Category Archives: science

Outsourcing vs. Insourcing

Found this post on my FB page from 2012, apparently some paper I wrote at the University, but never published here.

Outsourcing vs. Insourcing – I had an interesting conversation with myself this morning related to some of my graduate work.

Last month General Motors (GM) announced it was looking to insource somewhere in the ballpark of 10,000 Information Technology jobs back into the United States (Overby, 2012). Citing benefits such as productivity, business alignment, innovation and agility, GM hopes that the benefits will outweigh the increased cost of insourcing the IT functions (2012).

Outsourcing is used to describe the process by which an organization takes work being performed by internal employees and sending it to external employees or external organizations. Insourcing is the process in reverse, taking work that was previously sent outside of a company and bringing the work back into the company.

While Outsourcing and Insourcing can be done within a single country, often in many people’s minds, the words promote a connotation of sending or receiving work to or from other countries.

Many companies are beginning to insource back from other countries, and in my opinion they are wise visionaries. From an international perspective, in these economic times, I think some organizations are realizing that it may be irresponsible and counter productive to continue to outsource so much work to other countries.

While the costs may be lower for companies initially, the slowing rate of economic growth in our country means there will be higher unemployment and fewer consumers to purchase products. Thus while initial costs go down, demand for products also go down, and as the law of supply and demand dictates companies have to begin producing less in order to keep their prices stable. By producing less, they begin to need fewer laborers, which in turn limits the number of employees they can hire. In my opinion it is a vicious cycle.

By bringing more jobs back into the country, there will be an initial higher start up cost; however, as unemployment goes down consumerism will increase. As the consumption of products increase, supply can increase with the demand and prices can remain constant. However, companies can also have more intentional control over supply. By limiting supply, they can limit supply which will in turn increase costs and in turn it will increase profit while still supporting the economic goal of reducing unemployment.

While this is a simplified view of the process, and there should be a balance to keep inflation from getting out of control, overall, I think companies are also realizing the PR benefits of bringing jobs back into the United States (Overby, 2012; Karl, 2012).

References
Overby. (2012, October 8). GM banks on insourcing, opens up 10,000 IT positions. Computerworld. Retrieved from www.computerworld.in: http://www.computerworld.in/news/gm-banks-insourcing-opens-10000-it-positions-31812012

Karl. (2012, May 18). The Indian outsourcing issue is back. Retrieved from www.businessweek.com: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-05-18/the-indian-outsourcing-issue-is-back

Boys Adrift – The crises of young men

International Woman’s day has had me thinking a lot about the pandemic of the failure to launch syndrome.

My children range in age and gender, and I can look around and see this story playing out both near and far.

From Dr. Leonard Sax’s book: boys adrift:

Something scary is happening to boys today. From kindergarten to college, American boys are, on average, less resilient and less ambitious than they were a mere twenty years ago. The gender gap in college attendance and graduation rates has widened dramatically. While Emily is working hard at school and getting A’s, her brother Justin is goofing off. He’s more concerned about getting to the next level in his videogame than about finishing his homework. Now, Dr. Leonard Sax delves into the scientific literature and draws on more than twenty years of clinical experience to explain why boys and young men are failing in school and disengaged at home. He shows how social, cultural, and biological factors have created an environment that is literally toxic to boys. He also presents practical solutions, sharing strategies which educators have found effective in re-engaging these boys at school, as well as handy tips for parents about everything from homework, to videogames, to medication.

Here is another, more recent treatment on the topic:

The end of the world as we know it – or the dawning of a new age?

Artificial Intelligence might bring immortality or it might as easily bring imminent destruction of the human race.

For an accessible quick read regarding this topic, you can check out the U.S. News article We all may be dead in 2050.

If you are interested in going a bit deeper regarding the precarious position the human race is in and the challenges to be overcome as we move into this new age of enlightenment – check out the book Super Intelligence by Nick Bostrom.

 

Is there such thing as Universal Ethics?

Absolutely!  😉

Whole books and doctoral theses have been written to address this question, so it is not something that can be answered in passing.  However, I can provide some insight from those much more eloquent in the economics of universal ethics.

Rather than providing specific value statements of right and wrong to be argued over, let us look at this from the perspective of establishing whether or not there is such thing as universal statements of right and wrong.  The first question then to be answered is whether, when I make a value statement, am I intending to assert a universal, or am I just making a statement of feelings only.

C.S. Lewis, the Christian philosopher and theologian, addresses this question in detail in his book the Abolition of Man.  He states that all but the trousered ape would understand that our expression of value statements go beyond a personal bias and individual experience.  He summarizes that when I say something is beautiful, I am not merely asserting that I think it is beautiful, I am asserting that part of the nature of the object is that it is beautiful.  He goes on to pose this argument in another form, using reductio ad absurdum Lewis suggests the claim that value statements are to be interpreted as personal statements can be seen prima facie to be absurd if I were to say I do not feel well, and someone were to respond, nonsense, I feel just fine (Lewis, 2009).

Extending this argument, Lewis also poses the idea that even those that claim that rightness and wrongness is subjective would on one hand steal from someone in the first moment, but then assert as fact the unfairness of any act that allowed them to be stolen from (Lewis, 2001).  The idea being, whether or not we can agree on a set of value statements, all humans have this inborn idea, this natural law as Lewis calls it, that there is indeed a set of value statements that assert rightness and wrongness universally.

After establishing the statement that all humans have this idea of rightness and wrongness, the next challenge then is to understand how, with diverse background and cultures and experiences, we can all come to agreement on what is truly without a bias, right and wrong.  The answering of which, however,  is beyond the scope of this post.

 

References

Lewis, C. S. (2001). Mere christianity (Kindle ed.). New York: HarperSan Francisco. Retrieved from Library of Congress or OCLC Worldcat.

Lewis, C. S. (2009). The abolition of man (Kindle ed.). HarperCollins. Retrieved from www.amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/The-Abolition-Man-C-Lewis/dp/1609421477

If Truth was Stranger than Fiction – Erasing Human Memories

Imagine a world you could take a snapshot of your brain, and then, after completing a task, you can then erase the memories of all the tasks completed. That is the concept behind the movie Paycheck.

With today’s technology and scientific advancements, this capability is not yet a reality; however, continuing advancements in the realm of neuropsychological studies, Ligand-Directed cell targeting, combined with the eccentric theories of a brilliant astrophysicist, that science fiction may someday be a reality.

I thought I would use this week’s University discussion to press our minds into the brink of reality. In doing so, please note, that while I am not claiming that we can erase memories with our current scientific knowledge, I am citing scientific studies and theoretical postulates that accrue support for my views that one day, it may be possible to erase memories.

In 2006, Mueller reviews the advancement of neurological studies for the underlying biology of memory formation, studies such as those being performed by Reissner, Shobe and Carew (Meuller, 2006). Regarding this study, Mueller states that “the demonstrated application of nodal analysis to a well investigated signaling pathway implicated in learning and memory elegantly demonstrates the potential to unravel complex molecular networks and to extract the essentials (Mueller, 2006).” Almost eight years prior, J.D.E. Gabrieli discussed the increasing capabilities of positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to help identify portions of the brain that were active during learning and retrieval of specific types of memory (1998). Additionally, a purview of 40 years of neuroscience will show the significant strides we continue to make in the field of neurological studies (Kandel, 2009).

 

As scientific knowledge and technology advances, it will only become easier to identify the areas of the brain where memories are created and stored.

Frank Tipler, in his book The Physics of Christianity postulates his theories of the future of humanity. His views, based on theories around the Bekenstein Bound, baryon-annihilation and quantum computing, states that he believes humans will eventually be able to download copies of themselves into Artificial Intelligence constructs (Tipler, 2007).

Papers (which I really don’t claim to understand) around Ligand-Directed gene and cell targeting, outlines our current and growing capabilities around being able to target and address substances that meet certain biological criteria (Hajitou, et al., 2006).

Bringing all these current theories and studies into a synthesis, I propose that someday in the future, we may be able to tag and identify the current state of our memory through neurobiological methods, or make an imprint of what our current brain structure is like, right down to the atoms and molecules (Tipler, 2007). Upon taking a copy, we can then learn new concepts (such as the super-secret patented recipe for Coke or Pepsi). After the completion of our learning, we can either use future Ligand-Directed tagging to identify and target for destruction the changes in our neurology, or we might just prefer to restore ourselves to a previous state.

Sometimes, truth can be stranger than fiction.

References

Gabrieli, J. D. (1998). Cognitive Neuroscience of Human Memory. Annual Review of Psychology, 87-115.

Hajitou, A., Trepel, M., Lilley, C., Soghomonyan, S., Alauddin, M., Marini , F., . . . Arap , W. (2006). A Hybrid vector for ligand-directed tumor targeting and molecular imaging. CELL, 385 – 398.

Kandel, E. (2009). The Biology of Memory: A Forty-Year Perspective. The Journal of Neuroscience, 12748-12756.

Mueller, U. (2006). Memory: Cellular and molecular networks. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 961 – 962.

Tipler, F. (2007). The Physics of Christianity. New York : Doubleday.

 

Symphony of Human Cognition

Some, like Freud, seem to imply that they adhere to no distinct worldview (Koltko-Rivera, 2004), but in my opinion that is like stating that there is no truth except that there is no truth. The denial of a worldview is the means by which one such as Freud defines his own personal worldview.

While others in attempting to define a worldview might define it in purely academic constructs, I hold with Nancy Pearcey when she states that a “worldview is not an abstract, academic concept… Instead, the term describes our search for answers to those intensely personal questions everyone must wrestle with – the cry of the human heart for purpose, meaning and a truth big enough to live by (Pearcey, 2005)”.

It does indeed seem that our worldviews are colored not only by our histories and by our experiences, but our biology and the methodology in which we examine, as through a lens, the world around us. Indeed my worldview around how individuals learn and think is driven by my own experience and expectations.

As outlined by W. Scott Terry (Terry, 2009), learning theorists often define four different approaches to learning theory: 1) Functional, 2) Behavioral, 3) Cognitive, and 4) Neuroscience. The functional approach examines how learning contributes to the survival of the organism. The behavioral approach outlines a cause-and-effect pattern. The cognitive approach discusses the semantics of how the brain codes and retrieves information, where-as the neuro-scientific approach examines how the physical biology of the brain may affect the patterns of storage and retrieval.

I must admit that my own experiential evidences and even my approach to learning suggest a strong correlation to the cognitive approach. I have strong personal evidences surrounding the capability to store and retrieve information based on external (i.e. environmental awareness) and internal (thoughts, feelings, past knowledge) influences. Couple my personal evidences with (or as a result of) past learning experiences focused on whole-brain learning and Neuro Linguistics espoused by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, and I would say that I have a strong inclination to gravitate towards the idea that there is a methodology in how we code, store and retrieve information.

However, I cannot discount the validity of the other three learning theories. Indeed, functional, behavioral and neuro-scientific theories are all grounded in a posteriori knowledge that can be supported by reproducible evidences.

Thus, I would have to contend that it is incorrect to state that any one form of learning theory can supersede any other, and that with the obvious complexity of the human organism we must synthesize all forms of learning theories to reach the maximum capacity of the human mind.

 

References

Koltko-Rivera, M. E. (2004). The Psychology of Worldviews. Review of General Psychology, 3-58.

Pearcey, N. (2005). Total Truth : Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity. Wheaton: Crossway Books.

Terry, W. S. (2009). Learning & Memory : Basic Principles, Processes, and Procedures. Boston: Pearson Education.

 

 

 

Size does Matter!

So, yesterday evening, I was relaying to Donovan the large change over the course of my short life in the size and power of the personal computer.  We researched some of the first computers, and I even introduced him to punch cards.  As a side note, I still cannot find my piece of Mylar punch tape – wherever did it go!

Anyway, in reviewing an announcement that came a few weeks ago by Intel, I found this bit of information.  Intel now has one of the smallest Solid State Hard drives on the market.

I’ve been impressed at the size of the 2.5 inch hard drives that go into laptops (they’re roughly the size of an American dollar bill).  Take a look at the latest 80 GB hard drive, compared to the dollar size 2.5. 

Pretty soon, we’ll have watches that can store a terabyte of data – what do you think of that Mr. James Bond?

 

intel_310_ssd2

Satan is on my friends list?

I’m pretty sure I have blogged about the perils of social networking to personal information a few months ago.  Interesting in a recent University course, we had a gentlemen, who was a VP in an organization, state that he didn’t want to disclose the name of the organization in which he worked.  Which of course, for me, was all the more reason to find out the company he worked for.  🙂

No doubt, it only took combining a few pieces of publically known information about this fellow, and after a couple of minutes I knew more than one would want or need to know about him (unless you had some unethical purpose in your mind).

As a result, I wrote him a quick note back, here is the note, only slightly modified for contextualization purposes:

 

Name Omitted –

The Internet is your worst enemy when anonymity is desired, but the second worst enemy is saying "I’d rather not say" [when someone asks you about a piece of information that is probably publically available, but you’d rather not disclose], as this brings a whole lot more probability to the fact that people are going to search for you!  🙂

Which is one reason I am almost positive that the Pentagon intentionally purchased and burned the first printed copies of Operating Dark Heart: to drum up more exposure for the book – then the next real question is "Why".  =P

I love the aptly titled Defcon 16/Back Hat presentation: Satan is on my friends list.  Anonymity is nearly impossible in today’s connected world!

It’s funny because I have a brother who has tried his hardest to keep all his personal information off of the internet; and no matter what he does, or how hard he tries, Googling his name will bring up information that no one has any idea how it got there.  🙂

 

r/Darth Jedi

The existential question of matmatics…

In our Discrete Mathematics University course, there was a discussion on the Knapsack problem (as it is called).

The problem goes like this:

A U.S. shuttle is to be sent to a space station in orbit around the earth, and 700 kilograms of its payload are allotted to experiments designed by scientists. Researchers from around the country apply for the inclusion of their experiments. They must specify the weight of the equipment they want taken into orbit. A panel of reviewers then decides which proposals are reasonable. These proposals are then rated from 1 (the lowest score) to 10 (the highest) on their potential importance to science… It is decided to choose experiments so that the total of all their ratings is as large as possible (Otto, Spence, Eynden, & Dossey, 2006).

After this outline, we’re asked to examine algorithmic variations that would allow us to postulate the most efficient experiments out of the 4096 possible variations that come about from the 12 possible experiments.

Isn’t it interesting how a mathematical question can become an existential question? While theoretically, one could evaluate the knapsack equation from a logical perspective, and get the ‘biggest bang for the buck’, one also has to wonder (if this were a real scenario) who assigned the rating values for these experiments, and what type of objective/subjective approach did they take?

For example: what if we had two experiments, one that would give us more information about cancer and one that gave us better insights to obesity. Most people might be inclined to include the research on cancer, as the rate of death directly attributed to cancer in the world is typically thought to be much higher than those attributed to obesity. However, what if the probable outcome of the research on cancer might move us a few years ahead in our research, but the research on obesity has a probable end goal of realizing the end of obesity within just a few years. What about all of the secondary causes of death that are indirectly linked to obesity. How does one decide the rating mathematically?

This seems to show that even while our capabilities of solving complex algorithmic variations using state machines can increase the efficiency of mathematical computation; the answer to Alan Turing’s fundamental question of whether or not a computer can ever make ‘human’ decisions seems to lie outside of the realm of algorithmic efficiencies!

References

Otto, A. D., Spence, L. E., Eynden, C. V., & Dossey, J. A. (2006). Discrete Matmatics – Fifth Edition. Boston: Greg Tobin.