Archive for February, 2014

Choice

I could see the next step when I wrote my posting, “Appetite,” but I couldn’t quite make the leap.  Then, my good friend Ben Sirach reminded me that we human beings have the ability – far more than any of our animal colleagues (or avocados) – to make choices.  We have the ABILITY to choose.  All that we lack, most times, is the DESIRE.

We are all familiar w the old (tired and tedious) story of the frog that is placed in a pot on a stove.  If the water is cool and is warmed up gradually, our poor froggy will stay put and let himself be boiled.  If the pot contains boiling water when he’s dropped into it, he will leap out immediately.  There have been several refutations, all of which seem plausible; where the truth lies, I know not (and I will not sacrifice a frog on whimsy).  But, I dare say we humans are that frog in the lukewarm, comfortable water.  I further say that the temp is rising.

No, I don’t mean global warming.  If you live east of the Rocky Mountains, you would be hard pressed to give any credence at all to the notion that temperatures are rising.  I just read an article that the Great Lakes – all of ‘em – are very nearly frozen shore-to-shore; something most people can’t remember ever happening before.  Record cold and snowfall do not seem to be what Al Gore had in mind with his inconvenient truth (at least I don’t see him w a snow shovel).

What I do mean by “the temperature is rising” is more along the lines of “it’s later than you think.”  I am no Paul Revere: I do not much care about trying to wake the populace (I am, of course, referring to the myth we were taught in school, not the reality).  Oh, I do wish values, decision and discipline, rather than gluttony, sloth and debauchery were rampant.  But, I am reminded of Horace Walpole, and would rather laugh than cry (“This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.”).  I do pity the frog in the pot, for he doesn’t know any better; but what am I to think about my fellow, sometimes sentient, beings?

Not much, evidently.

I understand that the number of abortions performed in this country is slowly declining; is that good news to Planned Parenthood, or Big Pharm?  Maybe people are finally beginning to understand that abortion is murder and that babies are precious?  You mean we can choose love, and we can choose life?  Won’t find that on the front page of the NYT.  The current Administration (faithful readers will note that it is anathema to me to actually use the name of the current resident of the White House who has the conceit to call himself my president) has deported roughly 2 million illegal immigrants, far more than his predecessor, and at a rate roughly nine times that of 20 years ago.  Wow, now THAT is something to be proud of.

I haven’t yet seen that the UN has sent “peacekeeping troops” to Rome to protect the indigenous peoples from the horrors of the Roman Catholic Church; unlike the countless other countries that are murdering their peoples at a horrific rate (yes, Syria leaps to mind).  Let’s see: the UN pushes abortion on the “developing” countries (mostly Africa, because, well, whites have a very long history of imposing their will on Africa), and then condemns the biggest, oldest church that hasn’t yet morphed itself into pop culture for what, condemning abortion?  Excusify me.

“Real love is an act of the will; a sustained choice that proves itself not just by what we say or feel, but by what we do for the good of others.”

 

Thanks to:

Sirach 15:15-20

“Barak Obama, deporter in chief,” The Economist, 2014 Feb 8

“Deported Mexicans, bordering on cruelty,” The Economist, 2014 Feb 8

“Excusify me, but is ‘refugeed’ a verb?”  By Jeffrey Shaffer   from the September 23, 2005 edition – http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0923/p09s03-cojs.html

“A City Upon a Hill: Augustine, John Winthrop and the Soul of the American Experiment Today,” Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/a-city-upon-a-hill-augustine-john-winthrop-and-the-soul-of-the-american-experiment-today

Revelation 3:15-20

A lesson in success from “2001: A Space Odyssey”

What is success?  HAL actually stated what success meant to him, and it didn’t include meddling humans.  Given that computers can’t have an original thot, then HAL was programmed to define success in those terms.  Even if HAL had that as an original thot, ‘success’ to him was still somewhat different from what Frank and Dave, and the three scientists who were hibernating, might have held as ‘success’.  Human success usually, if not always, includes being able to tell the tale; i.e., living.  Either HAL never considered his own mortality, or he thot that his memory would always exist and therefore he was immortal, even if specific dots of silicon might cease to exist as chips and transistors.  Or, frankly Scarlet, he didn’t give a damn.

We are led to believe that HAL deliberately, and purposely killed Dave, although, cleverly, we did not actually see the apparent collision between the pod and Dave (and why was the pod parked so far away from the antenna Dave was out there to fix, anyway?)  HAL almost killed Frank.  To HAL’s way of computing (or “way of thinking”), since he observed them talking (by reading lips?) and discussing disconnecting HAL, HAL was merely acting in self-defense.  But, HAL could terminate the lives of humans because he did not need them for his success.  The equation for HAL’s success might have included an unknown into which ‘human survival’ could be plugged; apparently, that term could easily have been left null.

Clearly, HAL terminated the lives of the three scientists who were hibernating; so HAL got to the point where any and all humans were a threat to his success.  HAL did suspect the three sleeping scientists because they had been trained off site and put into hibernation before being ‘installed’ (‘loaded’?).  Ironically, the video near the end, as Frank is unplugging HAL, states that the three scientists were essential to the success of the mission.  So, it’s unlikely that HAL was originally programmed to kill all five humans.

So, HAL went nuts.  Behavior so human that it’s frightening.  And, frankly, behavior I see every day in the computer systems I have to use.  As I have learned to think of computer behavior, there is a lot of space between zeros and ones in machine language.

But, what is our success?  To what do we strive?  When we achieve success, what do we have?  In business, the goal posts are constantly being moved.  Often the bar is raised before we even get to it, or so shortly after gaining it that we can’t savor the moment.  We can’t feel good about an accomplishment that no longer exists.  Every day, it is “what have you done for me, lately?”

It is like beating our heads against a brick wall, expecting a different result w each impact.  It’s our own head we are smashing.  And, it is a brick wall of our choosing.  Why this self-destructive activity for a meaningless objective?

Of constant – yes, daily – discussion in my job is our future as a workgroup.  There seems little doubt that the need will exist far after all of us are gone, so it’s not a matter of no one needing buggy whips anymore.  But, where will the job be physically done?  The current buzzword is ‘geographical diversity.’  Which is espoused to mean that engineering talent is just sitting on its hands, all over the world, waiting for the privilege and joy of working for The Company.  What it means in reality is that there is a core group of  hundred’s of years of ‘tribal knowledge’ that no longer has any value to the corporate bean counters.

Fortunately, I am old enough to make retirement an option; but many of my co-workers are in their 40s and they can’t afford to retire.  And, by “retire,” I don’t mean sitting in a rocking chair on the porch for a couple of years, which is what previous generations did.  I work w ‘high achievers’ – doing nothing is not an option for them.  But, neither will they be able to find another job, let alone continue in the career they have worked so hard for.

Unsurprisingly, ‘success’ varies by the individual.  One co-worker stated that this workgroup was like a second family for him.  Others, clearly, get their social fulfillment by coming to work.  Others exchange their time for a paycheck so that they can indulge their hobbies, whether it be the accumulation of more toys, or time on the ski slopes or vacations to exotic lands.  No one talks of ‘geographical diversity’ as a good thing.  If the powers that be move the lock, stock, and barrel of our work, they will be moving computer workstations w/o operators.

In the meantime, for the company thrives on secrets, so rumors are rampant, little work gets done as the workers discuss the uncertainty of their futures.  Hard to build a future on shifting sands.  More to the point, why bother?

I am grateful that only my paycheck depends on The Company; I divorced my own success from the company years ago.  In fact, I am looking forward to the day when I can thumb my nose at the politics, the lies, the subterfuge, the games, the innuendo, the lack of respect.  In the meantime, I am just building up my retirement fund.  All the company wants from me is my time, and that is all the company is getting from me.  I am investing in my retirement fund, and someday, I will start withdrawing from it.  If I am a rat leaving a sinking ship, I am a rat that can swim.  And will never look back.