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I'm posting this message a second time because, yes, the blogging software is not working.

I'm discontinuing blogging until I find a blogging software that works. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Might be a hacker problem because some unrelated stuff just went nuts too.
 
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Can everyone see all three strips on all browsers?

Okay, I finally said screw it and created a new blog over at Wordpress. And by that I mean I attempted to open an account but .... wait for it... their system is either down or rejecting me personally.

The universe is clearly conspiring to prevent me from showing these three images to the public. This is the sort of thing that makes me think we're software simulations and not free creatures in a real world.

I'm open to suggestions. Can anyone suggest a way to display images on the Internet? I've heard it's a thing.


 
This is a test of my goddamned fucking piece of shit blog software to see if it can do the simple fucking task of showing a fucking image on the fucking screen without puking down its own mouth.


Well, that didn't work on Chrome but did on Firefox.

Now for an image known to work on past blog posts...

That image worked on Chrome and Safari. Now let's try an image the exact size of the one that doesn't work and see if the file size matters.



That image works on Chrome and Firefox. So it's not the file name, the file type, or the file dimensions that matter.

But each of the robot strips started with the same file template. Next I will copy the content to a fresh file and try again...

First let's try a new and fresh template with no added content. This is the one I use for the Dilbert strip every day.


Okay, now the blog CMS is failing at every turn. It's deleting files on its own and won't give me a preview before publishing. I suspect poltergeist or possibly Russian hackers.

Oh, look, it displayed the same file twice. This is because my blog software is possessed by demons. But at least it worked on all browsers.  Now let's try copying and pasting some content from the files that don't work into this fresh template and see what happens.

Whoa, what the fuck? I can't load this same image above if I paste even a small bit of art from the robot strip into it.

Trying again with different content....


Okay, that image (the boss pasted into the blank template) failed on one browser. Next I try the same image but lower resolution jpg to see if file size matters...


And that failed.

So the problem is not the file name, the file itself, the file size, the file dimensions, or the content of the file.

Next I'll try saving as gif ...



 


 
I'm sure you'll tell me which sci-fi books have the technology I'm about to describe. And you'll delight in telling me Google or someone else is already working on it. So don't think of this as an "idea." It's just something I want.

I want my phone's apps to auto-adjust to my environment. And over time, I want everything in my environment to be Internet-connected or at least remote-controlled.

When I walk into a room, I want the home screen of my phone to automatically bring up controls and operating manuals for the technology that is nearby. I want to be able to operate everything in my environment, including the television and DVR, the lights, security, heat, AC, fans, curtain shades, and even microwave oven. When I walk into a store, I want my apps to know what sort of payment system is used so I can pay with my smartphone.

If you enter a room and the television remote doesn't pop up automatically on your phone, you simply snap a photo of the TV and your phone goes to the cloud and finds a match. Thereafter, anyone whose phone registers the same GPS coordinates will have automatic access to the television's remote control simply by walking into the room.

Let's call this technology "push apps" because my guess is that someone already does call it that. You walk into a room and the right apps push to your phone.

In order for this system to work, I think these push apps need to always become your home screen. We humans are generally more interested in our immediate surroundings than in matters far away. I don't want to hunt around for the right app every time I walk into a new room.

This vision works best with what I'll call a ring-wand. It's a ring on your finger, connected to the phone in your pocket by Bluetooth. The ring would be smart enough to judge its own movement, and perhaps have a microphone or even a tiny speaker. That way you could wave your hand like a magician and operate technology in the room.

I would think a ring could detect the following:

-          Finger snap

-          Direction and GPS (what it is pointing at)

-          Fist versus open hand

-          Waving motions (direction, speed)

-          Voice commands (your phone is the brain)

I could imagine, for example, making a fist and pointing the top of the ring toward a TV screen to control a cursor. But if you make an open palm motion of the "halt" variety, the appliance powers off. And so on.

Keep in mind that the pairing of your ring and your phone is a great system for identification because a thief is unlikely to have both. You'd never need to enter another password. And you'd never forget your phone because your ring would vibrate as soon as you got out of range.

In the long run, when all electronics are connected to the Internet, this sort of world will be easier to accomplish, assuming all of the vendors don't fight for their own standards and ruin the whole thing. In the short run, humans could "tag" rooms so all future visitors know what technology is inside them. (You'd need to untag technology as it is removed.)

My prediction is that smart watches will never be a big thing. The future is rings paired with phones.

 
Today Asok the intern came out. Tomorrow he'll have some things to say about the so-called government of India.

Cue the inevitable cries of "Stop being political! You're ruining Dilbert!"

Allow me to address that right now.

It's only political if there's someone on the other side of the debate. In this case, no one favors a government deciding which sexual acts among consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes are allowed and which are punishable by jail.

If I am wrong, and you favor the government restricting what kind of sex you can have with another consenting adult, please proudly state your case. I'm listening.

Cue cricket sounds...

 

 
Someday I plan to write a Dilbert movie script.

I anticipate your questions. Let me answer those before making my fascinating point

Q. Will it be animated?

A. No. I'd like to reimagine Dilbert's world with live actors, modern day, no neckties and suits. I have an idea for Dogbert's character but I'll keep that to myself for now. This would be a reboot of the brand, not an extension.

Q. Why haven't you already made a Dilbert movie?

A. I've tried for years. But every attempt hit a different wall. I've had A-list directors and producers say yes. I've had major studios lined up. I've had signed contracts. One time the project died because lawyers couldn't agree on a split of licensing revenues (which is not a hard problem to solve). One time our A-list director backed out because of issues in his personal life. The list goes on.

The solution to every movie-making roadblock is a great script. Studios, directors, and actors flock toward great scripts. You've seen lots of examples of top actors working for scale just to be associated with a well-written film.

But writing a great script is hard.

Or is it?

The interesting part of this post is coming. Stay with me, please.

You might not be aware of how structured a movie script is. Virtually all movies follow a common formula. Here's a quick look at just some of the elements you need to engineer into a script:
  1. The main character needs to "change" over the course of the movie
  2. In the first few minutes, the main character's life has to experience an upset.
  3. The so-called B-story has to run parallel until it interferes with the A-story near the end.
  4. There should be three acts.
  5. The characters each need their "who am I" revealing moments.
  6. Scenes need to end with a mystery or propel the story forward.
  7. Scenes should last a certain length of time (usually).
  8. The number of scenes should fall within a certain range.
  9. Humor movies should be about 90 minutes long. Drama can be longer.
The list of script requirements goes on and on. Books have been written to describe the architecture of a movie. It's complicated stuff.

Do you know where I'm heading with this yet?

For years I've been thinking I needed some sort of writing partner to get this done. I can write dialog on my own, and obviously I know the characters. I can even come up with a good story arc, and have. But I need someone who can figure out all the scene complexity because frankly that part has been holding me back. If I had no other jobs, I'd love immersing myself in the story and working out the complexity of it. But I don't have that type of freedom. (I'm working about four jobs at the moment.)

Interestingly, it's almost impossible to find a writing partner for this sort of project. For starters, successful humor writers are rare. The best ones are booked with projects for years. And picking a newbie writer with talent is a crap shoot.

Then one day it hit me.

I don't need a writing partner.

I need an engineer. An actual trained engineer.

Scripts are complicated systems. They need architecture and planning. A writer needs to hold all of that complexity in his head and understand how each part connects and influences the others. It's not a writing job; it's an engineering job.

I can write the general story (already done). And I can populate scenes with dialog because I'm good at that. I need an engineer to make sure all of the logic gates are in the right place and there are no structural holes in the script.

My idea of a script meeting goes like this.

Engineer: "Today you need to write a conversation between Asok and Alice. It needs to happen in a hallway. It needs to reveal Asok's personality and be 30 seconds long. And it needs to foreshadow the upcoming reorganization."

Me: "Okay. See you tomorrow."

You have to admit there's something that feels right about an engineer creating a Dilbert script.

Before you apply for the job, you'd need to be local to me. And ideally I'd like to have external funding to pay for the script before doing any hiring. A million dollars should cover it.

Most movies are funded by traditional studios. I think a Dilbert movie should be funded by a tech company or by a wealthy individual in the tech industry. It would be a strong combination. Crowd funding is an option too, but messier.

If you're interested in funding a Dilbert movie project, email me at dilbertcartoonist@gmail.com. If I can arrange funding, I'll look to hire an engineer.

And I couldn't start until this summer. CalendarTree.com is keeping me too busy at the moment.

 
If you were a software simulation, how would you know?

If you think your sensation of consciousness proves you are real, that's magical thinking. Consciousness is little more than imagining what happens next and comparing your experience to your expectations. Add some memory and some sensors for the environment and you have the entire package. Software can do that. And if programmed to report all of that as a "feeling" it could.

If we are software, it seems likely that we have a lot in common with our creators. It seems more likely that humans would create simulations of other humans as opposed to random creatures. It's the same reason our movies and entertainment are generally about people or creatures who act like people. People who think like us are likely to love themselves as much as we love ourselves.

So let's assume our creators think the way we do, in some general way. That's a starting point.

Let's also assume the programmers have limited resources. They can't program every possible development in our reality, so instead they use shortcuts and tricks. If we see evidence of those shortcuts and tricks in our alleged reality, it raises some questions.

For starters, some humans might be fully programmed and others would be background extras. The extras would be easy to identify because they never have anything interesting to say. You know those people. Check.

Our programmers might also create our history on the fly, and then only for compatibility with whatever is happening at the moment. Your sidewalk doesn't have a history of a crack until someone sees it. And your cat is neither alive nor dead until you see evidence for one or the other. If you want to be more controversial, it would mean finding a fossil creates a past with a dinosaur and not the other way around.

Next, you'd expect a lot of code reuse. And that means the world would be full of repeating patterns. For example, why does it seem that whenever something unique and bizarre happens to me in the afternoon it is also the plot of the only sitcom I watch that very evening? That happens to me about once a week. If I spill Gatorade on the cat, it's the plot of Modern Family that very night.

Yes, yes, yes. I know. Coincidences are just coincidences. It's nothing but statistics acting out. But here's the fun part: We don't understand why statistics work. We know things revert to the mean, for example, but why? The rules of physics seem like programmed rules as opposed to simple logical truths.

Our hypothetical programmers would need to build knowledge barriers beyond which our search for truth cannot extend. For example, we can't travel faster than the speed of light and therefore we can't see the edges of our universe. And when we drill into the quantum world we quickly reach absurdity instead of understanding. It has the smell of something a clever engineer programmed just to keep us from learning our true nature. And can light really be a particle and a wave at the same time? What about quantum entanglement?

Realistically, does it make sense to you that all matter and energy are comprised of different and smaller things no matter how far you peer into the world of the super-small? If a particle is made of X, what is X made of? Can that chain of inquiry go on to infinity? It's absurd. Just the way a clever programmer would build it. If we saw an actual physical brick wall around our solar system we'd know we were programmed. But if every time we extend our knowledge we find new riddles, we live in a prison of limited knowledge without feeling it.

What other clues might we find of our programmed existence?

 
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  For ideas that are less crazy than this blog post, see my book: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

 
I'm at the age where half of the adult conversations in my life are about one teenager or another in my extended social circle doing something that lacks "common sense." This seems to frustrate and anger adults.

But it doesn't frustrate me, for the same reason I don't expect my toaster to mow my lawn. A young person's brain doesn't have a fully developed prefrontal cortex, and that's the part of the brain that imagines future consequences of current actions. (Please correct me if I got the brain region wrong.)

I've also noticed - and this is purely anecdotal - that some people seem to be born with full prefrontal cortex function, in terms of imagining the future, and others don't develop that ability until adulthood. In my case, by the age of six I was planning my entire life through retirement. (That's literally true.) Obviously I've had to revise the plan often, but I've never had less than a fully-practical lifelong plan.

That's why I worked hard in school to get good grades. It's why as a kid I managed to stay out of any kind of trouble that would follow me. It's why I've never had a serious injury doing dumbass things. The downside was that I worried about the future more than a kid should. It wasn't a healthy situation.

Despite my nerdish impulse for long-range planning, I had no "common sense" as a kid. And that's probably because what passes as common sense is nothing but pattern recognition - or "experience" as we like to say - and kids haven't seen enough of life to recognize many patterns.

I tell a story in my new book about going to my first real-world job interview at the age of 20. I had no mentors in my life to advise me in the ways of the business world. I grew up in a town with 2,000 residents and I had never even met a "business person" per se. My job interview was with a major international accounting firm.

My common sense told me that the last thing I wanted to do in a job interview was lie, especially if the lie would be easily detected. So instead of wearing a suit to the interview, which would have required acting like a huge phony, I wore my casual student clothes. The interviewer already knew I was a senior in college, so why would I present myself in some false way to a person I wished to impress? My "common sense" said I should be honest in my appearance, to get off on the right foot.

The interviewer took one look at me and showed me the door. He said, "I don't think you know why you're here." Ouch.

As the years passed, I saw enough patterns to realize that looks can often be more important than substance. But nothing about it is "common sense."

My point is that a normal, healthy brain doesn't have some magical ability called common sense. The pre-frontal cortex is either fully-formed or it isn't. And you have either seen a lot of patterns in life or you haven't. Sometimes logic matters in our decision-making, but not often.

The idea of "common sense" feels like magical thinking to me, similar to the notion that we have a "mind" that is more than the sum of our brain's chemistry and architecture.

As a descriptor, "common sense" feels dated.

 

Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone’s beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

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I've been watching in horror the story of Tom Perkins, wealthy co-founder of famous VC firm KPCB, who used a Hitler analogy to make a point about the demonization of the rich. I haven't yet seen a rational discussion of it in the media so I guess it's up to me.

For starters, using a Hitler analogy is almost always a self-refuting argument. And by that I mean that if you need to invoke a Hitler analogy, there's probably something deeply wrong with your point of view in the first place.

But I said "almost always." Interestingly, the Hitler analogy actually works in this particular case. My interpretation of Perkins' point is that the growing level of contempt for the rich is fueled by scapegoating. And if the economy falls into something like a depression, it is a legitimate concern that angry mobs might drag rich people out of their mansions and do harm under the theory that the rich are the problem.

What are the odds of that, you say? Low? Impossible?

I'd put the odds somewhere in the 5% range and growing. Remember, Perkins didn't say it will happen next Tuesday; he's simply identifying an emerging trend. Is it legitimate for Perkins to identify a potentially dangerous trend in its early stages with the hope of heading it off early? I'd say that's a legitimate position.

Keep in mind that Perkins got rich by identifying trends before others recognized them. His firm invested in AOL, Amazon.com, Citrix, Compaq, Electronic Arts, Genentech, Geron, Google, Intuit, Netscape, Sun, Symantic and more. So if you disagree with Perkins' assessment of the risk, please compare your success rate to his. And no fair saying VCs only get it right 10% of the time because in this case that would be often enough to totally justify raising the issue. And I don't believe anyone disagrees with Perkins' observation that the public's opinion of the top 1% is worsening.

Before delivering my verdict in this case, I'd like to state the facts as I see them.

1. I keep seeing comments and even headlines saying Perkins compared the suffering of the rich to the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust. As I have often written, all analogies invite wrong interpretations. I interpreted his analogy to mean that if the demonization of the rich continues there is a non-zero chance it could escalate into violence. That's far from saying rich people are exactly like Jews in concentration camps. The willful misinterpretation of his point (or perhaps confirmation bias) is strong evidence of his point. 

2. I often hear it said that the rich are torpedoing the U.S. economy by shipping jobs overseas or introducing robots. For starters, big corporations are owned by shareholders, most of whom are not rich. Second, the idea that the rich are, on average, subtracting jobs from the economy is economic illiteracy, not an opinion. That's the same sort of ignorance that drives most forms of discrimination and violence. 

3. If a pundit of modest means had raised a warning that worsening attitudes about the rich might someday escalate to violence no one would raise an eyebrow. The angry contempt shown to Perkins' opinion piece supports his opinion. Sure, the Nazi analogy was a bad choice, but does that make his point wrong? 

4. The fact that few citizens seem to care there is a chance that the rich might someday be dragged from their homes and killed is evidence of Perkins' point. The rich have already been dehumanized to the point where an offensive analogy seems the bigger crime against humanity than the possibility that the rich could someday be slaughtered by mobs. 

5. Much of the public believes the economy is a zero-sum game and therefore the rich are stealing their money from the poor. That is economic illiteracy, not opinion. It's the same sort of ignorance that made ordinary German citizens think the Holocaust might be a solution to their national problems. 

My verdict is that Perkins' point about escalating contempt for the rich potentially leading to violence is legitimate, in large part because the media contributes to economic illiteracy and highlights the bad apples in the top 1%.

The Nazi analogy wasn't politically correct. Nor was it a brilliant choice because all analogies cause fights, and when you throw in some Holocaust references you're just asking for trouble.

Is Perkins sort of a dick? Yes. But I have some respect for the fact that he's not trying to be a phony. And based on what I've read online, most of his critics are ignorant dicks. That seems one level worse than being a well-informed dick.

Yeah, I know, I'm a dick too. That goes without saying. Let's not get sidetracked.

 

 
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