We don’t know what we don’t know

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“No man is an Island”

As a 12 year old I could not for the life of me figure out what the hell John Donne was waffling on about. At this stage my exposure to English literature figureheads comprised mostly of drunks, recluses, manic depressives and closet homosexuals, sometimes one encompassing all of the above. So it’s no wonder that my pre-teen view of life did not align with that of the aforementioned. It was was not until the sudden death of my dear Grandmother that I could begin to understand the depth and range of emotion these societal misfits had experienced. Emotion confronted and processed with an ethereal creative response.

from the nostalgic deluge,  not just because of the powerful message behind it of rural Ireland progressing from the farmer to the scholar but the memory of learning the poetry, the struggle to understand the meaning behind it, it was like reading a foreign language at the time. Not having the capacity or emotional development to even see the message, not to mind understand it. Now it’s something I can identify so effortlessly with, something that I connect with at a deeper level far beyond what I would have thought possible.

It makes me wonder what am I in the midst of now, either struggling to comprehend or just not seeing….until the next shift in my understanding.

Second life

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I was thinking about the advances and future applications of VR and the implications for the real world, advances in computing capabilities, sensors, 3D scanners & printers and haptic suits etc and having just been part of the construction of a state of the art shopping facility the two worlds collided in my mind.

I wondered how much longer something like shopping would be a physical activity. I already do my grocery shopping online along with anything from clothing and grooming products to household appliances and dog food. They get delivered to my door often for free, why wouldnt I.

So this is what I envisage;

So you want to catch up with your friends and spend a day in the mall shopping, maybe catch a movie, problem is you live in London, your bestie is in New York and 2 others are in Singapore and Natalie is backpacking in SE Asia. However it’s not the physical distance that’s a problem it’s the Timezones. Finally you all agree on a time and everybody logs in to The Byte Cafè Natalie comments and says you’re using an old body scan from 3 years ago and asks why you’re not updated? Using old scans is frowned upon in this world.

You are discussing the next stage in your lives, some are focusing on career (whatever that might be in ten years) and others are talking about having children. The conversation turns to the defects in the DNA of someones partner and how much it’s going to cost to edit his genes using CRISPR because conceiving “normally” is considered archaic and irresponsible now.

In order to imitate and facilitate real world interaction your bio data including facial photography and 3 D body scans will be input via scanning centres to your VR profile. In turn, clothing, shoes, electronics etc are scanned by manufacturers using the same technology so if it fits in the cyber world it fits in the real world. Then everything changes when it comes to trying it on. Would you rather an interactive AR mirror at home where you can browse the global clothing market and have your outfit tailored by robots and delivered by drones on time for your event tonight. If there is a demand for it so it will become. If Jeff Bezos has anything to do with it it will be so.

So with the dawning of this new era so too will it bring its own unique social and personal challenges. The negative aspects of body image will be exponentially worse than it is now. Social isolation has the potential to get worse but also has massive potential to improve enormously. Imagine being able to experience the running or the bulls or the Diwali festival of lights in India with millions of other people and being able to interact. If inviting someone into your home was possible through AR after having met them in your VR world. Then of course, as I have written before, the pioneers of the visual world are usually movie studios and more recently adult entertainment companies. Pornhub, the early adopters of imersive 360 video, will no doubt be all over these possibilities. Bringing a new world of adult entertainment far beyond the visual and with it a corresponding increase of the social and addiction issues relating to same. Because, we have all daydreamed, wandered away into a world of our own, have you ever been so deeply engaged in a spectacular dream that when awoken abruptly from it you were furious and longed to be back there again, clinging to the remnants of that perfect world inside your subconscious.

In this world detached from the physical, we can see, hear and touch but what about smell and taste? Is anyone experimenting with this, I’m sure someone somewhere is working on an implant to artificially mimic the olfactory senses for other reasons and these world too will collide eventually.

People who have experienced lucid dreaming will tell you of amazing life changing experiences, unbelievable possibilities and almost indistinguishable realism all from the comfort of their own cosy bed. This is where VR is headed and why would you want to leave. Maybe you have to go to work you say? Well that’s changing too. So fast that companies are now employing change managers. The dawn of universal basic income and mass automation is disrupting many industries. Uncertainty is more abundant than ever but with it comes opportunity.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.

– Albert Einstein

The 3 Petabyte Baby

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So let me set the scene.  You’re sitting comfortably on your couch mindlessly scrolling through the latest cat vs cucumber videos on YouTube (if you haven’t seen or heard of this yet you should). A ghostly figure appears in front of you. Fortunately you are immediately disarmed by his incredibly well sculpted ghostly cheekbones, it’s the spirit of The Uprooted Farmer.  Hold my hand and close your eyes, you are coming with me (not in the creepy I’m locking you up in my basement way!). We fly out of your house, zoom out of your suburb towards the sky. Your house is looking like a matchbox now as you look back over your shoulder. We glide effortlessly towards the stars. Now in the stratosphere looking down at the picturesque undulating  country below, you can still differentiate the cities from the countryside and you can see the major roads carving through the land and its not at all pixelated like google maps! Zoom out again and you are floating above the earth in a vacuum of silence and awe. Weightless and boundless. Tethered to the Earth by an almost imaginary force. With no sensory input other than your sight and what your eyes behold is breathtaking. The Uprooted Farmer has left you alone now and is off to visit another lost soul and speak in the third person. Earth is below you in all her magnificence and the stars and planets take on a different hue and it is absolute bliss. Even the loneliness is comforting and you feel an innate belonging. An overwhelming sense of healing and contentment washes over you. The gargantuan cities and structures have faded away into insignificance and all the people in the world have disappeared yet all seems right.

All of a sudden you are hurtling at a horrifying speed towards the Earth. The skin on your face ripples and as you reach terminal velocity and the ground is getting closer as you barrel through the wispy cold clouds vision blurred as your eyes are spattered with virgin rain drops. The buildings are forming right before your eyes getting bigger and bigger. People begin to take shape and the smell of exhaust fumes choke your lungs and bang! Miraculously you have survived the fall, landing heavily into a bin truck into the middle of Mumbai. You peek over the edge covered in the city’s rubbish. It’s absolute chaos, the smell of the rotting organic waste and the stench of the streets fills your nostrils and everyone is in a hurry.

You peel yourself out of the pile of decomposing waste and old newspapers when a sensationalist headline on yesterdays soiled tabloid grabs your attention;

“Canavero heads off Xiaoping in transplant first!

Human head transplant no longer science fiction.”

Now that I have your attention let me go deeper. Together we have travelled outside our planet and seen the scale of our lives, felt our ant like insignificance and observed our world from a view of the Gods. From that distance it almost appears as if time is standing still and yet we as a race are capable of some incredulous feats. Notwithstanding the fact that on a biological level we could be described as nothing more than a malignant infection  we have infinite potential to become otherwise.

We have one doctor in China, Ren Xiaoping, and one in Italy, Sergio Canavero, who both claim they are about to perform the worlds first human head transplant. That’s right a human fucking head. Your melon on someone else body. The procedure takes a mere 19 hours, the critical blood flow elements tackled first to ensure that a longer than expected procedure isn’t rushed due to blood loss and the brain is “protected” via induced localised hypothermia. To be fair to Canaverno he said he was going to do it first and of course someone in China said they can do it too but as we all know the quality probably won’t be as good. What that means in terms of a head transplant? Who knows. Maybe it will be exactly the same but cost $20m less or maybe the left leg will move when the right arm is supposed to move! Let’s not forget our priorities here though because after all we did sort out the penis transplant before the head transplant, thankfully. Dickheads.

My hypothesis is that this “step” represents a partial misdirection or sidestep in the human longevity projects which aim to healthily increase the lifespan of people by 30-40 years.

The sidestep being that we may be close to being able to “back-up” our brains and upload our consciousness to another brain. So rather than trying to deal with the extremely difficult physical implications of severing and reattaching the epicentre of the CNS it may be more realistic to attempt a software change at the head-end and retain all the old wiring. The next unethical step is that we will be looking at integrating means of capturing the data with hardware implanted directly into the brains of our children from a very early age in order capture the required data. The volume of data is estimated to be somewhere in the regions of 2.5 – 3 Petabytes and according to Moore’s law we should reach this scale and capability around 2020. The host body would likely be a product of a laboratory  as the ethics surrounding alternatives would be disastrous. Even the former would have many decades of discussion, debate and laws in  the lead up to the inevitable. You may think this is insane but we are already at the stage where we can screen our own DNA for particular defects and turn some of these known defects off at will so our offspring do not inherit them so we should not be surprised by any of the above. Right now there is a company in the US where you can have your DNA sequenced for a mere $149. Twenty odd years ago this same process was costing tens of millions of dollars. Beware, they reserve the right to sell your biodata! Now enter the age of your DNA being valuable info to more and more people, has this even entered your mind? I bet it hasn’t.

For the most recent addition to our family (2015) we were given a brochure on stem cell collection and storage which I totally dismissed. This meant keeping the umbilical chord for use later in stem cell work for any myriad of reasons. Now only a little over a year later I am genuinely regretting having done so.  We can still do it with milk teeth and wisdom teeth later in life but I still feel like I missed something big.

The next decade will unveil what it truly means to live in an exponential world in terms of technology, science and business. When these three things collide on a global scale the results will be astounding and terrifying.

 

It is paradoxical, yet true, to say, that the more we know, the more ignorant we become in the absolute sense, for it is only through enlightenment that we become conscious of our limitations. Precisely one of the most gratifying results of intellectual evolution is the continuous opening up of new and greater prospects.
– Nikola Tesla

 

 

 

 

Good enough is almost always good enough*

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Yes that’s an asterisk. You would typically see these on application forms incumbent with some degree of commitment anywhere within the spectrum of signing up for a supermarket rewards card to re-mortagaging your house. All with a variety of emotional cattle prods within the footnote section, or as I like to call it, the disappointment section. As uses of asterisks go personally I think there should be one beside anything on a menu with jalapeno in it but that’s not today’s message. Ultimately  with these forms and the customary disappointment section it emerges that the initial attractive thing is not as it seems. Well, that’s the irony here. At least I thing that’s the definition of irony, it certainly isn’t having 10000 spoons when all you need is a knife. That’s just shitty. Alanis, I digress. So nine times out of ten you will go ahead and sign your name to that form and accept the footnotes and the diminished attractiveness because why? That’s right, it’s not perfect but it’s good enough.

The point is * = but not ALWAYS! Hence why it is prefaced by “almost”.

As a self-confessed perfectionist (it took me forever to get the confession right) I have worked half-arsedly for many years in an attempt to rid myself of this paralysing affliction. Don’t get me wrong, decreased effort is not what it’s about. It’s about getting past the obsession to be perfect to find something that is great, accept it and move on. It still makes you want to pop a square metre of bubble wrap* to soothe the psycho within but it means you’ve gotten something done that you should be proud of. My earliest memory of the detrimental effect of the pursuit of perfection was when I was about 11 or 12 years old and I entered an art competition in which you had a short period of time to complete anything from a sketch to a water-colour etc. I was pretty good with pencils as a kid and had a particular affinity for nature. I was sketching an Osprey catching a fish out of a lake but I could’t get the shape of the wings right so I kept drawing and erasing, drawing and erasing for about 40mins, I was still frantically trying to get it perfect up until the last second and bang! Timer goes off and I’m still wingless.  I was 80% there but not finished. The quality of what I had done was far superior to anything else handed in but an Osprey with no wings is less than impressive. I was devastated. Had I given myself the concession that it was good enough I would have won. I would still have been twitching over the lack of a consistent curve on the wings and so there’s that post production guilt that also needs to be tackled in the process but it would have been finished.

* satisfaction may vary according to preferred bubble size which cannot be guaranteed at the time of the psychosis. Relief for a limited time only, not available with any other offers.

Missing puzzle pieces replaced by cardboard cut outs

Perfection has its place but it’s not in everyday life. Perfection is for NASA and forensic science, it’s for life or death scenarios. Perfection is also relative, how other people perceive your version of perfection can be soul destroying. Perfection is often a defence against the inability to take criticism and the fear of failure. However getting something done is universally getting something done as long as the end result is effective. It’s an important lesson to teach. There will always be arguments for and against in a myriad of scenarios. The pursuit of perfection is for a majority a fruitless exercise, try instead for the pursuit of excellence. Be confident in your selection of when to settle for good enough whether in the giving or receiving. Make peace with the perfectionist within, she will always be there. You can let her out every so often but choose wisely.

If you want to delve further into the science behind this read or listen to audiobook; The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault. ~John Henry Newman

Swapping boards

I first heard of this concept while listening to Tim Ferriss interview the chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin (A very interesting character, links and books below). It really struck a chord with me. The idea is based around quasi-metaphor of a surfer, paddleboarder or any other similar  hobby or sport in which the person and the equipment become intimately connected and have a somewhat unique and inexplicable connection with each other. This sort of entanglement is based on the trust and knowledge that the “board” ot “tool” will guide the user in a particular way to  which the user is intuitively aware and mostly subconsciously accustomed to.

It is in this in connection and subconscious reliance we find the question.

Is there anything to be gained by swapping boards?

In the age of the measurable, quantifiable, explicable and tangible there is little room for the risk of theoretical. Would two competing  businesses be willing to swap a team of people in a similar department in each company with another and track the results? Of course not, that would be insane. But, what if? We all know that it would bring a different dynamic to the problem solving process and how it is approached. It is in using a different board or set of tools that we can uncover somthing about ourselves along the way.

Take for example an experience of mine many years ago I borrowed an electric circular saw from a carpenter friend of mine. I thought that using his superior equipment I would blitz through my DIY project. He made it look so seemingly effortless whizzing through the pine with smug precision. Wanker! Give me that. 30 seconds in and my pride was hurting far more than my arm. It was a disaster. A series of jerks and jumps, the wood was on the floor and the saw has violently wrangled itself out of my hand and I’m holding my twisted wrist.

I had neither the strength or coordination to be able to even let the saw do the job that it has been so beautifully engineered to do. That is no reflection on the quality of the saw but the ability of the idiot trying to guide it. Me.

This inate object had put me firmly on my arse and given me something profound to think on. Despite the simplicity the application of the principle is far reaching.

“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative”

– Oscar Wilde

Josh Waitzkin

http://theartoflearningproject.org/

http://www.joshwaitzkin.com/the-art-of-learning/

http://www.booktopia.com.au/the-art-of-learning-josh-waitzkin/prod9780743277464.html?source=pla&gclid=CM3S26C-mM0CFRaWvQodRQoLnw

The Importance of not being a Dick!

Let’s get straight to the point here, in a somewhat roundabout way. I don’t like smalltalk, never did. Neither did my grandfather. He nor I  in our superior wisdom appreciated the importance of it. It seemed superfluous for a very long time and to him until the end of his time. If you can’t internalise your own meandering bullshit complaints please don’t inflict them on me of all people for Christ’s sake. Yes, the fucking weather, I fucking know it’s shit, I don’t need you and every other prick on the street reminding me of it’s obvious abhorrence.

However, I did finally realise the importance of engaging in such seemingly menial verbal transactions in my mid twenties when I found myself being tolerated by few and befriended by less. In my well crafted ability to cut to the chase I was cutting out the very substance of many relationships or at least the starting point of what would later become valued relationships.

You see there are a couple of things in this world which are grossly undervalued on a daily basis and in the age of “on demand” growing increasingly scarce. These “things”, for want of a better word, are as follows;

Trust & Attention.

You cannot have one without some hint of the other. In order to successfully cultivate a meaningful relationship with anyone you must give a person your attention. If you do not give a person your attention in the aforementioned “seemingly menial verbal transaction” (I will often quote myself)  you are projecting outwardly that they are not worthy of your attention and therefore they have no reason to reciprocate. That’s why such phrases as “building trust” and “giving attention” are so common place, because there is an intrinsic effort in doing such. To give and to build.

Now for a a person who likes to get to the point of a conversation or otherwise as quickly as possible but also as informed as possible it sure as shit took me a long time to get to this conclusion. Perhaps I glossed over the notes a bit too quickly or maybe I could blame someone else for not giving me the textbook or possibly and more likely I was copying from my neighbour, in my case, my ever stoic grandfather. In any case, I’m glad I figured it out.

So if you find yourself rushing through the pleasantries (which I still fucking hate by the way)  and the “seemingly menial verbal exchange” (I told you so) take the time to give someone a little nugget of your attention today and it will be the foundation to building something bigger and even possibly mutually beneficial.

I will always end with a quote or a bastardised version of a quote I heard or read somewhere over the past week usually unrelated to the post but something that resonates with me personally at the time.

“There is no greater waste of resource than doing that well which should not have been done at all”