Asimov

Linking learning & labour

I’m a huge Asimov fan, and am constantly amazed at how he was able to have a perspective of the future on multiple fronts. I was reminded of two of those recently thanks to their application (of sorts) in contemporary scenarios.

First, Hari Seldon‘s (pretty much the foundation of Asimov’s Foundation series) psychohistory, which was able to make general predictions on the future behaviour of large populations using history, sociology and statistics. The easy contemporary connection is big data and predictive analytics.

Second, a short story written by him called ‘Profession‘, (do read) in which every person’s profession is based on an analysis of his/her brain, and no choice is given to the person in this matter! In India, we seem to be already there even without the analysis!

Collectively, these two made me think of employment, and on a related note, education. The thought was that with so much of data available on education and employment, we should be able to create ‘tests’ to compute the interest and aptitude of individuals at a very early age. What this would aim to do is to eliminate the herd education that currently exists. Instead, children would learn things that help them in a profession for which they have the intent and interest, using say, a combination of traditional classrooms and MOOCs. Also, this would no longer be one part of a life cycle, but a continuous process – helping the individual thrive in a dynamic environment.

If you remember, LinkedIn was my representative for ‘L’ in the ‘change imperative‘ deck. That was because I felt that it had the data and the vision to be the catalyst for this kind of a change. I was very happy when it underscored this faith with the fantastic ‘future self‘ experiment, in which they identified the future professional self (5 year time frame) of LinkedIn user Kurt Wagner – another user Mussarat Bata – using various data points!

LinkedIn hasn’t really built this as a public tool, but just imagine the possibilities! A platform that shows people the possibilities which take them closer to their ‘purpose’. (remember ‘The Evolution of Work and the Workplace‘?) I sincerely hope to see this in my lifetime. :)

until next time, live and learn

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Conscious choices

I found this video shared by K (part of a series by Professor Russell Stannard) offering me a very interesting perspective on the free will vs determinism debate. (earlier post)

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8EI4obG5zM

He starts with talking about the brain as a physical object which is governed by the physical/chemical/biological rules of nature – like a computer works within a  set of mechanical/electronic laws – and therefore predictable. So it should be possible to predict our choices. But it doesn’t work that way. Consciousness is different.

He then talks about how some are trying to apply quantum theory to the free will – determinism debate. Apparently, at sub atomic level, the ‘future’ is not predictable with absolute certainty. It has a built-in uncertainty in it. What we can do, however, is predict the odds of various possible outcomes – the average behaviour of various items. So if this is applied to individual cells whose behaviour is unpredictable, it would be free will, say the proponents of this theory. But the prof refutes this, and says that this is one of the debates that can’t be solved to everyone’s satisfaction.

[This prediction of group behaviour reminded me of Asimov’s Foundation series and specifically Hari Seldon‘s psychohistory, through which he predicts the future in probabilistic terms.]

But more importantly, it made me think that if indeed, there is a creator, maybe he built the automaton inside our head to make us predictable. The automaton grows with us, making most of our decisions unconscious ones, based on baggage accumulated over time – conditioning. That could explain why those few who break out of it are able to attain a higher level of thinking in which they can bend the rules, predict the future and so on and the only advice they can give others is to be aware of every second.

And when I think of predicting the odds of outcomes, I wonder if the results of all our free will choices are written, like a tree with infinite branches. And as we continue our journey of choices that is life, one by one the branches disappear, until on hindsight, they look like one straight line that was always meant to be that way.

 until next time, a predictable end

A People Person?

Scott Adams’ post titled “People who don’t need people” (via Surekha) reminded me of Asimov’s Spacers, the first humans to emigrate to space, and their life on Aurora, the first of the worlds they settled. Scott Adams predicts that “we will transfer our emotional connections from humans to technology, with or without actual robots. It might take a generation or two, but it’s coming. And it probably isn’t as bad as it sounds.

In the huge canvas that Asimov had created, the Spacers chose low population sizes and longer lifespans (upto 400 years) as a means to a higher quality of living, and were served by a large number of robots. As per wiki, “Aurora at its height had a population of 200 million humans and 10 billion robots.

These days, as I experience the vagaries of the cliques and weak ties – not just Malcolm Gladwell’s much flogged social media version, but even real life ones, I can’t help but agree with Scott Adams that it won’t be as bad as it sounds. I probably wouldn’t mind it at all.

When I feel like a freak
When I’m on the other end of someone’s mean streak
People make fun I’ve got to lose myself
Take my thin skin and move it somewhere else

I’m setting myself up for the future
Looking for the chance that something good might lie ahead
I’m just looking for the possibilities
In my mind I’ve got this skin I can shed

Scott Adams began his post noting that humans are overrated. Sometimes, I wonder whether humanity is, and whether losing our current perceptions of it would actually make a difference. (earlier post on the subject)

Lyrics: Invisible, Bruce Hornsby

until next, bot.any

I, Robot?

saw the movie last weekend and immediately decided to revisit a certain mr.asimov…. once upon a time i was an asimov freak, more into the foundation series than the times and therefore works before the foundation..so “i, Robot” was just one of the books i read because it so happened that it was written by asimov and i couldnt find any good ‘foundation’ book in the library… ah, those were good times, times i spent in cochin, rainy days spent reading books and listening to music.. but thats another post..:)
without revealing the plot and suspense, asimov discusses a future with robots able to do a whole lot of stuff humans did and even further, when “random bits of code got together” and developed emotions in robots, to the level where they decide to protect us from ourselves by making us, their creators, virtual prisoners…
so i ask myself, am i my creator’s robot, who has developed feelings and emotions over time….
because i am but a mass of flesh and bones much like the metal that constitutes a robot’s body..when my creator says deactivate, i die, much like the robot which responds to the human ‘deactivate’ command…
have i evolved to this state because of random bits of code, in my case, genetic matter, which got together, over centuries to become what i am now…millions of centuries from cell to plant to animal to a thinking, feeling human who can record his history and develop a feeling that there is someone who made him, and then debate that belief.. one who can stare at the night sky and wonder about his existence….
will my future generations discover god , physically, and further on decide to protect him from himself and also decide to write their own future, make their own set of robots who will ultimately do to them what they did to their creator? will i see it happen, from somewhere?
maybe, but what you can definitely see now is
manuscrypts trivia
a good forward
Marriage
after the wedding, the groom lays down the following rules:
“I’ll be home when I want, if I want and at what time I want-and I don’t expect any hassle from you. I expect a great dinner to be on the table unless I tell you that I won’t be home for dinner. I’ll go hunting, fishing, boozing and card-playing when I want with my old buddies and don’t you give me a hard time about it. Those are my rules. Any comments?”
His new bride said, “No, that’s fine with me. Just understand that there will be sex here at seven o’clock every night…whether you’re here or not.”
Marriage (Part II)
Husband and wife had a bitter quarrel on the day of their 40th wedding anniversary!
The husband yells, “When you die, I’m getting you a headstone that reads,’Here Lies My Wife – Cold As Ever.’
“Yeah?” she replies. “When you die, I’m getting you a headstone that reads,”Here Lies My Husband Stiff At Last.'”