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The AI Boss That Deploys Hong Kong's Subway Engineers

kurisuto Maybe not a conventional expert system? (162 comments)

The article says that they're using a genetic algorithm. I'm no expert at AI, but my understanding is that an ordinary expert system doesn't use a genetic algorithm; an expert system just involves percolating propositions through a bunch of human-specified if/then statements.

I'd hazard a guess that the system described here is using the human-specified rules as part of the fitness function for the genetic algorithm. That's one way a system could use human-specified rules, but I think it's different from how an ordinary expert system uses them.

If you can call this an "expert system", then at a minimum, it looks like it's pushing the boundaries of the definition of "expert system".

about 2 months ago

Yahoo's Diversity Record Is Almost As Bad As Google's

kurisuto Re:How to interpret the statistics (435 comments)

True, but the null hypothesis is that men and women are equally capable at CS, however you measure that. Likewise with whites and blacks. Unless there's data to indicate otherwise, I'm assuming that knowing somebody's race or sex doesn't tell you anything about how likely they are to be good at CS.

about 3 months ago

Yahoo's Diversity Record Is Almost As Bad As Google's

kurisuto How to interpret the statistics (435 comments)

The numbers might give the impression that Google and Yahoo are unfairly discriminating against blacks and women. To determine whether that's the case, I think you need to know two things:

--Among Google and Yahoo employees, what percentage are black? What percentage are women?
--Among CS graduates, what percentage are black? What percentage are women?

(I'm simplifying here by assuming that every hire at Google and Yahoo is a CS graduate.)

If the two sets of numbers differ significantly, then it could indicate discriminatory hiring practices. If the numbers are the same, then it would seem to indicate that Google and Yahoo are evenhandedly hiring from the pool of available candidates, and that the cause of the inequality is further upstream.

about 3 months ago

How Does Heartbleed Alter the 'Open Source Is Safer' Discussion?

kurisuto Overstating the case (582 comments)

I don't think anyone claims that open-source software won't ever have security issues. The claim is that the open-source model tends to find and correct the flaws more effectively than the closed-source model, and that the soundness of the resulting product tends to be better on average.

One case does not disprove that. The key words there are "tends" and "on average".

about 5 months ago

Introducing a Calendar System For the Information Age

kurisuto Sabbath (224 comments)

There have been various alternative calendars proposed, and some of them have the property that there's a special day in the yearly calendar which doesn't count as part of the regular seven-day-per-week cycle (such as the "month zero" proposed here).

A significant objection is that some religions require that every seventh day be kept as a holy day. If the calendar contains a day which isn't part of the regular week, then there are sometimes more than seven days between one weekly holy day and the next.

It's not a consideration for me personally. However, I'm sure that this feature would lead to significant resistance to the adoption of such a calendar.

about 6 months ago

A Plan To Fix Daylight Savings Time By Creating Two National Time Zones

kurisuto Sunset at 3:11 p.m.? (545 comments)

Part of the proposal here is to reduce the U.S. to two time zones. The Eastern time zone would be on the same time as what's now Central Standard Time.

I'm in Boston, MA. Under the proposed change, sunset in December would come at 3:11 p.m. Um, no, thanks.

about a year ago

Some States Dropping GED Tests Due To Price Spikes

kurisuto Re:"no longer be offered in a pencil & paper f (224 comments)

I dropped out of high school in 1983. I was being heavily harassed for being openly gay. I could take it no longer.

I took my GED and passed it easily on the first try. Then I worked my ass off, largely financed my own education, and eventually got a PhD from one of the Ivy League universities. Now I have a successful career.

If the option of the GED hadn't been there for me, I would have been at a dead end.

about a year and a half ago

How Apple Killed the Linux Desktop

kurisuto KDE vs. Gnome (933 comments)

In the 1990s, I wanted to get into developing GUI apps for Linux. The single biggest reason why I gave up on it was that the Linux GUI effort fractured into KDE and Gnome camps.

At the time, I figured that one of the two would win out over the other. There was no telling which might win, and I was reluctant to back what might be the losing horse. This was a serious demotivator. Of course, 15 years later, we've ended up with the worst of both worlds: many Linux installations take up the disk space for both, and we've got two unharmonized APIs continuing to fight for a following.

With MacOS, there is no question what API you should use. Apple offers a very clear path. For that reason, I feel more confident developing for that platform.

about 2 years ago

At my place of employ, we track business data ...

kurisuto Missing option: All of the above (185 comments)

I work at a company of around 8000 people, and I regularly use software in all of these categories.

more than 2 years ago

Is Siri Smarter Than Google?

kurisuto Re:Voice recognition (366 comments)

Sorry, but this is bull. Your statement that "voice recognition is at its limits phonetically" is just wrong. I work in the voice recognition industry, and in the past five years, I've seen the recognition error rate markedly and measurably go down, and this trend is continuing.

There are actually two kinds of models involved in voice recognition:

1) the acoustic model (which has to do with looking at a sequence of time slices of the acoustic signal and working out what sequence of phonemes could most likely have given rise to it). You say that voice recognition is at its limits phonetically, but these models are actually getting better over time with larger sets of training data, and the improved models measurably result in a lowered word error rate.

2) the language model (which has to do with specifying which words exist, and in what order they are most likely to occur). These language models can be very simple, as in the case of a yes/no question in a phone-based app (your model might accept "yes" and "yes ma'am", but not any arbitrary English utterance); or they can be very large, as in the case of a general-purpose dictation application.

In conjunction with the recognizer, what these two models give you is a raw string of recognized words. What sort of processing you do on that string is a separate question. There are obviously all sorts of things you can do with the string. The parsing and processing techniques are getting more sophisticated, and are getting integrated with other systems in interesting ways. This is largely a separate question from the accuracy of the string itself, which is the output of the recognizer (I say "largely" because your application might activate a different language model based on the current context, which does affect recognition accuracy).

more than 2 years ago

US Government: There's Child Porn On the Megaupload Servers Judge!

kurisuto A reasonable comparison (375 comments)

Suppose there was a large apartment building, and child pornography was found in one apartment. Should the government have the right to indefinitely hold the belongings of the residents of all of the other apartments in the building?

more than 2 years ago

Scientists Say People Aren't Smart Enough For Democracy To Flourish

kurisuto Re:Why do I need to add a subject? (1276 comments)

In the very unlikely event that a kind-hearted, mentally disabled person could become dictator, that person would not be dictator for very long. The first concern of an individual who is in power is to stay in power, because he or she is continually in competition with others who want power.

If a leader stays in power for a while without doing ruthless things, it just means that that leader had the good fortune of not being presented with situations where ruthlessness was required. I doubt that this happens very often.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Which Web Platform Would You Use?

kurisuto Re:Catalyst? (519 comments)

How does the size of the user base of Dancer compare to that of Catalyst? How do the growth curves compare? Are these things known?

Having a larger support community is one factor I need to consider, partly because it's easier to get help when I need it, and partly because a more widely-used framework is likely to continue to be supported over time. The inherent technical superiority is, of course, another factor to consider.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Which Web Platform Would You Use?

kurisuto Catalyst? (519 comments)

What do you guys think of Catalyst these days? Does Catalyst still have enough support behind it to make it worth my while to sit down and really learn Catalyst?

This is assuming that I already know Perl well, and that I'm also not interested in switching to another language at the present time.

more than 2 years ago

How Do You Get Your Geek Nostalgia Fix?

kurisuto Apple ][ manuals (422 comments)

I've still got the old Apple ][ wire-bound manuals. Yeah, I know, it's extremely unlikely that I'll ever again go poking into the assembly code of Apple DOS, but I've just never been able to consign those manuals to the trash bin.

I've also still got the manuals for the TRS-80 Color Computer. I can still flip them open and immediately remember writing programs using those exact BASIC commands.

more than 3 years ago

Does Wiretapping Require Cell Company Cooperation?

kurisuto Whoosh (174 comments)

You missed the joke. CinthIA = CIA. The woman whose voice is used for one of the numbers stations is known as Cynthia because of the station's supposed connection to the CIA.

more than 3 years ago

GNOME vs. KDE: the Latest Round

kurisuto Re:Gnome/KDE division discourages developers (344 comments)

This is precisely my point: the free software community should have thrown away one of the two APIs ten years ago.

Choice is not always a good thing. Would you be better off if you had a "choice" of different voltages and socket types for your various household appliances? Is it important to be able to choose a hair dryer which runs on 60vDC and a toaster which runs on 150vAC? Oh, sure, you could have all kinds of voltage adapters for "interoperability", but there's no need for any adapters if everything runs on the same current.

The functional differences between Gnome and KDE are trivial; they are minor variations on the same window/widget paradigm found on MacOS and Windows. If there are individual differences in taste, they would be better handled as user preference settings within a single environment.

more than 3 years ago

GNOME vs. KDE: the Latest Round

kurisuto Gnome/KDE division discourages developers (344 comments)

I think the free software community has really shot itself in the foot by continuing this division between Gnome and KDE.

Around ten years ago, I was interested in building some GUI apps for Linux, but there was no clear path as to which of the two GUI APIs I should learn. I found the lack of a clear path to be enough of a discouragement that I ended up losing interest. I doubt that I'm the only one who has felt that way about it.

more than 3 years ago

Researchers Find a 'Liberal Gene'

kurisuto Re:Yay! (841 comments)

Paying your taxes is one of your basic duties as a citizen. Other than jury duty, taxes are the only compulsory duty expected of U.S. citizens (we don't even have compulsory military service, much less any form of conscripted labor). In case you need to have this spelled out, taxes are what make it possible for us to have roads, public schools, a police department, an army and a navy, and so on.

Of course, there's plenty of room for debate about how much we should be taxed, and how the money can most wisely be spent. Liberals have a particular view on this question.

Don't confuse this question with the question of "freedom". You may not agree with the liberal view on taxation and government spending, but you're just plain mistaken if you think that liberals oppose freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and so on. Liberals strongly support those freedoms. There is nothing in the liberal view on taxation and government budgeting which contradicts those freedoms.

more than 3 years ago

Justice Department Seeks Ebonics Experts

kurisuto Re:AAVE is a fairly recent development (487 comments)

To answer your question about age grading, you have to look at a population at more than one point in time. In cases where this has been done (e.g. speakers of central American Spanish), what we find is that young adults have the highest percentage of the incoming feature (higher than both children and older adults). As those same young adults get older, their use of the incoming feature does decline some, but not down to the levels of the previous generation. The 40-year-olds today have a higher percentage of the incoming variant than the 40-year-olds twenty years ago.

Variants in speech can serve as social markers which you use to identify yourself as a member of a group. As a guess, I imagine that the slight decline in use of the incoming variant as you get older has less to do with "learning standard English better", and more to do with it not being quite as important to sound cool as you get older. As a 40-year-old, you probably still wear clothes which identify you as a member of a certain group, but you probably don't dress in quite as trendy a way as you did when you were 20.

about 4 years ago


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