Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Education Science

Why Smart People Defend Bad Ideas 828

CHESTER COPPERPOT writes "Scott Berkun writes an interesting essay on 'Why smart people defend bad ideas'. He states a number of interesting highlights on smart people and dumb ideas. From the article: 'In the software industry, the common example of thinking at the wrong level is a team of rock star programmers who can make anything, but don't really know what to make: so they tend to build whatever things come to mind, never stopping to find someone who might not be adept at writing code, but can see where the value of their programming skills would be best applied.'."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Why Smart People Defend Bad Ideas

Comments Filter:
  • by Capt'n Hector ( 650760 ) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @10:51PM (#12667608)
    There are a lot of people who can literally do ANYTHING, and partly because of this they end up doing NOTHING. Kind of like a horse caught between two bales of hay.
  • Michael Shermer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:06PM (#12667684)
    Michael Shermer wrote in his book [amazon.com] "Why people believe weird things" that smart people believe stupid things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-intelligent reasons. It comes down to intellectual attribution bias and confirmation bias [wikipedia.org]
  • by ucblockhead ( 63650 ) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:10PM (#12667707) Homepage Journal
    What I've often seen is that really smart people can end up being really stupid because they have not yet run into that challenge that really tests them, so they don't have the experience of having to do real intellectual work. I remember a friend in high school who sailed through everything and got a near perfect score on the SAT only to crash and burn, flunking everything his first year. He'd gotten by his entire life on quick thinking, and had never had to do any real intellectual heavy lifting and when confronted with the need, he simply did not have an practice.

    This is not to say all really smart people do this. But it is a danger among the smart who never really made themselves work.
  • by cperciva ( 102828 ) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:22PM (#12667765) Homepage
    I quite deliberately confront people with, and defend, astonishingly bad ideas. (For example: "If the US government really wants to save as many lives as possible, they should give everybody two weeks' notice and then drop a nuclear bomb in the center of Jerusalem. This would destroy the largest cause of Israeli-Palestinian violence.") I do this not because I actually believe such things, but because I want to find people who are willing to contradict me and justify their positions.

    Sadly, the vast majority of people either disagree without justification, or (even more worryingly) agree without justification -- which just demonstrates how unwilling most sheep^Wpeople are to engage in thought and/or debate.
  • by AliasMoze ( 623272 ) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:22PM (#12667767)
    ...because people are not rational. We are sometimes temporarily capable of rationality, but the other 99% of the time we're ruled by subconscious forces. We arrogantly think in terms of making intelligent choices, but modern brain science is showing that decisions are an illusion, that there is only behavior, and that our behavior is out of our conscious control.

    So smart-schmart. Intelligence has nothing to do with it.
  • by Mr.Zong ( 704396 ) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:25PM (#12667782)
    I look at it a kinda like this:

    The brain works on weighted probability. These weights change and readjust as we take in information. Taking some liberties with this idea, it seems like a good as time as ever to plug a section of my undergraduate paper: "An Observational Analysis of Machine Cognizance". (Disclaimer: I said undergraduate, haha :P).

    Imagine that human memory works on a sliding scale, one of infinitely negative and infinitely positive collections of like objects. These upper and lower bounds are set by the experiences of the individuals.
    Let's say you have two cats. Cat one is newborn kitten, while cat two is http://www.isfullofcrap.com/albums/Cats/buddha2.si zed.jpg (love those Maine coons).

    By looking at that image, you have just redefined your own maximum in relation to the object "cat".

    The more cats you look at, the more they all begin to look the same and you begin to tune out any old cat that may cross your path. But you'll always remember that big fat cat as the biggest you've ever seen (the maximum values, which can change) and newborn as the smallest cat you've ever seen (the minimum), while the "middle ground" deteriorates under the weight of the average cat. The more cats you see, the less you remember. Not only that, but cats they may appear big to other people, begin to seem normal to you. You've just seen to many damn cats to care anymore (call it desensitizing the mind, or information overload if you will). But you always remember the biggest and smallest. The best and worst.

    Couldn't this just be like the fattest cat scenario? These people have taken in so much that only things on the extreme end of the scale seem to have any relevance, while the rest just seems to be repetitive and mundane?
  • by Quirk ( 36086 ) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:26PM (#12667787) Homepage Journal
    In order to hypothesize we simplify. Using the idea of Occam's Razor [wikipedia.org] we make a number of assumptions and the assumptions we make have a number of presuppositons attached to them. This is how we hypothesize in order to predict and once our predictions are shown to be correct we theorize. Gregory Bateson [edge.org] investigated these ideas in his book Mind and Nature [amazon.com]. Smart people should defend dumb/wrong ideas, if they are concerned about falsification as the leading idea in the progress of scince, because the smarter the person the more likely the argument will be logical and the more logical the argument the more able we are to potentially falsify or verify it.
  • Get over yourself. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:27PM (#12667791) Journal
    Oh, bullshit.

    Every organization with a sufficent number of tech geeks (approximately three, in my experience) has one obnoxious asshole who is constantly throwing out awful ideas and defending them vehemently. If you haven't, you either work alone, or you are the obnoxious asshole.

    Nowhere in the article does he suggest that deferring to your manager is always the right course, and, in fact, we have this:

    It follows that if your team manager is wise and reasonable, smart people who might ordinarily defend bad ideas will have a hard time doing so. But sadly if your team manager is neither wise nor reasonable, smart, arrogant people may convince others to follow their misguided ways more often than not.

    So, you know. RTFA, and all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:33PM (#12667827)
    Why does it happen so often in IT? If you've been in IT a while, you can probably think of a dozen or more examples were you thought "oh, so they've re-invented $FOO, but this time they call it $BAR, wonderful". $FOO could be "hierarchic databases" and $BAR could be "XML databases" for instance.

    I studied engineering in school and I never saw this phenomenon on the scale it exists in IT.

    Is it a lack of "barrier to entry"? (I.e., anybody can be a programmer) .. is it because there's no "fabrication" phase (just write a program, you're done and it costs nothing to copy). Lack of foundation knowledge in school??
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:34PM (#12667828) Homepage
    You think he did a good job with it? Don't get me wrong - I've been impressed with Carmack as a programmer ever since I was a teenager - but if you follow his weblog, Armadillo Aerospace has been one disaster after another. Even after all this time, he still can't decide on what propellants to use, and he's repeated almost every mistake in the books as far as rocket design goes.

    He seems to be finally getting back on track, and I'm not sure I'd call the project a "bad idea" (if it's fun, how is it any worse of an idea than, say, buying a big mansion or other waste of money?). But it hasn't really been much of a success, as far as rocketry programs go - even SpaceDev's relatively weak hybrid engine would classify as a leap forward in comparison to what Carmack has accomplished.
  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:53PM (#12667934)
    Because the majority of the executives and Members of the Board do not capable of identifying what needs to be done or the person who can accomplish it.

    If they cannot define the criteria (other than "turn the company around") how will they be able to find a person who can successfully implement those criteria?

    Instead, they go with "rock star" CEO's.

    Here's a quick example. Get 100 pennies. Toss them in the air. Take out the "bad" pennies that came up tails. You should have about 50 left.

    Do it again. You should have about 25 "performing" pennies.

    Again, now you have weeded out the dead wood and you're left with a dozen or "successful" pennies.

    Again, now you have the half dozen or so "highly successful" pennies.

    Once more and you have the few "rock star" pennies. These are the pennies you pay millions of dollars to turn your company around. These are the pennies that don't make mistakes. These are the pennies that understand management and the market.

    And hiring CEO's is even worse than that. At least with the pennies, they only had a couple of factors influencing them. Companies have all kinds of influences from overseas competition to economic depression to lawsuits and so forth.

    If a CEO makes a decision, and the company increases in value, how do you know that it was anything other than mere luck?

    Maybe his decision was extremely stupid and a thousand other decisions would have increased the company's value even more.

    Which is why one of the first actions of the new CEO is usually to secure the golden parachutes for himself and other execs.
  • Death of the psyche? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suitepotato ( 863945 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:02AM (#12667982)
    Low self esteem which is a long-term estimation of self and high ego which is a transitory and ephemeral estimation. You can't replace the former with the latter any more than you can replace a proper diet with nothing but Cheetos and Ding Dongs no matter how much some try. And you can't invent the former simply with empty exercises. You have to examine yourself, be honest in both directions good and bad, and accept the outcome and the options for change as needed and commit to those changes or at least the endless path to the unattainable goals.

    But the usual response is the "sour grapes" one instead. These geniuses feel the world doesn't like them and regard them highly enough. They hate the world for that. They begin to respond accordingly with a haughty sneering disregard for others' accomplishments and abilities outside of their fold. Non-geeks are "lusers" and worse.

    Admit they are wrong? Fark no. That would be embracing the death of their artificial self they've made of ego straw. They can't face and embrace true emptiness that comes with the finality of true understanding and acceptance. They can't because of fear. Non-geeks may be right that they deserve derision and scorn. Non-geeks may be right that technical smarts aren't as good as hot social skills. Non-geeks may be right and they may be... wrong. And if the geek is wrong, then he isn't smart. And if he isn't at least smart, then he has nothing else and consequently would be... nothing.

    I went through gifted classes with kids who exemplified this thinking. Everything was about showing off their smarts. Making a calculator out of flashlight bulbs and switches. Creating new number and word games every single day. Designing new things and creating new programs and writing new reports every day. At all times, they had to be smarter. Any mistakes were not ignored as you ignore the dog barking outside while watching the football game. They were ignored in the style of a child covering their eyes with their hands and plugging their ears with their thumbs at night in the dark in fright desperately trying to ignore the things that go bump in the night.

    Because if they were wrong, then they weren't as smart as all that, and if they weren't smart, then they had nothing and were nothing. This would be the same as accepting total psychic death. If you are nothing, then how can you be?

    This is the mindset of most of the Linux world today. If they are wrong, then Microsoft by default is right and there is no other outcome. They cannot be wrong but learn and grow. They can't see that Windows is easier to install, configure, use, and support than any Unix variant for the average person and try to make Linux as easy. They can't backtrack and admit mistakes and leave it to others to fix their sloppy work on the theory that at least it is free. On this score, Microsoft is smart and sexy because they will after a while admit, say "we screwed up", and shrug and move on. The geek brigades besieging the MS world on the field outside never do.

    Well as someone who went through gifted classes and was maxing out the scores on all the IQ tests they could throw at me in grade school, I can confidently say to them, you can be and in fact are more often than not wrong. And the courage and intelligence to admit this and learn from it is far greater an intellectual exercise than making X11 behave with a new video driver while using Vi on a Chinese keyboard when your first language is French.

    I would further say to these people, let your fear go. You're wrong all the time starting with that you're wrong that being wrong means you're nothing. You are not secretly dumb because your intelligence is less than omniscience or because real world things trip you up as opposed to computer world things. And when you get older, you will get slower and you will seem less brilliant. If you insist on believing that your smarts are all you have, then when they are gone you truly will have nothing.

    Stop the worrying. Save time. Embrace the death of yourself. Begin recompiling self version 2.0.
  • Paul Graham (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skochak ( 723803 ) <sarvagyak@yaho[ ]om ['o.c' in gap]> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:14AM (#12668036)
    Infact Paul Graham wrote on this just a month ago..

    Rather Interesting...

    http://www.paulgraham.com/bronze.html [paulgraham.com]

  • by superyooser ( 100462 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:16AM (#12668046) Homepage Journal
    Yes, that was humorously ironic, considering the subject. On second thought, maybe it was very clever. Berkun perhaps put that there as a test (to be graded by feedback) to see if the reader had really comprehended what he was saying by modeling for a moment that which he was condemning (smart people defending bad ideas). I wonder if anybody else caught that.
  • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter@slashdot.2 ... m ['6.t' in gap]> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:17AM (#12668050) Homepage Journal
    I'm not in "the Linux world", and I've in the past even recommended Windows over any of the competition when it's been the best choice. So...

    They can't see that Windows is easier to install, configure, use, and support than any Unix variant for the average person and try to make Linux as easy.

    When you say this are you being a wise person defending a smart idea or a smart person defending a dumb idea? Remember, Mac OS X is a Unix variant too.

    Microsoft is smart and sexy because they will after a while admit, say "we screwed up", and shrug and move on.

    Oh, lord, I wish that was so. They've abandoned some of their best ideas, like the really clean and consistent keyboard/mouse integration they started with, and held onto dumb ideas like the IE/Desktop integration even when they were faced with the possible dismantling of the company as a result. About the only case can think of where Microsoft completely backed down on a really dumb idea was when they quit trying to make Windows work using cooperative multitasking.
  • by JohnFluxx ( 413620 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:33AM (#12668119)
    I always see these types of posts on slashdot, and yet I never see this actually happen.

    I'm a KDE developer and see many of the processes that go on. We have a kde-usability group with many members and a high volume of traffic. Daily I see long email threads by the developers and users discussing back and forth ideas.

    We have many usability requests filed as bug on our easy to use bug reporting system (from the web bugs.kde.org or from any app Help->Report Bug) and most such bugs are closed quickly.

    I can't say I have ever recalled a developer telling a user "if you don't like it, fix the code yourself". All I see are the developers bending over backwards for the users. Because we enjoy what we do and want others to enjoy it.

  • by Capitalist1 ( 127579 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:44AM (#12668168)
    The fact that most people these days *do* coast along without putting much-if-any effort into conscious thought doesn't in any way show that they are incapable of doing so, or that coasting is inescapable "human nature".

    You're right. Intelligence has nothing to do with it. As long as you're not physiologically damaged, your mental habits are much more important to your overall personality and behavior than any non-quantifiable "intelligence" factor.

    Being human is a *choice*, and most people choose poorly.
  • by QuaZar666 ( 164830 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:23AM (#12668313)
    no they just create them. Just think of how smart jesus must have been to be able to get all these people to follow his ideas blindly.
  • How many people have said, "We must believe in God, for if we do, and he does not exist, nothing happens. But if we do not believe in him, and he does exist, then we are doomed." But, it's fairly clear he does not exist.

    First, I will say that I am not religious. If I had to ID myself, I'd say I'm a Protestant Christian, but the last time I went to church on a Sunday was probably 15 years ago.

    But even as a Smart Person, I'm not sure how it's "fairly clear" that God does not exist. A lot of Smart People have, in fact, pretty successfully argued in favor of the existence of God.

    One of my favorite arguments in favor of the existence of God is Thomas Aquinas' theory of the "prime mover". Thomas Aquinas was a "religious philosopher" who was actually banished from the Catholic church because of his efforts to prove the existence of God. In any religion, faith is paramount, so proof is neither necessary nor desired - if you need proof of God to believe in him (or her, or it), then you're sort of missing the whole point of religion in the first place. (Aquinas was later made a saint, despite his earlier banishment.)

    Anyway, Aquinas posed five proofs in favor of the existence of God, some more convincing than others. The one that I recall as being most convincing, and the one that nobody has been able to refute to this day (because it is based on the laws of physics), is the theory of the prime mover.

    Aquinas argued that for every movement or action, there must be a cause or impetus, something to turn potentiality into actuality. He used the example of wood, which at any time has the potential to be either hot or cold, but can only actually be one or the other at any given time (ok, feel free to bring up quantum mechanics, but the point is the Hitchhiker's Guide Improbability Drive does not really exist - things can't be everywhere and everything all the time). If a piece of wood is actually cold, it can potentially be made hot by fire, which will then make it actually hot but no longer actually cold. So anything can have two or more potential states, but only one actual state, and to change that actual state requires an external force.

    He then argues that this cannot go on into infinity, for if it did, nothing could actually exist because there would be no prime mover to have set everything in motion. (He wrote this prior to our discovery of the "big bang"). Now we know that, in fact, it did not go on into infinity - there was a time when our universe did not exist, and scientists still do not completely understand how it was created. We know that there was a great buildup of energy and matter that exploded into what we now know of as our universe, but we do not know how or why that buildup occured, and likely never will because it would require peering back beyond the beginning of time.

    Aquinas argued that the "prime mover" was God. There is no possible explanation for the creation of the universe that fits the laws of physics. This goes hand in hand with his third proof, that of "possibility and necessity", which states that if everything can either exist or not exist, then there must have been a time when nothing at all existed (we now know that this is, in fact, true). If nothing at all existed, it is impossible for anything to now exist, because nothing can cause its own existence. Therefore, he argued, only God could have caused our existence, ultimately.

    So I don't think this is a case of smart people arguing in favor of bad ideas. It's one thing to be skeptical, but there are as many good theories in favor of God's existence as there are against, and nobody's ever going to have a "smoking gun" either way. (Aquinas was also not arguing in favor of a smiling, benevolent, grey-bearded God with a human-like personality - he was arguing in favor of some power beyond our understanding that displayed intelligence and was able to manipulate matter and energy as it saw fit from beyond the confines of our universe and our natural laws.)

    In fact, I think your post is more an example of why it pays for smart people to be open-minded rather than simply skeptical all the time.
  • Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the Dark Side."

    linux == TheDarkSide?
  • by crazyeddie740 ( 785275 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @02:30AM (#12668503) Journal
    If I understand this "prime mover" idea, you're saying that every event has a cause, and that only God could have started the ball rolling by causing the first event.

    If time is infinite, then there is no need for a first event. The Big Bang is not the beginning of the universe or the beginning of time. It is simply where our current theories come to a halt. The Big Bang theory was developed by tracing the trend of the expanding universe backwards through time. If one assumes that there were no changes in this trend, then we arrive at time in the finite past where every thing in the universe was at a single point. This point had infinite density and temperature.

    Our current physical theories aren't capable of coping with infinite densities and temperatures. They produce a divide-by-zero error, a singularity. The Big Bang isn't the beginning of the universe, but rather the end of our theories.

    There is one theory that the Big Bang was caused by our universe colliding with our universe. There was never a singularity, a point of infinite density and temperature. Instead, our two universes crumpled and only intersected at certain locations. At those intersections, the vacuum energies of the two universes combined, producing areas of very high, but not infinite, density and temperature.

    The theory also states that this collision might not have been the first one. Or the last one.

    Whether or not this theory is true doesn't matter. It is enough to know that it shows that time isn't neccessarily finite. If time stretches back infinitely into the past, there is no need for a first event.

    Likewise, time might be finite but boundless, looped in on itself. The last effect becomes the first cause.

    Lastly, if every event requires a cause, and God caused the first event, what caused God?

    I don't think any assumption can be proven by reason alone, but only with evidence. We can't disprove the existence of God, but we haven't been able to prove His existence either. It is most difficult to prove a negative. But that's where Occam's Razor comes in. All things being equal, God is not the simplest explanation for the world we see around us. According to Occam's Razor, we should not assume that God exists, at least until more evidence comes in.
  • by EEBaum ( 520514 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @02:39AM (#12668520) Homepage
    When people learn new ways of doing things, they often forget or disregard other possible ways of doing things. Most people assume the new ways they learn are better, and they often are. However, it is a quite easy way to get a group of people in a rut, especially if they only work with each other and, shall we say, "don't get out much."

    This happens in the musical world as well. As a composer, learning new rules and methods leads to writing that better follows and can more skillfully and effectively bend these rules. However, I've noticed that once I learn any given rule, I forever think in terms of that rule. If I ever want to ignore that rule, I am "actively" ignoring it. Once a new method is learned, methods that are oblivious to it vanish from one's repertoire, for better or worse.

    I somehow thought this was relevant to the topic.
  • by greay ( 462639 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @02:48AM (#12668539) Homepage
    >He then argues that this cannot go on into infinity, for if it did,
    >nothing could actually exist because there would be no prime
    >mover to have set everything in motion.

    No, you got it wrong. It cannot NOT go on into infinity. Going on forever quite easily solves the problem, because there's always something to act & cause the reaction.

    If the Universe is /finite/, you need something to break the rules, which is what Aquinas does. And he does that with God.

    All of Aquinas's proofs boil down to that (well, that I remember, at least): he creates a situation that sounds logically impossible to resolve rationally, and thus creates the need to resort to an Actor who doesn't have to play by any rules. Problem solved. The Universe is allowed to exist again.

    (oh, and another problem that no one ever seems to address: let's assume, for now, that his arguments are in fact logically sound. Irrefutably so. He never offers any argument to convince us that what he calls "God" is, in fact, anything at all like what we traditionally consider Him. The only requirement is that it doesn't obverve certain laws of physics or other rules of the Universe that we know. It could be a giant unicorn. Or an Infinite Improbability Drive. Or a peculiar, unknown class of matter, like dark matter, with properties that don't follow the laws of physics as we understand them.)
  • by zors ( 665805 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @03:16AM (#12668600)
    If you were actually familiar with Aquinas' writings, you'd know that Aquinas himself admitted that this was true. He never argued that one could deduct the existence of the Roman-Catholic God by reason alone. Central to Christianity is the act of revelation, God revealing Himself to us. /Roman-Catholic.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2005 @03:50AM (#12668674)
    Not quite. Quote from http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200505/29/eng200 50529_187357.html [peopledaily.com.cn]
    "In 1978, China had a poor-stricken population of 250 million, and the figure has declined to around 30 million today." Assuming even that relatively high end figure is very close to only 2% of the 1.4 billion Chinese citizens classified as below the poverty level in China. The average Chinese citizen is more like the average Japanese citizen than might seem to be evident from your fully false statement that the average was an uneducated farmer. The similarity even applies to population age spectrum projections, they are both increasingly older populations.
  • by Bill Walker ( 835082 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @04:36AM (#12668760)
    The Dalai Lama's not a particularly violent guy, or he has a great pr team...

    To digress, I heard a truly bizarre story in college. I was taking "Mongols in History" (senior year and my requirements were fulfilled), and one of the students told us this:

    After Tiannemen Square, the Chinese decided to be more discreet about suppressing protesters. During an independence protest in Lhasa in the mid-90's, they infiltrated the crowd, and at a prearranged signal stabbed hundreds of demonstrators in the back. Anyone who subsequently went to the hospital with a stab wound was earmarked as an inssurectionist and quietly executed.

    This story is a totally uncorroborated rumor, but I think I believe it. It's genius in its own way-- brutal, effective, and discreet.

    I'm probably too buried for anyone to read this, but if you do, has anyone else ever heard something similar?

  • 8 = 6+2 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by goon ( 2774 ) <peterrenshaw&seldomlogical,com> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @07:26AM (#12669132) Homepage Journal

    And this is why Edward de Bono [edwarddebono.com] makes for interesting reading. I wont bother detailing his bio [edwarddebono.com] but point you to his website [edwarddebono.com]. de Bono spent the early part of his life working on the structure and self organisation of the brain.

    He has spent considerable more time trying to get people to think better. For example in a thinking exercise he tries to explain why people (not just smart ones) argue incorrect results to problems through a simple example:

    • '... Most people cannot distinguish between: 6+2 = 8 8 = 6+2 The difference can be rather important. The addition of 6 and 2 cannot produce any answer other than 8. But 8 can be made up of combinations other than 6 and 2 (5+3, 4+4, 7+1). Why is this important? Because people start to believe that if you have a 'right' answer there is no need to think further because you can never be more than right. Having the right answer means you do not have to listen to other answers because they can never be 'more than right'. The result is a severe limitation on thinking. The point will be followed up in my next message. [Weekly Message (Week 20), Edward de Bono 8th May 2004 [edwarddebono.com]] ...'

    Good ideas flow from good thinking. Good thinking is (mostly) about changing perception not logic or argument.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2005 @08:07AM (#12669237)
    The question of God's existence is essentially trivial, because we bundle a whole lot of other questions in with that one. Suppose God does exist: some external prime mover, beyond our comprehension. That prospect is meaningless (for purposes of this discussion) unless we also posit that:

    1. He cares about us
    2. He has made his will known to us
    3. We have correctly identified where that expression of will is (i.e., the revealed text of your choice)
    4. That expression of will has survived since its revelation, wholly uncorrupted by human stupidity or wickedness.

    I don't have much of a problem believing that a prime mover exists, though I don't find it terribly compelling either; the four propositions above, though, are too much for me to believe. Numbers 3 and 4, in particular, seem ludicrous.
  • by bheading ( 467684 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @08:11AM (#12669243)
    "How many people have said, "We must believe in God, for if we do, and he does not exist, nothing happens. But if we do not believe in him, and he does exist, then we are doomed." But, it's fairly clear he does not exist."

    It's beside the point. Which God do you believe in ? There's a big selection, and pretty much all of them say that if you believe in the wrong one you'll be in big trouble. So how do you choose ?
  • by m50d ( 797211 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:28AM (#12669509) Homepage Journal
    The latter. Most drivers already work as a scsi device - usb mass storage, cd burners, etc. The only one which doesn't, the ide disk driver, was completely rewritten halfway through 2.4 and could very well have been done using the scsi interface. The two layers could be maintained for a while, but the scsi one is better done and could be more efficient by being "promoted" up a layer. Instead linus keeps ide separate, deliberately breaks scsi emulation cd burning (nice one, never mind people who actually want to use the kernel, linus' preferences and ego are far more important) and now appears to be trying to get usb mass storage rewritten as a different block device, for no reason at all other than ensuring his broken design carries on.
  • by doc modulo ( 568776 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @10:06AM (#12669684)
    To start with an example, let's discuss the pro's and cons of application folders. That is, a program's files are all kept inside 1 directory instead of being installed by spreading files all over the operating system file structure. Apple uses application folders in OS X.

    Arguments FOR:

    * Human minds and their memory are weak, anything that can help them grasp what constitutes an application is a good thing. It's easy to keep in mind that everything that's in a certain directory is part of that program. It's almost impossible to remember all the names and locations of the files when a program spreads itself out all over the OS. For a clear mental picture of an application, appfolders are superiour. Think of Murphy's law, something WILL go wrong and fixing an appfolder program is then easier than fixing a traditionally installed program.

    * Security: It's easier to configure an operating system so that everything in one directory is limited by permissions XYZ. If you have files spread out over the filesystem, they can have their individual permissions changed accidentally. Lower permissions = application breaks. Higher permissions = security risk. In addition, changing the permission of an application is more complicated.

    * No more dependencies: Everything the application needs is present. Dependencies suck! They increase efficiency but they suck because they can make an application not run, or not even install. Dependencies are like spaghetti code on an OS level.

    * Usability: Looking at it from a higher level, appfolders have better usability for PC users (all of us). To "install" you just drag the appfolder. To install a traditional program, you'll have to use an install wizard. This wizard is not compatible with the UNIX principle of "everything is a file". This wizard does it's magic, you'll have to hope everything works out well (often doesn't) and if you uninstall a program you'll have to keep your fingers crossed again, hope that the installer finds every little file again to delete. Although it's not rock-hard logic, think about this: Apple has the most user friendly system at the moment and they use appfolders. No matter what the other problems will come up because of using appfolders, there is no doubt that from the end-user's perspective, appfolders are user friendlier. Whatever side of the argument you are one, you'll have to agree that more user frienlyness is better than less user friendlyness. PCs should take away work and problems, not add to them.


    Arguments AGAINST:

    * Efficiency: Having every library that a program needs inside it's own appfolder will probably lead to duplication. The exact same library will probably be inside a couple of different appfolders wasting HD space. On top of that, if you load a traditionally shared library into RAM, it is available to be used by another program as well. This trick will save RAM if 2 or more traditional programs use the same library and are running at the same time.
    - Counter argument: Although HD inefficiency is present with appfolders, HD space limitations are not as bad as they have been in the past. Also, there is undoubtedly a simple system that can overcome RAM waste, for example, you can make a big hashlist of all the libraries in a central spot. Before a program starts, it will look in that list to see if a library it needs has already been loaded in RAM.

    * Duplication of effort and compatibility: Most of the applications that have been released so far have been traditional installation applications. Converting to the appfolder system would require a lot of work and a lot of convincing of people. Humans are bad at changing the way they think.

    Please copy the arguments into your post and add to them, in the end we might have a complete overview of the subject and we can make an objective decision on whether appfolders are a good idea overall or not. I'm in favor myself.

    Links for more data:

  • by listen ( 20464 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @11:12AM (#12669936)
    This is utter utter crap. There are at least a hundred million roaming unemployed in China. Just think for a second : about half of the people employed by the state or state owned enterprises before Deng came to power have been sacked as these businesses became unprofitable.

    The narrow official definition of unemployment leaves out millions of people who are out of work, by a common-sense definition. A good place to start is to ask who is out of work and needs a job but is not counted in the official unemployment figures. These are the main categories:
    # Xia gang, or "off-post" workers, not registered as unemployed and still contractually tied to their work-units, possibly receiving short-term very limited benefits.
    # Surplus, unpaid but not officially laid off workers at state-owned enterprises (SOEs), technically hired but economically expendable.
    # Laid-off workers still contractually tied to their work units.
    # Migrant agricultural and rural workers who move to cities, an estimated 94 million of them, or more.
    # Surplus rural workers.
    # Workers who disappear into the informal economy.

    It is of course very difficult to get any sensible information out of China. The only people counted as unemployed are those who had a job in a city and lost it. That rate is about 10% of official urban workers, ie 30 million out of 300 million . The biggest portion left out are the roaming agricultural workers - at the very least a hundred million out of work due to cheap food imports from the US, Canada, the Ukraine etc.
  • by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @11:48AM (#12670125) Homepage
    Please read this book. [amazon.com]

    This argument, as you recounted it, makes lots of logical errors. Extrapolating his small view of planet earth (wood in particular) to the entire universe is silly. Assuming everything must have a beginning is quaint. "We don't understand it yet, therefore God" thinking makes me want to cry for humanity. Any line of reasoning is worthless if it is built upon unproven assumptions.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:21PM (#12670321)
    Actually you are close there to the only possible explanation to a finite universe.
    You see the common mistake which is pretty much burnt into our brains is, is that an effect must have a cause. However if absolutely nothing existed and all laws of physics thus also no longer existed. There would seem to be no reason to any longer hold to that reasoning.
    Basically effect without cause is possible when nothing exists.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:53PM (#12670812)
    I attend an engineering college in the US, but there are a high percentage of Chinese and Indian students here. I agree that they can blow us away with math skills, and to agree with another poster, they can't innovate. From what I've seen on research teams and build projects, they cannot think outside the box. I've seen firsthand an Indian dude do 4x the amount of math required to make the results look like what he "expected" vs. just plotting the outlying point and -questioning- why that occured.

    Also, I bet their average math scores are only collected from their students who get to attend school. I'm sure all 1 billion people aren't on average any better than the rest of us. Agreedm those who do get educated are probably better, but it's not a fair comparison when you're collecting data from American potheads that are forced to take tests so their school gets funding.
  • by BewireNomali ( 618969 ) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @03:07PM (#12671253)

    Agreed. The reason our country tends to be innovative is referred to in the article. Innovation comes from diversity of source. Having a myriad of people from disparate backgrounds, all with prodigious problem solving abilities... something good will arise from that. You'll get strong ideas from people used to defending their positions and are thus resistant to peer pressure.

    Taking that a step further, you need a leader who KNOWS when the killer idea has been hit upon.

    Gonna reveal my geek roots for a minute: When I was a kid I read these cheesy books by a guy named Piers Anthony - called BIO OF A SPACE TYRANT. The guy's name was Hope Hubris and he rose from a small agricultural colony floating in the Jovian atmosphere to become the leader of the Jovian colonies. It was always pointed out in the books that Hope Hubris, in and of himself, was not particularly talented. He was never great at any one thing, other than at getting the best people united under one cause. For some reason, really smart and talented people put their faith in him to lead them, to champion their cause.

    I've noticed that most people who are great at designing widgets have a noted inability to grasp the bigger picture. I think it's really true that for the most part, leaders and innovators can't be taught. They arise as a consequence of conditions.

    I also agree with you in regards to test scores. Test scores don't measure the quality of our innovation... they measure the quality of our work force. That said, if the United States ceases to innovate, we become inherently disadvantaged because of the inferior workforce we produce because of our less regimented education system.

    In regards to innovation, our society seeks to crush that too... through homogeniety (sp). Stifle immigration and champion media culture, and you have everyone thinking the same things... doing the same thing... being the same things. That again robs us of innovation. Somewhere, some really innovative person has just discovered video games, or MTV, and it's a wrap for that guy.

    In other words, *and I can't believe that I'm saying this* some concepts of the traditionally republican ideal make sense. Free capitalism.... leave everyone to their own devices - make everyone hustle for everything that they have, and you have an efficient economy. This makes sense.
    Unfortunately, we live in a very decadent society. Everyone has too much (even "poor" people), and this makes for satisfied people. Satisfied people don't innovate. Therein lies the trouble, and why we have much to fear from countries like India and China (Africa is next - they also have a billion people, and AIDS is stabilizing. It actually is on the decline in urban centers. If they lose a quarter of their population, they still have 3/4 of a billion people rapidly migrating to urban centers and embracing education. On top of that, the African continent has a treasure trove of natural resources left untapped because of civil strife. China will always be hindered because it cannot power it's population. India will be hindered because most of its population practices a religion diametrically opposed to the ideals of capitalism. Africa can both power and feed itself, and is rapidly embracing Catholicism and Christianity). I'm rambling.

  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @04:27PM (#12671745) Homepage
    If I understand this "prime mover" idea, you're saying that every event has a cause, and that only God could have started the ball rolling by causing the first event.

    If time is infinite, then there is no need for a first event.

    Actually, the idea of a "prime mover" is an older philosophic idea, the oldest recorded discussion being from Aristotle. Aristotle actually argues that time must be infinite in both directions, but this doesn't hamper the existence of a prime mover. In order to understand the prime mover, you have to understand Aristotle's ideas about "cause" [wikipedia.org].

    The prime mover is the formal cause of everything, but not the efficient cause of anything. In modern times, we've forgotten such distinctions and only talk about efficient causes.

In English, every word can be verbed. Would that it were so in our programming languages.