just go away because you produce some new economic system is absurd. The one thing Communism did teach the world is that there is always a way for people to get rich and use their wealth to influence the system. Changing the rules just means the greedy and powerful find some new way to game the system, or, if you get rid of the wealthy, some new group rises to the challenge and supplants them.

So I'm all for a fairer society, but we've seen enough "utopian" systems to realize that there is no such thing as Utopia, and trying to bring up the lower classes by bringing down the upper classes never ends up the way you thought it would.

As The Who so aptly put it, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss..."

Comment Re: Oh boy (Score 2) 372

Well, unless of course, the actual citizen happens to be a child of Mexican immigrants, and happens to be the judge in a lawsuit where some of his victims, er, students, are suing him for bilking them out of money.

And as he will soon discover, if he manages to become President, for all this talk of how bad illegal Mexican immigrants are, the agriculture industry of the border states would collapse without them.

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