Monday assorted links

by on February 5, 2018 at 11:46 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1 Ray Lopez February 5, 2018 at 11:51 am

The Edge question: do you still use Microsoft’s browser for anything?

Bonus trivia: sadly, no browser these days supports Silverlight natively. What a sad loss! From a programmer’s point of view, Silverlight made developing web apps so easy, much much much easier than HTML5. The undisciplined anti-MSFT programming crowd won, and kept their job needless complex, and the general public fell for it under the guise that “HTML5 is company agnostic”–what a crock!


2 JWatts February 5, 2018 at 11:55 am

“The Edge question: do you still use Microsoft’s browser for anything?”

Yes, it’s the only one I use for business transactions.


3 Dzhaughn February 5, 2018 at 7:01 pm

Answer: Bing!


4 JWatts February 5, 2018 at 11:55 am

“2. The Edge Question.”

“How can we put rational prices on human lives without becoming inhuman?”

This strikes me as someone who’s extremely ignorant when it comes to human history. Or his answer is just posing.

“How will we build the tools to maintain the software in long-lived online devices that can kill us?”

+1, excellent question.

“What is the hard limit on human longevity?”

Another excellent question. I noticed the author was Greg Benford.

“Will AI make the Luddites (mostly) right?”

Frank Herbert’s Butlerian Jihad and Isaac Asimov’s vanishing robots, come to mind.


5 Ray Lopez February 5, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Actually all of these ‘edgy’ questions remind me of the excellent short articles in the book (s), “This Idea Must Die” where fashionable theories like string theory in physics are exposed by experts in the field, like the Emperor’s New Clothes.


6 stephan February 5, 2018 at 1:05 pm

String theory is not “ fashionable”. It’s been the leading theory to unify quantum mechanics and gravity for at least 35 years now. There’s no other game in town.


7 Li February 5, 2018 at 2:35 pm

just like fusion power has been the “leading technology” to solve our energy problems for 60 years.


8 stephan February 5, 2018 at 5:20 pm

No one says it’s easy to unify QM and gravity, but string theory is still the leading candidate. What should we do ? Stop working on fundamental physics ?It has proved rich in other areas such as mathematics and condensed matter physics.

9 carlospln February 6, 2018 at 1:33 am

If you can’t devise an experiment to falsify it, what good is it?

10 Alan M February 6, 2018 at 11:30 am

Think of it as a tool-set that makes analyzing existing problems much easier. Even if you can’t easily falsify string theory itself, it can assist in proving other things right.

11 Anonymous February 5, 2018 at 7:09 pm

I thought loop quantum gravity was the new hotness.


12 Careless February 5, 2018 at 11:14 pm

It would qualify as “another game in town” but not as the leading theory

13 Alan M February 6, 2018 at 11:32 am

The “experts in the field” are the ones using string theory, unless you think giants in the field like Susskind and Maldecena are frauds.


14 stephan February 5, 2018 at 1:02 pm

There may be a hard limit today on human longevity but why does there have to be one in the future if repair and maintenance are possible ?


15 Yancey Ward February 5, 2018 at 1:41 pm

Exactly right, and repair and maintenance will eventually happen barring civilization collapse- it really is only a matter of time.


16 JWatts February 5, 2018 at 2:06 pm

” but why does there have to be one in the future if repair and maintenance are possible ?”

Well that would be an answer to the question.


17 Bob from Ohio February 5, 2018 at 2:21 pm

“repair and maintenance”

Mechanical equipment wears out even with good repair and maintenance.

Human life may have a higher cap with repair and maintenance but there will still be a cap.


18 stephan February 5, 2018 at 5:16 pm

I think a car can last indefinitely. You simply replace all the parts when they wear out , just like you replace your tires. People lose interest after a while or some new and better thing comes along, so it’s not done.


19 anon February 5, 2018 at 6:24 pm

That worked for Ships of The in the 18th Century British Navy. The same First Rates were used for multiple decades.

The same is now true for the B-52. Some pilots claim they are flying the same airframe their Grandfathers used. Of course engines, electronics and major structural pieces have all been continuously upgraded.

20 Dave Smith February 5, 2018 at 11:58 am

“How can we put rational prices on human lives without becoming inhuman?”

It’s like economics does not exist.


21 Anonymous February 5, 2018 at 2:43 pm

I would bet that the questioner knows “statistical value” “settlement value” etc, but is asking about how those are used in practice. Pinto fuel tanks, VW emissions, etc.

When companies take on a “manageable risk” that might, in worst cases, be inhuman.

PDF: true stories of corporations that knew their products were dangerous, sometimes deadly


22 JWatts February 5, 2018 at 10:05 pm

“When companies take on a “manageable risk” that might, in worst cases, be inhuman.”

No companies ever take on manageable risk nearly as dangerous as the various level of the government. The military, police, fire fighting etc. Is government inhuman? And if not, why do you use a special standard for one and not the other?


23 Anonymous February 6, 2018 at 10:52 am

Inhuman policies by governments are too numerous to name. They have not been the ones receiving the benefit of the doubt.


24 JWatts February 6, 2018 at 11:57 am

“They have not been the ones receiving the benefit of the doubt.”

Companies aren’t given the “benefit of the doubt”. Deaths from their products and services are routinely resolved with a lawsuit and often a large settlement.

How often do you see a police department or fire department sued for unsafe working conditions or OSHA violations? How many times does a police department break into the wrong house and kill an innocent bystander?

The fact is we don’t hold government to the same liability standards as private enterprise.

25 apoptosis February 5, 2018 at 7:37 pm

death panels


26 TR February 5, 2018 at 11:59 am

Andrew Gelman on the paper in Link #1: “I can only assume these researchers are doing their best, as is the journalist reporting these results, with none of them realizing that they’re doing little more than shuffling random numbers.”


27 Jeff R February 5, 2018 at 12:13 pm

5A: quite interesting, but is there evidence to suggest the lack of monkeys was actually important? Monkeys occupy a rather different ecological niche from full sized humans, after all, even if there is some overlap in diet, habitat, etc.


28 Anonymous February 6, 2018 at 12:50 am

These “humans” were about 3 feet tall…


29 Art Deco February 5, 2018 at 12:25 pm

#3: midterm losses are usually of a magnitude that should cost the Republicans the House, and that’s the way to bet. Their electoral calendar is so poor it’s a reasonable wager they’ll lose ground in the Senate. The problem with our political parties remains the same: too bad they both can’t lose.


30 Art Deco February 5, 2018 at 12:26 pm

The Democrats electoral calendar is so poor.


31 dearieme February 5, 2018 at 1:00 pm

“too bad they both can’t lose.” But they did, in one sense or another. Bernie seems to have been the preference of Dems, but Hillary’s apparat had bought the DNC and fixed everything for her. So the Dem supporters lost while the apparat won. And then lost the election that mattered.

Trump was the choice of Republican supporters, which means that the Republican apparat lost.

So both apparats lost in the end.


32 rayward February 5, 2018 at 12:31 pm

“How can we put rational prices on human lives without becoming inhuman?” The price of a human life goes up and down with the prices of other assets: war and its mass death usually coincides with falling asset prices. I suspect the efficient Germans kept a catalogue of the price of a human life, with the fluctuations in price determining how many to terminate on any particular day. I have posted many comments expressing concern about rising asset prices. I think I might reconsider.


33 Transnational Pants Machine February 5, 2018 at 12:36 pm

>What is the optimal algorithm for discovering truth?

Dear God. I bet this guy needs help brushing his teeth.


34 Scott Mauldin February 5, 2018 at 1:05 pm

“how can I know that this brush will actually improve my dental hygiene?”


35 dearieme February 5, 2018 at 6:59 pm

Apparently flossing doesn’t. I do hope that brushing does.


36 Anonymous February 6, 2018 at 12:51 am

Flossing does. It’s so readily apparent that no one has studied it in a while. Brushing is actually less important.


37 Maitreya February 5, 2018 at 12:51 pm

“6. LAX to test facial recognition technology.”

Of course. When the US does it, it is a technological achievement and will “speed up” processes. But when China does it, it’s just another sign of an “authoritarian state”, an “Orwellian dystonia”, a “surveillance state”, “Big Brother”, or whatever else one can think of. While talking about western nations (e.g. in the article above), the words “privacy”, “surveillance” etc. aren’t even part of the vocabulary.

And before you start ranting on about stringent privacy laws etc., read up on the Snowden revelations. James Clapper lied under oath to Congress about NSA surveillance, but of course all that’s forgiven. After all, the very definition of American Exceptionalism is that the US can do what it condemns others for doing.


38 JWatts February 5, 2018 at 2:19 pm

Facial recognition in place of a photo ID (that’s always been required) to use commercial airplanes is hardly an Orwellian dystopia. Nobody is criticizing China as an authoritarian state for requiring an ID to board a plane. We criticize China for running over a protesting student with a tank.


39 Bob from Ohio February 5, 2018 at 2:40 pm

“photo ID (that’s always been required) ”


A post 9/11 change I think.


40 Joël February 5, 2018 at 4:42 pm

Don’t think so. I was not in the US before 9/11 but I remember having read somewhere that Timothy McWeigh, the author of the attack in 1995 against a government building that killed 168 people,
explained that one thing that decided him to act was the government overreach exemplified, according to him, by the requiring of photos ID for boarding a plane.


41 JWatts February 5, 2018 at 4:55 pm

I think this is correct. I remember having to show a drivers license to fly in the 1990’s, but it might have been a recent change. It was definitely before 9/11.

42 mobile February 5, 2018 at 5:37 pm

You needed a photo ID to get your boarding pass, but then you could give it to someone else.

43 Joël February 5, 2018 at 6:35 pm

Ah, that’s quite possible. So the new thing is the person looking at both your boarding pass and photo ID (and your face) before letting you go through the security…

But then I notice that you can still, with your own valid ID, get a boarding pass at your name, pass the security, give it to someone else after the security, and go back home instead of boarding a plane. That’s because the planes do not check again the IDs (in general) at boarding time.
So the manifest of people in the plane would not be the true list of persons actually on it.

44 Milo Minderbinder February 5, 2018 at 8:07 pm

It was TWA 800 exploding over Long Island Sound in 1996 that gave rise to the ID requirement.

45 Art Deco February 5, 2018 at 9:05 pm

It was TWA 800 exploding over Long Island Sound in 1996 that gave rise to the ID requirement.

I’m sure showing a photo ID would be very helpful in preventing gas tank explosions.

46 chuck martel February 5, 2018 at 9:31 pm

The government’s obsession with identity ignores the fact that anything that anyone might do will be done for the first time. How many terrorists hijack an airplane more than once?


47 X Trapnel February 5, 2018 at 1:01 pm

2. Unsurprisingly, Tyler’s question is the one that sticks with me.


48 Joël February 5, 2018 at 4:12 pm

Yes, Tyler’s question is the best I have seen (just looked at the first 3 pages). My personal answer would be “not very far”.

The second best quetsion would be, I guess, “What future progressive norms would most forward-thinking people today dismiss as too transgressive?”, by Kate Darling. Fun, if impossible to answer.

Many other questions strike me as completely unoriginal, either reformulations of the main question of the field of research of the person who asks, or centuries-old used philosophical (metaphysical or moral) questions.


49 IVV February 5, 2018 at 5:35 pm

The “future progressive norms” question is awesome. I can imagine a future where there are people who reject vegetarianism as inhumane and insist on only eating bacteria farmed for nutrition. Or a future where parasites become faddish and people try to collect the very best breeds of worm to infect themselves with, for the commensal benefits they offer. Or being the first guy who successfully clones his consciousness into a bank of computers and biological components based on human DNA, then insisting that he’s now a thousand people and deserves a thousand votes.


50 stephan February 5, 2018 at 6:02 pm

There’s always some nostalgy for the past but do people really want to go back to 1900? No antibiotics, no vaccinations save against smallpox and rabies , horse shit everywhere, huge amount of time spent in the household cooking and cleaning ( mostly done by women) and so on.. yes some things were better like very little sugar in the diet.


51 dearieme February 5, 2018 at 1:02 pm

That’s rather bitter, Maltreya. Accurate though.


52 JWatts February 5, 2018 at 4:01 pm

love guys like this who try to be George Carlin. so you get the guy who fucked your mom, your mom, and maybe the people they’re related to and you shovel dead bird and liquified potatoes in your mouth, calling it a holiday. have fun. I’ll be feasting on books


53 dearieme February 5, 2018 at 1:03 pm

#2: “Can we re-design our education system based on the principle of neurodiversity?” Burn the heretic!


54 Li February 5, 2018 at 2:43 pm

It was one of the more stupid questions, imho. We OBVIOUSLY can re-design our education system based on astrology if we wanted. I wasn’t aware that “neurodiversity” had any concrete principles. My bad.


55 IVV February 5, 2018 at 5:30 pm

Well, there’s the principle of “autism isn’t objectively bad and shouldn’t be discriminated against.”

I mean, whether or not you believe it in this case, there are plenty of disciplines where being unable to envision a concept in a specific way (or capable of envisioning a concept in a way different from one specific solution) gets you (sometimes, in the past, literally) branded a heretic or cast out of the community, in a way that’s later proven to be detrimental to the education level of the society in question.


56 Anonymous February 6, 2018 at 12:55 am

Yes, it’s absolutely unthinkable that different people could learn better from different methods of teaching :eye roll:


57 MatteoZ February 5, 2018 at 1:28 pm

4) Best hope for Italy after the election : hung parlament and no government for some months.
Btw for the 1st time Berlusconi is not the worst option, 5 star movement led by Grillo is by far uglier.


58 Bob from Ohio February 5, 2018 at 2:24 pm

#3 “Its the economy stupid”.

Historic odds say the GOP loses ground in the House but if current economic trends stay good thru November, the majority may [barely] hold.


59 JWatts February 5, 2018 at 2:29 pm

GW Bush lost 30 seats, Obama lost 63 seats. It seems unlikely that Republicans will hold the US House.


60 Potato February 5, 2018 at 6:33 pm

I think the best bet is the Democratic led House votes to impeach Trump after the midterms, Senate refuses to convict.

And all of the oxygen in the nation is consumed by the 2019 Impeachment proceedings against Trump. And there’s nothing substantial in the charges. It’s a giant circus and cause for righteous indignation on both sides.

But generally no new wars, economy is in okay shape, and Trump does not run or does not win in 2020.

Kamala Harris wins in a landslide in 2020. Congress reinstates SALT and does something stupid like taxing Red state industries more heavily in response.

I laugh and enjoy my restored deduction.


61 Art Deco February 5, 2018 at 9:13 pm

Kamala Harris wins in a landslide in 2020. C

The only presidents ever elected de novo in a landslide were Eisehower, FDR, Harding, and Jackson. Unless you fancy Kamala Harris is due to be reconceptualized as a wartime commander, or fancy we’re due for a 30% implosion in industrial production, you’re likely to lose any wagers you make.


62 JWatts February 5, 2018 at 10:11 pm

“The only presidents ever elected de novo in a landslide were Eisehower, FDR, Harding, and Jackson”


63 Art Deco February 6, 2018 at 10:28 am

Reagan won 50% of the vote in a 3-person contest, so, no.

64 JWatts February 6, 2018 at 11:59 am

In 1984, Reagan won 58.8% of the vote and 49 states.

That’s a landslide.

65 Art Deco February 6, 2018 at 1:54 pm

He was an incumbent running for re-election, not running de novo.

66 JWatts February 6, 2018 at 4:04 pm

I didn’t pay attention to the qualifier. Point conceded.

67 Li February 5, 2018 at 3:00 pm

#2 Two or three good questions. Most just BS from academics. One common meme was “superintelligence” – I don’t know what that is, and I’m pretty sure the people using the term don’t either. There was also a lot of hand-wringing about Death.
My question (although certainly not the last) is: Why do so many supposedly critical thinkers assume that intelligence is open-ended? I’m willing to be that no human (as currently evolved) will ever run (unassisted, under 1 gee on a flat horizontal track, still air) at 90 mph. I doubt I’d get any serious arguments and yet IQ of 400 or 4000 is something worth discussing??? I doubt it.


68 clamence February 5, 2018 at 9:46 pm

One of the individuals to mention superintelligence was Bostrom who wrote a book about superintelligence called “Superintelligence” so at a minimum I would expect him to know at least what it is he is trying to talk about.


69 Anonymous February 6, 2018 at 12:57 am

“human (as currently evolved)” being the key to your failure of appreciation


70 Anonymous February 6, 2018 at 12:58 am

It’s roughly akin to you saying the same thing about “superspeed” although we have machines that go thousands of miles per hour. If the equivalent for intelligence is possible then it’s the most important issue there is.


71 JFA February 5, 2018 at 3:29 pm

“How would changes in the marginal tax rate affect our efforts and motivation?” Dan Ariely really swinging for the fences on this one.


72 JFA February 5, 2018 at 3:30 pm

Said with a heavy dose of sarcasm


73 Anonymous February 5, 2018 at 3:37 pm

Is Dan asking whether there is more an assumption than a consistent result?


74 Anonymous February 5, 2018 at 3:43 pm

I must admit that as an old Edge Question fan, I am a bit underwhelmed.

A yearly question has gone the way of the dead tree encyclopedia.


75 Matthew Young February 5, 2018 at 11:52 pm

Take the band of 7/11 stores that bound the limits of product granularity. Compute the circumference to radius and get our transaction wisdom, how well we pack a city.


76 extramsg February 7, 2018 at 7:32 pm

I read #1 as “Reindeers of Death” and now I’m disappointed because reindeers of death sound pretty effing cool. Also, it may be time for me to buy reading glasses.


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