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Comment The insurance industry will adapt (Score 5, Insightful) 299

"There wouldn't be any liability on you, because you're just like a passenger in a taxi," says Santa Clara University law professor Robert Peterson.

Wow, that's good to know. That means I don't need home insurance either, because I'm not operating the house; I'm just living in it like a resident in a hotel. Clearly the person who built the house will be liable. Oh, wait ....

Could we please put aside these laughable "self-driving cars will be sued out of existence" arguments once and for all? Liability insurance can be purchased to cover situations in which you do not directly control events. For example:

I own a house, and I pay insurance to (among other things) protect myself if I'm sued by people who may injure themselves on my property, even if I'm not at home. My insurance company is perfectly happy to sell me liability insurance, even for property I don't live in.

It will be the same with self-driving cars. If you own one, you'll be able to buy liability insurance for it, just as you would for any other vehicle. The insurance industry will adapt perfectly well.

Comment Re:Let me rephrase that question .... (Score 1) 485

And, there are well-known practices that limit that possibility of death from solar radiation. And, where do you get your "tens of thousands" estimate from, you a**?

You really ought to try using Google before resorting to insults. According to the CDC, melanoma resulted in 9,271 deaths in 2012. According to Cancer Research UK, melanoma killed 55,500 people worldwide in 2012.

Human risk assessment is a funny thing. Any other power source that killed 55,500 people a year worldwide would be banned outright. Compare that to the number of cancer deaths attributed to nuclear power plant accidents over the past 50 years. Yet we panic over nuclear reactors, and then send out kids outside to play in the sunshine.

Comment Let me rephrase that question .... (Score 2, Insightful) 485

Ask me instead if I support yet another of mdsolar's endless anti-nuclear, pro-solar postings to Slashdot.

I get it, mdsolar. Nuclear = BAD! Solar = GOOD! Except for the fact that the sun is a giant nuclear reactor that kills tens of thousands of people every year from radiation-induced cancers. But hey, never let facts get in the way of anti-nuclear diatribes.

Comment Re:Digital computers are reaching the end (Score 1) 124

Oddly enough, I was at a conference last week where we had a keynote by HP. He was saying pretty much the same thing about memristors. He held up a roughtly credit card sized model that would apparently hold 1.5PB of data. It all sounds cool, but I'll believe it when I see it. These "just around the corner" technologies sometimes take a lot longer than expected to reach market.

Even more oddly enough, I actually did some consulting with HP back in 2001 concerning their prototype memristor chips. They were having significant issues with 1/f noise making it difficult to read the difference between a "1" and "0" in the memory array.

They've been developing memristor technology more than 15 years, so hopefully they've finally licked the problems. But my impression is that Intel and Micron are a lot more confident about Xpoint, given the types of demos they're already doing with it. We shall see.

Comment Re:Digital computers are reaching the end (Score 1) 124

This will make a LOT of people here mad, but the exponential growth computational power of digital computers is ending. We can no longer count of the computers of tomorrow to be significantly faster or have more memory than today. If you have been following the industry closely you can already see start to happen 10 years ago. So we can forget about projections that used the argument of exponential growth creating the "Singularity" or "AI". There just simply won't be enough processor power available with classical digital computers. The computer you use 10 years from now will look and perform a lot like the one you have today.

And the key phrase here is "classical digital computers", i.e. von Neumann architecture microprocessors, with conventional process shrinks. Yes, there's no doubt that the traditional computing path of the past few decades is coming to an end. You can't fight the laws of physics when you're dealing with devices and layers only a few atoms thick operating at gigahertz switching frequencies.

Now read about "IBM TrueNorth" and "DARPA SyNAPSE". A colleague of mine went to a demo of TrueNorth last week and said it was absolutely jaw-dropping. Neuromorphic computers operating asynchronously with power dissipations in the tens of milliwatts are going to change the processor landscape in the next decade. Next, look up "3D Xpoint". At that same conference, my colleague talked to someone working in Xpoint R&D who told him, "If you need a solid-state drive right now, buy the cheapest Samsung model you can get by with, because in the next two years we're going to blow the competition completely away."

Moore's Law (as in exponential computing and data storage growth) isn't going to come to a screeching halt. It's going to find different paths with different technologies, but it will definitely continue.

Comment Re:That's before punitive... (Score 4, Insightful) 236

Gawker does not have $300 million in gold in their basement, they have a name that is worth money, but if their debts get anywhere near their net worth then it is no longer a viable business and is worthless.

I doubt Hogan cares as much about getting all the money as he does about seeing Gawker (and Nick Denton) suffer. Watching Gawker go bankrupt, while still having Denton personally on the hook for millions of dollars, would probably be a completely satisfactory outcome to Hogan.

Gawker and its subsidiary websites (e.g. Jezebel) are festering boils on the backside of the Internet. Denton has helped nurture the culture of "trial by Internet outrage", "guilty until proven innocent", and "due process only applies to people I approve of" that permeates the world today. I can think of no possible way that the world will be worse off by putting every Gawker site out of business, and Nick Denton in the poorhouse.

Comment Am I missing something here? (Score 1) 44

The whole point of a blockchain is that multiple nodes are maintained by different entities, so that no single party can alter it. That works for a cryptocurrency, because its users have a vested interest in keeping their investment secure. They will go to the expense and effort of running a full node, to keep everyone else honest.

But who is going to host AirBnB's blockchain? The only party who would have any incentive to do so is AirBnB. And if AirBnB is the only keeper of the blockchain, what prevents someone from altering it?

Am I missing something here, or is this yet another example of "ooh, this technology sounds neat, let's take this hammer and see how many things look like nails"? When even Bitcoin is seeing a steady drop in the number of nodes hosting its blockchain, you have to wonder if people are really thinking this concept through.

Comment Re:Tough open book tests (Score 1) 394

In real life people don't get handouts with all the necessary information on them but they do have books and learning to use them and in particular when to use them is a critical skill you are failing to teach.

An interesting logical leap: because I give my students a "cheat sheet" rather than have them use a textbook during an exam, somehow I am failing to teach them how to use a book.

As an engineer, you'll be using reference books throughout your entire career. What you won't be doing is using them to solve open book exams. A 55-minute open book exam is an academic construct. It's not the real world. The "cheat sheet" saves time and allows me to give more comprehensive exam problems.

I do teach them (or at least try to; some students simply refuse to open a book) to use reference books and data sheets for homework assignments, design projects, and labs, i.e. assignments that don't have the time constraints of an exam. That is where those skills matter, not in an exam where every minute counts.

Comment Re:Tough open book tests (Score 2) 394

I've taken tests that were 100% open book BUT if you had to spend a lot of time looking stuff up you were going to fail the test due to time constraints. The point of open book tests is to avoid needlessly penalizing folks for forgetting some minor bit of trivia or a formula. It's not supposed to be a substitute for actually learning the material.

Open book tests are extremely inefficient. They're noisy (everyone turning pages) and slow (finding that obscure equation in 100 pages of material takes time), even if you know your stuff. As I tell my students: "If I wanted you to do poorly, I'd give you an open book exam."

Instead, I give them a six-page handout with all relevant equations and diagrams two weeks in advance of the exam. On exam day, I give them the same handout. But if they haven't practiced solving the problems, it doesn't do them a bit of good - at least not in an electronics class.

Comment Re:And Nothing Of Value Was Lost (Score 5, Interesting) 306

Mike Hearn lays out the issues much better than I can, in his open resignation letter. Everyone knew it was coming but the people in charge refused to do anything about it despite the warnings. I really think it's because they don't care about the use of bitcoin in commerce. They view it as nothing but mattress money or a digital investment. Only time will tell how much people lose as there will be less and less people interested in bitcoin at all.

We're heading into the Bitcoin end game, where the goal will be for the miners to extract as much money as they can from BTC users via transaction fees until the whole thing collapses. The miners want the network to saturate, and they want people to pay ever-increasing fees to get their purchases on the blockchain. Once the mining reward halves later this year, the incentive to increase transaction fees will be that much greater.

Keeping the network saturated means keeping transaction volume high and the block size fixed, hence the dDOS attacks on nodes running Classic, the spamming of the network with tiny back-and-forth transactions, and the censoring of pro-Classic comments on discussion boards. It all fits with what Hearn has described.

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see BTC users paying 0.5% to 2% transaction fees a year from now. It is, after all, what the market will bear when compared to bank and credit card fees.

Comment Re:Um... what decline? (Score 2) 252

They're not there to provide you with a good, meaningful living. They're there for the shareholders. If you want jobs either start a company yourself or ask Washington to protect you from the global race to the bottom.

Or ... go back to school, earn a Ph.D., and start a new career .... which is exactly what I did.

IBM never owed me a living, and I never owed IBM my loyalty. I moved on when I saw what was coming. But my point is that what's happening at IBM right now has been a long, long time in the making.

Comment Re:IBM Layoffs. Been bad times and union is gone (Score 5, Informative) 252

This is how company fail by far the majority of time, every thing is fine for decades with management team after management team cycling through and then blam, they get the psychopath team, one out of the many, just one team once and blam, the board have just put a gun to their head and pulled the trigger, the company goes down.

IBM's decline didn't start with the most current crop of managers. It began a long time ago. I was working for IBM at the Essex Junction fab back in 1990 when John Akers did a corporate-wide broadcast and told everyone, "IBM remains committed to its full employment policy .... unless, of course, the business environment forces us to re-examine it." That was all the clue I needed. By the next year I was out the door and back in graduate school working on my Ph.D. The company-wide layoffs started a few months later.

That was more than 20 years ago. What you're seeing now is just the end game.

Comment Re:Why does Apple get props for doing the obvious? (Score 4, Informative) 405

Why does apple get headlines for doing what they should have done in the first place? Anything else is a broken, insecure device. If the vendor has a backdoor, it's not secure, whether they allow the government to access it or not.

Apple's encryption is still very secure. It hasn't been broken, and even Apple won't be able to break it for the FBI. What the FBI wants Apple to do is hack the unlock code for them.

The only "vulnerability" is this case is that Apple potentially has the ability to push new firmware onto this model of iPhone (the 5c) using its own signed certificate, even if the phone is locked. The FBI wants this new firmware to do two things: (1) bypass the "10 wrong tries on the unlock code and the iPhone erases itself" routine and (2) reduce the time interval between unlock code entries. Once this is done, the FBI will brute force input combinations until the iPhone unlocks.

The only problem is that Apple hasn't written this firmware. Even if the firmware existed, you'd need Apple's own certificate to push it onto the iPhone. So the iPhone is still quite secure, relatively speaking, provided the courts don't compel Apple to develop a forensics tool for the FBI at Apple's expense.

Of course, Apple doesn't want this situation to ever, ever happen again. You can bet the iPhone 7 will plug this potential vulnerability by making it impossible for anyone to push firmware onto a locked iPhone, even with Apple's own certificate. At that point, the FBI will no doubt petition Congress to legislate that Apple (and Google, Samsung, LG, etc.) provide a means for altering the firmware of any smartphone sold in the U.S., on court order. And that's when this fight will really get interesting.

Comment The UBI ignores human nature (Score 5, Interesting) 440

The problem with a UBI is that it is (in theory) supposed to replace the multitude of payments through various government social programs with a single check or debit card given to every recipient every month, at which point the various government agencies that administer housing, food stamps, etc., can be shut down. Government bureaucracies never shutter themselves voluntarily, and it won't happen with a UBI, either.

The UBI operates under the assumption that everyone manages money in a rational manner, which is completely at odds with actual experience. Many people will take their UBI and immediately spend it on drugs, alcohol, gambling, or bling, while ignoring the monthly rent, the electric bill, buying groceries for the children, etc. Others will be cheated out of their money by criminals or even other family members. So do we let those families starve or get evicted because the heads of household are incapable of managing money for themselves or their dependents?

Of course not. Those people will need to be helped (sarcasm intended). So the various government agencies will continue to expand and spend even more money on housing, food, medical care, etc. The UBI won't even make a dent in entitlement budgets. Instead, it will become "free money" to be squandered on a thousand other things besides basic human needs.

Anyone who doesn't think it won't happen need only look at inner city schools in the U.S. In theory, every child should be getting meals at home thanks to government SNAP benefits to their parents or guardians. In practice, schools give many kids a free breakfast and lunch every school day, and even give them food bags to take home for the weekend, because Mom or Dad can't be bothered to buy food for the kids with the SNAP money. Where does the money go? No one knows or even attempts to find out. They just give the kids free food and cross their fingers.

The UBI will not change human nature. It will instead become one of the biggest entitlement boondoggles in the history of civilization.

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