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Comment My experience with Geek Squad (Score 1) 387

My girlfriend's laptop was not booting. In fact, I could not get into BIOS setup so booting from an alternative medium was not an option. The simple things I tried (remove DIMM, remove HDD, reset CMOS, ...) didn't worked. I am a software guy so I figured out that my time was too expensive to continue the investigation and that we'll pay some "professional". Geek Squad was conveniently located so I brought it there. I was really stupid that I have not read their reviews before that.

They asked nearly $100 for a "diagnostic" that looked something like this:
"No signal from keyboard" - read: F1 won't enter BIOS setup (that was why we brought the laptop to them in the first place)
"No signal from CD ROM" - read: our diagnostic CD doesn't boot (again, that was why we brought the laptop to them)
"Hard Drive OK" - strange, we removed HDD before giving the laptop to them
"RAM OK" - the only thing they have done with the laptop was trying another DIMM (if they were not lying on that one too)
"Motherboard error" - they implied that exchanging it would be too expensive and the laptop is not worth repairing.

(BTW I was able to fix the laptop with some help of Google afterward. The problem was short-circuited wires in a broken USB slot. The laptop still works well 1 yr after the "incident".)

I was furious so I spent really long time arguing with them. They repeated several times that they ran "series of diagnostic test" but when I pressed the manager he had to admit that they couldn't run the tests because they couldn't boot their diagnostic CD. At that point, the manager denied they lied to me about the "series of diagnostics" and started calling his technician (who was not there at that point) "a mysterious man who told you something".

My girlfriend never seen her money again. I filled a complaint at their corporate support line. They told me they will handle it but they will not tell me about the outcome (WTF?). All I could do was to call again the next day to check that the complain was in their system and it had assigned a tracking id.

I was seriously considering taking some further steps because I consider this preying on a layman public bordering with a fraud. But at the end I just gave up.


Immaculate Conception In a Boa Constrictor 478

crudmonkey writes "Researchers have discovered a biological shocker: female boa constrictors are capable of giving birth asexually. But the surprise doesn't end there. The study in Biology Letters found that boa babies produced through this asexual reproduction — also known as parthenogenesis — sport a chromosomal oddity that researchers thought was impossible in reptiles. While researchers admit that the female in the study may have been a genetic freak, they say the findings should press researchers to re-think reptile reproduction. Virgin birth among reptiles, especially primitive ones like boas, they argue may be far commoner than ever expected."

Comment I am on neither side (Score 1) 209

From what I have heard and seen, auditors do a very lousy job. I very much hate the fact that they get a lot money while they are generally not responsible for the quality of their work.

On the other hand, it is clear that auditors can not find all possible problems, therefore it doesn't make sense to make them responsible for all incidents. This just would not work.

Comment Re:Consciousness - right track / wrong track (Score 1) 291

Visual sensation is what's going on in the brain. We don't know enough to speculate about it reasonably. End of story.

The information that it happens in the brain is not that much useful to understand it. It is a very interesting (and very old) problem we should try to solve. If we do not know enough we should try to learn more.

And if you want to make unreasonable speculations go ahead but leave me alone - I prefer science.

First, we should try to define the problem. I believe that qualia (although somebody would call this phenomenon differently) is key to defining consciousness. Once we have a correct definition we can start what you call "science". For me trying to define a problem is part of science. Don't get too distracted by the fact that many philosophers speak crap.

This is not end of story. We are at the very beginning.

Comment Re:Consciousness - right track / wrong track (Score 1) 291

If your brain were somehow rewired so that you see red as blue, then your brain would adapt to the change over time and you would start identifying red colors correctly again

You brain would adapt in the sense that you would start to associate (your subjective) blue with things like fruits, warmth, aggression (and other things not-rewired people do associate red color). Yes, you would adapt and start responding to colors correctly.

But would you see the red as red or blue? And what does it mean to "see red as red" anyway? It is not that easy as you might think, see qualia. These are "feelings" in their "raw form". Where do they arise from? People like D. Dennet argue they are just "illusions". But what does "illusion" means then (renaming the problem doesn't solve it). I can feel them [qualias], therefore I want to know what they are, be they called feelings, qualia or illusions.

Comment Re:Consciousness - right track / wrong track (Score 1) 291

Wow, long post. But you have not got the parent post right. Of course, brain is a quantum system. The same way as you car travels according to Einsteins special relativity. But I assume that your car moves at speeds where using Newtonian mechanics makes more sense.

The same holds for your brain, there is no evidence so far that its function can not be accurately described solely in the terms of electric potentials (no quantum mechanics involved).

In fact TFA is about modeling the brain as a relatively simple (although very large) electric circuit. Of course consciousness is still a mystery, but this doesn't prove that brain is a quantum system, there is probably something much deeper (information?) in play.

Comment Re:How can you tell that something is conscious? (Score 1) 291

All right, we probably basically agree with each other ;-) Just let me elaborate a bit about what I mean.

I found only two reasons to believe that other people are conscious (by which I mean they are not philosophical zombies or equivalently that they have qualias ["feelings"]):

  • I know I am conscious, therefore I assume that similar beings are conscious too.
  • Other people have "independently" (of me) coined the term, therefore I assume they feel conscious (which is just different way of saying they are conscious).

The first argument would not convince me for machines (although it convinces me that at least mammals are conscious).

The second argument is quite problematic because of this damn "independently". Of course philosophers have coined the term independently of me, but I do not use it independently of them. Still, I believe I would have these feelings even if I didn't learned this concept.

So yes, I totally agree that a best way to assess whether someone or something is conscious is simply to ask the "right questions" (preferably the test subject was never exposed to notions like feelings, qualia and consciousness before). I just didn't called this "Turing test" (which is on one side too strict and on the other side can be cheated surprisingly easily), but it is just a terminology.

Comment Re:How can you tell that something is conscious? (Score 1) 291

OK, the "weakness" section is irrelevant. But it is still a valid point that Turing test doesn't test for consciousness.

The problem is that consciousness is subjective "by definition" (of course we do not have a proper definition), which makes objective testing difficult at least.

The only test I can think of is this one: I an AI can independently (by introspection) come to a notion equivalent to "consciousness" (or better yet "qualia") it probably has these (subjective) traits.

Comment Re:Consciousness - right track / wrong track (Score 5, Informative) 291

"Red" is what your parents told you it is. A name arbitrarily assigned to a specific visual sensation, which is defined by the physical makeup of your eye.

Yes, but the fundemantal qeustion is: What is this "visual sensation"? In other words: What is qualia?

Otherwise, I do agree with you, you parent post is mostly gibberish.

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