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Comment Re:The Singularity (Score 1) 189

I did, and I found it quite difficult to believe that the authors had read any of the originals, let alone any notes. They completely missed all of the subtlety from the originals and made all of the characters painfully two dimensional. Reading the bit in the foreword when Brian Herbert opines that Kevin J Anderson (who has yet to write a single book with an ending that didn't feel like he got bored and had 5 pages to tie up all of the loose ends and is best known for some embarrassingly bad Star Wars novels) was the only person who could write something on a scale of the Dune sequels tells you that it's not going to go particularly well.

Comment Re: Well it's easy to show superhuman AI is a myth (Score 1) 189

Exactly. It's something that works at the level of a human subconscious: the leftover bits of evolved junk in our minds from before we developed sentience. The sorts of things that let us shout at the sky before a thunderstorm and then assume that we've made Thor angry, not the sorts of things that allow us to build a modern technical society.

Comment Re: But how will I trick investors!?! (Score 4, Informative) 189

Except that the claims of strong AI 'real soon now' have been coming since the '60s. Current AI research is producing things that are good at the sorts of things that an animal's autonomic system does. AI research 40 years ago was doing the same thing, only (much) slower. The difference between that and a sentient system is a qualitative difference, whereas the improvements that you list are all quantitative.

Neural networks are good at generating correlations, but that's about all that they're good for. A large part of learning to think as a human child is learning to emulate a model of computation that's better suited to sentient awareness on a complex neural network. Most animals have neural networks in their heads that are far more complex than anything that we can build now, yet I'm not seeing mice replacing humans in most jobs.

Comment Re: How about a 4th option ? (Score 1) 371

You might like to pay attention when the muck spreaders are out - the stuff that they're coating the fields in is not plain old organic dirt (or even soil, which is an incredibly complex substance in its own right). It's not even shit anymore, it's a complex growing medium that's covered by numerous patents.

Comment Re:COBOL isn't hard to learn (Score 2) 371

Given that most of this code was originally targeting systems from the 1960's and 70's, I can't imagine there being an insurmountable number of lines of code

According to Wikipedia, Gartner estimated about 200 billion lines of COBOL code in 1997. To put that in perspective, that's more than the total amount of open source C code tracked by Can you imagine persuading someone to rewrite all of that C code in a newer language?

Comment Re:Don't read a book (Score 2) 86

Don't read a book. Go start a business. "Entrepreneurship" books are largely useless, in my opinion (as a successful entrepreneur).

While I can definitely respect the sentiment, I also like to do a bit of research on things before jumping in. Talking with entrepreneurs (both those are/were successful and those who weren't), I did like The Opportunity Analysis Canvas as a way to help one see the opportunity in the first place (something with which I continually struggle).

Comment It will probably never die (Score 5, Interesting) 371

Having spent quite a bit of time over the last two years to re-implement in Java a system developed by the government in COBOL, I can tell you that COBOL will probably never die. For example, keeping precise, penny-perfect calculations of dollar amounts in Java is actually quite a pain. This is especially true when the calculations involve dozens of hundreds of steps. My solution in Java has been based around BigDecimal, which makes the code very difficult to read. Aside from that, I have spent the vast majority of the time writing very extensive tests and chasing down really small numeric discrepancies. Guess what, if you decide to replace a COBOL system that does any appreciable amount of math, you would get to do the same thing. Plus, you will never be sure that you found all the bugs.

The project actually considered the possibility of licensing a commercial Cobol runtime for PC-based platforms (e.g., Windows, Linux, etc.), but that was not feasible for several reasons.

COBOL is still remarkably good at quite a few things and leaves out lots of the bells and whistles that tend to become distractions in the hands of undisciplined programmers. My only complaint about COBOL (especially old COBOL) is that the control flow is a real pain. Aside from that, it is definitely a workhorse of a language. No need to go killing it off yet.

Comment Re:Pay your fucking taxes instead (Score 5, Insightful) 177

And that's exactly the attitude that leads to this situation: the belief among a large subset of the population that they will eventually get rich and benefit from all of the loopholes that aid the rich. The overwhelming majority of the richest people in the world were born rich. They didn't come from being lower middle class and work hard to earn their money.

Comment Re:Slow news day (Score 2) 199

IBM used to have a bunch of aptitude tests for entry-level technical jobs. I was recently speaking to a retired alumna at my college who applied to their admin track and after doing the tests for that was asked if she'd be willing to try the technical track tests. She did well in those and stayed with the company for 10 years, helping to design System/360 and 370. She was particularly smug about the fact that her boyfriend at the time had failed the same aptitude tests.

Comment Re:Another outrage article (Score 2) 272

Then, almost by definition, it is worthless

And yet it works in exactly the way Libertarians are telling us things will work: companies put an agreed-on label on their products, they have an incentive to check unreasonable-sounding claims from their competitors as do consumer groups, and there is redress through the courts (and bad publicity) if anyone is caught cheating. For once, it's a free market solution that is working with a minimal amount of government intervention.

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