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Comments

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Would Scottish Independence Mean the End of UK's Nuclear Arsenal?

jandersen Re:Here's the interesting paragraph (361 comments)

So, what they are saying, really, is that even after a referendum they will have to use common sense and work out a deal with the Scottish government. Stranger things happen at sea.

yesterday
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The First Particle Physics Evidence of Physics Beyond the Standard Model?

jandersen Re:Another 'Hello' magazine style article (92 comments)

Today? I'm ALWAYS grumpy grampy!

No, I just want to see scientific fact presented as if it is scientific fact. Telling about science doesn't need to be pepped up - the subject is already exciting, as opposed to the disturbed love lives of Big Brother contestants, and people on /. are interested in "News for Nerds", or so I've heard. There was once, when a nature program on telly or a scienticif article would be exactly that: exciting facts about nature; compare David Attenborough standing waist deep in a swamp to todays programs with repeated slow motion replays of lions downing a baby gnu and an idiotic soundtrack. Now, if you tell me you prefer the latter, you might as well seek treatment at Dignitas in Switzerland.

yesterday
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The First Particle Physics Evidence of Physics Beyond the Standard Model?

jandersen Another 'Hello' magazine style article (92 comments)

Could we flag this kind of articles with a warning, please? I'm getting tired of glossy gossip that's more suited for a write-up about soap-stars and Big Brother. Give us a hex-dump or a wall of equations to look at, not chatty nonsense trying to invoke a sense of "Woooh, mysterious!!!!"

yesterday
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China Pulls Plug On Genetically Modified Rice and Corn

jandersen Re:Wow (150 comments)

Considering this is the country that put melamine in milk and cadmium in toys, this speaks volumes.

I would like to know their official justification.

China - the country as a whole or its government - can not be held responsible for crimes committed by private companies or individuals. In fact, these things happened because there was not enough governmental oversight - IOW too much freedom, rather than too little. This is what used to happen in the West, when companies were similarly unrestrained by legislation; things like adding chalk to bread and water to milk. Regulation is not all bad.

As for their official justification, they don't owe us any, but it seems likely that they are worried about the behaviour of the GM companies. Although GM holds huge potential in terms of nutrition, there are many things that give cause for concern: patented genes that spread to neighboring fields, genes that provide restitence to weed-killers spreading to wild species, modifications that hinder the production of viable seeds, so the farmers have to buy new GM seed from the producers rather than growing part of their harvest on next year, etc etc. I'm sure GM would be welcome in most countries if it was not for the companies producing them.

Another thing is that the Chinese are fully capable of developing or buying the technology themselves - so why should they allow in American companies that are only intent on siphoning off as much profit as possible to their share holders?

2 days ago
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Operating Systems Still Matter In a Containerized World

jandersen Re:Docker needs an OS to run, duh! (128 comments)

Remember Matthew 7:26: A foolish man built his house on sand.

- and what is silicon made from? ;-)

2 days ago
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Posting Soccer Goals On Vine Is Illegal, Say England's Premier League

jandersen As I understand it... (226 comments)

A football match is a commercial entertainment show - somebody has invested money (lots of it, in the case of football) in producing the show, and therefore has at least a legitimate claim to the content. I don't necessarily agree with the whole copyright thinking, but if it illegal to film in cinemas, theatres and at concerts, then the same holds for a sports match; why would it be different? It is not something that happens in the public space - these venues are privately owned.

Personally, I think it is a petty attitude to get up in arms over small clips; I don't think people sharing these things online translates into lost revenue - on the contrary, it is likely to make more people want to go to the next match, whereas making a fuss like this puts people off.

about a week ago
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The Benefits of Inequality

jandersen False dichotomy (254 comments)

Which would you prefer: egalitarianism or totalitarianism?

The question makes little sense - for one thing, egalitarian is not the opposite of totalitarian - to quote Wikipedia:

- "Egalitarianism ... is a trend of thought that favors equality for all people"

- "Totalitarianism or totalitarian state is a political system in which the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life wherever possible".

Arguably, the opposite of egalitarianism is elitism; there isn't really a good word for it that I could find. The same holds for totalitarianism - no good antonym, but democratism might be close enough. These concept occupy two, independent spaces, although it may be that totalitarianism is found more with elitism than with egalitarianism.

The other problem with this question is that they are not binary concepts, but define a continuum - IOW there are different degrees of both scales.

When it comes down to it, the choice you make may not be as obvious as you think. New research suggests that in the distant past, groups of hunter-gatherers may have recognized and accepted the benefits of living in hierarchical societies, even if they themselves weren't counted among the well-off. This model could help explain why bands of humans moved from largely egalitarian groups to hierarchical cultures in which social inequality was rife.

There is nothing new in this. Even back in the day, when we can imagine that humans lives like the other, large apes in small groups, there would have been leaders - alpha-males or -females. Or in family groups, one or both parents would have been in charge. This makes sense, since a more experienced, older adult makes better decisions than a younger one, and a physically stronger individual is able to take what he/she wants as well as offering better protection against attackers etc.

But what recent research of the Egyptian culture actually shows is, that hierarchical society developed, not because hierarchy is inherently better, but because the alternatives were worse. If Egypt hadn't been surrounded by desert, people would have moved away, and hierchical society wouldn't have been established that early. Compare to North Europe, where it is possible to live more or less everywhere, and hierchical societies seemingly didn't arise until much later, when population density got high enough.

about a week ago
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Maryam Mirzakhani Is the First Woman Fields Medalist

jandersen Re:here we go again... (75 comments)

Of course - it is a great achievement for any mathematician. However, the gender imbalance in Maths is a real thing, and it is a shame - not because it is unfair to women, but because I think mathematical research would benefit from having more women contribute. Mathematical research is highly dependent on creativity, and it seems quite likely to me that women might bring a slightly different perspective.

I don't think it is about women being pushed out - it is probably more about perceptions. Mathematics is often being seen as 'a high and lonely destiny', something very dry and focused on the achievements of single individuals, which probably appeal a good deal more to men than to women. And it doesn't help either, that the Fields Medal is only given to researchers under the age of 40, when many, especially women, feel they have more important things on their minds; perhaps that should be revised upwards, not least because we now expect to live productive lives far longer.

about two weeks ago
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Geneticists Decry Book On Race and Evolution

jandersen Re:Are You Kidding? (541 comments)

Scientific discussion of racial differences is not the same as racism.

Well, let us start with the expression "racial differences": here, you presuppose the existence of a meaningful definition of "race". Looking back over history we can see that philosopers and scientists have done everything they can to justify, scientifically, a definition of race based on things like skin colour, and when that didn't really work, on other physical traits. We have had very good reasons to think that the concept didn't actually refer to a deeper reality for a long time, and this is now corroborated by genetic evidence - the genetic variation, even within a single family, is normally far wider than the average variation between supposedly different races, which means that based on the gene map alone, it is not actually possible with any certainty to place any individual in any race, whichever way you define it.

One also has to bear in mind that biological concepts like genus and family are abstractions that are only in use because because they help us understand the reality they describe. The concept of "race" fails in that respect - it doesn't aid our understanding of biology.

It's amazing how afraid some people are of frank discussion about race. They want to shut it down as soon as it begins, typically by denying the question ("there's no such thing as race!!") or personal attacks like you're doing ("you're racist for even suggesting that!!!").

No - they just can't stand yet another, stupid row over something that is so obviously not useful and just reeks of prejudice.

So, you're making your own ridiculous assumptions (good at business = cunning? really? how so?) and ascribing them to the book and then labeling it racist.

I was being sarcastic - I have, over a far too long life, read, heard and encountered so much stupid stereotyping and bigotry: Jews are greedy money-lenders, Germans are humour-less 'Huns', Africans are half-apes etc etc. And drawing a line from "good at business" to "cunning" is not unreasonable. "Cunning" was one ot the characteristics that were often ascribed to the Chinese in the past (think of stories like "Fu Manchu"), and it is easy to see "good at business" as a euphemism for "cunning, devious, ...".

about two weeks ago
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Geneticists Decry Book On Race and Evolution

jandersen Re:Are You Kidding? (541 comments)

Oh, come on. Political Correctness has no place in discussions that are scientific in nature.

On the other hand, science does, and this book is not science, but opinion, if you want to be polite about it. Racist opinion, to be precise, which have been around in some guise or other since who knows when? This kind of racism-disguised-as-science was common throughout 18th and 19th centuries and generally went along the lines of 'Us White (North-) Europeans Are Better Than The Rest' and was used to justify why we had a moral duty to go out and 'civilize' the inferior races.

Science is not made by taking a hand-picked assortment of data, twist it a few times and going 'Look, I can make the data match my opinon' - for anything to be science, you must have a hypothesis, which suggests a logically coherent explanation of all observed facts, makes testable predictions - and which survives experimental testing. It takes only 1 failed prediction to kill a theory.

Northern Europeans clearly evolved to have fair skin and hair, and they evolved from ancestors who did not have fair skin and hair.

Correct me if I am wrong, but that is hardly the main point of this book, is it? To quote from the article:

In the book, Wade suggests that such genetic differences may help explain why some people live in tribal societies and some in advanced civilizations, why African-Americans are allegedly more violent than whites, and why the Chinese may be good at business.

So, black people are violent (meaning 'primitive'?), Chinese are cunning ('good at business') and The White Man is the epitome of civilisation? And this is not racism - how? This is just a worthless rehash of junk from the days of the colonialism.

about two weeks ago
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Clever Workaround: Visual Cryptography On Austrian Postage Stamps

jandersen Censorship? (74 comments)

Groan. Something about this reminds of the scene in Monty Python's 'The Holy Grail', where a rather pestilential peasant is yelling 'I'm being oppressed'. Look, it's not always censorship when some company or government service refuses to be the medium for somebody's political propaganda; or if you insist on calling it censorship, then I have to say that not all censorship is bad.

But I don't think it applies in this situation - nobody has a right to have things printed for them, not even in a news paper. And just like a paper can refuse to print an article or an advert for any reason they like, the postoffice can do the same, of course. They have to make a business decision - why should they print a postage stamp, if they have reason to believe it may harm their business or their reputation? Freedom of speech doesn't mean that everybody has to help you spread your opinions, it only means that the state guarantees that they will not punish people for doing so.

about two weeks ago
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Brookings Study Calls Solar, Wind Power the Most Expensive Fossil Alternatives

jandersen Re:Funny money (409 comments)

...because China flooded the unholy fuck out of the solar market, ...

Ah, the good old supply and demand, you say? Whatever, but the article argues that because nuclear power is 'more economic' right now, we should stay away from the alternatives, and I think that is a bogus argument. What we should do is use nuclear in the short term, while working hard to replace both fossil fuels and nuclear, as well as minimising our waste of energy and resources, because that is far more sustainable, long term.

That last point is far more important than finding alternative energy sources, because it can have an immediate and dramatic effect, and there are so many easy ways that every person on the planet could employ to cut back on wastage.

about two weeks ago
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Experimental Drug Compound Found To Reverse Effects of Alzheimer's In Mice

jandersen Re:That's more than reversing the effect (105 comments)

Mayne will be reading this as saying 'there's a way cure Alzheimer'; actually it isn't a cure, it just covers up some of the symptoms of the still progressing disease. This is comparable to painkillers - they take away some of the pain, which is good, but the underlying cause is still there; not a problem if you have a passing headache, but it can be much more serious if it is something that slowly gets worse, like an infected tooth, a slipped disc - or cancer.

about two weeks ago
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Microsoft Tip Leads To Child Porn Arrest In Pennsylvania

jandersen Re:Trust the Computer. The Computer is your friend (353 comments)

A pedophile is nothing more than a person who is sexually attracted to prepubescent children. Not all pedophiles rape or even look at child porn, and not all child rapists are even necessarily pedophiles.

You're just trying to sell the myth that being pedophile is really just innocent, nothing to worry about. But that trivialises the problem to the extent that in fact, most people are 'pedophiles' because they can see the attraction in innocent beauty - what we call pedophilism is a much more sinister and harmful condition: when an adult for whatever reason steps over the border between seeing and doing. It is in many ways parallel to the phenomenon that is called 'paranoid schizophrenia': most people have at least sometimes, a conversation going on in their head - like a voice that comments on what they do and see. They are not called schizophrenic, because they are able to distinguish between their inner voice and what happens outside their own mind.

And being pedophile is not like being gay; pedophiles are made, not born. One can argue that honmosexual behaviour is something that strengthens male bonding and therefore would have been an advantage in a small hunter-gatherer community, whereas it is clear that children who have been sexually molested do not survive that unscathed. Whether the acutal damage is primarily due to the sexual element or the physical and mental abuse that accompanies it, or something different, is not really relevant - the bottom line is that pedophiles harm children; and in fact, one of the outcomes of child abuse is that the child is more likely to become a child abuser as well, which makes the problem all the more serious.

No, it's easy, and that's because there is no logic; just a strong desire for more and more government control over what information is accessible to people.

Playing the 'Evil Govt' card is just your form of voodoo. It is astonishing, the amount of power people can imagine "The Government" has; apparently they are also able to cover up all thes UFO landings all over the place.

about two weeks ago
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China Bans iPad, MacBook Pro, Other Apple Products For Government Use

jandersen Re:Fatal flaw: China can't adapt (115 comments)

China has always been controlled from the center. In past eras, China has had technological and exploration advantages over the West that were wiped out by intrusion and isolation commanded from China's locus of concentrated power - whether via emperors, or the current regime.

Long run (maybe, even near-long-term) this does not bode well for China's prospects, because when one is sealed off from outside ideas and innovation, one will ultimately fall behind and adapt only in suboptimal ways. What results is a waste of social and intellectual capital.

Yes, the good old myths that I used to read about in the 70s, 80s, 90s, ... - and which have been promoted ever since the days of the British Empire. It's a load of nonsense, basically; racism dressed up with cheap self-flattery: 'Us in the West are much better because of "freedom" or "democracy" or whatever'.

History shows us that China, like all other, great civilisations go through periods of progress and stagnation. Right now they are progressing at a staggering pace, while we are beginning to lag behind. And I can't see where you get the idea from that China is 'sealed off from outside ideas', when the truth is that China is investing hugely in education, science and technology, both in China and overseas. Also, I believe I have seen many times over the last couple of years, that people on this very forum keep complaining that new gadgets come out in China before you can get them in the US. In short, they are way ahead of us at the moment, and we should stop pissing in the wind and get ourselves moving, preferably in a forward direction.

Personally, I think we should be more confident in our own ability to take part in cooperation with China and other of the ascending nations. The future is likely to hold much more international cooperation and much less nationalism. Well, one can hope.

about two weeks ago
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Harvesting Wi-Fi Backscatter To Power Internet of Things Sensors

jandersen Indeed (138 comments)

Can you ...

...Imagine a world in which your wristwatch or other wearable device communicates directly with your online profiles, storing information about your daily activities where you can best access it â" all without requiring batteries.

All to well, I'm afraid. What I can't imagine is what the hell I or anybody else would want that? I'm not much of a Luddite, but being constantly online is just not part of my lifestyle, and seeing the quality of the online natterdom, I feel no attraction at all, on the contrary. It's just like having a million TV channels, all of them showing Big Brother and Coronation Street and nothing else, 24/7.

about two weeks ago
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Comparison: Linux Text Editors

jandersen Re: You're welcome to them. (402 comments)

Not everyone uses vi/vim because it's "cool". Many of us use it because it's simply more productive to do so.

Exactly - and it is amazing how good the basic vi functionality is. I always run vim in compatibility mode, not least because I work across many UNIXes, and basic vi is available everywhere.

Another good reason for not using fancy editors is that they support syntax highlighting and spell checking, which are often difficult to off. Yes, there are people to whom it is annoying to have every abbreviation and every word in a foreign language flagged as misspelled, and to whom proper indentation is sufficient to set off the structure of code.

And one final point: the fact that you can apply any standard UNIX command to a range of lines in vi is just amazing. Look it up if you don't already know it, but are interested.

about three weeks ago
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Unboxing a Cray XC30 'Magnus' Petaflops Supercomputer

jandersen Re:Will it run DOSBox and Doom? (71 comments)

I wasn't saying that an aircraft carrier couldn't sing a lullaby - it probably has a tannoy, and it might even sing quite softly; but it can only do so by not using most of its enormous power.

about three weeks ago
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Unboxing a Cray XC30 'Magnus' Petaflops Supercomputer

jandersen Re:Will it run DOSBox and Doom? (71 comments)

Not necessarily - the '...FLOPS' refers to FLOating Point Operations Per Second, and the hardware necessary to deal with this might conceivably not have the kind of processing capacity necessary for running DOS or Doom. It's like asking whether an aircraft carrier can sing you child to sleep; lots of power is not always relevant.

about three weeks ago

Submissions

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10 TB cloud storage for free

jandersen jandersen writes  |  about 9 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 a year and a half 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  |  about 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  |  about 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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