The Second Half of the Chessboard


Ray Kurzweil uses the story of the person who invented chess to illustrate the onrush of the future into our lives. McChesney/Nichols quote him and the story in People Get Ready.

In the sixth century in India, an inventor presented the game of chess to the local emperor. The emperor was so impressed that he promised the inventor any reward he wanted.

The inventor asked for grains of rice to be granted in the following way: one grain on the the first of the 64 squares of the chessboard on the first day, 2 grains on the 2nd day and square, 4 grains on the 3rd, and so on, doubling the amount each day and succeeding square.

“By the time one got to the sixty-fourth square, the number of grains would be eighteen quintillion, vastly more rice than has ever been produced in history.” (Nichols/McChesney, p.89)

Moore’s Law proposed in 1965 is that computer power doubles every eighteen months. In this story, McChesney and Nichols propose that we are now entering the second half of the chessboard. In the story when the emperor theoretically got that far, the total was “four billion grains, about one large field’s quantity.”

The automation of jobs feared in the sixties is happening now.

We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

systems engineer Roy Amara (quoted in People Get Ready)


At the end of 2014, “former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers stated that he no longer believed that the automation process would create new jobs to replace the ones it was eliminating. ‘This isn’t some hypothetical future possibility,’ he said.’This is something that’s emerging before us right now.’”

You get the picture. It’s something to think about.

What if the cost of machines that think is  people who don’t?

historian George Dyson, quoted in People Get Ready

Weighing Obama’s Economic Legacy–With a Thumb on the Scale — FAIR

I love these articles that analyze new coverage. This one is once again about something in the  NYT. Bookmarked to read.

‘It’s Remarkable How Little Real News Comes From Saudi Arabia’ — FAIR


‘Brazil Is One of the Most Unequal Countries in the World’ — FAIR

These are transcripts of this weeks CounterSpin podcast. Excellent and informative stuff.

Vox’s Puff Piece on Goldman Sachs Doesn’t Reveal Goldman Sponsors Vox — FAIR

This is the second weird thing I have seen recently in connection with Vox. I am growing skeptical about this source.

Woolly Wolf Spotted in Nepal Is Likely a New Species

This is not breaking news according to the article, but I think this sort of thing is fascinating.

Les Waas, Adman, Dies at 94; Gave Mister Softee a Soundtrack – The New York Times

The Retreat From Voting Rights – The New York Times

This stuff makes me crazy. Judging from the comments not everyone things the universal franchise is important to a functioning democracy. I think it is.

 This is an interesting development. China is in a position to help North Korea not go bat shit crazy. And of course everyone hates the USA.

Robert Reich

this is his blog. I check it once in a while.



i’m good with that


Only one more Wednesday choir rehearsal this season. People are dropping off like flies. Some of this is the early Easter season this year. But it’s hard not to speculate on changing patterns of people’s behavior. I notice that my small group of singers are very active in the local community as musical resources. My soprano who also plays viola has been hired away from us for Pentecost by the local mega church for an orchestra production that day. She feels torn between remaining loyal and singing at her church which she dearly loves and making $150 for a gig. I am very sympathetic because my choir members do not tend to be rich people at Grace. They are highly self actualized and tend to get involved in stuff from a personal motivation. I like and encourage that. And when one of my sopranos can earn badly needed funds I try to downplay her guilt and encourage to do what she has to do.

In the meantime I strategize to come up with stuff to keep the people who show up and myself motivated. This has worked pretty well this past spring choral season. We are down to preparing three anthems for our last three Sundays. This Sunday’s anthem is a rousing setting of the African American Spiritual, “I know the Lord’s laid his hands on me.”

Next week at our last rehearsal we will have our hands full continuing to learn a slightly challenging recently composed anthem in the Anglican style (“O Love! O Life!” by Stephan Casurella). After last night’s rehearsal several singers were surprised that this little baby was falling together, surprised and experiencing a sense of personal satisfaction. Desired effect achieved.

As we come down to the last rehearsals, I shorten them at will. The goal is to make it as high a quality experience of singing as possible. This seems to be working well this year.

For myself, I have written a little postlude for our last Sunday using violin, cello, and piano. In addition, I have gotten inspired to transcribe’s Doris Akers own vocal licks that she improvises over her song being sung by a male quartet. I think it would be cool to have my sopranos (Probably doubled on the violin) sing these licks on Pentecost on our annual rendition of “It’s a Sweet Sweet Spirit.”

I’m about half way through transcribing them. Eileen wondered last night if they would work at the tempo we sing the song. We sing it a bit faster than the Akers rendition above, but I also add a much more intense driving Gospel feeling with gospel piano licks. I told Eileen I think the Akers vocal parts will work with this style and at the tempo we do the song.

All this keeps me connected at at time when the situation is fraught with discouraging aspects of absences and inattention.

Yesterday, Rhonda was wondering out loud  if it made sense to perform Arvo Pärt’s  Mein Weg hat Gipfel und Wellentäler for American audiences.

I pointed out that I have done this piece at church and since not many people seem to pay attention to my playing, I chose to do so in this kind of environment.

This “kind of environment” compels people like me to do stuff they love because they love it, not for recognition or even tons of money. I’m good with that.