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Archive for the ‘decision theory’ Category

About 13 years ago d and I made the passive aggressive decision to open ourselves up to the chance of procreating.  I’m sure the reader can figure out the choice we made.  Well the chance turned into a probability of 1 rather quickly.  

 I was a 26 year old idiot who believed literally “I could move mountains of if I had to.” Yup I said that seriously in an argument back then.  So my decision making ability then was as optimistic as it is now only it was further enhanced with nativity and hubris.   Nonetheless the die was cast and I was to be a dad.  And the learning and appreciation needed to come fast.   Fast it came or so I thought.  
I distinctly remember the moment d’s water broke.   OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT.  what do we do?!?!   We are generally intelligent beings who faithfully read the curriculum and attend all required classes. But in that moment it was gone. All of it.  So of course WE CALLED OUR PARENTS.  mine laughed and when they were done they repeated a simple instruction: go to the hospital. Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  
We got our literal and figurative shit together and did just that.  Generally things went as expected.  It’s sort of all a haze.  I remember that I was not to talk nor point out when a contraction was evident on the seismograph as she “was very well aware of the situation!”  It was July 4, 2003. Barry white passed away earlier in the day.  I listened to Barry white songs while d came in and out of sleep and pain.  
Then came go time.  The sun was setting (hey this is my blissful memory so don’t go fucking fact checking).  It was time to bring baby Bella into the light and air of Santa Monica.  D was so amazing and as the sun faded hell if I didn’t see a purple headed offspring come screaming into the world.  These moments are what I’ve called before HI FIDELITY. the streams of data are so intense and the change of state so intense it leaves you transformed and awed.  Awed I stood watching them clean that little thing and watch purple turn to pink.   And then fireworks shot off in the distance and they handed d the Beautiful Light and we were officially a family of three.  
That’s my dad origin story more or less. And I couldn’t have dreamed of one of my more Ill thought out just do it non decisions turning out any more beautiful.  
And so here we are today. In less than a month my first procreated turns twelve.  Over the years I’ve gone through waves of confusion and disbelief and low confidence that I had or could get things right.  I’ve openly questioned what any right any of us have bringing kids into a world so far from being worthy of their existence.  And yes the whole last few sentences are some weird cultural and philosophical backdrop that is sort of irrelevant. 
 Things happen.  We happen. I happen to be a dad.  And with what happens I must do what I can to make it happen as best I can.  My daughters are passed the point where I swaddle and bottle and make it ok with simple gestures.  I have not transitioned quickly into going from provider to confider.  Just as I started figuring out how to properly feed them they learned logic and peer pressure and emoji.  And so now I’m a dude that occasionally can mumble something about relationships or why pot isn’t legal or why reality shows aren’t really reality but what is anyway.  I’m still pretty clear on mathematical things so not all is lost on first providership.  
And this is why I paint and write and sculpt and generate programs.  My kids long ago escape a linear relation to me or the world and I don’t have enough solid dad talk tracks built up.  I guess my artistic endeavors and other attempts to express and give back some synthesis of the world are me trying to pass on a little of what I’ve learned.  It ain’t easy.  It ain’t obvious.  It ain’t entitled.  It ain’t certain.  
Put some same beautiful light on a canvas and get on with it.  
Peace and love dads of the world.  And moms and kids.  
– Russ

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This week my 11 year old daughter asked if she could download and join snapchat. I immediately nixed that idea. I haven’t nixed her getting involved in much else technically where the EULA allows it. Snapchat touched a chord and got me to thinking (again) about identity – how we identify ourselves – who we think we are – and who others think we are. I think about this deeply every so often, sometimes becoming unglued when I think too hard about it. It’s a complicated concept.

Who?

So many things contribute to the patterns that are what we are. Our identity and sense of place in this world – undoubtedly conditioned by the modern world – is built around physical place (and now virtual places) and social circles (and now virtual social networks) and status within established networks of influence. This was probably not always the case when people were far more nomadic and identity wasn’t tied to a hometown or a home school or a 150 person social network. But now, more than ever, identity is a thing.

I personally have moved residences over 20 times in my life. 13 of them different cities (social networks) and 5 across state lines.

Non Existence -> Born (don’t remember)
Littleton, CO (don’t remember, sorta remember)
Colorado Springs (k – 2nd grade)
Aurora, CO Laredo Circle House (2nd grade – 3rd grade???)
Aurora, CO Laredo Court House (4th grade??? – 7th grade)
Miami, FL Kendall House (8th grade)
Miami, FL Baptist Hospital House (9th grade – 10th grade)
Aurora, CO Salsaleto House (11th grade – 12th grade)
Aurora, CO Some Apartment I Forget Where (Summer before college)
Chicago, IL Woodward Court/Univ. Chicago (Freshman year college)
Aurora, CO Buckingham Mall House (Summer between Freshman and Sophomore Year)
Chicago, IL Woodward Court/Univ. Chicago (Sophomore year college)
Chicago, IL 53rd Street Apartment (summer between sophomore and junior year)
Chicago, IL Blackstone Building/University Chicago (Junior year college)
Chicago, IL 53rd Street Co-Op Apartment (summer between junior and senior year)
Santa Monica, CA 9th and Pico (1999)
Chicago, IL Roosevelt and Michigan Apartment (2000 – 2002)
Santa Monica, CA 9th and Pico (2002 – 2005)
Playa Vista, CA Fountainhead Apartment (2005 – 2006)
Venice, CA Abbot Kinney House (2006 – 2010)
Austin, TX Travis Heights House (2010 – 2011)
Austin, TX Deep Eddy House (2012)
Marina Del Rey, CA (2013 – present)

My own children have now moved 5 times (the oldest one) and twice across state lines.

And these are just the residence moves – not all the jobs, schools, social circles, life phases and other changes that go into making up our context and our history. I have 692 friends on facebook, a couple hundred followers on twitter, tens of followers on instagram, one attempt at snapchat, fifty pinterest followers and so on. Sometimes I think of this all as an audience, which is quite insane to me as a concept but I doubt I’m the only one that feels like they have an audience online. I’ve done speaking engagements at conferences, I’ve written 8 years of blogs, somehow I authored several whitepapers, I think i have a patent or three, I’ve performed in 40+ live theater shows, I built hundreds of websites and mobile apps with between 1 and 50 million users a month…. WHAT THE F*** DOES IT ALL ADD UP TO? WHO AM I? and WHY IS THAT EVEN A QUESTION?

It’s a question because my daughters keep finding new ways to “express themselves” and “connect to others.” They “identify” with my wife or myself by saying “oh, i’m so like mom!” They intellectually get the ideas of genetics and art and fashion and learning and the delineation between it all.  They are very keen at telling me I don’t “get” them…. I keep waiting for the day when the TSA finally says they are full human identities and require proof of the case (driver’s license/passport).

It’s also a question because everyday the Western world bombards each other in ways such as:
“what am I worth?”
“tell me about your past.”
“are you this ism or that ism?”
“what party are you?”

and every other variation of class, job history, race, culture, language, outward appearance…

Anchors is my best guess at identities. Us, limited beings, pattern creating and recognizing beings find ways to lay anchors and say THIS IS ENOUGH – THIS IS WHERE I’M DROPPING ANCHOR and REMEMBER THIS. We drop these anchors – which are complex patterns we simplify – and label them as classes, races, job titles, cultures, state lines, political parties, etc. We drop anchors to save energy. That is, we hope the anchors keep us from having to remember all of the context and history that lead us to here when we are in the heat of the moment of making a decision. We want to save time when working out who we hire, with whom we partner, with whom we commune, with whom we war…

Unfortunately.

Identity is an illusion.

We are not the isms, the races, the classes, nor the anchors we drop. We all are ever evolving changing masses of organs, cells, and atoms that respond to the changes around them. We are connected – to each other, to the Web, to the world, to nature, to everything that passes gamma rays into us – EVERYTHING.

And this isn’t a ZEN kind of thinking i’m talking about. It’s a very simple, real concept that *WE* don’t EXIST. and the idea that WE EXIST is a major reason why “we” all end up fighting and destroying and gloating and taking credit and paying dues and every other manner of paying homage to an illusion. We do this because the delusion of singular identity is efficient in many respects. Capital markets reward identities. Democracies, despite their conceptual idea of the masses, reward identities. Social media and the internet reward identities.

And in all this efficiency created by identities we actually end up destroying things. Identities are the most efficient destructive concepts we’ve collectively devised. They shut everything down. They allow entire populations to be ignored. They tune our attention out. They tune our own senses out.

It makes sense this is so and that it persists.

Can it be resisted? *I* don’t know. Can we live without it?  I don’t know.

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In “Tent City, Tent Tent City” we learn of the movement in Austin to create a roaming Tent City to inspire awareness and legislative change around ideas of homelessness.  The tent city uprising piggy backed a little on the occupy Austin movement due to the fact that the laws used to restrict occupy Austin activities were the same laws preventing homeless people from squatting in public places.

I wasn’t fully aware of this reality because I was so caught up in the basic ideas being reported about occupy.  I was more focused on the 1% vs. 99% message.  Which in reflection isn’t even close to the more fundamental problem of property ownership.

What is property?  What in the world are these empty parks and buildings and old alleys?  All these public spaces and abandoned privately owned spaces?  These are opportunities for the “owners” of these spaces to extract revenue.  And the essay makes a powerful point in that the revenue increases the more people are kept on the move.  The key to property value isn’t in having people inhabit it!  It’s actually about the potential to inhabit!  Creating desire to inhabit is what we call development!  As long as people inhabit a space one can’t be improving it and selling it to others.

Ultimately the tent city movement fizzled for a variety of reasons. The participants made, in my opinion, a wise choice in disbanding the movement once a point a been made and the media started to get weird.

This issue of laws against homelessness – you can’t occupy public spaces in some cities (see this great report for overviews) – and that of property as something are far too big to be tackled in one movement.  Property ownership is the basis of civilization.  Our entire world is drawn into nations, states, cities, zones, personal real estate.  Ours is a history of conquest over those who occupy property we want to claim as our own.  This history will not be easily overthrown.

Though I do believe as we move into a more predominantly digital existence the idea of property ownership will erode.  I don’t see a short term end to property ownership because even the digital requires physical resources.  The difference though between the past and the digital future is that it is much more difficult to lay claim to digital property because it is so easily reproduced and modified and shared and expanded.  The idea of protecting intellectual property is already cracking for mostly practical reasons – it’s not physically possible to do so, even my offensive measures.   Beyond the digital I wonder how comfortable younger generations are getting with “renting” or “sharing” property.   (stats on rent/own in housing and some rent/own survey here)

The essay closes with a thought that perhaps it’s best to “keep on the move” as a means of experimentation towards a better world order.   It’s hard to argue with the idea of experimenting with ways of living that don’t include property ownership is probably a worthwhile exercise.   The way we do things currently – increasing income gaps, more punitive laws against homelessness, climate change – seems hardly sustainable for ANY way of living for lots of people.

Impasses Questions at the end of the essay responses follow.

Question 1: “How does the noting of profit involving bodies being set in motion intertwine with the idea that camps in order to survive, must be on the move?  Is this tactic playing into the profit-based motion or is it a form of subversion, a way out? Would standing ground and defending a camp be a resistant tactic, and in what capacity, to what degree?”

It’s all about the type of motion that’s inspired.  The intent to own a home or own a different home is what drives property valuation.   Simply being on the move from camp to camp doesn’t necessarily do that.  Though if we were in a fight for camps in more opportune places for survival the camps would be competing for space and thus there would be an opportunity to profit off of offering campers better places to camp.   The fact is this isn’t a new problem in the world.  It’s always been a competition for resources.  What’s changed is that people abide by various laws and/or give into various trade offs for survival.  One of those trade offs is going with the flow in society vs. subverting it.   Camping in places where it’s legally not ok to camp is subversive.  It is resistant and could be useful.  I believe the Occupy movement made a good case for taking over spaces that people in power frequent can stir a discussion that might just lead to change.

Question 2: “How do we move from homeless camps being a method of survival to a method of offensive resistance? Are the participants looking to just find a more comfortable way to live or a new way of living?”

I don’t know if there’s any relevant response to this.   The later part strikes me as nonsensical.   In either  case it’s a new way of living.   And in the former, EVERYTHING WE DO IS A METHOD OF SURVIVAL.  all of it, even resistance to existing power structures.

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UPDATE: I missed SWs blog post.  Brilliant!

Early versions of this approach go back nearly 50 years, to the first phase of artificial intelligence research. And incremental progress has been made—notably as tracked for the past 20 years in the annual TREC (Text Retrieval Conference) question answering competition. IBM’s Jeopardy system is very much in this tradition—though with more sophisticated systems engineering, and with special features aimed at the particular (complex) task of competing on Jeopardy.

Wolfram|Alpha is a completely different kind of thing—something much more radical, based on a quite different paradigm. The key point is that Wolfram|Alpha is not dealing with documents, or anything derived from them. Instead, it is dealing directly with raw, precise, computable knowledge. And what’s inside it is not statistical representations of text, but actual representations of knowledge.

 

Maybe you’ve seen the latest NOVA episode about Watson, the AI machine that played Jeopardy against former champions.

The first blush answer would be: NO.

The linguistics are simply not there yet.

However, if Jeopardy questions were more “computational” vs. linguistic and fact retrivial the answer might be: YES.

Wolfram|Alpha has the raw power to do it, but it lacks the data and linguistic system to do it.

IBM was clever to combine the history of Jeopardy questions with tons of documents.    It’s similar, but not the same as, common sense engine from Cyc.    It’s not fully computational knowledge.  It’s semantic.   It’s cleverness comes from the depth of the question training set and the document training set.

It would breakdown quickly if it were seeing questions about facts that had never been printed in a document before.   An example would be “How far away will the moon be tomorrow?”

Wolfram|Alpha can answer that!   Now, what’s challenging is that there is a much bigger universe of questions that have never been asked than those that have!   So Wolfram|Alpha already has far more knowledge.   However, its linguistics are not strong enough to clearly demonstrate that AND it will probably never catch up!   Because Wolfram|Alpha can answer questions that have never been asked so people will always ask it questions that will trip it up… they will always push the linguistics.

In the end, a combination of Watson, Wolfram|Alpha and Cyc could be very fun indeed!

Perhaps we should hack that up?

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You may have seen it on news shows…

Athletic Clubs with cardio programs where members jump up and down as if using a jump rope but don’t really have a rope to jump.  Why?  The club doesn’t want people to feel bad if they can’t jump rope like others in the class… …or feel bad if they mess up in front of people not messing up.

How about the no tryouts, no exercise, no activities pep clubs that provide a uniform, trophy at the end of the season and certificate saying they are, “PEP FANtastic!”   Really, this is no joke and it is not a knock-off of the ABC TV show “The Middle” where daughter Sue is the easy-to-recognize enabled student with no clue how to compete… and she is not taught how by parents or teachers or the church or synagogues, or her horoscope.

So, should schools do the about the same thing in math, history, chemistry, business, accounting and insurance as the athletic club does for its members?   How about a prize for attempting to clean up the oil spill in the gulf or attempting put a man on the moon!  “What?”, you say, “That wouldn’t make sense???!!!”  Of course it doesn’t make sense!  But that’s what is being done in education due to myopicos like Alfie Kohn.  Ya, the one and only who writes as an education ‘expert’ for The Huffington Post blog….

Competition is what is.  It starts with the struggle out of the birth canal. For many it ends with seeing who can live the longest with the most toys, or experiences, or charities, or wives, or single malt Scotches. We learn to eat, to live, to work and to mate and there is a competitive component in every second of it.  Those that don’t compete never learn skills that they can use in life later on to provide for their families, communities and the world.  And then we wonder why we are with competitive academics in the world, or why there are more and more 3rd world foreign-borns in colleges and universities, engineering schools, MBA programs, Ph.D. programs, medical schools, etc.  [No, that is not bigotry; it is that they get it!] The answer is competition.  They are serious about it and we (whoever that means) aren’t serious about it.

Perhaps it is a vestige of our ‘Man-is-superior-to-all-the-rest-of-the-animals; we don’t compete like they do!’ shtick. How’s that workin these days.  Are we winning any competitive wars you’ve noticed?

In fact, we’re frequently going in the opposite direction due to the early years being filled with the ‘help’ being offered from the very beginning.  Businesses from McDonald’s to McDonald-Douglas spend billions every year teaching their employees how to compete at different levels.  University of Phoenix makes a living for a lot of investors in grades for profit involving students companies send them who can’t compete; write, read, organize, manage or lead.  If we were doing such a great job they would be out of business.

Community Colleges have many students that don’t know how to compete.  They haven’t competed up to the point of college and now competing for jobs is almost foreign to them, not because of the jobs, but because they didn’t get the subtle or the explicate competitive approaches or experiences that are learned early on.  The ‘help’ provided is to not let them come into contact with any consequences.

What is ‘entitlement’?  It is what adults do to their children and what students learn that ensures that they do not have to compete to get what they want; they do not have to attend to what works and that they can get the same credit for ‘trying’ as for succeeding.   They say it is for the children but it isn’t; its for them, the parents.

FFPS and similar organization institutionalize the entitlement.  Learning to ride a bike you can get hurt.  Get hurt??? No, we’ll cover you in Velcro pads so if your training wheels don’t protect you and you fall, you’ll not have to connect with any unpleasant consequences.  Bad nightmares; bad marriages, bad jobs, bad DUI???  Shameful; you shouldn’t have to suffer.  We’ll get you in a program where you are given the drug propranolol to eradicate the experience, or dampen the bad history or events.   The louder the communities yell about the child, student, or young adult, the more and more it becomes about everything else but those groups.

For the things valued in life, there is way too many ‘self-referential’ content today and it is working to our dis-service, from families to the halls of Congress.   That being said, for every virtue listed to reduce competitive activities, there is an equal and larger set that most of us see as a product of competition.

For the things valued in life, there is way too many ‘self-referential’ content today and it is working to our dis-service, from families to the halls of Congress.   That being said, for every ‘virtue’ listed to reduce competitive activities, there is an equal and larger set of virtues that are a product of competition.

  • self-composure

  • self-reliance

  • self-control

  • self-assured

  • self-analysis

  • self-abnegation

  • self-development

  • self-evolved

  • self-enriched

  • self-judgment

  • self-mastery

  • self-reflection

  • self-restraint

  • self-trust

Here is just one option provided by the FFPS web site…

FFPS [Fun, Fair, Positive Soccer]

…to provide every youth soccer player with a positive experience. They saw the main problem as parents who put too much pressure on the kids to perform and the programs that emphasized winning as the main focus. They developed a system so the kids could play and enjoy the sport without demands from adults to win or perform. They modified the rules and designed a process of 5 aside rules, equal play with a unique equal substitution system, balanced teams, and parent training to ensure that it would be fair. The parents would behave and be positive so it would be really “Made For Kids”.

We wouldn’t want the kids to actually perform as in ‘do’ something…. Why not just take the nets and goalie away and have the kids run up and down the field….  I know that might look more like baby sitting but then again, no one would have to explain why the other team had more goals than your team did.  Don’t drink the Cool Aide…

Geeze!

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The 5th in a 5-Part Series…

To start, the goal is not to be an ‘elite’ athlete…

(5)   Your actions are the consequences of – and an impetus for – action

When a golfer golfs, there is an intention that is enacted by the hitter when the club makes contact with the ball. To the frustration of all levels of golfers, it is not directly related to the trajectory of the ball.  Such is it for a lot of business as well.  Intention only ‘seems’ related to action… but that is an illusion. Cognitive gymnastics are NOT related to the physics involved in action.  Intention is inferred, and the physics of the ball, in this case, is tangibly real.  A history of training practice, trial and error, and mirror neurons interacting with consequences has guided the body to perform. As an elite athlete has said over and over,

It’s not the racquet. It’s not the shoes.  It’s not the ball, the court or the noise.  It’s the mechanics and muscle memory – that’s means ‘me’.”

The result:

The golfer is left with any delta between their inferences and their behavior to rationalize his or her actions.  Good or bad results (both relative terms) contribute to adjustments that confirm or frustrate the golfer’s next set of actions. Don’t make adjustment, don’t whine about the shots you take.  Same for business, isn’t it!

When you want something in business life or in sport, recognize that successive approximations is the mode… the adaptation, the mobility, that exists to allow you to get closer to your goals or escape from a not-so-good conditions. It is NEVER EVER about some binary event. IT IS about hundreds of thousands of intricate, small tacitly known events leading up to some specific execution of an action.  Business success is NEVER EVER about making ‘THE deal.’  IT IS about the millions of tacitly known events that put one in position to execute some specific actions you are focused on.

Isn’t competition great!

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To start, the goal is not to be an ‘elite’ athlete…

Fourth in a 5-Part Series for http://www.SocialMode.com

(1)   Sports, like businesses or social movements have goals and costs.

(2)   The best way to advance is through the “Do”.

(3)    Focus on long-term benefits as well as short-term gains

(4)   It is not ‘automaticity’ per se that leads to high proficiency.

“Automaticity” is the perception that someone is in the ‘flow”; they make what they are involved in look automatic.

Competitors train to do stuff right; winners train so they can’t do it wrong.

In business and in sport the level of skill at which automaticity is attained is constantly changing.  When the rate of that change slows too much, in sport and in business, things start to get dicey.

Most people never develop beyond their hobby levels of expertise because that is the level at which they are able to do things ‘automatically’. We’ve all seen those people in business.  We’ve also seen them in different sports. Their comfort level is large and ever present.

For club golfers, swimmers or competitive tennis players, their levels of expertise for ‘doing stuff right’ in their sport are sub-par, as it were.  To truly excel, there is always some part [life, sport, relationships] that is not automatic yet that needs attention.

When you raise the bar in each component area, you’ll move from an automatic state (large comfort zone) to a non-automatic state (‘zero’ comfort zone).  Some can’t hack the loss of comfort.  Others find it’s OK to have small comfort zones because you are betting they are only temporary.

It becomes a balancing act between  that automaticity important in the “now” is the elite level to be reached you were working toward.   One elite athlete I know said to me,

“The day I take the elevator rather than walk up ten floors is the day I’ll have decided to give up being World Champion.”

So most of us settle short of an elite status (business /sport); for club performance, for less, for sub-par.   Thus, we rationalize not reaching our highest potentials in one area when we come to value our current level, or “other” events or circumstances. That too is OK because you know what you are doing. That is life.

When we settle in business, others may identify it as ‘lost opportunity costs” and that may not be OK.  But know that the number of mountains to climb – literally and figuratively – are enormous and, clearly, some are more fun to climb than others.

You get to decide.

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