Slackers and IT

Go read “Science Fiction Is for Slackers.”

As a rule, science fiction may be the laziest of all genres, not because the stories themselves are too facile—they can be just as sophisticated and challenging as those of any other genre—but because they often revel in easy solutions: Why walk when you can warp? Why talk when you’re a telepath? Technology in such stories typically has more to do with workarounds than it does with work.

I do love science fiction. From robots/AI to star travel to virtual reality. I love it all. I may even love it BECAUSE of the laziness. I’d love to have all these things to make my life better. And much of science fiction influences technologists into making decisions to make the fiction a reality.

The How Shatner Changed the World (mock) documentary talks about the technologies of Star Trek and how scientists work towards making these things reality. Faster than light travel and cybernetics are still aspirant. But cell phones and personal computers were influenced by technologists familiar with the show and movies.

At times I worry about automation putting me out of a job, but then I remember my career goal is always to replace myself with a tiny shell script. Why click when I can script? Why script when I can tell an AI to handle it? Sure it takes away some of my responsibilities, but what I am supposed to do has always changed. And I get better challenging work when I free myself from mundane tasks.

Guess this is why I told Puppet Labs my job is an Automation Evangelist. It’s not universal. I have allies, but convincing people of the good in automation is much like changing their religion.

Back in college I was encouraged to become a librarian. More specifically, people thought I should become an automation librarian. I guess the automation part stuck?

Review: The Age of American Unreason

The Age of American Unreason
The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Back in 2007, I went to Thanksgiving with Mom to the home of a Philosophy professor. The professor’s father discoursed on why United States presidents should only be intellectuals. His arguments made sense. Someone able to understand the options, determine risk, and plan for contingencies will likely do a better job than someone who cannot. (Most PotUS surround themselves with those capable of doing this, but at the time, the PotUS had political sycophants rather than intellectuals.)

The most spectacular portion of the book was the discourse on Junk Thought, which is what Jacoby calls pseudoscience, since she uses Junk Thought to bash it.

Really, I agree with 90% of the conclusions made in this book. My issues with the book rests with how the arguments link together in odd leaps that seem to rely more on faith than evidence. Plus, it is easy to tell who the author dislikes with the ad hominems used to discuss them.

The United States does need a well educated, well read, and actively engaged electorate to ensure our elected representatives possess the highest caliber. Books like this hurt that conversion instead of aiding us to somehow navigate the issues to achieve it.

View all my reviews

TED Talk: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence

Another Tuesday, another Jonathon Haidt video.

Locked cooperation can lead to success over free-riders. I am curious what is the next big thing where cooperation will overcome something deemed insurmountable.

If the video below does not load, then try Jonathan Haidt: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence.

TED Talk: Equal Parts Science and Magic

The unity of science and religion is an important concept in the Baha’i Faith. They are two sides of the same coin. One side looks ahead with faith. One side looks backwards without faith. One is impatient while the other is deliberately slow. Where the two agree is the sweet spot of true knowledge. There is a stage in the scientific method full of looking forward with faith: Ask a question.

Asking a question is the. most. important step. Everything depends upon it. Not asking the right question ensures nothing will be tried. And humanity suffers. Unless someone else gathers up the faith to do so.

Also, I am apparently a fan of spoken word artists. There is something about the cadence and flow that I like.

If the above video does not work, then try Equal Parts Science and Magic.

For 9/11

This seemed appropropriate to re-post today, the tenth anniversary of the event which inspired its need. The problems we are to overcome seem more prevalent and prominent today.

This statement was issued by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States in December 2001 as a response to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. It first appeared as a full-page statement in The New York Times on December 21, 2001 and was subsequently reprinted in dozens of other newspapers around the country.

At this time of world turmoil, the United States Baha’i community offers a perspective on the destiny of America as the promoter of world peace.

More than a hundred years ago, Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, addressing heads of state, proclaimed that the age of maturity for the entire human race had come. The unity of humankind was now to be established as the foundation of the great peace that would mark the highest stage in humanity’s spiritual and social evolution. Revolutionary and world-shaking changes were therefore inevitable.

The Baha’i writings state:

“The world is moving on. Its events are unfolding ominously and with bewildering rapidity. The whirlwind of its passions is swift and alarmingly violent. The New World is insensibly drawn into its vortex….Dangers, undreamt of and unpredictable, threaten it both from within and from without. Its governments and peoples are being gradually enmeshed in the coils of the world’s recurrent crises and fierce controversies….The world is contracting into a neighborhood. America, willingly or unwillingly, must face and grapple with this new situation. For purposes of national security, let alone any humanitarian motive, she must assume the obligations imposed by this newly created neighborhood. Paradoxical as it may seem, her only hope of extricating herself from the perils gathering around her is to become entangled in that very web of international association which the Hand of an inscrutable Providence is weaving.”

The American nation, Baha’is believe, will evolve through tests and trials to become a land of spiritual distinction and leadership, a champion of justice and unity among all peoples and nations, and a powerful servant of the cause of everlasting peace. This is the peace promised by God in the sacred texts of the world’s religions.

Establishing peace is not simply a matter of signing treaties and protocols; it is a complex task requiring a new level of commitment to resolving issues not customarily associated with the pursuit of peace.

Universal acceptance of the spiritual principle of the oneness of humankind is essential to any successful attempt to establish world peace.

Racism, one of the most baneful and persistent evils, is a major barrier to peace.
The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality of the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged, prerequisites of peace.

The inordinate disparity between rich and poor keeps the world in a state of instability, preventing the achievement of peace.

Unbridled nationalism, as distinguished from a sane and legitimate patriotism, must give way to a wider loyalty, to the love of humanity as a whole.

Religious strife, the cause of innumerable wars and conflicts throughout history, is a major obstacle to progress. The challenge facing the world’s religious leaders is to contemplate, with hearts filled with compassion and the desire for truth, the plight of humanity, and to ask themselves whether they cannot, in humility before their God, submerge their theological differences in a great spirit of mutual forbearance that will enable them to work together for the advancement of human understanding and peace.

Baha’is pray, “May this American Democracy be the first nation to establish the foundation of international agreement. May it be the first nation to proclaim the unity of mankind. May it be the first to unfurl the standard of the Most Great Peace.”

During this hour of crisis, we affirm our abiding faith in the destiny of America. We know that the road to its destiny is long, thorny and tortuous, but we are confident that America will emerge from her trials undivided and undefeatable.

The source of the above text of The Destiny of America and the Promise of World Peace.

Americans Are Hindus?

Perhaps I don’t understand a Newsweek article advocating Americans have more in common with Hinduism than Christianity?

First, the numbers of Americans who agree with the sentiments are 65%, 30%, and 24% respectively for each argument. We’d use numbers as strong as 30% and 24% to illustrate people are opposed to something. Of course, we’d use “only” to precede the terribly small number.

Second, the one decent argument, that Americans are accepting there are many paths to God can be found in many of the world’s religions. The Baha’i Faith takes it a step further. God started each of the major religions to bring all of humanity together in moral maturity. Yes, there are differences. However, distilling the teachings down to what they teach about morality, there is far more in common than distinct.

Hinduism is more than respect for people choosing their own path to God, being spiritual, or cremation. Americans are much more complex than these ideas as well.

The Bahá’í Seven

In only hours the government of Iran plans to put on trial seven Bahá’í leaders for “spying for Israel, spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic and religious offenses”. Yesterday the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called for the release of these Bahá’ís. Similarly the German parlimentary groups have produced similar condemnations.

For over 160 years Persia/Iran has not had a good relationship either Badis or Bahá’ís. Thousands have been executed for following the wrong religion.

I was hopeful for more government pressure on Iran from many countries. Instead, we’ll rely on prayers for the well being of these poor souls.

Merge Historically Black Colleges With White?

Retention is one of those numbers higher education leaders tend to review to determine how effectively the faculty reaches the students. Historically black colleges and universities were created because students found it difficult both to get into “neutral” colleges and graduate from them. That latter part sounds like they were created in part to solve a retention issue.

Enter Georgia Senator Seth Harp who suggests a couple HBCUs in Georgia should merge with their neutral neighbors. The idea is to save money by not having more than one college in a town. Are black students as successful at “neutral” colleges as their white counterparts? If not, then the reason these schools exist has yet to be solved.

If we want to eliminate HBCUs, then we should have colleges and unviersities where all students succeed regardless of race (or gender, religion, or other factors).

Image of God

I picked up Einstein and Religion the other day. Its been a compelling read as I am about 1/3 through in just over 24 hours. Both of these come from pages 74-75.

Maimonides:

Our Knowledge [of God] consist in knowing that we are unable to comprehend Him.

Spinoza:

On your question whether I have a clear idea of God as I have of triangle, I would answer in the affirmative; but on your question whether I have a clear image of God as I have of triangle, I would answer in the negative. For of God no image can be made.

Germane

Maybe its intrinsic to human nature to seek our relevance. To our family. To our friends. To the world. We label those who fail to care about the impact of the behaviors on others as sociopaths. That is a bad thing in case you didn’t know.
🙂

I’ve heard people are happiest in jobs where what they do has meaning to the organization. These employees must feel germane to the organization to have satisfaction. Languishing in a job with no idea how what one is doing helps anyone engenders a feeling of uselessness. Maybe even paranoia about termination could arise. By contrast, knowing the organization completely depends upon every decision made by an individual dispels fear. So many people want to work for Google because Google makes software millions of people use. We provide facilities for thousands of students to conduct their higher education at my work. Its no Google, but I am content.

Mythology, cosmogony, cosmology, and especially religion help define for us where we are in the world and especially what we can do to improve the world around us. We can even find pertinence on the Internet. The popularity of blogs, I think, lies in two things: 1) hoping others find the posts useful in some way and 2) the pertinent comments others leave in feedback.

I think for me, personally, I have not done such a good job understanding my relevance to individuals in my life. Nor have I considered the relevance of other individuals to me. Has anyone systematically done this?