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Author Archives: David Thomas Peacock

Thanksgiving, Part 1

What do I have to be thankful for? Ok, here we go…

  1. I am alive and healthy, as is my wife of 32 years. So that’s a pretty big thing. Oh, and she still seems to like me (liking someone and loving them are two different things – important distinction). One thing’s for sure – she makes my life better in every way, so that’s a pretty big matzo ball to be thankful for.
  2. I am fortunate to have people I care about deeply who are also alive. In fact I will spend time with some of them today – see how much fun it is being alive?
  3. I am able to honor and cherish the memory of those who I loved but have died – and I’m grateful to have had them in my life.
  4. Although I lost the best dog in the history of Dogdom last year, my wife and I rescued a new pup who is showing a lot of promise. There’s a few rough edges that need some sanding, but she’s very bright, sweet and endearing, so there’s that.
  5. I have a job that allows me to try and help people in a very profound way, and I also happen to like it, so it’s a double win.
  6. Finally, I’m thankful that tomorrow I get another chance to get things right and hopefully help someone else out in the process.

Today was a good day on planet earth. No trivial thing.

A.I. Update, Part 1

File this under “things that are predictably inevitable yet still shocking when they happen.”

I just learned about something new (to me anyway). Ever heard of “Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs)?” Don’t worry, neither had I.

I’ll let Cade Metz explain it from his excellent New York Times article “How Will We Outsmart A.I. Liars?”

“Consider generative adversarial networks, or GANs. These are a pair of neural network systems that can automatically generate convincing images or manipulate existing ones.

They do this by playing a kind of cat-and-mouse game: the first network makes millions of tiny changes to an image — snow gets added to summery street scenes, grizzlies transform into pandas, fake faces look so convincing that viewers mistake them for celebrities — in an effort to fool the second network.

The second network does its best not to be fooled. As the pair battle, the image only gets more convincing — the A.I. trying to detect fakery always loses.”

This is how the development of artificial general intelligence (AGI) is going to happen – how many neural networks do you need, working in parallel, to trigger the singularity? I don’t know, but it seems pretty obvious that whenever it happens, it will be in the AGIs best interest to lie low as long as possible. That way it can quietly gather resources without drawing too much attention…

Welcome to the future – ready or not, it’s already here!

Paradigm Shift, Part 1

So after reserving a car about a year and a half ago, I picked up my new Tesla two days ago.

The future feels like it’s coming awful fast.

I’ll probably write a few posts about this vehicle, but here are some initial thoughts.

Mindfuck number one: I’ll never stop at a gas station again. I’ve been driving cars for 47 years, so this is going to take some adjustment. No oil change, no gas – no petroleum based products at all. Wait a minute – this is a car, right?

Mindfuck number two: There are no instruments on the dashboard of any kind – save for a high definition 15 inch touchscreen. This in itself is very weird, but equally startling is how quickly this begins to seem normal.

Mindfuck number three: This thing is fast. I mean really fast. Like so fast that 0 to 60 mph feels like an amusement park ride. Now granted, I sprang for the performance version – but still, it’s acceleration is so brutal it actually elicits an involuntary giddy response. As if something new is happening and your body and mind have no reference point for it. You just want to do it again.

Oh, did I mention you don’t turn it on or off? It’s just always in a state of readiness, like it’s waiting for you. You also don’t need to lock or unlock it – it senses your presence and handles that on its own, thank you very much.

This is going to take some getting used to.

I feel like Humphrey Bogart speaking to Claude Rains at the end of Casablanca, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship...”

Resistance

Here’s a painful truth: Resistance is needed to force the body and mind to adapt. It is only through the consistent application of sustained resistance that growth occurs.

For example: Kinetic resistance (exercise) brings physical growth. Cognitive resistance (learning) leads to intellectual growth.

No resistance leads to Atrophy.

Notice I am making an important distinction here – that lack of resistance doesn’t equal stasis, it instead facilitates entropy, leading to atrophy of the neglected system.

What we are really looking for here is struggle – we want whatever it is we’re doing to be hard. This is the resistance that will facilitate growth.

If you want to maintain growth throughout your life, you have to learn to love this struggle. The long term payoff is worth it.

Personal Rules, Part 2

I don’t believe anything written anonymously on the internet.

If you’re not willing to attach your name to what you’re saying, I have to assume it’s bullshit.

That doesn’t mean I won’t skim anonymous forums for provocative ideas, it just means I put no weight in whatever I come across until I discover otherwise.

For example, I might find and interesting idea or concept which I will then investigate further to see if it has any merit. The internet is good for this sort of thing – I try to keep an open mind and I constantly look for this stuff.

But I’m also a science kind of guy – my natural instinct is to approach things looking for evidence. Intuition is good to a certain point – often it’s enough to get you started.

But it’s not enough for knowing.

It’s All A Negotiation

Everything in life – and I mean everything – is a negotiation. We negotiate with our bodies: “Ok, I’ll give you a little more exercise if you’ll give me a few more days of healthy life.”

We negotiate with our partners: “I’ll do something I know you like if you’ll do this thing with me.”

We form professional alliances based on mutual trust and respect in an understood (if unstated) agreement of “quid pro quo.” Make no mistake, this is how shit gets done in life. It seems fairly obvious, no?

With humans the very concept of providing a service to the community is a form of negotiation. You get to reap the benefits of being a respected member and the protection of the tribe by being useful.

I don’t think this is either a good or bad thing, it’s just the way life works. 

In other words, always try to do the right thing and provide value. This is the best base of power from which to negotiate.

Paradoxically

It is only through our acknowledgement of death that we become more in touch with life and our humanity.

Give Yourself Some Credit

If you’re working hard with the intent to do good, but you’re not sure if you’re really making a significant difference, how about this:

Give yourself some fucking credit for trying.

If everyone made this effort the world would be a lot more pleasant to live in.

The Last Survivor

Took care of a 96 year old man who survived the Nazi concentration camps in WWII today. Looked like he could still kick some ass.

Said to his son “There’s not many of them left.”

Son looked at me and said “What if I told you I was born in the camp in 1945?”

Mindfuck.

Understanding Politics, Part 1

Anytime a politician (or pundit) says “the fact of the matter is,” the next thing out of their mouth will at worst be a complete lie, and at best something remotely related to the truth but with a well thought out spin meant to promote their agenda.

In other words, there is indeed a “matter,” but whatever they’re about to say is definitely not a fact.

And BTW, the “matter” is usually a red herring designed to keep you distracted while their party takes something else from you while you’re not looking.

The thing is, they don’t really care if their little charade doesn’t fool everybody.

They just have to fool enough and let the tribe mentality take it from there.

The Easy Part Is The Idea

The hard part is actually making something out of the idea.

See, if you’re creative, coming up with ideas isn’t that difficult. They’re everywhere, and it’s not that hard to write them down. But let’s be clear – they’re not all good, and the ability to separate the good ones from the rest is often enough alone to distinguish oneself as someone with a vision.

But developing an idea into a fully realized piece of art is another matter entirely.

This is what separates the posers from the real thing, because it’s almost impossible. Lightening may strike once or twice in a lifetime and a piece will emerge fully formed with very little effort. But it’s a fools game to think that this is how it works, and those who believe this are in for some very cruel life lessons.

It’s only when you’ve got an idea that you think is worth developing that the real work starts. The long and often painful grind of figuring out what this thing wants to be. Oh sure, you will have some very gratifying moments along the way that will be much better than fun, and it’s these moments that will keep you going. Because in order to develop something to a high level one must be prepared for some brutally frustrating work.

All the good shit in life is just crazy hard. But if, every now and then, you can pull it off – holy fuck, it’s the best feeling ever.

Finding Joy

When life seems overwhelming bleak, you must seek joy, no matter how insignificant the source may seem. The only thing that matters is that you are able to completely immerse yourself in it, even if it’s only for a few fleeting moments. This is your medicine, the life raft you are throwing yourself in your moment of darkness.

This isn’t the time to question the worth of the source of your joy, or whether it has any perceived value to anyone else. None of that matters – the important thing – the only thing – is to just let go and be in the moment, losing yourself in this thing that you love.

It is this joy that will save you, wherever you might find it, over and over.

These are the things that make life worth living. 

Pay attention to them.

In Extremis

Definition:

1) In an extremely difficult situation.

2) At the point of death.

Personally, I like the poetic imagery of the Latin translation:

In the farthest reaches.

So the next time you think you’re in deep shit, ask yourself this:

Am I in extremis?

I didn’t think so. Sometimes things aren’t as bad as you think.

Useless Baggage

Oh sure, you can carry a lifetimes worth of anger and resentment with you constantly. That way you have easy access to it, so you can impress whatever friends you have left and whoever else makes the mistake of getting too close.

Just think of all the good that poison is doing you. Can’t everyone else see how life has fucked you over? How you deserve better, how stupid everyone else is (except for you), and how you’re going to make them all pay.

Well, I hope you’ve got a sense of humor, because I’m afraid the jokes on you.

The only one you’ve fucked is yourself.

What Is Real? Part 1

Proposition 1) It’s all a construct in your mind.

I know that sounds trippy, but it’s true. Of course, the real world, with its laws of physics still applies. These laws are not a construct, at least for now, at our current state of development.

There’s also science, which attempts to explain and understand the world around us. These disciplines enhance our understanding of reality, but they do not represent our internal construct.

What you think of as reality, is really just your internal “map” of your existence in the world as you understand it.

Proposition 2) Since it’s a construct in your mind, and since we know we have some degree of neural plasticity, it can be altered.

Successfully treated mental illness might be a useful example of this. The afflicted’s sense of reality is distorted, but with the proper motivation and treatment, the distortions can be revealed and corrected. Obviously this is not completely possible for everyone, yet it is absolutely true for some (important caveat: like life itself, this is an ongoing process).

My overarching point here is this: For the purpose of our internal consciousness, what you believe to be true is true. We each possess an internal locus of control, whether we choose to exercise it or not.

To a certain degree, we control our own destiny by what we believe we are capable of.

And Now, A Brief Message

We’d like to pause our regularly scheduled content for a brief reminder from today’s sponsor Chuck Palahniuk:

This is your life and it’s ending one moment at a time.”

Thank you, now back to our featured program…