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Comment Re:Finland is not foreign? (Score 2) 98

The Finns later took advantage of chaos in Russia as an opportunity to tell the Russians to GTFO.

The independence of Finland from Russia wasn't due to the "Finns telling the Russians to GTFO", it was a decision made by Lenin, partly for pragmatic reasons, partly due to his warm feelings for Finland after he found shelter there when he was still a political outlaw.

Comment Re:A pity, but not a surprise (Score 1) 95

So, why do you feel that it's your responsibility to tell other random people about random stuff you buy? Are you getting paid to do so?

I'm an Amazon Top Reviewer, and I started reviewing in the late 1990s. I can't remember what drove me to start reviewing, but I've certainly found it worthwhile over time. I tend to review some niche categories of music and books, and while they audiences for these products aren't all known to me personally, it's not quite "random" and one feels that by reviewing one is helping out a community of peers. Also, with a written record of my tastes and impressions from a given time, it's also interesting to see how my views about literature or recordings have changed over the years.

Many top reviewers had the opportunity to make some money from their status by eBaying the freebies they get, but not me. At some point I started getting offers for free products, but all but a handful of those offers disappeared when I mentioned that I now live outside the US -- no one would want to pay such high postage to get promotional materials to me.

Comment Re:Automation hits the white collar sector (Score 1) 69

Does it really take less time to "proofread" a machine-generated translation than to write one from scratch?

No, but there's a much larger labour pool for proofreading and correction and it is considered relatively unskilled work, so it cannot command a high wage. Translation, on the other hand, is considered skilled work to some degree and not everyone has those skills. So, if a company hires someone to fix machine-translation output, they will save money by paying the employee less even if the amount of time for the employee remains the same.

Comment Re:It was bound to happen. (Score 3, Insightful) 106

If companies are limited in what they can import from cheap-labour countries, then they can just bring the manufacturing here and automate the hell out of it so that labour costs are minimal. "Rejigging of trade" need not equate to a significantly higher standard of living for Americans in those particular state. I found this recent election interesting because of two things that were not talked about my the candidates. One was any kind of awareness that automation is changing . Both candidates uttered similar promises of job growth, and Trump offered bringing factories back as an employment panacea, as if this were 1986 and not 2016. Perhaps both candidates thought that offered a longterm vision would just cost them support when so many voters wanted comforting and nostalghia instead of a sober look at the future. (The other was religion. In previous elections, at least one if not both major-party candidates had to position themselves as men of faith, show they were well-known to a particular local congregation, etc. This time, neither Clinton nor Trump even bothered making a pretence of that. Just goes to show how religious observance in the US has dwindled, even if evangelicals are still a major voting bloc and, bizarrely, were often more pro-Trump than anti-Clinton.)

Comment Re:Overpopulation (Score 2) 426

You are very misinformed about the Russian situation. The October Revolution was the result of Bolshevik forces co-opting the February Revolution by capturing key infrastructure like railroads. Both the February Revolution and the October Revolution were the work of relative elites and were not popular revolts. (The popular revolt element came in only subsequently with the Civil War, when the peasantry began choosing either the Red or White side.)

Comment Moving off-planet doesn't guarantee survival (Score 3, Interesting) 151

the prime driver behind settling people on Mars is to provide a backup plan for humanity in the event of a planetwide catastrophe -- an asteroid strike, for example, or environmental ruin, or a species-killing pandemic.

As Kim Stanley Robinson proposed in his recent novel Aurora , the longterm survival of human biology might be inextricably dependent on Earth's ecosystem. Not just the sort of Earth-like features one can reproduce in an artificial habit for a few years, but the planet-wide scale that Earth offers. (In the novel, people on a generation starship discover that salt and other toxins start building up quickly in the smaller scale of their ship.) If humanity is going to survive, that looks like it can happen only if we transcend biology, and if the human race does start moving into machine bodies, then it might not be necessary to leave Earth after all — Vernor Vinge once mused that the reason we don't see other civilizations is because they moved themselves deep under planets' surface where even asteroid strikes wouldn't matter, and they now pass their time in virtual realities where life is easy and limitless instead of the hard work of interplanetary exploration.

Comment Re:If the singularity doesn't happen... (Score 1) 154

Did you actually read Aurora? It's worth examining his argument in detail instead of dismissing it outright. KSR suggests that a viable biosphere is a matter of scale that human beings may not be able to achieve even with access to large amount of solar or other energy. As for health, KSR muses that exposure to Earth's biosphere may be vital, even if a space shelter is otherwise well-shielded from radiation and endowed with artificial gravity.

Comment Re:Science fiction != science fact (Score 1) 154

Umm, you are aware that that is science FICTION right?

Umm, you are aware that fiction (and especially science fiction) often serves to set up thought experiments, right? Why get on my case for thinking hypothetically, when it is a pretty normal human activity? In fact, science-minded individuals are more likely to do so than the average.

Comment Re:If the singularity doesn't happen... (Score 1) 154

IIRC, KSR depicted the colonized solar system as being dependent on resources from Earth, and workers on outer planets regularly returned to Earth to maintain their health. While humans could live on the outer planets for some time, they could not have maintained that residence without the mother planet.

Comment Re:If the singularity doesn't happen... (Score 1) 154

You might enjoy reading Kim Stanley Robinson's last novel Aurora which muses that life might be a planetary phenomenon: human beings are inextricably tied to Earth's biosphere and can never move beyond it. Even large generational starships might be unable to maintain a viable biosphere as waste like salt begins building up in the wrong places. (KSR was spurred to write Aurora in part by the critical backlash against his idealistic vision of terraforming in his famous Mars trilogy of two decades ago).

So if the Singularity never happens and human beings can never transition to machine bodies from biological ones, we're not going anywhere.

Comment Re:Simple question (Score 1) 162

Who gives a fuck? How does this affect anyone at all? I don't know anyone who has or needs anywhere close to this amount if storage.

I can definitely imagine needing the 15TB one in a few years. After being more of a classical literature and music person for most of my life, I've been getting into film. The canon of great films consists of hundreds of titles, at least. In the past you'd have to be lucky to live in a developed country with a well-stocked library, or have a truly massive disposable income to buy all the DVDs yourself. But people today have an incredible opportunity, regardless of their means or location, to educate themselves about this (or any other) art form thanks to torrent communities.

When you're downloading Bluray rips at full quality, where a single film can be 25GB, then storage space starts filling up quickly. One could delete after viewing to save space, but who knows, maybe someday you'll want to watch a particular title again or show it to a friend or loved one, and at that point there might not be any seeders left on the torrent. So, if storage gets cheap enough, then it's worth keeping it all on disk.

Comment Re:Of course not (Score 1) 643

There was an interesting article about Japan's increasing number of abandoned homes due to the contraction of the population. One problem that this brings is that people who do want to live in their ancestral home or move out to the country, may not be able to get utilities provided, because it simply costs too much to maintain utility infrastructure for so few inhabitants.

There is also the issue of finding enough caretakers for the increasing elderly when the workforce is ever smaller. Unwilling to invite mass immigration, Japan has tried to invest in robotics in elderly care, but these efforts might not be enough.

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