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Comment Re:Who is Kurzweil? Why should I care? (Score 1) 197

I think life is probably fairly common. Intelligent life very likely much less so. Even on Earth, intelligence is a solution to the problem of survival used by only a small fraction of organisms, and even among the organisms that use intelligence as a solution, that intelligence doesn't have to be at the level exhibited by a rather small number of tool-using animals.

But it's going to be a long time before we figure out whether intelligence is rare or not. I don't think SETI is the answer, since incidental transmissions (like TV and radio) only propagate out a few light years before they become indistinguishable from ordinary background radio sources. No, I actually think we'll ultimately identify other civilizations through advancements in optical and radio telescopes which will betray tell-tale signatures like pollution in the atmospheres of Earth-like exoplanets. That's still many years away, but eventually we're going to build large scale space-based interferometer array that will be sensitive enough to image continents and oceans on exoplanets.

Comment Re:Slashvertisements (Score 1) 272

There seems at the moment about a 1 in 3 to 1 in 4 chance of Trump actually being elected. While he's showing better performance than expected in some states, it still seems that Hillary has the advantage. But there's a helluva lot of time until November, and who knows, maybe Trump will finally start acting like someone who wants to be President, as opposed to someone who wants to mount the most expensive comedy routine in history.

Comment 2008 crisis? (Score 1) 247

This part interested me:

It’s true, the 2008 crisis forced plenty of people to look for additional sources of income, not least of all the recent graduates who, with little experience and limited networks, were confronting the job market for the first time.

Really? I thought the 2008 crisis was when the housing bubble burst. Are people who are "confronting the job market for the first time" really looking to get home loans? Or was it just that their first jobs didn't pay all that great?

Statements like this one just reinforce in a lot of older people's heads the idea that Millennials, as a group, are the "everyone deserves everything" generation. What did these people expect when they had "little experience and limited networks"? Did they honestly think anything had changed about first jobs since the dawn of time? My first job was at a goddamn 7-Eleven, FFS. No reason to go looking for some bullshit armchair economist's theory of why that was.

Comment Re:Who is Kurzweil? Why should I care? (Score 1) 197

I'm particularly troubled by these comparisons of DNA to source code. First of all, any programmer that would create code as sloppy and filled with junk sections would probably be canned. While the analogy works in simple terms, the way DNA and RNA encode and then transcribe that back into proteins is far far more complex than how a computer runs code. In some ways, DNA is far superior, because it tends to be a lot more fault tolerant, but in other ways it is much less efficient and tends to be much more error prone (which is a good thing, those transcription errors are one of the major ways in which life evolves).

Ultimately the analogy fails because cells are not computers. They do not function like computers. DNA could almost be more compared to something like a printing press, except that on occasion letters get inserted into the process, sometimes even entire sequences, and on other occasions letters go missing, not to mention the odd occasion where another press's sequence of letters get transferred.

It is a useful analogy for introducing certain concepts surrounding cellular activities and protein production, but it remains an analogy only at that basic level, and fails on the details.

Comment Re:Who is Kurzweil? Why should I care? (Score 1) 197

It doesn't keep me up. Even if we are cosmic accidents (and I happen to believe we are, though I suspect life, mainly unintelligent, is widespread throughout the universe). There's no "why" to the fact we are here, beyond explaining the biochemical origins of life and the peculiarities of hominoid evolution that lead to the rise of genus Homo. We are here, and that's what counts, and to my mind, the fact that we are the end result of a series of many probable and equally improbable events makes human life incredibly precious. Without some big sky god who can do it all again any time it wants to, it means if we wipe ourselves out, we may be wiping out something that is rather rare in the universe.

Comment What's the plan here? (Score 2) 182

So Verizon bought AOL, and now they're buying Yahoo. What's next? Are they going to buy Compuserve, Prodigy, Lycos, or Excite?

But really, what's the plan here? I find it a little frightening that Verizon's strategy seems to be to acquire whatever large content sources they can get their hands on. They (and Comcast) have given some indications that they'd like to leverage their control over infrastructure to push their own content and services.

Comment Re:That's what you get. (Score 3) 92

> Anonymous rating/review sites are ripe for abuse and slander

They're also priceless for due diligence by new employees, or for safely publishing thoughts about toxic workplaces. I used to regularly review the old "www.fuckedcompany.com" website for the real inner doings of clients, especially pending layoffs that might affect contracts with them.

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