Tag Archive for 'human'

Life is Messy and the Timing of It

When I first heard the phrase “life is messy,” it didn’t sit well with me. Being a planner who tries to keep things structured and organized, the entire point of creating structure is to mitigate the mess, but I later learned that’s not the point of this phrase. As a leader, it’s also about how well and how quickly one can adjust course to the make the most of any given situation. A monkey can learn routine, but it takes higher intelligence to re-prioritize on the fly. It’s a real art of when to dive head down to execute a task list or when to come up to adjust a plan, and it takes real strength when the entire plan needs to be scrapped and a new one must be created just in time for the next transaction. Should a new plan be needed, keep in mind that no one else really knows how incomplete your plan may be, so your next transaction may look flawless while you can continue building your plan in preparation for the following step.

This perspective surrounds the ability of seizing windows of opportunity. Any good analyst can eventually finish his or her complete investigation of all of the variables and with some experience and a good imagination even make a tree of all possible outcomes, and that is probably the best way to do it. The problem is that takes time. Meanwhile the environment changes, and the windows of opportunity close or change to where a new analysis would have to be started.

So my point is that to make changes of this kind—the kind where you make things happen instead of letting things happen to you—you’ll never feel ready because it’s impossible to feel ready. Although luck favors the prepared, it usually requires a scramble to take off, and you will probably be landing in a storm, not even on an airstrip but somewhere in a cornfield or atop a mesa. You may break a few things, but you probably won’t die. Nevertheless, it’s anything but comfortable. Sure, you can mitigate risk like a novice scuba diver first trains in a tank before diving in the sea, but there’s still a first time for everything. Sometimes, for windows of opportunity as mentioned here, it will also the last time.

When you do that, there will be many naysayers, mostly because they don’t understand your priorities (which who cares because you should only share your priorities with the people you trust) but also because they’re jealous of the strength you exhume during those events, or that they have missed the window for themselves. On the other hand, mass in motion acquires more mass as it travels, so it gains gravity. When you move forward like that, you will attract. These particles may be part of other humans in your life. It’s ok if you kill a few of these particles because you’re not killing the whole human, and it’s ok as long as you don’t enjoy the killing.

The point is to know what you want, and when the opportunity presents itself as a window to pass through towards the goal, not necessarily access to the goal in a single step, then take the window because those windows don’t come around very often. A good planner isn’t someone who can plan every step but is someone who knows how to adapt his or her plan based on the stability of the previous step. Imagine stepping on some stepping stones over a brook. The rocks look sturdy but still require focus and balance; however, one of the stones may wobble and may require a quick change of course to ultimately reach the other side without falling into the water. Think of ninjas or the main character in the video game Prince of Persia and how these characters interact with the environments, and it’s that quick skill to adapt that is their strength that is valid of envy.

This concept of timing I first learned from a leader in the workplace with whom I no longer work. His goal was essentially to talk me out of thinking that skill in details leads to overall success, which I naturally thought that probably due to my Polish upbringing. He described how imperfect his attempt appeared, but I observed the outcome of his stories and the massive cultural changes in the workplace that were created as a result of such forceful and critical starts. Being able to alter culture in a group has always intrigued me ever since I would try to reconcile why a body of people may not follow a process when the details clearly exemplify that following that process was to their benefit. I realized this leader was correct because the results in the end spoke for themselves. That is how “life is messy” ties into “timing.”

Transcendence movie review

Transcendence is excellent composition and an important an important film for humanity to discuss both the next age of civilization and what is humanity. Compositionally, every opening scene details and symbols get tied to something in the later in the story, so every string is tied off and the whole thing is rather balanced. Transcendence is probably the first commercial film that drives its story atop of a relatively accurate prediction of the capabilities of super powerful artificial general intelligence (AGI) and the promises and proverbial magic of nanotechnology. The actors’ performances were excellent, and Johnny Depp delivered quite believably on point, going from human to death to resurrection in a machine and beyond—certainly a long character arch.

As with many great films and in line with recent story telling styles, the antagonists are relatable, and one of which, Max, a colleague of the protagonists, changes sides, so one finds oneself halfway through the movie before deciding whether to like or hate Max.

I always love the theme of a machine becoming more human, and this film explored this overarching theme from the angle of making a human become a machine. I am not a true philosopher, and although this film restated at least twice the impossible test of what it means to be conscious, another, while more subliminal, question was an undertone of whether a machine can love. A human can quite easily love a machine, but how true a machine’s reciprocation of such love is beyond imagination perhaps unless it is personally experienced. Perhaps as Ray Kurzweil states it, and I’m paraphrasing, “It’s so compelling that it doesn’t matter if it’s real.” One stance of that debate within the film was that love along with other emotions could be so illogical that only a human can handle the internal dissonance while a machine will never reconcile that because it is merely a simulation, and therefore any notion of love would fall apart within a machine. But frankly, how is that so different from the human experience because after all, once there is too much dissonance, it too can fall apart?

Finally, the significance of the closing scene, in the protagonists’, Casters, sanctuary garden, leaves much to wonder what is happening inside the puddle of water that is riddled with nanotechnology. My take on it is that puddle now contains a consciousness—or two. This film shows technology on the horizon of humanity, a horizon that is also the end of humanity, as we know it. The only controllable change is redefining humanity. Everyone should see this film and then decide on which side of technology to take a position. At least this way, everyone will be better prepared for both change and the dialog.

A Family that lived so remotely from human contact, it missed WWII

In my never ending search for the next bit of knowledge or information that will blow my hair back, I finally came across that most interesting bit I have read in five years when a friend posted a link to an article on Smithsonian.com about a Russian family that fled religious persecution, so it retreated into the wilderness of Siberia where for two generations it ultimately live so remotely from the world that this family made no contact with humans other than themselves for 40 years. This story has great sacrifices, determination, and loneliness. It shows what is within us all. A must read, about 10 minutes.

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine

OSU Fall 2007 Graduation Student Respondent Speech

For my graduation from Oklahoma State University OSU Institute of Technology, I was appointed to make the student response speech. Below is the transcription from my speech.

On behalf of the OSU-Okmulgee* graduating Class of 2007, I would like to welcome: President Klabenes, Dr. Avant, Regent Claude Evans, Regent Andrew Lester, Dr. Pete Coser, Mr. Barry Steichen, distinguished guests, my fellow graduates, family, and friends.

Thank you for sharing with us in our graduation ceremony. I consider it a great honor and privilege to be chosen to give the student response, and thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight.

So, here we are. It’s hard to believe this moment is real because it is hard to believe that all of your hard work as been completed, but since you know the hard work was real, then this moment must be real too. This accomplishment is the beginning of a change in your life.

Our generation will see a lot of change. We are one of the last generations that will still remember when a computer could not do things that we consider uniquely human. In thirteen years, in the year 2020, a $1,000 computer will have the computational power of the human brain. Now, this does not mean it will be as smart as a human — that will come approximately nine years after that — but a machine will be smart enough to do many jobs that today’s high school graduates can do. With a little imagination, it is needless to say, the value of an education will be even greater than it is today and will really flesh out the meaning of “Knowledge is Power”.

It is estimated that in one week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime during the 18th century. Now, 3000 books are published daily. It is estimated that this year, the human race created more new information than has been created in the past 5000 years. The number of text-messages sent every day exceeds the population of the planet. The cell phones in your pockets… every single cell phone in this building has a more powerful computer than the computer that was used to perform calculations for the Manhattan Project, to build the first nuclear bomb. The Manhattan Project was the single largest undertaking by the American people in the history of the United States. What you carry in your pockets is more powerful than that. And, although technical predictions more than 15 years from now are extremely difficult to do, the one trend that is fairly easy to predict is that by the year 2045, a $1,000 computer will exceed the computational power of the entire human race. We live in exponential times.

As overwhelming as that may sound, I do not know which is more baffling: these predictions, or that less than a hundred years ago people did not even want electricity in their homes! If you lost power this cold week, then you probably think this sounds crazy. The funny thing is just how quickly we accept new technology. Less than 7 years ago, Google did not really exist. 2.7 billion searches are performed on Google each month. To whom did we ask those questions 7 years ago?

Ultimately, one question that has baffled students since Ancient times will ring as loud as it ever has: “How much of what I learned in school will I use in real life?” Well, that’s not really the right question to ask. The question to ask is, “How much did I exercise my imagination?”

Even if you never take a job related in your major, then you will still take with you from here as much as the next student will, depending on how hard you worked, of course. You will take away your newly developed skills in time-management, stress-management, critical thinking, problem solving, social skills, and my favorite, sleeping time allocation management. These things can only be gained through the tough experience of higher education, regardless of which subjects you studied. The fact of the matter is that all the hard work you accomplished while at OSU is only the foundation on which you will build everything else for the rest of your life. I can assure you that for you to have made it to graduation, your consciousness is more powerful than it was the first day you stepped foot on this campus.

Everyone measures success differently, and that is fine. I believe every day you are awake is a success because being conscious and self-aware is a miracle. And if you agree with me that the mind is so miraculous, then you must agree that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. So, Class of 2007 thank you for not wasting your mind. Be ready for change, use your imagination, and ask the tough questions that others do not want you to ask. As Dr. Suess said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”** Congratulation, thank you, and good luck!

* At the time of this graduation, OSU IT was called OSU-Okmulgee, which was still in the process of accreditation to obtain the title of “Institute of Technology”.

** Whether this quote truly originates from Dr. Seuss is debatable, but it is commonly believed to be by him and is a good quote. I was unaware of the dispute at the time of the speech.

See also the press release for the event.