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Comment: It's not tech, it's productivity (Score 5, Interesting) 674

by bsidneysmith (#45035203) Attached to: The Luddites Are Almost Always Wrong: Why Tech Doesn't Kill Jobs
"Tech vs. Jobs" is the wrong frame, and the wrong debate. Jobs are lost, and (partially) replaced by lower-wage jobs, because of the enormous increases in productivity that increased technology (and improved management practices) brings. This should be making everybody better off--more product for less work should mean generally higher standards of living. The reason it doesn't is because our economic paradigm awards all of the benefits of increased productivity to capital, and none to labor. We need a system in which anyone who wishes can make a living working about 20 hours/week. But unless we rethink our economics we are teetering towards a crash, because the labor sector is collapsing, and capital must soon follow because it relies on a healthy consumer class--the very laborers whose livings have been pulled out from under them. If one looks at labor participation rates (instead of govt. unemployment numbers) the situation becomes quite clear.

Comment: Re:Start here (Score 1) 1145

by bsidneysmith (#43826731) Attached to: White House: Use Metric If You Want, We Don't Care
As a mathematician and educator I was an early advocate of the metric system, and shared your complaint about cups and quarts, pints, teaspoons, etc. Then, in middle age, I started cooking and building things, and I discovered something remarkable. The old US version of the older Imperial system of measurements embodies some remarkable wisdom. The volumetric measures are actually binary; two tablespoons in an ounce, 8 ounces in a cup, double that for a pint, again for a quart, and twice more for a gallon. The length measures allow for easy divisibility (12 is an abundant number, unlike 10) making it possible to easily design and build almost anything on a human scale without resorting to decimal approximations. I now think very differently: the old system isn't old-fashioned and dumb, it is old-fashioned and full of subtle sophistication. I think people are right to resist having it taken away from them. An educated populace should have no trouble learning it and the SI system, and using whichever is most appropriate for the task at hand.

Comment: Re:Similar software (Score 1) 103

by bsidneysmith (#39317705) Attached to: LastCalc Is Open Sourced
It's clear that in designing OpalCalc you were motivated by many of the same considerations that went into my design of the Extensible Expression Evaluator. However, I realized that most of the important features could be gotten just by leveraging JavaScript's math library, with the result that it has a similar feature-set but is platform and (nearly) browser independent, there is nothing to download, and it is easy for users to adapt to their own purposes.

Comment: Similar to the Extensible Expression Evaluator (Score 1) 103

by bsidneysmith (#39317645) Attached to: LastCalc Is Open Sourced
Had I known about this, I'd probably never have written my own. (Extensible Expression Evaluator, http://bsidneysmith.com/E3/extensible_expression_evaluator.aspx) Mine is less gee-whiz in some respects, but it is very accessible and intuitive, and I provide documentation to make it easy for a user to extend or customize its capabilities. It is also trivial to embed in one's own webpage, and is freely downloadable under the GNU GPL.

Comment: Re:Consider voting third party (Score 1) 792

by bsidneysmith (#38650444) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Which Candidates For Geek Issues?
This is a very good point. Our adherence to a two-party system is not so much a feature of our political establishment as of our political culture. One might say it is an antidemocratic (small d) trait in American culture that exists for historical reasons and needs very much to be overcome. In a functioning democracy people would search for candidates with whom they largely agree on the issues they consider paramount, and vote for that candidate. If they could not find such a candidate, they would organize with other like-minded people to recruit one. In the U.S. most voters have internalized the obvious fallacy that voting for someone who is unlikely to win is a waste of their vote, when the opposite is more generally true. If even a comparatively small proportion of voters began voting "for" rather than voting "against" our political culture would be revitalized, probably transformed.

Comment: A symptom of our decline (Score 1) 845

by bsidneysmith (#38326272) Attached to: Are You Better At Math Than a 4th (or 10th) Grader?
This school board member's (lack of) quantitative skills and his attitude towards them are now endemic in the U.S., and are emblematic of the decline of our culture and of our institutions. As a faculty member in a large public university I helped put in place a program to require students to pass a test of 8th-grade math (mostly arithmetic) before passing the university's gen-ed math class (the easiest offered). This test was modeled on state requirements for that grade level, and contained nothing students were not ostensibly required to know before receiving a high school diploma. They were given any amount of free tutoring they wanted, and could take the test as many times as they needed to pass. The reaction to this requirement from the students, their parents, and even some faculty was so ferocious that it had to be abandoned, which means the university continues to award bachelor's degrees to people who can't calculate a percentage, or who even know what that means. This situation indicates that the U.S. will not recover as a functioning democratic republic, because the ignorant cannot govern themselves.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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