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Halting Problem Proves That Lethal Robots Cannot Correctly Decide To Kill Humans

TomRC Robot: Here are your instructions: (335 comments)

Set a timer for 24 hours. Until that timer expires, attempt to determine if the code is malicious, or not malicious.
If you determine the code is or is not malicious, cease testing the code.
If you determine the code is not malicious, or if the timer expires with no decision either way about the code, release the villainess.
If you determine the code is malicious and the villainess is still in custody, do not release her, and notify the proper authorities to try her for her crimes.
If you determine the code is malicious and the villainess is no longer in custody, notify the authorities to have her found, arrested, and tried.

Habeas Corpus and Innocent Until Proven Guilty.

The authors started with a conclusion they wished to reach, and found pretty much the most absurd possible argument that seemed to justify their desired outcome.

about 2 months ago

Book Review: Measuring and Managing Information Risk: a FAIR Approach

TomRC Media Coverage of Risk (46 comments)

"The current panic around Ebola shows how people are ill-informed about risk. While stressing over Ebola, the media is oblivious to true public health threats like obesity, heart disease, drunk driving, diabetes, and the like."


The media are focusing on Ebola because it is a relatively *unknown* risk for most, which makes it novel, which makes it news. They have extensively covered all of the other risks, and the public are generally well informed of the risks - or as informed as they are individually capable of being informed without one-on-one tutoring or coaching.

about 3 months ago

Microsoft Announces Windows 10

TomRC Why not... (644 comments)

Why not just merge the Start menu and the desktop once and for all, with all the best features of both?
Hold down the Windows key to instantly hide all but the desktop.

Basically like clicking in the lower right corner on Win7, but much faster, while bringing in some of the UI features from Win8.

Get rid of the various "hover/slide in from the edge" Win8 conventions - put those options on the desktop.

Make the task bar default visible only on the Desktop (optionally always visible, of course).
For touch, keep a transparent Start button hovering in the lower left - hold touch on it if you don't have a Windows key/button to show the desktop.
Apps could request true full screen to get rid of the button, of course.

about 4 months ago

Home Depot Says Breach Affected 56 Million Cards

TomRC Paranoia? (80 comments)

It sounds like this sort of thing takes a scale of resources to accomplish that wouldn't be used idly.

So why are we hearing about a lot of cracks lately that get huge amounts of payment information, but apparently don't lead to massive numbers and dollars of thefts from accounts?

Is someone testing experimental weapons for a future cyber war that would aim to create enough financial chaos to crash our economy?
Or conversely, is there a secret government project to deliberately crack corporate financial systems, to scare them into getting more secure?

about 4 months ago

Eye Problems From Space Affect At Least 21 NASA Astronauts

TomRC NASA needs to get it's act together (109 comments)

We've long known what will likely avoid these sorts of problems - create a rotating environment to simulate gravity.
While the physics principle is simple, engineering a safe rotating station is probably quite challenging.
The sort of thing NASA was created to investigate...

about 5 months ago

Dutch Court Says Government Can Receive Bulk Data from NSA

TomRC Seems a bit odd... (109 comments)

So, it's legal for Americans to spy on the Dutch? Who knew!
Next it'll be found perfectly OK for the Dutch government to take kickbacks from American criminals that rob Dutch citizens.
Hurrah for the newly authorized power of crime laundering!

about 6 months ago

Eyes Over Compton: How Police Spied On a Whole City

TomRC Police should have no more powers than the public (190 comments)

If we decide not to allow the public to fly drones around peeping into back yards, the same should apply to the police (without a warrant). The limits on casual/easy police surveillance should be pretty much the same as the limits on the public. The police should be no more than citizens that we have authorized to act in our name.

That said, it may be time to be realistic, that technology is expanding our powers of easy observation beyond historical limits. Create new laws regulating personal and commercial drone camera use, including allowable flight altitudes, linger times, recording and viewing resolutions, etc under various circumstances - with the same standards governing police use without a warrant. Balance new benefits against the loss of a few old privacy benefits. Same goes for things like Google Glass.

The key is to avoid allowing politicians to carve out any special exceptions/powers exclusively for the police - insist that police powers be based on those of the general public.


about 9 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What Do You Consider Elegant Code?

TomRC Re:Duff's Device (373 comments)

OK, I missed that it was trying to implement memory-mapped I/O, because I only looked at the "Duff's Device" code.
The rest still applies, with apologies for the ranting.

about 10 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What Do You Consider Elegant Code?

TomRC Re:Duff's Device (373 comments)

Um - maybe my eyes are just skipping something - but isn't that (Wikipedia) implementation completely 'bugged'?
I.e. it seems that it only increments the source "from" pointer, not the destination "to" pointer?

Not to mention that the idea that "tricky" code is "elegant" is pretty much completely backwards. Coding in odd ways just to be tricky, or to minimize lines of source code for the sake of 'compactness', or pretty much any other 'clever coding' goal - tends to create buggy code that is hard to debug and hard for anyone else to understand if they need to modify it. As evidenced by the many good programmers here who looked at that "clever" code and didn't notice that it continuously overwrites the same location in memory...

It was such 'cleverness' that led to the bad reputation of 'goto' from people writing spaghetti code. At least in the early days of programming, programmers had the excuse of slow processors and limited memory and poor compilers, to justify coming to equate 'tricky' with "clever and elegant". Unless you're coding for some ultra-tiny system, such thinking is simply obsolete, and anyone engaging in it ought to be embarrassed at their misguided priorities.

Elegant code is functionally correct, will create a fast/efficient/compact run-time (assuming a decent compiler / interpreter and depending on settings appropriate to the project), and above all must be READABLE and MAINTAINABLE.

Where old-time programmers abused GOTO, modern C++ programmers tend to abuse inheritance and templates, creating code that is often nearly impossible to follow even with the aid of a good development/debugging environment - let alone follow by reading the static source code. And the sad thing is, they think they're engaging in "good programming" even as they create incomprehensible, unmaintainable monstrosities.

about 10 months ago

Measles Outbreak In NYC

TomRC Marketing is everything. (747 comments)

Just tell them that the vaccine is fully organic, low sodium, fat free and gluten free.

Also, it's got Electrolytes.

about a year ago

Fishing Line As Artificial "Muscle"

TomRC Cheap Robots Soon? (111 comments)

One of my personal long standing predictions has been that when we finally get really cheap "good enough" robot muscles, personal robots will take off much like PCs did, even if the muscles have significant problems to be worked around.

I presume that with use these muscles will stretch and lose strength. But that's OK - just pair them with control software that adapts automatically. If the muscles get too weak, replace them. The main question will be how fast they degrade. If they could last in an intermittently active robot for a month, that's probably enough to get started.

Another question is how fast they can cycle without over heating and ruining them. Given the sorts of applications they describe, I suspect there are issues with speed. But one good thing about this development is that anyone can experiment with it in their garage, and many will, and solutions for fast cycling muscles will be found.

about a year ago

Schneier: Break Up the NSA

TomRC The most likely three way split (324 comments)

Most likely, the NSA would be split along the lines of their three core missions:

- Spy on and sabotage information systems of enemies of the United States to disrupt their operations.
- Spy on and sabotage information systems of friendly foreign nations to maintain and enhance US hegemony.
- Spy on and sabotage information systems of US citizens, to chill free speech that might threaten the NSA with budget cuts.

Then the first could be downsized as not an essential contributor to their primary goal of maintaining the power of the NSA.
Use the freed resources to step up the last, as obviously they've gotten too lax there and it is starting to threaten the primary goal.

about a year ago

Psychologists: Internet Trolls Are Narcissistic, Psychopathic, and Sadistic

TomRC I AM NOT ! (293 comments)

...you nazi libertarian communist illiterate whack-job faux liberal neocon conspirators!

about a year ago

Internet Censorship Back On Australian Agenda

TomRC We must burn this village to save it! (109 comments)

To insure that people have access to great entertainment, we insure that the creators of great entertainment are fairly compensated - so we must destroy the greatest means of distributing content ever invented.
Or, we could design a system of tagging content that allows it's distribution to be monitored and recorded, making it easy for creators of edited content to incorporate a fair tagging of how much of others' content went into their work. Any new content for which the creator wishes to be paid would be submitted to a registration and review site, to be assigned a registered tag.

Any content for which the creator doesn't want to be paid could be uploaded, and the storage provider would be required to assign it an unregistered tag. If the unregistered content became popular enough, it would be reviewed to determine if it contained the untagged work of other creators - but only to insure fair distribution of fees. ALL content uploaded can be used by anyone. If you don't want everyone to get it, encrypt it.

Money would be collected as fees on internet users, at two levels: Full fee - no restrictions on content consumption, TBD whether paid in proportion to amount of content consumed or flat fee. No fee - all tagged content is stripped except tiny fragments considered "fair use" (such as quotes, links to content, maybe images shrunken to no more than 256x144 pixels, video represented as a single frame from the original, etc).

about a year ago

Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!

TomRC Why not fix real problems (2219 comments)

Instead of focusing on a "new look", why not analyze where Slashdot fails, and see if you can't improve on that?

While it's fine for everyone to have a voice and toss off irreverent irrelevancies - that's kind of at the heart of Slashdot commenting - why not try to build something new that IN ADDITION tries to help commenters move past the classic "all heat, no light" mode of internet discussions?

E..g., for controversial issues, help different sides build their arguments into a few high-contrast positions explaining to the ignorant other sides why their position is correct? With branching and versioning to allow evolution of those positions. Similarly, for the various outrages that fearful governments and greedy corps frequently try to impose, and are reported here, how about creating a means of building consensus positions on useful actions to counter them?

Make Slashdot the vanguard in Open Source consensus building. Something along the lines of liquid democracy instead of simple polling and modding. Maybe throw in something along the lines of building up a topic-focused micro-wiki of useful information, links and ideas centered on the topic.

about a year ago

NASA Sues Apollo Astronaut To Return Moon Camera

TomRC Federal Statute of Limitations (395 comments)

Not sure this is most up-to-date, but see http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL31253.pdf which seems to indicate a 5 year limitation for "theft".
"Ordinarily, the statute of limitations begins to run as soon as the crime has been completed." This appears to apply to alleged theft.
"The federal courts have long held that a statute of limitations may be enlarged retroactively as long as the previously applicable period of limitation has not expired." But this was not done in this case, so far as I have heard.

So I don't know what the judge is referring to in saying there is no applicable federal statute of limitations.

But someone in NASA should have looked at this proposed lawsuit and told the lawyer who wanted to bring charges that he's an ass to involve NASA's reputation in something so relatively trivial. If their goal is to get back at Mitchell for flouting their 'authoritae', they could have simply issued a press release stating that either the camera is not authentic, or Mitchell must have stolen it, as it was supposed to have been left on the LEM and they have no record of giving him permission to take it.

more than 3 years ago

Let Quantum Physics Officiate Your Wedding

TomRC Skepticism - the marriage killer (70 comments)

'The quantum marriage will literally be broken up by skepticism about it.'

I just want to say that I doubt the legitimacy of all weddings performed by quantum entanglement.

more than 3 years ago

Japan's Elderly Nix Robot Helpers

TomRC Put the patient in control (200 comments)

Besides the obvious price and limited capabilities issues, I think where they fell down was in treating patients as objects to be "taken care of".

They needed to put the patient in control.

The robotic wheelchair/bed in the article will likely be much more popular, as it enables patients to do things for themselves. But reaching things with it might be difficult - perhaps it needs to be designed to bundle up the patient so it can hold them vertically, as if standing, so they can get closer to tables and counters and such. In effect, make a giant mobile hand and arm that can gently grab the person and move them around as they direct, instead of a mobile bed.

more than 3 years ago



Elementeo Chemistry Game

TomRC TomRC writes  |  more than 6 years ago

TomRC (231027) writes " Elementeo , created by a fourteen year old entrepreneur, teaches some chemistry basics through a card combat game for two or more players. "In this action-packed game, two or more players wage a chemical war with just one goal in mind — destroy their opponent's electrons to zero! Armed with their arsenal of elements, compounds, and nuclear reactions, these young chemists strive to create, combat, and conquer the world!" If you've got a geek-kid or a kid you'd like to get interested in science and/or entrepreneurship, you might point them that way."


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