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Comment Re:Explore the ocean depths (Score 1) 91

Right now - that certainly is the case. But I'm not so sure for two reasons you're leaving out. The first is, there was huge pay-offs from the Apollo program which were not foreseen (certainly not by the many, many naysayers who tried so very hard to prevent it happening). In fact, despite it's massive cost it was one of the most profitable investments the US ever made. The "beat the communists" was the foreseen one. The scientific and engineering advances made to do it - those made money, lots of money, lots more than the project cost.

The first difference then is, if you're trying to sell such a project a hundred or two hundred years from now, you have that learned lesson. You may not know what values will come out, but you can say with reasonable certainty that in the process of developing it there will huge advances which will directly benefit the people back home who get to use them for other purposes.

The second factor is - if these nearer, easier, colonies were done - a lot of lessons will have been learned, a lot of problems solved. Much of this will overlap - so you can reduce the total cost because some of it's already spent.

The third factor is - we have absolutely no idea what the world will look like in a hundred years. If you had asked anybody in the 15th century what they thought the 16th century would be like they would predict "pretty much the same, a few minor new technologies, a couple of governments changed, some countries destroyed and new ones formed"... and they would be right.
Ask anybody born after the 19th the same question and they predict vast changes - because they've all seen vast changes in living memory and can reasonably expect that to keep happening. The world now changes rapidly and 200 years is a very, very long time.

We don't know what politics or economics will look like. Which powers will have the money, whether the concept of money itself will have been replaced by something better. What problems there will be to solve. For all we know we'll have built a world where all labour is done by automation and humans spend their lives in leisure - relying on the unquenchable thirst of creative people to create to provide their advances (this is not so far-fetched - we are right now not far from being technologically capable of such a world, even if politically it seems unlikely in the short term). There's no reason to assume the economic question would ever even be asked, we don't know if it will be a world where that question is still relevant.

Comment Re:It's about landmass (Score 1) 406

>Bad form... that's called poisoning the well, and is a type of ad-hominem argument that is equivalent to a logical fallacy.

It is also, my sincere belief. The new car market is a tax on people who are financially ililterate. And that's the REAL cost of your extended warrantee - whatever you paid for it +25% of whatever you paid for the car.

>I buy a car to reliably and economically get me from place to place
Choosing your second hand well gets you the same reliability, and much better economy. Why do you think I drive a BMW 3-Series diesel ? Because study after study have found they are, by far, the cheapest and most reliable car to drive - IF you buy them second-hand. The only cars that are cheaper to maintain are electrics and they aren't really available second-hand.

>This invariably happens much sooner with used cars than with new
That can be a factor, it was exactly the point where I replaced my Audi with the BMW. But what you're forgetting is that you pay SO MUCH less for the second hand that even if you only get half as many useful years out of it, you can then buy the next one and you've STILL spent less than a new car over the same period.
Based on the numbers in this thread. A new US car typically goes for around 32K, a good second hand for around 10K. Lets assume there is a 10-year period for a car where you can maintain it at a reasonable cost. That's a good thumbsuck, petrol can be a little lower - diesel is often significantly higher but it doesn't much matter to the outcome anyway.
So you buy a new car at 32K - for that price, it's almost certainly a lower-end family-model type car.
I buy a 5-year old petrol or 10-year old diesel for 10K. But I am driving a luxury car - with the full suite of safety features (which I care about because I don't want some drunk driver or an oil-slick kililng my child).
In 5 years, I have to replace it. I buy another luxury car. Lets be ridiculous and assume an inflation rate for the US way above what it actually is - and say I pay 12K. At the end of 10 years. I need to buy a third car - lets make that 14K.
But so do you - and you get the same inflation rate so the next one costs you about 40K.

So after 10 years, we each have a just-bought car. Mine will last 5 years, yours 10. Thus far I have spent 36K - you've spent 70K (and I've not added whatever you're spending above the sticker price on extended warranties - seeing as it's likely my services and such at least match that). I've been driving luxury model BMWs and Audis, you've been driving mid-range sedans like Nissans or Toyota. Sure my BMW is 10 years old. But it's a diesel engine - that thing is good for between twice and three times the kilos it's got on. Now the rest of the car will start falling appart before it gets to 20 or 30 years, but that won't affect me.

Throughout all this - I've been buying my cars cash, you've almost certainly been getting financing - so you've spent interest as well which I haven't. It's easy to save up 10K if you have 5 years to do it. It's a lot harder to save up 32K in 10 years.

Now I don't live in the US - I live in South Africa and the maths is DEFINITELY right for the prices here. I based these on the figures quoted throughout this discussion by Americans as typical prices, but I don't shop for cars there so they may be off by a bit. Nevertheless I believe the gap is huge enough that it won't change the outcome.

I rest my case.

> And somehow, my trying to be prudent with the money that I have at the moment makes me an idiot
Because you're terrible at being prudent.

Comment Re: It's about landmass (Score 1) 406

Your argument goes against everything the company has stated, and told their investors, they plan to do.
Firstly - the gigafactory is meant to make batteries, cheaply, for any EV's - it's meant to make more money, not just be a cheap insourced supplier.
Secondly - Tessla has committed to bringing their prices down - and would love to see other companies make cheap EVs - because teh bigger the EV market over all is, the better for them - it means more charging stations and infrastructure which benefits even their high end sales.

Now, of course, Tesla could change their plans or not do what they said - but if they do, they better have a damn good explanation of Musk will get sued by his own board of directors and the shareholders. They invested based on what the company said it intends to do and have a right to demand that Musk sticks to the plan. Failure to do so would be investor fraud.

It took a measly few years from the first commercially available automobiles before the Model-T made these former rich man's toys into a mainstream affordable product. Why on earth do you assume that EV's would NOT follow the same pattern ? Are they somehow isolated from economies of scale ? Is it magic ?

Comment This. (Score 1) 108

I have close knowledge of one project in which a codebase performs an action using an initial human-supplied table of data, then records the result as either a positive or negative outcome and adds that result back into the table. Then it performs another action based on the table data, records the result as a positive or negative, and adds that back into the table. Over time, of course, the table entries with the highest positive rate rise to the top and influence the actions that are chosen. It's CS101 stuff on a fairly mundane dataset.

But the codebase is hosted on Amazon and it's a marketing-led company, so they went to press with "Our innovative new artificial intelligence system uses a deep machine learning algorithm running on new exascale computing platforms to determine the best course of action to take in each case."

The engineers in the room were not happy about this. The marketing person said, "Don't sell yourself short. You developed a system that records data about what has already happened, remembers it, then makes decisions about what to do next based on what has already happened. I call that artificial intelligence."

One of the engineers shot back with, "When I was in college, we just called that 'computation.'"

Comment Re:It's about landmass (Score 1) 406

Awww you think you don't *pay* for the extended warrantee. That's sweet.

More-over those typically only apply to new purchases. Right now - the second hand market in EV's is still very tiny, but expect that to grow bigger and bigger over the next few years. Then the picture changes. Second hand buyers seriously consider maintenance costs - since it is a massive part of the TCO. And frankly only an idiot buys a new car. It's the worst investment in the world. Nothing else you can buy loses 25% of it's value the second you take posession !
I can buy a chocolate from a store, walk outside and sell it for barely less than I bought it for. Take it to the local school and I can turn a profit (I did exactly that for pocket money when I was in school. I bought juice packets from the supermarket, froze them and sold them as ice lollies at school for a significant markup in summer. I turned an initial R10 investment into R400 in a week - then the school forced me to stop because I was taking business away from the tuckshop). But a car ? You buy it - and sell it the same day you get 25% less than you paid for.
I prefer to let other people be the idiots. I ONLY buy second hand.

Comment Re:Explore the ocean depths (Score 1) 91

>Economically, what's in it for the people left behind on Earth? Are the colonists themselves going to fully fund the expedition?

Economics is not mankind's only motivation. In this case - there is another rather good one: the survival of the species. Mankind cannot and will not survive if we are confined to one planet. No species can. It's simply physically impossible. Unless we colonize we are as doomed as the dinosaurs. Sooner or later the universe is going to throw a giant rock or a massive blast of radiation at us and wipe out just about every living thing except a few extremophile bacteria.

Life will (probably) survive, it's incredibly resilient. Evolution will start over from those bacteria... but there won't be any us.

The odds of two planets getting hit at once are exponentially lower, for every one we add - the chances of humanity existing in the long run gets better.

But lets start simple -lets get a colony on the moon. Even Mars can wait. No reason to hurry there - just being n the moon as well will already double our odds of surviving the next cataclysm since the moon colonists could repopulate earth after.
But there's still plenty of things that could hit earth that would take out a moon colony right with it - so once we've solved the relatively easy task of making the moon livable - Mars awaits... after that, well there's really nothing else in this solar system which can feasibly be made suitable for human habitation. The only thing remotely close is Venus and frankly trying to terraform that atmosphere is so far beyond any technology we have that we can't even begin to imagine what processes may do so. We may never be able to... but if we can get to mars then the stars await.
Not for us. Our grandchildren may make it as far as Mars... but their grandchildren - we could leave them a legacy like that. And we should - because if we don't, they may never exist.
The most fundamental drive of every species is it's own propagation and survival - are you telling me that humans would not spend money to pursue our most fundamental drive ? No amount of laws and pressures and prices have ever stopped prostitution - because it taps into that drive.

Oh -and the argument you just made, was JUST as true in 1961 when a madman said - "Hey, lets commit to going to the moon this decade", that madman just happened to be sitting in the white house.
The cost will never be a factor - what will be, is if we can get the right people in the right positions - to inspire the world to believe it's worth it.

Submission + - NYC Spent $69M on Special Ed Software That Cost $75M in Labor Judgments (

BradyDale writes: One in seven students in NYC schools are in special education, each of whom has lots of individualized service goals each year to help them achieve an appropriate education. That's tough to keep track of, so in 2008 NYC schools procured services to build software to help track it.
The poorly designed software has made matters worse. So far, it has earned $75M in labor arbitration settlements over time teacher's wasted wrestling with the system outside of school.
Now, the city's public advocate has sued to find out if students get the services the law entitles them to.

Comment Re:The answer is to stop thinking all or nothing (Score 1) 406

Problem is the energy trap. Here's what happens when oil actually becomes hard to find, if a renewable transition has not ALREADY HAPPENED (and why "the market will solve it when it gets rare" is a stupid argument:
It costs energy to build renewable infrastructure, when energy is getting scarce and expensive- investing in that infrastructure means a bunch of people who are struggling, has to struggle a lot more.
No government wants to do that. It could easily take as long to transition with manageable investments as the remaining oil lasts - and at each step for the first several years it means having less energy than you otherwise would have. By the time you start seeing returns on the investment you're in the next election cycle - so making the investment is always better left to somebody else... until there is no oil left, and then you CANNOT transition because there is no energy to transition with.

The best way to avoid the energy trap - is to transition while oil is still providing plentiful, cheap energy. It's a basic economic lesson so old that it is recorded in a book that is at least 4000 years old. How did Joseph manage the seven dry years ? By storing food during the 7 good ones.
How did India avoid famines for thousands of years ? By storing food all the time it was plentiful so when the monsoon hit it's occasional long-drought cycle they had enough stored up to survive (until Britain dismantled that system - and they had 3 major famines leading to over 30 million deaths).

Invest in the sustainable option while the unsustainable supply is still plentiful, because when it isn't - you will not be able to convince suffering people to suffer more in order to fix the problem. Whether that's a decade away or a thousand years away doesn't matter. Invest in security now, because even if renewables seem more expensive (they aren't) that's a fallacious way of thinking. Human societies that survived in the long haul are the ones with the foresight to invest in alternative resources when the ones they rely on are still plentiful and it doesn't look like a justifiable expense ot make that investment.

The US is not a good example - 300 years is no time at all. If you want to be one of those societies that make it to a thousand or more, learn what the ones that did, did right.

Submission + - Squirrel 'Threat' to Critical Infrastructure

randomErr writes: The real threat to global critical infrastructure is not enemy states or organisations but squirrels. Cris Thomas has been tracking power cuts caused by animals since 2013. His Cyber Squirrel 1 project was set up to counteract what he called the "ludicrousness of cyber-war claims by people at high levels in government and industry", he told the audience at the Shmoocon security conference in Washington. Squirrels topped the list with 879 "attacks", followed by birds with 434 attacks and then snakes at 83 attacks.

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