Who decides what you see?

The Tommy Edison Experience is one of the Youtube vlogger channels I’ve subscribed to and tend to follow. Just today I saw them tweet about their latest video with a alert coloured headline: “Our channel is in trouble”.[1] Yellow text on black background, a bit like the tabloids use on their posters.

The Tommy Edison Experience had noticed that people who have requested notifications for new postings on the channel, no longer got the notifications for each video. Continue reading “Who decides what you see?”

A Beginning is a Delicate Time

“A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct”, said Frank Herbert as the writings of the Princess Irulan of his science fiction book Dune.[1]

Thinking zombieWhen analysing an interaction system, one of the first questions I ask is: “Where does this story begin?” I find it all too often that a digital application’s initial screen has an excessively complex menu, where one doesn’t know which option one should take to start using it. My typical example is the Microsoft Outlook calendar, where one has menu options of something like “new meeting”, “new appointment”, and “new…”. If I want to mark my vacation to the calendar, is it a meeting, or an appointment? Behind the third option, I find actually the two earlier options repeated, for all that I see there. The counter example is Google Calendar, where there is one clear button in red colour, reading: “new…”. Once I click it, the system starts asking me sensible questions that I can answer. This button is, where the story begins, and it ends with a proper marking made in the calendar. Neat and tidy! This is a significant part of “onboarding”. Continue reading “A Beginning is a Delicate Time”


Thinking zombieIt’s been at least a year since I last played Assassin’s Creed III. I haven’t finished the story, and it’s likely that I never will. It’s also been at least half a year since I last played Skyrim. The same thing with that. For the time being I am using the little time that I have for videogames, on No Man’s Sky and Cities: Skylines. One reason, why I’m unlikely to go back to the unfinished games, is that after I’m through with these two, I’ll be probably starting on something new instead. Another reason is the main issue of this blog entry: I would need to re-learn all the moves used in those games and figure out what the story was and where I was at the story. When starting to play a new game, you have this phase called onboarding, where the game is easy and simple and teaching you more and more what it is all about. Now I am in the middle of it all in these games, and I have forgotten most everything that the game taught me to do in the game. And, like any other game, these game have no back-onboarding designed in them. Continue reading “Back-onboarding”

The Descartes Thing

Thinking zombieBy reading my blog you will find that I’m quite enthusiastic by Michael Graziano’s theory of consciousness[1]. Just recently I came across this other book on consciousness[2] (also from 2013) by Gerald Edelman and Giulio Tononi that I’ve been now eagerly reading as well. It has given me more insight on what is known of consciousness… or awareness… or sentience…

And here lies a problem: There are several terms in the English language that seem to be used almost interchangeably for this thing that René Descartes reached for in 1637[3]. This is partially due to negligence, but I believe, most often due to people having focus on different things, where the Descartes thing is only a somewhat relevant side track.

We have, at least, consciousness, intelligence, awareness, soul, and sentience. Continue reading “The Descartes Thing”

Everything Looks Like a Nail

Thinking zombieI recently came across this article by senior research psychologist Robert Epstein, titled “The Empty Brain”[1]. It was linked on a critical Facebook posting that was upset about the article’s superficially most important point appearing to be that the brain is not a computer. Ironically, this Facebook poster had become upset about Epstein’s wording and got stuck with the verbal term, not seeing the actual thought behind the phrasings.

I started reading the article and found myself initially with the same ire as the Facebook poster had. Fortunately I have experience in looking past my first reactions. It looks like Epstein uses provocatively roughly formed language as a tool to try and shake people awake from being satisfied with how they are looking at the world through tainted glasses. His point would not be that the brain couldn’t abstractly be considered as a computer. As I understand, Epstein’s point is the same as in the old proverb: “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Here I am, of course, on a bad footing, being first a computer scientist, who only has a minor subject and a keen interest in psychology and awareness. My hammer and nail is the computer, so I should be biased to see everything, including the brain as a computer. Continue reading “Everything Looks Like a Nail”

Posthumous Messages in Interactive Bottles

For a great deal this post is an extension to my earlier post, The Ghost Leaving the Shell. There I discussed how a system designer leaves an echo of their “ghost” in the design. You might like to read that before reading this entry, but you should be able to understand this post without it too. Both of these entries are actually in the very core of this blog, discussing the question of whom we are interacting with, when using digital services.

The remake of Total Recall movie, once again featured a personal message in the form of an interactive hologram. The idea is that you interview the hologram for the information that was sent to you. Also in I, Robot, Dr. Lanning had left, before his death, a holographic note to the murder investigators, where the message was something rather of a riddle. Finally, at least, the hologram confirmed to the main character: “That, detective, is the right question.” Continue reading “Posthumous Messages in Interactive Bottles”

What’s this thing they call Big Data?

Two apparently different occurrences in my life yesterday appeared to share more synergy that I first observed.

Thinking zombieOne of these things has been puzzling me for several months already: What is this thing they call Big Data really? A mass of data generated so fast that it cannot be practically managed by conventional methods. So, how much can be? And tomorrow we can manage more data than we could yesterday, as technology advances, so what is Big Data today might not be tomorrow? – Of course, tomorrow we will also be able to produce data faster that we were yesterday, for the same reason.

The other thing is, how my taxi driver yesterday had problems with his touch-screen system for accepting taxi calls, and I talked with him about how things are typically built, not perfect, but sufficiently good. Continue reading “What’s this thing they call Big Data?”