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Comment Re:Why does the article assume vandalism? (Score 1) 224

I wasn't claiming that it's better--if anything, crushing poverty is worse than vandalism--I just want to point out that the solution is different, and the conclusions that you reach about human psychology are different.

If you want to solve poverty, you need stronger social safety nets and education in useful job skills. If you want to solve hooligan vandalism, however, you need stronger police, more surveillance, and more morality education. I would honestly rather not see the government taking steps in the second direction. However, it seems everyone else on slashdot (and the article's author) seems to be pushing the vandalism angle, and it seems that's largely based on a misconception.

Comment Why does the article assume vandalism? (Score 1) 224

his electronics are gone along with his head.

That doesn't sound like vandalism to me, it sounds like plain theft. I know the article wanted to pain this person as "terrible" to fit with the snappy title, but it's more likely that this person was just desperate and found some electronics to steal. According to the USDA there's close to 7 million households in the US that go hungry once in a while because they don't have a reliable income.

Comment Re:People are tired of the endless guilt trip. (Score 1) 846

Ah, this is when I wish Slashdot had a way to delete posts. With a title of "People are tired of the endless guilt trip" I assumed the post intended to say that scientific reporting is creating a guilt trip and therefore a bad thing. But re-reading the second-to-last sentence makes it seem like he's faulting society's reaction rather than the reporting itself. I admit that I may have misinterpreted the argument.

Comment Re:People are tired of the endless guilt trip. (Score 3, Insightful) 846

Let me get this straight. You're saying that when people research and consider the negative consequences of their actions, and then attempt to minimize them, they're being irrational? That it's impossible for people to consider these negative consequences without getting paralyzed, and, therefore, that nobody should research the negative consequences of their actions, and everyone should act purely selfishly? That's a great strawman; I know many altruistic people, and none are that stupid.

Most sane people consider it a fundamental goal in life to make the world a better place. It's true that this isn't a rational choice, but then again, it's not a rational choice to act selfishly, because that, too, is based on your emotional response to the stimuli your body receives. In our society, people who make the selfish choice are generally called sociopaths. The only possible explanation for your post is that you are one of them.

Comment Re:Some feedback (Score 1) 1191

Autorefresh is by far the worst "feature" of slashdot. Sometimes I don't read straight down the page--which means it takes me a long time to read the whole page--and in these cases the autorefresh often happens in the middle of reading a summary. I can't even imagine a use case where users would want this, yet there's no way to turn it off.

Comment Re:Are sellers willing to make these models? (Score 1) 320

Recent technologies suggest that building 3d models is going to become easy and automatic very soon--see, for example, Building Rome in a Day. Sellers will just take a few dozen pictures, or better yet, have a rig that will take a few dozen pictures all at once (cameras are cheap), and then plug the photos into software that automatically generates the 3D model.

If that doesn't work, use a Kinect.

Comment Re:A better question (Score 2) 320

Google already wants to use it in maps. I personally would prefer if Google Maps worked like Google Earth. Online stores like Amazon tend to show multiple views of products. Why not just provide a 3d model users can rotate themselves? This is especially true for the sites providing models aimed at 3D printing.

Data visualizations use 3D all the time; it's built into most scientific plotting softwares.

Building 3D models of arbitrary scenes from just images is rapidly leaving the research world, as demonstrated by recent 3D reconstruction projects like Building Rome In a Day (A research page, which, by the way could greatly benefit from 3D web). I wouldn't be surprised if artists start uploading their sculptures, or parents start uploading models of their kids' sandcastles.

And these are just the applications I can think of with dumb 3d models, no physics.

Comment Re:Prior art (Score 1) 150

I don't even have access to read the terms of the grant, since the grant is for my advisor. As far as I know, Google does not have any specific rights to the research, which is why we were able to release the results, algorithm, and code into the public domain, and nobody has ever told me that dissemination or use would be restricted in any way. It's common for compaines like Google to fund public research that they will later have no control over, since this sort of work benefits Google more than it benefits any of its competitors. And no, that benefit doesn't depend on patents; it's simply because Google has access to huge amounts of data, compute power, and machine learning/computer vision expertise.

Comment Re:Prior art (Score 1) 150

they're patenting a specific method of doing so.

There is nothing specific about the methods they're patenting. I just worked on a very similar project, and after reading the patent, I see very little separating what they patented from what we did. Indeed we don't use dimensionality reduction the way they suggest (although we did use it for a while), and we don't provide specific names for the objects we discover (though we have talked about doing so via crowdsourcing). Indeed our work is more recent than the patent filing, but people have been attempting similar things for ages (e.g. [1], [2]...they are very easy to find). Worse, the two papers I cite provide enough detail to actually produce a working system, whereas the patent provides little detail beyond a few references to well-known machine learning and computer vision techniques. And even when they suggest methodology, it's always "maybe we'll use this, maybe not", and further they tend to list several potential methods without any indication that they've researched which ones work.

Comment Re:Interesting concept, but... (Score 2) 104

No, Google Goggles does nothing like this. Google Goggles (and Google search-by-image) is, from the experiments I've done, instance-based image retrieval. That is, it can match objects with exactly the same shape (given a picture of the Eiffel Tower, it will return other images of the Eiffel Tower). However, given a drawing, even a good one, the contour shapes won't match quite well enough, and the algorithm will return garbage. The same can be said for 'deformable objects' like dogs and people.

In fact, I'm quite sure that nothing like this exists. I'm not sure about the actual search engine part of all this, but I did see a talk last fall by one of the researchers who worked on ShadowDraw, which I'm reasonably sure is going to be a component of the final system. The real problem that *they* had to solve was the simple fact that the average person is a horrible, HORRIBLE artist. Ask them to draw a rabbit and for 90% of people, it will come out as a blob that might be an animal, but that's about all you can tell. The algorithms they talked about that actually make the system work as well as it does were actually quite impressive--extremely fast contour indexing, contour combination, converting real photos into convincing sketches--it all sounds easy, but I dare you to actually try implementing it.

Now--and let's see what happens to my karma for saying this--I actually kinda think they deserve a patent for this. Not for coming up with the idea of drawing-based search; that idea is obvious. However, making a system that works as well as ShadowDraw is quite an achievement, and more importantly, Microsoft Research would never have released the algorithm to the public unless it could be patent-protected. Patents in this case aren't about protecting Microsoft's innovation; it's about motivating Microsoft to publish for the sake of other innovators.

Comment Only 1 billion? (Score 1) 130

That's about $13 million. To put that into perspective, the Lunar X-prize robotics challenge offers prize money of $30 million; that doesn't even include team sponsorship. According to Wikipedia, the CMU robotics institute's projects alone cost more than $50 million every year. I crisis and all...but still, a billion yen is not much for robotics research.

Comment Re:Still a long, LONG way to go... (Score 5, Informative) 220

Mod parent up. The linked article (and the MIT press release) are misleading. The closest thing I can find to a peer-reviewed publication by Poon has an abstract is here (no, I can't find anything throught the official EMBC channels--what a disgustingly closed conference):

And there's some background on Poon's goals here:

The goals seem to me to be about studying specific theories about information propagation across synapses as well as studying brain-computer interfaces. They never mention building a model of the entire visual system or any serious artificial intelligence. We have only the vaguest theories about how the visual system works beyond V1, and essentially no idea what properties of the synapse are important to make it happen.

About two years ago, while I was still doing my undergraduate research in neural modeling, I recall that the particular theory they're talking about--spike-timing dependent plasticity--was quite controversial. It might have been simply an artifact of the way the NMDA receptor worked. Nobody seemed to have any cohesive theory for why it would lead to intelligence or learning, other than vague references to the well-established Hebb rule.

Nor is it anything new. Remember this story from ages ago? Remember how well that returned on its promises of creating a real brain? That was spike-timing dependent plasticity as well, and unsurprisingly it never did anything resembling thought.

Slashdot, can we please stop posting stories about people trying to make brains on chips and post stories about real AI research?

Comment Author does not understand information theory... (Score 1) 622

The crux of Krugman's argument seems to be the extraordinarily misleading statement that "A world awash in information is one in which information has very little market value." Krugman has obviously never studied information theory. Yes, our world is 'awash' with information, but that's not because machines are especially good at producing it. Machines are only good at copying it.

Krugman's error stems from his conflation of the two definitions of information. By one definition, the physical number of bits that the human race has managed to store on hard drives, the amount of information the human race has produced has been increasing exponentially. However, this is not useful information, and not the kind of information that requires any serious education to produce. The other definition is from information theory, where information is defined in terms of randomness: here, information is the total number of bits that you need in order to convey a signal in its most compressed form (i.e. the 'random' component of the signal that can't be derived from other parts of the signal). By this definition, the fact that I copy the 100mb file 'a.mp4' from my desktop to my home folder does not mean that I have produced 100mb of information; I have produced at most 64 bytes of information, since that's the number of bytes it took for me to describe the new state of the world.

As for the rest of the article, Krugman argues (correctly, I believe) that any job which requires the production of information will remain strictly in the domain of human beings. However, he seems to forget that most physical goods are just copies of other physical goods, and therefore contain very little information. The production of those goods can generally be replaced by machines.

However, there is still some insight in what Krugman says, though you have to think a bit to realize it. Krugman is actually arguing that educations are only valuable if they teach you how to produce information, and that an education which only teaches you to parrot facts makes you very much like a computer, and very much replaceable by computers. Hence why he needed to use lawyers in his example. I don't think us computer scientists have much to worry about from this argument.

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