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Davos 2015: Less Innovation, More Regulation, More Unrest. Run Away!

melchoir55 Re:"They" is us (332 comments)

It isn't interesting to compare your wealth with someone in Africa, because people in Africa are not a threat to you. They are incapable of competing with you in any meaningful sense. No, H1B does not introduce pitchfork level competition (taking off rich people's heads).

If you have 77k in assets in your 20s then you're doing well, but you are by no measure wealthy in our society (USA). You're solidly middle class. If you are 40 and are at 77k in assets, you are doing very poorly. I'm talking about wealth gathering here. If that isn't your thing, then the phrase "doing poorly" might not apply. A lot of people have rejected the notion of wealth gathering because they have rightly recognized that they are incapable of achieving it in any meaningful sense. Look at the tiny house movement, for example. These people have decided that sacrificing their happiness for 30 years in exchange for a net worth of around 300k (at best) isn't worth it. In my opinion, they are correct.

2 days ago
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Anthropomorphism and Object Oriented Programming

melchoir55 Spoken like someone who forgets how humans work (303 comments)

Humans are bad at abstract logic. Not just bad, but shockingly, horribly bad. It requires many years of teaching to get them to learn how to reason according to logical principles and to avoid logical fallacies. Most people never get there at all.

OOP is a step in the right direction, for some kinds of programming. You don't always need to tell a story about your concept space. Sometimes what you're doing is so simple, and so shortlived, that it doesn't matter. However if you want long term maintainability and something that other people are going to be able to learn as quickly as possible, OOP wins. Consider the following example:

English:
John loves Sally. People like to spend time with others that they love. Does John like spending time with Sally?

If you are human and not deeply mentally impaired, you will quickly answer "yes" to the above question

Symbolic logic:
Derive Q (John likes spending time with Sally)
P (Assertion)
P -> Q (Modus Ponens)

Did you immediately think in your brain the following:
Q (Consequence of premises 1 & 2)

A lot of people who stare at that sequence of symbols will require a few moments to process it. Very few will read it as trivially as they read the English expression, although both expressions communicate the same relationships and information. Why is that? It is because the logical derivation is an abstraction above the English expression (which itself is of course an abstraction of something else). Every level of abstraction adds to how difficult it is for a human to comprehend something. It doesn't mean they can't get it, it means it will take longer (though depending on the person it might mean they can't get it).

Do you want people to be able to read your code in the future? The best chance of them succeeding is to use object oriented programming, and to create a class model that closely resembles what most people intuitively understand as the concept space you are working in.

Humans did not evolve to process information regarding Ps and Qs. They evolved to process information about Johns and Sallys. They are much better at the latter than the former.

about three weeks ago
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If the Programmer Won't Go To Silicon Valley, Should SV Go To the Programmer?

melchoir55 Re:The problems of distance (294 comments)

My best frontend developer is in Germany (I'm in the bay area). I spend about 2 hours a week interacting with him on a really busy week. 30 minutes to an hour normally. At the beginning of a project, I hand him a wireframe and we go over requirements. He asks me questions if anything is unclear. As the project continues, I check on how he's doing once a week. Sometimes I find he is mildly off course and I set him straight, but it is an uncommon occurrence. The stuff he delivers is mostly great, with a few bugs that usually end up getting ironed out the week after the turn in date.

How do I achieve success with a worker on the other side of the planet?
- I pay him very well. His wage ends up being about $65 usd per hour (which is high for a frontend developer).
- I maintain a professional, but friendly relationship with him. He's a person, not my underling, and not a mere resource.
- I made sure I know what he is good at and interested in. I give him tasks he is either good at or can/wants-to adapt to.
- I don't engage him in communication unless doing so would be productive, though I do respond quickly if he wishes to initiate communication for any reason.

This list should seem blindingly obvious to everyone reading this. "OF COURSE you do these things", you folks are saying. Well, I've found that although everyone agrees on the best methods to engage employees, very few people actually follow that course. Many corporations large and small appear to think there are shortcuts around building a strong employee. There are not. If you think there are, you're a bad manager.

about three weeks ago
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If the Programmer Won't Go To Silicon Valley, Should SV Go To the Programmer?

melchoir55 Re:Exactly this. (294 comments)

You "Only" get to chat 1-2 hours a day? If you are chatting for more than 2 hours a day, you aren't working.

about three weeks ago
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If the Programmer Won't Go To Silicon Valley, Should SV Go To the Programmer?

melchoir55 Re: Exactly this. (294 comments)

This is the point of view of PHBs who don't understand human behavior at even basic levels. Humans have things like trust, loyalty, nesting instincts, and all the other things that make staying at a company for many years a reasonable expectation. There are software development shops *in the bay area* which have low turnover rates for their staff. Of course, in order to take advantage of those characteristics, you need to the prime them.

You cannot treat people like cogs in a machine and expect them to treat your organization like anything but a machine to draw resources out of until they can find something better. There is a prevailing attitude among people who run software shops that their people are there to be abused and taken advantage of as much as possible. I left one of those organizations early in my career for something much better, and the difference in my own sustained productivity levels really astonished me. I didn't realize how hard I was dragging my feet out of spite, apathy, and god knows what other negative emotions fostered by maximizing the alienation of your workforce.

PHBs think they're killin' it when they hire someone they know is worth 90k and pay them 60k. In fact, that person is probably hanging out until they can find a better job, and because they know they are doing that, they are contributing at the bare minimum level they think is necessary. Since it is impossible to quantify the productivity of an engineer (no matter how much you try to micromanage), this is NEVER a win for the company. And, no, seeing them in their chair for 50 hours a week doesn't mean they're doing more than 20 minutes of work.

about three weeks ago
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Neil DeGrasse Tyson Explains His Christmas Tweet

melchoir55 Re:He must enjoy preaching to the choir. (681 comments)

Except he didn't tell them that. He didn't say anything remotely like 'Jesus's birthday is unimportant in the grand scheme of things'. However, for the sake of argument, let's say his tweet does convey that message.

He didn't post his tweet on a Jesus loving forum. He didn't make a press release on fox news. He sent this message *to people who follow him on twitter*. Assuming he actually said "Jesus's birthday is unimportant to the grand scheme of things" (which he didn't) in this forum, he is saying it to a group of people who have signed up to hear whatever random crap comes out of his head. Don't want to hear what astrophysicists think about the universe et al? Don't read their twitter feed!

Your analogy to informing someone on their birthday that they aren't significant is extra ridiculous because Jesus has been dead for quite a while.

Saying Jesus is insignificant would be idiotic. Jesus is significant, and NDT knows that full well. His tweet was pointing that other people are *also* significant. In this case he is referring to Sir Isaac Newton, a man of towering intellect and accomplishment.

about a month ago
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Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

melchoir55 Re:Does the job still get done? (688 comments)

" What makes you think this will happen again in the future?

Because it has happened to every human society that has ever existed. Wealth pools, corruption spreads, the wealthy don't read history books and forget that the unwashed masses have way more power than they do, then the wealthy are killed en masse and everything resets.

Revolution is less likely today in the USA because most people in the USA have a pretty comfortable life (even the unemployed people) compared to people in, say, the most recent feudal systems. Despite being less likely, the unwashed masses are unimaginably more dangerous today than they were 200 years ago. Today it doesn't matter how many body guards you have, how sophisticated your body armor is, or how hard you have tried to suppress the people you exploit. It takes one guy and about $500 to present you with a mortal threat that is very likely to beat you.

about a month and a half ago
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Is Enterprise IT More Difficult To Manage Now Than Ever?

melchoir55 IT is a vaccine (241 comments)

The situation IT faces has some interesting parallels with that of vaccines, but multiplied to be exponentially worse. An ignorant subset of our society is convinced that vaccines are a Bad Idea. There are a lot of reasons for this we don't need to get into, but similarly to IT, one of the reasons is that vaccines became so ubiquitous and effective that what they save us from has become invisible. These days we are seeing spikes in horrible and preventable diseases because some people have an overriding "out of sight out of mind" component to their cognitive life. The same is true of IT.

IT is critical to any organization. It doesn't matter what organization you're talking about. Efficiency of IT can improve the productivity of every industry. It has permeated them all. I had lunch last week with a nice lady who works in a very large insurance company. This company has a fair number of employees devoted to answering certain kinds of email (negative ones) and a lot of time gets spent forwarding emails to the right person. She was lamenting that there is no way to do that automatically. "There is.." I pointed out, "It is called sentiment analysis and is a branch of NLP. It can probably do what you want with at least 80% accuracy. You would have to hire a computational linguist and pay them 95k a year to make it happen."

And that's the rub. It costs money. People who run large organizations rarely understand technology. That means they need to completely trust the CTO/CIO on every recommendation, because the CEO is entirely unequipped to themselves evaluate any such proposal. It's also the case that large corporations are under the laughably inaccurate opinion that people work harder to make up for being unproductive. That is to say, many think "well it has to get done, they are paid to do it, and it does get done, so why do we need to spend more money on tech"?

The application of technology is nuanced. It is not possible to directly quantify the gains in all circumstances, though the gains could mean an order of magnitude difference in productivity. It doesn't fit easily into a spreadsheet, a sharepoint page, or a powerpoint presentation. Thus, the pointy haired boss will remain impossible to convince.

about a month and a half ago
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Alva Noe: Don't Worry About the Singularity, We Can't Even Copy an Amoeba

melchoir55 Armchair cognitive scientist (455 comments)

I did philosophy myself as an undergraduate, so I don't want to bash our armchair friend here for doing his best. He is making the classic mistake of making claims about fields he isn't part of. In this case biology, computer science, and cognitive science in general (beyond philosophy).

Regarding the statement "We used 'it' the way we use clocks":
He is mistaking agency for being something that is an end unto itself. This isn't true. Agents commonly use other agents as tools. The mere property of "being used" doesn't dictate whether something is sentient, intelligent, an agent, or whatever. Yeah, we used Watson to play Jeapordy!, but that doesn't mean it isn't smart. Watson is actually way "smarter" than any human in certain ways.

This boils down to what you define as intelligence. In humans, intelligence is a very rough term applied to an enormous pile of features. Processing speed, memory, learning algorithms, response time, and many more features all contribute to what we think of as intelligence. A singularity doesn't need to precisely mirror the way in which a human thinks in order to be a singularity. It just needs to be able to adapt and evolve. I'll be the first to admit we are a long way off from modeling a human consciousness in virtual space. However, existing machine learning and rule based techniques are powerful enough to do some really impressive things (like Watson and Siri). They aren't singularity level, no, but that doesn't make this man's arguments relevant.

Regarding "we can't produce "...machines that exhibit the agency and awareness of an amoeba":
The idea that an ameoba displays intelligence in excess of our current ability to simulate is frankly a little ridiculous. Artificial agents are capable of very complex behavior. They can react to abstract constructs which are inferred about their environment. They can anticipate opponents based on statistical probability and thereby win, on average, more often than even *a human being*. An amoeba is closer in behavioral complexity to a simple chemical reaction than it is a contemporary artificial intelligence.

about 2 months ago
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Firefox Signs Five-Year Deal With Yahoo, Drops Google as Default Search Engine

melchoir55 Netscape (400 comments)

Then Netscape said to Firefox: "You and me, we've got nowhere to go but up!"

about 2 months ago
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Colleges Face New 'Gainful Employment' Regulations For Student Loans

melchoir55 Inescapable debt (331 comments)

The entire problem with college loans is that you cannot escape them with bankruptcy. If you take a school loan, you have that loan no matter how messed up your financial situation gets. If college loan debt were the same as any other debt, those giving out loans would be very hesitant to hand 120k to an underwater basket weaver.

It makes no sense for college debt to be inescapable. We allow people to declare bankruptcy after taking a million dollar loan to open a high end spa in an 8k person logging down. There is no reason college debt shouldn't be treated the same. If people were stupid enough to take a loan they can't repay then their credit is destroyed for 7 years (at least). If the people giving the loan were stupid enough to give out a loan that was unlikely to be repaid, they are out of their money.

We need to stop protecting people in the financial industry from their own risky behavior. It is way too expensive for our society and it does nothing but make some super wealthy organization more money.

about 3 months ago
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"Police Detector" Monitors Emergency Radio Transmissions

melchoir55 Re:Kickstarter! (215 comments)

Because I have better things to do with my life than sit in my car, and because speed limits are always set far below the speed at which I feel safe driving.

about 3 months ago
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Bioethicist At National Institutes of Health: "Why I Hope To Die At 75"

melchoir55 By 75 does he mean 750? (478 comments)

I feel kind of frustrated when I see humans say things like "75 is a pretty good age to go". Really? Why not 60? Or 50? Or 40? We shouldn't be aiming to die when at some arbitrary count of how many times the earth has spun around the sun. We should be aiming to make life worth living for people at any age, and we should be aiming to eliminate this pointless "aging" business entirely.

My great grandmother is 104. She plays board games with her friends, takes walks with them, and is a sharp-witted lady (pretty sure she has tried to cheat while playing cards with me). She her life have ended 30 years ago? No way! Our society has the resources for people of every age to live a fulfilling life. Yeah, most people deteriorate before 104... but so what? Some people deteriorate before they turn 20.

Get over being afraid of old people. They are people, they're just different from you.

about 4 months ago
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Treasure Map: NSA, GCHQ Work On Real-Time "Google Earth" Internet Observation

melchoir55 Re:So they'll suffer from TMI (267 comments)

TMI isn't a thing if everything is digital. Machine learning classification techniques (go look up something as simple as maximum entropy) can do a great job of identifying classifications with high accuracy. What is being classified? Well, presumably whatever "they" think are threats to the nation, or at least to whoever has control of the system. One can analyze the behavior of targets deemed a threat and find common features shared between those targets. Even stuff a human would never, ever think to correlate could matter (the humidity, time of day, day of year, AND whether they are a certain religion). The beauty is that a human doesn't need to work out what correlates with a threat. The machine does it. You give it features, it gives you statistical probabilities that the entities in your data are a threat. It would take an enormous amount of computing power to do this with the amount of data the NSA apparently has. Something like this for example:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah_Data_Center

Then it is just a matter of drawing the line for the threshold of what constitutes a threat. I just described something someone could have done 10 years ago. Machine learning has come along pretty well since.

The state of affairs is so disturbing because all technical hurdles to a dystopia have been overcome. Someone with these resources won't suffer from information overload. There DO exist learning algorithms which can deal with this much data and they clearly have invested in the necessary hardware. Laws and morality don't appear to be slowing them down. What safeguards are left...?

about 4 months ago
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Apple's App Store Needs a Radical Revamp; How Would You Go About It?

melchoir55 Thanks Marx (249 comments)

This approach fails for the same reason communism cannot work (yet). A small group of humans lacks the understanding, wisdom, foresight, and a whole host of other epistemic terms to decide how to organize and prioritize within such a vast system. What they do will work for some people. It will utterly fail for others. The only way to deal with something like this is to have a computer to it (same with communism, btw). I won't defend Apple's algorithms. They probably need a lot of work. Maybe the organization scheme needs to be changed. Whatever. The fix won't be having some humans do it.

about 5 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Future-Proof Jobs?

melchoir55 Re:Simple (509 comments)

Tell her to study home economics.

Never own a credit card. They are all scams and are far more likely to ruin your credit than help it. .

This is terrible advice. Credit cards are the easiest way to build credit. The advice should actually be: Pay off your credit card in full every month. If you won't be able to pay it off, don't buy things with it.

The rebuttal: "This is too hard for some people" is not a reasonable response to this. This is a trivially easy behavior pattern to adopt. If you can't do this, I don't believe it is possible to be financially secure. This is the smallest, easiest, step in playing the game of our society's financial system.

about 6 months ago
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TSA Prohibits Taking Discharged Electronic Devices Onto Planes

melchoir55 Re:Actually makes good sense (702 comments)

The situation is only weird if you accept the ostensible reason for the existence of the TSA as the actual reason of those with decision making power. The TSA does not exist to add security. The TSA exists as a money pit for people in power to transfer public money to others. It has the added benefit of eroding civil liberties, and of acting as a distraction for the population from actual problems.

By actual problems I mean the elimination of the middle class, the power grab on information via the NSA, the insistence of every US president to engage in at least one war just for luls and entirely without the consent of Congress, the atrocious state of our education system, the fact our healthcare system only works for the wealthy, etc. etc. blah blah I could go on.

about 7 months ago
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Amazon Sues After Ex-Worker Takes Google Job

melchoir55 It's a show (272 comments)

Amazon's suit will obviously fail here as CA will never allow this kind of restriction on a regular employee. Tech industry giants are in trouble for agreeing not to compete with each other. What better way to make it seem like they are competing than to toss a few hundred thousand away on a meaningless but high profile court case which is decided before it began?

They gain billions by not competing for employees. They've been doing it for a long time, and they can continue to do it as long as people don't put a stop to it. This case is a marketing ploy.

about 7 months ago
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If Immigration Reform Is Dead, So Is Raising the H-1B Cap

melchoir55 Re:No, they're replacing. (341 comments)

But there are shortages in many areas. For instance, there is a big shortage of non-immigrant farm labor. Do you really believe that an unemployed white guy is going to pick lettuce?

If the wages available to him weren't un-livably low because he would compete with people who don't pay taxes while taking advantages of social programs...? Yes. The unemployed white guy would pick lettuce. A similar effect is strongly depressing wages in the tech sector.

Being white has nothing to do with willingness to work. Economic realities do, though.

about 7 months ago
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Court Releases DOJ Memo Justifying Drone Strike On US Citizen

melchoir55 Re: what is so special (371 comments)

The 10th amendment? The 5th? The 14? Pick any.

about 7 months ago

Submissions

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US will no longer prosecute medical marijuana users in legal states

melchoir55 melchoir55 writes  |  about a month ago

melchoir55 (218842) writes "The LA times is reporting that Congress has ended the federal government's prohibition on medical marijuana, in states where that behavior is legal. Though the Obama administration already asserted it would not prosecute such offenses, there was the possibility that the next administration would have a different opinion. This position is now codified in law."
Link to Original Source
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State Department takes down 3D printed gun plans

melchoir55 melchoir55 writes  |  about a year and a half ago

melchoir55 (218842) writes "The US Government has sent a cease and desist to DEFCAD. DEFCAD is the company which has been raising a lot of eyebrows worldwide through its development of 3D printable guns. DEFCAD has responded by complying with the C&D. The plans have been removed from their website. However, CNN (and other sources) report the files to already have been downloaded over one million times and continue to be shared via third party methods such as bit-torrent."
Link to Original Source

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