Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Get an Education!

It's little Jimmy's first day of 1st grade.  He is setting out on a journey that is supposed to, among other things,  prepare him intellectually for a professional workplace some 12 to 20 years in the future.  What will the workplace look like in 2025?  Chances are it will not look like the workplace of 1985.  Unfortunately the educational system in place now is preparing young people like Jimmy for a workplace that  now exists only in history books.  This is the premise of my post today.  I am not trying to convince you of this fact, I am going to suggest some things we might do about it.
At the outset, we should make an objective attempt to characterize what the workplace will look like in 2025.  Given the current trajectory and no major calamity between now and then, it will contain six main elements:  {mobility, technology, collaboration, speed, information, skill}.  So, Jimmy chained to his desk, without his computer/cell phone/calculator, in silence, and with only his memory as a resource will leave him out of the professional workplace in 2025.  The idea of a good education must be turned completely on its head.

Jimmy must be able to access, process, analyze, communicate, and store (APACS) an enormous amount of information to be a professional.  Therefore, he will not even be able to begin to function without a computer and a fast internet connection.  What is more, mastering this one device will be the key to unlock his entire professional existence.  He will only be able to APACS at a snail's pace without it.  He will need to have access/skill with the computer at every moment in his professional life.  It will be his phone, his clock, his library, his secretary, his calculator, his post office, etc…

It will not, however, be his brain.  Operating a computer effectively, even today, is a monumental undertaking.  Whatever the professional task may be, not only is it true: "There is an app for that.", there are YouTube videos on how to install, set up, and make basic use of that app.  Also, there exist online documentations and at least a half dozen forums, per app, where more advanced information can be digested concerning the app in a collaborative way.  Some of these resources are better than others and updates to all, apps, videos, docs, and forums are constantly being posted.  What can be known is increasing exponentially.  How it can be accessed is also growing at a staggering rate.

Therefore, young people need to be taught, wait, strike that, must be schooled to mastery in all aspects of APACS via the computer.  APACS = {world wide web, cloud, databases, application software, networking, etc…}.  Students, by the time they reach the seventh grade should already know (at least):  A) How to access information on the world wide web via search engines and be able to set up an automated feed system which can be set to search any desired set of target topics; P) How to process information using software such as MS Excell or MS Access;  A)  How to analyze processed information using rudimentary macros, functions, or routines they have developed on any one of a number of analysis platforms such as Maple;  C)  Publish results via internet using blogs/forums/wikkis/web pages;  S)  Store information via databases or word processing platforms such as MS One Note.  Yes, by the time they reach seventh grade.

Forget reading, writing, and arithmetic.  They have been, yes past tense, by surfing, posting, and apping.  What about the art of taking a piece of paper and exquisitely recording your thoughts with a beautifully developed cursive  pen.  Gone I say.  You can read about it in the history book along side of how they used to chisel out script in the face of a flat stone.  The modern  work station is composed of a pc or laptop with one or two external monitors so that the user can have 5, 10, 15, or more different screens open at the same time.  It is equipped with email access as well as some flavor of instant communicator.  Ten to twenty percent of the workday is spent on google or some other search engine researching the job.  In other words, professional development is an everyday event.  If you don't know how to use a search engine  , then you will not be long on the job.

This all means that for virtually all course activities students be required to engage in computing.  Are the taking notes?  Use One Note.  Are they making a presentation?  Use PowerPoint.  Are they doing research?  Use google.  Are they producing a report?  Use a wikki.  In fact, a personal wikki is a great place to organize their whole effort.  Are they processing and analyzing data?  Use Excel.  When I think of all the things you can do with Excel, so much I get exhausted.  It would take two years of intense study just to become proficient in all the functions that Excel offers.

The professional workplace will require of its force; a comfort producing from portable work stations, seamless proficiency in multiple technologies, group efforts across halls and across oceans,  incredible speed, continuous multitasking open access points to a variety of data sources, persistent proficiency in specific duties.  Let's give Jimmy a fighting chance.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Role of Randomness?

"The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'random' as "Having no definite aim or purpose; not sent or guided in a particular direction; made, done, occurring, etc., without method or conscious choice; haphazard." This concept of randomness suggests a non-order or non-coherence in a sequence of symbols or steps, such that there is no intelligible pattern or combination."
I lifted the above from Wikipedia.
So, if randomness were to have a role, then that role would be non-intelligible.  Truly this is enough said.  However, I will add a bit of practical explanation to bring the point home.
Every element in the event space of the universe has a cause.  How do I know?  Well, the Bible tells me so.  Ok, what about the cloud that is blown together in the shape of an elephant (“Fooled by Randomness” – Taleb)?  I say, what about it?  Am I being asked to believe that clouds form due to un-intelligible causes?  I don’t think so.  I think everyone accepts that there exists a set of deterministic forces that working together form clouds.  Am I being asked a purpose for the shape?  That it has a shape is a necessary condition for it being blown together.  No shape, no together.  That its shape evolves is a physical property of the fluid in which it is blown together.  None of the shapes it takes on in its life are the result of randomness.  Each is a result of the fluid dynamic present at the time the shape is formed.  The elephant shape fit the dynamic of the moment.  The elephant was not selected at random from a deck of shapes.  It was the only shape that fit the present dynamic.  There is nothing random here.  If we could grasp all the deterministic forces at play and know all the values of all the variables involved, then we could know exactly when, where, and why the shape of the elephant appeared.
And there you have it.  We use the term random if and only if we do not understand the dynamic of the forces involved.  It is another way to say:  “I don’t know how that happened.”  Used to be folks gave unashamed praise, honor, and glory to God Almighty for things not understood.  Now, we give it up for randomness.  Chance is the cause of things not understood.  As R.C. Sproul said:  “Not a chance!”
Again from Wikipedia:  "According to several standard interpretations of quantum mechanics, microscopic phenomena are objectively random. That is, in an experiment where all causally relevant parameters are controlled, there will still be some aspects of the outcome which vary randomly. An example of such an experiment is placing a single unstable atom in a controlled environment; it cannot be predicted how long it will take for the atom to decay; only the probability of decay within a given time can be calculated."
In other words; we don’t understand the dynamic.  If the physicists are suggesting that randomness IS the cause then they might just as well claim the Great Spaghetti Monster is pulling the strings.  Probability distributions have no power  They are an imaginary construct used as a proxy for true understanding.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cheater Cheater Pants on Fire!

So I see this article (
Well, if this is the case, then we have two basic options as I see it.
First, change the meaning of the word.  This would be done realizing the strong reliance on collaboration in today’s world.  Problems are two big to solve on your own and time is two short not to take advantage of the internet and other readily available resources.  You could group students differently throughout the semester on various assignments and the individual student would get the average of the grades for the groups on which he served.
Second, you would have to make, at each school, a central repository for assessments.  That is, professors must be lumped into the dough of those who can’t be trusted.  All work would be completed at the testing center under close scrutiny, cameras would be involved.
I suppose a third option exists.  Combine the two methods.  Have a midterm and final scheduled at the repository and complete all other assignments in groups.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

God Particle

Correct me if I am wrong:
Modern theoretical physicists are now convinced that the universe has a fabric (Higgs field) and that fabric is expanding at an increasing rate.   They purport that this expanding expansion is driven by a, here to for, unknown energy source they have tagged #darkenergy.  By the way, this dark energy is reported to comprise 72% of the universe.  What is more, 23% of the universe is made up of invisible #darkmatter.  The only direct messurment of any of these “physical” objects has been the Higgs Bosen (an elementary particle) in the fleeting moments following a collision of particles in the European super collider.
I say, Amen.  “It is HE that sits upon the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are as grasshoppers; that stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in.”  Isaiah 40:22.
And, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.” Colossians 1:16.
And, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20.