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Dungeons & Dragons' Influence and Legacy

Dr. Spork If slashdot had a TV channel... (127 comments)

They would be wise to get a celebrity D&D campaign. Just imagine an evening with Cory Doctorow, Stephen Colbert, George R. R. Martin, Matt Groening etc, all sitting around a table, trying to lawyer rules and hold off a raid of hobgoblins! That would be a "reality" show that I could watch!

about two weeks ago
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German NSA Committee May Turn To Typewriters To Stop Leaks

Dr. Spork Re:Enigma (244 comments)

When the Germans go back to those as well, they might as well all get pilot goggles and go 100% steampunk.

about two weeks ago
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Marvel's New Thor Will Be a Woman

Dr. Spork Re:After that shitfest"The Dark World" they need b (590 comments)

To be fair, minting Thor as a superhero that, though a series of cosmic macguffins, teams up with Captain America and Ironman, is a deeply stupid idea to begin with.

about two weeks ago
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FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage

Dr. Spork But with a pilot it's still ok? (199 comments)

I think it's time for Nibbles the Hamster to get a pilot's license and go to work for real estate. With him in the cockpit, it's no longer a drone, right? He will also get some mini pilot goggles, because it will look adorable and no judge would ever convict.

about two weeks ago
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Coddled, Surveilled, and Monetized: How Modern Houses Can Watch You

Dr. Spork OMG, not my tooth brushing!!! (150 comments)

This is so scary! If somebody learns every detail of the motions I make when I brush my teeth, they will basically have all the info they need to turn me into a zombie servant of the NSA-corprotocracy! And now they also want to know the humidity in my house!? Goddamn it, didn't our founding fathers say that the moisture content of our residence shall not collected? I'm so outraged! Now excuse me while I upload all my photos, featuring everyone I've ever associated with, to Facebook.

about three weeks ago
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In Düsseldorf, A Robot Valet Will Park Your Car

Dr. Spork Should be denser! (120 comments)

From the picture it looks like it takes just as much space as a regular parking garage, but I think the real potential in a system like this is in maximizing the density of parked cars. I'm picturing something like an Amazon warehouse, but with cars on each shelf. In places where space is at a premium, this sort of ultra-dense shelving system seems like the right way to store a lot of cars. What would also be awesome would be a smartphone app that gives the garage a heads up 5 minutes before you arrive to pick up your car, so that "Ray" can stick it into a pickup spot. For example, if it's in a city and on a subway line, you could choose "I'm on the northbound C train" and the dispatching system is wired into the subway system, figures out where that train is and can estimate accurately how long it will be before you arrive. Then you get a return message about which spot to go to, get in and drive off. Yes it's a bit more technology than self-parking, but the technology is mostly fixed costs, and in many dense cities, those costs are probably much lower than the equivalent number of traditional parking spaces. Also, these costs are likely to fall over time, unlike the cost of space in Gangnam or Manhattan. If it's coordinated right, it's also more convenient.

about three weeks ago
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Facial Recognition Might Be Coming To Your Car

Dr. Spork Good idea, bad marketing (131 comments)

Think of it this way: this will be a trivially cheap device to install in a car, and it will be pretty much invisible in how it functions, until someone tries to steal your car. It will probably be bundled with other functions that count your blinks and warn you when you're too drowsy to drive safely. This is the kind of device that will pay for itself many times over in insurance savings. Also, if it records your car data in some hard-coded way, that data could be very useful in fighting wrongful traffic tickets. To market it as a spy-on-your-kids tool is not a good move. It sounds sinister and gross. Basically, it should be described as a password device for your car, which you can enter just by looking like yourself, or else typing something in on the owner's phone. If your computer requires a password to operate, why shouldn't you car, especially if entering it doesn't require any actions?

about 1 month ago
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The Military Is About To Get New Augmented Reality Spy Glasses

Dr. Spork Re:How about soccer referees and augmented reality (58 comments)

I was thinking that they could review previous events as the game runs, but I guess they could they could limit it to time after they blew the whistle and are deciding about cards. But offsides calls could absolutely be done in real time.

about a month ago
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The Military Is About To Get New Augmented Reality Spy Glasses

Dr. Spork How about soccer referees and augmented reality? (58 comments)

Am I the only one who has been thinking recently that soccer might make me less angry if referees had augmented reality glasses? For example, if they could instantly replay for themselves certain situations and rotate angles (enough data is already collected from cameras to make this possible), they would certainly make better calls! If nothing else, this would be a way to completely nail offsides decisions.

about a month ago
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Half of Germany's Power Supplied By Solar, Briefly

Dr. Spork Re:Winter is coming (461 comments)

Germany's CO2 output is spiking, hitting records each year, thanks to the dozen or so new giant powerplants that burn coal. The USA, meanwhile, has dramatically reduced its CO2 output in the last 5 years. Americans are actually shutting down coal plants, as the Germans build new ones. I know that these facts are inconvenient to your narrative, but they are still facts.

about a month ago
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Half of Germany's Power Supplied By Solar, Briefly

Dr. Spork Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (461 comments)

Remarkable that they had the wisdom to replace zero-emission nuclear power with a dozen new gigantic coal plants, including several that burn brown coal? Congratulations, welcome to the 18th century! While the greenhouse emissions from the USA are falling like a rock in the last 5 years, Germany's CO2 output is spiking upwards and reaches record levels every year. And for all this, Germans have to pay some of the highest electricity costs in Europe. I'm not saying that Germany can't eventually get their act together, but to me it looks like they're off to a very bad start.

about a month ago
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Turing Test Passed

Dr. Spork Re:The 'test' was fixed (432 comments)

Here was a sample of a hypothetical conversation from Turing's original article:

Interrogator: In the first line of your sonnet which reads "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day," would not "a spring day" do as well or better?

Witness: It wouldn't scan.

Interrogator: How about "a winter's day," That would scan all right.

Witness: Yes, but nobody wants to be compared to a winter's day.

Interrogator: Would you say Mr. Pickwick reminded you of Christmas?

Witness: In a way.

Interrogator: Yet Christmas is a winter's day, and I do not think Mr. Pickwick would mind the comparison.

Witness: I don't think you're serious. By a winter's day one means a typical winter's day, rather than a special one like Christmas.

I think the problem is that the way Turing was picturing the test, the human interrogators would be as smart as Turing and his friends, people who actually know how to ask probing questions. When you look at the conversation above, you see that he had in mind a program that does things which is decades beyond of what chatbots can do today. Everybody is dissing the Turing test, and if it has a problem, it's in that Turing overestimated people, in assuming that they actually know how to have conversations of significance. I still think there is something deeply significant about the Turing test, but in the one that I'm picturing, the interrogators must all be broadly educated experts on natural language processing with specific training in how to expose chatbots. And there should be money on the line for the interrogators: $1000 bonus for each correct identification, $2000 penalty for incorrect identification, no penalty for "not sure". If the majority of such experts can be fooled by an AI under these circumstances, then I think we should all be impressed.

about 1 month ago
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NRC Human Spaceflight Report Says NASA Strategy Can't Get Humans To Mars

Dr. Spork Snagging an asteroid is cooler anyway! (206 comments)

Seriously, forget Mars. It's like Utah, but cold, and even more boring. We know Mars.

Now, rearranging big chunks of our solar system to get our grubby hand on some sweet sweet platinum, that's the sort of crazy shit that our parents hoped we'd be doing by now. In any case, that's what we should be doing, imo.

about 2 months ago
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Can Thunderbolt Survive USB SuperSpeed+?

Dr. Spork Re:No Threat To Thunderbolt (355 comments)

I've been thinking hard about a cable that will bring data to my CPU with the lowest latency. At the other end of the cable would be a guitar with several A/D converters, one for each pickup. Including piezos, that might add up to about 10 192Hz/32bit signals. That's still not a tremendous amount of bandwidth, but latency is much more important in this application. I don't think there is any dispute that the lowest latency lane to the CPU in current PCs is over PCIE. If thunderbolt is PCIE over a wire, it would be a natural technology to finally modernize the electric guitar for the digital age. Well, a guy can dream!

about 2 months ago
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Electric Stimulation Could Help You Control Your Dreams

Dr. Spork This sounds technically easy, maybe fun! (138 comments)

It's trivially easy to give 40 small shocks per second to the temples. Really, I'm tempted to try this for fun. But a small device that could both detect REM and then deliver the 40Hz stimulation would probably not need to cost more than $10. The theory seems sound, and it really could be awesome! I'd love to see a homebrew version.

about 3 months ago
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Scientists Race To Develop Livestock That Can Survive Climate Change

Dr. Spork Re:We've already passed "Peak Child" (291 comments)

So we're living longer, getting richer, and having fewer children. And some scientists are researching strategies for how to get luxury food (meat) to all the people who recently became rich. That just sounds like good news all around, right?

about 3 months ago
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How Concrete Contributed To the Downfall of the Roman Empire

Dr. Spork Re:Worst article ever... (384 comments)

Exactly. Whoever wrote that article didn't catch on to this. And neither did the submitter and Slashdot editors, so now we have complete nonsense on the front page. Oh, another Slasdot Monday!

about 3 months ago
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Japanese and Swiss Watchmakers Scoff At Smartwatches

Dr. Spork Re:It's just like it is with vinyls (399 comments)

Yeah, because vinyls are so robust and reliable, and the hipsters who love them just can't stand fiddling with their gear!

about 3 months ago
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Japanese and Swiss Watchmakers Scoff At Smartwatches

Dr. Spork Re:I agree (399 comments)

Yeah, I think that a smartwatch along the lines that you describe would be a plausible consumer product. For me, limited battery life would be the killer, but that might have solutions. One that I would like to see is ePaper for the display, which would also help with outdoor readability. On a watch, you could experiment with color schemes that are not your Kindle classic black text on white background. With a good designer, an ePaper smartwatch could look a lot like a Swiss fancy watch, but pack all sorts of functionality inside. (I've been convinced for years that the "bigger and fatter" trend in men's watches is a scheme designed to pave the way for wrist computers.)

I think a lot will depend on whether they can design a non-obtrusive charging method. My idea is to make a little inductive platform that you keep in your bathroom, which is the resting place for the watch as you shower. When you are done with your shower and put the watch back on, it has a guaranteed week of normal-use battery life. (Not that users would only shower once a week, but sometimes they won't shower at home and they shouldn't have to worry about watch death.)

about 3 months ago
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Americans Uncomfortable With Possibility of Ubiquitous Drones, Designer Babies

Dr. Spork Re:Why fear designer babies? (155 comments)

I think you're looking at the issue wrong. There are already many second-class citizens in the world, and with depressing uniformity, they produce offspring who themselves grow up to be second class citizens. Having the option to genetically engineer traits that are highly correlated with success and satisfaction could be the very thing we need to beat this generational trap. Maybe the best way to see genetic engineering is to compare it with buying college for your children. Sure, that puts them "ahead" of some people who refuse to go, but the mere fact that college gives some people an advantage over others is surely no reason to oppose its availability. It's also a very important (though imperfect) tool for social mobility, maybe the best one we have. Genetic engineering might be many times better, especially when combined with the availability of college.

about 3 months ago

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