The technologies of days past and days future

PZ has made a post about a video about Zebrafish development, which originally came out on VHS. He made a throwaway comment “If you don’t know what that is, ask your grandparents”, which got me to think about VHS tapes, and what technologies similar to those, that I have seen the rise and fall of in my lifetime.

Off-hand I can think of:


  • Betamax
  • VHS
  • DVD (to some degree)
  • Laserdisk
  • HD-DVD


  • Tape (well, didn’t see the rise, just the fall)
  • Compact Discs/CDs (to some degree)
  • MiniDisk (very limited rise)
  • Digital Compact Cassette/DCC (very limited rise)
  • Digital Audio Tape/DAT (very limited rise)

LPs could probably be included in this list, though I didn’t experience their rise, and the final part of their decline seems to be stretching out.

Storage media

  • 5¼-inch Floppy Disk (well, didn’t see the rise, just the fall)
  • 3½-inch Floppy Disk
  • CD-ROM
  • CD-RW
  • DLT (very limited rise)
  • Zip drive (very limited rise)
  • DVD (as a computer media)
  • DVD-RW

Picture types

  • Slides
  • Polaroids (which has made a comeback)
  • Disposable cameras (their niche was pretty much killed by the cameras in phones)

I could continue, mentioning things like different computer types (C64, Amiga etc.), technologies (cordless phones, anyone?), file formats (remember when BMP was king?) and so on.

These lists indicate how much things have changed since in my lifetime, but they only show part of the picture. What they don’t show is how widespread many technologies have become compared to the past. Yes, I did come across 5¼-inch Floppy Disks, but they were hardly a normal household item, like e.g. USB sticks are these days.

Those of us who were born in the seventies and eighties have experienced some major changes, most notable the world wide web and the mobile phone, which has been incredible game changers, for better and worse. When I graduated high school in 1993, it was hard to imagine how the world would look 25 years later, and a lot of the work avaliable now, couldn’t be imagined back then (and a lot of the secure work back then, has since become redundant).

This is something I think is important to remember.

I think most of us groan when we see yet another article complaining about the Millennials, but it is worth remembering that these are usually written by people who haven’t kept up with the development – usually because they don’t have to, since they are secure in their debt-free houses and jobs. If their jobs suddenly becomes threatened, they are quick to blame others (e.g. Millennials, immigrants, robots), rather than facing the possibility that they have become obsolete, much like the many of the media types I mention above.

So, where am I going with this? Well, basically, I am trying to say that it is fun to try to look back and see what you have experienced, and what has changed in your lifetime, but I think it is more important to look forward, and try to keep up, and develop, along side with the technology. The type setters became obsolete, because their function were taken over by the computers – this was not something that was generally considered a possibility, until it suddenly happened (the speed was helped along by the behavior of the type setters, who by all accords were quite difficult to work with for everyone else).

In other words, it might be worth looking around at the technology you are dependent on today, and try to figure out what alternatives there are in the future, and see if you can start preparing for either the change (e.g. reading up on the new technology), or for moving elsewhere in your career (get qualifications needed for new positions). It is not easy, but unfortunately, most of us are not in positions where we have much of a choice.

Upcoming Copenhagen Skeptics in the Pub schedule

Copenhagen Skeptics in the Pub has its schedule in place for the next few months, so I thought I’d share it here.

All the talks are in Danish, and takes place at Café Nutid. Cafe Nutid is usually closed on Mondays, so they opens up about half an hour before the talk starts.

March 13, 19:30 – Eftertro – hvad sker der, når man forlader sin religion?

Denne aften adskiller sig lidt fra tidligere arrangementer. Vi får besøg af to oplægsholdere, der vil præsentere sig selv og netværket Eftertro, der tilbyder rådgivning for mennesker, der har forladt deres religion. Denne aften bliver vi klogere på, hvordan det opleves at vende ryggen til noget så centralt som ens grundlæggende verdensopfattelse, hvad man mister, og hvordan man kommer videre.

Vi får besøg af to repræsentanter: Maria Brock er tidligere mormon og har været muslimsk gift, og Simon Ørregaard er tidligere Jehovas Vidne.

April 10, 19:30 – Hanne Strager: Darwin – et beskedent geni

Hanne Strager vil komme og snakke om Darwin.

May 8, 19:30 – Jesper Vind: Moral blandt andre dyr

Moral blandt mennesker har været diskuteret i tusindvis af år blandt filosoffer. Men er det kun mennesket, som kan udføre moralske handlinger? Hør om hvorledes moral kan defineres naturvidenskabeligt, samt hvordan man kan tolke andre dyrs bevidste handlinger, som moralske. Der bliver masser at diskutere.

Jesper Vind er biolog og ph.d. i molekylærbiologi.

June 12, 19:30 –Søren Brostrøm: Sundhedsdirektøren kigger i krystalkuglen

Sundhedsområdet optager alle og er altid at finde på en top 3 over de vigtigste politikområder for danskerne. Sundhedsvæsenet er i voldsom forandring med centralisering og store supersygehuse, robotteknologi, dyre lægemidler osv., men følger udviklingen med i det nære sundhedsvæsen udenfor sygehusene? Kan sundhedspersonalet følge med i de stigende forventninger til både faglighed og produktivitet? Og hvorfor skal vi være bekymret for det postfaktuelle på sundhedsområdet? Kom og hør med når topchefen for den øverste sundhedsfaglige myndighed kigger i krystalkuglen. Det bliver ikke kedeligt!

Søren Brostrøm er direktør for Sundhedsstyrelsen. Han er 51 år, speciallæge i gynækologi og obstetrik, og var indtil han i 2011 blev ansat i Sundhedsstyrelsen overlæge på Herlev Hospital og lektor ved Københavns Universitet.

We are working on the schedule for the rest of the year, so keep an eye on the facebook page.

Advice to government employees

Cross-posted at the Resistance blog

Slate has a article by Ian Samuel, explaining the legal situation for government employees. Samuel is a lecturer on law at Harvard Law School and a former law clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia. The whole article is worth reading, but the last two paragraphs are the most important ones

Of course, asserting your legal rights and standing up to the government you work for aren’t always easy and come with substantial risks. (For one thing, a court might end up agreeing with the Trump administration that its orders were perfectly lawful.) The wise civil servant who was ready to refuse a Trump executive order would do well to talk with a lawyer beforehand. That’s why I’ve offered to represent, pro bono, any government official who refuses to execute a Trump order on the grounds that the order is illegal. A huge number of other lawyers—in particular, professors Daniel Epps (of Washington University in St. Louis) and Leah Litman (of the University of California–Irvine)—have offered their services as well, as have countless other lawyers, paralegals, law students, legal secretaries, and even (my favorite) a bartender in Cleveland.

No government program or White House command is self-executing. It takes thousands and thousands of people, distributed throughout the country, to transform an illegal order into an injustice. These loyal civil servants were there before President Trump arrived and they will mostly be there when he’s gone. Are you one of them? If so: The American system provides you with a choice. You can insist that you were just following orders. Or you can follow the law.

So, if you are a government employee who think that you have gotten an illegal order, there are resources available for you to draw upon. Please use them.

Please donate to “Defense against Carrier SLAPP Suit” GoFundMe

It is not a secret that Richard Carrier has sued this blog network, the Orbit, Skepticon, and several individuals for libel. While most people consider the lawsuit completely groundless, it still requires some legal work to get the case dismissed, and this, unfortunately, costs money.

As the GoFundMe states:

Dr. Richard Carrier is suing us for reporting  on his well-known allegations of misconduct. These allegations were widely reported on throughout the community, including by third-parties both critical and sympathetic to him who are not themselves defendants.

This lawsuit has all the hallmarks of a SLAPP suit — a lawsuit filed to stifle legitimate criticism and commentary. The named defendants are Skepticon, The Orbit, and Freethought Blogs – as well as individuals Lauren Lane, the lead organizer of Skepticon; Stephanie Zvan, a blogger for The Orbit; PZ Myers, a blogger for Freethought Blogs; and Amy Frank-Skiba, who publicly posted her first-hand allegations against Carrier.

We need your help to keep our voices alive. All the defendants are represented by the same attorney, First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza. Randazza is providing his services at a significant discount, but we are not asking him to work for free. Plus, there are thousands of dollars in “costs” for the case that don’t include legal bills, and there is no way to discount those. In order to continue fighting this lawsuit, we, the defendants of this case, have put together this campaign to raise money to defray our costs, some of which is outstanding.

If you have some money to spare, please help fight this suit.

The self-purge has started

I just came across this on my twitter feed: Kara Goldin, CEO of hint water [sic], has resigned from the National Advisory Council On Innovation And Entrepreneurship (NACIE).

She explains her reasons:

I am resigning from NACIE because I believe that we now have a President that has no interest in advice, that is pursuing power as an end in and of itself and that has no intention of solving real problems or creating real opportunities for the people of this great nation. More importantly, as the leader of an innovative company that’s helping America get healthier, I feel a deep obligation to our employees, our investors and our customers to distance myself from the sexism, racism, protectionism and hate that has defined the Trump administration’s first days in office.

Hint is made up of men, women (over 50%), straight people, LGBT people, small people, large people, hispanic people, jewish/christian/muslim people, white people and black people. We are all Americans and we are proud of our country and its values.

The last thing that I want to do is have you think that I would be supporting an administration that is working against the values that I believe as an American that are the key to entrepreneurship.

Kara Goldin joined NACIE under Obama, so it is perhaps not so surprising that she would leave, but for her to state the reasons so bluntly is rather remarkable.

This, of course, follows Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, leaving Trump’s business advisory council. This decision was driven by the #DeleteUber campaign, but it demonstrates that American CEOs find the cost of being pals with Trump too high, and decide that it is not worth it.

Not everyone appears to feel that way – Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, is still part of the business advisory council. A lot of people believe that this might have something to do with the nearly $5 billion dollars his companies get in in government subsidies. I am not a great fan of Musk for a number of reasons, but until now, I believed he held some principles. This doesn’t appear to be the case. I hope that this will have consequences for him and his businesses. I know for certain that I will remember to bring up his ties to Trump, every time people are mindlessly repeating his claims in the future.

Going back to the people leaving the different councils – I think we will see many people do that in the coming weeks. Most will probably do it fairly quietly, but some will feel the need to clearly distance themselves from Trump.

The Neolithic transition in the Baltic region

Through ScienceDaily, I have just come across an interesting open access paper in Current Biology The Neolithic Transition in the Baltic Was Not Driven by Admixture with Early European Farmers

The paper takes a look at the driving force between Neolithic transition in the Baltic and parts of Ukraine, where the Neolithic transition happened later than in Western and Central Europe. The paper describes the Neolithic transitions and the context for the paper thus:

In Europe, the Neolithic transition marked the beginning of a period of innovations that saw communities shift from a mobile lifestyle, dependent on hunting and gathering for survival, to a more sedentary way of life based on food production. This new lifeway, which originated in the Near East ∼11,500 calibrated years before present (cal BP) [5, 6], had arrived in southeast Europe by ∼8,500 cal BP [7], from where it spread quickly across the continental interior of Europe and introduced animal husbandry, cultivated cereals, pottery, and ground stone tools to the region. There is a long-standing debate among archaeologists whether this spread was due to the dispersal of farmers into new lands (i.e., demic diffusion) or horizontal cultural transmission [8]. Genetic evidence suggests that these cultural and technological changes were accompanied by profound genomic transformation, consistent with the migration of people of most likely Anatolian origin [9, 10, 11, 12]. In contrast to central Europe, the adoption of agriculture in northern and eastern parts of this continent, in the areas which encompass modern-day Latvia and Ukraine, was slow and relatively recent [13, 14, 15, 16]. Although some features of the Neolithic package, such as ceramics, appeared as early as 8,500–7,500 cal BP [17, 18], agriculture was not adopted as a primary subsistence economy until the Late Neolithic/Bronze Age [13, 14, 15, 16, 19].

So, in other words, the Neolithic transition has generally be found to be caused by outsiders immigration into the region, taking the technology with them. The question was, whether that was also the case for those regions which changed later.

According to the paper, the analysis shows that there were little genomic transformation in the area studied, leading to the conclusion that the technology was transferred through trade rather than through immigration into the area.

It is quite interesting to see how the fairly new genetic analysis techniques are used to settle old discussions in different fields – here archaeology.


On the tactics on punching Nazis

I am a bit late to the party, but I thought that I’d comment a bit on Richard Spencer getting punched in front of TV cameras

A lot of debate has been going since then, about whether it was acceptable to do so, and if, whether it was good tactics to do so in front of cameras.

Well, legally, it is clearly not acceptable, since it is assault. Morally, on the other hand, I personally don’t have a problem with someone literately advocating genocide and/or promoting an ideology which is based upon genocide getting punched. Some people tries to make the slippery slope argument, asking when it is OK and when it is not, implying that next step will be to punch granny because she voted for Trump. Well, no – the line is clear – if you directly promotes either genocide or an ideology based upon genocide, then it is acceptable. It might be acceptable to punch other groups, based on other clear criteria, but it doesn’t mean that anyone remotely related to the first group get punched.

And it is not like people hasn’t tried to debate Richard Spencer before.

On the tactics parts.

Some people think it might be a bad idea to punch Spencer in front of the TV cameras, as it allows him to play martyr, and others to claim that the left is just as bad as the right. I will concede that there is some truth to that concern, but I still think it is a good idea. Nazis and other white supremacists won’t go away if you play nice with them – maybe they will on an individual level, but not as a group/movement.

Every time someone has gotten rid of Nazis, it has required people to stand up to them physically.

Why should we believe that this is any different? Especially when they’ve got direct influence on the White House, and backing by senior members of the Trump staff?

No, the only way to get them to stop promoting their hate, is to show them that they are not accepted – this can be done through demonstrations, but it can also be done by the means of punching them, when a TV channel gives them a platform.

Or as I stated on Twitter, just after it happened:

So, in other words, I find the tactics of punching Nazis in front of camera effective in the sense that it will make the Nazis crawl back into the shadows, and stop them spreading their ideology. Given this, it could be argued that it is actually more effective tactics to punch Spencer in front on rolling cameras than away from the camera.