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Comment Re:Fixing the symptom (Score 1) 109

Generally prefer incremental changes and improvements over major overhauls. In this case however I am inclined to agree with what I take as the spirit of your argument. Currently I see fixing the patent system as a real possibility, partly because many of the patents existing are so ridiculous and bizarre that they attract the attention and ire of even less technical and less informed members of the public, business, and government. If the system were to be so reformed that only sufficiently complex 'business methods' or software patents survive, this might mask the fundamental problems with patenting ideas, allowing it to survive to the profit of patent lawyers, but to the detriment of human innovation and small business.

Comment Re:Frist Psot (Score 1) 949

If there weren't people with ideas that refused to accept the current taught dogma the Earth would still be flat, and that the sun would still rotate about the Earth.

Nooo... the earth would be (near) sphere, and would rotate around the sun, just as it does now. People might believe otherwise, but that wouldn't change the facts.

Comment Re:Frist Psot (Score 1) 949

And without guidance by a credentialed expert in the field, you will have no understanding of the scholarly context to put them in their proper place.

I agreed with you right up until you spouted this bit of nonsense. Credentials, and social recognition of being an expert in the field are neither necessary nor sufficient to guarantee the ability to confer understanding of a subject. They are social tools with that purpose in mind, and they are relatively good indicators, but that doesn't mean there aren't better alternatives. In point of fact, my experience has been that the best people in a particular field are rarely the best at teaching a particular field (be that humanities or physics).

Comment Re:Frist Psot (Score 3, Insightful) 949

I agree with both you and the writer of the article to equal extent. Conversely, I disagree with both you to a similar extent.

Calling Plato, Proust, etc fucktards really doesn't serve any kind of purpose at all. Do you think you have nothing you can learn from those people? If so, I think it's fair to call you an anti-intellectual. I agree you don't have to go to university to get a broad education and exhibit some intellectual curiosity in the human experience, but showing contempt for that curiosity is pretty contemptible.

While we agree that it's important to think, your post gives the impression that you consider only a narrow band of subjects worth thinking about -- to wit: things that will help you in a business or IT environment.

I could argue that a certain general knowledge of western culture would help you in a business environment. The Borgias and Machiavellie would almost certainly help in a strategic sense, while being well read and erudite is generally helpful unless your aim is to be chief of the cellar dwelling server maintenance tribe. That would however be missing the real point, which is this: your intellect is useful beyond IT and business. It's worth applying your intellect to issues of culture, society, economics, ethics, and humanity. It's worth reading what other people have had to say on the topics, and it's worth reading the intellectual works that have formed the basis of our society. It is especially worthwhile to read these things with a critical, analytical, intellectual mind, to see what you agree with, what strikes you as wonky, and what can be tested and disproven. It is fascinating to see how our minds work, how our societies function, and how they are developed. The more you know about these subjects, the more you can contribute to our society as a whole. In short, it makes you a better human being and a better citizen. It's also fun.

I'm reminded of a guy in my English Lit class at Georgia Tech, who complained loudly that we had to read "The Odyssey". He wanted to know why we had to read what a bunch of dumb Greek guys wrote about gods, when now we have science and understand how the world works. To this day I think on him and have to shake my head at his fat headed willful ignorence. You don't read The Odyssey to understand how the physical world works. You read it to understand how the human mind works, how western culture developed, to understand the origins of what are, even today, common elements of our culture. To understand the power of metaphor. To understand the human tendency to find patterns (even ones that don't exist) and to anthropomorphise patently non-anthropomorphic behavior. To understand how ideas of ethical behavior, culture, civilization and a good life have changed over the years, and the origins of our modern beliefs. To understand how wars start, and how they are justified... It's also very useful to see the mistakes people have made in the past, to understand how and why we make similar mistakes to this day.

In case you are interested, here's my reply the post's author:

I agree that there is a tendency to anti-intellectualism that is prevalent in our society. I also agree that this has spread to so-called geek culture. While I agree with most of your basic assumptions, and many of your conclusions, I have some issues with many of the specifics in your article.

First, your post equates intellectualism with university education. You conflate dislike, distrust, and/or contempt for traditional educational systems with anti-intellectualism. It is entirely possible to admire intellectual thought, strive for intellectual rigor, and apply a curious and analytical nature to the world at large without attending university. Particularly in America, where universities have become commercial institutions, bound tightly to our corporate masters and elite power structures, it easy to imagine losing interest a formal education. As a noteworthy example, I encourage you to read Noam Chomskys thoughts on his educational experience (see for example Chomsky for Beginners if you want a lightweight, easy overview). Chomsky, widely considered the worlds leading intellectual, professor emeritus of linguistics at MIT, himself felt disgust and a lack of interest with formal education, and only landed in his academic career by having the good fortune to make the acquaintance of a professor who recognized his intellect, provided him a way around the traditional academic path, and provided him with the intellectual stimulation he was craving.

Secondly, memorizing facts is not a measure of intellectual achievement. Certainly a certain store of knowledge is required to make useful connections, but being able to process and analyze information analytically and sceptically is a far better measure of intellectual achievement than the ability to recall reams of facts. I consider this point to be self evident, but if you disagree, please contact me and I will go to some effort to argue the point.

Thirdly, a certain contempt for experts in a field does not constitute anti-intellectualism. Human progress (and not just scientific) requires us to question assumptions and accepted beliefs, even if these are those held by experts. One of the statement Galileo made that most upset the Catholic church, was his opinion that the opinions of all of the experts of the world had not the worth of one mans reason and observation. Let me ask you, who do you consider more of an intellectual: Galilleo Gallilee, or the most advanced and esteemed experts of his age, those who had risen to the highest ranks of the Academe of the time?

There is something to be said about trusting the opinion of an expert when you dont have the capacity, time, energy or information to investigate a subject yourself. Knowing ones own limitations is both intellectually and emotionally challenging. But beyond this element of self-knowledge, trusting an expert is not the same as exercising your intellect.

While I fault the intellectual rigor of your observations, I agree the basic conclusion. I consider it small wonder however. Geekdom seems to be a kind of tribalism, with loosely defined membership criteria which seems to consist of an enjoyment of science-fiction and/or fantasy, being better than average with computers, and having an inflated estimation of ones own intelligence. I think back in the seventies, before Corporations and their marketing departments started twisting the culture of the programming world, there was a certain amount of intellectualism prevalent in the computing world. Now however, the computing world is dominated by business. They require people who can program and develop software, which requires a certain amount of intellect and skill. They are however, fundamentally, destructive hierarchical social structures which weight obeisance over intellect. So our jobs, and the corporate owned media (entertainment and news) teach us cultural values of anti-intellectualism. We are encouraged not to make connections.

Of course, confusing intellect with memorizing the opinions and claims of academic experts doesnt help either.

Comment Re:I thought this was a good idea.. (Score 3, Interesting) 117

I find it dismal how effectively you, and others in this thread have been brainwashed with anti-democratic sentiment.

You mean: weed-out the un-educated (in the subject of agri-business)? Weed them out and the experiment is pointless.

Here, in the case of running a farm, it makes a certain amount of sense to value experience, and education in farming. A great many people however would characterize farmers as being uneducated in a broad sense. Still, an "uneducated" farmer will likely make better farming decisions than your average physicist, lawyer, doctor, political scientist, computer programmer, etc etc.

On the other hand, considering there is a buy into the program, it might be reasonable to assume that only people with an interest in farming will take place. In that case they might take the effort to educate themselves into the real life consequences. In such a situation crowd sourcing might be effective.

One failure you make in thinking is your unquestioned assumption that educated people make better decisions than uneducated people. In the case of farming, a good farmer will probably make better decisions than a non-farmer, but from your language it's clear that you have an elitist, anti-democracy attitude which I would like to attempt to disabuse.

Consider for example the jelly bean experiment. If you take a jar of jelly beans and ask people to guess the number of jelly beans in the jar, the average guess will converge toward the actual number of jelly beans in the jar. The more people participating in the experiment the better. You won't get a better distribution by restricting yourself to people with PhD's.

Your elitist attitudes also require you to neglect the fact of association bias. Individuals who are successful within a given society, who have the largest share in the bounty of that society, tend to associate themselves most with that society, and are most inclined to support whatever policies, however idiotic and injust. A clear example from our own history is support for the Vietnam war, which was very strong among educated elites. The "uneducated" masses however were strongly against America's mass bombing of poor agrarians in a small country that never did us no harm. The "educated" elite bought into the Gulf of Tonkin incident and turned into bloodthirsty savages willing to blast poor farmers who wanted nothing more than to get rid of colonialist oppression (much as we had done some 175 years earlier). The "uneducated" masses were mistrustful and thought it was all a line of bullshit. The "uneducated" masses in America were educated to the fact that the really elite in our country were thinking only of their own selfish and short sighted interests, while the "educated" were trained in sophisticated methods of rationalization to excuse a foolish and evil misadventure. This trend applies quite generally, to our invasion of the bay of pigs, the Afghan war, the Iraq wars, the civil rights movement, etc. It's not unique to American culture either. It's a pretty uniform trend. The high ranking Nazis were typically very well educated, for example, and look how that turned out.

It is telling and ironic that you ridicule the fact that the single highest issue in the United States, when the government asked for reform ideas, was the repeal of Marijuanna prohibition. Legalizing drugs in general was of course discussed, but ending all drug prohibition across the board remains a fringe issue and was nowhere near the top. Ending Marijuanna prohibition and replacing it with a system of taxation and regulation similar to what we do with Tobacco was however right at the top, by far in the number one place. This is yet another example of where American policy would benefit from more democratic processes. The current system of Marijuanna prohibition is completely retarded and does not serve the interests of anyone besides the law enforcement community, paramilitaries, and of course the illegal drug cartels. Every credible analysis, from the Rockafeller study in NY, to Nixon's drug panel in the 60's, to Milton fucking Friedman agree that prohibition is completely counterproductive. The fact that the result of Alcohol prohibition in America are identical to the results of Marijuanna prohibition now -- increased use, increased crime, increased violent crime, increased corruption, decreased control, decreased access for help to people with problems (in short uniformly and unequivocally bad) -- this fact is apparently clear to the "uneducated" masses, but the educated elite have been trained with sophisticated counter arguments, which allow themselves to deny the obvious.

To justify democracy and democratization of decision making does not require the refutation of every instance where it ends badly. Rather it is only necessary to show that democratic decision making is, on average, much better than the alternatives. There are likely exceptions where non-democratic policies are preferable, but the burden of proof should be placed on showing the superiority of the non-democratic policy. Regardless of this, I would like to comment on the one example you give that does have some merit: the UK result that people suggest the repeal of the law of gravity... This is clearly a joke. Given the overwhelming evidence that democratic process are one the average far superior, the result that such an obvious joke came out the winner in the UK experience should be interpreted as an indictment of UK democracy. This response does not show a lack of intelligence or judgement in the responders, it shows contempt, disdain and distrust for the democratic institutions in place. Put simply, the UK isn't any more democratic than the U.S., people know it, and they show their frustration with a joke. No surprise, and it shows the wisdom of the crowds.

It will be interesting to see what the results of this experiment are. It should be remembered however that the goal of the experiment is not to run a successful farm, the goal is to provide a learning experience for those participating. The experiment will be successful, in my mind, if a few elitist assholes come out with a little more respect for people who may not have academic degrees, but are knowledgeable at growing food, which is certainly useful expertise that is undervalued in our society.

Comment Re:Scavenging and theft are totally different thin (Score 1) 282

In my decadent western country, old copper doesn't exist. Copper is a valuable commodity. It's almost always dug up, sold off, recycled, re-sold and re-used by us fat-cat Western capitalists as soon as a more profitable use is found. There is no extra copper just lying in the ground. All the copper that's out there is in use by some utility or other. Anyone who takes it is a thief, plain and simple. The idea that there are legitimate copper scavengers is as ludicrous to a Westerner as the idea that there are legitimate diamond scavengers. Nobody just leaves that stuff lying around.

Where do you live? Here in the United States we have all sorts of homeless people running around scavenging metal. You often see them walking around with grocery carts full of aluminum, copper, sometimes steel.

Also, you might be interested to know that in many areas of the world diamonds can be found just lying around on the ground. Or at least they could be until Europeans started cordoning off areas that were rich in diamonds, and shooting anyone that tries to walk away with a diamond they found lying on the ground.

Comment Re:just.. wow (Score 1) 246

I don't agree with your assessment that RMS is a zealot. I think this news item just shows that RMS was right -- if we forget that the Free Software is about freedom, and just focus on whether or not the source is open, we allow the parasites a foothold, which they will use to maximize their profits and erode our freedom. It becomes a mechanism by which corporations steal the labor of the creators -- they steal it from the community by robbing us of our freedoms.

Comment Re:Why do we need more efficiency (Score 2, Insightful) 570

The solution is to get our population growth under control (i.e. population reduction, not growth). There are some simple, non totalitarian ways to do this:
  • First, we need to recognize that the world is overpopulated, that this overpopulation has dire consequences, and that concern for future generations means having fewer children. This will lead to smaller families through social pressure and education. Currently this issue is almost completely ignored by the mainstream media. Through this process new and creative ideas to encourage population reduction will no doubt develop. The remaining suggestions I list below are the ones that spring to my limited imagination.
  • Financial incentives for vasectomies: Free vasectomies to anyone who wants them. Social pressure to get one after the first or second kid. Tax breaks for vasectomies. College credits for the children of parents who get them. Etc.
  • Stop teaching kids that abstinence is the best way to prevent pregnancy. Teach birth control and population concerns in school.
  • Free birth control everywhere. Pills, condoms whatever, all available free of charge. Pay for it by taxing people who choose to have more than two children
  • Stop making foreign aid dependent on teaching wrong headed policies like abstinence-only birth control
  • Start giving the Catholic church infinite shit for its policy of teaching Africans not to use condoms, which is evil in so many many ways.

Another easy, cheap and environmentally benign method, which can help carry us over until we reach a stable and sustainable population, is to reduce meat consumption. This can be done by ceasing the subsidies to the milk and dairy industries, and instituting strict controls to ensure that the cost of meat and animal products accurately reflects the labor and resources consumed in their production -- which is currently far from the case.

Comment Re:"Most" doesn't mean "very". (Score 1) 465

LGBT stuff is an easy way for a company to appear ethical without affecting its bottom line. It's one of the reasons it's a popular conversation around election time, because it's a way the two party can appear different, without addressing the really important issue of the day, which is how the wealthy elite are screwing us all. Please note, that I mention this not to belittle LGBT issues, which are no doubt important and valid. But LGBT's need food, health care, worker protection, a stable economy, ect, too.

Comment Re:"Most" doesn't mean "very". (Score 1) 465

You might say that some of these things are so old they shouldn't count anymore, but given their long ranging implications what should the statute of limitations on monopoly abuse be?

Here are a few things off the top of my head:

  • rampant, malicious, pernicious monopoly abuse and anti-competitive practices for which they have been convicted, in court, in both the United states and Europe.
  • You might be wondering why nothing ever happened in the U.S. after Microsoft's conviction... That's because NOTHING HAPPENED. Why not? Well, GWB got elected, and his Justice department just dropped the case. This fact is no doubt completely unrelated to the large donations that Microsoft and its then chairman bill made to the grand old party and its members. Since it's clearly coincidental, we can't add manipulation and degradation of our democracy to the list...

  • Microsoft has been an innovator in the area of permatemping its workforce. If you're one of a core of elites you get lovely benefits and salaries, but the vast majority of their workforce are outsourced to temp agencies where they work full time, for years, without enjoying any of the rights and privileges granted to them by the law of the land. This is true for the cleaning ladies up to the developers. Of course, in American business, this wouldn't get called unethical, but I call it so.
  • Microsoft has also been an innovator in dodging taxes and exercising its political clout in its home state of Washington.

The social and economic costs of these points is far worse than hiring strippers for a company party. Frankly, as long as you hire strippers of both sexes, I don't see what the problem with hiring strippers is. I guess it boils down to, in America, it's okay to exploit your workforce, undermine democracy, undermine the economy of the state you live in, and break anti-trust laws, as long as you don't do anything that violates peoples sexual prudishness.

Comment Re:this is not idle. (Score 1) 291

You seriously missed the previous sentence which started with, "they seem to be going about it like assholes"?

As far as I can see, the only "asshole" behavior that they are engaging in is treating the kindergartens like everyone else. They aren't accusing the kindergartens and creche's of being theives, they aren't trying to jail anyone, they're just sending them letters that say, in the future they (the kindergartens) too must pay a license to sing any songs under their control. In other words, it's not how they are going about, it is the fact that they are going after kindergartens that makes them assholes (or, well, you know, bigger assholes).

If you are trying to make the point that trying to squeeze every bit of profit out of the world that they can, regardless of the social impact is the underlying asshole behavior, then I'm inclined to agree with you. On the other hand, I do see this case as being particularly egregious, and here's why: Teaching children songs and using music and culture as part of the education process of future generations of humanity is about as worthwhile a use of music and culture as one could possibly imagine. It's something that should be encourages, and it's one of those instances where our gut, emotional reaction is completely valid. Making it harder for creche's and kindergartens to operate is simply abysmal behavior. It's an order of magnitude worse than requiring an office party to do the same thing, and that is in turn an order of magnitude worse than requiring a club owner to do, which in turn is a bit worse than requiring someone making a commercial film to do so. All these things rob our culture and profit greedy assholes who don't contribute anything to that culture. Going after kindergartens is the logical extreme, which in its extremity points out the fallicies in the system. You may also be unaware that kindergartens and creche's in Germany are in short supply, and are often organized by parents on a volunteer basis because there just aren't enough (my cousin has organized one for example). So yeah, it's fucking terrible that they are placing an additional burden on people trying to make a positive social contribution.

If copyright is going to be a positive influence in society, and I believe an argument can be made in its defence, it requires us to differentiate between cases. So selling copies of a song I wrote without my permission is a case where I see copyright law having merit. Kids singing a song I wrote in kindergarten is a case where applying copyright law is meritless. Copyright law should not be applied to every situation where it might possibly be applied... it's for this reason that we (used to?) have the concept of fair use.

Attention copyright apologists: please don't give me that tired old line about artists having to pay their bills. Copyright law in the modern world benefits giant corporations, not artists. See www.questioncopyright.org for detailed investigations and examples. See "Sitka sings the blues" and the lectures of the creative artist responsible, for an example which categorically disproves the faulty assumption that copyright is necessary to encourage or support artists. There is plenty of evidence to encourage questioning the very existance of copyright, and there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that current copyright law needs, at the very least, massive reform.

Comment Re:High Risk? (Score 1) 183

Then there's no such thing as basic research. Any useful research eventually leads to a monetary incentive.

There's so much wrong with your assertion that it's difficult to know where to begin... Basic research often leads to a monetary incentive, but generations after the research has been done... i.e. the monetary incentives don't come in to play for the person or entity doing the research, but to later entities who benefit from the knowledge gained from that research. Some basic research benefits society as a whole without generating any financial rewards at all for the researcher.

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