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Alex Fabrikant
Attended University of California, Berkeley
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Alex Fabrikant

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Dear public spokespeople for computer science at large(*),

May I please request a loud public rebuttal to this take by Justice Scalia on the distinction between a cotton gin and a universal computing device?:

" 'Why isn’t doing it through a computer not enough?' Scalia asked sarcastically. 'I mean, was the cotton gin not an invention because it just means you’re dong through a machine what people used to do by hand?' "

This is as good a time as any for it to enter the public conscience that the transition from "I have a sequence of steps X" to "Let us now perform my sequence of steps X by <the currently popular format of Turing machine>" is never a fundamentally novel invention, and even less so when the steps are already mechanistically described by patent language.

(*) - I'm looking at yall, +Scott Aaronson +Lance Fortnow +Moshe Vardi +vint cerf 
The justices don't seem inclined to get rid of software patents, but business-method patents could be in trouble.
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Leave it to Scalia, folks. When is that guy going to retire, anyways?
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Alex Fabrikant

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Update: Thanks +Sheila Eldred for getting this fixed!

Apparently, the problem came from +Corbis, which has a bunch of A. muscaria photos mislabeled as A. phalloides:

http://www.corbisimages.com/Search#p=1&q=death+cap+mushroom

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Dear +Discovery :

You are spreading deadly misinformation with your choice of clipart. The below article on "death cap" mushrooms, Amanita phalloides, is currently decorated with the extraordinarily distinctive (and somewhat less deadly) Amanita muscaria. How many readers' lives can you save by showing a real phalloides photo -- a nondescript mushroom with a greyish-to-brown cap that looks like many others to an uneducated eye?

http://news.discovery.com/earth/plants/deadliest-mushroom-in-the-world-is-spreading-140210.htm

See, e.g.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanita_phalloides
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Alex Fabrikant

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PSA for anyone around the peninsula and south bay: watch out for BLACK ICE this morning! (WTF, weather?)
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Yup I DIYed one with my sprinkler runoff. Maybe I should check on my homeowners insurance...
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Alex Fabrikant

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There's a valuable petition circulating on whitehouse.gov, asking the administration to overrule the FDA's decision to bar 23andMe from conducting genetic tests.

The FDA's argument is essentially that, if these tests aren't regulated and run through the complete pipeline of the medical establishment, they might give people information which leads them to seek out incorrect medical treatments. But this argument strikes me as pure BS; (that's the technical term) any seeking out of medical treatments would be done through doctors, which are the appropriate point at which to insert useful professional advice. To shut off the ability of individuals to get at their own genetic information benefits nobody, especially when there are already a number of well-understood markers (such as BRCA) whose meaning individuals can put to lifesaving use.

There's a tendency in the medical world to assume that patients, if given information, will misuse it. This is part of why your medical records aren't generally open to you. (The other part being that it lets doctors put in annotations they don't want you to see -- something else whose value I'm not convinced of) This is simple nonsense, and the FDA's move to essentially shut down all genetic testing services is a simple power grab. 

And for once, a whitehouse.gov petition seems like one of the most appropriate means to respond. As an executive branch agency, the FDA is answerable to the President via the Secretary of Health and Human Services; the President is, in fact, the natural path along which to escalate this. The other appropriate thing you can do is contact your representatives: a bunch of annoyed Congressthings (so annoyed because they have a bunch of annoyed constituents) is a great way to get the FDA's attention as well.
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Alex Fabrikant

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A fascinating market design hack: price differentiation based on signalling by the very act of committing to a mixed strategy. This actually works?!
 
Great segment about my friends at +GetGoing 
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that is a really cool system
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Alex Fabrikant

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San Francisco PD decides to jail and abuse a random good Samaritan for shits and giggles. How is this not in the mainstream press yet, +SFGate?

https://medium.com/p/9f53ef6a1c10
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And if police felt like part of the community, maybe this would not happen. Not to justify what they did, just that maybe it is a systemic problem.
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Alex Fabrikant

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does this mean bicyclist are no longer allowed to cut in between cars to go from the back to the front at a traffic light? because wouldn't that mean EVERY CAR is breaking the law because the bicyclist clearly is within 3ft of a car.
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Have him in circles
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  • University of California, Berkeley
    1998 - 2002
  • University of California, Berkeley
    2002 - 2008
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