Crowdstrike Hubris

(CNN) Global tech outage disrupts airlines, banks, hospitals, 911 services.

Frank Sprague,  an early developer and manufacturer of electrical equipment has been credited with the dead man’s switch, a safety device for electric trolley cars, rail locomotives , elevators, and buses. The operator is required to keep his foot on a pedal or hand on a grip.  If the operator is incapacitated or dies, his foot or grip relaxes, which causes the vehicle to automatically stop. Analogous hardware would have prevented global meltdown.

Crowdstrike undoubtedly has a software analog of the above, detecting loss of functionality.  If the analog runs on the same machine it protects, it cannot report all kinds of failure. Sometimes the murder victim manages to leave a note;  usually not. So this massive update kept running without informing Crowdstrike it was killing machines.

There used to be a simple way of checking whether a remote machine was still alive. The ping network utility causes a dialog with a remote machine a little like the  dialog  of harmoniums in Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan:

Query; “Here I am, Here I am, Here I am.”

Response: “Yes you are, Yes you are, Yes you are.”

Now days, with computers protectively hidden behind routers with complex routing rules, it is not advisable to expose to pinging from outside connections. Given the large size of most Crowdstrike clients, it is entirely feasible for an organization to have a dedicated hardware box that reports to Crowdstrike if their automatically pushed update is causing mass death.

The absence of dedicated dead-man hardware  is technological hubris.

Trump Assassination Attempt Notes

The perimeter of the Butler, PA venue was incorrectly defined, so it was not properly secured.  The perimeter should have been defined by a rigid, yet practical set of rules, which were disarmed by erroneous intuition of low risk. What is the root of this mistake?

The root of the error is as old the Renaissance, the rebirth of intellectual freedom after the  thousand years of  the religious hegemony of the Dark Ages. The Modern Era was born in the cities, which fermented social philosophies of radical social change. Even  movements with substantial rural presence  incubated first in the cities. The reasons:

  • Anonymity, living next to neighbors with completely impersonal relationships, is viable. This allows nonconformity with  issues that, as cores to social order, carry the potential  of violence.
  • Social networks are not reliant on blood and kin.
  • Speed of communication was formerly critical. The revolutions of 1848 coincided with the development of high speed printing presses.

Yet even after 600 years of modernity,   social patterns of the past, of the “village”, persist in rural America, in the form of the small town:

  • Anonymity is impossible, which induces conformity.
  • In-person social networks continue to function, even in the acid bath of social media.
  • Conservatism dominates. Social change is strictly an import. Notables do not find their personal fire in the cradle of the small town.  Intellectual ignition occurs during some period  of urban relocation.

Butler is a small town, the American approximation of a village. It may not be the place where everybody knows everybody, but it tends in that direction. With village culture comes the definition of the outsider, and the misplaced confidence that one would be recognized if he showed up. When Thomas Matthew Crooks showed up, he was similar enough to disarm the instincts of law enforcement. Had he not been so similar, he might have been stopped for any number of pretexts, most notably, hanging around the magnetometers.

The would-be assassin has inspired astonishment for:

  • The current lack of discovery of even traces of social media disclosure.
  • The absence of prior acting out.
  • The seeming total encapsulation of means and motive in a single individual.
  • The ability to  circumvent the innate defenses of village culture and the formal competences of the U.S. Secret Service.

As with Lee Harvey Oswald, this is perfect brew for conspiracy theories. The brew  is weak; Thomas Matthew Crooks was well within the variability of nature and nurture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s Would-be Assassin; Evil, Stupid, and Brave

The man on the roof,  Thomas Matthew Crooks, will, in innumerable references, be labeled a coward. This misnomer, associating evil with cowardice, detours  from consequences that follow by a brutal but impeccable logic. The man on the roof was evil, stupid, and brave.

The extreme right will also label the man on the roof a coward. But it will start an itch in some of their inferior minds. The man on the roof did not merely talk the talk, if, indeed, he talked at all. He walked the walk. This event will jar some small but significant statistical fraction of the extreme right from the obsessive comfort of their hates, to reciprocal acts that prove that they, too, can walk the walk.

We were introduced to this misnomer, “coward”, on 9/11, when terrorists first hurt us beyond comprehension. Terrorists and assassins willing to die for their evil beliefs are not cowards. They inspire loathing beyond words. Exceptions may be made for GRU/KGB poisoners.

Courtesy of the man on the roof, the risk of political violence is now enhanced. I am at a loss for an appropriate label. If you need a description that elevates the rest of us by comparison,  try animal.

 

 

Sloppy CNN; Earth’s core has slowed so much it’s moving backward, scientists confirm. Here’s what it could mean

(CNN) Earth’s core has slowed so much it’s moving backward, scientists confirm. Here’s what it could mean. The headline is false. The core is not moving backwards.

See (CNN) Earth’s inner core may have stopped turning and could go into reverse, study suggests. Quoting,

This is baloney. The cited study, Multidecadal variation of the Earth’s inner-core rotation, claims no such thing. Quoting from the abstract,

Differential rotation of Earth’s inner core relative to the mantle is thought to occur under the effects of the geodynamo on core dynamics and gravitational core–mantle coupling.

The word in red is omitted. CNN, you could have used “relative.”

The difference in the speeds of rotation of the inner  core and the mantle, regardless of direction, is about that of a near-frozen inchworm. If you were looking at it, you would see nothing.

How much must be lost in translation?

The body of the new article contains the error. Quoting,

This inner core has intrigued researchers since its discovery by Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann in 1936, and how it moves — its rotation speed and direction — has been at the center of a decades-long debate.

The direction of rotation has never changed or been the subject of inquiry, only the speed relative to the mantle. The difference is very small, a few hundred yards per year at the core/mantle boundary, which the article fails to mention. Contradicting itself, the article also  contains a correct statement:

“Differential rotation of the inner core was proposed as a phenomenon in the 1970s and ’80s, but it wasn’t until the ‘90s that seismological evidence was published,” said Dr. Lauren Waszek, a senior lecturer of physical sciences at James Cook University in Australia.

Differential  is key. Do the article authors understand how key it is?

This reporting, with the repetitive propagation of scientific falsity, stands in stark contrast to  CNN’s impeccable politics.  Perhaps it echoes the conceit of Socrates, who, as one of the first humanists, claimed he  could learn every thing of  importance from “the man in the city.”

The world inhabited by Socrates was nontechnical, powered by slaves, animals, and war. Our world is highly technical. Errors such as the above are not as harmless as they seem. In the minds of the public,  such errors corrode the scientific concept of objective truth.

We last paid the price with COVID.