Cold Vancouver, Creeping Votes

I’m on my way to Vancouver for a week (no, I can’t tell you why just yet — hopefully soon). And I gotta say, looking at the weather forecast I am not happy.  I lived in Vancouver for over a decade, and among its many pleasures was the torrent of cherry blossoms and the t-shirt weather you’d experience in late February while the rest of the country was locked into deep freeze.

Well, I’m in the rest of the country now; Toronto temperatures have been in the teens all week and are gearing up for mid-twenties next.  And while everyone here is basking on patios? It’s gonna be rain and single-digit temperatures in Lotus Land the whole time I’m out there.

This is not the way it’s supposed to be. I swear I’d phone ahead and get them to change the dates, but everyone’s long since gone home for the weekend.

Anyway, posts over the next week will probably be sporadic and brief, and I won’t be able to monitor the ongoing Bookies race as closely as I’d like to.  And I would like to; interesting things have been happening over the past day or so. The Pattern Scars had a strong 13-point lead at noon yesterday; suddenly votes started flying in for Wonder, and Scars’ lead had all but vanished within the hour. PS spent the rest of the day clawing back her advantage, opening up another eight or nine-point gap by the end of the day. Then, whump: another furious torrent of Wonder votes starting at midnight, once again eating away all but two percent of Caitlin’s lead. It’s like some kinda BFG (or, I dunno, maybe a secret mailing list) opens fire every time The Pattern Scars closes in on 40% of the popular vote.

Anyhow, the statistician in me is stirring. I’ve started taking regular screen grabs of the voting results, just to see if any interesting patterns emerge. Of course, I won’t be able to do that while I’m in the air. Or working. Or sleeping. So if any of you feel a strange compulsion to hit your screen-grab button and make note of the time and date, I certainly wouldn’t turn down any jpegs you might send over the next week.  Alternatively, you could just keep on voting until the end of the month; that’s way more important, in fact.  Keep the pressure on. Keep up that slow steady current of tortoise votes against the mad hareish dashes thrown against it. Two weeks and counting.

I’m off. See you on the other side.

 

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Saturday March 17 2012at 05:03 pm , filed under misc, On the Road . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

63 Responses to “Cold Vancouver, Creeping Votes”

  1. I’m voting every day, and have others doing the same. We do what we can. We’ll be diligent.

  2. Hey, if you feel like grabbing lunch or somesuch while you’re out here, drop me a line. I owe you one!

  3. Sure. As long as you fix that damn weather.

  4. I’m working on that. It’s just a matter of re-purposing my orbital death ray. Unfortunately, the schematics I bought from Cobra Commander just don’t seem to be doing the trick. No wonder GI Joe always kicked his ass — bad engineering.

  5. Will you be making your way to the Island at all?

  6. @Ben

    Do you suppose my phased mind control array might help? I think I can afford to give world leaders a little break from the whole “meat puppet” thing if it’ll help chase the rain away for a while. I just need to switch the microwave emitter settings from “Mass Hypnosis” to “Clouds-B-Gone” without accidentally hitting “WMD”. Broiling the west coast would be… unfortunate.

  7. FWIW, the poll info appears to be at:
    http://polldaddy.com/poll/6011539/?view=results

    With a script, it should be fairly straightforward to automatically scrape the results and save them to a CSV file or such (the HTML is certainly straightfoward enough). Maybe if I need a distraction later today…

  8. @Jason: I really doubt it. I’ll be commuting between Burrard and Burnaby most of the time.

  9. Just discovered: this poll seems to look at browser, not just IP. Which means that not only can you vote every day, you can vote ONCE EVERY DAY FROM EACH DIFFERENT BROWSER ON YOUR MACHINE.

    If you want be unethical, of course. In a good cause. In the interests of full disclosure.

  10. Actually, I just bought Caitlin’s book and am in the first half of it and I gotta say – it’ great ! Lush, dreamy, and weirdly resonant. Me likey. Will vote again .

  11. Nick, I was going to try and find that. beat me to it. I figure there is probably a way to get the results in json or some friendlier format, but the api page I found goes kablooey and freezes up in my browser. what the.

    http://support.polldaddy.com/the-polldaddy-api/

    (resorted to lynx. yay lynx)

  12. well foo. I was hoping their docs would tell you a param to use to get the results in something other than html. nope. setting the accept header to application/json doesn’t do anything btw.

    so, at the dumbest level, you could just use curl and save the results to a filename.

    curl http://polldaddy.com/poll/6011539/?view=results > myfilename

    there are smarter things you can do. like maybe you want to frob the results so it just shows you the books and their percents, or maybe you want to set up a job to run for you periodically to send you results. etc.

    btw, don’t set a job to get results too frequently, that’s rude. If someone did that to me I would block them.

  13. next stupid method

    curl http://polldaddy.com/poll/6011539/?view=results | grep -A 1 label

    if you look at the page, the elements that have the book names use the class “label” and it so happens that 1 line later has the results. this is very sloppy, don’t rely on methods like this. but anyway, you could run that periodically to see what’s up. you could also save it to a file via > myfilename

    btw, two > will append to the file instead of overwriting it.

  14. A near miss!

    I was just there for a few days to renew passports and climate adjust between here and Tampa. There were some blossoms out, but yeah…not patio weather.

    Hope it warms up for you!

  15. curl -s “http://polls.polldaddy.com/vote-js.php?p=6011539″ | \
    tr ‘>’ ‘\n’ | \
    grep -E “([a-z] </span|%<)" | \
    cut -d '<' -f 1 | \
    cut -d ';' -f 2

    Sample output:
    The Fecund’s Melancholy Daughter by Brent Hayward
    7.35%
    In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood
    6.53%
    The Pattern Scars by Caitlin Sweet
    42.01%
    Triptych by J.M. Frey
    8.98%
    Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer
    35.12%

  16. David H, :) I knew someone would step up with something better. :) yay

    now for someone to register isshewinning where it will show yes or no depending.

  17. @ David H.: Nice!
    If you left out that CR-LF, sed out ‘by ‘ to ‘,’, sed out the ‘%’ etc etc, add a timestamp and then you’ve got a rather brief CSV flat-file perfect for loading into MySQL and from there the statistics are probably pretty easy with either a Perl statistics module or something comparable for PHP, changes over time percentage per author.

    Having read none of the books so far (still reading Neuropath, I am too lazy to code this. ;)

  18. Maybe you should contact a Harper insider to get hooked up with their robocall provider. Maybe they have a similar service for internet votes.

    I have read most of Sawyer’s work and enjoyed them. But, far too often, he starts out with an interesting “what if”, delves into it, and appears not to have an idea how to end it. I can’t criticize because I have never written a book. But if I ran into this, I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t write a sequel to it.

  19. https://sites.google.com/site/drheld/bookies-votes

    Enjoy. :)

  20. Building on David H.’s work:

    Hmm, the damned editor and software strips script characters and replaces them with HTML and drops a lot of them. Not much addition, but you can get the pure script here.

    Output sample:

    The Fecundâs Melancholy Daughter by Brent Hayward ,7.1 , In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood ,6.39 , The Pattern Scars by Caitlin Sweet ,44.3 , Triptych by J.M. Frey ,8.67 , Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer ,33.54 ,120318-235627,
    The Fecundâs Melancholy Daughter by Brent Hayward ,7.1 , In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood ,6.39 , The Pattern Scars by Caitlin Sweet ,44.3 , Triptych by J.M. Frey ,8.67 , Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer ,33.54 ,120318-235848,
    The Fecundâs Melancholy Daughter by Brent Hayward ,7.1 , In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood ,6.39 , The Pattern Scars by Caitlin Sweet ,44.3 , Triptych by J.M. Frey ,8.67 , Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer ,33.54 ,120318-235859,

    fields: $novel_1,$perc_novel_1,$novel2,$perc_novel_2, etc etc $datestamp for anyone who wants to write some PHP, I need some sleep.

    However that script is now running on a cron job. I hope 10 minutes is enough granularity. ;)

  21. @David H
    Nice work!

  22. I’m late to the party (didn’t check the comments first!), but I wrote a little script to record the results every two minutes into a public Google spreadsheet:
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AjL2XrwdNUq7dFg1cFA2d3hGd2RTaTJXLTMxNm5xSHc#gid=0
    Ruby code is public here:
    https://github.com/petewarden/bookiewatcher

  23. People, this is amazing. What a wealth of data. Thank you all. There don’t seem to have been any weird pulses since the numbers started coming in, but at this resolution we’ll catch any that occur.

    Also, slowly but surely, Caitlin has reclaimed her lead.

    @Peter Warden, David Held, I meant David Held: re your bookiewatch sheet: what’s the very bottom line represent, in the scaleable window? Is that votes/hour, or what?

  24. Arrgh. Directed question to wrong person previous comment.

  25. @Peter Watts – the bottom part is unfortunately mostly meaningless. It’s the percentage votes for the first person listed (Hayward). I can remove it from the graph, but then you lose the time range picker which might come in handy.

    I added a note below the graph to explain that. Also added a link to the raw data.

  26. David H, can you make it so that a user can click on different time lines and have that show in the bottom? and/or have it use The Pattern Scars?

    btw, Hayward’s book isn’t getting enough love. I am voting for The Pattern Scars, but I think his book was good too. I wish it ranked higher.

    (am editing this just to enjoy the Super Edit Powwa)

  27. @Sheila and @Peter Watts — Figured out how to make it so the bottom section shows Caitlin’s scores instead.

  28. Heck yeah up 14%! We have totally got this :D

  29. @ David H

    Nice work, good sir!

  30. @Alistair01:

    Heck yeah up 14%! We have totally got this

    Let’s not get too cocky. We’ve got eleven days yet to go — and just a few days back Sawyer virtually eradicated a 13-point lead in an hour.

    Things are quiet–too quiet…

  31. *Pattern Scars* was at nearly 50% before Hayward’s climb began and now it’s at 47. Vote, vote, vote.

  32. @Peter Watts
    “Things are quiet-too quiet…”

    Well it would have worked out fine until you said that. That’s like asking “How could things get any worse?” in a horror movie!

    On a mathy note, the vote pool has apparently sized up quite a bit now. I am getting only 0.01% shift whenever I vote, and occasionally don’t get any movement at all. If nothing else, it would appear we have density on our side.

  33. Ha – now things went suspicious the other way around. There’s a strange abrupt climb for Sweet until she get just past 50%.

    https://sites.google.com/site/drheld/bookies-votes

  34. Yeah, I noticed that. Caitlin and her Bookie nom did get interviewed for this newsletter that circulates throughout the office of the Attorney-General, so several thousand Ontarian civil servants have or will be exposed to a heartwarming tale about how one of their own is up against Margaret Atwood and by the way, here’s a link. Maybe that’s it — although I don’t actually know whether that story’s even run yet.

    Fifty percent is good, though.

  35. Speaking of spambots. Here and the Starship Sofa thread. (Also, welcome back from being down, rifters.com).

  36. Hmm according to my voting site crawler’s flatfile, Caitlin Sweet and “the Pattern Scars” is at 50 percent so she’s got a lot of “FTW” right now. Gonna be hard to beat that.

    Totally self-serving and off-topic, I’ve got a double-header film review of “John Carter” (IMAX 3D) and “the Hunger Games” here, if our gracious host will allow the link. Even if he won’t, I have to wonder what the Neurological Determinism folks would have to say about that film, not to mention I’d love to see some chiming-in from the folks who think that the Singularity is inevitable unless we nuke ourselves back nearly to the Stone Age and thus perhaps inevitably end up with “the Hunger Games” as the only alternative to being devoured by AI.

    Just curious, and “the Pattern Scars” is still on my reading list, only the moreso, now, what with the 50 percent of voting.

  37. Pardon me, but I just don’t get why you so persistently juxtapose Hunger Games with works that have “singularity” trope and specifically the somewhat more extreme telling of that trope (“Skynet wins”, as you put it).

    Not that I’m big on Singularity shtick (it’s a rather messy concept IMHO, and depending on how you look on things, it might be said to have happened many decades ago – but more on that when I find an email from a friend from which I can copypaste a nice argument :) ), but I can’t help thinking that you consider the “smarter than human systems” tropes a bit… special, in some way.

  38. At 20h29 Sunday March 25th, Pattern scars hit 50,5 % . I forgot to print screen it.

  39. @01: I’m thinking along the same lines as Vinge, when he was saying back in 1983 or so that you can’t really write a story that gradually ramps up from “the present day” to interstellar flight unless you write in a nuclear war; otherwise the Technological Singularity happens first and the only interstellar flight is likely to be machines at the behest of machines, looking to seed another planet. As to “Skynet Wins”, it’s actually a sort of hybrid of the tropes; the Technological Singularity occurs and a powerful computer system goes superhuman, but also the human civilization is struck a nearly fatal blow in the form of nuclear war launched by Skynet. Even if they didn’t learn their lesson about letting machines get too smart, they’d have no need and probably little of the technology to build the predecessor systems of another Skynet.

    “Hunger Games” is just another in a long line of stories in which the present civilization is knocked back into near barbarism or into actual barbarism. Another example might be “the Running Man” which is really awfully close in premise to Hunger Games.

    For what it’s worth, I’m not all that scared of weakly-superhuman AI (mostly) so long as they’re in a box, and don’t have any way to impact The Real World, such as with launching nuclear strikes or engineering nanobots to convert everyone and everything into Grey Goo as a precursor to remaking everything everywhere into whatever they so desire. Then again, John Varley managed to scare the crap out of me several decades ago with his story Press Enter, and that was almost a ghost story, such was the subtlety of the AI. Though not equipped with a finger on the launch button or nanites or any such thing, it was still deadly enough.

    One author who was pretty much treading on the fine line, story-wise, between “which comes first, the Singularity or colonization of space”, was Michael Swanwick, with Vacuum Flowers and Stations of the Tide. In his futures, Earth was pretty messed up and generally incomprehensible due to the Singularity, but human cultures flourished in more-or-less “traditional” human ways in other parts of the cosmos. I think that Singularity v. Space Humanity is one of those established thematic tensions in modern SF, so to speak.

  40. Just got the pattern scars from borderlands. Looking forward to reading it.

  41. @ Thomas Hardman

    Hmmmm… okay, maybe I’m just not very good at grokking thematic tensions between texts, or something, I kind of see those two (“Singularity” and “baselines in SPACE!”) as fairly encapsulated threads, largely isolated by default (unless intentionally brought into interaction, that is), so my inquiry can be probably chalked up to that.

    As to Singularity, I personally am of opinion that we’re pretty much living right in something that strongly resembles it.

    Consider a person from year 500 B.C., being transported through some kind of plothole into 500 A.D. Whether he was “elite” of some sort, a warrior, a peasant, as soon as said person gets across the language barrier (and assuming no foul outcome due to religious or random xenophobic reasons), successful social integration would be carried out relatively easy. Most of knowledge and skills from 500 B.C. would be still relevant.

    Now, a person from 500 A.D. being transported to year 1500 A.D. would have a rather tough time, but at least most of typical equipment would be still recognizable. A sword is still a sword, the crossbow is still around, agriculture is still similar enough to employ the ancient peasant, and so forth.
    Simpler trades would still be accepting of the hapless plothole traveler.

    A person from 1812 being transported to 2012 would be completely fucking lost, socially disabled beyond recovery.
    It’s pretty hard to find a single trade that did not change profoundly in 200 years that passed. Modern society has literally nothing to offer to a person from two centuries ago. Well, maybe worst-of-worst kinds of street prostitution would still accept the time traveler, but I doubt even that would work out.

    We’re living in “the singularity (and a rather cyberpunk-dystopian one at that, and utter lack of bioengineered sexy gynoid assassins makes it even more disheartening)

    We’re living in a time when there are industries which consider 3-5 years to be “strategic prognostication horizon”, and everything beyond that horizon is, to them, sci-fi.

    We’re just so used to it we don’t even notice anymore.

    As for “incomprehensible inhuman intelligences” that singularity is supposed to bring about, we have that stuff in spades (and always had, mind you). We call them governments and corporations – they are decision making systems that are in some ways more “smart” than individual humans while being notoriously dumber in some other ways. Your average government (or corporation. Or NGO) is pretty much a rather underwhelming AI that is using humans as component parts.
    I don’t see how emergence of computer life would make it that much worse (just one more kind of powerful and notoriously inhuman agents to deal with…)

  42. OOOOOOHHHH, the quote button hast arrivedth. Thanks Peter :)

  43. 01:
    OOOOOOHHHH, the quote button hast arrivedth. Thanks Peter :)

    Yeah, I don’t even know how long that was available. I was doing a smidge of maintenance and just kinda came across an unchecked check box…

  44. Necandum:
    @David H
    Nice work!

    Seconded. Skills, jealous.

  45. David H:
    https://sites.google.com/site/drheld/bookies-votes

    Enjoy.

    How are you adding values to the Google spreadsheet?

  46. @ 01 & Hardman, re: incomprehensible and alien minds.

    There are plenty of incomprehensible alien minds around, and they don’t even have to be governments or any other such thing viewed through the lens of 01’s somewhat extravagant definition of intelligence.

    Meet Mr. Fritzl http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritzl_case

    That not-so-gentleman is pretty incomprehensible and quite close to being a pure reification of the concept of evil.

    On an unrelated note, people (and books) around me keep claiming that people are supposed to have internal monologue, which I find baffling.
    I mean, seriously, internal monologue, that must be a pretty weird experience.

  47. @03

    On an unrelated note, people (and books) around me keep claiming that people are supposed to have internal monologue, which I find baffling.
    I mean, seriously, internal monologue, that must be a pretty weird experience.

    You mean because it’s actually dialog, or is there some other nuance I’m missing? When I composed this I did not do it out loud which made it internal. I am not having much of an internal debate about the wording either.

    As for Fritzl (a link I’ve wanted an excuse to share for some time now):

    http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/kuszewski20091117/

    They call it psychopathy of being good. Is that accurate?

  48. Whoever:
    You mean because it’s actually dialog, or is there some other nuance I’m missing? When I composed this I did not do it out loud which made it internal. I am not having much of an internal debate about the wording either.

    As for Fritzl (a link I’ve wanted an excuse to share for some time now):

    http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/kuszewski20091117/

    They call it psychopathy of being good. Is that accurate?

    The joke you’re missing is that, well, I really have no inner voice whatsoever. Like, thinking “in” images, schematics, stuff like that, but never words. It doesn’t seem to “break” anything (not anything I have a use for, at least) but the fact that absolute majority of people around me literally have a radically different thought process (one with inner voice) is nonetheless baffling.
    A friendly shrink (the one who hooked me and 01 up) says it’s a very rare but harmless variant of the norm.

    Regarding “psychopathy of being good”…
    Fritzl’s intent to “protect” his daughter from “the world” (which could, if were true, identify him as something similar to “psychopath of being good”) appears to be something his lawyer cooked up to make him more palatable to the press.
    Fritzl himself later admitted that he believes that he was “born to rape” and “could have done far worse than abducting and raping his own daughter for decades on end” (Really. Far worse. Like, implies that he had plans but decided to dial it all down to merely keeping his daughter captive in a basement and raping her).

    P.S.:
    Cool quote button is cool :D

  49. I say maybe, but he’s still so over the top in his psychopathy that he qualifies for the status of the “IRL Other”. Most computer-game villains make more sense than that guy (and have more depth and variety as characters).

  50. 03: The joke you’re missing is that, well, I really have no inner voice whatsoever. Like, thinking “in” images, schematics, stuff like that, but never words. It doesn’t seem to “break” anything (not anything I have a use for, at least) but the fact that absolute majority ofpeople around me literally have a radically different thought process (one with inner voice) is nonetheless baffling.
    A friendly shrink (the one who hooked me and 01 up) says it’s a very rare but harmless variant of the norm.

    You might find the radio lab episode, Voices in Your Head, completely fascinating.

    Maybe people with your mental model would not have schizophrenia in the same way. I wonder how you would experience the repeated voice phenomenon.

    aside, do you subvocalize and/or think in words when you read? I had not until relatively late in life, and still don’t do it all the time. Sometimes I do it on purpose now, sometimes I have to do it for a bit to kick my brain back up. I am curious about the phenomenon. Maybe there are different reading networks in the mind. Maybe not very different, though.

  51. Peter, holy shit, quotes. that’s handy. When you get a chance could you go in to your blog admin settings and play with all of the affordances? Maybe there is more cool shit in there.

  52. The joke you’re missing is that, well, I really have no inner voice whatsoever. Like, thinking “in” images, schematics, stuff like that, but never words.

    Cool! Wondered if that was it. I think another diff some people have is “seeing” the words spelled out instead of “hearing” them.

    Wasn’t so much wondering if Frtizl was kinda good (as far as I can tell he’s as selfish as they come and indulged his every bestial desire and instinct) as wondering if his opposite could also be called a “psychopath.” I don’t think so, actually. Not to say people like the guy who dressed up as a cop to give out phony traffic tickets (he was trying to improve the commute for himself and others) are normal.

  53. @ 01, who wrote in part (and this is just a quickie response, have to go red that Fritzl stuff…):

    Now, a person from 500 A.D. being transported to year 1500 A.D. would have a rather tough time, but at least most of typical equipment would be still recognizable. A sword is still a sword, the crossbow is still around, agriculture is still similar enough to employ the ancient peasant, and so forth.
    Simpler trades would still be accepting of the hapless plothole traveler. [ … ] A person from 1812 being transported to 2012 would be completely fucking lost, socially disabled beyond recovery.
    It’s pretty hard to find a single trade that did not change profoundly in 200 years that passed. Modern society has literally nothing to offer to a person from two centuries ago. Well, maybe worst-of-worst kinds of street prostitution would still accept the time traveler, but I doubt even that would work out.

    Your argument is well reasoned, but it’s at a sort of sidebar orthogonal to the way I am looking at the Singularity. Your argument seems to focus on skills, and the concepts that enable skills; I am focusing on thematic comprehensibility, I guess.

    My argument would be that you might drag a Roman pleb from the Mob around the Forum, clip on the handy SF Universal Translator Device, and drop them in the cheap seats in the Capitol Building in downtown Washington DC, and they might not quite understand the details, but they’d know that they were listening to the deliberations of the Senate and that this was rich and powerful people discussing handing out favors and money. If you took him out into the street, he would surely exclaim “what sorcery is this! -which makes these wagons move without being pulled by ox or donkey?”… yet he’d recognize them as wagons. That little has changed; the wagons go faster and you don’t feed a donkey, you feed a hole in the side of the wagon, with some stinky liquor that’s no good for people to drink… but it’s still a wagon. Four wheels and cargo which may include people.

    You take this Roman to a nearby bar, and they watch the Super Bowl on the HDTV, and they exclaim “yet another sorcery, are we not in an age of true magic!” (Clarke’s Law, of course.) But they instantly recognize team sports and when they see a screen pass attempt that winds up in a quarterback sack, they might well exclaim “and that’s what we bloody well served Pompey”. They get it.

    You take the Roman to the Library of Congress and they recognize a library, but such a library, full of (what else and they’re getting used to the notion, by now) sorcery. You plug them into YouTube where they watch some kids doing stupid skateboard tricks. “And thank you my friend, for lending me your scrying glass, to scoff at the follies of the youth of this strange day!” You hand them your pocket camera and show them how to push the point-and-shoot button, and it takes them about 5 minutes to grasp the notion of framing and scene. You show them how it’s possible to put this instantly on YouTube and they ask you if you’d be so kind to film them while they recite some lines from the Greek plays.

    And when you start feeling all superior and say “but actually you really have no idea how any of this work is done, of the mechanism, the intricacy, the systems, you really don’t understand it, do you?” And the Roman quickly retorts, “do you? And if you are the average gadget-equipped nabob, you own the tech but don’t understand it much better than the Roman. He could probably wash cars for a week or two and have his own spiffy cellphone and watch Netflix. The only difference is that he’s limited to shit-work and you presumably are off in a lab splitting atoms or sacrificing mice and possibly not getting paid all that much better.

    My point is: although the means of what is done remain understood by him as “magic”, there’s very little here that wasn’t in the legends the Romans got from the Greeks. After the Singularity, immense swaths of our lives and experience wouldn’t be comprehensible to us if we hadn’t lived through the Singularity. I’m trying to get across that it will be utterly transformative and lots of it might be understandable to us only in the same way we understand serious disease at the basic human level… something happened, and we are just not right anymore. Nothing works. Can’t breathe. Ow. What’s happening to me. Only the problem here might be that the sphincters you can no longer control are the input filters from your senses or the output from your neurological processes. You feel so bad because you are part of a machine and it’s got lots of spare parts so it doesn’t mind testing to destruction so long as you perform for the task at hand. Any virus thinks (so to speak) of your metabolic capabilities the same way. We probably won’t understand the Singularity any better than we understand our visions at a fever of 104F and the main difference between the post-Singularity world and a 104F fever is that the fever gives you visions and the Singularity makes worse things into your reality for so long as you last.

    Of course, that’s just my own personal opinion.

  54. @ 03, who wrote, in-part:

    On an unrelated note, people (and books) around me keep claiming that people are supposed to have internal monologue, which I find baffling. [ … ] I mean, seriously, internal monologue, that must be a pretty weird experience.

    This is fascinating. If you read any of Carlos Castaneda, of his mostly confabulated series of books on the Yaqui tribal “brujos” or shamanic “sorcerers” of northern Mexico, one of the great secrets imparted by the probably fictional character Don Juan Matus is that to become a warrior in the spiritual realm, or to become a warrior at all, one had to “stop the internal monologue”. So, presumably, you have already mastered the most difficult element of becoming what the Yaqui call “nagual“, which in some mesoamerican mythic systems is a semi-honorable and magically powerful person who can become an animal in either-or-both form and seeming. In other cultures, this ability is less well regarded; the Dineh people fear the Skinwalkers and almost everyone else is at least a little bit leery of werewolves. ;)

    More seriously, in the realm of modern western psychoanalysis (it still exists), the existence of an internal monologue can be symptomatic of various conditions. If the internal monologue is perceived as uncontrollable and originating outside of the perceiver, it’s considered emblematic of schizophrenia. If perceived as internal, but uncontrollable, it might be a symptom of neurosis. If internal, but controllable, it could be thought to be a focusing of thought and an expression of the self-awareness of a mind which is deeply ordered, but which has a need to create the dialog/monolog in order for another part of the mind to contemplate, assess, and judge. Under these theories, the mind which does not require an internal dialog/monolog is thought to be highly integrated, or alternatively, unconcerned or unquestioning of their reality or internal processes. Alternatively one might propose that the internal monologue/dialogue is effectively little more (or less) than a second layer of sentience/sapience critiquing the ruling layer of sentience/sapience, as a sort of checks-and-balances system. More or less consciousness experienced as verbalized externality rather than the mere experience without any critique.

    Of course, this is all just theory and probably rather outdated theory.

  55. Yesterday evening: Daughter 11.15%, Scars 51.19%

    Just now: Daughter 11.95%, Scars 50.69%

    Unacceptable. Vote.

  56. Thomas Hardman:
    @ 01, who wrote in part (and this is just a quickie response, have to go red that Fritzl stuff…):
    Your argument is well reasoned, but it’s at a sort of sidebar orthogonal to the way I am looking at the Singularity. Your argument seems to focus on skills, and the concepts that enable skills; I am focusing on thematic comprehensibility, I guess.

    My argument would be that you might drag a Roman pleb from the Mob around the Forum, clip on the handy SF Universal Translator Device, and drop them in the cheap seats in the Capitol Building in downtown Washington DC, and they might not quite understand the details, but they’d know that they were listening to the deliberations of the Senate and that this was rich and powerful people discussing handing out favors and money. If you took him out into the street, he would surely exclaim “what sorcery is this! -which makes these wagons move without being pulled by ox or donkey?”… yet he’d recognize them as wagons. That little has changed; the wagons go faster and you don’t feed a donkey, you feed a hole in the side of the wagon, with some stinky liquor that’s no good for people to drink… but it’s still a wagon. Four wheels and cargo which may include people.

    You take this Roman to a nearby bar, and they watch the Super Bowl on the HDTV, and they exclaim “yet another sorcery, are we not in an age of true magic!” (Clarke’s Law, of course.) But they instantly recognize team sports and when they see a screen pass attempt that winds up in a quarterback sack, they might well exclaim “and that’s what we bloody well served Pompey”. They get it.

    You take the Roman to the Library of Congress and they recognize a library, but such a library, full of (what else and they’re getting used to the notion, by now) sorcery. You plug them into YouTube where they watch some kids doing stupid skateboard tricks. “And thank you my friend, for lending me your scrying glass, to scoff at the follies of the youth of this strange day!” You hand them your pocket camera and show them how to push the point-and-shoot button, and it takes them about 5 minutes to grasp the notion of framing and scene. You show them how it’s possible to put this instantly on YouTube and they ask you if you’d be so kind to film them while they recite some lines from the Greek plays.

    And when you start feeling all superior and say “but actually you really have no idea how any of this work is done, of the mechanism, the intricacy, the systems, you really don’t understand it, do you?” And the Roman quickly retorts, “do you? And if you are the average gadget-equipped nabob, you own the tech but don’t understand it much better than the Roman. He could probably wash cars for a week or two and have his own spiffy cellphone and watch Netflix. The only difference is that he’s limited to shit-work and you presumably are off in a lab splitting atoms or sacrificing mice and possibly not getting paid all that much better.

    My point is: although the means of what is done remain understood by him as “magic”, there’s very little here that wasn’t in the legends the Romans got from the Greeks. After the Singularity, immense swaths of our lives and experience wouldn’t be comprehensible to us if we hadn’t lived through the Singularity. I’m trying to get across that it will be utterly transformative and lots of it might be understandable to us only in the same way we understand serious disease at the basic human level… something happened, and we are just not right anymore. Nothing works. Can’t breathe. Ow. What’s happening to me. Only the problem here might be that the sphincters you can no longer control are the input filters from your senses or the output from your neurological processes. You feel so bad because you are part of a machine and it’s got lots of spare parts so it doesn’t mind testing to destruction so long as you perform for the task at hand. Any virus thinks (so to speak) of your metabolic capabilities the same way. We probably won’t understand the Singularity any better than we understand our visions at a fever of 104F and the main difference between the post-Singularity world and a 104F fever is that the fever gives you visions and the Singularity makes worse things into your reality for so long as you last.

    Of course, that’s just my own personal opinion.

    You have a point, but the difference between “not having skills / having “magical thinking” model of systems around you” and “WTF did just happen” is fuzzy to the point of being almost nonexistent. People run into this every now and then, when something Bad happens in, oh, say IT – it’s just that we try to make stuff forgiving and seemingly intuitive (it has a side effect of people spending even less effort on thinking through the consequences of their actions and not being able to tell when things are about to go wrong).

    Seems the difference boils down to whether you can put the new phenomenon into some kind of coherent mental category. Things that should/should not be eaten/fucked/looked at/etc. are a perfectly palatable mental category, so existence of, say, machines that can produce “Langford Basilisks” (YOU LOOKED :) ) would not make an unspeakable horror by itself, though studying them would certainly be a bloody mess.

    Existence of things that are radically incongruent with human mind to the point of failure of categorization would imply bad things about human minds. The horror of Lovecraft isn’t that Cthulhu’s supposed revelations drive people nuts, it’s that humans are so petty and insignificant and ill-engineered that their minds literally can’t deal with the actual state of affairs in the universe (which Cthulhu wants to reveal upon awakening… for some reason. Maybe he’s Open Source proponent, or something…).
    If there are indeed things about the universe that are impossible to properly process with a human mind on a fundamental, “lovecraftian” level (IF learned the secrets of Cthulhu THEN go insane) then humanity, well, sucks (not in a good way, mind you ;) ) on an equally fundamental level .

  57. @Thomas Hardman

    You do realize that whoever is playing TwenCen tour guide for your Roman is basically playing topologist…is doing what Siri Keeton does, right? You even included that fact that he doesn’t understand the tech in the details himself (“Chinese room.”). The point is not to do much of anything except what Douglas Adams suggested: don’t panic. It’s to say, “It’s just like that thing you’re used to, ‘cept different.” Really, it’s not to do much else except facilitate decision-making and provide comfort through familiarity.

    Was thinking today how the Wall Street Journal used to (pre-Murdoch) do the stock pick thing of experts vs. dartboard. Invariably, the dartboard did almost as well or better. So it might just be comfort in order to make a non-panicky decision that has about as much chance as being the correct course of action as a crap shoot.

    Because really, that is at least in part what we’re talking about. The ability of specialists to still be able to communicate with the general public, legislators, marketing. I’d go as far as to say much of what we are dealing with now is just that: fear of change and the inability of proponents to communicate it adequately to those who fear it. That’s Stephenson and Roddenberry (though I can’t recall what the latter wrote, what it was called. Something he started post-Trek as I recall. He essentially had society splitting up over those various things, maybe included hardline baselines vs. various transhuman types).

  58. Hey! This is getting really fun here! ;)

    @01, in-part wrote: Seems the difference boils down to whether you can put the new phenomenon into some kind of coherent mental category. Things that should/should not be eaten/fucked/looked at/etc. are a perfectly palatable mental category, so existence of, say, machines that can produce “Langford Basilisks” (YOU LOOKED :) ) would not make an unspeakable horror by itself, though studying them would certainly be a bloody mess.

    Existence of things that are radically incongruent with human mind to the point of failure of categorization would imply bad things about human minds. The horror of Lovecraft isn’t that Cthulhu’s supposed revelations drive people nuts, it’s that humans are so petty and insignificant and ill-engineered that their minds literally can’t deal with the actual state of affairs in the universe (which Cthulhu wants to reveal upon awakening… for some reason. Maybe he’s Open Source proponent, or something…).
    If there are indeed things about the universe that are impossible to properly process with a human mind on a fundamental, “lovecraftian” level (IF learned the secrets of Cthulhu THEN go insane) then humanity, well, sucks (not in a good way, mind you ;) ) on an equally fundamental level .

    Well, that then would be the nature of the Singularity, perhaps best conceived as the sound of one hand clapping extremely loudly to the point where that’s the only thought going through your mind. Or not. Basically, we’re rather special and highly developed mammals but we are probably nowhere near as smart as we think we are, and our sensoria interpretation systems are in many ways most definitely not up to par with, say, a large cat. A tiger, for example, doesn’t need to be a Langford Basilisk for very long, it just needs to crash your mind with a loud scary orange, a terrifying color in pattern-disruption camo, and you’re dinner. Yet even if the tiger is behind bars, most people who see one freeze for the first instant, and that might have been bred into us by the rare survivor who saw the tiger before the tiger saw them.

    But do any of us have any in-built reflex that would cause us to, for example, instantly look away from Cthulhu? It might be that the best defense against an AI trying to bork your brain with a buffer over-run attack, would be to faint before it can.

    But I digress. What if you’re confronted with something that your brain can’t categorize as belonging to any particular class or function or whatever, and all it can come up with it “pretty! or “loud!” or something along those lines? I think that one of the most incomprehensible things our Roman might encounter would be a nice screensaver. Until someone tells him what it is for, probably the only thing he’ll figure out about it is that it’s a great time-waster, watching it.

    @ Whoever: Were you referring, perhaps, to Genesis II? And FWIW, long before Siri Keeton, I wanted to be a synthetist, someone who could speak enough of anyone’s jargon so as to be able to translate it at least roughly to “everyone else”. Sort of like the “fyunch(click) Mediators in Niven/Pournelle’s “Mote in God’s Eye“. Didn’t work out for me. Might be me saying things like “and on the third hand…” ;)

  59. Winter67uk: How are you adding values to the Google spreadsheet?

    @Winter67uk – It’s pretty hacked together. I have a cron job that pulls the data (similar to the curl line I posted earlier). I then take that data and use curl again to post it to a Google form which updates the Google spreadsheet. Finally I plot that data as a graph.

  60. Thomas Hardman:
    Didn’t work out for me. Might be me saying things like “and on the third hand…”

    Yeah, that’d do it. Lol.

  61. David H: @Winter67uk – It’s pretty hacked together. […]

    Oh, okay, I feel better now. I thought I was missing some obvious pull functionality in Google docs.

    Hacked together or not, it’s doing the job. Again, well done.

  62. Final count: 51.56%. Congratulations, Caitlin.

  63. Sheila: You might find the radio lab episode, Voices in Your Head, completely fascinating.

    “Maybe people with your mental model would not have schizophrenia in the same way. I wonder how you would experience the repeated voice phenomenon.

    aside, do you subvocalize and/or think in words when you read? I had not until relatively late in life, and still don’t do it all the time. Sometimes I do it on purpose now, sometimes I have to do it for a bit to kick my brain back up. I am curious about the phenomenon. Maybe there are different reading networks in the mind. Maybe not very different, though.”

    Yes, it’s fascinating and a little bit disturbing – I mean, the whole “internal speech is the core of thought” thing – since I happen to hear zero voices in my head, I must be un-thinking :D

    I kind of can subvocalize if I put my mind to it, that sometimes helps focus on a particularly boring text, or so it seems. Usually though, I kind of… don’t do that… I think of stuff I read pretty much the same way I normally think about everything else, in “images”.

    It is a bit hard to describe.

    Thomas Hardman:
    “This is fascinating. If you read any of Carlos Castaneda, of his mostly confabulated series of books on the Yaqui tribal “brujos” or shamanic “sorcerers” of northern Mexico, one of the great secrets imparted by the probably fictional character Don Juan Matus is that to become a warrior in the spiritual realm, or to become a warrior at all, one had to “stop the internal monologue”. So, presumably, you have already mastered the most difficult element of becoming what the Yaqui call “nagual“, which in some mesoamerican mythic systems is a semi-honorable and magically powerful person who can become an animal in either-or-both form and seeming. In other cultures, this ability is less well regarded; the Dineh people fear the Skinwalkers and almost everyone else is at least a little bit leery of werewolves.

    More seriously, in the realm of modern western psychoanalysis (it still exists), the existence of an internal monologue can be symptomatic of various conditions. If the internal monologue is perceived as uncontrollable and originating outside of the perceiver, it’s considered emblematic of schizophrenia. If perceived as internal, but uncontrollable, it might be a symptom of neurosis. If internal, but controllable, it could be thought to be a focusing of thought and an expression of the self-awareness of a mind which is deeply ordered, but which has a need to create the dialog/monolog in order for another part of the mind to contemplate, assess, and judge. Under these theories, the mind which does not require an internal dialog/monolog is thought to be highly integrated, or alternatively, unconcerned or unquestioning of their reality or internal processes. Alternatively one might propose that the internal monologue/dialogue is effectively little more (or less) than a second layer of sentience/sapience critiquing the ruling layer of sentience/sapience, as a sort of checks-and-balances system. More or less consciousness experienced as verbalized externality rather than the mere experience without any critique.

    Of course, this is all just theory and probably rather outdated theory.”

    Haha, Carlos is such a wonderful mindscrew… But, alas, I am yet to develop an ability to magically transmogrify into animals :D

    As for psychoanalytic perspective… well, it’s flattering to think of myself as “highly integrated”. I think that usually is a good thing – after all, corporate documents always call for “further integration” of something with something else, and they know where the good stuff is ;)

    Now, as to Singularity tangent, can’t help taking a few bites here and there.

    Thomas Hardman:
    “You feel so bad because you are part of a machine and it’s got lots of spare parts so it doesn’t mind testing to destruction so long as you perform for the task at hand.”

    You know, this guy sounds almost exactly like an army (I mean the hypothetical “machine”).

    Not just like a specific army, but pretty much any armed force I can think of.
    That’s exactly what those things do.

    So who knows, maybe we really live in a world of unspeakable horrors and their beautiful eldritch masters, just managed to trivialize them to the point of comfort.

    Perhaps the whole point of meeting a really Lovecraftian mind is that you conceptualize it as anything but a mind, and perhaps as soon as you realize that it is, in fact, a mind, a big part of the terror kind of wears away.

    (BTW, just finished Press Enter… 01, I demand that you change my tablet’s boot screens to something along the YOU LOOKED lines when I get back from China).