Thursday, July 12, 2018

Synthesis (learning and growing) is not Easy

What does the title mean by Synthesis? Ever heard of Hegel’s Dialectic? For Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the dialectic method of historical and philosophical progress consists of (1) a beginning idea called a thesis, (2) a competing and opposite proposal of that thesis called the antithesis, and (3) a synthesis whereby the two conflicting ideas are reconciled or “synthesized” to form a new and more advanced idea.

Isn’t that the idea of learning? To take your current ideas and put them against opposing viewpoints to achieve a better understanding?  

Here is an example of the dialectic method used in an English class:

As you can see from above, a thesis or viewpoint on a topic is not always correct. If we know that there are things to be gained from Hegel’s Dialectic, why don’t we do it more often? Simple. It is hard on us psychologically and it is mental and emotional work. When the antithesis is introduced to us from a social media post or something we have just read then there is struggle and pain to achieve synthesis.

When the antithesis is introduced to us from a social media post...then there is struggle and pain to achieve synthesis.

When your identity and thinking is on the side of or beholden to a particular thesis, considering the antithesis is difficult. You have to take time and make effort to consider antithetical viewpoints. You have to overcome preconceived ideas about those who hold the antithesis. This is not easy. No wonder we protect ourselves by surrounding ourselves with those who think like us. This is also know as an "echo chamber" where we hear the same things repeated on a continual basis.

No wonder we protect ourselves by surrounding ourselves with those who think like us.

To help in this, you must trust that once the process of synthesis is completed, or even in the painful process, you gain in various areas. First, you become more empathetic. You better understand what "they" have been feeling and thinking. Next, you learn that the topic being considered is not as simple as you originally thought. Moreover, you also better understand those complexities. However, as was previously stated, there is an element of discomfort when you hold something as true and then consider the opposing viewpoint. In short, it’s not easy but more than often, worth it.

... there is an element of discomfort when you hold something as true and then consider the opposing viewpoint. In short, it’s not easy but more than often, worth it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

AI and More Free Time

Technology has given us more free time. Imagine what our days would be like if we had to grow out own food, etc. AI will more likely give us more free time in the future. My question is, what will we do with it? Or another way to ask the question, "What are we doing now that we will no longer have to do which should result in more free time?"

Some things that come to my mind are drive a car, complete standard forms such as annual tax reviews, get regular medical testing, and grocery shopping.

AI driving a car is not hard to imagine. We are on the cusp of that reality.

Filling out standard forms would be something AI could do give the data that is already part of our everyday lives. Imagine the 1040EZ or 1040A forms being completed and submitted based on the information from where you work, the bills you pay, and the charities that your support.

Concerning medical tests, what if each time you urinated or defecated, your home restroom facilities would run a chemical analysis on your urine or stool and share that info with you?

Another reality that is coming soon to you is having your groceries brought to your door step. Imagine a smart fridge where what is needing replaced of your commonly purchased items automatically arrives. How would simply supplying a list to your personal AI of needed items that were at your home in less than 12 hours save you time?

Finally, if these are more possible tasks are fulfilled by AI, what would you do with that freed up time? Learn something new. Go for more walks? Spend more time with a loved one?

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Most Advanced Yet Acceptable Ideas

In his book Hitmakers, Derek Thompson discusses an acronym, The MAYA Principle - "Most Advanced. Yet Acceptable."

This acronym was set forth by Raymond Loewy, known as the father of industrial design. Loewy's Lucky Strike cigarette package, Exxon logo, and blue nose of Air Force One are only a few of his famous designs.

Per Thompson, in his 2017 Atlantic article, "Loewy had an uncanny sense of how to make things fashionable. He believed that consumers are torn between two opposing forces: neophilia, a curiosity about new things; and neophobia, a fear of anything too new. As a result, they gravitate to products that are bold, but instantly comprehensible. Loewy called his grand theory 'Most Advanced Yet Acceptable'"

How would this work in the area of ideas? How can we better form concepts that are novel, but quickly understandable?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

AI helping us be more ethical.

With the advent of self-driving cars, we see AI starting to make ethical decisions. How you may ask? 

These automobiles will have to decide what to do when human lives are at stake. For example, let's say a couple is in a hurry. Instead of obeying the traffic signal to not cross the street, they attempt to cross it not seeing the oncoming vehicle. Moreover, this is a self-driving car that is about to hit them. The AI calculates that it does not have enough time to come to a safe stop. In a millisecond the AI reviews the scenario. Should the ethic algorithms decide to hit the single pedestrian on the side walk instead? Hit the couple crossing the street? Or risk the life of the passengers in the car as well as those in the neighboring office building by careening into it?

Let's take this concept a step further. What if the AI knows who all the humans are that are in danger via face recognition? Also, what if the algorithms instantly calculate that one of the people in peril crossing the street has a high proclivity to criminal behavior?

Once intelligent machines start making, at least hypothetically better and more informed ethical decisions based on data, will we then slowly start to hand over our own ethical decisions to them? Why not have an AI (artificial intelligence) that has access to massive amounts of information and can process it at a thousand fold rate more then we can at least assist us in those dilemmas?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Less is More?

Blaise Pascal famously wrote, "I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time." 

It takes effort to be brief. Speaking of that, I listen to various podcast throughout the day. One that I listen to is only one minute in length. What is interesting is that I find myself really concentrating as I listen to it. I will listen to it attentively, because it only takes a minute time, and I can afford that effort during my busy day. Moreover, I will soon have another minute to listen to it again. Secondly, I want to make sure I get that singular thought that is communicated from that one minute podcast. What I end up doing with the other podcasts that are 15 minutes to 1 hour in length is listening to them one time and even speeding up the listening process only to not hear them again. 

Why is it I pay more attention and listen more carefully to the shorter podcast? 

First, it simply takes less time. Next, because there is only a singular idea or concept contained, I want to make sure that I obtained what is so briefly being shared. 

In short, I likely spend more time listening to and then considering the shorter podcast than I do with the longer!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Are You, Like the Emerging AI, More than the Sum of your Parts?

I recently subscribed to Medium. What I typically do is take the daily email from Medium, browse through what articles, and if I find something of interest, I save that to Instapaper to read and more commonly listen to with Instapaper's audio feature on its mobile app.

I was listening to an article, On Metamodernism by Seth Abramson. In that article he stated that, "people reduce you to your data in a way that’s soul-crushing." Immediately, what came to my mind was the Aristotelian quote, "The whole is more than the sum of its parts"

A week or so later, I was listening to the Triangulation Podcast from This Week in Technology, that featured the new book, The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity by Byron Reese. Reese seemed optimistic and also realistic in his assessment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its current and potential interaction with humanity.

My typical process, after hearing of a book that I would like to read/hear is to check on my local library's web site to see if the audio or ebook is available. It did not have either. However, the Overdrive app that it uses does have the ability to recommend an audio or ebook. So, I recommend the audio book, which also puts you first in line to borrow the resource. A few days later, I get an email stating that my local library, which I love by the way, purchased the audio book and that I can start accessing it at will.

Again, my modus operandi is to run in the morning, listening to audio books and/or podcasts. So, the next morning after downloading the audio book, I am moving along listening. At the very outset Reese brings up the philosophical discussion of monism vs dualism or what is more frequently termed the mind/body problem. Before we look at these ideologies, note that where you fall on that continuum will influence your consideration of the possibility of AI becoming conscious.

To be sure, these views span a continuum. But, for discussion sake and for clarity, let's look at the two systems in contrast. Concerning consciousness,  the earliest discussions of dualist ideas are found in the writings of Plato who held that intelligence could not be identified with, or explained in terms of, their physical body. The best-known version of dualism comes from RenĂ© Descartes (1641), who held that the mind is a non-extended, non-physical substance, and separate from the physical brain. To be sure, the brain is necessary for both schools of thought, however, for the dualist consciousness or the mind "emerges" from the physical brain.

In short, a simplistic understanding is if you think that you are no more than the sum of your parts then you are a monist. Material is all that there is. Your sense of self consciousness is nothing more than a "trick" of your brain. In contrast, if you think that you are more than the sum of your physical make up, then you are a dualist and consciousness "emerges" from the brain.

So, a monist would typically respond that of course AI systems can become conscious given they possess the same physical properties that our human brain possesses. However, the dualist would say, "Hold on here, how do we know if there has been an emergent product of those physical properties that is like human consciousness or do they simply mimic the characteristics of consciousness?"

What do you "think?"

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Brotopia: It's Bad for Everyone

I recently listened to the audio book Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley by Emily Chang during my morning jogs. 

My initial thought as I started to listen to the book was that the under representation of women and minorities in Tech was due to not as many women and minorities pursuing STEM degrees and programs as white men. Boy, (pun intended) was I wrong! 

Romans of the Decadence (1847), by Thomas Couture, as updated to parody Silicon Valley’s male-dominated sexual and sexist culture. Photo Illustration by Darrow.

What I found out from the book is that not only is there inequality but also a toxic culture of white, privileged males that are intentionally or at least subconsciously barring others who look different than they do from entering and taking part in the fast and furious tech world of Silicon Valley. 

While Cincinnati, Ohio is not Silicon Valley, there is still has a good deal of tech based businesses as well as insurance and banking companies that are essentially IT organizations. What this means is there is ample opportunities here for the alienation of women and minorities by white males such as myself.

What I hope to take away from this book is to learn how I am contributing to the problem and put an immediate stop to it. With that stated, before being exposed to Brotopia, I did not consider myself as part of the problem, however after listening to this book I am now aware that, in fact, that is likely not true. While not desiring to actively suppress others, I no doubt have committed sins of omission by not combatting the toxicity. 

In short, I hope to be active in two ways. First, encourage and assist my co-workers and associates in tech that look different than me. This can be done by making sure that they know that I am listening to them, that I in fact prize their input, and that they are a value to the team. While I "think" I have been doing that, I no doubt have been remiss in actively communicating that I know they are smart and productive.

Secondly, I could be proactive in seeing that women and minorities enter the tech field via helping the various groups that have emerged in the last 5 years such as Girls Who Code. Here, I can volunteer time and resources. Also, as an Adjunct Instructor at a local university teaching a programming class to Business Informatics students, I can encourage the women and minorities in the class to push forward and fight the good fight. 

What has been most painful in listening to the book is putting myself in the place of many who while working endless hours in a taxing industry, had to battle the emotional stress of the many sexist and mean comments, sexual advances, belittements, and generally being demeaned and alienated all the while trying not only to advance, but also to survive. 

Ms. Chang is correct in her hope for her sons to work and thrive in whatever future they choose. Believe me, the same type of persons that create a toxic environment for women and minorities, often bully and demean their male coworkers we well. Truly, "If one is oppressed, all are oppressed."

Updating pgAdmin 4 on Ubuntu 16.04

When I opened pgAdmin on my Ubuntu 16.04 system this morning and received a notification that there was a new version, 3.0. So, in order to upgrade I did the following:
 $ virtualenv -p python3 pgadmin4   
 $ cd pgadmin4   
 $ source bin/activate   
 $ pip3 install  

The *.whl (wheel file) above is a ZIP-format archive with a specially formatted filename and the .whl extension and is a built-package format for Python. Go to for the latest python wheel files.

All looked good until I opened the new version and attempted to run the Query Tool. Whenever I try to open the Query Tool by going through the drop down Tools menu, I would receive the error dialog "Query Tool Initialize Error."

By experimenting I found that instead of browsing to, when I changed the URL to http://localhost:5050, I was able to use the Query Tool via the drop down menus.

Therefore, what I did was edit the pgAdmin4/lib/python3.5/site-packages/pgadmin4/ file by updating the line:
 DEFAULT_SERVER = 'localhost'  
Now when I start pgAdmin, all is good.