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Education: on Engineers, the Navy — and excuse me, Jihad

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a minor contribution to the discussion about STEM-to-stern education ]
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Adm Grace Murray Hopper

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I really don’t want to put too much weight on this — for one thing, John Boyd was, if Wiki is not mistaken, the possessor of a Batchelor’s in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech — but I do think it’s a bit foolish for the Navy to put most all of its eggs in the engineering basket.

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Food to chew on…

Lt. Alexander P. Smith, USN, Navy Needs Intellectual Diversity:

To me, diversity is more than gender, race, religion and sexual orientation; it also includes the intellectual background each officer brings to the force. Starting in 2014, however, the vast majority of all NROTC graduates will be STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) majors with minimal studies in humanities. Our Navy is about to go through unprecedented compartmentalization, but not many officers seem to realize it. [ … ]

Few metrics are considered when determining who gets an interview in the nuclear-reactor community. Most midshipmen certainly have strong grade-point averages, but the principal criterion was how they performed in calculus and physics, not their major.

This begs the question: Does the tier system produce better submariners or more proficient naval officers? If less than 35 percent of our Unrestricted Line Officers possess the unique quality of comprehensive thinking through critical reading and reflection, what will the force look like in 20 years?

These are questions to consider when discerning the benefits and disadvantages of STEM graduates. We should not forget the value of future officers developing a keen interest of foreign affairs, history or language.

LCDR Benjamin “BJ” Armstrong, Engineering and the Humanities: The View from Patna’s Bridge

:Cultural understanding, emotional intelligence and empathy are fundamental parts of good leadership, and also a part of modern naval concepts like international partnerships. They come from experience. It is my great hope, however, that I will never have to experience all of the trials and challenges my fellow sailors face in life in order to help them. What a tragic life that could be. Instead, I’d rather read my share of Shakespeare, Hemingway, or O’Brian, which might help me learn a thing or two about emotion and about the way people face different challenges in their lives, even at sea. Reading the biographies of great leaders, the histories of battles both large and small, and the classics of strategy, helps me learn from the mistakes and successes of others rather than have to learn only from my own multitude of mistakes.

Oh, and to throw some high-grade jalapeño into the stew…

Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog, in their hugely contested paper Engineers of Jihad:

The only other case in which we find a trace of engineers’ prominence outside of
Islamic violent groups is, consistently with the mindset hypothesis, among the most
extreme right-wing movements, especially in the US and in Germany, where it is all
the more striking again given the general low level of education of the members of
such groups. Here we have perhaps the only other case in which the mindset alone has
activated engineers into resorting to violent action – their absolute number is tiny, but
disproportionate relative to other types of graduates.

Oops — too much pepper, pehaps?

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Look, I come from the arts side of the house.

In Education: a call for actors, directors, composers, conductors, I’ll get as deep into why arts and humanities training might be important — particularly for analysts and decision-makers — as the two naval writers cited above suggest it might be for the future of the Navy.

And no offence to engineers, please. It’s thought I’m hoping to stir up, not trouble.

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Pictured atop this post:

  • Admiral Grace Hopper, USN, was among other things the first person to write a compiler for a computer programming language.
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    In good, really good company

    Friday, January 10th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- mildly NSFW if your office can't handle Leonardo, which IMNSHO we should be able to manage now in this 21st century CE -- and besides, it's the weekend ]
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    Well, we here at Zenpundit have a particular interest in creative thinking, and this last evening I unexpectedly found myself in excellent creative company…

    …in a months-old blog-post by an old friend, an astrophysicist by profession who goes by the name Cygnus on the web — presumably after the constellation that harbors Deneb, and also Kepler-22b, the “first known transiting planet to orbit within the habitable zone of a Sun-like star” (WikiP, since I know no better). Cygnus means “swan” in Greek, and Zeus became a swan for his own imperious purposes when he saw LedaHelen of Troy being one of their offspring (see eggs in Da Vinci‘s image below), with the Trojan War ensuing.


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    Here’s then, is the A-Z of creative folk, as Cygnus pulled it together last April as part of an “A-Z- Challenge” — I’m honored and awed to be named in the company of such as Andre Breton, Donald Knuth, George Carlin, Octavia Butler, Samuel R Delany, Dame Frances Yates and the rest:

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    For April 2013, my theme for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge was “An A to Z of Masters of the Imagination that You Oughtta Know About.”  In other words, on each day I profiled a person whose brains were just overflowing with weirdness and creativity.  Here’s a list of the posts:

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    So that’s Cygnus’ list — quite a dinner party! You’ll recognise some members of your own constellation of creatives here, perhaps — feast on some of those you’re not yet familar with! Cygnus blogs about games and such at Servitor Ludi.

    As for me, I’ll simply offer you William Bulter Yeats‘ great poem Leda and the Swan, to celebrate the company I just found myself in, and close out a memorable evening:

    Leda and the Swan

    A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
    Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
    By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
    He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

    How can those terrified vague fingers push
    The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
    And how can body, laid in that white rush,
    But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

    A shudder in the loins engenders there
    The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
    And Agamemnon dead.
                                     Being so caught up,
    So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
    Did she put on his knowledge with his power
    Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

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    Taoism with Intelligence, yeah!

    Monday, December 30th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron -- this post is useless and a delight, if you catch the same drift I do ]
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    Well you know me, I love juxtapositions and variations on a theme, and I have a keen interest in applying them with intelligence to Intelligence — especially where it meets Religion — so this one’s a natural!

    I mean, you might think the upper panel was an IC logo since it uses the word “intel”, but it’s not — it’s the long-time logo for a brand of computer chips from Intel Corp — now found in both PCs and Macs.

    But the IC was not to be outdone, and — mirabile dictu — has responded with its own “inside” logo. Intel is fine, you see, but frankly Tao is better.

    My own preferred Taoist text is that of Chuang Tzu‘s Inner Chapters — “chapters inside” one might almost say — which you can find translated by the excellent Burton Watson in Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings.

    Open it up, go inside…

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    NSA’s Tao source:

  • Der Spiegel
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    Blip: algo’s got rhythm at last!

    Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron -- a qualit with little time for quants making another graceful retraction ]
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    I haven’t been too convinced that algorithms were good at understanding my interests — remember that ad for “bold” Christian shirts (and babe) some fool code placed on Islamic Awakening — a site I was visiting to read up on Awlaqi?

    Well, those algos are improving… Here’s what YouTube thinks I might want to listen to next, hot from the digital presses…

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    Turing Test: check!

    I’d say YouTube’s algorithm has finally figured out — at least momentarily — the basics of who I am.

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    Birthday Greetings to Online Forums and Community

    Thursday, August 8th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron -- history was minted here ]
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    Today is the fortieth birthday of Plato Notes — the “first permanent, general-purpose online conferencing system”, brainchild of my online friend David Woolley.

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    You can read Brian Dear‘s PLATO Notes released 40 years ago today for the general story, or David’s own PLATO: The Emergence of Online Community from 1991 — but best of all perhaps would be this video, which will give you a sense of the man as well as the relevant history —

    – and historic this truly was.

    Happy fortieth, David — and more thanks from so very many of us than I quite know how to express.

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