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That's right he didn't. The OP didn't quite do the TL;DR right, really the letter goes something like this:

Part 1 (How I made my manager hate me): I insisted that we have better performance and everyone told me to f* off, so I went above my manager and now she hates me. (This is reasonable of her)

Par 2 She asks me to commit a crime and I raise it with HR, etc.

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I am by no means an AI professional or neurobioligist, but I have read recently that a major problem with neural networks is that they do not have glial cells which, among other things, move synapses around and helps with synapse growth.

There are around 100 billion neurons in the brain and 100 trillion synapses. This indicates to me that synapses may be more important to biological neural networks than neurons are, and yet most ANN research has been focused exclusively on neurons (I once asked my teacher which neurons to connect to each other and recommended using a GA, which is not a bad idea but it indicates to me we have a very poor understanding of how synapses aught to work to make better ANNs.)

I disagree with the overly pessimistic view of this article however. To say that our standard neural networks are not nearly as complex as biological ones would be accurate, but this hardly means that ANNs are doomed forever, we just need more research into the things that matter.

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You cannot actually be harmed by speech, and you certainly can't be harmed by a piano review. The EU has ruled wrong in this case.

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This is either incredibly pedantic, or incredibly ignorant. While you can not be directly harmed merely by the speech itself, you can certainly be indirectly harmed by it's continued wide public dissemination, on the basis of others reactions to it.

> and you certainly can't be harmed by a piano review. The EU has ruled wrong in this case.

The EU has not ruled that you can get a piano review removed.

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Indeed it has. It really should be labeled as "The Right To Suppress What You Don't Care For".

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Sorry, not an expert and I have never been an entrepreneur so forgive me if I am misunderstanding, but doesn't YC give them money? In order for this statement to be true either (1) having startup seed money has no bearing on success or (2) YC gives the same money to people it rejects as to people it accepts.

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The amount of capital provided by YC is trivial...a rounding error relative to the value of a successful company. But more relevant is that YC almost certainly has some meaningful data on the companies it rejects.

So PG's claim could very well be supported by proprietary information.

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The amount of capital provided by YC is trivial.

Never been accepted to YC, but I gather that the value of access to YC's demo day and a strong network of investors and alumni is far from trivial.

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Trivial once the company is successful, but isn't the purpose of the money to ensure that the founders don't have to give up and get "proper" jobs before the company succeeds?

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But then you're acknowledging that startup success is not solely dependent on luck...

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I think you're interpreting the idea of luck incorrectly. Luck in this context is simply the phenomenon of being one of the start ups with high success. To say that success depends solely on luck means that the success of any startup is simply rand(). That doesn't mean all start ups are equally successful.

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Giving selected startups money confounds two factors: the selection criteria and the extra funding. This means that any differences in the success rate can't simply be assigned to the selectors choosing wisely.

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Hate to downvote an otherwise very informative post, but tech literacy is not an issue here. If this was a hundred years before facebook existed and someone joked "Oh yes I'm insane, I am going to stab a hundred babies...ha ha ha" it would be the exact same issue.

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You're right, 'tech literacy' isn't really the right words, more like 'cultural literacy' where the correct "frame of reference" in this case is MMORPG banter. Or what the courts might refer to as 'community standards'.

It's been a while since my one and only anthropology course, but the basic idea is actions and language can only be understood through a common perceptual framework between the speaker and the listener. Actions which are otherwise benign, or even loving, can seem violent or insane when the observer lacks the proper 'frame'.

One great example of this, if you're a fan of Orson Scott Card, is the humans struggling to understand the Pequeninos in Xenocide, the 3rd book in the Ender's Game series.

This is why, when I hear the statement was made in the context of a MMORPG, it immediately alters my opinion on whether Justin had mens rea (criminal intent) when he wrote the post. A hundred years ago, if communities didn't exist where this type of dialog was typical, the same words actually take on a different meaning -- one that might actually indicate a need for intervention!

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You shouldn't downvote a post because you don't agree with it anyway. You should downvote it because it doesn't add anything to the discussion or is otherwise vapid. It follows that there should never be a reason to downvote and reply to a comment.

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Are you sure about that? Comments like the one this kid made are rampant in certain immature areas of the internet. If you're used to that sort of thing, it's more of a bad taste issue than an actual threat.

I.e. Oprah and http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/its-over-9000

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I would like to add one other thing I like about go: There is a parser and an abstract syntax tree in the standard library.

Sometimes when I'm programming at work I need to add log messages to every method on a large interface (or several interfaces). It is obvious to me that there needs to be some tool or library that adds these very simple log messages to these methods for me (like "Entering method getUser(UserId=2701, SessionId='AABCF')").

The tool we have at work uses runtime generated code to add these messages to methods automatically. Besides the performance hit this is fine, except for one problem. Sometimes it doesn't work; and it is impossible to figure out why. You turn on the tool, add all the right metadata, and nothing happens. You could argue that it is a tool problem, but I think one of the big things is that runtime generated code is just vastly inferior to compile time generated code.

If I were using go, my tool would open the code, read the interfaces, and spit out a nice implementation of logging in a .generated.go file and if it doesn't work for some reason I can actually go look at the generated code and see why. Trying to figure out why an implementation isn't working by looking at it's dynamically generated bytecode or .net clr is not fun at all.

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runtime generated code is just vastly inferior to compile time generated code

That's a big call. I think you should curtail it, eg. "runtime generate code can be harder to debug". This is often true but not always. Let's not get in to workmen and their tools.

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I agree with the GP's statement, because "harder to debug" == "vastly inferior". In my last job we worked a huge amount with generated code, and having generated source that you can step through is essential. I've never seen runtime generated code that's easy to debug.

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Your logic seems to be that because some runtime code can be harder to debug (This is often true but not always), having personally encountered such, you therefore declare that all runtime code is vastly inferior. Sorry, but this is ridiculous. Can you contribute something more solid than an anecdote?

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I'm sorry you think it's ridiculous but it's just my opinion, after all. Feel free to ignore it. Can you give us an example of runtime generated code that is easy to debug?

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I can't. However, I do believe that software development in general is headed away from monolithic compilation, and that future systems will be largely real time, parallel, multi-component, perhaps more heterogeneous, and almost certainly predominantly interpreted.

Our habits trap us in to seeing things one way.

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Lisp macros?

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Lisp macros are compile-time generated code (think "small compiler plugins"); nothing happens at runtime in a compiled implementation.

More importantly, and to tie this back to the OP's comment, I would strongly recommend to implement any non-trivial macro as a "shell" which delegates to a normal function (cf. eval-when); that makes it much easier to debug/trace expansions from the REPL.

In other words: you can have it both ways! :)

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An aside: I find that this site looks absolutely beautiful on my phone.

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Yes, they really are embracing the whole 'responsive' thing.

Does anyone else chuckle when seeing conditional comments for IE on a microsoft site?

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A lot of people responding to this thread do not understand relativity. The OP is correct, the fundamental problem is causality, relativity and FTL do not mix. The common way of saying it is that you can have two of the three: FTL, causality, or relativity. You cannot have all three. Here is a very nice explanation of why:

http://thebestforumever.com/community/threads/tachyon-pistol...

Also, I've never understood how the Novikov self-consistency principle would work in reality. Causality violations can be a lot simpler than killing your grandfather. Say, for example, you set up a pool table with a pool ball and hit it through a time machine such that it went back in time and hit itself, making it miss the time machine? Would the pool ball be suddenly acted on by some invisible force? Would it explode? Would the universe just end? The whole scenario seems so implausible that addressing this theoretical concern is a lot more relevant than worrying about the energy levels required to manipulate space time.

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> Say, for example, you set up a pool table with a pool ball and hit it through a time machine such that it went back in time and hit itself, making it miss the time machine? Would the pool ball be suddenly acted on by some invisible force? Would it explode? Would the universe just end?

No, none of these. Well, something would prevent this from happening, but whatever happened would have a perfectly reasonable explanation at the time.

You have to understand, firstly, that in GR, the universe doesn't start at the beginning of time and slowly evolve until it reaches the end of time. Instead, all of space and time that ever was or ever will be, exist now and forever. And this one big constant eternal space-time is one of many possible solutions to the equations that constrain the universe.

If a potential universe does not satisfy those equations, then it can't exist and therefore it won't exist.

A universe in which your pool ball goes back in time and deflects itself, is not a solution to those equations, and therefore, that will never happen in any GR compliant universe.

So, what might happen instead? Well, you might get bored with the experiment and give up before you get it working. Your girlfriend might come along and tell you that you are neglecting her. Burglars might steal your time machine. Or most likely, you might never invent the time machine to begin with.

It's quite conceivable that in some sense a time machine is theoretically buildable, but the reason our universe is one of the solutions to GR is that no one ever actually builds one in the history of the universe.

Why not, you ask? Because if they did, that universe is much less likely to be a solution to the equations, so we just so happen to find ourselves in one of the more likely universes.

Another way to think about this is that perhaps all possible universes actually exist. In that case, we have to find ourselves in one of the existing universes. We can't find ourselves in a non-existing universe, since non-existing universes don't exist.

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The link had a really interesting but unsatisfactory explanation, IMO. The way I am understanding it is as follows: Man A and Man B are traveling (with combined speed of 0.866c) away from each other. Because of time dilation, to A it appears that B's clock is twice slower (1/sqrt(1 - 0.866^2) == 2). Then A shoots from some sort of weird space gun whose bullet is instantaneous. The bullet passes B at 4 seconds (relative to B). B notices that and shoots back, and B's bullet, due to equivalent effect hits A at 6 seconds causing a dead grandfather paradox.

However what I don't understand is this -- to say that the bullet shot by A passes B at 4 seconds presumes that we are talking about A's frame of reference (because it is from A's point of view that B is 4 seconds "behind" -- and likewise A is 4 seconds behind from B's perspective). However, what if, from B's frame of reference, A's bullet actually passes B at 0 seconds?

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For anyone reading this, the referenced explanation finally did make sense after I drew a Minkowski diagram of the two duelists. I guess this means that I finally understood special relativity... Brief summary: FTL would indeed violate causality, unless a special frame of reference is proposed (this violates special relativity) or a specific new property of Universe is established such that it would prevent certain events from occurring (aka Novikov conjecture) -- and we don't have evidence for any of the two being true.

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I remember reading a paper that dealt with this issue. The setup was that a spherical mass hit another one into a wormhole that sent it back in time. The velocity was such that it would deflect the first mass before the initial collision, creating a casual paradox. If I remember correctly (and it has been years since I read the paper), they found that the second mass was garaunteed to come out of the wormhole with a velocity that would cause the first mass to hit the second in a way that would result in the new velocity, leading to a consitent system; however the final velocities were probabalistic, not deterministic, of the initial conditions.

Again, I have not seen that paper in years, so my memory might have just made half of that up.

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Tachyons do not necessarily violate causality if you actually take the time to derive the laws of tachyonic kinematics consistent with special relativity.

Sure, tachyons will be strange (different observes won't agree on direction of travel or charge of a tachyonic particle - if we are even able to localize the particle at all; there will be frames of reference where a tachyon won't have energy but will still have momentum, ...), but not really any stranger that what we deal with in quantum mechanics and field theory, and the laws of physics will still hold in all frames of reference.

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This answer doesn't deserve its downvote: The problems with tachyons were largely resolved in the 80s, based on work by Stückelberg and Feynman, Schwartz, Recami and others.

The community just lost interest in them because our current models of particle physics prevents bare tachyons:

QFT does predict real tachyonic particles. However, they are solutions of unstable vacua, which transit to a tachyon-free phase via symmetry breaking.

Stringtheory predicted tachyons as well, but got rid of them again when superstringtheory came around.

Tachyons are not gone completely, though: Virtual particles can be off-shell and thus tachyonic and feature in the description of self-energy.

Tachyons can also be useful to explain EPR-type quantum 'paradoxa' without having to give up reality.

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But you can't use them to transmit information at FTL speeds without violating causality.

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And yet the wright brothers were not granted a patent on "things that fly". They were granted patents on some specific machines they invented that could fly. But the patents were about the mechanical machines themselves. If someone else had come along and invented a totally different means of flying (like a helicopter) they would not have been infringing on their patents. This is a patent on "things that fly".

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Apples patents are clearly not patents on "smartphones with a rectangular touchscreen and no external UI buttons", but they cover many inventions that make such a phone usable.

Likewise, apart from a totally different kind of flying machine like a helicopter, there probably isn't any better method of controlling an airplane than the method covered by Wrights patents (since it specifically does not exclude non-wing warping control designs), which is why the basic mode of control is still in use today. So Wrights patents at the time might as well be called a patents on "things that fly". It was very difficult to make a controllable plane without violating the patent.

Likewise, unless you equip a phone with dedicated zoom controls, there probably isn't a better or more intuitive way of zooming than using pinch-to-zoom or double tapping.

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> Apples patents are clearly not patents on "smartphones with a rectangular touchscreen and no external UI buttons", but they cover many inventions that make such a phone usable.

Actually, per my understanding, Apple's design patents are exactly that (if you throw in beveled corners). It's true, though, that those aren't the patents at issue in this thread.

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Yes, but design patents are a different animal, and AFAIK much easier to work around. So if they changed just one aspect of the design (making it less likely to be confused), Apple would have a harder time enforcing it.

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Lots of devices do not infringe on Apple's iPhone trade dress (ie, design patents). Devices that sell millions of units a quarter.

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I don't know if this makes me cruel, but whenever people talk about donating money to starving children in Africa, I always imagine the following: If I were to donate some amount of money to starving children in an impoverished nation every year I could, theoretically, bring some of them out of starvation. However, these children would then grow into adults, and then these adults would have children of their own. The number of these new children would almost certainly be higher than the number I originally helped bring out of famine, so at that point there would be just as many if not more starving children than we had to begin with. So in my mind the question really goes the other way, how does donating money to buy food for starving children in Africa improve Africa's condition in the long term? What problems caused these nations to produce more children than food and what is being done to eliminate the source of these problems, rather than just the symptoms?

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When Bill Gates' wife began pushing him to work on issues of third-world health, this was more or less his argument against it. She dug up the statistics to show that this idea, while intuitive, is not supported by fact. As health improves-- and in particular as child mortality goes down-- birth rates fall accordingly.

As we all know, Gates got on board, and now funds a lot of health research and on-the-ground initiatives.

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Health generally improves with the underlying economy, not because of charity. The underlying economy is going to correlate with damn near other statistic one way or another.

More credibly, the "War on Poverty" was an abject failure in every way.

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More credibly, the "War on Poverty" couldn't compete with the "War on the War on Poverty".

It's really simple. Imagine that you have no social security in your old age. Your children, who are very likely to die from malnutrition, are your ONLY resource. In the short term (generationally) it makes sense to try to have as many children as possible. That way maybe someone will still be alive to take care of you.

If you don't feel that pressure, there isn't that population explosion.

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If you are referring to Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, you are wrong. It was a significant success and brought poverty rates down to the lowest levels the US had seen before or has seen since.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Poverty

Of course we have more poverty now but keep in mind that most laws and policies associated with the war on poverty were stopped or reversed somehow or other.

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Can you source your information on the abject failure of the "War on Poverty"in every way? I'm sure you were speaking in hyperbole so I'm not expecting that literally this be shown to be a failure in every way.

The term "War on Poverty" in the U.S. specifically refers to initiatives started by the Johnson administration. Do you refer this or some other war on poverty?

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The argument is not that "charity improves healthcare" (though in some specific cases it does, locally), it's that since birth rates tend to fall, the claim that "saving a child will only increase the number of starving people in the future" doesn't hold.

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I'm afraid that the difference it makes when we decreased infant mortality in a region, is the difference between having 8 children and having 5 children.

The problem is one of culture, education, and relative-wealth (and also whatever traits are infuenced by DNA). Everything else stems from that.

Sub-Sahara population has seen a decrease in infant mortality and at the same time has gone from 250M to 850M people in 30 years.

It's blowing up and I'm also afraid that the cause of all that is foreign intervention and artificial aid. In 2050 there will be 2 Billion people there. Who's going to help feed the hungry then?

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Melinda Gates seems to support the idea of birth control in Africa.

http://www.ted.com/talks/melinda_gates_let_s_put_birth_contr...

Edits: She doesn't want it for population control.

By empowering women to decide whether or not they want to have children, it will still significantly reduce the birth rate.

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I'm weary of these statistics as one can manipulate data to suit one's purpose. Source please?

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http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_the_good_news_of_the_d...

That video does a very good job of explaining this. As child mortality decreases, family size goes down. I'm sure the data is manipulated to suit someone's purposes, but all seems reasonable to me...

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I'd recommend watching all the TED talks by Hans Rosling, they are pretty awesome and eye opening, in particular these:

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/hans_rosling_shows_the_best...

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/hans_rosling_reveals_new_in...

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/hans_rosling_at_state.html

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Do some Googling. My grandparents were all born in Ireland from 1905-1920. My father's father was one of 6 children, my mother's mother 1 of 13. All families lost at least two children each that I'm aware of -- stillbirths were often kept secret.

The point is, when you have incredibly poor country, excessive influence of religion, poor health and a high child mortality rate, you have more children, both planned and unplanned.

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I suspect that excessive influence of religion led to all those other problems.

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Excessive influence of religion leads to poverty, poor health, and a high child mortality rate? Do you have any sources to back this besides a general feeling that religion is "bad"?

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TED Talk Hans Rosling: Let my dataset change your mindset:

Religion has very little to do with the number of babies per woman. All the religions in the world are fully [able] to maintain their values and adapt to this new world. </quote> http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/hans_rosling_at_state.html

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Yes religions can adapt, but of course they don't want to and needn't, so Rosling's reasoning isn't convincing. Utah has the highest birth rate in the US. I doubt that has very little to do with Mormonism.

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Have you been to Utah? There isn't much else to do there...

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It's not based on a general feeling. It's based on the fact that resources are limited. Any religion that successfully promotes "be fruitful and multiply" will certainly bump against that limit eventually. I can only suspect in any particular case because something else besides religion could be the main contributor to the bad things.

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I think you mean wary? Here you can see that as infant mortality increases, population growth is nearly steady or even increases slightly. http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly... (Note the log scale on the vertical axis.) You can "scrub" backward and forward in time with the slider at the bottom.

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Play with the raw data as you like at Gapminder.org.

For example, here is a graph I created of infant mortality vs children per woman: http://www.bit.ly/QTPNBk (starts at 1900, press play to see changes to current)

Note that each axis has a small 'various sources' button under it that will cite specific sources.

You may also enjoy Hans Rosling's TED Talk on global population growth, as he gets into the details pretty thoroughly. https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_on_global_population_...

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I would have liked to provide the source, but it was a New Yorker article that I read in the print edition.

Here's an "abstract" of the article, which hints at my synopsis: http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/10/24/051024fa_fact_sp...

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But what if child mortality is up mainly because of high birth rates? When their religion/culture calls for having as many kids as possible, it causes problems that lead to high child mortality. It's very difficult to change religion/culture.

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This talk by Hans Rosling makes a pretty reasonable case for decoupling the notion of religion and birth rates.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/hans_rosling_religions_and_...

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Does he explain away the correlation in Utah? It seemed a safe bet that Utah has the US's highest birth rate, given Mormonism there. A search confirmed it. (Sorry I'm lazy on video sources.)

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No he doesn't mention it from what I recall. The data discussed is broader (and more longitudinal) than that trend.

Personally I'd guess the birth rate there is a direct result of the church's push for more children, but I don't really know.

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As I understand it, Gates funds health related research, e.g. clean drinking water or malaria. Your parent was discussing the simple provision of free food.

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yeah, no bags of rice, AFAIK

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I'm on the same boat. Which is why I believe anyone who (in an ideal world) is seriously seeking to change the state of life in those poor countries should spend their money on creating jobs and "factories". By factory I don't mean silicon factories, but basic needs of those people, be it hospitals or modern agricultural facilities. But, sadly, in reality that can't happen. If you want to create jobs, you first need to have a powerful (and obviously not corrupt) central government. Without that, nothing significant can be done.

So, what should be done? I don't know. Education, a benevolent government, jobs, no drugs, secular & democratic laws... You can't have any of them without having others already in place. But, any progress is better than nothing. And in the long term, maybe

Afghanistan might be a good example. 30 years ago, a war between Soviets and US ruined the country and its (modestly functional) government. For the next 20 years they were "governed" by former US ally, the Taliban. Religious zealots who would kill girls if they wanted to go to school. Then US (thankfully) attacked the Taliban and for the last 5-6 years they've had some sort of a central government. It's (to some degree) corrupt, it's not efficient, it lacks technical knowledge, but still, it's a form of government and has some power and the desire to change the country. And they're making progress. 10 years ago Afghanistan was a forth-world country. A country from another century. But now, they've headed to the right direction. In 10 years (if the continue their progress), Afghanistan might very well become a country that people "might" consider living in (in the large cities at least - if they had the choice). It wouldn't become Norway, but it would be an average country instead of the hell it was 10 years ago.

Edit: I found a nice (read: sickeningly sad) article about Taliban and U.S. from 2001: http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/23860 The rest of the site is garbage, but this article is not.

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Projects like Kiva aim to develop industry in poor countries:

http://www.kiva.org

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I'm sure it amuses you to know this site is blocked in Iran (by the government). Thanks, anyway!

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Well thanks for the informative read. I don't agree with you that the rest of the site is garbage. Here is another good story I found there:

http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/51874

This one is of Miranda Gibson, who is a tree hugger sitting on top of the tree for 7 months, at a height of 60 meters. Her aim is to protect the felling of a forest around Tasmania.

Update: I do wonder on the juxtaposition of this mini story in the context of the OP's story (which makes a lot of sense to me BTW). So I don't know whether the answer lies in all of us pursuing our own extremes (e.g. Mars exploration on one hand and saving the the forest on the other hand). The latter extreme, of saving a forest - is it in some way similar to the view point the Nun was taking when she wrote that letter?

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Fertility rates in poor countries correlate heavily against the number of children dying young (http://www.bit.ly/QrJnFj), as well as against the number of malnourished children (http://www.bit.ly/QrJArU). One intuitive explanation is that if you know that only a fraction of your children will survive to adulthood, you're likely to have more of them. Of course that's not the full explanation, and another reason is that the availability of birth control and sexual education in these countries tend to be poor.

Nevertheless, I think your worried about a scenario that for the most isn't very likely. Typical aid is not just used to buy food, but also to fund education and infrastructure investments, all of which has worked to lower the fertility rates in the past.

There are other reasons to hesitate in regards to the effectiveness of aid money, but IMHO this isn't one of them. :)

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Good question!

Firstly I would like to suggest that even if you can only tackle the symptom, not the cause, it would still be worthwhile - a patient with untreatable cancer should nonetheless get painkillers. You are correct that the number of people in the second generation would be higher than the number you bring out of famine. But if you do nothing the second generation would be even larger still since the fertility rate of the extremely poor is so high. Therefore simply alleviating the symptoms and not the causes of poverty (a) delays the suffering of hunger by a generation, and (b) reduces the total number people suffering in the second generation.

Of course, it would be far better to eliminate the cancer. In many cases it's difficult to know how effective the long-term treatment is, but in some cases the outcome can be measured quite well. Here's a great talk by Esther Duflo about measuring the effectiveness of aid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zvrGiPkVcs In the book she co-authored called "Poor Economics" she mentions a study of a deworming program for children in Kenya. The study concluded that an extra year of deworming costing $1.36 USD PPP lead to a lifetime income gain of $3,269 USD PPP for the child. To me that is a slam-dunk evidence that aid can be effective in the long term.

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> But if you do nothing the second generation would be even larger still since the fertility rate of the extremely poor is so high.

Obviously the population must eventually plateau or decline, due to finite resources.

I think it will be extremely difficult to alleviate the cause of poverty in many African countries. It seems that they have a high fertility rate mainly because their religion/culture demands it. It seems just as difficult to get the fertility rate down there as it would be in Utah (nigh impossible unless nature forces the issue).

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Your entire view in this thread sounds very Ehrlichian to me.

Just to explain, Paul R. Ehrlich was wrong when he predicted hundreds of millions of Indians would die because of famines and people still ask questions to him about this just to amuse themselves. I believe anyone holding similar beliefs will be wrong again, at least for the next half century.

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Young people are already dying in large numbers in some African countries.

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Fair, people also were dying in India in the 60s and 90% of the population lived on less food than they needed every day (according to Amartya Sen), Ehrlich said it would get worse with famines because of lack of resources and hundred of millions starving to death, he was wrong and Amartya Sen argued that malnutrition in India correlates more with corruption than with lack of resources.

To be fair a great number of Indian children still suffers from malnutrition but my argument is that the situation improved because the world is not static as Ehrlich predicted, Africa will also improve in the long run with the advent of modern agriculture techniques.

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> ... Africa will also improve in the long run with the advent of modern agriculture techniques.

In the long run that can't be true, when the population continues increasing. There's a practical limit to agricultural yield, even if output can be tripled sometimes. You could generalize that statement as "<unsustainable thing> will improve in the long run with the advent of <thing that kicks the can down the road>". The US debt can be substituted, for example. Always a better solution is to address the "unsustainable" aspect. One shouldn't be fooled into thinking the unsustainable thing became sustainable when the can got kicked down the road for a few decades.

Overpopulation leads to corruption. The situation becomes "every person for themself" to survive.

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A fair point, but as a statistician your case is what we use to call hasty generalization, it's a logical fallacy if you cannot argue about it from the data. If it is unsustainable you just to show that it appears to be the case.

There's data out there and from what I have read African's fertility rate is lowering, albeit a little slower than some people wished it would. We just have to wait some more years and see what happen. I believe Africa will follow the footsteps of every developing country until now and will have a society of greater urban population and lower fertility rates with economic growth. India and China are still in their way following this path.

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Thought provoking answer!

I'm not OP, but I always wondered: how do nations coming out of poverty (with high birth rates as part of life or tradition) culturally transition to a nation where low birth rates are the norm?

The scenario I'm thinking of is a nation that beats poverty and improves standard of living, but falls back into it because the population refuses to adapt and decrease the number of births.

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I think it would be almost impossible for their culture to change. One way might be for the first world to pay monthly stipends to families that have no more than 2 kids. Then taper it off over many decades.

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The thing that always bothered me about these arguments is that they always seem to assume that a life (indeed even a life lifted out of poverty) is a net loss for everyone. It is possible for a life to produce far more for others than it consumes. The entire western outlook seems based on this idea.

I would think that a life lifted from poverty, even temporarily through aid, has a much better chance of being one of these human++'s. Without quantifying (and denying) this possibility, calculating the value of aid seems impossible.

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Doesn't the injustice of that bother you? You are given the power to weigh up life and death, without any chance of ever starving yourself. Such naval gazing is stereotypical of people with full stomachs. Is basic human empathy such a bad reason to try and help?

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> Is basic human empathy such a bad reason to try and help?

If the help does more harm than good in the long run, then obviously yes. Whether a particular course of action does more harm than good is open to debate.

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I wonder what you would say if you were that starving child? Would you feel it is best to just die from lack of food because of the long term benefits of doing so?

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You don't get. That's the problem: free food does not solve the starving child problem. It just creates more starving children.

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That's a fallacy. "Free food" does not create more starving children. Whilst some famines are caused by over-population, it is far more likely that they are caused by other factors such as genocide campaigns, civil wars, refugee flows and episodes of extreme violence and state collapse.

Of course, if your solution to the "starving children" problem is to let them die of starvation, then you indeed have a final solution. And what a solution!

I am interested in where you are coming from. Personally, I would hate to look a starving child in the eye and deny them food to keep them alive. I would hate to look their parents in the eye and tell them that because they have four children that they aren't worthwhile keeping alive and they should drop dead from malnutrition.

So I do get it. My question remains the same - what would you say to a starving child? Or their parents as the child lay dying?

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Free food almost certainly causes more starving children in any country whose main religion/culture demands "be fruitful and multiply".

> Whilst some famines are caused by over-population, it is far more likely that they are caused by other factors such as genocide campaigns, civil wars, refugee flows and episodes of extreme violence and state collapse.

It's also likely that all those other factors are greatly exacerbated by overpopulation, if not outright caused by it. Jared Diamond's book Collapse makes just that argument for the Rwandan Genocide event. Wikipedia: "Diamond theorized that population pressure was the main cause of the genocide. ... Rwanda's population density in 1990 was 760 people per square mile, one of the highest in the world. The population grew at over 3% a year. By 1985 all the land except the national parks had been cultivated."

> My question remains the same - what would you say to a starving child? Or their parents as the child lay dying?

If I was personally involved then I'd have a hard time not giving aid, even as I was confident I was making the problem worse in the long run. These age-old questions show the reason we insulate our leaders from problems on the ground, the better to allow them to make decisions that do the greatest good.

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How do you know that limiting food aid would have the desired effect of limiting population growth? Do you think that people stop having sex just because their children die? I would argue that high population growth is a consequence of excessive mortality rather than the cause. This is evident in the drop in birth rate that tends to accompany development. This has even happened in countries that have traditionally objected to contraception (Italy).

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You can search for the article "Why Foreign Aid Is Hurting Africa", which says "Aid is an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster." I can't prove that aid including its free food form contributes to population growth. I'm confident that it does from my studies.

> This is evident in the drop in birth rate that tends to accompany development.

I would argue that development follows a dropping birth rate, not the other way around. Poor people with 4+ kids can't contribute to development or otherwise improve their future. They're too busy each day focusing on basic survival. Unlike many African countries, Italy solved their cultural/religion problem. Now they largely ignore the Catholic Church on contraceptive issues.

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Make up your mind. Is it a problem with their religion, or is it a problem with free food for the starving?

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There's no contradiction. Religion/culture is the root cause of the problem. Free food makes the problem worse.

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That is fundamentally just misanthropy. Peoples actions are based on free will, and are often logical if you take the time to understand the world from their point of view. A subsistence farmer with no pension scheme has an economic imperative to have lots of children. It is insane to suggest that letting our farmers children die is going to change that. Children are a consequence of sex, not religion or culture. Do you want me to draw you a diagram to explain how it works?

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If your diagram can explain away the fact that Utah consistently has the US's highest birth rate, then yes. Children largely are a consequence of religion/culture in many parts of the world. The parents use their free will to do what religion/culture has told them is good to do.

The subsistence farmer who has lots of children to help him dooms his kids. What's insane is enabling farmers to do that by saving their kids and nothing else. Since it's economic the farmer may well have even more kids to do even better economically.

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So only those with a religion that does not encourage many children (or those with no religion) should be fed? If so, let's take it further - should we actively go around refusing food to those who want large families?

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No one should get free food except temporarily for events that can't be reasonably predicted / planned for. No other conditions need apply. Doing otherwise does more harm than good.

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You have pretty much repeated that in every comment of yours in this thread. Hope we all could have a healthy discussion without gross generalizations and prevent Ycombinator HN from turning into another r/atheism.

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Healthy discussion can include the word "religion". I haven't made any generalizations that haven't also been suggested by much research by others.

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Including the word "religion" and asserting a position on it via gross generalization is two things. Going through the thread it is just a shame to find you repeat the same mantra (no pun intended) over and over in the every comment without providing a substantial source or proof to back it up. In other words just like a typical discussion you find over at r/atheism.

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He can't know that. To be clear, overpopulation is a problem - but the solution is not to stop trying to save those who are dying!

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Catholic doctrine would teach that contraception does more harm than good. They, like you are measuring harm badly.

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You are spot on in the problems of "scalability". In my opinion I think the efforts for example of the Clinton Global Initiative are highly important, as they target less the "starvation" problem, but trying to break traditional gender roles. By giving girls an education it should help them to define themselves beyond the traditional housewife role and limit the reproductive "ambitions". The promotion of contraceptive is of cause another tool in order to reduce a further growth of the population in certain regions. But it is a very sensitive subject, that is rarely discussed openly (i.e. who are we to tell other nations to change their cultural traditions etc).

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That is what most people think at first but it is wrong. Poverty with its associated lack of education and career opportunities generally causes high birth rates.

Countries that improve living standards usually get lower birth rates as a result. This usually results from better education for women more career opportunities for women, lower child mortality, better financial certainty, etc. This effect has been seen in almost every country to undergo a significant improvement in living standards and it is pretty much known to be true.

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I think this logic is fine if you then donate to a cause that seeks to solve the longer term problems. But otherwise despite being a short term solution, feeding a hungry child means a hell of a lot to that person. And if you found yourself in a similar situation I think you would be happy for someone to skip the logical arguement and just give you a meal.

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That's why free food alone doesn't work.

You have to couple it with healthcare, education, infrastructure and economy reform (because the famine was most likely caused by a failing economy) and maybe political reform. It's more or less rebooting the place.

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Famines in the modern age are rarely caused by anything other than war and bad local governance. If one approaches famine from the perspective that the issue is one of food shortage alone then they will be working on the wrong problem.

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It doesn't make you any more cruel than a gardener who destroys some of the buds on a plant so the few that remain are bigger.

However, you may wish to consider whether you are the gardener of Africans and whether humans should be pruned.

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It doesn't make you cruel, but it does show you're taking a cheap cop-out. There are plenty of charities that work towards improving the local economies, which include some really interesting things like microloans. The 'starving children' is just an appeal to the heartstrings because sick children win more money than anything else.

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To be blunt, I believe this is a cruel statement. What you are saying is that someone who is starving shouldn't be saved because they will grown into an adult who will have children.

You then suggest that looking at the causes of population explosions should be investigated and resolved, and therefore until this is fixed then children should starve.

A cruel sort of logic indeed.

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IMHO, logic can only be correct or wrong. There is no such thing as cruel logic.

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Well, there's a non sequitur if ever I've heard one!

I said a cruel sort of logic. His logic is wrong. Misused logic is a sort of logic. Unfortunately, his misused logic leads to cruelty. Sort of like the logic that says you need to forcibly sterilize disabled people to reduce those who have genetic abnormalities from polluting the overall population.

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Which child will grow up to revolutionize their nation's politics?

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That question presupposes that the only people it is worthwhile to save from starvation is the one who grows up to make a large impact on their country. It's the sort of logic that I find very dangerous.

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The question presupposes that you cannot possibly determine this in advance and therefore all are worth saving.

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Let us say that you knew with absolute certainty that none of them would grow up to revolutionise their society. Would you still save them, or would you let them die?

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It's a pointless question as it is absolutely impossible to predict. So we continue to attempt to save them all. They will make other contributions too, or their children.

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So you value people solely by their contributions to society. I do not.

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By their potential to be meaningful in the framework of our existence. Yes.

I am not advocating for the use of probabilities, but instead possibilities.

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You think like a piece of code with its many what if-else-than scenarios. This is a philosophical question and you are not nearly smart enough to even begin to understand the consequences (postive, or negative) of your helping someone in need. Every human being, be it a saint, or a murderer, has the right to not be hungry, and to have a shelter. The sad part is that there is someone above you in the social chain who is thinking exactly the same way about you. Maybe you deserve no help to get to the next stage in your life, because you know, these are all stages. Maybe they should just let you where you are. But no, we are not where we are today because we are Darwinians and let the fittest of us survive. We are where we are because some us want to further Human Kind without prejudice, all of it, the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the well-fed, and the hungry.

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