Monday, August 20, 2012

About the "brightness" of our future..


Murphy: Anything bad that can happen will happen. Plan accordingly!

Somewhere around this time, by last year, I was informed that I needed to look for a topic to elaborate in order to get my Masters program diploma. They specified that the purpose of the paper to present was not only to fulfill the partial requirements of the graduation work, but must be related to your dayjob as they where interested in you doing something meaningful for your organization.

…. yeah right.

I work for the Panamanian government... more specifically, the Ministry of Health. Surrounded by doctors, who mainly think they are at the pinnacle of the human intelligence... I simply didn’t want to do ANYTHING related.

To make it short.. I ended doing this!

The idea:

Economist have claimed for years that the dynamics of the global economy are ruled by the “business cycles”.
 
As an engineer, not an economist, I got the idea, however...

Every time you hear about an economic statement... no matter where and who is coming from, it will bring something that by definition, is nothing more than a simple exponential function. Everything in the world and their mother are promoting economic growth. The system is not able to survive without it. Some economist will tell you that, in order to maintain our current level of live, we must grow at 4% at least.
I spent a good deal of time reading and finding out why is it that every government economic goal is aggressive expansion... but once that concept is understood, the big picture of our bright future does not look bright at all.

And of course I’ve god flame on this topic... mainly because every time someone get brave enough to announce to the world the forthcoming scarcity on a specific resource... there is a possible replacement as we (humans) are smart enough to find a solution for the scarcity problem.

Well... in this case, i’m not predicting anything; just saying that global GDP is money... and as it has no intrinsic value, the standard measurement is a floating point. You won’t argue with me that the 69 something trillion dollars of the global GDP doesn’t reflect the aggressive harvest of resources and energy consumption to mention some. The question is how much?


My argument:

Have you hear about the mathematic of chaos?
Sustaining an ever-expanding system that trends to infinity, on a finite environment is a recipe for chaos. I think that you’ll agree that economy of the world looks fucked up from every possible viewing angle.

Because chaos mathematics, we understand that we are not living on a “predictable world” any longer...

Economist insist that, because we can’t regulate and control the economy as we think we could, our only salvation is obeying the market and going for growth... anything else will lead to economic chaos and collapse...

didn’t it collapsed already?

… and the sad but true part of this is that it keep on growing.


Friday, August 10, 2012

The importance of what you don’t know

As I’ve finished my Master course (waiting for the diploma until December) I found myself with some free time; so I ended doing some random reading all around the internet.

Eventually, as my topics of interest have spread wider, I started to look for randomness and Murphy law texts, looking for statements for a possible, yet not probable book I’ll write as I’ve been told to place some of the odds ramblings on paper.

I ended with Nassim Taleb topics... Black Swan events.

I’ve just started reading the book; however, I have to say this thing has started to make me have flashbacks,

Back on college (electrical engineering program) one of my dear professors, Martin Issac Donderis (RIP) was trying to make us think out of the box and have a deeper understanding of stuff. I’ll never forget his following statement (translated from Spanish so may not make much sense and sound funny):

I am awarethat I know;
I am aware that you don’t know.
You have no idea that you don’t know... even if you think you know.

at the end of this course, you’ll be fully aware that you don’t know and at least you’ll be able to see that nobody knows shit.

Funny enough, this guy was a Civil engineer and he were teaching us statics... go figure!

Anyway, randomness, uncertainty and Murphy have always called my attention; and the funny thing is that there is somehow no documentation that gather enough knowledge about all tree.... specially on a practical matter (think about uncertainty on project management for example).

This “Black Swan” thing is interesting because as far as I’m understanding, Taleb point is that “whatever you don’t know” is in fact far more relevant of what you do know. We learned (engineers, scientist etc.) about the “central limit theorem” where the mean of a sufficiently large number of independent random variables, each with finite mean and variance, will be normally distributed....

… and since it works (think about quality control procedures) we have been conditioned to ignore the long tail of the gaussian curve and focus on the mean and standard deviation... the apex.

Theoretical Physicist have change the concept of causality with quantum mechanics some years ago; and there has been enough debate about how these dynamics doesn’t explain our world until recently with M theory, which stick with the wild randomness of quantum mechanics on all levels of existence (M theory defines 11 dimensions for reality). So, the structured world where the cause-effect that the “common homo sapiens” claim to understand is just a small little piece of a much more complicated reality where randomness and uncertainty define alternate universes and endless possibilities and chaotic dynamics.

The problem of uncertainty:


I’ve learn thru my education that the human mind have a structured procedure to learn and deal with knowledge and conclusions. Let’s ilustrate that with an example:

All germans are black
All black are ugly...

conclusion: all germans are ugly.

This is the basic formal structure of our thinking. The premises I’m using as initial statements are, by any standard absurd. However, what if you know nothing about ugliness or germans¿?

It is the knowledge or the judgment elements that make us able to determine that it is just bullshit; however, the conclusion is correct. In other words, if you where dumb enough to believe that all germans are black you’ll end “knowing” that all germans are ugly.

The evolution of the human mind have follow a path of not appreciating introspective thinking; and also, not questioning everything.

On a biological level, thinking need huge energy resources and is in fact, time consuming. We as a species started to think on an eyelash in terms of evolutionary time, and back on those days, I am sure we used our brain on subjects too peripheral to matter; like avoiding to be eaten.
Evidence shows that we do much less thinking than we believe we do; except of course, when we think about it.

So we have learn to focus our thinking resources on a very narrow field of what matter to us; and every time we found a problem that seem impossible to understand, we attribute it to god will and lived happy with that dumb ass explanation.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fine Tune KDE for Netbooks


Upated to KDE Software Compilation 4.9
As usual with KDE and Slackware, the dedicated army of one person (AlienBob) provided the packages to perform the upgrade... so I did took advantage of work bandwidth and download immediately.
I have to say that personally, I feel disappointed as with every update I did since kde 4.5 I’ve feel performance boost on my asus 1005ha (the old atom n270 based netbook). However, it may be because I’ve configured kde to be lighting fast on this little machine... or maybe it is just that the hardware lacks the power to feel the improvement.

Nevertheless, I thought I might blog about it and point out the “performance tweaks” as there is aparently none for kde as many windows 7 “fine tune for netbook”.

Fine Tune KDE 4.x.x on Netbooks


KDE comes with a netbook interface that I hate. I mean , it’s functional and has been tailored to the usage patterns associated with these little devices; plus the search and launch feature is kinda cool; but I hate it...
Nevertheless, I use my system with full desktop workspace; and, as expected, it runs faster than windows... XP or win7. The only time I cry for more processing power is when I have to compile something... or when I run a slackbuild (wich in essence is the same thing); which is pretty much what it is... after all, this machines were not designed for heavy computing task.

Anyways, a netbook have enough processing power to run KDE on full desktop workspace... at least on top of Slackware; however, here are some of my “tweaks” to smooth things.