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How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

scamper_22 Re:The article is more extreme than the summary (579 comments)

Well he is on to something and has a good point.

There is a real problem with the public's perception of science. From a sociological point of view, it very much does resemble a priestly cast like religion.

Let me give you a rather mundane example. Transit is a big issue in my home town of Toronto. Now there is a very real debate to be had here in terms of subways, rapid bus, LRT, regional rail...

But there is a certain class of citizenry that takes it's beliefs from the people who 'claim' science by stating the answer is so obvious because it is in this REPORT.

You will often hear in Toronto for example this report clearly says that light rail is the answer. Here's the catch... ever read into these 'reports'

Allow me to summarize:
Create a bunch of weights (subjective criteria)
- average travel time (x %)
- people near stop ( y %)
- cost ( z %) ...

Then do the calculation and come to a conclusion. The problem is you basically already know the answer by choosing your weights.

For example, in light rail versus subway, the real choice in the reports is actually based on people near a station. Light rail in their report using shorter stop spacing which means more people near transit. Subways, typically have fewer stations/fast travel time, but of course have less people near a station. You might have to walk more.

Again, a perfectly reasonable debate that can occur based on what you value or what you think is best or what you can afford.

But there is this undeniable group of people who decide to adhere to a report, unaware of what is actually in the report... how things were weighted, unaware that most of it is basically subjective based on the values assigned in the weighting process, unaware of the restriction of options, etc.

But again, no need to have a discussion or admit a simple difference of opinion. Afterall, a study showed it is the best option, and you must just be anti-science if you disagree with it.

And yes, it is very hard to know the context of each study without actually delving into the details. It is very much like religion in the sense that the average person gets their understanding from a pastor/organization of some kid.

science gained a great reputation largely because it had little power. Sure, I'll use science to investigate the law of gravity...

But now 'science' is being invoked on how to spend billions in healthcare, transit, decide the taxation policy, manage human made systems like the economy...

In my view, science will not cure politics... politics will infect science.

The more people see 'science' being invoked into all these subjective areas, the less they are likely to believe the institution of 'science' in other areas.

From a layman point of view, it is the same body that tells one global warming is an urgent problem and that light rail must be chosen over subways.

6 hours ago

Logitech Aims To Control the Smart Home

scamper_22 Re:Stupid luxuries? (115 comments)

Really, you've never gone grocery shopping and can't remember how many eggs you have left or how much milk you have left?

These are real problems. Now they're fairly minor and certainly not worth the problem of installing or setting up a system. None of the solutions out there solve it in a reasonable way, but let's not pretend it is not a valid problem.

I for one would love to be able to have a fridge that somehow automatically knew exactly what and how much was stored in it that I could access over my smartphone.

5 days ago

Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

scamper_22 Re:Time for new terminology (625 comments)

Being resistant to change is a good thing.
I mean, if things are working as is, any change could be bad.

Of course change can be good too.

The irony of course is this is not tied to conservative/liberal. It is merely on the issues.

For example, conservatives are resistant to social change. The family has been working for a long time now. What's a world of single mothers, non-married people, children raised in daycares... going to result in? They are resistant to that change and fear that world. They have plenty of studies to back up their fear on the surface.

But for some reason, they don't have as much fear of environmental damage. The data is there, but they still believe we can conquer nature by managing it.
Just think about it. Have they really thought about farming, relocating population, eroding shorelines, increased storms...? Really it is a huge change we've embarked on in the last 150 years of industrialization. Yet, they charge on without question assuming they can always correct that damage if any occurs.

Liberals/Progressives are resistant to environmental change. The environment has been working for a long time now. What's a world of increased C02, changing climate, and others going to result in. They are resistant to that change and fear that world. They have plenty of doomsday studies to back up that fear on the surface.

But for some reason, they don't have as much fear of social damage. The data is there, but they still believe we can conquer society by managing it.
Just think about it. Have they really thought about pensions, taking care of the elderly, slowing growth, raising kids in daycares... in their master social plans? Really it is a huge change we've embarked on in the last 50 years. Yet, they charge on without question assuming they can always correct that damage if any occurs.

Rational thinking people avoid big changes to large scale complex systems (like society or the environment) when they can. They move incrementally as much as possible and see the changes (both good and bad). That's about all you can really say about these huge complex system be it the environment/economy/society.

Heck, maybe C02 rise and we just adapt to it by moving people away from shorelines, moving farmland to areas that used to be colder..
You know... like maybe the family structure is outdated to a large extent, and we as a society adapt to it via more government programs.

about a week ago

Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

scamper_22 Re:That is science. (917 comments)

You can state until the cows come home what science is. Yes, science is the scientific process and a very good way of getting at the *truth* of things.

However, does there exist an ideology that claims the name of science? Absolutely. You can call it whatever you want, but it does exist. It comes complete with all the good/bad things that any ideology/religion comes with.

Most regular people are not scientists following the scientific method. Be it global warming, the economy, transit, food, education, healthcare, war... They're follows of a movement and act as such. Heck, even scientists who might be in the field and doing science probably fall prey to some of the issues of priests (self interest, power, political affiliations...)

about a week ago

Ontario Government Wants To Regulate the Internet

scamper_22 Re:Government doesn't get it. (184 comments)

This has little to do with Canadian Content. Most Canadians are well passed the 'Canadian Content' and tend to consume regular popular TV shows. I can't recall the last time cultural influence from 'America' was even an issue (except for maybe Quebec).

You will notice this comes from Ontario. Bell and Rogers have a huge presence here. As does the film and media industry.

It is about jobs and corporate welfare. This government has been very big on trying to create/contain jobs. Just today, Ontario wants to contract out the OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming) to Bell or Rogers. Throw that into job creation and containment schemes in the auto sector, green energy...

Jobs might very well be a good goal, but I generally hope subsidies work better than these schemes.

about two weeks ago

VMware Unveils Workplace Suite and NVIDIA Partnership For Chromebooks

scamper_22 Re:No more "Cloud", please (60 comments)

I don't know about you, but this is generally how I've always worked when I WFH.

I have my desktop at work. The company provides a great laptop, that I simply used to VPN and remote desktop into my work desktop.

I don't have fiber. Just a regular cable connection.

This kind of service is definitely doable.

The obvious question becomes... what happens IF the internet goes down. I think this really depends on your work place. But in many places, the work simply shuts down anyways if you have no internet or network connection. Downtime is pretty low anyways.

Yes, there is still a need for people who travel a lot or are in more remote areas, but for a lot of work, this is all they will need.

about a month ago

Cisco To Slash Up To 6,000 Jobs -- 8% of Its Workforce -- In "Reorganization"

scamper_22 Shortage of tech workers :P (207 comments)

So I hear there is a shortage of tech workers.
Apparently, we need more education, more IT and engineering grads, more H1B Visa.

This makes total sense considering the massive layoffs we keep hearing about. It's all nicely packaged.

about a month ago

Apple's Diversity Numbers: 70% Male, 55% White

scamper_22 It is complicated... but do not dismiss it (561 comments)

This issue is very complicated. First off Apple's numbers are not that bad considering the US itself is a pretty white country.

Here's the issue, and it is a real one.
Almost every large society has upper class groups and lower class groups. The extreme case is something like India where the caste system was actually enforced and you're pretty much stuck there.

In every one of these societies, the upper class group is probably a good hire at any moment. It's not just a matter of money. It's also a matter of having mentors, parents, connections in your community, high expectations, leadership, knowing how to talk to people...

Now here's a little caveat. I'm speaking heavily from the Asian perspective as that is my heritage. I know many here are commenting from America where they would associate the upper class as 'whites' and the lower class as 'blacks' and they would then suggest a big problem in America is that the class rejects upper class values as being too white.

That is true to the extent it goes. It is one of the reasons even a low class Asian can rise up in the US. They still think of the upper class values as good.

But societies DO TEND to segregate in these groups. It's one of the reasons Asian societies are so heavily family based and obsessed with good families and communities. They keep it in the family, and the extreme poverty and exclusion is attributed to lower class groups as dirty.

It is a real issue. Thinking of things like diversity and societal groups is helpful to the the extent that it goes. I fully understand it is complicated and all the faults with quotas and everything, but thinking about the issue is useful.

Myself, I am a person with a disability, a pretty bad stutter. It is much better now. Does this impact my hiring? Of course it does.

I am also of Indian heritage. Although I received a mainly British education.

First appearances matter and they matter a great deal. Yes, once in a team, these barriers all become meaningless. But how do you get started. The starting point is huge. Who gets first sent to training. Who is assumed on first hire to be the code monkey? Who is assumed to value abstract thinking?

You also get a certain culture within teams that tends to crowd out different thinking individuals. As a bit of a different example, I've been in heavy Indian groups (like 8/10 people were Indian). A culture of heavy work, just get it done regardless of quality, developed on that team. Anyone not of that mindstate would quickly feel excluded and would not perform their best.

Like I said, I am not a big fan of quotas and what not because they don't really create results. They don't change cultures or get the best out of people. But it is definitely something that is useful to ponder and take note when there are grand disparities.

about a month ago

Getting IT Talent In Government Will Take Culture Change, Says Google Engineer

scamper_22 Really... the shirt and tie quote (166 comments)

Yes, there is probably some tie in with the need for a dress code like shirt and tie and over bureaucracy.

However, this article is full of real and very practical issues. Yet, what gets touted in the headline? Engineers don't want to dress up. Yep, that is why flopped. Engineers wanted to wear shorts to work. Do you have any idea how ridiculous that makes us look?

How about point 3. The biggest point of all. The companies hired to do it had no experience in it. You know, like how business people think you know Java.... therefore you can build anything as long as it has the word Java in it as opposed to recognizing the immense industry specific knowledge and general talent. How about highlighting that part.

Or how about point 1. The dozens of different vendors and products. There's a discussion there on standards, training on each product, specialization, staff levels...

Yep, all good points that would really get the most out of engineers. But hey, why emphasize those important things, when we can worry about shirt and ties.

It does make me wonder if the reason IT is so poorly managed has more to do with how IT people and engineers represent themselves.

If what management hears is we don't want a dress code instead of all the other valid points... real issues are not going to be addressed.

about a month ago

DARPA Wants To Kill the Password

scamper_22 Passwords are seeming like DRM (383 comments)

I think of passwords like DRM. Sure there's a lot of technical solutions and issues, but its fundamentally a a people and market problem.

As others have mentioned, anything can be hacked, copied, stored... if it is turned into bits and bytes. The best you can do is make it inconvenient enough for *most* people to do it.

Most people's homes are hardly secure, but you don't have people talking about the need to get rid of locks. Rather, it is dealt with as a matter of criminal law in terms of break-in and entering.

In the end, you really have to take things as a people problem.
For example, let us assume your authentication system can be broken into it.

What damage can be done?
Is it reversible?
Can people go to an office and fix the problem?
What are the penalties for those caught? ...

These are the real problems. Consider banking. If someone hacks my bank account, more effort can/should be made to make sure this can be addressed and reversed. Whether that is putting a holding period on transfers, notifying account holders of transactions (especially odd ones), relying more on local methods of authentication, increasing penalties for those caught. heck, one of the benefits of knowing your local bank is that they actually know who you are.

Heck, this could be part of the solution as well. Banks or other locally trusted authorities (like governments) could be providers of RSA-tokens or something like that. It could even be the government as well.

That in combination with a pre site password as today would be an improvement and still be practical. We already trusts banks with our phone numbers... this way we won't have to send it to each website. Or we can standardize on a RSA-token app for each website or something like that. I hate that they want your phone number.

Fortunately, I have not been hacked, but I have no idea what say Google's response would be if I had to contact them because my account was hacked. Hopefully they have processes in place at least to ask me about some recent emails or something like that. Or if they have kept track of my IP addresses used. But those things can be checked by the person hacking my account.

Or maybe local authorities can increase investigators to help resolve such issues. Police officers are out there dealing with crime and traffic and parking... perhaps we need to expand to online issues.

about a month and a half ago

California Man Sues Sony Because Killzone: Shadowfall Isn't Really 1080p

scamper_22 Re:more power to him (286 comments)

Absolutely. People need to be held to account.
If no body says anything, they will just keep doing things.

In some fantasy world, regulatory bodies handle everything. But if they don't catch everything or are not looking, so people can should launch such lawsuits.

about a month and a half ago

Verizon Throttles Data To "Provide Incentive To Limit Usage"

scamper_22 Re:Throttling users it the least of all evils (316 comments)

why? In networked systems, there is no direct correlation between how much you use it and the cost of it once the network is built.

about a month and a half ago

Verizon Throttles Data To "Provide Incentive To Limit Usage"

scamper_22 Throttling users it the least of all evils (316 comments)

Network management is a real thing. Like any network (internet, roads, trains...) you need to manage it for load/safety...

Unlimited usage simply means that you can use it as much as you want.

I can use the public roads as much as I want. It doesn't mean there are no traffic lights, accidents, speed limits, speed bumps...

Throttling is going to happen. The only thing that matters is what kind.

Throttling specific content is probably bad policy as you can run into anti-competitive practice. Things like throttling netflix traffic as a cable company.

Throttling heavy users as network capacity becomes an issue (maybe > 70%) is probably quite sane.

This allows a simple billing policy as well. You don't need to worry about overage charges or anything like that.

about a month and a half ago

'Just Let Me Code!'

scamper_22 Re:Developers do everything Tm (372 comments)

Source control is a big thing. Someone needs to setup the servers, scale it properly, investigate performance issues, know how to fix things when things go wrong, do complex work that is not normally done (maybe changing history on a git server) or whatever the case maybe, settingup/planning branches, integrating with the build system...

The devs should naturally know how to do the basics for their job (checkin/checkout/commit...) But there's a whole lot there that is not normal. On every Git project I've worked on, there has always been a case where something messed up and we had the one git expert who happened to be a dev who could come in and fix it. Ideally, that person is not doing regular day to day coding and is a git expert. That's the point I'm making.

Yes, using premade solutions or hosted things is a great way to reduce the size of the team needed in such functions.

about 2 months ago

'Just Let Me Code!'

scamper_22 Developers do everything Tm (372 comments)

The fundamental problem is that developers do everything. Heck, even in companies where there are entire teams dedicated to the task, developers still up doing them.

Maybe it's just because organizations are short staffed, lack of training, lack of skilled specialization. I won't dwell on the causes. I'll just state the reality.

In some theoretical world, source control is handled by a separate team, environment setup is handled by a separate team, testing is handled by a separate team. Each of whom are skilled enough to tackle the challenges they face.

From what I hear from some of the 'older' folks who worked back in the day at places like Nortel, this is how it was done. I'm in Toronto, so there are a lot of such people around. I'm sure similar stories could be had from other companies.

Yet, in too many roles, Ive seen devs basically writing the test plans and cases; doing the job of the test team, which doesn't want to 'know' the product. They just want to execute a script. I've seen devs knowing more about the environment than the environment team. This is even in cases where there are dedicated teams for these functions. Sometimes devs are even creating and assigning tasks in agile environment because project management doesn't know how to break down the task.

Let me emphasize, I'm not criticizing people in test or environment. It is just what it is.

Due to so many factors, it's basically up to devs to do it all. We might be able to on some level as we're reasonably smart and investigative people, but on any large project, it eats away. Since the ultimate deliverable is what we produce, many of us take it on, probably when we shouldn't.

You won't find a brain surgeon doing Vasectomies.
You won't find a corporate lawyer in acquisitions doing divorce law.
Heck, it's rare to find an English teacher teaching calculus.

This is not to say they couldn't. I'm sure a brain surgeon could pick up what is needed to do a vasectomy given the training. But they won't just do it. That is part of being a professional is demanding professional conditions.

I've seen the software field continuously scale back on people and specialization to the point where a problem does seem complex and daunting the second something is not ideal.

Can we often hack by? Yes, but not without this great unknowing which kills the professional inside of me. Yes, I know I can setup an environment, change webserver configs, setup git, test things... but there should be dedicated people who know these well.

'Just Let me Code' might seem like a whiny statement from someone who wants work to be fun. But it really is a big problem when you look at it. Companies are understaffed and under-specialized and they're quite frankly spoiled by having a bunch of devs who are capable of hacking away at things to get them working.

about 2 months ago

States That Raised Minimum Wage See No Slow-Down In Job Growth

scamper_22 Re:This will only buy a little time (778 comments)

The minimum income is one thing.

I'm much more in favor of work sharing.
Here's my reasoning.

We're at an odd point in society where despite having massive efficiencies as you rightly point out via automation, people are still working extremely hard.

It's pretty tough to keep demanding some people continue working so hard and then keep increasing their taxes and hand other people free money. It's one of the reasons asking people to pay higher taxes in America is very hard.

American professionals work very hard. Ask that IT person/accountant/engineer/doctor/lawyer working 60 hour weeks to pay more taxes.

Now suppose you have a 35 hour work week with 6 week vacation... then your professionals are not feeling like they're carrying the whole weight and will come to support more benefits for others and they're getting some of the benefits of socialism rather than just paying and paying for it.

Unfortunately, the mixed-market economy has in some places produced a weird situations were countries are addicted to the high performance of these hardworking people and the tax money they generate. Do you think silicon valley or Wall Street would exist with a mandated 35 hour work week and 8 weeks vacation?

This of course is not the case in all countries.

Now could the minimum income encourage employers to make working conditions better? Possibly.

But you also run the risk of many jobs not being filled. I don't know enough in every sector to know if those jobs could be made nice enough to be attractive. If a minimum wage is good enough to give me nice housing, food, shelter, cellphone, tv... you couldn't pay me enough to go mine Lithium in some remote area.

I think it's much safer to move to job sharing. We still have enough human jobs that we don't want to risk them not being done. Maybe all it takes is 2 weeks per year for me to go mine lithium to get a good years salary. I might choose to do that.

about 2 months ago

Selectively Reusing Bad Passwords Is Not a Bad Idea, Researchers Say

scamper_22 Re:High entropy rules on low importance sites (280 comments)

Yeah, this one is the worst. These low-complexity sites started to have more rules. Things like minimum 8 chars, mix of case, at least one number and one letter...

Now, for all these low priority sites, I have to remember permutations of my password.

about 2 months ago

Normal Humans Effectively Excluded From Developing Software

scamper_22 Re:Cry Me A River (608 comments)

There's a few themes going on.

I think he just doesn't see the world of 'regular' programmers. Has he heard of things like SAP or People Soft or SharePoint.

All of these offer pretty regular people to write applications and web applications.

Next comes the point you make that I will just reiterate. Programming is a skilled job. I taught high school computer science. I don't know how long its been since you were in high school, but most students can't even understand assigning a variable properly. If they can't get it in algebra, they don't get it in cs. That's for even basic programming. For anything more complex, it really takes another level.

The point about the web is valid to a certain extent. You can't just 'learn' it and be happy. It's a process of constant learning and research and working with the community. I can't think of a field that changes so much. I doubt AngularJS is crazy complicated, but darn it, I haven't even touched it and I'd have to learn it a new in all its complexities and idioms if I want to work on it.

You learn a trade like construction, you will learn what a 2x4 is and how to frame and that is eternal knowledge. Not so with writing software.

Lastly is programming culture. He doesn't spend enough on this point, but its a big thing that is affecting even good programmers.
The constant desire to learn the same thing in a different way is something that you probably need to be a bit autistic as he says. I can't explain what happened. I used to get so involved in a game like Baldur's Gate, I'd spend weeks so focussed on it. I'd to the same with programming. I have no desire to do that anymore. But, I know some people who still have that. Good on them. I'm hardly normal, but if I'm feeling the edge, imagine an actual normal person :P

To top it off, getting involved in software development used to be easier when more people were hired. Today, I'm finding developers need to write documentation of all sorts, figure out the requirements, code it up, write up the test cases, figure out the environment issues, do the database work...

Basically do everything. Some companies even have teams dedicated to these tasks, but they don't have enough skilled people to not have the developer do it with the speed at which companies have to operate.

In previous times, you could indeed have a skilled engineer design the system. Write a proper document. Then hand off some UI work to some application developer or even a junior developer. They would take the time to explain the system to the test team, who would then know how to use it and thus craft a test plan. All these people would be able to be involved.

But that's no the world we live in today. Everyone wants speed and moving fast, without building the long term technical base. This reduces the number of people capable of entering the field in a useful way.

about 2 months ago

When Beliefs and Facts Collide

scamper_22 Re:There's belief, there's facts and there's polit (725 comments)

Unfortunately, that is not true.

So many political opinions are viable within any party IF you frame it correctly.

Somehow many anarchist/libertarians end up on the progressive/leftist portion of political because they are against corporation/banks/police/war.

Similarly, many anarchist/libertarians end up on the 'right' because they are against corporations/banks/police/war/government excess..

I'll give my own example.
I grew up in pretty conservative Islam. Now, as I grew up, I was still a Muslim. I could sit around and interpret the texts any which way I want and I could have a decent conversation and be a part of *most* Muslim communities. I didn't pray, didn't really believe in any of the rules, barely fasted... yet I was still by in large welcomed in *most* Islamic communities.

Eventually, I left Islam and would not be called a cultural Muslim or an ex-Muslim or whatever label you want. In practical things, I believe and act pretty much the same. Yet, by denying God and Mohamed was God's messenger/perfect man, suddenly I am shunned. I knew that going in. People suddenly stopped communicating.

The point I am making here, is that whatever practical issues I had with Islam, I could deliberate and discuss with people as long as I didn't threaten the Islamic identity and Islamic power. The moment I did, my opinion becomes meaningless.

The same is largely true of politics.

People think Climate Change is merely science. It is not. By admitting the 'science' you are automatically subscribing to a whole host of political initiatives from carbon taxes, road tolls, increased government spending...

But all that has nothing to do with the science. In some ideal world, climate change science could be independent of policy. But that is not the world we live in today.

How many scientists say we must act on global warming and have more taxes, more government spending...

Buying into climate change MEANS buying into the political policies of 'the other team'. Hence you are more likely to reject it the science.

The same is true again of religion. Evolution is pretty convincing. I know many Muslims who believe in Evolution as well. Some kind of God guided evolution :P But much better than the creation story.

In any case, however, if buying into evolution means rejecting god, siding with secularists... then they are likely to just ignore the science of evolution.

I'd be willing to wager that if the climate science was presented to republications without any stipulation of Big government / Left political action, most would not fight it.

And just to emphasize, there is no reason climate change should entail carbon taxes or anything of hte like. Those are all policy tools we choose. We could just as easily pay the oil companies extra money for them to deveolop green energy. We could just as easily reduce healthcare spending and entitlement spending, and use that money to build levies, green power....

about 3 months ago


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