* Posts by Kepler

236 publicly visible posts • joined 7 Feb 2014


Apple WWDC: There's no way iOS and macOS will fully merge as one


Re: Bringing iOS and macOS closer

“This strategy is almost certainly better than merging the two. Making macOS apps live with the limitations of iOS would kill their 'pro' market, and making iOS apps have to deal with all the complexities of a full fledged PC would create a lot of extra work for developers. This way developers who want the extra work of developing an app that works on both can choose to do it, and those who only care about iOS can target it and continue to ignore the Mac.”

Would someone please explain this to Steve Sinofsky — may he burn in Hell!* — with a CC to that pompous, loudmouthed jackass who now owns the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team?


* Unless of course you also can go back 10 or 15 years in a time machine, and successfully explain it to him back then — before the son of a bitch ruined Windows 8!

If you can do that, and likewise prevent this double-sinner from also totally ruining Office — giving the finger to everyone who was quite comfortable using it the old way (WTF does he have against menus???) — then I will be happy to forgive him, and not consign him to the flames. I wouldn’t even bother making him do any time in Purgatory!

And so it begins: Veritas lays off UK workers, R&D bods hit hardest


Re: The end of a love affair

The more time passes, the more my pronunciation of “Tempus fugit” changes.

My up-vote was for your revealing account, and not for the sad facts you relate. How depressing it must have been for you, watching such excellent technology swirl as its owners flushed it down the crapper. (Or the loo, if you prefer.)

Thumb Up

Re: The article’s title . . .

P.S. I still remember how thrilled — or at least intrigued — I was to read about Veritas, and its then-ingenious, drive-spanning file system, in an article in Byte magazine, some 20-25 years ago.

Back when Ambassador Kosh and Babylon 5 were still on the air, now that I think of it!

So sad to see ‘em fall on hard times.

(So thumbs-up for Veritas, and thumbs-down for what is happening to it now.)


The article’s title . . .

gave me chills. I immediately heard the voice of Ambassador Kosh!

(Do I need to give a “Spoiler Alert” for the icon I chose?)

Facebook admits: Apps were given users' permission to go into their inboxes



Irrespective of whether we leave the EU, the UK will still adopt the GDPR, so those protections will not be lost.

God bless you, Nathan!

I up-voted you just now just for using “irrespective” correctly, and not writing “irregardless”. That’s how low my expectations have fallen in recent years.

(Not that I’ve ever heard or seen anyone use “irrespective” incorrectly. But you know what I mean!)


@fnusnu: “anything I make PUBLIC”

Peronsally, I'm fine with anything I make public being shared.

But of course, Facebook Messages are NOT made public!

While one assumes they may be available to Facebook itself, and to law enforcement agencies that obtain a suitable warrant first, they are otherwise supposed to be between sender and recipient.

They are not like posts or comments made on a friend’s Timeline!


Re: “Was this information helpful?”

Am I wrong to hold my unidentified Facebook friend(s) partly responsible as well, in addition to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica? For giving “This Is Your Digital Life” permission to access my information? (And that of all their other Facebook friends!)

And to expect Facebook to identify the culprit(s) to me? Shouldn’t I at least be allowed to tease him/her/them just a bit for falling for this nonsense?

If anyone thinks I am, on either count, please explain. I remain happy to consider any additional points I may have overlooked.

(Such as how difficult Facebook and “This Is Your Digital Life” may have made it for prospective users of the latter to realize they were giving access to others’ information as well as their own.

I presently view that as a potential reason not to be mad at my unnamed friends, but not as a sufficient excuse for Facebook to withhold their identities from me.)


P.S. At least it wasn’t FarmVille.


“Was this information helpful?”

Here is what Facebook told me:


“Based on our investigation, you don't appear to have logged into ‘This Is Your Digital Life’ with Facebook before we removed it from our platform in 2015.

However, a friend of yours did log in.

As a result, the following information was likely shared with ‘This Is Your Digital Life’:

Your public profile, Page likes, birthday and current city . . . .”


(All emphasis added, bold and italic.)

Then came the paragraph already quoted in the article, innocuously mentioning the breathtaking range of additional information of mine that may have been shared by one or more of my Facebook friends.

As the article mentions, this Facebook page/tool tells users what categories of information might have been shared, but does not identify which specific items of information actually were.

Nor does it identify who among my several-hundred Facebook friends actually gave “This Is Your Digital Life” permission to access my information.

And then came the question in my subject line, “Was this information helpful?

After checking “No”, being further asked “What went wrong?”, and then checking “Other”, I filled in the optional comment box as follows:


It’s not nearly enough. It doesn’t tell me precisely WHAT information of mine was shared without MY permission, and neither does it tell me WHICH (jackass) friend(s) of mine gave permission on my behalf to Cambridge Analytica and ‘This Is Your Digital Life’ to help themselves to MY personal information. I would like to know which thoughtful soul(s) to thank.

And after what he/she/they did, I certainly don’t think you can claim that identifying him/her/them to me could in any way violate his/her/their privacy!

So I would like to be told considerably more, and I think you owe it to me.

What is dead may never die: a new version of OS/2 just arrived


Re: Wasn't the GUI taken from the Amiga?

Googling confirms that IBM did license something from Commodore, but I haven't been able to ascertain what.

And in return, Commodore licensed REXX from IBM! Leading to ARexx, one of the most popular, successful, elegant and sophisticated implementations of REXX ever, on any platform.

Googling "os/2 amiga" leads to multiple hits/sources that all use identical language:

"IBM also once engaged in a technology transfer with Commodore, licensing Amiga technology for OS/2 2.0 and above, in exchange for the REXX scripting language."

(No idea who first wrote this.)

(ARexx was first created in 1987 by William Hawes, and included with AmigaOS 2.0 by Commodore in 1990. It included a number of Amiga-specific features that allowed it to communicate with and be incorporated into third-party apps in a very easy, flexible and powerful way. This plus the intrinsic power and simplicity of REXX as originally developed by Mike Cowlishaw of IBM made it immensely popular with Amiga users.

OS/2 2.0 was released in April 1992.)

But whatever IBM got from Commodore and the Amiga, it was not OS/2's GUI. Certainly not its entire GUI.

OS/2's GUI consists of two main components.

The GUI itself is Presentation Manager. It's what's responsible for defining a coordinate system, drawing objects — including windows and pointers — on screen, controlling the mouse and receiving and directing input from it, and so on. It was developed primarily by an IBM lab in Hursley, England (but with some involvement by Microsoft as well), and introduced with OS/2 1.1 in late 1988.

The really cool object-oriented desktop shell that sits and works on top of Presentation Manager, but that many OS/2 users think of as OS/2's GUI (or at least as part of OS/2's GUI), is the Workplace Shell. It was developed by IBM's lab in Boca Raton, Florida, and it is built on top of IBM's very powerful System Object Model (SOM). Which in turn was developed by IBM's lab in Austin, Texas. The SOM-based Workplace Shell — which in turn is very nicely integrated with REXX — is by far and away the coolest thing about OS/2, interface-wise, and the one area where it actually offers capabilities that even the wonderful Amiga did not yet have. And it was introduced as part of OS/2 2.0 in April 1992.

So whatever IBM got in the way of Amiga technology licensed from Commodore (and I really wish I could find out what it was!*), the vast bulk of what constitutes OS/2's then-revolutionary and very impressive user interface actually was developed by IBM itself, in house!


* The fact that whatever was licensed was licensed for OS/2 2.0 (and above) makes me suspect that it must have been some component, aspect or feature of the Workplace Shell. But certainly not the Workplace Shell itself, for the Amiga had no such thing, and the Workplace Shell is built entirely on SOM plumbing, which was entirely IBM's creation.


Re: Anyone still got their copy of "Inside OS/2"

Just love the fact that it's by Gordon Letwin!

Lester Haines: RIP


¡Vaya con Dios, mi amigo!

I was so saddened to read of your passing two days ago. Even though I do not normally drink during the day, I immediately went and poured one for you. And because I have the liability of being a Yank, I actually took the trouble to open a second can, so I could get all the way up to a proper pint!

(I did not throw the other 8 ounces away; I disposed of them suitably, and also in your honor. I am confident you would approve!)

I never had the privilege of meeting you, but I know you were personally responsible for so much of what I love about El Reg. As I wrote just a few minutes ago, to a much-younger friend to whom I have recommended The Register:

"[H]e was responsible for many of its humorous touches over the past 15 years, and for a lot of its general scientific bent as well. The combination of scientific rigor and general irreverence that I have so grown to love."

So ¡Hasta luego!/¡Hasta mas tarde!/!Hasta que nos encontremos en el cielo!

Is Microsoft's chatty bot platform just Clippy Mark 2?


Re: What!

"Some years later Apple 'appropriated' Xerox's ideas in the Lisa then and only then did Microsoft think they would have GUI too. Have you never heard of the court case, Apple sued Microsoft for copying their idea - they lost but for reasons other than it being an original idea by Microsoft."

That's partly but not entirely correct.

I do not have the dates handy at the moment, but:

Although Steve Jobs's first visit to PARC did take place before Bill Gates's first visit there, it is a matter of record that future Microsoft employee Charles Simonyi gave Gates a guided tour of PARC before Jobs ever spoke to Gates (or anyone else at Microsoft, but it was Gates to whom he first spoke) about Lisa or the Mac.

Even on that score, my memory of events is a bit rusty. I don't believe Microsoft was ever told ahead of time about the Lisa, nor asked to write software for it; just the Mac. The Lisa was pretty-much a closed system. But the key point is that Gates and Allen and Microsoft as a whole were already at work on a GUI-based "operating environment" of their own before anyone from Apple ever said a word to anyone at Microsoft about any of Apple's own desires and intentions in this regard. There's even a photograph somewhere that shows them working on it, outlining the details on a white board.

This might be the photo, but I cannot tell for sure at the moment, in a hurry:

Gates and Allen in the early days

Microsoft's original internal name for the project was "Interface Manager", and that might be what appears in the upper right-hand corner of this picture — I can't make it out.

(Looking again, I think it just says "window manager", in which case it is a reference to the functional component of the overall system or interface rather than to the contemplated name of the new product in its entirety. The word "window" looks faded or partially erased, which is why it's so difficult to read.)


Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews include both the photo and all of the pertinent dates (sometimes only approximate, but still pinned down enough to establish sequence) in their book Gates, which if anything is a mildly hostile biography, but in fact is pretty-much fair throughout.

(They take every opportunity to present facts that make Gates look bad, but at the same time they are careful to document everything and not overstate the case.)


(Every other item on the white board in the photo makes sense in light of the detailed discussions presented in the book of what Gates, Allen and Simonyi had in mind for Microsoft, and for the suite of applications recycling the same interface that they were planning to offer, based on the word processor that Simonyi had written when he was still with Xerox PARC. Including the idea of enabling it to run on multiple processor architectures, and offering it through multiple vendors. There was a lot of talk about pseudo-code in that section of the book, as they hoped to write all their applications to an interpreter, and then just port the interpreter to each new platform supported.

Rather importantly — and I know it makes a difference — I do not recall whether this photo was taken before or after Jobs first spoke to Gates about the Macintosh. I suspect it was after, but the fact remains that Gates had already seen all the cool stuff at Xerox on his own, and was already at work on his own effort to copy Xerox before Jobs ever said a word to him about this stuff. I don't think Gates even knew before Jobs told him that Jobs had seen all the Xerox stuff too!)


Re: FryBot

"can someone please develop a Stephen Fry Twitterbot?"

I thought you Limeys already had one of those.

Wait, you mean it's a real person?

Done making the big stuff better? The path to Apple's mid-life crisis


A mind IS a terrible thing to lose!

"I wanted to write something like this to you two years ago, or whenever it was you semi-retired!"

Mr. Senile here is at once pleased and disappointed to see that he did write something like this (only much shorter!) two years ago (30 June 2014). Not only did I note — with sadness and disappointment — our disagreement over the Citizens United decision and the fundamental principle that would be violated were it overturned, but I also made three comments referencing bassists I like and whom you may or may not like as well (Stanley Clarke,* James Jamerson, and Bob Babbitt).

Does my having dug up and provided the URL of the article in which Lester dubbed you "the Joseph Conrad of IT journalism, or something like that" make up for my heretical views and my forgetfulness, if not for my long-windedness?

(Even though I'd quite forgotten all of that as well! Both the appellation itself, and the fact of my having remembered it and reminded you of it on the occasion of your departure.)


* My comment re Stanley Clarke actually chided him for his flamboyance and spotlight-hogging — an ex-girlfriend who played the bass described him as a frustrated would-be guitarist — but the fact is he remains one of my favorites anyway. Probably my favorite after Jaco, along with Andy West.

At least I linked to different bassists — Jaco Pastorius and Tal Wilkenfeld, the latter accompanying Jeff Beck — this time!

But why are so many of the bassists I like dead?


And to ask you who your favorite bassists are!

And to ask you who your favorite bassists are, ETC.!

(Obviously I snuck a favorite guitarist in there as well.)

May Jaco rest in peace!


(El Reg's goddam 'net nanny or whatever would not let me include those last two sentences — now three — in my original post unless I omitted the links! And every time it inflicted the captcha screen, it deleted my entire post from the goddam browser!

Luckily, I somehow recovered my post and made a backup copy this time, before finally outsmarting the nanny-ware by splitting my post in two. I have encountered and complained about this before!)


What you MEAN, Rik, is something different from what you (repeatedly) SAY!

"Corporations, however, are not people — despite what the US Supreme Court might believe."

Rik, do you really believe it should be impossible to sue a corporation, rather than its owners and employees individually? Because that's what you're saying, and that's what's at stake in regard to corporate personhood or non-personhood.

Of course corporations are not actual human beings. However, if corporations are not legal persons, then they cannot sue or be sued! They have no legal rights or status at all! I don't think that's a state of affairs you want.


I have always liked your articles for El Reg. A lot. So it saddened me greatly to learn you were semi-retiring and would not be writing much here anymore, and to learn that you would instead be devoting a great portion of your time to seeking to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. A decision whose overturning — despite what those who would overturn it usually say — would require nothing short of the (partial) repeal of the First Amendment.

(Just as any amendment to allow Congress or the states to prohibit flag-burning would — to that degree — repeal the First Amendment!)

It is just amazing that so many Americans want to put muzzles on their fellow citizens, and do not even feel the slightest shame or embarrassment about this fact!

And likewise, that those on the Left who routinely decry corporate personhood — the legal personhood of corporations — are in this instance the very ones who let mushy, mystical, metaphysical nonsense blind them to the obvious and inescapable fact that a corporation, as such, cannot speak apart from the actions of actual living, breathing human beings! Who would also — necessarily — be muzzled if "corporations" are muzzled (as a contrary decision in Citizens United would have done).

(The person or people who wrote the script, the actors who read it, the person or people who filmed it, the person who directed the film, the person or people who paid for the film to be shown on TV, and so on. A "corporation" as such cannot do any of these things!)


(I'll not even go into the fact that the corporation involved in Citizens United was formed for the sole purpose of engaging in speech! Speech directed at persuading the company's founders' fellow citizens! People who wanted to produce and distribute films expressing political views, and who wanted to be able to do so without having to risk losing their homes if some pinko with deep pockets (George Soros?) disliked one of their films sufficiently and decided to sue them. It was not a case involving lobbying or political advertising by some big, preexisting, profit-seeking corporation like General Motors, or anything like that.

The position of the Left appears to be that if people want to engage in political speech, they may not protect their homes and personal property via limited liability, the way people engaging in any other activity can and routinely do! You can protect yourself by incorporating, but you'll lose your First Amendment rights. Or you can keep your First Amendment rights, but run the risk of losing your home and having to file for bankruptcy if someone sues you. Which under the misguided and God-forsaken "American Rule" concerning the bearing of costs by parties in a lawsuit is all too easy to do. But you cannot protect your home and other personal assets and enjoy and exercise your rights under the First Amendment. That is the position of the Left on this issue.)


You can take pleasure, I suppose, in being on the same side of this question as Noam Chomsky. I find his error on this subject as puzzling and mystifying as yours. How can people of such obvious intelligence and general good will be so wrong about this one particular topic?

Plus, y'all are barking up the wrong tree!

What you should be bitching about, and where you and other critics of the corporation as a legal phenomenon have a really good point/objection, is the fact that the corporate form limits the ability of victims of torts committed by a corporation's employees in the course and scope of their employment to recover from the corporation's owners, whose agents the employees are. Implicitly, the conferral of corporate status on a business enterprise limits the traditional scope of the legal/tort doctrine of respondeat superior. That, and only that, is the one aspect of the corporation's special legal status that cannot be explained simply as the result of contract — of voluntary agreement by those who choose to deal with corporations knowing in advance that they are corporations (because the word "Corp." or "Inc." or "Ltd." in their name alerts all prospective parties).

(A tort victim does not choose to deal with a company who injures him at all, and therefore has consented in advance to nothing!)

If that's not enough for you, then you also might take on the shameful and outrageous way in which corporate executives so often are excused from personal criminal liability for their actions on the corporation's behalf. Innocent shareholders' pockets are picked, while the actual human beings who were negligent — or worse — serve not a day in the clink. There's justice for you!

Fixing these messes and injustices would be the result of clearer thinking, and of de-mystifying the corporation. But additional restrictions on the speech of actual human beings would not.



(Sorry so long! I wanted to write something like this to you two years ago, or whenever it was you semi-retired!)

Microsoft GitHubs BotBuilder framework behind Tay chatbot


Do **Microsoft employees** have self-awareness?

Explaining its decision to open up the BotBuilder framework, Microsoft says – without any trace of irony – that 'at this point few developers have the expertise and tools needed to create new conversational experiences[,] or enable existing applications and services with a conversational interface their users can enjoy'.

(All emphasis added.)

Microsoft's collective head is so far up its collective arse, it isn't funny! When have Microsoft's customers ever encountered a conversational interface they could enjoy? Bob? Clippy?

(As I thought I'd noted elsewhere previously, but evidently did not, at least the cartoon search dog with the wagging tail was mildly cute! But still kind-of in the way.)

Until Microsoft's employees achieve self-awareness, I'm certainly not going to worry about any of the software they write ever doing so.


Re: Not up to the

(And if all the platitudinous, buzzword-compliant jargon and rubbish that gets spouted from SatNad's mouth — pretentious fluff that sounds nice but means nothing — isn't actually composed by a bot, I'll eat my hat!

Most likely a bot designed to appeal to the undiscriminating ear — and hiney — of Steve Ballmer.)


Re: Not up to the

I'd say the bots that wrote Tay did a perfect job of passing for actual MS coders!


Re: Great!

Definitely a link worth clicking on! Kudos, Ralph B!

(Despite the title, I did not see any of Itchy or Scratchy, nor even of Marge. But I was treated to a brief but highly apposite snippet of The Simpsons, and a lovely bit of Beethoven's 6th!)

'No regrets' says chap who felled JavaScript's Jenga tower – as devs ask: Have we forgotten how to code?


Actions Have Consequences

The reasons for NPM's decision and rule change are obvious and substantial. However, the people behind the decision should be mindful of a fundamental principle of economics:

Barriers to exit inevitably end up becoming barriers to entry.

This is true both in international trade and finance, and in antitrust/industrial organization/monopoly theory:

If, by churlish and niggardly enforcement of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, federal authorities (the DOJ and FTC) make it harder for unsuccessful competitors to sell their assets to rivals and exit an industry, forcing them to just eat their losses, future potential entrants will be discouraged from entering new markets in the first place, making those markets less competitive.

(What Dennis Moore said about redistributing the wealth comes to mind!)

And likewise, as the great and under-recognized economist Arnold Harberger has remarked (I'm going from memory here, so this is only a paraphrase), countries that try to keep capital in cannot do so if capital wants badly enough to leave, but they can with considerable ease, and without any intention to do so, keep capital out, by imposing restrictions on its leaving!

The lesson?

In the future, any developer who wants to retain for himself the option of withdrawing his modules if he wants to will think twice now about contributing them in the first place. This is an iron law that cannot be got 'round, and must simply be lived with.

The call made in this instance may well be the right one; I'd say it probably is. But it will have consequences in the future. That fact cannot be avoided.

Oh, sugar! Sysadmin accidently deletes production database while fixing a fault



"ironically while attempting to fix a problem with backup systems."

Reminds me of the time in the Summer of 1985 when, while attempting to make a backup copy of a paper I'd already been working on 'round the clock for two full weeks, I accidentally destroyed my only copy and had to start the damn paper all over again.

My goof? Instead of a blank floppy diskette, as I intended, I inserted the disk that already contained my only copy of the paper into my Tandy 1000's B drive, and then typed "Format B:"!


Clear April 12: Windows, Samba to splat curious 'crucial' Badlock bug


A shame we can't trust Windows Update anymore

It's a shame we can't trust Windows Update anymore. Before Microsoft started using it to surreptitiously foist mislabeled and vaguely described or altogether misdescribed adware and spyware onto our computers, it was really useful for things like this.

US Congressman calls WIPO 'the FIFA of UN agencies' at hearing


A glimpse at ICANN's future?

And also a glimpse at ICANN's future?

(If not its present and (recent) past as well. ICANN writ large!)


Re: The FIFA of UN agencies?

Actually, now that I've actually read the article, instead of merely printing it out to read later, I have to admit that what WIPO's been doing really is beyond the pale, even for the UN. Strongly reminiscent of, and possibly even as bad as, what went on at UNESCO in the early '80s.

(Rusty on details, but an African potentate who was in charge then used all its money to build a personal palace for himself in Paris, etc. An unmitigated den of corruption, all in the service of a single individual who ran it with an iron fist.)

So it was kind-of the UN writ large. And very much like FIFA, of course.

Black Helicopters

The FIFA of UN agencies?

I thought the UN was "the FIFA of UN agencies".

'Contractual barriers' behind geo-blocking could breach EU rules


Hey, only WE get to do this!

It's interesting to hear the EU trying to block geo-blocking, seeing as the EU is also in the business of requiring it.

Chocolate Factory rolls out geolocation filter on search results

What really pissed me off about this development is that now everyone, everywhere must be spied upon (even more) by Google so that European governments can restrict the liberty of Europeans. Geo-blocking generally just sucks, regardless of who's behind it.

(Generally. Def made some good points up above about how it might occasionally make sense, and make life a good bit easier for companies in specific instances.)


Re: Divide and Conquer

"Always negotiate a percentage of retail sale, never "profit", accountants are too clever."

A memorable story arc of the American television series Wiseguy drove home this point for audiences a bit over 25 years ago.

'Wiseguy' Tackles Music Industry Corruption

Numerous real-life music big-shots with guest roles in the 7-episode arc included Mick Fleetwood, who had a brief but comical appearance as an eccentric retired mogul playing air hockey in the rec room of his mansion, and Tim Curry, who delivered a truly stunning performance* as the record-company Poobah who was using his accountants to do the stealing.

Viewers have been treated to more and more excellent television in recent years; Wiseguy was one of the shows that started raising the bar, followed shortly by the likes of Twin Peaks and The X-Files.


* Easily one of the two best nervous breakdown portrayals I've seen on TV, or anywhere. Donning a leather jacket and singing Gene Vincent's "Be-Bop-A-Lula" to his own reflection in a mirror.

Tim Curry singing Be-Bop-A-Lula — Wiseguy (1989)

All of which drove home the point that the record company exec was really just a frustrated would-be artist, theretofore thriving as a parasite off the labors of others braver and/or more talented than he.

The other great nervous breakdown scene, of course, was that of Lara Means in the Millennium Season Two finale ("The Time Is Now"). Set to the music of Patti Smith's dark, rocking "Land: Horses, Land of A Thousand Dances, La Mer (De)".

A copy of the video used to be available on YouTube — a video of the actual full scene, complete with added monkey shrieks (this makes perfect sense if you were following the story up to that point, including the 2 or 3 episodes leading up to it), the gunshots when Lara — hallucinating — emptied her Walther P99, her terrified scream as she was losing her mind, etc. Over 10 minutes, from one commercial break to the next, without a single word of dialogue!

Unfortunately, it seems no longer to be there. So Patti Smith by herself will have to do:

Patti Smith - Land: Horses, Land of A Thousand Dances, La Mer (De)

Hmm. Maybe I spoke too soon?

Millennium 2x23 The Time Is Now part 2

This "video" is wrong in a whole bunch of ways. Shots are greatly slowed-down, and out of sequence. But the audio is there, and exactly right.

Bizarrely, the video keeps going for nearly an hour (well, about 50 minutes**) after the audio portion ends, showing — still in slow-motion — various scene segments that were supposed to accompany the audio. Weird.

But more than enough to bring back memories for anyone who saw the original scene.


** At first I thought it was so long — just over an hour — because someone had posted the entire episode. But that would only have been about 42 minutes, of course.

Is there anything left to ask Bill Gates? (Other than gissus a million?)


Re: A Question about Economics and Taxation

I'd also probably avoid calling him a "moron", and try to be at least mildly diplomatic in my choice of words. Salesmanship, after all!

(And I honestly believe he would be reachable, and happy to discuss the technical issues — including the many I had to gloss over in the interest of time and space.)


A Question about Economics and Taxation

I have a question I would love to ask Bill G. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be of interest to many others here besides myself. (At least unless Tim Worstall happens to browse the comment section of this article!)

My question in a nutshell:

Why does someone so good at and knowledgeable regarding economics and maths say such silly things about taxation? It's as if he knows nothing about the economics of taxation, or about general-equilibrium theory!

Long-winded explanatory background:

It is well and widely known that Gates is very good at maths, knows a lot of maths, and so on.

Somewhat less widely known is that he also has an interest in economics. He occasionally reads books on the subject to this day, and — together with his friend Steve Ballmer — took a graduate econ class at Harvard. (I've forgotten whether Gates was in his Freshman or Sophomore year at the time, and whether it was the introductory graduate Micro course or the Mathematical Economics course for grad students.) He and Ballmer were the only undergraduates in the course, skipped nearly all the classes, crammed together for the final exam, and ended up getting the two highest grades in the class! (Gates was numero uno, and Ballmer numero two-o.)

So why is he such a moron every time he holds forth publicly on the subject of taxation?

It's not just that he says things I happen to disagree with. He's perfectly entitled to do that. The problem that causes so much cognitive dissonance for me is that the reasons why the things he says are all nonsense all follow directly from the study of taxes in a general- rather than a partial-equilibrium framework — something he, of all people, should be eminently equipped to understand, and ought to be at least passingly familiar with.

Partial-equilibrium analysis is the study of equilibrium conditions in an individual market in isolation. General-equilibrium analysis is the study of equilibrium conditions for all markets simultaneously. It's much more complex, and therefore difficult, than partial-equilibrium analysis, but sometimes it's necessary, because interdependence effects across markets are too significant to be ignored.

Thus, for example, if you are studying tariffs or excise taxes, and you want to know the effect of raising or lowering the rate of tax applied to one particular good (e.g., wheat), you just have to know what rate of tax is being applied to substitute goods that compete with the good in question (e.g., rice). If those other goods are untaxed, then even a tiny increase in the rate of tax applied to the given good will drive consumers to the substitute, and the tax won't raise diddly-squat in revenue. But if all goods are taxed at the same rate, then the market's behavioral response will be very different.

Which is why general-equilibrium analysis is pretty-much universally employed by economists in the area of taxation, and has been ever since the seminal writings of Arnold Harberger starting approximately half a century ago.

Now, the employment of a general-equilibrium approach to the economics of taxation has lots of important implications, and I'm not going to punish anyone who's still reading by trying to go into them all here. But one obvious example is that estate taxes and income taxes cannot be looked at in isolation. Not only are they connected, but the estate tax is in fact simply a special form of income tax!

In modeling people's behavior over their lifetimes, it is common to treat them as having two motives to work, save and invest: They do it to obtain income they want to consume within their own lifetimes, or else they do it in order to accumulate wealth which they will then leave to their descendants (or whomever). The "bequest motive" is a common part of any analysis of people's responses to taxes over the course of their entire lifetimes. Two vital points come out of this:

(1) A tax on bequests reduces the incentive to earn income in the first place! If people know in advance they can't leave it to their kids anyway, why bust your ass to earn it in the first place? Work just hard enough to make what you plan to consume before you kick off, and then stop.

(2) A tax on bequests is a tax on income that has already been taxed! As such it is redundant, and therefore additive, and it typically tends to cause the cumulative rate of tax that ultimately is applied to income that is passed on to be far above revenue-maximizing levels. It's both unfair and an almost certain loser from a revenue-raising standpoint. Eliminate the estate tax and collections from all other taxes will go up over time, by more than the amount that is lost by no longer taxing inheritance.

With his background in maths and in general-equilibrium theory — one of the main topics in any course on mathematical economics — Bill Gates ought to understand all this. And yet he obviously doesn't!

His father has lobbied vigorously to have the federal estate tax in the United States not only preserved — in the face of efforts to abolish it — but increased sharply, and Bill has endorsed his father's efforts. Moreover, his close friend Warren Buffett also is opposed to leaving too much money to one's children, and he has influenced Gates as well. So on this topic, he is swayed by the non-economic views of his father and his current best friend, and all the economics he knows just goes out the window! What's up with that?

Perhaps perversely, and certainly idiosyncratically, that is what I would want to ask Bill Gates if I were to have the chance to meet him!

(Though I might strategically choose to discuss other topics of mutual interest first, in order to lay a foundation and establish a relationship before launching into my pet peeve.)


I cannot agree strongly enough!

With Pascal Monett, that is.

(And Wade Burchette as well, further above, for that matter.)

Since about 1994, with the introduction of the ill-fated Microsoft Bob, and then with Windows 95 and every subsequent version of Office, the hallmark of Microsoft products has been this ill-conceived aim to produce software that "ANTICIPATES users' wishes". (Emphasis added. I believe I am quoting Gates himself, exactly or nearly exactly, from an interview he gave to promote Bob.) Why not just produce software that OBEYS users' wishes, and makes it as easy as possible for users to CONVEY their wishes to the goddam software?

Unfortunately, the two goals appear to be at odds. I don't know whether this is intrinsic, but in EVERY implementation to date by Microsoft, at least, the software's efforts to divine our wishes before we are aware of them ourselves invariably get in the way, taking us farther away from what we want (at least temporarily), and interfering with our efforts to TELL the software what we want.

(Even something as seemingly small as the software's insistence on responding to the mouse's POSITION — instead of waiting for a damn CLICK — gets in the way of accurate and efficient communication from user to program.)

For all his undeniable genius, Bill has blind spots. He's still enamored of cartoon search dogs and talking paper clips as the wave of the future.

Evidently the thought that "I can write a program for that!" has persistently blinded him to the question of whether or not "that" — whatever it is — is a thing worth having software do in the first place. His and his company's efforts to make computers easier for people who have NO idea AT ALL what they are doing have consistently made computers HARDER to use for people who DO know what they are doing.

Future civilisations won't know how the universe formed

Black Helicopters

Re: Illuminatus!

Bleu spoke truly. The Illuminatus! trilogy by Robert Shea and the ever-wacky Robert Anton Wilson is great fun. And it has lots of sex and violence, too (especially sex)!

And it integrates every conspiracy theory that has ever been devised by Man. No better or fitter reading when you're hiding from the black helicopters in your Montana bunker!


Re: Heavy element/nova conection

That connection is one good reason to believe that, if we are not in fact among the First Ones, then we are at most only a few billion years behind them. Coupled with the present age of the universe, the minimum time necessary for the manufacture of heavier elements places an upper limit on the number of years by which any other race might have beaten us to the evolution of intelligence, space travel, etc.

Like Old Handle just above (to whom Trigonoceps occipitalis was responding), I have long thought that we Earthers/humans could just as easily turn out to be the invading aliens who develop the fancy tech first as the ones who get invaded by others who already have the tech. Put another way, maybe someday in the far-distant future we (or rather our descendants) may help the Vorlons to evolve and fulfill their destiny rather than the other way around!

And this article strongly supports this possibility. In fact, it suggests that from the perspective of the universe and its overall, eventual total history, we have arrived on the scene very near said scene's inception, and unfathomably many ages before its end. Which means we are not "just as likely" to be First Ones as we are to be later ones who look up to the First Ones (or to the Overlords, if you prefer the A.C. Clarke novel from which Joe Straczynski obviously drew two of the biggest ideas in his glorious creation, Babylon 5). We are far more likely to be First Ones than we are to be (very much) later ones! And even if we are not the very first ones, we are relatively close, and not very far behind them at all.

(On the other hand, if the pace of evolution accelerates after a certain point is reached, and especially after the ability to manipulate the genome itself is acquired, then perhaps even a few thousand years head start would be enough to put the truly first ones "as far above us on the evolutionary scale as we are above the amoeba", as Mr. Spock said of the Organians in "Errand of Mercy".)

And of course it was indeed the late Sir Fred Hoyle who first proposed, and principally worked out, stellar nucleosynthesis as the source of all the heavier elements (elements heavier than helium). Others contributed substantially as well, and somehow Willie Fowler but not Fred Hoyle even got a Nobel for the work,* but Hoyle was in fact the one who contributed the most to our understanding of these crucial processes. (Without which beings capable of figuring out and understanding these processes never could have come to exist!)

Which is an interesting and fitting coincidence, given the topic of the article we are all replying to, because Hoyle also was:

the man who coined the term "Big Bang", intended as a pejorative;

an opponent almost (?) until his death** of the Big Bang theory that is now universally (pun not intended) accepted, and that is implicitly the subject of the article;***


the principal formulator not only of the stellar nucleosynthesis theory concerning the manufacture of heavier elements, but (along with Thomas Gold and Hermann Bondi) of the steady-state theory of the universe's formation!

At this point I was going to conjecture that at some point in the distant future, when people no longer are able to see the evidence of the Big Bang, they might instead accept rather than reject Hoyle's steady-state theory or something like it. And I was planning to make this comment about Hoyle even before I saw that someone else had mentioned his name.

But on further reflection, and remembering that the steady-state theory requires the slow but continuous creation of new matter, giving rise to new, additional galaxies, so that the universe will always look essentially the same in any and every direction when viewed from any point and at any time, I realize that that aspect of the steady-state theory is utterly at odds with the article's prediction of a future in which "the runaway expansion of space" itself (presumably due to the recently posited "dark energy", though such was not mentioned by name) has rendered it impossible to see even neighboring galaxies. (As DougS clarified above.)

P.S. I debated which icon to use, and considered several possibilities before deciding to go with the pint. Because a picture of a Ritalin tablet wasn't available.


* I for one am deeply puzzled and offended that Hoyle was slighted by the Royal Swedish Academy and the Nobel Committee for Physics.

But not as offended as I am by the fact that the 1978 Prize went in part to Penzias and Wilson — who stumbled onto the microwave background entirely by accident, and at first thought they were simply hearing pigeon shit! — instead of to the man who first predicted the microwave background, George Gamow. (Had a Nobel Prize been awarded for General Relativity (none ever was), should it have gone to Eddington instead of Einstein?) Granted, Gamow was dead by the time that Prize was awarded, and the Prize rules prohibit the awarding of any of the Prizes posthumously (unless someone passes after his Prize is announced but before it is formally conferred a few months later), but that just begs the question: Why wasn't the prize for that remarkable insight awarded to Gamow while he was still alive? At the very least he should have shared the Prize with Penzias and Wilson, who really barely deserved it at all.

(A case can be made that Bob Dicke of Princeton ought to have been in on it too, but Gamow predicted the cosmic microwave background (CMB) slightly before Dickie independently re-predicted it (both in 1946), and Penzias and Wilson finished building their Dicke radiometer before Dicke himself (and his colleagues Wilkinson and Roll) could finish building the one that he was planning to use to measure the CMB.

I'd also be more than happy with Ralph Alpher (Gamow's graduate student) and Robert Herman sharing in Gamow's prize. They extended and refined his prediction, and made a more accurate estimate of the background's temperature. But — contrary to what Wikipedia's entry on the CMB says — they did not predict it first. Gamow did, two years earlier (as the timeline in Wikipedia's article on the discovery of the CMB acknowledges).)


** I vaguely recall reading or hearing that he finally threw in the towel and conceded that the Big Bang is a better fit to the data shortly before his death, based on the slight variations in the CMB discovered by the COBE satellite in the 1990s. However, Hoyle's Wikipedia entry reports that he "died in 2001 never accepting the Big Bang theory". If that is right and what I thought I read or heard is wrong, then change "opponent almost . . . until his death" to "life-long opponent".


*** It also is interesting and worthy of comment that he opposed the Big Bang theory for religious reasons, and that he made no bones about this fact. In his view, the Big Bang theory smacked far too much and too obviously of a Creator, and he would have none of this!

Which makes it all the more ironic and amusing that so many Christians fail to see the Big Bang's obvious religious potential, and identify it — rather than Hoyle's steady-state alternative — with the atheism that Hoyle himself firmly subscribed to. You'd think they would point to Bible passages that talk about God stretching out or spreading forth the heavens (e.g., Zechariah 12:1; Job 9:8; Isaiah 40:22 and 42:5) and say "See, we told you!", but instead they largely disavow the Big Bang and crap all over it, simply because they don't like its time scale, which they find far too large. Never mind its implication that not only all the matter and energy (including light) that exist but space and time themselves may have come into being at a definite point in the finite past, all at the same single instant.

(Mind you, I am not saying that the Big Bang theory is inherently religious or Creator-bound. At best it is merely suggestive; the suggestion may easily be disregarded, and the theory certainly tells us nothing about who or what might have instigated the Big Bang. And I am well aware that there are many theories nowadays according to which there might have been a "before" the Big Bang after all. I take no position myself in regard to any of these controversies. I wish only to point out Hoyle's great candor, and the irony of some people essentially refusing to take Yes for an answer.)

WIN a 6TB Western Digital Black hard drive with El Reg


SFW, my arse!

"This way I can take it down the arse* from Microsoft instead of up!"**


* I wrote "arse" instead of "ass" because Simon politely asked us to "Please try to keep it kind[-]of SFW." To the best of my knowledge, I did. If "arse" is considered as off-color as "ass" in some circles, it's news to me. Which might, for all I know, serve as a clue concerning my eligibility.


** I thought that many of the other submissions I spied while scrolling down the page to get to the submission form were much cleverer than my own. (And all of them entirely clean!) But mine was the absolute first thing that popped into my head the instant I saw the picture; for better or worse, I'm sticking with it.

I apologize to anyone who notices that this has become a recurring if not persistent theme in my contributions to El Reg's Reader Forums over the past month or two —

Re: Offensive, sure, but is it actually HARMFUL?

— but as a Windows user, can you really blame me? I recently had to reinstall Windows 8.1 Update — and even worse, before that use plain-old Windows 8 for several days (shudder!) — and now I've read article after article relating how Microsoft has surreptitiously snuck unwanted spyware onto my computer through Windows Update. Which it appears I can no longer trust, so I do not.

Experience made me this way.

Apple's iPad Pro: We're making a Surface Pro WITH A STYLUS over Steve Jobs' DEAD BODY


For the love of God, can't people SAY what they actually MEAN? Is that too much to ask?

Time to put my Grammar Nazi hat on again! (Although as any good Grammar Nazi knows, this is actually a matter of usage and basic word-meanings rather than grammar.)

"Other features touted by Schiller were improved GPU and CPU performance (Apple claims the CPU is 1.8 times more powerful than the iPad Air 2 and the GPU two times more powerful) and four speakers touting three-times-louder volume."

I think it's safe to assume that if the CPU were actually 2.8 times as powerful as that in the iPad Air 2, Apple would have said so. Surely the new CPU is only 1.8 times as powerful, and only 80% more powerful — not 180% more powerful, as the article claims.

Likewise with the GPU: If it really were 3 times as powerful as that in the iPad Air 2, Apple would have said so using the number 3 instead of 2, since 3 is bigger than 2, and therefore more impressive. ("Twice as fast" sounds more impressive than "one time faster" or even "100% faster", etc.)

(Technically, that the GPU is 3 times as powerful as the old one is in fact exactly what Apple said! Or at least what Shaun Nichols said, and attributed to Apple. But it almost certainly is not what Apple or Nichols meant.)

And likewise with the speakers: If they really are "three times louder", then they are in fact four times as loud. But in all probability, what was actually meant is merely that they are three times as loud, not three times louder.

As noted parenthetically above, it is impossible to tell whether the mistakes here were Apple's or Shaun's. But even if they were Apple's — as I am happy to assume — Shaun should have verified the actual numbers and then translated what Apple said into language that is not contextually ambiguous. The reader should not be left — let alone repeatedly and consistently, as here — to figure out that what the writer meant is (probably) different from what the writer said.


$169 just for the keyboard???

Good God!

I just bought the laptop I'm using to post this comment for $125, tax included. It includes a keyboard, but it also includes a CPU and RAM (4 GB), a hard drive (500 GB), a touch screen, ports, etc.

(OTOH, it came with Windows 8, and now is running Windows 8.1 Update. And updating the operating system just to make it tolerable took the better part of three friggin' days! So there's a lot of inconvenience I have to weigh in the balance. But still, . . .)

This Apple kit is very elegant and appealing, as always, and if I had money to spare I'd love to have a fully tricked-out iPad Pro. What's not to like? But it's sure as Hell not a value proposition.

Pioneer slaps 80s LASERS on cars for driverless push


"[T]he irrational human fear [of] loss of control"???

"However, the industry, much like the aviation sector which would also benefit from computer-controlled pilots, is being forced to move slowly due to regulations and the irrational human fear [of] loss of control."

Since when, and why, is the desire to be able to control our machines irrational?

(I see now that others have already argued some of the details of the matter above. I merely ask the question, and note that Mr. Pauli's glib assertion was tossed out casually and without any support, or even attempt to support.

Mr. Pauli and his writing are new to me — not sure how new he is to The Register (I was away for about 6 months; first noticed his name in a byline two or three weeks ago) — but this is at least the second article by him I've read in which something whose truth was far from obvious was asserted without any support or explanation at all. Hope these two instances are anomalies.)

Microsoft backports data slurp to Windows 7 and 8 via patches


Re: Offensive, sure, but is it actually HARMFUL?

Many thanks for sharing your perspective, Kiwi. You raise some very good points.

I thought I would try to wait a goodly while before replying to you, in the hope that others might weigh in as well, but it's beginning to look like you may be the only one.

"IIRC there was something not to[o] long ago about a 'new' word document containing data from documents worked on in that session?"

I could be mistaken, but hasn't WinWord been doing that for at least 20 years now? (Don't know whether Word for DOS did it too.) I'm pretty sure I remember doing some DOS comparisons ("FC /T") of Word documents that were supposed to be identical, and being astonished by how they were not. Or else bit-wise comparisons of same in the file viewing pane that was included in PC Tools for Windows. In either event, I recognized the extraneous text — having written it myself — that apparently was being used as filler material, for no other purpose than to make the file larger, but wondered what the Hell it was doing in a different document, and how the Hell it had gotten there!

More broadly, your points about the dangers of memory dumps/snapshots, and the imperfection of past "anonymising" efforts (assuming they really tried!), are all well-taken. Even when dealing with a vendor of absolutely trustworthy intentions, things can go wrong, and can go much farther than one intended or expected. Plus I keep reminding myself how the sneaky way Microsoft foisted these updates on me/us pretty-well proves their bad faith, ill will, and lack of trustworthiness.

(Thus my choice of posting icon.)

At one point my tentative position was that if they had had the decency to disclose and ask up-front, I might well have been willing to say Yes to sharing my data with them, but since they instead were such sneaky bastards, I would not. But the thrust of your reply is that even if they had asked first and asked nicely, and behaved in an entirely reputable fashion worthy of my trust, it still would have been a mistake on my part to provide that much data, no matter how badly I might want to help Microsoft improve its buggy products!


Re: Am I safe[?]

"'Search' doesn[']t show up any of these updates on my PC; but is 'Search' telling [me] the truth??"

If you open Windows Update in Control Panel, and then click on "Installed Updates", you will be presented with the option to "Search Installed Updates" in the Search box in the upper right-hand corner. This worked for me just now.

But you have to do your search in that Search box! When I tried to search Windows Update and Control Panel for these three updates last night, nothing turned up! Only a few minutes ago did I discover what I did wrong.

(If you try to search from Windows Update itself or from "View update history", the Search box that is presented in the upper right-hand corner just says "Search Control Panel". But if you try to search from "Installed Updates", the Search box that is presented in the upper right-hand corner says "Search Installed Updates". Last night, either I tried to search from "View update history" rather than from "Installed Updates", or else — and I think this is more likely — I did do it from "Installed Updates", but I tried to commence the search before allowing sufficient time for Control Panel to fully populate the list of installed updates, thereby causing the search to fail.

Because Search failed me when I first tried it last night, I had to browse down the list of installed updates with my tired, aging eyes. When I did so, I found that all three of these updates had in fact been installed earlier this month. And as it happened, August's Patch Tuesday fell on my birthday! What a thoughtful trio of gifts from Microsoft! ("[D]on't worry too much about the myrrh next time"!))

So unless you are sure you clicked on "Installed Updates" — and then waited sufficiently — before commencing your search, and that you therefore searched Installed Updates rather than the rest of Control Panel, I would not trust the answer Search gave you. Instead I would look for the three updates again, in the way I described above, just to be sure.

Big Brother

Which is worse: Windows 7/8.1 with these 3 updates, or Windows 10 with custom settings?

Another question just occurred to me: Where do these three updates to Windows 7 and 8.1* leave those who install them, relative to those who have "upgraded" to Windows 10?

It strikes me that, immediately upon installing these three updates** — which make no provision for customization of privacy settings at all — users of these earlier versions of Windows might actually have less privacy and more exposure than someone who "upgraded" to Windows 10 but who opted for "Customise settings" during installation rather than "Express settings"! Presumably one would still not be subject to keystroke logging*** (nor would the Windows 10 user who chose "Customise settings" and then checked "No" during installation), but one would — or at least might — be more exposed to the risk of disclosure of personal information through memory snapshots.

Thinking about the matter some more, it occurs to me that the answer might depend on whether one has previously said "Yes" to Microsoft's Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP). The newly installed spyware might start slurping one's data immediately, but it also might remain inactive so long as CEIP has not been activated. (And it may or may not activate CEIP itself, as part of its/the three updates' installation!)

So, does all this newly installed Windows 7/8.1 spyware lie dormant until CEIP is activated? Or does it start slurping users' data immediately? Does anybody here know the answer?


* And what about users of Windows 8?

** Whether unwittingly, as in my own case, or even wittingly.

*** "Telemetry" does not include the keystroke logging "feature", does it?


Re: Dear Microsoft,

And if — God forbid — anyone should object that Teiwaz and "thtechnologist" were both talking about Windows 10 (which they were), and not the surreptitious updates to Windows 7 and 8.1 that were the actual subject of the article we are all responding to, just see Andrew's original article of August 6 discussing Microsoft's horrendous lack of disclosure to downloaders of Windows 10!

("The updates [to Windows 7 or 8.1, as the case may be] were already purchased with whatever original consideration was given [for Windows 7 or 8.1]. Obviously."

And so, of course, was Windows 10.)


Re: Dear Microsoft,

"People are willing to make the trade[,] it seems.

The salient point is not, as Teiwaz would have it, that it's not actually a trade if Microsoft's customers give nothing additional in exchange for the updates to Windows. (The updates were already purchased with whatever original consideration was given. Obviously.)

What "thtechnologist" and his statement overlook is that people can't consent to the trade — to the privacy they are giving up in exchange for whatever ostensible "benefits" the updates in question provide — if they are unaware that they are making it! Which is why Microsoft should not be hiding the ball.



Re: Offensive, sure, but is it actually HARMFUL?

P.S. This whole experience makes me want to suggest that El Reg adopt a new Forum-posting icon for "Windows user" — one more consistent with the reality of being a Microsoft customer, but less consistent with The Register's standards of Forum decency. And also consistent — for those who are familiar with it — with the details and history of Microsoft's former relationship with IBM.

(I am alluding, of course, to the coining of the shorthand "BOGU", and the famous presentation to Steve Ballmer of a jar of Vaseline with that expression attached. A picture of a person actually bending over in preparation to take it up the arse would be ideal, but far too graphic and unsubtle. A picture of a jar of Vaseline, on the other hand, would be amply subtle and discreet!

"FYIFV" was another charming and colorful early Microsoftism that was not quite up to El Reg's standards of decorum and politeness. With which I agree wholeheartedly.)

Victims of US gov't mega-breach still haven't been notified


Just how far back does this go?

According to the OPM Web site linked at the end of the article:

"If you underwent a background investigation through OPM in 2000 or afterwards . . ., it is highly likely that you are impacted by the incident involving background investigations. If you underwent a background investigation prior to 2000, you still may be impacted, but it is less likely."

Obviously it doesn't say how much less likely.

Has anybody here learned from any other source just how far back it might go? Is there any known year before which one can be pretty-much certain that one's data would not have been part of the breach?

(I'm guessing that a person who submitted a now-discontinued SF-171, by hard copy only, rather than the newer SF-86, probably has nothing to worry about. Unless of course old SF-171s were at some point scanned by OPM and then made available electronically within OPM's internal database.)

Oh no, startup Massive Analytic unleashes 'artificial precognition'


What about free will?

Legend has it that in a graduate economics class at The University of Chicago, after Milton Friedman had put on the blackboard a single statistical equation intended to describe the entire economy, a student called out "What about free will?" Professor Friedman reportedly turned back to the board, added an error term (plus-or-minus epsilon, "±ε") to the end of the right-hand side of the equation, and then turned back to the student and said "There, that's free will!"

(Anyone who finds this story at odds with his perception of Milton Friedman needs to realize that Friedman was just as committed to positivist methodology as he was to libertarian ideology.)


All hat and no cattle

It sounds like interesting tech, and much of this is possible in principle,* but the story is awfully long on claims and short on substantiation. Indeed, it doesn't even attempt to provide any explanation of how Oscar AP is supposed to differ from the countless other attempts at predictive analytics or artificial intelligence! It just gives us a new buzzword ("artificial precognition").


* To be precise: The detection of otherwise-hidden correlations certainly is possible, and that information can often be quite useful and illuminating. Predictions of future behavior, on the other hand — whether of complex systems or of individual human beings — are another thing altogether. While some types of limited, probabilistic predictions might well grow out of the patterns and correlations that are detected, it is highly doubtful that — for instance — Oscar AP will ever enable "Elected officials . . . to know who dissidents are . . . before the dissidents themselves know they are going to speak up." That sort of claim is as inherently problematic (if not ridiculous!) here as it was in the story Minority Report. I predict (irony intended) many lawsuits if Oscar AP is used to "spot personnel issues and . . . predict failures in . . . people."


Re: Goons

"Artificial respiration? The man is dying, dammit! He needs the real thing!"

But in the case of "artificial precognition", there almost certainly is no "real thing"!

(Indeed, it seems far more likely and plausible that there might be meaningful probabilistic predictions of people's future decisions and behavior gleaned by machines from high-speed mining and analysis of masses of data, and the detection of hidden patterns and correlations, than that there might be any sort of actual precognition of future events by humans using psychic powers. On this particular question I agree entirely with Patrick Jane of the TV show The Mentalist: "There's no such thing as psychics" (1:56), but there are people who can quickly make good educated guesses that sensibly work the odds.)

Paris Hilton

Re: "slippery beasts"

"Was I the only one to mis-read that?"

Whatever you thought you saw when you first read A Non e-mouse's original sentence,* do you handle with care?


* "Statistics are slippery beasts and need to be handled with extreme care."


Re: Sorry..

"the vision of precondition and overthrowing governments is far from the truth."

I'm pretty darn sure you meant precognition, not precondition. Damn auto-correct!

(I'm also pretty darn sure that precognition probably doesn't exist, and is in fact impossible!)

Black Helicopters

Re: And a big load of Hot air (possibly)

"Just to be safe, I'm posting as AC."

Now you see, if you had this Oscar AP thingy at your disposal (or either Samaritan or "The Machine" from TV's Person of Interest!), you wouldn't have needed to hedge like that. You could have reliably predicted not only how many up and down votes your comment would generate, but who would make them and even when! (And then modified the content of your post accordingly.) Hell, you even would have foreseen my response!

Everybody knows computers can do this sort of thing now, right?