Wednesday, December 04, 2013

How Objectivists test things

It's always fun to argue with Objectivists over Atlas Shrugged, which I have been doing for the past couple of weeks. They actually believe that the characters in the novel are some kind of reflection of reality, and evidence that we should do things like drop testing standards for industrial equipment, and any other kind of regulation because the market will separate the good guys from the bad guys.

The key to this is that Objectivists are OK if a few people die along the way - that's how we determine which companies are the bad guys - they kill people, and so they should, theoretically, go out of business.

One Objectivist recently claimed that the heroine of Atlas Shrugged, Dagny Taggart should be allowed to collude with Hank Rearden in order to test Dagny's train, and Hank's magical metal by driving a train full of people over the bridge, and then by driving the train at a hundred miles an hour through residential districts.

Firstly, this highlights the complete incoherence of the world Rand invented for the novel - the US government appears to be incapable of enforcing industrial testing standards, which is why Hank/Dagny (Hangny? Dank?) have the option to testing their bridge any damn way they want - they could load the train up with babies if they felt like it for the test trip over the bridge - and yet somehow the government is able to enforce zoning laws when it comes to train speeds - which is why:
He stood on the platform, surrounded by Taggart executives, division heads, civic leaders and the various local officials who had been outargued, bribed or threatened, to obtain permits to run a train through town zones at a hundred miles an hour.
This recent New York train crash demonstrates the problem with running trains at high speed.

The Objectivists make a big deal about how they are against the initiation of force. I've yet to find one who acknowledges the existence of the problematic "threatened" passage - but Randians like to re-write Rand's work to suit themselves.

Anyway, so this Objectivist I'm arguing with says that everybody trusts Dagny because she has a reputation for excellence like Steve Jobs. Firstly, nobody knows how Dagny's reputation got around since in the world of Atlas Shrugged all the newspapers (which appear to be for-profit and untroubled by the government in any way) have colluded for the past five years around the idea that they would no longer report facts, out of an apparent case of rampaging post-modernism.

Secondly, this Objectivist is apparently unaware of how Steve Jobs really operated:
At the time of the announcement, only 100 iPhones existed, with some of those featuring significant quality issues like scuff marks and gaps between the screen and the plastic edge. The software, too, was full of bugs, leading the team to set up multiple iPhones to overcome memory issues and restarts. Because of the phone’s penchant for crashing, it was programmed to display a full five-bar connection at all times.
Then, with Jobs’s approval, they preprogrammed the phone’s display to always show five bars of signal strength regardless of its true strength. The chances of the radio’s crashing during the few minutes that Jobs would use it to make a call were small, but the chances of its crashing at some point during the 90-minute presentation were high. "If the radio crashed and restarted, as we suspected it might, we didn’t want people in the audience to see that," Grignon says. "So we just hard-coded it to always show five bars."
The difference of course between Steve Jobs and a real-life Dagny Taggart (in Atlas Shrugged the heroes are basically infallible so of course nothing goes wrong with the bridge and train) is that unlike a bridge or train, if the iPhone radio crashes, nobody dies.

Such delusions fed by the wack-jobbery of Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged!