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betajet
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Re: Lost Secrets
betajet   8/6/2013 3:36:56 PM
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My favorite survival book is Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island (1874) about a small band of Northerners who escape from the South in a balloon during the USA Civil War.  They find themselves on a tiny island.  The hero is the Engineer, who first figures out which hemisphere they're in, calculates latitude with a stick, and calculates longitude thanks to someone's pocket-watch which is still working.  The other pocket watch is dead, but by taking the two watch glasses and filling them with water (sealing the edges with clay), he makes a magnifying glass which which they light fires.  This is just the beginning of one feat of engineering after another.

There's a fun 1961 film version which adds women and giant Ray Harryhausen monsters, none of which are in the book, but who would want to watch a 50-hour movie about why every survival pack should include an engineer?

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Ditto for many of us
Max The Magnificent   8/6/2013 2:16:11 PM
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@kfield: David - your skills would likely take you further than a whole generation of us who basicallly turn on our devices and expect them to work.

I agree -- and David is one of those guys who has spent countless hours debugging things and making them work -- there are a lot of engineers who are good at designing and building things out of "known good" pieces ... but who wouldn't be any good at actually pulling disparate things together and kluging a working system...

 

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Lost Secrets
Max The Magnificent   8/6/2013 2:12:40 PM
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@KB3001: The same thoughts crossed my mind several times in the past and I always find myself learning skills that were commonplace 100 or 200 years ago. Some of us need to :-)


It sort of depends on the disaster. Assuming a virus that very quickly took out 99.999% of the population,there would be lots of supplies (food and water) left for whoever was left -- the real skill would be to protect yourself from the other survivors (just yesterday I read The Dog Stars by Peter Heller).

 

Assuming more survivors and less supplies, I think people like Doctors and Nurses woudl be considered invaluable to any community -- and also I think engineers and mechanics and anyine who could "make things work" would be invaluable also.

 

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Welcome to progress
Max The Magnificent   8/6/2013 2:02:48 PM
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@DMcCunney: We risk reaching a point where you get a canned answer and it's wrong, but you don't know it's wrong because you don't know how it is derived or the circumstances under which it might not be valid.

Thsi is why I tell my son to always generate a "guestimate" of the answer before plunging into the problem in detail -- round things up and down -- al least get a "feel" for what the answer shoudl be ("somewhere around 400-ish") ... then do the real calculation ... oif you come up with something like 386 or 415 then you hav ea reasonable level of confidence in the result -- if you come up with 0.92 or 1,040,992 then either your estimate was off or your main calculation.

Of course, as you point out, all of this assumes you actually have a clue as to the underlying algirithm for the calculation you are trying to perform.

PS What was Asimov like? From what I've heard he was fun to be around (if you were a guy), egotistical, and something of a ladies' man

DMcCunney
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Re: Welcome to progress
DMcCunney   8/6/2013 1:35:11 PM
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Another one was where there were special folks who knew how to pose questions to the computer -- and one was asking about the origins of humor -- and when he got the answer everything stopped being funny...

Yep.  He discovers humor was an experiment on the human race, and at the end is waiting to see what the experimenter will come up with next.

(I knew Isaac, back when.)

Re Project Gutenberg ... I think it's come along just in time ... but I still think we may have lost a lot of knowledge already ... and, as you say, the real trick may lay in rooting out the nuggets of useful information from the haystack of data...

Idon't think we've truly lost anythingIf it was discovered once, it can be discovered again.

My concern is about losing context.I've met lots of folks, for example, who can't do simple arithmentic without a calculator (and I'm grateful cash registers in retail stores calculate change, because the check-out clerk likely can't.)


Decades ago, I worked for a bank, and a co-worker described getting out of a graduate finance exam because his HP calculator had died.  He could have done the calculations manually, but it would have taken too long.  My job there was resident expert in the mainframe based financial modelling system my area used to generate reports for senior management.  At one point I was asked to produce a report, and I asked several senior financial people in my area "How is this number calculated?  I can make the system do it, but I need the formula."  Nobody knew.  They were used to having a device do it, and had forgotten how it was done.

We risk reaching a point where you get a canned answer and it's wrong, but you don't know it's wrong because you don't know how it is derived or the circumstances under which it might not be valid.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Welcome to progress
Max The Magnificent   8/6/2013 1:17:00 PM
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@DMcCunney: Vinge postulates that the speed of light is a local limit, and that Earth is in the "Slow Zone".;  Get past that to the Beyond, and energies become available that travel many times faster than light.

I think it was soon after I'd read Vinge's stuff that I read Reinventing Gravity by John Moffat (Click Here to see my review) ... the idea of gravity varying in a non-linear way sort of tied into Vinge's stuff .. .it certainly gave me pause for thought...

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Lost Secrets
Max The Magnificent   8/6/2013 1:12:53 PM
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@KB3001: The same thoughts crossed my mind several times in the past and I always find myself learning skills that were commonplace 100 or 200 years ago. Some of us need to :-)


I have a friend who I think would be one of the survivors. He can hunt and trap and live off the land -- he grow shis own fruid and veg -- his wife preserves everything -- he packs his own rifel and handgun bullets -- he's good at woodwork and metal work (to the extent of reboring rifels to make them more accurate...)

DMcCunney
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Re: Welcome to progress
DMcCunney   8/6/2013 1:11:38 PM
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I have "A Fire Upon the Deep", and I've met and corresponded with Vernor.

He popularized the notion of the Singularity, commonly stated as "What happens when your machines are smarter than you are?"  Vinge postulates that the speed of light is a local limit, and that Earth is in the "Slow Zone".;  Get past that to the Beyond, and energies become available that travel many times faster than light.  His protagonist works for a galactic ISP, and a lot of communication is over something that looks a lot like Usenet.

Go farther out and you reach the Transcend, where it's possible for AIs to morph into god-like creatures that rapidly lose interest in communicating with organic life.  The Blight his hapless explorers awaken is one such.

Vernor has subsequently gone in other directions in his fiction, precisely because he hit a metaphorical wall with the Singularity.

I personally doubt our machines can become smarter than we are, for reasons Bertrand Russell touched upon in "The Problems of Philosophy", like the notion that there are classes of problems not solvable within a system of logic, and require stepping outside that context to address.  Can a machine magically step outside it's own context? I rather doubt it.

(I'd also postulate we are in a Singularity now, whose end result we can't foresee, with the Internet as the catalyst brining is about, but that's another discussion entirely.)

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Lost Secrets
Max The Magnificent   8/6/2013 1:09:07 PM
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@David: I've often wondered about this kind of thing.  How much use would I be in a post apocaplyptic world?

I think you would be incredibly useful. Most post apocalyptic scenarios woudl hav esome form of power generation capability, from full-up hydro power stations (Stephen King "The Stand") or nuclear stations (Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle "Lucifer's Hammer") to wind turbines and solar power .... you are the type of guy who could get some sort of power up and running and power up a fridge or a water heater ... which would make you a VERY popular person to have around...

Max The Magnificent
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Silly Asses
Max The Magnificent   8/6/2013 1:02:17 PM
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Since everyone is referencing old Issac Asimov stories -- does anyone remember the one called Silly Asses?  Even though it's only a couple of hundred words, it really makes an impression...

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