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EFF Unveils Plan For Ending Mass Surveillance

binarstu Encryption is only part of the solution (282 comments)

From the summary:

The central part of the EFF's plan is: encryption, encryption, encryption.

Encryption everywhere is great. But as long as the majority of us remain willing to hand over everything about our personal lives to Facebook, Google, etc., then mass surveillance by either private entities or governments will remain ridiculously easy. To me, that seems like the really hard problem to solve. There is no way those companies will deny themselves access to their users' unencrypted data.

4 days ago
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Why We Still Can't Really Put Anything In the Public Domain

binarstu Is this really a problem? (99 comments)

Both of the linked articles present this as if it is a major problem requiring federal congressional action. Several other posters here have pointed out, though, that actually pulling something back out of public domain via this copyright "loophole" might actually be extremely difficult or even (practically) impossible.

It is perhaps telling that neither article presents a single example of a piece of work that was initially donated to the public domain by its author(s) and then removed from the public domain via this mechanism. So, does anyone know if this has ever actually happened? Given that neither article gives even one such example, I suspect this is not really a problem at all from a pragmatic point of view. Attempting to "fix" it by asking Congress to pass new copyright legislation could even backfire, because the additional provisions and changes that would inevitably get added to any such bill might end up creating new, real problems.

5 days ago
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New Collaborative Project Wants to Systematize Complex Problem Solving Online

binarstu Wikipedia "proved"? (42 comments)

From the summary:

While Wikipedia proved that collective intelligence could provide quality contents able to compete with the major encyclopedias...

Wikipedia proved that "no cost and good enough most of the time" outcompetes "expensive and authoratative/reliable". I think this has a lot more to do with Wikipedia's success than the supposed quality of the contents.

Wikipedia also wins on its huge breadth. If what you want from your encyclopedia is plot summaries of television shows and extensive biographies of those shows' fictional characters, Wikipedia is really your only choice.

about two weeks ago
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Human Language May Have Evolved To Help Our Ancestors Make Tools

binarstu Re:questionable experimental design (154 comments)

I bet the students that could speak would succed more at any of the following tasks;
Planning/carrying out a hunt.
Sending people to good food gathering areas
Warning of danger Etc

Exactly. One could use the exact same study design to "test" the hypothesis that any or all of the things you mentioned are why we evolved language, and the results would undoubtedly be the same. The only general conclusion one might draw is that humans evolved language to more effectively communicate with each other, which is practically self-evident.

All this study shows is that language is a good way of exchanging information.

That, and also that humans who spend their entire lives depending on language to communicate with one another can't communicate as effectively when they suddenly aren't allowed to use language for a few minutes. Who'd have thunk?

It must be fun to work in a field where experiments like this can get you published in a Nature-affiliated journal.

about two weeks ago
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Human Language May Have Evolved To Help Our Ancestors Make Tools

binarstu questionable experimental design (154 comments)

From what I can tell from TFA, this study purports to test the hypothesis that language evolved as a means to transmit the knowledge of how to make tools. The researchers found that present-day humans (college students, to be exact) can best teach other how to make a stone tool if they are allowed to talk to each other. The authors interpret this as evidence in support of their hypothesis.

The obvious problem, though, is that they ran the experiment on a bunch of subjects that have spent their entire lives (minus the first year or so) using language as their primary means of communication. So what result would you expect with this study population? The experiment is hardly a test of the conditions under which early language might have evolved.

about two weeks ago
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Mayday PAC Goes 2 For 8

binarstu Re:Nothing's gonna change. (224 comments)

Democrats have fucked Kansas every time they accidentally get elected. No miracles here. This is a red state and going to stay that way, because of that.

You think that's why Brownback got re-elected as governor? If your analysis were even remotely correct, he would have had absolutely no chance at winning on Tuesday: he's led your state to huge upcoming budget deficits, an increased poverty rate, much lower economic growth than all four neighboring states, and a downgraded state credit rating.

Yet, despite all of the above, Brownback still kept his job, because, you know... "liberals and taxes are bad." Never mind if the alternative is flushing your state down the toilet.

about 3 months ago
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Codecademy's ReSkillUSA: Gestation Period For New Developers Is 3 Months

binarstu Re:Translation (173 comments)

I had the same thought. The cynic in me thinks that the big tech players are pushing these "learn to code" initiatives because they see it as a way to gain much lower operating expenses in the future. If they can eventually flood the labor market with a huge excess of coders, reduced wages and benefits will become the norm.

about 3 months ago
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The Most Highly Cited Scientific Papers of All Time

binarstu methods, not new discoveries, win (81 comments)

It looks like the majority of the top 20 most cited papers cover new methods or tools (e.g., a new lab technique or a new software program), not new fundamental scientific discoveries (e.g., the structure of DNA or expansion of the universe). I guess this isn't really surprising, but it is interesting. One could conclude that scientists who want to make a major impact on their field should spend their time inventing new methods for doing fundamental research and let other scientists actually do the research.

about 3 months ago
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The Airplane of the Future May Not Have Windows

binarstu Airbus wants to make the whole plane a window (286 comments)

From TFA:

Before that, Airbus proposed eschewing windows and building its cabins out of transparent polymers.

What that really means is that Airbus wants to turn the entire cabin into a window.

Also from TFA:

Hope you're not too attached to looking out the windows when you fly — the designers of tomorrow's airplanes seem intent on getting rid of them.

Well, I guess that technically, Airbus would be "getting rid of the windows", but if the end result is that everyone on the plane has a better view, I don't think it supports TFA's argument at all.

about 3 months ago
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High Speed Evolution

binarstu Re:20 generations (282 comments)

That's correct -- natural selection can only act on heritable traits. The post I was replying to, though, was certainly not making that argument. Instead, it seemed to suggest that the mixing of alleles during sexual reproduction somehow made it impossible to distinguish between "evolution via genes" and "purely environmental factors winnowing a population", and that truly makes no sense.

I am also curious -- can you give us any biologically relevant example of differential reproductive fitness in a population due to entirely non-heritable traits?

about 3 months ago
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High Speed Evolution

binarstu Re:No, it was not an "active" strategy. (282 comments)

Simply deciding to go up the tree higher, or being forced to in order to find more leaves won't change the foot pads of the animal.

Of course not. Nobody said that individual lizards who decided to spend more time above ground would magically grow larger foot pads. If you read TFA, you will see that the authors observed two phenomena. First, they saw an almost immediate shift in the behavior of the native lizards following the arrival of the invasive anoles -- the native anoles spent more time on higher perches. The second change they observed was the increase in foot pad size that occurred over multiple generations. The first change was most likely a rapid modification of individual lizard's foraging behaviors; the second change was due to natural selection causing the population to shift toward larger foot pads.

about 3 months ago
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High Speed Evolution

binarstu Re:No, it was not an "active" strategy. (282 comments)

Please read TFA (or even my reply to your original post). The behavioral shift occurred a few months after the invasive anoles arrived. The scientists did not detect, or even look for, any changes in the genome related to this behavioral change. The evidence, as presented in TFA, is squarely in favor of an active change in foraging behavior.

about 3 months ago
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High Speed Evolution

binarstu Re:How is this surprising? (282 comments)

TFA isn't really an example of evolution per se, it's an example of natural selection--a closely related concept in that they almost always co-occur, but it is not the same thing. We've changed the equilibrium frequencies of various genes, but as far as we know there are no new genes in this population.

I was with you until that. Can you explain why you do not think this is an example of "evolution per se"? If natural selection is changing the frequency of alleles in a population, that population is evolving. The researchers found strong evidence that has happened with the anoles. Whether or not there are "new genes" in the population (whatever that means -- new alleles?) has nothing at all to do with whether evolution is happening.

about 3 months ago
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High Speed Evolution

binarstu Re:No, it was not an "active" strategy. (282 comments)

How do you know it was not an "active" strategy? You seem to think that the only way such a thing could happen is if the lizards convened and made a group decision to use higher perches. Lizards could individually decide to spend more time on higher perches because that is where they are finding more food. Foraging animals, from insects to mammals, make decisions like that all of the time. The net effect would be that, on average, the population of lizards ends up spending more time on high perches. Thus, the change could be an "active" strategy with no group decision making required. The very short time frame for the initial behavioral shift -- "a few months" -- suggests that it most likely was a deliberate change in foraging behavior by the anoles.

...most do exactly what their parents did.

Again, how do you know that? You are assuming there is virtually no plasticity in an individual lizard's foraging behavior; i.e., that it is completely determined by genetics. I don't study anoles (and I'm guessing you don't, either), but I think that is unlikely. There is a great deal of research showing that many kinds of animals, from arthropods to vertebrates, match their foraging behavior to the distribution of resources in the environment.

about 3 months ago
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High Speed Evolution

binarstu Re:20 generations (282 comments)

That's what makes it hard to determine when evolution via genes is occurring vs purely environmental factors winnowing a current population.

To an evolutionary biologist, that statement doesn't make sense. What, exactly, is the distinction between "evolution via genes" and "purely environmental factors winnowing a population"? "Environmental factors winnowing a population" is natural selection, and that drives "evolution via genes". If the small-footed lizards drop off the trees and fail to reproduce, the frequency of alleles in the lizard population changes -- the alleles that favor large feet are now more common. This is "evolution via genes". Sure, some small-footed lizards might remain in the population, or smaller feet could become dominant if the selective pressures change, but that has nothing at all to do with whether or not "evolution via genes" is occurring.

The passing of genes to the next generation is a separate process that still reshuffles the genes via sex relentlessly regardless of environment.

I don't understand this, either. Selection (e.g., "environmental factors winnowing a population") causes the allelic frequencies for some genes in a population to change over time. "Relentless reshuffling" during recombination and sexual reproduction doesn't somehow negate this. For a simplistic analogy, think of a deck of cards. If you remove half of the red cards (i.e., some of the small-footed lizards die), it doesn't matter how many times you shuffle the deck -- the relative frequencies of red and black cards in "the population" aren't going to change.

about 3 months ago
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We Need Distributed Social Networks More Than Ello

binarstu Re:So much stupid (269 comments)

There IS no objective measure.

Of course there are objective measures of product quality: Which vehicle is the most energy efficient? Which vehicle, on average, lasts the longest without needing major repairs? Which phone has the best battery life? And on and on. TFA's point was that the products that end up "winning" in the market are not necessarily better than their competitors by these objective standards. That is in perfect agreement with your statement about which products succeed.

No one succeeds without busting their balls and working hard.

Really? It's not very hard to think of counterexamples that disprove that statement. Off the top of my head, some of the "famous for being famous" celebrities come to mind. I guess they might consider filming themselves having sex and then "accidentally" leaking the tape or signing up to star on some insipid reality show as "hard work", but most of us would not.

The more important point is that many people who "bust their balls" and work hard do not succeed. And the reasons why are, in many cases, at least partially stochastic. I think that was all that TFA was saying.

about 3 months ago
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An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man

binarstu article summary (342 comments)

Here is a quick summary of the main ideas in the article:

Every time a customer purchases ice at Burning Man, a volunteer must walk to the ice truck, retrieve the ice bags, and bring them to the customer. This wastes time because each customer must wait for his or her ice to be retrieved from the truck. Transactions that require returning change to the customer also take extra time. Therefore, the ice purchasing process would be faster if a) the ice were already at the counter so the customer could pick it up immediately, and b) there were a “turbo line” for people who don't need change. Some nonexperts that BH talked to thought that Nevada health regulations might prohibit a), but they do not.

That's just over 100 words. Does using 1700+ words to communicate these relatively simple ideas really help anyone understand them better?

about 3 months ago
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Confidence Shaken In Open Source Security Idealism

binarstu false premise (265 comments)

TFA starts off with this as the very first sentence:

Hackers have shaken the free-software movement that once symbolized the Web’s idealism.

And then fails to provide any real evidence that this is true. It should take strong evidence to reach the conclusion that an entire "movement" has been "shaken" to the point that it has lost its symbolic meaning. I skimmed the rest of the article, but the authors pretty much lost me after that bit of nonsense.

People (both good and bad) have been finding flaws in open source software for decades. No one in the "movement" was surprised or "shaken" to hear about a few new discoveries. These bugs earned extra attention because of the ubiquity of the software, but still -- nobody has ever said that open source software is somehow, magically, bug free. The "idealism" is that a) people can actually find the bugs by looking at the source rather than reverse engineering; and b) once a bug is found, anyone is free to modify the code to fix it, rather than waiting on a business to decide that it merits patching, perhaps weeks or months later. And, as far as I could tell, this all worked very well with the "Shellshock" vulnerabilities. The bugs were found, and the patches were written and released not long after.

about 4 months ago
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The Correct Response To Photo Hack Victim-Blamers

binarstu Re:Read below to see what Bennett has to say. (622 comments)

So funny. Despite all of the calls to "get this crap off of Slashdot", I'll bet I'm not the only one who secretly hopes we keep seeing a BH article every now and then, because the ensuing comments are just too darn entertaining. And, in truth, he has sometimes made some interesting points (despite usually using way too many words to do so) that have led to though-provoking discussion threads. But really, reading the comments is like watching a sitcom where every time a certain character enters the room, his/her entrance is always followed by snarky wisecracks from the other characters.

about 4 months ago

Submissions

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Innocent adults are easy to convince they commited a serious crime

binarstu binarstu writes  |  about two weeks ago

binarstu (720435) writes "Research recently published in Psychological Science quantifies how easy it is to convince innocent, "normal" adults that they commited a crime. The Association for Psychological Science (APS) has posted a nice summary of the research. From the APS summary: 'Evidence from some wrongful-conviction cases suggests that suspects can be questioned in ways that lead them to falsely believe in and confess to committing crimes they didn’t actually commit. New research provides lab-based evidence for this phenomenon, showing that innocent adult participants can be convinced, over the course of a few hours, that they had perpetrated crimes as serious as assault with a weapon in their teenage years.'"
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Fearing government surveillance, U.S. journalists are self-censoring

binarstu binarstu writes  |  about a year ago

binarstu (720435) writes "Suzanne Nossel, writing for cnn.com, reports that 'a survey of American writers done in October revealed that nearly one in four has self-censored for fear of government surveillance. They fessed up to curbing their research, not accepting certain assignments, even not discussing certain topics on the phone or via e-mail for fear of being targeted. The subjects they are avoiding are no surprise — mostly matters to do with the Middle East, the military and terrorism.' Yet ordinary Americans, for the most part, seem not to care: 'Surveillance so intrusive it is putting certain subjects out of bounds would seem like cause for alarm in a country that prides itself as the world's most free. Americans have long protested the persecution and constraints on journalists and writers living under repressive regimes abroad, yet many seem ready to accept these new encroachments on their freedom at home.'"
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NSA wants to reveal its secrets to prevent Snowden from revealing them first

binarstu binarstu writes  |  about a year ago

binarstu (720435) writes "According to a recent report by Tom Gjelten of NPR, 'NSA officials are bracing for more surveillance disclosures from the documents taken by former contractor Edward Snowden — and they want to get out in front of the story. ... With respect to other information held by Snowden and his allies but not yet publicized, the NSA is now considering a proactive release of some of the less sensitive material, to better manage the debate over its surveillance program.'"
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CIA Pays AT&T Millions to Voluntarily Provide Call Data

binarstu binarstu writes  |  about a year ago

binarstu (720435) writes "The New York Times reports that 'The C.I.A. is paying AT&T more than $10 million a year to assist with overseas counterterrorism investigations by exploiting the company’s vast database of phone records, which includes Americans’ international calls, according to government officials. The cooperation is conducted under a voluntary contract, not under subpoenas or court orders compelling the company to participate, according to the officials.'"
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U.S. programmer outsources own job to China

binarstu binarstu writes  |  about 2 years ago

binarstu (720435) writes "A recent article on cnn.com tells the story of a U.S. programmer who hired software developers in China to do his job so that he could spend his days surfing Ebay and browsing cat videos on Youtube. From the article: "Bob had hired a programming firm in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang to do his work. His helpers half a world away worked overnight on a schedule imitating an average 9-to-5 workday in the United States. He paid them one-fifth of his six-figure salary, according to Verizon.""
Link to Original Source
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The truth about the "47%"

binarstu binarstu writes  |  more than 2 years ago

binarstu (720435) writes "Mitt Romney's secretly-recorded comments about the "47%" of Americans who he believes are government dependents that "pay no income tax" have fueled new debate about U.S. tax policies. His claims don't hold up so well, however, when confronted with the data. First, as reported in the New York Times, a 2008 study by Cornell University reveals that "nearly all Americans — 96 percent — have relied on the federal government to assist them." And a recent piece in the Washington Post explains why the "47%" analysis is fundamentally flawed. From the latter: "At the heart of the debate over “the 47 percent” is an awful abuse of tax data. This entire conversation is the result of a (largely successful) effort to redefine the debate over taxes from “how much in taxes do you pay” to “how much in federal income taxes do you pay?” This is good framing if you want to cut taxes on the rich. It’s bad framing if you want to have even a basic understanding of who pays how much in taxes.""
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For-Profit College Recruiters Use 'Pain, Fear"

binarstu binarstu writes  |  more than 3 years ago

binarstu (720435) writes "From a recent article on the Huffington Post:
"Newly-released internal training documents from several for-profit colleges illustrate a culture that encourages recruiters to increase enrollment by focusing on emotions such as "pain" and "fear" to attract low-income students who are struggling with adverse personal and financial circumstances. ... The internal training guides shed light on recruitment methods that have long been criticized by student-advocacy groups as preying on uninformed, uneducated students who may have little chance of success once admitted to the schools.""

Link to Original Source

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