[extropy-chat] Turbulence of obsolesence (was: Anti-virus protection -- problem fixed!)

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Thu Apr 21 23:10:56 UTC 2005

On Tue, Apr 19, 2005 at 02:23:53PM -0700, Adrian Tymes wrote:

> that sometimes they worked on Windows too.  For example, Web services:
> if you design to be non-browser-specific, which most sites do (although

Web services are not web applications. You can get trapped in embrace &
extend there at well, both at the interoperability (try to make Java/IIS WSDL 
play well with each other, in a jiffy), or user interface (if any, many web
services don't have one) which is designed for and tested for IE only, 
and will predictably break elsewhere. 

Another area, where theory and practice unfortunately do not agree.

> a significant minority build for MSIE only - usually only for a handful
> of months, until customer complaints point out what a bad idea that is
> and they have time to redo to be browser-neutral), then you simply

This does not agree with my experience (which is not much, admittedly).
Most programmers don't know what they're doing, and PHBs have even less 
clue. Features got frozen by chance, way prior to any rational evaluation
(what, that ActiveX app doesn't work in Firefox/Safari? How unexpected).

> don't care what OS the people trying your site are using.  (My present
> employer, http://www.teleo.com/ , is an example of this.)  Or take
> most supercomputing applications (mostly Unix and variants), or most

Supercomputing applications don't provide jobs, and don't register on the
market in terms of sales. It's a prestige market, though.

> smaller-than-desktop apps (embedded Linux or Palm and derivatives
> dominate here, to my knowledge).

Embeddeds dominate by number, by the number of jobs they provide. Embedded
Linux does hardly register in mobile applications (where Redmond is a strong
contender to Symbian, especially in new sales).
> Microsoft rules the desktop computing industry.  That's a far cry from
> all of IT.

My point was that crappy systems can provide plenty of jobs. 
And that introductions of better systems can cause unemployment, unless  
absorbed by new job sinks. 
> > This assumes the people so occupied would be capable of serving 
> > other industries, and not be out of job.
> I believe that most human beings have the human trait of being
> adaptable to changing circumstances.  Granted, it might be socially

How do you retrain a 50-year old out of job? Who's going to pay for his
training? He's broke, and mortgaged.

> wise to tap the profits of new tech to retrain workers made obsolete by
> the new tech, and perhaps provide temporary unemployment benefits while
> they are being retrained (limited to limit abuse), once the new tech
> gains enough momentum that significant numbers of workers are being

What is the new tech generating jobs, specifically in NA and EU? I'm not
interested in generalities, but concrete fields and numbers. How many jobs
does, say, nanosciences and biosciences provide, which are the age group and requirement
profiles of the new hires, and how do you propose to make laid-off IT support
with no savings but heavy mortgages and probably some debt compete with fresh postdocs? 

> displaced (so as not to kill new tech before it gets going), but people
> these days can and do have more than one career over the course of

How do you get a new career going if nobody's is hiring?

> their lives.  (And that's before we have radical age extension or
> immortality.)

The current generation is experiencing an age *shortening*, not extension.
> These days, to work is to be trainable.  Refuse to accept training as

But I am talking about those already laid off.

> one's job changes to require it, and one's skills quickly rot away
> anyway, causing one to join the ranks of the unemployable.  Retarding

So you agree we're having a large umemployment problem?

> the progress of technology to keep these people in jobs harms the rest
> of society by denying everyone the benefits of the new ways.  Besides,

What *are* the new ways, for those who can't find work?

> old needs rarely go away completely (there are still whip manufacturers
> today), so those who absolutely can not learn new skills can compete
> for the few remaining jobs while the rest of us move on.

Oh, please. What next, wild GNP growth due to camel robot jockeys?
> Again, given the inevitable shortage of labor in new industries (it's
> new, so there isn't already a wide pool of labor trained in the new
> industry's particulars), using the profits (once there are significant

Do you realize the job market in nano and biosciences? Or are you thinking
about something else? (What?) 

> profits) to give the displaced the necessary skills seems like the best

But there are no significant profits. And the problems are not existing since

> generally applicable solution.

Please don't be so glib. This doesn't jive with naivete very well. 
> > > Yes, there would be significant short-term economic dislocations,
> > big
> > > enough to strain our social safety nets.  But imagine the computing
> > 
> > I'm living right in the middle of an economic dislocation, and given
> > that it's
> > in its second decade it's not that short-term. Prospects are pretty
> > dismal.
> Which dislocation are you referring to?  If you mean the dot-bomb
> crash, the industry's pretty much recovered by now.  Stock prices might

No, the dotbomb isn't recovered (there's still job cutting going on in U.S. IT, 
look up the numbers). No, I'm not referring just to the NA-local problems in

> Every case I've looked into of a technical worker who "can not" find
> work, is someone whose skills weren't that advanced, who refuses to
> acknowledge the current existance of lower-paying jobs for basic

I realize that flipping hamburgers or nursing is still pretty much in demand.

But we were talking about new technology job market. How, again, are you
going to let that hypothetical market absorb those displaced MCSEs?

> skills, and who won't develop their technical skills to meet current
> demands.  (Although it is only partially their fault: there are also a

How do you train a MCSE in bleeding edge proteomics? Who's going to pay for it? 
How is your hypothetical MCSE turned molecular biologist going to compete
with the rest of them fresh eager postdocs? 

> lot of companies who "can not" find skilled technical workers, who
> could find a number of skilled workers if they'd just up their offered
> salaries a bit and/or otherwise adjust to the modern realities of
> telecommuting et al.  This doesn't entirely excuse the workers,
> though.)

You're having a reality dissonance moment.   
> > Who would be paying to write these applications? Such talent is rare,
> > and
> > already well accounted for (but in the developing countries).
> You mean "but not in the developing countries", right?

Genius grade talent, whether molecular biology or IT isn't trainable. 
> The talent might be rare, but talent can be nurtured and developed.

Yes, and no. No talent will flourish in absence of motivation and 

But in presence of motivation and training some people will soar, and most
will not. (This ain't Ayn Rand, btw).  

So, how do you propose to employ all those? 

> That would likely be part of retraining in this case.  Innate genius,
> in most cases, is not actually impossible to duplicate, merely
> impractical by the standards of the time - and standards can change.
> (Until they do, though, there is often little real difference between
> "impossible" and "impractical", thus the two get confused a lot.)

You're confabulating.
> Imagine, for instance, a blacksmith in the early days of metalworking,
> who put a year into study of his craft.  His works would be considered

Imagine, for instance a top athlete. 

> art by those around him.  Now imagine if he were time-teleported a
> thousand years* into the future, where most blacksmiths apprenticed for
> a year or more before being considered worthy independent operators.
> After adjusting for culture shock, he would find his skills merely
> adequate.

Do you think you can beat the 100 m sprint world record by training hard?
> * As adjusted for the slow rate of change back then.  The modern
> equivalent would be about 20-40 years, maybe less, certainly within a
> normal professional career.  (Of course, the time-teleport would still
> prevent someone from building up 20 years of professional experience,
> which natural buildup is why we don't see this problem much more than
> we do today.)
> > > and subsequent high availability of bandwidth for everyone, if DDOS
> > > attacks and spam became mostly historical footnotes.  (And I'm sure
> > we
> > 
> > DDoS and spam have about zero impact on the traffic cost. ISPs are
> > well-equipped to deal even with surging traffic due to P2P, given the
> > postdotcombomb overcapacity. 
> Last I'd heard, DDOS and spam account for about 2/3rd of an ISP's
> typical bandwidth costs.  Yes, bandwidth is at a low price due to

You're wrong.

> overcapacity, but costs are costs, and the overcapacity would remain if
> DDOS and spam went away.

Your premises are wrong. Go ask a few people.
> > displaced by
> > > new technologies, into other markets - including and especially
> > ones
> > > made possible, or at least profitable, by these same new
> > technologies?
> > 
> > You'd do well by identifying these technologies first.
> Actually, I was hoping for an approach that would be broadly applicable
> to most technologies.  Identifying things only for a few specific techs
> doesn't necessarily lead to that, as opposed to identifying examples
> for specific techs of broad patterns that could apply elsewhere.

Please get back to us when you've found those approaches. Whether most
technologies, or just the easy cases. 

> > Add AI and robotics, and it truly hits the fan.
> Ironic that you should mention those.  I'd call applied AI (not basic
> research into cognition, but actual products and services that can
> easily prove their immediate financial worth, like trend analysis
> software when it works) and advanced adaptable robotics (like the
> Asimo, or rescue & military drones that can largely carry out their
> operations with nothing more than guidance from home base and a home
> base to return to afterwards) examples of new technologies that could
> benefit from having a lot more people working on them.

I agree. But nobody hires AI and robotics experts. Even if you could find
those in the large numbers of those people out of jobs -- which aren't
exactly the youngest, best and brightest, you will observe.

So I want to hire an L expert to develop a better Roomba. One expert, because
one is enough. Where should I find one?

> There's also advanced nanofabrication - not just the bulk materials

There is no advanced nanofabrication. Yet. Please come back to us when we
have a job market in artifexes. 

> that are the typical "nanoproducts" of today, but actual functional
> machines and electronic components.  I'm working on building one such
> device myself, and I seem to be inventing my own processes to a degree

So how many people are you hiring?

> that you'd never have to do in a mature industry.  (That, or I'm
> reinventing the wheel - but those I talk to in detail about this
> project, who would know about existing wheel-equivalents, haven't
> pointed them out to me, so it appears unlikely they're already out
> there.)  I'm doing my best to document my processes so that, if my
> experiment is successful, it can be replicated elsewhere - but the
> highly custom state of equipment at the lab I'm doing this at, and the
> probable equally custom state at other labs that could replicate the
> experiment, means that any such replication would be difficult to the
> extreme.  (It'd be significant work just to replicate it at the same
> lab, using the same equipment with the same settings and the same
> materials...and any such replication could be suspected of being due to
> undocumented flukes of the lab's equipment, among other possibilities.)
> But that might be a little too advanced, given the R&D that has to be
> done before it can be pushed into products on the store shelf.

What was your point, again?

Sorry if I'm too harsh, this is hammered out in a hurry, and I'm off to
England. Will be back in 5 days.

Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a>
ICBM: 48.07078, 11.61144            http://www.leitl.org
8B29F6BE: 099D 78BA 2FD3 B014 B08A  7779 75B0 2443 8B29 F6BE
http://moleculardevices.org         http://nanomachines.net
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