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Submission + - EasyChoice for Who? For Amazon?

mtrachtenberg writes: I just received an email from Amazon. It reads, "easyChoice: Amazon is taking the guesswork out of choosing the electronics to fit your needs." I clicked on their "learn more" button, expecting an explanation, but landed directly at "easyChoice." The UI walks you down a short tree — "laptop", "home", done! — at which you are shown what you should buy. Nowhere does Amazon indicate what criteria they use for discovering what appears at "done!" — for all I know it could be Amazon's best profit margin. For laptops -> home, I was taken directly to a single product, a sub $500 laptop built around an Intel i3. At that product, there is a "similar items" area after the first screen. For "laptops", "home", it compares a $500 i3 laptop with two laptops in the same price range, one builot around a Celeron and one an i5. It also shows a $750 i5 machine. I don't know if this "similar items" is an existing feature, or one added specifically for easyChoice. Given Amazon's power in the market, I find it remarkable that they appear to be moving in the direction of taking advantage of the "default effect," without indicating in any way the criteria they use for selecting their (your) default.

Comment Google Replaces the Intern Scapegoat (Score 1) 131

Oh, dear, was that reply rude? It was just Google, I just clicked send without reading it... Actually, I love your wardrobe... No, I think you're a great boss... Did I really say that? I'll turn Google's suggestions off right away, and no, I have no idea how it knew you were mildly obese. I'm terribly sorry.

Comment Re:It's all fun and games... (Score 1) 100

Although it's illegal and unethical, the CIA is convinced torture works. Brennan should be subjected to it until he reveals all the illegalities in which the CIA has engaged over the past forty years. It's tough, but given that torture works this would provide sufficient information to support the deportation of American war criminals (bye DIck, bye Dubya, bye Condi) to countries in which they can be prosecuted. I'd suggest waterboarding, it's just barely torture, after all.

I suppose there's a possibility that the CIA has not engaged in illegal activities (hey, there's a possibility that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is right over your head right now), so that waterboarding Brennan would reveal no new accurate information, but that's a risk we're just going to have to take. Sorry, Brennan.

Comment Screen Background Ads (Score 1) 578

I think Microsoft is missing out on opportunity by not putting advertising on the background screen. Who wants to look at grandchildren when they can see a tasteful ad for Viagra or incontinence products? And, yes, Microsoft Marketing Man, don't call it an ad -- just point out that Microsoft, as a service to humanity, puts incontinence suggestions on screen for *all* its users who have been prescribed incontinence medications.

Comment Darned janitor [was: Re:Uh huh.] (Score 1) 479

No, it was not the software engineers intentionally designing and placing cheat software in VW vehicles. It was the janitor. He's been caught sneaking into offices and forging top executive's initials on memos before, and this time he's gone too far. Two months suspension with pay, effective immediately. No need to look for any other culprits, it was entirely a one-man operation. That Hans, what a card!

Comment Re:My view of this (Score 3, Insightful) 662

We agree on your first statement, that he doesn't seem to be dangerous.

Your second statement -- he's not *really* a boy genius -- applies to all mainstream media coverage of science. No science fair kid is ever just clever, anyone who does anything at all is a presumptive genius. The same with kids in spelling bees, FFS. Papers need to be sold, advertisements need to be swathed in content, channel changers need to be kept at bay.

Your third statement is irrelevant. A child who brings a pencil box filled with clock parts to a school should not be suspended or, as you have said, arrested and cuffed. It's not a bomb hoax if everyone involved except for the idiot English teacher agrees it didn't particularly look like a bomb. If it was a bomb hoax, then any student bringing the insides of a toaster to school should cause immediate suspension and arrest for the student and the three hapless kids sitting closest to the student.

What is missing is your fourth statement: the reason the kid's actions turned into a media firestorm. Simply, it is that a great deal of tinder and kindling existed in leadership positions in Irving, Texas. The media is quite properly pointing out the existence of anti-Muslim bigotry in Irving. While bigotry's role in this may have been indirect, it seems to me to be impossibly naive to suggest the bigotry had no connection to the incident.

Comment Re:My view of this (Score 3, Insightful) 662

Sorry submitter, not buying. Have you read the news articles about the city council and mayor of Irving, Texas? You can start with this one: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/ahmed-mohamed-beth-van-duyne-sharia

So, basically, a kid is hauled off in handcuffs and some clown goes to substantial efforts to demonstrate that he started with a Radio Shack clock.

We *need* kids tinkering around with stuff.

We even need kids who get maybe a teensy bit cheeky with their stupidest teachers.

And when the cheeky kid happens to be "not quite white" in a community with stupid bigots in charge, and they get hauled off in handcuffs, and the school leaves him suspended, we don't need some clever jackass backward-engineering his little toy to demonstrate media overreaction. We need people looking into how bigots ended up in leadership positions in Irving, Texas. Then, instead of investigating its overreaction, maybe the mainstream media could investigate why it hasn't been plain-old-reacting to this bigotry for the last fourteen years, or to the stupidity we've been witnessing for 14,000.

Comment Re:Contact Avoidance (Score 1) 275

Genetic competition eventually leads to sentience. That's where things become interesting, and where the previous forms of selection lose much of their power. The sentient species actually supports its weaker members, and values intelligence and, perhaps, compassion. Where intelligence is valued over compassion, wars eventually destroy the species, or reduce it to a point where it no longer is able to operate at scale with the powerful technologies it has found. Where compassion is valued over intelligence, there's a chance for further growth.

The societies that don't destroy themselves within a few hundred years of developing technologies involving electromagnetism and, say, nuclear power are well worth investigating. Ours may do so, in which case we may be investigated. But, for now, we're just dangerous.

Comment Contact Avoidance (Score 4, Insightful) 275

Any extraterrestrial civilization that has survived into interstellar travel is probably willing to invest a great deal of its time and energy into NOT being discovered by us. What could be more dangerous than a species that has learned some technology yet turns every technological advance into a weapon against others of its own kind? And we've been advertising that aspect of ourselves to the universe ever since we discovered radio waves.

Comment Politicians Please, Not Professors (Score 2) 281

I'm glad Lessig was moved to action by the needless and cruel death of a fine young man. Lessig is right that the wealthy control our politics, and he is right that they are leading us down a path of spectacular self-destruction.

But I don't want a noble Harvard professor -- if there is such a mythical beast -- who promises to resign in favor of his Vice President, so as to avoid soiling his hands once he has saved us all.

Instead, I want a spectacularly good politician, who can rally crowds to bring about the change we all want and need. I'm guessing that such a politician will not be willing to say exactly the same things a noble Harvard professor may be willing to say, primarily because any spectacularly good politician values the idea of getting elected and having power more than s/he values the idea of returning to the ivy covered halls. But I'd still like that spectacularly good politician to be willing to stick his or her neck out for things they believe in, whether it makes them ultra-popular or not. And, if they believe in things like putting citizen's health above the needs of corporate health insurers, or things like educating all of a nation's children to the best of their abilities, regardless of their parent's ability to pay, and in the idea that even a full time burger flipper is entitled to enough money to participate comfortably in our society, regardless of whether that means raising the marginal tax rate on CEOs... I can actually drum up some enthusiasm.

Bernie is looking good.

Comment Devil in the Dark (Score 5, Insightful) 485

The Gene L. Coon episode The Devil in the Dark, in which a bunch of miners have come under attack by a strange stone-like creature, made an indelible impression on me, certainly more than any bit of religious scripture I've encountered. The lessons in that magnificent episode included the need to understand the other, the danger of assuming you are in the right, the dangers of an ill-educated mob, and the power of fear. I wish W and President Cheney had been forced to watch it before they were unleashed on the world.

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