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Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

rycamor Re:I'm all in favor... (418 comments)

I see. A harm. Caused by a choice not to do something.

Because, something must be done.

Which is a way to rationalize, I want to do something.

This is exactly the kind of attitude that led scientists to create the atomic bomb, even though there was a niggling doubt somewhere in there. Something about the possibility of a chain reaction that could destroy the whole world. But I mean, it was a very very... very VERY small possibility. They took comfort in that. Risking all mankind is worth it to make your dream project a reality.

4 days ago
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Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

rycamor Re:I'm all in favor... (418 comments)

Meanwhile, there are types of risks that represent a known downside, but potentially wildly good upside. These are the kinds of risks we should be identifying and preparing to tackle.

4 days ago
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Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

rycamor Re:I'm all in favor... (418 comments)

Bingo. That's Taleb's "Antifragile" concept. Why take uncertain risks for a very limited upside? The upside is known and represents a few percentage points in gain for crop production (mostly to benefit large corporations). But the downside is really NOT KNOWN. To say we know when we've never been there before is the height of hubris.

4 days ago
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Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

rycamor Re:I'm all in favor... (418 comments)

Ah yes... all possible occurrences are "completely predictable". Keep telling yourself that.

You don't get the concept of Black Swan. To put it in simple terms, certain types of low probability occurrences aren't a problem... until they are. And if you haven't prepared for that, it might be too late.

4 days ago
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Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

rycamor Re:I'm all in favor... (418 comments)

Someone posted a partial quote and this link in another thread. You might find it interesting and relevant with-regard-to the above sentiment: The Death of Expertise

I think it applies to a great many of the posts here on /. ...

Yes. Thanks for the link--interesting. I'll have to digest that a bit. He talks of the death OF expertise, while "Death by expert" is a phrase that keeps crossing my mind when I think about our civilization's trajectory. All those experts out there clamoring for buy-in, and sneering at the clueless masses... but if anything, the 20th and 21st century have shown us that experts are remarkably bad decision-makers. Obsessive knowledge of a specialty leads to myopic thinking. In the courtroom of life experts should be thought of as the clerks to the evidence room. Either that, or experts should be made to risk their own skins on their predictions and recommendations... something they are increasingly loath to do.

4 days ago
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Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

rycamor Re:I'm all in favor... (418 comments)

Re:I'm all in favor... (Score:1)
by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) Alter Relationship on Monday October 27, 2014 @04:41PM (#48245065) Journal

"Ancient thought patterns" have done nothing to move people beyond simple huts. It is reality itself sorely in need of modern asskicking as it is reality that gives disease and starvation.

Huts? You see... this is the sort of idiocy I'm talking about. Maleducated nitwits who think everything important was conceived of after 1914 or something.

A question, Mr Impy: Where does algebra come from? Whence the roots of logic? These things did not originate in the civilized West. Like I said, we have amazing technical and technological proficiency, civilizations has existed before all that. To this day our best philosophers would still struggle to cross swords with the best thinkers of ancient Greece, Rome or China. Come back when you've learned a little history.

4 days ago
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Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

rycamor Re:I'm all in favor... (418 comments)

and absolutely no significantly measurable negative ecological/human impacts

You should try reading the actual paper. Taleb's precautionary principle comes from the acknowledgement that tiny, insignificant changes can become huge changes quite quickly, and quite suddenly, and that risk is a much more complex thing than most modern scientists acknowledge. That's the whole point of his warnings regarding Black Swan events. If you only look at the here-and-now small dangers and never prepare for the extended big ones, it's the big ones that get you in the end.

Even better, read Taleb's later book "Antifragile". He lays out the wisdom of some more ancient thought patterns that the West has eschewed to its detriment.

I'm starting to think that Western culture (especially the modern evolution of it) is a giant case of Aspberger's syndrome. Technically proficient and able to endlessly sort details but lacking in wisdom or deeper understanding.

4 days ago
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Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

rycamor Re:Obligatory link... (550 comments)

Is this... for real?

I mean... [[[boggle]]]

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Which NoSQL Database For New Project?

rycamor Re:Use PostgreSQL (272 comments)

A few hundred million rows is no trouble to PostgreSQL, if configured right. And if you go beyond that there are some great ways to deal with the problem:

1. Partitioning: Make a large table composed of smaller subset tables. This is a great way to deal with what is primarily historical data, since you can partition by month, quarter, or whatever time period makes sense for your application. Then, when it comes time to archive or delete old data, all you have to do is migrate that month's table to the archive location, or just drop it. MUCH less expensive than a DELETE with a WHERE clause.

2. BigSQL: if you want the power of NoSQL but the querying ability of PostgreSQL, check out this package.

3. If you are starting to get serious data, hopefully you are making serious money. There are scores of commercial entities that can help you get a lot more performance out of PostgreSQL. Some of them have add-ons for performance, or have just gotten a lot of experience and good ideas on how to deisgn a solution.

These steps may sound like a pain, but NoSQL brings all sorts of pain with it, also. Limited querying ability, many extra measures required for data integrity, stability issues... bizarre limitations in some areas... Think these things through carefully, and don't fall for anyone's hype.

about 7 months ago
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Lies Programmers Tell Themselves

rycamor The *ultimate* lie... (452 comments)

"Surfing Slashdot will help get me in the zone."

about 8 months ago
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The JavaScript Juggernaut Rolls On

rycamor Re:Replusive (505 comments)

Exactly. I'm sick of all this talk of how bad Javascript is. What were the alternatives in 1997? Brendan Eich had to solve a problem quickly and actually get something into production. Same with Tim Berners-Lee and HTML. Not perfect or elegant technologies, BUT they actually solved a problem within a finite time without expending ridiculous amounts of brainpower in design-by-committee cycles. The real world directly benefited from these solutions.

Really, Javascript only has two major problems: 1. The security model (freezing of libraries so they can't be modified by other code loaded in the browser) and 2. A few ugly aspects of how the language handles this or that type of expression... most of which have been solved in latest versions of Javascript (Harmony). Most of the other problems are just questions of implementation and add-on technologies (WebGL, Websockets, etc.. expanding the scope of a scripting language into areas that may... not... just... be the wisest)

Yes, there are all sorts of esoteric reasons why Javascript is a Terrible Lisp, and a Downright Horrible Scheme, and an Ugly Hybrid of Object-Oriented and Functional, blah blah blah... So what? It's meant to solve small finite problems in the front end. Let's keep it that way, and just clean it up. Fortunately, it is a fairly simple language.

To all those who want a type-checked, compiled language running in the browser... Uh no. I don't want to allow any site to run code I can't inspect.

about 9 months ago
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Interview With Professor Potrykus, Inventor of Golden Rice

rycamor Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (400 comments)

Generally, if the U.S. government is committed to an idea, that's my first tip-off that it is a bad one. At least, anytime since about 1913 when the statists and authoritarians took over.

Notice I didn't issue a blanket "grains are harmful". I stick to the blindingly obvious: processed sugars and highly-processed grains (and the foods they tend to be packaged in) are harmful. Even the government scientists will tell you that whole-grain bread made from freshly-milled wheat is better for you than Twinkies or that Wonderbread with a 2-month shelf life. Problem is, they still subsidize the hell out of the raw materials for Twinkies and Wonderbread. They would also (grudginly) agree that fresh vegetables picked that day from your garden are probably more nutritious than something harvested halfway across the country and shipped through three major distribution hubs before arriving at your local supermarket.

If you just look at things simply and empirically, it is very easy to test these questions. Problem is Americans are in love with "Science" as an overarching authority, and industry as a supplier of all needs, and would rather see huge edifices of logical supposition built upon studies done decades ago (of often questionable financial sources) rather than look at the evidence right before their eyes. Vary your diet for a month, and see if there's a difference in your health. Ain't that hard to do...

about a year ago
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Interview With Professor Potrykus, Inventor of Golden Rice

rycamor Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (400 comments)

Good luck generating 100%-accurate data for anything related to diet in humans without violating a bazillion ethical codes. You could merely institute draconian monitoring of your test subjects in which case you'll end up kicking everybody out of every group but the junk-food group for non-compliance. Or, you could just lock all your test subjects in cages and feed them rations of the appropriate type, allowing them to nearly starve if they refuse to eat them.

Feeding tests in lab rats are fairly practical, tests with humans are anything but, mostly for the reasons we already agree on. That's why everybody has their favorite diet and an argument about why it is better than all the others.

I didn't say 100% accurate data but a hypothetical 100% satisfactory evidence. The "could" meant it was hypothetical, as in "even IF". Now, I know it's impossible to be 100% about this stuff, but we have abundantly satisfactory evidence just from looking around us and at the food habits of those we know, that processed foods high in sugars and grains do horrible things to our health. Anyone I know who has modified their diet toward fresh, whole foods, cutting back on the processed carbs has come out a whole new person. It ain't rocket science, nor does it need to be.

about a year ago
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Interview With Professor Potrykus, Inventor of Golden Rice

rycamor Re:you ate them fried with cinnamon, didn't you (400 comments)

Sweet potato "fries" (actually baked) are really tasty too. Just slice like steak fries, brush on some melted butter, olive oil or coconut oil, sprinkle a little salt (celtic sea salt is really good here), and bake for a half hour at 350 or whatever works for you. Crunchy salty-sweet. Almost like junk food, but without the transfats, preservatives and insect parts at acceptable levels.

about a year ago
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Interview With Professor Potrykus, Inventor of Golden Rice

rycamor Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (400 comments)

AFAIK most of those boggy fields have been carefully engineered to be that way. Ironically, according to Masanobu Fukuoka rice yields can be higher without flooded fields.

There is an incredible amount of momentum behind both bad farming practices and bad eating practices. The modern world tries correct this momentum by adding technological backfixes rather than address the problems themselves.

about a year ago
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Interview With Professor Potrykus, Inventor of Golden Rice

rycamor Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (400 comments)

I agree that subsidies played a big part, but subsidies didn't force people to eat the grain. They just made the lesser foods more available and cheap. People are always following paths of least resistance to their detriment. This is the part that is almost impossible to change in a population.

about a year ago
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Interview With Professor Potrykus, Inventor of Golden Rice

rycamor Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (400 comments)

Don't be ridiculous. Crops like sweet potato can produce more calories per acre than rice could ever hope to. The problem is cultural.

about a year ago
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Interview With Professor Potrykus, Inventor of Golden Rice

rycamor Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (400 comments)

Yes, it is extremely hard to get people to change eating habits. I'm willing to bet just getting them to change from white rice to golden rice will be all but impossible. Food remains humanity's biggest "decision bug". You can take modern educated people, provide them 100% satisfactory evidence that replacing processed foods (mainly sugar and grain) with good quality vegetables and proteins will give them abundantly more energy, better mood, health, even good looks, not to mention a longer, more active life, and they will just say shrug and return to their established habit. It takes an extremely self-directed and self-disciplined person to change a diet when something lesser, but immediately-gratifying is available.

Notice also, this is rice. These food/culture problems always seem to center around grains and starchy foods. Those foods offer similar instant gratification to sugar. Quick elevations in blood glucose, followed by longer-term energy crashes. I think people get addicted to the blood sugar swings. I know it took me some serious mental reprogramming to stop centering my diet around sugars and starches.

about a year ago
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Interview With Professor Potrykus, Inventor of Golden Rice

rycamor Re:"The only problem? It's GMO." (400 comments)

No kidding. The anti-Luddites are just as bad as the Luddites when it comes to this stuff. There is a whole spectrum of food available without needing to rely on someone's patented experiment.

With sweet potato, it's not just vitamin A. they have about the highest concentration and spectrum of vitamins you will find in any common crop. And it's freaking easy to grow. The problem is not lack of technology, but lack of simple knowledge and willingness to apply it.

Another crop that is ridiculously easy to grow in temperate and tropical zones is the moringa tree, which produces copious edible leaves and seed pods, with a near-miraculous nutritional profile. Unfortunately, try to get poor Africans to grow it and eat it and they will often turn up their noses in disgust, calling it "poor people food". Sweet potato often receives the same low-brow snobbery in the USA, actually.

The problem of nutrition is always more cultural than anything else. Look at the USA itself, where abundant nutritious food is available, yet the average American gets most of his calories from high-fructose corn syrup (delivered to your gullet in many sneaky ways). And when you add up HFCS and highly-processed grains, that probably accounts for a good 85% of the calories eaten in this country.

So yes, "golden rice" might solve a problem, in the sense that it would fool culturally-bound people who are unwilling to forego rice as their staple food. But it's hardly the only way. And I do remain highly suspicious of the long-term risk/benefit scenario with GMOs.

about a year ago
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Looking Beyond Corn and Sugarcane For Cost-Effective Biofuels

rycamor Re:Sugar Beet (242 comments)

Thanks--gonna try this.

about a year ago

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