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.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Cross Platform Test Code Coverage for .NET Core: Coverlet

I ran across a post on Medium, entitled, Setting up Coveralls with Coverlet for a .NET Core project. This brief and informative article details the setup and use of this new library from Toni Solarin-Sodara.  

As per the instructions, I issued the following from the prompt:
dotnet add package coverlet.msbuild
Here was the result:

Then, to update everything, I ran dotnet restor to update the dependencies:

The next step per the above article was to issue the dotnet test command to set the CollectCoverage property to true:
dotnet test /p:CollectCoverage=true
Here is the output:

As you can see from the output, I need to create more unit tests to increase coverage! In any event, to see the latest code up close, go to the unit tests github repository.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Encouraging the Wisdom of the Collective - The Up Vote

We have long known that the wisdom and experience of the many is greater, due simply to number and volume, than that of the few. This echoes the line from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn movie (1982) where Spock sacrifices himself for the entire ship and shares that statement with Captain Kirk that, "The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few."

The concept of more knowledge existing in the collective than in the individual is not a new idea sparked by the information age. We see it as early as Aristotle and also reflected 13 years ago with James Surowiecki's book, The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations.

It is when I am prompted by a coding challenge that I best experience the knowledge of the collective. It is not that I do not try to solve the current dilemma myself. In fact, I will often spend ample time trying to come up with a solution. However, after I realize that I have exhausted what I know to do, I go to the the wisdom of the many, namely Google or Bing

One of the best sites for collective intelligence long known to software developers is Stack Overflow

I have recently realized that after finding answers to a coding problem from the collective, that I typically test the information, see that it works, and then get on with the next challenge without voting up the solution from the collective. A solution, by the way, that saved me both time and stress. 

What is voting an answer up? Per Stack Overflow, "When you vote up, you are moving that content 'up' so it will be seen by more people." In short, others will see this solution sooner that likely have the same issue and will likely be helped sooner than later. Also, "Upvotes on a question give the asker +5 reputation [points]. Upvotes on an answer give the person that answered the question +10 reputation [points]. 

Therefore, it just seems like the right thing to do when you find the answer to your problem to click the up arrow as a matter of giving those who researched and worked hard to provide the answer reputation points as well as encouragement to continue to help. The goal, be more consistent in up voting the helpful answers before running onto the next challenge so that the collective is supported and encouraged. 

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Interstitial Journaling...whaaaaat?

​I ran across an interesting post entitled, Replace Your To-Do List With Interstitial Journaling To Increase Productivity by Coach Tony. My initial reaction was whaaaaaat Journaling? I have to admit that I had to look this adjective up in the dictionary. Per the word is defined as: "pertaining to, situated in, or forming interstices." OK, that did not help. What is an interstices? Again, per interstices is defined: 
"1 a space that intervenes between things; especially : one between closely spaced things....2 : a short space of time between events." Therefore, Interstitial Journaling is a form of writing that one does between certain events or milestones.

I have long been a fan of writing a daily journal. I have been using for sometime. In fact, I have long enjoyed its analysis of my content along with its badge system.

However, the idea of journaling when in between the steps of executing a plan is novel to me. After considering it, the value of introspection and writing those thoughts before moving to the next stage in a plan is beneficial. What am I thinking right now at this phase? What went well the last hour? How was I most effective this time in that task? It is during those short breaks that you can use the exercise of journaling to recognize what just happened, or did not happen, and to have an honest, revealing, and education about one's self.

Tony states, "Anyone who has ever done journaling in other contexts knows this — your journal is an opportunity for truth and honesty about yourself that you don’t normally have. I’m too ambitious about what I take on, while being cowardly about working hard. Putting those thoughts into a journal moves them from feelings that secretly rule my decisions to rational concepts that I can analyze and solve."

Moreover, we often think we commonly make rational decisions and are guided by facts as we move through our day. However, upon close examination, this may not be the case. Per the Coach, "I almost never explain any productivity topic without referencing the book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. The book covers two modes of decision making. One is a rational but effortful mode. This is what we wish ruled our life. The other is an emotional and habitual mode that sits just below our consciousness. This is what actually rules our life. The magic of journaling is that it is almost always effective at bringing thoughts and feelings up to a place that triggers your rational mind. The net effect is that you’re rebalancing and being more rational."

Therefore, instead of just journaling at one part of the day, morning or evening, I think I will journal throughout the day and/or between the day's tasks. Sounds rational, right?