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Comment Elon won't disable the Autopilot... (Score 1) 329

...because the goal is to be the first to produce an AI capable of replacing a human driver. Autonomous ground vehicles are a potentially lucrative space. The demand is already there; first to get a product into the space is going to clean up. Elon Musk knows this, and Eric Schmidt at Alphabet (Google's parent company) knows it as well.

The handoff problem is the number one challenge facing autonomous vehicle developers. Schmidt and Musk are trying to solve it, and it is only the approach to solving it that differentiates them.

Schmidt is lobbying hard to get the laws in the US changed to allow him to take the driver out of the loop, because the engineer running Schmidt's autonomous vehicle R&D, Chis Urmson, believes the handoff problem is unsolvable.

Musk, otoh, doesn't see any problem as unsolvable. He is willing to continue pushing for a solution, and that means continuing to use data from the real world use of the Tesla AI. Musk knows that this is a risky strategy.

Consumer Reports seems to agree with Schmidt's engineer. The last several paragraphs are a discussion of exactly why the handoff problem is, well, a problem. CR is advocating a very conservative approach to developing and marketing autonomous vehicles, because the handoff problem is too much for an AI to handle, and keeping humans safe is a big part of what CR is about.

Musk knows he's going to face litigation every time a Tesla is involved in a crash. He's prepared for that, because the payoff is enormous.

Comment Re:Latency (Score 1) 159

Thanks for the informative post. VR can't happen with current or foreseeable technology for precisely the reasons you mention. Sadly, VR has become just another religion that exists only to siphon money from the faithful. AR is a much more rational approach to an immersive experience. Why create a fake world, when the real world is already rendered for you, and has a perfect physics engine, as well? Just tag the parts you are interested in and use sprites if your tags need to move.

Comment New Media 101. I RTFA, you don't have to. (Score 1) 726

Well, I RTFA (memes aside, you really should before posting about it) and it is pretty obvious the article was not directed at anybody in the PC gaming community. It just wasn't meant for anybody who routinely (or even sporadically) builds a gaming system. It looked like something being polished up for a homework exercise on FUD in a New Media class at some community college. The author complained about getting a cut on his finger, created a false equivalence between Macs and PCs, and heavily implied that he needed the assistance of an editor at PC Gamer to finish the build. In fact, the closing paragraph nails the real intended audience -- console gamers -- and the message sponsors are the XBox and PS4 vendors whose ads litter the site (disengage your ad filters at your own risk.)

Sadly, most players will never make the switch because they rightly assume that it's too much of a headache. I can tell you with some authority, it is.

FWIW, the article was also accompanied by teases for articles with titles like "Do you really need a dedicated graphics card to play your favorite games?" and "Watch malware turn this PC into a digital hellscape."

So, in a bucket, consoles are better than hard to acquire, dangerous to build (ow, my bloody finger!), pricey PCs.

Comment Re:old wisdom (Score 1) 387

General relativity is very different than particle physics. That's why Einstein chose to ignore it.

OK, you are a troll or just ignorant. Einstein is one of the great contributors to quantum mechanics and received a Nobel prize for it.

I vote troll. I object in principle to feeding trolls, but I'm going to pile on here. Einstein had issues with certain implications of quantum theory, as did nearly all of his colleagues. "Spooky action at a distance" sums up Einstein's objections to the non-locality of the physical reality of quantum physics quite nicely, and Erwin Schrodinger's thought experiment involving a certain famous cat sums up everybody elses' philosophical objections to the kind of reality quantum theory implies.

It took a generation or two for mathematicians, philosophers, and physicists to overcome these early objections. Bell's theorem (as confirmed by Alain Aspect in the early Eighties) shows that we can have locality, or we can have GR, but we can't have both, though its reliance on no-hidden-variables is a weakness that has been exposed recently by the repudiation of von Neuman's no-hidden-variables proof, and by the resurgence of David Bohm's guiding wave theory (see: Wholeness and the Implicate Order by Bohm and check into DeBroglie-Bohm theory.) Everett's many worlds hypothesis solves all the philosophical problems that Bohr's empirically adequate but philosophically-challenged Cophenhagen interpretation introduced. (NB: Einstein objected to the Copenhagen interpretation because he felt it was incomplete, not philosophically wrong.)

Einstein was convinced that the tychistic reality implied by the probabilistic nature of quantum interactions in nature was somehow wrong ("God does not play dice with the Universe," as Einstein himself put it at one point) and that the phenomenon of quantum entanglement was absurd, which led to him proposing the famous reductio ad absurdum argument he and his collegues Podalsky and Rosen made against it. He fought (unsuccessfully) against these two specific aspects of quantum theory all his life, which is probably what our troll was alluding to. Our troll doesn't seem to understand that just because a scientist is famous and well respected, it doesn't mean that he can't be wrong.

Comment Re:Immediate market share (Score 1) 221

What possible incentive is there for them to make it backwards compatible.

Selling cards to the owners of the millions of devices that already exist. Providing an upgrade path will keep people using your standard. By not making it backwards compatible there is a strong risk it will fail to be adopted.

true enough. But what if people *aren't using* the storage they already have, which I would argue is exactly the case with the vast majority of people with cell phones. Your argument loses most of its strength. phones are for entertainment, and entertainment devices don't need hundreds of gigabytes of fast local storage. I suspect the average user not only doesn't know the storage capacity of their phone, they don't care, as long as they can continue to do what they are doing, which is stream music and movies, and play Angry Birds. My friend just bought his daughter a refurbished 2013 Motorola that streams all her music and movies and only cost him $15. Why does she need a storage upgrade path? What does fast local storage give her that cloud storage doesn't?

They want to sell and obsolete as many devices as fast possible, one way to do that is with constantly changing and evolving the standards ensuring enough improvements to make a replacement desirable

If they want to sell more cards and hardware, keeping it compatible is the fastest way to do that. Even if I want this technology it is going to be years most likely before I have a device that can use it. So they are pushing any possible sale to me out by a long time. On the other hand if the card is compatible with what I have already, even with reduced performance, there is some chance I buy one immediately.

they don't want to sell more hardware, they want to keep selling hardware. a subtle but important distinction that I think you are losing track of. and by selling, I mean renting. Much better (read: more profitable) to sell the same hardware over and over and over again, than trying to convince a consumer to buy something new. Look how Cisco had to take extreme measures to remain competitive with their own damn products because people saw no need to upgrade to Cisco's latest and greatest. You couldn't buy a new Cisco router 15 years ago unless you agreed to destroy your current one. being on the cutting edge of technology is a fun, wild ride, but it is not a good business strategy for either the technology companies or their customers. you and I may be motivated to have cutting edge tech (you should see my gaming rig!) but most people are not going to buy a product just for bragging rights.

I don't agree with this strategy but it makes good business sense. Hell they don't even provide OS upgrades for most smartphones.

I don't think it is good business at all. It think it is a very short sighted strategy that has been tried before and usually fails.

And the lack of OS upgrades is one of the big reasons why I tend to shy away from most Android devices (with some notable exceptions). While there is a lot I like about Android better than iPhones, Apple at least continues to support their products after you buy them which matters to me at least. (Given what Apple charges they damn well should support them too...)

The holy grail for hardware companies is hardware lock-in, which is the hardware analog for the subscription model that software companies have managed to force onto the software market. As long as consumers can say they own the hardware, technology companies are going to have to compete with each other to get their hardware into consumers' hands. And they don't want to have to compete -- that cuts into profits. Better to carve up the market with an agreement (tacit or otherwise) among all the players. It took Microsoft thirty years to finally adopt the closed garden approach that Jobs (marketing guy) advocated for from the beginning and which drove Gates and Wozniak (tech guys) to go their own way. The phone hardware business is almost there, with Samsung leading the push, ably assisted by Android's explicit rejection of the GPL (see also: Tivoization) It is not a coincidence that profitability in their phone division went up when they locked down their boot loader.

Comment Blizz using the law to fix poor design choice (Score 1) 250

Whatever overwatch tyrant is doing, it is merely exploiting design weaknesses in the published interface for third party devs. It is not an MMO Gider; Blizz can't leverage the DCMA, but Blizz could and did claim tortious interference against MDY (the company the created and sold MMO Glider to hundreds of thousands of WoW players.) Blizz extracted $6M in damages after its claims of tortious interference against MDY were upheld, and I won't be surprised if Blizz makes the same claim against the makers of overwatch tyrant.

And that is why Blizz is on the wrong side of this. Knowing where enemies and friends are in a game where combat is a significant part of the experience would be a decided advantage, so Blizz probably should have considered that and shut down (read: made private) that part of the published interface that exposed location information. If you are going to open up the interface to encourage third party devs (yay Blizz!) don't complain when the more unscrupulous segments of the dev community decide to try to exploit your generosity for their own gain.

Overwatch tyrant is not doing anything that Blizz's game developers didn't let it do, and now that it is commercially successful, Blizz wants a piece of it and is trying to get by law what it couldn't get through good design.

Comment Was this a handoff problem? (Score 1) 485

Musk may have a problem here. I wonder in all this analysis if anybody considered the possibility that the driver saw the truck and assumed the car's autopilot would deal with it, and went back to watching his DVD? Even if the Tesla's autopilot recognized that the situation was beyond its scope, would giving control back to the driver have averted the fatality? The answer is quite probably no.

In any wrongful death suit that the driver's family brings against Tesla Motors, what is going to be on trial is not the autopilot technology, but whether or not its capabilities were accurately represented to the public. The fact that a DVD player with content actively queued up was found in the wreckage would support the idea that the driver -- at a minimum -- believed that the autopilot could handle whatever came along. Even if they successfully argue that Tesla Motors created no such expectation with their marketing materials, Musk's lawyers are still going to have to show that the autopilot could successfully transition control back to the driver in time to prevent the fatality. That is where I think Elon is in big trouble, because that particular problem, called the handoff problem, has not been solved, and probably can't be solved, according to anybody involved with autonomous vehicles (just google "driverless car handoff problem.")

If I were on Musk's defense team, I'd be pushing for an out-of-court settlement at this point. The handoff problem is exactly why Google will not go into the business of autonomous vehicles until federal regulations are rewritten so that Google can deploy vehicles on public roads with no human in the loop, period.

Comment Re: Unsurprising (Score 1) 441

> ...because of human pilots' need to see with their own eyes)

You'd be hard-pressed to reliably make the sorts of shots that that crew was making without optics and HUDs. I expect that the sensors and displays have gotten significantly better in the intervening decades.

So an aerial dog fight is like ground combat as long as one of the units is airborne? Where the relative velocities in one encounter are measured in Mach numbers, but are a couple dozen meters per second in the other? Something is definitely hard-pressed here, but it isn't the target acquisition ability of an air-to-air missile.

Comment Re: Unsurprising (Score 4, Interesting) 441 There is a fixed amount of energy available to airborne objects in a dogfight, and most of it comes from the initial velocities of the objects at the start of the encounter. Think of it like a mana pool for your caster class -- missiles just sip it while fighters gulp it down. Each new vector acquired by an aircraft or missile bleeds off available energy, so encounters are necessarily brief. And missiles have another big advantage that is energy related: You can always fire another missile, which starts with a refreshed mana pool. The fighter's mana pool never gets refreshed.

So...the push to make fighters more maneuverable was to evade missile threats from the ground and air. Forward canards, vectored thrust, and variable geometry wings were developed to decrease the amount of energy required for a given change in vector required to defend against missiles, whose significantly smaller mass moment arms (four orders of magnitude smaller) made them inherently more maneuverable. And while it is (read: was) true that defeating the first several generations of missiles was possible by knowing and evading their ever-increasing sensor cone, that is most emphatically no longer the case, and hasn't been for a decade. During my time at the rocket ranch in the late nineties-early 2000s, I saw videos of Russian air-to-air weapons systems that made the fighter types in the briefings gulp in dismay. Passive (stealth) and active ECM are the only ways we have of defeating these current threats if we insist on having big, energy gulping objects that need to defend against smaller, more maneuverable objects that only sip at the available energy pool.

And don't discount the notion of disposability -- missiles, after all, are by definition disposable. But a kinetic kill doesn't necessarily mean that *both* objects have to be destroyed in a given encounter. A hypersonic missile equipped with a chaff ejector stuffed with depleted uranium ball bearings instead of magnesium can deliver enough energy against the cockpit of a fighter (structurally the weakest point because of human pilots' need to see with their own eyes) to guarantee a kill (literally, in this case.) And it probably still has enough energy to find and attack another target or three, effectively nullifying your kamikaze-aircraft-is-too-expensive disposability argument.

Comment more like opening the envelope (of money) (Score 1) 130

You make very valid points, but there is an issue that I think you are missing. All of what you say is basically true, except the part where you say voters don't have much of a say in NASA funding. they actually do, even if it is indirect. They elect the politicians that control policy, and theoretically this is a good thing. But our democracy is corrupted by special interests, so the voters don't don't always get what they voted for, while special interest groups get often get exactly what they paid for. And the fossil fuel industry definitely got what they paid for in the case of the guy voters in the 21st Congressional district elected to represent them in Congress, Lamarr Smith. Smith is an anti-science, religious nutbar from Texas, a card-carrying climate change denier firmly in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry, who incidentally believes the age of the Earth is "10,000 years or so."

The Republican leadership in Congress put Smith in charge of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which has jurisdiction over programs at NASA, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This one guy basically controls the $39B US government R&D budget. So, what did the fossil fuel industry's money buy them? Check out this brilliant piece of legislation sponsored by Smith. In a bucket, he is trying to get a law that prevents the EPA from getting data from real scientists, and at the same time, forces the EPA to use "data" from oil and gas industry "experts."

I mentioned all this so that you can understand why it is going to take more than balls and a desire to explore to rescue NASA, and why even if voters did care about science policy (remember I agreed with you when you said they didn't) the damage is already done. NASA is now in Smith's sights because they had the temerity to defy Smith by providing independent confirmation of climate change when Smith accused the EPA of using "secret science" to confuse Congress during hearings on the "myth of climate change" as Smith repeatedly characterizes it. Smith is going to strangle funding to NASA if they don't stick to a fossil fuel industry approved script of research activities (read: stop doing research on climate change and stick to patriotic buck rogers stuff, or else.)

Comment Re:Heinlein would (and did) loathe Trekkies (Score 1) 180

He was a crypto-fascist at heart, and would have been right at home in today's American Tea Party. He would denounce them for their racist and sexist morality...

You've swallowed the mainstream media story on the Tea Party hook, line, and sinker. There is no more decent group of similar size in the world.

I don't feed trolls.

Comment Re:wrong understanding of Heinlein (Score 1) 180

Roddenberry's Federation-dominated universe that he created in middle of the 20th century was just an extension of America's manifest destiny campaign a century earlier. [...] That Utopia only works if you think your version of law and order is the only right one, and that you are therefore justified in imposing it on people if they think differently than you do.

So, you agree then that Roddenberry was a technocrat and a progressive.

technocrat, yes. I've never met a cop or a soldier that wasn't, and I've been both for extended periods of my life. Progressive? Nope, not so much. It's certainly possible to be a cop and have progressive ideas, but a good idea doesn't need to be forced on anybody. If you think using force on somebody who disagrees with your ideas can be justified, then you are, in my book, not a progressive -- you are a despot. NB: If you think your ideas are good because other people agree with you, then you are delusional, and if you use that support to accrue political power, you are a demagogue (see Mussolini, Palin, Trump, et al, if you want examples of past and present delusional demagogues.) I think, if this conversation is going to be fruitful, we need to agree on what progressive really means. At this point, I'd say you and I probably have incompatible definitions of "progressive."

Comment Re:wrong understanding of Heinlein (Score 1) 180

...and a very wrong understanding of Roddenberry. Roddenberry's utopia was for cops, not people.

Roddenberry was a cop long before he was a TV producer, and he was a military pilot before he was a cop. TOS is exactly what a soldier-turned-cop would dream the future is like. Walking a beat for eight hours in the 'hood became a five year mission in a space-going B-17. Instead of thieves, punks, and whores, which Roddenberry encountered every day on the beat, we have (Lord!) Garth, Klingons, and Orion slave girls. This is not debatable, folks -- Heinlein wanted a world where the US had unquestioned hegemony and was extremely bitter that we didn't nuke Moscow when we could have gotten away with it, and Roddenberry wanted a world where cops are noble warriors on a mission to civilize the galaxy, instead of racist criminals hiding behind a badge. That was (and still is) how cops are perceived, and Roddenberry thought he could change it by imagining a future where cops could be heroes. He chose America's westward expansion in the mid- to late-19th century as his source, where cops and the military were the only thing standing between pioneers and the natives who resented and resisted their arrival.

Roddenberry's Federation-dominated universe that he created in middle of the 20th century was just an extension of America's manifest destiny campaign a century earlier. The Enterprise's mission was to explicitly seek out new worlds and new civilizations, with the tacit assumption that they would be pacified and made safe for the Federation colonists that would inevitably follow. In America's manifest destiny days, brave colonists wagon-trained their way to a new home out West, reliant on military might to quash and exterminate any resistance to their new homesteads by the natives, and on an autonomous gendarmerie of sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, and loosely organized posses and militias to keep order in their new colonies. The only difference between American culture then, and Roddenberry's soldier-cop Utopia was the existence of the prime directive: even a cop like Roddenberry understood that genocide is still genocide, even if you spare their lives and only kill their culture. The "final frontier" that Roddenberry popularized was actually the 19th century western frontier of the US, with Kirk and Co. taking on the roles of the Wyatt Earps, Bat Mastersons, and Roy Beans of the wild West, and the Federation in the role of the 7th Calvary. And I'm not out on a limb with this -- Roddenberry's working title for the manuscript that became Star Trek:The Original Series was "Wagon Train to the Stars."

As others have pointed out elsewhere in this thread, drawing a straight line between an author's fictional universes and his personal politics is difficult at best, especially for a talented writer like Heinlein who could entertain us with a tale about free-love and a sharing economy and win a Hugo for it, and then follow it up five years later with another highly entertaining Hugo winner about a libertarian revolution in a penal colony on the moon. It is easier with Roddenberry, but only because he didn't have Heinlein's multidimensionality. Roddenberry wrote about a future where cops and soldiers are heroes, and that is all he created with Trek. That Utopia only works if you think your version of law and order is the only right one, and that you are therefore justified in imposing it on people if they think differently than you do.

Comment Heinlein would (and did) loathe Trekkies (Score 3, Insightful) 180

Heinlein did not like the counter culture that he helped create. In fact, he went out of his way to distance himself from it. He was a crypto-fascist at heart, and would have been right at home in today's American Tea Party. He would denounce them for their racist and sexist morality, to be sure, but their idea of a society ruled by elites that use their economic and politcal power to maintain control over their society is something he would have heartily agreed with. His novels are rife with that kind of elitism, and there are echoes of it in Trek, especially in TNG.

Heinlein was a great story teller, and his stories helped elevate SF from the pulp ghetto to mainstream literature, especially novels like SiaSL and ST. But don't be tempted to think Heinlein the political man is the same as Heinlein the author. I grew up on a steady diet of Heinlein's juveniles, and was blown away by SiaSL when I read it for the first time at the ripe old age of twelve. I was (and still am, to a large extent) a Heinlein fan boy, but I've learned that my politics and Heinlein's are not equivalent, and are in fact diametrically opposed. It's tempting think that an author who entertains and delights you shares your politics, but that is not the case with Heinlein. There is no way Heinlein can be expected to rationally hold the opposing ideologies that permeate some of his best work. He was embraced on the left (over his strenuous and public objections at the time) by counter culture hippies who saw in Stranger in a Strange Land a blueprint for a better human civilization. But the same Heinlein that taught the human race how to grok also was embraced by libertarians who saw his novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as a part of their Ayn Rand wet dream. There is no way Heinlein the man could champion both of these ideologies simultaneously and be taken seriously by anybody.

As I've come to understand them, the only novel that really reflects Heinlein's personal politics is Starship Troopers. It distills Heinlein's fascism and reflects his very real political conviction that the State is the only thing that stands between civilization and chaos, and that the only way to deal with an enemy is to destroy him, if you think you can't win him over to your side. Detente was not in his book of tactics, nor was the idea of live and let live. Check out his speech to the 1960 WorldCon in Seattle if you need further evidence of Heinlein's real politics.

ST was a morality play about duty, and a call to arms, and it was a doozy. No wonder Paul Verhoeven, when he was looking to skewer the reflowering of Euro-fascism in the 1990s, chose ST for its very fascist themes.

Even before that infamous speech, Heinlein was involved with rightwing politics in the US, even forming the "Patrick Henry League" to counter calls for nuclear disarmament. After that WorldCon, he became a vocal supporter of Barry "We can win a nuclear war" Goldwater for president in 1964, hosting a number of fund raising dinners for him. For Heinlein, the US not using their nuclear capability to finish off the Soviets after Nazi Germany had severely weakened them and the US had it's only window of nuclear superiority was a far greater sin than any fallout (pun intended) resulting from turning Moscow into a glow-in-the-dark parking lot.

So be careful lionizing somebody for the politics they espouse in their fiction -- Heinlein's gift as a writer was in knowing his audience and knowing which levers he needed to pull, and which ones only needed a nudge. His politics are more in line with the junta that seized control of Earth's governments in ST than with the free-love anarcho-messiah Michael Valentine Smith in SiaSL.

Comment Yes, a sim, but for other reasons... (Score 1) 951

Why can our universe can be characterized by two sets of rules that are mutually incompatible, yet are each fantastically precise (15 digits of precision!) My core belief is that the real universe operates by one set of rules and one set only. As people have noted in other posts, inconsistencies (bugs, if you will) in the way our universe works would be evidence that there is a different reality than the one we observe.

That our two most successful theories of how the universe operates are mutually exclusive is one such bug in my view. There are other bugs. Like the fact that there are 19 unknown (read: underivable) dimensionless constants that we have to plug and chug into our theories -- they just exist and none of our current crop of theories can provide a reason for their values. (String theory does, yes, but ST is still religion at this point -- no testable hypotheses.)

The kluges and the hacks we have to deploy to patch the two existing mutually exclusive frameworks that we do have also argue that there is something we are fundamentally missing. GR's cosmological constant, and QM's mathematically regrettable renormalization are two such kluges.

Finally, there's the almost inescapable conclusion that reality is discrete -- there seems to be a limit to what quantities we can observe about systems. Recent data from the LHC suggests that Heisenberg's initial intuition about complementary attributes of physical systems is alive and well at every energy level we can measure. That physical systems even have complementary characteristics (e.g. position/momentum) is a pretty strong argument for a discrete universe, and a good sign that whoever designed this particular simulation wanted to makes sure the simulation couldn't bootstrap itself into their universe.

There are other annoying things that we've observed about our universe that could be explained by it being a simulation. Right now, we have to appeal to either the weak or strong anthropic principles to account for the distribution of energy in this universe that produced objects (us!) capable of existing long enough to formulate questions about the universe. Even the multiverse theory relies heavily on anthropics to account for why a universe with an inverse square law for gravitation would be favored over one with an inverse cube law. And we simply don't know why the matter/anti-mattter ratio in the universe is what it is.

All of these things, and a few others (why is the universe so damn homogenous?) could be explained most simply by it being a (flawed) simulation.

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