Monday, September 12, 2016

Matt 24 watch, 297: September 12, 1683: Jan Sobieski Day . . . Poland rides to the rescue of Vienna and turns the tide against the Ottoman Caliphate

It is perhaps best to just let Wikipedia summarise the story:

The Battle of Vienna (German: Schlacht am Kahlen Berge or Kahlenberg; Polish: bitwa pod Wiedniem or odsiecz wiedeńska; Modern Turkish: İkinci Viyana Kuşatması, Ottoman Turkish: Beç Ḳalʿası Muḥāṣarası) took place in Vienna on 11–12 September 1683[1][18] after the imperial city of Vienna had been besieged by the Ottoman Empire for two months. The battle was fought by the Habsburg Monarchy, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Holy Roman Empire, under the command of King John III Sobieski against the invading Muslim Ottoman Empire and its vassal and tributary states, and took place at Kahlenberg Mountain near Vienna. The battle marked the first time Poland and the Holy Roman Empire had cooperated militarily against the Turks, and it is often seen as a turning point in history, after which "the Ottoman Turks ceased to be a menace to the Christian world".[19] In the ensuing war that lasted until 1698, the Turks lost almost all of Hungary to the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I.[19] . . . . 

Historians suggest the battle marked the turning point in the Ottoman–Habsburg wars, a 300-year struggle between the Holy Roman and Ottoman Empires. In fact, during the 16 years following the battle, the Austrian Habsburgs gradually recovered and dominated southern Hungary and Transylvania, which had been largely cleared of Turkish forces. The battle is also noted for including the largest known cavalry charge in history.
"Scutum shown under the name
Scutum Sobiesii on Chart IX
of the Uranographia of Johann Bode (1801).
It is squeezed between Aquila
(left), Serpens Cauda (above
and right), and Sagittarius (below).
[HT: Ridpath]
The victory was understood to be so pivotal that a constellation in the sky was named after it, Scutum Sobiescianum, shield of Sobieski. Wiki again:
Scutum was named in 1684 by Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius[1] (Jan Heweliusz), who originally named it Scutum Sobiescianum (Shield of Sobieski) to commemorate the victory of the Christian forces led by Polish King John III Sobieski (Jan III Sobieski) in the Battle of Vienna in 1683. Later, the name was shortened to Scutum.
This victory at the gates of Vienna is of course 318 years, less one day, before the 9/11-01 attack by Bin Laden. The underlying message for those familiar with history is, that bin Laden saw himself as taking up where the Ottoman Caliph left off in the campaign of global IslamIST conquest. For, Sept 11, 1683 was the previous high-water mark of the IslamIST thrust in the West.

As this battle and pivotal victory is a significant point in general histories of Europe, the significance of the date Sept 11, 2001 for the attacks by bin Laden has to be widely understood. But, it is generally shrouded under a veil of silence. 

That this is so fifteen years after the 9/11-01 attacks, speaks telling volumes.

Food for thought.

Anyway, it seems there is a movie, enjoy:

Let us remember from this day forward: 
Complacency Day, Sept 10; 

9/11-01, Sept 11; 

Sobieski Day, Sept 12.

Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed by their folly to relive its worst chapters. END

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Matt 24 watch, 296: "Complacency Day" -- Sept 10, 2001 + 15 years today . . .

Yes, today marks fifteen years since the day before 9/11 attacks shattered the complacency that opened doors to the 9/11 attacks. 

As a measure of continued complacency, let us notice how our media have not even bothered to inform us of what day-less-one, Sept 11, 2001 was the 318th anniversary of -- the day before the Polish King Jan Sobieski III led the greatest cavalry charge in history and broke the siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Turks under their Caliph. 

Yes, Sept 11, 1683 was the previous high water mark of the IslamIST thrust to global conquest.

I therefore beg to remind us all of the chart I found online on Sept 11, 2001, which tells us what we are up against:

Yes, as the lower RH corner inset map shows, we are up against a 100 year global subjugation strategy of the Islamic Radicals. This was documented in the 1982 Muslim brotherhood document, The Project (captured by Swiss Financial Police after 9/11) and we have further documentation of the Settlement-/ Civilisation- Jihad strategy in the Explanatory Memorandum (captured by US Police on searching a house of an IslamIST leader) from the US Branch of the Egyptian Parent organisation of the same Muslim Brotherhood. (English text for both begins p. 15.)

Mix in other concerns and the rise again of the Persian Empire, and we see the geostrategic challenges we face:

Our challenge is to respond appropriately to our times, based on sober understanding rather than media fantasies fed to us by the spin doctors. END

PS: Sky News coverage on 9/11-01:

 PPS: Nor, should we overlook the relevance of the Benghazi attacks on Sept 11, 2012 [cf article here and transcript with video here], two months before the last US Presidential Election and on the anniversary of the 9/11-01 attacks. Especially, how news and media discussion regarding this attack were managed. Cf video as linked.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Sci-Tech watch, 32: Industrial policy, tech- (and capacity-) driven waves of growth and tickling a dragon's tail

I believe that there are indeed Kondratiev-type economic generation-long waves of development, driven by technological breakthroughs and successful investment:

 Such waves would be driven by the product-market life cycles of dominant technologies that must first break through  then must achieve global (or regional or local) dominance; creating a characteristic pattern in the markets that drives corporate strategies and their likely outcomes:

Once there is such a dominant industry that is growing with vigour, the economy will pick itself out of doldrums, leading to a pattern of successive waves of growth (here, think of a long wave on which the typical 8 - 11 year business cycle rides):

Some, identify about twenty waves since the 900's AD:

Obviously, a similar pattern will affect regions and even local communities. Here in the Eastern Caribbean, ruins of sugar factory windmills give mute testimony to the creative destruction that once made sugar plantations extremely lucrative from the 1640's- 60's on, then brought them to failure and ruin.

When there is a major wave in the economy, the issue is to surf it, or be swamped by it.

As we discussed last time, it looks like the rise of the age of mechatronics may well help move the global economy forward in a new age of transformation as information, communication and control technologies [ICCTs] move us to an era of intelligent machines, typified by the robot-arm manipulator:

Tied to this, I earlier pointed to the Jakubowski Global Village construction Set [GVCS] concept, which I believe has potential to open up a new industrial era, based on a well-thought through cluster of open-source technology industrial machines that can help lift our region from being excessively import dependent for technology.

But, for such a self-sustaining growth path to be feasible, we are looking at the challenge implicit in the Hayek Investment triangle:

This leads to a further challenge highlighted by Garrison et al, which we can term tickling a dragon's tail through industrial policy:

Attempts to stimulate growth by creating an artificially larger pool of investment funds, face several challenges:

1 --> If consumer habits do not shift, when an investment occurs, there is a push out beyond the sustainable Production Possibilities Frontier, which will tend to trigger secondary investments in linked markets and as families feel a rise in income, growing spending. 

2 --> But, such investments and spending are inherently unsustainable. Thus, a pattern of artificial, temporary mal-investment booms and busts in a "leaky tyre economy" pattern (cf discussion here in a regional newspaper) can occur:

3 --> Of course, in economies with a lot of subsistence level families and communities, reducing consumption to promote investments may trigger severe hardship, and the reliance of local pockets of wealth to invest often faces a pattern of people stuck in the dead past about to be hit by Schumpeter's creative destruction.

4 --> Worse, mal-investment booms can then trigger economic collapses, when bubbles pop or disasters happen etc. For illustrative example:

5 --> This leads to issues of finding useful competitive stances in keystone sectors of the economy in an ICCT-driven age:

6 --> Obviously, if it is not credible that one can move to positions A, B or C, the proposed industrial policy implied by key development projects or by pushes in education and training etc, is not likely to be feasible. The Caribbean's long term problem has been that we too often find ourselves lacking unique products and having locked in high costs, thus we are forced into E. The most- likely- to- fail competitive stance.

7 --> Where, erecting tariff or non-tariff barriers and nurturing a hothouse import substitution driven economy at E will clearly fail in the long term. Instead, we have to find ways to reduce costs and/or find highly differentiated products. That is, we face the problem of sustainable competitive advantage in an information age:

8 --> This is what brings the adaptability implicit in mechatronics to the fore, and it is what points towards the significance of an open source reboot to our industrial basis.  It also points to mass customisation, (This sweet-spot (A) uses networking and communication technologies plus mechatronic, smart production systems, to target creating products targetted to the exact needs of particular consumers, with nearly the same unit costs as traditional industrial production. [Think, how Dell's Round Rock plant could take in a customised order through its web site and then build a physical computer in five minutes, customised to the specific order by a customer. Of course loading software takes longer but the point is made.])

9 --> The challenge:

10 --> To be credibly able to move to A instead [on which the hoped for growth on injecting and investment is much more likely to arise], we have to transform our education systems and capacity base across the Caribbean. Or else, we will be stuck at E in a locked-in stagnant economy without the capability to grow. (And this includes, for tourism.)

If that sounds depressingly familiar, it should.

So, we have no choice but to tickle a dragon's tail. 

Nor, given the rising mechatronics wave, can we afford to debate back and forth indefinitely, and delay making the change:

We must Tickle the dragon's tail of industrial policy now, and we must do so wisely; to build a credible basis for a future worth having. END

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Sci-Tech watch, 31: Mechatronics, the Raspberry Pi (Java, too) and education for development

The Raspberry Pi is a business card sized low-cost [down to US$ 25 each, or in a cut down version US$ 5 each] educational single board computer. It uses ARM architecture processors and is capable of implementing a Linux based computing platform. It is far more capable than the Arduino open source microcontroller board, and can be used in mechatronics. (NB: There are ways to adapt the Raspberry Pi to work with the vast world of Arduino devices.)

Accordingly, we can see a case that uses Lego components to develop a "turtle" style rolling robot, optionally a robotic arm . . . and why not bring the two together? . . . :

(Note on Java on the Raspberry Pi here, this on the general purpose input-output lines [driving three LEDs, then go on here to assemble and operate a simple turtle robot . . . yes, Python code involved + 30 minutes of viewing] and the Pi4J Java oriented input-output library here.)

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Which should now make the following backhoe suddenly pop into focus as to what it is: 

Yes, a human-operated wheeled turtle vehicle with a tele-operated high powered manipulator arm (but without an arm-mounted sensor turret or proprioception that internally informs the unit of the relative position of its bits and pieces as well as its orientation in the external world).

And, with a nod to Science Fiction [and, pardon the militaristic example . . .], we can now look at the AT-AT Walker Tanks from Star Wars with new eyes:

Then, let us compare an elephant:

And, let us take a glance at Eng. Derek Smith's Bio-Cybernetics loop model with the two-level controller using a shared memory:

Then, we may wish to ponder John von Neumann's kinematic self replicating machine (which if/when we can develop such operationally would transform manufacturing and civilisation):

Of course, all of this allows us to see how to explore robotics educationally -- and well beyond that -- as a key element of the Mechatronics Paradigm:

. . . as, isn't that essentially what a backhoe tractor is about? Which, in turn points straight back to the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) initiative.

Of course, such is entry-level, for getting toes wet.

But to walk and run and fly, one must creep and learn how to stand up first.

Onward, I am struck by the potential significance of the  Arduino-controlled BCN3D MOVEO, an open source, education-oriented educational robot that is in large part based on 3-D printed components:


Such developments point to opportunities to introduce the Mechatronics Paradigm in education for Technology in the Caribbean. Where, I am so bold as to say Electronics is dead, long live mechatronics. That is through Information, Communication and Control Technologies [ICCTs], electronics and mechanical devices are now to be brought together to work together synergistically in products, systems, production processes and the world of work.

I further believe that through ICCT's, Mechatronics and developments of Jakubowski's GVCS, we are in a position to move towards opening up room for technological empowerment and economic transformation of our region. 

But to access such a transformation, we first have to build the education base and thus the critical mass of empowered people; requiring a viable way to develop training systems.

Hence, the focus of this post as we explore a way to re-open a future of growth for our region. END

Friday, September 02, 2016

Sci-tech watch, 30: The power of the Book, of good quality paper, and that of the printing press

A working model of Gutenberg's Press,
on which the famous 42 line Bible was printed
Yesterday, as I went to the library to do some work, I noticed a group of primary school age lads, looking like they had been more or less instructed to read some books.

Something prompted me, and I paused.

I asked them, what was the first book printed.

They looked quite puzzled, and one guessed, Wikipedia?

They did not know about the Gutenberg 42-line Bible of c. 1455:

A page from the Gutenberg 42-line Bible, 1455 (first full book printed, with a Latin-alphabet Text on
a press capable of not only movable type -- the Chinese had that --
but also of rapid, high volume production [1000's of impressions/day])
I had a bit of a back and forth, went to fetch the Library's copy of that first ever published full book, The Bible, and read 2 Tim 2:15 and 3:10 - 17:
2 Tim 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

2 Tim 3:10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 

12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
(The former is the inscription that my Dad wrote in the very first Bible he gave me, which I still have. The latter, is my passage for life.)

These were quite unfamiliar to these lads, but at least they knew John 3:16. 

The incident was a revelation to me.

I cannot blame so many lads, for utter ignorance of the revolution triggered by printing and by the book in the hands of the ordinary man, then of the newspaper in the hands of the ordinary man, too. And, of course, the power of paper -- the main medium for printing. (Where, durable paper is very important for cultural survival, Gutenberg's first printed full book is approaching 600 years old.) 

No wonder, they have so little value on books and reading, they don't know their value, their history and impact, the price paid for getting books in our hands and libraries that we can freely go to stocked with a treasure-house of books. They mainly know of books as those heavy things inflicted on them by schools that they are forced to read and do problems from.

Our education system and media culture are to blame instead. And, our churches. (Families by and large simply reflect the gaps in general knowledge base.)

This is policy failure.

We need to stop, and teach and demonstrate by example.

Our children need to learn the story of books, of the Bible, of printing, of publishing, of newspapers, of the transforming impact of these things on civilisation and on how we can make a living. We must not forget, it is books, circulating correspondence and journals that carry scientific knowledge, so they were a major factor in triggering the Scientific Revolution. Not to mention the wave of reforms from the 1700's on.

It is time to take stock and do better. END

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sci-Tech watch, 29: The Jakubowski GVCS -- moving to open source industrial and information technologies for digitally empowered, mechatronics oriented development transformation in the Caribbean

Marcin Jakubowski -- pronounced "March-in" -- holds a Fusion Energy Physics PhD, but in his 2011 TED talk, he said he felt useless and so went out to found Factor e Farm, and the Global Village Construction Set [GVCS] open source industrial and development transformation long-term initiative involving several dozen key machines.  (Cf. index of machines here.) Recently, he married Catarina Mota, and emphasis has shifted to include an Open Building Institute initiative with a six months immersive training component.

Now, I have long pondered digital productivity empowered  economic development transformation for the Caribbean. 

This includes when, as a Curriculum Facilitator/ Architect, I helped design an electrical engineering degree programme and then went on to help design an environmental management one  for a second regional university. That experience led me to see the centrality of information, communication and control technologies [ICCTs, not just IT or ICT] multiplied by the Mechatronics paradigm, and to further see how pivotal sustainability is for development transformation of our region. I have also been led to see that Cuba is the sole centre of real strength in Sci-Tech in our region and that we need to work with that regional mini super-power to be. Especially with its 40+ universities. (Yes, over forty, the first of which IIRC dates to 1519.)

I know, I know; three paragraphs in, we are already in fairly heavy conceptual territory, with a torrent of ideas.

Can't be helped.

These concepts are going to be pivotal for moving our region ahead in coming decades in an increasingly unstable and dangerous world, so do bear with taking some time to explore together. The issue is strategic vision and focus for our region, to transform development, trigger self-sustaining inclusive economic growth, and to give us the strength we are going to need in the years ahead.

So, please bear with the process.

Development transformation policy is far too important to be left to:
  •  short-sighted (and too often, bought-and-paid-for, compromised, blackmailed and corrupt) politicians, 
  • entrenched senior civil servants locked into a 1950's mindset, 
  • pundits playing at "in the land of the blind the one-eyed man can be king," and
  •  fly-in, fly-out consultants, not to mention 
  • media folks playing dirty spin games, reading off cue cards and/or blindly cribbing from Wikipedia, while 
  • relying on indoctrination by the cultural marxist profs who taught them in uni. 
It is time for a radical reboot.

Metanoia, in fact.

As a preview of where we are going, let us refresh our memories on the Hayek investment triangle in community context -- we are talking about a radical re-orientation of our economies to be fit for purpose for the twenty-first century:

Thus, we face the challenge of sustainable change made in good time on sound strategic judgement:

Bearing in mind, the issue of the commanding heights of the community:

As Jesus once warned the elites of his day, it is one thing to read the weather-signs of the sky, it is another thing, entirely, to so understand the times that one knows what one's community should do.

To start the main matter, it is worth pausing to watch Marcin lecture on the Global Village Construction Set (and the famous TED talk is embedded too):

If a 38-minute talk runs a bit long, try the Open Building Institute Kickstarter -- and Kickstarter is also a piece of our grand strategic puzzle -- promo video:

(interview, here, is helpful too.)

I suspect, the machines and technologies are an incomplete, work in progress set. For instance, we know that the invention of the printing press was transformational. So paper-making and open source printing machines are an obvious cluster of additions. For these, I would like to see something like a modern mimeograph machine that scans pages, burns stencils and prints at one level, and at the next, that does the same with metal foils.  Also, a book binding machine.

Now, if we look at the GVCS, we will observe an interesting cluster: power cubes that output power as hydraulic fluid under pressure, back-hoe arms, bulldozer arms, fluid power operated vehicles and industrial robots. These point straight to the Mechatronics paradigm, of manufacturing processes and products based on the synergy of mechanisms, control and electronics and computer supervision. Where, the robot arm is the capital example (and a backhoe arm is essentially a tele-operated hydraulically powered robot arm usually used for digging etc):

So, we see that a focus on mechatronics will bring together a critical cluster of the technologies for digital productivity. The wider GVCS and the open source paradigm will allow us to address a way for a small community (such as a Caribbean island . . . ) to capture in effect a reboot for industrial civilisation 2.0:

As the Open Source Ecology Wiki summarises the philosophy:
  • Open Source - we freely publish our 3d designs, schematics, instructional videos, budgets, and product manuals on our open source wiki and we harness open collaboration with technical contributors.
  • Low-Cost - The cost of making or buying our machines is, on average, 8x cheaper than buying from an Industrial Manufacturer, including an average labor cost of hour for a GVCS fabricator.
  • Modular - Motors, parts, assemblies, and power units can interchange, where units can be grouped together to diversify the functionality that is achievable from a small set of units.
  • User-Serviceable - Design-for-disassembly allows the user to take apart, maintain, and fix tools readily without the need to rely on expensive repairmen.
  • DIY - (do-it-yourself) The user gains control of designing, producing, and modifying the GVCS tool set.
  • Closed Loop Manufacturing - Metal is an essential component of advanced civilization, and our platform allows for recycling metal into virgin feedstock for producing further GVCS technologies - thereby allowing for cradle-to-cradle manufacturing cycles
  • High Performance - Performance standards must match or exceed those of industrial counterparts for the GVCS to be viable.
  • Flexible Fabrication - It has been demonstrated that the flexible use of generalized machinery in appropriate-scale production is a viable alternative to centralized production.
  • Distributive Economics - We encourage the replication of enterprises that derive from the GVCS platform as a route to truly free enterprise - along the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy.
  • Industrial Efficiency - In order to provide a viable choice for a resilient lifestyle, the GVCS platform matches or exceeds productivity standards of industrial counterparts.
Multiply this by
  • open source software,
  •  a push for computer programming and linked technologies as well as 
  • sustainable energy initiatives and
  •  a push for agricultural transformation. Not to mention, 
  • open source building technologies for social housing, agricultural complexes, commercial and industrial spaces, etc.
Then, imagine what would happen if an alliance of. . .
  • universities, 
  • community colleges and technical schools 
  • regional research institutions, 
  • regional bodies such as Caricom or OECS
  • ministries of technology and of education,
  • schools and 
  • co-operative enterprises
. . . across our various Caribbean territories  -- including our regional sci-tech powerhouse, Cuba -- were to join together, evaluate and extend the GVCS appropriately and make a shift to the open source industrial base, sustainable development oriented paradigm Jakubowski has championed. 

Put in a major collaborative open source research and development effort. 

Look at commercialisation in terms of value added services that build on the open source base. (As often happens with open source software such as the Linux Operating System. For example the US$ 6 mn/yr Linux Foundation catalyses over US$ 1 billion of annual programming effort, for an operating system that runs much of the Internet and is the base for the Android OS used in Tablets and smart phones.)

Then, inject Kickstarter crowd source funding for projects that need that.

This sounds to me like pulling together a critical mass to capture the human, technical and financial capacity for development transformation and self-sustaining economic growth energised from within our region.

So, let us ponder, is this just possibly a key cluster of technologies that can come together to help our region trigger a generation-length cycle of development and transformation?

As in, a possible regional version of the Kondratiev long wave of economic transformation, growth and development:

Where, globally, we can trace such waves back to the 900's:

So, is this something we can at least ponder together as a thought-sparker for new thinking on regional development?

I think so. Why not now? Why not here? Why not us END

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Does the "Alt Right" have a point or two? (AKA, we should not err by tossing out babies with their bath water)

This past week, the "Alt Right" came in for tongue- lashing in the media, the charge being led by flawed US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton trying hard to taint flawed candidate Donald Trump -- I am impressed with neither US candidate (and see the trends in the US and our wider civilisation as sobering signs . . . ) -- with racist, extremist and fringe associations.

The first problem with such rhetoric of tainting and polarisation is, it invites us to toss babies out with their bath water.

So, we should be very cautious about it, especially when those who live in glass houses (but enjoy media shielding) are abusing their privileges to cast stones at others through ruthless polarising spin games. Games, that play straight into the hands of the radical IslamISTS with their Civilisational Jihad by settlement strategies. (And in a week where we learned that Mrs Clinton's key aide, Huma Abedin, for a decade, was listed on the editorial board of her mother's journal which supports this Muslim Brotherhood strategy. Apparently, the very same, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, that published Sultana Afroz's arguably tendentious attempts to rewrite the Caribbean's past as Islamic. (Cf also Warner-Lewis' critique, here, and here. Cf. here for the persistence of the revisionism.)

What gives me pause and leads me to blog, is that I ran across one of the "Alt Right" spokesmen, who I find is making disturbingly good sense about the politics of polarised under-classes and immigration of incompatible minorities that drives down wages, destabilises community, and reinforces the politics of divide and rule.

Video, no 1 by Steven Molyneux :

Then, from that video, I found a link to a much longer one, on the history of the collapse of the Western Roman empire -- learning along the way that this is someone with an M.A. in History -- that seeks to draw out dynamics involved and from such, lessons and warnings that if heeded may help us avert collapse.

Video no 2:

So, I think we should pause and ponder, instead of dismiss and deride.

Then, it is time for a more responsible discussion of where we are taking our civilisation in our time. Maybe, just maybe, the issue of critical mass towards sound change is relevant:

Where, we should always bear in mind the seven mountains of influence, the fortified institutions at their summits and the way their gate keepers may be playing manipulative, dirty agenda games at our expense (as Ac 27 so strikingly exemplifies):

Food for sobering thought, in a very dangerous world:

So, let us take time to watch and ponder. END