In China all but one of the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee are engineers.—-The Economist, Nov. 19, 2011
I had to watch a video conversation between Bill Gates and Thomas Friedman twice because during the first viewing I focused on their jockeying for the commandant general position. Then, I discovered there are two versions of this conversation, so I had to watch each one of those. At the New York Times website a short video conversation
(6:36) between “the Op-Ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman and Bill
Gates starts out with an ad and then goes to a full-screen close-up of Friedman. The video is introduced by this note: Bill recently read and reviewed “That Used to Be Us,” a new book on how to strengthen America’s economic competitiveness. Bill recently sat down with co-author Thomas Friedman for a probing conversation about the vitally important issues raised by the book.
Gee, don’t you wonder who wrote that copy?
Friedman announces, “We’re here talking about American competitiveness. . . .” Then he acknowledges Gates’ presence, saying, “You’re one of the first people I talked to after I wrote The World is Flat. . . .”
At gatesnotes.com, a longer version of the conversation (16:04) is billed America’s Future: A Conversation with Bill Gates and Thomas Friedman. It opens with Bill saying, “I’m talking today with Tom Friedman. . . about his book That Used to Be Us. ”
Maybe this shows that Gates has more finesse at managing big egos, but he pretty much dominates the conversation, not allowing Friedman to interrupt.
Friedman offers his same stale claim: “We actually had a formula for success. We did get here in a certain way. We’ve gotten away from that formula and we have to get back to it.” And then comes the grotesque gospel: As the world has gotten this hyperconnected. . . average is over. This is followed by typical Friedman boilerplate that education reform is the answer. He fails to supply details on how education can move into that Lake Wobegon territory where all the children are above average.
Bill Gates’s big claim may surprise some of the ed reform doomsayers: There is more innovation taking place in this country still than in the rest of the world put together.
Neither man responded to the other’s big claim and then Gates changed the subject with:
You mentioned in your book the idea of a Third Party
candidate. If I was going to pick a third party candidate,
or more ideal, such a candidate would emerge, I’d
want a “more technocratic person,” not for or against
things. . . I think the big thing that’s missing is a
technocratic understanding of the facts. . . not put
to acid test of party loyalty. . . .”
The debate would improve to have that numeric
person in the debate and then the newspapers
would be saying, “Yes, he’s mathematically correct”
and the public is going “WOW!” . . . Any place you
can get technocratic logic into reality–into the
discussion–how we do that, moving forward, for
health care, education. . . .
Gates added that in education:
[O]ur Foundation is technocratically trying to help
experimentations with personnel systems. . . .I wake
up every day saying this technocratic element is
missing. . . I feel good about the work because of that. . . .
Across America, hundreds of thousands of teachers wake up every day in terror because of Gates’ love of technocracy. Hundreds of thousands of teachers and millions of children.
Putting aside Gates’s disingenuous assertion that newspapers would record the words of a Third Party candidate with an affection for arithmetic and then the public would go “WOW!”, consider that Al Smith, New York governor and Democratic U. S. presidential candidate in 1928 answered these claims about technocracy:
As for substituting engineers for political leaders in
running the country, I cannot refrain from mentioning
the fact that we have just finished an era of
government by engineers in Washington, and that the
people didn’t seem to like it. (Daily Mail, 6/6/1933)
Smith was referring to former engineer and President Herbert Hoover, who flunked all the Stanford entrance exams except mathematics.
In Doctor, Your Patient Will See You Now, Steven Z. Kussin, M. D. points out that “Different doctors use vastly different mutually incompatible data bases to guide their recommendations. . . Most physician databases. . . have been shown to contain biases, conflicts of interest, fraud, and outdated wisdom.”
For ongoing examples of scientific fraud, subscribe to Retraction Watch. They are relentless as well as informative.
Carl Bialik, The Numbers Guy columnist at the Wall Street Journal, warns readers, Don’t Let Math Pull the Wool Over Your Eyes . Bialik laments that “many people, including holders of graduate degrees, professional researchers and even editors of scientific journals, can be too easily impressed by math.”
Thomas Friedman, of course, is too easily impressed by math and too overwhelmed by money. Putty in Bill Gates’s hands. But the rest of us should be savvy enough to demand a Third Party candidate who shows a high degree of empathy for people in less fortunate circumstances, whose blood runs with the milk of human kindness and the passion for social justice, a candidate who would fight for a real Global Warming policy and who wouldn’t dream of establishing a Kill List.