The Rise of the Algorithm

Folks, it’s frustrating to us that no one simple explanation exists to explain an adverse condition that affects all but a very few. It becomes worse when we can’t even discuss these causes with like minded people, indeed,, right down to family members, because our language, once developed by visionary leaders, has been dismantled by a few people who are smarter than the rest of us (I’m going to call this small bunch linguists) and then disseminated by the smarmiest class of citizens outside politicians; I refer of course, to media figures, particularly those poor wretches in radio and television. I give you the example of that icon of pathos “frenemy”.

Formulated by that tortured soul Frank Luntz, and then launched in a news release by then senator Hillary Clinton, it was a term that was supposed to soothe the troubled waters around our involvement with Pakistan, and draw our attention away from the gigantic boondoggle that our involvement with them represented. Friends and enemies, there just ain’t no such thing. The words describe polar opposites: it’s like, I don’t know, addraction. You know addition and subtraction combined to explain your cable bill.

Further complicating this is the stunning lack of interest that Americans have in learning anything outside whatever range of interests that they have developed early on. This is no personal shame. The whole idea of knowing lots about say orthodontics (if that is your chosen field), and only enough about say, math to operate the parts of your office you don’t pay your accountant to handle was somehow successfully promoted by William Bennett during his term as secretary of education. Bennett’s idea was that teaching civics (and a slew of other subjects) was a waste of taxpayer money and school children’s time. By the way, just how is that working for you?

One last moving part of this strategy to divide and conquer (after all, the cabal of political villains that created this aren’t God, therefore they couldn’t do the whole Tower of Babel thing) was the little known telecommunications act of 1996. Folks, no amount of writing here can communicate just how emblematic of the Clinton years this piece of crap is. Just google up “the fallout from the telecommunications act of 1996” and read it yourselves. If you’re not under a doctor’s care for stroke or the like that is. The almost hidden provision that we’re concerned with here though is the one designating “the news” and “the weather” as entertainment thereby removing all public funding from your sources of vital news. Kind of like up in Flint when the government outsourced the provision of drinking water to the population there. See, water was designated a “commodity” a few years earlier, and private corporations aren’t burdened by all those pesky regulations that governmental agencies are. So…your news is just as polluted as the drinking water in Flint, see? No? Now, who doesn’t know that people will only do what they are made to do? Sorry Rush, but people need laws and enforcement to do the right thing’ to ensure that things we like remain stable (hint to conservatives). Us folks over 50 know this. We don’t remember the terrible wars between labor and the tycoons, but our parents did, and they damn sure made certain to forewarn us too. Mexican, Black or White, our generation was raised with the idea that public service, the act of ploughing and planting for the next generations superseded our own concerns was cultural in nature. If you were a greedy sociopath who gave not one fig for the future of our great country you damn sure kept it to yourself, or you and your efforts would develop a populist resistance of considerable force.

To summarize: We live in a Lewis Carroll­like nightmare (if you are a person who helped make this country great) I will certainly grant you that the preponderance of people in this country, most of whom are under the age of 50 and don’t know nor care to know how it became what it is, and many, many of them are our own progeny. These new inhabitants cannot possibly know anything but what they want, because either they came from a country whose rich heritages and traditions don’t contain ideas like those (principally due to the historical failures there to succeed at winning a free society for themselves) or, in the case of our kids, the education system and the churches were gutted of programs and traditions of teaching them these things. This robbed them of yet another thing. Pride. Self respect that come from being a carpenter rather than someone who is good at dismantling or destroying.I know the title of this piece pretty much promises a discussion of the preeminence of algorithms, and I wanted to talk about actuaries too, but I guess I’ll have to do two more. I promise I’ll do them real soon.


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