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Comment Perl has been a good last language (Score 1) 530

Maybe because I got into it near the end of last millennium, or because I was well enough grounded in fundamentals from assembler days, or because I was often dealing with dirty data, Perl plus the also less than perfect MySQL have enabled me to play in several unconnected spaces.

In 2012 I'd add the disclaimer as long as you don't treat CPAN too seriously. While there are indispensable gems there, way too often it either doesn't quite do what you need or alternatively, in attempting to do so, it invokes ridiculous dependency trees where quality control collapses.

Still waiting for Perl 6.

Comment Criminal et al use props up the dollar (Score 1) 528

I've long argued that the main thing propping up the artificially way too high US Dollar is its preferencing by extralegal entities since the normalisation of white collar "work" drove most of the American economy out of inherently tradeable production into devices which must be propped up by legal fictions to acquire monetary value.

Comment Some are (almost) but don't know it (Score 1) 474

While it isn't any area for reductionist analysis. I've long suspected that people who are surprisingly successful have some internal model which accounts for critical systems effects, though they would most likely rationalise it away if pressed. Mostly they will by like N.N. Taleb (Black Swan) in convincing themselves this is a theory-free zone. What it really is, like specialised examples from plate tectonics to biological evolution, is theory that makes sense of the world we find ourselves in with only the broadest statistical predictive capacity.

Systems are not about efficiency. They are about resilience. Cancer is efficient.

Comment As somebody who holidays nearby (Score 2) 103

The swells and waves have got noticeably stronger over my 50 years holidaying on the Otway coast, so I would very much welcome anything that could take any energy out of them and make it more useful elsewhere.

Then I might get back to diving more than once or twice per summer, down from better than every second day in years gone by.

Comment Um, no. (Score 2) 214

Wolfram pushes his principle of computational equivalence which says that anything you can find in one discrete system you can find in any other (which can be shown to emulate a universal Turing machine). His preference for 1D and Conway's, my and others' preference for 2D cellular automata for exploring some of that space is much more a statement about human visual perception. He actually suggests that a simple graph (formal math term for network of nodes and links) is a more likely candidate, but they are much harder to get your head (and your algorithms) around.

Personally I find his strong notion of computational equivalence only distracts from the need to find smarter exploration strategies in a space of boundless possibility, although it has some value as a "weak" principle analogous to the weak anthropic principle.

Comment You mostly nailed that (Score 1) 214

Wolfram's argument for exploring the space of discrete computations as a source of models richer and cheaper than continuum math needs wider endorsement. Much of the criticism is the inverse of a long recognised problem: shooting the message when you really want to shoot the messenger (and that only because you know the reputation rather than the person).

And your critique of totalising narratives has long been well understood in the postmodernist framework, but pomo too has been so badly misrepresented as to have hidden its useful contributions. It's not just the physicists who try to formulate the whole world in their terms. You should be much more afraid of the accountants and lawyers doing likewise without hint of oversight.

Comment Re:Goedel would like to have a word with you. (Score 1) 214

If Goedel was still around I'm sure he would like to say to Wolfram what he was too polite to say directly to Wittgenstein: that while the formalism project can be a handy tool in isolated circumstances that it must ultimately fail to account for the world we find ourselves in, because there are truths formalism cannot reach before they emerge unexpectedly from expanding chaos. He might even add that you could see that all in cellular automata if you looked with better tools in more likely places. So any lifeboat needs to try to be ready for anything, not just the expected.

Comment Better to do that at both ends (Score 2) 357

With every carriage/set having its own drive power (as our V/Locity and I'm sure many others already do) and superseding driver cabins though use of remote (including onboard remote) sensing and control functions, or even fully automatic, you can have stopping services docking at the front and dropping off the back of an always moving train system.

This could even allow a return to the once very comfortable mode of separate cabins opening off the side of a long corridor rather than the current fashion of squeezing longitudinal access between open plan seats so that every passenger is disturbed by anyone walking past.

Comment Stick around hoping that by 150 it goes to 200 (Score 1) 904

... and on and on. By then I'll surely have even more things to leave unfinished than I look like leaving now.

One good thing serious life expectancy increase might do is help us get over quarterly profits disease, but then again I'm always too optimistic. It might also make the choice clearer between getting off planet and cutting per capita resource wastage down here.

By the time anyone dies of age-related causes they are already quite a work of art, albeit of varying quality, and something is lost when they fail to leave dense traces of at least their best bits for posterity. Yet I bet, I'll still put more effort into observing than into recording. Can't wait for a Siri descendent that will be able to tease out our stories.

I'm not convinced there are any technical obstacles to getting to a point where life expectancy increases by more than a year per year, but have no expectation that I'll find myself on the right side of that curve, so finish up thinking more about technical systems for reincarnating, systems we are surely going to need to move beyond this solar system, no matter how long we can stretch our biological span.

Comment Earth's most liveable city (Score 1) 359

says it all, though even we aren't immune to those living off the teat of advertising by preaching doom and gloom.

Never has there been anywhere more comfortable/indulgent to look forward to (increasing) retirement, nor to work on interesting stuff/making it even better unless you insist on relative poverty of those around you as your reward.

Though I really might appreciate the extra half hour on Mars.

Comment Re:Dark matter always seemed like a cop out. (Score 1) 80

no interaction with photons, and no frictional clumping

AFAIK this is one point not two as frictional clumping is mediated by photons, as at some point are all our observations. Not that I don't fully accept the evidence for dark matter, nor have any sympathy with DM deniers. From a history of science perspective, their kind have always been wrong.

Comment Failing geometry (Score 0) 258

Two arbitrary lines in a 2D plane will meet with probability 1.0.
Two arbitrary lines in 3D space will meet with probability 0.0.
(In each case, the exceptions are vanishingly few relative to the norm.)

Extrapolating this to expanding 3D bubbles in almost any higher dimensional space the probability is again 0.0. Even more obviously, there is nowhere for collisions to happen if those bubbles are each creating their own space, not infecting some pre-existing space. The latter would have way too many other observable consequences to be a serious proposal.

(I have played with enough simplistic models to be currently comfortable with a notion that the implosion of a Type 1a supernova might be a good model for a cosmic egg which gives rise to a chaotic larval stage in which such conservative bubbles arise. (The political metaphor is not lost either.))

Comment Why "exotropy"? (Score 1) 135

I still cite Out of Control as the most readable introduction to the oft confused subject of complexity, and am right now wading through What Technology Wants but finding it far more forced (sleep inducing). While I clearly don't disagree with the idea of seeing technology as a partner with humanity, your newer book reads like you have invested too long in a world constructed from your imaginings and cut back your level of interest in looking at what is actually going on, an interest which seemed to pervade your earlier projects.

Yes, I am well past your rationalisation for abandoning "extropy", so what I really want to know is whether we are all going to be condemned to defend our business models to the death?

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In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle