Comment On Classic WTF: SuperRand

Nearly six years ago, Brian J gave up being a software developer to start a career in law enforcement. He specifically avoided the world of high-tech cyber crime, and wanted to start life anew as your everyday suburban cop. Of course, with a computer engineering degree and several years of IT experience, technology challenges tend to follow him wherever he goes. [expand full text]
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Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2012-12-27 10:30 • by Mark (unregistered)
398031 in reply to 397975
Henry:

I've evaluated the probability of harm that will come to me as a result of going ___ miles per hour and concluded that it is an acceptable risk.


Considering that "harm" actually means crashing into someone else and harming them as well, do you not think that perhaps they'd take issue with your personal evaluation of the probabilities on their behalf?

Henry:

Aaah, now you've got it. Legalized highway robbery, plain and simple.


What you have done is set a new unofficial speed limit based on what you feel is safe. If it were up to you to officially make that the new speed limit, how do YOU enforce people from going over it?

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2012-12-27 10:38 • by operagost
398032 in reply to 397968
Hacky:
To get people to slow down and to generate revenue for the department.
It's impossible to do both of those, just like it's impossible to fund a health program (CHIP) with a tobacco tax while claiming that you want to get people to quit smoking at the same time. Of course, the end result is taxes being increased somewhere else (on people richer than you, or doing something you detest, of course).

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2012-12-27 10:44 • by operagost
398033 in reply to 397995
decet:
Henry:
Brendan Kidwell:
Henry:
Cops don't like speed traps? Neither do we. So why do they exist?
Gotta have some form of deterrence.
So the possibility of wrecking my car and myself by going an unsafe speed doesn't count as "deterrence"?

I've evaluated the probability of harm that will come to me as a result of going ___ miles per hour and concluded that it is an acceptable risk. But, the possibility of encountering the cop must be a higher risk, otherwise it would not deter me. This means the cop himself, and the various threats that he represents, are more dangerous than the original "offense" of speeding.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.
I'm sure this guy makes a totally rational risk-benefit evaluation of the maximum speed he's gonna go at every time he gets in the car.

Because, you know, humans brains are a collection of parts that work together to pick the most rational choice every time and maximize a single utility function, and not an amalgam of parts so unrelated and poorly glued together that would make any 500-MLOC enterprise software written in MUMPS look like a modular, perfectly structured system. This is why nobody has ever taken a decision that was detrimental in the long term, not even when they're angry, drunk or tired.

And it's not like the parts that actually reason are plagued with cognitive biases of various sorts either. I mean, surely 80% of the people won't think they are in the top 50% of drivers.

You can tell humans are very rational because, when given the choice between object A (cheaper) and object B (better but more expensive), their preferences won't seem to magically switch to B when you put both options next to C (more expensive than B but worse), because they will definitely pay 100 times more to save 200000 birds than to save 2000, because they won't answer different things when you ask them to estimate "8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1" vs "1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6 x 7 x 8", and because prisoners are not 7 times more likely to get paroled if they appear before the judges in the early morning instead of late in the afternoon.

That's why Wikipedia does not have a long-ass list of cognitive biases showing that people get basically everything wrong unless they sit down and scribble numbers on papers very carefully (and slowly).

TL;DR version: I'm going to claim that everyone is incapable of rational thought except, apparently, politicians who set speed limits.

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2012-12-27 11:49 • by Nagesh (unregistered)
I am usually seeing many coworkers confusion when using random numbers. Cause probably being that maths aren't usually teken at schools here in Hyderabad.

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2012-12-27 12:22 • by Valued Service (unregistered)
398047 in reply to 397983
Ken B:
Unfortunately, too many people never consider the fact that speeding increases the risk of harming others.


I've watched cops ignore more careless drivers to get to that speeder because it's more money. Plus the cop ends up endangering traffic because it has to turn around, drive twice as fast as the speeder, and weave through traffic to get to speeder.

So now we have two careless drivers on the road and one controlled speeder off the road.

Yet, if there's a chase scenario they take extra precaution.

So, yes, I do believe there's an incredible money bias going on with cops deterring unsafe driving.

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2012-12-27 13:17 • by Dan (unregistered)
398051 in reply to 398047
Valued Service:
I've watched cops ignore more careless drivers to get to that speeder because it's more money.


I don't think it's about the money. Proving speeding in court is really simple, you have a machine that gives you a number. And because it's so easy to prove the cases almost never go to court. Careless driving is much more subjective, and the cop probably has to show up to court.

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2012-12-27 17:25 • by NotHere
398075 in reply to 398004
tim:
Henry:
Cops don't like speed traps? Neither do we. So why do they exist?

Thanks but I love speed traps. It's a voluntary tax and I choose not to pay it by driving within the limit. If you pay it, thanks for keeping my tax bill down.


You seem to be under the delusion that your taxes are in any way impacted by the amount taken in by other revenue streams.

Let me help you with that. If there wasn't a speed limit law, then you could be assured that the state/city would not have to pay for:
1. Speed limit signs
2. Cops whose sole job is to pull you over for speeding
3. Courts (and associated paper pushers) to handle fine collection; and yes, there are courts just for this in a lot of areas.
4. etc, etc.

Fact is, yes towns receive revenue from speeders; however, the amount of revenue is generally not more than a minor percentage of the overall revenue a town has to work with. In a few cases it was and at least in the state I live in that was outlawed.

For those that think that a speed limit increases safety, the fact is they don't. The real problems only occur due to a difference in speeds between two objects. For example, if one person is driving 30 miles an hour faster than someone they are passing. The slower person is likely to not have seen the first one in time and could potentially collide due to a lane change.

However, if the difference in speed is reasonable, like 5 to 10 mph, then both drivers have ample opportunity to see each other and act accordingly. It doesn't matter if the overall speed is 120+, as long as the difference between the two is minor.

If we wanted to be real about the whole thing we'd have a speed limit for driving in a suburban area (like 20mph) another for "city" driving with multiple lanes (40 to 50) and leave the highways open with a minimum limit of 70.

Then post the cops where it matters. ie: suburban areas where walkers (or children) routinely are. Finally, instead of a fine simply take their license away. If driving without one, throw them in jail. That would solve the problem.

Next, bring back "at fault" with regards to accidents. If it can be proven you caused it you lose your license for 6 months.

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2012-12-27 18:08 • by Matt Westwood
398080 in reply to 398047
Valued Service:
Ken B:
Unfortunately, too many people never consider the fact that speeding increases the risk of harming others.


I've watched cops ignore more careless drivers to get to that speeder because it's more money. Plus the cop ends up endangering traffic because it has to turn around, drive twice as fast as the speeder, and weave through traffic to get to speeder.

So now we have two careless drivers on the road and one controlled speeder off the road.

Yet, if there's a chase scenario they take extra precaution.

So, yes, I do believe there's an incredible money bias going on with cops deterring unsafe driving.


Silly approach to speeding regulation. What we do in the UK is put up automatic cameras which gather information on all the speeders driving past and send that data to the enforcement agencies which then mail the speeder with the fine and/or court summons. Saves the cops having to wear out their cars. The only overhead is maintenance of the cameras.

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2012-12-28 09:15 • by decet (unregistered)
398111 in reply to 398033
operagost:
[...]TL;DR version: I'm going to claim that everyone is incapable of rational thought except, apparently, politicians who set speed limits.


I don't really like politicians, it was just a rant triggered by the "if we get rid of all rules then everyone will pick the most optimal choice" argument.

Still, consider, for example, anchoring: if we took two identical copies of you, and we told the first one "did you know that a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport can run at 268 mph?" and the second one "did you know that the fastest human footspeed on record is just 28 mph?", and then asked both copies what speed they consider "safe" on a highway, I'm willing to bet the first one would say a higher number than the second one.

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2012-12-30 05:31 • by David (unregistered)
398151 in reply to 398075
[quote=NotHere]The real problems only occur due to a difference in speeds between two objects.[/quote]

Ahem. Velocity. Considering as historically I have traveled perpendicular to the flow of traffic on I-35 (I walked away without injury, though my car was not so lucky; no one else was involved), that's a major distinction. Even if most of you are better drivers than I, that doesn't mean nothing can happen to cause you lose control of your car. It's also a large distinction if the other object is a large animal, or a car going the wrong way (e.g. passing on a two-lane highway), or if there's a house or wall on the side of the highway where you lose control.

Which is not to mention that as speed goes up, the range of speeds among the cars go up, too; if the speed limit is 100 MPH, you'll still have the people who can go 55.

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2013-01-02 17:42 • by AN AMAZING CODER (unregistered)
398312 in reply to 397981
Decius:
Why is something like this randomly determined? There should be a deterministic aspect, because the person who did the speed trap yesterday shouldn't have the same independent chance of doing it today and tomorrow.


Not necessarily. For any given position, each officer would have a weighted score based on some variable calculations (including the last time they took the post). If two officers are tied, you need some method of breaking the tie. Random works well here.

If officer A took the post yesterday but prefers the post more than officer B who had it the day before that, they could very well be equally weighted.

But, any random number is good enough here. IMO the programmer did some quick research on randomness and discovered that "computers aren't truely random because they use temporal algorithms" and didn't have enough experience to recognize that it doesn't matter if it's truly random or not.

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2013-01-02 17:56 • by AN AMAZING CODER (unregistered)
398314 in reply to 398075
NotHere:
tim:
Henry:
Cops don't like speed traps? Neither do we. So why do they exist?

Thanks but I love speed traps. It's a voluntary tax and I choose not to pay it by driving within the limit. If you pay it, thanks for keeping my tax bill down.


You seem to be under the delusion that your taxes are in any way impacted by the amount taken in by other revenue streams.

Let me help you with that. If there wasn't a speed limit law, then you could be assured that the state/city would not have to pay for:
1. Speed limit signs
2. Cops whose sole job is to pull you over for speeding
3. Courts (and associated paper pushers) to handle fine collection; and yes, there are courts just for this in a lot of areas.
4. etc, etc.

Fact is, yes towns receive revenue from speeders; however, the amount of revenue is generally not more than a minor percentage of the overall revenue a town has to work with. In a few cases it was and at least in the state I live in that was outlawed.

For those that think that a speed limit increases safety, the fact is they don't. The real problems only occur due to a difference in speeds between two objects. For example, if one person is driving 30 miles an hour faster than someone they are passing. The slower person is likely to not have seen the first one in time and could potentially collide due to a lane change.

However, if the difference in speed is reasonable, like 5 to 10 mph, then both drivers have ample opportunity to see each other and act accordingly. It doesn't matter if the overall speed is 120+, as long as the difference between the two is minor.

If we wanted to be real about the whole thing we'd have a speed limit for driving in a suburban area (like 20mph) another for "city" driving with multiple lanes (40 to 50) and leave the highways open with a minimum limit of 70.

Then post the cops where it matters. ie: suburban areas where walkers (or children) routinely are. Finally, instead of a fine simply take their license away. If driving without one, throw them in jail. That would solve the problem.

Next, bring back "at fault" with regards to accidents. If it can be proven you caused it you lose your license for 6 months.



So your solution to having to pay for "useless cops" clocking speeders is to put people in jail, and have excessive punishment for it?

trolling? I don't really like speedtraps either, but this is ridiculous.

1.) A cop sitting in a speed trap is still a patroling officer. He's going to respond to calls in his area, he's going to arrest the drug dealer down the corner from the speed trap, and he's still going to pull over the

2.) The danger of speeding that I'm concerned with isn't you getting in a fender bender with another car, it's not fearing for my children's life whenever they're anywhere near a roadway. There are plenty of areas in my neighborhood where I could "safely" do 75 mph instead of 35 and be just fine...if it was in the middle of a desert and not a neighborhood.

3.) You fail to recognize that the fear of getting a speeding ticket is enough to deter most people from speeding. I'm prime example of this -- I sped all the time untill I got tired of getting speeding tickets (even to the point where I was on probation for it). Even if they were speeding, they would likely brake when they saw the cop... inherently making them safer.

4.) Most accidents don't occur when people were fully aware of the capabilities of their vehicle under given conditions, it's when they DON'T. Therefore saying we should be left completely to our judgment is absolutely ridiculous. Sure, go 75 mph down that road because it's safe right now... good luck braking safely before that 20mph sharp turn ahead that you didn't know about though. Not to mention, how would you know it's a 20mph turn without the speed sign?

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2013-01-02 18:04 • by AN AMAZING CODER (unregistered)
398315 in reply to 398033
operagost:

TL;DR version: I'm going to claim that everyone is incapable of rational thought except, apparently, politicians who set speed limits.


You're aware the civil engineers are involved in setting the guidelines for determing the speeds right? In fact, the speed limit laws in my state explicity state "Unless otherwise posted". Meaning, for example, The state decides that 45 mph is the speed limit for a rural route, unless an engineer decides that 50mph is OK or 35mph is the safest limit.

The reason some highways are 70mph and others are 55mph isn't completely related to state laws.


TL:DR; I'm going to make a blanket statement that all politicians are dumb, and that all laws are created without expert opinion.

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2013-01-04 09:46 • by Seminymous Coward (unregistered)
398471 in reply to 398314
AN AMAZING CODER:
2.) The danger of speeding that I'm concerned with isn't you getting in a fender bender with another car, it's not fearing for my children's life whenever they're anywhere near a roadway.

Parents are responsible for keeping their children out of the street. (I'm not being flippant, just putting the cost of externalities on those who create them.)

AN AMAZING CODER:
3.) You fail to recognize that the fear of getting a speeding ticket is enough to deter most people from speeding.

Estimate the average percentage of drivers around you speeding. Realize your statement is absurd.

AN AMAZING CODER:
I'm prime example of this -- I sped all the time untill I got tired of getting speeding tickets (even to the point where I was on probation for it).

Your example of speed limits being effective is someone who, while speed limits were abundant, sped anyway.

AN AMAZING CODER:
Even if they were speeding, they would likely brake when they saw the cop... inherently making them safer.

The first car in a line a dozen long braking from 85 to 65 as fast as they can is not safe; it's something I've seen quite often, though.

AN AMAZING CODER:
Not to mention, how would you know it's a 20mph turn without the speed sign?

In most states, the yellow speed limit signs by curves are advisory only.

If you want to ignore what I said as a mere difference of opinion, that's fine by me. Please, though, don't ignore the real evidence available; read about speed limits and safety from respectable academic sources. You will likely be surprised.

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2013-01-04 19:09 • by toth
398528 in reply to 397980
jrw:
Henry:
Brendan Kidwell:
Henry:
Cops don't like speed traps? Neither do we. So why do they exist?
Gotta have some form of deterrence.
So the possibility of wrecking my car and myself by going an unsafe speed doesn't count as "deterrence"?

I've evaluated the probability of harm that will come to me as a result of going ___ miles per hour and concluded that it is an acceptable risk. But, the possibility of encountering the cop must be a higher risk, otherwise it would not deter me. This means the cop himself, and the various threats that he represents, are more dangerous than the original "offense" of speeding.


Can't decide: is Henry a narcissist, delusional, or troll? Hmmm....


All three. Also known as a "libertarian".

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2013-01-07 14:16 • by instigator (unregistered)
398630 in reply to 397963
'd love to know what he was thinking,


Officers Brain: I love being officer #69! Suckers!!!

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2013-01-07 14:26 • by instigator (unregistered)
398633 in reply to 398051
In most states the cop has to show up for a speeding ticket, unless you plead guilty and just pay the ticket(which allot of people do).

The reason I do think speeding tickets are more about revenue then deterrent is how easy they make it to just pay. You usually can pay online. You can often pay extra and get the points waived. A stronger deterrent would be to make you go to court. Time being more valuable than money to allot speeders (why their speeding in the first place).

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2013-01-16 15:06 • by "Brian J" (unregistered)
Yea, I'm the original submitter on this one. Since this first posted, to accommodate some pretty radical changes in scheduling, I was given a much freer hand. I jotted down some rough algorithms by hand (rather than re-use code there was no way I could trust, or even follow in some cases), and started from scratch. The downside is, because it had been around long enough to gather momentum, it had to be done entirely in Excel with VBA still. And it had to look the same.

There's, maybe, a little less WTF in there now. Higher-level coding was never my strong suit, and VBA is....interesting when it comes to more complex stuff.

Re: Classic WTF: SuperRand

2013-03-01 06:00 • by Isikyus (unregistered)
402367 in reply to 398012
It's not your speeding I'm worried about, it's mine. I've only been driving for about five years, and I've already been in one (minor) accident. Why? Because I wasn't paying attention.

People deliberately deciding to speed are one thing; people who just don't make the effort to be aware of their vehicle are another thing entirely. And someone who isn't paying attention to their speed probably isn't paying attention to the road ahead either.
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