Thursday, February 04, 2010

The more things change the more things change

There have been some articles on how much things have changed because of technology. One from the Washington Post Magazine, titled Going, Going, ..., Gone lists out items that are fading out of our lives Here are a few:
  1. Cash: When is the last time you used cash in a transaction that was over 20 dollars? Over 10?
  2. Slide rules: I thought they were already gone gone gone. You can buy them off the web here. The site does not seem to think of them as antiques.
  3. Truly blind dates: In my day we couldn't Google our dates ahead of time.
  4. FAX machines: Not sure they are really going going gone. If they had come out earlier they would be far more popular. If they had come out later they would have been far less popular. Are they here to stay?
  5. Secretaries: I can't imagine having someone type my papers for me or book a trip for me.
  6. Tonsillectomies: I actually got one when I was 8. I hope that wasn't a mistake.

However, nothing demonstrates how things have changed better than this unaired Pilot of the TV show 24 from 1994 here. ~


  1. > Cash: When is the last time you used cash in a transaction that was over 20 dollars?

    On weekly basis, but then I am from Europe.

  2. Is it unrealistic to expect a blog called "Computational Complexity" to actually talk about computational complexity?

  3. It is Bill's very own talk-show; someone had to take Oprah's place. :)

  4. I've bought firearms with cash. In dark parking lots at night, for that matter.

    Also, lawyers and the legal system are very keen on faxes. I have a feeling that they think, because it is paper on both ends, that it isn't Photoshopable in the middle.

  5. I'm a graduate student in computer science (so part of the younger side of things, I like to tell myself). Cash purchases over $20 are regular. Faxes, as another commenter pointed out, are fairly regular, especially for legal (and so sometimes funding-related) things. While my adviser types all his own papers and the like, as chair of the department, we're fortunate to get trips (plane tickets, hotel reservations, &c.) booked for us. I still have my tonsils (and wisdom teeth!).

  6. ha! 170 obsolete things and they failed to mention themselves: news print!

  7. Secretaries' jobs might be changing, but they are not going away.

    Fax machines will go away once faxing over the Internet becomes easier.

    How about typewriters?

  8. Why are Tonsillectomies going away? What have they been replaced with?

  9. just gave 50 bucks to a cabbie.

  10. If someone has infected tonsils now they give them anti-biotics.

    I do not know if this is better or worse then removing them.

    I don't miss mine and I got to eat alot of ice cream when I was recovering. Plus I missed alot of school (the entire Civil War in History Class).

    bill gasarch

  11. there are at least a dozen stupid things on that list, maybe more but I got bored reading it and thinking how stupid the author was

  12. Hmmmm ... one things that *has* changed---changed irreversibly and transformationally---is the algorithmic complexity of engineering in general, and financial engineering in particular.

    From a formal point of view, this is evident from recent work on the complexity of markets in derivatives (similar considerations are generic in every branch of systems engineering, of course).

    Which leads us to an provocative question: in this week's Wilmott Magazine, is Elie Ayache's deconstruction of financial engineering serious ... or is it Sokal-style academic hoax?

    Being and the Market
    url: ""

    Ayache's article forces upon us an awkward choice: (1) hey, these modern-day financial engineers are *really* smart, or (2) hey, these modern-day financial engineers are *really* dumb!

    From an academic point of view, there is (apparently) a grave risk that discussion of "market mysteries" will become as superfluously abundant as discussion of "quantum mysteries".

    (Note: the above post is written tongue-in-cheek ... but there *are* folks who are taking these issues seriously ... folks who control a large fraction of the world's wealth ... which is IMHO a valid message of Ayache's article, as read either way)

  13. Is it possible to have extra separate feeds, one for Bill's posts and one for Lance's posts?

    And yes, more complexity please.

  14. Guys, thank you for mentioning my work and articles in Wilmott. Markets are not complex; they are much simpler than we think or than probabilistic models contend; however, a reversal of the ontology is needed. Learn about it in my newly published book:

    Elie Ayache