Of Two Minds

I read Ethan Marcotte’s article about Google’s recently announced service / product called Duplex. In it, he lays out the following argument:

Frankly, this technology was designed to deceive humans. That’s not a value judgment, mind: the aim of the product is to act as human-sounding as possible. What’s more, the demos above are impressive because Duplex specifically withholds the fact that it’s not human. The net effect is, for better and for worse, a form of deception. Duplex was elegantly, intentionally designed to deceive. (And given that reality’s on shaky ground as it is, I don’t think this is the most responsible goal.)

I’m of two completely separate minds on this. One the one hand, I completely agree with the doubters thinking. Let’s not mince words here, Google, given its history, stands to be viewed upon with a hefty bit of skepticism when it comes to doing what’s “right”. But let’s say that’s not it. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say Google has every good intention in this particular space. What about others? What about the malicious folk out there? What about the people who are out there to scheme and cheat and rip people off? Isn’t Google giving them, right out of the gate, a tool to aid in their shenanigans?

This ultimately comes back to the old adage of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. I don’t know that we’ve held technology to that standard enough recently. A perfect example of this is the creation and, more importantly, the use of self-driving cars when the tech is not absolutely rock-solid.

Having said all of that, I was reading a tweet last night from someone whose name I have known for a while, but didn’t know a particular fact about. This gentleman stutters. Like me. He viewed this in a completely different light. His idea was that the Duplex “product” could be used in a very nice and productive way by people who have speech disabilities. Like he and I do. It was eye-opening. I think I even re-tweeted it with “Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, etc.”

Because I can completely see his point. I HATE talking on the phone. It makes me anxious, nervous, and scared. I get over it, and conquer it, but it’s an every-single-situation kind of thing. What if I didn’t have to do that but 40% of the time I do it now? That would help me. Would I like to be 60% less anxious? You’re damn right I would be.

The well-being of global society is still winning in my head, and I will go on record as thinking this might not be the best thing. But it’s not as much of a slam dunk as I would have originally thought.

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Overhangs

I guess I had never really noticed this on my previous trips to Seattle, but in downtown (at least), whenever possible, there are overhangs for people walking on the sidewalks.

It rained yesterday afternoon, and I walked 8 blocks without getting really wet. I was amazed, if not a little embarrassed, that I hadn’t seen this right above my head the entire time.

Kudos, Seattle!

My Funeral Song

Like most things, ideas come to me as I listen to podcasts. Topics jump out at me, and I have an opinion or a fact I like to share. One recent one was a song that would be played at your bespoke funeral. As it happens, I have thought about this one a lot. And I already know what song that should/will be.

A bit off the beaten path, the song comes from one of my favorite indie folk/rock acts: Ray LaMontagne. The song is off of his 2nd album entitled “Till the Sun Turns Black”.


2006

Within You, unlike most of LaMontagne’s songs, is not dependent lyrics for the storytelling. In fact, the only lyrics in the song are “War is not the answer / The answer is within you”. And many repetitions of the words “love”. All of them airily whispered to the listener, as if it was a release of relief. Love being always within you, and the answer to, well, everything.

The reflective message is woven through such an instrumental series of waves. It lulls the listener into a reverie. In my case, it’s a contemplative thought process on looking back at my life. Looking at the love in my life. And celebrating it. If my funeral is happening, as the case may be, I want the people to think back of me and really consider who I was. Not only to them, but to everyone I knew. What was my place in this world from their perspective? And how will they remember me?

I need my life to matter to people. Especially to the people closest to me. To the people who love me and whom I love(d). One hopes, and I do, that that list is long.

Educated

Educated

Earlier this week, someone left a comment on an article I’d written to shame me over a word they considered “not a word”. A few years ago this would have stung and left me feeling like an imposter. At age 42 I have very few fucks left to give about such pedantry.

Formal education gives you words and technical understanding, it helps you interact with other people on a level where you can all assume you have the same starting point. It isn’t everything, and perhaps my hard-won knowledge, learned from trying and failing and figuring things out alone is my greatest strength.

While I am a firm believer in higher education, and have spent a tremendous amount of time teaching and guiding my kids toward a successful future in college, I love the “fuck you” attitude from Rachel here. It’s unapologetically defiant. And coming from an unbelievably intelligent person that is shaping the world of web design as we speak, I applaud her so much.

Bravo, Rachel. Bravo.

Time to check myself

On Episode 278 of “Roderick on the Line”, Merlin (Mann) encapsulates exactly something that a friend of mine said about 2 years ago, well ahead of the 2016 election. Merlin said:

There’s so much reckoning going on about strangers. There’s so much reckoning going on about millions of people who are disadvantaged culturally in a way that so many of that 32%-36% are not. And yet they have found some way to find agrievement in every cultural improvement in the last 50 years, Every time somebody who’s not them gets something, it’s a zero sum game. Everything that somebody who has always been treated like shit for their entire life gets is necessarily one less thing that they get, in their mind.

I can’t tell you how right he is, how right my friend was back then, and how wrong I was to write it off as something of an ignorant opinion. On a car trip to/from Seattle, we were having a discussion on the phenomenon that was candidate Trump at the time. Speaking for myself, I just didn’t understand how he was still in the race, much less leading it. During the course of that discussion, it was pointed out that there was a certain group of people that felt disenfranchised because of the cultural changes that had been happening (especially in the past 7 years of the Obama presidency). And that this group of people felt left behind, or left out, of the benefits that were now coming to the historically disenfranchised. And that was pissing them off. So much so, that they would absolutely invite into their house this loud-mouth, boastful, pussy-grabbing-and-proud-of-it shitbag for a possible president.

At the time, I thought that was ridiculous. I thought that people would surely be smart enough, informed enough, to see him for what he was. And the danger he imposed to a civilized notion of government, norms, and order. I believed in the basis of a morality, and believed that these people would ultimately end up siding on the basis of that morality and not on the idea of “anything but (her/establishment)”.

I have to say that I didn’t believe my friend then. Didn’t want to believe that narrative. But I believe it now. And I realize that, even now, I still have some thinking outside the box to do.