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More thoughts on autonomous cars

Written by Svip on

Recently I discussed autonomous cars, in particular with regards to the public's reaction to these vehicles. But we did not discuss whether autonomous cars are actually better drivers than humans. We just assume they were.

While it is hard to argue against reactions times, there is still no proof that autonomous cars are actually less accident prone than humans. So let's look at the numbers.

We'll focus on the United States and Google. Google, because they have been doing the most real-world testing and the United States, because that's where Google operates, so the data is somewhat comparable.

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Autonomous cars are coming, but not soon

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CGP Grey's "Humans Need Not Apply" video raises a good point about autonomous machines and their 'threat' to human jobs, because humans will simply become unemployable, because computers can do their jobs faster, better and for much less.

Grey himself insists that while we have experienced industrial revolutions before, this time it's different. He estimates that up to 45% of the current labour forces will become unemployable, when 'autos' (as he calls them) can replace their jobs. While insisting that automation isn't bad, he does acknowledge such a large unemployment to be seriously problematic, and that we need to strongly repair for a world, where - through no fault of our own - most humans simply cannot get a job.

However, I don't believe Grey's dire warnings will come as soon as he might expect. While insisting that this time it's different, he believes that Unions won't be able to fight it, because they've always lost in the past. This seems to completely dismiss the political reality. With a potential 45% of the current work force being laid off, this won't simply be a job for the Unions to fight, but for the politicians themselves. Remember, these soon to be unemployed people are also their voters.

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The advantages of being a racist

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While discussing with a friend how certain Swedish media and personalities are quick to paint all Danish people as racist, I remarked - in jest - that at least now we could be openly racist, to which my friend commented; yes, with all the advantages that comes with being a racist. I thought about his comment, and initially I could not answer what advantages there were to being a racist. But eventually it did occur to me.

To put simply, all humans are more or less racist. It's how we deal with it that differentiate us. But the fact that we are, is essentially just our brain trying to being efficient. Research have shown that a single human can usually keep about 150 'close friends' at any one time. From tribal villages to Facebook friend count averages, 150 seems to be a recurring figure.

But a single human is bound to meet and interact with a lot more people than 150. The brain tries to cut down on its resources for keeping track of people by placing people in predefined categories. These categories are typical stereotypical, racist and/or sexist in nature. All this is done immediately when we meet a new person, based entirely on their appearance.

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Another revelation is the inefficiency

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Edward Snowden's leaks have revealed many things, although none of them surprising, if one really thought hard and long about it. But if you consider the American intelligence agencies' track record, you might consider the revelations in the leaks quite surprising. You might ask: How can they have this much data and still be this rubbish?

Espionage among the European states began in earnest in the 15th century. It was a significant tool to knowing your opponents' moves, your allies' possible backstabbing and everything in between. And in this era, where states rose, were annexed and divided, espionage could mean the difference between life and death of a country.

The expertise gathered from these centuries of hostile espionage among the several European countries, succeeded to the modern successor states. European colonial interests and imperial ambitions also gave a necessity for European espionage around the world.

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Worried about your twist? Don't reveal it

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Game of Thrones is all the rage these days. And everyone's talking about it. And for good reason; it's well made, and the story it is built on - A Song of Ice and Fire - is solid. It has a large character cast, a convoluted and complex story, and without doubt something still a bit unusual to television programmes and books; being a main character does not exclude you from dying.

But with all this talk, George R.R. Martin, the author, finds himself in a bit of a trouble. One of the main characters, Eddard Stark's bastard son, Jon Snow, has a mystery plot surrounding him: Who his mother is is unknown. The guesswork for who his mother is, is giving food to wild speculation on the Internet, possibly leading to some accurate explanations and the eventual 'saw it coming' when it is finally revealed.

Now, I realise there are other mystery plots in A Song of Ice and Fire, with wild speculation going rampant on the Internet with possible solutions and explanations to the upcoming twists. But I am going to focus on Jon Snow's mother, because it is one of the early mysteries introduced, and one that is clearly halted early on for an explanation, because of Eddard Stark's death.

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"Band or DJ?" finally ties How I Met Your Mother together

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As you probably know, I am a fan of How I Met Your Mother. Not hardcore, but just a fan. I like the mystery the show deliberately depicts throughout; how does he meet the mother? It is not a mystery of who the mother is, that's irrelevant (and impossible to decipher, because we haven't met her yet). It's how he gets from A to B.

Let's start at the beginning. Ted begins his story the night he meets Robin, whom is - established from the first episode - not the mother. Why does he choose this night to start his story? Well, obviously because he is obtuse and likes to bother his children with a ridiculously long story. But progress wise (towards getting married), there is a good point.

The same night falls rather in good conjure with Marshall proposing to Lily. Amazing coincidence, perhaps, but storytelling-wise, neat. Because it matches Ted's beginning pursuit of wanting to settle down. But why is this night special? Because he meets Robin, whom he than pursues. While this pursuit is not successful, it is important.

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Why an expected twist isn't necessarily a bad one

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There are effectively four kinds of a twists; a twist can either be good or bad and either expected or unexpected. The fact that you expected a twist does not make it bad.

A twist is an interesting turn of events in a story, often coming towards the end as the story builds up to it. The difference between a good or a bad twist is not whether it is necessarily well done, but rather whether the twist is satisfying. For instance; 'it was all dream' is never satisfying, thus a bad twist, but often unexpected.

A twist should not come out of nowhere (like 'it was all dream'). There should be hints. A well done twist (usually an unexpected and satisfying twist) inserts hints that can only apply to the eventual twist, yet are so nuanced that the audience may think it is not.

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I have a bad feeling about this

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Justin Angel have recently showcased how to crack Windows 8 apps in a relatively simple and straightforward manner; essentially allowing him to turn trial versions into full versions, turn off in-app ads and bybass in-app purchases.

This is troubling for people who are interested in selling their software on Windows 8, when it can be bypassed so simply. It won't be long before someone writes an app that does all this tweaking automatically.

Now, I personally agree that it's your device and you can do with it what you want. Mess around with the bits as much as you like. But we all know that neither Microsoft nor the developers/publishers who will sell on the platform are going to be particularly happy.

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Danish council recommends to make it legal to sell pornography to children

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Since the 1960s, Denmark has had a permanent council for legal punishment (»Straffelovrådet«), which is to come with recommendations to the Danish punishment code (»Straffeloven«, lit. 'punishment law'). Now and then - I don't know how often - they compile a report to the Danish Ministry of Justice, wherein their recommendations lie. These reports usually includes answers to questions the Ministry and other members of Parliament may have had.

And this one is no exception. While most attention in the news have focused on its recommendation against making buying sex illegal (Danish link), as it is in Sweden, another interesting bit is the fact that they are proposing legalising pornography sold to children (Danish link).

Their reasoning? Today, pornography is so freely available on the Internet anyway, which will be impossible to control, and in particularly to enforce the current Danish law, which makes it illegal to sell pornography to people under 16. By the time children are 12-14, they have likely been exposed to pornography online. They believe that it should not be the government's job to control the flow of information via the Internet to children, but rather the parents'.

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Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh are two sides of the same coin

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This should come as no surprise; both Mr Maher and Mr Limbaugh are firmly attached to one side of the 2D political spectrum that is American politics. Mr Maher being liberal (i.e. the Democrats), while Mr Limbaugh is a conservative (i.e. the Republicans). Big story telling.

I like neither of them. I may agree with Bill Maher on several points, but essentially he is just another Limbaugh with different views. Both these men make a living of ridiculing the other side, and they do so without fear of offending them, because when they offend them, they get approval from their targeted audience; their own political side. In other words, they are preaching to the choir.

Or put it in a different way; they are not interested in fixing anything. The divisiveness of the American political landscape is perfect for both, it means that there is not just an opposing side; there is an enemy to scapegoat. They are both entertainers, and they make their living ridiculing the opposing side. It is harder for Rush Limbaugh to be successful when a Republican is President compared to how things are now, and I suppose the reverse is true for Bill Maher.

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