An adage we are often familiar with and relevant to a medical situation, “Prevention is better [...]
An adage we are often familiar with and relevant to a medical situation, “Prevention is better than cure”! Since the time of, let’s say, Adam and Eve as we know it, humans (thanks to their curiosity and ingenuity) have hardly heeded the above and gone ahead with the risks. And, so you think that, when humans designed a machine and a network that would help communicate, you think they would have learned a lesson or two from history? Hmmm.. as usual we never learned nor do we still learn (of course, we are of the opinion that science teaches us all there is to know, and history be dammed!).
In the early 1980′s the Internet was as such born to help communicate information, oops sorry not communicate but time share. And all this was churning in the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Networks (Arpanet), and it was not for military purposes but for the advancement of science! So you expect that when they decided to Time Share, they would take some precaution- knowing that when humans from different areas came into contact with each other, a lot is exchanged! (Well a sneeze can travel a thousand miles!). And as you all know, the snake in the garden caused Adam and Eve to commit the original sin, and so to with the Time Sharing of information, the Morris Worm was the “snake” that ruined the Garden of Technology (we are still paying the price)! (However, viruses were already know to exist) And thus, along with good came some bad and then came the precaution!
So what does the history of the Firewall really tell us? Are Firewalls really protectors of systems built by humans? Humans used Fire to protect themselves against wild animals and cold. But it also was known to destroy large swathes of land and kills many species of the animal kingdom, and still does in many parts of the world. The pessimist in me – The more of technology that we build, the more its advantages, the more its disadvantages also seem to grow. The more complex we build the networks, the more protective we get by putting up defenses, the more closed we get and more vulnerable we end up being!
Yes, I turn to history more often than not to understand how this works - how the “remains of history” that we see around us everyday, is so much present in the field of technology, albeit in a different form and matter (history does repeat itself!!). Take Forts for instance, a group of people come together, start living, building, and soon realize that they could be the envy of their neighbors. Or they live in areas that could be prone to natural disasters, So what do they do? Build Fortification walls! Some stand up to the attacks, some crumble on impact. Often, a bribe has got an army through. Vulnerability has been an inherent factor in everything that we have built since time immemorial! If we as humans are vulnerable to ever changing infections, then how can we ever guarantee that the machines or software that we humans build can never be tampered with or attacked?
Therein lies the never ending cycle of Life, and the economics of what makes the world of technology go round and round! We truly imitate our ancestors, except the materials we use are different, else all ideas and actions and process are still the same!
So this was the second bit of interesting history of the computing field that I thought I could share along with what I related to.
If you think of similar analogies between Present Technology and the past, please do share. I love the parallels of Changing Times we live in!
A Divergence from Economics to Philosophy, yet held by a silken thread [...]
A Divergence from Economics to Philosophy, yet held by a silken thread invisible to the naked eye, can be found in E F Schumacher’s book, “A Guide for the Perplexed“. Here he questions the very purpose of existensialism. Why are we here? Where on the Map of Life do we exist? Taking a look at the four elements – matter, life, consciousness and self awareness, he tries to reason out the hierarchical relationship to each other, the dependency if it exists and where does it lead to? So too, when one tries to Map their own Life! Through school, college, work and retirement. Here I can draw parallels to the old Ashrama system in India, so too with the Dashavatara - which is often cited as describing the evolution of human beings – from the base of performing certain actions to the intellectual being.
Today we have plenty of mind mapping tools, as earlier mentioned in one of our earlier blogs, to help us figure out how to get from A to B and help visualize our ideas and manage our everyday actions. They work really well. Just try blasting out an idea on paper, and it can be a joy to see how your ideas can be broken into units that can then be dealt with very simply. Using color, helps present an even more visual and graphical simplicity to the problem. So basically you are drawing out a map that represents your thought process.
Ever tried drawing out a map that represents your Life so far and where what can or will take you further? We all have goals in mind- but how long term are they? We plan out our financial life into various policies- retirement, medical, life insurance, etc. But have we ever thought of planning and mapping our Life?
Schumacher, in his Epilogue states that, “The art of Living is always to make a good thing out of a bad thing“. Only when we know and have actually been there and seen that, can we be become aware to really take action and do the right thing. He also touches upon education and the mentors who can help guide us to doing the right things the right way given their experience. The debate and dialogue (let me put it this way) between “Science” and “A Higher Being” are also very well deduced in the pages of this book. However, economics is not to far from his heart and he comes to the conclusion that the ” economic problem has been solved”. He basis this on the knowledge that we now know what needs to be done and have the capabilities and technologies available to do that, and know what can be avoided. But what we now need to focus is on the moral problem. And the only way to do that is, “get down to work”.
So when we get down to mapping our Life, that may not be so difficult. But can we collectively try and Map the Knowledge of Life itself? What has it taught us so far, have we learned anything from our past mistakes, can we highlight those in red, do we see repetitions of them on the human time scale? Wars after wars? Can we get down and Map the Positive aspects and use that to take us out of the moral dilemmas that we constantly face? We do find Maps that chart what is happening to the world at large based on past data. Can we do the same for ourselves? Will that help guide us to take the right decisions for the coming years?
Right on! I have lifted this title straight from E F Schumacher’s [...]
Right on! I have lifted this title straight from E F Schumacher’s book, “small is beautiful“, chapter 10. This book written in the 70s, is a must read for anyone interested in technology, politics and yes, economics.
A very interesting statement by Schumacher in his book (remember he wrote this in the 70′s), “Today, the main content of politics is economics, and the main content of economics is technology. If politics cannot be left to experts, neither can economics and technology“. Ponder on this a while, if you please.
All he asks, is for you dear reader, to wonder and think that although technology has helped in many ways, yet the underlying factors of alleviation of poverty and unemployment have not been solved by technology at all. It is but a short lived illusory success. Instead of which people have often fallen back on traditional methods and knowledge. The tractor has helped handle large swathes of land, but has it helped feed the millions? Yes, we can blame the politics and economics of a rich country that has kept that surplus from reaching the starving people of a poor country. But technology has been a factor here that has created that surplus that really cannot be of help. In natural disasters or man made disasters, technology has not been able to either predict or even help save lives. It is the human hand that helps dig through and pull out people very often.
Lets take medical machines that are supposedly created to help save lives. Whose lives do they save- only those who can afford, or those who really need it (a very small percentage)?
Schumacher never says that technology in itself is bad. But, he urges us to utilize the scientific techniques, that helps us get to the truth of the matter and increase our knowledge, to focus on technology that does not lead to giantism, speed, or violence and destruction of human-work enjoyment. What he instead asks us is to recapture simplicity in all that we do so as to produce a self-balancing system of nature.
Ah yes, a small and beautiful thought that Schumacher gives us to think about is what he terms intermediate technology- “production by the masses, rather than mass productions”
Schumacher again, “The primary task of technology, it would seem, is to lighten the burden of work man has to carry in order to stay alive and develop his potential” (the bold highlight is my action). And technology that lightens our burden, would help give us better time to relax and do what we would like, increase our creativity, work things with our hands that give us joy. But now we have to pay someone else to help us communicate better, develop our creativity, and pay for our own happiness!
This brings to mind the Vaccum Cleaner that adds more work than lessens it! Yes the Washing machine certainly lessens the work, but then again we go off to the gym to exercise our muscles paying a huge amount when it can be so easily dealt with by washing and scrubbing and rinsing! An image that has often come to my mind – when people employ the cycle in a gym, that motion generates power, which can then be used to move gears in a tub to wash clothes ( in another room). What a novel idea and thus save electrical energy and lessen carbon footprints!
And I would like you dear reader to take a look at Rube Goldenberg’s cartoons, where the promise and pitfalls of modern technology have been the guiding spirit of engineers across the globe. And hope the next time you design something- hardware or software, you will think of simplicity rather than complexity, and remember that it will be a human who will use!
And soon to follow, in my next thought for the week, is Schumacher’s book on,”Guide to the Perplexed”.