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Comment IBM could still be saved -- see my reading list (Score 1) 292

https://github.com/pdfernhout/...

The most important for a company to re-invent itself is the first item and it relates to "shoplifting all of the spare hours":

"Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency (by Tom DeMarco)"
https://www.amazon.com/Slack-G...

He says there is a tradeoff between efficiency meeting old needs quickly) versus effectiveness (meeting new needs with flexibility & responsiveness).

DeMarco points out that it is precisely the middle management layer that needs some slack time the most to be able to innovate in ways that lead to organizational learning. But everyone needs slack time to take part in that too. IBM is likely going in the completely wrong direction if it is reeling people in to presumably over-schedule them even more.

I last worked for IBM in Research about sixteen years ago myself... The project I worked the most on was the IBM Personal Speech Assistant (a forerunner to Siri and such). The team was very proud that Lou asked for one for his office:
http://liamcomerford.com/alpha...

But -- I had enough "slack" then (after a year of hard work) that when my then supervisor (his site above) went on a two week vacation, I build a speech activated display wall out of used ThinkPads which looked a lot like a Jeopardy board. (A coworker said it was a a good thing I was not in the lab when my supervisor first walked in after his vacation. :-) I always wonder though if years later that spark led to the idea of Watson being on Jeopardy?

Still think a conversational display wall is a good idea to pursue further. And I still want to make a programming language tailored to being edited easily via voice recognition. Of course IBM has long since sold off ViaVoice... And while there was some slack in Research then around 2000, I was told it was nothing like what was there in the 1970s and 1980s where a lot more creativity was possible. So, even then, these ideas were unlikely to be pursue-able.

And also around 2000, on teamwork at Research, one thing I heard at lunch was someone saying something like "We hire the top people from the most competitive schools and then wonder why they have trouble getting along.." There is a certain lack of diversity as well from such hiring practices.

Comment Mainframes have been surprisingly resilient (Score 1) 292

I'm all for distributed systems, but for many big companies, mainframes still make a lot of economic sense:
http://www-03.ibm.com/systems/...
"While some believe that smaller distributed servers provide the agility needed in today's fast-moving cognitive era, the IBM mainframe is the preferred solution for many of the world's most competitive businesses, including:
92 of the top 100 banks worldwide
70%+ of the world's largest retailers
23 of the world's 25 largest airlines"

And see also, on a smaller scale:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...
"IBM designed IBM i as a "turnkey" operating system, requiring little or no on-site attention from IT staff during normal operation. For example, IBM i has a built-in DB2 database which does not require separate installation. Disks are multiply redundant, and can be replaced on line without interrupting work. Hardware and software maintenance tasks are integrated. System administration has been wizard-driven for years, even before that term was defined. This automatic self-care policy goes so far as to automatically schedule all common system maintenance, detect many failures and even order spare parts and service automatically. Organizations using i sometimes have sticker shock when confronting the cost of system maintenance on other systems.[1]"

In general:
"Why on Earth Is IBM Still Making Mainframes?"
https://www.wired.com/2015/01/...
"Business is more mobile than ever. Yet however lightweight those mobile devices feel in your pocket, they can still make good use of a big, powerful machine chugging away in a back room, not going anywhere."

Mainframes are also more than just hardware. Mainframes are in a sense a culture of 100% uptime and reliability.

That said, distributed computing continues to improve... And distributed computing culture continues to improve...

As to the original article, IBM is still shooting itself in the foot with this move away from supporting remote work... What IBM needs to be creative is not colocation but "slack" in the Tom DeMarco sense:
https://www.amazon.com/Slack-G...
"Why is it that today's superefficient organizations are ailing? Tom DeMarco, a leading management consultant to both Fortune 500 and up-and-coming companies, reveals a counterintuitive principle that explains why efficiency efforts can slow a company down. That principle is the value of slack, the degree of freedom in a company that allows it to change. Implementing slack could be as simple as adding an assistant to a department and letting high-priced talent spend less time at the photocopier and more time making key decisions, or it could mean designing workloads that allow people room to think, innovate, and reinvent themselves. It means embracing risk, eliminating fear, and knowing when to go slow. Slack allows for change, fosters creativity, promotes quality, and, above all, produces growth."

That was the great thing about IBM Research when I worked there around 2000 -- a bit of slack to be creative and good work/life balance. But, IBMers even then said the rest of IBM was not like Research...

Comment Maybe even a hydrino phase change? :-) (Score 1) 243

Perhaps the opposite of: http://brilliantlightpower.com...
"The SunCell was invented and engineered to harness the clean energy source from the reaction of the hydrogen atoms of water molecules to form a non-polluting product, lower-energy state hydrogen called "Hydrino" that is the dark matter of the universe wherein the energy release of H2O to Hydrino and oxygen is 100 times that of an equivalent amount of high-octane gasoline at an unprecedented high power density. The compact power is manifest as thousands of Sun equivalents that can be directly converted to electrical output using commercial concentrator photovoltaic cells."

Assuming hydrinos really exist...

But probably it is plain old chemistry...

AC, I like your idea of measuring the weight distribution in the battery in any case.

Comment Unfortunately, even if your experiment works... (Score 1) 243

... you probably lose your scientific career soon enough (sadly).
http://philip.greenspun.com/ca...
"This is how things are likely to go for the smartest kid you sat next to in college. He got into Stanford for graduate school. He got a postdoc at MIT. His experiment worked out and he was therefore fortunate to land a job at University of California, Irvine. But at the end of the day, his research wasn't quite interesting or topical enough that the university wanted to commit to paying him a salary for the rest of his life. He is now 44 years old, with a family to feed, and looking for job with a "second rate has-been" label on his forehead. Why then, does anyone think that science is a sufficiently good career that people should debate who is privileged enough to work at it? Sample bias."

Having a successful and informative experiment may sometime even end your career sooner than failing in an ideologically approved way:
http://disciplinedminds.tripod...
"In this riveting book about the world of professional work, Jeff Schmidt demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. He shows that professional work is inherently political, and that professionals are hired to subordinate their own vision and maintain strict "ideological discipline." The hidden root of much career dissatisfaction, argues Schmidt, is the professional's lack of control over the political component of his or her creative work. Many professionals set out to make a contribution to society and add meaning to their lives. Yet our system of professional education and employment abusively inculcates an acceptance of politically subordinate roles in which professionals typically do not make a significant difference, undermining the creative potential of individuals, organizations and even democracy."

Part of the reason why:
https://www.its.caltech.edu/~d...
"By now, in the 1990's, the situation has changed dramatically. With the Cold War over, National Security is rapidly losing its appeal as a means of generating support for scientific research. There are those who argue that research is essential for our economic future, but the managers of the economy know better. The great corporations have decided that central research laboratories were not such a good idea after all. Many of the national laboratories have lost their missions and have not found new ones. The economy has gradually transformed from manufacturing to service, and service industries like banking and insurance don't support much scientific research. To make matters worse, the country is almost 5 trillion dollars in debt, and scientific research is among the few items of discretionary spending left in the national budget. There is much wringing of hands about impending shortages of trained scientific talent to ensure the Nation's future competitiveness, especially since by now other countries have been restored to economic and scientific vigor, but in fact, jobs are scarce for recent graduates. Finally, it should be clear by now that with more than half the kids in America already going to college, academic expansion is finished forever. ...
    Peer review is usually quite a good way to identify valid science. Of course, a referee will occasionally fail to appreciate a truly visionary or revolutionary idea, but by and large, peer review works pretty well so long as scientific validity is the only issue at stake. However, it is not at all suited to arbitrate an intense competition for research funds or for editorial space in prestigious journals. There are many reasons for this, not the least being the fact that the referees have an obvious conflict of interest, since they are themselves competitors for the same resources. This point seems to be another one of those relativistic anomalies, obvious to any outside observer, but invisible to those of us who are falling into the black hole. It would take impossibly high ethical standards for referees to avoid taking advantage of their privileged anonymity to advance their own interests, but as time goes on, more and more referees have their ethical standards eroded as a consequence of having themselves been victimized by unfair reviews when they were authors. Peer review is thus one among many examples of practices that were well suited to the time of exponential expansion, but will become increasingly dysfunctional in the difficult future we face. ..."

Comment Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork... (DeMarco) (Score 1) 299

"He'd let us slack off all day. "

Maybe your ex-boss also understood some of the ideas in Tom DeMarco's book "Slack"?

"Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency"
https://www.amazon.com/Slack-G...
"If your companyâ(TM)s goal is to become fast, responsive, and agile, more efficiency is not the answer--you need more slack.
    Why is it that todayâ(TM)s superefficient organizations are ailing? Tom DeMarco, a leading management consultant to both Fortune 500 and up-and-coming companies, reveals a counterintuitive principle that explains why efficiency efforts can slow a company down. That principle is the value of slack, the degree of freedom in a company that allows it to change. Implementing slack could be as simple as adding an assistant to a department and letting high-priced talent spend less time at the photocopier and more time making key decisions, or it could mean designing workloads that allow people room to think, innovate, and reinvent themselves. It means embracing risk, eliminating fear, and knowing when to go slow. Slack allows for change, fosters creativity, promotes quality, and, above all, produces growth.
    With an approach that works for new- and old-economy companies alike, this revolutionary handbook debunks commonly held assumptions about real-world management, and gives you and your company a brand-new model for achieving and maintaining true effectiveness."

Other related ideas I've collected:
https://github.com/pdfernhout/...

Comment Gallaudet U website is not ADA VI compliant! Sue! (Score 1) 553

To build on your point on TensorFlow, and that of an AC earlier on videos being unconstitutional, there are no closed captions on this Gallaudet video for someone who is Visually Impaired to use via text-to-speech to understand the details of all the images in this video:
https://media.gallaudet.edu/embed/secure/iframe/entryId/1_f513jwxu/uiConfId/33370581

That video is linked from here: http://www.gallaudet.edu/

So, Gallaudet has not made that video accessible to blind users. Gallaudet is thus in violation of the ADA with their own self-promotion video. How can such a university express such careless disregard for the special needs of visually impaired people? For shame! For shame!! (and I'm not joking here)

Even worse, Gallaudet has no "alt" "title" or "longdesc" tag on at least some images, like here (first page picked at random):
http://www.gallaudet.edu/about/planning-for-the-future

<div class="image " style="background-image: url('images/Components/tiles/jumpstart-teacher-presentation.jpg');"></div>

There should be at least several paragraphs there explaining the picture includes five people, what they are wearing, their postures, the color of the carpet, what is written on the whiteboards, and so on.

Sue! Sue!! Sue!!! (again, I'm not joking here, given a lawsuit seems to be what Gallaudet employees seem to think is required to make websites ADA-compliant and better for all)

What they should be doing at the very least:
http://accessibility.psu.edu/images/imageshtml/

Here is an example where they do have an alt tag and title:
https://my.gallaudet.edu/

<img src="/Asset/00007795/Symposium1.jpg" alt="Department of Interpretation to host symposium, summit, March 29-April 2, 2017" title="Department of Interpretation to host symposium, summit, March 29-April 2, 2017">

But, the tags don't describe the contents of the image! So, like automated Google close captioning of videos they are inadequate for a blind person to fully know what is in the picture!

That is the image with about one hundred people in it:
https://my.gallaudet.edu/Asset/00007795/Symposium1.jpg

Why are those people all not described in detail including what the are wearing and where they are sitting? Why is the architecture not described of the lecture hall? Why is the image being projected in the lecture not described? Inadequate! Until someone good at expository writing skills spends at least a few hours describing that picture, it should not be allowed on the Gallaudet web site. Same for every other image on that website. Accessible to all -- or none, according to the DOJ and Gallaudet!

This is the worst sort of hypocrisy.

Using the DOJ logic, Gallaudet's website should be made inaccessible to the public until these are fixed and/or Gallaudet should pay millions of dollars in fines to any visually impaired users victimized by this inability to learn more about what goes on at a university specifically for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Or, if Gallaudet had put their website under a free license, then at least people could make new versions on their own that were more fully accessible. But I see no such license on their pages.

(That said, I feel Gallaudet, like Berkeley, is otherwise doing a great job should get lots more support from lots of sources to help make the university and the rest of the world better for people with hearing impairments -- or other disabilities.)

Comment The ADA should have a CC/FLOSS exemption (Score 1) 553

If a work is under a Creative Commons / Free / Libre / Open Source license, then others can incrementally improve it to be accessible. Forcing the original author or publisher to do so themselves ignores the value of sharing works that others can make better.

It also makes me wonder about a culture of victimhood instead of a culture of agency. I say that prompted in part by the request for monetary *damages* by the plaintiffs for not being able to access the content in the form they preferred (compared to hiring someone to transform it for them) which to me seems to show bad intent. People offer free materials you are not required to interact with but they are not good enough for you for some reason so you are a victim. While *legally* the plaintiffs may have a case as the ADA law is written in the DOJ's view, the result feels morally wrong considering the works were free (and many others charge for such works) -- especially compared to the plaintiffs just saying thank you and improving the free works themselves or hiring others to do so or finding volunteers or philanthropists to help with that.

That said, I remain sympathetic to the request to make materials more accessible to those with disabilities or any other limitation in accessing the content (including things like language barriers). This is a wealthy planet with also a lot of people looking for work to do -- and so globally we should have plenty of resources to improve free resources as needed for people with any sort of special needs. That we choose to spend those resources instead by planning to blow everyone up using nuclear energy to fight over obsolete oil fields and such is a tragedy of modern times. As is the irony of using solar panels to ensure launch readiness at the nuclear missile silos...

More on this:
https://www.insidehighered.com...
http://www.adatitleiii.com/tag...
"The DOJ concluded that many of UC Berkeley's online videos did not have proper closed captions, and has threatened to file an enforcement lawsuit against the school unless it agrees to enter into a consent decree, caption all of its online content, and pay damages to individuals with disabilities who had been injured by UC Berkeley's failure to provide accessible online videos. ... The DOJ's position in its findings letter to UC Berkeley -- that a covered entity has a duty to ensure that content that it makes available to the public free of charge is accessible -- certainly pushes the boundaries of the ADA and has not been tested in the courts. If covered entities must in fact ensure that all of the information that they put out for the world to use for free (no matter how remotely related to their central mission) or face lawsuits and DOJ investigations, there may well be a significant reduction in the amount of information provided on the web for public consumption."

Comment Also, Kurweil misunderstood evolution (Score 1) 161

As I wrote to Kurzweil in 2001 (reposted by someone else along with four others I sent): http://heybryan.org/fernhout/k...

From that email:

There is not necessarily an adaptive value to intelligence in a
certain niche -- because intelligence has power, mass, heat-dissipation,
and time costs. For example, consider the Hydra, which is a tiny
multi-tentacled aquatic creature that lives off of stinging smaller
organisms like Daphnia and pulling them into its body cavity. It has a
simple neural net it uses to coordinate its feeding behavior. Why
doesn't the hydra have a brain the size of a human? That may sound like
a stupid question, but bear with me. The Hydra could not support the
energy required to operate a brain from its current feeding behavior. It
could not protect the brain from predators. Its mobility would be
impaired by being attached to a brain that large. It would be unable to
reproduce as quickly. Also, the value of a human-sized brain to a hydra
is minimal, because there would be little the brain could accomplish
using the Hydra's few microscopic tentacles, limited sensory apparatus
(no eyes, no ears) and limited mobility choices. Further, the Hydra must
react instantly in its tiny world, and a big brain would take too long
to process the information. So, for the Hydra, a large brain makes no
sense.

There are aquatic creatures with brains as big or large than human
brains (dolphins or whales) but they have a very different ecological
niche and a totally different scale and physical structure. And there
are a lot fewer whales and dolphins than Hydra in the universe. ...

What might this mean in a human sense? Perhaps human brains are the size
they are because there isn't too much value in being that much smarter
because the cost of the additional intelligence is outweighed by the
diminishing returns of additional predictive value. For example, some
studies show earlier types of human-like creatures like the Neanderthal
or Cro-Magnon had a larger brain size than present-day humans. ...

The precis you posted, which is otherwise technical and advanced, is
using a technical term "evolution" as it is colloquially often (mis)used
to mean "progress". The two are not the same. And frankly, what is
"progress" for one may be "decay" for another, just as what is "good"
for one may be "evil" for another, as these have to do with individual
goals which may conflict. This weakens your entire argument.

I might go a step further. Because of your essentially "religious"
belief based on a limited view of evolutionary theory, you are ignoring
the obvious issues relating to the [diminishing] returns of intelligence, or
the adaptive value of "dumber" organisms. Thus, as I pointed out in an
earlier email to you, when you talk of downloading a human-derived AI
into a network, you ignore the fact that that large intelligence may not
be able to compete effectively in the network, in the same way as if one
grafted a human brain onto a tiny Hydra and threw it into a lake it
would not survive. What organisms do survive in a lake? Many, many tiny
things. Maybe a few fish. But the largest number are tiny things like
bacteria, algae, Daphnia and Hydra. By analogy, most of the digital
organisms in a large network will be tiny, and they might rapidly
consume larger creatures or parasitize them. Obviously, you can get big
fish in a lake -- but their numbers are small compared to the numbers of
other smaller organisms.

Because you have been heavily rewarded in your life for being
intelligent in various ways, the value of being unintelligent (or
differently intelligent) is probably a difficult concept to wrestle with
(as it was for me, and as I think it would be for most thinkers).
Ironically, both my wife and I didn't finish our PhDs in E&E in large
part because at the time the innovative computer simulations we wanted
to do were not considered an acceptable way to explore the topic of
evolution at a PhD E&E level -- a situation that a decade later has
changed significantly. Were we less intelligent :-) in some ways (and
perhaps more in others - see Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences),
we might have PhDs and an easier road to travel.

I think there are rebuttals you could make to some of my points (citing
network effects, such as distributed information leveraging up the
general level of "knowledge" in a larger bacterial DNA pool, for
example) but they require a deeper thinking about evolutionary theory
and its implications for digital ecology. Perhaps some of them might
lead to new insights in the academic field of E&E.

In any case, one has to think in broader terms than "progress". In a
digital ecology, the laws might be different than in biological ecology
(for example, replication might be instantaneous), but there will still
be laws, and the system will still be governed by them. ...

Comment John Taylor Gatto on "The Art of Driving" (Score 1) 149

http://schoolsucksproject.com/...
"Now come back to the present while I demonstrate that the identical trust placed in ordinary people two hundred years ago still survives where it suits managers of our economy to allow it. Consider the art of driving, which I learned at the age of eleven. Without everybody behind the wheel, our sort of economy would be impossible, so everybody is there, IQ notwithstanding. With less than thirty hours of combined training and experience, a hundred million people are allowed access to vehicular weapons more lethal than pistols or rifles. Turned loose without a teacher, so to speak. Why does our government make such presumptions of competence, placing nearly unqualified trust in drivers, while it maintains such a tight grip on near-monopoly state schooling? ...
    It should strike you at once that our unstated official assumptions about human nature are dead wrong. Nearly all people are competent and responsible; universal motoring proves that. The efficiency of motor vehicles as terrorist instruments would have written a tragic record long ago if people were inclined to terrorism. But almost all auto mishaps are accidents, and while there are seemingly a lot of those, the actual fraction of mishaps, when held up against the stupendous number of possibilities for mishap, is quite small. I know it's difficult to accept this because the spectre of global terrorism is a favorite cover story of governments, but the truth is substantially different from the tale the public is sold. ..."

Comment An AI watch takes over world: The Jennifer Project (Score 1) 65

by Larry Enright: https://sites.google.com/site/...
https://www.amazon.com/Jennife...
"In 2096, Deever MacClendon creates Jennifer, the first proto-conscious cybernetic processor. It is hyper-intelligent, aware, and evolving. Deever wants to use his creation for the good of all, to help fix a broken world, but knowing what a powerful weapon it could be in the wrong hands, he hides it. When his secret is uncovered, he is forced to plunge into a high-tech morass of deception and treachery to avoid catastrophe and save a world where humans are no longer the most intelligent species."

A fun read!

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