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Comment Distractions I have seen with car in motion (Score 1) 102

Eating -- I mean with a plate and fork -- Make-up application -- Hair Styling -- Turning Around Completely to talk -- Sex -- Urination (I think) -- Photography (Camera and Phone) I know I have seen other stuff. Feel free to add to the list.

You know, I have recently become more aware of how distracting getting audio is these days. In days gone by the car only had a radio with punch buttons for favorites (Provided one set them). Or later slotting in an 8 Track, a cassette, or CD was not too crazy (not always that safe admittedly) But even tuning the radio dial could be done with eyes on the road. One tuned in by ear, of course.

But now? In my new car with the 9 inch touch screen. Bluetooth, Spotify, Sirius XM and all manner of stuff on the console (Not to mention Sat Nav). It's cool, but to be safe it should at least be teed up while stationary. Touch screen to drill down through menus in traffic? Tempting but relatively distracting. (I confess to succumbing to the temptation on occasion.) If content is from my Android phone I can use voice control, which I like. And hands freeis okay. But truth be told even yakking takes some processing power of the driving task.

I would like to have self drive for the boring bits. Volvo is close to launching a workable solution. Testing a hundred SD cars in real world in Sweden right now. Full manual for when I am in control. Driver Assist nanny randomly kicking in while I am in control would make me unhappy. I drive as mindfully as I can. No daydreaming to the extent possible. Eyes on the road reading down lane. Fully present behind the wheel with active situational awareness using mirrors.. My motivation? Calculating the amount of kinetic energy I have accumulated straddling a controlled gasoline bomb in a steel and plastic egg.

Comment I could not agree more. (Score 1) 159

I really learned something from your comment. It really put some meat on the bone, Yes, for the reasons you so clearly stated, whatever the Chinese do with gene tech will not be pretty or even handed. One would hope that we can move forward with more decency and with a higher ethical standard... But move forward we must. And quickly.

Comment Let's go for it. (Score 5, Interesting) 159

Once upon a time dissecting people was thought unholy, but renaissance physicians like Vessalius did it anyway, risking anything from excommunication to death. Medical progress has always been hampered from time to time by unfounded pseudoreligeous fears.

CRISPR is awesome progress. Germline enhancement is clearly the next step. Certainly a generation of smarter stronger humans can do better with things than we have. China will have no compunctions going towards enhancement. We should not allow squeamishness to prevent us from literally making better people. It won't be hard. The bar is not very high.

Comment IMHO.The nervous system likes a bit of noise (Score 1) 564

I was pleased to read that some of the tape enthusiasts saw the lack of fidelity as a feature not a bug. Music can be enjoyed in very low fi. Over an AM radio for example. And Old 78s of Opera and Jazz are prized. I think the appeal of vinyl is in the warmth that comes with just a taste noise. Not noisy noise, just a little. Like Vaseline on a lens. Or an old faded print. Tube amplifiers produce warm sound with power to boot. We like white noise: ocean sounds; an air conditioner humming away on a hot night. The thrum of a diesel as one shoos through the night dozing in one's first class coupe.

You know this made me glad I kept those old cassettes and the 80s vintage stereo to play them on. Think I'll spin up some Blondie.... maybe Prince.

Comment The weakening of memory by offloading tasks. (Score 1) 84

Memory and intelligence are not synonymous, but are obviously closely linked. Years ago, after a talk I gave, the hosts gifted me with a plaque and a few items, the most useful of which was a book called Super Power Memory by the mentalist Harry Lorayne. It was one of the most practical books I have ever read. It contains dozens of ways to effectively improve memory. I am no mentalist but the book taught me the importance of training and using my memory. The enormous computational and memory power available to us currently lets us offload a tremendous amount of information. And it is now easier to retrieve a fuzzy but known fact via a search engine than it is to dredge it from memory. Of course when we write stuff down we are offloading somewhat, But networked computers, and especially AI, are taking more and more memory-related tasks off of our shoulders as they watch and record what we do and where we go. We don't have to so much as tap a key -- not to mention put pen to paper -- to get useful information. Sometimes this is cool, and sometimes it is downright creepy.

This new AR patent seems a bit insidious to me. Memory needs to be used and nurtured to function properly. Like any physical process it responds positively to well-structured exercise. The opposite is also true. There is pretty good evidence that use of GPS mapping tools weakens our ability to remember directions. This Microsoft AR feature set seems to me another worrisome crutch that will enable us to live less mindfully and, in all probability, less intelligently. It is arguable that having an AI in an AR remember all the little stuff is like a CEO who has an executive assistant to cover those bases -- a human one. Theoretically this lets the boss remember and concentrate on the important stuff in order to make optimal and intelligent choices and to solve problems creatively. I leave it to the reader to decide how this coddling actually affects the intelligence and effectiveness of most well-attended CEO's.

The ancients developed powerful memory strategies to assist in everyday life. To see a prime example of one of these useful tools take a look at Cicero's Method of Loci or Memory Palace. Do yourself a favor. From time to time use the old thinker. Memorize a route as in the days of yore. Pick a place to put your keys and wallet. A Roman General would know the name and face of each of the men under his command, typically two legions or about 10,000. Why? Because on payday he would watch each man get his salary. No man dared stand in line twice with the General in attendance of the paymaster.

I love technology or I would not be posting here. I really have no fear that AI will take over the world. But I do see a pretty real threat that as AI and its cousins AR and VR improve (and we know they will) they could wind up doing some subtle and very ungood things to our minds as an unintended consequence. The same kind of thing that comfy office chair does to our core. Atrophy. That is, unless we choose to do a bit of tiresome exercise from time to time.

Full disclosure. I do sometimes forget where my wallet and my phone is -- but only sometimes.

Comment Linux puts some 'fun' back into computing. (Score 1) 449

The big software companies MS, Google and Apple have worked hard to turn computers into internet and productivity appliances. They succeeded. And appliances are far from fun. One can have some fun playing games on PCs if one wishes. And one can run productivity software to compute statistical projections etc. And if one is a statistician then that might be fun. Or art software can be used to create fun stuff. And let's not forget music software for composition and listening. But the computing? That is, the tweaking and customization are gone from these platforms. And by design. At least for most users. Users to a person don't want any fun 'computing'.

I have a Chromebook. It is a fast and spookily reliable internet appliance. I have fun from it sometimes when I get it to stream a cool fun show. (Really enjoyed "The Expanse" looking forward to seeing season two.) But, sadly, I never have fun getting it to do something it is supposed to do, but won't. No fun at all. Damn thing just works. But I recall so many funfilled hours spent trying to get a sound card to work on my trusty 386. I just love the $#!+ out of com ports and interrupts. Some people find Sudoku fun. Me it's finding the right sound driver on a Taiwanese website. But sadly my Chromebook and my wife's Windows 10 Zen Ultrabook just work. Any little bit of fun I have is with the stuff I do with them. (I long ago got bored with Apple's appliance-like reliability and so do not own that hardware. The thrill was gone.)

But Linux is a different story. Good old Linux. I load it onto older hardware in anticipation of the hours of pure joy it will bring. I distro hop until the stuff like the wifi and sound works (mostly). Then I spend endless fun hours searching forums for the commands I need to get the non-working stuff to work. The days of modifying a config file on Windows are gone (mostly) because, well, one does not have to do so in order to get critical functionality. Not so with Linux. Linux offers endless opportunities for computing fun. I am not being sarcastic. Some like a crossword puzzle. Me? Give me an unsupported-on-Linux video card for which I can have fun finding and installing a driver with NDISWrapper. I had a lot of fun installing Gentoo once. Took nearly a dayand a night, but I got it done. Satisfying fun that. One can still squeeze a lot of computing fun out of Linux. My phone's Android system is a blast, too. Just imagine the barrel of fun I had resetting my little palm sized supercomputer (by 1980's standards) to factory settings after the WIFI refused to work. And take it from me: there is a ton of fun to be had in downloading and installing one's apps after they get erased by a reset. If you are looking for computing fun then it is open source all the way.

Comment Agreed. Volvo gets it. (Score 5, Interesting) 255

I saw a short TV report about Volvo's autonomous car program. The idea is that the car will drive itself when driving is boring, and under good conditions. Roads in Sweden are usually very well marked BTW. They are actually testing a significant number of cars in Gothenburg.

When conditions merit human control the car will signal the driver to take control. If this does not happen in a reasonable amount of time the car will pull out of traffic and stop. The stated goal is zero deaths in Volvos by 2020. Also the CEO said that the liability issue was simple. Volvo would take full responsibility. He added that any company unwilling to own the consequences of this tech had no business making it. The interior of the car was modified so that the driver could do other stuff during the "boring" bits. I remember this because I cannot wait for autonomous cars to really start saving lives (Maybe my own). Thirty thousand dead in car crashes every year in the US alone. Let me count the ways. Okay. Maybe not right now.

Comment Scandinavians tax wealth ... it works for society. (Score 1) 541

One or two more thoughts with respect to an automation levy. Firstly all state of the art automation that is replacing people should be taxed expressly and disproportionately. One could also allow for less depreciation on such equipment. Also deep learning machines -- like the ones that can replace para legals -- should get taxed more. No need to quibble about what constitutes AI. Just look at function and human displacement.

One more thing. What about a carrot? Reward companies with tax relief when they retain and use people through retraining etc.. We need a strategy to amortize this robot revolution. To ignore the repercussions is to court social disaster. I have lived in many countries where all front yards have walls and guards. Would hate to see my dear US disintegrate into that kind of place... Gated communities are bad enough.

BTW.... Thanks for a good discussion.


Comment Point taken. But a levy on AI can be justified (Score 1) 541

Appreciate your point that an AI levy is a tax on profits. However, profits taken from productivity increases caused by automation come at the expense of the size of the workforce. Old fashioned automation historically balanced out in the end. But there is far more concern over what effect AI powered automatons will have on employment. An AI levy taxes taxes these profits disproportionately to do two things: A) Slow the pace of adoption and B) Reclaim value lost to society and the economy caused by moving jobs away from human hands. People can and will adapt to a new reality. And it might be a better reality. Artisan-centered work is more rewarding than work on a line. The shift will take time. Hence a levy to ease the transition through training and social supports (resources).

Comment A UBI will devalue over time. Even if adjusted.. (Score 1) 541

I believe Universal Basic Resources would be better. That is : Minimums for food, shelter, clothing, healthcare. And...okay... some cash.. How to pay? Let me float an idea. I am thinking some form of automation levy. A sort of income tax for robots -- based to some extent on the jobs they eliminate as well as those they are able to eliminate and the increase in productivity they allow.

I am no economist but an AI levy seems to be a logical servant of the public good. This levy could also slow the transition from man to machine for production and labor. People will then be freer move to more artisan-like forms of activity, especially since they have a base of support. They can raise their status and income by being good at what they do. In this future handmade and homemade will bring even more rewards than at present. The arts could flourish. Nobody wants to see a robot act or hear one sing.

This may sound like Utopian hogwash, but something will have to be done. CEOs may not want to pay people for making their stuff, but they will need people to buy it. We will have to segue from a mass production economy on to something else. And, yes, I understand that the current political climate is antagonistic to progressive ideas such as these, but the pendulum will swing the other way. Sooner .... or later.

Comment Common Sense and Democracy (Score 5, Interesting) 609

I completely agree with you. My read is that the polls caused complacency on the part of the stay crowd. I think now that the Torries are paying lip service to Brexit, but are slowboating the process until they can get another referendum or, as we see here, a vote in Parliament that allows the party in power to say, "Oh dear! Those lefties tied our hands. We cannot leave."

The referendum was not binding after all. It was a sop to the right that backfired. The Brexiters are a needed if despised constituency by the Conservative Establishment (as is our far right here in the US) but the Conservatives dare not alienate them. Let us remember that Parliament is 70% against an exit anyway.

Let me go on record by saying that Brexit will not happen. There will be smoke and more smoke signaling Brexit. Smoke, but no fire, just a smoke machine. The EU has made it clear it will not give the UK a soft landing. And why should it? An easy out for the UK would only embolden other restive members. The conservatives will lose every young person in the country forever if they let Brexit go through. And let us not forget Scotland.

But they won't let it happen. How can the UK leave the Common Market that has fed prosperity (on and off) since the end of WWII? Cannot and won't. Wait and see.

Comment Currently living in Ulaanbaatar (Score 1) 222

Was recently outside in minus 20 degree celsius weather with a pollution index over a thousand. In short an environment that puts the 'in' into inhospitable. Neoprene breathing masks are routinely worn here when the coal smoke reaches levels not seen since 1880 London. By all accounts UB can get twice as polluted as Beijing. Now I ask you... Why go to Mars when we are in the process of Martiaforming Earth? Soon we will have all the uninhabitability that Elon or anyone else could ever want right here at home.

Sarcasm aside. I can see mining asteroids. And I can also see robotic study of Mars and other gravity wells in the search for X-life and knowledge. But people Mars? Really? Why? Moreover, human life on Mars would quickly end it’s viability as a laboratory for X-life -- if indeed such is to be found there.

Fate has seen me visit some of the nearly uninhabitable places on EARTH Siberia, The Gobi Desert, The Arctic and The High Pamir. These places are here on Earth and it is tough to survive in them year round. Nearly impossible without constant imports from better climes. Mars is orders of magnitude more problematic than, say, Antarctica. At least there you can breath. And there is plenty to eat in the seas. It would take an army of advanced AI remotes and droids to construct a habitable environment on Mars for people. It is doable -- or will be. But to what end? To dodge a planet killing asteroid? Oh come on... If human life on earth went tits up chances are a Mars colony would go soon after. I sincerely doubt such a place would ever survive on its own -- not to mention thrive.

Don't get me wrong... The romance of the idea of a Mars colony is not lost on me. Wonderous! But as a scientific project human pollution would actually obviate one of the most interesting things about the place.

Comment Wondering about the psychophysics... (Score 1) 275

Firstly let me say that in my 16 years on this site your post is one of the most cogent that I have ever read. Thanks.

But I do want to highlight the fact that sound is an experience shaped not only by the signal but also by the receiver. In this case a person. I think there may be a significant difference in the perception of sound between a trained sound engineer and an average listener. The engineer (that would be you) is trained to treat fidelity as the Grail. Noise is detected by the trained ear as the defect it is and focused upon. And its presence spoils the experience. But most people can and do enjoy music at wide ranges of fidelity. (And given the right conditions so can a sound engineer I would hazard.) And often they do so under noisy conditions and through noisy devices and using lossy CODECS that leverage psychophysical limits for compression. Witness the average person sitting on a city bus with cheap earbuds digging their MP3 music.

To me this explains the vinyl resurgence over CD. And of course the whole vacuum tube thing. I propose that the nervous systems of untrained listeners may actually like a bit of noise because they are used to it and because the universe is filled with it. For 'warm' translate 'noisy' . Perfect fidelity is desirable in the studio as a starting point. And also by musicians, audiophiles and sound engineers. Was it Neal Young who had his MP3s pulled because he could not stand the sound of them? Personally I am fine with a well made higher bitrate MP3.

It would be interesting to know if there have been any focused tests. I have seen it argued that there will be a generation of people who will prefer MP3 sound over Redbook CD sound. (I happen to think vinyl is noisy in a better way than an MP3 which as we know actually has sound info stripped out of the original.) I will close by pointing out that the average visual system also is also made comfortable by noise. Witness the popularity of the filters on Instagram.

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