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Anyone that has worked with me is tired of me suggested that everyone in business should know how to program.   This thought is met with a variety of rebuttals that have only a slight shred of a validity.

Everyone programs.  If you get out of bed in the morning and go through any sort of routine (everything is pretty much a routine) you are programming.   This is not semantics. Programming is nothing more than organizing things in such a way that they transform into other things.   Everyday life is programming, it’s just not the uber-formal (re: very restrictive) programming  we think computer programmers do.

When people reject my statement about everyone programs and should get better at what they are actually rejecting is the specific implementations of computer programming – the syntax, the formalities, the tools, the long hours in front of a headache inducing screen.

If you speak, write, draw or communicate at all you have learned a set of rules that you apply to various inputs and produce various outputs.   If you work in spreadsheets, at a cash register, with a paint brush, in a lecture haul, in a lab, on a stage, you are programming.   If you make yourself a sandwich, eat it and go for a jog, you are programming.  Everything you do is taking inputs and transforming it into outputs using various rules of a system.   The system is more or less formal, more or less open.

I don’t see there being any room for dispute on this observation or rather this definition or axiom.

With that basic assumption as a starting point let me make the case that honing your more formal, strict and, yes, traditional “computer” programming skill is a must do for anyone participating in modern society.  (yes, if you do not participate in modern society and do not wish to do so, you don’t need formal programming skill, but you will always be programming within the universe…)

Without getting too out there – our lives will never have fewer computers, fewer programs, fewer gadgets, fewer controllers monitoring, regulating, data exposing, recommending, and behaving on our behalf.   Cell phone penetration is near ubiquitous, every car has computers, trains run on computerized schedules, more than 50% of stocks are algorithmically trade, your money is banked electronically, the government spends your taxes electronically and so on.   So in some sense, to not be able to program formally leaves you without any knowledge of how these systems work or miswork.  Some will have the argument that “I don’t need to know how my car works to use it/benefit from it.”   This is true.  But computers and programming are so much more fundamental than your car.   To not be able to program is akin, at this point, to not being able to read or write.   You are 100% dependent on others in the world.  You can function without a working car.

Before you reject my claim outright consider the idea that learning to program is quite natural and dare I say, easy.   It requires no special knowledge or skill.  It requires only language acquisition skills and concentration which every human i’ve read about or know has these two basic capabilities (before we go on destroying them in college.)

Why do I make this claim of ease?

Programming languages and making programs that work rely on a very small language.  Very simple rules.   Very simple syntax.   Frustratingly simple!   The english language (or any spoken language) is so much more ridiculously complicated.

It does not surprise me that people think it’s hard.  It’s frustrating.  It’s the practice and the simplification of your thoughts into more simple languages and syntax that’s hard.   And so is writing a speech others will understand, or painting a masterpiece, or correctly building a financial accounting book, or pretty doing anything you do for a living that requires someone else to understand and use your output.

I firmly believe each persons ability to translate their lives into useful programs is a differentiator of those that have freedom and identity and those that do not.  Either you are programming and able to keep watch over the programs you use or you are programmed.

Sure, companies and people are busy at work making easier and easier tools to “program” but that doesn’t change the fundamental problem.   The programs you layer on top of other programs (web page builder guis to HTML to browser parsers to web servers…) the more chance of transcription problems (miscommunication), unnoticed malicious use and so forth.

Beyond the issue of freedom it is fun and invigorating to create, to mold your world.  This is the part that’s hard for adults.  Having spent probably from age 10 to whatever age we all are following rules (others programs) and being rewarded (program feedback loops) we all don’t really do a great job molding our world.  Kids are so good at experimenting (playing).   And playing is essential to really great programming.   Programming that will fill you up and make your life better is the kind that generates wonderfully unexpected but useful results.   It’s not always about getting it right or spitting out the answer (though for simple programs that might be the point).  It’s about creating, exploring, and finding connections in this world.

I can replace the word programmer (and programming) in this post with Artist, Mathematician, Reader, Writer, Actor, etc and it will be essentially the same piece with the same reasoning.   All of these “occupations” and their activities are programming – the only thing that differs are the implementations of language (syntax, medium, tools).

When people are rejecting my argument that everyone should learn to program, they are rejecting the notion of sitting down in front of a blinking cursor on a screen and having a piece of software say “error”.   Reject that!  I hate that too!  For me, correcting grammar in my posts or emails or journals is as painful! (but it doesn’t prevent me from wanting to write better or write at all, i *need* to to survive and be free!)

Don’t reject the notion that you shouldn’t be always trying to communicate or understand better – taking inputs from the world and transforming them into useful outputs.  To reject that is essentially rejecting everything.  (and that is now the annoying over-reaching philosophical close!)

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If you haven’t read Cory Doctorow’s Makers you should.

A couple years after reading it I’m reminded of it daily.   The march of technology, culture, business, education towards a future in which large organizations simply can’t withstand the tide of individual creators creating on a small scale and networking upwards.

creative destruction, as it were, little tiny piece by piece.   all on the backs and hands of people who probably wont make a fortune on these creations.  They will get by enough.

I don’t know if it turns out that everyone gets what they need and this is the new economy capable of supporting 300+ million people.  It is the new culture.  and maybe we’ll do with less. or we’re have a larger and larger income gap.

artisans, craftmakers, app developers, youtube stars, self employed…

then again, we need infrastructure.  roads, info networks, cellular towers.  can a world of makers fully exist on top of a large commercial infrastructure?  the network is the thing and the network is still owned by huge, controlled, controlling organizations.  The pipes and search engines and the social networks, owned by perhaps 10-15 organizations.

Perhaps the rise of 3d printing will make it so that eventually makers can print the necessary network at a scale that removes the requirement of these big infrastructures.

Not sure.

hard to sort out.

i’m too busy making.

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Guest Writer Ron Williams again… Attorney, Businessman and Citizen

It is clear to even the most casual observer that the sole political agenda of the Republican Party is to prevent the reelection of Pres. Barack Obama. It is equally clear that it is the absolute, single-minded focus of the Far Right of the Republican Party to prevent the reelection of a Black Man, any black, as President of the United States.

Thus, for nearly two years, as the President negotiated health-care with the Republican Party, those negotiations were futile, because no matter what would have been offered by this President the answer from this Republican Party would have been “no”. It is clear that no matter what initiative this President put forward, the Republican Party answer would always have been “no.”

And today, we see the Republican Party, and in particular the Far Right portion of that party, deciding to attach items on their political agenda to the debt ceiling bill as a means to further weaken the president and as a means to move their political agenda forward. As a political strategy, the move is almost brilliant. They were able to attack Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (three programs that the Republican Party has been attempting to repeal sent each of them were first adopted) while at the same time further demonstrating the weakness of this President.

The mistake President Obama continues to make is to attempt to negotiate substantive programs with a group of people whose agenda is not to negotiate on those programs, but to attack the man himself. They will never negotiate to yes until they have used the so-called negotiations to attack the President (demonstrating his weakness) and until they have also gotten what concessions they otherwise wanted.

I predicted when this whole debt limit “crisis” began that the Republican Party would string this out until the end of July, after they had extracted significant concessions from the President and the Democratic Party, that is they had gotten as much as they could based on the time limit left. I am being somewhat facetious when I suggest that if these negotiations continued much longer, President Obama would eventually have negotiated away the entire Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs.

It is telling that the Republican Party started these negotiations stating that there could be no revenue increasing tax changes that would affect the wealthy. And that exactly where they ended. How can you have negotiations when one side gives up nothing in the other side makes all the concessions? That because their whole purpose of the Republican Party was to use the debt ceiling issue as a means of moving their political agenda forward with demonstrating their basic weakness of President Obama. And the Democratic Party and this President let them.

What Barack Obama should have said to the first overture from the Far Right that they would not agree to raise the debt ceiling unless there were major cuts to the various social programs, was “no.” He should have simply stated that he would veto any legislation that came across his desk that did anything other than simply raise the debt ceiling. And then stopped negotiating. Whenever they said “well let’s talk about this,” his response should have been “there is nothing to talk about.”

The President should have said, “I’ve told you my position. Congress, you do what you feel you need to do. If you want to pass legislation that has provisions other than raising the national debt attached to it, do so. I will veto it. And if you choose to then put the full faith and credit of the United States government at risk because you want to attach non-relevant politically motivated subject matter on what should be otherwise routine legislation, do so, but I will not be a party to this game-playing”.

If he had said that from day one, and then stuck to his guns,, this so-called crisis would’ve gone way. Then should he want to discuss modification of Medicare, Medicaid and/or Social Security that could have been done in conversation along with tax code changes.

The president has got to learn to stand up. If he doesn’t he will be a one term president. As it is, he is losing his base and maybe a one term president in any event. It may already be too late.

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Dr. Tim Maudin posits in his “BIGTHINK.COM” article, that there is not much procedural difference between how one arrives at philosophical axioms for life and scientific ones.

However, let’s not wax Pollyannaic to the gods of ‘blog’; there are major processes that are different.   The philosophical axioms of life that one distills along the way are private and not amiable to testing or any type of validation or falsification.  That’s good for the individual according to those that traffic in concepts, metaphors, mysticism and similes, but it is not so relatively good for the species and the universe.  Those philosophical interpretations, rules, axioms and beliefs die with the owner.

Scientific ones may have, but don’t necessarily have, a similar etiology.   But scientific content is converted from private to public by the bridging of communication that can be scanned for a value proposition by anyone exposed who is attending to it and, in so doing, gets to tests the content in their reality as well as the public reality that science serves.

Our belief frame out behavior and when those beliefs don’t have any course correction available they can lead to good and less good consequences for the owner and the community that owner inhabits.  We all are stuck with some very outdated concepts; mostly tied to the Judeo-Christian-Newtonian World view, as some have pointed out responding to philosopher Maudlin’s article. No attempt or clue is offered how we all have these albatross’ of folk science, folk psychology and folk folklore and that, for some, make this Dr. Maudin’s video an opinion piece rather than an information piece.

What is unbounded is the need for explanation of relationships in ways that are general or conditional.  Private or covert neural patterns that equal what we call “cognitive” is not been a productive place to look to find out what the heck is going on in the world.  It is unbounded because of the complexity.   Staring at our belly button is one relationship that, while interesting to many philosophically, medically or technically, is not particularly relevant scientifically other than how it fits into existing context of those who value understanding a broader set of relationships. A scientific “explanatory crisis” is critical only because there is so much to do and behavior is complex. The philosophical procedures that have been around for 2500 years have left us wondering and wanting.  Scientific approaches have provided the Gore-Tex to suit the astronauts on the moon, if you get the difference in meaning. The differences are literally mind boggling because we’ve spent so much time in the ‘mind’ idiom that is marginal if not, blatantly unfruitful.  Current philosophical journals and entries validate this one-liner’s contributions to “our ordinary life”.

in starts and sputters science handles the changes in content understanding.  Philosophical approaches hang on using the metaphors and mysticism that was oh, so trendy in 1200 BC (interesting way to reference, ah!?). Thus, we have a similar explanatory crisis in our individual daily lives right now.  It could be called a dichotomy between those that ‘Get it” and those that “Don’t Get it” concerning myth, gods, premonitions, intuitions, feelings, motivations and the private axioms we treat as real (reification).  These reified concepts keep us ginned up recycling tattered messages rather than focused on the infinite simple relationships that make up the complex relationships that contribute to figuring out what the heck is going on out there.  Many people just gave up, are giving up, to become atheists, agnostics or vaccumists musing the antics of the “–isms” which are the stock and trade of philosophy as well.  But the quest to make sense of things is valuable and will find a course it finds rather than one based on ‘should-ought,’ or truth, beauty, right, wrong, etc., ad nauseum.

It is ironical that those that want to disagree with this piece are right now looking for a scientific-looking way to frame their Judeo-Christian-Newtonian folklore arguments to make them so strong that it will launch their careers… as philosophers.   Lol.

  1. Thursday, June 23, 2011; http://bigthink.com/ideas/24170

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Just watched absolutely fascinating NatGeo Explorer episode, The Moment of Death.

This is a really uncomfortable show to watch.   Asks some amazing questions AND unemotionally explores some answers/approaches.

What got me really thinking was listening to the Drs. and researchers who work on this stuff everyday.   It’s shocking to many of us who don’t deal with this stuff everyday, but for these researchers, its clinical.

Absolutely fascinating research over hundreds of years.   Some really kooky stuff.

There’s a part where this Dr. “MacDougal” attempted to measure the weight of the soul in the 1800s.   WHAT??!?

There’s an amazing part involving the air force testing the effects of G on pilots’ brains.

Definitely a much watch, if you can handle it.  It’s not for everyone.

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On the last day of 2010 I picked up lewis’ book “the great divorce”. I have no idea why other than I think he’s a creative writer and it was less than 200 pages.

The book was a thrill to read. Just great writing. Fast, fun, efficient. Oh, and evocative. However, the main morality is a pain to me. Not because of the end morals, but the justification of those morals. Sure none of us should be too selfish, too pity sucking, and too self-respecting.
That said, we need not be that way because the promise of heaven nor “eternal joy” nor “true love”. Life is just easier if you’re not a jerk nor a pity party.

Lewis presents an enticing view of heaven and Christianity.  Salvation through the surrender of self to God and everything is
awesomely straightforwad! Unfortunately, the history of Christianity and the stories in the bible simply don’t paint that simple of a picture.

(and, oh, that’s not the way the world works. )

I won’t deny Lewis’ idea that ‘it’s all good’ and we all have flaws that will be forgiven and forgotten is very appealing. It’s just not a serious position. You
have to suspend too much of your intellect to take this story as a serious philosophy to order your values around.

There is a small gem in this book for me.  Lewis seems to paint a world view devoid of personal responsibility, which is likely the
right position in the grand scheme of things.

Read the book and let’s talk!

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from Ron Williams…

In the October 29, 2010, edition of the Wall Street Journal (The Potential Pitfalls of the Winning Big) reporter Gerald F. Seib wrote, “In an interview with National Journal out this week, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was asked what his party’s main political job will be after next week’s election. He gave a surprisingly stark answer: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

At a time when the country is fighting a major war, facing a severe economic recession that rivals the Great Depression, and having the largest federal deficits in the country’s history, it is telling to see that the focus of the Republican Party is not to address any of the great problems facing this country.  Rather, their focus is on politics as usual.

And the fact that the American public is about to give them the same Party and laid the groundwork for most of these problems seems to me say that we are a country of amnesiacs.  When President Bill Clinton left office we had budget surpluses, we were not at war with anyone, and the economy had not collapsed.

Then we had eight years of Republican governance.

The Republicans had control of the Executive Branch and both houses of Congress.  What did that get us?  The answer is two foreign wars, the budget deficits, and the beginnings of the great recession.  All were precipitated on the policies of the Bush administration and a Republican Congress.  The Republican governance approach was underfunded budget cuts for the very wealthy and deregulation of just about every industry. Now, it seems that both they, and apparently a significant portion of the American populace, have forgotten what a disaster Republican governance games this country and are prepared to allow the return of those same disastrous policies.

I fear for this country. Example, the governor of New Jersey has just canceled the Tunnel Project, and has ended a project needed for the future transportation needs of the Northeast region.  During the Great Depression it was just the sort of New Deal Projects that helped jumpstart this country out of the Great Depression.  Republican politicians these days cancel these projects.  We see Republican and Tea Party candidates stand their time sending racist and sexist e-mails around the country with others focus on anti-masturbation campaigns and witchcraft issues.

We see a Republican Party which has as one of its favorites ex-governor Sarah Palin, a politician who has yet to complete the term for any office she has been elected.  I’m amazed to think that anyone would support a politician who resigns from office midterm to pursue other financial interests and then expect you to support their election to the next higher office.  It is one thing to leave an office to run for a higher office, it is something else to quit an office to be a commentator on Fox News.  And Tea Party members want this woman to be our next president?

I despair for this country.  Democrats have had control of the Executive Branch and both houses of Congress for the last two years.  President Obama was elected on a campaign promise of putting forward major social and economic changes.  Instead of using that control in both houses and the Executive Branch to make good on these promises, President Obama and the leaders in the House and the Senate spent two years dickering with Republican Senate and House members (who was declared goal was to block every single legislative program with the express purpose of capturing more seats in the midterm elections.) And that is exactly what has happened.  Democrats have not had the guts to push their own agenda.  I believe they deserve to lose.  If you don’t have the courage of your convictions, then perhaps you use should not lead.

I believe the 2008 and 2010 election cycles are based on the electorate crying out for leadership. I think most of us feel the country has been headed in the wrong direction for the last ten years and wanted a change. They asked for that with the election of President Obama.  He has failed to deliver.  For example, the health care bill did not go far enough.  He did not cause runaway health-care costs to be reduced for the average Of American.  He spent too much time dickering with the healthcare industry (the folks who are causing the cost run-up in the first place) and with Republicans (again those people whose only goal in life is to recapture the presidency).

It is the same thing with re-regulation and control of the financial industries. The regulations being put in place today are being written by the same group of Ivy League financiers that gave us the problem in the first place. The regulations do not go far enough in controlling this industry. The American public knows it and is angry.

Last year, there was an uproar when the same bankers who caused the financial meltdown were being awarded large bonuses. In answer to this outcry, the Ivy League financiers trotted out the argument that the bonuses had to be paid because of “contractual obligations”. The problem is that we all knew that the Ivy League financiers knew about these large contractual bonuses when they were negotiating the bailout of these major banks.

During this bailout, detailed contracts were being renegotiated and new terms set in place. These individual contracts, with their large salaries and their scheduled large bonuses, could have and should have been renegotiated at that time. If an individual refused to accept these renegotiated terms, then their employment could have and should have been terminated. With economy as tough as it was unsure that they would have accepted those terms.

Further, with all of the layoffs in the financial industry, it goes without saying that finding well-qualified individuals to fill the spots of those who quit would not be hard to come by. This is what happens to the steelworker, on a file clerk or even the PhD executive. In this economy, there’s always someone willing to take the job in a lower, more reasonable, salary and to forgo bonuses. If this wasn’t, so it seemed like politics as usual. And this is going to cost the Democrats in the election.

It is activity like this that is fueling the anger on the Right, and that the lack of enthusiasm on the Left.

I would not despair if the Republican Party had more to offer than tax cuts for the wealthy and the slashing of any program that supports the elderly, poor or the disabled and a return to the deregulation of any and all industry. These programs have proven to be disastrous and there’s no reason to believe that going back to them would do anything other than bring on more of the same.

I would not despair if the Democratic Party could find its way clear to have the courage of its beliefs and fight for their policies as hard as the Republicans fight for theirs.   But it seems as if the Democrats won’t, so I despair.

[Ron Williams is a frequent quest writer on this site.  He is a former attorney and a current Texan living in a free country with changing contingencies.]

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