I was struck by the juxtaposition of articles in the RSS feeds this morning that had a bit of character to them. For example, an article in CIO insight on "The Technologies of Tomorrow" [Link] struck me that there is nothing so different as a technology list in a management, or, at least pseudo-management, magazine. Certainly this is not what the guys at Cnet or Engadget would come up with as a list of technologies.
I was however, impressed that the top three things on the list are all things that I have some experience with: business process modeling; collective intelligence aggregation; and Green IT. About ten years ago the Yankee army organization I was in was having a massive reorganization effort to reduce costs. I spent several long and bitter periods with the senior executive in charge, a Sloan graduate, arguing that until we had a model, and a simulation, of our business activities then we had absolutely no idea of the impacts of any changes we would make. The cost and effort were seen as prohibitive but the reason (excuse) given that this was too alien to the organization’s society and culture. Since the organization did research and development the speciousness of the excuse was self evident, and many of the changes made were catastrophic.
It turn out that collective intelligence aggregation is something that has to do with models and simulations of people aspects, which I have blogged on previously. And Green IT is not so much about hardware and brick and mortar control as it is about software. The biggest environmental problem we have with IT these days is that for the last ten plus years we have been building compilers that are less and less efficient, resulting in bigger, slower code that we have maintained execution speed by going to bigger, hungrier, boxes. Now the reckoning is upon us and being a bit cynical I can predict that this will be ignored. Instead, green IT will be nothing more than Potempkinism and management insertion that further reduces inefficiency.
On a happier note, I see that the Journal of Improbable Research is going open access online. [Link] These are the folks who also sponsor the Ignoble Prizes, which in many ways are what the Noels should be if politics were absent. Give them time and they will be so corrupted as well.
The reason this is good news is that getting access to the journal is difficult. Most libraries will not subscribe because they feel it is too frivolous and therefore their money watchers will look askance. Many folks with grants can’t subscribe since their accounting parasites – mandated by higher authority in the furtherance of poor stewardship – will complain. So one is left with either subscribing as an individual or going without. And one has to be careful where the journal gets delivered since everyone in an academic department or research laboratory knows everyone else’s sins and perversions.
Somewhat less is the news that the Golf channel is improving their ball tracking technology. [Link] Presumably this will be used to automatically aim television cameras so that viewers will have the sure knowledge that the camera is tracking what it, and they, cannot resolve. I am told by my colleagues who play golf – I played my last game the day before my undergraduate matriculation; putting away boyish toys sort-of-thing – that the inability to follow the ball is the primary dullness of golf coverage. Hence, one presumes the primary reason for loss of viewers. And yes, I was quite selective on which boyish toys I put aside – mostly those of minimal interest.
Optically of course, the problem is the small size of the balls and their essentially white color. Fundamentally, they are simply too small to be seen very far, especially when the images are clipped by video transmission. Still, I suppose it is a better system than the original one with human heads?
There is a rather intriguing article in Wired on the component making up Nair hair remover. [Link] The compelling one is calcium hydroxide, the weaker cousin of Lye, which is responsible for dissolving the hair, hopefully without leaving too severe chemical burns behind on the skin. Despite the fact that I rather enjoyed shaving, back when I still shaved, I always admired female bravery/foolishness/dexterity at shaving places I would never have tried and thankfully did not have to. Back when I was a graduate student at U Illinois, shaving was how I woke up and warmed up every morning, especially welcome on those mornings when I had to run outside and bash the polyethylene sewer connection pipe with a hammer before I could empty bladder and bowels. The joys of scholarly poverty and mobile home living in what seemed like an Arctic wasteland to a good Southron boy.
Then we have this paragon of aethicality and amorality in Wired [Link] where their automobile correspondent details how the recently mandated gas efficiency does not mean the end of muscle cars, only their elimination from those who truly do not deserve them. His argument is based on the standards being averages and that so long as those averages hold behemoths may still be built. Apparently this individual has inhaled various combustible vapors too often and has rotted his brain down to haggis. Not only is he ignoring the whole issue of the continuance of the species and the planet, but there is the little matter of the next step when this fails, notably rationing.
Back when I was an undergraduate, I was told that the classical Greeks, who were seen by the lecturer as the originators of civilization, quite ignoring several million years of human evolution and thousands of years of sedentaryness prior, took meticulous care of their public edifices. Hence, the toilets in Greek government buildings were spotless and gleaming – and yes, they did have some indoor facilities. This same professor claimed that civilization have steadily decayed thereafter, as evidenced by the state of public toilets. As one who had only recently been exposed to a range of such, especially those in petrol stations, I was rapt. If anything, the toilets at university were cleaner than those in my high shul, as well as being older.
Nonetheless, the trend has been affirmed by observation. Most public toilets today are considerably less clean than those in my undergraduate days, at least to see. I do not commonly take bacterial cultures although I do have a colleague – a biologist – who does as one of his long term research projects. Now I read that an academic superhero at U Sussex – he must be such because he has a superhero name, Professor iPod; no mention of Apple offers of litigation – who describes how the iPod makes people even more divorced from their surroundings. [Link] Clearly the two phenomena are related, the expansion of personal electronics from the transistor radio to the iPod may be clearly associated with the increasing uncleanliness of toilets and the public environment.
Next, Wired relates how a child who thought he was getting a PS3 on giftmas day instead reveived a telephone directory. [Link] Evidently this is the new form of lumps of coal?
Not to be outdone, Engadget has their first/last review of the greatness that might have been p the Palm Foleo. [Link] That greatness of course, was seized by Asus with their Eee. No wonder Palm backed out, unit cost would have been too low for their profit model. Perhaps they also feared the folks in England who have extended righteous regicide to traffic cameras? [Link] This is something I am a bit conflicted upon: the anonymity of the penalty borders on Orwellian persecution but if it induces folks to obey speed limits it is a good thing? Anyway, perhaps those folks will turn their kind attention to those who drive and use cellular phones? And thence to those who use cellular phones in public places and inflict their banality on others while still expecting some aspect of privacy? I fear I lack the conviction; I limit my protest to joining in the conversation and when told it is private replying that no such expectation is possible. Needless to say FD SCP does not permit me this perilous endeavor when I am in her company.