Thoughts on Privacy Rights, Philosophy, and Robot Love

If total transparency of communication and meta data was handled by magically benevolent angels of justice, then it would be the best thing for society.

But when that formula is poisoned in any way, it becomes danger, fear, possibly repression, and anti benevolent to the innocently observed.

This will be an incredibly fine line to balance by government. In fact, with the lobbied interests represented today, I don’t see how this can function in a truthful manner. I don’t see how any member of national leadership could honestly disagree with this statement.

Surrendering privacy is not viable at this point in history for that very reason.

Here lies the problem of the progress to detect malicious communication. It’s engineering will take place regardless of benevolence. Ingenuity and superiority in the field of global communication is as unstoppable as the search for immortality, and it is directly intertwined. It will be pursued by evil as quickly as good.

The benevolent must interject themselves into the process, and that takes the exact, counterintuitive, measure that we are seeing our governments employ today, that is unfortunately conflicted by interests. Good intentions are corrupted by other interests of varying quality in terms of peaceful unity.

How do you deploy dogs on your oppressors without creating dogs that kill with a wide range of indiscriminance*? It’s a difficult topic.

I don’t know how to solve this problem, unless we can come up with a way to unify all the benevolent people without interests in conquest or vengeance.

How could a government become this?
How could a business become this?
How could the average human become truly benevolent?

We must, by law, and with temperance, empower the good people without subjecting them to fear of their privacy. This is what we stand for in the U.S.

Good people need to pay attention to how this evolves and provide a guiding voice on this matter. Some of the greatest minds of our time have wrestled with this topic. Isaac Asimov dealt with it in terms of programming the laws of benevolent robots in the foundation series. (spoiler: In the series you find out that robots in space have been gently watching over humans for a very long time.)

The laws of robotics, as originally stated, read.

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
If you juxtapose the concept of a sentient robot (forgive me while I get weird and nerdy here) for government, these laws might metaphorically represent the intent of our Constitution.
Asimov later introduced the concept of the Zeroth Law which changed things a bit. Sort of like how the Homeland Security Act changed our constitutional rights.
A robot may not harm a human being, unless he finds a way to prove that ultimately the harm done would benefit humanity in general!
– Caves of Steel, Asimov 1952
The problem lies in accurately determining what benefits humanity in general in the long term.

Trevize frowned. “How do you decide what is injurious, or not injurious, to humanity as a whole?” “Precisely, sir,” said Daneel. “In theory, the Zeroth Law was the answer to our problems. In practice, we could never decide. A human being is a concrete object. Injury to a person can be estimated and judged. Humanity is an abstraction.”

— Foundation and Earth, Asimov  via Wikipedia

*yeah I know it’s not a word. Tough noogies. It is now.

Thinking in Movie Quotes – My Generation’s memes

(this blog is a work in progress)

Growing up in the grand age of the dawn of cable television, I think caused me us suffer from some kind of Gestalt effect of associating certain thoughts very rapidly with quotes from movies.

During summer vacations in the early 80’s I watched rolling schedules of available movies on HBO time and time again. Some of them maybe too many times…

There is hardly a situation is daily life that I can’t relate to The Cannonball Run or Caddyshack.

It just occurred to me, walking through our development shop, overlooking a page of annotated images on one of my younger guy’s screen,  that the current generation may be forever doomed to do the same with memes, and ONE day they too may rattle off a meme in a knee jerk brain association to someone younger than them who has no clue what they are talking about.



Now, in my “adult” days I spend much more of my entertainment time feeding my brain with interesting information. I am currently reading (or listening to rather) a book by Nick Bostrom called “Superintelligence. Paths, Dangers, Strategies.” that I was referred to by way of Elon Musk (indirectly). One of the topics discussed in the book is how group intelligence is difficult because of the challenge of networking learning between minds. In other words it would be hard to upload thoughts from one mind into another, because it’s not just a bunch of data, it’s also an understanding that the mind achieves by way of absorbing it in the first place.

The written language we use to communicate with each other might not be the same as the thoughts by which we interpret them.

I think the observation I’m alluding to above supports this, but it also infers that we all use mental queues in imagery, sound and our environment to create connections in our minds to quickly retrieve the associations that support us in our thought; conscious or unconscious.

It brings further meaning to “a picture is worth a thousand words“.

A meme is worth approximately one thousand and seven.

An entire movie is conceivably worth an order of magnitude more.

Wisdom from The Great Chain of Command

I think we all have certain little snippets that we remember our authority figures or bosses saying at various points in our career (or life if you’ve never had a job). Usually rooted in constructive criticism or good advice, and sometimes questionable advice. Many of these statements probably came from people further up the chain in their own careers. Any way you look at it, these bits of wisdom make their way down a long and complex rabbit hole to you, their recipient.

I’m about to talk to one of my staff who didn’t show up for an early code launch this morning. His excuse was, “sorry, I slept through my alarm.”, which in my mind evokes the image of a guy named Josh Jones who looked at me across the desk once and said, with a stone face and a shrug, “Get a louder alarm clock.” Will it stick on the next person like it did on me, the guy who regularly turns the lights on at my office? I don’t know, but if it does, I’ve done my job right; passing along the tradition of the obvious.

Sometimes they do stick though. I know it because I’ve lived it. Like the time I was interning at the SUNY Fredonia print department under a bear sized guy named Tom Malinoski who called me out on my reluctance to pay attention to detail (or some other related fault) by saying “Your that kinda asshole that’s too lazy to get out of the shower to piss.” That one haunted me for years, especially whenever I actually was too lazy to get out of the shower to piss!

Tom was one of my favorite teachers of all time and someone I maintained contact with from college until his death due to cancer a few years ago. Before he died, in fact; the last time we saw each other I told him about how much those words affected me.

He laughed a little and replied, “Well heck I didn’t mean your own personal shower, do whatever you want there. I meant like a gym shower. Like after football er somethin’.”

I then said, “Tom, I never played any team sports in school, partially because of the shower…”. He looked at me thoughtfully and replied, “Well, gee. Sorry if I fucked you up little buddy.” We both had a good laugh, but I could see that for a moment he realized how a simple short statement could carry on with somebody. He was the kind of dude who appreciated that stuff.

I’m not sure how much thought most people put into the effect a statement can have on a person, but I fully expect my children to reiterate a few of them to me one day at the dinner table, and if I’m lucky, one or two of those great pieces of wisdom might outlive a generation or two.

And maybe the guy who missed the launch this morning will read this and get a louder alarm clock.

Simple node.js server for NITROUS.IO – I AM server

static file server

This is not anything glorious, but it will save somebody out there a couple of valuable hours of fiddling I hope. (note to future self)


If you haven’t tried it’s pretty nice


LCP List Category Posts WP Plugin customfield_orderby hack for integer order

Note I sent to Fernando: Posted here for helpful reference until it becomes an option in the plugin.

Circumstances that apply – You are using custom fields to represent ordering numbers of items on a page that lists category posts.
The shortcode looks like this: [catlist id=67 thumbnail=yes thumbnail_size=thumb numberposts=8 template=product customfield_orderby=my_page_order order=asc]

The problem: Meta Values stored in the WP database are not integers. So if you were writing a custom query you could do something like ‘meta_value’ + 0 or try and assign it as an int, but in using LCP that does not work.

I hacked this today to solve for ordering by integers.

I was thinking you could add a param to shortcode_atts under
'customfield_orderby' =>'',
'customfield_orderby_isnumber' =>'',

Then instead of this hack in Catlist.php
* Custom fields 'customfield_name' & 'customfield_value'
* should both be defined
if( $this->lcp_not_empty('customfield_value') ):
$args['meta_key'] = $this->params['customfield_name'];
$args['meta_value_num'] = $this->params['customfield_value'];


if ( $this->lcp_not_empty('customfield_orderby') ):
$args['orderby'] = 'meta_value_num';
$args['meta_key'] = $this->params['customfield_orderby'];

It could become an option to support both string order and numeric.

I hope you find this useful. I enjoy your plugin. Thank you.

Useful Transitions vs. Why Transition?

I made a comment on Twitter a while back criticizing an example of media-query transitions that has continued to bug me a little bit. Today I ran across an example of why.

There are some really good reasons to transition state changes in web design.

  • They offer richness in the UI that until a couple of years ago was mostly found only in the domain of a native desktop or mobile application.
  • Transitions provide brain queues to changes that make us feel good about UI.

My beef with a media-query transition is that you only see them if you are playing accordion with your browser window or maybe when you are sticking a window to the right or left edge of the screen in Windows. The latter might be a valid case for their use, but certainly an edge one. Aside from creating a catchy web page that is supposed to be an actual accordion or maybe a bagpipe simulation, you’ve just got no business expecting that something supple should happen when you re-size your browser window. I’m open to being convinced otherwise, but you are going to have to bring a really good argument. The size of your media viewing is pretty much static on anything other than the desktop and if you like reading things in 420w then you should leave your browser that width IMO.

So back to my point. Today I found a great example of a transition that makes perfect sense on a page state change. You can find it on, where a nicely designed header with tasteful whitespace repositions its site branding and menu when vertically scrolling makes the header dissapear.

The logo an menu transition in a short, sweet, meaningful way to give the experience of saved space and brand reinforcement.

I’m sure there is somebody out there who can convince me why my opinion here in flawed. Please hit me up on Twitter as I would love to hear another side to the story.


—— Annnnnd as expected…


OK. Maybe that is the original reason for them to begin with. My psychologist told me that these asynchronous social interactions might be helpful. I’m starting to believe. It still seems a little fluffy. Anybody else?