Your last words to me before you died were “Call the instant anything exciting should happen!”. Unfortunately for the world, your friends and me, you departed to Valhalla before anything of sufficient merit occurred. Now I am pleased to report that something of interest has occurred, twenty years after your departure.
A 12-foot tall steel monolith has been spotted in the desert of southern Utah by a passing helicopter that had been intent of counting bighorn sheep. Investigation has not revealed whether it is an art project or an alien artifact. Naturally we should not call it a monolith because it is not made of stone, but let us not quibble, dear Charles, for this is actually interesting.
Charles Fisher (1914-2006) was always a poet and at various points in his life a soldier (Welsh Guards), spy (MI6) and stenographer in the Canadian House of Commons. Friend of many, mentor to the selected few. He died at 91 in Bangkok on vacation. I would like to think he was bedding a young lady at the time. He was famous for having people over for dinner and disappearing. “Where’s Charles?” someone would ask. Through the kitchen pass-through someone called back from the liviing room: “he’s gone to Cambodia”. “What do you mean he’s gone to Cambodia?” “He has gone to Cambodia” was the reply. He left the guests and acolytes to clean up.
I feel I have fulfilled my obligation, Charles, to report anything exciting, even if fourteen years late. You will have ways of getting the message. Of this I am sure.
“So Boeing produced a dynamically unstable airframe, the 737 Max. That is big strike No. 1. Boeing then tried to mask the 737’s dynamic instability with a software system. Big strike No. 2. Finally, the software relied on systems known for their propensity to fail (angle-of-attack indicators) and did not appear to include even rudimentary provisions to cross-check the outputs of the angle-of-attack sensor against other sensors, or even the other angle-of-attack sensor. Big strike No. 3.
None of the above should have passed muster. None of the above should have passed the “OK” pencil of the most junior engineering staff, much less a DER.
That’s not a big strike. That’s a political, social, economic, and technical sin.”
The article makes clear that the failure is essentially regulatory. Boeing’s goal was to make the 737 Max look like it was not a new aircraft but a continuation of the previous design, when it was not. The FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) does not have the engineers to detect the changes and blow the whistle.
“As airplanes became more complex and the gulf between what the FAA could pay and what an aircraft manufacturer could pay grew larger, more and more of those engineers migrated from the public to the private sector. Soon the FAA had no in-house ability to determine if a particular airplane’s design and manufacture were safe. So the FAA said to the airplane manufacturers, “Why don’t you just have your people tell us if your designs are safe?”
The airplane manufacturers said, “Sounds good to us.” The FAA said, “And say hi to Joe, we miss him.”
“The 737 Max saga teaches us not only about the limits of technology and the risks of complexity, it teaches us about our real priorities. Today, safety doesn’t come first—money comes first, and safety’s only utility in that regard is in helping to keep the money coming. The problem is getting worse because our devices are increasingly dominated by something that’s all too easy to manipulate: software.”
Justine Haupt explains the cellphone which she made:
“Why a rotary cellphone? Because in a finicky, annoying, touchscreen world of hyperconnected people using phones they have no control over or understanding of, I wanted something that would be entirely mine, personal, and absolutely tactile, while also giving me an excuse for not texting.
The point isn’t to be anachronistic. It’s to show that it’s possible to have a perfectly usable phone that goes as far from having a touchscreen as I can imagine, and which in some ways may actually be more functional. More functional how?
Real, removable antenna with an SMA connector. Receptions is excellent, and if I really want to I could always attach a directional antenna.
When I want a phone I don’t have to navigate through menus to get to the phone “application”. That’s bullshit.
If I want to call my husband, I can do so by pressing a single dedicated physical key which is dediated to him. No menus. The point isn’t to use the rotary dial every single time I want to make a call, which would get tiresome for daily use. The people I call most often are stored, and if I have to dial a new number or do something like set the volume, then I can use the fun and satisfying-to-use rotary dial.
Nearly instantaneous, high resolution display of signal strength and battery level. No signal metering lag, and my LED bargraph gives 10 increments of resolution instead of just 4.
The ePaper display is bistatic, meaning it doesn’t take any energy to display a fixed message.
When I want to change something about the phone’s behavior, I just do it.
The power switch is an actual slide switch. No holding down a stupid button to make it turn off and not being sure it really is turning off or what.
So it’s not just a show-and-tell piece… My intent is to use it as my primary phone. It fits in a pocket.; It’s reasonably compact; calling the people I most often call is faster than with my old phone, and the battery lasts almost 24 hours.”
Occasionally a picture is worth a thousand words. This painting would have been made sometime in the latter half of the 19th century, around 1875, on Nantucket, a prosperous whaling island off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts,
You will note the absence of everything that makes a modern kitchen convenient. Start with the absence of pipes and of cold (not hot) running water. No sink. No wood stove, only an open fire. Mrs. Ray emerges from a larder in which food is stored.
No electricity: and thus no dishwasher, refrigerator, washing machine, dryer or lights. Scarcely a counter-top on which to cut and prepare a meal. In case you wonder about what is hidden at the other end of the kitchen, the painter did the other end too. You can see a sideboard, a small table, a mirror, a sconce for a candle, and the fireplace. Not even a wood stove!
These were prosperous people of the time. Not rich, but not suffering either. Note the fine piece of furniture below the mirror. Note the wide (16-18 inches?) sawn planks of old growth pine and the lack of water stains on the whitewashed ceiling. They lived in a comfortable house, by the standards of the time.
All this is a world before fossil fuels or electricity. Doubtless it had a very low carbon footprint.
When I read about carbon taxes, and rich magnates like Bill Gates saying we have to get carbon neutral by some date in the near future, I ask myself, do these fools understand what it was like to prepare a meal in Susan Ray’s kitchen?
To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we need to get to zero net greenhouse gas emissions in every sector of the economy within 50 years—and as the IPCC recently found, we need to be on a path to doing it in the next 10 years. That means dealing with electricity, and the other 75% too.
50 years is nearly twenty years less than what I have lived already. Two hundred years would be a more reasonable time horizon.
Read him, he exemplifies a kind of insane rationality that fails to understand that the world cannot get to carbon neutrality at any price we can afford, political or economic, in fifty or a hundred years, if ever. Insanity is not the absence of rationality, but the excess of it. Just think of Susan Ray’s kitchen when you think of a low carbon footprint, but you should take out the fireplace and replace it with a wood stove, if the authorities will permit it. That is a low-carbon footprint kitchen. Why is it so difficult for the intelligent of our time to understand that they have embarked upon a course of folly and destruction?
Global warming catastrophism is a disease of the intelligent, like Communism in the 1930s.
Eastman Johnson, (July 29, 1824 – April 5, 1906) painted “Susan Ray’s kitchen”. Hewas an American painter and co-founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, with his name inscribed at its entrance. He was best known for his genre paintings, paintings of scenes from everyday life, and his portraits both of everyday people and prominent Americans such as Abraham Lincoln, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His later works often show the influence of the 17th-century Dutch masters, whom he studied in The Hague in the 1850s; he was known as The American Rembrandt in his day.
George Gilder was right about a lot of really important things, including especially the future of the computer, the one that you now hold in your hand, called the smartphone. You have forgotten how revolutionary that prediction was in 1990 when he published “The Death of Television”. Some of you were not even born then, I suppose.
Gilder observes that by supplying things for free, Google avoids many problems that arise from payment, including the obligation to provide security, to a great extent. Worse, Google avoids the learning process that is acquired with capitalist transactions.
He considers that blockchain technologies will fix much of what is ailing in America. [In this I remain skeptical, but hopeful as well.]
“They [the Silicon Valley apostolate] have a business plan and solutions which are inappropriate to the human mind”. He sees the human mind as the essential source of value, and that Google and cloud-dependent technologies are over-centralized. “Blockchain is an answer to the cloud mind”.
The number of IPOs has been falling, the number of companies on the stock market has also been falling. Consistently with Peter Thiel’s thesis, we do not seem to be getting the innovation that we ought. According to Gilder, the invention of Etherium has halted this decline.
Consequently he takes issue with Ray Kurzweil, the guy thinks we are approaching a singularity of machine intelligence. Says Gilder, “if you don’t understand consciousness, you don’t understand thinking. Thinking doesn’t produce consciousness, consciousness produces thinking. All these computer scientists are trying to explain away consciousness….To say, oh well, we don’t know what consciousness is, but our computers will compute so fast that it wont matter, that consciousness will emerge like one of their clouds, is I think, one their fundamental vanities of the [Silicon] Valley”.
“What I am against, as Bill Buckley used to call it, ‘immanentizing the eschaton‘; imagining some technology that you came up with last week will end the human adventure, that will subsume all our minds in the clouds, governed by eight giant companies in China and the US, with a few nerds in Israel contributing all the new ideas. This is the vision that I don’t think is going to prevail. I think the human adventure will continue after Google.”
Amen to that, brother.
At 79 years of age, George Gilder speaks as if he were suffering from some neurological ailment that I am not qualified or able to diagnose. Yet he remains a formidable thinker, a seer. I like him. He believes that in principle, machines cannot think, and I agree with him. He foresees the end of the dominance of the current masters of the universe, and how it may come about. He has addressed a vital issue of public interest in Life after Google. Curiously, paradoxically, Gilder reminds me of Timothy Leary, the acid apostle, by his great optimism, but unlike Leary George Gilder is grounded in a formidable mind
(Paranoid note: every other video I have loaded appears in full, but Google’s video of its own meeting appears only as a hyperlink).
“I certainly find this election deeply offensive” said Sergei Brin, co-founder of Google. “So many people don’t share the values we have”.
And it goes from there. Fear. Everyone is supposed to feel fear at the prospect of the Trump regime. Minorities are in danger and need to be stood up for. Women likewise. Liberal values are to be stood up for. Yet the same corporation endlessly touting its values fired James Damore in August 2017 for politely protesting the corporation’s bias towards preferential hiring of women.
I have had experience with Google employees at several levels of seniority over the years, and I feel quite certain that the vast majority are leftist Democrats, which is not surprizing considering the San Francisco Bay area culture. But what bugs me – as the movie reveals – is the enormous self-vaunting, the endless prattling on about their “values”. This is a company whose core business is to sell advertizing. It guts previous business models and replaces them with its own. This is normal creative destruction, in the manner that Schumpeter spoke of. However painful, this is the stuff of economic progress. And talk to former newspaper people if you want to know what Google has wrought.
When the Vice President says that “this is a place where you can bring your whole self to work”, clearly she does not include conservatives (min 16:30)
“We all talk a lot about what it means to be Googley”, said CFO Ruth Porat. The endless blather about tolerance, respect and diversity grates when one compares it to the outrageous and actual treatment of Damore. More, the tone of the film is that the poor people of Google have endured something like the 1940 Blitz of London, or having been unhoused by a hurricane, and that they need reassurance and a group hug, and assurance tot the 10,000 or so working on visa that their visas will remain valid.
Values, values, values: it is irritating and faintly nauseating.
A few years ago the late Jane Jacobs published a marvellous concise book called Systems of Survival. It dealt with the differences in morality between what she called Guardian institutions – the church, the regiment, the academy – and commercial institutions.
If you hand a suitcase of cash to a businessman, that is right and proper, because you are exchanging cash for a private benefit. If you hand a suitcase of cash to a public official, that is a crime of corruption. Why? Her book seeks to answer the question. She also said that corruption occurs when a commercial corporation adopts Guardian values. Thus, the old telephone monopolies constantly appealed to their status as institutions serving the public, and they had a genuine public service ethos. They could afford the attitude because they were monopolies.
Google has Guardian values, but instead of public service being its goal, that is, actually doing something for the general public, it constantly propagandizes its membership/employees with the notion that it stands for superior values: tolerance, inclusion, and diversity being the modern conception of virtue. It thus succeeds in being smug, intolerant, exclusive, and as proud of itself as the Roman Church of centuries past.
In the case of Google I am prepared to argue that the company needs all the self-vaunting talk of values to disguise from itself and its staff that its real business is centralizing the control of information. In short, an illiberal idea being carried out by liberals prattling on about their superior values.
Here is Joe Rogan talking to James Damore, and you will find out all you need to know about Google’s values: