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With Jeff Bezos’s Amazon joining Apple this week as another trillion dollar market cap firm, it’s worth recounting highlights of Amazon’s Can-Do spirit that has made Mr. Bezos the richest man in the history of the world. From the Seattle Times:

Amazon has patented a system that would put workers in a cage, on top of a robot

Originally published September 7, 2018 at 4:05 pm

 
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  1. Jeff Bezos is The Architect.

  2. On my phone, the image of the cage is immediately followed by

    ← Escape to Boa Vista

    Indeed.

  3. The next generation cage will come with a toilet and a harmonica.

    • LOL: Harry Baldwin
    • Replies: @RVBlake
    And 3 sheets of TP...Exactly.
  4. • Replies: @PiltdownMan
    Mr. Bezos is not amused.

    https://static4.businessinsider.com/image/5a997ca6487ff924008b47c4-480/jeff-bezos-blue-origin-amazon-founder-sunglasses-tough-face-gettyimages-813884326-4x3.jpg
  5. To be used in conjunction with the usual job apparel of algesic wrist- and neckwear.

    “[The human transport cages] could also be used to cut across an off-limits work space to reach a restroom that would otherwise be a significant trip on foot.”

    Why are restrooms located on the other side of an off-limits work space? To discourage the inefficiency of excessive urination and defecation by carbon-based lifeforms.

    • LOL: RVBlake
    • Replies: @Alden
    HR does keep track. They’ve had key stroke monitors for decades to check how many strokes per minute and how many mistakes.

    My Dad was an old fashioned labor lefty always talking about the horrors of the industrial revolution and unsafe factory conditions. He thought that labor had triumphed. Well, it did for a while.

    Labor conditions are going back to that book about 1900 Chicago stockyards,
    The Jungle
  6. I know that I can spend an hour between Amazon and ebay looking for the best of a certain item and reading Amazon reviews for it. My bet is Amazon gets a big segment of its sales from upper middle class women idling their time away there. They might be surfing at work. Or they might be at home and not need to work courtesy of their husband. Have a glass of white nearby and are leafing through Amazon looking for ways to squander hundreds and thousands of dollars on the best. The best according to Amazon reviews plus Amazon sometimes calls an item an “Amazon Choice”. I bought one the other day, a 15 dollar USB wifi adapter for laptop. The internal one swung on and off.

    When did Amazon surge past ebay? I recently saw that Amazon has 40% of eCommerce and ebay 5%. Ebay used to be bigger.

    • Replies: @The Wild Geese Howard

    My bet is Amazon gets a big segment of its sales from upper middle class women idling their time away there. They might be surfing at work.
     
    This is precisely what female STEM grads do at work for the first three years until they get promoted to product manager.
    , @Alden
    I know some of those women. They love amazon. For some reason it has lot more cachet than catalogs or just going to the Nordstrom or specific websites. Kids need new winter parkas. I can only find them on amazon.
  7. OK, I don’t know if anyone here remembers the blogger “Across Difficult Country”, but I haven’t seen that level of straightforward ridiculousness, supported by a black and white sketch, in a long time.

    • Agree: Antlitz Grollheim
    • Replies: @Antlitz Grollheim
    Carter Van Carter was the greatest. I miss that blog.
  8. Squeal, puny humans, squeal. Yours truly, the why-not-dept.

  9. Anonymous[332] • Disclaimer says:

    I’ve been an anti-communist my whole adult life, but watching the corporate overlords take over American domestic policy has made me rethink.

    There should not be such thing as a billionaire. They are acting in concert, as a cartel, and are able to exercise more control over the population than the constitutionally-restricted Congress. This is all so wrong. I never want to see another tax break for these parasites again. Soak the rich.

    • Replies: @njguy73
    "Under capitalism, man exploit man. Under communism, it's just the opposite."- John Kenneth Galbriath
    , @Jake
    "I’ve been an anti-communist my whole adult life, but watching the corporate overlords take over American domestic policy has made me rethink."

    Unless Capitalism is operating in a nation that has a large, deep reservoir of Christian morality, it becomes the worst case scenario of monopoly winners grinding everyone else into the dirt.
    , @Reg Cæsar

    I never want to see another tax break for these parasites again. Soak the rich.
     
    Giving their assets to your other enemies is a solution? Why not just burn them?
  10. If everything is VR now, why does the human need to be in a cage in the warehouse anyway? Why can’t the human being be sitting somewhere off-site, watching a screen and “piloting” the picking machine remotely? Would this simply make it too obvious that in the near future Amazon won’t need human workers much at all?

    What if instead of ordering things from Amazon, one day we all uploaded our consciousnesses to Amazon’s Cloud service so that we could access all of its material at once? Is this what the Hindus have been on about for a few Millennia?

  11. So much happiness he spreads. He deserves, er, immortality, like John Stuart Mill…

    (From Wikipedia)

    In popular culture Edit

    Mill is the subject of a 1905 clerihew by E. C. Bentley:[79]
    John Stuart Mill,
    By a mighty effort of will,
    Overcame his natural bonhomie
    And wrote Principles of Political Economy.

    Mill is namechecked in Monty Python’s “Philosophers Song”.
    John Stuart Mill was the stage name of musician John Schmersal between the disbandment of the group Brainiac and the formation of the band Enon.
    On ABC sitcom American Housewife, Mill is the favourite philosopher of patriarch Greg Otto, played by Diedrich Bader.

  12. Sorry, I seem to be missing why this is so terrible. It’s a confined space for a human operator in an environment full of machines. Is this so different to the cabin of a tower crane, as one Seattle Times commenter suggests?

    What I find much more interesting, is the source of this story: an essay called “Anatomy of an AI system”, coauthored by Kate Crawford, the former Australian pop star who is now Microsoft’s resident technology critic.

    The essay is kind of a Reader’s Digest version of the Koyaanisqatsi/Powaqqatsi/Naqoyqatsi trilogy of films, with Amazon Echo as the star. We go from Bolivian salt mines, to this “worker in a cage” patent, and finally to the training of AI, with Jeff Bezos described as the pharaoh atop this fractal pyramid of planetary exploitation.

    I am actually appreciative that someone has made this attempt to tie together everything that goes into the new AI economy. It is a sinister thing which could yet devour the human race whole.

    But from a PR perspective, I can’t help but notice how convenient it is for Microsoft that their rival Amazon emerges as the villain here. A wholly analogous essay could have been written about the “Invoke” smart speaker that runs Microsoft’s own agent Cortana. (Somehow I doubt that Invoke is made of biodegradable substances assembled by fair-trade collectives.)

    So along with everything else, this is another lesson in the power of hypocrisy and the hypocrisy of power. A melancholy essay detailing how the earth is mined and how daily life is data-mined, to produce the AI economy, an essay that is really a critique of capitalist digital imperialism as a whole… becomes a way for tech giant Microsoft to take down tech giant Amazon one notch!

    (P.S. Seattle Times, hmmm… Isn’t there a big computer company with its headquarters in Seattle?)

    • Replies: @Anon
    I worked at a large company taht is on the top list of patent filers in the U.S.

    Places like this have the idea of protecting intellectual property built into their organization. There are lawyers wandering around looking for stuff that might be patentable.

    To an extent, some of these patents are full-employment guarantees for the IP staff. But they in fact come in handy. If a company just patents all kinds of crap numinously surrounding the fields that they work in, there is an implicit threat of debilitabing lawsuits against competitors. The way this works in practice is that the big patenters in a field cross license huge porfolios of patents and never sue each other. But would-be new entrants to the field are now intimidated by an entire group of giant competitors.

    I remember making a joke to an engineer about how the combination selection dial-button on a sort of PDA that we had made looked a lot like a control on another maker's cameras. He laughed and said that we had the rights to the patent, and indeed the other company had patented it.

    One thing that I have wondered about is why Google patents so much stuff, including stuff that I'm pretty sure that they were not the first to use. I think the answer is that if, at some future time, a really serious comptetitor emerged, Google could litigate and get access to the code of the competitor and find violations and shut them down. I think Google's patents could give them a monopoly in search. I'm sure Bing is using some of their stuff (but Microsoft is also a patent whore, so maybe they are immune from threats). U.S. patent law used to be first-to-use, but they changed to first-to-file. That means lean, fast-moving small startups who never bother to patent stuff can have all their technology stolen out from from under them. The supposed reason for the change is that it's the international standard. But who cares? I think it was lobbied for by big companies who can afford the overhead of excessive patent filing.
  13. Jeff Bezos net worth is 2 million times the median household net worth

    Wealth tax

    • Agree: Rosie
  14. What happened to all those predictions 20 years ago that Apple would be crushed by Microsoft, and Amazon would never see a profitable quarter?

    Jeepers, it’s like you can’t trust the experts anymore!

    • Replies: @Lot
    Amazon still really isn't very profitable. In the last full year Apple's profit was $48 billion. Amazon in its 20 year existence has made a total of about $8 billion in profit

    The market believes once it crushes its enemies it will be extremely profitable.
  15. Meh. I saw the movie. Most of it anyway:

  16. @Reg Cæsar
    What happened to all those predictions 20 years ago that Apple would be crushed by Microsoft, and Amazon would never see a profitable quarter?

    Jeepers, it's like you can't trust the experts anymore!

    Amazon still really isn’t very profitable. In the last full year Apple’s profit was $48 billion. Amazon in its 20 year existence has made a total of about $8 billion in profit

    The market believes once it crushes its enemies it will be extremely profitable.

    • Replies: @Anonymous

    The market believes once it crushes its enemies it will be extremely profitable.
     
    Do you think the market is right?
    , @Clyde
    A big reason for the profit streak is the growth of Amazon’s cloud-computing business, Amazon Web Services. The unit is way more profitable than Amazon’s core retail business — there are no physical products to buy, store and ship in AWS — and growing rapidly. While its growth is decelerating, its revenue still grew 43 percent year over year to $3.7 billion. That helps the bottom line a lot.---- https://www.recode.net/2017/4/27/15451726/amazon-q1-2017-earnings-profits-net-income-cash-flow-chart

    ^^^^^So selling cloud computing services is making Amazon profitable. They just won a prestigious contract with the Pentagon. http://dailycaller.com/2018/05/14/pentagon-amazon-cloud-contract/


    49 Companies Amazon Could Destroy (And 1 It Already Has)
    James Brumley,
    September 5, 2018
    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/49-companies-amazon-could-destroy-105957637.html
     
    , @Dissident
    What about the incredible, unprecedented amount of personal data that Bezos is amassing on every Amazon customer? I've long suspected it is that which motivates Bezos more than anything else.
  17. Can I have a bigger cage for Christmas, sir?

  18. Is the cage to protect the human from the robot or the robot from the human?

  19. @Anonymous
    I've been an anti-communist my whole adult life, but watching the corporate overlords take over American domestic policy has made me rethink.

    There should not be such thing as a billionaire. They are acting in concert, as a cartel, and are able to exercise more control over the population than the constitutionally-restricted Congress. This is all so wrong. I never want to see another tax break for these parasites again. Soak the rich.

    “Under capitalism, man exploit man. Under communism, it’s just the opposite.”- John Kenneth Galbriath

  20. @Clyde
    I know that I can spend an hour between Amazon and ebay looking for the best of a certain item and reading Amazon reviews for it. My bet is Amazon gets a big segment of its sales from upper middle class women idling their time away there. They might be surfing at work. Or they might be at home and not need to work courtesy of their husband. Have a glass of white nearby and are leafing through Amazon looking for ways to squander hundreds and thousands of dollars on the best. The best according to Amazon reviews plus Amazon sometimes calls an item an "Amazon Choice". I bought one the other day, a 15 dollar USB wifi adapter for laptop. The internal one swung on and off.

    When did Amazon surge past ebay? I recently saw that Amazon has 40% of eCommerce and ebay 5%. Ebay used to be bigger.

    My bet is Amazon gets a big segment of its sales from upper middle class women idling their time away there. They might be surfing at work.

    This is precisely what female STEM grads do at work for the first three years until they get promoted to product manager.

    • Replies: @Clyde
    Seems like you have seen this or have other good knowledge of it.
  21. @Anonymous
    I've been an anti-communist my whole adult life, but watching the corporate overlords take over American domestic policy has made me rethink.

    There should not be such thing as a billionaire. They are acting in concert, as a cartel, and are able to exercise more control over the population than the constitutionally-restricted Congress. This is all so wrong. I never want to see another tax break for these parasites again. Soak the rich.

    “I’ve been an anti-communist my whole adult life, but watching the corporate overlords take over American domestic policy has made me rethink.”

    Unless Capitalism is operating in a nation that has a large, deep reservoir of Christian morality, it becomes the worst case scenario of monopoly winners grinding everyone else into the dirt.

    • Replies: @Dissident

    Unless Capitalism is operating in a nation that has a large, deep reservoir of Christian morality, it becomes the worst case scenario of monopoly winners grinding everyone else into the dirt.
     
    Apropos:
    The Servile State by Hilaire Belloc
    Full-text:
    https://archive.org/details/servilestate00belluoft
    Project Librivox recording of full-text read by Ray Clare:
    https://librivox.org/the-servile-state-by-hillaire-belloc/

    Kevin Michael Grace and Kevin Steele discussed this work of Belloc's in Episode #38 of their late 2Kevins podcast (dated May 22nd, 2016). The archived recording appears to be no longer available, however.

    There is also the question of defining Capitalism. Adam Smith is widely cited as the father of Capitalism. But would he recognize what is called such today?

  22. Anon[772] • Disclaimer says:

    Is there room in the cage for immigrant children?

    Maybe this could be a way to repatriate them: have giant robots with cages full of children on top walk to the border wall and dump them over it. A line of giant robots stretching to the horizon. It would be a beautiful thing, big league. And the kids could have all the taco bowls they want after they are back in Mexico.

  23. @Anonymous
    I've been an anti-communist my whole adult life, but watching the corporate overlords take over American domestic policy has made me rethink.

    There should not be such thing as a billionaire. They are acting in concert, as a cartel, and are able to exercise more control over the population than the constitutionally-restricted Congress. This is all so wrong. I never want to see another tax break for these parasites again. Soak the rich.

    I never want to see another tax break for these parasites again. Soak the rich.

    Giving their assets to your other enemies is a solution? Why not just burn them?

  24. I’m calling my lawyer. This is too much like one of our family’s patents.

    • Replies: @Jim Don Bob
    I took Mechanical Drawing my senior year in high school because I thought it would be cool. I drew one of those.
  25. Anon[241] • Disclaimer says:
    @Mitchell Porter
    Sorry, I seem to be missing why this is so terrible. It's a confined space for a human operator in an environment full of machines. Is this so different to the cabin of a tower crane, as one Seattle Times commenter suggests?

    What I find much more interesting, is the source of this story: an essay called "Anatomy of an AI system", coauthored by Kate Crawford, the former Australian pop star who is now Microsoft's resident technology critic.

    The essay is kind of a Reader's Digest version of the Koyaanisqatsi/Powaqqatsi/Naqoyqatsi trilogy of films, with Amazon Echo as the star. We go from Bolivian salt mines, to this "worker in a cage" patent, and finally to the training of AI, with Jeff Bezos described as the pharaoh atop this fractal pyramid of planetary exploitation.

    I am actually appreciative that someone has made this attempt to tie together everything that goes into the new AI economy. It is a sinister thing which could yet devour the human race whole.

    But from a PR perspective, I can't help but notice how convenient it is for Microsoft that their rival Amazon emerges as the villain here. A wholly analogous essay could have been written about the "Invoke" smart speaker that runs Microsoft's own agent Cortana. (Somehow I doubt that Invoke is made of biodegradable substances assembled by fair-trade collectives.)

    So along with everything else, this is another lesson in the power of hypocrisy and the hypocrisy of power. A melancholy essay detailing how the earth is mined and how daily life is data-mined, to produce the AI economy, an essay that is really a critique of capitalist digital imperialism as a whole... becomes a way for tech giant Microsoft to take down tech giant Amazon one notch!

    (P.S. Seattle Times, hmmm... Isn't there a big computer company with its headquarters in Seattle?)

    I worked at a large company taht is on the top list of patent filers in the U.S.

    Places like this have the idea of protecting intellectual property built into their organization. There are lawyers wandering around looking for stuff that might be patentable.

    To an extent, some of these patents are full-employment guarantees for the IP staff. But they in fact come in handy. If a company just patents all kinds of crap numinously surrounding the fields that they work in, there is an implicit threat of debilitabing lawsuits against competitors. The way this works in practice is that the big patenters in a field cross license huge porfolios of patents and never sue each other. But would-be new entrants to the field are now intimidated by an entire group of giant competitors.

    I remember making a joke to an engineer about how the combination selection dial-button on a sort of PDA that we had made looked a lot like a control on another maker’s cameras. He laughed and said that we had the rights to the patent, and indeed the other company had patented it.

    One thing that I have wondered about is why Google patents so much stuff, including stuff that I’m pretty sure that they were not the first to use. I think the answer is that if, at some future time, a really serious comptetitor emerged, Google could litigate and get access to the code of the competitor and find violations and shut them down. I think Google’s patents could give them a monopoly in search. I’m sure Bing is using some of their stuff (but Microsoft is also a patent whore, so maybe they are immune from threats). U.S. patent law used to be first-to-use, but they changed to first-to-file. That means lean, fast-moving small startups who never bother to patent stuff can have all their technology stolen out from from under them. The supposed reason for the change is that it’s the international standard. But who cares? I think it was lobbied for by big companies who can afford the overhead of excessive patent filing.

    • Replies: @Alden
    This is why I love Unz. All these people with so much knowledge of different things, especially the engineers and tech guys.
  26. @Anonymous
    https://uctangerine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Amazon-profit-no-feredal-income-tax-Jeff-Bezos-618x411.jpg

    Mr. Bezos is not amused.

  27. Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage…

    The left in 2018: pro-war, pro-imperialism, pro-corporate, pro-“private companies [e.g. Twitter] can censor whomever they want for any reason”, and anti-worker and anti-environment [by supporting mass third world immigration]

  28. @Lot
    Amazon still really isn't very profitable. In the last full year Apple's profit was $48 billion. Amazon in its 20 year existence has made a total of about $8 billion in profit

    The market believes once it crushes its enemies it will be extremely profitable.

    The market believes once it crushes its enemies it will be extremely profitable.

    Do you think the market is right?

    • Replies: @Lot
    No, never have owned AMZN for that reason, except in SP500 ETFs. Obviously I've been wrong so far.

    The one thing I've been good at in the stock market is calling the bottom in distressed industries. So I did really well in the first part of the long bull market. I had a few 5 or 10x returns that way. But I've never been able to take a richly valued growth stock and hold on as it got richer and richer. The last time I put money in AAPL and GOOG, I sold after a 30 or 50% return. That's great, can't go up like that forever.... but they kept going up.
  29. @Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)
    To be used in conjunction with the usual job apparel of algesic wrist- and neckwear.

    "[The human transport cages] could also be used to cut across an off-limits work space to reach a restroom that would otherwise be a significant trip on foot."

    Why are restrooms located on the other side of an off-limits work space? To discourage the inefficiency of excessive urination and defecation by carbon-based lifeforms.

    HR does keep track. They’ve had key stroke monitors for decades to check how many strokes per minute and how many mistakes.

    My Dad was an old fashioned labor lefty always talking about the horrors of the industrial revolution and unsafe factory conditions. He thought that labor had triumphed. Well, it did for a while.

    Labor conditions are going back to that book about 1900 Chicago stockyards,
    The Jungle

    • Replies: @Dissident

    HR does keep track. They’ve had key stroke monitors for decades to check how many strokes per minute and how many mistakes.
     
    Are employers still able to act-upon the results of such monitoring? I'd have thought such actions would have been struck-down as "racist due to disparate impact upon persons-of-color".
  30. @Anon
    I worked at a large company taht is on the top list of patent filers in the U.S.

    Places like this have the idea of protecting intellectual property built into their organization. There are lawyers wandering around looking for stuff that might be patentable.

    To an extent, some of these patents are full-employment guarantees for the IP staff. But they in fact come in handy. If a company just patents all kinds of crap numinously surrounding the fields that they work in, there is an implicit threat of debilitabing lawsuits against competitors. The way this works in practice is that the big patenters in a field cross license huge porfolios of patents and never sue each other. But would-be new entrants to the field are now intimidated by an entire group of giant competitors.

    I remember making a joke to an engineer about how the combination selection dial-button on a sort of PDA that we had made looked a lot like a control on another maker's cameras. He laughed and said that we had the rights to the patent, and indeed the other company had patented it.

    One thing that I have wondered about is why Google patents so much stuff, including stuff that I'm pretty sure that they were not the first to use. I think the answer is that if, at some future time, a really serious comptetitor emerged, Google could litigate and get access to the code of the competitor and find violations and shut them down. I think Google's patents could give them a monopoly in search. I'm sure Bing is using some of their stuff (but Microsoft is also a patent whore, so maybe they are immune from threats). U.S. patent law used to be first-to-use, but they changed to first-to-file. That means lean, fast-moving small startups who never bother to patent stuff can have all their technology stolen out from from under them. The supposed reason for the change is that it's the international standard. But who cares? I think it was lobbied for by big companies who can afford the overhead of excessive patent filing.

    This is why I love Unz. All these people with so much knowledge of different things, especially the engineers and tech guys.

  31. @Clyde
    I know that I can spend an hour between Amazon and ebay looking for the best of a certain item and reading Amazon reviews for it. My bet is Amazon gets a big segment of its sales from upper middle class women idling their time away there. They might be surfing at work. Or they might be at home and not need to work courtesy of their husband. Have a glass of white nearby and are leafing through Amazon looking for ways to squander hundreds and thousands of dollars on the best. The best according to Amazon reviews plus Amazon sometimes calls an item an "Amazon Choice". I bought one the other day, a 15 dollar USB wifi adapter for laptop. The internal one swung on and off.

    When did Amazon surge past ebay? I recently saw that Amazon has 40% of eCommerce and ebay 5%. Ebay used to be bigger.

    I know some of those women. They love amazon. For some reason it has lot more cachet than catalogs or just going to the Nordstrom or specific websites. Kids need new winter parkas. I can only find them on amazon.

    • Replies: @Brutusale
    Shopping online means I can FINISH that bottle of Chardonnay!
    , @Dissident

    Kids need new winter parkas. I can only find them on amazon.
     
    What about Lands' End or even J.C. Penney?

    Incidentally, I ordered a fair amount of men's clothing from Lands' End around eight-nine months ago and was struck by the decline in quality since I had last ordered from them, as late as 2011.

    Have you noticed anything about the models? Mixed-race families and mulatto individuals seem to dominate all the sites and catalogs. Not sure when this started or how deliberate it is.

  32. Well since we live in a free, capitalist, free-market country, whatza matter with that? What, are you some socialist or something? You want government control over our great all-American captains of industry? Whatza matter with you?

  33. A superb idea! Lets test it beginning with upper management, the c suiters, and hr staff.

  34. @Lot
    Amazon still really isn't very profitable. In the last full year Apple's profit was $48 billion. Amazon in its 20 year existence has made a total of about $8 billion in profit

    The market believes once it crushes its enemies it will be extremely profitable.

    A big reason for the profit streak is the growth of Amazon’s cloud-computing business, Amazon Web Services. The unit is way more profitable than Amazon’s core retail business — there are no physical products to buy, store and ship in AWS — and growing rapidly. While its growth is decelerating, its revenue still grew 43 percent year over year to $3.7 billion. That helps the bottom line a lot.—- https://www.recode.net/2017/4/27/15451726/amazon-q1-2017-earnings-profits-net-income-cash-flow-chart

    ^^^^^So selling cloud computing services is making Amazon profitable. They just won a prestigious contract with the Pentagon. http://dailycaller.com/2018/05/14/pentagon-amazon-cloud-contract/

    49 Companies Amazon Could Destroy (And 1 It Already Has)
    James Brumley,
    September 5, 2018
    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/49-companies-amazon-could-destroy-105957637.html

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Yep. It all started when Amazon noticed that they had to buy so many computers to survive Black Friday and other Post-Capitalistic Spending Holy Days which were such sitting idle most of the time.

    "Why not sell that computing power?"

    And AWS is really a fracking great job. (The part where you can just bid for slices computing power on a spot market blew my mind, though deployment and state saving are up to you ... bid for a hundred Nvidia GPUs? Yes I can!) It's not yet where "cloud computing" should be but consider that an Internet book retailer just warped ahead in computing infrastructure of the incumbents burdened by their confusing spread of products and political infighting (Microsoft) or their little aggressive rent-seeking (Oracle). Oracle is still dead in the water, but Microsoft is slowly getting there, although their infrastructure still has a tendency to conk out due to random events, including problematic software.

    Here is Greg Egan, describing what today is marketed as "The Cloud" in 1994 novel Permutation City


    It was only 8:15. The whole day loomed ahead, promising nothing but bills. With no contract work coming in for the past two months, Maria had written half a dozen pieces of consumer software -- mostly home-security upgrades, supposedly in high demand. So far, she'd sold none of them; a few thousand people had read the catalogue entries, but nobody had been persuaded to download. The prospect of embarking on another such project wasn't exactly electrifying -- but she had no real alternative. And once the recession was over and people started buying again, it would have been time well spent.

    First, though, she needed to cheer herself up. If she worked in the Autoverse, just for half an hour or so -- until nine o'clock at the latest -- then she'd be able to face the rest of the day . . .

    Then again, she could always try to face the rest of the day without bribing herself, just once. The Autoverse was a waste of money, and a waste of time -- a hobby she could justify when things were going well, but an indulgence she could ill afford right now.

    Maria put an end to her indecision in the usual way. She logged on to her Joint Supercomputer Network account -- paying a fifty-dollar fee for the privilege, which she now had to make worthwhile. She slipped on her force gloves and prodded an icon, a wireframe of a cube, on the terminal's flatscreen -- and the three-dimensional workspace in front of the screen came to life, borders outlined by a faint holographic grid. For a second, it felt like she'd plunged her hand into some kind of invisible vortex: magnetic fields gripped and twisted her glove, as start-up surges tugged at the coils in each joint at random -- until the electronics settled into equilibrium, and a message flashed up in the middle of the workspace: YOU MAY NOW PUT ON YOUR GLOVES.

    She jabbed another icon, a starburst labeled FIAT. The only visible effect was the appearance of a small menu strip hovering low in the foreground -- but to the cluster of programs she'd invoked, the cube of thin air in front of her terminal now corresponded to a small, empty universe.

    ...

    The Autoverse was a "toy" universe, a computer model which obeyed its own simplified "laws of physics" -- laws far easier to deal with mathematically than the equations of real-world quantum mechanics. Atoms could exist in this stylized universe, but they were subtly different from their real-world counterparts; the Autoverse was no more a faithful simulation of the real world than the game of chess was a faithful simulation of medieval warfare. It was far more insidious than chess, though, in the eyes of many real-world chemists. The false chemistry it supported was too rich, too complex, too seductive by far.

    ...

    Maria followed the fate of a cluster of golden cells spreading through the lattice -- the cells themselves didn't move, by definition, but the pattern advanced -- infiltrating and conquering a region of metallic blue, only to be invaded and consumed in turn by a wave of magenta.

    If the Autoverse had a "true" appearance, this was it. The palette which assigned a color to each state was still "false" -- still completely arbitrary -- but at least this view revealed the elaborate three-dimensional chess game which underpinned everything else.

    Everything except the hardware, the computer itself.

    Maria reverted to the standard clock rate, and a macroscopic view of her twenty-one Petri dishes -- just as a message popped up in the foreground:

    "JSN regrets to advise you that your resources have been diverted to a higher bidder. A snapshot of your task has been preserved in mass storage, and will be available to you when you next log on. Thank you for using our services."

    Maria sat and swore angrily for half a minute -- then stopped abruptly, and buried her face in her hands. She shouldn't have been logged on in the first place. It was insane, squandering her savings playing around with mutant A. lamberti -- but she kept on doing it. The Autoverse was so seductive, so hypnotic . . . so addictive.

    Whoever had elbowed her off the network had done her a favor -- and she'd even have her fifty-dollar log-on fee refunded, since she'd been thrown right out, not merely slowed down to a snail's pace.

    Curious to discover the identity of her unintentional benefactor, she logged on directly to the QIPS Exchange -- the marketplace where processing power was bought and sold. The connection to JSN had passed through the Exchange, transparently; her terminal was programmed to bid at the market rate automatically, up to a certain ceiling. Right now, though, some outfit calling itself Operation Butterfly was buying QIPS -- quadrillions of instructions per
    second -- at six hundred times that ceiling, and had managed to acquire one hundred percent of the planet's traded computing power.

    Maria was stunned; she'd never seen anything like it. The pie chart of successful bidders -- normally a flickering kaleidoscope of thousands of needle-thin slices -- was a solid, static disk of blue. Aircraft would not be dropping out of the sky, world commerce would not have ground to a halt . . . but tens of thousands of academic and industrial researchers relied on the Exchange every day for tasks it wasn't worth owning the power to perform in-house. Not to mention a few thousand Copies. For one user to muscle in and outbid everyone else was unprecedented. Who needed that much computing power? Big business, big science, the military? All had their own private hardware -- usually in excess of their requirements. If they traded at all, it was to sell their surplus capacity.

    Operation Butterfly? The name sounded vaguely familiar. Maria logged on to a news system and searched for reports which mentioned the phrase. The most recent was three months ago:

    Kuala Lumpar -- Monday, August 8th, 2050: A meeting of environmental ministers from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) today agreed to proceed with the latest stage of Operation Butterfly, a controversial plan to attempt to limit the damage and loss of life caused by Greenhouse Typhoons in the region.

    The long-term aim of the project is to utilize the so-called Butterfly Effect to divert typhoons away from vulnerable populated areas -- or perhaps prevent them from forming in the first place.

    ...

    Meteorologists envisage dotting the waters of the tropical western Pacific and the South China Sea with a grid of hundreds of thousands of "weather-control" rigs -- solar-powered devices designed to alter the local temperature on demand by pumping water between different depths. Theoretical models suggest that a sufficient number of rigs, under elaborate computer control, could be used to influence large-scale weather patterns, "nudging" them toward the
    least harmful of a number of finely balanced possible outcomes.

    Eight different rig prototypes have been tested in the open ocean, but before engineers select one design for mass production, an extensive feasibility study will be conducted. Over a three-year period, any potentially threatening typhoon will be analyzed by a computer model of the highest possible resolution, and the effects of various numbers and types of the as yet nonexistent rigs will be included in the model. If these simulations demonstrate that intervention could have yielded significant savings in life and property, ASEAN's ministerial council will have to decide whether or not to spend the estimated sixty billion dollars required to make the system a reality. Other nations are observing the experiment with interest.

    Maria leaned back from the screen, impressed. A computer model of the highest possible resolution. And they'd meant it, literally. They'd bought up all the number-crunching power on offer -- paying a small fortune, but only a fraction of what it would have cost to buy the same hardware outright.

    Nudging typhoons! Not yet, not in reality . . . but who could begrudge Operation Butterfly their brief monopoly, for such a grand experiment? Maria felt a vicarious thrill at the sheer scale of the endeavor -- and then a mixture of guilt and resentment at being a mere bystander. She had no qualifications in atmospheric or oceanic physics, no PhD in chaos theory -- but in a project of that size, there must have been a few hundred jobs offered to mere programmers.

    When the tenders had gone out over the network, she'd probably been busy on some shitty contract to improve the tactile qualities of beach sand for visitors to the Virtual Gold Coast -- either that, or tinkering with the genome of A. lamberti, trying to become the first person in the world to bludgeon a simulated bacterium into exhibiting natural selection.

    It wasn't clear how long Operation Butterfly would spend monitoring each typhoon -- but she could forget about returning to the Autoverse for the day.

    Reluctantly, she logged off the news system -- fighting the temptation to sit and wait for the first reports of the typhoon in question, or the response of other supercomputer users to the great processing buy-out -- and began reviewing her plans for a new intruder surveillance package.

     

  35. @The Wild Geese Howard

    My bet is Amazon gets a big segment of its sales from upper middle class women idling their time away there. They might be surfing at work.
     
    This is precisely what female STEM grads do at work for the first three years until they get promoted to product manager.

    Seems like you have seen this or have other good knowledge of it.

  36. Bezos is like Cave Johnson from “Portal 2”

    Although Cave Johnson just managed to bankrupt is company leaving a death trap of femaly-attributed neurotic and autonomously crazy technology behind.

  37. Anonymous[407] • Disclaimer says:
    @Clyde
    A big reason for the profit streak is the growth of Amazon’s cloud-computing business, Amazon Web Services. The unit is way more profitable than Amazon’s core retail business — there are no physical products to buy, store and ship in AWS — and growing rapidly. While its growth is decelerating, its revenue still grew 43 percent year over year to $3.7 billion. That helps the bottom line a lot.---- https://www.recode.net/2017/4/27/15451726/amazon-q1-2017-earnings-profits-net-income-cash-flow-chart

    ^^^^^So selling cloud computing services is making Amazon profitable. They just won a prestigious contract with the Pentagon. http://dailycaller.com/2018/05/14/pentagon-amazon-cloud-contract/


    49 Companies Amazon Could Destroy (And 1 It Already Has)
    James Brumley,
    September 5, 2018
    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/49-companies-amazon-could-destroy-105957637.html
     

    Yep. It all started when Amazon noticed that they had to buy so many computers to survive Black Friday and other Post-Capitalistic Spending Holy Days which were such sitting idle most of the time.

    “Why not sell that computing power?”

    And AWS is really a fracking great job. (The part where you can just bid for slices computing power on a spot market blew my mind, though deployment and state saving are up to you … bid for a hundred Nvidia GPUs? Yes I can!) It’s not yet where “cloud computing” should be but consider that an Internet book retailer just warped ahead in computing infrastructure of the incumbents burdened by their confusing spread of products and political infighting (Microsoft) or their little aggressive rent-seeking (Oracle). Oracle is still dead in the water, but Microsoft is slowly getting there, although their infrastructure still has a tendency to conk out due to random events, including problematic software.

    Here is Greg Egan, describing what today is marketed as “The Cloud” in 1994 novel Permutation City

    It was only 8:15. The whole day loomed ahead, promising nothing but bills. With no contract work coming in for the past two months, Maria had written half a dozen pieces of consumer software — mostly home-security upgrades, supposedly in high demand. So far, she’d sold none of them; a few thousand people had read the catalogue entries, but nobody had been persuaded to download. The prospect of embarking on another such project wasn’t exactly electrifying — but she had no real alternative. And once the recession was over and people started buying again, it would have been time well spent.

    First, though, she needed to cheer herself up. If she worked in the Autoverse, just for half an hour or so — until nine o’clock at the latest — then she’d be able to face the rest of the day . . .

    Then again, she could always try to face the rest of the day without bribing herself, just once. The Autoverse was a waste of money, and a waste of time — a hobby she could justify when things were going well, but an indulgence she could ill afford right now.

    Maria put an end to her indecision in the usual way. She logged on to her Joint Supercomputer Network account — paying a fifty-dollar fee for the privilege, which she now had to make worthwhile. She slipped on her force gloves and prodded an icon, a wireframe of a cube, on the terminal’s flatscreen — and the three-dimensional workspace in front of the screen came to life, borders outlined by a faint holographic grid. For a second, it felt like she’d plunged her hand into some kind of invisible vortex: magnetic fields gripped and twisted her glove, as start-up surges tugged at the coils in each joint at random — until the electronics settled into equilibrium, and a message flashed up in the middle of the workspace: YOU MAY NOW PUT ON YOUR GLOVES.

    • Replies: @Lot
    What those cyberpunk futurist Matrix type fiction get wrong is they feature regular working adults getting into the matrix.

    In reality, when it starts, it is going to be teen boys and NEET young men 10-25 who dominate and set the culture of immersive long term internet use.

    And normal adults will ignore it for a long time, just like my Dad used to play Tetris and Zelda with me when he was in his 30s, and PacMan/Pong with his friends before that, but has completely ignored all video games the past 25 years.
  38. @MikeatMikedotMike
    The next generation cage will come with a toilet and a harmonica.

    And 3 sheets of TP…Exactly.

  39. @Alden
    I know some of those women. They love amazon. For some reason it has lot more cachet than catalogs or just going to the Nordstrom or specific websites. Kids need new winter parkas. I can only find them on amazon.

    Shopping online means I can FINISH that bottle of Chardonnay!

  40. @Anonymous

    The market believes once it crushes its enemies it will be extremely profitable.
     
    Do you think the market is right?

    No, never have owned AMZN for that reason, except in SP500 ETFs. Obviously I’ve been wrong so far.

    The one thing I’ve been good at in the stock market is calling the bottom in distressed industries. So I did really well in the first part of the long bull market. I had a few 5 or 10x returns that way. But I’ve never been able to take a richly valued growth stock and hold on as it got richer and richer. The last time I put money in AAPL and GOOG, I sold after a 30 or 50% return. That’s great, can’t go up like that forever…. but they kept going up.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Thanks. Why not jump into Amazon and Apple and Google now?
  41. @Anonymous
    Yep. It all started when Amazon noticed that they had to buy so many computers to survive Black Friday and other Post-Capitalistic Spending Holy Days which were such sitting idle most of the time.

    "Why not sell that computing power?"

    And AWS is really a fracking great job. (The part where you can just bid for slices computing power on a spot market blew my mind, though deployment and state saving are up to you ... bid for a hundred Nvidia GPUs? Yes I can!) It's not yet where "cloud computing" should be but consider that an Internet book retailer just warped ahead in computing infrastructure of the incumbents burdened by their confusing spread of products and political infighting (Microsoft) or their little aggressive rent-seeking (Oracle). Oracle is still dead in the water, but Microsoft is slowly getting there, although their infrastructure still has a tendency to conk out due to random events, including problematic software.

    Here is Greg Egan, describing what today is marketed as "The Cloud" in 1994 novel Permutation City


    It was only 8:15. The whole day loomed ahead, promising nothing but bills. With no contract work coming in for the past two months, Maria had written half a dozen pieces of consumer software -- mostly home-security upgrades, supposedly in high demand. So far, she'd sold none of them; a few thousand people had read the catalogue entries, but nobody had been persuaded to download. The prospect of embarking on another such project wasn't exactly electrifying -- but she had no real alternative. And once the recession was over and people started buying again, it would have been time well spent.

    First, though, she needed to cheer herself up. If she worked in the Autoverse, just for half an hour or so -- until nine o'clock at the latest -- then she'd be able to face the rest of the day . . .

    Then again, she could always try to face the rest of the day without bribing herself, just once. The Autoverse was a waste of money, and a waste of time -- a hobby she could justify when things were going well, but an indulgence she could ill afford right now.

    Maria put an end to her indecision in the usual way. She logged on to her Joint Supercomputer Network account -- paying a fifty-dollar fee for the privilege, which she now had to make worthwhile. She slipped on her force gloves and prodded an icon, a wireframe of a cube, on the terminal's flatscreen -- and the three-dimensional workspace in front of the screen came to life, borders outlined by a faint holographic grid. For a second, it felt like she'd plunged her hand into some kind of invisible vortex: magnetic fields gripped and twisted her glove, as start-up surges tugged at the coils in each joint at random -- until the electronics settled into equilibrium, and a message flashed up in the middle of the workspace: YOU MAY NOW PUT ON YOUR GLOVES.

    She jabbed another icon, a starburst labeled FIAT. The only visible effect was the appearance of a small menu strip hovering low in the foreground -- but to the cluster of programs she'd invoked, the cube of thin air in front of her terminal now corresponded to a small, empty universe.

    ...

    The Autoverse was a "toy" universe, a computer model which obeyed its own simplified "laws of physics" -- laws far easier to deal with mathematically than the equations of real-world quantum mechanics. Atoms could exist in this stylized universe, but they were subtly different from their real-world counterparts; the Autoverse was no more a faithful simulation of the real world than the game of chess was a faithful simulation of medieval warfare. It was far more insidious than chess, though, in the eyes of many real-world chemists. The false chemistry it supported was too rich, too complex, too seductive by far.

    ...

    Maria followed the fate of a cluster of golden cells spreading through the lattice -- the cells themselves didn't move, by definition, but the pattern advanced -- infiltrating and conquering a region of metallic blue, only to be invaded and consumed in turn by a wave of magenta.

    If the Autoverse had a "true" appearance, this was it. The palette which assigned a color to each state was still "false" -- still completely arbitrary -- but at least this view revealed the elaborate three-dimensional chess game which underpinned everything else.

    Everything except the hardware, the computer itself.

    Maria reverted to the standard clock rate, and a macroscopic view of her twenty-one Petri dishes -- just as a message popped up in the foreground:

    "JSN regrets to advise you that your resources have been diverted to a higher bidder. A snapshot of your task has been preserved in mass storage, and will be available to you when you next log on. Thank you for using our services."

    Maria sat and swore angrily for half a minute -- then stopped abruptly, and buried her face in her hands. She shouldn't have been logged on in the first place. It was insane, squandering her savings playing around with mutant A. lamberti -- but she kept on doing it. The Autoverse was so seductive, so hypnotic . . . so addictive.

    Whoever had elbowed her off the network had done her a favor -- and she'd even have her fifty-dollar log-on fee refunded, since she'd been thrown right out, not merely slowed down to a snail's pace.

    Curious to discover the identity of her unintentional benefactor, she logged on directly to the QIPS Exchange -- the marketplace where processing power was bought and sold. The connection to JSN had passed through the Exchange, transparently; her terminal was programmed to bid at the market rate automatically, up to a certain ceiling. Right now, though, some outfit calling itself Operation Butterfly was buying QIPS -- quadrillions of instructions per
    second -- at six hundred times that ceiling, and had managed to acquire one hundred percent of the planet's traded computing power.

    Maria was stunned; she'd never seen anything like it. The pie chart of successful bidders -- normally a flickering kaleidoscope of thousands of needle-thin slices -- was a solid, static disk of blue. Aircraft would not be dropping out of the sky, world commerce would not have ground to a halt . . . but tens of thousands of academic and industrial researchers relied on the Exchange every day for tasks it wasn't worth owning the power to perform in-house. Not to mention a few thousand Copies. For one user to muscle in and outbid everyone else was unprecedented. Who needed that much computing power? Big business, big science, the military? All had their own private hardware -- usually in excess of their requirements. If they traded at all, it was to sell their surplus capacity.

    Operation Butterfly? The name sounded vaguely familiar. Maria logged on to a news system and searched for reports which mentioned the phrase. The most recent was three months ago:

    Kuala Lumpar -- Monday, August 8th, 2050: A meeting of environmental ministers from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) today agreed to proceed with the latest stage of Operation Butterfly, a controversial plan to attempt to limit the damage and loss of life caused by Greenhouse Typhoons in the region.

    The long-term aim of the project is to utilize the so-called Butterfly Effect to divert typhoons away from vulnerable populated areas -- or perhaps prevent them from forming in the first place.

    ...

    Meteorologists envisage dotting the waters of the tropical western Pacific and the South China Sea with a grid of hundreds of thousands of "weather-control" rigs -- solar-powered devices designed to alter the local temperature on demand by pumping water between different depths. Theoretical models suggest that a sufficient number of rigs, under elaborate computer control, could be used to influence large-scale weather patterns, "nudging" them toward the
    least harmful of a number of finely balanced possible outcomes.

    Eight different rig prototypes have been tested in the open ocean, but before engineers select one design for mass production, an extensive feasibility study will be conducted. Over a three-year period, any potentially threatening typhoon will be analyzed by a computer model of the highest possible resolution, and the effects of various numbers and types of the as yet nonexistent rigs will be included in the model. If these simulations demonstrate that intervention could have yielded significant savings in life and property, ASEAN's ministerial council will have to decide whether or not to spend the estimated sixty billion dollars required to make the system a reality. Other nations are observing the experiment with interest.

    Maria leaned back from the screen, impressed. A computer model of the highest possible resolution. And they'd meant it, literally. They'd bought up all the number-crunching power on offer -- paying a small fortune, but only a fraction of what it would have cost to buy the same hardware outright.

    Nudging typhoons! Not yet, not in reality . . . but who could begrudge Operation Butterfly their brief monopoly, for such a grand experiment? Maria felt a vicarious thrill at the sheer scale of the endeavor -- and then a mixture of guilt and resentment at being a mere bystander. She had no qualifications in atmospheric or oceanic physics, no PhD in chaos theory -- but in a project of that size, there must have been a few hundred jobs offered to mere programmers.

    When the tenders had gone out over the network, she'd probably been busy on some shitty contract to improve the tactile qualities of beach sand for visitors to the Virtual Gold Coast -- either that, or tinkering with the genome of A. lamberti, trying to become the first person in the world to bludgeon a simulated bacterium into exhibiting natural selection.

    It wasn't clear how long Operation Butterfly would spend monitoring each typhoon -- but she could forget about returning to the Autoverse for the day.

    Reluctantly, she logged off the news system -- fighting the temptation to sit and wait for the first reports of the typhoon in question, or the response of other supercomputer users to the great processing buy-out -- and began reviewing her plans for a new intruder surveillance package.

     

    What those cyberpunk futurist Matrix type fiction get wrong is they feature regular working adults getting into the matrix.

    In reality, when it starts, it is going to be teen boys and NEET young men 10-25 who dominate and set the culture of immersive long term internet use.

    And normal adults will ignore it for a long time, just like my Dad used to play Tetris and Zelda with me when he was in his 30s, and PacMan/Pong with his friends before that, but has completely ignored all video games the past 25 years.

  42. You go in the cage. Cage goes in the warehouse. Robots in the warehouse……….

    …………..farewell and adieu ye fair spanish ladies, farewell and adieu ye ladies of Spain………….

  43. @Reg Cæsar
    I'm calling my lawyer. This is too much like one of our family's patents.

    https://www.braingle.com/brainteasers/illusions/26473.gif

    I took Mechanical Drawing my senior year in high school because I thought it would be cool. I drew one of those.

  44. Wasn’t this technology developed in the 1960s for go-go dancers?

  45. @Chief Seattle
    OK, I don't know if anyone here remembers the blogger "Across Difficult Country", but I haven't seen that level of straightforward ridiculousness, supported by a black and white sketch, in a long time.

    Carter Van Carter was the greatest. I miss that blog.

    • Replies: @Mr. Anon

    Carter Van Carter was the greatest. I miss that blog.
     
    Indeed. It was a great website. Some of the funniest s**t I've ever seen.
  46. @Antlitz Grollheim
    Carter Van Carter was the greatest. I miss that blog.

    Carter Van Carter was the greatest. I miss that blog.

    Indeed. It was a great website. Some of the funniest s**t I’ve ever seen.

    • Replies: @Jenner Ickham Errican
    The image below was his avatar–anyone know what it is? Google gives me nothing.

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_ULvKu1Ht-Gk/Ssl6lzntUZI/AAAAAAAABFE/8k-fx9zf-xk/w128-h128-p-k-no-nu/third+stage.jpg
  47. @Mr. Anon

    Carter Van Carter was the greatest. I miss that blog.
     
    Indeed. It was a great website. Some of the funniest s**t I've ever seen.

    The image below was his avatar–anyone know what it is? Google gives me nothing.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    It looks like a late nineteenth or early twentieth century industrial apparatus such as a vat or smelter or furnace or maybe a very early mercury rectifier.
  48. @Lot
    Amazon still really isn't very profitable. In the last full year Apple's profit was $48 billion. Amazon in its 20 year existence has made a total of about $8 billion in profit

    The market believes once it crushes its enemies it will be extremely profitable.

    What about the incredible, unprecedented amount of personal data that Bezos is amassing on every Amazon customer? I’ve long suspected it is that which motivates Bezos more than anything else.

  49. @Jake
    "I’ve been an anti-communist my whole adult life, but watching the corporate overlords take over American domestic policy has made me rethink."

    Unless Capitalism is operating in a nation that has a large, deep reservoir of Christian morality, it becomes the worst case scenario of monopoly winners grinding everyone else into the dirt.

    Unless Capitalism is operating in a nation that has a large, deep reservoir of Christian morality, it becomes the worst case scenario of monopoly winners grinding everyone else into the dirt.

    Apropos:
    The Servile State by Hilaire Belloc
    Full-text:
    https://archive.org/details/servilestate00belluoft
    Project Librivox recording of full-text read by Ray Clare:
    https://librivox.org/the-servile-state-by-hillaire-belloc/

    Kevin Michael Grace and Kevin Steele discussed this work of Belloc’s in Episode #38 of their late 2Kevins podcast (dated May 22nd, 2016). The archived recording appears to be no longer available, however.

    There is also the question of defining Capitalism. Adam Smith is widely cited as the father of Capitalism. But would he recognize what is called such today?

  50. @Alden
    HR does keep track. They’ve had key stroke monitors for decades to check how many strokes per minute and how many mistakes.

    My Dad was an old fashioned labor lefty always talking about the horrors of the industrial revolution and unsafe factory conditions. He thought that labor had triumphed. Well, it did for a while.

    Labor conditions are going back to that book about 1900 Chicago stockyards,
    The Jungle

    HR does keep track. They’ve had key stroke monitors for decades to check how many strokes per minute and how many mistakes.

    Are employers still able to act-upon the results of such monitoring? I’d have thought such actions would have been struck-down as “racist due to disparate impact upon persons-of-color”.

  51. @Alden
    I know some of those women. They love amazon. For some reason it has lot more cachet than catalogs or just going to the Nordstrom or specific websites. Kids need new winter parkas. I can only find them on amazon.

    Kids need new winter parkas. I can only find them on amazon.

    What about Lands’ End or even J.C. Penney?

    Incidentally, I ordered a fair amount of men’s clothing from Lands’ End around eight-nine months ago and was struck by the decline in quality since I had last ordered from them, as late as 2011.

    Have you noticed anything about the models? Mixed-race families and mulatto individuals seem to dominate all the sites and catalogs. Not sure when this started or how deliberate it is.

  52. @Jenner Ickham Errican
    The image below was his avatar–anyone know what it is? Google gives me nothing.

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_ULvKu1Ht-Gk/Ssl6lzntUZI/AAAAAAAABFE/8k-fx9zf-xk/w128-h128-p-k-no-nu/third+stage.jpg

    It looks like a late nineteenth or early twentieth century industrial apparatus such as a vat or smelter or furnace or maybe a very early mercury rectifier.

  53. @Lot
    No, never have owned AMZN for that reason, except in SP500 ETFs. Obviously I've been wrong so far.

    The one thing I've been good at in the stock market is calling the bottom in distressed industries. So I did really well in the first part of the long bull market. I had a few 5 or 10x returns that way. But I've never been able to take a richly valued growth stock and hold on as it got richer and richer. The last time I put money in AAPL and GOOG, I sold after a 30 or 50% return. That's great, can't go up like that forever.... but they kept going up.

    Thanks. Why not jump into Amazon and Apple and Google now?

  54. Next time I fire up my fine German convertible, I’ll remind myself that I am in a cage, on top of a robot.

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