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Comment Re: EBooks (Score 1) 161

PDFs are inconvenient in e-readers because PDFs are page-oriented. That makes them inconvenient on smaller-screen devices. That said, PDFs represent that page with a high degree of fidelity, which is PDF's biggest strength.

The problem with math ebooks published in AZW format is that they either render equations incorrectly (making them useless), or render them as bitmaps (making them less useful than they should be, and sometimes illegible).

In most cases I'd take an EPUB or AZW over a PDF for reading on a small device, but for math I'd take the PDF, despite its inconveniences. Or better yet, a physical book.

Comment Re:EBooks (Score 1) 161

I'm in my 50s and my house is literally full of physical books. Every room is lined with bookcases most of them stacked two deep, and I've literally had to put jackposts in my basement to keep the floors from sagging.

Buying new books as ebooks means I don't have to get rid of my old books. It's also nice being able to travel with a generous selection of reading material.

Overall I find the reading experience to be about a wash, but that's a highly personal thing. For pure reading a physical book is better except in low-light conditions, but the search and note taking functions on an ebook are a big plus.

The biggest drawback for ebooks for me is the terrible mathematics typesetting, which is obviously a niche concern; but it's beyond bad; it renders many math ebooks unusable. Often the equations are rendered as low-resolution bitmaps that are close to unreadable, or in other cases I've seen equation terms randomly spread hither-and-yon across the page. For scientific and technical books I would much prefer a larger, higher resolution device. It's too bad nothing really fits the bill because I hate throwing out cases of obsolete technical books every year.

If I had to choose just one format, I'd choose paper. But I find ebooks have their uses.

Comment Brand loyalty? Oy. (Score 2) 109

We had a lot of odd minicomputers in my high school, but the one I used most in school was a Digital Equipment PDP-8. You loaded the bootstrap from a paper tape reader, and you loaded the paper tape reader program by switches on the front panel which allowed you to set memory address contents word by word and set the program counter to a particular octal address. Input/output was through a teletype that printed on a roll of paper.

I have to say that this primitive hardware was as satisfying in its way to work on as the latest core i7 laptop I'm writing this on -- despite the actual core memory's unreliability in our building which was next to a busy subway track. I suppose I did have positive feelings toward DEC, until I got to college and worked in a lab that stored its research data on RK05 disc packs.

In my experience -- which as you can probably tell is by now extensive -- there are two kinds of people, those that adapt readily to new stuff, and those who stubbornly stick with whatever they already know. And as you look at successively older cohorts, the greater the proportion of stick-what-you-knowers there will be.

So the idea that you'll imprint *kids* on your technology is dubious. Yes you will imprint them, but it won't prevent them from switching to something else.

Comment Re: Well it's easy to show superhuman AI is a myth (Score 1) 255

The human population is composed of experts, with divisions of labor. It is not unreasonable for AI programs to have areas of expertise.

In fact this is not true. The human population is composed of experts, some of whom have required in addition specialized skills due to division of labor.

Comment Re:Well it's easy to show superhuman AI is a myth. (Score 1) 255

Oh, and here's another example I just thought of.

I once read a book by an early aviator on techniques of navigating by landmark from the air. He recounts a number of feats of navigation by what were then called "primitive people", including one account of preparations for raid by a group of 19th Century teenage Apaches on an enemy village. None of the boys had ever been there, and so they sought out an elderly man who'd been there once when he was a boy. He described all the landmarks along the way, e..g. turn south at the hill that looks like such and so, a process took almost two days because the village in question was almost five hundred miles distant.

Now if a 19th C Apache had devised an intelligence test, chances are you or I would score retarded. There's no way I could give turn-by-turn directions to a place I'd visited just once thirty years ago. And if I could the chance you could just hear them and then go there without any difficulty is nil. We are simply too unfamiliar and unpracticed a task that is second nature to them.

Comment Re:Well it's easy to show superhuman AI is a myth. (Score 1) 255

You have to look again at how the tests are devised. Let's say you just invented an intelligence test. How do you know it's any good? You give it to a bunch of people and see if it confirms what you already believe about those people.

This culturally biases the tests in several ways. Let's say your test evaluates verbal and spatial mental performance. Naturally the verbal part will be biased towards not only native speakers of your language, but native speakers of your dialect. Then how do you weight verbal vs. spatial in your net socre? That's a cultural assumption. Even if you decide to weight them equally, that's still a weighting and represents a de facto judgment that one is not necessarily more indicative of intelligence than the other.

Then there's the stuff you don't include in your test, for example social reasoning and perception. Inferring other peoples' mental states and intentions is an extremely important aspect of intelligence, but it is also intrinsically culturally specific. Let's say you ask your neighbor whether you can borrow his car and he tells you it's broken. You know it's not broken. What can you infer from that? It depends on where you live. In the US you'd take it as a sign of disrespect, but in some cultures you'd infer that it would be inconvenient for him to loan you his car. Social perception and reasoning is one of the most important aspects of intelligence, but it is nearly inpossible to get a culturally unbiased mesaure of that.

Comment Re:Well it's easy to show superhuman AI is a myth. (Score 1) 255

in the middle range, 90 - 110 points,

IQ tests are also unreliable at the tail ends, for epistemological reasons.

How do you construct an intelligence test? You start with a collection of reasonable-seeming tests and you have a sample population perform them. You then rank them on test performance and assess whether your ranking confirms your preconceptions. So here's the problem with the tail ends: it's really hard to get a large enough sample of subjects to test the predictive value of your test with people who score three or more standard deviations away from the mean.

So while you can probably make predictions about differences in accomplishments between someone who scores 90 on IQ and someone who scores 110, I don't think you can predict much from a difference in IQ between 150 and 170, other than that people with an IQ of 170 will likely consistently score higher on an IQ test.

Comment Re:Well it's easy to show superhuman AI is a myth. (Score 1) 255

You seem to be confusing the concept of intelligence with *measuring* intelligence.

You know you're right. But I think there's a good reason for this: magnitude is an intrinsic part of the concept. I've never heard anyone talk about intelligence except as a concept that allows you to rank things (e.g. Chimps are more intelligent than dogs, which are more intelligent than gerbils). So to apply it to an entity like a human or a program is to implicitly measure that thing.

What I'm saying is that the concept is useful but of intrinsically limited in precision.

Comment Well it's easy to show superhuman AI is a myth. (Score 3, Insightful) 255

Because intelligence as a single-dimensioned parameter is a myth.

We already of have software with super-human information processing capabilities; and we're constantly adding more kinds of software that outperforms humans in specific tasks. Ultimately we'll have AIs that are as versatile has humans too. But "just as versatile" doesn't mean "good at the same things".

So it's probably true that software is getting smarter at exponential rates (and humans aren't getting smarter as far as I can see), but only in certain ways.

Comment Re: Bullshit. (Score 2) 131

"Using a chat program to hide " doesn't even make logical sense.

It does if the chat program using public key encryption between the users. In that case even the mediating servers don't have access to message contents.

The scheme is flawless -- but then it almost always is unless it's devised by a total ignoramus. What they get you on is implementation.

Comment Re:You can't generalize. (Score 1) 387

It does *sound* a bit sociopathic, doesn't it? But sociopathy is a pathological disregard for the rights of others. While deception is often used to violate someone's rights, but it can *also* be used to protect someone's rights.

For example if I knew an employee was embezzling money, I don't have to tell him I know. I can deceive him into thinking I'm not on to him until I gather enough proof or discover who his accomplices are. This is deceptive, but not a violation of his rights.

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