I would say these so-called "ethical questions" are always a red herring (not because they're unimportant, but rather because we don't have a reliable authority to handle them); the real problems that should really be explored beforehand are matters of jurisprudence (e.g. commercial control vs. state control and its implications) and potential weaponization.
And also to define guidelines on what to do if shit hits the fan. As an example (nothing related to DNA modification but anyway), I have a few neighbours who planted balsamine plants (I guess it's this one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impatiens_glandulifera) because it's a bee friendly plant. The problem is it's an invasive plant, it's now absolutely everywhere and spread kilometres away from the original point. I don't mind because it's harmless and the pink flowers are quite beautiful but it's an example of the kind of unforeseen consequences that can happen.
When you're making just a few changes to an organism it's a lot easier to predict and test the outcome, vs. inserting a complete batch of genes in the form of a new to the ecosystem plant like the balsamine you mention. That Wikipedia article details a bunch of ways in which balsamine can out compete local plants and do other undesirable things like encourage erosion by dying each season.
In either case a degree of caution is warranted. Which scientists did for genetic engineering, during a period when I was preparing to join them (actually did some E. Coli genetic work in the summer of 1977 in a NSF Summer Science Training Program between my high school sophomore and junior years): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asilomar_Conference_on_Recombi...
The restrictions resulting from the conference were relaxed over time as appropriate as we gained the relevant knowledge, especially the way in which genes naturally jump around all the time between species. I.e. nature has already tried out a lot of stuff we might want to try, given zillions of organisms and years.
I believe that you would enjoy reading "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences". It is a short essay that deals (but does not answer) the question of why "some theory" that "never actually explains why" seems to still work?
Kind of. There's certainly an interest in finding precise models that are mutually supportive and self-consistent. So the "Why?" question can be answered with "Because that's the only way the whole thing can work."
Unfortunately it's just as likely that "Because randomness" is a valid answer.
Right now, no one knows. (Although IMO randomness isn't really an answer, because randomness can only happen as the result of a process. It isn't a thing in itself. So I'm always wary of anything that says "It's just random" without explaining how and why it got to be that way.)
there have been a number of simple examples in modern times -- poems that cycle through a pessimistic statement, a statement like "we will never see the day when", and an optimistic statement, and end with the line "now read from bottom to top" (which makes the middle line negate the pessimistic statement instead of the optimistic one.)
I always found those super tacky. I wonder if it'll get posted on Hacker News in the year 5015 as an example of brilliant 21st century poetry. I also wonder if Venkatadhvari's contemporaries found him to be tacky.
But if these cars can be "commandeered", they (i.e. my movements) could also easily be tracked by the companies themselves (with the information then sold to "trusted partners"). For some reason, that frightens me more.
While this is true, it only works where cameras are present, and adding a significant number of cameras costs time and money.
COTRAVELER is much easier and costs almost nothing. Just having a cellphone in a car (either in the driver's pocket or "OnStar") - which only needs to be on and giving presence notifications to the local tower - is enough to get very accurate near-realtime tracking information. The only costs are read-only access to the tower logs and a few SQL JOINs.
I think many important entries get to the first page not because people upvote them on the "new" page, but because people keep on re-submitting them, where resubmition actually functions as an (unintended) upvote.
That said, it seems that HN has grown so big, many "top stories" don't get enough time for discussion before completely disappearing from the front page. It might be time (shudder the thought) to introduce channels...
I have long suspected that this is true for certain types of articles. If a new article appears on some really popular website like CNN or Slate (for example) and it is about some HN-worthy topic, there's a good chance that multiple HN users will encounter the article browsing the original source site and submit it from there. Now you've got a submission with 3 or 4 upvotes, none of them from the /new page.