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Posts Tagged ‘behavior’

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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The human race began a path towards illiteracy when moving pictures and sound began to dominate our mode of communication. Grammar checking word processors and the Internet catalyzed an acceleration of the process. Smartphones, 3-D printing, social media and algorithmic finance tipped us towards near total illiteracy.

The complexity of the machines have escaped our ability to understand them – to read them and interpret them – and now, more importantly, to author them. The machines author themselves. We inadvertently author them without our knowledge. And, in cruel turn, they author us.

This is not a clarion call to arms to stop the machines. The machines cannot be stopped for we will never want to stop them so intertwined with our survival (the race to stop climate change and or escape the planet will not be done without the machines). It is a call for the return to literacy. We must learn to read machines and maintain our authorship if we at all wish to avoid unwanted atrocities and a painful decline to possible evolutionary irrelevance. If we wish to mediate the relations between each other we must remain the others of those mediations.

It does not take artificial intelligence for our illiteracy to become irreversible. It is not the machines that will do us in and subjugate us and everything else. Intelligence is not the culprit. It is ourselves and the facets of ourselves that make it too easy to avoid learning what can be learned. We plunged into a dark ages before. We can do it again.

We are in this situation, perhaps, unavoidably. We created computers and symbolics that are good enough to do all sorts of amazing things. So amazing that we just went and found ways to unleash things without all the seeming slowness of evolutionary and behavioral consequences we’ve observed played out on geological time scales. We have unleashed an endless computational kingdom of such variety rivaling that of the entire history of Earth. Here we have spawned billions of devices with billions and billions of algorithms and trillions and trillions and trillions of data points about billions of people and trillions of animals and a near infinite hyperlinkage between them all. The benefits have outweighed the downsides in terms of pure survival consequences.

Or perhaps the downside hasn’t caught us yet.

I spend a lot of my days researching, analyzing and using programming languages. I do this informally, for work, for fun, for pure research, for science. It is my obsession. I studied mathematics as an undergraduate – it too is a language most of us are illiterate in and yet our lives our dominated by it. A decade ago I thought the answer was simply this:

Everyone should learn to program. That is, everyone should learn one of our existing programming languages.

It has more recently occurred to me this is not only realistic it is actually a terrible idea. Programming languages aren’t like English or Spanish or Chinese or any human language. They are much less universal. They force constraints we don’t understand and yet don’t allow for any wiggle room. We can only speak them by typing them incredibly specific commands on a keyboard connected to a computer architecture we thought up 50 years ago – which isn’t even close to the dominate form of computer interaction most people use (phones, tablets, tvs, game consoles with games, maps and txt messages and mostly consumptive apps). Yes, it’s a little more nuanced than that in that we have user interfaces that try to allow us all sorts of flexbility in interaction and they will handle the translation to specific commands for us.

Unfortunately it largely doesn’t work. Programming languages are not at all like how humans program. They aren’t at all how birds or dogs or dolphins communicate. They start as an incredibly small set of rules that must be obeyed or something definitely will breakdown (a bug! A crash!). Sure, we can write an infinite number of programs. Sure most languages and the computers we use to run the programs written with language are universal computers – but that doesn’t make them at all as flexible and useful as natural language (words, sounds, body language).

As it stands now we must rely on about 30 million people on the entire planet to effectively author and repair the billions and billions of machines (computer programs) out there (http://www.infoq.com/news/2014/01/IDC-software-developers)

Only 30 million people speak computer languages effectively enough to program them. That is a very far cry from a universal or even natural language. Most humans can understand any other human, regardless of the language, on a fairly sophisticated level – we can easily tell each others basic state of being (fear, happiness, anger, surprise, etc) and begin to scratch out sophisticate relationships between ideas. We cannot do this at all with any regularity or reliability with computers. Certainly we can communicate with some highly specific programs some highly specific ideas/words/behaviors – but we cannot converse even remotely close with a program/machine in any general way. We can only rely on some of the 30 million programmers to improve the situation slowly.

If we’re going to be literate in the age of computation our language interfaces with computers must beome much better. And I don’t believe that’s going to happen by billions of people learning Java or C or Python. No it’s going to happen by the evolution of computers and their languages becoming far more human author-able. And it’s not clear the computers survival depends on it. I’m growing in my belief that humanity’s survival depends on it though.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about what my own children should learn in regards to computers. And I have not at all shaped them into learning some specific language of todays computers. Instead, I’ve focused on them asking questions and not being afraid of the confusing probable nature of the world. It is my educated hunch that the computer languages of the future will account for improbabilities and actually rely on them, much as our own natural languages do. I would rather have my children be able to understand our current human languages in all their oddities and all their glorious ability to express ideas and questions and forever be open to new and different interpretations.

The irony is… teaching children to be literate into todays computer programs as opposed to human languages and expresses, I think, likely to leave them more illiterate in the future when the machines or our human authors have developed a much richer way to interact. And yet, the catch-22 is that someone has to develop these new languages. Who will do it if not myself and my children? Indeed.

This is why my own obsession is to continue to push forward a more natural and messier idea of human computer interaction. It will not look like our engineering efforts today with a focus on speed and efficiency and accuracy. Instead it will will focus on richness and interpretative variety and serendipity and survivability over many contexts.

Literacy is not a complete efficiency. It is a much deeper phenomena. One that we need to explore further and in that exploration not settle for the computational world as it is today.

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I had a great weekend with my family in Chicago. It’s always enjoyable to haunt your old stomping grounds and relive the old stories, hopes, heartbreaks, jobs, dinners, and strolls.

For this trip I really want to soak in a lot of the experience even though our time was limited. This post is a little brain dump of things I found amusing, interesting or otherwise notable.

American airlines at ohare is way more enjoyable than the united airlines experience.

A city with abundant taxis is a luxury I really appreciate.

Holy cow is there a big difference between 33 degrees in Austin,Tx and 15 degrees in Chicago wind!

It’s amazing when a restaurant you used to love is as good as you remember it almost a decade later.

It seems 8 years is the limit at which 90% of your old social circle moves on or moves away. 4 years ago a visit to Chicago was filled with visits to parties and friends still in the area. Only a handful this time around.

Kids go with snow way better than adults.

Downtown Chicago on a Sunday morning is so quiet. You can own the place. It’s great.

Why does a town always build the awesome stuff after you leave? Hahahah

Man is it great to talk math and the business of math with my pal John Boller. He’s got a deep knowledge of math and is such a great communicator!

Watching kids at a great museum demonstrates the value of these cultural institutions. Also, it’s hard to create a great museum. The field museum is one of the best.

I spoke to at least 5 guys at the bears game that came alone, travelled hundreds of miles for this really big game. One guy taking pictures of the old soldier field structure almost teared up. He’d driven himself in from s. Carolina and had just enough money for one ticket. Ya, it’s just football, right? I spent the first part of a day with a gentleman from Eugene, oregon. His family sent him solo because they could only afford one ticket and this was something they really wanted for him. He showed me the texts and pics of his family prepping for the game. We took pictures with him and the Chicago police and outside of all the soldier field displays. Ya, its clearly just football.

Heavily marketing beer cutoff at end of third quarter seems to encourage fans to pound beers at halftime. Stadium folks might consider changing that marketing a bit depending on their objectives. As for me, it was so freaking cold pounding beers seemed more like punishment than the normal enjoyment it might bring. I actually drank a coffee and ate nachos cause cheese was warm.

I laughed so hard when I went to the bathroom cause there was a beer man selling.

I did order an Mgd in the stands and the guy next to me asked if I was still in college. He was drinking a miller lite. What am I missing?

The national anthem and jet flyover was quite possibly one of the coolest things ive ever experienced.

There was a moment in the third quarter when I was so cold and dejected for a brief moment I considered leaving. I fought myself back up to my seat and pulled a haine! Glad I did. That was about to an epic comeback.

Several people yelled at me via txt that I stopped txting. My hands outside of gloves could not operate these stinking phones. Sorry folks, I’m a good txter, but I couldn’t do it!

Anticipation is the best state to be in. Once the adrenaline fades you get very cold. Lucky for me after the game all I had to do was walk ocer to the she’d aquarium to meet my family. That was awesome.

Chicago is the kind of place where you don’t need a plan before wandering the streets for some decent food. Had to the feed the family after the game and all the obvious places were jammed. Found some pizza and wings on state.

Who’s idea was it to order all that food at seven at night?

Indoor swimming pools on a cold night in Chicago are awesome for kids.

Dani and i feel asleep last night watching “inside 9/11” on nat geo. Um, wow. Almost ten years ago we were living in Chicago down the street from our hotel. Watching that show brought my 25th birthday to the forefront of my memories. What a day. Hard to remember all that unfolding in real time. That show plus all the sausage and pizza during the day generated some strange dreams indeed.

Note to self, never ever stick your hand into cab seat looking for the belt connector the morning after a city hosts a big event. I do not know what got on my hand but the fistful of baby wipes did not clean my hand and brain to my satisfaction.

Traveling with our girls is getting more fun as they age. They really get excited by trips now and seem to appreciate “cool” things.

Reese said she was mad the packers won and all those people were shouting go pack go. But she wanted to know how to spell packers. Bella called me a wolf because I howl at football games. I think they have the basics of bears packers down.

Thanks to dani for doing this ! Man, what a weekend!

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Human beings, viewed as behaving systems, are quite simple. The apparent complexity of our behavior over time is largely a reflection of the complexity of the environment in which we find ourselves.

Herbert Simon

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So it’s not that will doesn’t exist; it’s that the free part is problematic — a lot of people see free will and say, “Well, you’re showing there’s no free will; therefore, people have no intentions or will.” No. There is will, and will can be shaped by a host of factors: your genetic background, your early experience with your home and your family, your caretakers, you playmates, cultural influences bombarding us through the media and through socializing with your peers (and, thus what they like and what they think and what they believe from their parents). All this is being soaked up like a sponge by little kids.

John Bargh, Conversation on EDGE.org

and more zingers…

we’re much more accurate about predicting other people than we are at predicting ourselves. All these things going on inside of us get in the way, and especially the positive illusions about ourselves.

It’s a great read.  if I put a link right here, I bet you’d read it (you’re expecting the link but it’s here instead!)

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We often blame businesses, leaders, ourselves for “not knowing better.”

The reality is, in modern American, there is a healthy amount of conditioned incompetence.  Yes, as a society, we really don’t know better, don’t know different.  For a very long time, if ever,  we have not had to deal with some of the incredibly complex issues at play now.  For the most part our businesses, schools, health care, housing markets have been swept along in a 30 year string of mostly growth and expansion.

the last couple of generations literally do not know better. We have to develop new behaviors, new thinking, new ways of getting it done.

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When I sit down to make sense of the world I often start with this question:

If beings from another galaxy were to show up on our planet on an anthropological mission, what would they think about all of this? What would they conclude?  How is it all connected? What patterns would they find?

All of This right now refers to these very diverse situations on my mind:

Modern Day Pirates

It’s amazing we don’t have more modern day pirates.  It appears relatively easy to take a non military ship.  And, as far as I can tell, we have no well-crafted strategies for recovering ships and crew.  Certainly our lack of strategies is a result of the fact that the US has basically commanded the seas for most of the last century.  We haven’t been tested and lack the response behavior.  Beyond the lack of strategies on our side, it’s very unclear what the pirates have to gain that they couldn’t gain from less risky efforts.  A very strange situation.

False Populism

Are the people really sufficiently suffering to not just demand change via signage create it?  I propose we’ve mostly lost the behaviors over the last 2 generations to implement change.  While the 60s generation marched, sat in, yelled, voted, engaged… later generations built chat rooms, IM, blogs and Twitter.  We rant online.  We don’t look each other in the eye as much.  And when we do, we talk politely…. and then fire up our iPhones to twitter our outrage.  Our online behaviors are very disconnected from meaningful real world context.  The conversations we have online rarely have direct consequences – in stark contrast to having a face to face debate, or showing up to the local public hearing, or meeting in our communities.  Yes, the last national election was a nice break from the norm – people actually used online conversation to get out into the world – but for the most part that was a short lived activity.

Perhaps it’s just a result of the news cycle.  We move on to the next news story before we’ve fully grokked the last set of events.  I don’t buy that the news cycle prevents us from focusing.  I really think that we are living more and more disconnected lives in the world while we think we’re more connected than ever online.  In a world full of status updates, text messages, dropped cell phone calls, bad web ex meetings, as a generation we’ve lost the ability to hold a long, thoughtful conversation.  We don’t read – we scan.  We don’t debate – we tweet.  We don’t listen – we mult task.

Is this “bad” or “good”?  That’s the wrong question.  Does it get us what we want in the world? Does it help us lead the lives we want? If not, what will?  Perhaps marching on our leaders and community organization and old town councils aren’t the mechanisms to drive change anymore.  What is? what comes next?

Newspapers and Journalism in Crisis

So is journalism really in trouble? is it just the papers? is it the print medium? is it the news business model? is it advertising?

Is finding someone to blame going to change what’s going on?

For me, the biggest question that probably will illuminate various reasons for chaos for the news business is: For organizations and businesses where recognizing and analyzing what’s going on in the world is their business, why were they so slow in recognizing their own crisis and coming up with course corrections?  Ironic, to say the least.

I don’t think the print medium is going away.  The existing business models are already gone, it’s just on fumes right now.

Golf as a One Man Brand

TV ratings for golf are 20-50% controlled by Tiger Woods.  I imagine other business numbers like new players, club sales, tee times, Nike clothing sales are equally affected.  This is truly an amazing thing.  What’s more amazing is how in 12 years, PGA and golf in general has not found a way to diversify.  Though it’s ok for now, in 10-15 years if golf hasn’t found a new format or a new set of interesting golfers, it’s going be in serious trouble.

What does it need to do?  Really simple – start getting people from the real world.  Most of the “golf brand” is not at all what the average person is.  Watch the coverage of the Masters.  As beautiful as it all is – it isn’t aspirational at all to most people.  It’s actually off putting, especially now.  Rich, mostly white, people at a country club all making millions.  None of it looks attainable.  It’s an argument golf has faced before… but they don’t seem to listen.

Boxing in modern times

It’s just plane strange if not downright boring.  The modern sport just doesn’t really fit in the mainstream culture like it used to.  The sport has few exciting athletes – in terms of personality and wider cultural presence.  The media surrounding boxing is dreadfully boring with the same old same old announcers and approaches to coverage.  A few years ago when The Contender started as a reality show, I thought there was some promise in reaching a new audience with a more raw, more down to earth viewing experience.

That didn’t last and the sport didn’t really commit to it.

Beyond the media, the sport itself doesn’t really work with a modern audience.  Refs stop fights too early to get the big prize knock outs and most managers keep their great boxers out of big matches.  So why bother to watch?  2 guys punching each other without the purpose of knocking the other one out really undermines the sport.  I’m not saying boxing is good or bad or making any moral judgment.  The idea of fighting is to beat someone up.  When that’s no longer the objective, what’s the big payoff?  When does the audience getting its money worth?  A tactical boxing match is highly boring for non-expert viewers.

UFC and IFC and other mixed martial arts have filled this gap and they are running away with the audience, and many times the athletes.

Also, the idea of overly priced tickets and PPV events doesn’t work in a recession.  Last night’s match card didn’t draw much of a live audience.  I say if boxing returned to smaller gyms and more intimate coverage of lesser known, but more charming athletes they’d have a shot to be relevant.

Celebrity, Method Acting and the Paparazzi

One day soon this celebrity obsession thing is going to fall to pieces in the media.  I know, I know, I certainly buy enough US Weekly’s and have run many entertainment portals and sites – who am I to say something like this?  For a long time I’ve thought this whole “let’s watch everything celebrities do” would get terribly boring.  Celebrities generally lead unremarkable lives, certainly not lives anyone would actually want.

Ok, so occasionally there’s an interesting story or some really bizarre behavior.  I’m pretty certain the behavior of celebrities is conditioned by us and the media and is not a distinct feature of the celebrity. So, if it’s the bizarro behavior we like, you really can just annoy anyone in your neighborhood enough and they too will punch you in the face.  You can now put it on YouTube and get famous.

Point is… methinks TMZ and US Weekly probably won’t have a market on this forever. At least that’s my hope.  Move on.

Stock Market Index Tells You Nothing

The current  behavior of the stock market indices provides no insight into what’s happening in the world.  News outlets and investors wish it did.  In fact, I challenge you to figure out what most economists and “leading thinkers” actually think by reading news articles and economic reports that talk about the DJI or SP500.

Probability of Life in The Universe

I just read an article in the May issue of Discovery Magazine about how the universe has a higher probability of life formation than we thought.  Why can’t we let go of this desire to prove our existence is inevitable (either as something so rare it must be divine, or something so probable of course we’re here)?  Folks, let it go.  There’s simply know way to know how likely life was or is in the universe.  Even if we find life elsewhere… 2 out of infinity is still undefined.

Bigger question: why do we care whether it’s likely or not?

Alright, enough, time for some Rockband or something.

Aliens from another planet – if you are reading this and can understand – please do tell us what you figure out, because we certainly can’t make sense out of all this.

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