tisdag 25 april 2017

In praise of Aspergers

We should take a moment now and again to acknowledge the fact that civilisation as we know it would never have arisen if it were not for the people, mostly males, with Asperger's Syndrome.

Both Newton and Einstein have been retrospectively diagnosed with the condition. Most of our technology could not have been brought to a workable condition without individuals having Asperger's Syndrome. Think about this next time you travel in a train, confident that you will arrive safely: what "normal" person would have the patience, persistence and attention to detail to design the railway signalling system on which your life depends?

Without the men with Asperger's Syndrome who developed the technology you are using to read this, we would probably not even have developed to the point of writing things down by making marks in wet clay.

A disgraceful prison sentence

A twenty-year old man, Adam Mudd, has been sentenced to two years in prison for creating, when he was 16, a program, which carried out more than 1.7m attacks on websites including Minecraft, Xbox Live and Microsoft and TeamSpeak, a chat tool for gamers. He earned the equivalent of more than £386,000 in US dollars and bitcoins from selling the program to cyber criminals.

Mudd was said to be a high-functioning Asperger case. Clearly he was not entirely responsible for his actions. The suspended sentence requested by the defence would have been reasonable in the circumstances. It was refused.

The approach seems entirely wrong. Those who have been affected should be suing the suppliers of the software and computer services, since they are responsible for creating the situation in the first place by releasing insecure software.

People who are able to crack computer security systems should be employed to make sure the systems offered to the public, commerce and government are as secure as possible; an Asperger's diagnosis is probably an essential qualification for the job. They should not be locked away in prison.

torsdag 6 april 2017

Brtain's poor productivity - again

"Britain’s poor productivity performance before, during and after the financial crisis of a decade ago has left a gap of 16% with the other six members of the G7 group of industrial nations. International comparisons published by the Office for National Statistics show that output per hour worked continued to lag well behind the US, Germany and France in 2015 – the last year for which data is available"

Article in Guardian.

Oh dear. The entire concept of "productivity" is dubious. If it applicable anywhere, then it is within manufacturing industry where sub-optimal productivity can be due to factors such as wastage, defective work which has to be rectified, poor design, poor organisation of the workflow, time kept waiting for components or raw materials to arrive, or obsolescent equipment. These are management issues, and there is certainly still tendency in British industry for the managers not to talk to the lower orders - the people who are working in the front line; handing down orders from on high, they stay in their offices and fail to grasp the nature of the tasks they are managing.

There are many occupations, however, where there is little or no scope for increases in productivity. Assuming that their work timetable does not result in a waste of staff time, how could a bus driver or a train driver or a nurse or a surgeon become more productive?

Statistics can aggregate that which should not be aggregated, to the point that they may be meaningless. There may be, and probably is, a problem with UK productivity, but raw figures like these are best taken with a pinch of salt.

We should also not forget that an item at the factory gate in the UK is worth less than the same item at the factory gate in Germany, simply because the German factory has around 400 million potential customers to whom it can be delivered in a door-to-door run, whereas in the UK, there are 60 million customers, but the other 400 million are on the other side of a strip of water which has to be crossed.

In praise of Aspergers

We should take a moment now and again to acknowledge the fact that civilisation as we know it would never have arisen if it were not for the...