Workout 9 June 2012: the old man, his cellphone and the sea

Listen! 20 minute water dancing…tide coming in, water steals my flip flops, I retrieve them. Absent-mindedly swam with my (cheap) cellphone, alas. Drying components may be able to restart or at least use the data card. I know sea water is not good for a cellphone.

The mathematician in me knows this. Every time you commodify something you are multiplying a computational problem such that there’s all sorts of new tasks concerning the solution in a sort of penumbra. The simple-minded economist says that the cost of your unpaid labour (installing the iPhone, hooking up the DVD player, etc), as much as possible of which is off-loaded on you by the manufacturer to lower his costs, call that cost of unpaid labour U, is axiomatically less than its value to you V, chump: U<V.

That’s the basic devil’s deal of capitalism, a Faustian bargain for chumps. Your wants are axiomatic and OK, as Don Draper knows in Mad Men. But I say with mah homegirl Jenny Holzer, protect me from what I want.

U*, the cost of all your unpaid tasks for all your products, is probably less than V*, the total value of all your crap to you because unlike the Vs, the Us interact to DRIVE YOU CRAZY, because now you’re ALSO tasked with scheduling and coordinating the “U” tasks. Logical atomism does NOT scale.

I’m serious. Economists don’t know computer science and NP complexity.

Moms are familiar with this, I am certain. For n kids, n**x, not n*x, bits of utter nonsense which they have to take care of, and they interact so that by the end of the day, der Tag, Mom is ready for a stiff drink.

It is unsustainable. We need to all simplify our lives from the standpoint of computability alone. We need a book, a pencil and a notebook. That is all. We can take what we’ve learned from computers and make cool games that we can teach children such as John Horton Conway’s Game of Life, a mathematical game that generates wonderful patterns, and the next thing you know, the little monsters will be so involved in generating patterns they won’t care, after this whole civilization collapses, that they no longer have an iPod.

[I met John Horton Conway at Princeton.]

The water’s yucky today. I may switch to the public beach (with guards, signage re condition, and shark nets) not because I like it, but because it has showers and signage concerning its condition. It’s over the hill but so am I.


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