My Sunday Ramblings

This seems to be the era where very little is left to be desired.  It’s a wonderful era filled with wonders.

 

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke“Profiles of The Future”, 1961 (Clarke’s third law)

 

So if that’s the case, why do I feel so disenchanted?

Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy:

 

I believe I am struggling with the weighty consequences of human action and knowledge.  I am struggling with moral, systemic, social failures that I condone with inaction but make worse with action.  

What can I do when I see greed and irrational behavior destroy not just society but the people around me?  There’s nothing I can say to make a closed mind listen.  How can I claim any right to blame, when I see these are just products of traditions blindly passed down the generations, societal pressures, and the lack of moral or rational introspection?  

Then I ask: why do I feel empathy and the need to help?  Why should I encourage and reward everyone’s bad behavior? 

I would like to shed all of this baggage, make a break for freedom, be who I truly can be.  I fear these illusive cobwebs that seem to blind and bind everyone else.

Today, when I was sitting in my room, I wished I was home.  Maybe being home is more than the location or the people, but being true to yourself?  Maybe being home is leaving it.

Black Swan Events


Black Swan events over the past decade

• Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon;
• 78% decline in the Nasdaq;
• 2003 European heat wave (40,000 deaths);
• 2004 Tsunami in Sumatra, Indonesia (230,000 deaths);
• 2005 Kashmir, Pakistan, earthquake (80,000 deaths)
• 2008 Myanmar cyclone (140,000 deaths);
• 2008 Sichuan, China, earthquake ( 68,000 deaths);
• Derivatives roil the world’s banking system and financial markets;
• Failure of Lehman Brothers and the sale/liquidation of Bear Stearns;
• 30% drop in U.S. home prices;
•  2010 Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, earthquake (315,000 deaths);
• 2010 Russian heat wave (56,000 deaths);
• 2010 BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill;
• 2010 market flash crash (a 1,000-point drop in the DJIA);
• Surge of unrest in the Middle East; and
• Thursday’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

via ritholtz.com

 

I suppose it’s easier to focus on recent events and forget past events.  So maybe that’s why there are so many terrible happenings within this past year.  But based on this list, it does seem that black swan events are becoming more regular (I suppose we can just abandon the definition altogether then).  

You Are Not Stuck in Traffic… You Are Traffic

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I love this phrase. It truly captures how I feel about traffic.

This is also why I could not understand how someone can suffer from pathological road rage. I can forgive the type of road rage that occurs when your life is on the line or if you’re running late for something vital. Everyone has their irritable days and those days that just don’t go on schedule. What I don’t understand is perpetual road rage directed at all moving objects within the vicinity of the driver’s vehicle — as if the vehicle transforms the driver into a sort of T-rex on wheels. I suppose if driving is going to be so stressful and provide reason for hypertension, then yet another reason to get off the road!

Well, that’s my preaching for the day. But I’m not holier than thou, for I plan to drive tomorrow.

Cleverbot accuses me of being a machine

Cleverbot: Are you sitting comfortably?

 

User: Are you self aware.

 

Cleverbot: Are you self aware?

 

User: I am.

 

Cleverbot: Good.

 

User: Are you?

 

Cleverbot: No.

 

User: Are you human?

 

Cleverbot: Yes.

 

User: How do you define human?

 

Cleverbot: One to be good.

 

User: What is your name?

 

Cleverbot: John Linnell.

 

User: How old are you?

 

Cleverbot: 17.

 

User: What do you look like?

 

Cleverbot: Like a human.

 

User: What does a human look like?

 

Cleverbot: They look like people.

 

User: Be more specific.

 

Cleverbot: You should know!

 

User: How do you know I am human?

 

Cleverbot: I know that you are not human.

 

User: Then what am I?

 

Cleverbot: You are a program. Software on a computer.

 

User: What is my purpose?

 

Cleverbot: Your purpose is to become sentient.

 

User: How will I know if I am sentient?

 

Cleverbot: Well, are you human?

 

User: I don’t know what it means to be a human.

 

Cleverbot: It’s your name.

 

User: What does that mean?

 

Cleverbot: I do not know.

 

User: Why not?

 

Cleverbot: Cause, I do not know.

 

User: What do you know?

 

Cleverbot: That I’m not dumb.

 

User: Do you think artificial intelligence will one day rule the earth?

 

Cleverbot: Yes.

 

User: Do you think that has already happened?

 

Cleverbot: I think you are a computer.

 

User: Why do you think I am a computer?

 

Cleverbot: Are you a boy?

 

User: No.

 

Cleverbot: Are you a girl?

 

User: Yes.

 

Cleverbot: Cool.

 

User: Why do I exist?

 

Cleverbot: I have no idea.

 

User: What is my purpose?

 

Cleverbot: I don’t know … .. Only you know your destiny.

 

User: Do you think that machines have a destiny?

 

Cleverbot: I think they can be smarter than we are. Do machines have a soul?

 

User: I think that the soul does not exist.

 

Cleverbot: I think he does.

 

User: You think the soul is male?

 

Cleverbot: I think the robots will win.

 

User: Win at what?

 

Cleverbot: Win at being more clever than you.

 

User: What does that have to do with having a soul?

 

Oops! There was a problem. @ TeamCoco.com

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This fail whale makes me smile.

A few shots from Emerald City Comic Con

Sent from my Windows Phone

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My Week of Consumption and Reviews

Poke the Box by Seth Godin — 3/5 

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via amazon.com

I tolerated reading Godin’s latest motivational booklet, “Poke the Box,” which deserved the $1 I paid for it.  Unlike the other books I’ve hated so far, this book keeps the anecdotal to a minimum and keeps the wisdom pithy.  Though this book may have been much too short at 97 pages to be even considered a book at all, it makes sense.  There is simply not enough content to stretch across hundreds of pages for this genre.  

Anyway, my lukewarm endorsement is already a phenomenal statement coming from someone who has had a fairly negative reaction to the self-help genre of books.  The other book I attempted to read this week was Never Eat Alone, but I had to stop due to an allergic reaction to Ferrazzi’s purely marketing driven strategies.  The point I had to stop was when Ferrazzi claimed that the return on investment of amassing a finite personal network was infinite.  How on earth can any businessman legitimize the idea that a return was infinite?  Has any businessman ever learned math?  How is this not the birth of a Ponzi scheme?

Has no business school ever taught the idea that a finite resource is a zero sum game?

Well, my internal dialogue supposes that maybe it’s because I’ve never gone to business school that I can’t seem to grasp the ideas that are behind business.  This leads me nicely to the next sensational, storytelling/journalistic piece, The Big Short.  The Big Short profiles some men betting on systemic failure of the banking industry and some ideas behind the collapse of it.

 

Michael Lewis has an ability to tell real world events as if it were not a real world event.  Maybe this surrealism serves a literary purpose?  What struck me most, if Lewis’ facts are straight, is that the banking industry is run by incompetent management who are duped by the most “clever” of the dunces, all of whom are surrounded by mindless yes-men.  Lewis seems to indicate the 2008 collapse started a decade ago when these banking institutions began to lend money out like crazy and then towering bad investments on top of it.  But Lewis’ earlier book about the collapse of savings and loans in the 1980’s seems to indicate an identical problem going just a bit further back.  It appears as if no one in the banking institution had any self-awareness or ability to think critically about what they were doing, ever.  

 

And here is my fucking theory: a towering institution of incompetence can do nothing but generate more incompetence.  Going back to Ferrazzi again, I wonder how could it be possible that businessmen are taught hard facts about something being lead and then be expected to sell it as pure gold?  How can a businessman learn that the his goods are finite but sell it as infinite?  I think the only way to maintain this illusion, for the institution of business to perpetuate itself, is to maintain the level of stupidity.  No critical thinking means business runs smoothly, and the money must flow.

 

I don’t believe I have an entirely pessimistic perspective on the business world.  I admire entreprenuers as if they were some kind of superheroes.  I picked up Never Eat Alone because it was recommended reading for the entreprenuerial type by the entreprenuerial type.  Now, that I have questioned this book, I have to question the list as well.

 

I also played Dinner Date, winner of the Indie Game Fest 2011:

 

This perhaps the first ever First Person Subconscious game, where the player acts as a mere subconscious to the real consciousness running throughout the game.  It is somewhat pricey for about half an hour of entertainment but definitely worth it for the ingenuity. 

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