(Last) Weekly Roundup: In The Twilight Of Human Precision Edition

The real revolution, it turns out, was in 1774. According to Simon Winchester’s absolutely outstanding book The Perfectionists, that’s when John Wilkinson (briefly) patented a method for boring holes in iron cannon. This, in turn, led to the accurate boring of cylinders for steam engines. In the two hundred years to follow, we became ever more precise as a civilization; Winchester’s book uses LIGO, the facility built to detect gravitational waves, as the apex example. Wikipedia says it can “These can detect a change in the 4 km mirror spacing of less than a ten-thousandth the charge diameter of a proton.” Which is quite precise indeed.

This week, inspired by a section of Winchester’s book, I bought my son an old set of Japanese calibration blocks as a gift for my son. (With one American block in there to make up the set, it turns out; buying cheap on eBay always leads to adventure of one sort or another. In this case, it means having seven Mitsuyos and one Starrett). Think of them as “go/no-go” gauges for measuring devices; if you want to know if your caliper is really reading precisely one inch, you’d have it measure the one-inch block and see what you get. When they were new, the blocks were calibrated to .15 micrometers. That is 1/100th the width of a human hair. I am hoping that these blocks remind my son that precision is a true and valuable thing. Without precision, bridges collapse and airplanes fall out of the sky.

Voluntary, habitual, culture-scale precision is the signature achievement of the Western world, although the Japanese also took to it with extraordinary fervor once they realized its benefits. It is an achievement of engineering rather than of science; that’s hard for many people to understand. And it’s going away, sooner rather than later. What will replace it? You don’t wanna know.

This week, a reader recommended that I peruse and share this essay by scientist and technologist Scott Locklin regarding America’s likely future in a post-precision world. Mr. Locklin is obviously of prodigious intelligence; I say that, naturally, because we are in near-total agreement regarding many aspect of “computer science” and other tech subjects. When it comes to culture, he and I see many of the same things but he has gone full, ah, “black pill” about it:

I would say that the chances of the US becoming “a culture that builds” is about the same as the present day municipality of Venice becoming a powerful trade and naval empire in the Adriatic and Bosphorus. The knowledge is gone. The cultural capital is gone; the society that produced those kinds of productive people hasn’t existed in decades. The physical ability to do this is gone; thanks to the globalization our genius economists told us was inevitable, the US lacks the factories, mines and shipyards required to build things. The human material who would actually do the building is gone: dimwit MBAs destroyed the skilled working classes, atomized their communities, continue to demonize and demoralize them and utterly destroyed the kind of basic low level education and social cohesion required to have a productive workforce….
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Every historical example of a society turning to a productive direction (I dunno, post Revolution France, or Deng era China) involved defanging tin pot Robespierres before anything good happened. Removing statue toppling city burners and their encouragers and enablers as active dangers to the rest of society is table stakes for making a society of builders. The more serious issue is the MBA types who think it’s just fine to ship middle class jobs to the third world, or import new helot worker classes to destroy the bargaining power of local labor because “muh free markets.” These people are sharks, they’re wreckers, and it is they who have weaponized the “woke culture” of the left to prevent the actual left (as opposed to numskulls who think overturning a statue helps anything) from raising their taxes…
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We’ve built our cages out of iphones, twitter, prozac and people obsessed with their feels and the doings of their crotches. You won’t get any more Edisons or Wozzes or Bardeens in America as long as hysterical imbeciles and demonic looters are preeminent and people who actually lower the entropy of the universe, past, present and future, are demonized.
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It’s over; the US has has a remarkable run as a place where regular people could have a nice life, and exceptional people could make exceptional contributions… If you’re still in the US, you live in an evil empire of chaos and destruction, and the best of you are probably serving the worst ends of it. You can cower under your desks with home-made diapers on your faces hoping some member of a productive society invents a vaccine for the Chinese Lung Butter or whatever phantom (and entirely inflicted by our kakistocrat mandarins) terror of the moment afflicts you.

Alright, so where is he wrong? Can you even imagine what would it would be like to start a small or mid-sized business that actually makes things in 2020 America? You’d be the sole lion on a veldt stacked end to end with hyenas, all of them drooling with eagerness to get a few teeth into your flesh. Assuming you could perform the modern-day miracle of creating an environmentally neutral facility, staffed in a way to satisfy every governmental and media mandarin of quotas and ratios — well, at that point you’ve just managed to create a massive target for lawsuits. If you manage to stay in business for more than a year, you’ll be assaulted by a predatory venture capital firm which will strip your company, sell the assets, and put your name on products built in Chabuduo Country.

In short, we’ve managed to unironically duplicate the world described in the pages of Atlas Shrugged, only with the addition of a media which appears to earnestly desire nothing more than the destruction of every city in the United States.

I’d like to disagree with Locklin, but that’s not easy to do. A quick perusal of his site shows that he is a past master at Living In Reality, which of course is my constant and consistent personal goal. He doesn’t work from conjecture or emotion; instead, he tirelessly constructs arguments from the general to the specific, or vice versa, in classical fashion. (His discussion of the difficulties involved in building a functional quantum computer should be read aloud at NASDAQ before the trading day starts, every single day.) There’s no magical statistic or factoid that could derail his arguments about the decline of America, arguments which apply nearly as well to the rest of Western Civ as a whole.

The difficulty here is that nearly any refutation I could make of Lockin’s arguments winds up resolving to Winston Smith’s shriveled belief that “the spirit of Man” will defeat the Party, and that’s not a particularly effective case to make, either in the book or in real life. All I can suggest is that it’s not a permanent state of affairs — which, to be fair, is not part of Locklin’s assertions. Here’s the best I can do, as a set of bullet points:

* Human history is demonstrably cyclical.
* At some point, there will be nothing left of post-WWII American culture upon which to trample.
* This would be the point at which the new culture is triumphant, except the new culture being created today is nothing but Crowley’s “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” combined with enough ethnic nationalism to make a Serb shudder. It’s not a self-sustaining culture. It’s a parasite on a productive culture. So when the host dies, the parasites will also die.
* Which requires the creation of a new culture.
* That culture will be created by people who will view “wrecker” culture with disdain, in much the same way that many Russians of my age and older are suspicious of communism.
* As a natural reaction to the emotional and logic-averse nature of our post-1969 culture, the new culture will likely value things like precision and logic.
* As the Age Of Reason leaned heavily on the lessons of antiquity, the next Age Of Reason will lean heavily on whatever vestiges of traditional Western culture remain available.
* Much of the old knowledge will still be there, in books and tools and other non-perishable materials.
* If people take that knowledge seriously, the culture which results will once again be capable of making airplanes and tall buildings and whatnot.

What worries me about this potential timeline is that there is nothing inevitable about precision. The vast majority of human history happens in entirely precision-free societies. Every once in a while someone would build some really sharp pyramids then we’d all go back to living in mud huts or caves. Many of the goals for humanity openly espoused by today’s thought leaders — unconstrained sexuality, mandatory atheism, a focus on short-term pleasures, a Harrison-Bergeronian approach to total equality of outcome for everyone outside a chosen class of Eloi — do not require precision. In fact, they are somewhat stymied by its existence.

Sometimes I think that the guidebook preferred by our leaders is not 1984 or Brave New World, but rather God Emperor Of Dune. In that book, technological progress has been set back and frozen by murderous decree. The population generally walks everywhere and lives in approximate Bronze Age conditions, aided occasionally by inscrutable technology manufactured under strictly controlled conditions by an entirely separate race of humans. People focus on small moments of present enjoyment. As those of you who have read the book will remember, it was all done for a very specific (and prescient) purpose — and yes, there is a group of rebels who plan on taking the whole system apart.

Will there be a rebellion against the dictatorship of the proletariat fifty or a hundred years from now? Will that rebellion value certainty, exactitude, precision above all else? I don’t know and I won’t live to see it. If, however, those rebels need to do some error-free measuring along the way, I know a guy who has just the tool for the job. Maybe that’s how the real revolution will start once again.

* * *

I’m going to try native WP embedding for Hagerty articles now that the site uses WordPress. If you see two links below, it’s working. If not, let me know.

Ask Jack: It’s got to be special every time!

Review: 2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT (Non-Z51)

50 Replies to “(Last) Weekly Roundup: In The Twilight Of Human Precision Edition”

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Nothing that sinister (or interesting).

      Our site was largely engineered by two third parties and we have had dozens of errors. I can’t say I like it but that’s just how things are done here.

      Reply
  1. Avatarsnorlax

    You’re overthinking it. American/European culture will simply be replaced by Chinese. (This may or may not involve a certain amount of ethnic cleansing).

    Reply
  2. AvatarStephen

    Bought that book and am really enjoying it. Never thought of buying some measuring blocks, now I am going to start searching eBay. Be nice to know how far off my cheap digital caliper is. I have an mba which I acquired in the early eighties. I remember arguing with my professors about how all the short term stuff they were teaching us was a really bad idea. This was from the Micheal Millikan, greed is good era

    Reply
  3. AvatarMike O

    Jack, you hit it out of the park as usual! However, I have to call you out on something, or maybe I should say doing a little quality control for you. The gage blocks are out of calibration and you would be sent to ISO or AS jail if a QMS auditor found them while visiting your house. I do not know how many are in your set but our set contains 34 and the calibration cost is under $170. You could really impress your son with a traceable certification of precision.

    Have a great evening.

    Reply
    • AvatarIAN A HARRISON

      $170 to certify that a metal block sold by a company reputed to make accurate weights, is what they say it is? Then you get a certificate certifying that “wow, those are some nice metal blocks”. Why would you do this?

      Reply
      • AvatarDirty Dingus McGee

        Not sure if you’re serious or trolling, but I’ll bite.

        The reason the blocks need to be checked periodically is to verify the measuring instruments are accurate. These measuring instruments are used to build things like say airplanes. Or the engines that power them. It’s not good when building a wing for that airplane, that Vern flops a tape measure out to layout the mounting holes. With the end result being; “well hell, that should be close enough. If it’s off, we’ll just waller out the hole and it will be fine”.

        While you might not have a problem with that, I suspect most folks would rather hitch hike, than get on that plane.

        If not serious and just trolling, 3/10

        Reply
        • AvatarIAN A HARRISON

          Do the weights actually deteriorate and lose material over time? Are Jack’s eBay set not even close and unusable in a professional environment?

          I’ll accept the 3/10, legitimately curious.

          Reply
          • AvatarNewbie Jeff

            “Do the weights actually deteriorate and lose material over time”

            You seem to be genuinely confused, and so I’ll genuinely explain. Context gets lost over the internet, so if I sound condescending, it’s unintentional.

            The blocks aren’t for calibrating weight, they’re for calibrating measurement… some tools operate within very tight specs, and whatever it is they’re making will only be as accurate as the tool making them. If you are making something to, say, a .0315 mm tolerance, the blocks make sure that the tool is accurate. Have you ever used a torque wrench? If something needed to be torqued to exactly 50.5 ft-lbs, then the torque wrench that reads 50.5 ft-lbs but is actually applying 51 ft-lbs would be off… same thing.

            Jack’s point is that to build anything worthwhile you have to build it well, and anything not built well is probably not worthwhile… whether or not this is a metaphor for our society in general is up to you.

          • AvatarBen Johnson

            If treated properly, the blocks don’t lose material enough to make a difference.

            But Jack’s set can’t be used to in some professional environments because you have to be able to follow the paperwork back to the source. You need that CYA paperwork when the shit hits the fan.

            I do some IT work for a small aerospace manufacturer – the split the difference: have one calibrated set, and work off the non-calibrated set and periodically compare the two. It’s kinda neat – there’s a heavy rock table-top that’s involved – a calibrated surface plate. Special gloves are worn and fussy optics are used – there’s a old vacuum-tube machine that used to optically compare things.

            Weirdly, they do everything in Imperial. First thing they do is convert the metric plans. They way they explained it is that their Imperial-based equipment precision and accuracy is significantly better than the metric specs.

  4. AvatarCharles Altemus IV

    I work the FIRST organization frequently and while it’s not that mainstream yet, there is definitely a push to raise the appeal of science and engineering to the next generation. I am continually impressed with how quickly the kids can learn the design concepts, and begin applying those concepts fluidly to other problems. I welcome the return to domestic space travel, and I think that alone is going to be the inspiration for a large part of the new generation to be interested in science, and to your point, precision. You need quite a lot of precision to land a rocket on a robot barge after controlled atmospheric re-entry.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      The alternatives were too horrifying to consider, and primarily designed to make millionaires out of various consultants.

      Reply
    • Avatarbenjohnson

      WP is horrible – it’s got everything I hate: php, mysql, and reeks of GUN/Linux.

      But given the alternative is usually some sort of bespoke REST/CGI/Django/Web-Beans/Kubernates/Mongo-DB/React/Spring/Tomcat/CONFIG.INI/IIS 6.0/UserTable.XLS kludge made by nice people who don’t know about many-to-one relationships and freak out at the sight of a pointer, I’ll take my WP poison like a man.

      Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        That was about the situation I faced when I had the chance to move Hagerty off SiteCore (!!). All the proposals were along the lines of “We will link the products of six disparate vendors with some third-party spaghetti code, with the inevitable result being the buffing of our resumes and a heroin-like dependence on the original three “project managers” who represented faceless Hyderabad drag-and-droppers.”

        Reply
  5. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    We’ve built our cages out of iphones, twitter, prozac and people obsessed with their feels and the doings of their crotches. You won’t get any more Edisons or Wozzes or Bardeens in America as long as hysterical imbeciles and demonic looters are preeminent and people who actually lower the entropy of the universe, past, present and future, are demonized.

    Between 1965 and 1968 there were more than 150 riots in American cities, followed by political bombings by the Weather Underground that lasted into the late 1970s. That was before Wozniak and Jobs.

    Reply
    • AvatarNewbie Jeff

      Would the destruction of public property by a violent mob be considered a riot? If so, we’ve had like 1000 riots in the past two weeks…

      Reply
      • Avatarstingray65

        Are you referring to what CNN and BBC are calling mostly peaceful protests, and what Obama and George W. are calling signs of a healthy Democracy, or what the Mayor of Seattle is calling the Summer of Love?

        Reply
  6. AvatarNewbie Jeff

    “Removing statue toppling city burners and their encouragers and enablers as active dangers to the rest of society is table stakes for making a society of builders”

    …and boy are we moving in the wrong direction. T. Roosevelt statue outside of the Museum of Natural History the latest to go. That’s all four on Mt Rushmore, ahead of schedule. We’re two election cycles from turning it back into a regular old mountain. Maybe three. Racial justice, ho!!!

    Reply
  7. AvatarKevin Flynn

    This is a topic that is surprisingly within my wheelhouse and to which I can speak at some (abbreviated) length.

    For slightly over a lustrum I was employed by a privately owned US company that manufactured laboratory analytical instrumentation almost entirely in the US in a vertically integrated fashion, and that has done so since pre-WW2. This equipment was in use in a shocking number of BigNameHere corporate and governmental entities’ R&D facilities, processing plants, foundries, refineries, farms, dairies…but also an even more shocking number of small to medium businesses. I serviced and installed it all, across ~10 states (and for less than an OTR truck driver would have made in Year 1 but I digress.). There was enough install/repair/preventative maintenance business there to, even while doing a great deal of education to reduce the need for future visits, keep a few double-handfuls of us busy 5 days a week.

    Pedantic item the first – there is a striking difference between /accuracy/ and /precision/. Consider a target with a bullseye – the shot or arrow grouping tightness is the precision, the location of that grouping is the accuracy. Accuracy can be corrected (and what else are well-crafted calibrations for?) but precision is part of the process or technique and is the real telling point. When lacking it can be extraordinarily fiddly to restore.

    Item the second – both precision and accuracy depend HEAVILY on the application. Absent that situational unit, both concepts flop around uselessly. Aerospace? Sure, we can get 0.05ppm +- 0.01ppm reference standards to come in to +-0.005ppm (if I’ve installed it). Food production, and it just needs to be between 12 and 15% protein? 1.88% to 2.35% nitrogen is a hilariously forgiving range. Talking about 0.01ppm reference standards in the food production world is a waste of time and money for everybody involved; and a ~0.5% variation in, say, hydrogen content in an alloy might well result in something failing very expensively at great speed or height. As with linguistics – tailor requirements to audiences. Most people do not /require/ (or, indeed, cannot manage) mental operations at a high level of either accuracy OR precision. We live in a society of specialists; Heinlein’s ‘Competent Man’ grows ever rarer and is ever more poorly equipped without updates to succeed in a society that HAS continued to industrialize and develop. As such the lack of valuation for these and other useful concepts in the culture at large seems a natural result of increasing specialization resulting in societal common denominators being reduced to bread and circuses.

    Item the third — American manufacturing is FAR from being in the decrepit state that most decry. In just about every small town, hidden behind a few empty acres or a tall series of trees, lurks a bustling industrial park, a plant, a facility of SOME sort, doing good old-fashioned American Things. People wear hard hats, hang up calendars with pretty women and sometimes pretty men, get dirty, swear at the task or one another in a completely egalitarian fashion, three shifts fully employed from high school to the grave, and you would never, NEVER think that such a thing existed from the lofty vantage point of the nearest road only a half mile away.

    Heat treatment shops, mud analysis companies (being run out of a residential house in a Texas town – somewhat surreal to see a pool through the patio doors while installing an instrument on a countertop), small or big production runs from companies making valve bodies, stamping gears, manufacturing batteries or manhole covers, sulfuric acid or graphite, hazmat stack filter calorimetry or coal mercury analysis for environmental safety, gasoline additives or silicon wafers – American R&D and American small-scale manufacturing is far less dead than it has been loudly proclaimed to be.

    Does it BOTHER me that, as a culture, we seem to have abandoned admiration of the steely-eyed Man of Science, who with titanic intellect and cool logic, bends the natural world to the benefit of Mankind? Of fucking course it bothers me. But while the Eloi are monetizing narcissism (to devastating effect, wistfully lamented) the Morlocks are keeping the lights on. And building better ones.

    Quietly!

    Without any particular thanks, or lucrative recompense, or the desire for egos to be stroked, but because you do the job in front of you as hard as you can…because somebody has to and it’s the right thing to do.

    And THAT’S the American Way, alive and well.

    Reply
  8. AvatarEric H

    I have to disagree with him because the fundamental premise is wrong.

    People haven’t made precision thing in decades.

    Machines make precision things today, and the US is the worlds largest manufacturer of machines that make precision things.

    Complaining that “People don’t make precision things” is like complaining that flint knapping is in decline. That ship has sailed and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. We no longer require a significant portion of the population to manufacture things, machines own it and will forevermore.

    Understanding precision is a whole ‘nother ballgame. Get your son a decent set of tenths reading micrometers and have him practice until he can use them consistently. Teach him importance of different classes of fits. If you really want to get his brain going, get him a small metal lathe so he can build parts for his mechanical toys.

    You also might want to check the where Starrett made that Jo block if it’s new, it might be China. Athol hasn’t been their sole manufacturing location in a long time.

    Reply
    • AvatarCdotson

      As an engineer who designs machines that make things I can validate this assessment. I might also add that despite the relative paucity of employment in the manufacturing sector overall manufacturing output is at or near historic highs. This is largely due to machines and other productivity improvements, but one cannot ignore the fact that we have systematically outsourced low-value goods production and refocused on high-value goods and durable equipment production.

      That said, I wholeheartedly support on-shoring critical supply chain and national security production capabilities (that’s right, nobody cares your circuit boards are made in China as long as the DOD can still get circuit boards made here when needed). This may make manufacturing appear to take a hit, but I’ll willingly cut the throats of the financialization class to sow a manufacturing rebirth.

      I get the hate on the MBAs, I really do. I once worked with an engineer that obtained an MBA and never told his company about it just so he could tell the MBAs to go fuck themselves in language they could understand. But the MBAs are ultimately midwit middle-managers. They haven’t caused our society’s decline into mediocrity, they’re a symptom of that decline. They outsource to the lowest bidder because they themselves are lower-bidder managers compared to competent leaders fostered from within. They’re the product of companies and cultures that value personal gain now over lasting legacy in years to follow. That same value system has brought us declining birth rates across the Western world. It’s no surprise we’re no longer a culture who builds, we’re not even a culture to plant trees that will bear fruit for our grandchildren that we might not have.

      Reply
  9. Avatarstingray65

    Kevin Flynn and Eric H. makes some excellent points, and I might add that the criticism of MBA “management” is also somewhat unfair. What MBA analysis does is figure out the most profitable way to achieve a required level of precision. This means understanding what level of precision is necessary to meet customer/government requirements and meeting that standard. Making things better than required frequently adds extra cost that the customer is usually unwilling to pay for, and making things less precise than required means unhappy customers, fines, and lawsuits that reduce profits. When governments enact costly regulations or increase taxes on business, or allow lawyers to make frivolous lawsuits, the costs of meeting a required level of precision go up.
    When business conditions change, the job of the MBA is simply to make financial comparisons to determine the location where meeting customer requirements can most profitably be achieved when factoring in the new taxes/regulatory/legal costs with other inputs such as labor and supplier quality and costs, transport costs, political stability, and market demand for “American made”. If governments get too greedy, or fail to restrain “peaceful” protesters from burning down factories and attacking delivery trucks and their drivers, there becomes a much higher likelihood that the MBA will find it cheaper to do business somewhere with a more business friendly government and stable environment. In other words, the MBA is a rational calculator of costs, and if you don’t like the result the blame should almost always fall on the government bureaucrat or politician who is pandering to the takers instead of the makers.

    The other aspect with regards to considering this topic is the degree we are looking at the past with rose colored glasses. We can look at a 1930s DC-3, or 1940s Step-Down Hudson, or 1960s suicide door Lincoln and see a level of durability and “quality” that you don’t see in modern equivalents, but those examples better illustrate survivor bias and also current ignorance about the “precision” of those times. The DC-3 was vastly overbuilt because the engineers of the time didn’t have a very solid understanding of all-metal airframe construction, so they added some extra heft “just in case” and the result is a bunch of them are still flying today and earning a living. The Hudson and Lincoln were early unit body cars that were built extra heavy due to uncertainties about the strength requirements, and as a result have survived in rattle-free condition in far higher numbers than the lighter built unit body Nashes, Ramblers, and Falcons from the same period. Thus it is a mistake to attribute the high quality of the past to greater concern about precision or a lack of MBAs, but instead it was more often the simple “lucky” result derived from a lack of knowledge and experience.

    If new car buyers wanted to keep their cars for 15 years and 250,000 miles or were willing to pay extra for “American made”, the MBA would work with the engineers and designers to find the most profitably way to meet those requirements, but today’s market more often wants to lease a car for 3 years and then move on to something else, and so the level of precision in today’s cars reflects that customer desire.

    Reply
    • AvatarNewbie Jeff

      “Kevin Flynn and Eric H. makes some excellent points, and I might add…”

      They are indeed excellent points… but at the risk of being trounced by you fellas out of my league, I think you’re missing Jack’s entire point… this is an “OEM vs aftermarket” example to illustrate a larger issue of human quality.

      The title of the post is about “human precision”… here, I think we can all agree, is where American society has demonstrated progressive decline. In a way, your own arguments sort of prove Jack’s point: you are able to construct an effective – precise – argument in addition to demonstrating superior technical expertise, obviously from years or even decades of experience in your respective fields. But let’s be honest about the current state of things: if a UC-Berkley junior countered your well-thought out responses by declaring your “white privilege”, or alleging the trending “white fragility”, or just simply calling you guys “racists”, who now has the upper hand in the discussion? Non-sequiturs? Ridiculous? Sure… but it won’t change the fact that you just “lost” the argument, so “take a seat”, “Boomer”…

      To be fair, Kevin Flynn did express his wistful lamentations of the devastating effects of our current state of affairs… but seems confident that the better half of American society are “keeping the lights on”. I think it’s much more dire… what academic institution, what government bureaucracy, what corporation or industry is unaffected by the “imprecision” of American progressivism? In a textbook case of Conquest’s 3rd Law, NASCAR is enthusiastically jumping on the BLM bandwagon. My airline – losing an average of $50mil/day – sent an email to its 80k+ employees imploring all of us to – direct quote – “be an ally”… whatever that means. A cadre of 1000 “academics” and “health experts” published an open letter declaring “protesting racism” is more important than the coronavirus protocols they were religious about not two weeks before. These are not flaccid anecdotes, they are salvos of ideological power: the governor of NJ has condemned protestors – or exalted them – depending on how they taste to the leftist monster. Again, who’s “losing” the argument?

      All of this – this “imprecision” of our society – the abandonment of reason, the neglect of the complexities of critical thinking, the squandering of individuality and purpose… that’s what I believe Jack is trying to warn his son about.

      Reply
      • Avatarstingray65

        I don’t disagree with most of your points Jeff, but I think the blame for the declines that Jack is lamenting are misplaced. It isn’t MBA trained managers or declining concerns for quality among engineers that are the main sources of problems, it is the Leftist bureaucrats and politicians who create the conditions that make it more profitable to make nice things outside the US. Educational decline is also the fault of public sector Leftists, as our top schools now care more about diversity than test score quality in who they let in as students and faculty, and standards get reduced in the course work and research to make sure that “victims” don’t fail, because Federal education monies are tied to diversity measures rather than quality measures. If US industry can’t find trained people to do important jobs, they will move the jobs somewhere else, or import trained people to do the jobs that American “educated” can’t do.

        Now ultimately, whose fault is it when a government veers strongly Left and starts supporting the rights of the mentally ill to disrupt the rights and productivity of the sane? Society is collapsing the fastest in the areas that have been Democrat run for decades, and yet the voters keep voting D. Is such voter insanity the result of the brainwashing from their Leftist indoctrination K-PhD education, simple greed for the promise of “free stuff” paid for by making the rich pay their “fair share”, or the import of millions of people who have different cultural traditions? I don’t know, but it certainly isn’t the fault (or likely the vote) of engineers or MBAs who are behind the collapse.

        Reply
        • AvatarNewbie Jeff

          Well said.. agree on all points.

          Maybe Locklin was out of line with that part trashing MBA’s… still, as Jack said,, it should be pretty unsettling to all of us that someone as intelligent and well-spoken as Locklin would possess such a cynical view of our future.

          Reply
          • AvatarEric H

            No, MBAs are a big part of the problem.
            Coming in with the holier-than-thou attitude of “I don’t need to understand it to manage it” leads to penny wise and pound foolish decisions.

      • AvatarKevin Flynn

        Just for the sake of clarity – our Eloi are NOT keeping the lights on. In a technological / engineering perspective or even as the lighthouse on the hill for traditional cultural values that got us here so must be working to some extent.

        The Eloi have forgotten the reason we lit up the world in the first place and have turned into a race of moths who ceaselessly batter themselves to destruction against an object (equality of outcome, let’s say) that has a superficial resemblance to what the original was supposed to be (equality of opportunity).

        This does a real number on the object. Renders it dirty, ugly, unavoidably reeking, and difficult to approach to RATIONALLY assess because it’s mounded deep with Eloi who will, feebly twitching and flailing and broken and failed, will still insist that this bulb is the sun because it’s closer and easier.

        Meanwhile down in the dirt, Morlocks toil on. Morlocks don’t give a shit about your feelings. Morlocks speak denotatively with precision and accuracy of vocabulary. Connotations are subjective and flawed assumptions which can’t be relied on to construct a mutual logical framework to assess a situation. Morlocks build lights because they do something useful.

        If Eloi abandon holding the torch of art, philosophy, diplomacy, writing, morality, etc high and instead waste their potential – that’s a shame for all of us. But the lights still need to go up and be kept on.

        The democratization of non-hunter-gather societies only works in comparatively small civilizational units and tends to, unchecked, revert back to authoritiarianism. There is something in most people, Morlocks included, that wants direction, an appeal, a sense of authority. Religion, a king, a figurehead, a parental figure.

        As such we are now witness to globalization AND recentralization toward the ‘strong man’ style producing a new lot of folks who cross Morlocks knowledge with Eloi exposure and acceptance.

        (This is of course a natural reaction to the radical people-empowering Internet – yes, even after Eternal September. History teaches us well that despite revolution and counterrevolution, the overall needle moves shockingly slowly. See: France, Mexico, Haiti…)

        The new race fucking terrifies me.

        “But how will you make a call, Mister Anderson, if you no longer…have…a mouth?”

        Point being, we are in for a BAD period during which these Eloi are going to have to batter themselves into complete irrelevancy enough for sufficient of our artificially divided human race to become fed up and deal with it. (Cf the French aristocracy). Maybe this cycle will be done nonviolently and without the shockwaves of counterrevolution, but we are fighting a “bloodless” (quotation marks quite advisedly) culture war so who knows.
        Meanwhile, those of us Morlocks who build the lights will be somewhat thankful that the bastards have distractions amongst themselves, feeding on their least-woke, and continue to Do The Job. Speak rationally to people who listen rationally, don’t engage, and build the next light when the prior goes dark from all the ideological corpses piling up around it. They try to keep the lights OFF.

        Iconoclasts, unite!…in your own ways.

        Reply
    • AvatarDan S

      New car buyers often do pay a premium for something that will last 15 years and 250k, just look at the Tacoma in relation to it’s competition.

      Reply
        • AvatarFelis Concolor

          Don’t worry: Ford’s new Bronco will take its place – and just in time for O.J.’s birthday!

          Reply
          • AvatarCJinSD

            There is no off road vehicle less like a Land Cruiser than a Ford with a turbocharged engine. That’s like replacing the mother of your children with a drag queen, only the illusion is more ephemeral.

  10. Avatarstingray65

    “…the US has has a remarkable run as a place where regular people could have a nice life, and exceptional people could make exceptional contributions”

    Again I think this line shows a lack of historic understanding. In terms of material goods, even the poorest people have it better than the middle class of a two generations ago. Even the poorest people in the US almost always have A/C in the house, big screen TVs, a computer (smart phone), a working car, and eat out regularly and even fly on occasion, which was not the case for the American middle class of the 1970s or even the middle-class in much of Europe today. Traditional signs of true poverty such as inadequate calories (aka starvation), and lack of clothing and housing are unheard on in the US today (except among the mentally ill and addicted who refuse help), and in fact the poorest segments of society are most likely to be obese, smoke, and abuse drugs, which suggests that are not financially suffering. That stinky fat person sitting next to you on the plane with a crazy look in his eye might very well be someone who is classified by the government and the poverty-industrial complex as “poor” (or a recent college graduate).

    The “peaceful” protests are also a sign of wealth, because truly poor people cannot take time off from work to burn down the place of business of their employers, but today’s rebels without a clue know that Uncle Sam will not only not arrest them, but will make sure taxpayers foot the bill for rebuilding burned out neighborhoods and continue to keep those university loan guarantees, welfare checks and food stamps coming. Uncle Sam can afford to be so generous only because the revenues derived from taxing the income and wealth of the productive is higher than ever, and the ability to borrow money from the wealthy for deficit spending is cheaper than ever.

    On the other end of the scale, most of the famously wealthy people (and quietly wealthy people) of today are self-made having received little in the way of financial inheritance or help from family. It is just that most of them make their big money with software instead of hardware. Even in “racist” America, black Oprah came out of poverty to become one of the richest people in the world by selling talk shows, and Elon Musk immigrated from South Africa to make a fortune with intangible Pay Pal, and is finding is much more difficult to make money building tangible cars, solar panels, and rockets.

    Reply
  11. Avatarhank chinaski

    Great piece, and the comments are worth the read as well. He’s absolutely right of course. War is the most likely outcome, in one form or another, and the barbarians and parasites both put to the sword or expelled. Again. Soft men gonna create hard times.

    As for his blog itself, that rabbit hole looks deep, but the summer is long.

    Reply
  12. AvatarLynnG

    One of Jack’s favorite towns is coming back:

    https://www.npr.org/2020/06/23/880941975/an-electric-pickup-truck-brings-new-energy-to-lordstown-ohio

    See some good news for once. Go OHIO…

    One note to history, here is a list of come and gone companys that just did not make it:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_defunct_automobile_manufacturers_of_the_United_States

    So hopefully Lordstow Motors will make it, but again as history has taugh us (think Tucker, Brinklin, Fisker exc) when the Big Two deside to go after the new market look out.

    Reply
    • AvatarGeorge Denzinger

      As a former resident of the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys, I have a more reserved enthusiasm for the new enterprise. Not that I want it to fail, but we’ve been promised all kinds of jobs from start-ups over the years only to have the companies vastly over-promise and under achieve (or just shrivel up and blow away) repeatedly. After the steel industry cratered in the late 70’s, and well into the 80’s, all kinds of shysters appeared promising new jobs in new industries that never materialized.

      I sincerely hope that Lordstown Motors can sell a viable product and employ folks in my old neck of the woods. But the future is hazy for these things and I’m not 100% sure that these trucks will ever gain traction in the wider market, whether or not the majors decide to play in that sandbox.

      Reply
  13. AvatarMike O

    Sorry Jack, got side tracked with a second “Fathers” day celebration. You don’t need to buy another set, once you own them you get them certified on a periodic basis. We send ours in for certification/calibration check every 2 years as part of our Quality Management System. These are the kind of things QMS auditors look for when visit.

    This is who we use. https://www.starrett.com/webber-gage-blocks/calibration-services.

    For any QMS system all measuring devices have to calibrated/certified to a traceable standard.

    Have a nice day.

    Reply
  14. AvatarE. Bryant

    I have several thoughts on this, and they are poorly organized. So I apologize in advance from my ramblings.

    First of all, good on you for introducing your son to the physical world. A good addition would be a set of gage pins, and some actual tools with which to measure those blocks.

    Once you’ve got some measurement tools, a block of mild steel, a bench vise, some files, some sandpaper, and a ton of physical effort provides a solid education in what it means to remove a thou, ten thous, a hundred thou.

    After that, the next step is to move on to a basic engine teardown. Very few objects in your garage will provide as accessable of an education in the sort of precision achievable in mass production (go look at crankshaft journal tolerances in a typical service manual and marvel at the fact those represent +/- 3 sigma limits). And we know damn well you’ve got plenty of raw material from which to work. This also provides a good education on the difference between select fits (which the Japanese tend to prefer to maintain bearing clearances) vs net build (often the American’s preferred approach).

    Gunsmithing is also an education, although it’s unfortunately often a disappointment. The tolerances held by companies like Accuracy International are impressive, as suggested by the name. Remington is often a colossal disappointment (or perhaps just a normal-sized disappointment if one goes in with reasonable expectations about a company that has been harvested by private equity). Most custom rifle builders are the modern equivalent of shoe cobblers. Chad Dixon at LRI is a notable exception, and he (along with a few other builders) are eating everyone’s lunch by applying modern tools and techniques to an industry that has finally run out of BS excuses to not modernize.

    Then move onto manual machines. A basic “shop smith” can be found locally for under a grand and fits on a workbench. Proper knee mills and engine/toolroom lathes take up more space, so maybe the local community college or career tech center is a better avenue for that part of the education. Better yet if you can partake in formal gunsmithing education, but those programs are pretty rare nowadays. Engine rebuilding programs are fine – the tools involved are a bit specialized (mills and lathes do a lot of things; valve seat cutters and cylinder hones do one thing really well).

    CAD and CNC are phenomenal tools – that I can whip up something in Solidworks and receive a machines part from an online vendor in a few days with sub-thou tolerances is kinda cool, but if it comes without the fundamentals of working material by hand, there is something lost and eventually that missing chunk of knowledge will cause something to be overlooked.

    3D printing appeals to many youths because it’s easy and it’s not old. Unfortunately, it has limited usefulness in its current form and certainly doesn’t yet have a seat at the adult table when it comes to high-volume precision. By the time our kids enter the workforce, that story may change, but in the meantime, they need to resist the temptation to take shortcuts.

    Reply
  15. AvatarMike

    As a mechanical engineer, I take a certain satisfaction in a job done well, and extend this to my own personal projects.

    Last weekend, my dad was over helping me put up a new garage that I’d designed and started work on myself. He asked me, at one point, how long the building was. I replied, “28 feet”. He shot back, “twenty-eight feet…what?”, implying that it must be plus or minus some number of inches or whatnot. I immediately pulled out my 35′ Stanley “MADE IN USA” tape measure, hooked it to one end of the building, pulled it snugly against the other end, and told him to come look at it.

    The wood ended exactly on the line that read “28′”.

    Regrettably, I was not as accurate on the width; The same tape pulled over the top face of the back wall read 19′ 15/16″, when the plan was for it to be 19′ 1″. Oh well. What’s 1/16″ among family?

    Reply
  16. AvatarPaul M.

    Remember gang, a Corvette of any generation is a great investment. Forget about some craptastic Miata, or douche bag Porsche. Corvette is AMERICA. The inspirational automobile. The only other car that comes close to it is Mustang (or a truck). Buy a Vette. Of any kind. And store. And enjoy. Driving a Vette fast is for Johnny come lately people like Jack. Nuff said.

    Reply
  17. AvatarDougD

    Hopefully you’ve got something to calibrate against the blocks. I’ve got a nice vintage Starrett micrometer that my son used to measure his bass strings before buying new ones. That’s an important lesson of precision, if you don’t buy precisely the same diameter of bass strings it’ll play differently and you might not like the feel, or the time spent setting your instrument up again.

    Reply
  18. AvatarOne Leg at a Time

    Late to comment, but that Corvette article is beautifully written.

    And it had a minor nod of the cap to my favorite Baruth line ever – about Ferraris and 19-year old mistresses.

    Reply

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