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Bruce Johnson
Works at Homebase.io
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A consumer security idea. Instead of baroque password syntax rules and security questions, what if end users could describe a simple algorithm they'd like to use to determine what the password should be at any given moment in time, based on dynamic inputs? For example, I could set my password to be the concatenation of: (1) the current day of the week, (2) the number of months until my anniversary month, (3) my current IP address, and (4) the current temperature at my zip code according to Google. Of course, each end user could pick some combination of static/dynamic inputs that they prefer.

I like this because it's easier to describe and remember such schemes, yet the password changes all the time, greatly increasing the cost of a brute-force crack attempt. 
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Another idea: turn on my web cam momentarily and my password could be sensitive to whether I am currently smiling or frowning. Or whether I am looking at the camera or not. Or what color shirt I'm wearing. So many opportunities to make unguessable, dynamic passwords that are still easy to remember and mentally generate as needed.
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Facts happen, sure, but conscious ignorance is where it's at. Celebrate, as Donald Rumsfeld would say, "known unknowns."

This talk is a bold reiteration to parents and teachers that students internalizing the process of asking and answering questions (vs memorizing facts) is the most important outcome of education. Just say no to drill-and-kill testing.
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Nice job on the presentation today, +Chris Ramsdale!
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You should have thrown in a "not withstanding" for good measure.
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The NSA and IRS can team up to solve their mutual PR problem: the NSA offers to produce all your documentation to the IRS if you're ever audited.

Saves taxpayers lots of time filing their receipts, etc. This is a plan I could get on board with.
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It depresses me to know that there are people who honestly want to receive tax returns with data prepopulated by the IRS and require only a signature to authorize its filing.
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Just realized Pink Floyd and Metallica are on Spotify. This feels like it should have been a tweet instead.
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Always fun to ponder the implications of the Drake equation.
 
Forever Alone

It’s estimated that there are between 8 and 20 billion potentially habitable Earth-like worlds within our galaxy alone.  Those are just the ones that orbit Sun-like stars.  If you add in stars like red dwarfs, the number of potentially habitable planets rises to over 40 billion.  Of course that is just the ones within our galaxy.  There are about 100 billion galaxies within the observable universe.  That’s a lot of potential for other intelligent species, but so far none of them have made contact with us.  Just why is a bit of a mystery.

One solution is that no other intelligent species has contacted us because there are no other intelligent species besides ours.  It is possible that the appearance of intelligent life in the universe is so extraordinarily rare that we are the only such species in the entire universe.  It’s also possible that intelligent life is rather common, and there is some other reason that motivates them to avoid us.  Either way, it would be helpful if we had an idea of just how likely or rare intelligent life actually is.  One way to estimate this is through an equation known as the Drake equation.

The Drake equation was originally proposed at the first SETI conference by Frank Drake in 1961 as a way to stimulate discussion.  Drake did not intend it as a prediction of the correct value, but more as a “what if” to consider.  The equation itself is basically a product of the rate at which stars form in our galaxy, how many stars have planets, how many planets they typically have, what fraction are habitable, what fraction of habitable planets form life, how many form intelligent life, then civilizations, and how long those civilizations last.

When Drake first proposed the equation, most of the values in the equation were largely unknown.  We now have data on several of them.   We know that about 7 new stars form in our galaxy each year, virtually all main sequence stars are likely to have planets, and they likely have more than 1 planet.  There are about 60 billion Sun-like stars in our galaxy, and it’s estimated that about 15% – 30% of those stars have planets in their habitable zone.  From that we get a value of 8 to 20 billion potentially habitable Earth-like planets.

The rest of the Drake equation remains pretty speculative.  If we suppose there are 10 billion potential Earths, how many of them actually have life?  We only have one example of life arising on a planet, and drawing conclusions from a sample size of 1 is iffy at best.  But if we assume Earth is fairly typical, then perhaps 10% of these worlds could have possessed life for at least a billion years.  That would mean there is life on about 100 million planets.

Of these, what fraction will give rise to an intelligent species?  Intelligent life arose on Earth, so it’s possible that most planets with life will give rise to intelligence.  Or it could be that intelligence is just a fluke.  Again, we only have one example.  This is perhaps the most speculative aspect of the Drake equation.  Estimates range from nearly 100% to almost none.  Of those with intelligent life, how many can communicate across the stars?  Again, it’s anybody’s guess.  So there could be as many as 100 million civilizations, or as few as 1.

The last part of the equation is about how robust civilizations are.  When they arise do they last for a million years, or do they collapse within centuries?  Our own civilization is relatively young.  We’ve only had the potential to communicate across stellar distances for a few decades.  How much longer will our civilization last?  That’s a good question.

Carl Sagan saw the lack of communication with other intelligent species as a cautionary tale.  If upwards of 100 million planets have life, and the rise of intelligent life is common, then the reason we haven’t heard from our alien neighbors could be because civilizations are fragile.  Perhaps just as they develop the tools to reach the stars they also develop the tools of their annihilation.  Perhaps we should view the silent stars not as a mystery, but as a warning.

For now it is still largely speculation.  Planets are common, and potentially habitable planets seem to be common, but we just don’t have any hard evidence for more than that.

One thing, however is certain.  Either we are alone in the universe, or we are not.  Either case is deeply profound.

Image: NASA/JPL–Caltech/R Hurt (SSC–Caltech)
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The time window observation that +Ray Cromwell points out has always been the the thing that did it for me. We not only have to "have existed". We need to overlap in such a way that radio broadcasts reach us. It may very well be the case that life on earth arose as early as it could in the universe. And that there are quite literally billions of other human level intelligences out there just waiting for our radio waves to cross.

But with the speed of light being what it is, dont expect any responses for a while.
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TIL the term "chocolate fireguard", also known as +Joel Webber's future favorite phrase describing something or other about web browsers.
A very short post on Chocolate Fireguards, which as the name suggests are objects which subvert their own function. The first example is a real fireguard, though not one actually made of chocolate....
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+Daniel Egnor I think it's "an object that is precisely worst at what it's meant to do". Agreed that that color words seemed like a non sequitur.
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 #AI
 
Always fun to download some new apps into your necktop.

I had vaguely heard of Searle's Chinese Room argument against AI, but it's surprisingly weak. And the System Reply, apparently the most common counterargument, is unnecessarily apologetic. My counterargument to Searle is that the premise is completely wrong: there is no such thing as "understanding" in the sense Searle requires. Thus, there is no "understanding of Chinese" (or English or ...) to begin with. Just watch Cosmos for 20 minutes to be reminded that we don't "understand" anything on its own terms anyway. Or Feynman talking about how something we "understand" like chairs, upon which we fearlessly sit, are mostly empty space that support our weight courtesy of invisible forces we probably can't name and about which we have no intuition. Where's the understanding there? Instead, we make correlations, and we have some fancy feedback mechanisms in our brains (I'm guessing) to build up very complex computations as an iterated function of those correlations. (I don't claim to know much about the brain's actual wiring – just meant as a rough sketch.) That is the Chinese Room at work. It just happens to feel a bit more special to us when it's happening inside our own brain.

In summary, I think the best refutation is this: if you can't have artificial intelligence, then you can't have human intelligence. To put it another way, there is no such thing as understanding, and we have every reason to believe we can simulate that with computers.
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You could argue for the knowledge of chairs. Absolute knowledge in fact. But, you'd have to hedge that by submitting that knowledge as conceptual and as a higher order emergent phenomenon of constituent parts. It is absolute knowledge only in that we define what a chair is whilst disregarding the constituent parts.

For the same reasons, this is how we can study biology and 'understand' it without needing to know the physics behind it all. And, this is how we can confidently sit in chairs in complete ignorance of what chairs and butts are actually doing.

Sorry for my outburst, hehe. But this is my favorite intuition pump I have on my necktop right now. But it seemed relevant to 'understanding things on their own terms".
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Does anyone have a good system for organizing family photos with Google+, especially merging photos from multiple family members, each of whom backup photos into their respective G+ accounts?

Specifically, my wife and I both have Android phones and Auto Backup is great, but we want an easy and automated way to put photos into a shared location. Having to intermittently remember to explicitly share photos with her and vice-versa is a huge pain.

Or am I completely missing some functionality that makes this easy?
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Agreed! Also would love the ability to have multiple contributors to album... Like they had in Picasa.
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Clear labeling is key. #parenting
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You write that on the container to keep the ravenous kids from eating all the leftover chicken marsala. 

My mom wrote "Dog Scraps" on a container once to keep me out of it. 

Didn't work. 
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Have him in circles
1,399 people
Chris Sharp's profile photo
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Software development, historically development tools, but now focusing on things that makes users say "yay"
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  • Homebase.io
    COO, 2013 - present
  • Monetology
    Founder, 2012 - present
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    Atlanta Engineering Site Director, 2005 - 2012
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    CEO/Founder/Janitor, 2001 - 2005
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    Director of Product Development, 1999 - 2001
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