Dismal Deterioration

Once more into Ice Cream day. And once more into the abyss of excessive colding. Nasty cold front pushed in by the dread Polar Vortex, the latest in not-a-such-broom and dripping temperatures this evening. And I am sitting in my study shivering. At least partly from the refrigerated V-8 juice I just finished.

So as I clip articles for my files, mostly via a wonderful note-taking app called KeepNote, [Link] which is the best such I have ever found. And still quite incapable of actually taking lecture notes with, of course, but adequate for my daily information saving needs. Anyway, as I do this I shall sally onto a bit of blogging.

First, an article [Link] entitled “Android Marshmallow on PC Falls Flat.” The title is sufficient; the article merely assures the lid of the coffin is secure. This cements what I had suspected after purchasing a ChromeBook a couple of months ago, that Chrome/Android is a sadly neutered desktop environment. And yes, I use browsers a lot, but several and simultaneously, depending on their strengths and weaknesses. But I also need other clients. And therein lies the problem. So once more the conventional Linux desktop is validated.

Second, another article [Link] entitled ““I Don’t Think We Can Stop It:” The Future of Automation and Job Loss” that addresses something I have blogged on previously, that the idea of universal (or even majority) employment is becoming increasingly specious and just flat wrong. This seems likely to be the greatest threat to capitalism since the Great War. How do we continue to only allow a model based on everyone doing something productive and payable? Even if we ignore the poor and tell them to eat cake, the death machines will not be long in coming. And it seems equally unlikely that the rise of the robot – Czech (?) for “worker” – will be reversed by self-aware capitalists. 

Another thing that makes me glad to be ORF.

And lastly, an article [Link] entitled “The Crisis in Physics Education” that expounds further the problems with STEM teaching that I blogged about yesterday. Simply put,

“Of all school subjects, Physics has the most severe teacher shortage, followed by math and chemistry.  There are large surpluses of biology and earth science teachers.

Only 1/3 of all high school physics teachers have a degree in physics or physics education.

Almost 1/3 of all high school physics teachers have taken fewer than 3 college physics classes.

90% of middle school students are taught physical science by a teacher lacking a major or certification in the physical sciences (chemistry, geology, general science or physics). 

Our local and regional school districts have had substantial difficulty finding and retaining qualified physics teachers. 52% of New York City high schools do not even offer physics.”

And, of course, this problem is primarily the doing of the education establishment. It is not that there are not a lot of college educated physicists out there. There are more physicists today than there have ever been. But the system is so tied to the idea of certification that this shortage exists. Between physicists who are unwilling (unable) to spend the time being certified and the unwillingness of schule systems to hire anyone lacking a certificate, the children have been hung out to dry. 

This problem could be solved simply. The schule system could hire a non-certified teacher but only for a specific time, about five years. So hire graduate students to teach half time while they finish their coursework and give them the option of leaving after a couple of years or working on a certificate. But I somehow doubt the schule systems are smart enough to even try this, much less pull it off. So one more example of Amerika becoming Third World State.

I have to be direct. I enjoy teaching but I never wanted to make it a career. The instrumentality of schule, especially K-12, are mind killers. Teaching outside a university takes too much time, destroys research opportunities, and generally turns one into a blob. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who can thrive in that environment, but not me. I suspect this is becoming more common as universities become more factory-like and as dismal and oppressive as K-12 systems. But there may still be something to Amerika worth saving. If the educationalists will save themselves?

New Laws for Old?

Yesterday, one of my colleagues, Magnetic Inductance Force, sent me a [Link] to an article entitled “How to Keep Specific Android Apps from Auto-Updating.” Now this is a VERY useful article – as he pointed out – because like all OS, any specific instance of Android – I make the distinction because each cellular telephone manufacturer and service provider adds their own stuff – includes some actual and apparent CrapWare.

That is, apps or clients that you don’t want or don’t need and can’t get rid of. My example is that there are several Gooey utilities built into Android, so deepest source CrapWare, that others may use but I don’t.

So short of being able to delete the stercus, keeping it from updating is a mitzvah.

Why? Because unlike a real computer, slablets are basically portable devices with fixed instrumentality. That means you are limited to a battery and the memory (CPU) built in. And you can’t yet build-your-own slablet.

And since updates generally grow because patching is NEVER as efficient as writing, the apps just get bigger and hungrier. Bigger relative parasites.

So being able to minimize them for real is a boon.

But this article, which is mediocrely written and is something that should be in any decent OS documentation, put me in mind of Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s “Laws”: [Link]

Clarke’s first law – When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Clarke’s second law – The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Clarke’s third law – Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

in the context of modern techno-society. One where all the politicians have gone into science denial/hatred and no one provides technical manuals any more. 

So my whack at the laws – revised – is:

  • First law – When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right and will be ignored, vilified, denied, or killed by the politicals.
  • Second law – The only way of discovering the limits of the impossible is to venture a little way past them into the possible, if you can find anyone who is willing to abandon their social reality delusions.
  • Third law – Any advanced, undocumented technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Enjoys your superstition if you are one of the decreasing few who can stomach religionist organizational fascism. Otherwise, stay home today and explore some reality. Not social reality. Not political reality. Actual reality.

Mind Rot

Five Day. Quite warming. Too much. Especially for Six Month. Off to park for constitutional. Had to shed clothes as soon as I started. Not all, of course. Have to observe the proprieties of an insecure humanity. Listen to more of the “Linux Luddites” episode. Still boring but I have given up on trying to cogitate originally in this warmth and instead satisfy myself with mere diversion.

That brings me to an article [Link] I saw earlier entitled “Is technology making us dumber or smarter? Yes.” The title is rather indicative of a poorer presentation that the article actually is. The sore point is the common misuse of the word “dumb” which actually mean incapable of speech and not unsmart. So the comparison is compromised and assinine from the get go except perhaps to the most bottom feeding of Bogs?

The article is about how we are misusing technology to enable the unsmart and unsmart the actually smart. If anything we are not dumb, the appearance of communication is orders of magnitude greater today than even twenty years ago, most of it false since it is the vacuous babblings of Bogs.

Sadly this is not a new thing. The unsmarting, that is. I have commented before about the generation of STEM graduates before me learned coding in the workplace, my generation learned in college, and the current generations doesn’t. They are dependent on canned software.

This mind cancer has now spread throughout the planet. Things we used to have to study to learn to do are now done by machines. Computers are not only misused, they are actively abused. The cellular telephone and the slablet are pornography, at best. Communication resources are dedicated to streaming inane gibberish passed, like diarrhea, as entertainment.

We can only hope the demise of humanity is swift and not very painful.

But I doubt it.


Service Feudalism

Lower air temperature today. Almost comfortable in park for constitutional. I reflected on the implications of the earlier discussed terrorism scenario and considered why we wait on constables?

This led to a consideration of our so-called “service society”. To give it a colorful (?) name, we live in what is increasingly a “Megahard IT” society.

The MegaHard IT model is used by almost all large organizations. It is based on the idea that workers should only work on their tasks. They shouldn’t waste time trying to fix their computer themselves. If their computer is futzed, they are supposed to call the IT people and wait for them to fix the computer.

This sounds nice on a superficial, Sloan schule case study basis, and it would be if we were task and machine operators on a factory assembly line. But it isn’t for knowledge workers. Or for an overworked, underfunded, understaffed IT shop.

The workers have to wait for the IT guy to arrive, wait for a diagnosis, wait for a fix. If they knew something about computers – and were listened to, the other problem of the MegaHard IT model, then less time might be spent and it’s wasted time anyway from the standpoint of the worker, who is the reason for all this.

As a manager I have a tough choice between wanting my employees to only know what I want them to know and have them tied strongly to the organization or learning as much as they can and risking departure. Burnout is a strongly possibility in both cases, incidentally. Rationality wins through for good managers who select the latter because it gives them a more capable suborganization (and organization as a whole) even if the worker moves on to a better job. That, incidentally, helps recruit good replacements.

Now let’s overlay that model on our society. It has become one where people are only supposed to know certain things and not learn anything more. This is reflected VERY strongly in our educational system: standardized testing; more and more restrictive disciplines; certification requirements. If something goes wrong, we call the right person/organization and wait for them to fix it. 

And that’s part of what makes terrorism possible.

We don;t live in a democratic society; we live in a feudal one.

Management Failure

Ran across [Link]

this cartoon. Normally don’t bother commenting on the obvious, but this one speaks to the orthogonality of management. The higher the more orthogonal. And antagonistic to analysis.

I say this because I always found that I learned more from my reports than from those I reported to. And I tried not to be that way.

End of the Future

Two day. Pun-ish? Foretold to be a good weather day. But any day I have to do medicalist things is compromised from the get-go.

Sparse at gym. Podcast – Guardian Science – was a long one about the Concorde.

I have to start by registering that this podcast was mostly about engineering and social matters. Money in particular, also politics. I rather dislike this type of fraud and deception. Science podcasts are supposed to be about science, not engineering. And I should expect a rag as good as the Guardian to have staff that know the difference.

But the thoughts that followed were more constructive. It struck me about halfway through the podcast that this was really about the end of an era. The obvious bit is the end of Imperial Britain and Imperial France. The less obvious is the end of the technology-makes-it-all-better era.

Up to this point, technology was without flaw. There was no down side. Technology would make life better by peripheral improvements in idealized society. No worries of pollution or unemployment or weapons of mass destruction. The end of Victorian stolidness and Whewellian absolutism.

No stigma of nonexisting the poor and glorifying the rich. No aspect of any flaws in society. Quite ignoring that only the very rich could afford to ride on this aircraft.

The end of simplicity and etiquette and knowledge-trumps-ignorance. 

And it was a failure. Not the airplane. It was wonderful. Really, full of wonder. Something we have little of today. All we have is the staid magic of ubiquitous electronics. While we choke in pollution and poison ourselves with toxic water. And government does nothing but facade.

Dismal day, isn’t it?

Death of Money

Sixth Day. Air temperature again below the L->S phase change temperature for dihydrogen oxide. Podcast download day. Survival for the gym desert. 

Getting old is not for the young. You have got to have used up all your altruism and empathy and such to be able to withstand, however briefly, the ills of age. Needless to add, I am still under the weather although at least now undergoing some treatment. 

In that frame of mind, it seems meet to eye a couple of articles. First, a nice article [Link] entitled “Stephen Hawking Says We Should Really Be Scared Of Capitalism, Not Robots.” Not that I haven’t hammered on this previously but Hawking says it a lot better, which we can probably being educated in England rather than the Yankee republic.

If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.

What struck a resonance was something unsaid but now rather obvious: the death of money.

If we go the route of complete inequality, then the serfs will have no money and the capitalists will have it all, so once we get past a transition period while the capitalists thin their own ranks, money become irrelevant.

If we go the route of equality, then money becomes meaningless except possibly for some bookkeeping purposes.

So money dies.