Photon Pop Guns

One Day. And in the midst of petrol shortage. So no gym until I can determine how much petrol I can access. So onto the stationary this morning for a bit of muscle bashing. And I forgot to pick up my MP3 player so much time to cogitate. In this case on my early days working for the Yankee Army.

I was hired to be a High Energy Laser (HEL) chap. Didn’t know much about lasers beyond my coursework on quantum mechanics and optics but I was game and anything nerdish would be preferable to the farce that was my job with a local defense contractor. What I got for work assignments would have insulted a college sophomore. And the management was ranged from tepid to insipid to blatantly incompetent. Not politician incompetent mind you but of a level that any self-respecting technical organization would regard as shameful and debasing.

The Yankee army was much better. Not that 0.9 of the managers weren’t incompetent but none were as incompetent as what I had seen in that defense contractor. 

Anyway, the YA was trying to build a tactical laser cannon, as well as decide whether it wanted to do so, and I settled in to learn about being an Army laser nerd. The hot topic then was propagation through the atmosphere and for HEL it’s non-linear. So since I was a bright young grad student type I didn’t know any better so I got assigned to work on propagation. The alternative was lab work on making test zappers into light bulbs – manufacturable – and evidently my lab klutz limitations had preceded me.

The reason I was thinking on this was I saw an article [Link] yesterday on how the YA was planning tactical laser cannon tests next year with deployment in about five years. I recalled similar rhetoric in the mid ’70’s of the last century. And when I looked at the pictures of the field unit

I was struck by the resemblance to

that similar things were said about 40 years ago. 

So I have to wonder what else may be similar?

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?

Automation Catastrophe?

First Day. Air temperature quite high for February, even here in Alibam. Gym sparse and the podcast episode, one of the CBC’s “Besy of Ideas” on senses, was neither obviously flawed nor adequate engaging. Rather like grits. 

Thus I had time to think on a couple of current subjects. One is the transition to robotic motorcars and the other is the impact of automation on employment. The impetus for considering the first was a TIME periodical article. This was a rather up beat, simplistic article – what else from Amerikan journalists? – that portrayed the transition as a simple now-then from human licensed driving to human prohibited driving with no bumps in between.

Wrong. The transition will be messy and nasty as all human social changes tend to be. Thoughts of the Pullman strike come to mind. What I cannot see is Alibam red necks easily giving up their rusted, odoriferous, smoking pickup trucks that they salvaged from junk yards to expensive autocars. For one thing, they haven’t the money. These are people who live off the grid almost, but not quite. Many of them have cellular telephones, all purchased at MalWart and using non-contract plans. I have no idea how they pay.

None of these people pay income taxes. They are always paid in greenbacks and will not accept checks. I doubt many of them have bank accounts nor credit cards. They purchase their petrol at off brand stations. 

And the autocar revolution will immobilize them. What they do for money will still exist as a requirement but they would be unable to practice their craft if they cannot drive their junkers. 

And in places like Alibam that probably means no laws restricting driving. So a massive increase in wrecks and a destruction of the state economy. But the local politicians can all brag of how they resisted Washington.

The second was prompted by an article [Link] claiming that automation will not disemploy half of the adult population. Some of the rationale does make some sense like the continued need for humans in stores. What it ignores is that even those jobs will be hideously underpaid because so many will want the jobs. 

No, this is even worse that the autocars, which are a part. If we continue in the Capitalist mode we are in, we will have a bloody collapse when the disemployed take thins into their hands and create civil war. Survival wars are nasty. No one cares how many of the enemy they kill. No prisoners are taken unless they have intelligence potential and they will be killed once their information expires.

The future is bright?

Technology Trysts

Saturn’s Day. No constitutional today. Or likely tomorrow. Above the phase change temperature for dihydrogen oxide but below the cardiologist lower limit. So make do with stationary bicycle. No outside. No Nature. No uplift.

I ran across a cartoon: [Link]

yesterday that led to some cogitation. I have experienced this but I had not really explored the situation in depth. Now I am not completely technically illiterate. I can design most of a missile and even build some of the part myself although I don’t like to. I can make minor repairs on computer HW and SW. I could probably write a BIOS but again, I don;t want to. Nor do I want to learn how to do CUI coding. I am perfectly happy with comma delimited output.

But I am also not about to build a toaster or a television. At least not unless the apocalypse occurs and I am needed to restore civilization. I judge this eventuality to have probability O(0). But this does give some insight.

What I can handle in “hooking up” are tools but not appliances. Happily most appliances require no “hook up” beyond power plug and maybe time setting on a clock. The exception is TV stuff. When the cable tyranny went from analog to digital push and I had to upgrade, I tried seven (or nine?) times to follow the setup instructions. Complete failure. Finally called the office and had them send technician. Happily this was older fellow who shared that the instructions were “dead wrong bull shit” and fixed me up in ten minutes (two boxes to be set-up.) 

I am not too embarrassed by this. I have noted that the bogs are the opposite, which is probably why they exist. They can set up appliances but not tools. Much as I hate to admit CSPdatter has been known to buy new box rather than ask me to fix her old one. Otherwise she is a good person. Mostly. 

She is also a Winders person. But then so is FD SCP. Not everyone can be on the light side. To use a somewhat odious metaphor. But is still accurate. So I was not surprised to see an article [Link] entitled “No escape: Microsoft injects ‘Get Windows 10’ nagware into biz PCs” because it upholds my basic hypothesis that MegaHard is fundamentally stupid. Why do this? The last place you need to advertise is with corporate serf user organizations. But after a while it made some sense. Obviously, MegaHard has failed to sell WX to the corporate IT types. There is yet hope for civilization if this be the case!

I was, however, bemused by another article [Link] entitled “Microsoft finally has a proper way to opt out of Windows 7/8 to Windows 10 upgrades” which is highly confusing since it seems to contradict itself repeatedly and wander off as often. Probably the high standards of contemporary journalism. But I suspect that MegaHard may be backing off because too many of their serfs – corporate and individual – are running away to other OS. 

One has to be very sorry for MegaHard these days. After all Apple makes more money and LINUX has more installs. But we also felt sorry for Typhoid Mary even as we were putting her under glass. Those who spread evil, however innocently, cannot be permitted. Not that MegaHard is very innocent.

Makes me happy I run Linux. And sad that FD SCP doesn’t. And I have to care for her boxes.

Monday Richness

Once more into week in. And the weather beavers are foretelling another spate of rain. This time only five centimeters or so. Matybe.

So it seems meet that I do what I should have done yesterday and clear a few tabs.

First, an article [Link] on how seniors are messing up their medication scheduling. Scant wonder. I am pretty good at scheduling. I lay out a schedule, then I use a client that does scheduling, then I compare and refine. And it still isn’t easy. Because the physicians can’t be bothered to discuss medications with patients, probably because patients are in too much of a hurry to escape before something gets added to a day already consumed by medicalist requirements, and the information handed out by pharmacies is more about legal protection for them than helping patients.

Case in point. Several of my medications say to take their incremental dose with “a cup of water”. Is that a figurative more than a sip or actually a quarter-liter? And if I drink a quarter-liter per pill so instructed my dihydrogen oxide daily consumption is up around four liters which is itself a bit risky and definitely has ill effects.

But no one is working to help with this problem, perhaps because those who have the medicalist knowledge can’t do scheduling and don’t have time to devote to every senior that way. 

Next, my colleague Magnetic Inductance Force sent me a link to an article entitled “Android on the desktop: Not really “good,” but better than you’d think”.  Having used Android on slablets, I am not about to use it as a desktop, sans ANY OTHER CHOICE. Well, maybe. If left to a choice between Android and Winders (akin to choosing between the Hillary and the Donald) I would be highly conflicted. Let me put it another way: leave my Debian based KDE desktop FC? Sooner would I give up the cellular phone and the tablet. They are not very good at what they do on a touch screen so why should I want them for real work?

Can one do real work on a slablet. My considered opinion is NYET!

But the question I raise is how much longer are we going to be sold the lie that there is one OS/GUI/DTE for all screen sizes/computers/tasks? It’s distracting us from doing things efficiently and effectively. 

Lastly, an article [Link] entitled “Hating parts of Star Trek is an essential part of loving Star Trek.” This after I saw this morning that the latest segment of Star Wars has broken a billion American of inflow. Not bad for a racist, sexist, slavist story line. That’s the primary reason for liking Star Trek. From the get go it’s about freedom and self-determination and sentient rights. 

But yes, there are some bits not to be liked. For one, I find TNG to be sadly deficient compared to any other ST segment. Even the prequel with that time travel actor. Although, as always, all the cool is concentrated in the techies and Vulcans. It is hard to find why humans are the least bit noteworthy for anything but being amateurs. Which is a whole lot. And I know that puts me at odds with many, but that’s also part of the richness of ST. 

And ST is a whole lot richer  than SW. Just calculate the entropy of their collected societies. 

Selah. Sit and await the rain.

Weirding Way

2 Day. The electromagnetic audio-visual receiver projected that today is “National Coffee Day”. Blatant corporate arrogance? Does this mean that we can now recognize all holy days as propaganda and maskarovka? I shall nonetheless journey to Walker’s for a bit of brew. 

The gym was quite sparse. I enjoyed an episode of the Guardian’s science podcast that presented an interview with a fellow named David Wootten (sp?) who has written a new book about the Scientific Revolution. Not at all sure I like that term.

But he did raise the question of whether science can survive the internet? This seems a good question. My current hypothesis is NO! Too much propagation of boggery. But waiting is. 

In the interim I shall be continuing to do science. I suspect that I shall even when it is criminal or at least nekulturny.

Is science a form of talking nerdy?

Weird day I suspect.

When the World Rots

The air moveth not. So the constitutional was less than enjoyable. Natta, natta, natta. Even being low is getting unsatisfactory. 

I ran across this cartoon: [Link]

yesterday. Now I never drew cartoons, except in my schule notebooks to while away the time while I was information deprived. And the cartoons were typical boy stuff of the Containment ’50’s, and the teachers didn’t like but they learned that ignoring them was better than handling the questions the information deprived kids asked that they couldn’t answer, didn’t want to answer, and the bog kids didn’t want asked. In later years I felt sorry for them – a bit – and hated the schule authorities who catered the curriculum to the bogs majority. Of course if they had catered to the geeks and nerds the bogs would have been rioting in orthogonality. You can lead bogs to books but you can’t make them learn.

Sometimes Brave New World sounds good.

Anyway, this cartoon captures a situation that in my family. My younger brother is EXTRO. 

Enough said.

I also noted [Link] that there is a new BBC computer.

which is a far cry from the BBC computer I had (well, actually a clone but close enough) 


The original BBC computer was all about programming in BASIC. And the bits and pieces of storing and retrieving programs. On/off tape cassettes. I don’t quite fathom what the new one is for. Evidently it’s about registers and machine instructions and such? Seems a strange thing to have to distribute to kids en mass

As far as I can figure this is an artifact of the consumerist/appliance aspect of computing that has become such a pervasive cancer. Back when I was a kid we got the basics of computer functionality thrown at us. Not in schule mind you. Definitely not in schule. Maybe a couple of the STEM teachers had some idea but usually less than we so trying to teach would have been a debacle and a humiliation. For the schule system.

But we got it from SF magazines and Popular * magazines and the like. I read YA books on the subject when I was in the equivalent of junior high schule. But what was missing was the using the computer. It was a holy relic in those days. Adore but don’t touch. Programming was in assembly language or machine code. Programming transcended even nerdery.

By the time I was in college we could program using COBOL (yuck) or FORTRAN (yea!) And I did for years. My first STEM job was more about writing FORTRAN code than doing real STEM. And there were still real programmers around in those days but it was quicker to write your own rather than try to explain the algorithms. Real programmers didn’t do differential equations – then or now. The only difference is that then the STEMS had to write out the algorithms in FORTRAN; now the programmers grab a library routine. Unless there is no library routine. Then they have to go back to the STEMs.

So it appears that the knowledge level today is less than it was in the fifties. Not really surprising. Have you tried to have a discussion with a GEN Y lately? Not easy. Or enjoyable. In the main.

Horrible when the world rotted while you were working.