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Comment Re:Nothing to do with Hollywood (Score 1) 478

If it helps, one way to rephrase the original sense of "begging the question" was "asking to have as an assumption, the thing that is in question".

So for example, if you were to argue something like "Chemical X will give you cancer because it's a carcinogen". The evidence that you're offering, "chemical X is a carcinogen", is just a differently worded version of your conclusion, "chemical X causes cancer". You're asking (begging) for "it's a carcinogen" to be taken as a true fact and entered as supporting evidence, when the question you're supposed to be answering is whether that's true in the first place.

So that's why it was once called "begging the question", but the twist of logic it takes to understand it is a bit far to reach for how we use the words now. Which is why it would probably be best to abandon it - find a new term that more obviously describes the logical fallacy and let "begging the question" mean "begs for us to ask the question", in the way people are already casually using it.

Comment Re:I'll never understand (Score 1) 144

More that it's just not always an accurate description - I feel like it's possible to be cohabiting, exclusive partners in a reasonably long-term committed way, without necessarily wanting to import all the connotations of mutually agreed permanence that comes from calling yourself married, common-law or otherwise.

Although that being said, it does also sound slightly archaic... the first thought that comes to mind for me as a mental image for someone in a common-law marriage would be Pop and Ma Larkin from The Darling Buds of May, which is a slightly dated TV show based on an even older book, and set in the rural English countryside (which just adds another layer of quaint olde-worldy-ness).

Comment Re:Wait (Score 1) 258

The expansion of the universe doesn't involve anything travelling - it happens via the addition of more space in between all the objects. Everything ends up further away from everything else, but nothing actually moved through space. The amount of new distance that gets added then depends on how much distance is already there, so if you consider something far enough away, the amount of new distance appearing between you and it is more than light can travel across in the same time period (so any light trying to make that trip will never actually arrive).

It also doesn't have any effect on objects that are tightly bound to each other by gravity (or other forces). In the commonly used analogy of a balloon being blown up beneath our feet, objects connected by gravity are like a sticker fixed to the balloon; the outward "push" of expansion is too slow/weak to overcome their hold on each other. That's true of our galaxy as a whole, and I think of the whole cluster of galaxies in which we reside, so the appearance of new space is only actually visible on the largest scales. At least for now; if the rate of expansion accelerates then nearer objects might start to be "carried away", until eventually they end up too far away to be part of the Observable Universe.

Also noteworthy, "The speed of expansion" is a misnomer, because it's not a speed. A speed would be some amount of distance per time, but the unit used to describe expansion is the "km per second per megaparsec" - a distance per time per distance (i.e. every second, where before there was 1 megaparsec of distance between two objects, there is now a megaparsec plus some number of additional kilometres). But that's kind of a weird unit because it's distance / time / distance... which cancels out to just 1 / time. Which brings us on to the fun fact; when you measure the actual value of the rate of expansion, dividing one by that value gives you an approximation of the age of the universe (it's not exact because the expansion hasn't been linear)

Comment Re:Fuck that... (Score 1) 244

Agreed; I can fly through an equivalent length of text within about the amount of time it takes for person on video to play their cutesy little intro clip, announce their topic (and their motivations for choosing that topic, seguing into an anecdote from their life), and exhort the audience that if you find them enjoyable to watch then they want you to like, share, subscribe, accost a stranger to tell them about the video, and carve the channel name into your forehead.

Strip away all the fluff with careful editing and tight scripting, and a video could add something, especially for things that don't easily translate to text. But the style of video where someone points a camera at their face and starts chatting away along whatever tangent comes to mind is just going to take forever to get to the point. Only really works if they have the knack of being entertaining even while they ramble, which most don't.

Comment Re:Too late. (Score 2) 271

the mechanism by which bitcoin increases the difficulty of mining every time a number of new coins are found

There's a mechanism that scales the difficulty by how much compute-power is applied to the task of mining, but nothing pre-set to make each successive block more difficult to mine - it's just that most of the time the supply of computing power has been growing, so the difficulty kept going up to compensate - there have also been times where the difficulty declined.

The closest thing to a built-in difficulty increase is a periodic halving of the amount paid for each block, but that's only happened once so far (with the next one approaching some time later this year)

Comment Re:Could this lead to false sharing allegations? (Score 2) 47

There was that case where researchers were able to use some manner of spoofing to attract DMCA complaints claiming that their networked printer was engaging in file-sharing. There's a TorrentFreak article about it here which links to the PDF of the paper they published.

Comment Re:Anthropomorphizing (Score 1) 421

The concern isn't so much that the AI would have human-like goals that drive it into conflict with regular-grade humanity in a war of conquest, so much as that it might have goals that are anything at all from within the space of "goals that are incompatible with general human happiness and well-being".

If we're designing an AI intended to do things in the world of its own accord (rather than strictly in response to instructions) then it would likely have something akin to a utility function that it's seeking to maximise, and so implicitly has a goal defined by that function - some arrangement of the world that scores the most highly according to that function. Whether the nature of that goal is inscrutable beyond the wit of man, or utterly prosaic like the "paperclip maximiser"... if it doesn't share our values then the things that we value may end up disassembled for raw materials.

In the admittedly unlikely event of a machine achieving a degree of intelligence that allows it to completely achieve any goal it happens to have, the only way for humanity to win is if it has goals that align near-perfectly with what's best for humanity, which is a vanishingly small target when you consider the universe of possible utility functions that aren't that.

Obviously not really a concern with the current state of technology, but if progress in making more intelligent machines follows anything like an exponential curve then we could fall foul of how bad our intuitions are around exponentials, and end up being taken by surprise by a machine that's rather abruptly more intelligent than we expected. Especially if we make it able to improve itself.

Comment Re:Physics violation (Score 1) 690

Compare the following two questions:

"If the energy in a computer ends up as heat and information, and the energy in a heater just ends up as heat, isn't there some loss of energy in the process?"

"If the water in a waterfall all ends up at the bottom, and the water in a hydroelectric dam all ends up at the bottom, isn't there some loss of (gravitational potential) energy in the process?"

One dumps all the energy provided into some sort of ground state as quickly and wastefully as possible, the other carefully channels it to extract an additional benefit on the side. The analogy isn't perfect (for one thing, the water at the bottom of the waterfall will land with more energy than the water sent through a turbine, and make a hell of a noise in doing so), but I don't think there's anything thermodynamically wrong with the idea of siphoning off and redirecting some part of a flow of energy to drive a turbine or a calculation, and still have it ultimately all end up as heat.

Comment Re:Were Hunter-gatherers doing better (Score 1) 92

Agriculture developed independently in multiple places. In each case it would have involved former hunter-gatherers deciding to cultivate crops instead. Clearly there was something attractive about the idea or they wouldn't have bothered with it. Probably just something daft though, like having a stable source of food or being able to produce an excess to survive through a lean period, and allow some of the population to do something other than constantly hunt and gather... but who really needs that?

Comment Re:As a private citizen (Score 2) 213

To look at it from the opposite end, if your country is abiding by their treaty obligations then they may feel compelled to make laws reflecting it, which you are then subject to. That is of course a pretty big "if" - if they've decided not to abide by it then it becomes a question of what consequences they're either willing to concede to or able to have forced upon them by whoever's on the other end of the treaty.

If your hypothetical asteroid miner were from a smaller country, one less able to dictate terms to the rest of the world, they might find themselves subject to rather more outside interference...

Comment Re:AI is always (Score 1) 564

My point was just that "intelligence" can't be impossible to reproduce algorithmically, because physics is amenable to simulation and has given rise to intelligence.

If it can be produced by a mass of wet jelly sat between two ears, it can be produced by a computer running the right program. The challenge then is to unpick the puzzle of what that jelly is actually doing, and to do so sufficiently clearly to be able to specify that "right program".

Not saying it's easy; it's incredibly difficult. But possible in theory.

Comment Re:AI is always (Score 1) 564

Current algorithms are not Artificial General Intelligence. What we have now are algorithms for domain-specific intelligences.

But in principle, physics can be simulated by an algorithm. Therefore a human brain can be modelled at the particle level and run in simulation. Therefore whatever a human brain is doing that produces intelligence (assuming for now that it does, in fact, produce intelligence) can, in principle, be reproduced by an algorithm, even if it has to treat the brain as a black-box to do so.

Consider that the brute-force approach to algorithmic intelligence. Obviously the real prize is to find the shortcut - abstract out only the necessary elements of what the brain does and express those as algorithms.

Comment Re:Infinite Bank Account (Score 2) 385

I may be wrong, but I feel like you missed the point of the post above you... the "$20 trillion dollar bank account", I took to be an analogy for the world's fossil fuel reserves. Which, if we want to avert climate change, we probably have to take a significant fraction of and leave it in the ground.

All the focus is on reducing demand by reducing usage, and that would theoretically force fuels to be sold cheaper until the point where it's not economically viable to extract them. But it seems like an indirect approach compared to convincing a government that controls a lot of fuel reserves to just stop drilling them out and leave them buried.

But of course it's not really 'realistic' to expect them to do that - they're sitting on a bottomless well of wealth just begging to be dug up. It would make them uncompetitive to stop, it would mean other nations continue to profit while they sit on their hands, it would weaken their position of power on the world stage... it would help save the ecoystem of the planet, but clearly that's of no particular importance compared to wealth and power.

Comment Re:Brain ZAP! (Score 2) 284

If you spent most of your prison sentence unconscious, it would make any attempt at either punishment or rehabilitation impossible. Would still satisfy the "removing you from society" goal, and would still offer some deterrence (maybe not as much if prison was now closer to a null experience than an actively unpleasant one), but still... seems like defeating a large part of the point of imprisoning people

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