Archive for September, 2009

And now for something not so completely different…

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Self assessment time: did great – where’s my A? (wait, don’t answer that).

Techs take an adjustment of mind;  or is it simply applying technique??

My dad was an electrical engineer on the original Concorde Supersonic and Saturn V projects – yet he won’t set up the DVD player correctly, and fobs it off to me; no time for such simplicities.

We need time and context to grasp, somehow, if we are being, or simply doing; are we simply computers?

Stop, Dave…

Passivity 2.0

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Nets announce a new TV rating system, supposedly to replace the Nielsen system.

IQ Tests: is this really how we think?

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Remember those SAT/PSAT tests in grade school? They were mostly broken down into two categories, language and math.

One human, the other inhuman (or perhaps non-human). Language is our personal gift of reason; math to me, is a distant absolute. Do I really need to know the square root of PI – ?

When I first stared down at those daunting bloodless questions, No. 2 pencil in hand, my first thought was why do I need to know this? Language I understand; as Francis Bacon said to this effect, words are reason. But math? Hell if I know algebra from calculus, and why do I need this anyway?

I’m always looking for context – reason. I never understood geometry until I visited St. Paul’s  in NYC. Magnificent architecture, geometric blueprints; Is this creation?!

I bought this book from their little gift shop. It’s a great workbook, and once you take a simple paper and pencil, draw the “golden proportion” you begin to see how magnificent things can be built. This may be a better example.

“I cannot allow you to jeopardize this mission, Dave.”

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Machines are not Men (at least in the Biblical sense), but we Humans are machines. We have autonomic gears; we breathe, beat, perform all sorts of givens as we contemplate our next moves, or our navels. We are bio-electrical systems. Carbon based. Machines we care about are mostly silicon based. We have nothing in common, yet we’ve adapted emotional attachments and dependence to our “thinking” machines. We don’t feel the same about cell phones or microwave ovens. There is something eerily anthropomorphic about our relationships with “thinking” machines.

I stress the term “machine” over “organism” while the distinction lasts.

When I see Doug Engelbart I can only think of Walter Cronkite, Buzz Aldrin and  Colossus. Grandiose physical space between machines. One thinking, one feeling. Engelbart is the equivalent to Laika the Space Dog .

Who’s talking to whom? Do we dream of electric sheep? Do we really want to conquer the cosmos?

Logic and Vocabulary:

Machines make deductions; humans intuit. We search for the possible; machines square out the impossible, logically, with the very language we give them.

Are machines intelligent? We use them for deduction; reduce probabilities to “logical” conclusions. Excellent for math and hard science, but not for matters of the heart – machines have no heart.

Spirit might be a better word. Or soul. Machines can be taught religion, but not faith.

Correction: machines can be taught about religions, their histories and influences; but they cannot have faith or religion, which are ways of being. And being begins with survival, a sense of self. “Open the pod bay doors, Hal.”

And we love to anthropomophise machines in our own images: cyborgs. William Gibson has a few good ideas; but growing up in the 60′s I imagined them more like this: IDAK (Instant Destroyer and Killer) – !

Back to Earth for a moment: few of us have ever created the machines and devices we now depend on. From the first Bomar consumer calculator to microwave ovens and cell phones, we’ve adapted them into our personal paradigms. Calculators and microwaves don’t “communiate”,  they simply produce results. Hopefully not like this.

Artificial Intelligence is another matter altogether: Any machine that can produce, deduct or “intuit” a solution or outcome we may not have otherwise thought of, may be considered “intelligent.” Computer chess is a good example of the deductive process: we think it thinks, but it deduces probabilities.

In our frail and fragile lives, we are somewhere between discord and outright danger. Can we figure it out in time? Or is time merely a measure of our own existence?

If only a machine could figure that out for us.

We don’t need no stinkin’ aggregators!

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Of course we do; I just couldn’t resist mashing a line from Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

After setting up my first aggregator (Google Reader) I realized I was indeed 20 minutes into the past. Some pages made it quite simple to subscribe to; others made you jump through a few hoops, or didn’t support RSS at all. The more “timely” a site is (such as news and current events) the more likely they are to be “RSS friendly”.

Once you get the hang of it, you find you’re no longer trolling for information, but designing your own a-la-carte menu; you find yourself gravitating to your own “niche markets” and become pleasantly surprised that your “niche” isn’t as small as you once thought.

I’ve always been a big MST3K fan, but until recently I found few people around me who knew or cared.

Last month, MST3K (reincarnated as RiffTrax) presented a live digital broadcast from Nashville, which was shown at the Branford multiplex theater. No posters, no advertising; I stumbled upon it in, of all things, a newspaper. I bought a ticket, expecting a near-empty theater. I got there 10 minutes early. Lo and behold! The place was packed – and they all learned about it by “niche networking” – and here’s their blog.

I’m sold.

Elvis has left Building #501a

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

Just when I’d caught up with everything netwise, I walk into #501a, finding myself not 20 minutes into the future, but 20 minutes past. Now I’m all a-twitter (email is so 20th century)!

“Social” networking ain’t for kids anymore; yet I still cringe when young mush-skulls post their personal info on Facebook and such, witlessly sacrificing Personal Identity to the Machine. Who knows what lurks on the other end?

Is it old-fashioned to believe that Man and Machine are still separate entities? Or are we following the Frankenstein myth to an inevitable conclusion? This from a kid who wanted to be the next Kenneth Strickfaden.

We still have one up on the machines: they don’t grok our human illogic. We can fool some of the machines some of the times by creating on-line personas – alter-egos. This may be the real key as we venture into this semester.

Or maybe this leads to a network of 21st century Jekylls & Hydes – ?

Better yet, ask MAX.