These days many people fervorously and eloquently talk about climate change. No wonder, if climate change is for real, lots of things will change our lifestyles. Some predictions suggest the drastic need for simpler lifestyles and less resource use, including from cutting back on our eating habits (and behavior and preferences) to getting rid of our car (or at least some of them). Others, pejoratively, ague that climate always changed. The Bet by Paul Sabin (in my reading list) confronted Paul Ehrlich’s vision of catastrophic effects of population growth versus Julian Simon’s perspective that technology would overcome environmental burden of population growth, as nicely presented by Charles Mann’s article (How to talk about climate change so people will listen). Simply put, we may have prophecized too much with too little information. The first rule in statistics, do not extrapolate the data beyond their bounderies, seems to be frequently forgotten when it comes to climate change perhaps because people want to emphasize their concerns, but end up overreacting. Mann’s comment that “…climate change is a perfect issue for symbolic battle, because it is as yet mostly invisible” reminds me of the if-we-cannot-see-it,-it-does-not-exist conundrum. I thought we had already learned this lesson with Alexander Fleming’s discovery of Penicillin. The Bet, as Charles Mann goes on, exposes environmental politics rather than environmental issues, probably reflecting our ignorance on the subject. As I (and certainly others) have preached, because the climate change issue is a global problem, remediation will require the collaboration and support of everyone regardless their social, economical, and political status or geographical location. It seems that those with few resources (e.g., financial) are the ones willing to give up the most, whereas the rich and powerful ones are less motivated. In fact, the rich seems to be getting more and more insatiably richer. I wonder if the change in the fanaticism of the apocalypse is correlated with poverty (in my reading list: The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse by Pascal Bruckner). Geo-engineering, as pointed out by Mann, may be a cheap fix for global warming (due to climate change), but I expect unintended consequences to be very expensive in the long run. A recent debate about Questionable evidence of natural warming of the northwestern United States, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, emphasizes that different points of view and data analysis & interpretation (though important aspects for science evolution) are still haunting many climate change experts. Mann started his essay quoting that “environmentalists warn us that apocalypse awaits, economists tell us that minimal fixes will get us through”. Regardless whether the apocalypse is in the horizon or not, I wonder what the data say.
I spent most of my childhood along with the TRS-80 revolution. Then the IBM-PC era started… the 286, 386, 386SX, 386DX, 486, Pentium and so forth (Chronology of IBM-PC). I’ve always been a PC guy. But, three years ago I purchased an iPad. Then, came iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4, and iPad Air. I did not get an iPad Air, yet. Like many PC users, I’ve been frustrated with the development of the PC industry lately, mainly with the portable PC. Last year I purchased a MacBook Pro. Yes, I know… too late for some and a traitor for others. But, there was a reason. I needed to replace my Sony VAIO Z and Sony had not being able to come up with anything more enticing and exciting to replace VAIO Z. The second semester of 2013, they released VAIO Pro Ultrabook 11 and 13… and early 2014 they announced dropping the VAIO business all together. Sony, you got it all wrong! You got to be kidding me, right? Why did you release hundreds of VAIO models instead of focusing on being the best at 2 or 3 models? So disappointing for someone that always bought VAIO laptops. Don’t get me wrong, MacBook Pro is great. I was able to run Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 8.1 as virtual machines perfectly, flawlessly, but it is not a PC. Something was missing… I started liking MacBook Pro and I was thinking to get a newer MacBook Pro. Too expensive and wait a second… am I going to forget my good time with a PC and move to Apple’s world forever? As you can imagine, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do. On top of that, we read all of these reviews about laptop sales are dropping!, laptops are dead!, who needs a laptop when you have a tablet? iPad is great, but it has limitations (just like everything else with a power button). But what about Microsoft Surface? It is just like an iPad, but heavier, right? After all, these comparison reviews between iPad, Galaxy, Surface… iPad is the best. So, I have iPad, why to worry about Surface? Something is not right. I decided to get a Microsoft Surface Pro 2. Best decision in my life since iPad. Surface Pro 2 is not a tablet. Surface Pro 2 is not comparable to iPad. Surface Pro 2 is the reason laptop is dying. Surface Pro 2 is a laptop disguised as a tablet. It has the laptop’s gut in a tablet body. It is ultra portable (for a given weight), powerful, runs Windows 8.1 just like your desktop, it has enough space (thanks to 512 Gb SSD), and it is fast… it is your PC in a tablet size. No wonder Sony and others are dropping the laptop business. They will eventually disappear. So, got a laptop (while the supply lasts) for your collection and future museum exhibition. There are some limitations with Surface Pro 2 too… just like anything else with a power button.
Back in the late 60’s, a study was commissioned by the Club of Rome to address the issues of finite resources and the future of our planet. Computer modeling was used to simulate possible scenarios and to evaluate their likelihood and impacts. A book written by Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, and Jørgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III in 1972, entitled The Limits to Growth, was born from this collaborative study. During the study process, the World3 computer model was developed for the analysis and it was used to simulate the consequences of interactions between the Earth’s system and humankind. It is believed, the book echoed some of the concerns and predictions of Thomas Malthus in An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) and The Population Bomb by Stanford University Professor Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich in 1968. While these books warned about the mass starvation of humans due to overpopulation, as well as other major societal upheavals, the objective of The Limits to Growth was to evaluate possible outcome scenarios rather than making time point predictions. In a recent 40-year update, another committee of scientists was gathered to provide current insights of the predicted outcomes by The Limits to Growth. The behavior of some key variables is confirming the most dreadful prognostics of the original (and revised) simulations by the World3 model. Most scenarios resulted in an ongoing growth of population and of the economy until to a turning point (i.e. collapse) around 2030. Only drastic measures for environmental protection proved to be suitable to change this systems behavior, and only under these circumstances, scenarios could be calculated in which both world population and wealth could remain at a constant level. However, so far the necessary political measures were not taken, as concluded by the Club of Rome. As expected, this book was received with pessimism by some while others have applauded their original work and until today, the book is used as a classical example of finite resources and our impact in the environment, in a broader sense (big picture). Of course, the computing power in the 60’s and 70’s was somewhat restricted compared to today’s standards, and yet, Donella et al. (1972) were able to forecast some possible outcomes and how to address them. Because of the nature of the remedies and measurements needed at that time and because the growth and development of the industries was at their full throttle, it was not the best time and within the best interest of prominent political parties to intervene in the growth and development of the industries in the so called First World countries. The finite resource was something viewed with skepticism given the almost “infinite” possibilities of their use to support growth and development, such as petroleum. Today, some believe we have already passed the point of no return and the system is in a resilience mode and future forecasts are either unpredictable or even harder than before. Is this the end of our world as we know it?
Nowadays, with the ever-increasing rate of release of new computers and other tech toys that flood the market we don’t even have time to think about it and at the end of the day it is very easy for us to lose track of where we’ve been and what we’ve done. I am, among of several other hobbies, a fan of vintage computers, especially the TRS-80. I was trained to use Prológica CP-300 at the High School. After I insisted tirelessly, dad bought a Prológica CP-500 to manage the farm employees. Of course, most of the use of a CP-500 at that time was games, fantastic ones by the way, and other electronic spreadsheets. I remember that I started programming using TRS-80 BASIC, but I cannot remember how far we went at that time. We also had a printer to be used with the CP-500… Below are some lists of sites with interesting timeline, pictures, and histories about vintage computers.
1. Museum of Information Technology at Arlington
2. Computer History Museum
3. Kim Moser
4. Robert Arnold
5. Ken Polsson
6. Lawrence Crowl
7. Glen Sanford
Ah!, by the way, if you still remember those punched cards, this is way before my time and you should try Ralf Kloth website and Doug Jones website.
The article by David Freedman (Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science) in The Atlantic posed some terrifying ideas about our “biased” scientific results, more specifically in the medical arena. Several factors might be putting our rigorous scientific methods in check. Are the scientific methods failing? or do we fail to properly interpret them? or are there “exogenous forces” that prevent us from adequately address the issues and the results? Are we prone to exaggerate the results to make them super fantastic to get attention? or is it part of the human nature to be biased. Could it be we don’t have the right [statistical] tools to analyze the data and therefore the results are “wrong”?