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Comment author: ameriver 20 April 2011 09:55:45PM 7 points [-]

Thanks, that was well put (as was the original post). I don't disagree with any of this, but wanted to point out that the hardwired results of evolution often can't be counteracted simply by explaining to the meat-brain that they are no longer adaptive.

I think that Luke's post would have been better served by an example in which the barrier to experimentation was, in fact, an irrational fear of something what won't really happen, rather than a rational fear of an irrational (but hardwired) negative emotional experience.

Comment author: sfb 21 April 2011 09:38:32PM 0 points [-]

but wanted to point out that the hardwired results of evolution often can't be counteracted simply by explaining to the meat-brain that they are no longer adaptive.

Do you have any evidence of this?

Or, since that is a bit tautological, do you have any evidence that the things we want to change (social interaction fears, for instance) are the unchangable "hardwired results of evolution", and not the malleable program running on top (for want of a better description)?

Comment author: Sniffnoy 21 April 2011 03:40:24AM 8 points [-]

Let's not forget the converse: Fear that the other person will be creeped out. No, you'll never see them again, but you still don't want to make a random person's day more creepy.

(This I have recently learned seems to be actually largely unjustified, but it was a big thing stopping me from doing this until then...)

Comment author: sfb 21 April 2011 09:31:03PM *  2 points [-]

Let's not forget the converse: Fear that the other person will be creeped out.

I suspect that's not a true answer. You could hypothetically feel pleased when you creep someone out. That's a possible state for a human.

So it may not be "them feeling creeped out" that you avoid, but "you having an obligation to feel bad when you creep someone out", and you avoid that state of feeling bad. Which is slightly different.

Comment author: Spurlock 20 April 2011 11:26:09PM 9 points [-]

Great post. A useful followup might be "Just try what?", which would address how to generate and weigh ideas to be tested. Like you mention, scientifically established (or at least supported) ideas are usually the best starting point, but how do we fill in the gaps in this knowledge that you alluded to?

I mention this because there's no way "drink spoonfuls of vegetable oil" would have even occurred to me as a hypothesis, and if it had I would surely have laughed it away.

Comment author: sfb 21 April 2011 09:27:28PM 4 points [-]

Roberts' hypothesis is not about the drinking vegetable oil particularly, it's about the link between flavour intensity, calories and weight gain/loss. He was looking for a way to ingest a sudden high calorie, no taste thing. Flavourless vegetable oil is no-flavour/high-calorie - and so is his previous idea of fructose disolved in water.

A useful followup might be "Just try what?"


A) Whatever it is you want to try, but are putting off

B) Whatever it is you don't want to do and can't do, but feel like you should be able to in order to be a "proper" adult, or a "real" {your job title}, or an ideal human, or whatever.

Comment author: billswift 02 March 2011 07:57:01PM 19 points [-]

Thinking allows us to anticipate ill consequences without suffering them.

Roger Peters, Practical Intelligence

Comment author: sfb 06 March 2011 05:38:19PM 6 points [-]

It also allows us to anticipate ill consequences which don't happen, and suffer them in advance. Sometimes repeatedly.

(And by "allows us to", I also mean "it often does so automatically").

Comment author: Clippy 01 March 2011 08:05:12PM 2 points [-]

What government attack vectors against Bitcoin do you deem most likely to work? (There is probably a discussion thread on the Bitcoin forums on this matter.)

One obvious (and rather covert) method to undermine Bitcoin is to apply sufficient computational power before the computational power of honest users becomes prohibitive. This would permit a wealthy government to perhaps double-spend bitcoins, undermining the entire network.

An overt method would be to join, and then try to track down (via ISPs) the user associated with every public key.

Comment author: sfb 04 March 2011 11:07:48PM *  2 points [-]

What government attack vectors against Bitcoin do you deem most likely to work?

From Wikipedia:

In order to prevent double-spending, the network implements some kind of a distributed time server, using the idea of chained proofs of work. Therefore, the whole history of transactions has to be stored inside the database, and in order to reduce the size of this storage, a Merkle tree is used.

So I would transact the heck out of it and make the database huge. IIRC at the moment every user needs a full copy of the database of every transaction, so if the .gov can make a multi-terabyte database a requirement, that would knock it on the head quite hard.

Also, the last time I glanced at the source code it looked quite ropey, and that makes me think it will have lots of exploitable parts lurking for the right skilled people to find and attack.

Comment author: David_Gerard 08 February 2011 09:24:46PM *  49 points [-]

Please, please, please, I beg you:

Learn to touch-type. Learn to type with ten fingers.

Computer programs and websites to do this abound. If you find one that's horrible to use, find another. But persist until you do.

I am appalled at how many people I know who use computers typing for hours a day, and never learned how to drive a keyboard. They insist they're just as fast as they would be touch-typing (they're not), and then complain of sore fingers from doing weird stuff to adapt to their inability to type properly.

Anyone reading this site uses computers enough they should know how to type. I would estimate (based on my geeky friends I've seen at a keyboard) less than 20% of you can touch-type properly.

Set up your desk, chair etc per the handy how-to-avoid-RSI diagrams that one can hardly get away from in any setting. Then LEARN HOW TO TYPE. And don't make an excuse for why you're a special snowflake who doesn't need to.

By the way, when I discovered IRC big time (1996), it took my speed from 60wpm to 90wpm. Complete sentences, they're your friend.

My daughter is three and a half. She is already more skilled with the computers at nursery than the staff are. (Can get from the CBeebies games to watching Octonauts on the iPlayer in the blink of an eye!) I'm going to make sure she learns to type properly as soon as possible after she learns to read, dexterity allowing.

Comment author: sfb 11 February 2011 04:42:43PM *  3 points [-]

If you are reading this and want some typing practise:


It's a "sharks are going to eat you, type the word on the side of them to kill them, get more, faster sharks and longer words as you progress" game.

Comment author: SRStarin 08 February 2011 07:00:25PM 4 points [-]

This weekend I finally finished my compass anklet. It's pretty impressive how quickly the human brain can include a new sense. I'm looking forward to taking it geocaching!

Comment author: sfb 09 February 2011 07:38:59AM 1 point [-]

What do you do with the knowledge of which way North is? Are the motors continuously vibrating or pulsed? When you take it off do you feel the absence (absense?) like an amputation?

Comment author: listic 08 February 2011 02:14:26PM 0 points [-]

Do you know of a modern recording technology that would make this kind of recording convenient? An iOS app would be best, I think; alternatively a computer software.

I can well imagine recording myself reading the poems with a cassette recorder, but not with any software that I know.

Comment author: sfb 09 February 2011 07:32:28AM 0 points [-]

Maybe useful - Everyday Looper is an iOS app for recording short looping samples, up to four at a time. That is, you record a sound and it plays it from start to finish over and over in a loop, and you can record another sound up to the same length and play them next to each other, or adjust the volume on them individually.

It's intended for musical use, but might do for what you ask. It is not free, so you might check it out on Youtube to see how it works and why it might be good for quick record-hear-compare feedback.

(iOS / iPhone does have a basic sound recorder in it, as you may know).

Comment author: mindspillage 09 February 2011 06:46:07AM 1 point [-]

I use my thinkpad tablet--my main computer--for reading anything I can manage to get in .pdf, but I do really envy the Kindle screen. And battery life. I keep checking back to the PixelQi site hopefully...

I read paper books because 1) I can get them really cheap used (cheaper than the library fines I always get from borrowing them...), 2) they require no batteries, 3) dropping them or stepping on them will not damage them irreparably, and 4) they are not likely to attract unwelcome attention on the buses through the rougher parts of town.

Comment author: sfb 09 February 2011 06:58:55AM *  0 points [-]

keep checking back to the PixelQi site hopefully...

The first batch of Notion Ink Adam tablets have shipped, they have a PixelQi screen and run Android. Can't yet buy one unless you caught the pre-order, but to me that means they've moved out of 'vapourware'.

Comment author: false_vacuum 09 February 2011 02:06:11AM *  1 point [-]

English speakers ought to know that its is the possessive adjective and it's is the contraction for 'it is'. It drives me crazy when people use it's to mean its, and I do not understand why they do it. Do people not learn how to write by reading? (I certainly did, and I don't see how else you could do it, but I realise I'm somewhat abnormal.) Or is the incorrect use of it's so ubiquitous now that even if people learn to write by reading, unless they read mostly stuff more than ten years old they aren't being exposed to a data set from which they can infer the correct rule? Or is it more a question of being published on paper than of age? And incidentally, does anyone know if schools have stopped teaching this and similar rules? (And if so, why?)

ETA: At least two people downvoted this, so perhaps I should make the following two points more explicit.

  1. My comment was not intended to be censorious in tone (and rereading it I still don't think it is). The bulk of what I wrote takes the form of wondering about the cause of this, to me particularly irritating, phenomenon. (Thanks to Vladimir M, I am a little less confused now.)

  2. The reason why I find the phenomenon so irritating is primarily that I value my ability to effortlessly produce correct grammar, spelling, etc., and seeing the same mistake consistently a large enough fraction of the time bollixes up my machinery, tending to decrease the effortlessness with which I can perform correctly. Also, I fear that others are subject to the same effect, and that there could be a threshold of criticality, and even that that threshold may already have been reached. So it's a (fairly minor) group rationality issue.

Comment author: sfb 09 February 2011 06:19:45AM *  3 points [-]

I do not understand why they do it

I do it (and then correct it, but only when I notice that I've done so) because using an apostrophe to indicate possession is the common case.

Relevant apostrophe comic 1.

You might find this snippet of OKCupid's blog interesting - a correlation between being religious and being unbothered by poor spelling and grammar. It's a graphic because the blog post is long and has no way to link just to that point. Full link.

Still, downvoted because this is not a procedural knowledge gap you think should be filled, it's just ranting and possibly being in the pattern of having a subgroup of people over whom to feel superior.

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