Researchers at the University of California in San Diego (UCSD) examined the flow of data to American households. They found that in 2008 such households were bombarded with 3.6 zettabytes of information (or 34 gigabytes per person per day). The biggest data hogs were video games and television. In terms of bytes, written words are insignificant, amounting to less than 0.1% of the total. However, the amount of reading people do, previously in decline because of television, has almost tripled since 1980, thanks to all that text on the internet. In the past information consumption was largely passive, leaving aside the telephone. Today half of all bytes are received interactively, according to the UCSD. Future studies will extend beyond American households to quantify consumption globally and include business use as well.Estimates of the number of illiterates, such as the 700 million made by UNESCO, are clearly too low, depending on poor methods used in surveys, but one may assume that there are a billion illiterate adults in the world. They are increasingly distanced from the information society.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Wal-Mart, a retail giant, handles more than 1m customer transactions every hour, feeding databases estimated at more than 2.5 petabytes—the equivalent of 167 times the books in America’s Library of Congress......
The business of information management—helping organisations to make sense of their proliferating data—is growing by leaps and bounds. In recent years Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and SAP between them have spent more than $15 billion on buying software firms specialising in data management and analytics. This industry is estimated to be worth more than $100 billion and growing at almost 10% a year, roughly twice as fast as the software business as a whole......
there are 4.6 billion mobile-phone subscriptions worldwide (though many people have more than one, so the world’s 6.8 billion people are not quite as well supplied as these figures suggest), and 1 billion-2 billion people use the internet.....
The amount of digital information increases tenfold every five years. Moore’s law, which the computer industry now takes for granted, says that the processing power and storage capacity of computer chips double or their prices halve roughly every 18 months. The software programs are getting better too. Edward Felten, a computer scientist at Princeton University, reckons that the improvements in the algorithms driving computer applications have played as important a part as Moore’s law for decades.......
By 2013 the amount of traffic flowing over the internet annually will reach 667 exabytes, according to Cisco, a maker of communications gear.
I think of "data" as distinct from "information" and "knowledge". Data is simply a measure of the number of bytes in an image or document. Information is a measure of the reduction in uncertainty possible due to the data. Knowledge is internalized, normally in a person but possibly in a machine or organization's structure and processes.
Did you read about the recent poll of registered Republicans, the one that showed them to be just a tad ... extreme? More than half believe President Obama might not have been born in the United States and maybe should be impeached. Only 8 percent believe that openly gay people should be allowed to teach in the public schools. Three-quarters believe public school children should be taught that the Book of Genesis explains the origin of life. About half believe that the birth-control pill is, or might be, the same as abortion. Ninety-one percent are in favor of the death penalty.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Microsoft's Local Language Program (LLP) aims to enrich the lives by providing people with access to new technology while trying to promote diverse cultural identities and preserve local languages. It also hopes to enable users to assist in the continuation and future development of native languages.I frequently use Google's Translate. It includes 52 languages, allowing translation from each into any of the others.
On February 22 Microsoft announced they had added an additional 59 new Language Interface Packs (LIPs) for Windows 7 and Office 2010 to their existing offering of 67 languages.
A second initiative, called Caption Language Interface Packs (CLIPs), enables computer users to customize a base language with more than 400,000 terms.
"Foreign aid to poor countries from the rich countries in the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee will reach a record $107.4 billion this year, according to the Paris-based club’s latest projections. But although the rich members of the European Union promised in 2005 to give 0.51% of their GDP as aid by 2010, only some will reach that target."
Comment: The United States is next to last on the chart, with less than 0.2% of GDP devoted to foreign assistance. That in fact is an improvement from the past, as the following graph demonstrates. JAD
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Frontline this week did a segment on primary education in Pakistan. Of the 67.5 million kids of what we in the developed world would consider school age, only about 30 million are in school there. While 20,000 schools are held outside for lack of a school building, other schools are closed -- because their teachers stopped teaching and their neighbors looted the unoccupied buildings. The madrasas teaching the Koran are occupied and thriving, while the public schools are criticized as working from books and curricula that lead to hate of the West and Christians.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
In this debate posted on The Economist;s website, positions are stated by Calestous Juma and George Ayittey is some detail. Both identify advantages to Africa of the Chinese involvement as well as dangers, but differ on the overall balance. There is then an open discussion by viewers.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
The global community has been working to goals -- the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All goals. In both cases 2015 is a magic date and the question comes up as to which if any targets should be set for what period following 2015. In my seminar last week we discussed the education goals following 2015. Some thoughts from that discussion seem worth sharing.
Planning is a critically important function.
Goal definition is a standard element of planning. In the case of the EFA and MDG goals, they will not be met, and perhaps it was recognized from the start that they would not be met. It seems futile to complain that these goals were not met. It seems impossible to judge whether the world would have made more progress without these goals or with other goals. Still, the discussions that went into the process of defining these goals and the efforts to program actions to achieve these goals and to monitor goal achievement may have been very important.
Not everything that is important can be measured.
My co-coordinator of the seminar believes that the most important aspect of the Jomtien meeting that first produced the EFA goals was that it changed the way people thought about education in developing nations, moving it away from public schooling as the be all and end all, towards a view of lifelong learning involving entire communities both as learners and as facilitators of learning.
How would you go about measuring such a change in attitudes, much less measuring the impact of that change on educational outcomes? Not only don't I know how to measure those things, I doubt that they can be measured. That does not mean that they are not important!
For people who have little education and less schooling, what would be the most valuable educational opportunities? Would they be those which help them earn a better living, take better care of themselves and their families, participate more fully in the social and political lives of their countries, or some combination of these. It would be nice to measure the degree to which educational programs and policies empowered people to live good and productive lives. I don't see how to do so, but lack of means of measurement does not mean that the objective is not fundamentally important.
"The flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) fell by 39% in 2009 to just over $1 trillion, from a shade under $1.7 trillion in 2008, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development. All kinds of investment—equity capital, reinvested earnings, and intra-company loans—were affected by the downturn. Rich countries saw FDI inflows plunge by 41%, and foreign investment into developing countries fell by more than a third."
FDI also dropped from 2007 to 2008 exacerbating the impact of the drop between 2008 and 2009. Of course it is no news that there is a global financial crisis, but the quantification of the extent of that crisis is important.
Source: Barry, Norman, "The Tradition of Spontaneous Order," Library of Economics and Liberty
"The simplest way of expressing the major thesis of the theory of spontaneous order is to say that it is concerned with those regularities in society, or orders of events, which are neither (1) the product of deliberate human contrivance (such as a statutory code of law or a dirigiste economic plan) nor (2) akin to purely natural phenomena (such as the weather, which exists quite independently of human intervention). While the words conventional and natural refer, respectively, to these two regularities, the 'third realm,' that of social regularities, consists of those institutions and practices which are the result of human action but not the result of some specific human intention.The idea of "spontaneous order" apparently goes back to Adam Ferguson while it was Adam Smith who found the metaphor of the "hidden hand". I see spontaneous order as a specific example of emergence. In many systems we can see properties of the system that emerge due to the interaction of behaviors of the parts in ways that are not obvious from investigating the parts themselves. Thus looking at mound building ants it is not obvious that they will collectively build mounds oriented to the sun that moderate temperature by channeling breezes, nor is it obvious looking at the individual cells of the brain that they will collectively organize the behavior of the body nor direct the posting on blogs. Spontaneous order is applied to emergence in which the elemental particles are human beings and the interactions are social.
"Despite the complexity of the social world, which seems to preclude the existence of regularities which can be established by empirical observation, there is a hypothetical order which can be reconstructed out of the attitudes, actions, and opinions of individuals and which has considerable explanatory power. What is important about the theory of spontaneous order is that the institutions and practices it investigates reveal well-structured social patterns, which appear to be a product of some omniscient designing mind yet which are in reality the spontaneous co-ordinated outcomes of the actions of, possibly, millions of individuals who had no intention of effecting such overall aggregate orders. The explanations of such social patterns have been, from Adam Smith onwards, commonly known as 'invisible hand' explanations since they refer to that process by which "man is led to promote an end which was no part of his intention." It is a major contention of the theory of spontaneous order that the aggregate structures it investigates are the outcomes of the actions of individuals. In this sense spontaneous order is firmly within the tradition of methodological individualism."
Think also of the difference between teleological processes, those which result from planning, versus teleonomic processes, those in which order appears unplanned as a result of feedback or selection.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
- 648 new commercial products introduced
- 5,039 total license and options executed
- 595 new companies formed
- about 72 percent of new companies formed with the primary place of business in the institution's home state
- 3,381 startup companies still operating as of the end of FY2008
- 20,115 disclosures
- 12,072 new U.S. patent applications
- 848 non-U.S. patent applications
- 3,280 issued U.S. patents
The report is available for purchase at: http://www.autm.net/.
Net capital flows to developing countries fell to $780 billion in 2008, reversing an upward trend that began in 2003 and peaked at $1,222 billion in 2007, according to a new report from the World Bank. Particularly hard hit were private capital flows, which fell by almost 40 percent. All developing regions were affected, with emerging market economies in Europe and Central Asia experiencing the sharpest downturn.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The old film, Judgement at Nuremberg, reminded me not only that good people in Germany let their government get so far out of hand as to start a World War and conduct the holocaust, but it also reminded me that the U.S. Supreme Court had issued a decision (authored by the great jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes) upholding Virginia's statute imposing enforced sterilization of "the unfit".
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.It is taking a long, long time to get a government that does indeed secure a reasonable set of rights for all people, as the current battles over securing rights to health care and gay rights indicate, not to mention the battles over permissible interrogation techniques and the extension of rights to habeas corpus and trial by jury.
Declaration of Independence
The "founding fathers" of the United States, due in part to the importance of Virginia among the original colonies, did not see freedom from slavery as a human right. Sharing the imperialistic ideas of their European peers, as a group they did not recognize the rights of Native American peoples to the lands that they had occupied for thousands of years. It was only on the occasion of the Civil War almost a century after the Declaration of Independence that slavery was abolished, and there is still a problem of involuntary servitude in the country that has not been totally stamped out. Tribal reservations seem to remain under pressure.
Who knows what rights our descendants will recognize, and how they will regard our failure go get our government to secure those rights now and for all!
Monday, February 15, 2010
The big newspapers, she argues, are missing the big stories because all they can see are the words in front of their faces, the "written reports from government men" that constitute "the Room's preferred language." "There were pretty much two ways to find out things," the night editor explains. "People and paper. People . . . could fudge. Paper, made by government -- courts, agencies, committees -- was worse. You had to use both, flawed as they were, and find where they met, where there was some kind of coinciding about what might possibly have actually happened. But even that wasn't enough. . . . You had to take time to feel your way along the edges back to the center, and to wonder, past the point of patience, what it was you still couldn't quite believe."I suppose that one may also observe directly, observe via still photos and film or video, and go directly to measurements in areas where numerical data are available. All of these sources of information are less than perfectly factual, but they are probably less subject to spin and lies than government handouts and interviews.
As Adams must realize, this is an often unattainable ideal for a daily newspaper or, in these direly transitional times, for any mainstream media outlet.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
According to the New York Times, leaders of India's radical Shiv Sena political party threatened riots at showing of the film, My Name is Khan. Thousands of police officers were mobilized to protect the theaters showing the film, which were showing it to large crowds, and the demonstrations were sufficiently violent that 50 people were arrested.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
In our seminar on UNESCO, we have a class exercise in which the students discuss what new goals should be set by the global community for the period following 2015. Lets think about the question.
Why set international educational goals?
- As an excuse for lots of people to gather in some great place and spend time together at public expense
- To foster international discussion on the purposes, means and resources of education
- To promote more and better educational opportunities
- All of the above
- None of the above
- Aggregating national goals set through internal processes defined within nations
- Through an intergovernmental process at UNESCO or the United Nations
- Through a broader process involving governments and civil society (NGO's, professional educational organizations, etc.)
- Through a process limited to civil society representatives
- By educational administrators
- Through a multistage process involving different stakeholders at different stages.
- What countries would set national goals influenced by the international goals? (Some countries seem to have internal goals that are more ambitious than EFA, and might not care what the international goals might be. Failed and failing states probably can't implement national goals. )
- Would NGO's working in international education change behavior as a result of new goals?
- Would donors change behavior? Multinational? Binational? Foundations?
- Would goals affect the private sector? Vendors of educational services? Potential partners for the public sector or NGOs?
- The community of educators?
- Does the wider public care?
- Promoting global adherence to a universal human right to education
- Promoting education as a means to alleviate poverty
- Promoting education as a means to advance international economic prosperity
- Promoting education as a means of advancing international security objectives
- Promoting cultural advancement
The right to education is secured by institutions that provide educational services, included the institutionalized means to secure the resources needed to provide those services, and by a legal structure which enforces that right. As the Declaration of Independence states:
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Thus the processes of governance may be the way in which a society determines the rights to education that it accords to its members.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have intensively studied the New York Times list of most-e-mailed articles, checking it every 15 minutes for more than six months, analyzing the content of thousands of articles and controlling for factors like the placement in the paper or on the Web home page.....Comment: There may be something here as to how people socially construct knowledge in the Internet age, or at least how people who read the New York Times and use the Internet do.
according to the Penn researchers, Jonah Berger and Katherine A. Milkman. People preferred e-mailing articles with positive rather than negative themes, and they liked to send long articles on intellectually challenging topics.
Perhaps most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe, an emotion that the researchers investigated after noticing how many science articles made the list. In general, they found, 20 percent of articles that appeared on the Times home page made the list, but the rate rose to 30 percent for science articles, including ones with headlines like “The Promise and Power of RNA.”
I have been posting recently about how conspiracy theories spread and why people from red states and people from blue states (politically) have different views. In both cases I think the phenomena are related to the social construction of beliefs, and the University of Pennsylvania research may shed some light on the process of social construction. After all, it seems probable that we are more likely to be influenced by information we receive warranted by people we like and respect, especially if they are sending on information from a respected source. So it is interesting to see what distinguishes stories that people email to their friends. JAD
The human genome contains about 600,000 base pairs and includes perhaps 20,000 to 25,000 genes. The gene action is modified by promoters and epigenetics, leading to an even more complex behavior than the numbers of genes themselves might suggest.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
"The second stage of Haiti's medical emergency has begun, with diarrheal illnesses, acute respiratory infections and malnutrition beginning to claim lives by the dozen.
"And while the half-million people jammed into germ-breeding makeshift camps have so far been spared a contagious-disease outbreak, health officials fear epidemics. They are rushing to vaccinate 530,000 children against measles, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough."
Comment: As Haiti fades from the media, the problems faced by the Haitians continue! JAD
Veracity: One might think of this as a bipolar index -- true or false. On the other hand, some of these theories are quite complex and might be partially true, mostly true, with an element of truth, etc.
- The internal credibility: the degree to which the elements of the theory hang together and make sense
- The credibility of those vouching for the theory
- The "visible consequences" that can be directly linked to the conspiracy theory
- "Unseen consequences" that probably or may exist, but which are less clearly seen and less clearly tied to the conspiracy theory
- The degree of belief that an individual assigns to a conspiracy theory
- The distribution of credence over the population of interest
Monday, February 08, 2010
Friday, February 05, 2010
- The education program is pushing more and better schooling as well as efforts to promote lifelong learning, with emphasis on expanding people's ability to obtain, analyze and utilize information, as well as helping people learn things that will promote peace, sustainable development, and understanding of other cultures. I can not think of a program more tailored to promote rapid cultural change toward homoginizing culture within and among countries. On the other hand, many of the roadblocks faced in achieving education for all are deeply cultural, such as deep seated prejudices among ethnic groups, cultural prejudice against educating women, and discrimination in employment that reduces the incentives for education among those likely to suffer such discrimination.
- The culture program is increasingly focusing on efforts to promote the expression of cultural diversity, the protection of intangible cultural heritage, as well as the more well known programs to protect movable and immovable objects of cultural heritage. There seems to be no effort within the culture program to promote cultural change that would support the educational goals of the organization.
In class last night, the success of the Education for All movement was discussed. Explicit goals were set at Jomtien in 1990 for 2000 and they were far from met. In Dakar in 2000 goals setting was revisited it is clear that the goals set for 2015 will not be met. Is this a failure?
This raises an interesting issue. I think everyone might agree that setting goals is not of value in itself, but is a tool to promote progress, in this case the expansion of educational services in developing nations. So one might ask whether the expansion of services would be greatest with goals:
- that could easily be met and surpassed
- goals that accurately reflected what could reasonably be achieved
- goals that were so ambitious that they would probably not be met
The importance of the Education for All movement may well have been to change the mind set of national governments, donors, and NGOs, encouraging them to increase efforts and to regard education as filling many needs. I don't begin to understand how to measure the change in mind set, nor how to measure the impact of mind set on the energy and wisdom of people's efforts to improve education.
Does that mean that I can't manage efforts such as the Jomtien and Dakar conferences to maximize impact. Perhaps! So what? Perhaps management is over valued.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
My Friend Julianne alerted me to this great video on self organizing systems and the roll of Allan Turing in their recognition. It comes from the BBC.
- For the second straight year, Maryland has been ranked by Education Week magazine as the number one ranked public school system in the nation.
- We have made college more affordable for more families in Maryland by going four years in a row without a penny's increase in college tuition for Maryland residents.
- Violent crime in Maryland has been driven to its lowest levels since 1987 – including the steepest three-year reduction in homicides since the 1970s, and a 46 percent reduction in juvenile homicides.
- Nearly 155,000 more people in Maryland have health coverage today who did not have it three years ago – 77,000 of them children.
- Four of the rivers feeding into the Chesapeake Bay are now getting healthier every year rather than sicker, and we've preserved five and half times the amount of open space than we did before. The Blue Crab population is rebounding, and we are finally embracing the power of a new aquaculture industry to bring back the native Oyster.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
The “cultural cognition thesis” argues that individuals form risk perceptions based on often-contested personal views about what makes a good society. Now, Yale University Law professor Dr. Dan Kahan and his colleagues reveals how people’s values shape their perceptions of one of the most hotly debated health care proposals in recent years: vaccinating elementary-school girls, ages 11-12, against human papillomavirus (HPV), a widespread sexually transmitted disease.The research seems to indicate that the cultural divide determines the willingness of people to accept expert testimony, with the same folk who deny global warming likely to deny the value of immunization against HPV.
This clever unconscious (of Freud and the early psychoanalysts) has fallen on hard times. While contemporary research finds that mental processes occurring outside awareness shape our decisions, the unconscious revealed in those studies is stodgy. It uses simple mechanisms to warn us of risks and opportunities -- and often it is simply wrong.Comment: I have enjoyed the columns published occasionally in the WP by Vedantam, and indeed have sometimes posted quotations and comments on those columns as part of the effort in this blog to point out that we think with our (evolved) brains and not with out (supposedly rational) minds, and our decisions are often biased in ways we do not recognize.
In "The Hidden Brain," Vedantam reviews this new science and applies it speculatively to practical circumstances in which our subconscious leanings might mislead us. How investors choose stocks, how soldiers obey leaders in battle, how spouses respond in arguments -- these consequential behaviors can be shaped by automatic mental routines that preempt our reason. But Vedantam's greatest interest is in the influence of unexamined thought on politics, and it is here that he makes his most dramatic claims.
"Last week, the U.S. House Science and Technology Committee's Roundtable on Scholarly Publishing (on which we served along with 10 others) released a report arguing that journal articles derived from federal research funding should be made publicly available as quickly as practicable—generally in a year or less after publication—and in ways that will improve scholarship by maximizing the scope for interoperability across articles, among disciplines, and internationally. Currently, there is no consistency regarding which version of an article is freely available. In contrast, the roundtable's report recommends that access policies aim toward making the "Version of Record" (the final version of an article in its published form) publicly available. And the report also asserts that any successful scheme for public access must provide methods for permanent public access."
I strongly agree that if my taxes are used to support research, then the results of the research should be made available free and readily accessible (on the Internet) as soon as precticable.
ISBN: 978 1 84129 0829
"Science as a tool for providing evidence and discovering solutions has been neglected recently by many key decision makers, Science and Innovation for Development aims to play a part in changing that."
Monday, February 01, 2010
Both Creationism and Intelligent Design are based on the premise that species did not evolve by natural variation and natural selection, but rather that species arise from time to time independently, fully articulated, by divine or at least intelligent design.
I tend to like the position which I understand to be that of the Catholic Church, that if ones religious beliefs conflict with ones understanding of the natural world, as informed by science, one has probably misinterpreted the theology or the science.
I was most impressed by the obvious unwillingness of the proponents on Intelligent Design in the local community to acknowledge that they did not fully understand the Theory of Evolution. They seemed more certain of their theology than I could imagine was justified by their study of religion; certainly many people who have devoted their whole lives to the study of Christian theology are much less certain than these Pennsylvania businessmen. I was especially taken by the willingness of one of the former members of the school board to say on camera that the judge in the case and his 100+ page decision was wrong about the Constitution and the Law -- what possible basis did the man have to believe he knew better than the judge?
It is really interesting the way that a community sharing a belief will have members reinforce each other's beliefs, and the way what should be public humiliation by refutation of those beliefs can be turned into reinforcement of belief by the "true believers".
If nothing else, the phenomenon illustrates that shared information need not be good information. If people can convince themselves and each other that something which is observably false is true, then how likely is it that they can convince each other that something unobservable it true whether it is in fact true or not!
This publication, Building a Knowledge Society for All, points out that while transition to knowledge-based economies is progressing, the gap between developing and developed countries is widening. It highlights that adequate information and communication infrastructure and the proper employment of ICTs in education can help to tackle challenges.