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DARPA Uses Preteen Gamers To Beta Test Tomorrow's Military Software

quietwalker Re:makes sense (84 comments)

This was actually my first thought as well. You need a system that 8 year olds can navigate proficiently, because you're going to have a lot of folks in the army who don't have an education much past that, who will need to rely on these systems for their life, potentially while under fire. It has to be able to model complex scenarios and yet deliver it in a way that promotes clarity and simplicity.

I mean, what's the alternative? Make it complex and expect dullards will rise to the challenge, completely opposite of the results shown in their entire life history?

Basically, they're trying to make the ipod of computer teaching, so anyone can use it. Sorta the same, only the difficulty of the task is much, much higher.

Evaluating their research in this way is also valuable for the non-military applications of adaptive learning and UI design. As Southpark so aptly put it, "At least 25% of the US population is retarded." They're not all in the military. Besides, if what they're researching is mechanisms for adaptive teaching, a success could actually help reduce that number.

That's not to discount the commercial applications either. When I started work at the age of 16, at a movie theater, they expected that it would, for some reason, take 8 weeks for someone to learn how to use a cash register with the name of the item on the buttons, despite this being the sort of thing that should take little more than a cursory glance and a minute or two of experimentation. Then I realized that it's probably like that because they have to expect the lowest common denominator, and it's probably like that for many positions in most businesses. How much time and money could be saved by getting these LCD's trained faster? It's not just the company that benefits - you're increasing the value of the worker too, as they're eligible for a wider and more diverse set of jobs, even if they're an LCD.

Really, I think it's a great research goal with wide-reaching military, economic, and social applications, and see no problems whatsoever with evaluating it by having children use it. With the way computer- and remote- based teaching is going, we're going to need this sooner rather than later.

about a week ago
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DARPA Uses Preteen Gamers To Beta Test Tomorrow's Military Software

quietwalker What's the problem? (84 comments)

This isn't some sort of military indoctrination, or child-warrior program.

They're evaluating adaptive learning software, doing UI/UX evaluations, and so on. Yes, DARPA's goals focus on future military application, but despite the comments above, they're not making this some sort of Ender's game scenario with 8 year old kids flying drones. These kids are playing games that are trying to teach them STEM skills, and doing so with a sort of machine-learning backing. So the kids are learning, they get to use cutting-edge software backed by a hefty financial contribution, and the end result could be a new way to provide computer-aided teaching.

So there's no need to cry, "Think of the children!" - they're doing fine.

It's also good to note that these concepts are not restricted to military applications. Take a quick look over DARPA's history - much less the history of military science in general - and you'll see a bunch of amazing creations that we use in our day to day lives. Like the internet, GPS or the continued funding and support for self-driving cars and autonomous robotics.

One caveat: I'm not saying that military funding, DARPA or otherwise, shouldn't be transparent and examined, but in this case, there's no problem other than people who can't demux 'military' with 'automatically bad'.

about a week ago
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Getting Back To Coding

quietwalker Know at least one level deep of abstraction (240 comments)

A good rule of thumb is that you must understand your program at least one layer of abstraction past the user layer to be truly competent with it.

That's frameworks, libraries, languages, whatever.

This knowledge is often the difference between the experts and the experienced novices, and I think we all innately know this once we've experienced it. Java provides a nice example, because they build that requirement into their certification program and learn about obscured concepts like memory utilization and object creation, but examples exist elsewhere. That 'Aha!' moment when you read Effective C++, or when you grok EF, or understand why Backbone.js does the things it does in the way it does them. I've even seen it on graphic designers who were forced to write raw HTML and CSS, rather than Dreamweaver or Muse.

This isn't even a program-from-bare-metal argument, it's just simply a matter of understanding the underpinnings in order to write decent code, instead of just adequate code.

about three weeks ago
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Lots Of People Really Want Slideout-Keyboard Phones: Where Are They?

quietwalker Me from several years ago: (544 comments)

"Why are we switching to flatscreen LCD monitors that don't even have 1/3 of the resolution of my admittedly bulky CRT monitor? I can't even find one that does the same res, even at 3x the price!"

Response then is probably just as valid for phones today: "Cost to manufacture."(*)

(*) - also shelf space and shipping costs, but that's not applicable for slideout phones. In the end those are just varieties of 'money' as well.

about three weeks ago
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The Daily Harassment of Women In the Game Industry

quietwalker Re:Trigger warnings inidicate deeply held bias (962 comments)

The source of the quote above was Andrea Dworkin. Due to a combination of her immense weight, persistent and vocal misandry, and her declaration of her sexual preference, she was often referred as "that fat, angry lesbian," - you may recognize her from that, though it's unrelated to her belief system. Her primary belief structure revolved around the concept that male sexuality was a horrific abomination, that men are the source of all evil and suffering in the world, and that men must be tamed or destroyed.

She wrote many books with dollar-and-a-half words that focused on very complex explanations for her view of human sexuality, and provided wonderful quotes like this:
"Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice." -- Andrea Dworkin
"The annihilation of a woman's personality, individuality, will, character, is prerequisite to male sexuality." -- Andrea Dworkin
"Only when manhood is dead - and it will perish when ravaged femininity no longer sustains it - only then will we know what it is to be free." --Andrea Dworkin

etc. She made her mark by making such outrageous statements, often. The general theme seem to be that men are evil and that female-male interaction of any type is called rape. The current trend of referring to concepts like staring or flirting as a type of rape come from this mindset.

However, she was in no way the only one. There are generations before and after her, and just as people quoted Valerie Solanas, people quote her as well. Simply search around for "radical feminist" - that's the phrase that means 'feminism but hates men' or in other words, 'female supremacist'. You'll find a ton of amusing quotes that a rational person would be hard pressed to believe.

The general consensus is that she probably did far more harm to the cause of female equality than she did to help it. However, many people today don't understand why that is, and parrot her quotes and ideas without awareness.

about a month ago
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The Daily Harassment of Women In the Game Industry

quietwalker Re:Trigger warnings inidicate deeply held bias (962 comments)

I want to do a point-by-point, but ... there is no point. This is just a hate speech, perhaps only good for it's cathartic effect.

The bit where she indicates that harassment involving looks or those taunts of a sexual nature are unique to women because she hadn't heard of men being harassed was an impressive piece of ignorance, but itself only a single point adrift in a sea of wrong, and it'd take too long to wade through every one.

That being said, I took special issue with the sub-section that starts out "People just don't understand," and is then followed by paragraph after paragraph of "men can't understand," or "men don't know this." The very design of this argument refutes rational discussion; make claim, then state men (and 'brainwashed' women) can't understand, if anyone disagrees - that is, does not completely accept male culpability regardless of their involvement - they are perpetuating the problem due to ignorance, if not malice, and their arguments are thus refuted. In this way one can neatly make a claim and deal with dissenters in a single fell stroke.

I also noted that there wasn't a single constructive comment on how to fix this perceived problem. There were even references to pieces that had made suggestions, but this one in itself was simply a sort of angry screed against men.

In summary; the article failed to present a real case that misogyny is the driving force behind harassment of specific individuals or that indeed, harassment of a given gender is either exclusive, endemic or systemic. If this was meant to spur a call to action, it was a poorly thought out exercise.

  - and I'm not saying that because she's female, either.

about a month ago
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The Daily Harassment of Women In the Game Industry

quietwalker Trigger warnings inidicate deeply held bias (962 comments)

Before I read the article, before I decided whether there was a legitimate point, before I even had a chance to introspect whether or not I, personally, held some socially unacceptable viewpoints at an unconscious level, before all this, I saw the trigger warnings.

So before I read the article and judge it on it's own merits, let me talk about trigger warnings for a second, and what they seem to say.

My own personal experience with them tends to be very limited, but a casual perusal indicates that the vast majority of users appear to promote misandry - that is, man-hating - as an acceptable form of discrimination. There appears to be a fundamental belief that males, either consciously or not, are simply evil, often comically so. One site even referred to consensual, loving, heterosexual sex as "a man masturbating into a woman," and the author indicated their belief that any male-female interaction was one form of abuse or another, with the woman always the victim.

For lack of a better phrase, this level of irrational hate has become their religion, and it colors their views. Like the person who only has a hammer in their tool box, every problem appears to be a because-of-man nail, and we know how well that sort of thinking works.

So what the trigger warnings before this article seems to say is "I have a better chance of getting truthful and unbiased coverage from Fox News in an election year than I do of finding the barest glimmer of a hint of truth in the following text."

about a month ago
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How To Fix The Shortage of K-5 Scholastic Chess Facilitators

quietwalker Re:Not to detract from our roots... (128 comments)

For a child between the ages of 5 to 10, yes, it's punishment. Especially in an age of tv on demand and nerf guns and xbox and legos and the whole world outside.

It's not an "easy way to teach them how to think," it's a way to teach them how to think about chess, which has limited value.

Chess also has very little to do with reasoning. At one level, the short-breadth min-max search for the next best would qualify, but since we're not great at that as humans, we fall to using pattern recognition gained through rote play experience. That is not reasoning and there's very little strategy. "Go Fish," has more inherent possibilities for strategy.

Let's focus on reasoning though. How can you explain pointing out my personal experiences as being invalid (as they are rightly anecdotal and not data) and then counter by providing your own anecdotal examples, except through a lack of reasoning?

Perhaps you need to play more ... well, obviously not chess.

about a month ago
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How To Fix The Shortage of K-5 Scholastic Chess Facilitators

quietwalker Not to detract from our roots... (128 comments)

Do we really need to promote chess playing to a group of imaginative, energetic children who have just barely grasped the concept of role-taking, and are only barely ready to understand - much less compete in - competitive or team sports? Did they do something to earn this sort of punishment? Are these sort of felons?

Don't get me wrong; I was in a "Chess and Tactical Games Club" when I was in Highschool. We played warhammer 40k with minatures, star trek combat on a hex map that looked like a starscape, and recreated WW2 naval battles in the gym with wood blocks, marked ropes and protractors, played Risk and Axis & Allies. We even played a few economic simulator games.

However, I can't remember playing a single game of chess. This is largely because playing a game where a turn took an hour and a half was more fun than playing chess, and that's coming from a highschool geek back when the term meant something.

My guess is that there's only a perceived shortage of k-5 scholastic chess facilitators, rather, if the number is higher than 1, we probably have more than we ought.

about a month ago
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Normal Humans Effectively Excluded From Developing Software

quietwalker Couple of dissenting points (608 comments)

- There's no framework or language that does everything, and we end up seeing variations of the 80/20 split even in the best case, where 80% of functionality is easy or built in, and the remaining 20% is either horrendously complex or impossible. Advocating for one and claiming "Hey, watch me pull a rabbit out of a hat!" can only be answered, "That trick never works." Besides, you'll probably just end up with "Visual ColdFusion," and then I will have to apply a murderous thrashing to the individual responsible.

- We think about software and programs in many different ways; data flow, decision trees, objects, messages, functions, and so on. We've tried both large and simple instruction sets to model these ideas, and while the former tends to require a great depth of knowledge and fosters complexity that way, the latter guarantees complexity when we attempt to model naturally complex systems - see Scheme for a good example. It's very hard to make something only as complex as it needs to be and no more - especially when the goal of 'acceptable complexity' is subjective and moving. A new hypercard will only meet the goal for some subset, not everyone.

- We as developers are most effective - writing code faster, with less bugs or security flaws - when we're using languages, frameworks, and development methodology that we're experienced with. This is a serious flaw of the current framework of the week trend, and should be considered when operating within a SDLC process. However, the only ones who have the personal experience to understand this are the curmudgeonly, stuck-in-their-ways devs who will be ignored when they bring it up. The problem is simple; we love our toy languages and frameworks, until the next one comes out or we grow up and stop playing with toys. The solution is also simple; You have a good, experienced (not just capable) developer acting as architect, who guides everything from framework changes, to IDEs, to coding styles at a measured pace, and provides for training and familiarization. Otherwise you get yahoos wanting to rewrite key pages in a 12 year old legacy J2EE app in Ruby and running noSQL for absolutely no reason at all, and the increased upkeep cost.

- "Effectively excluded," is a poor way to phrase this, as many others have noted. There's no exclusion other than the requirement someone posses the skills, and prior to that, the necessary attention and desire to learn those skills, and that's just a choice. This is the same for any other trade, and programming's requirements are not especially weighty. Most people chose not to learn how to set the time on their VCRs, they were not "effectively excluded" from doing so.

In my personal opinion, the allegorical great unwashed masses that are not programmers are held back less by the amount of knowledge required, and more by their own lack of desire. Just like getting women into computer science degrees and jobs, this is not something you fix by introducing a new development tool, be it language or framework. You want more people making webpages? Get the government to pay everyone $25 per page, and I'm sure you'll see lots of folks choosing to no longer be 'effectively excluded'.

about a month and a half ago
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Python Bumps Off Java As Top Learning Language

quietwalker Re:What happened to Scheme? (415 comments)

Scheme was developed by CS professors for other CS professors. It was not made for students, regardless of what the purple wizard book claims. It was written by CS theorists who were very good at CS, and very bad at teaching.

Scheme programs were neither easy nor obvious to read or comprehend. It's simplified syntax results in the need for overly complex machinations to produce anything but the most trivial of operations - writing an algorithm that's gone 18 or 20 indentation layers deep is fairly standard with nested scoping blocks to manipulate multiple variables. Ever try to figure out where you're missing a closing paren in 5 pages of Scheme code?

Then we get into common data structures like actual arrays and hashmaps, or even the ability to realistically define our own types. Numbers are screwy too.

Slap all this together with a complete lack of object oriented programing and the final and perhaps most severe obstacle; as a functional language, new students must first learn to think along a different paradigm, one opposed to how they had been thinking their whole life, before they can begin to comprehend the basic concepts they're supposed to be learning, and you've got possibly one of the worst languages if your intent is to teach.

Now, I'm not a big fan of Python, but let's face it, it's so many miles above Scheme when it comes to ease of learning and demonstrating CS concepts that it's barely worth noting Scheme even exists.

about a month and a half ago
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Google Is Offering Free Coding Lessons To Women and Minorities

quietwalker Re:So that's the problem! (376 comments)

Gah. It stripped my formatting. Sorry, each ellipses was meant to be on it's own line.

about 2 months ago
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Google Is Offering Free Coding Lessons To Women and Minorities

quietwalker Re:So that's the problem! (376 comments)

I'm loathe to respond to a troll, but I was, perhaps, being too subtle. I'll give it a shot.

The problem is (pick one or more); ... that offering lessons to minorities only is discriminatory, the very behavior implied or outright claimed to be responsible for the current situation ... that providing yet more free lessons into an environment already completely populated with free lessons could not reasonably have an impact ... there is no explicit need for any given job to represent population breakdowns ... there is no explicit relationship between population breakdowns for a job that itself asserts discrimination on that basis alone ... that 'equality' in terms of equal distribution of employment for a given subset of jobs is wholly unrelated with the concept of '(social) equality', where two groups of people have the same set of rights, and further, that the former has no inherent value. ... that there appears to be no systemic discrimination against minorities in the process of hiring for these jobs ... there appears to be no systemic discrimination in computer science college degree programs ... there appears to be no systemic discrimination in high school computer skill classes ... the number of minorities who express interest - rather than those being discriminated against - appears to be the prime cause of low percentiles, yet few beat this drum, nor as loudly, when simply claiming discrimination is easier, free from analysis, politically empowering, and much more financially lucrative. ... that resources spent attempting to fix a 'problem' that doesn't really exist, with any solution that wouldn't fix it if it did is not only inefficient and frustrating, it removes resources from those places where they would have a real impact, to fix existent problems. ... that people who state something like this are immediately demonized as sexist, racist, or some other form of bigotry, and so impairs real discussion when it comes to these topics, making advocates immune to constructive criticism, rational analysis, or suggestions of refinement or refactor in method and goal.

For me, though, what it comes down to is this: ... that there isn't really a problem, but hand-wringing and wailing has convinced people there is one nonetheless, and this belief has become a religion.

about 2 months ago
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Google Is Offering Free Coding Lessons To Women and Minorities

quietwalker So that's the problem! (376 comments)

I didn't realize that the gender and minority gaps in the software development industry was simply due to availability of lessons! It's proper, and not at all ironic that we can fix this entirely obvious case of discrimination by making sure to treat certain groups differently than others based on those differences they have no control over, as opposed to merit-based evaluations that judge the worth of an individual regardless of their gender or skin color.

Boy, whew, is that good news though.

I mean, if it was something like self-selective behavior that arose largely from fundamental differences in behavior and temperament due to genetic predisposition, coupled with cultural bias a would-be/could-be programmer brings with them, it'd be really hard to overcome. That'd be a real problem, no doubt. How to make certain groups want to be a programmer, outside of all the opportunities they already have, literally thousands of hours of videos and lectures, hundreds of thousands of tutorials, and millions of step-by-step examples available from libraries, public schools, and for free on the internet - that's a very tough job. It'd be like trying to get kids to like broccoli and lima beans.

But gosh, wow, thankfully we really figured it out this time.

This will certainly solve everything, and we'll make sure that we have nearly-matching statistical matches between the greater population and these careers, just like every other career path or employment opportunity out there, from the military, to civic service, from elementary education to nursing and construction workers, we'll have finally caught up with the other trades.

Thank goodness too, that this didn't morph a naturally arising statistical evaluation into a minority rights issue, where even discussion of the problem is verboten to the perceived majority, and failure to blindly throw money at it while artificially inflating your employee base through heavy handed discrimination would single one out as racist, sexist, or simply an unethical organization.

We really dodged a bullet there, and I can only applaud this important step towards real equality.

about 2 months ago
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Exploiting Wildcards On Linux/Unix

quietwalker He could have researched a bit harder. (215 comments)

I remember reading about this in the 1991 release of "Practical Internet and Unix Security," from O'Reilly back in 1991. I'm pretty sure they even gave examples. They also laid out a number of suggestions to mitigate risk, including not specifying the current path, ".", in the root user's path so they must explicitly type the location of an executable script, and so on.

They also pointed out that some well-behaved shells eliminate certain ease-of-use-but-exploitable features when it detects that a privileged user is running it, and even on systems where that's not the standard, the default .bashrc or equivalent files often set up aliases for common commands that disable features like wildcard matching, or color codes (which could be used if you're very tricky, to match a filename color to the background color of the screen, among other things), the path restriction listed above, and many many others.

It's really hard to secure shell accounts on systems, no matter how you try. Is this article just proof that the current generation of unix admins is rediscovering this? Should I be shaking my fist and telling the kids to get off my lawn? This was old news 2 over decades ago.

about 2 months ago
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Was Watch Dogs For PC Handicapped On Purpose?

quietwalker Re:Probably (215 comments)

Yeah. I tried playing Assassin's Creed in 3D, thinking it might be cool. Most of the 3D effects are minimal, with the exception of the new inclusion of depth of field. With 3D on, it makes anything more than 20 virtual feet from your character fuzzy and imprecise. After being sniped by or alerting rooftop guards that I couldn't distinguish from chimneys, masonry, doors, etc - I just turned it off. It incurred a penalty to play that way.

about 2 months ago
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Bill Gates To Stanford Grads: Don't (Only) Focus On Profit

quietwalker Re:A truism: Profit is more valuable than charity. (284 comments)

I took some pains to speak in terms of potential as opposed to guaranteed impact; I did not claim that focus on either profit or social causes would itself deny or develop social change, only that there's higher potential in one place than another. A generality, if you will.

As for Gandhi as the, he was born into privilege - his father and grandfather had been prime minister of their state - and even as the third son, was sent to England for education as a lawyer. He ended up working in the much less lucrative position of a legal aide doing drafting work because could indulge the luxury that he was "psychologically unable to cross-question witnesses," which would have been necessary as a barrister. Then it was 21 years in South Africa working for a trading firm before he returned to become what we know as the public face of the Indian independence movement.

Look, there's no doubt that he was a great person, and that he did great things. The fact that he had such a comfortable launching pad from which to achieve this doesn't detract from his accomplishments, but you ought to recognize that he had an increased potential to do so because he didn't have to worry about other aspects of his life, like where his next meal was coming from, or whether he had to maintain gainful employment. Since all his needs were met, he was able to focus on his ideals, and fight for rights and freedoms.

All of that just underscores my point. It's easier to be rich and charitable than to be needy and charitable.

about 2 months ago
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Bill Gates To Stanford Grads: Don't (Only) Focus On Profit

quietwalker A truism: Profit is more valuable than charity. (284 comments)

Aside from the literal connotations, profit is potentially more valuable than charity to charitable work itself.

Let's say you want to help decrease the spread of disease in africa. You can get the necessary training, go to africa, and along with thousands of others, actually DO that, and you'll have an obvious impact.

Or, like the folks he's talking to, you could go to a prestigious college, get a fancy degree, and potentially land a job that can pay for 3 or 4 people to perform the duties of the charitable worker above, while still maintaining a very comfortable lifestyle. You could even end up higher in a profitable company, where you direct millions of dollars to aid programs just for tax breaks, if not altruism.

So it's a problem to encourage new grads to focus on charity. They are at the peak of their earning potential, and no matter how you look at it, focusing on altruism is a quick way to retard their ability to make potentially world-changing decisions later, when their potential has been realized.

The view most cultures have for this sort of work is very odd. I think Dan Pallotta spells it out in his TED talk about how we think about charities. We often direct involvement and financial sacrifice as the only acceptable path to social gains.

about 2 months ago
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Fixing the Humanities Ph.D.

quietwalker I have a recursive quandry (325 comments)

If the primary application of a specific education is to provide that specific education to the next group of people who will be providing that specific education, doesn't that strongly imply that it's not a very necessary area of expertise to have, and in turn, you should NOT have many jobs because they provide no benefit?

What is the end goal of getting an education that you only spend on furthering education? Specifically in the humanities fields where, often enough, the majority of obvious career options are in education, where you educate people so that they, one day, may also only apply their education to the field of education, and so on?

about 2 months ago
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Seattle Approves $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage

quietwalker No net positive gain. (1040 comments)

Did you know that we actually have done economic studies that show the impact of raising the minimum wage, and how little it actually helps the impoverished? According to a study published in the Southern Economic Journal in 2010, raising the federal minimum wage from then $7.25 to $9.50 would only benefit11.3% of those living in poverty, if you ignore any possible negative repercussions. However, coupled with negative employment effects, the conclusion is that it'd be a net loss.

I haven't seen a study yet that looked at raising the rates over 100% to $15, but I suspect that'd it'll end up even worse.

One of the concerns is that new unskilled workers - high schoolers and college kids - will be disproportionally targeted. After all, if your employment costs double, you can't risk someone with no proven work history when there's older, experienced individuals with responsibilities who can't afford to mess up a job around.

Another impact is that non-national chain stores will be severely impacted. Sole proprietorships - the Ma and Pa stores of mythical Main Street USA - will take great hits. These businesses usually lack the flexibility to provide employment as a loss-leader, and often don't have the option of doubling their employment budget. They'll have to make do with less, or simply not operate as a business.

So where's the fix?

What a lot of this comes down to is what I feel is an incorrect assumption; that minimum wage jobs are life-long careers, and that we intend for someone to work as an unskilled laborer for their entire life. The Brookings institute did a study/a - which does not prove causation, you know the drill - that showed that if a person could graduate highschool, get a full time job, and avoid marriage until after 21, they had only a 2% chance of living below the poverty line. In other words, analyzing the current population, that 15-20% that are living below the poverty line, 98% of them did not do at least one of those things.

There's heavy selection bias here, where the lifestyles that lead to success may coincidentally include these 3 goals, but that's part of the point.

We need to focus on education and long term planning - especially financial - and encourage a strong work ethic. Reducing the ability for highschool-aged folks to get jobs is almost the direct opposite direction. We need to focus on providing a path to skilled labor, blue or white collar, and realize that unskilled labor is primarily the domain of those just entering the workforce, not someone who's been in it for years.

about 3 months ago

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