Upgrading


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I’ve just upgraded my desktop computer system. I’ve replaced the CPU, motherboard, RAM, power supply unit, and disk drive. In fact what I’ve really done is build a new computer in the existing case, keeping only my keyboard, mouse and monitor.

I’ve not had any problems, apart from the fact that the pesky little screws that hold things together seem smaller and more fiddly than I remember, but that may just be my ageing fingers.

English: Sony NEWS UNIX workstation. Left view...
English: Sony NEWS UNIX workstation. Left view with the top open. The top is held by 6 screws, 2 on the back and 2 on each side. On the left side we can see the only cooling fan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Incidentally I replaced the existing hard disk drive with a solid state drive or SSD. This is neither disk shaped nor does it have any moving parts, so its name is a bit misleading.

I’d had the previous computer for several years, so why did I replace it? Well, it was getting a little slow and some things ran very slowly on it. When I did a backup it would slow almost to a crawl. Its slowness was my fault really as I was trying to run far too much stuff on it. If I merely browsed the Internet and received and sent mail, and got rid of all the other baggage that I had acquired, it would probably have sufficed.

A modest junk box
A modest junk box (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But where’s the fun in that! Having been system administrator in the past, I see interesting things coming through, like programs that simulate the running of an Android phone, so that you can write and test them on your desktop,. Wow! Now all I need is an idea for a killer app that can make me buckets of money.

So that went on the desktop, and I tried it out and lo! It worked fine. Then I moved on to something else and the killer app never got written. That seems to be the way that it goes with me – I see something cool, install it, and get it working, but once I get a handle on how it behaves, I lose interest.

English: Wikipedia Android app
English: Wikipedia Android app (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have nothing but admiration for people who have an idea, who then program it up, put it out there for people to try, and then deal with the inevitable bug reports and requests for enhancements and changes. Sometimes they modify and support the programs that they write for decades. Of course if they get bored with the whole thing, they can walk away from their baby and either the program becomes “abandonware” or someone else takes up the baton.

I can program though. I’ve written and supported programs and scripts which I’ve written for my job as systems administrator, and even at home I’ve written backup scripts and programs which are useful and, for the moment, complete, but I’ve got dozens of others which I started but did not complete for some reason or other.


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As an example, this blog uses WordPress as a platform. WordPress comes in two forms. There is the usual WordPress service, referred to as “WordPress.com” and there is “WordPress.org“.

The “dot org” version is an Open Source project with hundreds of volunteers writing code, packaging and otherwise making WordPress available to anyone wants to download it and use it on the computers that they operate and use.

Screenshot of WordPress interface (wordpress i...
Screenshot of WordPress interface (wordpress is under the GPL) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, many people don’t want to do download and run it themselves, either because they don’t have that sort of access to the computers that they use, or they are not technically competent enough, so the “dot com” version of the program is provided for people who simply want to use WordPress and not maintain it.

I set up this blog on WordPress.com initially, but wondered if it would be a good idea to run the WordPress.org version instead. So I downloaded it and installed it, and bingo! A clone of WordPress.com. Which was OK, but then I was faced with the need to find somewhere visible to host it – it’s no good having a blog if people can’t see it!

Multiple racks of servers
Multiple racks of servers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the end I decided to stay with WordPress.com as I didn’t need anything different from that version, and using WordPress.com avoid the hosting hassles. For a simple blog, without any esoteric bells and whistles, it is ideal. It can also be used for more complex situations, provided they don’t need changes to the core code.

Incidentally I started out with a Drupal site. I love Drupal and still have a Drupal site on my computer, which I tinker with occasionally. It’s a much more complex beast than WordPress (though WordPress is very flexible and extendable), but in the end, I don’t need the complexities at this time, so I moved to WordPress. One is not better than the other, they are just different.

drupal icon, svg version
drupal icon, svg version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, I’ve tried many other content management or blogging tools and frameworks. A framework can be thought of as a “do it yourself” type of website building tool, a few steps up from writing HTML, and several steps below a complete content management or blogging system.

All the discarded and forgotten stuff on my computer was obviously slowing it down, but arguably more importantly, technology has moved on. The old CPU had a single core, whereas the new one has ten! Two gigabytes of memory was proving restrictive. The disks were old and slow.

English: A portion of a DECsystem-1090 showing...
English: A portion of a DECsystem-1090 showing the KL10 CPU and MH10 memory cabinets. Suomi: Osa DECsystem-1090-tietokonetta. Kuvassa koneen KL10-pääyksikkö (kolme ensimmäistä kabinettia?) ja useita MH10-muistikabinetteja. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the upgrade happened and I’m very pleased with it. The CPU (currently) barely breaks into a canter. The RAM is extensive, and I’m sure there are bits that haven’t been touched! Above all the new SSD is fast and my browser opens in a snap. No doubt I’ll think of things to eventually slow it down, but for the moment it is great. All the crud is gone, but I still have it backed up. Once a sysadmin always a sysadmin – always take backups of your backups and never throw anything away!

Just About There
Just About There (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Above all it is quiet! There is no disk noise, and the CPU fan is also quiet. I was telling my daughter how quiet it was and sure enough we couldn’t hear it running. OK, there was a bit of ambient noise from the grand-rats and the dog, but it was quiet. It wasn’t until they had gone that I discovered that it was actually switched off! But it really is that quiet.

English: It's not normally this quiet.
English: It’s not normally this quiet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Olympic Spectacle

English: The Olympic Flag flying in Victoria, ...
English: The Olympic Flag flying in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, outside the provincial legislature of British Columbia, in recognition of Vancouver’s hosting of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Olympics of course roll around every four years. I’m not particularly a sports fan, and in fact I don’t think that I’ve watched any of it this time, except for the excerpts on the evening news show. That doesn’t stop me feeling pleased whenever one of my countrymen wins a medal.

But much of the Olympics is not about the sport. Much of it is to do with how the host nation is coping with the huge sporting event, and this time the host nation, Brazil, has come under fire for a number of reasons. Obviously big spending on sport in a poor country is not a good look, and if things go wrong with the accommodation or the actual venues, then it looks even worse.


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Unfortunately it’s the nature of the beast for things to go wrong. There is a high need for accommodation, for athletes and officials and this pretty much has to be flung up in a hurry given the short time frames. Hence athletes arrive to find unfinished quarters and other such issues.

The same is true of the venues. In a country like Brazil where there isn’t a lot of money to spare, things like water pollution are a fact of life, and a rushed clean up is not going to fix that. Even in this country harbours and marinas can sometimes be less that perfectly clean. Such is life, in spite of strenuous efforts to clean things up.


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I believe it to be true that many of these sports venues may become white elephants after the games, especially those for the minor sports. It is unlikely that there will be the level of usage from local athletes after the Games that would permit them to be kept open. The accommodation areas may fare better in this respect as there is always a demand for accommodation. I believe that this is true for all past Olympic host nations, at least to some extent.

The Olympic Games do draw people to the host country, to spend money on tickets and accommodation, not to mention the myriad of trinkets and souvenirs that they will no doubt purchase. It’s questionable however whether or not the host country is going to profit in either the short term or the longer term from the Games. Of course they hope that people will enjoy themselves and maybe return to spend more money.


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News crews having been going out in Rio and asking the locals their opinions on the Games, and naturally, they are not very positive about them. If you are living in sub-standard accommodation and you see millions being spent on short term accommodation for visitors who will only occupy them for a few weeks, you would likely not be positive either. The locals’ opinions on the news crews who ask silly questions is not, however, recorded.

Most nations have one or two representatives. When a really small nation gets a medal of any colour, the world’s press tend to descend on the winner and breathlessly ask the same old questions. “How does it feel to win a medal?” and “How will the folks back home be feeling right now?”. Of course the athletes are ecstatic and the folks back home will be proud too. Such cookie cutter question and answer session are so predictable that they become amusing.

Medal presentation at the 1936 Berlin Olympic ...
Medal presentation at the 1936 Berlin Olympic games, Sivano Abba-Italy (3rd place) Gotthard Handrick-Germany (1st place) Charles Leonard-USA (2nd place) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, that not a comment on the amazing achievements of the athletes from small nations who win medals, some of whom will have scrimped and saved to attend the games and may not have had the opportunity to be coached by the best coaches, but it’s a comment on the predictability of the media’s responses.

Nations always have high hopes for their athletes, and are unreasonably disappointed when they come up against the best in the world and don’t do too well. Of course the athletes from a small nation don’t have the resources and coaches that the larger nations do, and so when an athlete from a small nation claims a medal, it is a significant event, not that this diminishes in any way the achievements of the athletes from the larger nations.


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There are many unique features of the Rio Olympic Games. One of them is the presence of athletes who are competing as refugees. They have (so far) obtained two medals, a gold and a bronze in shooting. These athletes (there are 10 of them) have undergone great hardships, often travelling long distances through multiple countries, and to nevertheless be able to take part in the Olympic Games and even win some medals shows a great deal of fortitude.

Another is the perceived risk from the Zika virus. It’s commendable that so many athletes have ignored the risk and come to Rio anyway. The only group that stayed away purportedly for this reason were some of the golfers. As the linked articles suggest there may have been other reasons for their absence.


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Brazil is not known as a particularly safe country to be in, though it isn’t thought to be as dangerous as many countries can be. However, there does not seem to have been much in the way of trouble between the local population and the athletes, support staff and spectators who have come to Rio.

One notable exception was the case of four American competitors who were supposedly robbed at gunpoint while celebrating a medal win. As it turned out, what really happened was that the four were drunk and trashed a service station. The station’s security guard pulled a gun to prevent them driving off and made them pay US$50 to cover the damage that they had done.


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Scandals are part of the Olympics, and the drugs scandal has been the worst so far. At one stage it looked as if the whole Russian team was going to be banned, as it was alleged that there was a government led doping programme in place.

While it was evident that some athletes do take performance enhancing drugs, the fact that in Russia this was actively encouraged by the state was a shock. In the end Russian athletes who could prove that they were clean were allowed to compete. While this is good for the athletes themselves, it was a let off for the Russian state doping scheme. This is not a good look for sport and unfair to other athletes.


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More on Quantum things

English: Schrödinger equation of quantum mecha...
English: Schrödinger equation of quantum mechanics (1927). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Schrodinger’s wave equation describes how the quantum state of a quantum system changes with time. Everett’s insight was that the observer of a quantum state was as much part of the system as the observed part of the system. Therefore they were “entangled” in the quantum sense and would be covered by a single quantum state equation.

If the observer and the observed are thus entangled, then so must be an observer who observes the quantum state of the observer and the observed. One can then extend this to the whole universe, which leads to the concept of a wave equation or function which describes the whole Universe.

English: Quantum mechanics travelling wavefunc...
English: Quantum mechanics travelling wavefunctions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That there is an equation for the universe is not really surprising and indeed, it is not surprising that it could be a quantum wave equation as the quantum world seems to form the basis of the physical, apparently classically described, world that we see.

I base this idea on the fact that everything that we sees appears to be describable in terms of a deterministic equation. It has been argued that such things as “psi phenomena“, but such claims are yet to be conclusively verified, with many putative examples having been discredited.


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Some people argue for a soul or mind as an example of a non-physical entity, but any such concept leaves a lot of questions to be asked. A non-physical entity cannot, by definition almost, be measured in any way, and there is difficulty in showing how such a non-physical entity can interact with physical ones, and therefore be noticed or detected.

By definition almost, a physical entity, such a body, is only influenced by physical things. If this were not the case we would see physical entities not following the laws of physics. For example, if it is possible to move an object by mind power or telekinesis, one would see the object disobeying fundamental scientific laws, like Newton’s First Law of Motion.

English: Isaac Newton Dansk: Sir Isaac Newton ...
English: Isaac Newton Dansk: Sir Isaac Newton Français : Newton (1642-1727) Bahasa Indonesia: Issac Newton saat berusia 46 tahun pada lukisan karya Godfrey Kneller tahun 1689 Lietuvių: Seras Izaokas Niutonas 1689-aisiais Македонски: Сер Исак Њутн на возраст од 46 години (1689) Nederlands: Newton geboren 4 januari 1643 Türkçe: Sir Isaac Newton. (ö. 20 Mart 1727) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The mind is a curious example of a physical entity which is often thought of as being non-physical. After all, a mind does not have a physical location, apart from the skull of the person whose mind it is, and it can’t be weighed as such.

The mind however is a pattern, on the brain, made up of the state of trillions of neurones. It is made up of information, and is much like a computer program which is made up of the state of a few billion physical logic circuits in the guts of the computer.

Vista de la Motherboard
Vista de la Motherboard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Open a computer and you won’t see “an image” anywhere. You will see patterns of bits of data in the memory, or on the hard disk, or maybe in transit, being sent to a computer screen. Similarly if you open someone’s skull you will not see an image there either. Just a bunch of neurones in particular states.

The one glaring exception to all the above, is, perhaps, consciousness. It’s hard to describe consciousness in terms of a pattern or patterns of the states of our neurones, but I believe that that is fundamentally what it is.

Schéma d'un neurone , commenté en francais
Schéma d’un neurone , commenté en francais (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people argue that we are conscious beings, (true), and that we consciously make choices (false, in my opinion). When we look closely at any choice that we make, it appears to be that choice is in fact illusory, and that our actions are determined by prior factors.

People seem to realise this, although they don’t acknowledge it. When questioned, there is always some reason that they “choose” in a particular way. Perhaps they don’t have enough cash to choose the luxury option when out shopping, or their desire outweighs their financial state. When pushed people can always think of a reason.

English: A choice of which way to go The choic...
English: A choice of which way to go The choices are a path to Greengore or Intack or the Old Clitheroe Road (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To be sure, many “reasons” are actually post choice rationalisations, and choices may be based more on emotions than valid rational reasons, but whatever the emotions (such as the desire for an object), the emotions precede decision.

If, as sometimes happens, a person has to make a choice between two alternatives, that person can be almost paralysed with indecision. Even then, when a decision is finally made, it can be either a random choice, or maybe the person may say that they made a particular choice because they had decided a different way in another situation, or similar (e.g. they like the colour blue!).

English: Choose your leaders and place your trust
English: Choose your leaders and place your trust (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If there is no non-physical component to the Universe, as appears very likely, and psi phenomenon do not exist, then everything has a cause. I don’t mean this in the sense that event A causes event B which causes C, but more in the sense that the slope that a marble is on causes it to move in a particular direction.

Causality seems to be a continuum thing, rather than the discrete A causes B case. We can only get an approximation of the discrete case if we exclude all other options. There is a latin term for this : ceteris paribus – all other things being kept the same. “Ceteris paribus” would exclude the case where a wind blowing up or across the slope changes the path of the marble.

English: Picture of marbles from my collection
English: Picture of marbles from my collection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For this reason I dislike the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Physics, as it is usually stated. The usual metaphor is a splitting movie film, which results in two distinct tracks in the future. I feel that a better picture would be a marble on a slope with a saddle.

The marble may go left, or it may go right, or it may even follow the line of the saddle. We still require “ceteris paribus” to exclude crosswinds, but there is no split as such. In a quantum model, the marble goes both left and right (and traverses the peak of the saddle with vanishing probability).

Monkey saddle
Monkey saddle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The probability that it goes left or right is determined by the wave equation for the system, and has a real physical meaning, which it doesn’t (so far as my knowledge goes) in the splitting metaphor.

I don’t know how my speculations stack up against the realities of quantum mechanics, but I like my interpretation, purely on aesthetic grounds, even if it is far from the mark!


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Many worlds or only one?

English: Position and momentum of a particle p...
English: Position and momentum of a particle presented in the phase space. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scientists often use the concept of a “phase space“, which is basically a representation of all the possible states that a system may be in. For the trajectory of a thrown stone for instance, the phase space would be a four-dimensional space, comprising the three dimensions of space, which define where the stone is, and one of time, which defines when the stone is in a particular position.

The trajectory of the stone is a line in this 4-d space, as the location and time information about the stone is known exactly. However, the stone is not a point and maybe be spinning at the same time that the whole object is flying through the air. This means that the trajectory would actually be a complex four-dimensional worm in phase space.

An animated GIF of a tesseract
An animated GIF of a tesseract (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What if we were to introduce a probability factor into the experiment? Maybe we would set up the projectile to be triggered by an atomic decay or something similar. We would get a different worm depending on how long the atom takes to decay.

Clearly, if we want to show the all of the possible versions of the worm, the worm now becomes a sort of 4 dimensional sheet. Well, more like a 4-d duvet really, as the stone is not a point object.

Bedding comforter or duvet. Français : Couette...
Bedding comforter or duvet. Français : Couette (literie). Deutsch: Daunendecke, umgangssprachlich Federbett. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Within the 4-d duvet, each worm represents a case where the atom has decayed, and each of these cases has a probability associated with it. The probability can be expressed as the probability that the atom has decayed by that time or not, and can run from one to zero.

Actually the probability starts from zero and approaches one but doesn’t quite reach it. In practise in a group of atoms some will decay quickly and others will take longer. If there are a finite number of them, then the chances of any one lasting a long, long time are quite small, and all of the atoms are likely to decay in a moderately short time, a few multiples of the half-life anyway. However there will be a finite but microscopic in the extreme possibility, that an atom will survive for as long as you may consider.


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We can add another dimension to the phase space, one of probability. This gives us a five dimensional phase space, and the duvet becomes five dimensional. However, an atom decays at a certain time, and there is a single five dimensional worm in the phase space going forward. The space is no longer a phase space though, as a phase space, by definition, describes all possible states of the rock/launcher/atomic trigger, and doesn’t change.

According to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics the state of a quantum system is described by a set of probabilities. When a measurement of the system is made the state becomes certain, and it is said that the waveform described by the probability function has “collapsed”.

Copenhagen
Copenhagen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The famous thought experiment of Schrodinger’s Cat is a description of the difficulties of such a case. The cat is enclosed in a box equipped with a mechanism which will release a poison and kill the cat if triggered by the decay of an atom. At some time after the experiment starts the atom may or may not have decayed so the quantum states “decayed” and “not decayed” are superimposed, and therefore so are the states “dead” and “not dead” of the cat.

How do we know if the stone has been fired yet? Well, we go and look to see, and we either see the stone in its launcher or we don’t. Quantum physics says that the stone exists in a superposition of states – launcher and not launched. The question this raises is, if this is so, how does looking at the stone “collapse” the superposition when we look?

Three wavefunction solutions to the Time-Depen...
Three wavefunction solutions to the Time-Dependent Schrödinger equation for a harmonic oscillator. Left: The real part (blue) and imaginary part (red) of the wavefunction. Right: The probability of finding the particle at a certain position. The top two rows are the lowest two energy eigenstates, and the bottom is the superposition state \psi_N = (\psi_0+\psi_1)/\sqrt{2} , which is not an energy eigenstate. The right column illustrates why energy eigenstates are also called “stationary states”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That quantum superposition is real is indicated by any number of experiments, even though many physicists working in the field (including Schrodinger himself) have expressed discomfort at the idea.

In quantum physics the evolution of everything is defined by the Universal Wave Function. This can be used to predict the future of any quantum physical system (and all physical systems are fundamentally quantum physical systems). Unfortunately for easy understanding, interpretation leads to the superposition problem mentioned above.

Many people have tried to resolve this issue, and the best success has been achieved by the exponents of the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI), as described by Everett and championed by Bryce DeWitt and David Deutsch. The view of the MWI exponents is that the Universal Wave Function is fundamental and expresses a true picture of all reality. All of it, that is. Not just a physical system and its observer.

Everett’s view, as described in his thesis, is that an observer, as well as the object that he is observing is a subsystem of the system described by the Universal Wave Function. The wave function of these two subsystems does not describe a single state for each of these subsystems, but the states of the two subsystems are superposed, or in Everett’s term, correlated.

en:Many-worlds interpretation
en:Many-worlds interpretation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When a particle is observed it may appear to be in state A 70% of the time (correlated with a state A for the observer). Similarly it may appear to be in state B 30% of the time (correlated with a state B for the observer). This led Everett to postulate a ‘split’ of the universe into a state A and a state B.  (The term ‘split’ appears to come from DeWitt’s interpretation of Everett’s work).

The probabilities don’t seem to have a function in this model, and this is odd. The probability that the cat is dead when you open the depends on how long you wait until you open the box. If you wait a long time the cat will more likely be dead than if you opened it earlier.

English: Diagram of Schrodinger's cat theory. ...
English: Diagram of Schrodinger’s cat theory. Roughly based on Image:Schroedingerscat3.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This means that the world splits when the cat is put in the box, as from any moment it can be alive or dead, but you do not find out which branch you are in until you open the box sometime later.

I’m ambivalent about the MWI. On the one hand it is a good explanation of what happens when a measurement is made or the cat’s box is opened, and it does away with the need for a waveform collapse, which Everett argued against in his paper. However it is profligate in terms of world creation.

English: Schrödinger's Cat, many worlds interp...
English: Schrödinger’s Cat, many worlds interpretation, with universe branching (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another issue is that the split is decidedly binary. The cat is alive in this world and dead in that one. However most other physical processes are, at the macro level anyway, continuous. When a scientist takes a measurement he writes down, for example, 2.5, but this is only inaccurate value as it is impossible to measure something exactly and it may be wrong by up to 0.05 on either side of 2.5 (given the one decimal point value shown).

Consequently, I’d prefer an interpretation where there is no split, but instead a continuum of possibilities as part of a single world. Maybe the single path that we tread through life is an illusion and across the Universe, by virtue of the Universal Wave Function, we experience all possibilities, though to us it feels like we are only experiencing the one.


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What comes next?

Second round of the French presidential electi...
Second round of the French presidential election of 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Democracy is the system of government favour by most enlightened countries. It’s a simple system, where all citizens can partake in making decisions about the state’s affairs. It sounds fair, doesn’t it? However, many people can’t be bothered to actually take part – often fewer than half the eligible voters actually bother to vote.

This is good in one sense and bad in another. It’s good because it shows that the government is pretty much doing what the voters want, otherwise they would be up in arms, and it is bad because it devolves the running of the country to a few motivated individuals, who naturally favour their own views on what is good for the country.

Southern Sudanese wait in line to vote at poll...
Southern Sudanese wait in line to vote at polling center in Al Gezira state in northern Sudan on January 10, 2011. Mirella McCracken/USAID. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If we look at our fellow citizens, we see people like us. We see people with the same point of view as us. We see people with opposite points of view. We see a fair number of weirdos and nutters. We see people who are intelligent, we see people who can only be called dumb.

All these people have the same ability to decide who runs the country as we do. Democracy averages out the abilities and views of the voting population, and once again this is good and bad. It is good because everyone has an input in the running of the country and bad because any decision is dumbed down to the average voter who has average intelligence.

The Representative of Humanity, detail of a sc...
The Representative of Humanity, detail of a sculpture in wood by Rudolf Steiner and Edith Maryon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Democracy is nevertheless the best system that we have used so far, at least in the opinion of most of the voters in a democracy! Many other countries aspire to being democratic in the medium term.

Most countries don’t have direct democracy. The citizens can’t all go along to where the government plies its business and have a direct say in what happens. Most democracies are representative democracies, where the people in a geographic area select one of their number to go along and make the decisions on their behalf. Such selections happen on a regular basis, so that voters can review their selection for their representative and change it if necessary.

Pictured here is former Chinese Chairman Mao Z...
Pictured here is former Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong announcing the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1 1949. Italiano: Immagine di Mao Tse-tung che proclama la nascita della Repubblica Popolare Cinese l’1 ottobre 1949 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In recent years this country has moved further away from direct democracy and a new type of representative helps govern the country. This new type is selected not by the people themselves but by a political party. Voters have to vote for one party or another to affect the selection of these party representatives, and this removes from the voters the ability to directly select about half the representatives.

So, as we move further and further away from direct democracy, we have to decide if this is ultimately good or bad, and whether or not we need to replace democracy with some other system of governing our countries.

English: BANGKOK. President Putin at the final...
English: BANGKOK. President Putin at the final meeting of the heads of state and government of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries. Русский: БАНГКОК. На заключительном заседании глав государств и правительств стран – участниц организации Азиатско-Тихоокеанского экономического сотрудничества. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the past we have tried many other systems. We have tried feudalism, where one person governs a smallish area and has a great deal more rights than the peasants, but that was slowly overturned as power was drained from the rulers and, mostly, given to the peasants.

Feudalism can’t have been all bad, given the times, as it would have been a bad idea for the lord to severely mistreat his serfs, as the serfs did all the work of raising crops and cattle, and if the serfs weren’t able to work, the lord went hungry. The lord also provided protection to the serfs in his domain, should a neighbouring lord fancy what the serfs created.


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The local bigwig may not have been a lord. Religion was strong in those times and the ruler may have been a priest or bishop. The biggest bigwig of all, would be the king (or sometimes the queen). The bigwigs were ranked and only the most powerful got to advise the king – the whole system was basically a pyramid.

Even when the feudal system died out, royalty and the system of titles and rights persisted. Some rights have persisted anachronistically to this day – for instance the right to graze pigs on acorns on common land may still exist, even though the right may not be exercised.

English: Rooting piglets alongside the B3078, ...
English: Rooting piglets alongside the B3078, New Forest These are just five of many piglets that have been occupying the verges of the B3078 as it passes through Brook Wood and up to Long Cross between Ravens Nest Inclosure and Salisbury Trench Inclosure. Pigs are ‘turned out’ onto the open Forest during the pannage season, in order to eat the acorns that would otherwise poison the ponies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many countries do not have democracy, but they do have a ruler or ruling class. This ruler has almost as many rights as a king, but he or she only rules because he or she has the power base to allow him or her to do so. Usually but not always this requires at least the cooperation of the military, and the top dog may well be a member of the military.

All rulers stand the risk of being replaced. Some rulers may still officially rule, but with reduced powers and rights. Queen Elizabeth II is one such ruler, and she may be replaced with some other titular head of state at some stage, perhaps a President. Other rulers may be overturned by force, by revolution, and this is a frequent case where the ruler is heavy-handed and oppressive.

Elizabeth II wearing babushka-type headscarf a...
Elizabeth II wearing babushka-type headscarf at a meeting with Ronald Reagan, 1982. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whatever the political system, even in communist systems where all are supposedly equal, there is a “head of state”. Usually he/she is a powerful individual and the government he/she presides over may be democratic or not. The President of the USA is frequently called the most powerful man (or maybe, soon, woman) on Earth and the USA is nominally democratic.

Our democracies seem to be hierarchical, as do our non-democracies. While democracy seems to work, more or less, in many countries, other countries seem to get along with other systems. Some have heads of state who are called dictators as they rely on power to remain at the top.

Charlie Chaplin from the end of film The Great...
Charlie Chaplin from the end of film The Great Dictator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes a powerful country will force democracy onto such countries, but it doesn’t always work properly. This rises the question as to whether or not democracy is the best system for such countries, and perhaps it isn’t.

Democracy is the best system that we have come up with so far, but all systems eventually change or mutate and are replaced with other systems. Maybe democracy will be looked on in the future as being a quaint system that was only a step or two better than feudalism.

English: Night of August 4th, abolition of feu...
English: Night of August 4th, abolition of feudality and fiscal privileges Français : Nuit du 4 août, abolition des privilèges (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or maybe online systems will enhance democracy so that it becomes an accurate and agreeable way of running countries. I doubt it as most people will not partake in online democracies through lack of interest or motivation. A true democracy requires everyone to take part fully in governing a country.

English: Voters at the voting booths in 1945 C...
English: Voters at the voting booths in 1945 CREDIT: “Voters at the Voting Booths.” ca. 1945. NAACP Collection, The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship, Library of Congress. Americans Observed the First Uniform Election Day Source: LOC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)