Daniel Markham writes: "I know Global Climate Change is a hot topic on/., and I don't have a desire to feed fuel to the fire, but it occurs to me that there is a significant viewpoint that has been overlooked: that the politics of GCC are much more important than the the reality of GCC.
As I point out over on my blog, the argument that the average citizen is not qualified to judge the science has some unusual qualities, whether it's true or not. Hasn't there been many cases in the past where the average citizen was deemed unqualified to form his own opinion?
Let's assume that GCC is real and deadly. Taking the word of scientific consensus, we change massive parts of our global economy to meet the threat and, sure enough, nothing bad happens.
Aside from the fact that, due to human nature, many will argue it was never going to happen anyway, what have we accomplished? Yes, we have saved millions of lives. We have avoided massive numbers of refugees and the destruction of coastal cities. But we have also, for the first time, let a new group of people decide by consensus what the policy should be for the rest of the population. Are we sure we want to do this?
It's a question I haven't seen addressed anywhere else. Sure — there has been a lot of hand-waving around the entire debate, but nobody has just asked point blank if scientists should make policy decisions based on information the average Joe couldn't understand
We've went through a time in our history where groups of clergy ran a great part of western civilization. While I know that it's popular to demonize them today, at the time they were the smartest people the world had to offer. They made decisions mostly on what they thought to be a higher cause. And significantly, there was consensus.
Things didn't work out too well for folks that disagreed in those days. They were called heretics, amoral. They were told to get with the program. They were not accepted by society. Dissent was not tolerated. What we found was that even though the church was created to take care of spiritual needs, once it got into politics it became just another political player, jockeying for power and playing hardball with the rest of the rulers.
So — what's the call? Is it better to suffer and have a free choice over your own destiny, or to be saved and safe, only to lose your choice to people who know more than you?"
While many prognosticators have made predictions about a burst bubble about to appear, and the end of Web 2.0, nobody has made a plea for the small-time developers to think before they leap into this arena. After all, the true losers of a Web 2.0 bubble, if there is one, will be the mom-and-pop internet shops working on a shoestring.
People are tired of ads. They hate them on TV, they hate them on the web. They're tired of those stupid customer loyalty cards that every business has nowadays. They're not stupid: they know those cards help the businesses a lot more than they do the consumers. And they're going to get tired of digging, moderating, boinking, slapping, skirting, poking, winking, and whatever other synonyms websites can come up with to try to get folks to participate. Right now, there's a headlong push to get people involved in these Web 2.0 sites, but for every true convert, there are a hundred folks that just drop by to see what everybody else is doing. They're there because of habit, not because of bells and whistles.
Aside from the boom-or-bust articles, which are rather predictable, is there a greater social damage that will occur by busting lots of little guys, instead of investors with deep pockets?"
Since some of the original Cassini pictures were released a couple of years ago, there's been a lot of speculation about Iapetus because of the wierdness of the images coming back. Some are calling it The Great Wall of Iapetus
The jury is still out, however. One thing is for certain: the more public speculation and involvement in the story, the more interest there is in NASA and the Cassini mission. Cassini is tasked with another close fly-by of walnut-shaped, Pac-Man-looking Iapetus in September. Let's hope for something that keeps the public interested."
I've tried to jazz up the conflict a bit and take apart each argument and analyze them. Aside from the shameful attempt at publicizing my blog, is there anything to be learned from comparing the two arguments? Specifically, are certain arguments so old as to be useless in the discussion about God's existence (the presence of evil, religious people do bad things, I believe just because, etc).
Hitchens and many atheists seem to feel mankind as a species has evolved to the point that we need to give up silly superstitious beliefs and walk with full vision into our future. Relgious folk such as Gerson seem to feel that such talk is hardly new, is hardly more evolved, and lacks substance. Has the argument evolved? Granted, simple superstitions such as Gods causing eclipses and thunder storms have long since passed for most humans, but many educated and intelligent people believe in something outside their own cosmos. Is the evolution of God into more obscure parts of our science a sign that God is almost dead? Or are we beginning to realize that the concept of God is simply a concept of anything outside our understanding — something that will always remain outside our reach? It's the weekend, and it's time for some Epistemology Smackdown for Nerds. I've got twenty bucks on Hitch!"
So aside from making lots of money for various "In Search Of" and "Unsolved Mysteries" shows, what progress, if any, have we made on the issue? The usual quote from skeptics is "where's the physical evidence?", but we have many simultaneous sighting and radar contacts on record. True believers insist on a governmental cover-up of massive proportions, which, to put it mildly, seems highly improbable.
Daniel Markham writes: "Several new stories broke this week, from the report that IT workers in Europe mostly don't think their jobs depend on performance to the report that says a third of all Americans don't take all of their vacation time. The number of workaholics chapters is growing in the states — these are 12-step programs for people who work too much.
IT, especially in America, is famous for long hours and little sleep. Isn't this the way it's supposed to be? Or should be be taking a month off every year like the Europeans do? Is IT like working in a union shop making widgets waiting for the weekend, or is it more like being a doctor?
Daniel Markham writes: "Has NASA outlived it's usefulness? As a space fan, I remember all the promises made over the years about where we were going: a dozen-shuttle space fleet with launches every week, a lunar base, spaceflight for everyone. None of that is happening, however, and perhaps it's time for us to rethink whether or not we're getting what we're paying fo.
Daniel Markham writes: "Writing technology content on your blog? Creating a new web media site? Trying to gain readership? This says that you can learn a lot about what works and what doesn't work by watching monkeys. Is there a secret sect of web monkey ninja warriors? Do primates offer a clue as to what sells and what doesn't? Do the secrets actually work? How many of these web monkey ninja warrior rules do you follow on a regular basis?
I've been in web programming ever since the web came out. I tell folks, half-jokingly, that I should have gotten into online pornography: that's where the money is. I wouldn't start an online Hustler magazine — that's not my style — but I do think that any online media company has to consider the power of the human form in selecting their content. There is a reason why there are sites called "Hot or not" are hot. We suckers will troop over there regularly to get a good look at what the other monkeys are getting.
Daniel Markham writes: "Everybody assumes that when life is finally found in outer space, say on Mars, that this will be a good thing for the Space Program. But looking at our history with funding battles for space exploration, there's a compelling case to be made that finding life on Mars would be the worst thing possible for manned space exploration. The case is made here, and includes some twists and turns you might not expect, such as LBJ's decision to slowly strip space funding to pay for Vietnam and domestic programs."
DanielMarkham writes: "As technology wonks, we deal with more and more complex systems. People, however, have a natural tendency to want to deal in simple concepts. When we apply simple concepts to complex systems, we get sub-optimal results.
Over on WhatToFix, there is an article asking if Walt Disney caused Global Warming. Aside from the amount of CO2 given off by the Disney theme parks, the question is whether animating and personalizing animals in cartoons leads people to consider animals as equivalent to humans.
How many of us talk to users who say "the computer isn't happy with my typing" or some other such anthropomorphic statement? Markham asks the question of just where do these simplistic metaphors help political discussions, and where do they hurt it? As technology impacts the political world more and more, such questions are going to become critical for us to understand, whether it's Global Warming, DRM, or net taxes, this issue is here to stay."
DanielMarkham writes: "I've been watching the flame wars on Global Warming on Slashdot for a few months now. In an effort to ask a simple question without all the flame wars, is modeling science? That is, is creating a computer model the same as coming up with a new law of physics?
This topic has all the nerd stuff you could ever want. Cellular Automata, Turing Tests, Philosophy of Science, nature of chaotic systems, modeling complex software systems in UML. If I've missed something, I'm sure you guys will let me know about it and I appreciate the critique. So what say you? Is modeling science or not? Can we at least agree on this point?"
Aside from the question of the status of the issue, what's the status of the discourse? Are we talking about the role that skepticism plays in science? The basic premise of falsifiability? The relationships between theory and observation? The triad of induction, abduction, and deduction that Pierce wrote about? Has slashdot taken a look at the mathematical and computer models involved with various predictions? Or are we throwing rhetorical rocks at one another and angling for the cheap shot?
DanielMarkham writes: "If you had your dream technology gift for Christmas, what would it be? This article has a list of twelve gifts that while they don't exist, would be really cool. You guys read the technology rags and boards like slashdot, what would be your ultimate tech gift if you were only limited by your imagination?"