Natural Opacity

Too much fun. Off yesterday to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill for another inspection by the eye cutter. Better than previous but at least one more to go through.

FD SCP made me sit through episodes of BONES last evening and for once I was engaged by something other than resonance with the Hogins character (well, that too.) The Bones character made the statement that there was no closure in life and we sometimes had to just proceed on emotional inertia (faith was the term used.) That provoked some thought about and may give rise in future to some blot.

Anyway, for now, I will continue to abide what passes for living.

On which azimuth, I ran across an article [Link] entitled “The World Depends on Technology No One Understands.” The article pretty well – meanderingly as bog journalists seem unable not to do – follow the title. This is not new. I see an article on this subject every few years going back to when I was a teenager and some guy propounded the idea in a SF pulp periodical. I forget who it was, maybe Campbell but more famously, Sir Arthur Clarke stated that

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

The implication is that magic may be learnt but not understood, at least by humans. I haven’t read anything on that by Rowling but then I don’t read much Rowling and only watch the movies on the audio-visual electromagnetic receiver and then when that’s the least bad.

Anyway, that captures part of the recurring theme of these articles. First, that ordinary people don’t understand technology, and second, that even the nerds who do understand one or more of the technologies don’t anticipate the interactions of those technologies completely. The latter is sometimes excused as unintended consequences.

The first lack of understanding isn’t new. It dates back to about the time that humans adopted an organization more complicated than the Hunter-Gatherer band. That’s band with a lower case “b”. And yes, that “B” or “b” makes a BIG difference organizationally. A big “B” Band is sufficiently large that some of its members (almost all?) don’t understand some of the technologies that members of the Band use. 

Almost immediately, we got to the point where specialization being efficient and survivable, there were technologies that no one in the organization understood except the users (or makers) thereof. And as human social organizations (society) became larger and more complicated, the number/fraction of people that understood any particular technology  became less and less.

The use of the word “complicated” is not only deliberate but essential. It involves technologies that most people, especially Bogs, who may also be characterized as people who don’t have to actually understand any technology, don’t know or understand, namely Maths and Complexity Theory.

I will NOT remedy that lack, mostly because my understanding of both is too small to teach and I am too old to put up with the frustration. 

Anyway, the idea is that as we develop more and more technologies, and fewer and fewer understand any but their own technologies (if they aren’t Bogs.) So we get surprised by unanticipated consequences, which are actually quite natural since they are the result of what is known as Emergence. And we probably can’t anticipate them because the humans who understand Emergence probably don’t understand all the technologies involved in the Emergence. 

So not only is not understanding Natural but doing anything about it is unNatural.

Maybe. Unless we develop (and control) AI?

So maybe we will make our own robot overlords?

Anti-lightening Monsters

Seven Day. Air temperature still unpleasant. Walk passable but not enriching.

Ran across rather an intriguing article [Link] entitled “New Life Found That Lives Off Electricity.” Even though this is a sciencey periodical some contemporary journalistic mispractice seems to sneak through. What is it about journalists that they think talking to Bogs means speaking inaccurately and even erroneously? This, of course, is a self-defeating question since no matter how simple one makes it the communication will fail because the Bogs are oblivious and self-consumed.

The subject of the article is not new life but newly discovered/understood instances of Tellurian life. This is NOT a different kind of life. This is NOT even life off Tellus. What is novel here is that these animals consume electrons either directly or via produced hydrogen. 

I have to admit to having to cogitate on this a bit, and still am. How can animals “eat” electrons and continue to be?

After a bit of moving electrons around in my head, I happened into the view – disliked immensely by both chemists and biologists – that chemistry (and thereby perhaps half of biology) is just about moving electrons about. (I had to take a bit of a ROFL break at this point thinking about what my physical chemistry professor, who claimed to disbelieve quantum mechanics and electrons and all that, would say.) But what I am continuing to mind much on is the hydrogen eaters. This is dependent on bare hydrogen nuclei floating about conveniently. As I recall my chemistry material, the natural concentration of such is pretty low. 

Anyway, I am now waiting for some Bog to expound the “electron diet.”

Maths Expounded

Day Four. Last day of gym for the week. Spent much of yesterday in Nawth Alibam’s Shining CIty on the Hill and in and around staff call and foodstuff acquisition I had occasion to reflect on my recent blot on the maths of terrorism.

So I thought I would do a bit of a word picture of a specific scenario, the one of greatest interest right now, 

  1. A group of citizens are gathered
  2. A number of terrorists arrive and either take hostages, begin executions, or both. (Note: these are executions. The terrorists are acting like an organizations so the humanity of the citizens is relevant only on its impact on those not present.)
  3. Somehow the constabulary is alerted.
  4. The constabulary marshals forces, and transports them to the locale. Then reconnaissance, analysis, and planning must occur before any substantive reaction.

A simple dynamical analysis of this indicates that the most significant time factor is the latency between the arrival of the terrorists and the constabulary being able to initiate ameliorative action.

This latency is not, in any sense, the result of any malice or incompetence. (Elected officials who “fund” the constabulary is a separate question.) If anything it is characteristic of the overall organization. A good part of it is deliberate to reduce casualties.

While some things may be done to decrease this latency, nothing presents itself that is able to substantially reduce the damage. 

To effect a substantial reduction, a change of dynamics is necessary. The most effective change, at least for this scenario (and many others,) is to require all adults of adequate physical and mental capability to be armed, trained, and qualified in the use of those arms.  

This does not eliminate casualties, but it does minimize them. It’s the only practicable way (found to date,) to reduce the latency to a minimum.

Yes, it’s an ivory tower solution and thereby not implementable per se. But a modified variant could be. 

 

Public Notice

Hectic day. Had to motor to Guntersville for medicalist appointment. And run about on errands. So Latency.

First, acknowledgement that today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the first edition of the Redstone Rocket which is the propaganda organ (like Pravda) of the Yankee Army in Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the HIll. If you are looking for amusement go read the back issues from years ago unless you are the kind of person who finds social mores objectionable. 

Second, I want to address the cries for disarmament in the wake of the massacre at Orlando. It is possible using maths to show that:

  • Disarmament is probably impossible and the more complete it is, the more unstable and deadly it is;
  • The most stable solution is to arm everyone in the sense that the number of casualties per incident are minimized.
  • And NO, I am not espousing some Repulsian line. Just Simple Country Physics. This is just simple stuff that the BOGs don’t or won’t get.

Thought Experiment

Ran across an article on Lifehacker about a “journaling app” for iPhun. This led me to the question: if I were going out and I could take either a notebook or my cellular telephone, which would I take?

Obviously, the response has to be based on some consideration of an ensemble. There are circumstances when I need to have communication capability at hand and there are circumstances when I need to take notes, and

This is the contentious part

notes cannot be taken on a cellular telephone.

Now that I have incurred the wrath of the GEN Y Bogs, I will elaborate.

I can take down short notes on a CT like phone numbers or a to-do item. But, for example, not a multi-item to-do list.

Or real notes like I take. Pages of maths interspersed with cryptic phrases. 

Add to that a stylus is a STERCUS writing instrument. (So is a ballpoint!) And a CT is too constrained a surface of hideous tactility for scribing.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

Happily I can almost always take both and decision is unnecessary.