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Comment: Someone explain this to me (Score 2) 710

by LittleBunny (#47311363) Attached to: Workaholism In America Is Hurting the Economy
I remember back in the 1990s (I think) reading news stories about corporations pursuing 'increased productivity' per worker as a strategy for success, particularly in relation to international competition. Is there any other way to translate that language into plain English other than to say that what was desired was less wages for the same amount of work? I never saw it put in quite those terms, but it seems fairly obvious to me that that's what talk of productivity means. And if that's so, there's clearly a downside to increasing productivity. It means less income going to workers in direct proportion to their increasing profitability to the corporation (what some old ruddy-duddies used to refer to as the exploitation of labor, I believe). It also means fewer jobs, as a smaller number of people handle workloads that were previously distributed across a larger number. Am I just not thinking about this correctly?

Comment: Re:It's a numbers game (Score 2) 325

by LittleBunny (#47182933) Attached to: Fixing the Humanities Ph.D.

The biggest shame is that this comes as a surprise to so many of them AFTER they've graduated.

This is probably the case for some. But I don't understand how it could be the case for very many. The mismatch between PhDs and available jobs has been in place for decades, and I don't know of anyone who is ignorant of it. If you so much as apply to a humanities PhD program in ignorance of the lay of the land, you have not done your homework. I teach at a liberal arts college. Every year I advise students who are considering graduate education. I give them the same advice I was given in the early 1990s, when I was in their position. That advice is: if you are not admitted to an absolutely top-tier institution for the PhD, DO NOT GO. Find something else to do. DO NOT enroll at a second-or lower-tier institution UNLESS you have a fallback career-- a family business, a trust fund, a talent for subsistence farming, whatever. The statistics regarding the number of PhDs in the humanities who find jobs are depressing; regarding those who get good jobs, apocalyptic. But if you confine your field of view to the top institutions, things look considerably better. Not great, but not as bad as the aggregated numbers suggest. From where I'm sitting, the causes of the mismatch between humanities PhDs and good jobs has two causes. First, strong supply: quite a few people would love to devote their lives to the study of the humanities, and they vote with their feet, and about nine years of their lives. And second, weak demand: the number of good jobs has shrunk because of the adjunctification of higher education generally. There may be other factors in play on the demand side, but I think everything else pales in comparison to the effect of the shift to contingent labor. In effect, most people who enroll in a PhD program in the humanities (and are not simply unaware of the supply/demand problem) are taking a calculated risk, and gambling that their decision will pay off. They are gambling against the odds, most of them. But it does pay off for some.

Comment: Stereo Microscopy/Macroscopy (Score 1) 72

by LittleBunny (#46878057) Attached to: Virtual Reality: Purpose Beyond Gaming
Microscopy: put cameras and microphones on a very small physical avatar (say, the size of a Lego minifig). Walk/drive it around in a real miniature environment-- say, a Lego city built on a tabletop, with real people also in the room. Enjoy. Refine. Make something cool. Macroscopy: place cameras and microphones widely spaced apart and high above the ground-- on the side of a skyscraper, a cell tower, or suspended from a blimp. Or on the ISS. Figure out how to incorporate something like looking-around movement to the rig. Pretend to be a giant, or a giant space creature. Have fun.

Comment: Roger Zelazny (Score 3, Informative) 1244

Anything by Roger Zelazny. His most extensive set of novellas were the Amber series-- five books, if I recall, eventually published in two volumes-- but he had a number of really lovely independent stories, including My Name is Legion, This Immortal, and Jack of Shadows. It's been a good twenty years since I went through my Zelazny phase, but few things would make me happier even now than discovering something else written by him.

Comment: Not about ordinary people (Score 1) 1205

by LittleBunny (#39209485) Attached to: The Specter of Gasoline At $5 a Gallon
Sigh... the effects of higher prices on ordinary people are not what it going to drive the conversation, so it's rather pointless to debate just what those effects are going to be. What is going to drive the conversation is Republican claims about those effects and the media's craven promulgation of those claims, absent anything regarding fact-checking, throughout info space. By the time anybody bothers to actually find out what the effects on ordinary people have been, the world will have moved on.

Comment: Parallels (warning: YMMV) (Score 1) 1486

by LittleBunny (#35746626) Attached to: Is Science Just a Matter of Faith?
Unwilling to take the claims of scientists (or, more likely, the claims reproduced in the media and attributed to scientists) just on the basis of authority? Simple solution: get a scientific education in the field of your choice, build a lab, run the experiments. See for yourself. That way you don't have to take anything on authority. Unwilling to take the claims of religious people (or, more likely, the claims reproduced in the media and attributed to religious people) just on the basis of authority? Simple solution: start attending church/temple/mosque in a tradition of your choosing, develop a meditative/contemplative practice, immerse yourself in the writings and artistic productions of the tradition. That way you don't have to take anything on authority.

Comment: Re:But what created the law of gravity? (Score 1) 1328

by LittleBunny (#33450940) Attached to: Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang
Standard answer: that question betrays a misunderstanding of what is claimed when one says that God exists in this context. When God is postulated as the origin of everything else in classical theistic philosophy, he's supposed to be a being that exists necessarily: i.e. it's not possible the God not exist. Asking 'Who created God" is like asking "Who made 2+2=4". In either case, the standard answer is that it's not a good question. If you say that we need to invoke God to explain the existence of contingent things (like the universe) but do not stipulate that God exists necessarily, then you are left with the problem of explaining God's existence. Now if Hawking's claim is that it is not necessary to postulate God to explain the rest of the universe, that does not imply that God does not exist. All it says is that if we want to explain why the universe exists, we don't need to make any claims about God. It's correct to say that this claim still leaves room for God's existence. There's nothing inconsistent about saying both that we don't need to invoke God to explain the law of gravity and that God exists. The interesting question is how we explain the law of gravity, if it's the law of gravity that explains the existence of the universe. From the linked article it seems that Hawking has decided to place his bet on an incomplete version of string theory to accomplish this:

"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going." In the forthcoming book, published on 9 September, Hawking says that M-theory, a form of string theory, will achieve this goal: "M-theory is the unified theory Einstein was hoping to find," he theorises.

The term of art for this sort of claim is the 'promissory note'. It's a version of the claim 'some day science will be able to explain [something it cannot currently explain]'. The Guardian article doesn't say anything about why Hawking has decided to repose confidence in this particular version of string theory, so we don't have the means to evaluate his decision. So: the story is that Hawking has decided to place a rather large bet on a version of string theory to, one day, explain the law of gravity and hence complete the explanation of why the universe exists. That idea doesn't have any particularly interesting consequences as regards God's existence or nonexistence. If Hawking is right, however, atheism will someday be able to justify itself scientifically without resorting to promissory notes. Sorry to be so non-inflammatory about this-- I teach this material for a living.

Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.

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