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Comment Re:Positive development (Score 1) 67

Means more room for humans. We're succeeding as a species. I suspect it wont end well for us though.

I don't see any reason to believe it will end badly, at least not for reasons related to this issue.

Homo Sapiens has proven to be an extraordinarily adaptable and successful species, a global superpredator, which has inevitably displaced many other species. The Holocene Extinction, which has been in progress for thousands of years, is the result. The rate of extinctions accelerated dramatically in the last few centuries, particularly as the human population has exploded.

However, in the last few decades humans have become aware of the issue and have begun to care about it. This isn't to say that we'll ever value other species as highly as our own, but we've begun to think that it's important to avoid destroying them. That coupled with the fact that human population is likely to peak within 30 years and then begin declining and the fact that new technology is enabling us to tread more lightly means that extinctions directly produced by human activity (e.g. habitat expansion) will slow and perhaps cease.

Indirectly-caused extinctions will likely continue for millenia, though. Global warming is going to do in a lot of species (though it may create a good number as well), as climate shifts exceed the ability of species to migrate. It may also provoke some more directly-caused extinctions as it causes humans to migrate. Not much, though, since we already live pretty much everywhere. The accommodation of human-transplanted "invasive" species is also going to take a lot of time, and transplantation is probably going to continue as much as we try to avoid it, so there's going to be a sort of homogenization effect across the globe which will wipe out a lot of species as more aggressive and capable species get moved into their area. If humans choose to begin engineering planetary climate and stabilize it, so that it stays permanently within a particular range, that large driver of new speciation will be eliminated which will also contribute to the establishment of an equilibrium that will likely contain many fewer species than the planet has had for most of life's history upon it. It's also possible that we'll begin engineering biodiversity as well. That's hard to say.

Or maybe we'll have a massive nuclear war, simultaneously removing ourselves from the picture, ending the Holocene extinction with a spike, and kicking off an explosive new round of speciation. I think that and similar humanity-caused, humanity-ending disasters are unlikely, but I am an inveterate optimist.

Comment Re: Sociopaths gonna sociopath. What's new? (Score 3, Insightful) 165

Yep, GP loses at bad-research bingo. Also, he missed the actual problem with this research: the subjects are divided into classes by self-reporting. So the headline should read, "People who consider themselves above other people pay less attention to others." It's not an un-interesting result, but it is not quite as interesting when you put it that way.

I've worked with people of all classes, and anecdotally at least I've found that F. Scott Fitzgerald was right: the rich aren't like you and me; they have more money. Old money at least lives a little bit like the people you read about in Jane Austen books; a lot of their energy goes into socializing with others of their class. So it would be interesting to look at old money/new money this way. Another interesting confounding factor is urban/rural. Rural people tend to be poorer. Urban people actually get more human interaction per time while participating in less per person encountered.

In most interesting social science research it's not the first and obvious way of dividing up people that draws your attention (e.g. rich/poor, young/old, male/female); it's the second cut. That's because most of our pop-psych deals in the first cuts (men are from Mars, women from Venus); the second cut tells us the ways our intuitions are limited.

Comment Re:Hmm (Score 1) 906

That's indeed the kind of ideas that is now floating around. I rank it in the category of Iraq coming to kill us all, with the same combination of inflating the threat and at the same time regarding the opponent as a pushover. I think Colin Powell has made some sensible comments on that. Russia is paranoid about us, about NATO. We scare them. They are a small power, we're a big one that is surrounding them more and more, and then sabre rattling is a sensible response.

That doesn't explain why they weren't rattling their sabers a few years ago. The Economist has a recent article that does offer an explanation that covers that as well The thesis is basically that domestic troubles caused by a weak economy have motivated Putin to seek ways to distract his people from domestic concerns. Specifically, he's tried to recapture the superpower position of the Soviet Union. He can't, really, because Russia isn't the Soviet Union. Without the central planning structure to force the massive overproduction of military resources, the Soviet Union wouldn't have been the Soviet Union, either.

But his people don't really realize this and, frankly, the rest of the world tends not to realize it much, either. So Putin can rattle his rusted and broken saber and the rest of the world reacts as though he was the mighty Soviet Union. Except... there is one area in which is military isn't so rusted or broken: nuclear weapons. Oh, his nuclear armament is aging and dilapidated, but it's still very real and Russia has the technological wherewithal to build highly functional nukes and missiles to carry them. Russia can't afford to build very many of them, but it doesn't really take all that many.

So, as it becomes more and more apparent that Putin doesn't really have the conventional forces to make the world treat Russia with the fear and respect that the Soviet Union got, he's almost certainly going to be making more and more use of the nuclear threat that the world can't ignore. And that will help to keep his people feeling like they're a major world power again, which will keep him in power.

Is this true? I don't know. Makes sense to me.

Comment Re:Am I missing something? (Score 1) 142

Hangouts used to have seamless SMS/Hangouts.

No, it was never seamless in the sense that iMessage is. The seams were harder to see, and that was exactly the problem that motivated the clear separation; the failure modes of the combined messaging were subtle, hard to understand and opaque to users. The upshot is that the combination made Hangouts messaging appear to be unreliable.

Actually, iMessage isn't really seamless either. It breaks badly if iMessage thinks the destination device is an iPhone but it isn't. It's very good in a pure-Apple world, though.

Comment Re:and if I shoplift a rack full of CD's it's just (Score 4, Insightful) 93

Because copyright law is bunch of crude analogies hacked together that used the physical encodings of information as a proxy for a creator's financial interests in a work. It worked great in the age of print when mainly you were talking about books which were cheap to mass produce but expensive to copy.

But today, conceptualizing an author's rights to a work as a monopoly on copying leads to nonsensical results. Suppose I download a song to the same computer twice, as can easily happen. Technically because the thing I did wrong was copying, I infringed *twice*; however it hardly does twice the harm to the author's interests. On the other hand if I copy that song once but listen to it a thousand times, you could reasonably argue I'm doing more harm to the author's interest than if I downloaded it a thousand times but *never* listened to it.

It's all just a way to get content creators paid; a ridiculously complex and arcane way, but it's familiar because it's traditional. You can't expect it to make sense, especially by trying to draw subtly different analogies.

Comment You're wrong. (Score 1) 214

You're looking at the stagnating iOS years on, rather than at what Apple did during Jobs' tenure.

I was a Palm user when the iPhone was released, and I thought I was totally satisfied with my Palm devices (which I'd been using for years) and that the premium for an iPhone was pointless. I poo-pooed the iPhone until the 3GS was released and I finally tried one. I was blown away. Full web browser, lots of useful apps that installed *over the network*, fast and complete WiFi support to enable this, large capacity to hold lots of songs and images, a camera capable of producing large images, the list went on and on. It was a HUGE step up from other things in the market at that point. Apple had taken half-measures scattered throughout the phone ecosystem and brought them all together as full "best of breed" measures in a single device. This is what the Jobs Apple excelled at.

NOW iOS is stale in comparison to Android (see my post above), and that's the problem with Apple and why they are rudderless without Jobs, but early on this was simply not the case—the iPhone was remarkable when it was introduced.

I'm a technology early adopter (not necessarily an Apple one) and this happened several times with Apple products under Jobs:

- MP3 players. I'd had several MP3 players prior to the introduction of the iPod, but the classic iPod blew them all out of the water. Far faster, large screen enabling actual navigation of your music library, capacity to hold thousands of songs (rather than just a couple dozen), played just about any MP3 file you could throw at it rather than requiring you to use their own encoder (or, in the case of Linux users like myself at the time, carefully curate and tweak command line for Lame to create files that the device's bandwidth could handle). The iPod was simply far more functional that other MP3 players at the time.

- iPad. I'd used other tablets for years: Vadem Clio, Hitachi eSlate, Fujitsu Stylistic, etc. They had compromised battery life, a resistive touchscreen, an OS that was difficult to work with, had dog-slow processors and little memory, could not run a full web browser (in the case of the CE devices), required desktop sync or a desktop environment, were heavy and difficult to hold for long periods of time and/or to carry around, etc. iPad was hand-holdable, had massive battery life, did not require desktop sync or that you run a desktop environment that suffered as a tablet, and was generally the device I'd been hoping for for all those years as I struggled to make previous tablets work. Again, the iPad was a tablet done *right*, rather than making me buy the "promise" but suffer through the compromises.

- OS X. I switched from Linux. Why? Because OS X gave me a *nix command line environment and infrastructure, robust stability, support for high-end hardware, *and* off-the-shelf retail purchases of software and devices without having to recompile code or worry about compatibility. It's still the only OS that does this.

Jobs had a talent for spotting technologies that were essentially at the "proof of concept" stage but were making headway in a few tiny niches, and were already being sold to (dissatisfied) consumers and riddled with compromises, and getting his team and company to engineer their way around and through those compromises to realize the technology in consumer-ready, appliance form. Other companies released Ford Model T cars (hand-crank start, too many levers to micromanage mechanical functionality, counterintuitive and dangerous gearbox, rotten ride for grandma) and Jobs could look at what was there, spot the potential, and then put his team to work on a car that could be started from the passenger compartment, manage the obvious parts of its own mechanical operation, that had a safer gearbox that matched the way that people think and expect machines to work, and that let grandma work on her knitting in the back seat without poking herself.

He was masterful at (1) identifying potential in new tech that was either failing in the marketplace or had already been dismissed, (2) seeing why this new tech was flagging, and (3) managing his team to solutions to the obvious problems, so that previously taken-for-granted limitations and complications were removed, (4) all within the realm of consumer budgets (even if at the high end of these). He was also very adept at (5) bringing lots of different technologies of this sort together in a single device or system, with all of them significantly improved, i.e. using lots of disparate tech in combination to solve the problems with each and multiply their effect.

This is the "vision" that people talk about. He spotted this stuff, recognized which limitations weren't as obviously necessary as people imagined, and could find a path to release with much upgraded and/or improved design specs, when everyone else thought it was impossible, and maintain the determination and optimism to keep the business afloat and the team working toward the goal in the meantime. These are not small things.

To me, that is innovative, it's just innovative at the process end, rather than at the "invention" end of things. Jobs was process innovator and a UXD innovator, not an inventor.

What Apple lost with Jobs was this vision to see where (a) potential is hidden and (b) the real UX problems lie with high-potential tech.

They are back to being in the business of "accept what already exists and the taken-for-granted limitations, then iterate with evolutionary improvements over the release cycle." They are consciously trying to innovate at the other end, but they are back to releasing half-baked new tech at the essentially proof-of-concept that really only appeals to niches willing to nurse it along. In short, they're just like all the other tech companies again. They are no longer the company that plucks tech that previously only geeks were capable of using or saw the purpose of, then perfects it beyond all expectation and gets mom to buy it for grandma for Christmas, as was the case with the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc.

The Apple Watch is their only post-Jobs attempt, but Cook called it done long before Jobs would have, and the result is that Apple released a product like the Vadem Clio or Fujitsu Stylistic of old that I mentioned above—appealing to a few geeks, but niche, limited, hard to use, and with a small (and often frustrated and product-abandoning) audience in the end.

In short, Apple has become another HP or Compaq once again, just like they were before Jobs came back. They take existing product categories and tech limitations and parameters for granted, build "one of those" to have it in their product line up, release, and hope to compete on build quality alone. Just like they did in the late '80s and early '90s. History says this won't work for them. They have more cash this time, but they're still in a losing position right now.

To maintain the brand, they need to find another person who adopts relatively immature tech that the public doesn't know about, and that those who do know take for granted as niche and limited, and then organizes Apple's huge resources and brain trust to realize them as far less limited consumer devices that work better, and with fewer limits, and more conveniently, and more user-centricity, than was previously imagined to be possible.

Until they find such a person, I'd be short Apple.

Comment Re:Am I missing something? (Score 1) 142

Hangouts does everything you describe. It's what I use all the time. It is seamless across my phone and table and my PC. And it is seamless across windows, linux and apple.

It is seamless between SMS and the internal delivery system, and the conversations are synced to my gmail account allowing me to search them.

I like Hangouts and use it constantly, both personally and for work (I work for Google, where it is arguably the primary means of communication), but it isn't quite as seamless as iMessage in one respect: SMS integration. In iMessage there is no distinction between SMS and iMessage messages; they're all just messages. If they can be delivered via Apple's infrastructure, they are, if not they're routed via SMS. With Hangouts, SMS and Hangouts chat messages are distinct. They look similar, but they're different in subtle ways.

Of course, Hangouts clearly is superior to iMessage if you or your friends use non-Apple devices, because Hangouts works on a much wider variety of platforms, and for those who understand the distinction it's *good* to know what is SMS and what is not, because SMS is inherently unreliable -- and in some parts of the world SMS is also ridiculously expensive while data is cheap.

So, although depending on your context Hangouts may be better than iMessage, it's definitely not as seamless in a pure-Apple world as iMessage is.

Comment This is too bad. (Score 5, Informative) 193

I live in a GF area and love it. There are three tiers, 5 Mbps for $0 (yes, free broadband), 100 Mbps for $70, and 1 Gbps for $90. They have been absolutely bulletproof, the speeds are for real when tested, and the online system and the way that it integrates with their WiFi router is awesome.

I have had multiple providers over the years, including Comcast and Verizon, and Google Fiber's product and service are easily better than the others.

If Google can't make this work, there may be no hope for anything better for a long time to come. I just hope I don't lose it here!

Comment Re:Let me know when ... (Score 1) 294

The football analogy is stupid. Reaching the 35 yard line has no value in itself, indeed neither does reaching the 0 yard line. The only thing that goes up on the score board is getting into the end zone.

Generating, say, half of your energy from renewables is more like reaching the half-way point in your quest to earn a million dollars; the half-mil in your pocket has utility right now. What's more since non-renewables aren't going away overnight, reducing their use is immediately useful in reducing carbon emissions and other pollution.

The economics of renewables are considerably different than non-renewables, which means we have to adjust our thinking (and engineering). To maximize the impact of renewables, we need a much better electricity grid, which will help us smooth over local variations in supply. We'll also need to work on storage at some point. Storage for renewables doesn't have to be as physically efficient as it would be for non-renewables, but it has to be cheap to build and operate.

Comment Re:Tzar Bomba (Score 3, Informative) 906

Actually... This thing can potentially deliver up to 15 separate warheads, which could in aggregate sum up to 50 MT, which coincidentally was the approximate yield of the Tsar Bomba. However those warheads would have immensely more destructive capacity than the Tsar Bomba.

The reason is simple geometry: the energy of an explosion is dissipated in three dimension, but people live on an approximately two dimensional surface; all that energy which goes down and up is wasted. To do more destruction, you need to find a way of distributing the energy of the attack across the surface of the Earth, which can easily be done by delivering two warheads of half the size, or even better ten warheads of 1/10 the size.

This is what is behind the whole "area the size of France" thing. You couldn't do that with a single massive bomb, but ten smaller bombs might do the trick. Also note that terrain makes a difference -- as it did in the Nagasaki bombing, which missed its mark, causing the blast to be contained by the Urakami Valley. Southern France is extremely rugged, so it is unlikely that all of France could be destroyed by one of these things; however, there's no question that France as a country would be destroyed.

Comment Yup. Apple products used to be focused around (Score 4, Interesting) 214

enabling the user to do things they otherwise wouldn't know how to do or be able to do. Since Jobs left, they've steadily slid into the old game from the '90s and '00s that the tech majors (HP, Compaq, and so on) used to play—"innovation" becomes another word for "throw gadgety gimmicks at the wall and see what sticks," but without well-thought-out reasons why users might want the device, or an understanding of the ways in which UX friction impacts the device's usability.

Compared to the rest of the marketplace and competing products at the time, the original iPhone, the original iPod, the original Intel Power Macs, the original LaserWriter, the original Macbook Pro models, the original iPad, etc. were all towering improvements that enabled users far more than competing products did.

Now, the trend is the opposite.

On the consumer end, iOS phones and tablets feel arbitrarily constrained next to Android
Current Mac OS machines are generally limited in serious software and upgradeability again relative to Windows machines
On the pro end, Apple's application ecosystem is weak once again compared to pro-level Windows applications ...and so on.

It used to be that you paid a premium for Apple products but got much more or at the very least something highly differentiated for your money (esp. in the cases of early iPods vs. other MP3 players, iPhone 1 vs. other smartphones, iPad vs. other contemporary tablets, etc.).

Now you pay a premium either for less or for something that is largely undifferentiated (and often negatively so in the minor differences that do exist).

It hasn't always been the case that you're simply paying double for brushed metal and a glowing Apple logo, but it certainly feels that way now. People still want to pay for quality (hey, the aluminum case and better QA are nice), but now they have to consider the tradeoff—I can pay a lot more and get a nice metal Apple device, or I can pay a lot less and get a phone that's more configurable and flexible.

That's my own feeling, anyway. I'd love to have the nice finish of an iOS device, but even if there was price parity I couldn't give up the flexibility of Android. I don't want to be tied down to Apple's visuals, Apple's icon positioning, Apple's version of KHTML, Apple's take on the (non-)filesystem and so on. I love Mac OS as well, or at least I have done since OS X, but the new Macbook Pros are limiting and I'm seriously considering getting a Windows laptop for my next purchase, just so that I can access hard drive, memory, and so on.

Apple has begun to fetishize itself, rather than fetishize overall UX.

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