Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cast Away

My first car was a red Ford Fiesta '89. It was squeezed to death on a rainy day in April '97 between two Mercedes Benz. Luckily the grey suit emerging out of the Benz in my back took one look at me and my Fiesta, all three of us equally sad in the pouring rain, and assured me his insurance would take care of everything. His Benz had hardly suffered a scratch. Then he rushed away to what I am sure was an incredibly important meeting. His insurance payed more than my Fiesta was actually worth.

I loved my first car. It had only one drawback: the trunk would lock on being closed, so you'd better not put the keys in there while unloading. I've always wondered why somebody would construct a car this way, it seems to me like a disaster waiting to happen. An irreversible process, resulting in a potentially expensive, and certainly annoying, need to unlock a lock to access the key to that very lock.

This Fiesta feature has come back into my mind repeatedly. After my move to the USA I called a customer service hotline (see also) to figure out how I was supposed to configure my dial-up connection. The customer service person told me to download the required software from the internet. "Great," I told the women, "but I want to set up the dial-up service for the very reason to connect to the internet." - "Yes," she explained, "You go to the website ..., click on ..., and follow the instructions..." - "Listen," I interrupted her, "Are you telling me I can't use your service to connect to the internet without downloading a software that would already require a connection?" After some back and forth we were both sufficiently pissed off not to continue this inspiring dialogue long enough for me to find out whose ingenious idea this was. (I ended up connecting through my former university's dial-up connection which did not require additional software, paying more than 50 bucks for a long distance call. The dial-up company went bankrupt 1 year later.)

Another example for this specifically smart way to store the key in the locked trunk are system administrators (which shell remain unnamed) that provide the FAQ on how to connect to the internal network from the outside in the internal network, or files that contain information on what to do in case you can't open the file. Also nice is the typo in Joe Polchinski's big book on String Theory - the typo in the URL for the website with the errata, scissors sealed in wrappings that one can't open without a scissor, and manuals that can't be accessed without first reading the manual:



I was recently again reminded of the closed-trunk problem in a larger context through the Nature review on the previously mentioned 'Open Laboratory 2007':

"The Open Laboratory 2007: the Best Science Writing on Blogs (Lulu.com, 2008) takes the curious approach of using dead tree format to highlight the diversity of scientific ideas, opinions and voices flowing across the Internet.


Being a self-confessed treehugger I am all for reducing unnecessary paper waste, and I am a dedicated recycler. But the trend to online storage of information of almost all kind is not without drawbacks. Consider the incredible amount of data that is today stored on computers harddisks, on CDs, magnetic tapes etc. Data that is stored there only. In contrast to a book that one can just open, read, and extract the information it contains, none of the bits and bites in the virtual world are accessible to human senses without further help. And where do we find today information on troubleshooting. Well, on the internet. And if that doesn't help, call customer service. You find the phone-number on the internet. Hey, Wikipedia knows everything, why pay several thousand bucks for an Encyclopedia Britannica. And even if, you can have it on CD, isn't that more timely? Well, CDs have a lifetime of 30-100 years, besides that you can't read them without an appropriate device. And if you think burning CDs is a good idea to backup your data, think twice.

Most of the products of our daily lives are incredibly complex. Take a simple lightbulb. How many single processes, how many people, how much technological knowledge was necessary to produce it? And how much of that knowledge do you have - without Googling for it? The screen you are currently staring at, the harddisk in your computer, are several orders of magnitude more complex.

More complexity isn't necessarily good, though many people seem to consider it as an indicator for 'progress'. I don't know much about cars but if my ex-boyfriend's VW broke down, one could open the hub and check the vitals, V-belt, battery, ignition plug. Almost all of the bugs my parent's new cars have are malfunctioning automatic 'helpers', problems that sit on microchips the engineer has to identify via a complicated diagnose system, problems that despite their ridiculousness can render the car completely useless (try opening the stupid door if the battery in the remote is dead, try driving during rain if the wipers don't work, try starting the car if the security system won't let you). If one opens the hub all one sees is a plastic cover with a huge arrow pointing to the dipstick to check the oil level. To me this isn't progress. This is regress. It is an increase in complexity that lowers resilience of the system, as a result it can break down suddenly, abruptly, and without you being able to fix the problem on your own.

Realizing the complexity on which our daily lives rest is a recurring story in Robinson-themed movies like 'Cast Away'. The hero is suddenly faced with the task to make everything from scratch, thereby usually telling a story that praises human ingenuity.

Most of us are realistic enough to understand that there are limits to how much of our modern society's knowledge we can possibly reproduce on our own, in a single lifetime. Extrapolate the current trend to rely on the eternal availability of information on the internet, and consider in 50 years from now some unfortunate accident occurs, a natural catastrophe, a world war, a disease that leads to lacking maintenance and a breakdown of vital resource flows. How much of the previous decades technological and scientific insights would all of a sudden become unavailable? And how much of that knowledge would be needed to reaccess it?

"Dead tree format" might seem old-fashioned, and the term appeals to the ecological consciousness that is currently en vogue. But do you really think it is a good idea to store information about our research, especially on information networks themselves, entirely on this very network? It's like putting the key in the trunk. A disaster waiting to happen. It is plainly against any responsibility we have for coming generations to let our society run into a situation where a small regress would imply a following even larger regress, because information on how to deal with it is not accessible.

After my Ford Fiesta died, I bought a new car. It was a white Ford Fiesta '91 with the same trunk lock. Against all probabilities my distracted self never forgot the keys in the trunk. I guess that means the disaster is still out there, waiting to happen.

43 comments:

Filip Stoyanov said...

The list goes on:
- posting a note with an emergency call number in an elevator... Only that there's no network inside the metal elevator.
- or the Windows message: No keyboard detected. Press F5. :)

Bee said...

True, how could I forget about the F5!

:-)

amaragraps said...

Dear Bee, If you add a time delay, then maybe the complexity is more manageable. Or maybe not.

My Castelli Romani companion, my 1992 Ford Fiesta, is today, probably in the shape of 1-meter sized cube (sniff). Yes, I do remember locking my keys inside the hatchback, but I was saved by one of my four sets of spares. The Fiesta was the first car I've owned where I succeeded to keep the engine in excellent running condition, at the same time that the car's body was disintegrating. One can draw analogies to our human condition, perhaps. ;-)

Sunny said...

Wasn't there a book, probably hitch-hiker's guide to the galaxy, where a person is transported back to 18th century from the 20th century, and only thing he can "make" himself is a sandwich; so he becomes their official sandwich maker.

This issue has always bothered me. As a physicist, I want to understand how everything works; and at times I feel that I do. But understanding is not the same thing as being able to make or reproduce the thing you "understand".

I understand how the light bulb glows, but left to my own devices, I doubt that I can actually "make" a light bulb.

On long family trips in a car, my wife (also an ex-physicist,if there is such a thing) and our 8 year old daughter, talk about going back 300 years and starting to make things all over again.

Assume that you have fire, and the knowledge of how things work; can you make things and if you could, what are the things that you would make first?

In a recent trip to the Grand Canyons from LA, we got as far as making a steam engine; at least conceptually.

a quantum diaries survivor said...

Hi Bee,

I hate cars having the feature of allowing lights on even if the keys are in your pocket. Sooner or later you will end up with a drained battery... I have a Mazda 6 and I love it, but with kids fiddling with interior lights it happened at least four times already. I think it is an idiotic feature.

And yes, how much do I hate those stiff plastic wrappings that appear to be used everywhere for small packages. You cannot tear them apart, no matter how hard you try. And they are dangerous! I got a deep cut on a finger with the plastic once. Simply disastrous.

Cheers,
T.

CarlBrannen said...

Tommaso, my beat-up Miata does the same thing regularly, but I can't blame it on kids. :(

As far as going back 300 years, some things one could easily discover with the technology of the time would include Maxwell's equations. Some of my favorites would be glass ceramics (which is basically glass that went bad), smokeless powder (which you can make easily from sawdust and nitric acid if I recall), steam engines (any physicst should know this theory), turbines, internal combustion, fulminate of mercury (mercury dissolved in acid and then precipitated in alcohol if I recall), various improvements in technology needed to slaughter large numbers of people, and, of course, improvements in distillation technbology.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

The only type of books I read is of the dead tree type and prefer hard cover. I can’t imagine trying to read a pdf version of a book. Also any paper I’ve ever downloaded I usually print out and staple together so I might carry it from place to place and mark it up. This concept of a paperless society I’m afraid is simply a fairy tale. In fact when photocopiers were first introduced it was claimed they would reduce paper consumption since secretaries (executive assistants) wouldn’t be wasting paper through their acts of making mistakes when reproducing documents coupled with the fact that it would eliminate the carbon sheets. You can see how that turned out. Now there is one thing that is contributing to less paper being used and that is as the result of growing functional illiteracy. I can recall a time when you could give almost anyone a book as a gift. Now you have to consider if they might actually like to read one (or be able to). I think this is what will form our most serious problem if we suffer some techno catastrophe. That scenario played out in the Utube flick will be closer to the truth then we might care to imagine.

As to how physicists might wind up after some world wide catastrophe I am reminded of Master in Beyond Thunderdome:-)

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Tommaso:

Think about switching to Diesel, park on a hill.

The thing with the scissors actually happened to me. Twice. After moving. I had to ask neighbors to open the wrapping, and imagined Tom Hanks sitting with one of these impossible plastic shields on his island. I recall until some years ago wrappings usually came with a plastic cover on a cardboard back that was (relatively) easy to open (much like toothbrushes these days). Maybe it's a sign of me getting old, but this development too is not a progress to me.

(Speaking of wrappings: there are of course also the re-sealable seals that never reseal, the perforated stripes that one can never pull all to the other side, plastic snippets that say 'tear here' that just break off, containers that one can't open without spilling half of the content, others that one can't open without breaking off several nails or cutting several fingers, my personal favourite is the Coca-Cola fridge pack whose front will inevitably entirely break open if you 'open here', and which one therefore never can actually store in the stupid fridge. Not to mention that these cardboard packs don't hold 12 cans if only slightly wet, etc etc etc. But hey, capitalism works.)

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Seems as if we have some things in common. Me too, I hate reading on the screen. To begin with, hasn't anybody ever noticed that pdf files in letter format fit very badly on a computer monitor? Besides this, reading on a screen gives me a headache. But maybe more importantly, I also find the website format that has become quite common with potentially very long texts (comments) on one side very unreadable. Newspapers that break articles in pages are better, but usually totally overloaded with advertisements. And so on and so forth. If I really want to read something, I too do print it (which however in almost all cases results in an incredibly ugly layout).

To come back to the books

I can recall a time when you could give almost anyone a book as a gift. Now you have to consider if they might actually like to read one (or be able to). I think this is what will form our most serious problem if we suffer some techno catastrophe.

I think part of this is based on the inappropriately high value people give to information just because it is NEW. (Not speaking about novels here, think e.g. typically about popular science, political or historical stuff etc). I have on several occasions heard people say something like why would I buy a book that is already 6 years old? Continue: if one can find all the information it contains on the internet. Well, to come back to something Amara also mentioned in an earlier thread, because

a) much of that information is not on the internet despite of how it might appear (e.g. my husband who often writes about the history of science often comes to notice these gaps, and I have repeatedly looked for pieces of data/figure that I was not able to find - even though I knew which organization had when raised the data/done the survey and what was shown on the figure) and

b) because there is nothing as valuable as a clear and concise presentation of material by a skilled writer, something that on the internet is incredibly rare. If done well, it can avoid reading several hundred research papers, plus 20 further books, yourself.

Point is: information arranged thoughtfully is of much higher value than information distributed somewhere, somehow.

This concept of a paperless society I’m afraid is simply a fairy tale.

Well, I wouldn't go so far to say it is in danger to become entirely 'paperless' but the trend is definitely there. Think about online journals. People call me old-fashioned because I actually submit my papers to print-journals. Yes, I do! Each paper has been a lot of work, and I want it to be printed and stored in a library. I don't believe in eternal progress, I have no faith neither in capitalism nor in our current political systems, and unless there will be a very radical rethinking about how to manage the information on the internet I see us running into a lot of trouble (seems my brain is still in disaster mode, sorry about that). Best,

B.

Bee said...

PS: For your amusement, see also The Future of the Book. (It just occurred to me that I indeed stopped reading the book mentioned there at the quoted paragraph, and so far haven't proceeded any farther.)

Arun said...

Hi Bee,

"Self-confidence is essential to success"; "experience of success is essential for self-confidence" is one of those things that life throws at us.

Or "I have a money-making idea, but no capital".

Human engineering merely imitates life :)

Arun said...

If I were transported back 300 years, the ideas I would try to implement are political and organizational ones. An individual is remarkably unproductive by oneself. It is the huge organized "system" around the individual that makes light bulbs and steam engines and Pi Institutes possible.

Bee said...

Dear Arun:

A remarkably insightful comment of yours. I completely agree with you. The largest progress that mankind has made comes through an incredibly efficient and fast management of natural and human resources. Too bad though we are paying so little attention to how insufficient our management has become today. I would hope there is an Arun born in 300 years from now, who travels back in time and enlightens us. (I am afraid though nobody would listen to him.)

Best,

B.

Plato said...

Arun the Terminator?:)Time travel scenarios the many eh?

Package opening

You could always make sure you have a ice skate with you to open up stubborn packages?:)

I have a detachable 500 Gig hard drive that allows me to transfer large amounts of information. While on "dial up" this is hardly suitable.

From a historical context paper is a fundamental part of our cultures, and in that same sense a very interesting process.

Empathy is a strange thing when we project onto the things that we feel for, thus there must be a term that all animate objects, would not suffer at the hands of a atheist?:)

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Plato,

“From a historical context paper is a fundamental part of our cultures, and in that same sense a very interesting process.”

I would remind that while paper is both media resulting of process, that printing is also involved. In this context paper is the medium while printing the process. In the modern context computers (and related hardware) are the media and computing is the process, which produces print and lots more. What I think is relevant in this regard is the “lots more”. Gutenberg lent paper the ability to unite the larger world to share knowledge and limited forms of information. Computers simply expand on this ability in what can be shared yet more importantly how quickly. So therefore what Bee pointed out in that what is most valuable about the new media is not related so much to what is old and established, but rather what is new and often remains to be established. I wonder as to how this will play out in terms our perception and understanding of truth, for which your namesake was so concerned?

Regards,

Phil

Georg said...

Hallo Bienche,
You already yielded to the modern selling
methods/lies:
"This Fiesta feature has come back into my mind..."
Good old days something like this was a bug, not a feature :=)
Georg

a quantum diaries survivor said...

Hi Bee,

parking on a hill is not an option in Venice or Padova. In any case, my mazda 6 can't be started that way, since it has an automatic gear which will not work without power. I got used to the drawback, and have a car starter now, in the trunk.

Cheers,
T.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

“Point is: information arranged thoughtfully is of much higher value than information distributed somewhere, somehow.”

On this we most whole heartedly concur. Mind you I am not surprised that you hold this view since you know that the first rule of nature is economy. Forgive me if I have repeated this a time or two. I would have said the second was elegance yet in this context it would be eloquence:-)

“Each paper has been a lot of work, and I want it to be printed and stored in a library. I don't believe in eternal progress, I have no faith neither in capitalism nor in our current political systems,…….”

I would recommend that you insist this be extended to be libraries not simply library, as so serves the lesson of Alexandria; and no I’m not kidding. I would here ask since I know you are a reader of Sci-fi as I am, did you read “Fahrenheit 451”? The contention of this book is that paper is also vulnerable and as such we should be prepared to assign all to the collectives memory. Now that’s a extreme extension of your disaster mode. With this I pray I’m kidding.

Best,

Phil

Arun said...

Dear Bee,

The news from 300 years from now is that people in this era are making big mistakes that will make that era rather miserable.

How do I know? Ah, you wouldn't believe it if I told you.

:)

Best,
-Arun

Nedko said...

Dear Ms. Sabine,

just wanted to thank you for posting these thought- and insightful comments.
Been reading your blog for awhile (discovered it when trying to find out more about the Lisi-story), and am touched by many things you write. Writing this so you know that at least one person more is reading what you write, and sharing your concerns. Much luck to you and your husband!

CarlBrannen said...

Regarding the obsolescence of books, I'd like to point out that Lulu.com now allows people to produce fairly high quality books in "print on demand" format. The price to print and deliver a single copy of an 8.5"x11" (US letter size) paperback of 175 pages is $8.03 plus around $2 or $3 shipping, with no minimum purchase or any other charge. This makes it suitable for printing dissertations and physics books that do not have sufficient demand to attract a regular print run of 2500 or so. As an example, Lulu has Euclid in original Greek, with translation.

So what is going on is that modern technology will not make the book obsolete, but instead will vastly increase the number of titles in print.

Uncle Al said...

Uncle Al has a German-built 1989 VW Golf. Feed it Mobil 1 15W-50 and Fram oil filters; 50:50 Prestone ethylene glycol antifreeze (distilled water only!). The OEM battery was crap - Sear's Diehard. The OEM tires were crap - Michelins. Every decade or so replace all the spaghetti under the hood.

27 mpg and not a day in 18 years when turning the key didn't start the engine. Screw Detroit.

(One cannot imagine a suitable automotive antifreeze for Manitoba winters. Find out what they use in thermometers.)

stefan said...

Dear Bee,

ah, the Fiesta :-).

"Dead tree format"... funny word for books... but for sure, the dead tree format is one of the more durable ones, if one can avoid fire&water and the paper is acid-free. And it is straight-forward to use, without further technology needed.

But actually, I am not so sure that a smaller part of all information is available in print today than, say, 50 years ago. For example, I think that much more "procedural" knowledge is now available somewhere in written from than in earlier times, in manuals or patent texts that usually no one actually reads.

As for the paper-less office, indeed, it has not really worked up to know, although I have that impression that this may change. For example, editorial work now starts to come with less printouts, mostly because of improved electronic workflows and data exchange, and more comfortable ways to work with formats such as PDF. Screen technology has improved a lot over the last years, and new TFTs can be turned around, so thath they fit the typical paper format - which is very convenient.

Thanks for mentioning this Google/Wikipedia gap, and the illusion that one can find everything on the internet! There are some topics about which it is nearly impossible to find something, and for nearly all topics you usually will have a hard time finding any sensibly detailed introductory material. What is typically written in good textbooks and monographs, you typically have problems to find it, unless you can access the digitised versions at amazon "read inside" or google books. Well, that may also change, if you think about the gigantic scanning campaigns of google et al, bringing entire libraries on the web.

But anyway, I do not think that this will stop or slow down the actual printing of books. I remember that about 10 years ago, the Britannica announced that the then current edition would be the last in paper - sure, they had a hard time with the competition from the electronic world, but today, you can still by the printed version, and I guess there are enough people who do so.

On the other hand, the dead tree format gave me quite a headache today - the problem is that shelf space in the apartment has very limited options of growth, as compared to the inexhaustible capacity of hard disk drives ;-). I am continuously short of it, and better do not think about the next move...

Best, Stefan

Bee said...

Dear Stefan:

But actually, I am not so sure that a smaller part of all information is available in print today than, say, 50 years ago.

I didn't say that. I took the current trend and projected it into the future:

"Extrapolate the current trend to rely on the eternal availability of information on the internet, and consider in 50 years from now ..."

But anyway, I do not think that this will stop or slow down the actual printing of books.

I wouldn't be so sure about that. I guess that printing of books will increasingly be 'on demand'. E.g. you might buy the file and be left to print it on your own. Capitalism is an incredibly powerful device. If it turns out one can make more money this way, it will swap over really fast, and conventional book sellers will die. See, sellers will think we sell the printable file for a lower price, but the price drop is less than their gain from not printing. Buyers will buy it, thinking, they don't have to print it. They can read it on the screen, or maybe only print a page, etc. Electronic format has the advantage of being keyword-searchable, then there is the idea of the electronic book slowly becoming reality (more complexity). Combine that with the mentioned ecological consciousness (and neglect all the energy and resources needed to produce a microchip because that would require an even higher state of consciousness).

Still convinced?

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Plato:

Empathy is a strange thing when we project onto the things that we feel for, thus there must be a term that all animate objects, would not suffer at the hands of a atheist?:)

Since I am 'sexed-up' my notion of atheism considers the world of animate and inanimate objects as a unity; if one part of it suffers, the whole suffers.

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Carl:

So what is going on is that modern technology will not make the book obsolete, but instead will vastly increase the number of titles in print.

It will vastly increase the number of titles potentially printable. That is not quite the same. The human mind is not capable of filtering through an arbitrarily large offer of information/book titles/websites. As I have argued previously, the more potential information we are faced with the more important it becomes to filter this information, and we must rely increasingly on these filters. It is totally great and smells like equal chances if everybody can just 'publish' a book easily. But for all practical purposes that is completely irrelevant, what is relevant is whether it will be prominently advertised for whatever reasons. In the long run, this might make people feel very frustrated, because the books that score high and make it through many people's filter don't always do so because of high quality.

So there are all these books, written by all these people. As I said to Stefan, electronic format of text has the advantage of being searchable, and people might believe they save money in some way. But what makes you think this will increase the numbers of titles actually 'in print'?

Best,

B.

stefan said...

Dear Bee,

Still convinced?

hmm, true, printing on demand will increase, as will the market for electronic-only versions of books. But I could imagine that this will be an additional market - people buying electronic books they would not buy otherwise. On the other hand, there are so many books produced (and printed) each year - in still growing numbers, if not in print runs - a "consolidation" of this number might not be something one should worry about, I think.

About the ecological argument, I am less convinced - one would have to check actual numbers. My guess is that, since book print runs today are quite small, if one leaves aside the big bestsellers, most of the paper used goes into the printing of newspaper, magazines, and advertisements. See, how many kilograms of books do you buy per year, and compare that to the amount of unsolicited leaflets that litter your mailbox each day ;-)

Best, Stefan

Bee said...

Dear Nedko:

Thanks for the kind words. Lately the commenters on this blog are suspiciously nice and agreeable. Oddly, this makes me feel like I am doing something wrong.

Dear Arun:

The news from 300 years from now is that people in this era are making big mistakes

Now that's news. Making mistakes is excusable. Repeating mistakes isn't. That means passing on information about our trials and errors is essential to progress. No mistake can be larger than forgetting previous mistakes, a system that loses memory has to start evolution all over again.

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Dear Stefan:

About the ecological argument, I am less convinced

Neither am I. What I was saying was the argument seems to be en vogue, not that I am convinced by it. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee and Stefan,

How about we weigh in health concerns? I would be surprised to discover that the dead tree format carries as high a risk in acquiring carpal tunnel syndrome as the electronic format:-)

As far as environmental impact we need to use a established criteria. For instance which format by way of its production, total transport (both of these include component and final product) and use constitutes the higher embodied energy? This one I have no answer for yet having one would be interesting.

Regards,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

It depends on what exactly you are referring to. E.g. a single electronic book is certainly environmentally worse than one print book, but the electronic book you can use (potentially) instead of several books. How many would that be in practice? How much resources go into the production? How many batteries would be needed? In this regard, in case you don't know it, you might find this interesting. One should keep in mind though that these numbers are from 2002. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

“It depends on what exactly you are referring to. E.g. a single electronic book is certainly environmentally worse than one print book, but the electronic book you can use (potentially) instead of several books.”

Very good points and as I suspected you would consider all the variables. None the less it would be very interesting to know. Of course I don’t suspect either the computer or the publishing industries would commission such a study without having some idea of the possible outcome before hand. That article you linked was interesting yet not definitive enough to even have one speculate. I hope you don’t mind I waste (or perhaps not) some embodied energy by sharing it with the less click prone.

“When compared to more traditional products, such as the automobile, the microchip's inordinate energy requirements become stark. Manufacturing one passenger car requires more than 3,300 pounds of fossil fuel — a great deal more than one microchip. A car, however, also weighs much more than a microchip. An illustrative figure is the ratio of fossil fuel and chemical inputs to the weight of the final product, excluding energy from the use phase (i.e., gasoline to run a car or electricity to run a computer). This ratio is about 2-to-1 for a car. For a microchip, it is about 630-to-1.”

This would be more helpful of course if the purpose was similar. Some may come away with thinking it more environmentally friendly to take a ride instead of enriching oneself with a good read (even though an electronic one). Of course what it truly indicates is they should do more reading and less driving no matter what the format.

Regards,

Phil

Nedko said...

Dear Ms. Sabine,

Lately the commenters on this blog are suspiciously nice and agreeable. Oddly, this makes me feel like I am doing something wrong.

I remember the saying you're referring to, but please don't forget one of the first of G.B. Shaw's “Maxims for Revolutionists”:
"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules."
So even if you're in the unfortunate position of having some people agree with you, you still might be doing something right.

... actually I'm happy that you are concerned about the direction in which we all are moving, that's very rare (proof: the state our world is in) ... and very needed (proof: ditto).

Bee said...

Dear Nedko:

I on my behalf am happy to hear from everybody who shares my concerns, which is very encouraging and I appreciate this feedback. Best,

B.

Anonymous said...

Re "Press F5 to continue"

The point of the message is that you
should only continue after you fixed
the problem. And the fix is plugging in a keyboard.

A better way to put it would be perhaps
"Only continue after you proved to me that you fixed the problem"

So it makes a lot of sense actually.
just not to people who are used to dismiss computer messages as stupid.

Plato said...

Phil:So therefore what Bee pointed out in that what is most valuable about the new media is not related so much to what is old and established, but rather what is new and often remains to be established.

I think Carl alludes to it in terms of Euclid's original copies transferred to the internet, for us all to see? How oft do you think without this process, we would have been or even touched the "light of the knowledge" had we not see it displayed for us?

Which brings the education process forward as well bringing it to regions that only a university itself would have considered in terms of it's libraries? Out sources?

In terms of new developments Stefan touches on it in terms of the "portable hard drive" and what "that notebook" can accomplish in terms of the 4.7 g DvD, is now replaced, with a 500 gigabyte space that can hold a lot more?

I mean, we are familiar with the 5 and quarters, or the three and halves? The drive to greater memory potentials?

Well, like typesetting, an old fashion idea, what about word processors that evolved from the type writer?



The evolution of the transistor? If you watched this process and see the room full of what is now in a normal computer today, we are thinking okay Moore's law is finally reaching a conclusion?

Ah, new things are coming?:)

Simplicity is familiarity?

Anonymous said...

I once remember my Ubuntu failing to boot.
It said:

Aptitude seems to be corrupted. To rectify, please type:

sudo apt-get install apt

Plato said...

This seems to prove that the insight of individuals cannot make itself felt so long as the spirit of the age is not ripe to receive it.– Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. I, "Sketch of a History of the Doctrine of the Ideal and the Real"

The idea is to flood the world with as much information as you can, and out of it, the probable outcomes for insight development is opened to a wider distribution on the planet?:)Plato always believed it was already all here for us to access through ingenuity, insight. Intuit.

People under estimate themselves when it comes to what rings true, and what is noise. There is this frontal focus that leads our quest. What is ever held in front of ourselves, is like a magnet for those probable outcomes.

Sort of like Einstein or the professor crossing the room? So the "question last posed," is usually where the next step comes into it.

Bias can be generated by the control of a perspective, and this is no different in society. Media controls in the newspaper can generate a preferred thinking in terms of the delegates it wishes to support?

Capitalism under this veil can rob people of the wider perspective that is necessary for any of us to understand the larger global perspective. It is necessary when we make our judgements that we are given every opportunity to arrive at what is good not only for the country but for it relations.

Bee:my notion of atheism considers the world of animate and inanimate objects as a unity; if one part of it suffers, the whole suffers.

It's contradiction of what I see out there today. What are "our feelings for our home" the planet?

So resources are being used and modified into different things. A Farmer's way of life raising cattle and the person who sits in the restaurant speaking about where it came from when they took their first bite? Oh, so your a vegetarian?:)

Vegetables handled and processed in different countries, when it could have been produced in your backyard? Cooked in a different way in order to maximized the greater effect from that food?

If one does not take the challenge seriously, and puts aside their fear of venturing beyond their immediate worlds, (that what I call the surrounding environment you are familiar with), how will you ever know that one can do it?

This why I like to see good scientists come back down to earth and familiarize themself s with things like carpentry or using that mind for "other calculations?"

Rae Ann said...

I've noticed that a lot of book printing has moved to China, just like so many other things. I guess they aren't as worried about depleting their trees. ;-)

PerchéNo? said...

Ok, I actually DID forget my keys in the trunk of my Fiesta. In the middle of Rome. No spares available. And with a "not so funny" ex-girlfriend (luckily ex) who continued bashing me about the whole thing. Oh, moreover, I discovered many weeks later that she really closed the trunk (I was so mortified I didn't remember this particular thing).
I really loved my 1990 black Fiesta...
But I can add something to the list: Ikea instructions telling you that the item you bought has to be lifted by two or more people... Printed in the instruction manual, deep inside the item's envelope.
On the "dead trees" argument: I still love books, I use Wikipedia on a regular base but I still drool for a complete edition of "Encyclopedia Britannica". And don't ask me what book I would like to bring with me in a desert island...

stefan said...

Apropos electronic books:


This morning I learned that Springer has sold a license for all its electronic books to the Ontario Council of University Libraries - here is a press release.

This means that all users of the libraries from this consortium (including the University of Waterloo) can download chapterwise PDF files of nearly all books published by Springer over the last years. That may be pretty useful, especially for textbooks and monographs or so, where one wants to look up something.


Best, Stefan

OlCountryTek said...

Bee -

Stumbled upon your blog via a comment you left on New Scientist.

I agree that the frangibility of our information repositories is a definite item for concern. All it would take is a serious solar storm, an EMP attack, or just the continued degradation of our baling wire & duct tape patched power grid for our "collective memory" to develop a hole worse than the one that continuous information overload and advancing age are working on my personal information store. Compound that with the fact that a lot of people are aging out of the system and you have a recipe for disasterous data loss.

I haven't studied the career choice statistics lately, but I do know that the serious shortage of trained machinists stretches back to the '70s. (I was a production machinist at that point in my life.) Forty years down the road, I can only assume that trend has deepened. Back in the day, there were still machinists who could take rusty old WWI (as in 1918) vintage machines, clean them up, set them right and put them back to producing on the line. I'm wondering if there are many of them left? I'm guessing not. I sometimes regret not continuing down that career track, but computers have been very good to me, so I don't dwell on it much.

Taking your excellent post and the article over at NS into account, it looks like I need a bigger house! (My beautiful bride has warned me to bring no more books into the house as our children and dog are in peril from unstable stacks as it is.) Maybe my next career path can be "Information Conservator." That would make my insatiable appetite for information an asset, which would be a welcome change. =;o)

Just as an FYI for those interested in moving some of their digital info to the "dead tree format:" In the Windows world, CutePDF Pro contains a rudimentary imposition utilitly that does a pretty good job. "Imposition" is printer-speak for pagination of a document into a series of pamphlets - or "signatures" - that are sewn together to create a book. I'm sure that the Xnix (Is that term still PC?) world has a wealth of similar tools, but my on-going flirtation with Linux hasn't gone that far yet. There's an excellent overview of bookbinding at Wikipedia (Gee!): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bookbinding

Thank you for a well-thought-out and very readable post.

OCT

Ar Stech said...

The scissor industry is stubborn.. http://imgur.com/5YZh8Qf
(via http://www.reddit.com/r/funny/comments/1hoyzk/now_all_i_need_is_some_kind_of_cloning_machine/)