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About Altherion

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  1. Altherion

    NHL: 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs

    It's hard to say whether Vegas will win, but I can guarantee you that we will never, ever see an expansion draft like this again in any sport. Sure, they didn't get any top-tier star players (e.g. Crosby), but every player they have is good and the goaltender is clearly capably of winning the Stanley Cup (having already won three times).
  2. Altherion

    SpaceX's Big Falcon Topic 2

    There's a wiki page listing all of the boosters. The shortest so far has been 5 months and 9 days, but barring unforeseen problems, this should change shortly. The one launching this Tuesday will only have spent 4 months and 13 days on the ground and the one on June 18th will nearly halve that at 2 months and 10 days. Hopefully will see times less than a month with Block 5.
  3. Altherion

    The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

    I actually liked that aspect of the books. Pretty much every human culture (including ourselves) posits certain values and modes of behavior as better than anything that came before and therefore many people from every culture assume that the future will be more of the same -- completely ignoring both the fact that this assumption has never worked out before and that there are contemporary cultures with radically different values and behaviors who strongly disagree with them. Bujold does not try to pick a certain set of values and instead presents a variety of coexisting cultures each of which has people who will argue that, on the whole, theirs is the way to go with an occasional minority which disagrees. I don't necessarily think that this is what will happen. In particular, if there do arise transhumans (even at the relatively tame level of the Cetagandans), I suspect that they'll take over sooner rather than later. However, the assumption that all of these extensions of existing cultures can coexist does result in a world that is rather like our own and this is one of the series's strengths.
  4. Altherion

    US Politics: Follow the Money!

    The Israelis and the Saudis? At the rate this is going, the whole world (except perhaps the UK) will have helped Trump get elected.
  5. We've discussed a few aspects of this in other threads (e.g. the data mining of Facebook in US Politics or the privacy implications of having an internet connected microphone in the smart speaker thread), but there hasn't been a dedicated thread for what I think is a fairly interesting and fast-moving topic. As electronics improves, it becomes easier and easier to keep track of everyone and perhaps even influence them -- for the former, one need not even be a government or giant corporation anymore. Here are a trio of articles with examples. First, if you understand how your cell phone works, you know that the towers which provide it service can also locate it with a precision of order half a kilometer or so in urban areas. This is an inevitable consequence of how the network works and not nefarious in and of itself... but it does raise the question of who can access this location information. It turns out that in the US, almost anyone: Lest you think ubiquitous surveillance is limited to the US, here's a Guardian article about workplace monitoring in the UK. Right now, different corporations are trying out different things depending on the role of the employee, but the most useful of these will eventually become commonplace. The last (and in my opinion the most interesting of the lot) is the logical extension of all of this surveillance. This requires one to already have a great deal of information as well as cutting edge hardware and software so it is not surprising that it comes from our benevolent search overlords. Having mastered data collection, Google is now trying to think of a good way to put this data to use: Of course, most of this is speculative at the moment and the article includes a disclaimer by Google which claims this is a thought experiment unrelated to any current or future product, but a lot of social media tools try to get the user to disclose as much information as possible and so do large corporations like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. We're not at the point where products can autonomously fill in the gaps or manipulate us; there still has to be a human somewhere in the background... but we're getting there. Does anyone have other examples or opinions on these?
  6. They're a deterrent and, if that does not work, insurance. You have to understand that the American government (at all levels) is very good at ignoring laws which people in power find advantageous to ignore. For example, illegal immigration -- a flagrant violation of the law on massive scale (not only on the part of the migrants, but also on that of those who employ them) -- has been happening for decades without any action that made any impact on it. For a less politicized example which involves local rather than federal policy, despite the existence of the Fourth Amendment, there exists a process called civil forfeiture by which law enforcement can seize property and the burden of proof for getting it back is on the person to whom it belongs. Firearms are far from being a perfect deterrent for such behavior, but they help keep things from getting completely out of hand.
  7. I am pretty sure that for a fairly large fraction of them, it's not cognitive dissonance, but rather an unwillingness to openly provide the real reason for their support...
  8. Altherion

    US Politics: Follow the Money!

    Have you guys seen examples of the allegedly Russian Facebook ads? There are some here and they are hilariously awful. For one thing, they don't even use grammatically correct English and it doesn't look like they used Google Translate -- this is more like somebody assembling together English words without understanding how an English sentence is supposed to be structured. Also, most of it is really old-fashioned: you might have seen American work work like this in the mid-twentieth century (think Rosie the Riveter), but no serious ad agency does things like this today. And finally, the ads are written by people who kind of know what's going on, but not completely. Maybe there is some latent demand for old-fashioned propaganda written in English so bad that it's understandable mostly because you already know what they're trying to say, but honestly, if this silliness is enough to swing an election, we're so screwed...
  9. Altherion

    U. S. Politics: A noun, a verb and no collusion.

    It calls itself an Islamic Republic, but it's much more of the former than of the latter. It does have some democratic features (e.g. a parliament), but make no mistake: these are completely subordinate to the theocratic elements.
  10. Altherion

    The Significant Handshake - France on Citizenship

    While there are undoubtedly many obscure customs in any culture, if you can't figure out the significance of shaking hands, there isn't much hope for you...
  11. Altherion

    The Significant Handshake - France on Citizenship

    It looks like a pretty clear-cut case to me: the law explicitly specifies that people who want to be citizens have to assimilate. I lived in France for quite a few years and they are reasonably accommodating to visitors, but you can't expect them to fulfill your requests without at least trying to respect their customs.
  12. Altherion


    I finished reading this a couple of days ago. It's definitely a good book and easily worth the price even if it wasn't on Amazon's strange sale. I wouldn't go as far as Kalbear in saying that it's one of the best science fiction books I've ever read, but it is one of the best comedy science fiction books (or even just comedy books in general) that I've read. It has a massive number of both jokes and references (there are at least a few on every page) and quite a few of them are funny and/or clever.
  13. Altherion

    US Politics: House of the Rising Sun

    That's pretty impressive. All I ever got were claims of international conspiracies seeking to hide "truths" such as the Higgs boson really being an isotope of Xenon.
  14. Altherion

    Freedom: What's it worth?

    But they don't just write regulations via regulatory capture, they also (often quite literally) write the rules which the bureaucrats are supposed to be enforcing. And yes, there is also the element of "cultural capture" you mention above -- which again favors exactly the same people. Do you think careerist bureaucrats in Russia, China and the like don't implement policy outcomes which clash with the intentions of their politicians when this serves the bureaucrats' aims and they can get away with it? This kind of bureaucrat was practically a staple character of Soviet storytelling...
  15. Altherion

    Freedom: What's it worth?

    It does when the oligarchs write the regulations -- which is fairly close to the current state of affairs. Regulation and bureaucracy in and of themselves are neutral concepts, but absent some non-trivial opposing force, those with power will bend both far past the point where they are good for anyone else. This is true, but I don't see how bureaucrats circumventing elected legislators serves the cause of freedom. In fact, bureaucratic drift is something we have in common with most rather repressive societies -- it's present pretty much everywhere there is a bureaucracy