Is Competition Important?

Is competition vital to advancement despite the drawbacks and backsteps it can cause?

This is my question in the general sense, even when working together is it a good thing to want to be the ‘winner’?  In a larger sense is having a sense of competition better than having a global community spirit, of course we should seek to have a little bit of both. 

I once heard somebody describe the moon lands as something along the lines of fuck you, look what we can do. I think this does have a sense of being true. The need for weapons in nations and the need to do better than other schools. The need to be above something or somebody else in some regard seems pretty strong in human nature.

While it’s true that we have great examples of behaving good there is an argument that can be made that these are something along the lines of a scratch my back and I will scratch yours mentality. Something that has some credence in the ideas of a stable strategy. A developmental situation wherein something is done to give a reaction that benefits us in some way. This can be looked on a far grander scale in the idea of an evolutionarily stable strategy. So while it may be true we do things to be nice why that is the case could be a little more complicated than that.

I put forward the assertion that competition is a similar thing. It’s no question that sometimes a little friendly competition is a good thing but even if to the detriment of the team spirit somebody racing a head can lead to mixed results but they do stand out and gain an advantage.

I think this is something that nations also do linking to my Ego Of Nations post. The creation of the Warsaw Pact as a response to NATO was clearly a good idea from a defence perspective. It also has the benefit of prolong an arms race but what it also does is provide a sense of community and contribution which is greater than what individual members could do on this scale. I do think it is also about having a sense of a club and pride.

After the First World War the Treaty Of Versailles  did have an element of blaming Germany for the first world war. This provides nothing more than a dig at a country which is often here at least described as a proud nation. A proud nation of course being a compliment.

It is perhaps important that nations have developed a sense of pride and identity for the reason of advancement. A Swiss watchmaker has a reputation to live up to and this is given in the Chronometer stamp. This of course extends to individuals the pursuance of fame being a good example.

To want to do better is the easiest way to achieve being better. In previous posts I have discussed that the Cold War lead to many advancements because of competition I do however wish to pose a question. If rather than a Cold War we had a ‘lets all get together for the sake of mankind’ party what would be the outlook of the world? We do live in a world where others are a threat but in the media it seems more of a hopeless cause than a rallying cry to do better generally.

I think we while would have lived in a more peaceful world may not have advanced as much. The space race was a race for a reason. It was a battle of advancement and ego the ending of the Cold War seemed to make this sort of thing less important.


I think Kennedy here was right. We do the things because they are hard, because we want to be the best. I also think this is an appeal many far right parties go for one example being the EU. Yes there is a lot to say on the advantages and disadvantages and the need for sovereignty but I do think a small part does come down to the fact we as a nation want to feel that we are not subject to anybody. I imagine a reader thinking that of course they would not want their country subject to political or military rule by another and I would agree but why do we?

The French and the English is a good example. There is a national rivalry to an extent between these two nations. One of the reasons for this is the Hundred Years War. It these days is a little tongue in cheek but it is true that as with a football teams derby or competing in the Olympics in your own country has an effect. While war is not a positive the lasting impact of the French – English connection I feel is a good thing.

Good for business? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Agincourt)

To conclude to keep this short and simple I feel that competition is something that is vital and something that is important be it in the school or on a national international level. The push to be better than you currently are and to do better than those around us while not feeling weak or vulnerable. Perhaps the reason that we have an ego of nations is because simply put those with the ambition did better. While this can be applied to economics don’t think I am putting this as a universal true. It is however imperative that we exploit and create harmless competition but to also work together. As humans we work better in a society than as ourselves but it seems more of a carrot to do it to be better than that society down the street or because we could than to say we did this for advancement.

Still I invite comments on this. I have made this more of an argument than previous posts. Do you think that we work better trying to reach the top than to rise to the top with a sense of comradeship?

“It’s the taking part that is important but the only important thing is winning”

The importance of scientific education.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22382756

The issues relating to a psudo-scientific nonsense interrfering with vaccines is still striking hard. There are anti vaccine groups for example most well known in the United States. While this has real demonstrable damage and it is quite clear looking at the rush for MMR vaccines in Wales that it can swing from one panic with a proposed Autism link to a panic about the diseases these vaccines were meant to combat.

This boils down to two things, firstly there is anti scientific thought. This is the most dangerous in my opinion as it forms a anti science viewpoint. While it is easy to wonder what harm this really takes thinking of a person sitting at a computer ironically wondering what has science ever done for me. My argument against this is two fold.

Firstly this breeds an anti scientific atmosphere which allows impressionable people or those who have not been informed otherwise to rely on the nonsense being put out.

Secondly this can lead to extreme examples in where people die from very easily preventable issues such as diabetes. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/aug/02/us-daughter-pray-death.

Now the issue also expands to other things a good example being the ‘anti climate’ lobby. A delay in how serious we take climate change and the political power these ideas have is very dangerous. We live in a world where the country to first reach the moon in some states has issues with the teaching of ‘evilution’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District.

Now I’m sure you may be thinking that as a general person what does this have to do with you? Politicians make the political decisions right? Well yes and no. There needs to be a need to teach children better skills of comparing information as well as knowledge of the scientific process.

This ties into perhaps the most important thing media responsibility. There will always be those on internet forums who take an anti/apathetic to scientific advancement view. There will always be those who can benefit from any anti scientific feeling in the public but the media is in the important position to be trusted and able to inform the public. The daily mail being a massive offender in anti-scientific nonsense there is also the issue of the need to create sensualist stories rather than accurately reporting.

‘The need for balance’ is also an issue. The idea that if an opposing view simply exists it should have an equal view in many media debates. This of course is nonsense when it comes to issues of hard facts. But in addition to this the knowledge that correlation does not equal causation should be something we are all engrained with.

 Look at the chart. It’s all chartlike it must therefore be true!

This of course leads to other issues with the media normally relating to X causes violence because of a one off event or stretched connection the blame usually in these cases falling on extreme music or video games. It seems to be a sad consequence of the human nature of being scared of what we cannot properly understand.

Of course they are some that can gain from the lack of scientific understanding, we also can’t rely on politicians and education to give us all the information we need. People should always be somewhat self informed. I am not proposing that children need to know the finer points of biochemistry but rather they know how science works. Technological advancement can bring great economic rewards to a country and also provide a benefit to humanity as a whole.

I can understand why somebody might think that this post is pedantic and seems to be missing the point. With all the important things going on in the world how much of an issue is this really? Well my answer to this hypothetical point is that well a lot of the damage here is far easier avoidable. Refrigeration, packaging and improvements to food production have a clear advantage and general scepticism over GM foods is an issue but to sum it up perhaps more eloquently. What is the price that we can put on the advancement of the human race?

Encouraging Learning

A common theme in my most recent posts has been relating to human advancement. While I would like to later talk more about history this topic is something I want to go into right now. Advancement is a difficult concept to talk about in full as it relates to many things. The purpose of this blog is to talk about what I think is the best way to create learning be it that of a child, an adult or in general.

Rather than an effort to make learning simply making learning ‘cool’ or fun a person also needs to want to learn to get the best effect. I will be looking at this from a few perspectives.

Education

Education of course being a rather obvious way in which somebody learns. The role of education though needs to focus on general learning in the UK. While examinable information is very important making a space in which a child can and wants to learn is more important. Teaching how to compare and contrast differing ideas by looking at potential bias or inaccuracies is something first taught to me formally at GCSE (ages 14-16) History. This is frankly too late. We have issues of teachers before this forcing pseudo-scientific ideals down children before this. While public (private) schools don’t have to follow the national curriculum some basic guidelines should be enforced I feel. In science classes I would love to see children being shown a video by for example Carl Sagan. Putting the wonder of the world back into the classes to give a sense of perspective. This is why I really do support out of classroom trips give the children passion and they will teach themselves I think.

English: Cropped from ‘Pale Blue Dot’, see bel...

‘Pale Blue Dot’,  (Wikipedia). Seeing our place in the universe. Should it not simply fill us with wonder and joy rather than the insignificance that many see?

Games

Now gamification is something that is worth looking into. Put simply this is learning by games or making menial tasks more fun. Often by giving a levelling system to provide some feedback to help motivate I want to focus on something different.

I enjoy more complex computer games and some of them are based in real settings. With this often is a wiki of sorts attached.

As a small child my first book was called something along the lines of ‘a prehistoric atlas’. I loved dinosaurs and my farther just bought books from bookshops on the topic. Many of them were far beyond what I could read but illustrations and diagrams helped. Age of empires though gave me a basic understanding of history. I could take charge of famous events and it was where I learnt the most about Joan of Arc. It helped me with the film have a basic understanding of the campaign of William Wallace and gave me an interest in learning more than I did though game play and in depth game files.

Total War games are another example if not for Shogun 1 and 2 I’d know far less about the history of Japan. Perhaps this is the reason it took me till I was 20 and making my own fictional work to gain a proper appreciation for fiction. Because a game helped me learn about the Meiji Restoration (as seen in the film The Last Samurai). You tell a child a tale of samurai warriors charging men with guns with honour and glory. You then tell the child that this actually happened and well it blew my little mind. Or about a rough idea relating to the sengoku jidai era?

Even games like the civilisation series while being very sandbox in nature and open ended gave some appreciation for me as a child. The English have some units better at times in history for example the redcoats. The civopedia tells me that the Redcoats were blah blah. Total War games also have brilliant in depth information about units. This gives a stage pad in which a person can learn a little bit and opens the doors to so much more.

Music/films/TV

On the 6th June, on the shores of western Europe, 1944 D Day upon us! – Sabaton – Primo Victoria

Music and films also add another brilliant example though little things taught by actual histories or played around a bit. It allows a user of this media to get a feel for the Era as fiction does. Films about historical events or mythologies can stick in the mind and allow one to look further into it.

My examples are more music based as well I love music as a media more. Amon Amarth lead to me learning more about Norse Mythology. Sabaton about history. The film 300 is another brilliant example King Leonidas I as he made his last stand at thermopylae. Yes it actually happened! Even the cheesy lines!

Sabaton gave me another example one I had not heard of the battle of Winza during the second World War. The song is called 40:1 and I was always curious as to what it was about so I looked it up. Let me leave you with something from the Wikipedia page on the issue.

“The Battle of Wizna was fought between September 7 and September 10, 1939, between the forces of Poland and Germany during the initial stages of Invasion of Poland. It was arguably the most heroic battle in the campaign, in which according to latest sources under 720 Poles defended a fortified line for three days against more than 40,000 Germans”

All I can say is that well it’s an epic tale. Sabaton’s most recent album relates to the Swedish Empire which I only knew ever existed prior to this because of the game Cossacks. I looked it up from the battle of Prague to the crashing defeat that was Poltava.

If we want people to learn for interest and fun lets show them how amazing and odd the world can be. Music can also take the form of beautiful poetry. I hated it in school but then I realised how much of my music was nothing more than poetry. From the epic tales of power metal to the sad tales waved by Woods of Ypres and Katatonia.

Internet

Cracked.com is a good example of this. Often informative to a degree but always with interesting topics. The internet of course is the great facilitator of these things. I like to think my blog posts leave a small launch pad for the reader to look more in depth as to my chosen topic.

The internet allows all of us to look up details of these sorts of things one example of this in practise is Schrödinger’s Cat which is often explained on Youtube in simple terms. Or the newsfeed of newscientist or the I fucking Love Science facebook channel. Most of my friends know of this cat from a show called ‘The Big Bang Theory’. What a brilliant way of teaching people!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOYyCHGWJq4  – Minute science, Schrödinger’s Cat

We live in a world where the understanding that previously would require further education or browsing a book shop can be sought by anybody with an internet connection. I feel education should make a better use of these sorts of things. I had a science teacher that used to make us try and find out the answer to teach ourselves before he taught us the answer and we saw if and why our understanding was flawed. As much as it wound me up at the time it as a brilliant idea.

We need the tools to be able to learn in addition to the knowledge we learn. I am thankful to be doing a degree that while is very intensive on cramming and learning set rules is also very much about learning how to learn. How to find information and how to work out which information is correct.

I am a person who has a lot of ‘pointless’ knowledge and very few who share my love of certain topics but enough to keep me more than content and to always have something in depth to talk about should I wish. Yes exams are important but should this come at a cost of wanting to learn more about things in general?

Yes it is important to know basic geography and science but surely it is more important to know how to read a map and the scientific method? It reminds me of the ‘give a man a fish’ analogy.

Give a person a book and he may learn what it contains. Give a person wonder and he will read a thousand books.

The effect of novel ideas.

Novelty is something that is hard to pin down, something that is not always easy to create or find. It can be artistic or it can be quirky sometimes both. It can create a great achievement like Minecraft or it can help you view the world in a way that had never previously occurred to you.

The issue I have is that there is a relentless seeking for the novel. Sometimes this can be a good and brilliant thing. Something original or different but in the ADD click and share culture of the internet it bumps into memes and a relentless search for more like some crazed addiction to cat videos.

I guess my argument really is invalid

Have we become a species that seeks out novelty so much that we ignore more productive or less original things? It’s hard to believe as with in gaming for each original piece is a brown first person shooter. Something that was parodied in an original and provocative way in Spec Ops: The line. Minecraft being a good example I urge those to look at this cracked video below. Hilarious but also makes a very good point.

http://www.cracked.com/video_18573_the-3-hardest-things-to-explain-about-minecraft.htmlWhile it is far from true that things should follow a set pattern or route. It was genius for Skyclad to combine folk and metal. Mayhem’s push for something more extreme and serious than Venom lead to a great albeit controversial form of music. The issue arises in the instant gratification culture of the internet. While I have to admit I enjoy things like adsfmovie. I feel in the long run the effects of this will be more apparent but are we breeding a form of Virtual add in which things must be odd, or flashy, or different even if that simply amounts to yelling potato?

This links into memes as this gives a massive overload of this sort of thing as anybody with a facebook page can probably agree with. I would offer some condolences and cake but frankly that would be a lie. Or was GLADOS wrong and the cake is a spy?
The truth.

A meme is best described by the founder of the meme that is a meme in of itself in the vast battle of the memes such as this meme and the above memes that is the internet. Oh wait I will rephrase.

A meme is like a gene (and rhymes with gene). It needs to spread to stay relevant some memes like those of religions are long lasting and powerful and some are obscure lyrics left in your head or any other idea. A meme is simply information which exists in the brain and propagates most famously though pictures with captions. For a in depth explanation see the book – The Selfish Gene. It is a brilliant read although memes come into the book rather late.

Still I do wonder how long it till that things like this (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/02/blachman-tv-show-features_n_3200768.html) become the norm. Must we have a society where we are always looking for something new and fresh to spout rather than look at something of quality? Portal by Valve created many memes and was a masterpiece of creativity. Is the internet the ‘if you watch TV your brain will drop out’ of the modern world?

Still I am unsure on if this is a good or a bad thing. My concern is rather that we become a culture of a waning attention who can not sit still. Time will tell.

The ego of nations

In a time in which budget cuts to military spending is it right to put money into a project that the forces themselves do not need?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/28/abrams-tank-congress-army_n_3173717.html

Read that first, let it all sink in I will give you a moment. du du du. Right lets begin. I will be looking at this from a defence and technological standpoint rather than a financial view. I will be using this project as a case study and not look towards the UK that has similar issues in priorities. This is done for the purpose of keeping this concise.

Firstly does this tank need updating? The threats that currently face the Abrams M1 to M1A2 tank these days are mostly guerrilla based weapons. Roadside bombs and the ever famous RPG-7. It is evident that even a highly dated tank would prove enough match for a man with a kalashnikov.

Well the RPG-7 hitting anywhere from the back would be pretty much useless due to the use of Chobham armour. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chobham_armour. So you may be asking yourself why if there is no current real threat to the existing tanks an upgrade would be needed? Is there a risk of Hellfire missiles?

I will be contrasting this to the f-22 Raptor and the B2 Spirit. All of these seem to come from a Cold War mentality in which the best is needed. So while sometimes issues arise with the supply of body armour or small arms fire a totally cool tank is on the budget. The B2 stealth bomber had a real purpose and has recently been used to strike some fear into N.Korea.

The f-22 despite it’s problems (http://www.dailytech.com/Lockheed+Given+24M+to+Fix+F22+Onboard+Oxygen+Generator+Airframe+Issues/article23127.htm) is an amazing 6th generation fighter. But what is it’s target? While it can work as a bomber it has no real use unless a war broke out with a powerful nation like China or Russia.

So why is such advancement used? Well firstly I suspect the idea that we need these toys is important in the off chance of a world war. The second world war was a massive change and this caught many nations off guard who were locked into a trench mentality despite the monster that was the Panzer 2 allowing greater mobility in battles.

This to me gives sufficient reason for the technology to exist in order to make these advanced weapons. I would also argue however that the actual creation of them are redundant. The Aurora which may or may not exist as a replacement to the sr-71 Is a good idea from a standpoint of technological advancement. Gearing up for war is costly but it gives great technological advancement. The flying wing ideas of the Nazi’s quickly became the b2 which still today is a useful and powerful weapon however perhaps such money would be better spent on DARPA (http://www.darpa.mil/) who have really pushed advancement far and wide which has had many civilian uses.

So while expensive unneeded weapons exist some illogical moves are made. The UK removing the Harrier was a costly mistake as while the Harrier is a powerful jet it had a great manoeuvrability and flexibility. The ability to Vertical land is something that served the Huey’s in becoming legendary during the Vietnam war.

So while advancements in technology are of great use to us all, and we all seem to be gearing up towards some imaginary war with some benefits why do nations do this?

Simply put I think it is an issue of ego. My dad can beat up your dad. I have the best fighter, tank ect yet the tomahawk and m2 browning are a bigger use. The m2 being a great example of a machine gun yet being a ww2 design. Surely better bullet shooters beat more advanced engines on tanks? The standard m1911 pistol named after it’s year of creation is still standard issue and a brilliant gun but why is one so advanced and one fits into a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” camp? The same stands for Trident. If the British need to Nuke somebody borrow a b-52 from the Americans who have plenty rotting in the desert.
Airplane Graveyard

Still while the threat of a nuclear attack is worth having and I would even go so far as to say Trident may still be a good idea. But this ego is dangerous and has left some big issues.

Auschwitz is accepted to be an evil thing and rightfully so. It did however bring some medical advancements due to the testing done on the Jews. The infamous unit 731 also provided medical advancements. While evil and depraved some ‘good’ was taken from it. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-439776/Doctors-Depravity.html.

So why the tangent? Because we sit on a greater evil than even a nuclear bomb. There was some debate on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki it was even known as the destruction preventer if the idea that destroying a city and even killing children born after the bomb can be such a thing. What could be worse?

Smallpox. An eradicated disease that we are loosing immunity for. Which can still be used as a biological weapon.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1200695/

Unleashing smallpox would be disastrous and more dangerous than a couple of nuclear bombs. The effect of two of these weapons on cities was enough that they were never used again. We saw the evil that the mushroom cloud brought. So why do we not destroy such a thing rather than have Russia and the United states to have such a weapon. If both countries destroyed it it would be gone for good.

Yet we live in a world with it, when the fall of the USSR lead to a black market in nuclear material. http://www.cfr.org/weapons-of-terrorism/loose-nukes/p9549. Enough to build a nuke potentially. http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=506177&page=1

So while technology is important as is advancement. Better ways of advancing need to be found. Developing weapons is something that any nation should not stop doing however there needs to be a cost proportional to the threat. An army is important as is it being well equipped but surely the Americans don’t need tanks which at great cost have a very large diminishing returns? If I was on the front line I’d rather more pooled into Liquid body armour. It would potentially save more lives after all.

http://www.baesystems.com/article/BAES_020435

Still what do you think? Is this irresponsibility a simple beat of the chest or is there a real reason for the f-22 and tank advancements? The T-90 is far cheaper yet serves the Russians well. My own view is that while the Cold War may be over our politicians were raised in its shadow meaning that our politics still act in a cold war state. We all know how many lives that cost on 9/11 when a military system designed to win an air supremacy battle is fooled by a simple hijack.

Can’t we all just get along?

Well this is my first post. I intend to deal with a topic in which I could not hope to cover comprehensibly however I feel this is a great starting point and something that is important for all to consider.

This post is a reply following the comments made by the BNP that the British race must be rebuilt “http://www.bnp.org.uk/news/national/rebuilding-ethnic-british-race” now ignoring the obvious issues that arise through this.

The Marxist who could point out that this is an ideological state apparatus in which those from another ‘Race’ are used as scapegoats. Those with any knowledge of history could point to the issues with the terms ‘British’ ‘British Race’. Of course being a nation in which Saxon, Celt, Gaulish, Scandinavian, Roman, European hands built the nation with each addition allowing a greater wealth for the whole. From the support from the Commonwealth for the British Expeditionary Forces of the world wars or the famous example of the English longbow (Otherwise known as the Welsh longbow). Rather than dealing with the point in such a simple way perhaps it is better to instead look behind the words.

Humans are very good at forming groups, be this cultures or subcultures. An us and them mentality is a force to be reckoned with and this can exist due to religion, music taste, ethnicity, football teams. Or rather these are the lines in which humans are able to draw differences and create a them and an us.

This is of course a very complicated issue so I wish to steer this instead of looking as to why the BNP use race in this example meaning of course to them white. Rather than a ‘native’ whatever that may be. I am given the image of a Gurkha from Nepal fighting for his native land of Britain in the Falklands. Or the differences this must make from a Northern Irish person and an Irish in a historical sense given that the Irish being of course generally white were treated as something below.

Rather I wish to pose a question to the reader as to what this brings for us in the future. If humans are ever to move amongst the stars do we require an outside entity to bring us together? I recall a comedian who I sadly have forgotten the name from saying that the only way all humans would unite is if some aliens came. ‘Go back to where you come from and leave our women alone!’ Still even they would be sentient like us and like all other things we would have a common point. We are after all simply star stuff. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE9dEAx5Sgw

Are we humans so incapable of banding together as a whole that we must pick apart any differences that we could find? In many Sci-fi films there is often a United Earth entity existing which realistically would be the best way forward. Do we require an invasion for that? I think back to the game Mass Effect 3. Does fighting as a united galaxy require the reapers to attack? In a small tangent the soundtrack really is amazing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gMvtWfAFXw

Still there is some hope. If one can dream a dream that a person be judged on the content of character so can others. The BNP are by no means a majority who take advantage  of the fear of the ‘other’. In the UK it is taken as obvious that a woman can be as intelligent as a man even if inequality does still exist. The only way forward is to look to other humans as your neighbors in the biblical sense. It is a sad irony that the Cold War brought us so much technological advancement, to be able to say that we as a species went to our moon in order to beat our chests is beautiful yet fundamentally quite pathetic. Competition is great for us but do we really need these high stakes?

In the end I will pose a simple question. Which may be possible if social advancement continues. I want to be seen as a barbaric bigot by those who come after me because it is then that we have advancement. So in all as simple as the question is and as complicated the question is it is something worth bearing in mind. The answer is currently effecting humanity, it always has and it may always will. Watch this video ‘http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p86BPM1GV8M’ before thinking and answering. It is a reflection of a photo taken by Voyager 1 and very much worth watching.

So I will ask this seemingly simple question. But ponder on how complex the back story is. So regardless of the Politics. Race, Nationality, History, Differences, Hate.

Can’t we all just get along?

P.S A thank you to Rebecca Kime for the motivation to make this blog and this post.