After a long day at work I settled into my favorite easy chair, relishing the solitary adult beverage I normally permit myself, and sat scanning through the news on my favorite digital device. I was looking desperately for something which, upon reading, wouldn’t prompt me to run screaming into the night calling for my mommy – I failed miserably.

Staring up at me from the pixilated depths of digital chaos was erstwhile tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, speaking out about the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI). I am neutral in regard to Mr. Musk and his technological endeavors (Tesla and SpaceX) but I do agree with him about artificial intelligence and the risks inherent in its inappropriate usage.

What – the attentive reader may wrathfully ask – is “inappropriate usage?”

Well, let’s take a look at AI and how it is currently used – and how it might be used in the very near future.

Any human activity that is augmented by software or hardware is, technically speaking, interacting with AI. The thermostat that you set at 72 degrees and shuts off when the room cools down to that temperature is an AI. It has intelligence because it has been programmed to shut off when it senses an ambient air temp of 72, and it is not human (it is artificial).

Now, granted, it is also a very, very, dumb AI — if you ask it to solve “1 + 1” you will have many electric bills to pay before you ever get an answer.

AI, however, can be much, much more. For instance — the current state of AI involves systems that inform you of sensory data that the AI has gathered and when this data is compared against norms and standards, may generate an appropriate message to a human.

That little notice that appears on your car’s display that says your right front tire is under-inflated? AI.

The text message your security system sends you that the back door was opened at 2:12 a.m., by your now grounded daughter? AI.

Music or book recommendations digitally sent to you based on previous purchases? AI

Advertising for products and services digitally sent to you based solely on your Internet browsing? AI.

Stop for a moment to think about all the messages you receive (digital display on some device, email, text message or other) that entails an AI or other automated system forwarding data (mildly interpreted at best) directly to you.

It will be more than you think, until you think about it.

There is nothing wrong with this because the AI is in passive mode – simply gathering facts. No danger of Alexa or Siri ordering a pizza without being told to do so, or so we are informed…

The next advance is to program the AI in such a way that not only does it gather data (either directly through modified sensory input, or indirectly by humans inputting the data), but it interprets the data and offers unique recommendations. As I write this diatribe, all those AI recommendations are still based on a wide range of algorithmic possibilities all created by humans – the AI simply processes the data faster and can assess more of those recommendations in various scenarios than humans.

No matter what – though – the AI still makes recommendations of future action that are wholly based on a range of options preset by human programmers.

Not only that, but AIs generally are not permitted (by any human that has half a brain) to make decisions that involve action unless that action has already been planned and reviewed by humans as well. Letting an AI auto-shutdown a dangerous problem in a nuclear plant is still based on human decision-making scenarios.

The great risk is when – at some point in the future – AI use is widespread and not under the careful and constant supervision of intelligent and discerning humans. The great risk is when humans abdicate responsibility and allow AI not only to gather, interpret and make decisions based on known options, but permit AI to make decisions which may not be found on a carefully preset and human-programmed decision tree.

In humans we like to call this “thinking outside the box,” but in AI this could be catastrophic since the ripple-down effect on humans cannot – despite the processing power of AI – be adequately calculated.

The somewhat misguided Utopian vision of an AI is basically one in which the AI operates and thinks just like a very smart human – just faster, bigger, better, stronger and all that. However, obviously that is not enough because you cannot rely on an AI which makes decisions solely based on the logic and reason of advanced programming. Hey – I think that was a Star Trek episode!

Anyway, in other words, we are creatures of body, mind, and soul – humans have emotions, passions, as well as ethics and morality. Unless you can teach that to an AI, you will have AI-rendered decisions and actions that are only based on the best possible outcome – and the best possible AI outcome may not necessarily be the best possible human outcome.

Humans, generally speaking and referencing them as an overall species, are not very intelligent. Truth be told, humans have made incredible progress since our cave-dwelling days by simply being average – usually by utilizing the insights of a relatively small percentage of gifted humans.

When the AI genie is let out of the bottle, we run the risk that human reliance on this form of intelligence will not only create a dangerous dependency, but also allow average humans to control technologies that are way beyond their comprehension and understanding.

Worse than that, I can easily imagine those average humans – fully cognizant of their average nature – granting the right of control of the AIs to humans supposedly “gifted” enough to understand the technology, trusting such people to always make decisions about the AIs that will benefit everyone equally.

What could possibly go wrong with that idea?

The truth is, Elon Musk (and many others) rightfully do not trust the average people to control the technology, nor (in their heart of hearts I suspect) do they trust their fellow intelligent techies to do the right thing. Getting humans to do the right thing is a job than even an AI would have trouble in executing.

I think using the word “executing” in the same sentence as “AI” is probably one of the things bugging Mr. Musk.

AIs are coming, and we do need standards of performance and structure. If the AIs will eventually be able to do all the things that the techies now wax prosaic about, then we are creating beings that will be godlike.

Anyone who has studied Greek mythology knows how irrational and petty the gods actually were, and being a god does not of necessity mean you act like a god.

Anyway, I have to go now because I just got a text message from my pharmacy, an email from my refrigerator (out of milk) and apparently my car just auto-subscribed to some kind of music service. Fug.

–Enoch

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Let’s talk about the ancient fable, “The Hare and the Tortoise.”

Everyone is hopefully familiar with this ancient tale but — for the sake of universal clarity and a shared starting point — I will provide a brief refresher.

The hare is a fast runner. He brags about this speed and teases the tortoise, who is obviously a slow runner. Technically, a non-runner. More of a crawler. The tortoise finally tires of the incessant teasing (bullying, if you will) and challenges the hare to a race. The fox is chosen to select the course. The hare loses the race because he takes a nap and awakes too late to beat the tortoise to the finish line.

Okay, refresher over, so now the commentary.

While this ancient tale is attributed to Aesop, the general thematic ideas and concepts predate him. It is a tale which speaks of the true nature of human being and has origins that are very old. The real meaning of this fable is hidden and not as easy to discern as one might think.

What kind of hidden meaning? Good question.

The most widely held conclusion about the fable is the expression, “slow and steady wins the race.”

This is the obvious and most easily attainable interpretation.

Fables are devilishly intricate things, as they are always meant to portray the multi-layered complexity of human behavior.

This fable is particularly delightful in that regard.

While his fable — on the surface — does illustrate the general idea that persistence wins out in the end, this theme is NOT the main (hidden) idea.

This fable is a story of our individual human nature, and the internal struggles which must of necessity arise within each of us as we attempt to achieve significant results in our lives – that is to say, to win the race of living. Well, at least run it well. What constitutes “winning” is a subject for another diatribe — right now we will simply talk about this fable.

Aesop existed circa 620 to 554 BCE – that’s over 2500 years ago for those of us (including me) not good with math. Even back then, however, there was a recognition that humans possessed differing levels of intelligence.

Pythagoras, a contemporary to Aesop, believed that humans found at the Olympic Games could be classified into three categories or types – the lowest type were those who were seekers of pleasure and fame, the competitors. The next highest type were those who sought to benefit from buying and selling of goods, and the highest type were the lovers of wisdom, who came to observe the games.

Siddhartha Gautama would have been an approximate contemporary to Aesop, as he lived from 563 to 483 BCE. His ideas of the “threefold training” and the division of human being into Mind, Virtue, and Wisdom are compatible to those of Pythagoras.

Even older traditions were developed in Vedic (Indian) thought, such as Chapter 14 of the Bhagavad Gita, where the discussion concerns the “The Three Qualities of Material Nature” – which are ignorance, passion, and goodness.

If you examine the ontogenetic unfolding of our neurological system during fetal development, the human brain is clearly delineated into three distinct sections (Rhombencephalon, Mesencephalon, Telencephalon) – for the sake of illustrative brevity and as a simple tool for reference, we will label these the reptilian, mammalian, and distinctly human sections of the threefold neurological continuum. A nod to Paul M.

While a more scientific rendition of this is called for (and exists in explication) you must — for this particular exposition — grant me the boon of accepting this structure as valid. Besides, using all those big words gives me a headache.

Our human being is a threefold continuum, and most of us exist within the realm of one of the triune parts of this continuum – it is the rare individual who can synthesize all three levels and emerge as an integrated human.

That is the fable’s true meaning.

The hare is that part of our human nature which is the lowest. It is pure physicality. The only thoughts at this level are survival and reproduction. The hare is the perfect symbol, as the reproductive capacities of that creature are legend; and its speed permits it to survive in the wild. But the hare has no other attribute worthy of consideration – the only thing the hare can do is boast about the one thing it can do well – and this is not even a learned trait, it is a genetic trait – speed of foot. We won’t mention breeding prowess, but that is also innate and not acquired or learned.

But even the genetic trait of speed is only of value if it is properly used.

It is no accident in the fable that the fox selects the course where the race will be run.

The fox has — symbolically — always represented social cunning and thinking skills designed to benefit one’s self.

If we regard the fox as the social part of our own human nature, it is that aspect which must select the course upon which we are to race with our own lives – and here the story gets a little more complex.

If we are rely solely on our genetic abilities alone (without contemplative introspection), we would always pick a course that suited our lowest nature, and such a decision — though the easiest by way of effort — would represent a minimal accomplishment. In the fable the hare was always teasing the tortoise about its lack of speed – only someone of low intelligence and minimal skills would belabor the obvious – what accomplishment is it for a hare to beat a tortoise anyway? The hare will win that race every time, without a doubt.

It is the natural inclination of humans to denigrate their genetic abilities though idleness and indolence – this happens if you allow the hare-aspect of your human nature to predominate.

The tortoise-aspect represents our wisdom and adaptability — it must not only subtly guide the fox-aspect in selecting a course most well-suited to our individual nature, but make the hare-aspect of our human being apply itself to achieving meaningful results. The hare-aspect represents our raw abilities, and the tortoise-aspect is the will and perseverance that puts those raw abilities to use in a manner that the fox-aspect helps devise within the world of our social reality.

However, even here the road is fraught with danger, for just as a heavy reliance on the hare-aspect will lead to bad results, a heavy reliance on the fox-aspect will lead to a result that is beneficial to the self, but without regard to the impact on others. It is only the guiding hand of the tortoise-aspect – the thoughtful and self-conscious “application” of will in reality — with an understanding of how all humans are linked — that helps the fox-aspect select the proper course upon which the hare-aspect, now being forced to actually apply itself, can unify with the other parts of human nature to achieve success.

And there you have it.

My hare nature wants a nap, my tortoise nature needs to tend the garden, and my fox nature wants you to buy a copy of my book, Exophobe.

Maybe I just need a drink…

— Enoch

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I have a love-hate-hate relationship with technology.

They (the same nefarious bunch that always promises to build Utopia) told us that technology would make our lives easier. Better. More fulfilling. Simplify things.

What a crock of womanure (trying to be gender-sensitive here).

How about some examples? Glad you bloody asked. Let’s talk email.

Like a lot of people, I maintain a number of different email addresses. Some are for family, some are for team sports, some are for friends, some are for business, some are for quasi-anonymous blog communications, some are for Internet commerce, et cetera, et cetera. I won’t deny the utility and helpfulness of it all. However, lately it has become a huge pain in my gluteus maximus.

I mean, just dealing with my normal, regular and expected email is time consuming. Open it, read it, ponder it, usually respond and act on it. Tiring. And that’s just the stuff you want to read, that’s not counting the stuff you have to wade through and get rid of…

Let’s talk *SPAM* — no matter how elaborate I try to construct my filters and safeguards, I get inundated with a ceaseless stream of junk mail. If every piece of email that managed to sneak past my breastworks actually did what it said, I would have my mortgage paid off, be listed prominently in Who’s Who, be more incredible in the sack, be the proud owner of hundreds of stocks which quadrupled my money, own half of Nigeria, be living without pain of any kind, be thinner, have more energy and hair and whatever ad nauseum ad infinitum. Puke.

I spend WAY too much time highlighting and deleting crap emails. You can block the sender or domain but – guess what – the SPAMMERS rotate those more than the NSA changes passwords. Email addresses are like Chinese products – cheap and plentiful.

Oh, and here’s some more great news – companies want to ramp up automation and AI, which only means you’ll get more of this crap because it’s easier to generate from the sender’s end. Just set a few parameters and let the blasted machines churn and burn.

Enough with SPAM — let me rant on legitimate sites where you actually buy something useful. Now – hidden in the effing fine print, is the fact that by purchasing that “had to freaking have” item, you are automatically subscribed to the site’s newsletter. And, oh by the way, we also sell/give our subscriber lists to other companies with products we just know you’ll love {insert sincere smile here}. Sigh.

I do have a hateful admiration for some of these businesses – they have automated algorithms that are as utterly relentless as a Terminator cyborg. They will not stop until you buy something. Or you die and get removed from the list server.

Of course, you can unsubscribe. Just means they will send you MORE emails, hoping one of them will work. It’s not a shotgun approach, it’s frelling carpet bombing.

Then – even worse – there are hackers who send you things and WANT YOU to click the “unsubscribe” button, which unleashes gawd knows what evil script, key-logger program, or Trojan jackass to invade the sanctity of your system.

Don’t even get me started on Phishing and Scamming deals.

Fug – I’m headed to the Post Office to buy some damn stamps…

–E

P.S. Next post, we go off on text messages! Look for an e-alert. Hah.

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I originally posted this quite sometime back, but upon finding it in the archives, I am once again enamored with the idea and concepts it holds.

The Code of the West

  • Don’t inquire into a person’s past. Take the measure of a man for what he is today.
  • Never steal another man’s horse. A horse thief pays with his life.
  • Defend yourself whenever necessary.
  • Look out for your own.
  • Remove your guns before sitting at the dining table.
  • Never order anything weaker than whiskey.
  • Don’t make a threat without expecting dire consequences.
  • Never pass anyone on the trail without saying “Howdy”.
  • When approaching someone from behind, give a loud greeting before you get within shooting range.
  • Don’t wave at a man on a horse, as it might spook the horse. A nod is the proper greeting.
  • After you pass someone on the trail, don’t look back at him. It implies you don’t trust him.
  • Riding another man’s horse without his permission is nearly as bad as making love to his wife. Never even bother another man’s horse.
  • Always fill your whiskey glass to the brim.
  • A cowboy doesn’t talk much; he saves his breath for breathing.
  • No matter how weary and hungry you are after a long day in the saddle, always tend to your horse’s needs before your own, and get your horse some feed before you eat.
  • Cuss all you want, but only around men, horses and cows.
  • Complain about the cooking and you become the cook.
  • Always drink your whiskey with your gun hand, to show your friendly intentions.
  • Do not practice ingratitude.
  • A cowboy is pleasant even when out of sorts. Complaining is what quitters do, and cowboys hate quitters.
  • Always be courageous. Cowards aren’t tolerated in any outfit worth its salt.
  • A cowboy always helps someone in need, even a stranger or an enemy.
  • Never try on another man’s hat.
  • Be hospitable to strangers. Anyone who wanders in, including an enemy, is welcome at the dinner table. The same was true for riders who joined cowboys on the range.
  • Give your enemy a fighting chance.
  • Never wake another man by shaking or touching him, as he might wake suddenly and shoot you.
  • Real cowboys are modest. A braggert who is “all gurgle and no guts” is not tolerated.
  • Be there for a friend when he needs you.
  • Drinking on duty is grounds for instant dismissal and blacklisting.
  • A cowboy is loyal to his “brand,” to his friends, and those he rides with.
  • Never shoot an unarmed or unwarned enemy. This was also known as “the rattlesnake code”: always warn before you strike. However, if a man was being stalked, this could be ignored.
  • Never shoot a woman no matter what.
  • Consideration for others is central to the code, such as: Don’t stir up dust around the chuckwagon, don’t wake up the wrong man for herd duty, etc.
  • Respect the land and the environment by not smoking in hazardous fire areas, disfiguring rocks, trees, or other natural areas.
  • Honesty is absolute – your word is your bond, a handshake is more binding than a contract.
  • Live by the Golden Rule.
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I live on the third floor of a three-story condo unit. Nice community. Gated. Not sure how secure it is though. I was visiting with Pat — the maintenance guy — the other day and we started talking about security and somehow he let it slip that the gate code for the maintenance crew was “1234.”

Really?

I’m thinking that if Riff or Raff wanted to get into the complex, well, they wouldn’t have to hack through many code permutations. Fug.

Anyway — yesterday I’m sitting in my somewhat secure third-floor condo living room when I get a call from Mando, one of my best pals. The other being Tom. Both being ex-hackers in the business of helping other companies avoid being hacked (in fact see the recent post here entitled, “MORE MYSTERIOUS STUFF.”). Mando is calling from Vegas. Business, he says. Of the monkey variety is what I’m thinking, but I let it slide in the name of friendship.

A favor. That’s what he says he needs.

You know how favors and friends go. You call a friend when no one else will help. You are not permitted, by the Immutable Law of Friendship, to decline.

What kind of favor, I delicately ask. Like a reluctant snake-handler milking a black mamba.

Mow my grass, Mando informs me.

Now, there are many things Mando could have asked of me as a favor. Check on his mail. Feed his dog. Pick up his mom at the airport. Stalk his ex-girlfriend Lisa who supposedly stole some of his vintage baseball cards. I would gladly do any of those.

Yard work, however, strikes me as pointless, disheartening, depressing, and self-defeating. A blow to the human spirit. A reminder of our sad human condition.

I mean, think about it. Grass is a weed.

It is simply something that makes dirt look acceptable. People only allow it to grow because it is generally stable and grows uniformly. It is orderly and neat, unlike the lives of the people mowing it.

So, not only are you tending to and nurturing a weed that never stops growing, you must continue to cut it — for-freaking-ever.

You NEVER accomplish anything. You cut it; the effing weeds grow back. It’s what they do best.

It’s like the damn mythological hydra — cut one head off and two grow back — you are always mowing the grass. You are always reminded of the sheer and utter pointlessness of life. Gawd, I hate effing yard work. It’s bullsnarf. An affront to human dignity. A bane on existence.

Fine.

I am now sitting at my computer typing this blog entry. I am drenched in sweat and irritation since I have just returned from Mando’s house. Where I tended to his weeds and cut the grass, front and back, and edged and trimmed the front like a crazed grass-infused artisan.

I feel demeaned as a human.

But, damn, that front yard sure looks good.

E

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