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?

TED Talk: Trial, error and the God complex

A conversation with the father/grandfather of family friends was about the need of intellectuals in politics. If he meant intellectual as in a natural philosopher which we typically refer to now as scientists, then I would agree. Then again, I really like the flow of try, analyze results, and determine if successful or not. Also, the idea of double blind testing and other measures to achieve objectivity. These are all things rarely seen in politics.

But then again, some people want a leader who is certain. Someone whose bearing means to them they have a handle on the situation to improve things. Never mind that confidence under pressure does not equate to making well reasoned or even successful decisions.

Typealyzer

Purely for fun. Typealyzer gives a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator result from analyzing the text in your blog. I find it interesting this blog scored an INTJ and another ISTP. Prior to working in IT, I was always an INFP. Then I started getting INTP and lately INTJ. So the ISTP is a little odd to me.

INTJ – The Scientists

INTJ
INTJ

The long-range thinking and individualistic type. They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it – often with a highly creative and imaginative touch. They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be physically hesitant to try new things. 

The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communicating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use concrete examples. Since they are extremely good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone.

Book Review – The Edison Gene

The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child by Thom Hartmann

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reading the DSM-IV about ADHD sounded to me more like the behavior over a typical boy than a mental illness. Thom theorizes a gene came about which allowed our ancestors to survive an intense period of ice ages. This gene, when triggered, exhibits behaviors teachers find abhorrent in the Prussian style education system of the United States better geared to producing soldiers and factory workers than scientists and creators.

View all my reviews.

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Intellectuals and Politics

The Age of Enlightenment ended over a century ago. It was known for producing a number of intellectuals. Are intellectuals a dying breed?

According to Wikipedia, “An intellectual is one who tries to use his or her intellect to work, study, reflect, speculate, or ask and answer questions about a wide variety of different ideas.” It seems of late scientists, lawyers, engineers, and doctors have become specialized into a myopic anti-utopia. I am encouraged by mathematicians and physicists working together to create Superstring Theory or cross breeding academic areas like Georgia Tech’s Threads. Specialization may reflect the difficulty of keeping up with many bodies of knowledge growing extremely quickly. Intellectuals are exceptional people. The Age of Enlightenment ended in the first years of 1800s which is just before the dramatic increases upon which we benefit today. It was centered in Europe. I think Europe misses it. Certainly the founding fathers, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Franklin were all intellectuals.

Education, in attempting to cover as much material as possible, answers well the questions: Who? What? When? Where? How? The question, “Why?” deserves the most attention. As its the most complicated, it takes the most time to answer. People can cut the most corners with Why than any other question.
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Would an intellectual run for President of the United States today? We like to think politics are dirty today. The founding fathers played the same trash talking about their opponents as happens today. The change has really been the perception of what is honorable. We don’t trust politicians today like we did even fifty years ago.

During the Cold War we needed a President who would be decisive. Smart individuals could not be trusted to make resolute decisions. They would waffle, look at nuances, and fail to make us comfortable that we are being led. Their advisors would be the intellectuals. Only the advisors have become more and more specialized. We need an intellectual capable of providing us the vision. I especially do not want someone who has all the answers before they have even seen the question. I want someone who loves learning and wishes to serve society by helping to shape our society for improvement.

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Let There Be Life!

Discovery Channel :: News – Space :: Did Viking Lander Kill Alien Life?

Last month, scientists excitedly reported that new photographs of Mars showed geologic changes that suggest water occasionally flows there — the most tantalizing sign that Mars is hospitable to life.

In the ’70s, the Viking mission found no signs of life. But it was looking for Earth-like life, in which salt water is the internal liquid of living cells. Given the cold dry conditions of Mars, that life could have evolved on Mars with the key internal fluid consisting of a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide, said Dirk Schulze-Makuch, author of the new research.

That’s because a water-hydrogen peroxide mix stays liquid at very low temperatures (-68 degrees Fahrenheit), doesn’t destroy cells when it freezes, and can suck scarce water vapor out of the air. The Viking experiments of the ’70s wouldn’t have noticed alien hydrogen peroxide-based life and, in fact, would have killed it by drowning and overheating the microbes, said Schulze-Makuch, a geology professor at Washington State University.

One Viking experiment seeking life on Mars poured water on soil. That would have essentially drowned hydrogen peroxide-based life, Schulze-Makuch said. A different experiment heated the soil to see if something would happen, but that would have baked Martian microbes, he said.

So maybe we killed the microbes? Doh! Such Terracentric creatures are we!

Videogames in the Classroom?

Yes!!

Videogames in the Classroom? – Newsweek Education – MSNBC.com:

Where parents see hours wasted in front of a screen, these scientists see potential. An FAS study released this week, titled “Harnessing the power of video games for learning,” reports that best-selling games are built in surprisingly pedagogical ways. Players improve at their own pace. Beating a level requires experimentation, failure and learning from mistakes. Most new games can be played online, requiring collaboration and leadership. Game play is precisely calibrated to balance challenge and progress. It’s a stark contrast to a typical classroom in which one teacher tries to engage 30 students with printed information. “It’s like hiring an individual tutor for every student,” says FAS president Henry Kelly of using videogames to teach. “There’s a big argument going on now about whether kids are being tested too much or too little. In a game, you’re continuously being tested and you don’t mind it.”

Admittedly, I agree that most games on the surface don’t appear very educational. Also, saying these things are there and measuring their effects are two different things. What are the negative side affects? C’mon people, hawking something without overwhelming evidence is pretty underwhelming. 🙂

Evidence of Dark Matter

NASA – NASA Finds Direct Proof of Dark Matter:

Dark matter and normal matter have been wrenched apart by the tremendous collision of two large clusters of galaxies. The discovery, using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes, gives direct evidence for the existence of dark matter.

These observations provide the strongest evidence yet that most of the matter in the universe is dark. Despite considerable evidence for dark matter, some scientists have proposed alternative theories for gravity where it is stronger on intergalactic scales than predicted by Newton and Einstein, removing the need for dark matter. However, such theories cannot explain the observed effects of this collision.

I find the word “proof” a little strong. Definitely its evidence.

Creating Gravity

Brian Greene mentioned this might be only a few years away in Fabric of the Cosmos. Assuming others validate this is true, this is a great step forward for String Theory.
Researchers create gravity in lab experiment | Science Blog

Scientists funded by the European Space Agency have measured the gravitational equivalent of a magnetic field for the first time in a laboratory. Under certain special conditions the effect is much larger than expected from general relativity and could help physicists to make a significant step towards the long-sought-after quantum theory of gravity.