Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Still Getting Tech Wrong

h/t Gates of Vienna

Note please that George is screwed whichever end of that thing he goes off of.
There's a lesson or two there.

In an interesting article at GoV, the discussion devolves to the ongoing attempt to sustain the Welfare State via Third World population importation, and the socially taboo alternative option of geronticide was the topic.

And then, in comments, it goes completely dipshitical, including the inevitable "Everything will be automated, and we'll all live in mud huts" codswallop.

Um, no.
I/we beat the robot-overlord automation nonsense to death with the arguments for/against self-driving cars (TL;DR: It ain't coming, sportsfans) both here and over at Silicon Graybeard's blog some months past, but for a refresher:

Dystopian nonsense, unconnected to reality.

Cars only cut the number of jobs for horsecrap shovelers, but the number of jobs from that tech upgrade increased for everything but horses, to the present day, for everything from car washers to road builders and street sweepers to oil drillers and refiners. In fact, there are now far more cars, trucks, and tractors than there ever were horses, by orders of magnitude. That's what technology does.

Computers and software magnify jobs, they don't decrease them, mainly because of GIGO problems.
Call me when software becomes flawless.
I'll wait.

"Robots" may take away jobs from burger flippers, but only by increasing the jobs for those who load them with frozen patties and ketchup, service them, program them, repair them when they break, and design and rebuild their inevitable upgrades.

You're not going to replace people in most jobs, ever. You may change the nature of some jobs, but the idea that you're going to see whole swaths of the labor force displaced is rampant nonsense from watching too much Star Trek as if it were reality gospel, and doing too little actual work, let alone running an actual business.

And anyone who thinks AI will take over driving or airline piloting is ignoring the inevitable Hindenburg/Titanic moments that will get that nonsense cancelled in about a minute.
Those who disagree can show me their ticket stubs from the White Star Line or Greater Reich Graf Zeppelin Corp. for their last transatlantic crossing.

So tell me: did jetliners create less jobs than ocean crossings, or more?
And the reason you need so many drivers now is because shipping went from odd pieces to truck-borne cargo containers. The future of technology inevitably looks more like The Jetsons ("Jane, stop this crazy thing!") than it does or ever will Star Trek.

 African countries have a pyramid, because there is no social security (except kids who will hopefully help support you in your dotage), coupled to a continent that whacks people with every natural and man-made population cull known to 10th century man, which is what most of that under-developed continent lives under to this day.

Dirt roads, mud huts, barbaric sanitation and lifestyle practices, and scads of helpful wildlife like lions and hippos, let alone malaria and Ebola, cull people even more ferociously than combining distilled alcohol with motor vehicles does hereabouts. Hence their demographic graphs.
(For a first-person explanation, read Kim DuToit's excellent 2002 missive: Let Africa Sink.)

The simple fix to the demographic "problem" is the obvious one, entirely overlooked in all of the above: what government cannot sustain (Social Security/Medicare) will implode and collapse.

What cannot continue, won't.

Once you don't have to worry about the nanny state's "safety net"/noose, demographics is irrelevant. Population at that point, like it has for time immemorial, will devolve to a question of how many kids, and thus mouths, you can support, and the life choices involved that each person makes. People who juggle lit road flares while standing in a vat of gasoline for a living won't, for instance, need to worry about a pension. Burn salve and bandages would be a better investment.

Anything else attempted is a race to becoming Zimbabwe, including the inevitable round-up and execution of the bureaucrats and dictator involved, and unless you re-introduce grizzly bears and wolves to NYFC's Central Park and the DC metro area, you can't get there and sustain it.

Importing the Third World to the West is merely a way to bootstrap draconian bloodbath wars between the current civilized populations, and the non-native invasive species.
All the present is, is a warm-up for that exact bloodbath.

Trying to extrapolate a future trend, without including the inevitable response to the current machinations, is a failure of reactive physics and sociology on a global scale, akin to suggesting that one could increase the zebra population of the veldt without the lions, leopards, and cheetahs paying the newcomers any mind or taking any action.

If you're rightfully worried that government immigration or healthcare policies don't have your best interests in mind (because they don't) the solution will be to take their choices away in both cases, not yours, and thus secure your borders, buy your own damned health insurance, and fund your own f**king retirement/pension, like you should have been doing since forever. The man who thinks he will sit in government's lap while it feeds him peeled grapes until he dies, wasn't paying attention in every history class since Socrates was teaching in Athens.

The simplest solution, in both cases, is to build a barrier wall from Brownsville to San Diego for the former, and one around the District of Columbia in the latter, and let no one from the other side get across in either instance, enforced with mines, machineguns, and flamethrowers a la Escape From New York.

If election to Mordor was a one-way terminal ride with no re-entry privileges, the enthusiasm for undertaking the trip would sufficiently fade to make further measures unnecessary, and the republic would look like Théoden's "after" picture once Saruman was dis-possessed.

Failing that, the increase of The Diversity and the impending financial collapse of the Nanny State should long ago have suggested to anyone with the wits the two most obvious conclusions:

Things are going to get sporty.
You don't have enough ammo.


James M Dakin said...

I believe you are confusing petroleum supply increase which allowed technology with technology being its own economic stimulant. Just as with people, It's All About Food, with the economy It's All About Energy.

tweell said...

The problem and difference is that jobs created by new technology require higher intelligence, knowledge, and skills generally sadly lacking in those diverse folks being brought in. Historically, someone with a room temperature IQ was still useful - digging ditches, mucking out stables, picking fruit, etc. Ditches are for backhoes, the stables are all but gone, and orchard management is becoming automated.

Fast food will become computerized kiosks, but those new maintenance and supply jobs will need more brains than hitting icons of burgers on a register and providing the change it says to give. Repairing the self-driving semi that quit driving will likewise need much more ability than driving the rig did. Heck, we're seeing automated veggie picking devices go into commercial farming, putting those Mexicans doing jobs we Americans won't do out of work.

Agreed that things are going to get sporty. As far as ammunition goes, I don't expect to be able to use what I have. Bullets fly both ways, and my name's not Snake. Still hoping to get somewhere less likely to have shooting before it starts.

indyjonesouthere said...

What is not sustainable is supporting people from birth to death that produce nothing except copies of themselves and have no intention of producing anything. They need to be exported. The other tech dream is thinking driverless vehicles are affordable. Driverless trains are not affordable if you consider the last Amtrak crash...they placed a sharp curve in the track to cut costs and their new fangled warning system was not installed due to cost. And this on a vehicle confined to tracks. If you have worked in the aviation industry as I have just add up the cost of backup systems to keep an aircraft moving even if one system goes tits up. That is NOT affordable on a Truck or Auto. Such backup systems cost more than the current vehicle costs and if you don't have them the vehicle sits parked until you get it repaired...think tow truck. What just happened to the passengers or freight on that vehicle? And you did this to save the cost of a driver?

Aesop said...

The petroleum supply was never a factor.
Until you had something to do with it, it was just something lying around.
Once you had internal combustion, it became a thing. They're two guys at either end of the same saw.

If you dropped a fully functional nuclear power plant into medieval Paris, you would not get the Enlightenment.

Cars (and boats and airplanes) drove the search for oil, and later, material science shifted it into overdrive.

But until their was some use for it, it was just a puddle.

Prior to 1900, the world was run primarily on coal (and wood), as it had been for the preceeding century.

We sought oil to run vehicles, we didn't build vehicles to exploit oil.
And we did that because horses can't fly, and a machine can replace literally hundreds of them.

The only thing technology put out of business was buggy whip makers, farriers, and stable boys.
The trade-up was the entire modern economy.

Energy sets the pace of the economy now, but only because the tech to use the form of energy we rely on is mature. That was not the case in 1900, nor until about 50 years later.

Read my comments at SiG's blog re: driverless cars.
They're about as likely as flying pigs, for those reasons and a few thousand more.
They belong on the same futurist list as personal flying cars and jet packs.

And the last Amtrak crash wasn't because they "put a sharp curve in to cut costs", it was because they didn't fix a sharp curve put in decades ago, and they didn't do that fix to save costs now. The human operator (along with twelve other co-contributing things) was the ultimate failure point, BTW. He was going 80MPH in a section where the track safety limit was 30-35. And, as it turns out, trains don't fly. At least not twice.

If ONLY there were some way to convey speed limits to drivers...maybe post them...on large panels...near the side of the roadway...

Anonymous said...

No such thing as "enough ammo"; there's only "not enough" and " almost enough". The trick is to be closer to the latter than the former.
Boat Guy

RSR said...

"In fact, there are now far more cars, trucks, and tractors than there ever were horses, by orders of magnitude. That's what technology does."
Per capita population for population on the whole and not just in the city? That's doubtful in my book...

Anonymous said...

Horses are and were expensive to keep and use. People in cities rented them as often as they owned them. (or much more often if they weren't wealthy.)

And a funny thing, all the support structure for horses still exists. There are still farriers, saddle makers, coach makers, vets, breeders, and even buggy whip makers. They just aren't a dominant industry anymore. Same can be said for chandeliers, candle makers, soap and lye makers, and every other industry that was going to be wiped out by the next new thing. I'm sure the masters either retired or stayed busy passing on their craft, while the schlubs found something else to do. As many many many UAW workers have discovered with the demise of the US auto industry, they are schlubs and not masters, and needed to find something new.

The history of civilization in the world is the story of using up the most accessible energy source and replacing it with the next thing. Europe was deforested (and charcoal makers put out of work) before they developed coal mining. Whales were hunted to near extinction before petroleum began to be developed. I don't know what will come after oil, but history says it will be something.


Anonymous said...

As nick notes; the support structure for "horse power" DOES still exist. Everything's a trade-off though; even steam gave more power than horses for many uses and so some kind of combustion-engine power source will likely be needed - or certainly valued in a potentially darker future. Cars don't breed but also don't eat and shit while they're in the garage. I'm doubtful horses would ever be used again for more than transport, and personally I'd druther have mules but either one sure beats walking.

Anonymous said...

RE: job loss. Did biz automation for decades, built a couple systems for a client. They went from 14 clerks pounding keyboards for data entry to 1 whose job now had the task - 2 hours/day, in 5-10 minute increments - to look at the exceptions file periodically and manually fix what the software decided it couldn't decipher.

Management didn't know what to do with the 14 surplus people; I asked if they needed more people interacting directly with their customers - use humans for complex, creative-based tasking, let the computers do the boring stuff. Retrain and re-purpose the people to deal with customers F2F, on the phone, live chat, improve the company's email response time, etc. Use your humans to cultivate a larger market base.

"But customer service staff gets $2.00 more an hour than clerical staff" was the reply. The math on that one is simple - 14*$X/$X+2 = 14-Y+(Z*14-Y*burden rate savings).

No idea what they did, the contract ended, their check cleared, went to work with a new client, etc.

RSR said...

I have horses and understand, but also, horses are somewhat fragile animals... Two is one and one is none very much applies/applied for anyone who relies on them for serious work... And one often needed more than.
Two draft horses common to pull a steel plow. Most buggies and carriages for family-sized hauling, especially on minimally improved roads, would require multiple animals... One working man in a saddle like on a ranch would likely have multiple horses to give some a day off...
Then you have foals, colts, broodmares, and breeding stallions that are all pretty much useless for "work"... Also, horses eat grass primarily so not a huge lift provided you're in the lower 2/3rds of the US where grass isn't buried under deep/substantial snow, etc...
Granted, portions of my family has been in the "states" since before the American Revolution (and actively fought the British), and after served as farmers, soldiers, etc, on the early frontiers -- but even then huge, multi-story timber frame barns were common for "normal" families to support necessary infrastructure... Several smaller buildings was a cheaper alternative for the same, but I nevertheless only see scenarios where the per capita number of horses is greater than the per capita number of cars (excluding those inoperable/sitting in junkyards, etc).

RSR said...

*Point about family was that work draft horses, carriage horses, and pleasure riding horses/ponies were all separate animals and quite common in farm history/family lore.

loren said...

Energy is and always will be the basis for any economy, whether it's the farmers back, charcoal makers (who deforested both Europe and E. America) or oil rigs.

Aesop said...

Except not.

Energy that can't be properly utilized is junk.

And when "energy" was the farmer's back, the actual energy was called "food".
Which is what the farmer is trying to grow.

Chicken, meet egg.

loren said...

I won't get into all sort of ancient specifics but right now today, you're wrong. Probably wrong about past times too. Farmers don't grow food they convert energy to food. Ask or watch one sometime. Same with the guy who makes corn flakes or furniture.
Energy (not potential energy) is the basis of any economy and the source of all wealth.

Aesop said...

Energy affects farming to an extremely minor degree, overall. Ditto for all other endeavors (except energy production companies). It's only a factor of note because in most places and times, the profit margin is so thin that a spike in energy costs can wipe out all profit. But so can a drought, a disease, a pest, or an early frost, or the vagaries of the market. Trying to lasso some or all of that into "energy" because of the sun is pure silliness, and overlooks the reality that the sun shines on the entire planet; but the weather isn't the same anywhere, and that has to do with climate, not "energy".

The farmer could have a metric fuckton of energy, but if the crops fail, he goes broke, and starves. So does everyone dependent on him for food.
Energy is to farming as about a nickel to a dime of every dollar of cost.
Little things like fertile soil, sufficient sun and water, seed, and frankly, good luck, have scads more to do with the product. Energy's effect on any of those things is ancillary, and distant.
In simpler economies, virtually irrelevant beyond a small, fixed item.
Its presence doesn't overcome drought, pestilence, crop failure, or a plethora of other problems.

As anyone would know from listening to el viejo's speech to Chris in The Magnificent Seven.

You can't call everything "energy" with much handwaving, and try to shoehorn everything into that category, without making language itself meaningless. A host of other things go into producing anything, and without any one of the total, the energy expended, its price, or availability, count for nothing.

The Edsel didn't fail because of energy problems; neither did the Titanic. Nor did energy play any part whatsoever in either the rise nor crash of tulipomania.
Not even in oil company sales brochures. That reality is self-evident.

The only place energy is "the source of all wealth" is certain Arab emirates with nothing else of value.
Ask them how that's going to work out for them when the production fields run dry.

Sam J. said...

Ok you don't know me and I don't know you. I'm hoping this won't be taken the wrong way because I'm very negative on what you wrote here. I feel its completely wrong. Completely and I'll tell you what facts I see negate your arguments. However I'm certainly not calling you evil or stupid or anything like that so...

1. I believe the overall tone of the argument is a religious argument. That humans are special and that computers will never overtake us.
2. The very first thing you must realize is you are comparing different things that are not equal. You're saying,"...

I/we beat the robot-overlord automation nonsense to death with the arguments for/against self-driving cars (TL;DR: It ain't coming, sportsfans)

..." and "...You're not going to replace people in most jobs, ever...".

If you're saying all computers will remain at the same power forever then I'm with you but you and I know this is impossible. You are negating the exponential function of rising computer power. Before you write any more about this look at this animated gif. of how long it will take for computers to have the same power as a humans brain. Look at 2018 especially.


The computers you are saying, right now, are so futile have about the power of a lizard. This of course a severe limitation but look at what they are doing with lizard power on a desktop.

There's an excellent Defense slideshow on future Defense trends by Dennis M. Bushnel chief scientist at NASA Langley Research Center about Defense and technology. Don't miss it, it's short and to the point but very eye opening.

"Dennis M. Bushnell, Future Strategic Issues/Future Warfare [Circa 2025] "


Page 70 gives the computing power trend and around 2025 we get human level computation for $1000. 2025 is bad but notice it says,"...By 2030, PC has collective computing power of a town full of human

So your comparison of humans to present computers is apt but runs off the rail very, very fast.

Sam J. said...

3. You mention how computers crash a lot. Actually this is true if you confine yourself to person computers, phones and stuff where they are always trying to add new features and it's assumed crashes aren't life threatening. In purpose built computer systems they don't crash very often or at all. The financial system makes millions and millions, maybe trillions of processes every day with no errors. Fighter planes used to be made stable in flight but now they are made purposely unstable so they can maneuver faster. Computers keep them in the air and stable without them humans would not be able to fly them. Computers are perfectly able to fly without pilots now. The Space Shuttle was landed automatically in the upper atmosphere because humans were not fast enough to do the job. The shuttle could also land on the ground but I assume they wanted to give some control to humans so humans took the last step. Certain operating systems are very reliable. QNX is one so is the OS that runs F-16 and other fighter aircraft.[remember this is lizard or mouse level power at the greatest].
4. The sensors won't work for driving cars is also a non-starter. Once again we're talking about lizard power. The sensors argument is not very good either. Humans have only eyes and do ok driving. I would use thermal sensors to add a different wavelength which could solve a lot of problems. That musk has had problems is not indicative of future because his cars are automatically learning as they drive and watching drivers. These reactions are being fed back into the computer system to make is safer. Millions and millions of miles of experience adding up. I predict that by 2035 at the latest that humans will not be allowed to drive on public roads. They will be forced to have computers drive for them because humans will be so inferior to the task.
5. You mentioned that the rise of cars didn't hurt humans. OK but what did it do to the horse. How many horses are around per person today? With one PC chip worth of power in 2030 being equivalent to a small village worth's of human brain power will they need you? With you be the equivalent in use to, say the "elites" as a horse? What will they need you for? What value will you have?

Aesop said...

Sam, my arguments were succinct and simple; your reply is a cat's breakfast.

1. Your imagination that I argued for the "specialness" of humans is nonsensical.
Humans are flawed.
But unlike computers, they can vote. And sue.

2. I'm saying no such thing about computer power. we landed on the moon with the equivalent power of one smart phone. Nota bene that was done by humans, who could react to multiple inputs and pull off a successful landing that couldn't be totally simulated prior. Computers can only follow their programming.
When presented with a new situation, they lock up.
Annoying when you're loading internet porn, fatal if they're flying your plane through mountains or driving your car on the interstate.
And after approximately one Titanic/Hindenburg level of failure, they will be banned, driven out of business by lawsuits and market collapse, or all of the above.
Game over.

3. Mechanical things break. Period. Paragraph.
How did computers do with the Air France plane that went down in the Atlantic?
They helped kill everyone on board.
Bad engineering, horrible computer work, mass murder by guy with master's degrees, but the common sense of a piss ant.
OTOH, human pilot Sullenberger landed a plane intact on the Hudson River without any loss of life whatsoever after catastrophic failure, and when any other course of action would have killed them all plus innumerable people on the ground.
Computers aren't likely to ever be that good, when seconds count.
See if you can spot the trend.

Aesop said...

4. Humans' "only" eyes are vastly more sensitive than any EO sensor, and they're pre-coupled to a brain that can process and synthesize data to make non-linear judgments and decisions. One frequent scenario in the self-driving car articles (which you obviously haven't read) is that you can't train a car to swerve around a ball that bounces into the street, because it can't anticipate the child coming after it; nor can it be taught to hit something other than the child when it can't brake in time to avoid a collision, something a human driver can do within seconds while learning to drive.
Musk is having problems for the same reason every other failure has had problems: inability of technocrats to appreciate the complexity and difficulty of what they're attempting.
Go read Ian Malcolm's soliloqouys in Jurassic Park, then read Michael Crichton's essay "Aliens Cause Global Warming", and get back to us.

5. Again, WGAF? Horses don't vote, and now we don't have to worry about metric fucktons of horseshit disposal. That's a win.
You can make chips any size you like; until you can write the software with a lifetime's human experience into them, they're curiosities, not tools.
The day elites regard society as disposable horses is the day before they get dragged out by the hair and sent to the guillotine, only judging by all of recorded history.
And the elites won't be building the computers, maintaining them, or servicing them. They also won't be the ones building the power plants, maintaining the power lines, or feeding the furnaces. Machines all have an "off" switch. Humanity simply won't be replaced by machines because they'll inevitably act in self-defense, first and last.
You can make minor alterations, but you cannot transform society into the techno-topia daydreamers would like to imagine (again, contrary to all human experience) because it's inherently impossible.

There will be evolution, but not revolution.

And the more advanced the world you create, the more inherently vulnerable to the slightest disruption, which plunges civilization back into the Dark Ages for millennia.
We now, mandatorily, use computers throughout healthcare. When they crash, people can die. One stray squirrel plunges swaths of the country into cold and dark. And they freeze to death. If technocrats were concerned with building more robust systems instead of more technologically advanced systems, they'd stand a better chance.
We can't even get airbags to work all the time, and you think we're going to give a chip life and death control over a busload of people?
Ridiculous, except for those too stupid to see the flaw until they're looking for their lifeboat after that system hits the inevitable icebergs.

The argument is simple: stop getting your futurism from hucksters' sales brochures, and talk to maintenance engineers, who'll inform you in 0.2 seconds that Murphy was an optimist.
We've finally made commercial air travel in the U.S. safe (albeit a nightmare); but to get to that point after a century, how many people died?
Where are the zeppelins? The supersonic transports? The low-earth orbit rocket transports? Jetpacks? Flying cars?
The future is lot less drastic than you imagine, because gee-whiz solutions don't work, mechanically, commercially, or socially.

Sam J. said...

"...Humans are flawed.
But unlike computers, they can vote. And sue..."

That's the best argument you have and you won that one.

A lot of your arguments are supposing things I'm not. I'm not an extopian, tech super fan. It's made life better with some problems.

The rest of your arguments are not really accurate. [I'm taking this idea from Musk],Humans learn at an astoundingly low bit rate f reading books but computers can learn at very high rates from many sources at once. You've talked about plane crashes but compare plane crashes committed by computers to humans and humans don't come out so well.

s for hardware breaking well so do humans.

You really ignore the exponential hardware issue all together and start talking about software. Ok the software will come about from small improvements of little programs that learn. It will be difficult but since the learning rate is so high it will be much faster than you think. I remember DOS and now we have speech recognition on a PC! It's astounding. If you think I'm looking forward to uber silicon you're wrong. I don't see it coming out good.

As for the elites they blew up several buildings in the middle of one of our largest cities and no one did anything so that tells you what they think of us.

Aesop said...

What computers don't do is "learn".
They can store data, even in a more-faster way, but they can't analyze it and synthesize it in real time, and make decisions in new directions. They work by rote and brute force, but creativity is alien to them in any meaningful sense.
If you made a computer that could actually learn (i.e. self-program) you'd be well on your way to unfathomable riches, and then SkyNet.
And about as fast.

Humans invented planes. The fact that for over a century all crashes were by humans is because they were the only ones flying the planes.
A computer is simply a machine, using a human on the end of a stick to detect mines in order to find the flaws in programming and hardware. if you want to be the human at the end of a cyborg's stick, being tapped across the minefield, go ahead on.
That's why the people working on them aren't being driven and flown by them.
Beware the man who won't fly in his own computer-piloted plane; the man who does will be dead in short order anyways.

Computers, unlike humans, have no moral, legal, or fiduciary responsibility for their fuck-ups, nor can ever be imbued with same, which is why voting and suing dictates that nobody intelligent will ever trust his life to a computer.

Hardware without software is bones without brains or muscles.
The prototype for that is the T-1000.

I've seen speech recognition in action; it's a lot less than it's cracked up to be.
Watch 50 MDs from 37 countries trying to dictate their patient notes, and get back to me.

If you're referring to 9/11, that wasn't elites, and if you can't parse that reality out on your own, you're really too short for this blog.