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Comment Re:Nope (Score 1) 398

Yes economics is a difficult subject for which our theories are not very successful. But they are not apologists. The problem is they don't have first principles to work with, so they can only study what humans do in actual situations and so their theories are rooted in existing power structures. There are theories that clearly explain why Marxist, authoritarian, and other non-market economies usually fail. You should check you utopian idealism about leisure from machines doing the work and markets being harmful against history. Humans don't cope well without meaningful work. They also don't cope well with non-market organization of economic activity. Name a successful economy that wasn't mostly market based. There are of course different levels of central planning, regulation, and intervention, but the left wing dream of human harmony in a post market economy just never works. If you are convinced you have solved the age-old problem of how to untie humans in harmony without them competing economically in a market economy, please demonstrate your ideas in some voluntary utopian community.

Comment Re:k.i.s.s. (Score 2) 143

There is good logic in "When you try new things, there will be errors, and a main purpose of defense spending is to find and resolve these errors so that our capabilities can remain ahead of our enemies". But there is also a point at which staying ahead of our enemies in high tech weaponry can makes us vulnerable to lower cost ways to win wars. Right now it seems clear to me that the US is erring toward high-tech highly fragile military systems. The future is probably very high tech, but it will be high tech simple, redundant and cost effective systems. Maybe it will be unmanned submarines with large tender subs. Or maybe it will be swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles with mobile landing zones for support. But it seems unlikely to be small numbers of large surface ships. They are just too vulnerable to missile and drone attacks.

Comment Re:I completely agree. (Score 1) 522

It is a nice dream...build a Moon colony, let it develop industry and grow into a jumping off point. But what economic benefit will it provide while we spend 10s or 100s of trillions of dollars getting it going? The analogy to colonies on earth is just not relevant. We evolved on earth and developed economic models that worked on earth. So new land was naturally economically productive. There is plenty of desert and polar land on earth that is much more hospitable than anything on the moon. You underestimate the difficulties of colonizing a planet when a pressure vessel failure is catastrophic. We are 100s of years from an economically viable moon base for humans. We could build one that functions like the space station right now...transport supplies and food from earth to allow people to survive. But we would need to allocate 10s or 100s of billions of dollars per year to keep it afloat. But there are no reasonable ideas for an economically viable moon settlement based on earth biology. If you instead base it on harvesting energy to support machines, it might eventually work, but we are very far from building that also.

Comment a totally arbitrary guess (Score 4, Insightful) 522

This critical issue deserves a more subtle discussion that guesses about when humans will go extinct on earth. Without human foolishness (nuclear weapons, pollution, etc) we would expect we have millions of years. But humans are foolish, so we really don't know. I am suspicious of claims that the human future is in space. Both because there is no plausible way for sustainable human settlements off planet to be manufactured with current technology and because it enables a short sighted approach that treats this planet as a disposable stepping stone to better things. More likely, intelligent machines we make will colonize space before we do since it is much easier to design them to tolerate the harsh environment than it is to modify biology to survive off planet. Maybe we will teach them to build habitats for us, but in that case, it will really be the machines that are doing the colonizing. And this is much further off than many people suspect.

Comment Re:A poor craftsman blames his tools. (Score 2) 531

Are flawed programmers creating bad code? Yes, but there is a bigger cause. Our era assumes that complicated things should be able to be done by a small number of people in a tiny amount of time. It is the failure to simplify and allocate adequate resources to creating great code that are really creating bad code.

Comment Re:How does this compare to 3d-xpoint stuff? (Score 1) 145

3d Xpoint is a fairly different technology. It is much faster than NAND and much cheaper than DRAM while still being non-volatile. Initially some people may use it in expensive high speed SSD configurations like Optane, but I think the real potential is in new architectures with huge non-volatile fast memory. Maybe it will replace Flash in mobile devices that currently operate without off-processor DRAM. It is possible that manufacturing becomes cheaper and it will compete with NAND Flash for non-volatile storage, but except in applications where write speed is much more valuable than total capacity, current 3D Xpoint can't compete.

Comment Re:Not a surprise... (Score 3, Insightful) 269

That is an insightful article. Hopefully we can keep this conversation at a high level. The usual thing when energy supply in transition runs into a rough patch is for many to argue that we should just keep depending on coal and natural gas. But any time you do something new, there is trial and error. Hopefully more of the forseen problems could be avoided, but humans seem to have to make mistakes before they can learn from them. As integrated wind, solar, transmission, and storage systems become more mature, we can run a stable energy system with mostly renewables and much less damage to the ecosystems we depend on. But there will be a learning curve.

Comment Re:old wisdom (Score 1) 387

They are simply important problems. It doesn't really matter what category of fundamental theory you place them under. Planet formation will be solved with continuum mechanics and standard chemistry/quantum mechanics to describe dust formation and aggregation. The solution will ignore general and special relativity. Emergent problems can't be solved with more computational power. Try to calculate the properties of a tree by solving the many body quantum problem. We can't even fully compute 5 particle scattering problems using quantum mechanics.

Comment Re:old wisdom (Score 0) 387

"General physics is more or less solved" That belief is precisely the problem. Could you predict the mechanical properties of DNA from quantum mechanics for us? Could you calculate the viscosity of water from first principles? Could you determine how the albedo of clouds on earth will respond to changing CO2 concentrations? Could you determine the distribution of sizes, chemical makeup, and orbital radii of planets we have discovered? If not, in what sense is "general physics" solved? What people do is redefine these problems as not physics because they are useful enough that they attract a community of non-physicists to work on them also. You seem to believe in the reductionist idea that once you know the underlying equations you have solved a problem.

Comment Re:old wisdom (Score 1, Offtopic) 387

We are already doing it. But not in fundamental particle physics. It is in applied physics where the massive progress is being made. There are a huge range of problems in biology, geology, chemistry, mechanical engineering, nanoscience, neuroscience, and even sociology and economics to which the rigorous, empirical traditions of physics are making major contributions. Last decade we finally solved the problem of transition to turbulence in pipe flow. A more than 100 year old problem with deep mathematical challenges and practical implications on top. But it likely will not receive a nobel prize because of the deep inertia in the dead end idea that physics is reductionist physics. It turns out that it is going to be very slow going to make further improvements in reductionist particle physics. So many people have been told that the "real physics" problems are reductionist problems, so they go to making up philosophical questions they can talk about when they run out of empirical problems they can solve. Physics will experience a renaissance when it finally embraces the empirical study of emergent phenomena for which there are a large number of problems that society really needs physicists to contribute to solving.

Comment Re:Eric? Can you come out of the ivory tower a sec (Score 1) 141

Taking us back to the original post. Jobs for people with training in computer science and biology usually pay pretty well. The problem is that they require extensive training and society has a hard time prioritizing education to provide the training people need.

I wouldn't go to computer science or biology today. Both are oversaturated with people thinking they are the ticket to a great career. I would look at applied physics and some of the science based engineering disciplines. A new science and computation based approach to mechanical, aerospace, civil, and chemical engineering is changing the world. Bioengineering and environmental engineering are growing rapidly. If you can build the math and computer skills to make it, those are the big growth areas of the 21st century. Molecular biology is really really complicated. Messing with it usually does more harm than good. So I suspect the pharmaceutical industry is not a growth area for the next century. And the phalanxes of post-docs sorting out the pathways regulating each gene are going to soon find that the details they unearth are usually not relevant. Sure that gene is involved in cancer risk...but what are you going to do about it if the network is so complicated that external modification messes up too many other parts of cell function. (Just like everything is made of quarks and electrons, but we don't use quantum chromodynamics for engineering, everything in biology depends on molecular biology but molecular biology isn't that useful.) While everyone focuses on biology with dreams of improving health, science based tools for materials science and fabrication are changing the world. Now if only we could solve some political problems so we could train a few billion people to join the effort...

Comment Re: Industrial revolution (Score 1) 177

OK, it is standard to argue on slashdot, but it is more interesting to learn and build better ideas. You have interesting points, but are missing the big picture. If you want to be technical I did say 'economic growth rate' which is the exponential rate constant, so steady exponential growth would have zero first derivative of the economic growth rate.

Modern electronics is dominated by classical E&M. Quantum mechanics is important. But the idea of electronic computers was clear and they were being used well before anyone used quantum mechanics to build solid state transistors to make them much more efficient and powerful. On the other hand, in 1800, no one knew what electricity was and no one had any idea that electric currents could emit radio waves to communicate around the planet. By 1900 the electron had been discovered, Niagara falls power plant was powering electric lights in a city and radio communication had begun. The scientific innovations of the 19th century were profoundly transformational. The 20th century added some important pieces...and you are right that biology is where the 20th century really holds its own. But even the green revolution has its roots well into the 19th century. Most of the technology for the green revolution dates back to the 1800s. It was the social embrace of better seed varieties, fertilizer, irrigation, machinery and scientific management much more than genetic engineering that transformed our food supply. Of course the original post has the provocative title 'Greatest era of innovation' and that is subjective. But I think you haven't put a dent in my argument that the 19th century has a pretty strong case for it.

Comment Re:Industrial revolution (Score 2) 177

Yes, but that is maybe a bit too easy. The scientific thinking and economic arrangements that allowed the industrial revolution are continuing to spread around the world and to transform our lives. The commonly labelled 'industrial revolution' of 1760-1830 produced machine made cloth, readily available power from water and steam, and the beginnings of railroads, but it is prominent for the derivative of the economic growth rate and not the maximum value. Without question, growth measured by economic measures has never been higher than in China from 1980 to 2010. But innovation? That is somewhat nebulous. Does innovative painting count? Maybe I come back to agree with you though. Almost nothing has been as revolutionary or innovative as the transformation in how we conceive of the workings of the universe between 1687 and 1960. Arguably the most rapid period of scientific innovation was between 1800 and 1900 when most of our understanding of thermodynamics, basic chemistry, fluid dynamics, geology, evolution, electricity, magnetism, and optics were placed on solid phenomenological and empirical foundations. Cool stuff happened in the 20th century, but relativity, quantum mechanics, and detailed computational chemistry have been much less transformational than electromagnetism, basic chemistry, and evolution have been.

Comment Re:Personalised (Score 1) 143

Yes, NotDrWho and Logic Bomb give important addendums. Resource constraints are a huge part of the puzzle. In an ideal world, even your group learning uses groups tailored to an individual learner, and that is often not practical. Eventually we may have data capable of guiding which kinds of groups should be working on which kinds of activities, and then analyzing that data and monitoring the groups will be a labor intensive operation, so we are back to resource constraints. In the long run, artificial intelligence may start to help us with these tasks, but by that point, artificial intelligence will start to make education itself a very different process with somewhat different goals.

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