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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Walking a mile in another's shoes: blisters or insight?

     I am, perhaps, cursed in my use of language. I am unable to not hear language BOTH literally and figuratively. While this helps in inflicting punishing humor, sometimes it also forces my mind to look at issues from multiple points of view. This is almost always helpful as it is difficult to find many issues that have a single "correct" point of view.
     Of late, there have been various articles chastising people about attempting to write fiction, or non-fiction, from others' points of view. In some ways, this is certainly valid. I, as a pale-skinned male, will never have the insight, history, and experience of someone who has grown up with non-pale skin. I will never have the insight, history, and experience of someone who grew up as a woman. And -- they will never have the insight, history, and experience of growing up as a pale-skinned male. It works in all directions.
     It goes much further, however. I am a short, pale-skinned, early balding, white-haired, bearded, 60-something male, multilingual, U.S.-born but of mostly direct European with a trace of Melanesian ancestry, .............
     In other words, I -- as is true of every person of the approximately 7.6 billion people on the planet -- am unique. No one else has the complete combination of my genetic history, environmental history, and life experiences. I have considerable doubts that it would be possible to raise two clones such that they end up exactly the same at any point in time (the older the more divergent).
     Was Jane Austen able to truly write about Willoughby? Was Isaac Asimov truly able to write about the Mule? Did Ursula K. Le Guin have a similar history to that of Argaven Harge to be able to write about the character? Could Harriet Beecher Stowe directly relate to either Uncle Tom or Simon Legree?
     Back to the title of this blog. The saying goes that one cannot understand another until you have "walked a mile in their shoes". When I hear someone say this, I cannot do anything other than wince. After shoes are worn by someone for a while, they change shape -- they "mold" themselves to the wearer's feet. Some shoes, such as hiking boots, are specifically designed to do this. So, by wearing someone else's shoes, you not only are "stepping into their paces" but are trying to get your feet to react the same as the other person's feet. Bumps, muscles, and bones fail to match up. It is painful, as well as educational, to "walk in someone else's shoes".
     What should it be? Since every one of us is unique, should we be limited to only writing about ourselves? Or is the painful experience of trying to put ourselves into another's shoes a worthwhile stretch of imagination and understanding? Perhaps what is needed is the caution and respect to not try to pretend we know more about the other than we possibly can?
     Although we are all unique, I probably have sufficient commonality with another computer programmer to be able to write somewhat about what that experience is like within another character. I am not a life-long farmer, but I have driven tractors and pulled spring-tooth and fed cattle in the winter. Can I use those experiences within another character? My father was a machinist and a mechanic -- can I use those experiences even though they weren't mine? Can I possibly write about a non-pale skinned programmer even though I only have overlap in experience in the computer science and programming aspects?
     Personally, I hope so. I would hate to lose all of the literature of the world and to have only facts listed, without people, in non-fiction books. The lead character of my first middle-school book is a young woman. Is that bad? I don't think so.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

What is Net Neutrality? Why should anyone care?

     First thing to mention -- net neutrality does NOT guarantee that you have equal ease of access to all websites nor that you can transmit to, or download from, a particular site just as fast as all other sites. The speed of a connection, and the ability to access a site, depends on many different factors (including, but not limited to, net neutrality).
     The current primary differences occur at the physical site of a website. What kinds of hardware do they have? What types of software (and how up-to-date) are they running on their servers (the computers that host the website)? What is the bandwidth of the website's connection to the rest of the Internet? Consider the bandwidth to be equivalent to the diameter of a water pipe -- it limits how much data can be transmitted. The transmission medium will determine the speed.
     We are now at the border of the "cloud" of the Internet. Once upon a time, there was still a lot of unpredictability once data had reached what we now call the Internet (or, at that time, the various Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) protocols such as TCP/IP, supporting the DARPAnet) because the connectivity was neither available all of the time nor did each connection (or "hop") have the same speed and bandwidth. If your data went via one path it was pretty quick. If it went by another path it might take hours.
     By the time of the transition to what we think of as the Internet had taken place (marked by use of the first freely available browser, "Mosaic", more than anything else), there were still differences in the speed of different data paths through the network. However, we are talking about an overall speed that would now be considered unusable. Within this very slow network, the differences between different data paths were not as noticeable.
     Fast forward to the Internet of today and the data access from home or business into the Internet and out to the website's server is largely taken care of by a homogeneous set of connections provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). There are common, "backbone", data paths that may be used by multiple ISPs -- but you largely get the bandwidth (total amount of data) and speed that you pay for from your ISP.
     And that is at the heart of the issue of Net Neutrality. Right now, you pay for a certain amount of data and a certain access speed (possibly different for each direction). But, the ISP is neutral to the contents of the data and the destinations of each transfer of data (with the exception of potentially examining the data streams for viruses and other hazardous information). Whether you are streaming a movie from Netflix™ or accessing the on-line catalog of the Library of Congress, you will get the same service (up to the access point of the website).
     Elimination of net neutrality means that it CAN matter just what data you want to access and from where you want to access it. There are two categories of how this can affect the general consumer. The first is primarily a business purpose from the ISP -- to increase profits from their services. If you just use the Internet to access mail, then there may be one service level. If you use social media, that may be another service level (for more money). If you stream movies on a regular basis then that could be yet another service level. In addition, if the ISP had a working partnership with a streaming company (or was owned by, or owned, it), then access to streaming service A might have a higher fee than for access to streaming service B (from which they already directly leverage profits).
      In this first category, the general intent of removal of net neutrality is to increase profits. Some people might pay less for low-end access and service. Others will pay more. The net effect is expected to be an increase in profits -- the concept of removal of net neutrality is NOT "revenue neutral". If it were, the ISPs would not care -- net neutrality is actually easier for them.
     The second category is one that is often considered to be "something that cannot happen here" (but it certainly happens in countries that do not have a policy of net neutrality). If you are treating different data and different destinations differently, this is just another way to define censorship. While it may not occur, it is very hard to prove just what is happening once net neutrality is removed. Did a website "fall between the cracks" or was it deliberately made slow, and difficult (or impossible), to access? Is it coincidental that the political leanings of the website are counter to the desires of the owner(s) of the ISP? How is a small website going to enforce First Amendment (in the U.S.) rights? Can they? Can the Net still be regulated?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Income Inequality: How does it create a tightening spiral?

     With the new tax "reform" in the United States in the news, the topic of income inequality resurfaces as something of interest. As will have been noticed, the way that the economy actually works is something that I find continuously fascinating. As for income inequality, just what is it? How does it begin? How does it accelerate or become less?

[Please note that the numbers used within this blog are snapshots and may be different in a different year's snapshot.]

     In the first place, there are two different inequalities within a capitalistic economy -- income inequality and wealth inequality. These are often discussed as if they were the same thing. While it is true that there is often a correlation they are not the same. Income inequality is the difference in the amount of usable income in a given period (usually a year) between different income divisions (see my blog about income groups if you are interested). Wealth inequality is the total control of capital associated with a particular division. Generally, wealth inequality is even worse than income inequality because wealth both accumulates and compounds (wealth generates more wealth).
     If we look at the following graph of income inequality in the United States:

First note that these graphs only continue up until 2007. The general trends have continued through the present year. Next, note that the increase is much higher with the top 1% than the next 19%. The bottom 80% actually indicate a DECREASE in income.
     Income inequality arises out of the difference between income and required outgo. For the lowest income groups, the amount of income is less than the required spending. This deficit is dealt with by supplements from the general tax pool and by dropping budget items that are not immediate for the family -- dental care, general medical care, and so forth. Eventually income rises to the point where the income matches what is required for spending for essentials.
     We have now reached the bottom of "middle income". This continues until there is extra income beyond essentials. This is the point at which there is actually a voluntary potential of the family being able to accumulate additional wealth. In other words, there is an amount of money that has discretionary spending possible. It could be put into savings, or invested in stocks and bonds -- or it can be spent on more expensive cars, long vacations, fancy clothes, and so forth. In the first situation, the family has the potential of raising their overall wealth (and income). This is the historic "rags to riches" story -- but it requires having enough income to have excess and the number of people in this category continues to shrink and, for better or worse, an expensive car often wins out over extra savings.
     Finally, we hit that upper income category. This is where both survival and initial spendable extra income have been exceeded. It has to be either hoarded or invested. This is complete "gravy" and has nothing to be done with except to expand it. This is where the tax laws can be written to help the vast majority who generate the income or to help those who already have more than they need.
     There is no "trickle down" -- no lower levels that make 1/4 or 1/3 of what the higher level employer makes (and then continuing on down with the next level making, perhaps, 1/8 or 1/6 of the highest level). Only a "splash over" occurs -- lots of service people employed to do things that those with excess income do not want to do themselves. (Of course, the service people are still grateful to have income.)
     So there is the summary. Those who don't have enough to survive and must be helped, those who do have enough to survive but are faced with choices on spending and often spend the additional income beyond survival, and the third category with excess that has no choice but to keep growing unless compensated for with tax laws that re-distribute the money back to the people who generate it.
     Beyond fairness, however, there are reasons why it is very dangerous to allow working capital to be concentrated in the hands of a small percentage. First, the rich are not particularly different from the poor (except where nutritional situations have caused permanent damage) -- they have a "normal" distribution of intelligence from not very to average to very smart. If the top 0.1% of the population (about 160,000 families in 2015) families in the United States have control of 22% of the nation's wealth (2015 statistics) -- that means that 80,000 families of below average intelligence are controlling 11% of the nation's wealth. Even more, the top 10% (16 million families) control 78% of the nation's wealth -- giving us 8 million families of below average intelligence controlling 39% of the nation's wealth. In other words, there is a lot of economic power concentrated in the hands of people who have no particular special quality about knowing how to make use of it.
     The second part of the danger is that, with 16 million families (out of approx. 160 million) controlling 78% of the nation's wealth, we have a situation of a capital circulation problem. If 160 million have the capacity to equally spend on goods and services, the capital flows freely. If it is concentrated in the hands of a few, it is more parallel to a tourniquet being applied to part of the body.
     We have a continued concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and the recent tax "reform" act will accelerate this concentration. We have two major demonstrations of this situation (I do not claim ONLY two demonstrations) -- the Great Depression and the French Revolution. Both were situations where income got overly concentrated in the hands of the wealthy.
We have now surpassed the point in history of the end of the 1920s and are rapidly heading to the point in 1929 where someone, who had a lot of capital and power in his (or her) hands made a mistake and started the dominos falling.
     Will this happen again? I don't know but we have few documented cases where income concentration exceeded these levels and a stable society continued. These cases were demonstrated primarily in pre-colonial Europe and an outlet existed  (unfortunately for the existing native populations of Australia and the Americas) for the poor and desperate. Where is that outlet -- that safety valve -- now?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Controlled falling: how to teach a robot to walk

     Every part of growing up is a miracle in its own way. However, if you happen to be an engineer or a computer scientist, you may find yourself looking at your child in a somewhat different way than most parents. Every act is a matter of "how did they do that?" Or, a matter of "I didn't know they couldn't do that originally".
     Learning to walk is a gradual process. The first part is a matter of figuring out just how to control those wonderful muscles on purpose. For fortunate babies, they have a working nervous system and all of the appropriate muscles are there but that doesn't mean that they pop out into the world ready to do a 100-yard dash. Think of a control room with hundreds, or thousands, of unlabelled switches -- each of which cause a muscle to respond in some way. How do we use an electrical switch box which has lots of unlabelled switches? Try them out and see what they do. (And then, perhaps, label them after we notice their effects.) For a robot, this is a bit simpler as there is a specific control register (or bit within a register) that causes a specific servo-motor to work.
     Now that the child knows what muscle connects to each impulse (and I am not going to try to pretend that I know just how this really takes effect), she (or he) has to practice. This may entail kicking dad in the face a few times and laughing or hitting brother in the nose. Strength is developed as the muscles are exercised. And a special sense (not always fully present in autistic children and others) called "proprioception" starts to be better known. Proprioception is also sometimes known as "body sense" or "kinesthetic awareness". No matter what you want to call it -- it allows us to know just where our body parts are. Is my finger extended? Is my leg bent? This is important if we want to apply the right muscle at the right time.
     For a robot, this has to be done in different ways (although, once again, I do not claim to know just how body sense works within a human). One dominant method is to keep track of relative position. This works like the cursor on a screen -- when the system is powered on, a specific point is considered "home" position and the cursor is moved relative to that position. The same can be done with any servo-mechanism between the limits of its movement. However, it must start at a known location and there cannot be any exterior limit on the movement (which would cause a need for recalibration). Other methods are possible but require more active sensors (and, thus, are more expensive).
     Two more requirements exist for easy movement. These are the ability to know how hard a muscle is pushing against something (the floor, for example) and how fast it is moving. The human nervous system makes use of tactile feedback to determine how hard the muscle is straining and the body sense to know how fast it is going. With a robot, a feedback loop using torque measurement may allow the robotic arm to hold an egg -- or to crush it. Speed is determined by the rate of change of movement -- how fast position changes versus and internal clock.
     With these four aspects -- ability to move, knowing where the parts are, knowledge of amount of force, and knowledge of speed -- coordinated movement is possible. Early programming of robots tried to imitate the specific movements of human muscles within their ranges of motion. It is possible to do it this way provided that there is complete control of the environment. Nothing in the wrong place, no unexpected alterations in the footing or the locations of other relevant objects. Consider a factory line with fully repetitious movement and behaviors (until a part sticks or parts run out or a dog runs into the factory ... or) and one can relatively easily see a robot taking over the factory job. In fact, many of the jobs taken over so far have been of this nature. 100% replacement is not possible because of the many exceptions that can take place and which requires more flexibility to handle -- but a considerable reduction in human staff is possible.
     But we were talking about walking weren't we? Could we use the same methodical programming to teach a robot to walk? Barely possible but, once again, only within a highly controlled environment.
     Imagine that child learning to walk. They stretch. They pull. They start becoming caterpillars on the carpet while they both strengthen and practice their muscles. Finally, they pull themselves up. And fall down. And go up. And fall down. Then they are able to stay standing up -- but hanging on. Then they let go. And fall down. And so on.
     This is a type of programming -- but not "linear" programming. This is not "do A, followed by B and then C". It isn't even exception-handling programming "do A, followed by B, then D if condition C else do E". This is neural programming. Sequences are attempted and then, based on results, discarded or modified or increased. A goal has been set and if enough sequences are tried then, at some point, success will be reached.
     Note that a new item has now been added -- a goal. In order to have a goal there must be a way to determine if you have reached that goal. For a child that is emulating other people who are walking. For a robot, it is necessary to have goals that can be specifically quantified -- expressed as numbers -- against precise targets. For walking that might be obtaining a certain height, directional velocity, and stability. Note that balance, for a human, is obtained by the feedback from the inner ear. Tools, such as gyroscopes, are available to both help maintain, and recognize loss of, stability. Laser positioning devices can be used to indicate height. Global Positioning System (GPS) information can be used for large-scale movement for direction and a combination of position and speed tracking can be used for shorter distance velocity calculations. I am sure that other tools also exist.
     For a child, they see others walk -- and those others encourage them (and protect and guide) -- and they go through a seemingly never-ended process of trial and error. They train parts of their brain and nervous system such that the thought "walk" indicates a complex series of changes, movements, and activities. I shudder to think of trying to program that linearly.
     A robot can learn in the same manner but they have to have ALL of the correct tools -- servo-motors, proper range of motion, torque feedback, auto-recognition, or storage (with its likelihood of losing calibration), of movement, and so forth. As long as they have a goal against they can match their efforts, they can keep trying combinations until they succeed. However, there is a "secondary" aspect of this type of learning -- to keep the "winning" processes and discard the "losing" processes. Humans do this (in some way that I cannot explain) but robots have to do it also. In many ways this is even more difficult because it is unlikely that the next attempt will be EXACTLY like the one in which they previously "won".
     As a note, other types of activities can be approached in the same manner -- trial and error measured against a goal. But the less physical the more difficult the definition of the goal.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Climate change and refrigerators: transfers of energy

     There is presently a mass of very cold air settling down over much of the Eastern coast and Northern (or the eastern 2/3 of the Northern) states of the United States. There have been shifts in the Arctic air mass before and there will be ones in the future. In itself, not that big of a deal although many people need to be extra careful with the unfamiliar conditions -- and, of course, the homeless need extra special care. This gets lots of headlines. What does not get headlines is the extra HOT weather occurring primarily in the Southern and Southwestern states of the United States.
     Ten years ago (or so) -- before the oil companies starting admitting that they had known about climate change for years -- there were lots of elected officials in the U.S. Congress trying to still keep business from having to change their daily protocols concerning energy. One such elected official brought in a snowball as a visual aid -- which got a big laugh -- although it actually had no relevance to the global situation.
     Why didn't it have any relevance? Let's start off with a more localized energy system -- a refrigerator (or air conditioner). A refrigerator cools off what is inside. Perhaps you have even felt tempted (or actually did it) to try to go inside the refrigerator when the room was too warm. But, have you reached around to the back of the refrigerator? It is hot there (be careful). The process of expanding and compressing the refrigerant gases within the tubing inside (nowadays, usually hidden) and the back of the refrigerator is a transfer of energy. Cooler inside, hotter outside. The same situation exists with an air conditioner -- the exit spot at the outside of the cooled location will be quite warm.
     On a global scale, what we have is more heat (primarily solar, some geothermal, and some direct combustion from old stored sources) being trapped than is being released. There is a balance of heat trapped and released. The primary location where the heat is stored is within the oceans.
     When we talk about climate change we are talking about what changes will happen all over the world. When we talk about global warming we are talking about the net balance between heat trapped and heat released. This can be most easily, and directly, measured by the ocean water temperature. This thermal balance is an indicator -- the precise effects are more difficult to determine because there are so many different factors interacting.
     The most immediate direct effects concern the heat sinks -- the oceans. Life in the oceans has adapted to a fairly small range of temperatures and steady, periodic, shifts. The coral ranges are showing huge, immediate, damage. The growth and patterns of plankton and other sea life is shifting. There are possibilities of current shifts -- which would more directly affect coastal land masses.
     But what about that snowball? What about that Arctic mass of air coming down? Note that an increase in the ocean temperature -- the indicator of thermal balance -- is a direct indicator of how much ENERGY is contained within the weather ecosystem. The more energy, the more activity. Stronger and more frequent storms. Stronger winds and different shifts of thermoclines (the water layers). Harder, faster, more energetic -- on balance hotter but with colder aspects at times also.
     One of the great positives of humankind is our adaptability -- and our ability to make use of tools and mechanisms (pyramids of tool usage) to be able to live in places where other species would die off before being able to adapt. However, this current shift is happening so rapidly that relocation and adaptation will push us harder than ever before. (It will also probably cause needs for shifts in disaster management and private versus public insurance situations).

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Fight, Flight, or Pause; Beyond Instincts

     Most people know the cliché/proverb -- prepare for "fight or flight" when they are confronted with an unexpected or fearful situation. A surge of adrenaline prepares the body for a quick, immediate response. If you round a pass in the woods and come face to face with a bear then those choices are probably good ones (pulling out a can of bear spray also hits a high mark). An oncoming avalanche probably gives you only one choice. There are even situations within the urban setting where the instinctual responses still may be good -- an unexpected car running a red light and across the crosswalk or a flower pot coming down from an upstairs window.
     In modern life, the options of fight or flight are often not sufficient for the situations in which we find ourselves. For example, the situation of driving on the highways and within the streets of a city or a town -- this is prone to generating great stress. Someone cuts in front of you and forces you to go into defensive driving mode. Someone is in a car behind you, at an intersection, and starts honking. Does your adrenaline start moving through your body? Probably. Should you fight or prepare for flight? Not really an option.
     Fight and flight don't work well while you are sitting surrounded with 4,000 pounds of metal and plastic -- the use of those options is often called "road rage" -- and that is not constructive. What can work? Nothing. Or, to put it more explicitly -- pause, calm, let it be. Sometimes, I find myself starting to replay scenarios in my mind. "They didn't see me when they moved over". "They can't see what I can see and they think the intersection is clear when it isn't." Perhaps, I may even reach the point of recognizing potential personal responsibility for the situation. "I may have been tailgating the person in front of me and I know the person behind me was tailgaiting and there might not have been enough space for them to safely merge."
     My contemplation of the other person and the situation, of course, might not start off quite as constructive as what I listed above. I might start by thinking what an inept, inconsiderate, socially maladroit, ignorant person they are -- or whatever short version may happen to be your favorite. I have yet to meet a perfect driver -- or be able to be one. No one is always able to ignore distractions or be able to see 360 degrees around them at all times or to anticipate strange, illegal, or other types of unexpected actions from pedestrians and cars around them. This is sometimes hard to remember when the event is occurring.
     What do you do when you are face-to-face with a person that gets your adrenaline surging? There are two variations on the situation. In the first, there is someone available to mediate -- a police officer, a neighbor, a store security officer, a manager. In the other, it is just you and the other person. The two situations are basically the same -- and almost identical if people are not willing to accept, or make use of, the potential mediator. This process is usually called "conflict resolution". The following principles are often considered to be part of conflict resolution (I add number 0 because I think it is often overlooked).
  • 0. Pause. If you are confronting a situation or a scenario where it is not possible, or advisable, to directly work with another person, this may be your only possible initial response. There may be times when it is not necessary to have a reaction. Relax, pause, evaluate, let it be.
  • 1. Listen to the Other Person Actively. Listening is not the same as hearing. (For the deaf, seeing is not the same as paying attention.) If you are preparing a response before hearing what they say, you are not listening. Take notes if you are concerned that you may miss a point you want to address. Be ready to echo things that you think you have heard -- they may not have meant that at all.
  • 2 Think Before Reacting. Once you have listened and taken notes, it is time to think about what was said -- and what you believe you heard. Find out if what you heard is what they meant. Expand on areas in which you need more details.
  • 3. Attack the Problem and Don't Attack the person. An easy trap for some to fall into but name calling doesn't help matters. It really means that you don't have a rational, logical response -- that is, they have won. Best outcome is that you both go forth from the situation as better acquaintances (maybe even friends) with the possibility of mutually solving matters about which you disagree. That cannot happen if you attack them.
  • 4. Accept Responsibility. Blaming doesn't help. In a traffic accident where both vehicles are moving, it is rare for 100% of the responsibility to be with one person -- at the very least being more aware to make better defensive moves or better allowance for hazardous conditions. Assumptions often cause problems because each person looks at things from their own unique viewpoint and history.
  • 5. Use "I" Statements. You don't know what they feel, or think, or meant. They are the only one who knows that -- and all feelings are appropriate for them. "I was angry when your car moved in front of me and I was scared I wouldn't have enough time to stop". "I felt angry and disrespected when you talked about the idea I had just mentioned to you before the meeting and you didn't tell anyone that I had the original idea." You know your own feelings and thoughts -- but you only know what is externally observable about the other person (and, even there, no one is omniscient).
  • 6. Look for What is in Common. Is there something that you can agree on with the other person? Even if it is not all you would like, it may be a beginning from which you can do more later. Concentrating on differences is not likely to help. Everyone is different and unique. A common goal may have more than one way to be approached.
  • 7. Focus on the Future and What Can and Needs to be Done. Where do you go from here? Do you have need for a future discussion -- weekly meetings? Have you achieved a common understanding that is sufficient for the time being? Is there even a need to reach a common understanding -- are you heading off in different directions and there is no real need to settle anything further?
     At one time, the "fight or flight" choices from the experience of an unexpected situation were sufficient. It is no longer sufficient -- and, in many cases, can be quite counter-productive. Decide what you want to achieve but, in the meantime, pause and consider unless in immediate physical danger (then thank goodness for the instinctual response).


Saturday, November 18, 2017

May the Circle be Unbroken: full cycle cost analysis

     There are a lot of circles, or cycles, in life. The "Circle of Life" which moves between birth to death back to birth. The "Carbon Dioxide" cycle has CO2 arising from combustion (burning) of materials and then being trapped by living plants to strain it out of the atmosphere but providing the possibility of going back to the atmosphere when the "storage" is burned. Number three is a more "macro-" (big picture) view of recycling and reuse (as talked about in my other blog The Houseboat Philosophy). A fourth (which is the primary focus of this blog) arises from manufacturing. There are others.
     Manufacturing starts with a plan. The plan is based around a finished product. In order to complete the plan, there is a need of a list of components. Each component may be composed from individual parts, and the parts will be created from some original resource. Beyond the list of components, there is assembly/manufacturing, and then sales and distribution.
     The parts that occur between the harvesting of the raw materials and the sales and distribution are typically considered a "normal" aspect of business. A company may outsource (farm out, sub-delegate or sub-contract, etc) parts of the work but all of the parts, whether done directly by the company or not, are part of a "normal" manufacturing process. For many companies, this is the end of their process. However, it is not the end of the cycle. A cycle does not complete until everything is back to the beginning (though rarely EXACTLY the same for the next cycle).
     What does an incomplete cycle look like? With the CO2 cycle, we are seeing the effects right now. More absorbers (plankton in the ocean, trees and other plants on the land) are being displaced while historical (fossil fuels and some current biofuels and other combustibles) "fixed" carbon dioxide is being released into the air.
     In the case of a manufacturing cycle, the direct effect of not completing the cycle is pollution. If the company does not take care of it -- making it part of the product cost -- then it is taken care of by the taxpayers. This is a prevalent form of corporate subsidy -- and part of the reason why environmental laws and protection agencies are needed to prevent some corporations from offloading their costs to the general population.
     What methods are used for handling pollution? Recycling is certainly one method. Containment is another. Unfortunately, ignoring it is another common method which causes other, less direct, costs for health and medical treatment and loss of productivity for farmers, fisherpeople, and others who work within the global environment to produce food or provide recreation. Reduced fishing yields, enormous islands of plastic in the ocean, and a hazardous cycle of needing increasing amounts of pesticides/herbicides/insecticides to maintain crop production levels act as hallmarks of improperly handled pollution.
     In 1900, there was probably more pollution produced per person than there is now. However, since the population was approximately 1/5 of today's population, the total amount of pollution was less. Pollution was more concentrated around industrial areas. This created "dead areas" but, outside of the industrially concentrated sections, nature could largely handle the edge conditions and there were still areas which were able to be self-sustaining. With today's population and the spread of urban areas, there are few areas where nature is able to keep up with the demands upon the ecology.
     If a corporation is to sell products according to a full cycle cost analysis, then all must finish (for the single cycle) in as close to an original condition as possible. That extra cost is added to the price and the company takes on the responsibility for taking care of the pollution and side-effects of harvesting resources. Otherwise, the general populace pays the cost via taxes and deterioration of health and the environment. In either case, the cost exists.
     What other circles, or cycles, are important within your life? What happens if the cycle is interrupted?