Planned Retrogression

Nobody asked but …

I have been teaching computer literacy since the last millennium (since 1997 in layman’s terms), and I am amazed at the volume of innovation that we have seen in those 2+ decades.  I am amazed in two ways:  1) at the progress, and 2) at the lack of progress.  I will not belabor you with a discussion of the progress, since it is all around you.  But I will try to explain my contention that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I had to do some electrical repairs at the house this weekend.  There are many weekends in which I have to make electrical repairs, although not due to the age of our infrastructure.  Our house was finished, and wired, in 2008.  The failure of components is more due to sloppy manufacturing, overstretched distribution, and ignorance of consumer needs (which are, after all, human needs).  In plainer words, the big box stores relied excessively on third-world production to meet price points.  As a wit said, “I can get you goods or services, cheap, fast, good — choose any 2.”  By that filter, as Theodore Sturgeon said, “Ninety percent of everything is crud.”  Cheap and fast are chosen thousands of times more than cheap and good or fast and good.  As our attention spans shorten, the problem compounds.

Why do we still have the QWERTY keyboard, or any type of keyboard?  Why do we still have the mouse (51 years and counting)?

To me, the most telling example is my tractor, a Kubota.  The definition of good seems to dwell on the specifics of mechanized farming at the beginning of the industrial revolution.  If a male (not a female) can muster the strength to hook up an implement, such as a bush hog, then that is “good enough.”  Subliminally, men in the supply chain do not want to see any change.

Another example comes from the electrical system referred to above.  I am a septuagenarian who has seen no change in basic electrical hardware in 60 years, and I am fairly positive that there was no preceding fundamental change in the century since Edison, Westinghouse, and Tesla were quarreling about the architecture.

Institutions (industrial complexes) have ways of embedding themselves so that expensive, slow, and no good become the choices.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Science “Knows” Nothing

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Science (or discovery) is not a knowledge set.  The Online Etymology Dictionary contains at least one reference to the Greek skhizein “to split, rend, cleave.”  A software engineering colleague said that all knowledge pursuit was either splitting or clumping of previously discovered things.  This means doing it now, more splitting and clumping — a process.  The object of the process is to make educated guesses toward future probabilities, and that those educated guesses will still, in an ongoing fashion, be the subject of splitting and clumping.  A knowledge set produced by science is a transitory thing — a mass that is soon to be split and re-clumped.  If science could not do this, we would be without several innovations of today, like the plate tectonics theories which underlie most modern geological thought, and, for further example, we would be without smartphones — 1940s and 1950s scientists might have assumed that vacuum tubes were a constant in digital processing.

Unfortunately, we often stop reading the etymology when we see the Latin scientia “knowledge, a knowing; expertness,” which, also unfortunately, implies a mastery over known information.  As if Latin were a refinement of Greek.  To me, Greek civilization was of discovery, while Roman civilization was derivative — eg the Greeks named the (fictive?) gods and their purviews, whereas the Romans only renamed those same gods.

Today, we need to return to the original meaning of science, an unceasing breaking apart and rebuilding. a continual questioning and re-synthesis of concepts.  Science is a guessing game, one impeded by conclusion, not impeded by inquiry.  Why do we want final answers when only clever new answers which spin off new inquiry will get us further down the evolutionary road?  That other fork is a cul-de-sac, a deadly one.

— Kilgore Forelle

 

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Learning Machines

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I, just this morning, got involved in a debate about in which forms the standard curriculum should be designed.  My position is summed up in the question, “what forms would nature design?”

Well, nature has already designed and implemented all of the necessary forms of education among all things.  A thing exists because it can learn how to exist in its environment. Pertinent to our concerns is that every human being can learn to cope with his or her environment.  All humans are learning machines.  Nature’s design was that humans would evolve, both within one’s lifespan and through generations.  Learning is the process by which this happens.  Nature has optimized all things to experience at will, and to retain conclusions thereby — the process is trial and error and correct incrementally.  To correct incrementally means to remove all confirmed falsities, layer by layer, until only truth remains.  As Arthur Conan Doyle put these words into the mouth of Sherlock Holmes, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

We often observe that young children are amazing learning machines, motivated by boundless curiosity.  But we forget that all humans are amazing learning machines, they have just been tampered with by more-or-less well-meaning sticklers.  Walk around the sticklers.  There are two types of beings in the world — those who are more rigid than you and those who are less rigid than you.  Do not be discouraged by the first group, know yourself, be encouraged by the second group — and learn by observing the trial-and-error of all three.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Upheaval, Back to School, 1984

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A confluence of at least 3 elements brings this blog post to you — it is a mosaic of Jared Diamond, a new school year, and George Orwell.

I got the idea of the mosaic from Jared Diamond, in the intro of his book, Upheaval.  He gives the example of the marks made on the psyches of Bostonians who were victims, or associated with victims, of the 1942 Cocoanut Grove night club fire which consumed 492 lives and crippled 100s of surviving, direct victims.  Diamond was a pre-schooler in Boston then.  I can empathize and I can attest.  Although I was still 5 months from being born, and far away in Chattanooga, my mother hailed from Boston, and my maternal grandparents still lived in Beantown.  I heard about the grisly catastrophe every summer for the next 16 years.  It was a colossal event.  Jared Diamond summed it up by writing that all touched by the occurrence were immediately a mosaic of what they had been before the fire, what they were by the fire’s consequences, and what they would become.

It dawned on me that everyone is at any moment a mosaic of her past, present, and future — a separate, unique, different, and distinguished mosaic.  And the mosaic is a part of all mosaics that are connected by relationships.

In nearly all of my relationships, this is back to school time.  The relationships that are most pressing this year are those having to do with self-ownership and effects on those for whom I care most.  The most critical self-ownership question is, do I understand the consequences of the mosaic mentioned above.  Know thyself is an ancient, wise admonishment.  But to do this, one must understand constant change, affecting not only your own mosaic but those of all relationships.  In the past, I have shared in the all-too-human shortsightedness that wishes to control all events in hopes of maintaining a status quo.  Let go.  Life will go on, until it doesn’t.  In a perfect world, each of us would author our own education — then it makes no difference whether we choose a given vehicle, home school, unschooling, Thoreau-like experiential exposure, public school, or private school.  Grant Allen opined often that one should not let one’s schooling interfere with one’s education.  Mark Twain seconded the notion.  Your responsibility to educate yourself happens 24/7/365, whereas the ritual of back to school is a seasonal thing.  Responsibility and education are biological mandates.  The school year is a statist fiction.

The third element referred to above is that I have just finished reading George Orwell’s 1984.  I saw the chilling movie in 1957, when 1984 was at the end of a telescope reversed.  I thought that the scenario would come true until about calendar year 1985.  Reading the book in 2019, 1984 is way back in the rearview mirror.  And now I know that the predictions have come true in a far more profound way.  They were true in these ways in 1949, the year Orwell’s vision was published.

At any rate, Orwell is an author with stunning power over words and narrative.  He is a philosopher of the first water.  He is an irresistible intellect.  Needless to say, it is time to continue your education.  Get a copy and read it ASAP.

— Kilgore Forelle

 

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A Reminder

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This picture shows an animated electric sign located in, I believe, New York City.  It is a readout of The National Debt Clock.  I don’t know how long ago it was photographed, but a check today says that the big number is now over $22.5 trillion.

 

Thank you, Seymour Durst.  It seems, to me at least, that it is a bad idea, however, since the display is restricted to one address in an urban hive of moneychangers.  The residents of this hive thrive on the number going ever higher.

Instead, we should be blaring the number out in the “Flyover Zone.”  Soccer moms need to know!  This number should be clarioned on the Golden Arches, and above the portals of schools and colleges … even on those DHS displays on our Interstate highways (see something, say something)!

Even if the number could be 100% overstated, we should be scared out of our skulls.

— Kilgore Forelle

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The Fallacy Fallacy Redux

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Just because someone argues about a thing by using a logic fallacy does not make the thing itself untrue.  In fact, citing your antagonist’s logic slip, then claiming victory thereby is just another instance of the appeal to authority.  The authority in this case are the tandem of your fallacy guru and your argumentation guru.

Firstly, you cannot “win” an argument, since an argument is a process for testing fact, not a pissing match.

Secondly, it is impossible to make a sound argument by citing a fallacy.  Such would only get you and your debate partner to a logical starting point for addressing any remaining fallacies.

Here is an example: some will insist that global warming is climate change that will come true, because … science.  But an open-ended reference to science is no different than an appeal to magic practitioners.  It is an unsupported assertion in the form of an appeal to authority.

BUT — and this is a big “but” — the fallacy makes the original assertion, that global warming is coming, neither true nor false.  There are no authorities who can know the future.

— Kilgore Forelle

 

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