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Comment Sure, Uber is evil. (Score 2) 259

It's an anti-social company that's a horrible place to work. Everybody knows that by now.

What nobody can know for sure is why an individual takes his life, or what circumstances would have to be different.

Take Google, which in several recent lists is the best company in America to work for. Google has just shy of 60,000 employees. Given the US suicide rate of 46/100,000, if Google were largely reflective of that you'd expect 28 suicides/year among Google employees. Of course (a) not all Google employees are Americans and (b) Google employees are economically better off than most people in their societies, so you'd expect there to be a lower rate of suicide. But it's safe to assume a dozen Google employees a year take their lives.

And if you look at them as individuals, you'd inevitably suspect work stress was involved, and if you'd look you'd probably find it -- because it's a chicken-or-egg thing. Suicide is a catastrophic loss of coping ability; when you head that way you will find trouble everywhere you turn.

When something like this happens to an individual, everyone feels the need to know why -- even strangers. But that's the one thing you can never know for certain. Now if suicide rates were high for Uber, then statistically you could determine to what degree you should be certain that Uber is a killing its employees with a bad work environment (or perhaps selecting at-risk employees).

I think its inevitable and understandable that this man's family blames Uber. And it's very likely that this will be yet another PR debacle for the company. But the skeptic in me says we just can't know whether Uber has any responsibility for the result.

Comment Re:Yes but (Score 5, Interesting) 682

Thought experiment. Let's suppose you're a CIVIL engineer -- the type of engineer the regulations are intended to target. You're on vacation in Oregon, and you notice a serious structural fault in a bridge which means that it is in imminent danger of collapse.

Under this interpretation of the term "practice engineering" you wouldn't be able to tell anyone because you're not licensed to practice engineering in Oregon. In fact anyone who found an obvious fault -- say, a crack in the bridge -- would be forbidden to warn people not to use it until it had been looked at.

Which is ridiculous. Having and expressing an opinion, even a professionally informed opinion, isn't "practicing engineering". Practicing engineering means getting paid -- possibly in some form other than money. At the very least it means performing the kind of services for which engineers are normally paid.

A law which prevented people from expressing opinions wouldn't pass constitutional muster unless it was "narrowly tailored to serve a compelling public interest" -- that's the phrase the constitutional lawyers use when talking about laws regulating constitutionally protected activities. In this case the public interest is safety, which would be served by a law which prevented unqualified people from falsely convincing people that a structure was safe. But there is no compelling interest in preventing an engineer from warning the public about something he thinks is dangerous or even improper.

So if the law means what they claim it to mean, it's very likely unconstitutional.

Comment Re:AI killing industry (Score 1) 120

Except in a real movie, you wouldn't just take the audio stream straight from the algorithm; you'd have some kind of highly skilled specialist tweaking it to get the exact effect the director wanted.

A combination of art and science will eventually be able to produce completely convincing audio forgeries, very likely long before science alone will be able to.

Comment Re:This reminds me of the nuclear boy scout story. (Score 1) 197

Actually, I meant what I said.

Intelligence is a generalized measure of capacity, but actual intellectual performance depends strongly upon motivation. Thus, an obsessed person with an IQ of 100 can sometimes accomplish feats that would elude people with significantly higher IQ. It's a mistake to underestimate the potential intellectual performance of someone because he is relatively dumb.

It's perfectly possible to have high intelligence across every category, including social intelligence, and still be foolish.

While this may be true, I think it is impossible to anticipate someone's actual social reasoning performance from any measure of social reasoning capacity to any useful degree.

Comment Re:It has its uses (Score 1) 411

At some point, the complexity of the task the program is executing requires complex code.

This is a more profound statement than it appears at first. I'd say that the minimal complexity of the code necessary to accomplish a task defines the complexity of the task itself.

As for GOTO the issue isn't GOTO per se, but implicitly building other control structures like loops using GOTO as a primitive -- a legacy of the very earliest machine languages in which you implemented algorithms using a very limited instruction set. The flexibility of GOTO makes it a good choice if you have only a few control structures to work with; but that same flexibility imposes the cognitive load of figuring out what the original programmer (possibly yourself) meant.

But even if more structured (i.e., limited) control structures available, there are problems where GOTO is the natural way to express them. State machines for example. I've seen them implemented with long if-then-elseif chains or case conditional constructs, but that's just thoughtless programming that obscures what is going on. A state machine is much more clearly implemented with GOTOs, although tail recursion can be a reasonable alternative.

Comment This reminds me of the nuclear boy scout story. (Score 3, Insightful) 197

You know, the one where a kid figured out how to refine thorium by reading the Golden Book of Chemistry and turned his mother's garden shed into a Superfund site.

The moral of the story is that even a stupid human being can be pretty smart. Particularly a sufficiently motivated stupid person.

Of course it also helps that intelligence comes in different flavors. Some people are good at spatial reasoning, others are good at verbal reasoning. But we often overlook social reasoning because it's not part of the traditional IQ tests. I think another reason that Social IQ testing hasn't caught on is that there is good reason to believe that social reasoning ability isn't fixed. Changes in attitude can strongly impair or enhance an individual's ability to process social information.

Which leads to the flip side of the stupid people being able to be smart: even smart people can be stupid, particularly in making social judgments.

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