I'm always working on dumb projects and every once in awhile I come up with something that might be useful to someone.
I've stored some of those on a page I call Handy Resources.
Remember I was explaining about Artificial Intelligence and I contrasted the capability of a human and a computer?
I said the computer processes your command in 15 milliseconds then sits there twiddling its thumbs for for the next 1200 milliseconds
waiting for your next command.
Yeah, total bullcrap.
I've spent 90% of my time day today watching a little spinny wheel while PTC Creo tried to do the simplest commands, like opening a tiny
file off the network. (Don't tell me to re-launch Creo--did that. Don't tell me to reboot--did that.)
I could have gone into the server with tweezers and pulled the electrons off the hard drive myself quicker.
Oh, but the e-mail worked fine. While I was blowing a gasket waiting for PTC Creo I was getting a steady stream of messages from my boss
asking where in the name of Dale P. Earnhardt the drawings were that he was waiting for. So that gave me something to do while I was waiting
for the obscenely expensive software to do what it was supposed to do.
I'll have to find a better example to illustrate why humans would want to turn over decision-making to the superior capabilities of computers.
This is not That
I've given you a lot of examples of the concept I use to call When Someone Does Something Bad and Then You Call Him on It and Then You're the Bad Guy Not Him.
As clever as that name is, I decided to accept my brilliant sister's suggestion to call it the Cinderella Syndrome (if the shoe fits . . .).
This is Not That (TINT) is another important concept that occurs all the durned time, but that's not a very clever phrasing. So I came up with an ingenious
name for it. It was a reference everyone would get, it was succinct, and it was descriptive. It was perfect.
And I forgot it.
Actually the Cinderella Syndrome (The Artist Formerly Known as WSDSBTYCHITYBGNH) is kind of a variation on This is Not That, isn't it? The wrong person is
being called the bad guy.
Speaking of bad guys, here's a phrase that despicable abusers and bullies like to use: "Look what you made me do!" You remember the gasp moment in Enough
when Jennifer Lopez's mother-in-law sees her black eye and says "What did you do to make him do that?" Like the action was somehow entirely justified.
I've told you that a hallmark of abuse is shifting the blame. The abuser breaks stuff and hurts his wife and traumatizes his children, but it never
would have happened if the wife had just not made him mad.
Well, the other day a cop ran into a fleeing felon
and crashed the police car, the stolen truck the guy was driving, and a parked tow truck. The incident shut down the main street of the town for 5-1/2 hours.
Look what you made me do!
I know you're smart enough to see that story is a TINT (the Artist futurely know as something more clever than TINT). In that case the completely worthless waste of
skin walking pile of excrement human weed did indeed cause the cop to cause all that damage. They'd been chasing this oxygen thief for five days—in this particular incident.
He had a rap sheet as long as Hillary's Pinocchio nose, and the cops had spent plenty of time chasing this guy in the past. The only way he was going to be stopped was by
something this drastic.
In a perfect world the scumbag would somehow pay for the police car, the tow truck, the stolen truck and all of the inconvenience caused by his not dying alone in the desert years ago.
I think it was the great philosopher Frank Leany who said "You cannot claim to love flowers if you don't hate weeds."
Here's something funny
If you hear Rush Limbaugh talk about the Lisa Page/Strzok texts story, you'll notice he always says "Struck/Stroke." Just a clever play on the name of someone who's a bad guy in the story.
The reason is because when the story first broke Rush wasn't sure how to pronounce Strzok's name, so he tried it one way, then corrected himself. But now, rather than admit he
fumbled, he does it that way, every time. Like "I knew all along and was just having fun with the guy's name."
You know I love Rush Limbaugh. I've just got to needle him about that little tendency to never admit he's human. Geez, first it was Beck, now Rush Limbaugh. Wow,
I'm always chasing away the people I should be firming up alliances with. It's like I'm like Sean Hannity or something.
Oops. There I go again.
Updates to What (Really) Happened?
I left out an important element of the story on the Clinton government shutdown. At the point in the summer of 95 when the news was announcing there might be a
shutdown, it was a done deal. There was nothing anybody could do to keep Bill Clinton from shutting down the government.
If Karl Marx himself had written the budget that would not have been something Bill Clinton would sign. There never was a chance of avoiding a government shutdown.
And yes, I do have it all figured out.
More Artificial Intelligence
Before I get into the next topic I'm going to harvest the salient points out of the previous posts. See how that works? I read this blog so you don't have to.
I was talking about bots that create the impressions of being masses of people. I said that what creates our views informs our choices.
The point of using computers most efficiently is that the machines have to be making decisions without us.
You have to do what the math and the computer tells you, rather than the other way around.
I mentioned how doctors currently find out if you're allergic to something. They give it to you and if you have a reaction you're allergic.
Obviously they don't do that with the intent of giving you a reaction; odds are you aren't allergic. I was saying there should be a predictive way to know if you
have a good chance of being allergic to a substance.
I was talking about that in the context of using a computer to analyze data. Wait, what did I say?
. . . a computer analyzing data.
Let's take a little closer look at that seemingly innocuous phrase.
A computer typically compiles data and a human being analyzes it. That's the major shift and the scary part.
In the case of the allergies here's what that looks like: You shovel in a whole pile of data and the computer comes back with probabilities that the patient would be
allergic to various things. The computer may make its determination based on the fact that the patient is of Scandinavian descent but has brown eyes, and a ring finger as long as the forefinger.
A doctor would never make that determination, because it makes no sense. What could eye color or finger length have to do with being allergic to Cantakitol? The doctor doesn't see the connection.
The computer doesn't care. All it knows it that in patients with those characteristics there's a 78.2% incidence of that allergy.
Here's a real life example. They (the elusive and ubiquitous "they") were messing with an algorithm to predict recidivism, using it to kind of gauge who
should and who should not be given parole. The program predicted that African Americans were more likely to re-offend after being released on parole.
Wow. That is freaking racist. You can't have that, so they modified the program to negate that tendency.
Is it racist? It certainly is prejudiced. It's the very definition of prejudice.
But what is "racist?" What does that mean (if it means anything anymore)? If it means believing people of a certain race is inferior (or even different) simply because of their race,
you can make a strong case that analyzing that data is not racist.
For example, there are many filters that catch that demographic having nothing to do with race, even though they are in that filter because of their race.
Black Americans have been treated badly, of course they're going to be rebellious. They tend to group together, again, because evil people have segregated them,
and they perpetuate that anger amongst themselves. There are reasons for their behavior that are independent of their race.
You could go on all day about the social and psychological basis of all that.
But it doesn't matter in terms of the data.
It absolutely matters if you're trying to figure out how to address the underlying problem. But our point here is that if you interject your judgment into the
data you're going to get a skewed result.
Why use the computers at all if you're going to tell them the answer you will accept?
Dang, Frank, that was profound. You ought to have, like, a blog or something . . .
(If you care at all about who "they" are, a couple of articles about the general concept are
The Nature of Statistics
The very nature of statistics is that it's only accurate when applied to the whole population in question. Data in the aggregate doesn't affect the particular.
So the fact that . . . whatever . . . 43% of blacks will commit crimes after they leave prison has no effect on the particular black prisoner who is paroled.
It is useful mathematically to think of it in individual terms. If 43% of that population will do it (will, not may, when you talk in terms of the entire population)
that means that every individual element of the population carries a 43% likelihood of doing it.
Mathematically yes. But obviously it's not practically so. On an individual level the person will or won't. And he can choose.
Like deaths due to a particular disease. Okay, so the survival rate of this type of myelodysplastic syndrome are 20% at this stage. Well, who's to say I'm not in that
20%? The one who is outside of that is 100% dead, the one inside 100% alive. And nobody gets to say who that gets to be.
So that kind of sucks for the one who isn't in the 20%. Believe me.
I remember when Michael Landon had cancer. He was on a talk show. "We are going to fight this and we are going to beat it." Everybody cheered. You got this, bro!
I get it. You have to keep positive. You have to.
Even back then I was thinking "How? You're going to defeat it with a positive mental attitude?" Really, good for you for staying positive. You have to.
But in the end the statistics will always bear out.
You can change the algorithm so it lies to you, but the math itself is brutally honest.
I always remember the lesson an old farmer taught me (he wasn't that old, but the reference is much more lyrical that way). I was picking up a load of hay and my friend and I
were calculating how much I owed. We were trying to count the number of bales on the trailer and multiply it by the price. I came up with an answer, my friend had a different
one. I recounted and figured again.
The farmer said "It's math. We all have to come up with the same answer."
Back to AI
I'm still trying to convey the image or feeling of turning decision making over to a computer.
I want to illustrate why we would want machines making decisions without us; why we would agree to do what the computer tells us, rather than the other way around.
Imagine you're the Director of National Intelligence. Your job is to take all the intelligence from the myriad of agencies we have and compile it and coordinate it. I don't
know how many hundreds of thousands of people are contributing to that body of information. In the end it gets filtered before it gets to you. You depend on summaries at a
lot of different levels just because of the sheer volume of information. The people who feed you the summaries are getting fed summaries.
The purpose is make it possible for a human to process.
It's the same in any big organization. What you're doing is expanding your capacity. You can't be everywhere so you have this giant organization that can be.
The key is that you have to trust what's being fed you.
Same thing with the algorithms. Humans are capable of compiling that data, or even analyzing it. Not even lots and lots (and lots) of humans. If you want the job done you
have to turn it over to something much bigger and more capable than a human. Like a bunch of computers running self-learning algorithms.
Then you have to trust it.
Elements of Argument
I was in the book section of my local thrift store and a worker was putting incoming stock on the shelves. She scoffed and said "That's disgusting," then put out a book about
argument. I think it was called The Elements of Argument. I should know, because after she moved down the aisle I put it in my cart and I bought it. I added it to my section on
Argument, Logic, and Reasoning.
What the good-hearted worker didn't understand is that argument is completely different from quarreling. While I hate when my kids quarrel, I hope to teach them how to argue.
Argument is the skill of making a case for your position.
The reason you find that fascinating is because when you're crafting dialog in the book you're writing you need to understand that in most cases a conversation should be an argument.
If you've read any drafts of my manuscripts you've been treated to riveting conversations like this.
How are you?
I just cut and paste that dialog whenever any of my characters have to interact. It may not be good writing, but it's efficient.
I am fine, How are you?
I am fine, thanks for asking.
Oh, you're welcome.
The way it should be is that each of the participants has a different end they're trying to achieve and they are making a case for that. They are mounting an "argument."
Pay attention when you read good dialog. I think you'll see that's what's going on. If they're in agreement what's the point of the conversation? Maybe it's
exposition. But if it's interesting it's argument.
Something else that differentiates the two participants in a conversation is their focus. Arguing different positions is a different focus—they each have a different
goal, and it's a competing goal. But it can be a matter of emphasis that's not necessarily competing.
Here's what I mean. I was with a friend at a car show. We'd walk up to a display, I'd look at the placard in the windshield. "That was the new body style that year,
I think most of them were automatics but the most coveted ones had a four speed. They actually offered the 429 in that model, but it only ran for two years."
My friend was looking at the same placard in the windshield. "Barry Johnson, he's Albert's son from out in Genola. That's not the Bert Johnson from over to
Springville, it's a different family. Albert married one of the Talbot sisters, you know, from up Logan way, but they split the sheets about 10 years ago and
now she's married to that veterinarian out in Colorado. Course, they's lots of Johnsons in Springville, but most of them are from up north."
You see that in the classic gag when someone misses the point in a conversation.
Jerry got caught making out with Irene in the bathrooms at the Sonic.
The final thing to remember when crafting dialog is that it's typically not forthright. Because the characters are making their case they only include the
things that support their position, and yes, sometimes people say things that aren't accurate characterizations in pursuit of that.
No way! The Sonic has bathrooms?
(They, lie, okay? They lie.)
So basically, don't have two Stepford wives talking to each other.
In my own defense let me state at the outset that all the other radio stations were on a commercial.
Honestly, that's not true, but the real reason makes me seem much less shallow than I really am.
To begin with it was the case, but when I got back in the car and the radio was still on NPR I thought "Let's see what they have to say." It bugs me when they form their opinions in their own little bubble/echo chamber. If I think they should entertain my viewpoint I'm going to give them the same courtesy. (Yes, I am talking about Them and Us, and no, I have no apologies)
So I listened.
That's an exercise I'm going to have to work up to doing little by little.
The fine journalists on NPR were talking about government shutdowns, and how they've happened from time to time over the years.
There were a couple of short ones during Reagan's term, then George HW Bush, then along came . . . cue scary music . . . Newt Gingrich! Bah da-daaaah.
Did I mention wow?
I'm struggling to describe the sensations I was feeling listening to them spin the Bill Clinton government shutdown. I oscillated between
screaming with laughter and gasping with incredulity. It was like George Norry was guest hosting All Things Considered. Complete fairy tale.
In fact, I really think NPR should do an audiobook of bedtime stories. That would be marvelously entertaining.
I'm pretty sure they would have Goldilocks eating all three of the bears.
The emperor really would be wearing clothing spun of gold. And the little boy would get thrown in a Gulag for questioning the government.
Little Red Riding Hood? She totally misunderstood the intentions of the Large, Good-hearted Wolf, who was trying to protect Grandma from the
evil PETA hating hunter. The hunter was on a rampage over transgendered students in his kid's school.
Hansel and Gretel were spies for Big Oil, scouting the forest for locations to drill. Bread crumbs? No, they were driving stakes to mark a
roadway to spoil the forest. Heroic Sierra Club members pulled up the stakes.
The Boy who Cried Wolf was a Dreamer, doing a job that the townspeople just wouldn't do. The cold-hearted townspeople (aka Republicans) went
after the wolf, who was harmless because he identified as a sheep. In their zeal they destroyed the flock, it wasn't the wolf's doing at all.
Then they covered their carcasses by coming up with the story about the boy crying wolf.
Here's how it went down.
It was probably May or June of 1995. I was driving home from work listening to the news when a blurb came on saying "The White House says that there may
be a government shutdown if they can't come to an agreement with Congress before the budget deadline."
I had been more or less plugged in to politics since the late 70s, but I guess not that engaged, because I'd never heard of a government shutdown.
I did know that the fiscal year didn't end until the fall of the year, so it struck me as really curious that the White House was issuing statements about it that early.
A couple more times over the next few months they mentioned that again. The White House says there might have to be a government shutdown if they can't come to
an agreement on the budget.
Then the time got closer and it became a bigger news story. Congress submitted a
budget, Clinton vetoed it. They submitted another one, Clinton vetoed it. Congress tried to get Clinton to tell them what he wanted and he refused to talk
to them. He snubbed Newt Gingrich. Bob Dole made the statement that he was "in the bizarre position of negotiating with the President through the press."
Congress kept submitting budgets and Clinton kept vetoing them.
The deadline came. The government shut down.
Congress submitted another budget and Clinton signed it and things went back to something like normal.
So what was that all about? Sheesh.
Well, in 1996 I found out.
1996 was a mid-term election year and all of a sudden all the demorats were talking about "The Republican government shutdown." At first I thought it was
adorable, but they continued to do it. And the spineless, clueless, idiot Republicans never refuted it. I was screaming at the TV and the radio. "Do you
people not see what's happening here?!"
At the point when the news was announcing there might be a shutdown, clear back in the summer of 95, it was a done deal.
There was nothing anybody could do to keep Bill Clinton from shutting down the government.
There was never any chance of avoiding a government shutdown. It was not possible to write a budget that Clinton would sign.
Finally, the Sunday before the election—two days before the election—Haley Barbour was on a Sunday morning news show and he was asked "Do you regret shutting
down the government?"
I would have screamed but I was waiting to hear his answer.
He said "I regret not getting the truth out about what happened in the government shutdown."
No screaming. I just shook my head and turned off the TV.
Brilliant political maneuver. Brilliant because Clinton understood the players well enough to know that such a transparent, clunky, sloppy ploy would work
against the brain-dead Republicans we keep sending to congress.
I feel like Sherlock Holmes, torn between despising Moriarty for his pure evil and admiring him for his cunning.
Do you remember . . . ?
NPR isn't unique in getting their stories wrong. They are just one of the more entertaining.
And I hope I'm not unique in saying they're not unique. I wonder if other people have friends and acquaintances who relate stories that have little relation to what really happened.
I'll be listening to a story about something I was involved in, and wondering if I'm hearing a whole different story. It always confuses me a little.
Does this person really believe that? They seem sincere. Is it a maneuver? What advantage do they hope to gain by telling it that way?
And sometimes I'm surprised at how universal the practice is. Some people are just into tall tales, but it seems like no one is immune to having a skewed
version of how events happened.
In fact, I'm probably the only person I know who gets it 100% right every single time.
I was never a bad kid, but I was somewhat . . . adventurous. I did engage in some activities that weren't strictly OSHA approved. Years later people still
tell stories about those . . . adventures. Maybe my memory is bad, but I'm always pleased at how amazing I was back in the day. I don't recall possessing the
skills necessary to pull some of them off.
But I deviate from my point. Those stories, of course, are all true in all their fantastic details. This post is about embellishing and just plain fabricating.
It's really funny to hear someone explaining something to you that you have knowledge of and they don't.
A guy I work with told me I bought my house from T. H. Jarvis.
No, actually I bought it from David Jarvis, no relation to that Jarvis family. He built the place in 1993. He was the only owner and he's the one I met with and
negotiated with and bought the house from.
No, the guy says, T.H. Jarvis Sr. built the place, then we he died his son got it. Then his son got into drugs and lost the place and that's when you bought it.
Whatever you say.
Or, I remember the time when you lived and worked in Pleasantview, and the plan was to pay cash for your house after a year, so what was it like to not see your
family for a year?
Uh . . . my family and I lived in Pleasantview together and . . .
No, all I know for sure was that your plan was to live away from home for one year.
Oh, you know that for sure. Okay.
There was the friend reminiscing about our college days who explained to me exactly how and why I broke up with a girl whose name he couldn't remember.
A neighbor was telling me about a conversation I had with another neighbor where I refused to give him some lumber he wanted. Yeah, you were standing
right there arguing and then you both walked away and then you got your tractor and moved the lumber.
Well, I did move the lumber with my tractor one Saturday morning, but I've never had a conversation with that particular neighbor, much less a fight.
It reminded me of when some girl accused Willy Nelson of having sex with her in Detroit (let's say, I can't remember for sure where) and doing some
particular acrobatic maneuver that I wish I could remember. She figured it would be some big scandal and he'd be anxious to hush it all up. His response was: I
really don't remember the sex or that maneuver, but I certainly might have done that. But I've never been to Detroit.
Speaking of Fabricating
Since I'm always so factual in how I tell things I need a release. I need to experience the joy that others find in fiction. So I occasionally will make up
stories about silly things that would never happened in the workplace. I try to make it crazy enough that it's obvious to anyone reading that it couldn't
possibly have ever really happened.
The other day I thought of another one.
Since Make-a-Diamond bought Technolix a lot more emphasis had been put on safety. Make-a-Diamond was owned by Bloomber-sheay, and as a giant corporation BLS
had a great concern for taking all measures possible to ensure a safe workplace. Employees were encouraged to discuss safely at every meeting and all employees
had safety objectives that they were expected to perform and report on every month.
Every month small rewards were passed out to those who had met the safety objectives. Usually the reward was candy or a treat, and it was always accompanied with
some cutesy slogan having to do with safety. With the onset of summer the reward had been little packets of sunscreen with a label that said "Safety Makes Us All Shine Brighter!"
About a week after the sunscreen was distributed, Jess Crocker was talking to Carson. "You know those packets of sunscreen that Shawnee sent out for the safety
rewards? I wonder how many people mistook that sunscreen for a snack," Jess said.
"What?" Carson said. "A snack?"
"Yeah, you know, like those little packets of, you know, like that energy drink goo stuff."
Carson snorted in amusement. "I don't think anybody did! It was sunscreen, you can't . . . wait a minute . . ." He studied Jess's face.
Jess gave Carson a startled look. "What?"
Carson started to laugh. "You didn't! Did you? Did you eat that?"
"No, of course not," Jess said. Then, with a sheepish grin, "Well, it looked like a snack, like . . . I spit it right out."
Better Late Than Never
I guess political cartoons get stale pretty fast, so a month from now it won't matter that I posted these a month or two late.
Erma Bombeck was a humor columnist who wrote about life as a housewife. She's the author of many books including Womanhood: the Second Oldest Profession,
and Please Don't Eat the Daisies.
Her mom would read her column every week in the newspaper, checking the stock photo that was printed with it to see how her daughter was doing.
Sometimes the particular run of the paper had lighter ink or other variations and she'd comment to Erma that she wasn't looking so well that week.
See, that's funny because . . .
Or maybe that she would comment that Erma was looking full of vigor if the photo looked particularly sharp. (Said commenting was done by phone,
through an ancient technique called the long distance call, or by letter).
Our brains are conditioned to evaluate other humans when we interact. How is this person responding to what's happening in this conversation?
How do they feel? Maybe on a deep level that analysis is still operating when our higher brain knows the indicators aren't valid.
I'd venture to say a lot of people have as many conversations not in person—not even vocally—as they do face to face with other humans. But eons
of conditioning haven't changed our brain's scanning for cues.
You've probably observed that the profile picture of a person colors your interpretation of the post. That's why I'm constantly getting friend requests with
profile pictures of sexy girls with their boobs popping out. I have to remind myself that it's really an obese, sweaty millennial looking for my credit card number.
And you've probably observed how an emoji can completely change the texture of a conversation. And it may or may not be genuine.
And you've probably experienced the misunderstood text, because a text can't convey the mischievous twinkle in the eye and the "JK" grin.
And adding that to the comment kind of undermines the whole understated humor of the thing. (Like saying "See, that's funny because . . .")
Then, maybe you've experienced the situation where one person uses a certain emoji and you equate it with his or her personality. Then another
person uses the same one and there's a little bit of a cognitive disconnect in the communication—like one person's voice coming out of another person's face.
I wonder if we understand the effect of this type of communication on our psyches. I'm not saying that it's necessary to understand that, but I
do think that it's part of what molds our thinking.
The Peasants are Revolting!
The basic theme I'm following on this Chautauqua is the human brain vs. machine thinking. The emojis and profile picture examples are human
brains doing what they do.
Glenn Beck was talking about Project Veritas and the Twitter deal they uncovered, where they
are shadow banning
communications that might not support their political leanings.
Glenn Beck was absolutely right about this. James O'Keefe uncovers some great stuff, but his methods make me really uncomfortable, and
frankly undermine his credibility a little.
For the purposes of our discussion the point of O'Keefe's revelation is the way that technologies have taken over human interactions. One of the
fundamental principle of our society is "democracy." (Simmer down, you guys, I hate the 17th Amendment as much as you do. I'm talking about the
principle of doing the business of our society by the Voice of the People. Sheesh.) So we kind of tune in to what everyone kind of thinks on things.
We may try to overcome it, "I don't care what anyone thinks," but it's inherent in our nature and advertisers and others bank on the fact that a
large percentage of people are susceptible to it.
But we have technologies that skew that. Using bots and algorithms ten people can sound like 10,000 voices expressing a view. Literally, 10 people
can use bots to generate 10,000 unique posts and e-mails and various communications, making it seem like there's a groundswell of support or
opposition for something that only a few people want to control.
That ain't right.
I'll tell you why it's not. The fundamental principle of humanity is Free Will. And we exercise our will based on information we have.
If you pervert that, you are corrupting a fundamental principle of the universe.
Media Matters is collaborating with Twitter, unifying forces to take down the threat of Free Thought in this country. Now, Media Matters is
an insanely evil organization. They are despicable because they commit the worst sin—trying to take away Free Will. They are, at their core, bullies.
They would have you think like they do without your choosing.
Everything evil you can think of involves taking away someone's choice from them.
If you are crafting a story a great trigger for homicidal behavior in your protagonist is the sneering phrase "What are you going to do about it?"
Nothing creates a more visceral reaction than the threat of removing the most fundamental thing that makes you human—Free Will.
Sorry, got a little carried away. Breathe, Frank. Breathe.
Point is, bots and other technologies are creating our views. And our views create our choices.
The Robots are Coming!
Again, if you know and love Glenn Beck the way I do, you appreciate when he takes a break and turns it over to his sidekicks. It's paradoxical but true.
'Cause the guy is depressing. Everything is a portent of impending doom. The depressing thing is that he's usually right. He sees the way things are
going to happen.
He really does. And it's not always the end of the world. One example is the way we watch television. I didn't even know what he was talking about when
he predicted that we wouldn't sit down in front of one the networks on Thursday nights at 7:00 to watch our favorite show. And now we do it the way he predicted we would.
But the doom just wears on you sometimes.
I've developed a coping mechanism. It's all about perspective. I've decided to spare you the details; I'll bore you about it another time. But rough
times are both worse and better when you're in them than when you're imagining them. Like imagine taking a page of today's paper back in time.
The deal I've made fun of Beck on is his idea that A.I. is going to become self-aware and start making decisions that harm humans. It seems ridiculous.
Just like when Beck was worried that Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination. Just ludicrous.
Actually, I find paranoia to be a very defensible position.
I'm struggling to phrase this succinctly. The basic idea is that humans have limitations that computers don't, limitations in terms of speed and volume of processing.
Think of it this way: Most of the time you spend on the computer the processors are idle (except for those maddening times when they're not. Grrrrrr!)
Sorry, for the aside, you know exactly what I mean. If you're running a design program with the task manager performance window open you can see that
at times you're pegging the processors (and your blood pressure) while the computer is trying to catch up. But for the most part, like right now when
I'm typing, I type a character and the computer processes it in 5 milliseconds then twiddles its thumbs waiting 600 milliseconds for me to type in the
next character. When I watch Ironman I'm more amazed at the way Stark can interact with the technology than at the technology itself.
I hope I'm conveying the concept. The power of the computer, in a certain sense, is limited by the human's ability to use it. Take this illustration as
it is intended. When you run some analyses, like FEA, you set up the problem then go home for the evening while the computer works it out. You're ahead of
the computer. But you're not doing the work, either. But you are making the decisions of what work to do.
In that example imagine yourself calculating the same elements. Instead of the 8 hours the computer takes you'd be lucky to do it in 8 years.
So we're converging on the idea. Even with the finite element analysis the computer is crunching the setup you gave it. It is only doing what you told it
to do, the old GIGO.
So the idea behind Beck's concern is that in order to get the maximum benefit from computers we have to unleash them. We have to let them process well beyond
what we can keep up with.
Running a powerful spreadsheet or program is one thing, in the case where the program is doing the heavy lifting but you still control what it's doing.
To really get the benefit of the technology it can't be shackled by your limitations. It has to start making decisions while you're still stuck
processing—figuring out what you want it to do.
That's where Beck gets concerned. The computers are doing the heavy lifting but we're still directing them. Their performance is limited to our capacity.
So at some point we have to turn them loose to get the maximum benefit. And by necessity and definition they will be outrunning us.
And they will have to be making decisions without us. That's the point.
Danger Will Robinson!
So let's merge the last two points.
You set up the computer, you program it to make decisions, then you turn it loose.
What kind of decisions is it going to make?
Well, that depends on who programmed it, doesn't it?
If Media Matters and the Michael Moore-ons of the world have set the guidelines on those decisions, do you think you're going to like the outcome?
Those are the bullies who are making the decisions right now on what kind of information gets through your smart phone.
I've told you about the most dangerous cliff in the park. It's not the one with the abrupt drop. It's the one that gradually gets steeper.
I'm not an alarmist, but it makes no sense to sound the warning after you can't do anything about it.
Unleash the Power!
So I make fun of Glenn's paranoia, but out of the other side of my mouth I am crying from the rooftops that humans can't cure cancer.
You know what can?
The kinds of algorithms Facebook uses. Not kidding.
For about two years I bored every doctor at the Bone Marrow Clinic with my theories about mathematically based cancer treatments.
I got the pat on the head, cute little boy. Adorable, his little ideas on medicine. They explained about the need for double-blind
studies and control groups and including all the variables and I had to stifle a scream. "That's the whole point! You can never get there
with full factorial analyses of all the variables! That. Is. The. Point!"
. . . how bored do you want to be?
See, if you have a human looking at stuff that's what he does. Full factorials, double-blind studies. Things that take for-freaking-ever
while cancer patients continue to die. There is literally not enough time to compile and calculate the data you need. As many cancer
patients as there are now, there would have to be 100X more for you to get enough data in 100 years to solve the problem.
You have to know things that you don't have data on.
Okay, quit reading now. It's going to get excruciatingly boring.
How much do you pay for your Facebook account? What? Nothing?
Well how come Mark Zuckermeisterberger Whatsisbucket is a billionaire? How in the name of Dale P. Earnhardt does he rake in the kind of cash he does if
none of his customers are paying him?
Because what you give him is more valuable than what he's giving you.
You're giving him information. But the secret is that you are giving him information you don't know you're giving him. He knows things about you that you
haven't told him (and I call Glenn Beck paranoid!).
Hear me out on this (since you ignored my advice to quit reading).
The people he sells your information to know that if you grew up in a small town and you prefer Coke over Pepsi you are more likely to respond to an ad for a
Dodge than for a Chevy . . . for example. They can triangulate and use Bayesian algorithms and probability to figure out things you haven't told them.
Point is, one more time, you have to know things that you don't have direct information on.
How does a doctor currently know you're allergic to something? Because he gave it to you and you had a reaction. That's direct information. Does that seem
like the smartest way to do that?
Oops. Dude died. I guess he was allergic to that.
I'm not crazy, I'm really . . . well, I most certainly am crazy, but I'm not wrong about this. If you slice the data correctly—or more to the point,
if you allow a computer to slice it correctly because you just plain are not capable—you could predict allergies and other things based on factors that
seem totally unrelated.
Add analysis of DNA and you can cure cancer.
But humans can't do it. Not even human mathematicians. You have to unleash intelligent, self-learning algorithms, and you have to do what they tell you
rather than the other way around.
I'm done here. Geez, I've got a headache.
Here is a very basic example of what I'm talking about. Let's say you have a table of the position of a vehicle over time. It was at point A,
then at another time it was at point B, then at point C . . .
You have distance. That's the information you have. What if I asked you about the speed of the vehicle? Well, you don't have that. I haven't told you that.
No, but you can easily calculate it. Because you also have time. What about acceleration? Same thing. You can calculate it.
What about power? Now you're talking crazy.
Well, you have the acceleration, why can't you know the power? Because, Frank, you don't have the mass. Duh.
But you know a range—you have a probability of what the mass is. You know what most cars weigh.
This is a very rudimentary example, but it's warming you up to the concept. You don't just use the data you have, you use how the data has changed
and—this is key—probabilities based on other data you have.
This is how drillers control Oil & Gas drill bits. They know the RPM of the drill string and how fast the pipe is being fed and how much weight they have on it.
They also know the torque they're delivering to the drill string.
But keep track of how those are changing over time and with relation to each other, then combine them with the way you've seen the drill string behave in the past,
and you wouldn't believe the information they can know about the formation. Information they have no way of measuring directly.
Red Pill or Blue Pill?
Sorry, couldn't come up with a title that used an exclamation point.
The Matrix is key to our discussion here. First, we are victims (What's a less harsh word for victim? Product?) of the information that we have available.
If we were living in The Matrix, how would we know? How do you know that the news you're consuming is real? Were you there? Do you know someone you trust
who was there? How well can you trust that person?
My problem is that I would immediately forget and be confused. "Wait! What did the blue pill do again? Hold on, explain that to me again." After five minutes
of thought and discussion I'd still have no idea which pill I was taking. I am honestly that dumb.
But the kind of matrix I'm talking about is the Taguchi Matrix. Or, if you prefer the more generalized version, the orthogonal array.
Look it up if you care, R.A. Fisher, orthogonal arrays, Taguchi matrices (also DOE or Design of Experiments) . . .
But I'll tell you my story about it.
I got into cars as a teenager, read the magazines, tinkered with cars and making them go faster. The cardinal rule of making changes was that you only
change one thing at a time. Because otherwise you lose track of what effect the change had.
Makes sense. You change the carb jets and the heat range of the plugs and the car goes faster by .2 seconds. But maybe one change hurt you by .1 and the
other helped by .3 seconds. You don't have any way of knowing. You've gotta' make one change at a time and keep track of the results.
You'll recognize this as where the medical industry is.
Then when I was in college (this actually happened at work, not in school, but I was in college at the time. Like you care.) I learned about Taguchi matrices.
The problem with changing one variable at a time is that is takes too long. And while you're running all the experiments other variables you can't control
change, for example in the case of the car the track warms up and the air temperature gets colder.
So here's the basic idea. (I actually wrote an article for National Dragster on this, but I can't get my hands on the electronic copy right now.)
Let's say you have 3 variables with two different levels each. You've got two different carb jets, two different spark plugs, two different tire pressures
you want to test.
To run all of those combinations would take 2^3 or 8 runs. That's doable, theoretically, but not easy, as you know if you've ever spent any time in the
staging lanes at a drag strip. But if you add just one more variable all of a sudden you're looking at 16 runs. Then if you have more than 2 levels
for any or all of the variables . . . it gets messy in a hurry.
Here's the magic trick. You can set up a fraction of those tests and still get the best combination. For example, with five variables of two levels each
(32 combinations) you can determine the best combination with 8 experiments. The trick is in which variables you test in which combination.
The thing that struck me as magical was that the ideal combination has a 75% chance of being one that you didn't test. You are getting information about
things you didn't test. Good information. Valid information.
Anyway . . .
That opened a window for me. The power of math to shake Nature's secrets out of her.
In a previous blog post we talked about paranoia. Here's one for you.
Have you ever signed up for identity theft protection? Yeah, so these people you don't know (the identity theft company) are charging you for keeping your identity
safe. To help them do that you go online (online!) and tell them every detail about all your financial accounts and social media accounts and every secret your
hairdresser doesn't even know.
If I'm an identity thief looking for that information that's the first place I'm going to go.
Hey! I'll keep your identity safe! Just tell me all of your sensitive information so I can do that!
Just a thought.
I Once Was Blind, but Now . . .
I was the project manager for the boss's favorite vision for a while. A typical weekly meeting consisted of him coming in and saying he had been wrong about the
fundamentals of the concept. He had looked over what we had developed and thought about the underlying principles and he can't believe he missed this element that
changed everything and now he had it figured out and this was the way it was supposed to be.
Next week same thing.
That's the nature of life, the nature of progress.
Almost everything I have figured out today is different than I had all figured out before (which was different than it was before that). And I know that everything that
I understand right now is going to look silly at some point in the future when I really understand it and look back on now.
I'm not sure where I was going when I made this note. I think it came from a conference I attended a couple of weeks ago and the keynote speaker was explaining this new
model of understanding stuff. The sub-text of the talk was that our former understanding of the topic was all wrong, ha-hah, silly us, and now it all makes sense.
You know the deal. Next conference we'll shake our heads at how misguided we were when we were basing our understanding on that model.
A few years ago Al Gore was chuckling about how brain damaged conservatives were, citing a study that showed that conservative and liberal brains were wired differently;
that conservatives were neurologically pre-disposed to resist change. And we all know how horrible that is!
(Oh, sure, now they love studies about how the brain works. They ran off that Harvard professor for citing one of those studies.)
In my own defense I'm going to point out that all progress involves change, but not all change is progress. I think that Al Gore and his liberal friends suffer from a
chronic case of what the eminent and distinguished blogger Frank Leany cleverly terms as the This is Not That fallacy.
But, as an indictment of myself I'm going to say that the study probably has merit. I struggle with change, even when it means progress. I am reluctant to
lightly discard something that has value, and I'm still not convinced that's a bad thing. (Tune in to the next conference to see if I've evolved.) But that
means I often hang onto things that no longer do have value. I hope you never look in my closet and see all the knick knacks I've picked up over the years that I might someday find a use for.
The boss's project really did need revamping every week, and the fact that we had worked our keisters off getting it the way he wanted before had no impact on that fact.
But what kind of hung around in the back of my mind after that presentation at the conference was that uneasiness that we never really ever know anything.
That's the anxiety caused by that conservative chip in my brain. I just have this desire to diagram the new model, close the notebook and think
"Good thing we put that one to bed. The Cosmos is in order."
Life is messy. There is no order.
Internal irony here, the topic the speaker was explaining involved moving through "uncomfortable" to find "comfort."
Look! A dead horse!
I've told you about my view on conspiracy theories. Some people need to perceive order in the universe and an evil entity controlling things is order.
A council of crazy men meeting in a dark-paneled lodge to cause evil is more comforting than the truth. The truth is no one is in control. Doctors can't
cure you, presenters don't have the final answer, and nothing makes sense.
The study about differences in brains makes sense (after I've just told you nothing does). It rings true. I've seen it. I've dealt with people who subscribe
to conspiracy theories, and they tend to see the world in black and white. It's simple. It's neat. It's orderly.
Democrats are bad. Libertarians are good. This is what's causing the bad yield on the parts, no more discussion required. God loves people who drive American
built cars more. Well, that one is true.
Being closed minded is easier. It's much less confusing. It's actually more efficient. You see the way it is, and you move on. No more consideration required.
People who can see both sides are apt to get caught up in weighing relative merits. They get paralysis by analysis.
The disease of Perfection.
I'm getting worn out here. If I'm losing interest you've got to be looking for something to cut your wrists with.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
It's a constant battle. This is not that. The elusive happy medium.
Some time ago I read a blog about the Disease of Perfection. The guy was talking about the anxiety we feel, especially that the youth feel,
to perform and achieve. It causes all kinds of problems.
Yeah, but so does being a slacker.
See what I mean about open-mindedness causing confusion? Slackers are bad. Move on. Or over-achievers are bad. Relax. It's so much simpler to not
consider all the possibilities.
So what's the answer? We don't want our kids being depressed because they got a bad grade. But we don't want them blowing off trying to be better.
Hey, don't look at me. If I had all the answers I'd have a blog or something.
It's stressing me out to leave this so woefully unexplored, but I'm done here.
To Intervene or Not To Intervene?
Item 327 on the list of things Frank sucks at: Knowing when to interact with fellow humans.
I see a woman I work with leaving work, she looks upset. You know the look. Nose is red like she’s been crying or trying not to cry.
Something like 15 minutes later I go out to my car and she’s in hers and through the windshield it looks like she’s crying. She sees me and
holds her fist to her mouth—you know the move. She’s crying.
Broke my heart. I almost walked over to her door to ask the dumbest question in the world “Is everything all right?"
But then I thought "Okay, Frank, if you’re crying in your car do you want someone you work with to approach you?"
The next day I went up to her office to see if I could help, but she was busy. Later I thought better of it and never went back. She seemed okay. She is okay.
But I never know.
How do you know whether or not to approach a person who seems like they need to know someone cares?
We (Y chromosome owners) have a very limited sense of what it’s like to navigate the world as a woman. In some ways I understand that it can feel like
you’re a walking target. Men are basically just life support systems for a testosterone factory. (I think it’s called the Bill Clinton Syndrome)
But humans have an inherent need for interpersonal reaction.
So it kind of boils down to the age old human dance: Attempting to understand the needs of another consciousness using the clunky tools of communication
that mortality provides us.
Okay, here's a silly example. I saw a women in a parking lot riding a shopping cart. You know, foot on the bar and the other foot up, hunched over the
handles for balance rolling to her car. I smiled and she kind of looked sheepish (not a teenager, like late 20s early 30s).
After I passed I had the forehead palm moment. I wish I had said “I like you!” and continued to my car.
Because I did. I immediately liked her. I thought that was a wonderful thing for a person to do, enjoying life.
That wasn’t confusion, that was just Frank’s standard problem of molasses slow reflexes.
The best way to I've found to know what the right thing to do was is to do the wrong thing.
Among his predictions of the doom that awaits us, Glenn Beck is concerned about AI (Artificial Intelligence) machines becoming self-aware and taking over humans.
I sound like I'm bashing Glenn Beck, but if you know and love him like I do you are aware of his propensity for scanning the horizon and detecting assorted scenarios of doom.
It's actually pretty insightful, and he's not always wrong. He's predicted 25 of the last two global catastrophes.
Again, if you listen to him as much as I do you've heard him say "They laughed when I said thus and such on this and that date, but look what's happening now." So either
he gets it right or he knows we're not going to go back and check that he never predicted that. It's pretty safe to bet on the game after the final whistle blows. I think
that's called a "Dalton." If you've read the Chronicles you might know why.
Beck predicts that this year AI will generate a hoax, like and audio or video file, that will be pretty much universally believed.
I really do love Glenn Beck. I believe he's genuinely concerned about the future and it makes me sad to imagine the burdens he bears because of what he sees in the tea leaves.
I get it. You would pee your pants if you could climb inside my brain and see the demons that I visualize on my path forward waiting to attack me in diverse and sundry
creative ways. I wish I were kidding.
I don't know about AI generating that, but we will definitely see an increase in the quantity and quality of hoaxes as time goes one. But the point of this post
(and not a moment too soon!) is that Beck talks about the “imprint never being erased.” Even after it's proven to be a hoax. He's absolutely right about that.
It's true. That's the danger of this stuff (like gossip): Even when you know it's not real it sticks in your mind.
During the 2008 election an e-mail was going around from a guy who said he was a soldier in a unit in Iraq and he got assigned to do security for the John McCain
visit. He was in a mess tent before the speaking event and McCain was basically incoherent and babbling and then one of McCain's guys said the soldier had to leave
because McCain had messed himself and they needed to clean him up for the speech. But before he left he saw them give McCain an injection and the Senator became lucid and aware and . . . you get the picture.
Completely fabricated from the first sentence where the person said he was a soldier. Not one word in the entire e-mail had any basis in fact, but the person who sent
it to me believed it and people he sent it to believed it.
Really? They gave him an injection and he woke up and became coherent? Someone should tell Chuck Shumer and Nancy Pelosi about this magic potion.
But here's the deal. I've listened to Phil Hendrie. I've listened to George Norry. I've even listened to the guy who sent me the e-mail, who believes every
hoax even when the truth makes a better story. I understand that it's physically possible to put words together that have no basis in truth.
But during that campaign I found myself remembering the fictitious story whenever I thought about John McCain.
Isn't that crazy?!
I was curious to see Ann Coulter’s take on what Trump is doing with DACA. So I went to Townhall.com yesterday and looked up her column. This after a year
of not reading her columns and not missing her.
My faithful imaginary readers know that every Thursday morning I used to read Ann Coulter's column before I did anything else. That was my (weekly) morning
cup of coffee. But that was before she lost her mind.
her column yesterday I remembered
why I always used to enjoy her columns. But I have to admit that I look at them differently now. I don’t just accept her take on it as valid out of hand.
Everything she says I take with a 50 pound bag of salt now.
Today she explained that she
only thought she loved Trump, and Bannon was actually his brain.
So . . . yeah . . . that's interesting.
So my Thursday mornings are still free.
Also, I like Townhall.com, although I’ve spent very little time on the site in the past year (a site I used to visit daily, sometimes multiple times a day).
But the "Promoted Stories" they allow to show up at the bottom are pure sleaze and really drag down the quality and credibility of the site. Just grimy.
Shame on you Townhall.
Okay, this is why I voted for a ridiculous, childish, loudmouth lout, and I have no apologies.
I love what he did with Jerusalem, loved the way he called out the UN.
I really wish he weren't childish and an embarrassment. But the people who aren't weren't getting the job done.
I have no idea what this means, but the visual technique is cool
Same kind of deal, different artist
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