Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Info Age Fail 3: Gutenburg, Roberts, and one seriously stoned toddler

(This is part three. See part one here )

In 1440, Johannes Gutenburg developed his moveable printing press, initiating the first great change to the information landscape.  For the first time mass distribution of information was possible. Knowledge was no longer the purview of the few wealthy enough to support their own scribes (namely a few royals, and the church).

Fast forward to the 1950’s, and the personal computer was born. By the 1970’s the PC was being mass produced. Then over the next few decades PC’s became more powerful, more prolific, and less costly. Disk storage grew from Megabytes to Gigabytes to Terabytes. Costs went from thousands to hundreds of dollars.

The 1960’s saw another development – connecting PC’s together. By 1990’s these efforts culminated in the creation of the internet.

All of this computing power and connectivity had amazing implications on information. Data could be replicated instantly, nearly infinitely, for virtually no cost. It could travel the globe in mere seconds.

It certainly sounds like a mature information age. You can see how the experts would call it a sunset. Sadly, the experts misread the maturity level by several decades. The present state of the information age is closer to three. And heavily hopped up on meth, crack and hallucinogens.

There are a few things that work together to create this situation; privacy, anonymity, transparency, accountability. For some the problem is too much, for others, the problem is too little.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Second Civil War

I don't want my kids to grow up in a war zone.

I don't want them to deal with the fear, the poverty, the chaos that would bring.

In my ideal, my great grandchildren will literally touch the stars, moving out from this solar system to find new worlds, to expand the Human race, evolve beyond that which we presently are.

That is already lost, the world lacks the courage to conquer the void outside our atmosphere.

If not that, then perhaps they can at least live in relative peace, making some small advances in human quality of life.

Current events suggest otherwise.

The Liberals and Conservatives - Sunni and Shia of America are becoming increasingly divided. The leaders of these groups make no effort to find practical compromise, instead they play with the letter of the law, using subterfuge and propaganda to get their way.

No matter what.

"You go through the gate. If the gate's closed, you go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we'll pole vault in. If that doesn't work, we'll parachute in. But we're going to get health care reform passed for the American people."
        -Nancy Pelosi

I'm not especially opposed to socialized healthcare, I think we should have something in place that at the very least covers all children, regardless of their parents' economic standing, or lack of intelligence, or selfishness. I don't think anyone should have to worry about costs resulting from being injured by someone with no money or insurance. But the way this bill was done... the ego-lectual attitude is just... disturbing.

More frightening though are the recent headlines, the efforts to take down fundamental constitutional freedoms, and disarm the citizens of the united states.

The next logical step after "assault weapons" and high capacity magazines, will be handguns, rifles. Citizens will be left with the choice to revolt, or submit. But if they submit to disarmament, further tyranny is inevitable - there are always those who believe they are more righteous, more wise, more capable than all others, and that they are therefore destined to rule over those weaker, foolish masses, "for the greater good". Then the masses will face the prospect of further submission, or an unarmed revolt, against an entrenched dictator.

Don't think it will happen here? That our military would never turn against "we the people"?

Consider this story for a moment.

Or consider Colorado Bill SB13-013, which grants "Limited peace officer authority to the secret service" in Colorado (a way to 'deal with Sheriffs that refuse to uphold gun control measures. This is not so different from the rise to power of Hitler's SS)

Now consider the results of the Stanford Prisoner Experiment  (a good summary article here)

Remember in Rwanda  neighbors killed neighbors - friends, because an authoritative voice commanded it. Some of the worst atrocities were committed at the direction of a woman.

Also remember the perpetrators of horrors at Abu Ghraib were US soldiers. Good US soldiers with good records, "normal" psych evaluations.

So yes, I have real fears for the world my grandchildren will grow up in. I sure hope we can find our way back from the irrationality we seem to be resolutely marching toward in double-time.

Info age fail 2: more infovomit (vaccines-autism and paleo/SCD nonscience)

(This is part 2, Read Part 1 here)

  • In 1998 Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a paper implicating vaccines as a cause for Autisim. 

The paper was partially retracted in 2004 after it was discovered that Dr. Andrew falsified information in the report, and received over a half-million dollars in bribes.  

 In 2008, incidents of Measles climbed above 1997 levels. In 2010 the paper was officially fully retracted. To date there are still large movements which continue to preach the evil of vaccines, religiously citing this retracted paper. 

  • With my diagnosis of Crohn’s disease a few years back, I began looking into means of managing it, including Paleo and SCD diets. 

SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) was specifically developed for Gut disorders by Dr. Sidney V. Haas, sometime around 1920.  It was based on the idea that complex carbohydrates and refined sugars were the source of inflammation in the gut.

The Paleo Diet was created in 1975 by Gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin. It was presented as a diet for improved health. It was based on the idea that we would be healthier if we ate like our paleolithic ancestors. His argument was that humans are carnivores, and should be living primarily on fats and protein. 

Initially he created the Paleo diet for gut disorders. More recently it has gone mainstream as a general health, fitness and weight loss diet.

The diets, while difficult to follow precisely, are not bad diets. Processed sugars are out, as are grains, starches… pretty much all packaged foods… They both emphasize good protein, fruits and vegetables…

But the science is garbage.

For SCD you find little real science.  You find lots of people who will go on about how good it is for you. They will tell you about the thousands/millions of people who were cured of their gut disorder by following it. 

Generally anyone who suggests it didn’t work for them is quickly dismissed for having not followed the diet properly (which given the difficulty, and variances from one “expert” to the next, that is an easy claim to make and a difficult one to defend against).

The story is similar with Paleo. Worse, the Paleo peddlers (make no mistake, they profit from the book sales, video sales, product sales…), promote a supporting argument that is fairly convincing, but fundamentally flawed. The two most obvious issues come from the “paleo ancestors” argument. 

Fifty thousand years of evolution separate modern man and Paleo. Two thirds of the human population have evolved the ability to digest milk, as one example (increasing the variety in a species’ food supply is an evolutionary step forward. It improves the probability of survival for a species). 

Second, advancing science has called into question if paleolithic man is our ancestor (A similar thing happened to Neanderthal. He was considered our ancestor when I was in elementary school.  A few years and plenty of research later it was concluded the Neanderthal was a parallel evolutionary path. One that failed. After that, the new evolutionary model was that paleolithic man was the ancestor of us, and Neanderthal. Now that model is changing, and science is coming to the conclusion paleo is also a (failed) parallel evolution.

Additionally, the argument that gut disorders are a direct result of the agrarian diet (which both paleo and SCD claim) is flawed. Humans switched to an agrarian diet nearly 10,000 years ago. Gut disorders are much more recent. It has been in the past 50 years that they have really taken off.

The reason that this matters is that so much attention is being given to Paleo and SCD, resulting in tunnel vision setting in. Insufficient attention is thus being given to more likely factors, such as overuse of anti-biotics (which impacts the gut bacteria ecosystem), GMO’s (they are a little late to the party, having shown up only about 20 years ago, but still much closer to the target time frame than wheat), and other more recent environmental factors (herbicides, pesticides, food additives,…), which more precisely fit the time-frame and geographic patterns of gut disorders.

Oh, It would be unfair of me not to cite a recent study which both Paleo and SCD groups are touting, which demonstrated 100% success in treating a mix of Crohn’s and UC patients. There are several problems with this. First the study was of the IBD-AID diet which is based on SCD. It is neither Paleo nor SCD. Second, the study was of just over a dozen, hand-picked individuals, Finally, the 100% success rate is rather subjective. If you review the data given, there is an absence of any indication of a control for placebo effect (runs around 50% in most Crohn’s trials). Most of the individuals in question were on the same medications at the end of the trial, save for those which are normally short term (the steroids), or in some cases where multiple treatments were being used, the lesser (i.e. safer, but less effective) medications were discontinued. The study is dreadfully weak, yet is accepted as near gospel, used by groups who really have no claim to it, to promote their only barely related solution.


I could go on for pages, volumes. New examples are a daily occurrence.   

An endless sea of evidence that the “Information age” was a bust.

We can’t reliably manage it, verify it, authenticate it, maintain it, or trace it.
<Part 3>

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Info Age Fail

Some years back, I remember many industry experts talking about how we were in the “Sunset of the information age.” 

We had achieved information maturity and were preparing to move to the next great era.

The industry experts were wrong. 

We were nowhere near the sunset. In fact, we only just made it to dawn.

Before the sun puked all over the landscape and promptly disappeared behind the clouds,
leaving us stuck in the aborted pre-dawn of the information age.

I’ll elaborate with a few anecdotes.

  • On December 14th 20 year old Adam Lanza went on a shooting rampage in a school. Two months later, the news stories were still inaccurately describing the weapons used.

With global news networks, cheap cameras on virtually every phone, and the all-pervasive internet, somehow, two months later, nobody is able to produce solid, irrefutable documentation. We are still relying on “He said she said”, further convoluted by “they meant…”.

  • Two weeks ago, I signed on to dogforum.com to get some help with a particular problem we were having with a new puppy. 
The site is decidedly against discipline (they will kick you off for recommending it). I happened on a discussion where an individual asked why, and giving some examples of practical, humane use of discipline to differentiate from abuse. 

The first response was a whole slew of videos from “Dog Experts” explaining how discipline can traumatize a nervous dog, etc… and how it is entirely unnecessary if you just take the time to understand canine language. 

This was followed by lists of various canine behaviors and what they mean. One contained a picture of a dog licking its nose and indicated this was a calming signal, a signal a dog gives to let you know it is okay. Below that link was a link to another chart, which showed the same behavior, and indicated that it meant the dog was nervous. So combining the collective wisdom of these revered experts, I can tell you that if your dog licks its nose, it is definitely nervous, or not.