Grumman Human Experiments

During the years of 1940 to 1945, there was a great war.  We call it the second great war, or World War Two, WWII.

During this war, a company that made aircraft took their jobs very seriously.  So seriously, that the Navy asked them to slow down.  They were making about 600 aircraft every MONTH.  Since they were working around the clock, that means about 20 aircraft came out every DAY.

The plant manager knew he had about 20,000 people working in the factory, and thought about one of the great maxims of behavior.  If you have 20 people, there’s a good chance that one or two of them don’t work as hard as the others.

He asked his managers to choose one person out of every 20 so that they would be fired.

Word of this got around, fast.  And as a result everyone started working harder.  Jobs back then were scarce, and people in general had good work ethics.

Still, one of every 20 people were let go.  Guess what happened next?

Everyone else was working so much harder, that production went UP.  The Navy complained again.  Grumman was delivering too many HellCats.  (That was the name of the aircraft, the most successful airplane of WWII.)

So the plant manager did it again.  He went to his managers, and asked them to fire another one thousand people.

The result surprised him.

Production went up again!

When his bosses asked him if he was going to fire any more people, he said he couldn’t.  He didn’t think the Navy could handle the increased production!

That’s the funny side.

On the serious side, he probably knew that his people were working hard.  They cared, and they wanted their jobs.  They also knew there was a serious war going on.  Many of the workers were women, and that made a difference as well.  They had more personal stakes, because their husband’s and children’s lives were on the line.  Declare it a sexist statement, but in general women seem far more aware of the costs of war than men.  Perhaps that’s why most wars are started by men.

Anyway, it’s a good story showing that people do work at different levels of competence, and that organizations can produce more with fewer people, when necessary.

We should think about that the next time we think about how many government workers it takes to screw in a new light bulb.

PS – If you are at all interested in the HellCat (the forgotten warrior of WWII) please visit the site hosting the above image.

Tuning the Turing Test

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Let’s begin with the world’s greatest sci-fi movie: 2001.  This is from Piers Bizony‘s book on the making of 2001 A Space OdysseyIt's Eye-Conic.  Sorry.

Marvin Minsky had no problem understanding that the emptiness of 2001’s dialogue was intentional:

” … And after the momentous statement that the monolith must have been deliberately buried, one of the astronauts says, “Well, how about a little coffee?”  Kubrick’s idea is that the universe is too majestic for short sighted people.”

Trying to understand an “intelligence” that is much greater than our own is going to be a tough job.  Drinking a cup of java while pondering that gulf might be appropriate.

Which brings us to Alan Turing, the godfather of the modern computer.  He suggested a simple test to determine “intelligence.”  He didn’t define the term either, by the way.  What he said was put a person in a room and let them interact with a human, or machine, in a limited way (like through text only) and let them ask questions.

Today, this remains the best test we have of machine intelligence.

Here’s the problem.  What kind of person are you going to put in that room.  For instance, if you put my mother in law, she’s likely to think that the navigator voice in the GPS is already intelligent.  You should see the conversations they have while we drive along.

If you put some genius, like Doug Hofstadter or Doug Lenat in that room, chances are they can ask one question and game over.

So, next time you think of the Turing Test, also consider who you are going to put in that room.  If you’re scientifically oriented, then you want a “standard” human.  Good luck!

In the meantime, I’m going to get some coffee.

Man Tongue

Sorry, this isn’t what you may think.  Tongue has to do with language.  Not sure why we call languages, tongues, but maybe it’s because the tongue has a lot to do with it.

I’m working to learn French.  It’s not easy.  They really make your lips and ears work hard.  The tongue?  Not so much.

One big thing that was hard for me to understand was this: Groups are either girls or guys.  In French it’s << elles >> or << ils >>.  (Sorry, the whole double carat is French as well.)

Anyway, say there’s a group of five women walking down the street.  You’d say, “women walking down the street.”

What about five men doing the same thing?  You’d say, “men walking down the street.”

Here’s the fun part.

What if the group is four women and one man?  You’d say, “men walking down the street.”

Yup.  I know, it seems crazy.  Wait.

What if it’s an entire stadium of women watching a football match?  “Women watch football.”

Now, put a single man (he might be married, I meant one person) into the crowd, and guess what you have to say?  That’s right.  “Men watch football.”  Yes, even if the ENTIRE crowd but one has freudian-based penis-envy, you have to say, “men.”

For the longest time this drove me nuts.  It still drives people nuts, because it purposely marginalizes women.  I don’t like marginalizing women.  I like women.

But why does the language do this?

Remember, languages have been around a long time.  Even French.  And there’s a good chance that the French didn’t invent the whole gender bias thingy.  So we have to go back thousands of years to the source.

What was going on thousands of years ago?

Murder.  Mayhem.  Massacres.  Maybe.

In short, it was quite the heyday of times.  Possibly like game of thrones.

If you were a guy, and very sensitive to not dying, and someone was describing a crowd of people to you, what might be of great interest to you?

If it was me, I’d want to know if there were any men in that group.  Specifically, men who might want to hurt me.  If the group is all women, I’d feel better.  Not really.  I know what women are capable of, because I’ve been happily married for a long time.

But if sword thrusting and mace wielding are your concern, then you want to know if men are around.

Result?  You use your language as an early warning system.

It’s only an idea, don’t go ballistic.  But for a real answer, I’d look to this guy.  I enjoy his videos.  In the meantime,

Bonne journée!

 

Peaches that Kling

This morning during breakfast my wife taught me about peaches that hang onto their pits, and peaches that let them go.  They are called “freestone” and “clingstone” peaches.  As usual, I didn’t hear her correctly, and thought of them as cling-on peaches.

It got me wondering.

Has anyone ever done a star trek backstory that explains the etymology of the word for the alien nemesis called “Klingons”?

Here’s my take.

Captains report to starfleet.  Stardate 3.1415926

We have met a new alien species.  Their language sounds like a cross between the admiral’s wife choking on a champagne cork, as she did at the last party I was invited to, and the sound a large frog makes when it’s ready to belch “gree-deep” but hiccups instead.

Since the new-fangled translator device wasn’t working, we had to go it the old fashioned way.  Yes, we were ordered to use it, but whenever we tried it on anyone, including ourselves, it translated thoughts as “this creature is still talking to me” and “when is lunch.”  Since this can’t be accurate, we resorted to the ancient standby of charades.

The new species is hominid, dark, extremely bony, warlike in many ways, and most surprisingly, extremely attached to their mothers.

This is an important point, because when we met their diplomatic delegation, who appeared to take many of our own alien ways in great stride, a particular event occurred which should be of special note to starfleet.

You see, unbeknownst to us, the mothers of these large, warlike, bony creatures are particularly small and ugly, even compared to the rest.  They are also quite imperious, but ineffectively so as none of the sons or daughters pay them the least attention.

Quite accidentally, one of our ensigns, inadvertently I must emphasize, made a fairly obvious gesture comparing the features of the mothers compared to her children.  At that time we did not know they were mothers, nor did we count on them understanding the ensign so completely.

As a result, this insult was met with the instant death to the ensign in a gruesome manner that I will divulge in a separate log.  Extrication of our diplomatic party was tricky, to say the least.  Before the ensign died, however, he managed to leave with a contribution to our observation of these creatures.

In conclusion, it is my sad duty to report that we are, yet again, at war with an unknown species that might have been our friends in another universe.  Since we can’t speak their language, and have no idea what they call themselves other than “when is lunch,” it is our suggestion that we refer to them as the species that particularly enjoys to cling onto their mothers.

Respectfully yours, etc.

 

 

Humanity versus Gaia

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There was this guy , see, and he said this crazy thing.  It was crazy because he said Mother Nature was real.  Really real.  He gave her a name.  And old name.  Gaia.

Here’s where I’m coming from.  If this Gaia gal is real, and she really is Mother Nature, she ought to be, like, the toughest chick ever invented.  Like, she’s got it all.  Earthquakes, clouds, tidal waves, volcanoes, right?

She’s also got close to forever to do her stuff.  She’s not in a hurry, right?

So, here’s my what if.

What if Gaia wanted to off someone?

Not just anyone, like, any ONE, but us.

All of us.  Man us.

It’s not like she’s gonna get out a tidal wave and wash us all away.  Or get a massive volcano going.  Or maybe order out for an asteroid.  Maybe she will.  Maybe she did already.  I dunno.

I was thinkin.  Maybe she might do something sneaky and slow.  Like figure out a way to get us all to stop having babies.

Or have us passing a disease that’s so evil it turns our own weapons into its weapons.

I dunno.  I was just thinkin.

What I was really really thinkin was that, if I was gonna get into a fight, the LAST person I’d wanna fight would be this Gaia chick.

I know she’d fight tough.  I know she’d fight dirty.

I’d be outnumbered.  And she can’t die.

There’s one more problem.

She always wins.