Android personality 

I will try not to spoil Westworld but no guarantees.

So the premise of the show and movies is there is a park with androids who become dangerous. Part of the fun is determining whether this is because of an accident, systemic problems, or sabotage. Essentially this is the kind of story that motivated Isaac Asimov to create his Three Laws of Robotics.

Still, everywhere I run across androids in science-fiction there is a nagging feeling that I am actually one. I understand these machine characters better than the human ones. I better empathize with their plight of the machines. Their problems ARE my problems.

I spend far too much time thinking about how real people behave in order to better pretend that I am also one. My question about my humanity: Why would anyone who is human have to pretend to be one?

Thankfully my college education in philosophy and psychology comes to my rescue in these moments of doubt.

  1. “Normal” is an abstract concept. No one is truly normal.
  2. Confirmation bias pollute these moments.
  3. Availability bias also warps my impression.

Of course, the other problem is I tend to play my fake android and fake autism off each other. “You are not an android, you are just autistic.” vs “You are not autistic, you are just an android.”

Restoring Sound After Eject

Mental note for the next time I take my laptop to a meeting.

Undocking the laptop will gray out the headphone. This makes sense because the headphones are plugged into the dock jack. Putting it back in the dock will not restore it.

You will need to go into Sounds > Playback.

  1. Enable the Headphone option. (NOT the same as “Speakers / Headphones” as that plays through the speakers on the laptop.)
  2. Set Headphone as the Default Device. This changes the applications to use it.
  3. Make sure the Speakers (Plantronics) are set to Default Communications Device.

Probably USB headphones automatically restore. At least, the USB ones I have for phone calls did. (They suck for wearing a long time for listening to music.)

Revoked Citizenship?

I wonder what happens to someone whose United States citizenship is revoked. My president-elect suggested this as a potential consequence to burning the American flag. [1]

In my own case, my parents and grandparents were all born in the US. From the ancestors I know enough about, the most recent ancestor to immigrate to the United States was a 5th great-grandfather just before 1800. [2] So I probably could not go to Germany and say, “Hey, this guy was born here, would you let me as his ancestor in?” I do have a 4th great-grandmother who was Cherokee, but similarly, I doubt they would take me.

If my citizenship were revoked, then does that mean I even have to leave? I could see where the government might take away someone’s citizenship but not deport them. The problem with deporting undocumented immigrants is that the government negotiates how and when to send people back to their home countries. It is closer to the prisoners at Guantanamo where the government is trying to send people to countries where they are not from so will be a burden on the state.

Better for the government would be if I could seek asylum somewhere. Maybe I should go back and work on my French.

Not that I have a desire to burn the flag. As a form of protest, I think it is beyond stupid. Disrespecting the US flag makes the person angry about that act. Whatever you have to say to the people on the other side is lost because of your act. So the only reason to do it is to make a statement to people who agree with you.

Notes:

  1. Why flag burning is legal. Interestingly, Trump’s favorite justice, Scalia, cited the Constitution over his personal views and allowing flag burning was his case for showing that. “We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.”
  2. The records are incomplete beyond that for some great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents, so I am unsure of where their parents or grandparents game. My paternal great-great-grandparents were probably all slaves in the U.S. freed through the Civil War.

In the time of Hamilton

So, the social media sphere is abuzz over our President-elect tweeting about a member of the cast of the Hamilton play reading a statement to the VP-elect. The P-elect seemed upset about it all. The VP-elect seemed amused people are buzzing about a non-issue and people should expect the P-elect to be the kind of person they want him to be.

The whole thing got me thinking about how the Presidency and Vice Presidency worked at the time Hamilton was a politician. And perhaps a return to that is how to heal this country. The way it worked back in beginning was the Electoral College voted. The candidate with the most votes became President and the runner up became Vice President. Applied to the upcoming vote, Trump still becomes President but Clinton becomes Vice President. She would be the tie-breaker in the Senate. They would deal with each other running the country.

Of course, the conspiracy theorists about her would stroke out over worry Trump would meet the same fate as the hundreds of others who have crossed her. Okay, so maybe it would not actually heal this country.

Illusory Truth Effect

Repeated statements receive higher truth ratings than new statements, a phenomenon called the illusory truth effect… Repetition makes statements easier to process (i.e., fluent) relative to new statements, leading people to the (sometimes) false conclusion that they are more truthful… Indeed, illusory truth effects arise even without prior exposure—people rate statements presented in high-contrast (i.e., easy-to-read) fonts as “true” more often than those presented in low-contrast fonts.

When the news media focused one summer about shark attacks, people became a little more scared of the ocean due to the increasing danger. Except… The number of attacks had not gone up. The prominence of them had.

There is a police officer who goes to the coffee shop nearest home. The first time I saw him, he looked me up and down and dismissed me. In that time, I held my breath. See, as a large man with brown skin I knew about many, many instances of people who look like me getting killed when in contact with police officers. It was all over the news, Facebook, and Twitter.

I have previously mentioned how seeing political things that agree with our ideologies are strengthened WHETHER OR NOT THEY ARE TRUE makes no difference to their effect. See, we are not wired to find truth. We are wired to find agreement.

This is what makes Facebook and Twitter so dangerous. We find those who agree and bolster those sensibilities. We cull from our attention those who challenge us. We share things from these sources without reading them and without verifying anything from them. And… That is dangerous. Especially because the most extremes of either side are pushing fake “news” on us.

Steps I have taken to combat this tendency:

  • Do not share things I have not read and searched for more background information.
  • Actively block very biased news sources not the friend. My goal is to eliminate the bullshit curation in favor of better information.
  • Read or listen to conversations to understand. I do reply to anyone involved because that would put me in the mindset of making them agree with me instead of learning from someone different.
  • Read books with differing view points to understand.

Friends of Friends

Occasionally friends will see something they like and tag another friend in a comment. In general, I have a privacy level of Friends on my posts. Non-mutual friends are not able to see these tags. I knew about and disliked these options:

  1. Leave it alone. The friend’s friend has no idea the post exists unless someone says something off Facebook.
  2. Tell my friend. Maybe if the friend is technical they get it right away. Otherwise, I may have to spend lots of time explaining privacy.
  3. Make the privacy level Public. Then anyone can see it. I have considered this acceptable a few times because I would not mind it being public so I did change the privacy level. My use of Friends is a safe, conservative default. There are probably things set to Friends that I would not mind being Public, but I have not bothered to make it so.
  4. Friend the tagged person. That seems creepy and weird as a solution to allowing someoto view a post.

I just realized there might be another option. Setting these posts with non-mutual friends tagged in a comment  could be the compromise I need. Changing the privacy level to FoF which would allow their friend to see it while also not making the post public. Given my number of friends, this probably is a giant number of people, but not as bad as public.

A better idea of how many and who are in my Friends of Friends might be nice. The easy way to look at them is a search for “People who I may know.” Getting a count from this is tougher.

I have seen others use a Friends of Friends permission but not often. It is not in the main list of permissions which are Public, Friends, and Only Me. Going into More Options there is Friends Except Acquaintances, Custom, and the giant number of lists I once created when I was more serious about ensuring my posts were targeted to my various friends.1 It turned out Friends of Friends can be used by going into More Options > Custom > and typing in “Share with: These people or lists” the name “Friends of Friends.”

Of course, it also leads to Facebook worrying that I know what I am doing:

Ezra, it looks like someone who isn’t your friend recently liked one of your posts. We want to make sure you know who can see the things you post. To learn more, check out Privacy Basics.

1. The so many lists were difficult to maintain as I would have to seriously consider who should be in which lists and make sure that people were placed in the correct ones. That was hard enough when it was about 300 friends and a couple dozen lists. With almost 900 friends and about 50 groups, it is too complicated to maintain. I’d need to consolidate the lists to make it viable, but I have not been so willing.

Keyboard Layouts

k375s-multidevice-keyboard.pngCurrently annoyed that every keyboard I am using has the Insert key in a different place. See, as a shell jockey, my work mostly consists of connecting to a server via command line and inputting commands. Shift+Insert is the paste command within these shells.

I am very much used to the standard keyboard layout where there is the upside down T with the arrow keys. Above them are two rows of three keys with Insert/Home/Page Up and Delete/End/Page Down. My hands know where to find them which allows me to work fairly quickly inside the shell. The past several work computer refreshes were fine because the replacement keyboards still used the standard layout.

logitech_waveNow we have a Logitech Wave keyboard. It rotates that row into a column with delete as a giant key and moves Insert way up to the top row. Basically, the orientation ensures that I hit Shift+Insert All. The. TIME. At this point, I am amazed when I get it correct after a few minutes of slamming very hard typing as I get more and more frustrated.

Another part of the issue is I use the Insert key 100+ times a day and the key is way far out of the way when I am used to it being conveniently located.

I guess I could re-map the Home and Insert keys, but I use Home quite a bit too. I use End, Page Up, and Page Down too so I am hesitant to move those out the way. And to physical profile of Insert would be out of place anywhere else.

I guess I could get a different keyboard.

But I have a similar problem with my various laptops. The Insert is located in a different place on each one. Or in a Chromebook’s case entirely absent.

The bottom line is I am now officially old.

Is it yours?

I did have this experience once:

One assumption that always gets me, and I am sure makes most of my African American male friends perhaps slightly uncomfortable when we are in public together, is when someone says to one of them, “Oh, your daughter is beautiful” ― except as Jerry Springer would announce, “He is NOT the baby daddy!”

Just because a white woman is with a man of color and the child is brown does NOT make that man the father. A nervous laugh always ensues when that question is uttered by yet another stranger. Immediately, the look on the face of my friend says, What do I say?

About nineteen years ago, this woman I had met online was taking her about 9 month old son to visit her parents. She planned to stop where I lived, so we hung out for a bit. The place she wanted to eat was a buffet, so she left him with me to fix their plates. That’s what my mother did with my little brother at the same age, so I knew this drill.

A guy at another table leaned over to say my son was well behaved and handsome. I was dumbfounded. But, but, but.

Then I realized that brown guy + brown boy => father-son. It was such an obvious conclusion I had no idea how to refute it. I did tell the mom about the guy’s compliment on her son.

Some friends have very, very blond daughters. At brunch I would occasionally carry them around and talk about things. The looks were priceless. Some found it amusing. Others had confused expressions. I know they wanted to ask whether or not this was my kid. A small part was about making people react just to see what it would be. It was a big, red, shiny button begging to be pushed.

Social Currency

This is from Douglas Rushkoff who is known for his infecting marketing with the idea of viral marketing.

Observe yourself the next time you’re listening to a joke. You may start by listening to the joke for the humor – because you really want the belly laugh at the end. But chances are, a few sentences in, you will find yourself not only listening, but attempting to remember its whole sequence. You’ll do this tentatively at first, until you’ve decided whether or not it’s really a good joke. And if it is, you’ll commit the entire thing to memory – maybe even with a personalized variation, or a mental note to yourself to fix that racist part. This is because the joke is a gift – it’s a form of social currency that you’ll be able to take with you to the next party.

In this election season, we watched the debates in order to be able to talk about them with others. Having something to say about it and being able to connect it to other parts is a major motivation to watch. The fact the past year has been such a political mess, the opportunity to pick up on the next disaster was difficult to resist. Things went viral because it gave people something exciting to report to others.

Television in the 90s was like this. Everyone watched the same shows in order to be able to gather in groups to discuss. I rented and/or bought video games in part so I could talk about the secret areas or tricks I had found. Friends would talk about the bands they discovered.

Popular culture was viral well before the internet. We have just made it easier by being able share in real time rather than by gathering. I often watch sports events BECAUSE of being able to share the experience with others. Friends posting about a crazy game unknowingly get me to tune into it as well. Shows where everyone is talking about it probably get a good portion of their viewers because of others talking about it.

The Fear Of Missing Out is a powerful social motivator. To be relevant, one needs social currency. To get social currency, one needs to acquire chunks of social information (memes) to offer others. Or, maybe my personality depends on having social currency.

Gladwell described “Mavens are people who have a strong compulsion to help other consumers by helping them make informed decisions” in The Tipping Point. I can seen elements of being a Connector (lots and lots of acquaintances from different realms) and Salesmen (inducing others’ behavior). But the Maven is the one I claim and most strongly identify.

Defensive pessimism

… a strategy used by anxious people to help them manage their anxiety so they can work productively. Defensive pessimists lower their expectations to help prepare themselves for the worst. Then, they mentally play through all the bad things that might happen. Though it sounds as if it might be depressing, defensive pessimism actually helps anxious people focus away from their emotions so that they can plan and act effectively.

I have always thought of myself as a pessimist. Well, a worrier. The background clutter that is my mind constantly runs through problems. Instead of like Kirk cheating his way through the Kobayashi Maru test, I would have mentally run through all those permutations and been ready for whatever it could throw at me. Imagining all the things that will go wrong and being prepared for handling them is, I think, what made me good at my job. Even if the situation is not exactly the same, then it is likely similar.

Plenty of situations are completely new to me. They are what cause me stress. But, then my brain gnaws on them until I am ready.

One gratifying thing is I see this defensive pessimism in other information technologists. Any field where things are built for high resiliency and maximum usage, I think, we want people like me designing and operating them. We plan for failure and will more likely give the thing more success for ensuring most of the ways it could fail are resolved or at least give ourselves enough warning to deal with it.