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AT&T: Don't Want a Data Plan for That Smartphone? Too Bad.

An Onerous Coward Re:Too bad. (798 comments)

Of course population density matters. The cost of "handling twice as many calls" ought to be small compared to the cost of covering large swaths of empty countryside that only generate a few calls a day. In the former case, the infrastructure can be paid for by all those extra calls and customers. In the latter case, you have to maintain tons of infrastructure that is being subsidized by customers from higher-density areas.

about a year ago
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Does 2012 Mark the End of the Netbook?

An Onerous Coward Re:Nah (336 comments)

"ChrUbuntu?" The OS of the Elder Gods?

about a year ago
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Why Google Hired Ray Kurzweil

An Onerous Coward Re:Google Could use some Fresh Ideas in AI (117 comments)

They all think it. Thinking it isn't the issue. The issue is whether it's a useful model to try and replicate in software. I think it is, but I didn't see much of anything like that in the AI/NLP classes I took.

I suspect part of the problem is, it's hard to come up with a test question that involves a neural net with more than three perceptrons.

about a year ago
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Fully Open A13-OLinuXino Single-Board Linux Computer

An Onerous Coward Re:FULLY open? (111 comments)

You and the GP seem to have very different definitions of "phone".

about a year and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Stands In the Way of a Truly Solar-Powered Airliner?

An Onerous Coward Supersonic trains! (590 comments)

More theoretically tractable, if nothing else.

about a year and a half ago
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How Do You Spot a Genius?

An Onerous Coward Re: education vs. learning (385 comments)

Take hope. After the fifth or sixth time, you get to move on to 3 + 3.

about a year and a half ago
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US Presidential Debate #2 Tonight: Discuss Here

An Onerous Coward Re:If Obama doesn't come out swinging, he's toast. (706 comments)

Thank you for an outstanding and interesting response. I apologize, as I was mostly focusing on differences within the set of industrialized countries, a la The Spirit Level. I should have made that clear.

Now, the Great and Powerful Wikipedia is telling me that the PPP GDP/capita is $48K for the US and $35K for France. (PPP vs. Nominal is an important distinction, one I wasn't really thinking about, so good catch there). If correct, that's 37%, not 10%. The difference seems fairly stark, though it's not clear to me what that extra 37% purchasing power is buying us, since both countries are plenty wealthy enough to provide for their people, and France seems like a much nicer place to live.

I don't have any data to back up my statement that France could close the GDP gap by working longer hours. It makes intuitive sense to me, though my model is probably overly simplistic. The argument here reminds me of the (problematic) Laffer Curve. There has to be some point where working an additional hour actually diminishes the quality of work to the point where you're actually less productive over the entire labor period.

Extreme example: Say I'm working 154 hours a week and getting two hours of sleep each night (the minimum amount of sleep Navy SEAL trainers are required to give trainees, IIRC). Now move one of those hours a night from the "sleep" column to the "work" column. At that point, it doesn't matter what the nature of the work is, you're going to be way less productive at it.

Like the Laffer Curve, the actual shape of the Work/Life curve varies tremendously from person to person, by working conditions (if your work is inherently rewarding, or extremely hard on the body), by life conditions (if you're in a bad marriage, work might be where you go to unwind, to feel useful), whether a change in hours comes from vacation time or a longer work day, and probably by a dozen other factors that aren't coming to mind. So it's impossible to say which side of the "traditional" 40 hour work week the ideal falls on, even as a society-wide average. Maybe I'm too hung up on 40 hours a week as "the norm," but I suspect that adding a few hours to France's work week would result in increased GDP. If my math's right, and you assume the additional hours were as productive as the original hours (probably not the case), it would lead to a 25% increase in GDP, significantly closing the gap.

Which is kind of suggestive to me. Perhaps at this point in the evolution of the economy, we should be trying to maximize GDP per hour of labor, instead of GDP(PPP) per se, with some mechanism to keep Gini from straying too far from the ideal.

Quality of life metrics are indeed somewhat subjective, but I think a rough consensus can be obtained. For example, self-reported happiness is certainly a better measure of quality of life than, say, average educational attainment or per-capita hours spent playing video games. The Spirit Level makes the attempt by taking the unweighted average of several different indicators, which seems like a good start. It seems incomplete, because they only included those indicators that they found had a statistically significant relationship to inequality (educational attainment, drug abuse, obesity, life expectancy, levels of trust, etc.), and while they avoided weighting in order to avoid making value judgments, I think you could dig in and select some weights that make more sense than the unweighted version.

Your dad makes an interesting point. What do people do when money is no longer a big factor in their decisions. I assume people are generally more productive when they're doing what they're passionate about. Say you could become a doctor, which inspires you, or a job on Wall Street, which sounds like a boring job that would add nothing to the world. If you can make $80K/year as a doctor, and $110K/year on Wall Street, it seems like a pretty obvious decision. But if instead you could make $1.1M/year on Wall Street, suddenly "following your passion" makes you look like a chump. It's a good argument for a strongly progressive income tax; if the government is going to take 75% of your Wall Street dollars back, there's little incentive for Wall Street to offer those economy-distorting salaries, and less incentive for workers to take them, freeing the best and brightest to do what they love, and freeing up seats on Wall Street for the gambling addicts who would actually enjoy the work.

In a similar vein, I'd offer a guaranteed minimum income. It wouldn't be enough to live on, unless you're happy sharing a cramped apartment with three other adults and eating a lot of potatoes. But it would be enough to force employers to offer more than just a subsistence paycheck. Just being able to say, "I need this job, but I don't NEED need it" would be enough to give laborers more leverage against poor working conditions, and more freedom to find jobs that they actually found fulfilling. Plus it would be a humane incentive to automate away the boring, unrewarding tasks. Side note: I think that if the US existed in a vacuum, and we couldn't outsource our labor needs to the developing world, we'd be much further along the path to a mostly automated economy.

My thoughts. Take 'em or leave 'em.

about a year and a half ago
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US Presidential Debate #2 Tonight: Discuss Here

An Onerous Coward Re:Gary Johnson is the Libertarian candidate (706 comments)

Well said. I voted (past tense, cuzza vote by mail) third party because I live in Utah. As Romney leads +42 here, my vote has absolutely no chance of keeping Utah's five electoral votes out of his hands. Last time around, I voted for Gloria LaRiva (the real Socialist candidate), and this time I voted for former SLC mayor Rocky Anderson.

I'd say that if you don't live in one of the ten or fifteen states that Obama and Romney are actively campaigning in, you should feel safe about voting your conscience. Which is a powerful condemnation of the electoral college system we're saddled with.

about a year and a half ago
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US Presidential Debate #2 Tonight: Discuss Here

An Onerous Coward Re:If Obama doesn't come out swinging, he's toast. (706 comments)

"many many many?" My understanding is that perhaps three out of the thirty or forty clean energy companies that the government made loans to have failed. Can I get a citation?

about a year and a half ago
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US Presidential Debate #2 Tonight: Discuss Here

An Onerous Coward Re:If Obama doesn't come out swinging, he's toast. (706 comments)

I think you're talking about different things. Stripping a business for short-term profit happens frequently under cutthroat capitalism, but it's not what the GP is talking about when he says "a well-run business."

Businesses by nature try to maximize profits. It can do this by reducing "expenses," one of which is labor costs. To delve a bit further, you can reduce those costs by getting the same work done with fewer people (automation, making processes more efficient, etc.), or by hiring the same (or more) workers at a lower cost (offshoring, cutting salaries).

But there's unresolved tension here. Corporations benefit society when they provide wages to workers. They benefit themselves when they reduce the need to pay wages. The solution is simple: transfer ownership of the company to the people doing the work. Once wages are moved from the "expenses" column to the "profits" column, much of the tension disappears.

about a year and a half ago
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US Presidential Debate #2 Tonight: Discuss Here

An Onerous Coward Re:If Obama doesn't come out swinging, he's toast. (706 comments)

GDP per capita is a pretty terrible metric for gauging the success of a country. In fact, I'd say it's only slightly less awful than the idiots in climate change discussions who run around saying that the more energy a country uses, the more successful it is.

Certainly, there's a minimum GDP beneath which you can't provide a decent quality of life for your citizens. But every industrialized country is well above that threshold already. Beyond that minimum, distribution of the GDP among the various capitas seems to make a lot more difference to the overall quality of life. By most any metric, European nations have much lower income inequality, and they also score better on many quality of life metrics.

For example, France has a much lower GDP per capita than we do. Is it because their economy is less efficient? Partly. But a good chunk of the difference was a conscious policy decision. French citizens generally only work 35 hours a week, and get five weeks mandatory vacation. If they started working themselves to exhaustion the way we Americans do, it would close the GDP per capita gap significantly. But would France's quality of life go up? Doubtful.

   

about a year and a half ago
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US Presidential Debate #2 Tonight: Discuss Here

An Onerous Coward Re:Following Socialism's end, you can shed people. (706 comments)

Of course, why am I even arguing with someone with a sig that conveniently brands him as "too stupid to live?" Total wasteof my time.

about a year and a half ago
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US Presidential Debate #2 Tonight: Discuss Here

An Onerous Coward Re:Following Socialism's end, you can shed people. (706 comments)

Despite what FoxNews has been telling you, that form of socialism is pretty much irrelevant to the question of whether we should elect Obama or Romney.

Heck, Nixon was further left than Obama. I think we're safe from a Marxist takeover.

about a year and a half ago
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US Presidential Debate #2 Tonight: Discuss Here

An Onerous Coward Re:More importantly (706 comments)

Fossil fuels should be more expensive. If you forced fossil fuels to internalize all the external costs (climate change, asthma, mercury poisoning, acid deposition, runoff, miner deaths, environmental degradation, etc.), alternative energy would be very competitive, and there wouldn't be a coal plant on Earth that didn't scrub its emissions until they smelled of pine and lavender.

about a year and a half ago
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US Presidential Debate #2 Tonight: Discuss Here

An Onerous Coward Re:Blame Bush(tm) (706 comments)

Nope. That card can be used an infinite number of times. It's like an ace of spades with a tiny flamethrower that can set fire to other cards on the table.

about a year and a half ago
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US Presidential Debate #2 Tonight: Discuss Here

An Onerous Coward Re:More importantly (706 comments)

The point of the whole "Obama had a filibuster-proof majority" line is to imply that the President had a free hand to institute whatever policies he wanted. Therefore, the thinking goes, the state of the economy can be blamed entirely on Obama's bad policies, not at all on Republicans stopping him from instituting his policies. Which is a load of crap. There are a lot of things Obama could have done had he actually had the Rasputin-like mind control powers over his congresscritters that Republicans seem to be blaming him for not having.

What is well-documented is this: Obama did not control Congress. Health care reform could have taken a couple of months, if only three or four Republican senators had been willing to take Romneycare national. It was originally the Heritage Foundation's idea, and something very similar was proposed by Republicans twenty years ago when Clinton was trying to pass his own health care legislation. How did such a right-wing friendly plan go from The Official Position of the Republican Party to something the Republicans were able to unite 40-0 against? Simple: back in 1992, Republicans actually wanted to increase the number of people with health insurance. Today, their number one goal is to deny President Obama any legislative victories.

And no, the fact that a few minor, "uncontroversial" bills managed to pass during that period doesn't change anything.

about a year and a half ago
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US Election's Only VP Debate Tonight: Weigh In With Your Reactions

An Onerous Coward Re:What's the value here? (698 comments)

Your question presumes that both sides are equally bull-headed. The truth is, they aren't. The Democrats have made at least an effort at bipartisanship. The Republicans think "bipartisan" means "Democrats vote for the Republican agenda, no questions asked." Just look at the way Republicans use filibusters these days. They're breaking all the records.

More examples:

* Obama's health care reform plan got zero Republican votes, despite the fact that it was just "Romneycare on the federal level," was originally proposed by The Heritage Foundation, and bears a strong resemblance to the Republican alternative to Clinton's health care proposal.
* Obama wasted months and months during the same health care debate, waiting for negotiations with Senate Republicans. In the end, they had to do it without Republican votes. Arguably the Republicans weren't even negotiating in good faith, but were simply trying to run out the clock.
* During the (Republican-manufactured) debt ceiling crisis, Obama went to the table with a proposal that included $4 of spending cuts for every $1 of tax increases. That was a great deal for Republicans. It would have greatly reduced the deficit and shrunk the size of government, two things the Republican Party supposedly favors. But they stonewalled. Not one penny in tax increases, they said. Republican unwillingness to compromise was directly responsible for America's credit downgrade.
* When Obama was trying to get the Stimulus passed, he tried to court Republican votes by 1) shrinking the size of the plan from $1T to $700B, and 2) loading up the plan with tax cuts for individuals and small businesses. He did so even though his economic advisors were warning that tax cuts wouldn't have as much of a stimulus effect as more direct forms of spending. Long story short: his compromises made the plan worse, and nonetheless attracted no Republican votes.
* The Dodd-Frank bill, a half-hearted attempt to rein in the excesses of Wall Street that caused the financial crisis? Got four Republican votes in the Senate, zero in the House. And if you think that the Republicans were holding out for something stronger, or more effective, or that really stuck it to the banks, you're entirely kidding yourself. They fought like hell to weaken every single provision, then to deny the new consumer protection agency funding, then to deny it a director. The Republicans absolutely cannot compromise on this bedrock principle: the wealthy should be able to do whatever they want.

about a year and a half ago
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US Election's Only VP Debate Tonight: Weigh In With Your Reactions

An Onerous Coward Re:What's the value here? (698 comments)

By "two years" you actually mean "six months." Senator Al Franken's election was disputed until July 2009, giving the Democrats vote #60 (if you count Joe Lieberman, which I don't). Senator Ted Kennedy died two months later, and when Scott Brown took over in January 2010, it gave the Republicans 41 votes, the number needed to keep a filibuster going.

Also, there's no filibuster in the House of Representatives.

Also, senators don't have to vote along party lines, or even be members of a political party. Even a filibuster-proof majority doesn't ensure that the President will always be able to get whatever he wants done. Obama made a concerted effort to get Gitmo closed, and bring the prisoners back to U.S. soil for trial. But cowardly idiots from both sides of the aisle warned that doing so would lead to terror attacks inside the U.S. Too many Democrats chose to demagogue rather than risk being labeled "soft on terror."

And what was Obama doing instead? Fulfilling other campaign promises. Overhauling health care. Economic stimulus. Supreme Court appointments. Regulating the financial sector (over the mad howlings of Republicans, who even today are promising a "repeal and replace", minus the part where they actually replace). Expand CHIP, ensuring that kids get health care. Clean energy. The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Singlehandedly snuck into Pakistan, put a bullet in Osama bin Laden's head, then lit a cigarette and said, "Don't fuck with America." *

Sorry, but the people who ask why Obama hasn't gotten more done seem to imagine that presidents hold Rasputin-like sway over Congress. I blame the Republicans for filibustering, the Democrats for not pushing harder against the filibuster, Connecticut for electing Joe Lieberman, and Republicans (again) for being utterly amoral and unwilling to compromise with either the Democrats or reality in general.

* I've heard there's evidence to disprove this account of events, but it's all hidden in Mitt Romney's 2005 tax returns.

about a year and a half ago
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US Election's Only VP Debate Tonight: Weigh In With Your Reactions

An Onerous Coward Re:Name Your Poison (698 comments)

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

--John Donne

about a year and a half ago

Submissions

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An Onerous Coward An Onerous Coward writes  |  more than 7 years ago

An Onerous Coward (222037) writes "As reported at Yahoo and SciAm, researchers have found that a region of the brain — the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — plays a big role in how people deal with unfair situations. Participants played "The Ultimatum Game," a game which asks them to accept or reject deals that are often very unfair to them. When the brain region was surpressed, participants found themselves unable to reject deals, because they couldn't override the urge to get what little was being offered. The researchers believe this discovery helps explain the human instinct for reciprocity."

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