top Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates
A few years back there was a great deal of interest in computers doing visual processing and recognition, and I was doing a little work in this area. The interest is still there, but news about it seems to have retreated from the front page. The security industry was especially interested in facial recognition. Alongside that interest were the usual peddlers of hype and hysteria. It was difficult to sort through all the noise. When I looked into research papers, I found that the details told of all kinds of limitations. Yes, they could match faces with 90% accuracy. If the lighting was good. And was the same level in the two photographs. And the subjects were all facing the camera at the exact same angle. And the subjects hadn't grown or removed any facial hair or glasses, or even changed hair styles. And they didn't have different expressions. And the database didn't have more than a few hundred subjects. But never mind, soon we would have video cameras on every street corner, matching every passing face to enforcers' databases of millions of criminals.
Despite the noise, which might lead a cynic to think that it's all hype, facial recognition has improved over the years. It will be the same in robotics. We won't see Robot Basketball Player replace Kobe Bryant anytime soon, no Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island. But we will see more and better robotics. John Henry scored a pyrrhic victory against a steam hammer. Fighting like that to keep jobs from being taken over by robots is just as useless and futile.
We may yet see that promise of more leisure time come true at last, thanks to robotics. So far, all our labor saving advances somehow have failed to free up much leisure time. Instead, we've put that time towards doing more work. Our parents worked hard so that we can have a better life, meaning, less hardhsip and more leisure time. But it seems more leisure time doesn't automatically make for a more satisfying, better life. Asimov's combination of his Foundation and Robots books had this idea of robots doing so much for us that we became slack and unable to do much for ourselves, and at the same time very unhappy that the struggle had been removed from life to such an extent that it felt empty and meaningless, so that finally we had to abandon the robots. I don;t think that will happen either.
top Dr. Dobb's 38-Year Run Comes To an End
No, don't make the ads so obnoxious. I wouldn't block them if advertisers wouldn't pig out on my resources and force me to turn off the sound so I'm not embarrassed or distracted by some loud jingle, with blinking text, frenetic animation, and a flashing background. When ads take more than 5% of my bandwidth, RAM, and CPU, and make my browser unstable, I do something about it. If I have to reposition windows to hide obnoxiously distracting animation, I'll block it. IF it's not easy to block, I'll quit visiting the website.
top Ford Ditches Microsoft Partnership On Sync, Goes With QNX
I suspect part of the reason for the choice of QNX has nothing to do with technical merit or niches. It's out of a religious belief in capitalism, and doubts that a "communist" effort like Linux can really be sustained. Or in other words, FUD. Microsoft has exploited this belief very well. What does Ford use internally on the desktop? Large companies as a rule are conservative, and Ford is a bit more conservative than average for a large company and an automaker. Expect it's mostly Windows. That they recently were partnered with MS practically guarantees it.
As to the niche QNX occupies, yes, Linux doesn't fit well, but there are free choices. There are other microkernel based OSes that have the advantage of being open source and free. Minix 3, for instance. Better to put resources towards making Minix 3 into a quality, realtime OS, and formally prove its correctness, than accept never being allowed to examine the QNX source code. I should think part of Ford's deal with QNX is access to the source code.
top Ford Ditches Microsoft Partnership On Sync, Goes With QNX
Oh come on, Windows 95? The OS that couldn't even sit idle without eventually crashing? That's a real low bar.
I've heard from people who work with QNX that it has plenty of bugs. It may be secure, but it's actually not that stable.
It makes sense that QNX is overhyped and not near as good as some claim. Being proprietary and small, they simply do not have the resources to polish it and keep it polished. Linux has many huge companies paying for hundreds of talented developers to work on every part. In many cases, the best algorithms for many of the problems an OS faces, such as task scheduling, storage management, and networking, are complicated and difficult to implement well. It's no accident that there are more than a dozen good file systems for Linux, each with their points. Windows is still plodding along with NTFS and FAT. And QNX? They simply cannot keep up, even if they rip good code straight from Linux. They're going to skimp on features and choices, and what they must have will be the most dead simple method that delivers adequate performance, and spin that as a virtue because the code is smaller and therefore easier to audit and prove correct. If they discover that their design imposes a fundamental limitation, they live with it, while the Linux world can think of going for a redesign, because the resources are there. QNX could never think of doing a massive reworking of the system like the replacement of X with Wayland or Mir, or the development of btrfs.
top Once Again, Baltimore Police Arrest a Person For Recording Them
Rejected for being too smart?!? What idiots! The problem is the opposite: trying to find smart people willing to do a dangerous and often tedious and boring job that nevertheless has many judgment calls that can benefit greatly from intelligent decisions.
Lord of Light, a Hugo Award winning novel by Zelazny, a similar thing happened. At one point in the story, the leader of the oppressors has been assassinated and the rest need to pick a new leader quickly. They reject one of candidates, possibly the best one, for being too smart. He might have lead them on a more conciliatory course, made concessions, and the rest didn't want that to happen. Instead, they selected their most extreme hardliner. It proved a stupid mistake, ending tragically for them.
top Study of Massive Preprint Archive Hints At the Geography of Plagiarism
The idea of credit is just another lump on that intellectual property turd.
Let's be clear on what plagiarism is. It's deliberately and knowingly claiming authorship of the work of others. It's lying about who created a work.
Plagiarism and intellectual property need not have anything to do with each other. The people who argue that copyright prevents plagiarism are either confused, or trying to scrape up another justification to keep copyright. I think copyright should be abolished. And, that independent of whether copyright exists or not, plagiarism will still be undesirable, and that we can detect and punish those who do it. You don't see grade school students who are caught committing plagiarism being beat over the head with a copyright lawsuit, you see them punished with a failing grade, and perhaps detention.
Having said that, we don't want to get too extreme about plagiarism, start seeing it everywhere. Duplicate chess problems, in which someone honestly creates essentially the same problem that someone else did, maybe 100 years ago, are so common that there's a term for it: anticipation. Chess has been around for centuries, and it is getting harder to find original and novel concepts. Anticipation may become a problem in many other areas as they mature. George Harrison famously committed "subconcious" copyright infringement (plagiarism really) with My Sweet Lord, how should that be handled? The day will come, may already be here, when every possible short melody has been composed. What about ghostwriting, should that be accepted? We also don't want people bogged down trying to give due credit for everything. Otherwise, a research paper would have to credit the Phonecians for inventing the alphabet, lots of Greeks for various elementary mathematical concepts, the Babylonians for the base 60 time system we still use today, and maybe the Egyptians for papyrus, if the research is indeed printed on actual paper.
top Swedish Police Raid the Pirate Bay Again
I actually think we don't have the choice to keep copyright. Copyright is so dysfunctional that it didn't work well even with the highest public support it ever enjoyed. What helped it most was that copying used to be difficult. Now what keeps copyright alive is lingering public support.
In recent decades we've seen support for copyright weaken greatly, thanks in no small part to industry actions to strengthen it. Instead of adapting to the changing situation of copying becoming far, far easier and cheaper to do, they've called for overly restrictive terms that come across as petty, mean, greedy, and not really effective at helping artists make a living, while causing a great deal of inconvenience and sometimes dramatic reduction in value to the users. They've attempted to elevate copyright to some sort of higher right that trumps all other rights. They've tried to tell the public that we can't use new technology because it harms copyright, and they've even had the gall to whine about long standing traditions such as the used book store, demanding that those places be closed. They've been forced to agree that time and format shifting are not illegal, but they begrudge it and still act as if it is immoral. They've gone on well publicized terror campaigns, abusing our legal system to bully ordinary people. They think they have the right and duty to take any action necessary to protect holy copyright. They're so extreme I would not be surprised if some would like to impose the death penalty on pirates. If that wasn't enough, they've also run propaganda campaigns, done their utmost to confuse the public, get people to accept the false proposition that copying is equivalent to stealing. Once that lie is believed, they then try to appeal to our sense of morals. But it's no longer working too well. What kind of delusional, senseless, alternate reality thinking does it take to come up with an idea like Captain Copyright? They really believed a comic superhero could win if not adults, perhaps gullible children over to a hopeless cause like that, and never expected that Captain Copyright would be an instant laughingstock that just looks plain silly and stupid? All that these desperation measures really show is that copyright is badly broken. And not just the implementation, but the concept.
Yes, I think some kind of patronage system is the leading idea to replace copyright. While in past centuries it was a system that only worked for the rich, today, patronage, like copying and many other things, can now be done by the masses.
top Swedish Police Raid the Pirate Bay Again
Evidence is moot because copying should not be a crime, not even a civil infraction. Sharing/copying should be encouraged as a social good. Sharing of knowledge is what made our civilization, and keeps it alive. Voluntarily allow a few elite control over what may be copied and who can copy, and you weaken civilization. Perhaps not fatally, but why take that chance for something so trivial as a broken business model? There are other ways for artists to earn a living.
top Overly Familiar Sci-Fi
Disagree. Look how different our culture is to just 3 centuries ago, before the Industrial Revolution and the telegraph. The steam engine was in its infancy, too recently arrived to matter much at that time, and such railroads as existed used wooden rails. There used to be massive business ecosystems that revolved around horses and sailing which hung on until the 1920s and the 1850s respectively. The fastest a message or person could travel between London and NYC was 18 days, if the ship had favorable winds. Average was more like 30 days. Many people wore "homespun" -- made their own clothes at home, from threads they also spun at home, from crops they grew for that purpose. The change from horse to automobile changed NYC dramatically. No more horse manure in the streets, with the accompanying threats of typhoid fever and other diseases vastly reduced.
You could argue that human behavior has not changed much, and won't. I am not so sure of that either. We are evolving at a furious rate. But people are prejudiced against seeing many of them. We used to have duels, as depicted in the start of the Three Musketeers story, and more than stories. The mathematician Galois and politician Alexander Hamilton and his son were killed in duels. After a last surge in the wild west, that custom has faded away, and good riddance. Even so, there were a number of unwritten rules about dueling that made it less deadly, like that the duelist could purposely shoot to miss on the first shot, and somehow signal that the miss was deliberate. Then the other was supposed to also shoot to miss, and then both parties could honorably back down. War could be all out, no holds barred, until the Cold War. Now, total war could kill us all off. We've had to evolve to be less hot headed, and we have. This wasn't a recent change, this has been ongoing for centuries as weapons grew more powerful. Why was the disagreement over slavery settled through the US Civil War, rather than voting? Hotheads helped start that war. The result was a long brutal war that killed close to a million, not a few short battles delivering a knockout blow to end the dispute quickly. The hotheads at least put their lives where their minds were, and ended up dead. Evolution in action. The hotheaded tendencies also ultimately hurt the Confederate war effort. Despite being on the defensive, most Civil War battles feature Confederate assaults that killed more Confederate soldiers than Union ones. But that was the kind of fighting they wanted, manly and showy. There's the whole idea of the "southern gentleman" somehow being more manly than the men of the North. Cooler heads in the South surely realized the war was unwinnable, given the large imbalance in power between the sides, but if they were going to fight, dragging the war out was the better strategy.
top Why Elon Musk's Batteries Frighten Electric Companies
Why did OPEC and the Saudis send oil and gas prices downwards in recent weeks? From over $3/gallon in the US to $2.50 and still falling. Maybe batteries and electric cars scare them too?
top Nature Makes All Articles Free To View
Publishers wish they had that choice. No, the choice is, will they release it, or will they be left behind when someone else releases it, legally or not? The law can't stop piracy. DRM is just fake security, it can't stop piracy either. Nothing can stop piracy.
Nor should we want piracy stopped. Sharing of knowledge is crucial to our advancement. It is these rent seeking parasites who are the real criminals. Their anti-social hostage taking of knowledge that they did not help create could result in us not discovering something crucial in time to act on it. I'm not talking about mere cures for diseases, I'm talking about knowledge that could save civilization. What if, unknown to us, a big asteroid is headed on a collision course with Earth, and we would have learned of it in time if some damned publisher hadn't locked the knowledge away? And that's only one of the most obvious dangers. More subtle dangers abound, anything from climate change to large scale chemical imbalances, atmospheric and magnetic changes that let radiation through.
Bad enough that we have propagandists of the school of Big Tobacco alive and doing well, we should not make life even easier for them. Copyright is too often misused for censorship, with DMCA takedown notices one of their favorite methods.
top Kim Dotcom Regrets Not Taking Copyright Law and MPAA "More Seriously"
No, I do not agree with that defeatism. They have not won. In fact, their cause is a losing cause. And they know it. Secrecy and treaties tried as attempts to bypass legislatures are not signs of power, they're signs of weakness. Enforcement is utterly impractical. No organization has the power to force everyone to obey copyright. It only works somewhat because people are willing to obey it, thinking that doing so helps artists.
What can we do? If we do nothing, they lose. The only way copyright cartels can win is if we help them win. Don't help them. That's all you and everyone else has to do. Don't buy DVDs or CDs, or devices that play them. Don't buy devices that enforce DRM. If you want to help, we can do a bit more than that. Use your public library, and not corporate bookstores (*cough* Amazon *cough*). Help crowdfund art projects. Tell your schools to use open, libre textbooks. Tell the library and politicians you want libraries and schools to have digital options for everything, as soon as possible.
top Kim Dotcom Regrets Not Taking Copyright Law and MPAA "More Seriously"
Copyright infringement is not stealing! It should never have been criminalized. It should not even be a civil violation, or thought immoral or wrong. Sharing is a public good, and as such should be encouraged. Yes, encouraged. The government should never have tried to regulate sharing. Restricting copying was a terrible way to raise revenue for any purpose, and as for the stated purpose of enabling producers to profit and thereby encouraging more production, it is failing miserably. Instead, copyright and patent law are frequently misused to censor and suppress the very arts and sciences it was supposed to encourage.
The real greedy scum in this show are the RIAA and MPAA members. Many people, and apparently you too, have swallowed their line of reasoning. They are nothing more than slimy monopolists. They squelch most art to keep the rest small enough for them to manage it all themselves. They own it, or they bury it. In doing so, they hold us all back. Who knows what scientific advances we would have now-- cures for cancer, solutions for famines, and so much more, if they had not created this climate of denial of knowledge.
top In a Self-Driving Future, We May Not Even Want To Own Cars
Want to be careful about criminalizing an action. Governments are all too likely to seize upon that as a revenue opportunity. If the rules are themselves bad or counterproductive, breaking them may be to everyone's benefit, and the only way to get the government to see that a particular change is necessary.
top Ask Slashdot: Best Practices For Starting and Running a Software Shop?
Especially in software engineering, which is notorious for being difficult to estimate, customers are always paranoid that they are getting a bad deal, and often compensate by making excessive demands. They will try to put the screws to you, threatening to take their business elsewhere if you resist their extreme demands. You have to finesse that kind of pressure. Not an outright, flat no, but counterproposals that won't break your company. I've seen more than one business fail because they didn't push back hard enough. Sometimes the customer got what they wanted, at far too low a price and then the vendor folds, and sometimes they didn't because the vendor folded before delivery.
This problem is harder to avoid than it might appear. in one case, the company was screwed by their own employees, that, to be fair, they had put in a bad position. The employees were told that if the company didn't win the contract, they would all be laid off. So what happened? The employees did anything they had to, to win the contract. They lowballed their own company. They severely underestimated the effort and work required, coming up with a plan that called for the job to be finished in just 6 weeks, with another 6 weeks margin of error. Even the customer was doubtful that the work could be done that fast, but the deal was so good, from their point of view, that they accepted. Why management approved it, I'm not sure. Desperation maybe? They blew right past the 3 month mark of course. A deathmarch was nowhere near enough to compensate. After 8 months, they managed to deliver one working part, just enough so that the customer grudgingly decided not to sue them. The customer had little appreciation or sympathy for the vendor's plight. The rest of the work was abandoned. The company lost a lot of money on the deal. One bad deal wasn't fatal, but they made several other bad deals, and those were enough to kill them.
top The Downside to Low Gas Prices
To add to the parent, austerity helps the rich and hurts the poor. How? By driving inflation so far into the dirt that we have deflation. Deflation makes debt more burdensome. If you have debt, and your income gets cut thanks to deflation, it's now harder to pay off your debt. Your material assets also go down in value, so selling to pay off your debt isn't as effective. You may be underwater, your house now worth less than the amount you still owe on the mortgage, and it may be impossible to pay off your debt. Meanwhile, piles of money are worth even more. And it becomes a better idea to sit on piles of money, rather than invest it in business ventures. Trickle down economics is completely backwards. Give the rich more money, through tax breaks and austerity, and they won't respond by creating more jobs. Instead they'll hoard. You have to have some inflation to keep the economy moving. Just how much inflation is the question, but 2% is thought to be too low.
What's so crazy is that we really do have a lot of work to do. We have crumbling infrastructure that's been neglected for years thanks to relentless budget slashing. We also have a big problem with Climate Change. The work is not getting done. In times like these, workers are dirt cheap, but even now employers still want wages pushed further down, and refuse to let the government compete for workers. It's nuts. We may have to see some more bridge collapses, like in Minneapolis, to get some attitudes changed. If the elite aren't careful, we will have riots, like what happened in Greece.
top Worrying Aspects of Linux Gaming
Jeez, again? Do you want the list? There's reason for the hate. Big corporations have shown, time and time again, that they are not to be trusted. When a company like Microsoft rolls out "Trusted Computing" and it turns out that it does the opposite of what the product is named, and they try to pass it off as actually enhancing trust in a roundabout way, they show how insulting, stupid, and treacherous they really are. Same story with Windows Genuine Advantage. They keep trying to conflate security
for us with security for them against pirates which somehow includes everyone. By their lights, we're all guilty of piracy. Microsoft still sponsors the Business Software Alliance. And that's hardly the only dirty crap they've pulled. What about file format lock in? Bribing and threatening members of standards bodies to ram through their OOXML garbage? The Microsoft Tax? Embrace, extend, extinguish?
Microsoft thinks we are so stupid that all of us swallow that? I don't like the constant demands to prove that I am not a pirate, or the implication that all copying and downloading is probably piracy and is bad and immoral. The whole intellectual property narrative they pitch is warped and wrong, but there's no convincing them of that. We made them one of the richest companies in history, and the founder Bill Gates into the richest person in the world, but that's not good enough for them, no sir! In spite of all the wealth we've paid them, they've worked themselves into a fury, feeling all wronged over the "theft" they believe they constantly suffer from those dirty pirates. Do I need to keep looking over my shoulder, to check if the BSA is coming for me today? Innocent until proven guilty, unless you're a Windows user, then it's the other way around. The only reason many people continue to do business with a company with such a bad attitude is force. Many feel that they still have to use MS Office. But love MS? No.
top Pirate Bay Co-founder Arrested In Northeastern Thailand
Any place could be linked to child porn. Poles are often used to hold signs, for rewards for missing dogs, lawn mowing services and that sort of thing. If someone posts some kind of solicitation for child porn on a pole, is the city that owns the pole somehow liable or responsible? Of course not. If the city also puts signs up on the pole, advertising their services, does that change things? No. Why should it be any different for a web site? So it's not useful to drag child porn into the discussion. That's like saying water is wet. And applying a double standard. Person A got wet, and it's no big deal, but person B also got wet, and on the Internet, oooo!
Better is to compare the Pirate Bay to a dating site which runs ads. The site is profiting off of love, showing ads to people who are trying to find a date. Nothing immoral about that. But imagine that the dating site is trying to operate under a very prudish public and government who doubts the morality of their activities, accusing them of enabling prostitution, and constantly threatening not to go after prostitution only, but to shut the whole thing down under the thought that it's all prostitution anyway. Law enforcers are egged on by powerful interests that aren't interested in justice, but rather are interested in eliminating competition any way they can. Dirty pool.
But they are also spreading a political message, saying that they see nothing wrong with prostitution. There's nothing wrong with that either. We do have freedom of speech. If the users of the site turn towards prostitution or are already mostly prostitutes and "Johns", does that somehow change the morality? No! To shut down the site is about the same as tearing out a pole because someone advertised sexual services on it. Ripping out the pole is not going to stop anything, solve any problem, or convince anyone of the error of their ways. There are other poles. They can't all be torn out, and even if they could, people could use walls instead. Also, tearing out poles is damaging. Innocent 3rd parties, perhaps trying to find their lost doggies, will be harmed.
The Pirate Bay should be left alone. They didn't do anything wrong. We know very well that they are being made into scapegoats for what their users do. Why don't authorities go after the users, as they ought since those are the people who are actually guilty of violating the law as it stands currently? They've tried, and managed to torture a few victims, make examples of them, rather like the Inquisition used to do. But they've seen that they simply can't do it. They would have to charge half the world with piracy. If they can't scare people away from copyright infringement, or convince people it's immoral, no force available to the law can stop it. No technical measure can stop it either. They are trying very hard now to save face, refusing to admit that they can't stop it, refusing to talk about it, and still hoping that somehow the public will come around to their viewpoint. It won't happen. They are definitely refusing to admit that they are actually the ones in error. And that the law will have to change. The Inquisition discredited itself centuries ago. It was a stupid idea from the start, trying to frighten and bully people into being better Christians according to their narrow definition of what it meant to be a good Christian, which excluded Protestants. Today, Protestants enjoy the same rights and protections as Catholics, and the Inquisition is properly seen as at best a tragic mistake and at worst a vehicle for sadists and torturers to have a little fun. Now here we are, repeating that mistake but this time with copyright law.
about a month and a half ago
top What People Want From Smart Homes
You touch on the perils of our unprecedented increase in our power to control our environment. We do all kinds of things not because they are a good idea, but out of instinctive prejudice. For instance, mowing the grass. One idea I have heard is that we like grass short because poisonous snakes can't hide in it. We couldn't do much to satisfy that prejudice before the advent of powered mowers, just took way too much labor. Now that we can mow quickly, we do so with a vengeance, to the detriment of biodiversity, the environment, and even our own health and well-being. We've even anointed a few species of grass, shrubs and trees as desirable, and call all other plants weeds. In many cities, it's even against the law to let the grass get too high. Crazy.
I thought of fireplaces as primarily entertainment devices, but I like your take on it better. So many people really like to watch the pretty flames. I confess I like it too, but not so much that I'm willing to work for it. Once again, we have gained the power to have far more fire than we need, and have let our love of fire lead us into unthinking wastefulness.
Light is another of our prejudices. We are not nocturnal. Darkness has become associated less with rest and sleep and more with crime and evil, and plain inconvenience. In our eternal drive for more security, we've done all in our power to banish darkness. Who's afraid of the dark? We are. We have streetlights everywhere. Keeps crime down, they say. Maybe we should not drive at night? What if it was the custom to not drive at all in the dark, and cars did not have headlights because they are not needed? Before artificial lighting, people didn't travel much at night. And now? We don't have to quit when the sun sets, we can keep working. We could do that before the incandescent light, with candles, but candles were inconvenient enough that we usually didn't. Now, it's so easy to stay up late. We don't give ourselves enough sleep, and we're finding out what that does to us. It could be one of the factors causing the obesity epidemic. One popular idea for the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire is lead poisoning. Lot of the emperors behaved in just plain crazy ways that could be explained by mental problems caused by lead poisoning. Doubtless most of the elite of Roman society suffered the same affliction. In the future, will America decline and fall because of sleep deprivation empowered by artificial lighting?
Even indoor climate control may not be pure, unadulterated goodness. I've read that it's actually healthier to swing a bit with the seasons. Don't try to force the house to be a constant 75F year round. Let it drop to 70F in the winter, and rise to 80F in the summer, or more.
So many of our modern conveniences have non-obvious dangers. Bisphenol A sure is convenient, but now we are more aware of problems with it. We would be wiser to fear those dangers more, and worry less about other dangers, particularly foolish ones like that gay marriage could somehow be a threat to the family.
about a month and a half ago
top What People Want From Smart Homes
That's what I want. These "smart" homes are the wrong kind of smart, when it means stuffing the house full of expensive gadgetry of little practical use. A house like that is designed to extract the maximum money from home buyers, by dazzling them with ostentatious "tech light" junk. It's not actually meant to be more liveable or something.
One luxury house built around 1880 that I looked over was full of hokey gadgetry that makes us all laugh today. A laundry room with a wood burning heater for the irons (sad irons) so the residents could have the wrinkles removed from their clothes the moment they were out of the wash! This house was built with gas lights, and that was later upgraded to incandescent lighting. Curiously, it had some silly centralized control. By the front door was a large panel of switches for turning on and off all the lights in the house. Does that sound sort of familiar, like maybe even "smart"? 19th century style "smart" home? Also in a room near the front door was a large clock that tracked phases of the moon and sunrise and sunset times. Today, there's an app for that, no need to waste valuable floor space on such a clunky apparatus.
As far as low hanging fruit goes, housing in the US is a target rich environment. There are so many stupidities in how homes are currently constructed. Yeah, LED lighting is good, but you know what? A skylight is even better. Also, so many people in the biz, including the buyers, are really stuck on antiquated and exremely inefficient construction methods. Don't have a brick layer work with tiny bricks, at the least use cinder blocks! Even better, just make entire walls off site, truck them in, and erect them. Can have the walls up in hours. That method works great for commercial buildings, why can't the same thing be done for residential? No reason at all, it's just inertia and custom. Also explains why we
still have fireplaces everywhere. Ben Franklin complained about their inefficiency and wastefulness all the way back in the 18th century, and here we are today, still shoving those things into new homes! Then there's the roof. Why, why do people just have to have a complicated roofline? More expensive and less durable at the same time. about a month and a half ago
top Public digital libraries and the law
The advantages of a digital library over a traditional book repository are tremendous. No more need for multiple copies of popular books, no reason to have late fees, due dates, charges for lost or damaged books, or indeed the entire system built around library cards and records for tracking who has which books and when they are due. Anyone could download a copy of anything, anytime, and do so without interfering with anyone else's access. Stacks and shelves filled with tons of paper books would all be replaced with computers. This would take less space, and perhaps less maintenance. And it would allow all sorts of extra functionality, such as the ability to search, and have hyperlinks to related works. Card catalogs and cumbersome indexes of magazine and journal articles would not be needed. Also, can handle different sorts of data, such as books and movies, with the same system. Cities could save a bundle.
Currently, though technically doable, this magnificent vision is politically impossible. Copyright law stands squarely in the way. I cannot see any way to have a digital library that is freely accessible, and copyright law. It is the ability to copy any info quickly that makes a digital library so much more powerful, useful, and cheaper than a print library. We should abandon copyright law, and compensate and encourage artists with other means. The benefits of public digital libraries, and of the free exchange of ideas they could promote, are worth much more than copyright law. But because we do have this antiquated legal regime, the few digital libraries that exist are mostly behind paywalls or are private, and contain very small, highly specific collections, and we cannot see the full benefits. Copyright law must be retired.
Some people instead advocate reforms such as limiting the length of these monopolies (to something like 5 years), not granting so many frivolous patents, not allowing the patenting of software, and reducing the penalties for violations. All those are good reforms to Intellectual Property (IP) law. But I think they don't go far enough, and the root of the problem can be summed up with one word: monopoly. Anti-trust efforts aim to eliminate monopolies, not mitigate them.
Even very short duration monopolies are enough to retard progress. That still provides grounds for expensive lawsuits and threats over alleged violations. By removing patents and copyrights altogether, we remove all basis for these complaints, and save us all a lot of legal expenses. We also save hugely on enforcement and the costs of a larger justice system. If anything should anger us, it is the misuse of our own police forces, paid for by us, in support of these businesses highly dubious ends. And most of all, we stop what has become the primary uses of IP, the blocking of competition and the robbery and extortion of the disadvantaged. People who want less government should support the abolishment of current IP law. As matters stand, many businesses have realized that building a portfolio of patents for defensive purposes is less costly than having an "IP gap". The quality of the patents does not matter, all that matters is that they have some of this peculiar form of currency, and so the quality has lately been poor. The least costly route is total disarmament, where no one need budget for patent portfolios.
Supporters of IP display a blind religious fervor that these laws are a net benefit, that they achieve the intent of advancing science and promoting art enough to justify the costs of these monopolies. I have never seen a reasoned argument, with honest statistics, in support of this position. Of the rational studies I have seen, most focus on one aspect, and conclude that the status quo is indeed bad. We need a study of the real costs and benefits of the current system, versus some alternatives.
What replacements do I propose? Nothing, or patronage. Nothing is of course the easiest, but the intent of the patent system was to buy off inventors-- give them something in exchange for revealing their secrets, and if there is no incentive of any sort for that, many will keep as many secrets as possible. A worse outcome is that people won't bother inventing or creating art. This fear is perhaps overblown. Nevertheless, we can strike a balance to encourage the creating of as much art as we can stomach. A patronage system can provide the incentive. A payment is a far less damaging thing to give inventors and artists than a monopoly. The next problems are valuation and collection. We can surely work out ways of figuring compensation amounts that are as fair as possible, given the huge difficulties in guessing how valuable an idea will turn out to be. Collection is the other big problem, with the first notion being a tax. But there are other ways. A levy can be agreed upon. And it need not be government that does the collecting, valuation, or disbursement, nor the people who pay directly, it could be quasi-governmental private entities managing the system. And paying into it would be advertisers and manufacturers of equipment that benefited from the knowledge, and charities.
top first post! :p