Facebook and Ethics

Zuckerberg’s face is all of the media right now.  Quite a few items remarking on his poor social abilities.  He’s clearly on the autism spectrum and if I recall it’s more in-line with Asperger’s.

That generally means that the switch inside the head doesn’t register non-vocal feedback, and that the social skills never truly develop.  Socially inept.  We’ve all met people where social cues just go right by.  This is more evident in high school and college settings, where everyone is showing tremendous social growth, while others seem stalled.  As adults, the social aspects are usually screened out during the hiring process.  Or in.  Or the individual has learned some tricks to manage that lack of skill.

Or, they deploy a data harvesting tool with the guise of connection building, and become a billionaire.

Privacy

I work in IT.  Specifically at the intersection of consumer functions and security/privacy controls.  I know more than I should, or at least some days I’d prefer to know less.  First point – if you’re online you are giving up privacy.  Full stop.  Either you pay to control it (part of it at least, or the appearance of control), or you do it for free and give up that control.

There’s a reason it’s so easy to DOX someone.

The internet may be temporary – sites come and go – but it’s all archived somewhere.  It is both permanent and impermanent at the same time, making it really quite hard for people to navigate.  What people were doing 10 years ago is still being used to screen new hires.  That is not going away anytime soon.

Ethics

Ethics are a social construct.  We don’t eat dogs in North America, rarely eat horse.  In other parts of the world it’s a regular meal.  Ethically we have issues with that, while other do not.  That’s at the national level.  Even at the community level this changes.  Find two churches and you’ll find two different sets of ethics.

Now throw in someone who has no ability to understand the social implications of ethics.  They are not un-ethical in the sense that they purposefully go against ethical norms, but more so in that they just don’t understand the nuances of ethics.

For better or worse, this also means that they are immune from international ethics.  Say in one country, it’s entirely acceptable to scrape all user related data to make a giant database of behavior (China).  In another, the company must disclose all private data to the users (Germany).  A company working in both areas has to find the right balance, let alone their corporate policies to manage their service.  That Facebook said it would apply GDPR is a good step.  Considering that they fought it tooth and nail, is more like a thief admitting guilt after caught, but it’s still some progress.

I will say that for all the faults, the EU seems to take this more seriously than most other countries.  Canada would be wise to integrate those policies, as we tend to align the same way.  I mean that in the context of post-national ethics.  We’re all humans before we’re nationals after all, much more alike than dissimilar.

Silicon Valley

Generally run by people with poor social skills focused more on the what can we do, rather than why should we do it.  There’s a really good reason why so many harassment issues have come out of the woodwork in these companies.  A psychopath is someone who lacks empathy – they are not not just serial killers.  A lack of social skills is right in line with that behavior.

Many people are driven by power/money, and once bitten by that bug, it’s hard to go back.  People get blinded by their own agenda that they lose sight of the impacts of their decisions.  Uber simply didn’t care that there were existing markets, they just dropped down illegal cabs, paid a few fines and disrupted an entire market.  There’s only a small difference between that and WalMart moving into a small town, closing all the mom and pop shops, milking the town dry, then closing their shop down for good.

And we let them.  Because it’s practical.  Or it’s cheaper.  We’ll sell our souls to the devil without a blink of an eye.  Most times, we won’t even realize we’re doing it.  Or we think it doesn’t affect us.

Some Progress

The conceptual idea of adding more connections is certainly good.  It’s the foundation of the internet after all.  We are too soon into that space as compared to other social advances, for a web of ethics to have developed.  By breaking down the geographical barriers, we have exposed the sensitive nerves of ethic boundaries.  It’s much easier to ignore dog eating in China if you don’t ever hear about it.  Much harder to do when it’s on the newsfeeds, websites, and social media.

We’re growing.  We’ve taken a long swim in the infinite ocean and lost our footing at times.  The “go local” movement is meant to ensure we have both a foot inside our real space and the virtual one, and a better appreciation for both worlds.  There’s still a lot of work to do.  I’ll be spending my time educating myself and my family on the risk/reward facets of internet use.  Paying more attention to the terms of use, changing permissions on my devices, removing myself from some tools.  Still being involved, but under my terms.

And if it costs me more, or takes more time.  So be it.

Transhumanism

Wikipedia article to get you started.

The concept that humanity can evolve from its current trappins and dramatically expand both intelligence and physical limitations.  I’d argue it’s where philosphy, technology, and religion intersect.

For a long time this was the domain of the golden age of sci-fi.  Tomorrowland.  Star Trek’s utopia.  Meritocracy.  Some would say, the childish naivety of the greater good.  My favorite book, Childhood’s End, covers this topic.  Foundation and Empire finishes with this.

Then the age of computers came upon us and we went through the cyberpunk phase.  Phillip K. Dick took the concept and turned it sideways to practical mental disease.  Rather than ask what’s next, it was more like what else is there.  We’re moving from the digital age into the quantum one now, where things are so small, things are so integrated, that it’s becoming much harder to see the line between human and machine.  Siri, Alexa, OkGoogle… all are integrated into society to a degree that we only realize they are there when we’re out of range.

And all of this is predicated on a singularity – a single transforming event.  We won’t likely understand it when it happens, but we’ll be able to point back to it.

Small Steps

Time is the ultimate currency.  You can always make more money, but you can never make more time – hence it’s value.  Opportunity cost is based on this principle – given the choice between two options, which provides the largest overall benefit?

It’s a simple fact that automation is here to stay, and will take over more and more of our lives.  Driverless cars seem neat, but driverless trucks are going to put thousands of people out of work.  Even super menial jobs for teens are going away (see Flippy).  Assembly lines and mining/timber have been gutted with this fact.  Regardless of what is being said, those jobs are not coming back.  Even the countries that were outsourced to in the past 20 years are moving away from hiring people.

People require food, rest, space… robots do not.  One robot working 24/7 replaces at least 4 people in terms of time, and likley dozens in terms of productivity/accuracy.  The math is not hard here, and the people doing the math are the ones without any interest in the people. If you have any stocks, then odds are you actually have no idea what the impact is to the workers on the other end of that stock.

Everytime we make something more efficient, or connect something, or share something, we are taking smaller steps to a collective.  It’s hard to articulate the tangible differences between someone in north america and someone in Autralia – aside from culture.  Even culture is blurring… there are more 2nd language English speakers on the planet than native speakers.

The Big Question

What makes you, you?  If you were to replace a bit of you every week(eye, arm, foot) with a robotic part, when do you stop being you?  If you were to completely swap human bodies, but kept your mind, are you still you?

What proof do you have that you exist?  If memories are just triggered synapses, could they be faked?  Sensory input is just electrical charges, those can be replicated (see Matrix for one argument, and many bionic limbs do this as well).  It is possible, though unlikely, that we are just a few days old – the imaginings of a more powerful set of beings.  No different than restarting from a save point in a video game, and we go back to some default state.

How can anyone prove either for or against?

Progress

It’s our unfailable certainty of our own existence that keeps us sane and grounded.  It’s the basis for science, in that what is observed is fact.  It took a long time for science to delve into things we cannot see (the 4 forces, notably), and even longer into things we cannot easily comprehend (quantum mechanics for starters).

At each step of progress, there’s the discovery and then the integration into society.  We can’t imagine a world without electricity, but even 100 years ago it wasn’t all that common.  Nowdays our kids are infinitely connected to all sort of people and things, and privacy is a 4 letter word.  And there’s no going back, that genie is out of the bottle.  Best we can hope for is an educated consumption of technology.

But how do you educate when society changes so rapidly?  Facebook hit its apogee years ago.  Kids (well college age folk) were all over it, then younger kids came onboard.  Time has gone on and as much as grandparents use it, today’s youth wants nothing to do with it.  They’ve moved on.

The blogging community is somewhat unique, in that we live in a world of tech, to differing levels.  I can generally understand the technology presented to my children, and I can communicate my set of values and ethics within.  But it doesn’t prevent them from finding a youtube channel by chance, that is full of content I don’t want them to see.  I have to be extra vigilant, and take the time.  I can near guarantee that the majority of my social circle doens’t even process that thought.

Change for the sake of change.

What’s Next

VR & automation.  We’re at the cusp of both being integrated into our daily lives.

VR is a much higher fidelity now.  Even just augmented reality is on the doorstep.  People reprenting themselves with avatars has been commonplace for 20 years, but to integrate that concept with reality isn’t far off.

Automation not in the sense of robots, but in the concept of anticipatory intelligence.  I wake up and make a coffee most mornings.  Automation would detect me waking up, and based on my behavior patterns, make a fresh brew.  I’m a few years from asking for an “earl grey, hot” and it magically appearing.

As cool as it all sounds, I’m terrified.  I’m not altruistic enough to always make the right decision, and I’m not evil enough to take advantage of the situation. The future is much closer than it appears.

 

Deadlines

Interesting word, that.  The line after which things die, which is of course hyperbole.  Of all the times the word deadline is uttered, it rarely ends up being fatal. Might be out of a job, or lose a house, or some other very negative thing, but most of the time it’s just fake pressure.

That’s not to say that the deadline itself isn’t important.  If it wasn’t, or if people we’re serious about it, no one would care.  There absolutely has to be some accountability for it, as there is always a cause.  Poor planning, poor finances, poor resources, unforeseen issues.  Someone, somewhere, has to manage those dates.   Then you need to manage expectations from your bosses about moving dates faster, or damage control if they slip.  Fun times.

All that to say that the project I’m running now has multiple dependencies outside of my control.  Outside of my boss, and his boss’ control.  There’s certainly some pressure, with daily updates to the VP, weekly to the president.  It’s a fun balancing act of keeping the staff shielded from that, allowing them to do the work they do best, and somehow keep the bosses happy with progress.  Or at least explain why there are delays in such a fashion that they a) believe you and b) accept it.

There are days where I feel more like the meat in a sandwich, little to show for the day’s work.  There are other days where there are large breakthrough, acceleration on activities that were planned to take much longer.  Others where the opposite occurs and a key dependency indicates that they haven’t actually done any of the work yet and don’t know when it will be done.  I certainly try to focus on those good days, because people need some sort of hope of the end of a project.  I try to find ways to mitigate those dependencies, maybe have some sort of interim solution in place instead, isolating that group.

End result is that long-term relationships get built, destroyed, and re-built over a project.  I am not one to throw someone under the bus, and sometimes tough calls have to be made.  We each go home at the end of the day, and we’re not exactly curing cancer.  The real end goal here is reputation and trust.  Saying you’ll do something by a certain date and keeping track of that date.  When a date slips and people know about it, people are working to correct it, then that builds some level of trust.  The opposite behavior degrades trust and makes conversations much more difficult in the future.  No one ever goes it alone, and it’s important to know past behavior will influence future.

Still a few months to go before the major delivery is done.  Quite a few good contacts and relationships made over the duration so far.  Some… maybe not so good.

By the end of this project, I expect a few news articles at the start of the new year, a lot of personal and professional growth, a team that has achieved more than they originally thought possible, and a big shift in the way our organization works on a daily basis.  And then a month-long vacation.

All if we can meet our deadlines.

Finances Are Important

Cottage Time

After having run countless budget exercises, having met our financial advisor and talked to our broker, it looks like we’ll be moving ahead with the cottage purchase.  My wife can attest that my level of anxiety this week has been through the roof, though the last 12 hours or so have been much better.  As is clear with all of my posts, I’m a numbers guy, and I love analytics.  So when a large purchase like this comes around, not only do I get excited, I start going all over the place in terms of options/scenarios.

I remember on Sunday talking with my wife about the absolute need to take those three steps (budget, advisor, broker) in order to come to a conclusion.  I’m not buying a damn coat here, I’m buying property that I need to pay for the next 20+ years.  She isn’t as well versed in all this financial stuff as I am, which to be honest, ignorance is clearly bliss in this case.  Still, she knew it meant a lot to me and suffered through my protestations to get this going.  After it all being complete (well, the paperwork is next) she’s certainly more appreciative of the nuances within.  We spent more than a few hours looking over the budget spreadsheet, so I’m slowly converting her!

Which brings up an interesting topic, one that the advisor brings up from time to time – people do not know how to budget.  I don’t mean worry about every penny but I do mean understanding where the heck your money is going.  I don’t get how budgeting 101 isn’t mandatory in high school.  I remember helping out my brother a few years ago with his budget.  What he thought he was spending was actually less than half of what he actually was spending – and that was just fixed costs.  Brining those numbers to the front really shocks people into action.

Not everyone needs an official financial advisor, but everyone should have a friend who’s really good at accounting.  Everyone needs a budget.  There are plenty of sites for it too.  And evaluating your spending based on your budget is super important, so that you modify it as need be.  Heck, most banks will offer the service for free, then set up extra bank accounts and automated transfers between them.  As an aside, no one should ever pay banking fees – if you are, change banks.

All of that to say that a solid budget makes life so much easier, since you’d then have the basic tools to manage your money.  Heck, you might even realize that you have way more freedom than you thought.

Tablet Woes

The tablet fix still isn’t working.  I can read the device through USB but the screen (not the digitizer) will simply not work.  Next step is to try a HDMI output and see which component is faulty.  I was really hoping it was just a loose cable, but it wasn’t any of the obvious ones.  The sort of good news is that I’m realizing that I don’t need the tablet to get work done.  It’s incredibly practical, but not essential.

Wildstar Runes

By far the #1 page on my site these last few days has been my rune guide.  I’ve updated it with an example near the bottom, on an ilvl90 weapon for my engineer.  I used service tokens to re-roll the slot (all the tokens were from the daily login bonus) and it’s in pretty good shape.  It went from 315 secondary stats to 1115, plus set bonuses that come out to an extra 150 points or so.

It’s a very noticeable boost, though there’s more tweaking I need to do on other pieces.  I took my engineer to the Badlands and the 2man bosses within (bone dog and spider queen) dropped down much faster.  Even the regular enemies now fall down with a single electrocute channel.

I am surprised/disappointed as to how much runes are a major factor in end game now and as to how little NCsoft explains this to the player base.  It would be an easy argument to make that someone in fully runed ilvl60 gear would be more powerful than someone in un-runed pre-raid gear.  It’s why gating content behind ilvl is so tricky, you can’t really measure rune power with it.  And even some runes are very expensive for little benefit.  The raid level runes (ilvl 100) are cheaper than the dungeon runes (ilvl80), and by a wide margin.

I guess that’s why the guide is so popular.  People are starting to figure out how important runes are.

Rare Isn’t Always Good

About a month ago, my youngest dropped my tablet and the screen cracked.  Then she did it again.  Truth be told, she’s dropped it more times than I could count… oddly uncoordinated child.  Anyhow, that made the device mostly unusable, since it detected touches all the time.  I did what any self-respecting IT guy would do – I went a-googling.

First hurdle, I have a TF701.  This is one of those Asus transformer tablets that works with android.  It’s a great tablet, quite powerful, good disk space, came with a keyboard that physically connected… all great.  But it was also one of those limited edition doohickeys, or at least you’d think so based on the google results.  I had replaced my wife’s Samsung screen (digitizer) a few years ago, so I knew that it was possible.  Sadly, there are no screens for sale in North America, so eBay it is!

80$ later (free shipping) and 30 days later, I received the digitizer.  No instructions, no tools.  Back to google.  I crap you not, there is 1 single video on how it’s done and it’s in Russian.  There are T700t videos, but they are not the same form factor passed step 1.  There are hidden screws (the extra tiny ones that require special tools), extra tape and removing the digitizer is a massive pain.

2 hours later, many 4 letter words later, I had the digitizer off and was ready to rebuild.  That part was faster but much less fun.  The power is back but the screen doesn’t display anything, so more troubleshooting is needed.  I know the thing works though, since the alarm went off this morning and I was unable to do anything but snooze it.  Ugh.

After 30 minutes of fiddling, I had to stop it.  I was ready to just throw it in the trash at that point.  Deep breath.  It’s going to be ok.

Engineer

My engineer has a fair bit less plat than my esper.  An order of magnitude in fact, so, time to see what I can do about that.

Making money typically comes in three main forms.  First is maxing out experience for the week, then completing quests for cash.  Each daily hub generally awards 10-15% of the bar.   So if you’re only running dailies, it’s 2-3 days’ worth to cap out.

Second is repeatedly running an expedition like M-13.  You usually end up with 1-2 purples, ok gold rewards and a token for more cash.  It takes a bit over 10 minutes to run the easy ones, so you can make a few plat an hour.  PvP is an option too, about 20g per win, though you really should be in a pre-made to make this work faster than expeditions.

Lastly is working the AH.  I have a post about that!  The real flips occur on the commodity exchange, as you can set buy and sell orders.  The problem with that system is that it’s even more based on volume than a more standard AH (buy/sell only), meaning massive price fluctuations.  I’ve had to install a mod to keep track of all the various price points and I’ll be waiting a few days to find some trends.  I think my main focus will be on Runes.  Not only the base price points but also in terms of selling completed high quality Runes as well.  There’s a noticeable markup in that field, if I can get superb components at a low enough price.

Aside from that, I’m re-learning the limitations of the engineer.  I find action combat very key heavy, almost a button masher.  Engineers don’t have much of that, what with Electrocute being a channelled ability and the rest being mostly based on cooldowns.  There’s a whole lot of waiting, then a frantic smash of many buttons, then waiting again.  It’s an odd pace and really hard to find the right rhythm.  It’ll come though.

New Rig Shippin’

Last night was about backing up some files.  I had 30 gigs of home movies in a little known folder.  Good thing I caught it!  Once that was done, I ran some additional tests on the video card.  Safe mode had an odd colored bar in the middle of the screen… never a good sign.  I removed the drivers, rebooted and normal mode was fine.  The drivers reinstalled and a reboot later, black screen.  Ah well, I have a local computer replacement shop I think I’ll send it to.

New Rig

That said, I did spend some additional time on the hunt for a new box.  US exchange rate and shipping costs were going to end up somewhere near 22% on the Canadian dollar, so I really wanted something on this side of the water.  Two options.

NCIX was recommended to me by Rohan.  They had some decent rigs available, either a GS70 or a Dominator (I love those names).  Reflex Notebooks has a fair chunk of selection and customization though, and I had my eye on a Sager 8278.

I ended up on the checkout for both sites to compare prices.  NCIX charges shipping and insurance, while both are baked into the Reflex price point.  So while I thought I was saving a fair amount with the former, the final prices were relatively close.

It’s one of those things where you’re looking at the number, realize what it actually means in terms of time spent to make that amount, and then ponder “is this really worth it?”  I am far from being cheap but I do know where my money goes.  Most of my purchases are large purchases, as I prefer quality over quantity.

I ended up picking the Sager as it really came out to the most bang for the buck.  I customized exactly what I wanted, even though the baseline included a GTX970M card (like 3 cards down from top of the line).  I won’t have to pay a cent at the door and in a week or so, I’ll have a new box.

Interim

Meanwhile I’m without a gaming rig, which has been my go-to stress relief lately. It’s somewhat ironic that my work and overtime are the cause of the stress, and are paying for the updated relief.  If I cut down on the former, I’d naturally cut down on the latter.  Still, I have a tablet for some respite.  Weather is nice, more biking is in order…

Well At Least There Were No Flames

Recently, my gaming laptop (a Sager/Clevo 3.5yrs old) started acting funny the past few weeks.  It would randomly shut down in the middle of a game session and the fan would cycle at odd levels.  I installed a temperature monitoring tool and most of the time things were in acceptable ranges, except the GPU, which always ran hot.

Now, I don’t run crazy games at max settings.  I played a bit of Dragon Age Inq near the holidays but I grew tired of it.  Other taxing games…I dunno, it’s been Path of Exile, Pillars of Eternity, Diablo 3 and a bit of TSW.  Not exactly crippling games.  Last night, in the middle of a session my video crapped out. Safe mode is working and I can sometimes load regular mode.  Any game load breaks it though.  Good news is I didn’t lose any data.  Actually, that’s amazing news.

All said, that means shopping time.

New Beast

First things first, I truly feel bad for people who do not understand technical jargon.  Buying a computer is either blind luck (ooh, a pretty color) or a massive investment in time and benchmark comparisons.  I can find no analogy.  I mean seriously, who the hell cares about the difference in an i7-4710MQ vs an i7-4710HQ chipset?  I do, so sucks to be me!

Specs seem to align to somewhere around the following:

  • i7 – 4700+ CPU
  • 960M+ video card
  • 16gb of RAM
  • OS on an SSD.  Rest doesn’t matter much.
  • 17″ monitor (since I actually use it as a laptop)

That doesn’t seem terribly complex does it?  This link shows you what XoticPC offers in their 17″ lineup.  Holy cheez whiz!  $500 to $3700 range.  It gets worse when you look at identical specs but different brands.  Sager is cheaper, followed by Asus, then MSI then Alienware.  It’s the exact same components, just a different shell and maybe a few bells and whistles, like a backlit keyboard.

If you’re not into PC specs, I am guessing that none of this makes sense to you.  In particular the difference between CPU and GPU specs.  Barely makes any sense to me…

I’m glad to say that the whole “gain 10% improvement for $200 more” is still around. There are plenty of marginal upgrades for crazy price points.  I will say that it’s worth it to spend more on cooling though, even though mine is having issues with just that. A better compound, copper cooling and a cooling pad are worth every penny.

The Dollar Decision

I’m Canadian.  Along with a lifetime membership to the Igloo museum, I get to pay more money for American products due to the exchange rate (+duty due to NAFTA).  Right now, 1 of my dollars gets me 83 cents US.  On a budget of ~$1500, that’s $300 difference.  So let’s say I compare to a Canadian retailer — Canada Computers (original eh?).  An MSI GP70 is $900US or $1100CDN.  Math says, identical price.  Calculate shipping, duty and taxes… we have a different conversation going on now.

Then I start looking at Amazon and NewEgg…this is getting depressing.

I should note that the price point today is actually less than what I paid for a mid-range laptop over 3 years ago.  That said, there really hasn’t been much progress on PC development since then either, everything is tablets and watches.  My old box is an i7, 8gb RAM, 500Gb SATA, and a 780M card.  Further oddity.

Next Steps

I know what config I’m looking for, so that solves a bunch of questions.  Finding that config at a price point that makes sense, with the correct distributor is the real challenge.  Is this what shoe shopping is like?