Unconscious Attitudes

It pays to take the widest possible view of things – including our unconscious views.

A society’s attitude toward the unconscious is very telling – usually they want to deny it. Which is not surprising, since the unconscious exists for the purpose of concealing from our minds – attitudes we do not want to know about. And it is very clever about how it does this.

Any honest person will admit they have unconscious attitudes, or biases – and try to discover what they are. And encourage other people to help them in this process.

This is made difficult because we are religious, emotional beings – preferring supernatural explanations. These can be harmonized with objective (or scientific) explanations. But there has to be a conscious desire to achieve (and maintain) this highly desirable state of affairs.

The first breakthrough in this direction was Newton’s physics. That cleverly hid God’s presence in some natural (and mathematical) laws. Belief in these laws was disrupted by Einstein’s Quantum Mechanics – that he was not comfortable with personally – but were shown to be accurate and useful.

But most people preferred to ignore this – and in fact, fought it tenaciously. They wanted God, and would accept no substitutes! Even as this produced a series of wars that ended with the Holocaust.

This should have made us carefully reconsider what we had done – but this did not happen. We were distracted by two new inventions – Television and the Computer. Which, for most people, amount to the same thing – new ways of being entertained!

I have closely followed the developments in Software, in which human ingenuity has been exercised very effectively. And have noticed something astonishing – the people who develop software are made smarter. While the people who use its products (especially Facebook and Twitter) are made stupider!

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From Computers to Software

The first part of my working life was as an Electronic Engineer – which began when I graduated from U of Illinois in 1959. Electronics was about vacuum tubes, and with the coming of the transistor, we became obsolete.

I was working in the New York area then, and my wife insisted that we move to California. This switch, from the East Coast to the West Coast became permanent. We had grown up halfway between them, but abandoned the Midwest completely. There was nothing there for anyone with ambition.

The next part of my working life was from 1980 to 2000, when I worked in the Computer Industry, in California. At first, we just called it High Tech – but it gradually became apparent, that it was about the Computer – and especially the Personal Computer. This was clearly the next big thing – and tons of money flowed its way. And where there was money – there were jobs!

We did not know what we were doing – the invisible hand (the personification of Greed) told us what to do – and we did it! We set to work, building companies – and then destroying them – over and over. I watched in amazement – but no one else saw anything unusual. That was just the way things were. And we were told (very sternly) not to notice this.

This was the worst Zeitgeist possible – and we were to reap the whirlwind from it.

Thirty years later, this is becoming obvious – the world is in bad shape, because we have made it that way. Politically, this is represented by the appearance of Trump. He did not come, all of a sudden, from nowhere. The force behind him has been building for some time. People knew they had been treated badly – and they are now were going to get even – and destroy what had destroyed them.

The one part of our world, that is beginning to realize what is going on is – Software. Software is built by people, and if people do not function very well (if they cannot work together) bad software results. And since the world now runs on software – the world is strongly affected also.

Let me run our time machine backwards – until the middle of the 19th Century, when the wheels came off our wagon. We were hit by too much change – in the form of invention after invention. And the horrors of WWI, the Depression, and WWII resulted.

Perhaps we now have the tools to solve our problems – in the form of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

But are we smart enough to use them?

The Power of Logical Thinking

I have been thinking about programming a lot – but at the same time, wondering why. Why is it so important? Or at least important to a small, but important part of the population?

Programming, or Software Development, would seem to be a logical process – but in fact, it is a social process. And its success depends on how well developers can work with each other. I worked in this industry for 20 years in California, and I still keep my eye on it. Over and over again, I see software teams being sabotaged – and companies being destroyed. And no one seems bothered by this. I’m bothered, but I’m being unreasonable – I should know things cannot work.

In Latin America, where I live now, things do not work either – but for a different reason.  Latinos are social – people are always social – but not logical. They resist being logical, and resist it strongly. They seem to know that if they are logical, it will change them fundamentally, and they don’t want that kind of change.

The affluent countries, by contrast, have made this transition – and are rich because of it. But have lost much of their sociability. They haven’t even tried to think about this – or wonder if different kinds of development are possible. As a result, their logical thinking, taken to extremes, has produced some destructive results.

It is not hard to trace the development of this process – beginning with the Reformation, a violent process that resulted in a Protestant, developed, Industrial, affluent North and a undeveloped, poor, Catholic South.

And a key part of this process was the development of logical thinking. Which was an important part of the development of any empire. Successful empires were more logical, and could subdue their rivals, who were not so smart. They were better at warfare – because they were better at making the money that financed their armies.

But things changed at the end of the 19th Century. Over the next century or so – development changed from hardware to software. And successful countries had to have software expertise. America is still important, because it retained its lead in Software Development.

But the gap between the developed and undeveloped countries is wider than ever. The undeveloped countries have become addicted to Television and the Smartphone – but have no control over these networked technologies.

It is not clear who, or what, controls them – but software is a key component of that mix.