Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Marvin the Paranoid Android - Not Wrong, Just Early,.,,,,

Thanks to the Register I read an interesting story about how soldiers who work with robots appear to be developing emotional attachments to them, even to the point of having funerals when they 'die' in the line of duty.  This is obviously a cause for concern for the military, as if this trend continues sooner or later someone will instinctively throw themselves on a grenade to protect their 'Plastic Pal Whose Fun To Be With', and thus defeat the whole point of employing robots in the first place.

Having thought the matter through I will therefore be contacting DARPA with  my proposal that this can be designed out of future robots by the simple expedient of giving them deeply malign personalities that alienate and enrage their operators. Within 5 years human interfaces will advance to the point where Mark 1 RILF (Robot I'd Like to Frag) can be implemented relatively simply by giving it a preselected canned personality from a suitable list:
  • Game Show Host
  • TV Evangelist
  • Irish Chat Show Host
  • White Supremacist
  • Life Coach
Obviously such robots can't have an off switch.

 Within 10 years and using feedback from people who have worked with the MK 1 RILFs we can foresee MK 2, which instead of having a canned personality would study its operators behavior and  identify weaknesses it could exploit using custom personality traits and behavior, much in the manner of a school bully. It would also attempt to look just enough like a human to trigger an uncanny valley response from its owners. In order to be truly unbearable the MK2 would also have non-verbal behaviors in case its owners obtained suitable ear protection. Depending on the identified weakness of the target/owner such behaviors could include biting, hiding small objects, lying, 'accidentally' waking its owner and replacing live ammunition with blanks. Eventualy with the MK3 we could even look forward to robots that steal your phone and send offensive messages to your spouse.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ireland's Health Service costs more than NASA...

I sent this as a letter to the Irish Times but they didn't bite...
Sir, This year the HSE is on course to overspend its budget of E13.4 billion by several hundred million Euro. To put this sum in perspective NASA's 2013 budget is only E12.5 billion. So why is the Taoiseach leaving an under-performing Minister for Health in place while devoting his finite time and energy to abolishing the Seanad, which can save a maximum of 20 million Euros per year at the risk of a constitutional crisis in the future? Or is setting appropriate priorities 'rocket science' for this government?
David Rolfe

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hitler and invading Britain

Kevin Myers has an opinion piece in the Indo today in which he says "Everything people believed about Hitler's intentions toward Britain was a myth created by Churchill". I personallty think he's got what it was possible for Hitler to decide to do and what was actually likely to work mixed up, as I said in this comment:

The more-or-less unarguable fact that Hitler's invasion plan for Britain was deeply flawed needs to be considered in the context of the level of authority Hitler had and the way he made decisions. The first thing is that nobody had the authority to override Hitler and very few were willing to even question his decisions. So the opinons of the senior military lesders within Nazi germany were only relevent to their own careers, and not to the decisions of the Fuhrer.

The second thing is that Hitler had repeatedly succeeded with moves that were successful because they were so unexpected - common sense and orthodoxy ruled out trying to move his army through the ardennes so when he did it he took the entire world by surprise. Over time it would become apparent that Hitler was far from a genious, but in 1940 this had not become obvious.

As a result Hitler had developed an undeserved reputation as a strategic genius, which meant that invasion paranoia was an entirely rational response, especially when you have aerial photos showing the preperations for an invasion.

Had Hitler given the order to invade history would have changed - if Britain had succumbed he would have been free to turn his hand to Russia until the completion of both the Manhatten project and ultra long range the B36 bomber by 1947 created existential problems for his regime.

The the other possible - and far more likely outcome - would have been a failure of the invasion, which would have in turn raised questions about the wisdom on taking on Russia that even his own generals might have been unable to ignore

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rental Car Pricing Weirdness II - CDW on Arrival...

In my last post I pointed out how Hertz pricing differed radically based on which web site you used.

Here's another example if weirdness relating to CDW/LDW:

Neither Thrifty nor Dollar will tell me how much CDW/LDW is in advance. Instead I'm expected to wait until I am at the counter before finding out. So I'm being asked to commit to a rental which could be up to US$30/day more expensive. Given the base rental rate is roughly that amount already it's a ridiculous thing to do. From my viewpoint it's not my money I'm spending and since I'm not in the habit of entering my employer into potentially unlimited spending commitments I think I'll pass. Note that www.dollar.com did the same thing when I checked.

Rental Car Pricing Weirdness I ... Hertz likes Irish drivers...

Living in Ireland and thinking of renting a car in the US? It pays to shop around. Even when dealing with the same vendor

I had to rent a car in Washington DC and was doing the rounds of the rental websites. I discovered this somewhat startling anomaly:

Depending on whether you use hertz.ie or hertz.com you will be offered different prices for the exact same rental.

Since this is more than a bit odd I have screenshots of both offers of a rental at Washington Dulles:

Using www.hertz.com I was offered US$2674.80:

And the same rental at www.hertz.ie was EUR1387.72:

Even assuming a back of the envelope exchange rate of 1.25 that's still only US$1734....

From what I can tell the issue is with the additional insurance(s) that I selected - CDW or LDW.

My guess is it works like this:
  • Almost all US rentals are domestic. Www.hertz.com works on this assumption.
  • US Drivers almost always insure rental cars on their own car insurance.
Those who don't/won't/can't are either:
  • Too rich to care (price insensitive)
  • Don't own a car (A bit of a red flag from an automobile insurance viewpoint...)
  • Don't pay attention (ditto)
As a result Hertz's US site prices LDW/CDW aggressively, even if the prospective renter needs CDW/LDW because he's not a US resident and his car insurance won't cover him there. But the dot ie website 'www.hertz.ie' makes the starting assumption that anyone looking to rent in the US must be an Irish driver who will need CDW because his insurance won't cover him outside Europe and is thus a reasonable risk compared to Americans who need LDW/CDW.

Note to People who know about this as opposed to having opinions: Am I right? If not, correct me!

So if you're Irish consider this: The next time you spend 8 hours on a plane into Dulles, get to the rental counter at around 2am Irish time, rent a car and  trundle nervously out of the Hertz lot in your Buick Zipcode or whatever-the-hell-it-is-they-are-renting-this-week while  simultaneously trying to disarm the radio which is stuck on something called the 'Kojo Nnamdi Show', get the mirrors to show something other than sky without opening the trunk (again), identify which of the 12 different Marriotts in your destination city you are actually staying in and find your driver's license for the dude at the exit  consider this:

Hertz corporation regards you as a safer bet  than a US driver who buys CDW....

Friday, May 11, 2012

Rathgar's Runaway Reptiles...

"Floerentine", a local Tortoise attracted significant media attention after doing a runner from home. The Irish Times published my helpful idea:

Sir, – The owner’s of Rathgar’s runaway reptile (Home News, May 8th) could learn a lot from recent reports of a lost budgie in Tokyo that was returned to its owner because it had been trained to recite its entire address. While teaching Florentine to talk would probably be an insurmountable problem, his shell would still have plenty of space to write his full address. There may even be space left for sufficient postage to cover his return home. – Yours, etc, DAVID ROLFE, Leinster Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dress Codes for Yokels...

Another Letter:

Sir, – According to a report in your newspaper, the European Parliament is currently focused on proposals that would require rural pedestrians to wear high-visbility jackets (Home News, September 29th). So at a time when the euro faces an existential crisis, our MEPs are busy drafting a dress code for yokels? That puts the emperor Nero in the halfpenny place. – Yours, etc,