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EDIT: Apparently the dislike is mutual: https://lobste.rs/c/ogg838 and ublock had blocked the offensive image. It seems I’ve witnessed a double shadowban.

Submitting this here because apparently links to jwz’s site are shadownbanned on Hacker News. I think this (the dodgy Uber self driving cars) needs to be discussed somewhere, however.

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    The people who work on evil software like this need to be ostracized by the rest of us. (Yes, it is evil to deploy software into the wild against unwilling and non-consenting “users” two days after receiving constructive notice by the SF Bicycle Coalition that the software constitutes a deadly hazard to cyclists.)

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      There’s an interesting aspect to this, though, in that while releasing safety-related software like autonomous vehicles before it’s mature and stable is capital-B Bad, the development itself of the software is not (as opposed to, e.g. creating databases of minority citizens so they can be tracked). The premature release could have been (and, if Uber’s software developers are anything like any of the ones I’ve worked with, probably was) demanded by management over the protests of developers.

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        The premature release could have been (and, if Uber’s software developers are anything like any of the ones I’ve worked with, probably was) demanded by management over the protests of developers.

        Very likely so. It doesn’t make me less uncomfortable.

        When we say “Uber is an evil company”, we’re not saying that every programmer who works there is evil. That would be nonsense. We’re talking about the management. However, if someone works there and has the option to work elsewhere, then that person is complicit in the conduct of the company’s management. Software engineers, speaking of the group in aggregate, don’t care enough about ethics to do something about their management. They’ve had years and nothing has happened.

        This industry of ours is starting to do serious harm, and not because programmers are bad people. We’ve built Weapons of Mass Unemployment and we’ve contributed to multiple misinformation campaigns that may have influenced elections, in our country but also abroad. It also has the potential to do a lot worse.

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          here is item #1 from the association of progressional engineers and geoscientists of bc

          (1) hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public, the protection of the environment and promote health and safety within the workplace;

          https://www.apeg.bc.ca/For-Members/Ethics,-Law-and-Conduct

          I say this a lot but the software industry needs to stop being a bunch of unprofessional hacker types. Uber is on my shit list for violating ethical and legal principles from top to bottom. The programmers can’t use managers as a scapegoat. It’s their responsibility too!

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            Can you clarify what you mean on weapons of mass unemployment?

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                I don’t think automating the work we can automate is bad intrinsically, but it definitely does not work in the current economic and social system we have set up in, at least, the Western world.

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            There’s an interesting aspect to this, though, in that while releasing safety-related software like autonomous vehicles before it’s mature and stable is capital-B Bad, the development itself of the software is not (as opposed to, e.g. creating databases of minority citizens so they can be tracked). The premature release could have been (and, if Uber’s software developers are anything like any of the ones I’ve worked with, probably was) demanded by management over the protests of developers.

            That aspect ceases to be interesting, though, if the developers continue to participate in development after they know their work has been deployed in the wild with disregard for human life.

            If you know management is using your work to endanger peoples' lives, and you continue to enable management to do so, you’re, in my view, as morally culpable as they are.

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              Yes, certainly. I am not usually one to call for software development to be more akin to other kinds of engineering–but I do like the concept of an “engineer of record” with the power to make final calls on issues like this, and the corresponding responsibility. E.g., in the case of the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse, the contractor who proposed the fatal changes to the plan was not held responsible–the engineers who approved those changes were.

              As it stands today, in most software development environments I’ve seen, there is no clear responsibility in these cases. That has to change.

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                As it stands today, in most software development environments I’ve seen, there is no clear responsibility in these cases. That has to change.

                Clearly the market disagrees, and right or wrong that’s what counts–not our handwringing as professionals.

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              Yes, this should be supported by ethical and community boundaries, but this is also why we have laws, I guess? The CA DMV wrote a letter telling them to stop, and I am expecting them to issue heavy fines if they try to keep driving.

              In the event that someone actually does get hurt or killed by an poorly written self-driving car without the permit necessary to be on the road, I also expect the California legal system to look very poorly on Uber’s behavior.

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                Software can’t be “evil”. People can be evil, and they can create and use software to do evil things, but I don’t think that’s happening here.

                Uber’s software is buggy and not very good at driving, but I’m willing to give the devs the benefit of the doubt that they were working in good faith, trying to make the software work correctly and safely for everybody on the road.

                If anybody is “evil” in this situation, it’s the people who knew the software didn’t work or didn’t meet regulatory requirements, but insisted it be released anyway. I’m sure there were some developers involved, but it’s probably not all of them.

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                  Claiming software can’t be evil is naive. Yes, someone had to create that software, and may have had malicious intent, but the software itself is still doing malicious things.

                  The software itself is still “being evil”. It can be changed and corrected, but it’s still arguably being evil. The argument that a tool created by humans can’t be evil is silly.

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                    The argument that a tool created by humans can’t be evil is silly.

                    Claiming that a collection of algorithms which knows neither Right nor Wrong and which cannot make a choice about how it reacts even were it to have that knowledge is silly.

                    On a related note, that is the precise reason why autonomous software is so distressing–it is not Evil, but amoral. There is nothing to appeal to, no greater sense of purpose or destiny: just a bunch of state and instructions.

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                      On a related note, that is the precise reason why autonomous software is so distressing–it is not Evil, but amoral.

                      At the risk of just discussing semantics, software can (like any other lifeless object) encode ethical rules. To take one of Bruno Latour’s examples – a speed bump encodes a long process of mediation of ethics (people should not drive too fast in Urban areas, because people’s lives are worth more than other people’s time), laws, violation of those laws, etc. Or to take another example, ‘the wall that Mexico is gonna pay for’ is an encoding of the moral point of view that Mexicans have no right to move to the US relatively freely. So, I think it is fair to consider lifeless objects can be moral or immoral. Obviously, until we have full AI, it’s of a different nature than in actors that have free choice.

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                        So, I disagree (surprise).

                        There’s an important idea of choice involved in ethics, and the speedbump example you have provides a great case study.

                        You contend that the the speed bump encodes somebody’s ethics (“we have to slow down to save lives”), when it could just as easily encode greed (“my cousin has a speedbump company and needed a handout”) or design error (“this street should’ve had 8 speedbumps per 500 yards, a typing error resulted in 5 per 500 yards”). If the same embodiment of ethics can also come about through nonethical means, I question if that embodiment can be claimed to unambiguously represent morality manifest.

                        A similar problem I have is that your argument naturally extends to, say, written rules. Imagine that there is a holy document that says “We must always eat < 1 baby per day”. Due to a typo in printing, it instead is reproduced as “We must always eat > 1 baby per day”. Clearly, one of these outcomes is “evil”–at the the same time, it is so through no fault of the book itself: the book was cast with what we consider an evil thesis, but was cast accidentally.

                        In your system, that book would be Evil (immoral)–though it never had a choice in the matter (or any at all…it’s a book!). It seems a bit odd to me to have a notion of Good and Evil which doesn’t require freedom of choice.

                        Additionally, it suggests that a single character being swapped is all that is require for something to become Evil. I rather prefer moral systems that are robust in the face of simple signalling errors.

                        This is always a fun topic though. :)

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                  The people who work on evil software like this need to be ostracized by the rest of us.

                  How, when many of us insist on ignoring politics? Have you noticed how many yes-men were celebrating the “no politics” week on HN?

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                    The odd thing is Uber’s self driving vehicles have been driving around SF for months (potentially not autonomously). I can’t understand why all of these things are becoming an issue after they start picking up riders with autonomous vehicles.

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                      Increased news attention + post from SFBike Coalition + other people noticing bad behavior on the part of Uber cars, I’m guessing. Also that they’re risking more people’s lives, I guess.

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                    Submitting this here because apparently links to jwz’s site are shadownbanned on Hacker News. I think this needs to be discussed somewhere, however.

                    Please please please don’t use Lobsters as a place to post things that you couldn’t get onto HN.

                    This is news, this is nontechnical, this doesn’t belong here.

                    If you want it discussed, please try Reddit or similar.

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                      I disagree. The title is clickbait, but the content is valid. Uber is deploying unsafe software in its self-driving cars, and safety issues are a major component of engineering. As Silicon Valley sloppiness spreads, we’re going to see more stuff like this and we’re going to see people get killed.

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                        I disagree. The title is clickbait, but the content is valid

                        Clickbaitiness isn’t even the issue here. Even HN’s official rules leave plenty of room for all sorts of articles, but they censor a lot of things anyway.

                        Basically what angersock said there amounts to asking people to self-censor anything that HN would censor, which would cover a lot of stuff that should be seen by as many people as possible.

                        Some things nickpsecurity has said on Lobsters would get at least any mere mortal banned there. The world sure could use less censorship.

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                          Even HN’s official rules leave plenty of room for all sorts of articles, but they censor a lot of things anyway.

                          Hacker News is the media/propaganda organ of Y Combinator. Anything that is deemed inconvenient to the interests of a YC startup is censored. The “official rules” are a joke. You can get away with anything if Gack deems you to be on the right team.

                          The only reason why some leftist, anti-VC threads survive is that Y Combinator and the real VCs actually dislike each other. The VCs see Paul Graham as a power-hungry phony and Y Combinator as a shell game of startups buying each other’s services to inflate revenue and adoption (which, to be fair, is exactly what it is).

                          Basically what angersock said there amounts to asking people to self-censor anything that HN would censor, which would cover a lot of stuff that should be seen by as many people as possible.

                          I didn’t read it this way. I think that he (for good reasons) doesn’t want Lobsters to get flooded with things just because HN won’t accept them. I don’t think he meant to imply that everything censored by HN should also be censored here. In other words, “Hacker News won’t post it” isn’t, on its own, a good reason to submit something to Lobsters.

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                            In other words, “Hacker News won’t post it” isn’t, on its own, a good reason to submit something to Lobsters.

                            Sure, but that wasn’t my position either.

                            I’m sure you’re right about HN’s original purpose as a YC propaganda organ, but my problem with it is that they’re actively spreading government propaganda too, and of course silencing any anti-government posters while at it.

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                            Basically what angersock said there amounts to asking people to self-censor anything that HN would censor, which would cover a lot of stuff that should be seen by as many people as possible.

                            As @michaelochurch observed, my major complaint was that “HN is censoring it” is a bad reason to submit something here, least of all because it defines our community in terms of what HN is not, instead of what we ourselves do well.

                            Secondly, I don’t think that asking folks to avoid submitting alarmist nontechnical posts is self-censorship anymore than asking people to not rant about politics during a lecture on sorting algorithms.

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                          I largely agree with you. I came here, because it seemed much more technically minded link aggregator than HN. I get value from HN, but Lobsters had for me a narrow focus, which I like. Unfortunately (for at least me) with more users it’s focus widens. I think that it is commonly considered a HN alternative - a place for HN refugees. And here I am commenting on meta issue instead on some nice dry article.

                          I don’t know what actionable item I could add to this comment. The Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism article [0] resonates with me. I would like to find a community that would be focused on technical issues - Unix, embedded Linux, C, asm hacking. But as it was with Lobsters months ago usually there is not much to discuss, because there are not a lot of people knowledgeable enough to comment about some obscure (although interesting) issue. People read linked content, can learn something new and if content was good by itself, what’s there left to comment?

                          I start to see that I can get technical news from many places, but what I want doesn’t really exist and probably can’t for long. Communities gathered around specific projects can (and should) be narrowly focused. However if you widen the focus just a bit more you will open the floodgates.

                          Maybe there are some specific subreddits dedicated to the things I would like to read about more. At the same time the traffic here is not that big, so I can focus and ignore the rest, but the Well-Kept Garden issue persists.

                          [0] http://lesswrong.com/lw/c1/wellkept_gardens_die_by_pacifism/

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                            The stuff about it not being on HN doesn’t belong here, but the issue of how self driving cars are behaving is a technical news issue.

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                              The “issue of how self-driving cars are behaving” is not what this is. This is Grandpa Zawinski bitching and retweeing in usual fashion about the evil gentrification and soulless startups that are ruining his city.

                              Here’s a quick runthrough of my internal “is this news spam/rabble-rausing or useful tech writing” checklist:

                              • Is there a line of code in the article, or math? No. Article contains no concrete descriptions of the algorithms used or at fault, no visualizations for the problems mentioned beyond a dashcam video of a red-light violation, and no technical background to describe the problem (other than Uber spin).
                              • Is there actionable information for us in the article as software engineers? No. There is nothing in there that would help us write better driving software than the already-obvious “follow the road laws”. There is no discussion of how to handle continuously-changing legal provisions, no discussion of the cost of doing so, no sketch of a generalized framework for adding legal constraints on top of physical motion planning.
                              • Is the article novel itself, or just a collection of links and quotes?. Mostly a collection of links. Some kvetching by Grandpa Zawinski too I guess.

                              That said, look at all the upvotes the article is getting here, because everybody wants to get in on the Two Minute Hate.

                              If we all had some actual chutzpah, we’d be posting articles on things like how to destroy corporate property or disable vehicles or hack mission-critical embedded systems–and that sort of stuff I’d upvote, because it is both technical and actionable and educational (hardware practices debugging).

                              Instead, we start to see these articles that are just classic call-response “oh these people are evil” “yes these people are evil!”, which is the same banal faux-activism that can be found in literally any other corner of the web.

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                                I am glad this site does not obey your list of criteria, because it would make the site very limited. Those criteria can describe some interesting articles but it’s a small subset of all interesting articles/articles that can result in interesting discussions.

                                There’s plenty of interesting discussion this thread COULD have had:

                                • Could/should SF stop Uber, and how?
                                • If what the are doing is unethical, what’s the criteria we should hold automated driving software to before deploying it on public roads? Should Tesla also be holding off?
                                • Is there anything meaningful any of us can do if we feel like Uber are being unethical here?

                                I think you are being pretty ridiculous, to be honest. JWZ can be a dipshit but I think this is a case where he’s being hyperbolic like usual but not that far off the mark.

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                                  First, that’s far from my only checklist. I agree that if it were the only one in use we’d see a different and probably more-limited site.

                                  Those criteria can describe some interesting articles but it’s a small subset of all interesting articles/articles that can result in interesting discussions.

                                  “Interesting” is a pretty broad criteria, and has empirically shown itself to be a poor indicator of quality or coherency. My dog fetching a stick is interesting to people on imgur–but I don’t submit those images or videos here.

                                  JWZ can be a dipshit but I think this is a case where he’s being hyperbolic like usual but not that far off the mark.

                                  Whether or not he’s being hyperbolic or “on the mark” has little to do with the article’s merit as something technologists can learn from. Just because he’s right doesn’t mean it belongs here anymore than a solid analysis of Russian-US relations does.

                                  ~

                                  Look, if you think this is a real issue, maybe trying submitting some stories with good coverage of the problems involved instead of just piling on in support of a populist screed.

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                                    Man you are really sticking to your guns. At least you’re truly committed to being wrong.

                                    I already explained why this belongs here, and it’s obvious. By the way, the analysis of Russian-US relations probably belongs here too because things have escalated to hacking in order to influence elections. The issue of how to deal with internet warfare is possibly the most important tech issue of our time?

                                    The only issue I’m addressing here is you trying to impose your ridiculous vision of what this site should be on other people. My original reply was one of the first ones pointing out how ridiculous you were, so I wasn’t really piling on. Maybe the fact that you feel piled on should tell you that you’re wrong and you should drop it.

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                                      The only issue I’m addressing here is you trying to impose your ridiculous vision of what this site should be on other people.

                                      I completely disagree with angersock on the inappropriateness of this story, but I don’t think you’re being fair. He just explained why he didn’t think it fit, which while evidently disagreeable, is not “imposing his vision” on anyone and is arguably more constructive than silently downmodding.

                                      Maybe we should just sit down and have the knock-down drag-out brawl about what should and should not be posted on lobsters (especially since it seems to happen in bits and pieces in the comment sections of any even slightly questionable post anyway), but until then, the guidelines are fuzzy, and discussion of their boundary conditions is valid.

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                                        I think I am being fair. He didn’t say “I feel like this kind of thing is better not posted.” He directed the guy not to post it any more. That’s imposing his vision. He wasn’t bringing it up as a topic of discussion, he was saying this is the way it should be. That’s horsecrap.

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                                          There is a difference between asking somebody nicely with reasoning to not do something, and imposing will on them.

                                          Without mod or admin privileges, and without means of coercion beyond mere rhetoric, it’s pretty difficult to “impose” one’s vision on anybody who isn’t receptive.

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                                      little to do with the article’s merit as something technologists can learn from

                                      How about something that human beings can learn from? Why would any “technologist” want to be oblivious to anything not directly related to technology?

                                      We’re all smart, and thus intellectually curious people here, are we not?

                                      I’m not saying we should start posting articles on collecting postage stamps, but there’s plenty of stuff that’s not strictly tech-related but actually matters to us all.

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                                        Because there are numerous sites out there with really great reading for the general case of intellectually-curious humans (as distinct from technologists). It’s not like there’s some great big drought of content out there.

                                        You’re new (regdate of 23 days ago as of the time of this writing) so maybe you don’t know but a good deal of the attraction of Lobsters for the last couple of years has been that it is apolitical and not filled with nerdbait^Wstuff that’s not strictly tech-related.

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                                Understood, I’ll refrain from doing so in the future.

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                                  Please don’t. I think that news on the intersection of technology and politics are relevant here.

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                                    I meant more that I won’t be wearing the “So… I couldn’t get this on HN” on the sleeve of any stories I do submit in the future, and I’ll try to properly focus on the actual discussion points, rather than bringing the HN/Lobsters drama back into it.

                                    What I posted here generated a lot of meta-noise about HN and lobsters, which wasn’t what I had been going for. I do think that the intersection of Politics and programming is something worth discussing, but I defer to regulars here on if that is on topic for this site.

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                                About right hook turns it is funny how it is different in different places. In Berlin (and I assume many other cities) if you would turn in the correct way [0], cyclists would ring, yell and hit at your car. At least in some cases there is separate lane for right turn and the bike line for going straight is on the left side of it.

                                [0] https://www.sfbike.org/news/bike-lanes-and-right-turns/

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                                  Are you sure this is the correct way to turn in Germany? (As a Berliner cyclist who has no driving license, I have no idea.)

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                                    It’s the correct way in a sense of the article. It is cited that Uber cars are programmed to turn in “wrong” way and then the link is given, which I put in here. Confusing - I know :)

                                    But I don’t really know what is the correct way in Germany. I only know that I’m yet to see the “correct” way. Generally I think that most drivers in Berlin are aware of the possible cyclists going straight from their right side. When I’m driving I try to see as much as I can, but it is not easy, especially at night and quite stressful. It helps that light cycle gives cyclists few seconds of green light before cars get their.

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                                  I think HN is right to ban him (though shadowbans are always evil). I find JWZ trollish enough that I don’t think anything positive can come of discussing his posts.

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                                    The real reason is that JWZ redirects to a vulgar image criticizing HN for incoming links based on the referrer.

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                                      I’d like to see this image before I pass final judgment, but Y Combinator is a vile organization that deserves to be criticized.

                                      If you support what Y Combinator is doing and what it stands for, which is the centralization of wealth and the impoverishment of society, you’re 10-15 years from being on the wrong side of history in a way that will be painful to explain to children and grandchildren. I, for one, do not intend to allow people to excuse themselves based on “The Time”. I lived in the same time.

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                                        If you have an ad-blocker enabled, try switching it off before following the link from ngoldbaum.

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                                          Hacker News killed the link so you get an empty page.

                                          Found it another way. I hardly find it ban-worthy, but I suppose he could have used a better image. There are SFW ways to express the idiocy and neoteny that is observed on Hacker News and around the NAMBLA chapter known as “Y Combinator”.

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                                        Really? I haven’t witnessed this on my own story linking to him.

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                                          Yup, just try clicking the link to jwz.org from your submission: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13212321

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                                            Doesn’t work for me. What’s the image?

                                            ETA: Found it. It’s gross but not banworthy, and the text content is spot-on. Mildly NSFW: http://i.imgur.com/32R3qLv.png

                                            It looks like a scrotum in an egg-holder. The caption, which I absolutely love, is “Hacker News : A DDoS made of finance-obsessed man-children and brogrammers.”

                                            We need more protests like this.

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                                              Wow. One of the things that ublock had protected me from. Now that makes a lot more sense.

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                                          That’s fair. (Hence why I attached the rant tag here). I’m more concerned about Uber being a bit blasé about road safety, if the linked articles from his post are anywhere near reasonable.