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Comments

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35,000 Walrus Come Ashore In Alaska

jandersen Re:The problem with double standards. (114 comments)

I just think we are too quick to conclude every little thing is AGW related.

I think the blame for this lies with those who have an interest in stirring up controversy and sensationalism. I can't imagine any scientist ever saying that "this is because of global warming"; what they would way is "this supports/doesn't support global warming" - or perhaps more likely, they will ask how these observations might fit into current theories.

The general public mostly get it completely wrong, expecting that scientists want to defend their theories against anything that might go against them; in reality it is quite the opposite way. I suppose scientist will always try to see if the existing theories work well enough to explain observations, but all of them secretly hope to find something that breaks the theory: 'new science'. That's why they were a little bit disappointed at CERN when they found a Higgs boson pretty much where theory said it should be. Being right is all well and good, but new discoveries is what we live and breathe for.

16 minutes ago
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Hong Kong Protesters Use Mesh Networks To Organize

jandersen Re:About fucking time. (85 comments)

For years I have also advocated having a B52 full of cheap mesh cell phones and base stations to drop on any Arab Spring like event.

Really? And what would that achieve?

It is incredibly naive to think that the mere introduction of Western style democracy and -constitution would magically solve all problems. It didn't happen that way in the West - it took several generations, during which time people got educated to the new ideas via debates, protests, and later on, school, and that process is still ongoing. Democracy is worthless if people are not willing to play by the rules - the losers have to accept that they didn't win this time, and the winners have to understand that they must rule for the benefit of all, even their opponents. And enshrining rights and freedoms in law is worthless if people don't sincerely respect the rights of others, even when it is to their own disadvantage.

To return to the protesters in Hong Kong - the same applies here. That is not to say that democracy is not a good idea; I think even the Chinese government recognises that. But it has to be introduced the right way, gradually. Perhaps it would be a good idea if the state government came out in public and addressed the issue head on, and presented a long-term plan for how it should happen. Most people can accept that things can take time to achieve.

yesterday
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Are the World's Religions Ready For ET?

jandersen The fundamental problem (497 comments)

He discovered that from Baptists to Buddhists, from Catholics to Mormons, from Islam to the Anglican Communion, religious views on alien life differ widely.

Well, what'd you expect? However, I think the problem is of a deeper nature than 'what does so and so religion think about extra-terrestial life' - it is about the compatibility between religion and science. Science is fundamentally about facts and what follows from the facts: you make observations, then produce theory etc. In many religions, if not all, you try to start from the other end: you settle on some Ultimate Truth, then try to make your facts fit; that way it becomes a bit hit-or-miss whether your belief allows for a new discovery of any kind.

Another, potentially interesting question would be - is it possible to produce a religion that is strictly scientific in nature without it simply being science? Or IOW, can any form of religion add anything to science?

yesterday
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David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

jandersen Re:Idiot (833 comments)

I think he's being an idiot.

I don't agree with his policies or his party ideology either, but I think it is incorrect to call him an idiot. He knows very well what he is doing, and I think he is leading the country competently, in the sense that he is not blundering around stupidly and making the overall situation significantly worse for the whole nation.

As you say, metric is eminently useful, not just because it makes it trivially easy to compare small quantities to large ones (just a matter of where to place to decimal point), but also because it ties together measures for length, area, volume, time, energy etc in a way that follows directly from physics.

We keep using imperial in our daily lives because they are easy when you don't need great precision or a deep understanding of the science behind; 1 pound is about the weight of a large handful of something - easy to relate to and precise enough for many purposes.

yesterday
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Antarctic Ice Loss Big Enough To Cause Measurable Shift In Earth's Gravity

jandersen Re:The last sentence in the summary... (212 comments)

The whole story is. 4 years != climate. Not by anyone's measure. If skeptics tried to debunk AGW on this board with a 4 year trend, everyone would be all over them like white on rice. But 4 years in favor of AGW in the summary? A O K!

Not so. The scientific point of view is that the data speak for themselves; different theories try to make sense of the observed data. Theories are never perfect, but we can make theories better by using the scientific method - and this is where the debate invariably breaks down, not because a secretive conspiracy of climate scientists are suppressing facts, but because those suffering from 'skepticemia' are unwilling to accept reality.

Weather is what happens locally, in the short time span - the wind in your hair, the sun on your face - climate is the average of the weather over large areas and long periods of time. So, it is perfectly reasonable to observe that the weather has been unusually cold in Canada this summer, and then say that this goes against the idea of global warming, and the observation requires a theoretical explanation, of course. Climatologists have already given very plausible explanations; the problem is that climate deniers don't want to accept the explanation. But just as it is necessary to consider data that go against the theory, it is also necessary to accept the data that support the theory; hence it is reasonable to state that the loss of icemass in Antarctica supports the theory of global warming.

What I still haven't seen in is just 1 climate model that explains most of the observed current and historical data and doesn't end up concluding that climate change is happening and is caused by human activities. Produce just 1 theory that can stand up the critical efforts of more than a select group of handpicked believers; the truth is that the skeptics are unable to do so, and therefore talk about conspiracies instead. Meanwhile, I think the scientific consensus has moved on, because whether people like it or not, reality keeps happening.

yesterday
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New Research Casts Doubt On the "10,000 Hour Rule" of Expertise

jandersen Re:In my experience most mastery is at the start (188 comments)

I would tend to agree with you, but not for the reasons you list. Without having read the OP, I assume that it doesn't actually say that the 10K hour rule is always false (just like that rule say that you can never become an expert before 10K hours); it just says that it may not always be true. Listing a few examples does neither prove nor disprove a statement that is clearly statistical in nature.

Sometimes, though, you do see these very young experts; I think the most likely explanation is that they simply started very early; like in child prodigies - or the 11 year olds that play with computers and gadgets every day - just because they weren't paid for it or in formal education at the time, doesn't mean they didn't put in the hours. In other cases you see somebody change from one discipline, where they haven't made remarkable contributions to something where they suddenly shine, but then again, they have probably been working with things that were somehow closely related, and when they change focus, they bring a new, very useful perspective that makes them stand out.

The only phemomenon I can't explain is the way some people down my local pub always seem to be experts in subjects the very instant they hear about them ;-)

2 days ago
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World's Smallest 3G Module Will Connect Everything To the Internet

jandersen Again? (117 comments)

I thought this debate was dead long ago - if ever there really was a debate, which I doubt. Every time the subject comes up, people more or less agree that it isn't something we want, although there may be some niches where it makes sense.

There are massive concerns about security, privacy etc - and that is just with IPv4. And although lots of people are now fascinated with the smartphone, I'm not sure it will last. Just for one thing - does everyone REALLY want to be connected all the time? Especially when it doesn't actually give you all that much in terms of benefit, combined with the fact that the more time you spend glaring at the small screen, the more are you missing out on the more substantial joys in real life.

It's a bit like the Borg:
Borg: "Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated"
Us: "No actually, we don't think so"; and we shoot them down.
Borg: "Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated" ...

To me it sounds like somebody is being paid to simply spout this nonsense. Next time, please post a list of your sponsors.

3 days ago
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Piracy Police Chief Calls For State Interference To Stop Internet "Anarchy"

jandersen Rules and freedoms (298 comments)

This is where I always get so depressed. Not because some police chief wants more rules, but because of the way hordes of slashdotters once again start to spout shallow drivel about what they call "freedom" in an attempt to sound "deep".

First things first, though: when they talk about new rules and regulations, it is not because they imagine that everybody will suddenly be law-abiding, it is because it is not possible to prosecute people for breaking non-existent laws. That is why have sometimes seen people not being brought to justice for what everybody agrees were crimes: there was no law governing what they did. Why have the bank executives that brought about the financial crisis not been put in jail? Because their crimes were not covered by law. This is part of the price we pay for living in a society where the law protects us from random arrests etc.

Next, those who are shouting the loudest about grand principles are also the ones who are least likely to actually know what they are talking about. Anybody, who actually thinks about freedom, will know that freedom is self-limiting. If there were no rules, the strongest bullies will grab as much as they can for themselves and impose their will on others - and that's all the freedom you will ever see.

All in all, instead of talking immature nonsense, go out and take part in the democratic debate - that is where we try to reach the compromises that all laws and rules must be.

3 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

jandersen Re:Read Slashdot (471 comments)

The rejections you got may not have been because you didn't know a specific answer to a very technical question. Nobody knows everything. You may have been rejected because of the answer that you gave, and let me explain.

No matter how much an expert anybody is, it will always be easy to catch them out; a competent interviewer knows that it is not actually essential if the candidate doesn't know by heart what all the port numbers in /etc/service are used for, or what packet headers you will expect to find in an HTML packet or whatever. It is not only the candidate that loses out because of stupid interviewers, the company also risks not getting the best person for the role.

about a week ago
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Debian Switching Back To GNOME As the Default Desktop

jandersen Re:How many of you are still using Gnome? (395 comments)

This is especially true of UI design, because most people (even power users) really don't measure what they're spending time doing and get into unproductive patterns. The problem with GNOME was that they also didn't listen to usability experts.

I think most people are capable of finding their own of using their own computer - if the interface is not actually built to impose things on the user. I used to like GNOME in the beginning, and I stayed with it even when it began to annoy me and I had to reconfigure things in major way; but I decided to leave when they started removing genuinely useful features that I used (like the little pop-up that shows window geometry when you move or resize) and then hard-coded into the thing that you can't log on to a desktop as root.

I am well aware of the security issues involved, and one can discuss the wisdom in logging in as root, but that is beside the point. The decision about that kind of things is mine to make on my own system, it is not the prerogative of some smart-ass to dictate. Any desktop is just a tool, and a tool should not get in the way of what you are trying to do, it should enable you.

And that brings me back to UI design: a good user interface enables you to do the things you want, it may guide you towards doing things with a certain measure of discipline, but at the end of the day, the designer must respect the free choice of the user.

about a week ago
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Popular Wi-Fi Thermostat Full of Security Holes

jandersen Re:Will this internet of things die already? (103 comments)

Well, there are some things that it could be handy to have remote access to - like parking spaces - which it is not practical to have with IP4, but the big danger is the endless idiocy and frivolous crap that is inevitable going to swamp us. We've seen it over and over - television, this great tool for mass communication, and now it is 99% worthless entertainment for those hard of thinking. Then the PC and the internet: same thing. And the "internet of things" is going to be mostly hideous idiocy as well, which is a shame, because it could be a good thing.

about a week ago
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Mangalyaan Successfully Put Into Mars Orbit

jandersen Re:Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (173 comments)

Sometimes one gets the feeling that when the 'standing on the shoulders of giants' is rolled out like this, it actually means 'Standing on our toes'. We shouldn't begrudge them their success - I know you aren't, but others do.

It is great, in my opinion; space exploration has been stalled for too long, and if we can get to the point where everybody does it, I'm all for it. It would be great if going in to space was no more unusual than what flying out to China is now.

about a week ago
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US Strikes ISIL Targets In Syria

jandersen War is not enough (475 comments)

We have again landed in a situation where it is necessary to fight a war; and it IS necessary, much as I hate it. But war will never win us peace - unless we can completely eradicate everybody who opposes us, we will always create new enemies for ourselves. To win a lasting peace, we must convince at least the majority of our opponents that we are their friends. In this case the people who support "Islamic State" simply because they see us as their enemies.

Islamic State and other terrorists can attract young men and women from the West, simply because we make it so easy to hate us. History is one factor in this, but it's not the biggest part - Germany have managed to move past their history, so it is not impossible. Perhaps what we need to realise is that we seem to be so incredibly satisfied with ourselves - we have rolled crusades over the Middle East, we have dictated their rules and exploited them for their resources, we regard Islam with contempt and distrust, and so on. Are we not great enough to change our ways? It may not be easy, but it is a lot easier than making people like us by insulting them; and it mostly involves thinking a little before we speak - like, stop using the word 'crusade' like it was something to be proud of. 'Crusade' is just our word for 'Jihad'.

about a week ago
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Is Alibaba Comparable To a US Company?

jandersen Re:Style (122 comments)

...if the Chinese government wanted to "close the loophole" investors could be out $20B+ in a day.

Here's a TLA for you: FUD. Most countries in the West could in principle do the same, and forbid foreign investors in national companies - and the reasons they don't do it are the same that tell us that China wouldn't do this either. They are, as I think I may have mentioned in the past, not idiots.

about two weeks ago
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Europeans Came From Three Ancestry Groupings

jandersen Re:Fair and darker skin (85 comments)

But that is perhaps less likely - a farming culture is more sedentary, and therefore less like to go out on raids - although they could be looking for more farming land, of course. Interesting. Good point.

about two weeks ago
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Scotland Votes No To Independence

jandersen Re:Everyone loses (474 comments)

While not a fan of homosexuality (I admit I find it strange and disgusting) I feel no particular hatred either. More like indifference. I definetly do not support persecution but the outright lies from proponents of that lifestyle are so fucking outrageous.

Lies are never acceptable, of course; but I think we have to give a little bit of leeway. It is a very emotionally charged issue for the victims of discrimination.

I expect most people's view on homosexuality is similar to yours; I used to think the same way, but as I have grown older, I have become better informed and less scared of it. What I find helpful is to keep in mind that people are gay, not because they make An Evil Choice, but because they are genuinely attracted to their own sex and digusted by the opposite - probably exactly the way heterosexuals feel attracted by the opposite and repulsed by their own. Gay men are no more ravening, sexual monsters than heterosexual men, and just like men and women can be friends in an un-sexual way, the same hold for gays and heterosexuals. Why would it be any other way?

about two weeks ago
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Oracle CEO Larry Ellison Steps Down

jandersen Re:Good riddance (142 comments)

Just to represent another side to the argument, and because I like getting modded down for expressing my opinion - I don't think Oracle deserves ALL the flak it gets. Just to make it clear - I work for them as an engineer, so I may come with a certain bias, but I also have more actual insight than most on /.

Firstly, I don't think anybody can deny that Oracle RDBMS is top notch; I have worked with many other databases - MS SQL Server, Informix, DB2, MySQL, and I still prefer Oracle. The documentation is better than what you get from the competition. DB2 is the only one that comes close. Plus, you can legally download even Oracle Enterprise Edition for free and use it for development and testing. I think it is excellent.

Secondly, Oracle was amongst the first of the big companies to come out in support of Linux with version 8 of their database. I think that was before IBM came out with an official port of Linux to their mainframe. To me that counts for a lot in terms of street cred.

Thirdly, in my experience Oracle is a very decent company to work for. They are not hugely generous, but they have some good benefits and I feel valued as an employee. I don't whether Larry Ellison is good or bad; I don't expect to find out for myself, but so far I have no complaints.

about two weeks ago
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Mystery Signal Could Be Dark Matter Hint In ISS Detector

jandersen My speculation (55 comments)

The fact is that we have too little evidence to guide us, and we can all speculate to some extent. My favourite, based on nothing more than my own wishful thinking, really, is that dark matter consists of not just 1 kind of particle, but of a whole 'phylum' (to borrow a word from biology) of particles that interact with themselves much like the particles we know; there may be several phylums (or phyla, if you prefer). The reason I like the idea is simply that it allows me to fantasize about a kind of parallel universe that we can't see - even life; a sort of ghost universe. Wouldn't that be cool :-) ?

about two weeks ago
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Europeans Came From Three Ancestry Groupings

jandersen Re:Fair and darker skin (85 comments)

Did you read the original article rather than just skim over it? One of the surprises is that there is a third component in European ancestry. Another surprise is that the blue eyes apparently came with dark skin and the lighter skin colour came with brown eyes.

The third interesting thing is that two of our lineages are very old, but a third contribution came in around 7000 years ago, just at the same time as agriculture. It makes sense, IMO - agriculture meant that this particular group became dominant and thus contributed disproportionately more to the gene pool in a relatively short time.

about two weeks ago
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Europeans Came From Three Ancestry Groupings

jandersen Re:fuck a bgn^aa (85 comments)

If you want to post goatses as a surprise to people, don't do it in slashdot, because

1. We have all seen him enough times to find him a bit trivial,
2. The way slashdot presents links gives it away by attaching [goat.cx]

about two weeks ago

Submissions

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10 TB cloud storage for free

jandersen jandersen writes  |  about 10 months ago

jandersen (462034) writes "Chinese Tencent are going to launch a free, 10TB cloud storage service:

http://pandodaily.com/2013/11/18/tencent-to-launch-international-version-of-free-10tb-storage-service-new-photo-sharing-app-coming-soon-to-us/

10TB is some 5000 times more than Dropbox, and 666 times more than what you get with Google (Yes, I know, that number keeps cropping up, doesn't it?)

What will no doubt worry people is that it is a Chinese company, although they are planning to store the data outside of China. I guess, with the NSA scandal unfolding, it is just a question of choosing your poison."
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Arctic thaw may be first in cascade of tipping points

jandersen jandersen writes  |  about a year and a half ago

jandersen writes "Here's an article from New Scientist that's guaranteed to arouse yet another controversy (from http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729064.500-arctic-thaw-may-be-first-in-cascade-of-tipping-points.html):

ONE climate domino has fallen, and it may start toppling others. A recent study outlined an interconnected web of climate tipping points, some of which make the next ones more likely. Now, an analysis of data from the last 23 years suggests we passed the first of these tipping points in 2007, when Arctic sea ice flipped into a new, less stable state. That may speed the world towards the next tipping point – the thaw of a vast expanse of Siberian permafrost.

New Scientist is sometimes criticised for being sensationalist, but this article seems sober to me: it is well referenced, and they try to include opposing viewpoints to balance it. If what they say is true, we may be in for a series of increasingly dramatic changes, and sooner rather than later."
Link to Original Source

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EU to spend 1 billion euro on graphene and brain research

jandersen jandersen writes  |  about a year and a half ago

jandersen (462034) writes "The EU is going to spend 100 million per year over the next 10 years to boost research and interdisciplinary cooperation by launching two flagship projects in March:

- The Human Brain Project: Aims "to develop a large-scale ICT infrastructure for the specific purpose of understanding the brain and its diseases, and of translating this knowledge into new computing technology." Basically, they want to build a working computer model of a human brain. (http://www.humanbrainproject.eu/in_brief.html)

- The Graphene Flagship: Aims "to take graphene and related layered materials from academic laboratories to society, revolutionize multiple industries and create economic growth and new jobs in Europe." (http://www.graphene-flagship.eu/GF/index.php)

How cool is that? For more info, see http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ict/programme/fet/flagship/home_en.html — but be warned: this is EU, and understanding the whole setup is fiendishly complicated."
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Ask Slashdot: Server room toolbox?

jandersen jandersen writes  |  about 2 years ago

jandersen writes "I am the system manager in charge of a smallish server room (~50 servers, most in racks), and I am going to buy a set of tools; but first I want to hear what other people think would be a good idea.

Certainly a range of good quality screwdrivers — slotted, Phillips, Pozidriv, Torx (here for the whole range of strange screwdriver standards: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_screw_drives). But what else? Tape measure? Spirit level (for aligning the racks)? Any meters or cable testers? A wood lathe? I can probably get away with a budget of a few hundred GBP, but there ought to be some mileage in that."
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The revolution is coming

jandersen jandersen writes  |  more than 2 years ago

jandersen writes "According to Peter Turchin, University of Connecticut, we may be heading towards serious, social unrest within a decade (article on New Scientist — registration (free) required: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528781.800-calculated-violence-numbers-that-predict-revolutions.html?full=true):

The mathematics underpinning the rise and fall of empires suggest that the US faces imminent and bloody unrest. How worried should we be?

Is he on to something? Note, this is not a head-in-the-clouds-prophet speaking, but a real scientist, who proposes a real theory: a falsifiable hypothesis; and as he says ""It is easier to predict timing than the height of the peak. My feeling is that it's going to be worse than we expect. Hopefully I'm wrong — I have to live through this."."
Link to Original Source

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A sad tale: US gov online visa app

jandersen jandersen writes  |  more than 4 years ago

jandersen (462034) writes "It was recently my fortune to have to assist in applying for a US visa for a Chinese citizen living in London. This turned out to be a very painful journey, not least because of the online application form — give it a whirl yourselves:

https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/

- and here is the video that introduces it:

http://www.youtube.com/user/USEmbassyLondon#p/u/1/LSd6gYr-aSs

Don't worry, it isn't dangerous, and the effects can mostly be fixed with counselling, eventually.

On top of the horrors of this supremely inept piece of code, you get to be treated with a mixture of hostility and indifference at the embassy plus constant demands for further documents about trivial nonsense — like "You state that you went to primary school x until such and such date, but didn't enter secondary school until 6 months later; what did you do in that time?"; presumably they have words like "training camp" rolling around the vast empty spaces in their heads (makes you wonder what they would think of an American teenager who has been to "boot camp" — now there's damning evidence if ever there was)

And what do they expect to hear when they ask "Are you coming over to commit terrorist offences?" — "Oh dear, it's a fair cop, they've caught me now, right enough. And there was I, wondering if terrorism would require a work permit.""
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What Open Source Forum SW is best

jandersen jandersen writes  |  more than 5 years ago

jandersen writes "I want to do something about improving morale and team-spirit in the company where I am the UNIX manager; and I thought it might be good to run some sort of social forum where people can engage in intellectual discussions on a high level, just like on Slashdot. People will, of course, waste time there — at least if you ask management — but I don't think of it as wasted. After all, people tend to "waste time" talking about sport and solving the great problems of the world any way, so why not put it on a server? And the thing is — this is a global company, and we don't really know our colleagues in India, China, Europe and so on. But which software should I choose? There seems to be a lot of for forum/BSS software around; what I want is something similar to /. — I like the concept of users being able to mod each others up and down — and it has to be open source, rather not Java, and run on Linux. Other than that, I am open to suggestions. What does the people think?"
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Non-violent, cooperative games?

jandersen jandersen writes  |  more than 5 years ago

jandersen writes "While I generally don't really play computer games, I do occasionally play games like Crossfire or The Mana World, because they have more of a story line and allow you to go at your own pace; they require a little bit more intellect and less testosterone, perhaps. What I don't care much about, though, is that they are still basically about killing monsters and amassing wealth, and it gets very tedious after a while.

Are there really no games where the goal isn't so much about increasing your own power and defeating others, but where you instead grow by doing things that benefit others, where enemies shouldn't be killed out of hand, but befriended, where learning, teaching, research and social skills are more important than killing and conquering? Would people be interested in a game of that nature?"

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