Archive for the ‘ Technology ’ Category

The Machine Made Us Powerful

I have asked myself “What is a machine?” And hit a blank wall. We don’t know what this is – even though we know one, instantly, when we see one. That is, whenever we see power in action. And we immediately want to be part of that action.

I have just defined The Machine by describing its effect on us. I don’t have to define Power, because we know instinctively what that is – and even know some of its dangers.

We know it is dangerous stuff, and should be handled carefully. This was obvious to the early Christians – and they went out of their way to avoid it. For them, being Pure was more important than being Rich.

In our time, however, the two have become confused, and our thinking has become muddled. Quite to our satisfaction. We like to think we can be Powerful and Ethical at the same time – easily. When this is certainly not the case.

I will take America as an example – since I am an American, even though I now live in Costa Rica.

Americans were thrilled when they became powerful late in the 19th Century, when they became a colonial power – with the acquisition of the Philippines from Spain. This was morally indefensible – and even militarily indefensible. But military Power translated easily into Economic Power – and the decline in Ethical Power was not noticed.

Americans no longer think of Ethical Power at all – and assume that it doesn’t even exist! I see the results of this all the time – with products and services that don’t work – and companies that don’t care – if they don’t work! I just put two new digital cameras in the trash this week.

On the other hand, ethical behavior is common in software development. Software companies are not, as a rule – but software developers have to be. Their success depends on other developers using their code and services – for free!

This has made the US the leader in Software Development. I am now learning the Microsoft .NET software platform that anyone can use. This benefits Microsoft, obviously – but everyone else also. It’s a win-win situation.

This is something new in the world – the realization that everyone can benefit from this kind of development!

In fact, I am taking a MOOC on this now – OxfordX: OXBSG01x From Poverty to Prosperity: Understanding Economic Development

The Computer Can Help Us Think, But It Cannot Help Us Feel

The reason for this is simple – the Computer is a machine, and any input for it has to be digitized – turned into a number. This is a fact we tend to overlook, in our foolish belief, that the Computer can do anything.

People operate entirely differently, and have emotions, that have a powerful influence on them – for good, and for bad. In fact, most of people’s emotional life is imaginary (or religious) – and the Computer has no access to it.

We were overwhelmed by the Machine, in the 19th Century, and tried our best to be one – with disastrous consequences. And our analysis should begin with this, with Industrialization.

This made us feel superhuman – because we did acquire marvelous new powers (including Classical Music) – but we also became socially degenerate – as the Holocaust proved.

People have social instincts that can be either good or bad. And their machines have a big influence on this. This effect has not been understood – the social interaction between People and their Machines. Including the latest machine – the Computer.

The developed world has been swept by a destructive mania recently – marked by the election, in the US, of Trump. With similar movements in the UK and the EU.

This is a social phenomena, no question about that – but one that few have tried to understand – or even acknowledge. The people involved do not want to understand it – but just do it. If it wrecks the world – that is fine with them. This is a religious approach – if the world is impure, it must be destroyed!

The important new technologies of our time are Television and the Computer – both networked technologies, that have made people stupid and destructive. As the Computer has become smarter – its users have become stupider. Why should they think – if their TV or Handheld can think for them?

How the Computer Helps Us Understand the World

Our minds are what make us uniquely human, and the most successful animal in the world. We can understand the world, as no other species can.

The Computer expands our minds in these ways:

Abstraction

Abstraction is the act of perceiving an entity from a narrow perspective. For example, in the context of education a person can be reduced to a student, and in the context of employment a person can be reduced to an employee. Each abstraction reduces the attributes of a person to a subset of relevant information.

.Encapsulation

Encapsulation is a technique that encourages abstraction by purposefully hiding information. For example, the mechanical details of a car engine are encapsulated behind a steering wheel and floor pedals. Anyone familiar with this interface could drive a car without knowing what type of engine was under the hood.

Polymorphism

Polymorphism is a technique that encourages abstraction by allowing an entity to assume multiple forms.For example, a smartphone is polymorphic because it can assume the role of a camera, web browser, music player, or digital clock. Each application exposes a relevant interface to the user.

Mutability

Mutability refers to the ability of an entity to change its state. An iPod is an example of a mutable entity because its contents frequently change. A vinyl record is an example of an immutable entity because its contents are permanently engraved.

Coupling

Coupling refers to the level of dependency that exists between two entities. A husband and wife, for example, should be tightly coupled. Casual friends are loosely coupled.

Cohesion

Cohesion refers to an entity’s level of focus.A specialist is tightly focused on his speciality – and he has a high cohesion with it.   A generalist knows more things, but does not have as high level of cohesion with each subject.

I got much (but not all) of the above from Java Interview Guide. The material here will apply to any computer language (such as Java) or operating system (such as Windows).

I wanted to so show how the Computer has expanded our minds – and will be useful for the people whose minds can be expanded. Perhaps 20 percent of the population.

You can add to it, based on your own experience.

Being Stupid is Smart

Being stupid is part of a complex of behaviors  that people have adopted:

  • Being ignorant
  • Being stupid
  • Being helpless
  • Being murderous

This is the battle zone for the affluent (or developed) life. People living in undeveloped countries are desperate to join it, having no idea of what is behind the fancy packaging.

I hesitate to publish this, because it will not help me make friends and influence people, as Andrew Carnegie promised.

But, on the other hand, it may help people who are in danger of being trapped by these enticing promises. I have known a few of them, and they have not done too well.

 

What Did We Learn From Making the Computer?

When we made the Computer we made it much like ourselves. And now we have nearly finished that job – we can look back on ourselves in a new way.

Or some of us can do this. And this constitutes the gap between those in the know – and those not in the know. The vast majority of people, at this time.

This is always the case when cultures go through a big change – when the Western World went through the Middle Ages (that lasted for a thousand years) and moved into the Modern World. This resulted in people so different – we can no longer remember what we were like before.

Let’s start at the beginning – how we made the Computer like ourselves. Without thinking about it – we were very clever about how we did this.

We were clever when we designed the Hardware – with a separate, programmable Memory. But we were extremely clever when we developed the Software – the Brains of the Computer.This development is still going on – at a very rapid pace.

This has resulted in huge problem – we live in the Internet World, that controls us – but we do not control it. This is always a problem when we are possessed by a successful new technology – but this time it is worse than ever.

Each technology makes huge demands on us – and we have always responded by changing ourselves to make us more compatible with it.

But the result of adapting to Television was a disaster – to make ourselves compatible with this, we had to become nothing but consumers – and not able to think for ourselves.


But I see I have messed up this posting completely. I started to write about the Computer, and then I switched to Television – and wound up in a swamp, up to my ass in alligators.

I will have to start once again – describing how the Computer drained the swamp. At least for some of us.

Using UX to Build a Better World

UX is computer shorthand for User Experience. And a lot of work has gone into making it better, for computer users.

This is not because computer companies want to help people – they are only interested in helping themselves. But they are gradually realizing – that they have to help people, to help themselves.

And when I say gradually, I mean very gradually – with lots of setbacks.

I am listening to an excellent course – Introduction to the Foundations of Western Civilization – where this same dynamic occurs over and over. It takes hundreds of years – but eventually people get the message.

One of these messages, that gets repeated over and over, throughout history, is “We must build a better world!” And, quite frankly – we have failed miserably at this.

I am watching a MOOC, on edX, presented by the University of Michigan – Introduction to User Experience. They have developed a methodology for doing this – actually a lot of methods the designer can chose from. I asked myself why these could not be used to make a better world.


The answer is simple – it’s a matter of scope. UX works in the computer world (this is what it was designed for) – but cannot be used outside of it.

This is the tragedy of our times. We can work very well in developing computers – but not in developing a better world.

The Sermon on the Internet

Schneier on Security

We no longer have things with computers embedded in them. We have computers with things attached to them.

The Internet is no longer a web that we connect to. Instead, it’s a computerized, networked, and interconnected world that we live in. This is the future, and what we’re calling the Internet of Things.

You can think of the sensors as the eyes and ears of the Internet. You can think of the actuators as the hands and feet of the Internet. And you can think of the stuff in the middle as the brain. We are building an Internet that senses, thinks, and acts.

This is the classic definition of a robot. We’re building a world-size robot, and we don’t even realize it


This guy lays it on the line. He only misses one thing – no one is listening to him – or only a few are. What he is saying is complicated – compared to the Sermon on the Mount, that was so simple, anyone could understand it.

I want to understand the Computer – and spend time everyday on this task. I have only learned one thing for sure – Computers are complicated.

Asking our stone-age minds to understand them is asking for a lot – but I have such a mind, as do Software Developers. All of us have to shift into another world – yet another one! And I know we can do it.

I have put this on the top of my reading list – and I am going to read it if it kills me!