Saturday, February 6, 2021

0, 1, Don't Care


Karnaugh map for lower left segment

In sequential logic, a binary element can take one of three values - 0, 1, or "Don't Care"

I mentioned before how at Syracuse University, I took a course in microprocessor design.  This does not qualify me at all to design microprocessors, but it helped me understand how they work, and how sequential logic works.

I recounted how the Teaching Assistant (TA) who was a sincere young man from Algeria, as I recall, started the course by reviewing boolean algebra and set theory.  We were bored.  He got very upset as I recall, pointing out that we would need to know this, fundamentally, in order to understand microprocessor design!   When we explained to him that boolean algebra was taught in elementary school as part of the "new math" (and in most high schools, if not) he basically accused us of lying.  I guess in his country, primary education was readin' writin' and 'rithmatic.  Probably is that way in schools today in the USA, which is why we are falling behind.

But I digress.

In sequential logic - which was the next step in our instruction after basic logic circuits (AND, OR, NAND, NOR, XOR, etc.) he told us about "Don't Care" - a logic state that exists when we literally don't care what the state of an output or input is.  It was an interesting concept and essential in understanding sequential logic, which in turn is essential in understanding microprocessor design - the core of which is a remarkably simple machine.   That was 40 years ago, and I've forgotten most of it.

What made me think of this was my recent posting on Red Pill, Blue Pill, which generated some responses.  Some readers chastise me for "not caring" about all the immense conspiracies that are going on in the world!  Of course, I "don't care" about these conspiracies because most of them don't exist - in fact, pretty much all of them. The moon landing wasn't faked.  The earth is not flat. There are no aliens in Area 51, and Trump lost the election, fair and square.   And no, there wasn't a grand conspiracy to kill Kennedy - just enough hate being banded around (like today, with the alt-right) to set off a windup soldier.

It is akin to Trump's inciting the riot.  You could argue, by parsing what he said, word-for-word, that he nowhere explicitly said, "go storm the Capitol!  Kill anyone who disagrees with you!" and you would be right.  On the other hand, he spent two months promoting conspiracy theories - and not denouncing others, but in fact, making oblique references to them - so that hundreds of "windup soldiers" were set off in the direction of the Capitol.

But that is not a conspiracy - because it happened in the open.  We all saw it happen, and yet only a few weeks later, some are trying to rewrite history already.  We'll see where this goes.  But I digress.

When it comes to my personal life, however, I tend to go with 0 or 1 or "Don't Care."   A reader writes "Don't you believe that it is possible that at least some of these conspiracies are real?" and he answered the question within the question itself. These conspiracy theories are all based on belief and not real evidence. The idea that the election was "stolen" is based entirely on belief and when pressed for evidence, the proponents, such as Mr. My Pillow, claim to have volumes but "forget" to attach them to the e-mail.  No real evidence whatsoever has been presented showing any kind of election fraud, other than two people arrested for fraudulently voting... for Trump.

I've read this book before.  When I was at the Patent Office, we regularly got these "Perpetual Motion" people who would file for a Patent. Some were outright fraudsters, using their "Perpetual Motion" machines to deceive investors. Others were just confused people who really thought they invented perpetual motion - and often these folks were roped in and used by fraudsters as well.  But whether it was the 100 mpg carburetor or perpetual motion, the story was always the same - "I'd show you the proof of this, but I have good reasons to keep it secret!  The oil companies!  The government!  They all want to suppress my invention!"

And that becomes an all-too-convenient excuse to never disclose how this "invention" works, even as they file for a Patent.  And let's be clear - none of these things work, no matter how hard you believe in them.  There is a book on how to make the 100 mph carburetor and the Patents have been issued - and have since expired.  No one has made one.  If it really worked, someone would make them and sell them - you can't "suppress" technology.  And the "HoJo Motor" has been around for decades, and again, there are books showing how to make one, the Patents have issued - and expired.   No one has been able to make it work, even the original inventor.  That should tell you everything.  But of course, if you realize that "something for nothing" doesn't exist, and you are savvy enough to spot a con-job from 1000 paces, well, you don't need to analyze this further.

I don't believe in anything.  I either know something, don't know something, or "don't care".   End of story.  Belief is for fools and morons who are scared of the world and need pat answers to everything in life - and are willing to literally hand their very lives over to a Minister, Pope, Imam, Pandit, Rabbi, or other con artist, in exchange for these pat answers. And when one or the other says, "give me all your money" or "give me all your children" or "strap on this suicide vest" or "go to war" they are all-too-willing to do so.  Belief is evil, period.

If I know something (binary value = 1) then I know it, either from direct experience or by learning from someone else.  I don't take things "on faith" either - I check out the data and make sure it is valid, and continually re-assess the validity of that thing.  As you can see, belief doesn't tolerate the latter - religious types aren't very friendly to reassessing the truth of things.

If I don't know something (binary value = 0) then I don't know.  And there is a lot I don't know - in fact, 99.9999% of the universe and how it works is unknown to me.  These are things that either I try to find out - and not by accepting pat answers, or....

Don't Care.  There are plenty of things out there that I don't know, and since I have no realistic way of finding out, and moreover, knowing or not knowing doesn't affect my life one iota, I simply Don't Care. The afterlife?  Don't Care - because there is no realistic way of me finding out one way or another, other than by dying.  And no, what someone wrote down in a book, ages ago (or last week) isn't an "answer" - that's just faith - blind faith that someone else has or had the answer.

I simply Don't Care about faith or conspiracy theories as they are unanswerable questions. The only "answers" people find are not fact-based, but belief-based and thus not answers at all, but just stories someone made up.  A conspiracy theory remains a theory because there is no proof of it, just as there is no proof of Santa Claus.  If there was real proof, it would not be a theory.  But for some weird reason (a not-so-weird reason) this proof is always one step away and never quite present.  It is like these poor people caught up in Qanonsense - they are titillated that "pretty soon" big things are coming, but like the second coming of Jesus, it keeps getting postponed.

Funny thing, though, even through Russian interference in the 2016 election has been documented by our security agencies, the FBI and CIA, conspiracy theorists don't believe it.  But maybe that is the point behind Qanonsense - get people to believe a weirder story, so they don't appreciate the reality going on under their noses.  Sort of like how religion distracts you with tales of the afterlife, so they can rob you in real life.

If something is important enough to affect my life, I try to find out - turn that 0 into 1. But if it is something that cannot be determined or doesn't affect my life one iota, then we mark that down as "DC" or "Don't Care".  Why? because trying to answer unanswerable questions merely wastes your time.  Conspiracy theory people are massively unhappy people, who devote their lives - literally - to a conspiracy theory, much as religious people devote their lives to religion - and often end up broke or dead or both, as a result.

Yet people literally spend every last waking moment trying to solve unsolvable problems.   Here on Old People Island (OPI) the Little Old Ladies (LOLs) spend every waking hour in church or bible study, "studying for the final exam" as we put it.  Their husbands did the sensible thing and quietly slipped off the mortal coil when the time came.  But the wives are obsessed with finding Jesus and going to heaven, which seems odd, as they seem like nice LOLs and not wanton sinners.  Maybe they did something horrible earlier in their lives - but I doubt it.

Funny thing about religious types - they all believe they are going to go to heaven when they die, but yet they are deathly afraid (sorry) of death itself and try to live as long as possible.  I mean, if dying is such a great deal and heaven is so swell, why aren't you walking out in front of a bus?

If you look at religion logically, it makes no sense.  Assuming there is an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-seeing God, who created the Universe and runs everything, why would anyone assume he was not a compassionate being, but would rather damn people to hell just because they didn't tithe 10% to Pastor Cashflow?  On the other hand, logic tells us that Pastor Cashflow certainly wants you to believe God is a righteous asshole and that the Pastor is the only one with the inside word.

But the actual answer?  Insufficient data to draw a definite conclusion.  Maybe atheists believe that when you die, that's it, you cease to exist for all time and you rot in the grave.   Could be, but again, that is a belief not some scientific "fact" - despite what atheists may tell you.

Conspiracy theories are along the same line.  Logically, you can draw a conclusion as to who benefits from the conspiracy. Just as Pastor Cashflow benefits from your religious beliefs, the guy selling conspiracy books benefits from your conspiracy theory beliefs.  And some politicians and foreign powers have been demonstrated to be perpetuating some of these beliefsBut again, conspiracy theorists discount that reality in favor of ever more wild stories.  Why is is reasonable to believe the earth is flat, but unreasonable to realize that a foreign government would act in their own best interests?

Logically, the larger a conspiracy is, the less likely it is to be kept secret.  I used to work for the government, and as I noted before, they can barely conspire to make a pot of coffee in the morning.  I had many friends with "top secret" clearances, and the most common phrase you hear from them is, "I'm not supposed to tell you this, but...."   So-called "spycraft" isn't like Boris and Natasha or James Bond, it is just hanging around and listening to people, half the time.

So the idea of "Aliens in Area 51" or "The Moon Landing was Faked" simply are non-starters, as surely numerous people would have blown the whistle on these things by now - and come forward with real evidence.  But like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, all we get are rumors and lies and grainy photos of old DeSoto hubcaps thrown in the air.

So no,  I have no interest in "decoding" Qanonsense, solving the Kennedy assassination, finding aliens in Area 51, or spending countless hours in fruitless pursuit of same conspiracy - or religion for that matter.  I am content to not know and concentrate my energies instead on things that do affect my life.

Conspiracy theories and religion do affect my life in one regard - the people who believe in these things are constantly trying to interfere with my life.  Whether it is Baptists in rural Georgia telling me I can't buy a beer in their county (or indeed, even in our county, on Sunday before noon) or some religious nut telling me how to live - or some unhinged individual trying to overthrow the government and throw my life into chaos.   As you can see, "believers" are really just troublemakers.

And therein lies the rub.  While I "Don't Care" about questions that cannot be answered, these folks who believe in made-up answers are quite willing to kill over them, or destroy a country, a government, an economy, and our way of life.

And I do care about those things.  They are more important than conspiracy theories.