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unrelated to the topic, but I had to smile at "a tad abysmal".

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This is a good insight, with the remark that CPU manufacturers are rarely bailed out by the taxpayers, after designing a faulty processor and getting close to bankruptcy.

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Think of this analogy: every person in the world flips a fair coin. Those who flip tail, stop flipping coins. Those who flip head, flip one more time, and so on.

In expectation, the overall number of heads and tails will be the same - if you look at the system from the outside, it's just a bunch of independent flips with fair coins, the decisions of the participants have no effect.

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Yes, but you are making a big assumption that it will be a fair coin.

In the real world. There are other factors that contribute to gender imbalance(Infanticide, foeticide, mortality etc). Plus also note that once the gender balance goes out of balance it continues get worse with every iteration.

So this basically works like algorithm which is continually trying to increase the count of M's above F's.

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No, because the three cases happen with different probabilities:

(F,none): 0.5

(M,F): 0.25

(M,M): 0.25

The expected number of both F and M is 0.75

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The wiki article should be a good start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-knowledge_proof

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If someone is interested, here are two further nice articles about the man, written by a close friend and collaborator:

http://www.cs.uchicago.edu/files/tr_authentic/TR-2001-11.ps

http://www.cs.uchicago.edu/files/tr_authentic/TR-2001-03.ps

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"The world is divided into those who get this truth and those who wail,..."

Is Dawkins making a joke here, or is he falling into the same fallacy he is deriding in the article. Clearly the world is not "divided" into these two camps, there is a continuum in between and the same person can also hold one view at a time, a different one later, etc.

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Ha good point :) I don't think it's a joke, I think he is falling into the same fallacy himself. To be fair, the article acknowledges it's a difficult trap: "We seem ill-equipped to deal mentally with a continuous spectrum of intermediates. We are still infected with the plague of Plato’s essentialism." He would probably agree, if someone pointed it out to him, that his phrasing here was an example of exactly what he's talking about. I think it is just a fault of phrasing though; it doesn't really undermine the sentiment of the article. It almost vindicates it!

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>>> We seem ill-equipped to deal mentally with a continuous spectrum of intermediates. We are still infected with the plague of Plato’s essentialism.

This is contradictory. If we have some kind of mental handicap that not allows us to perceive spectra properly, it's wrong to blame Plato for this. If, however, Plato is the one who steered the whole civilization wrong, that means we are capable of doing better - we just don't do it right now. Of course, it could be that it's both but Plato and mental handicap together wouldn't allow us to realize it :) Recursion is recursive.

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We are mentally equipped partially by our culture and our education. I don't know that Dawkins is committed to the notion that it is nature more than nurture that equips us poorly, though I admit I've only given the article a cursory skim.

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> If we have some kind of mental handicap that not allows us to perceive spectra properly, it's wrong to blame Plato for this.

I think Dawkins is simply using Plato's idea as an intellectual roadsign, not assigning moral responsibility. If I refer to Karl Popper when discussing falsifiability, I might simply be providing a convenient reference to the idea, not holding Popper responsible for the idea (which he isn't).

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I think since he discusses the essentialism as an idea that needs to be dropped, he goes further than that - he seems to blame Plato (at least among others) for "infecting" us (taken broadly) with the essentialism. After all, the idea of essentialism has to come from somewhere, somebody had to invent it. To me, Dawkins assigns the fault for it to Plato. He does it in the very first sentence - "Essentialism—what I’ve called "the tyranny of the discontinuous mind"—stems from Plato".

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Again, describing the origin of an idea isn't the same as assigning responsibility. Your use of words like "blame", "infecting" and "fault", and the associated tone, simply have no parallel in the article.

Also, correlation is not causation. Many of these classic ideas, found in the writings of Plato, Aristotle and others, were as much responses to the prevailing ideas of the time as they were a source or inspiration for those ideas. Our modern perspective is distorted by the fact that we may have only one writer's record of the ideas of a time, which may mislead us into thinking that particular writer originated the idea instead of reporting it.

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"Infecting" is a direct quote from "We are still infected with the plague of Plato’s essentialism." and Dawkins uses the same word at least twice more.

>>> Our modern perspective is distorted by the fact that we may have only one writer's record of the ideas of a time, which may mislead us into thinking that particular writer originated the idea instead of reporting it.

This very well may be true, but since we and Dawkins share this perspective, and Dawkins offers no other suggestion and no other name but Plato and does not consider the possibility that this perspective might be wrong in any way, I think the conclusion that he operates on the assumption that this perspective - attributing essentialism to Plato - is correct would not be illogical, at least when we consider this particular article.

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I think it's a joke.

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I think it's just a rhetorical device that, had Dawkins thought a bit longer, he would have avoided in that specific context. Or it's meant ironically as others have suggested.

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Just for good measure, here is a short criticism of a few points in this talk:

http://www-stat.wharton.upenn.edu/~steele/Rants/HammingBelco...

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The reason why crypto might be even harder than the other engineering tasks you mention is that in those the "adversary" is indifferent, not actively trying to exploit every loophole you might have left. You might build a bridge that has some small weakness, but no-one will come and stack weights in the exact pattern that exploits the weakness and makes the bridge collapse.

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Beyond that, failure of a bridge or an airplane is not likely to go unnoticed. Every failure will be investigated, documented and studied. Crypto failure by contrast can just easily be silent, deadly, and continuously unnoticed for extended periods of time.

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Yes gravity and metal are more predictable than a creative adversary:

http://wondermark.com/406/

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Engineering does have to deal with real adversarial threats.

Just on example I've found: https://www.nae.edu/Publications/Bridge/Terrorism/AnEngineer...

"The second relates to the design of structures. It is time for engineers and architects to get together to devise new structural forms that offer a higher degree of protection not only against terrorist attack, but also against other hazards. There is much to be learned from what happened in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, in Oklahoma City, and at the World Trade Center. Similarly, retrofitting of existing structures needs to be studied systematically, as it can reduce, at modest or virtually no cost, the potential for damage."

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jacko0 and ksrm [EDIT: and icecreampain], you seem to be under some kind of ban - what you write appears gray, and is invisible when I log out - despite them appearing to be perfectly valid contributions.

I really hate this whole banning on HN - the fact that people get banned and continue posting without knowing it (sometimes for months) - seems to me like the elementary school bullying technique of putting a post-it on someone's back and letting them walk around with it.

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Thank you for letting me know, I have no idea why that has happened. Apart from me describing someone's idea of Clojure as the next-gen Lisp as 'cute', which was maybe a bit rude, I don't think I've done anything to deserve being banned. I was never a fan of this hellbanning idea and now it seems I've become a victim of it. What do I do now?

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info@ycombinator.com I think - gets you through to a shared mailbox and someone will reply

However your comments seem fine from where I'm standing - possibly someone mistook 0 points for banned/dead?

And yes - loving seeing parts of London I know so well.

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I also thought it might have been just 0 points, but his other comment in the thread still appears as [dead] for me. jacko0's comment now appears as normal, although earlier I clearly remember it was [dead]. icecreampain's still appears as [dead]. Anyway, it could be some glitch in the software, but the system is a bit strange anyway.

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a bit strange anyway is the best description I can muster too. however it does not send me emails nor try to get my kids to buy upgrades of dubious worth. so on balance it beats out most other things on an iPhone :-)

(sorry very annoyed by kids games that chuck in upgrades and unlocks fr cash - really really unacceptable)

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While I'm ok w/ the general principle of hellbanning (done properly, it can be a very effective way of tarpitting trolls/spammers) I don't think HN's implementation is very good.

New accounts start w/ 0 karma and posts seem to go dead when you go negative, so it's pretty common for perfectly normal accounts to be hellbanned just because of one or two initial downvotes.

It'd be pretty trivial to improve the algorithm, the most simple being a karma buffer (a purposely bad actor is sure to accrue plenty of downvotes) or some new account/unique post discounts/allowances. You can of course go pretty deep down the rabbit hole once you start with these things, but I bet even the simplest fix would solve most of these problems.

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I tried looking into what got them banned, but it's not at all obvious from their history. I wonder what happened here?

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