AuthorTopic: Chance the Gardener & Technology Oncology  (Read 445 times)


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Chance the Gardener & Technology Oncology
« on: March 31, 2017, 03:33:29 AM »

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Published on The Daily Impact  February16 & 23, 2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

On Being President Chance the Gardener

[NOTE: Promotion of this post was rejected by Facebook. No reason given.]

In his 1971 novel Being There, Jerzy Kosinski told the story of Chance the Gardener, a simple-minded laborer cloistered his whole life in the townhouse of the wealthy man for whom he worked. When, on the death of his employer, Chance is cast into the world, people insist on mistaking his profound ignorance — he can’t read or write, knows only what he has seen on TV or in the garden — as Zen-like wisdom.

In the novel, virtually everyone who encounters Chance refuses to accept that he could be as limited as he seems, and imagines for him an alternate reality of profound wisdom, which they then manage to see confirmed in the real world. Before long, Chance is advising the President of the Unites States on economic policy. This scene demonstrates how it works::

President “Bobby”: Mr. Gardener, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives? [Long pause]

Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.

President “Bobby”: In the garden.

Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.

President “Bobby”: Spring and summer.

Chance the Gardener: Yes.

President “Bobby”: Then fall and winter.

Chance the Gardener: Yes.

Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the seasons of our economy.

Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!

Benjamin Rand: Hmm!

Chance the Gardener: Hmm!

President “Bobby”: Hm. Well, Mr. Gerdener, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I’ve heard in a very, very long time.

[Benjamin Rand applauds]

President “Bobby”: I admire your good, solid sense. That’s precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.

In 1979, when Peter Sellers played Chance in the Academy-Award-winning movie, it was an amusing satire that obviously could not happen in the real word. Now that, in the real world, Chance has been elected President of the Unites States, Kosinski’s fiction deserves another close look. Particularly with regard to projection.

We usually encounter the notion of projection — attributing our own attitudes and beliefs to others — in connection with fears and shortcomings, as when people who are serial adulterers, for example, are consumed with suspicion that their spouses are unfaithful. But people also project upwards, as when they assume that people who are well known and/or well off are also wise and good and talented. As the song says, “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” but we tend to insist that it is.  

Our present-day, real, President Chance and the media mob around him give us an example of this projection every day. One example: the President, at a news conference with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, had this to say about the so-called “two-state solution,” the foundation for decades of the struggle for peace in the Middle East, the presumption that eventually, there will exist there both an Israeli and a Palestinian state:

“So I’m looking at two states and one state. And I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two states looked like it may be the easier of the two. To be honest, if Bibi and the Palestinians, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy – I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

In the ensuing hours and days, as Britain’s Independent newspaper reported, “Unable to understand what the President’s inanities actually meant, the lads and lasses of the satellite channels were telling us that he was not as committed as his predecessor to the “two state” solution but might favour a “one state” solution – yet wasn’t ruling out a “two state” solution. “

Now admit it. Isn’t that one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements you’ve heard in a very, very long time? All hail President Chance the Gardener.


Technology Oncology: The Spreading Plague



Captain? You can stop pounding on the GPS receiver now. I don’t think it’s working.  (Photo by images)

Ayurveda teaches us: “as is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm.” Stuff happens pretty much the same way whether on a very small scale, as in subatomic, or a very large one, say cosmic.

So here’s the microcosm: I have a so-called “smart” phone that, when I got it four years ago, was very smart indeed. Since then, several times a day, it has been subjected to countless improvements, otherwise known as updates — security patches, glitzy new capabilities that no one asked for or wants, repairs of really glonky mistakes that lurk in the code —  that have steadily diminished its reliability and usefulness. It now takes up to a half hour to get started, and every once in a while announces that it is tired and is going to take a nap. (Come to think of it, we are getting more and more alike.)

Recently it did that to me — that is, took a sudden nap —  while I was using it to navigate heavy traffic in downtown Washington, D.C. This caused me to panic briefly about how I was going to drive out of an area I have been driving into and out of, with no digital assistance, for 40 years. But I’m okay now. This same phone gives me random warnings that I have exhausted my data allowance, or not, or maybe soon; that there is a tornado watch in a county I never heard of, or an Amber alert in a galaxy far, far away. Neither the people who made the phone or the people whose network it’s in seem able to discover who is driving it (and me) crazy, or why.

And now, a few examples from the macrocosm: On February 13, The National Weather Service experienced a “catastrophic” failure of both the primary and backup routers that send virtually all its products — forecasts, warnings, radar images, maps, just about everything — to the satellites that distribute them to the public. None of these products was available, in the entire United States, for three hours, a period during which a blizzard was pummeling the East and torrential rains were threatening the country’s tallest dam in the West. You might not think this a big deal at first, the forecasts aren’t that great anyway, but forecasts are not the NWS’s only important product. Air travel, for example, requires data — winds aloft, the location of fronts, etc. — so that pilots can plan their flights, estimate their times and calculate their fuel consumption. The sudden absence of digital assistance in these matters, like the crash of my navigator-phone, can induce feelings of panic.

These outages — of our cell phones and our weather forecasts and everything in between — have quietly become a frequent, familiar and largely accepted part of our lives. (Lambert Strether of Naked Capitalism calls it “the crapification of everything.”) The macro systems that control the worldwide operations of great airlines, for example, are ever more frequently these days, like my smart phone, taking unexpected naps that may be hours, or days, in duration:

  • On January 29  Delta, KLM and Virgin Airlines at New York’s JFK Airport were all experiencing delays caused by technical issues. Back in August, Delta suffered a systemic breakdown after a brief, small-scale power outage in its operations center. The airline canceled more than 2,000 flights over three days.

  • On February 1, a computer malfunction snarled traffic at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport for hours, causing delays or cancellations of more than 100 flights at one of Europe’s largest transportation hubs.

  • On February 8, United Airlines said it was experiencing delays at airports across the country because of a system wide computer problem affecting flight plans.

The root of most of  these problems is that systems have been forced to grow far beyond the natural, logical, immutable limits to their growth. Systems that are too big are lashed together to make even bigger systems; systems that are too small — say for example a booking app that looks for cheap fares — are allowed into the main system like deer prancing around on a freeway, sometimes with terrible results. Really old systems are lashed to cutting-edge programs, and if you’re ever had to work fast and under pressure with your aged grandfather you might have an inkling of what could happen.

It’s a cancer. And it’s spreading. And no one is saying, whoa, let’s shut this system down for six months and fix the damn thing, because that would be inconvenient and would cost a lot of money. Instead they tell the coders to fix it, patch it, splice it, work around it, make it last. Which allows the tumor to grow and grow until one say the whole system dies.

An outcome that will redefine the words “inconvenient” and “expensive.”

Online Eddie

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Re: Chance the Gardener & Technology Oncology
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2017, 10:58:25 AM »
President "No Chance" is more like it. But I like the analogy. Never saw the movie.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.


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