By David Anderson
Wednesday is Waste Watch in Washington. The latest and greatest in technological advancement is a computer able to “perform a task without supervision” and to “learn from its own mistakes.”
A computer can do that, writes John Markoff in the “New York Times” December 28, 2013.
Imagine the possibilities.
A write-in computer candidate with this winning platform if it weren’t for the fact that to run the operating program at the speed of a human brain “would require a flow of electricity in a conventional computer that is equivalent to what is needed to power both San Francisco and New York.”
For now “the supercomputer is running at 10 percent – roughly 10 billion neurons — or about 1,500 times more slowly than an actual brain.”
Even so the network can, by scanning a database of 10 million images, “train itself to recognize cats.”
So that’s progress.
On a par with an in-process-of-development computer that thanks to its “biological designs (with) algorithms ever changing allowing the system to continuously adapt and work around failures to complete tasks,” day three’s schedule in the Washington State Legislature (Wednesday, Jan.15), portends progress likewise headline-worthy:
A work session will convene, comprised of the entire House Full Committee to “overview programs to manage waste in Washington.”
It’s about time.
Especially since this month last year Mike Baker of the “Seattle Times” revealed that state legislators bought iPhones, picture frames, artwork to decorate their offices and Bose headphones and billed it all to the public including thousands of dollars for dry cleaning.
But that was then and this is now.
Now, not only able to distinguish cats from rats but with butcher-like fervor to slice meat from fat, legislators – no longer foolishly frivolous with funds but penny wise, and pound wise too – have called for a special session just to deal with the whole matter of willful waste making for woeful want.
Think of the possibilities.
Every ‘i’ shall be dotted by WSDOT and every ‘t’ crossed in transportation to ensure no more new State ferries are purchased at $50 million more than is necessary.
The Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) pontoon design error that “is consuming much of the SR 520 program’s risk reserves . . . expected to require approximately $170 million in additional funding,” will give serious pause to those wanting to see major transportation reforms – including far more accountability and transparency on the part of WSDOT.
So much will waste in Washington no longer wreak havoc on waterways or highways that even Amtrak itself, the “money-sucking, bloated, inefficient, national rail system that loses bucket loads of money every day,” will not only have its funding pulled to instead allow for I-5 improvements, but Amtrak will not even think about “cooking the books to cover up food service losses that now approach $1 billion.”
Unfortunately, the work session to deal with waste? The one scheduled for January 15, 1:30 P.M. of the House Full Committee in House Hearing Room C, John L. O’Brien Building?
Turns out it’s about consuming less of the environment and not – with some exceptions elsewhere in the legislature – consuming less by the House of Lords-like Parliament.
So for the foreseeable future the government will continue to need supervision while it learns – hopefully – from its mistakes.
Otherwise, as Archibald MacLeish, poet, once said, “There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience.”
Even computers – at the equivalent of 10 percent human brain capacity – can now do better than that.