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I got into a discussion this week with a fellow technology focused person about whether CREATION is a thing. That is, do we actually create anything. My position is that there is no creative act. No source of creativity. There is search and selection by consequences. Everything in existence, and particular our lives from our gene code to our behavior to the software we write is a search through the space of possibilities and a relentless selection by consequences that maintains possibilities that survive more consequences. The creative act is a notion that’s perhaps useful to communicate unfamiliar or low frequency of occurrence possibilities but it’s not a fundamental thing into itself.

Why I care about this argument? Assuming CREATION as a thing leads to all sorts of false notions that anyone or thing is responsible or should get credit for what happens in the universe. And this practically played out is the source of most of our inequality and makes sure we don’t actually explore possibilities without bias. Exalting the “creative” and the “creators” blinds us to the infinitude of possibilities, most lurking right under our very confused senses and conditioned context.

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I got into the car with Justin Bieber pouring is saccharine platitudes out of my speakers. It made me wonder are we some freakish society that bears children, trains them to train themselves to be pop stars and then sucks on that til it’s not so sweet and then spits it out. Rinse. Repeat.

Or have there always been such societies where the popular ideas are so easy to ride to fame and fortune? And the popular ideas so unfulfilling the only thing we can do is take more hits?

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Shadows

I’ve told some of my story to friends and family in my life, but never really publicly and certainly no one knows this internal dialog I’ve had with myself for 19 years. When you write something down and/or tell a wider audience about it it takes on a whole different level of real. should I tell my story? should I put down the never ending stream of questions and failed answers for others to read? is it grandstanding? is it helpful? is it selfish?

Like most of my questions, I don’t have a good answer for these so I’m just going to DO.

First, I don’t think I’m unique. People die. People are murdered. All of us will experience people die around us and we will die ourselves. I don’t know the horrors of war, haven’t seen someone die in the ER, have not been in a gang fight and have only see one dead body in real life, and it was at a distance. Hell, I haven’t even been to more than one funeral I think.

But.

When I was 17, a month removed from an appendectomy and having finally earned the white-shirt for Employee of the Month, 4 of my coworkers were murdered and another one shot on the night of December 14th 13th, 1993. I worked at Chuck E Cheese in Aurora, CO. The murderer was Nathan Dunlap, the brother of a classmate of mine.

I often had the closing shift in the kitchen having been revoked of the mouse costume because I had too much energy and we needed that energy in the kitchen. On that night I had a conversation with the lone survivor of the shooting, Bobby. He wanted extra hours as he had a family and needed some cash. I wanted to get out early that night for a variety of teen ager reasons. So we agreed to switch shifts.

Random coincidence? fate? divine intervention?

Bobby came in and I was out the door around 9:40p ish after having made a rare last late sandwich orders. Turns out that was Dunlap’s order I made.

I clocked out, took off my apron and said good bye to all the closing staff. On the way out I noticed Dunlap, who i did not know. It was definitely strange to have someone hanging out at a chuck e cheese late at night. Then again sometimes our friends would wait for people to finish their shifts.

I drove home. It was pretty late so I started my night time routine. And then the news started to break. In the time between me leaving and and brushing my teeth my coworkers were dead. Bobby managed to somehow escape out the kitchen exit bleeding from the shot to his face. I’ll spare any other details as I really don’t know the full story, only what I’ve heard.

That was my shift. Bobby saved me.

Bobby and I spoke only one other time after that, at the trial 3 years after that night. It was a brief conversation. Again, words fail. I thanked him.

Immediately after realizing what was going on my mind started to fill in details. I tried to remember everything. And I was imagining what happened inside that store. What would I have done? How did Bobby do it? What was everyone doing? Thinking? Feeling? How could I have stopped him?

I went to school the next day. I did a tv interview in the following days I briefly talked to the police. I met up with friends and talked about it. My brain became a swirl of information, memories, imagined memories. Shadows of events that could have happened.

After 19 years these shadows still follow me.

And I wasn’t even there. But in an infinite number of imagined memories I was there. I process my own mortality all the time, constantly. My own death over and over.

How does Bobby feel? How do the families of my former coworkers process this?

I’m not a depressed person, wasn’t a depressed person then. In fact I went on to work at another chuck e cheese in the area with my buddy Scott within weeks. The rest of high school was great and I went on to college.

In the middle of my freshman year at the University of Chicago I had to fly back to Colorado as a witness in the trial. 3 years later I had to retell everything I knew and in front of Dunlap.

How does a person remember important details after 3 years? I felt so disoriented. Was I making stuff up? Was my memory being altered by the weird ways in which the media and lawyers and trials play out? Can I please stop thinking about this?

Senior year of college included the unfolding of Columbine – not too far from Aurora. 6 years later my brain yet again went into overdrive chasing shadows of the past.

And so here we are one day after yet another massacre in the suburbs of Denver. So much sadness and distress fills me because it will never make sense to the survivors, the families, the friends, the family of the killer. Yes, I’m sure folks will find some peace in some explanation or some belief system. But in those quiet hours of the night, every July 20th, and with a million other cues their brains will run wild with shadows.

Again, I don’t think I’m that unique. We all grapple with death and the seemingly meaninglessness of it all.

I have a great life. I play and work hard. By all means I am functioning human.

I treasure every moment as much as I can. I love my family and my friends as hard as I can all the time so if the randomness strikes they will know I loved them.

And

The shadows still haunt me.

I am really alive?
Did this really happen?
How will I die?
Have a lived a life worth surviving that night?
Had I been there would it be different?
Should I talk to people about this?
Am I defined by this?
Does anyone care about my internal struggles?
Should I even try to get rid of the shadows?
How much of my behavior is shaped by this?

So here I am.

Maybe I’ve come to believe that all of existence is information and computation because it’s the only explanation I’ve come across that accounts for people brutally murdering other people senselessly.

I’ll never be at peace with this stuff. And I’m ok with that. In some ways it helps me live and love more.

In the end I decided to post some essays on this because there’s now another 100+ people out there with shadows looming. Maybe they will come across my story and find some peace in that were all connected and we don’t have to face the shadows alone. And maybe this is selfish in that now there are others out there for me to connect to that know aurora, co, that live with these shadows.

I’ve long believed that the worst kind of pain is loneliness. Even worse than death. I don’t think I can offer any grander help or relief or purpose than telling a story that leaves me and a reader or two less lonely.

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First, we will bring ourselves to computers. The small- and large-scale convenience and efficiency of storing more and more parts of our lives online will increase the hold that formal ontologies have on us. They will be constructed by governments, by corporations, and by us in unequal measure, and there will be both implicit and explicit battles over how these ontologies are managed. The fight over how test scores should be used to measure student and teacher performance is nothing compared to what we will see once every aspect of our lives from health to artistic effort to personal relationships is formalized and quantified.

 

[…]

There is good news and bad news. The good news is that, because computers cannot and will not “understand” us the way we understand each other, they will not be able to take over the world and enslave us (at least not for a while). The bad news is that, because computers cannot come to us and meet us in our world, we must continue to adjust our world and bring ourselves to them. We will define and regiment our lives, including our social lives and our perceptions of our selves, in ways that are conducive to what a computer can “understand.” Their dumbness will become ours.

 

from: David Auerbach, N+1.  read it all.   

 

I love this piece.  Brilliant synthesis.  Hard to prove… just have to watch it all unfold.

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It has been suggested by urban myth and scientific pundits that we do not come close to tapping the resources of —or actualizing—our potential.  Dah!

What is a resource and what is actualized or not are subjective matters as is the meaning and the implications of ‘potential.’  Tiger Woods is a good example of how this can be all framed; that is, ‘resources,’ ‘actualized skills’ and the meaning of ‘potential.’  Based on the rules sets used for evaluation, he did well in the golf game part but less well on the husband, communicator, father, business analyst, family member or friend parts.  However, if you are using the idea that is some throwback to an underdeveloped person with unmet interests, he did alright.  It all depends on the frame of reference.

Still others would suggest that intelligence, in some operational way, is made up of the skills we develop. Tiger wasn’t very intelligent in some areas as he was in others; all relative to the rules used to assess his behavior.  Clearly, to keep a stable of secrets that substantive for that long so as not to be discovered or distracted from his game was an act of deliberation and intelligence.

Superior talent then, rather than being a rare genetic mutation, is a result of highly concentrated effort.  Malcolm Gladwell gave the world the relative number of hours it takes to ‘get it done’ in some area of concentration. It is the 10,000 hour rule of success in his Outliers book. While the books interpretive value escapes me, 10,000 hours is a nice number to provide where focused expertise in some small area will yield results, perhaps as it has for Mr. Gladwell in writing a tidy book on confirmation bias.

Thus, the thrust of Gladwell’s book and pointedly of this oplog, is that it is not innate genius or talent that creates great achievers, great works or great breakthroughs but seized opportunities on some aspect of life that, with an extraordinary period of time — a minimum of 10,000 hours — will deliver on the promise.

Einstein didn’t read the latest business gurus or attend the power seminars of T. Peters but he happened upon that theory before it was a theory:

“It is not that I’m so smart, but that I stick with problems longer.”

How really different is that from the modern day saw of “The more I practice, the luckier I get!”?  We all have heard it but still look for the magic, the pill, the magic pill, this or some new-age short-cut.  Talk about self-hypnotic entitlement…!

Randy Jackson on American Idol might attempt to grab your attention by extolling you to “Check this out dog!”  In a less hip fashion I am asking you to test the following:  GET SOME LEVERAGE and see how it affects your achievements!

You and your ideas aren’t going to change in any but trivial ways without getting some leverage and that means some risk of failure.   If failure is important to avoid, read no further.

But if you can tolerate some course corrections, stone walls and echoes, “get some leverage” at doing something you must do because you value something, make the NOT doing something so painful and distasteful to you that you can commit to the hours, the rejection, the near misses and the real possibility of lasting failure. You’ll know you’ve got leverage when you know exactly what to do in the AM to keep you up in the PM.

The repeated attempts to reach beyond our present level will produce clearer views to your achievement.  For some, that may mean graduating from high school while living in squalor.  For others it may mean finding a new use for nanotube technology no one wants.  It’s all subjective evaluation but you can make it real.

Is there anything in your life today you would withstand losses again and again if certainty of tomorrow’s success was in the balance?  

If there is, are those really ‘failures’ or losses or just the feedback from your world? 

If not, when you do find that ‘something,’ go about framing it in a way that keeps you in the game and not in the gallery.

May 14. 2010

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Yes, Paul Carr of TechCrunch is right in many ways… the real time web, and people powering it, can’t really handle the truth.   I’ve said in the past too.  The real time web is not going to last as a viable source of data and truth.  To make it reliable it’s going to be far less real time.  Getting to the facts takes time, resources and sometimes vast amounts of thought (by a computer or a human).

What’s troubling though is that there’s a ton more misinformation pain to go through before users and/or companies figure out what to do with all this mass real time web publishing.  This Ft. Hood twitter stuff is pretty bad.  The celebrity death rumors are horrible. how much worse does it have to get before our values catch up? or maybe it’s ok?  maybe deciphering real from fake information is best left up to the end user?  it’s better than less info?

 

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You Make the Call – does the amazon recommendation engine have me figured out?  here’s what I saw when I logged in 10 minutes ago:

Amazon Recommends Mimi to Me Me!

Amazon Recommends Mimi to Me Me!

Quiz: Which of these products do I actually own?

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