Archive for August, 2007

Once again, Esther Dyson is full of it

August 24, 2007

Esther Dyson: Release 0.9: Knowledge Forces Responsibility – Business on The Huffington Post:

Once we know a lot, we will have to be more explicit in what medical care we pay for and what medical care we do not pay for, as a society (or in each country).

Spoken like someone in healthy late middle age with the money to pay for whatever medical care might be desired.

At first I was going to ridicule this article for the parts that implied — gasp! — that insurance companies might not want to stay in business if they couldn’t adjust premiums and exclude particular illnesses from coverage depending on your genetic testing results. What better argument for universal health care could you want?

“…perfect genetic information is not perfect information about people’s fates,” says Dyson. But then follows it with the pseudolibertarian 

It is, however, clear enough that it will force us to be much more explicit about what risks we will cover and what responsibilities society will force back onto individuals.

Last time I checked, our genes are perhaps the attribute each of us has absolutely the least responsibility for. (Unless Dyson is suggesting that people with expensive alleles should refrain from reproducing lest the rest of us be saddled with their children’s medical costs, in which case the argument goes perhaps a bit too far.)

And underlying all of this talk about risks and responsibilities, of course, is the long-time conservative-misanthrope notion that consuming medical care — i.e. being sick, going to the doctor, having your body cut open and pumped full of interesting compounds — is somehow a pleasure that people crave, so that they must be deterred from it by the expedient of making them even sicker.


Way cool, and kinda sad

August 15, 2007

I hope I never get divorced and think it would be a good idea to connect with my kids by playing a computer game with them. Even if it would.

DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly: Jerz. Somewhere Nearby is Colossal Cave: Examining Will Crowther’s Original “Adventure” in Code and in Kentucky:

Several caving resources shed light on the pre-history of “Adventure”, including Crowther’s 1975 map of the Bedquilt region of Colossal Cave (sometimes confused with Crowther’s original game), and a manual describing recreational caving as the CRF practiced it in the mid 70s. Insights gained from a recent CRF expedition to Colossal Cave – together with an analysis of the recovered source code and new feedback from Crowther, Woods, and others with knowledge of the original “Adventure” – clarify our understanding of an important digital artifact.

Another thing that doesn’t require intelligence any more.

August 15, 2007

And pretty darn cool, especially considering the fact that you could build robot tankers as well. Pretty soon we’ll be able to get to the ideal of an entire military machine complex carrying war long after humans are extinct.

Droid pilots beat humans at air-to-air refuelling | The Register:

The software improved significantly during the trials, according to NASA test pilot Dick Ewers. Last year it flew “like a second lieutenant”, he said. But the robot rookie was upgraded, and now it’s “better than a skilled pilot”.

This is so pretty I didn’t want to lose it

August 15, 2007

David Rees: Cormac Ignatieff’s “The Road” – Politics on The Huffington Post:

Shadows on the wall

August 15, 2007

This is really pretty nice. For a long time people have been trying to figure out the right balance between presence and privacy, and this might come closer to it than a lot of other. As long as you don’t, say, have sound too.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Shadow lamps to connect friends:

Creator Shunpei Yasuda said the shadow presence system aims to fill the gap between live video and static images. Mr Yasuda, a post-graduate student in Media Design at Japan’s Keio University, said the inspiration for the system came from Japanese history. For many years, he said, Japanese homes have had Shoji or paper walls that divide some rooms. The thin walls preserve some privacy but the shadows cast on the paper as people move about also act as a reminder of that person’s presence.


August 2, 2007

Will British Columbia really start recycling old computers? – Neoseeker News Article:

In this day and age of environmental awareness and reconstitution of reusable materials, it seems odd that immolation could be considered a form of recycling. To put it ever so bluntly; is incineration akin to recycling?

Graphene Oxide Paper, Technology Transfer Program, Northwestern University:

Herein a novel free standing membrane material prepared from graphene oxide (GO) with properties superior to the above materials is described. Membrane filtration of colloidal graphene oxide sheet dispersions and drying affords graphene oxide paper 1-30 µm thick. SEM and XRD analysis reveal well packed layers sandwiched between less densely packed 100-200 nm thick layers, with ~ 1 molecular water layer between sheets (Fig. 1).

A victory of sorts for the disabled

August 2, 2007

The original ruling was a brilliant Catch-22: the harder you work at overcoming your disability, the less accomodation employers have to make for you. 

The Register:

Employment tribunals should assess worker disability not in comparison with the rest of the population, but in comparison with the performance of that worker without that disability, the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has ruled. The ruling was given in the case of a senior policeman who requested extra time in examinations because he said his dyslexia was a disability. An employment tribunal ruled that he did not have a disability and so anti-discrimination legislation should not apply. It said that because the worker could function as well as other people, he should not have the protection of the law. The EAT, though, said that approach undermines the entire basis of anti-discrimination legislation.

This reminds me of a discussion long ago with an uebergeek in the finance world, who was rather pleased that his company’s disability coverage was “own-job” disability rather than the usual kind. He explained that the fancy version would keep making payments as long as he was unable to do the job he’d had before being disabled.  Regular disability coverage, in contrast, would have stopped as soon as he was able to hold any job, even, say, folding cardboard boxes in a sheltered workshop.

And Rush Limbaugh walks free…

August 2, 2007

Hillsborough: Freed man still in limbo:

The opinion faulted prosecutors’ claims that Florida statutes do not allow a “prescription defense” in drug trafficking cases. Using words like “absurd” and “ridiculous,” three appellate judges said the state’s position would make patients with valid prescriptions criminals as soon as they left the drugstore.

The wheels of tech grind slowly

August 2, 2007

Almost 20 years ago to the day I was working on a team doing just this kind of stuff…

Robot fins to propel submarines:

“If we could produce AUVs that can hover and turn and store energy and do all the things a fish does, they’ll be much better than the remotely operated vehicles we have now.”

News to no one who’s worked near a copy machine

August 2, 2007

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Office printers ‘are health risk’:

An investigation of a range of printer models showed that almost a third emit potentially dangerous levels of toner into the air.

At one magazine, my first office (the one reserved in turn for each new fish) was right next to the copier, with no window. The smell clung to my clothes and hair like smoke from a crowded bar. Of course, I did get to know everyone much faster that way…