Category Archives: 6 Information and Communication Technology

Let’s all babble!

In their article Babel is better The Economist encourages education in a person’s mother tongue, rather than English, and they are right to do so. It would have been helpful to explain why from a neurological and personal development point of view, rather than simply rationalise that it is difficult to find teachers that speak English, so here we go.

Thanks to Noam Chomsky we understand language in a deeper, relevant way. Chomsky revealed the critical importance to personal development of each individual’s language. Sadly, over 50 years since the science of linguistics impacted fields of neuroscience and psychology as well as its own field, it remains largely ignored

Language is for thinking. Sometimes it is used for communication.

The faculty for language is distinctive in humans because it demonstrates higher consciousness by unique characteristics, namely meta-cognition and understanding of higher numbers and the idea of “infinity”. The nature of language development in humans is consistent across all humans and differences in form are a function of the environment in which people find themselves. Linguistics would say we all use the same language, just different dialects. Some dialects are close, like “Tom” and “Pam”, others not so, like “English” and “!Kung”.

Each person develops their own language – no two people speak the same language, though they might be close enough to understand one another. I speak “Tom” she speaks “Pam”, yet we understand each other (sometimes!!).

“English”, “French” or “Chinese” are agreed codes to facilitate communication, but they are not representative of nations, for example Gaelic is not Irish or Scottish it is of a Gaelic people. The woman from London’s East End might be unable to communicate with the woman from Healaugh, Yorkshire simply because their dialects are so different, though they speak “English”.

The development of language in each person reveals innate creativity, problem solving abilities and the preference for collaboration. When children are told how to speak these innate, human abilities are suppressed creating a sense of frustration and anger and diminishing each person’s personal development.

As you rightly point out, we should learn language from our mother, not a text book and certainly not from a foreign textbook. If we are to learn other languages, the best way is by immersion, not instruction, during primary school years, as demonstrated by bilinguals. (If immersion occurs in these years there is a good chance different languages will even be acquired without incongruous accents.) The teaching of English, French and Chinese should be addressed just like Science, Maths and Geography – a tool selected by choice.

It is long past due time to change the mistaken views of educational institutions.

Let’s all babble.

Tumbleweed Update Breaks DNS/Network -FIXED

OpenSuse Tumbleweed is a factory rolling release.  It has the latest updates which means it has the greatest functionality, … unless a bug appears which disrupts stability till the next update (which usually happens within 24 hours).

So, on a couple of occasions an update has broken the network connection – it looks connected, but doesn’t download to any sites, including the software update repositories.  Previously I reinstalled to get it working (what a pain!),

Today I discovered that even with the broken network, Tor browser worked.  (Go Onion!)  Maybe because Tor manages it’s own routing it worked … in any event it allowed a search which led to a simple super user command to get it up again.

The resolv.conf file needs to be updated.  Run this command as root:

netconfig update -f

NetworkManager thought resolv.conf had changed and decided not to manage it any more.;  that command basically says “ignore all usermade changes and recreate all network conf files”

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Psychometrics and You

It has been reassuring to see the news headlines about investigations in to the illegal use of personal data by leading people and organisations.

However, it is unlikely that this kind of behaviour will stop.  Curtailing the activities of a company or two will simply result in others adopting the same unethical behaviour, but hiding it better or skirting the law better.  Our systems show that when we are caught, we improve our deception so that we don’t get caught again.  Or we pay off the authorities.  This is clearly evidenced by the lack of reform in the banking sector in the past decade.

Sharing users’ data might not even be considered illegal – it’s quite clear that it’s been going on for years.  (Have a look at the extract below from How to Get Rich and Famous which discusses the original algorithms developed by Kosinski.)  The concern being highlighted is that the CEO of Cambridge Analytica was caught on camera offering to bribe and blackmail.  The abuse of private data is becoming acceptable as we all turn a blind eye to the gratuitous relationships we have with social media platforms and search engines.

Instead, we must each care enough to change our own behaviour.

So here is some advice from the BBC on protecting yourself, if you can’t bear to leave Facebook, Google, Microsoft et al: Continue reading Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Psychometrics and You

The Cloud Problem

When people started referring to the internet as the cloud, it was more confusing than helpful.  Well, it helped some tech companies market themselves by creating a kind of insiders’ cachet of people who knew what the cloud was, but it created the delusion that the cloud was something different than the world wide web, the internet.

The term “the cloud” is a gimmicky and confusing way of describing the idea of having access to resources elsewhere on the internet via your device (PC, phone, tablet etc).  A decade ago it was already common for people to download files from websites – that was using the cloud.  People working in companies with internal networks could login to their office server from home in order to access their files – that was using the cloud.

As the “cloud” terminology started to be hyped by tech companies services like file sharing and storage began to be marketed with clever names and fancy adverts.  There was no new special cloudish technology but new packaging and marketing of certain capabilities of the web.  Well that’s OK if it helps people use the internet more easily.

But the dynamic has changed.  Continue reading The Cloud Problem

System change, social media and your choices.

drowningworldcarCOP21 comes to a close as the wind howls and Jaspar’s rugby game is cancelled because so much water fell on the pitch last night.  Climate change is great, but it’s not good.  I love the warmer weather so here in Ireland it’s almost as warm as Hong Kong in the winter; you can go jogging and enjoy the breeze.  But the volatility of weather is a symptom of broken systems.  Both civilisation and nature.

The consequences for the breakdown of nature and civilisation will be different.  Nature will change – once nature was a burning ball in space, now it’s a paradise become decadent and failing.  Civilisation will simply disappear – and might never come back.

For some the idea that the human systems are dysfunctional and the weight of humanity is crushing nature is familiar.  For many of them, it is a new realisation and the response reflects where they come from: community driven people tend to activism, strategic operators tend to business solutions, organisers tend to regulation, and so on. For a few the notion of integral solutions is a dawning awareness.

Hand holding a Social Media 3d Sphere sign on white background.All of these people are connected by social organisation and media.  We all communicate with each other and ideas circulate quickly as nuggets of information on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, websites, journals, TV shows,  … We tend to communicate with like minded people.  It is not easy to cross over.  But the filtering of from one group to another happens because in each of our circle of family and friends there are always a few “strange ones” who bring unfamiliar concepts to the conversation.  (I might fit that description for many of my family and peers!)

Social media allows this cross-fertilisation of ideas and it reveals the homogeneity of your group of friends.  Who shares ideas about politics, art, religion, business, .. and so on?

COP21marchWhile there has been a great deal of activity related to COP21, it has been predominantly among the same people:  People who want to see system change, or people who have a vested interest in things staying as they are.

The outcome of COP21 is not going to be remarkable.  Sadly, the depth and breadth of understanding among leaders, and followers, is shallow and narrow.  For example, even I was a little stunned, on the way back from picking Richard up from the airport, to calculate that we had released a quarter of  his body weight of 60 odd kilos in CO2.

gas_balloon_scaleA litre of fuel releases between 0.6 and 0.7 kg of carbon, which grabs another two molecules of oxygen to make carbon di-oxide, bringing the weight to around 1.8 kg.  So for a 150 km round trip at 45 mpg (15.8 km/litre) we needed 150/15.8 or 9.5 litres which create 17 kilos of CO2.  Just that one event produced nearly the same weight of CO2 as you find in a bag of cement.  It’s heavy!  And it’s just one event on one day.

So even people like me can be stunned by the challenges we face.

The problem nature faces has much to do with energy and our gratuitous use of fossil fuels.  The reality is that humanity must live within the laws of nature, including not consuming more energy in a year than that captured by photosynthesis in a year.

unethicalCivilisation is breaking down because the systems we have in place are unethical.  Every crisis comes about because of moral failure.  Corruption insinuates business, politics and religion.  There are cries for change and some who show the way, but the establishment finds it hard to give up power.  If evolution is not chosen, revolution erupts.

So while you are part of the establishment, spare a moment for the alternative view that is shared by the fringes of your social circle.  It’s not about equality it’s about equity.  Be open to finding a way for systems to evolve.  The system is a result of everybody’s choices.  We must all choose better.  We must aim to do the right thing the right way.

Computers in school do not improve results. Doh! It’s about culture.

OECD research shows that  frequent use of computers in schools is more likely to be associated with lower results.   Among 70 countries, heavy  investment in information and communications technology have seen “no noticeable improvement” in Pisa test results for reading, mathematics or science.monkeyoncomputer

This is not surprising.  As with any technology, it can be “good” or “bad” depending on how it is used and all too often ICT is used as a substitute for thinking.  That might be ok if you are a thinker, but if using a computer is just a crutch, used to copy/paste ideas or fill time will 2D pictures and sound, then its use is retarding your development.

Continue reading Computers in school do not improve results. Doh! It’s about culture.

Cyborgs are coming to take your job, especially if you’re young.

The prospect of your job being automated is increasing.  The convergence of neuroscience, computing, biology and engineering has already made robotic prosthetics a reality and everyone carries a small thinking machine so that they can remember phone numbers, birthdays etc (media device/phone).monkeytorobot

We are certainly choosing a future in which we don’t work.  We haven’t addressed the consequences in a thoughtful way evidenced by the unchanged platitudes by politicians, ongoing agglomeration of industry and commerce (get big to survive) with its attendant pyramid of wages (little at the bottom, inconceivable wealth at the top) and public education systems still modelled on the factory.

Continue reading Cyborgs are coming to take your job, especially if you’re young.

Facebook, like Google, reduces our ability to think. Now scientifically proven!

"Emphasize our unique differences, pass it down."
“Emphasize our unique differences, pass it down.”

It’s not as though it wasn’t expected.  The behaviour and algorithms users and social media networks are intended to filter ideas to suit our individual perspective.  That’s a major reason people use the big engines like Google and Facebook.

But that behaviour encourages groupthink.  The user only clicks on stories and links that match their own desires and perspective and the engine tends to serve stories and links that the user prefers to click.  It’s a self-reinforcing process.

The result is that you get a narrower view of the world.  You don’t hear stories or connect with people that you have differences with.  This reduces your information as well as your perspective.  That means you don’t develop ideas; your thinking is less critical.

groupthinkThe solution?  Every now and then, click links that you would normally avoid.  Even if you don’t read them it will diversify the feed you get from the big engines.  Use a different search engine which does not track your behaviour so that the search results are generic and diverse (try duckduckgo or ixquick for exmaple).

BBC: Facebook tips news feed balance ‘less than we do’

Someone’s watching you. And it’s not just Big Brother.

A  Russian website is offering thousands of feeds from private webcams around the world.

If you have a webcam with remote access enabled (did you check?) it could be on their list of feeds.  The site has accessed feeds by using default passwords which are often left unchanged by their owners when they enable remote access.  This is made easier because most people are using the same software (Windows) to operate their system.

Most of the feeds are rather dull, such as security monitors on infants cradles.  And maybe this is insignificant compared to the level of snooping of private emails, web browsing history and internet chat that is done by governments in the name of “security”.  But if you have a revealing webcam with remote access enabled, you might want to change the password!

Webcam website

BBC:  Breached webcam and baby monitor site flagged by watchdogs

 

The power of thought can flip a switch.

The study upon which this report was made is unusual, but the message is clear: thoughts have power.

In the study, brainwaves from human participants activated a tiny LED light which had been implanted in mice which then activated light-sensitive genes.

This study is the first to combine the thought control technology and the light sensitive genes technology.  The light-sensitive engineered genes sound a bit unnatural to me, but the idea of thoughts influencing external objects seems intuitive.  Maybe if we can understand the science better, telepathic skills could be developed.

This kind of emerging technology has potential applications for patients who can no longer communicate with the outside world other than with their mental activities and brainwaves.

It also proves that our thoughts do make the world.

BBC: Scientists develop thought-controlled gene switch