Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Business Prevention Officers

In these tough economic times, one expects some austerity: tightening of belts and loosening of standards for the sake of expediency. Focus on getting results, not sweating the petty things that waste time and effort for little reward.

Alternatively, if you are apparently relatively immune to tough economic conditions, you might take the opposite approach: sweat the details in order to justify a job whose existence, were you to work at optimum efficiency, might become questionable.  Unfortunately, this has a significantly adverse economic impact: you're effectively being subsidised at a time when nobody can afford subsidies. You are a leech, a drain on economic resources, a waste of hard working tax payers' money.

These past 2 days have revealed to me that there are several positions in Barbados government departments that are exactly the above.  People being paid to, in effect, prevent the natural course of commerce and economic efficiency.  People whose removal from those positions would actually benefit the economy, not just in salary burden on the tax payers' purse, but also by increased throughput of business: things would get done faster, the cogs of commerce would turn faster and economic throughput would improve.

It's these people who will eventually bring our economy to its knees, not government policy, or macro-economic mis-management. Just these bureaucrats who believe they are owed a living, a wage, irrespective of the value or damage they contribute to the economy. Who measures them? Who checks that they are doing their job effectively? One could argue it should be their unions: after all, they profess to protect their workers' rights, so why not make an effort to ensure them by proving that union members are useful contributors to the economy of our society? Imagine an ethically responsible union that not only ensures workers don't work late, but also that they don't finish early?

It seems that too many people want to enforce rules that they don't question (and may not even exist), and too few people want to actually compete in the game.  More refs than players would lead, ultimately, to poorer players.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Speculative photography

This CNET article ( about the future of smartphone photography got me thinking about the potential for abuse such features could herald.

Our sight is still, for most of us, our most trustworthy sense. Or, more accurately, the sense that we tend to put the most trust in. Modern neuroscience seems to enjoy mocking our trust in our eyes, with optical illusions and other tricks that fool the brain's amazing pattern matching systems. There's even a simple trick demonstrated by +Marcus du Sautoy where he asks people to assess the weights of  objects of various sizes and, to a person, they all believe that the largest object is the heaviest, even though it is the lightest. So our eyes are easy to deceive.

What will 50 megapixel phone cameras accomplish that 5 megapixel ones can't? Well, it's not so much the megapixels, as the processing. Making a CMOS that captures 50 megapixels of light is relatively straightforward. The tricky bit is processing that many pixels and writing them to a memory card in a reasonable length of time. That needs a lot of processing fitted into a small phone. You could then do other things with that processing, like adding and removing objects, to a much more convincing degree than ever before.

Perhaps what is currently constrained to Photoshop and other relatively inaccessible tools could become more ubiquitous and easy to use. Perhaps there's a much darker side of ubiquitous photography yet to emerge.

Some excellent maps

While these are pretty fun to explore, I couldn't help thinking, as I looked through these, that I was looking at both the future and the past. While the data is pretty cool, the presentation is so static. Why aren't these Google Maps overlays? Because splicing the two together takes programming skills. And soon either that won't be the case, or programming will be such a ubiquitous skill that such static renderings will be as anachronistic as flat HTML pages of the 1990s. 

So, this is a bookmark for the future. Lets see if its still valid in 2015.