Archive for the ‘Techno dreams to fix social ills.’ Category

Strength through knowledge, not arms


President Trump has been talking about spending a bunch more money on the military, supposedly to make the U.S. safer.  But the military cannot make us safer, they only can provide the means to retaliate for any acts of terrorism.  What can make us safer is technology, technology to detect threats and identify the people behind them.

A big part of the justification for increasing military spending is to insure that the high-tech companies that are essential to the military are kept in business.  But these companies are also the ones which make possible our exploration of space.  By spending money on space technology instead of on the military, we can support the development of new technologies as well as keeping the industrial side of the military-industrial complex healthy.  Many of the military’s weapon systems have been impacted by developments resulting from space exploration.

Aircraft carriers, tanks, and airplanes will not protect us against acts of terror.  Spending more on the military will not make us safer.  Spending on space exploration promotes the development of new technologies, while at the same time providing business to companies involved in defense.  The microprocessor was a spin-off from the space program which has affected every aspect of our lives.  Spending on space is a far better investment than spending on the military.

Living in the cloud


A friend has gotten me to think about the difference between studying to gain knowledge and learning how to access knowledge quickly.  ‘In an era when I can look up practically anything, why should I spend years studying different subjects so that I can be tested upon them?’ is a paraphrase of what he said.  He also once talked about living in an “effluent society”, but that is neither here nor there.

Human knowledge has far exceeded the ability of any one person to grasp.  We need to decide what are the fundamentals that we must teach each other, what skills are so essential that we should group people together for hours at a time so that they can learn them.  Simply knowing that knowledge exists is not the same as having the knowledge, and knowledge affects our actions and thoughts.  But not all people are going to be receptive to the same knowledge, so we must choose a way to convey it that is flexible, with those who are interested being able to pursue something further.  The ‘classroom’ has become one of the biggest impediments to education, in my opinion, because it stipulates that everyone is going to learn at the same rate, and in the same way.

Treating us as individuals means stepping away from the industrial ‘assembly line’ method of instruction.  Focusing on a persons strengths, helping them to overcome weaknesses, developing their personalities, these are the role that the public school system must fulfill.  We can have a room full of students, but we should not view them as a ‘class’.  American society has gutted the family, destroying the network of relatives and friends that were responsible for the raising of the young for thousands of generations.  Nurturing means showing the world to someone, while helping them to cope with it.  The world is a vast mix of ideas, cold realities, and ignorance.

The electronic world offers us near instant feedback on our efforts, if we are strong enough to pay attention.  Living in the cloud means being aware of each other in near real time.  This promotes a group consciousness, a multi-mind, which can occur when a number of people are thinking about the same thing at the same time.  We may be evolving into a single sentient organism, if some science fiction writers are correct, but we still need to get along with each other in the meantime, and schools are where we will learn how.  People have to be taught how not to get caught up in emotions, how to say ‘no’ to themselves, and to others, and how to believe in themselves as people, with intrinsic value.  We have to care about ourselves before we can really care about others.

Racing to ruin


Perhaps we do need to scale back on the imports, and start producing more things here in America.  Things like steel, carbon fiber composites, and wood substitutes.  The stuff we are importing is cheap, and of poor quality.  Big surprise, right?  Of course, we can’t lay all the blame at the feet of the foreign workers.  They have to work with what they get, and what is specified by their multi-national bosses.

When the parts that you are supplied with are made with soft steel, then the product you are building will not last.  Costs have been cut until mere pennies are fretted over and pondered.  All in the name of profit, ever increasing profit.  The materials that we are having to work with, the fasteners, the frames, the motors, are all of poor quality, regardless of the brand.  Doing a good job is becoming increasingly difficult.

Everybody wants things to get better, but few people are willing to sacrifice to make that happen.  We are going to have to pay more for products, or settle for lower quality, much lower quality.  It doesn’t matter how cheap something is, if it can’t do the job.  Even the premium brands are having their stuff built overseas, because paying a reasonable amount to have the work done will cut into profits.  A pair of boots built in the U.S. would cost about 100 dollars to manufacture, and would be sold for nearly $200.  When production was moved overseas, the quality of the leather decreased, the workmanship was sup-par, but the boots still cost $200, even though their cost to manufacture had dropped to about $30 dollars.

People began to turn away from that brand of boot,  and the company had to bring production back, and sell at cost for a while to reclaim market share.  Management is the greatest threat to the well-being of companies these days, I believe, as tried-and-true methods are tossed out in favor of more ‘economical’ ways.

You paid people a good wage and bought good materials, you would have a good product, worth the money.  People would associate your name with quality, and become loyal customers.  Nobody got rich doing it that way, but everybody made enough to get by on and be comfortable.

The obsession with getting rich in a hurry is pushing America into a downward spiral.  Because someone usually loses when somebody else gets rich in a hurry.  Huge fortunes were acquired in the early 2000’s, as people began to buy and then sell houses rapidly.  That led to a mania about flipping properties for profit, which created a big demand for new houses.  Until somebody realized that no one was moving into these homes.  The American homeowner took a beating during the Great Recession, and many people lost their retirement.  But money was made in quantity for a while, without having to work.  How real was that money, if so much of it vanished overnight?

Making America great again


Alright, Mr. Trump, let us make America great again, but without breaking agreements, or shutting people out, let us do it by investing in ourselves.  Help us find a way to get the people you know so well to put money back into the system.  There is more than enough wealth to make things good again, if we can spend it right.  One way proven to pay off is to invest in high technology.

Give us something that we can be proud of again.  Give us a goal to strive for, something to lift our eyes from the daily tedium.  Give our children dreams by making wonderful things happen today.  Put the incredible potential of this country to work accomplishing something that will benefit the entire human race.  The cost will be insignificant compared to what must be spent to fix our roads and bridges.

The manned space program has been the most inspirational effort any nation has ever undertaken.  We need to be inspired again, to believe in the future again.  There is a better way to get into space, and we should develop it.  We already have proven that a spacecraft can fly back to Earth and land like an airplane.  Now we have to learn how to leave for space like an airplane; horizontally.  A small fraction of our national budget devoted to creating access to space that is safe, reliable, and affordable would be an investment that would begin paying off immediately.

Fighting the darkness


Today, I purchased a couple of LED light bulbs.  When I got them home, I was amazed at how much the LED light bulb has evolved in just a few years.  In 2013, I relamped my entire house with LED’s, both to save energy and to help invest in this new, highly efficient form of illumination.  Many of the bulbs I purchased cost in the 20 dollar range, but then, most of them are still in use in my house, three years later.  There have been a few premature failures, but mostly with off-brand bulbs.  I still am using the first LED bulb I bought, way back about 2003.  It has been on nearly constantly since I got it.

The bulb I bought today was a 100 watt equivalent, which produces 1500 lumens, or light units, using 14 watts of energy to do it.  I used it to replace a bulb three years old which was still working, but was dimmer than I wanted.  It was a 60 watt equivalent, which produces 860 lumens, and which needs 13.5 watts to do it!  So the industry has nearly doubled the output while using virtually the same amount of energy!  And the bulb was less than $10.00.  Half the price of the 60 watt equivalent, and for a name brand bulb, at that!  In addition, the new 14 watt bulb was much lighter than the 13.5 watt bulb, and had much less heat sink surface.

This is the science of civilization, the learning how to beat back the darkness without using tremendous amounts of energy.  Old incandescent light bulbs produced more heat than light, and had very short lives, at that.  Replacing old lights with LED lamps can reduce lighting costs, both in energy and in bulb replacement.  They are worth several times their cost, in durability, as they are much more difficult to break, and in life span, which measures in the thousands of hours.  Air conditioning costs will be lower if you use LED bulbs instead of incandescent or florescent, as those generate much more heat.  And the spectrum of LED lamps is much closer to the white of the old bulbs than the Compact Florescent Lamps.  Plus, they have no warm up time, even in cold weather.

LED light bulbs and fixtures are worth getting excited about, because they represent a fundamental advance in making light, which promises to reduce energy requirements substantially.  Thank Science and Investment for making more light for less.


Debt is destroying America


Debt is denying a whole generation of jobs, places to stay, and self-respect.  Debt is consuming the money supply, creating little liquidity in a bubble-like environment.  There is nothing to flip anymore, there are no safe investments, living off of your investments is just not going to work now, and retirement is a nightmare.

But we are all still the same people that we were ten, fifteen years ago, so what has changed?  Debt.  No matter how you look at it, we are all in debt, no matter what our supposed worth.  But it is all just numbers in machines, it is not anything real, tangible.  Debt is not a place to live, nor is it key to a good job.  Debt is what holds us to the grindstone, wearing away our humanity.

Debt is destroying the American economy, poisoning innovation, stifling education.  We should all be helping each other out, sharing what we have.  When I have something extra, or unused, or rusting away, someone else can use it, maybe even keep it, because I know that when I need one again, one will be there for me.

Corporate welfare


How do you keep vital defense contractors healthy without spending billions and billions on weapons systems?  One way, at least for the majority of advanced technology companies, would be to spend money on space exploration.  That is about the only field where high tech outfits can actually use their engineers, technicians, and tool makers.  Spending ten or fifteen billion dollars a year on aerospace, deep sea, and electronics research and development would go a long way toward keeping Boeing, General Dynamics, and a bunch of other companies you have never heard of working, paying employees, and ready to build things.

Instead of building a new jet fighter to replace totally adequate aircraft, we could spend some of those billions in the ocean, mapping the sea floor, seeing what most of the planet looks like, and creating new industries.  What has been spent on the F-35 so far would have built a permanent base on the Earth’s moon, with some left over.  Not all defense spending is wasted, though.  A long, dangerous, but eventually successful program developed a totally new kind of aircraft, the tilt-rotor, which has tremendous potential for search and rescue work, relief operations, and recreation.  The United States has never spent money on space exploration in large amounts, except for the few years in the 1960’s when we were getting ready to go to the Moon.  The need for corporate welfare is difficult to deny, but at least we could use projects which benefit our culture,  and advance our knowledge.

Waterworld we is


Seeing as we are land animals, it is no surprise that our planet got christened “Earth” or “Terra”.  But, considering that 3/4’s of the surface of our planet is covered in water,  “Ocean” might be a better name.  And we still know very little of what is under all that water.  When we lose things in the ocean, they often are very difficult to find.  A good case in point is the wreckage of Flight 370, the airliner that was apparently hijacked, and then left on autopilot to fly until it ran out of fuel.  Merely by coincidence, a satellite system was communicating with the aircraft, and the records of that conversation proved that the plane flew out into the vastness of the southern Indian Ocean.

Finding pieces of an aircraft that broke up when it hit the water is an extremely difficult task, and this search is made harder by the lack of precise tracking data.  Adding to the problem is the depth of the water in the search area; 2 or more kilometers at the least, so deep that light does not penetrate.  Only with remote sensors can we examine the ocean floor, and we have no maps of the ocean bottom to work with.  Mapping the ocean floor all over the world would tell us a great deal about the planet we live on, and would not require a lot of resources.  The search is generating high-precision sonar maps of the area the plane is believed to have crashed in, but we are still examining hundreds of square kilometers.

The loss of Flight 370 has renewed calls for a world-wide satellite system to monitor the paths of aircraft and ships.  In an era when hijacking and piracy are not unknown, we could benefit immensely by insuring that we keep track of what is traveling over or on the oceans.  A satellite beacon allowed a young woman to be rescued from an area in the southern Indian Ocean as remote as the area Flight 370 is believed to have crashed in.  Similar technology would have pinpointed the location of crash, as well as informing Air Traffic Control where the aircraft actually was when it disappeared off of radar.

Protecting Children From Their Parents


People who feel at a loss with how to raise children should look to the past, and what worked for most of human history.  Parents frequently have not been primary care providers for children, except right after birth, because parents were the able bodied adults whose work supported the group.  The elders, who no longer were capable of the firewood gathering, or water carrying, oversaw the care of the young, with the assistance of the older children.  Great-grandmothers watched the children, sang songs with them, played games with them, aunts and uncles would listen to stories, watch somebody do cartwheels over and over, and whatever it took to make the children feel good.  Only in the most recent past have parents been closely involved with the raising of the children, as the family has disintegrated.

The family has broken down, so that parents are faced with raising their children without any help.  People have children when they themselves are still immature; learning, seeking, and growing.  We can berate them for that, punish them and the children by forcing the parents to care for them, or we can combine assisted living centers with day care, sponsor placing seniors in family groups spanning several generations, and extend school hours to provide an alternative to being home alone.  Young children bond with elderly people very easily, and often are anxious to help an obviously frail individual.  Combined with a few older children, and a teen or two, an elder can manage several children.

Spaceship Earth


You and I and everyone else are passengers on a spaceship, one which is traveling very fast, in giant whirlpool of stars.  Many people don’t like to think about this, because it is too real, too big, too scary.  What I don’t like to think about is what happens if we screw up this spaceship.  I would feel a lot better if we could learn how to do things somewhere else other than here on Earth, so that we don’t screw up Earth.  Either that, or a back-up spaceship.