Ancient Greeks developed techniques for computer coding

Socrates-Quotes-1

We tend to think of computer coding as something very new, dating from the 1960’s and later. Basic launched in 1963 and many think of it as the first language because it underpins much of modern SQL.

FORTRAN was developed by IBM in the 1950’s

More knowledgeable historians will refer me back to ENIAC in 1946, or project Ultra in 1941.

Even better historians will take me back to 1804 and the punch card programming system used on the Jacquard Loom to weave patterns in silk.

I think we can go even further and wind the clock back to 500BC because coding has a far older history. Today, when we design classes in education we could learn from the ancient Greek method of the Trivium (3 ways).

The trivium was a system of education taught in Greece and Rome to master the art of oration, which is the foundation of all courtroom trials, most business presentations and almost all political speeches and debates.

It involves 3 disciplines, Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric.

  • Grammar: definition of terms, language, limits, data etc.
  • Logic: how to arrange your data, build arguments, test them, link them and test them again.
  • Rhetoric: how to deliver the final output in a succinct, engaging and compelling way.

To any experienced coder the schema above looks eerily familiar:

Input – Process – Output

Does it sound preposterous that the Greeks worked out early forms of programming?  Remember these are the people who gave us much of our mathematics.  By 100 BC they were building clockwork computers such as the Antikythera mechanism.  This level of sophistication was not achieved again in Europe until the 14th century.

antikythera-title

 

Fight against Educatism!

People have the right to reject argument and scientific proof as Educatism.

Educatism is discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their educational attainment level.

Today, the use of the term “educatism” does not easily fall under a single definition.

The ideology underlying educatist practices often includes the idea that humans can be subdivided into distinct groups that are different in their social behavior and innate capacities and that can be ranked as inferior or superior.
While the concepts of education and intelligence are considered to be separate in contemporary social science, the two terms have a long history of equivalence in both popular usage and older social science literature.

‘Innate’ or ‘Natural’ Intelligence” is often used in a sense close to one traditionally attributed to ‘race’.
The division of human groups based on qualities assumed to be essential or innate to the group.
Races with a long history of institutional work, involving reading, writing, mathematics, accounting and meetings have evolved higher IQ levels.
Those races who are more suited to heavy outdoor labour and subject to pain and deprivation have generally less need of intelligence. They are genetically disposed to being pretty dumb.
IQ tests are employed to isolate these individuals and discriminate against them.  Goverments also use complex form filling for activities such as voter registration, claiming social benefits and health insurance.
‘Cultural Intelligence’ is used in a sense to describe embedded practices of certain races to practice forms of education.
Some races prefer recitation over reading, and avoid printed matter.  Races that favour trading and money dealing will stress mathematics over literature.
Some members of these races may demonstrate an animal cunning, which enables them to negotiate IQ tests and form filling.
More subtle tools are used by governments to identify and isolate these populations.  These include racial profiling, religion, language, hair styles, fashion choices and so on.

According to a United Nations convention on educatism, there is no distinction between the terms “natural” and “cultural” discrimination.
The UN convention further concludes that superiority based on educational differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and there is no justification for educational discrimination, anywhere, in theory or in practice.

People who avoid reasoned argument are unlikely to read this far, will believe the headline, and think this is a true thing.
Some of you will have seen the satire already, and now the penny drops for the rest.

Educatism

The 5th Estate

tennis_court_oath

The Tennis Court Oath, Versailles, 1789

In the traditional model of rule, dating back to feudalism, there were three powers in the realm.  These were called the “Estates General” in pre-revolutionary France.

The first, and foremost was the Lords Temporal, made up of the hereditary royalty of the realm.  In effect these were the main landowners.

The second estate was the Lords Spiritual, the Cardinals and Bishops who ruled the church and wielded the power of “God” on earth.

The third, most numerous, and also the weakest estate was traditionally made up of commoners.  This is not to say they were poor peasants.  In fact the “Commons” were merchant princes, bankers, lawyers and aldermen selected to represent the interests of the middle classes.

Three great events in the 17th and 18th Centuries changed the dynamics of the Estates General forever.

  • In 1649 the British Parliament ordered the execution of King Charles, shattering the concept of “Divine Right” to rule.
  • In 1776 13 colonies of the United States of America declared their right of self-determination, a right of the 3rd estate to be free of the rule of the 1st estate.  No taxation without representation!
  • In 1789 the French 3rd estate seized power from the 1st and 2nd estates and firmly issued in the age of enlightenment.

Never again were the 1st and 2nd estates to hold power in the Western world without the agreement of the 3rd estate.

In the midst of this redefinition of the balance of power Edmund Burke, an Irish peer, made an address to Westminster on the reporting of parliamentary business by the Press.  He pointed out that the Press represented a 4th Estate which potentially wielded more power than the 3 estates general.  It proved to be a prophetic prediction.

Today almost every coup d’état begins with the seizure of the organs of the media, the presses, the radio stations and the TV stations.  Politicians and their military arms know that the media battle is as important as any conflict of arms.  Tight autocratic rule is only possible where the rulers control the media, the 4th estate.

The concept of a 5th estate, non mainstream media, emerged in the counter cultural revolution of the 1960’s, originally as the eponymous Detroit Newspaper.  It spread to a variety of media, but was restricted by traditional constraints on output.  The odd piece of output made a splash, such as the “Anarchists Cookbook”, but most of the small publications and independent radio broadcasts were lost to tiny circulations.

Then the internet arrived.  The 5th estate has blossomed on media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and in the darkest corners of the deep web.

Despite the best efforts of autocratic regimes it is very difficult to control the 5th Estate.  China is the best example of a state that exerts tight control.  Even the great firewall of China is porous.  The regime cannot control all the information that filters in and out of the nation.  People import smartphones from abroad, or use various tricks to bypass state control of the firewalls.

The “Arab Spring” revolutions in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and the Middle East were made possible by the 5th Estate.  Rebels were able to use social media to tear apart the propaganda and lies of the ruling elite.  They then used social media to coordinate and organize protests, uprisings and even battles.

Mainstream journalists use and abuse social media to bypass super injunctions by courts to control celebrity scandals.  They breach the laws of sub judice reporting in a manner that is impossible in the 4th estate.  Whistleblowers use social media to release data into the public domain including Julian Assange, Linda Tripp, Edward Snowdon, Bradley Manning etc.

The impact of the 5th Estate on Western Democratic politics is only now beginning to crystalize.

The rules are being formed but we get an emerging sense of the landscape.
Cover-ups don’t work.
Fraud is uncovered.
Nepotism is exposed.
Secret donations do not remain secret.
Past statements of politicians are dredged up and used as a stick to beat them.

The age of the media savvy politician and his spin-doctor sidekick is over.
We are entering a new era of politics, where consistency, honesty and openness are the sine qua non of political survival.

Large central parties are fracturing and falling apart as their corrupt members are isolated and exposed.
For the individual politician loyalty to the constituency is more important than loyalty to the party.
We see this in the rise of the independents, the mavericks, those outside mainstream politics.  The Trump factor.

The new era will favour smaller groupings with tighter internal agreement on issues and higher levels of trust between members.  “Family” style groupings who share values.
Governments will be by coalitions of these small groups.
The practice of governing will become more fluid as alliances are made, broken and reformed based on prevailing economic and political priorities.

The 4th estate has been increasingly controlled by the wealthy, who can afford to buy the media, and establish editorial standards.  Would the Watergate Scandal see the light of day in the current media climate?

By contrast the 5th estate is uncontrollable.  It can be influenced by those with the largest social media followings.

In the next 20 years you will see attempts by the wealthy to influence the 5th estate by buying influence.  Anyone who is seen as “bought” will rapidly lose traction.

King Canute (or Cnut) is famous for trying to hold back the tide.
In fact he was criticizing sycophantic nobles who accorded him divine powers.
He demonstrated that for all his power he was unable to order the tides.
Canute would understand just how uncontrollable is the 5th Estate.

king canute on the beach

Canute holds back the tide

 

For Posterity

I am recording these figures, because I know that when the projects are finished they will cost multiples of the nonsense trotted out to a gullible public and unquestioning journalists.

Simon Harris, minister for health in the Fine Gael led minority government tells us that the National Children’s Hospital in St James’s will cost €1 Billion to build.  He also tells us that the National Maternity Hospital at St Vincent’s will cost €300 million.

I would love to know who is the official responsible for publishing these figures, and who are the project managers who are charged with bringing these projects in, on time, and on budget?  In the absence of these names I hold Simon Harris accountable.

 

De Ma

Skerries

A short few lines about de Ma, because yesterday was the first Mother’s day in my life without a mother.  The photograph above says it all really.  She was always hovering in the background of my life even when she was not in a leading role.  A constant presence. Mothers are a bit like the Fates.  They weave the threads of your destiny, for good or ill, and they are as subtle about it as an anvil in a sight gag from an old slapstick comedy.

In the modern business world you will hear a lot of guff spoken about “Corporate Values” which reflect the “DNA of the Company”.  Values are things that people have.  Not corporations.  If there are values in a corporation they are the values of the senior managers in that corporation.  If those managers recruit staff with similar values this can make it seem like the company has a set of coherent values.

The truth is values are fed to you by your mother with every bite of bread, every spoonful of oatmeal and every sip of juice.  She spreads values on you with sunscreen and antiseptic.  She dabs them on with drops of iodine on scratched knees.  She interviews you about your friends, then she interviews your friends, and their parents too.  She ingrains you with attitudes to the most basic things in life, such as hard work, sick leave, ownership, permission, self-respect, equality, charity, religion, education, racism, xenophobia, curiosity, danger etc etc.

If you are in a company and they decide to “introduce a set of corporate values” ask them how long they plan to take over this exercise.  1 Year?  5 Years?  How many of your personal values were nailed down by the age of 5?  And that was with 100% devotion from your mother.  How can a company even hope to put a scratch on the values embedded in staff by their mothers for over 20 years?  Or 30 years?  Or 40 years?  Because let me tell you, Mother does not stop just because you got married and bought your own house.

De Ma can be a right interfering oul’ witch, sticking her nose into everything, still trying to run your life long after she has any right to do so.  Until she passes away and leaves a great big gaping hole where all that interference used to be, and you realize how much you miss it.

 

In Memory of My Mother; by Patrick Kavanagh

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday –
You meet me and you say:
‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle – ‘
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life –
And I see us meeting at the end of a town

On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is a harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us – eternally.

Greed for power.

I wish I could recall who pointed this out, but I have forgotten.  He is an astute man and I cannot claim credit for the thought.  He pointed out that man is inherently greedy.  We want more.  As long as this is an abundant resource go knock yourself out.

Want smiles, help yourself.  Hugs, compliments, handshakes, kisses, well wishes all do the world a power of good.  Indulge in this stuff and you will surround yourself in happiness and positivity.  Bulk up on love and romance.  If you are the religious type overdose on prayer.  Have as many friends as you want.

Material things also inspire greed, but of a less esoteric nature.  We look down the glutton who does not know when to stop eating.  We revile the drunkard and the drug addict.  Many people hold a certain respect for those who amass piles of money, property, cars, handbags, shoes etc.  But when you think about it how does a man with ten cars differ from a man who drinks too many whiskeys?  But if that’s what you want go for it.  There are plenty of whiskeys and plenty of cars in the world.

At some level of course, greed becomes so all consuming that it has the potential to harm the planet.  The greed of those who want to drink leatherback turtle soup, eat millionaires cabbage, dine on Ortolans drowned in Armagnac, wear Vicuna knitwear, Gorilla skin gloves and are happy to drain desert aquifers to water a golf course.

However, greed becomes something really sinister when the object of the greed is power.  Power really means “power over others”.  We see it in politicians, in generals, in business C-Suite executives.  Power is not an infinite resource.  The higher you rise the more finite it becomes.  The hunger for power is a tournament, a competition, a zero-sum game.

If you want to buy 200 cars I can ignore you.  If you want to be the ruler of 2 million people, me among them, I cannot ignore you.  Objectively the greed of mankind is a shallow thing, but when the greed is for power it is both shallow and dangerous.

Power over people is not a thing that should be lightly given.  Increasingly I find myself inspired by the tenets of Anarchism.  To paraphrase a biblical epigram:  “Politician!  Rule thyself”.

 

 

Sonnet XCIV; by William Shakespeare

They that have power to hurt and will do none,
That do not do the thing, they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmovèd, cold, and to temptation slow,

They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces,
And husband nature’s riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others, but stewards of their excellence.

The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself, it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity.

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

Video game age

pong

On this day in 1972, 44 years ago, Atari released Pong.  This became the first commercially successful video game.  So began the age of the video game.

I remember the excitement the Christmas when it arrived in our house.  Connecting the ‘computer’ to the black and white TV and entering a whole new world.  All you could do was move your paddle up, or move it down.  Instant hit.

Atari was ruined by a combination of events including insider trading and the 1983 video game crash.  It closed its doors in 1984.  There were many ‘experts’ who predicted this was the end of the road for the video game.  LOL

Then the Japanese Nintendo Entertainment System launched in the USA in  1985.  Among the 17 games in the initial launch was one called by the preposterous name “Super Mario Bros.”  Game over!

 

And now a poem that has absolutely nothing to do with the above:

Not the Executioner:  by Halfdan Rasmussen

Not the executioner will scare me
Nor the body’s final fall
Not the barrels of death’s rifles
Nor the shadows on the wall
Not the night when to the ground
The last dim star of pain, is held
But the blind indifference
Of a merciless unfeeling world