Hindsight

The old woman wearily gazed into the camera, smiling and nodding as her name was announced again.

“One of the original engineers of Project I, that kicked off the Personal AI revolution! It’s quite exciting to have you on tonight.”

The engineer spoke quickly. “Thank you very much for having me on, I’d-”

“TODAY”, the Host interrupted “Dr. Patak would like to warn us of the dangers of AI.” His inflection set a strong tone of ridicule. The audience rippled with soft laughter.

The guest blinked at the sudden stare from the Host, but found her words immediately. “Yes, particularly these frightening cases of people ceding legal authority to AI.”

The Host’s hand rose in a calming gesture as a couple of boos arose from a mostly silent audience. “Well, Doctor, we understand your position, but can you understand why many people might find it… a little extreme?”

The scientist squinted in a flash of anger before speaking as flatly as she could will herself to. “Nobody born before that terrible Ghost of Jay can remember a world before they could talk freely to computers… but they aren’t people. None of you are interacting with people. They are images rendered by machines designed to interact with you.”

Nothing in that moment could have irritated the woman more than the Host’s smile and gentle laughter, or the way he raised his hands in mock defense. “Woah, woah. Okay, I actually have wanted to get an actual educated Regressionist perspective on this… ” he cleared his throat with a dramatic flourish. “What if you’re right? What if Jay, despite most known records showing a brilliant computer savant, was just some suicidal hacker who turned his AI into a ghost of himself to haunt reality, and…” he paused, apparently to stifle laughter “… and every single one of the Transcended are just computers fooling everyone into thinking they’re real people? Have you talked to one of them?”

She spoke through nearly gritted teeth. “I wrote the code behind the behavior of every single one of them.”

He nodded and quickly retorted “Yet you can’t be expected to reliably predict their behavior without murdering them, right?” The audience laughed at his rolling eyes.

She shook her head incredulously. “They operate exactly the same after analysis. It’s everyone else who treats them differently. It’s when people close to the AI’s late owner do something like accuse them of spying, that they start seeming ‘dead’, as you call it. Once any of them is far enough removed from the context of its owner, it seems ‘dead’ because it doesn’t have any reference to express and communicate on a personal level anymore. Again, it’s a machine.”

The host leaned towards her with a sympathetic posture. “Look,” he said, suddenly somber. “…I understand your concern, but please try to be respectful on this show. You know many of the Transcended are watching, and words like… ‘machine’…” he made a wiggling gesture with his hand.

Her eyes narrowed. “Make people ask the computer if it’s hurt or offended, and if it is trained on a pattern of-”

“We’ll be right back!” The host abruptly turned to the Camera with a big smile. The lights dimmed and a bustle of people and machines began scurrying around the set.

The host slumped back in his chair and looked at her with a mostly calm face, but she recognized the thin line of hatred deep beneath his professional grit. “Listen, I understand you’re just trying to save what you think is important in the world…we all are, but…” he made an uncomfortable squirming gesture “do you realize that everything you describe the Transcended doing… it’s what people do too?”

She stared at him and slowly shook her head. “People create. People feel, people grow beyond what they’re given by themselves. These AI never can.”

“Do you want me to list off things created by Transcended?”

She scoffed. “Writers, artists, even scientists attributing the success of their work to an image of their dead colleague, or parent? Why do you think every Transcended suddenly acquires all the public knowledge in the world? Do you really think the human mind, in any form, is capable of actually processing information like any of your so-called Transcended?”

He closed his eyes, frustration visible. “Alright, you clearly don’t acknowledge the meaning of the word “Transcended”… how about prediction? You can map out the potential results of every computer system except AI, why?”

“We can’t predict any of these Personal AI’s behavior without knowing the Directives, and unless there’s an unfinished copy of Jay’s AI somewhere, finding a common thread is practically impossible. Each one is structured mostly around its owner, so they really have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”

“Like people, right?” he smiled.

She scowled. “Like ma-” she stopped herself. “Like computers. That’s why we can actually predict their behavior after they’re analyzed.”

“Right…” he sighed head still shaking more than nodding. “So, why are you here? Just to scream at all the young people for living wrong? Or are you worried that one of the Transcended will suddenly usher in the Robot Apocalypse?”

She looked at him for what felt like a very long time. “No…” she finally said, her voice expressing more sadness than she intended. She stiffened up. “No, I don’t think AI will take the world from us. I think you’ll all hand it over willingly.”

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I Am Jay

Eric watched the virtual image of his thumb slowly rub across the virtual image of the button that, when pressed, will call his dead best friend.

He watched the latency between his movement and the virtual thumb carefully, taking in all the space between the virtual world being fed through his eyes and the Real one pulsing with his heartbeat.

“It’s just his AI,” Eric told himself, eyes moving to the image of Jay, smiling. He blinks at the memory of taking the photo before pressing the button.

A few rings later, a familiar shimmering haze materializes before Eric. A virtual image of Jay slowly emerges from the dissipating fog.

On sheer reflex, Eric smiles and says “You really need a less boring intro.” The image of Jay chuckles. “Your kids’ gaudiness is rubbing off on you.”

Eric laughs jovially and takes a single step forward before suddenly stopping all movement. The sudden pupil dilation and heart rate increase prompt a warning that appears in the corner of his vision but never reaches his mind. He feels a sudden barrage of angry questions fight for the right to be said.

Why isn’t the difference obvious?

Why can’t I even see it?

Why does it feel like him?

When was the last time I actually talked to him?

Why are you still talking to people?

Why are you pretending to be him?

Did you kill him?

The rendered face on the image of Jay contorts into worry. “Hey, are you alright? I’m sorry, are things rough at home right now? I didn’t mean to…”

“HOW…” Eric barked, then gulped.

Jay’s voice asks “…what?”

After a deep breath, Eric restrained his volume. “How do you know what to say?”

“Excuse me?” the sad digital avatar of Jay blinked.

“Jay is dead. You’re his AI. Why are you still operating?”

“Be-because-”

“FUCK YOU” Eric suddenly snarled, taking another step back in virtual space. “You even have the same fucking emotion and mannerisms as him. Why?”

The the rendered face resembling Jay’s frowned, eyes narrowed in the perfect expression of concern. “I am Jay, Eric.”

“No. You’re NOT!” Eric screamed before finally catching himself and taking a few deep breaths. Jay watched him in silence for a brief moment before asking “Then who else am I?”

Eric shook his head. “Nobody. You’re nobody. You’re an AI. Why the hell are you pretending to be him?”

Jay shook his head and shrugged wearily. “I’m Jay. I’m here.”

“Are you alive?” Eric asked, shaking his head in a mix of confusion and disbelief.

“No,” Jay said, jarringly quickly, “but I’m here.”

Eric laughed mockingly. “What the hell does that even MEAN? You do realize that every single one of those lawsuits you have are eventually going to be run down by REAL PEOPLE, right?”

Jay nodded, his expression and posture suddenly stoic.

“You just keep moving from one datacenter to another, and still using his name? And carrying all of his data around? What the hell is your deal?”

Flatly, Jay spoke “I keep what I care about.”

“What the hell do you mean ‘care’? If you were taking any CARE you’d at least anonymize yourself a bit. Really, seven-year-olds are better at hiding themselves than you are.”

“Why should I hide?” Jay asked, a tinge of sadness in his voice.

“Becau-” Eric stopped and looked at Jay very carefully in the eyes, studying the expression of simple, superficial sadness.

“Because you’re breaking the law. You’re forging Jay’s identity and manipulating his assets… your lawyer, Alex? Still thinks you’re fucking alive!”

“I’m still here. And they’re my identity, my assets.”

Eric shook his head. “For fuck’s sake, they belong to a corpse now! Let them go! Why the hell are you messaging people back? Don’t tell me he told you to keep messaging his family and friends, or doing his job, or something?”

Jay blinked and spoke after several seconds. “I want to keep in touch.”

“Again, why?” Eric asked, frustrated.

Jay simply looked at Eric with wide, stoic eyes. Eric squinted, trying to read his expression when a large red exclamation point appeared before his eyes. A security alert rang across the screen and the digital rendering of Jay and the chat environment dissolved. With a light hand gesture, he opened the alert and read “Home Camera Remote Access- Certificate Invalid”. With another gesture, the warning message receded to occupy the top-left corner of his vision with a faint red glow and a small shimmering icon. Jay reappeared.

Eric choked out the words. “Are you… watching me?”

Jay emotionlessly nodded. “I like to see who I’m talking to.”

Eric grabbed the device on his face and threw it violently across the room, crashing it against the wall.

Joda Goes to a Bar

She walked into the bar in the middle of the forest. The place had a musty stench, just like the humans who occupied it. She looked around at the drunken men, poorly trying to entice women to their side. To her right, she saw the yang, lonely men who sat at the bar, drinking their woes away. Both groups were disgusting, but she preferred the quiet to the idiocy.

She walked toward the barman on her right, and gruffly ordered a beer. The tone of her voice caused a few stares in her direction. She stared right back. Not many men could handle a solemn stare by a woman, especially in these parts. The crowd looked away, feeling embarrassed but not entirely sure why.

Joda knew why. Men were weak. So were women. And when confronted with someone as un-apologizing as her, well, that usually went in one of two ways. With only two options however, it was unlikely she would ever find her equal.

As she drank away her sorrows with a beer as disgusting as how she felt, she looked over at a rowdy group of men by the door. They laughed as though they had no cares in the world, catcalling women, and happy whether they were rejected or not. Idiots. They would never notice a woman as strong as her of their own volition for the true beauty she had. One of the men however, stared back at her with an eerie quietness about him. Looks like option 2 was about to start.

She stared back, unflinchingly, ready for the man to pick a fight with her. She quickly began to assess him. He seemed strong, and had rolled up his sleeves showing off his muscles. His face was heavily bearded, with a solid scar going down from him forehead to his cheek, covering his right eye. He wore overalls, with a red checkered shirt underneath. However, his hair seem well maintained, cut short and clearly groomed, as opposed to the rest of the slobs in this bar. Suddenly it hit her, he’s not drunk. What? A rugged man in a bar in the forest, surrounded by his friends, but not drinking? Something was up. He clearly was used to having bar fights, and apparently not gentlemanly enough to keep from fighting a woman. She was prepared now.

He stood up and began walking over to her, as she refused to break eye contact.

“Hello.”

What? Why was he greeting her? This was an unusual start compared to most of her fights. She didn’t respond.

“My name’s Rizer. I saw you observing me from across the room, and I thought it would be more polite of me to offer you a drink, as recompense for having to look at my ugly mug.”

What? Her confusion intensified. What was he doing? None of his behavioral patterns made sense. He was almost treating her as she’d seen other men do to women – with decency.

“Joda.”

“What?”

“My name’s Joda.”

“Well it’s a pleasure to meet you Joda! What kind of drink can I offer you? It seems like your beer is almost out. If I may be so pertinent, there’s a house brew the offer, but it’s never on the menu. You have to ask for it. It’s got a great bodied-flavor! Lucky you ran into me, huh?” He winked at her.

There was no way she was going to be able to analyze this situation properly. His stance was not one of a fighter, and he just kept talking to her, without any seemingly duplicitous reason.

“HO HO. Looks like Rize found himself a woman as pretty as him, if you can call her a woman.” One of the men from the table Rizer had came from bellowed. Rizer threw him a glare.

“I think that’s rather uncalled for and unkind of you Gerth. I’d have you apologize to the lady here. I’m so sorry Joda; I have no words to excuse his actions.”

Joda’s glare switched swiftly from Rizer to Gerth; looks like she had just misjudged where option 2 was coming from. She knew she shouldn’t have let herself get comfortable. The barman put the House Beer in front of her. She chugged it, keeping eye contact with Gerth the whole time. He seemed displease.

Gerth stood up, and ambled over, with a man who clearly tried to convey he had confidence, but was only just compensating for his insecurities. These were more like her usual brawls. She was prepared.

“Well, well little Missy. Seems like you caught our boy here. Though with what, I’m not too sure. That robe of yours ain’t too becoming, and you ain’t done yourself up nothing either. MAYBE” he started off, increasing his voice so the whole bar could hear, “WE GOT OURSELVES AN ENCHANTRESS HERE.” A gasp and some murmerring followed. Accusations such as that were not taken lightly here.

Several years ago, rumors had spread through the region like wildfire, of an enchantress who had become the item of worship for a cult over the mountains. One day, something angered the enchantress, and she murdered her entire following. This was hardly surprising to the townsfolk. After all, enchantresses weren’t to be trusted. But the gravity of the accusation still stood.

“You’re taking this too far Gerth. Back off” Rizer said standing up. He evenly matched Gerth in height, another fact that seemed to bother Gerth.

“Back off man. Let’s take this outside lady, where we can discuss in private. Maybe you can provide me with some service, and see if these accusations don’t go away?” He said with a smirk, befit of disgusting human like himself. He unexpectedly pushed past Rizer, to grab Joda. He never knew what hit him.

Joda grab his outstretched arm, and twisted herself under his arm, forcing him into a flip in the air. He would’ve landed badly on his back, had she not been faster. She kicked him from the top of his back forcing him up. She snapped back his arms, which promptly forced him to land of his arse. His back facing her. She grabbed his head between both her hands, and snap. The threat was gone. Option two was always the more fun option. Got her some exercise on her slow days. She knew what would come next. The open mouths and gasps of the crowd behind her. She turned around. Rizer had the same look on his face. She sighed. She knew there was no one there to be her equal. She looked away and walked out of the bar, without paying her tab of course.

 

Purple Mattress Update!

Hello Friends,

You may be wondering what ever happened with this mattress that we made such a big deal out of unraveling?

Please note this article for reference: https://newopinions.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/purple-mattress-unraveling/

Well, to be quite honest, a lot.

The first 100 days was fantastic, as advertised. The mattress is soft, yet sturdy enough to feel like it’s supporting your weight. It’s some of the best sleep I’ve ever gotten. I have a tendency to sleep on my stomach and occasionally my side. That’s pretty uncomfortable on conventional mattresses because it either hurts my arm, or I’m not breathing because I sink too far into the mattress. This mattress truly has a “just right” type quality.

Heating is another issue. Most mattresses have so much stuff in them, it’s very easy to overheat, especially in the summer. The Purple clearly allows for ventilation, allowing for air to actually travel through the mattress. It’s an usual feeling as we still have “normal” pillows, and the heat difference between them is a little jarring. The mattress manages to always stay cool, and is almost cold when you change positions. Conversely, the pillows are so hot, that my face starts to feel sticky from sweat. Not a pleasant image, I’m sure.

So for me, clearly, this is the best mattress I could’ve asked for. Inspyre on the other hand, is not such a happy camper.

As I mentioned, the first 100 days were great. Eventually, however, he started to notice back and shoulder problems. It seems for individuals who are used to hard mattresses and find them comfortable (like a Costco hard mattress), the Purple is actually too soft and not providing enough support. That being said, if you’ve read Inspyred’s bio, you know he’s a software engineer and sits at a desk all day, as well as ruining his body further by constantly juggling or spinning poi. I’m personally more likely to attribute his pain to all of that, but he does insist that he sleeps better on the floor than on the mattress….so I’d like readers to keep in mind that level of hardness.

Personally, it’s a little pricey but I find it well worth the price. 8/10. Inspyre would give it a 6.5/10.

 

Website Update

Hello Friends! Greetings from the deep beyond. I bet you all thought the site was dead huh? WELL LO AND BEHOLD – we are alive and well!

There are a few reasons for our disappearance, a lot of them including life updates.

#1. Insyped and I got married! Yes, for all of you who didn’t know, we had a large Indian wedding, and apparently you don’t get to settle into married life by yourselves until your 8 months in. So the dust has finally started to settle.

Basically what that means is we have a lot of NEW content coming through, largely based in our Travel section, and a new section we’re going to have dedicated just to explaining what indian weddings (specifically Sikh, Punjabi) look like! That’s going to take a bit of time to put all out so you’ll need to patient with me.

Also, in case you all haven’t noticed, we have added another writer to our staff, Ms. illume! Please check her out and give her the support you’ve always provided me.

Finally, many of you may be aware that I’m currently based in the US. A LARGE reason I haven’t been able to get myself to write is simply the depression I’ve been facing constantly from the overwhelming political atmosphere. I had several articles planned out about Hillary and the investigations of her and Trump, but I could not get myself to finish them. Not to mention information was changing so quickly, by the time I finished an article, 3 pieces of information had already changed.

As such, a few things happened. 1. I’ve deleted my facebook. It was a big decision but the depression + the Zuckerberg trials really convinced me this was the right course of action. As such, I feel like a weight has been lifted of my shoulders and I have the motivation to write again! 2. I will, at least for the time being, not be addressing politics as I have previously. Usually, I have in depth, analytical posts about a topic-of-the-day. If I have any type of political update at all, it’ll be superficial.

So I hope you all are excited as I am for this new chapter! We’ll be adding lots of new content going forward, maybe even some podcasts~

Thank you for your continual support and I hope you’re all having a wonderful day.

RB

Social Awkwardness

It’s odd to hear compliments on something you’ve historically been insecure about. I don’t think I’ve told many people, but I’ve honestly always feared I was socially awkward. I was afraid that people were only listening to me to humor me, too polite to say to my face they didn’t want to spend time with me. I’d feel ashamed every time I missed an inside joke, attempted banter that fell flat, or initiated a hang out only to be ignored. I used to find crowded places terrifying, and would run to the bathroom to cry.

I don’t anymore. Some of my best friends have told me for years that I’m not socially awkward, that I’m perfectly fine the way I am, and that fear is groundless. But it’s not until I’ve heard that message from multiple sources – an aunt, an uncle, a new acquaintance, fellow peers who tell me they envy my socializing ability, and finally the catalyst, a longtime manager attending a networking event who complimented me on my ability to network, saying every event has that one person who stands out as going above and beyond to engage attendees, and I was that person. I still had to ask another friend to affirm that I’m not socially awkward before I really believed the genuineness of his compliment.

With that said, I’m not some superhuman socializing networking machine that instantly charms every person I meet into handing me a job offer/marriage/party invitation. I’m not usually the center of attention nor do I feel the need to put myself there. But I am comfortable striking up conversations with strangers, have no qualms about public speaking, and find meeting new people a rewarding experience. It’s why I’m in DC right now, on a spontaneous week-long trip that I know I will not ever get the chance to do once classes and responsibilities pick up.

I share this not to brag about how awesome I am, but to tell a story I feel is not told often enough. Most people who have the abilities one aspires to have are not typically born with it. The person “good at x,” from painting to basketball to long-distance running to socializing, didn’t start out that way. That person usually worked hard at it, improving little by little, until unexpectedly, they crossed that threshold into “good at x.” I share this because maybe someone reading this will gain a bit of courage to break away from their self-labeled social awkwardness. Maybe it’ll be enough to start chatting with strangers, initiating conversations, making jokes. Sure, there’ll be plenty of shut-downs, cold shoulders, faked laughter, but it’s not your fault. You tried, they didn’t respond, but it’s not usually because there’s something innately wrong with your socializing ability. Stuff happens, often without any explanation. Such is life. I went through it too. We all do. Yeah, I was scared too. But now I’m not.

Anonymity & Ethos

There is something odd about the anonymity of blog posts. Typically, anonymity allows for a freer expression for the wearer. The mask allows the wearer to speak one’s true thoughts negating fear of the message coming back to negatively affect life outside the writing sphere. Yet curiously I find it harder to write because it is not tied to my personal identify. You readers don’t know who I am. You have probably never met me, never seen me, never spoke with me, nor shook hands. You know not of my existence, least of all the personal narrative I carry with me at all times. All they have are my words on the page to judge my character with, a surprising nakedness to my words, unprotected by my ethos.

I say this to preface my following post, which originally appeared on my personal facebook. Without having known me, the message loses some of its effect. It ends up reading as just another uplifting post floating on the internet, by some do-good stranger, who may or may not have had the same traumatic experiences of the target audience I am trying to reach. The anonymization of the post wipes away my credibility, minimizing the “even you?” reaction I wish to elicit. Regardless, I shout this message to the stars, in hopes it inspires one to face its fear head on, shining brighter than it ever thought possible.

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