Food For Thought #2greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
This is from Westergaard's site (Sept. 1).
by way of GN's site
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. . . Mathematical Models and Everyday Life
Most of us would agree that there are many societal benefits derived from our ability to accurately predict certain aspects of our common existence. . . . Unfortunately, much of the effort to predict significant phenomena in really complex systems has met with only limited success -- Will it rain tomorrow? The problem with predicting the more substantive complex phenomena, such as earthquakes, flooding, war, famine, economic collapse, the rise of disco, and so on, is that in order for the underlying mathematical models to be accurate and precise, they would have to be of virtually infinite complexity. In all likelihood such models would be far too complex for our combined human intellect to even comprehend, much less use as practical tools. . . .
Complex, non-linear, phenomena that are considered chaotic may be thought of as systems in which the simultaneous occurrence of small, discrete, seemingly unrelated events, combine to produce outcomes of an unexpectedly large magnitude or significance. In some instances the increase in effect over a linear expectation may be many orders of magnitude greater than would be in a simple linear combination. Because these systems are highly complex, it is difficult or impossible to build accurate predictive models. . . .
It is clear that the lynchpin upon which all of this capability rests in the physical world is the integrity of the technological infrastructure, in a very real, physical sense, that supports these complex interactions. A partial list of such components would include executable code, embedded electronic components, digital control systems, and other automated and semi-automated . . .
The physical embodiment of this complex technology exists in the highly tangible and, unfortunately, highly vulnerable form of discrete software, firmware, and hardware components. . . .
When we, as an international community, enter the Year 2000, we will be, in a figurative sense, tossing hundreds of millions of microscopic monkey wrenches into a staggeringly complex global infrastructure system. If we again use the weather as an example, this might be the rough equivalent of simultaneously changing the physical gas constant (Boyle's law) for a tiny, but unknown, percentage of all of the molecules that comprise the atmosphere of the entire earth. Were this to occur, I for one would not be surprised to see some very unusual weather patterns develop as a result. I believe we would see unanticipated events of possibly enormous magnitude happen for the simple reason that it is highly likely given the applicable theory from a well-established body of mathematical science. Said more simply, it is just incredibly unlikely that nothing of significance would happen given what we know about the initial conditions. . . .
Like everyone else, I have no way of knowing what will happen when we enter 2000. I am only certain about a couple of things; we will all be going on this journey together and we will all be embarking at approximately the same time. . . .
-- Bokonon (bok0non@my-Deja.com), September 02, 1999
All Hail Discordia
-- R (Riversoma@aol.com), September 02, 1999.
It does make one wish that our education and training in this country emphasized competent generalists, doesn't it?
That is going to be our biggest unknown. Can we, as a society that has (recently - within the last 2-3 generations) emphasized specialty over broad range, adapt to chaotic conditions?
I'm as ready as I can be. I'm one of those people who change and shuffle stuff around "just because".
Too many people are afraid of change........
-- Jon Williamson (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 03, 1999.
The one thing that seems to be fairly universal, in industrialized societies, regardless of race, creed, color or political affiliation, is the notion that being a generalist, is to be under-educated. If not for the fact that a lot of people have said "Screw it", and became generalists anyway, a lot of knowledge would doubtless be already lost, since a lot of knowledge of older technologies probably doesn't fall under the venue of any existing specialty. Education, more and more, is less about how it will improve your life, than it is about how much money it will make you (The theory being that you can then just go out and BUY what you need to improve your life). I agree, it's a problem.
-- Bokonon (bok0non@my-Deja.com), September 03, 1999.