Personal Assistants

An important person like myself naturally has a personal assistant.  I couldn’t get through the day without her.  She schedules my appointments and makes sure I’m on time to meetings.  She answers questions I might have and tells me about good places to eat.  And in the middle of the night I can ask her what time it is so I don’t even have to open my eyes.  I just say, “Hey Siri, what time is it?” and she tells me.  She’s great.
Everything has a digital personal assistant built into it these days.  The iPhone obviously has Siri.  All the Not An iPhone phones have assistants too. Windows has Cortona.  Electronic Digital Assistants are like fidget spinners, everybody has to have one nowadays.
Obvy, I like this because I saw people talking to the computer and the computer answering them on Star Trek.  So many things from Star Trek are starting to pop up in real life that a hard core nerd could almost believe Star Trek is real.  You know, late at night when you’re only half awake and asking Siri what time it is.  I can almost see myself on the bridge of the Enterprise and … I mean, a hypothetical other person could forget Star Trek isn’t real….yet.
There are some privacy concerns with phones and TV’s and other devices listening to you all the time.  If you’re phone is listening for you to call it’s name does that mean it’s listening to everything?  Who else can listen to your phone listening to you?  It’s not something I have to worry about too much because nobody cares if I’m asking Siri what time it is in the middle of the night.  And I can’t think of a single conversation I’ve had today that anybody would want to listen in on.  Usually I can’t make people listen to me even when I’m talking right at them.  Plus there’s all kinds of security to prevent people from spying on you through your phone.  But it’s important to point out that this technology isn’t perfect.  Unlike nuclear energy and gun powder this new technology could potentially have negative side effects.
There’s still a long way to go before we maximize this tech.  A robot voice in my phone that can schedule things in my calendar is nice and all.  But until we put that AI in a robotic body that can walk around and play basketball and give hugs we’re only taking advantage of the minimum of what this technology is capable of.  Siri needs a body.  So she can carry my luggage and do stuff.

I’m Wrong

Nobody is right about all the things all the time.  It’s statistically impossible* to be right all the time.  Which means you have, all of us have, a bunch of beliefs that are probably wrong.  That we’ll probably figure out are wrong at some point in the future.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could just sit down and go through the list of things we believe and figure out which ones are wrong now and just get it all sorted out?
I believe a lot of things.  That NASA is good for humanity.  That shooter games were the better when I was young.  That one day Self Driving Cars will be the norm and the people who want to drive by hand will do it as a fun hobby.  That Picard was the best captain.  That Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition was the best edition.  That we as a people need to be able to disagree and discuss our different points of view without hating each other.  That reality TV is probably not “reality” at all.  That Pepsi is better than Coke.  That The Hobbit trilogy of movies was fun, but the book is better.

I believe a lot of other stuff stuff too that I won’t list here.  Because people listing things they like on the internet is overdone and because the list would be longer than <insert humorously long thing here>.  The interesting thing is that I’m probably wrong about some of these things.  Now this doesn’t apply to things like my liking Pepsi over Coke because that’s just personal preference.  But ‘NASA being good for humanity’ or’ Self Driving Cars will one day be common’, stuff like that I might be wrong about.  I am almost certainly wrong about several things that I believe right now.  And what’s infuriating is … I can’t tell what they are!

Is NASA good for humanity?  I think so.  I think the technological progress we make when exploring space is a very tangible benefit to the world.  And learning is a good thing in general, it advances humanity.  But am I wrong about NASA?  Are there better things we could spend our money on?  It seems like NASA’s budget is usually around one percent of the US budget, that’s a terribly small percentage but it would still be a lot of money for many other programs.  Would another government program be more beneficial to humanity?  I think NASA is a good thing to spend our money on but how can I be certain?

Will Self Driving Cars be common place in the future?  Well this is a prediction, it’s a guess about the future, and predicting the future is always hard.  It seems to me that once people can Tweet, read FaceBook, eat breakfast and take a nap safely while the car drives them to work people will jump all over that.  It’s scary though, people are nervous about Self Driving Cars, it’s entirely possible that fear will prevent the technology from catching on.  Or even being legal, people afraid of self driving cars might lobby for laws against them.  So it’s hard to be certain about this.  Plus there’s the possibility that they won’t work very well, I believe we have the technology and will continue to improve the technology to build very safe self driving cars but it’s at least possible that I’m wrong about that.  I think Self Driving Cars will be awesome, but how can I be certain?

We as a people need to learn how to disagree and discuss our different points of view without hating each other.  That sounds like a great idea to me.  But it presupposes that currently people are hating each other when holding different points of view.  I feel like everything we see in the news media and social media is people hatefully shouting at each other for believing differently.  But what if that perception is faulty?  What if most people can sit down and discuss different points of view with civility and respect for each other?  What if it just seems worse than it is because shouting is entertaining enough to be shown on our various media’s while calm discussion is not?  I’m confident that we should discuss differences politely, but how can I be certain that we aren’t already doing that most of the time and I just don’t see it?

Those are three things I believe that aren’t just personal preferences.  And when I look at each of those three things I think I’m right about each of them.  But I know that I can’t be right about everything, no human is right about all the things all the time, so I might be wrong about one of these things and not even realize it.  I might be staring at something I wrote that is wrong right now and I don’t even see it!

Usually when you change your mind about something it’s because you’ve learned something new.  Or you’ve learned that some fact that you had based your old belief on is wrong.  Or you’ve had an experience that causes you to look at things a new way.  It’s hard to think about things you believe and reevaluate them without any new data.  So the best thing to do is keep learning.  Keep seeking out new information.  Keep listening to people who believe differently and find out why they do.  Then, as you learn and grow, go back and reevaluate things you used to believe to see if they still make sense with what you know now.

Every once in a while I drink a Coke, just to see if I still like Pepsi better.  Go out today and drink a Coke.  Or if you already like Coke best then drink a Pepsi, you know what I mean.

*Is it only statistically improbable or is it close enough to impossible that we can just round it off?