In Real Life

Context matters. The current environment is assumed, so other contexts must be specified.

Online conversations eventually will reference, “In Real Life.” We have corporeal bodies. At least, that is the common sense, much like the world is flat, children are miniature adults, and males are only rational. What we sense is not the data, but the interpretation of that data by our brains. Our brains would be overwhelmed by the volume of what we sense data.

It amuses me that going involving ourselves with virtual environments is a way to ignore even more of the data coming from the world. While in them, they can feel like the real life. We make sure to call them not real so others do not worry about us. We refer to the illusion of our senses real so people do not think we prefer the virtual illusions. Or even worse, that they think we are addicted to the virtual life.


For some reason, I had this photo set as private. Made it public to post here.


A while ago, there was some kind of difficulty understanding why we (the DBAs) and another group were unable to read the same words yet not draw the same conclusion. The words in bold are what I wrote on my white board explaining why there was a difficulty.


  • Vocabulary
    • Standards: Words have agreed upon meanings which we refer to as the definition. However, the same word can have different meanings depending on context. Therefore we need…
    • Experience: Past usage by self and others determine which definition is appropriate during any specific event.
      • Mental Filters: We cannot handle everything which happens to us at once, so our brains cheat. Filters drop everything except the expected. Which filters are in use to expect certain things can be as easy as beginning a conversation with certain keywords.
      • Recall: Getting past the filters gets to memory retrieval.

A lack of common experience means we get primed for different mental filters. Therefore to have a good conversation, everyone needs to draw on common experiences, a process called framing.

This is pretty much as far as we got, I think.

Common experiences could be physically shared. An example could be: “Do you remember the meeting 7 months ago when discussed changing the sourcedid.source for those four schools?” The mental filters for concepts discussed in that meeting are primed.

Common experiences could be metaphorical. Anything someone else should have lots of experience using makes a useful way to convey information without having to go very far. Unfortunately, it is hard to know in advance how much someone actually knows.

Toys as Personal Identify

Interesting thoughts in Electronics as Fashion–The Anti-Gizmo Fetish.

The topic of whether any particular device is actually useful or pleasing is a separate issue. I’m talking here about electronics as a fashion statement–an expression of personal identity. And for portable electronics, that statement is increasingly visible and public. Having a blu-ray player (when they were new) or a 3D TV (more recently) is one sort of fashion statement, but you need to mention it or have friends over for anyone to know. Having a portable device you use in public takes electronics-as-fashion to a new level. You really do “wear” it.

Me playing Nintendo with Two Broken Arms
Me playing Nintendo with Two Broken Arms

When I was really young, the older kids walked around with blaring boom boxes where bigger was better. Over the years these devices have shrunk in size to be as small as my keys when smaller became better. I guess values changed.

That people judge others by their possessions doesn’t seem like a revelation. Why stop at clothing and iPods (and derivatives) though? Pretty much anything with a brand expresses personal identity. The more rare, the more superior people feel over their counterparts so an iPad first among the social circle is good, but it is popular as a status symbol because few can afford a Ferrari. These interactions over toys are just the modern version of chest thumping for establishing who is the Alpha. We also train our children to try to become Alphas at a young age when there is a run on the must have item for Christmas. The toys just get more rare and expensive.

More interesting to me are the subcultures filled with anti-Alphas who reject portable electronics, drive barely functioning cars, or wear pithy teeshirts. Sometimes the better strategy isn’t to compete directly but to highlight different personally advantageous strengths. I think of the “hipster” archetype as trying to fill this role. If hunting isn’t your forte, then maybe growing the food works better so become the Alpha of that.

All these mind games are why humans have the big brains. 🙂

Cognitive Load

My parents taught me as a child lying is harder than telling the truth. I am way too lazy to bother with anything other than using a tangent to change the subject. Simplicity also helps keep track of my life. I like understanding what is happening and why.

Skills involved in deception also teach problem-solving, project management, and social context management. My favorite friends were the brilliant liars. They always had a new entertaining story.

For a host of reasons, their theory goes, lying is more mentally taxing than telling the truth. Performing an extra task while lying or telling the truth should therefore affect the liars more. The Load of Lying: Testing for Truth

As evidenced by Dunbar’s Number, our brains are wired for both determining honesty in others and being the cheat.

Boredom Correlates to Mistakes

We never get to stay bored at work for very long. Every day has an emergency from something caused by a user of the institutions we host, the admins at the institution, or even people who work for our project. Wait…. Maybe it is the boredom which is the cause of the mistakes which keeps the rest of us from really getting bored. So eliminating the boredom in one part of the system would cause boredom in other parts.

Thankfully our philosophy is to automate monotonous activities as much as possible. Computer brains do not get bored to make mistakes.

According to Dr Eichele of Norway and Dr Stefan Debener of the UK, when the brain switches to autopilot is when we are likely to start making mistakes. The brain economizes by shifting electrical activity from the prefrontal cortex (attention) to the default mode network.

I can’t want for them to figure out brains which sit in the default mode network are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. 🙂

Of course, the worst mistake you could possibly make is to get bored enough to get involved in social networks.

Are Books the Only Way to Learn?

Is the Internet really a bad invention? According to Doris Lessing, yes.

We are in a fragmenting culture, where our certainties of even a few decades ago are questioned and where it is common for young men and women, who have had years of education, to know nothing of the world, to have read nothing, knowing only some speciality or other, for instance, computers.

What has happened to us is an amazing invention – computers and the internet and TV. It is a revolution. This is not the first revolution the human race has dealt with. The printing revolution, which did not take place in a matter of a few decades, but took much longer, transformed our minds and ways of thinking. A foolhardy lot, we accepted it all, as we always do, never asked: “What is going to happen to us now, with this invention of print?” In the same way, we never thought to ask, “How will our lives, our way of thinking, be changed by the internet, which has seduced a whole generation with its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that, once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc?”

Very recently, anyone even mildly educated would respect learning, education and our great store of literature. Of course we all know that when this happy state was with us, people would pretend to read, would pretend respect for learning. But it is on record that working men and women longed for books, evidenced by the founding of working-men’s libraries, institutes, and the colleges of the 18th and 19th centuries. Reading, books, used to be part of a general education. Older people, talking to young ones, must understand just how much of an education reading was, because the young ones know so much less.

We all know this sad story. But we do not know the end of it. We think of the old adage, “Reading maketh a full man” – reading makes a woman and a man full of information, of history, of all kinds of knowledge. A hunger for books

Certainly I understand the perspective. We take the astounding availability of knowledge for granted. Instead of stuffing our brains with more and more information, we are content to waste our time online. I think creating a love of life long learning should be the goal.

Books are great. I love to read. Reading is important, yes. I also love to talk to others about what I’ve been reading. The prevalence of books created the Intellectual Movement in which people published books to discuss ideas. Except for Divine knowledge, ideas are refined through challenging weaknesses or problems. The printing press made it easier for people to publish books and get these ideas to the masses so more can read them and respond by publishing their own books. The Internet and especially blogging has improved the response latency from day to years to minutes.

Collaborative philosophical inquiry helps kids at an early age. These skills serve them well even into high school. This strikes me as similar to how the Intellectual Movement worked. Should this be adopted more broadly, then maybe our kids won’t embarrass Doris?