Week 2 – Rough Around the Edges

The body adjusts to stress. Winters feel a lot colder at the beginning of the season. By the time spring rolls around, you’ve adjusted to the drop in temperature. If you start to work out, it’ll be painful for the first three weeks, that is, until your body adjusts to the muscles tearing and regrowing. But the body takes time to adjust, and because of that, there is always growing pains when you encounter a new routine.

And right now, my body is definitely adjusting to the new environment. It’s been affecting me in weird ways.

  • Twice this week, instead of swiping my student card to get on the bus, I swiped one of my other cards. One of the bus drivers was nice to point out that his bus was not a grocery store.
  • I left some critical gear at home because I thought it’d be a great idea to have a look at the kit before the lab the next day. This was smart because it checking your equipment was the first task of the lab. It was also stupid because I forgot that equipment at home. Thankfully they have backups for the parts I needed.
  • I forgot some wires in one of my classes. One of my peers brought it back to me.
  • I spent fifteen minutes looking for a tool. I walked back to previous classes, I checked both of the bags I brought to school. Turns out it was sitting on the keyboard, right in front of my face.
  • I’ve been having weird dreams. I had a dream where was a massive bug in my ear that was screaming and scratching the inside of my head (horrifying). There was a dream where I threw a melon at the genitals of a giant bear (slightly amusing). And the last dream involved me shaving my head and convincing my fiancee it looked amazing (I would not look good with a shaved head).

Long story short, my body and brain are not used to the new, rigorous schedule I’ve set for myself, and as a result, are stressing out a bit. My mind, however, is fine. Mr. Charlton is holding it together pretty well, it’s just the vessel that holds me is struggling with waking up at 5:45 am and absorbing thirty hours of school a week and doing thirty hours of homework and then working twenty plus hours a week.

Still, though, even with this crazy schedule, I don’t feel overwhelmed yet. I’m still ahead in most of my classes, there’s a couple of knowledge gaps I have to fill with studying, but overall, I’m keeping my head above water. Even though I feel exhausted after these long days, I still wake up feeling refreshed and ready to do some more learning. At the same time, I’m hoping my body starts to adjust after week three or four. I’ve already had people at work comment on how tired I look all the time since my program started.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’ve gotten insanely good at managing my time. On the bus? Studying. I’m at work? Some notes are put in front of me to glance at while I’m cooking. Walking home? Trying to recall the lessons from the day. When you don’t have any time to spare, study time is all the time.

p.s.s. Not only am I learning new things at school, I’m learning new things in the kitchen! Me and Kat decided that date night would be wing night, and instead of going out to some greasy pub, we tried making them at home. And let me tell you, they turned out amazing. Seriously, go buy some chicken wings, toss ’em in cornstarch, then an egg wash, then some seasoned flour, and throw them in a pot of hot oil for 8-10 mins.

Snapchat-954206324

Look at these little badboys. We tossed ’em in some hot sauce and teriyaki.

p.s.s.s. You might also be wondering when I find the time to write this terrible blog. The exact time is typically Tuesday morning from 7:15 to 7:45, which is enough time to bang out a poorly written and edited piece of internet entertainment.

 

Mr. Charlton Gets Rid of Facebook

This is one of those blog posts that I had a hard time writing. The kind where I would pump out seven hundred words, only to look back and realize that I was a rambling mess, ranting off in the distance without any kind of coherent structure to my ideas. It was a random train of thought, one that derailed into a small community and exploded into a fiery mess of anecdotes and half-witty remarks. The people I was writing for would be reading with a mouthful of coffee, slowly swallowing as their eyes narrowed; “What the fuck is Mr. Charlton talking about?”. Well, today he’s ranting about Facebook.

I got rid of it, finally.

If you’ve read my blog on a somewhat regular basis, you’ll know I have a deep-seated hatred towards Facebook. I’m not a fan. In fact, it’s come up in about ten percent of my writing. That’s a lot, considering that Facebook is free. And there’s a pretty strict rule that I’ve been adhering to, especially recently as I’ve gotten older.

Don’t ever complain about something you’re getting for free.

Being the hypocrite that I am, I’ve been complaining about this free service for years. I’m not alone in my complaints; tons of people like myself dislike social media, especially Facebook. So then why are we using it?

Understand that Facebook, and a lot of other tech giants, have worked tirelessly over the last decade (even longer in many cases) to integrate themselves into the fabric of our society. You might convince yourself you’ll be missing out on something if you refuse their services. Truthfully, you will be. Without Facebook, there’s a good chance I might miss events that are organized there. And that’s a shame.

But…

The party is still taking place. That get-together is going to happen, it’s simply no longer convenient for the host to invite me. They’ll have to get a hold of me some other way. They’re going to have to send a carrier pigeon. They might try and put a message in a bottle, casting it out to the ocean in the slim hopes it washes up on my shores. Or, heaven forbid, they might have to use the telephone app on their smartphone and call me to arrange the party. Facebook is convenient.

Iphone-HomeScreen

A ten year old asked me why the phone app was a ‘C’ shape.

Facebook is too convenient.

It’s so convenient, in fact, that you can have a social media relationship with someone you don’t know. I had a little over three hundred people on my friend list. At least a third of them? People I had met once. One interaction, years ago, was now something that Facebook convinced me was valid. It’s really easy to add people, over the years, over a pint at the bar when you’re four drinks deep and now everyone in the pub is your friend. Now your free social media page needs work. It needs to be culled every now and again. You’re social media image is something you’re going to have to manage.

Years ago, it used to list your friends post’s chronologically. Now Facebook has determined that you want to see what the hottest topics are. Those are the posts that keep you looking at Facebook, your eyes open on the screen while ads fill the sidebars. You know what posts seem to gather the most attention?

The controversial ones.

If you’re wondering why Facebook in particular seems to have gotten more mean-spirited in the last couple of years, it’s not because you’re getting older and more cynical. It’s because the easiest button to push in the emotion panel of your brain is the anger / outrage button. The social engineers at Facebook know this, and capitalize on it.

They’ve also figured out how to give you a dopamine hit when you participate in conversations. Someone says something wrong? On the internet? Fire back a snappy comeback, then watch as like-minded people support your post with likes and LOLs. A thirty second reply takes thirty seconds, but Facebook knows you’ll spend up to an hour or more seeing if anyone else validated your opinion.

All of your rage, your laughs, your accomplishments, your highs, your lows, everything you post to social media is facilitated by companies who are trying their hardest to manipulate your emotions. And they’re doing it because for every hour you spend on their site, they might make half a penny. Don’t quote me on that number. The point I’m trying to make is that your attention isn’t worth a lot to them, so they’re going to milk your attention for everything that it’s worth.

I’m picking on Facebook, but they’re not the only ones doing it. Instagram (owned by Facebook), Youtube (owned by Google), Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Imgur. They’re all competing for your attention.

If you’re wondering what happened to me, well, they ended up getting too much of my attention. They got so much of it that my only solution was to turn it off completely. It wasn’t the Cambridge Analytics issue, it wasn’t Zuckerberg having to testify in front of a bunch of congresspeople he was already donating campaign money to, it wasn’t Russian bots trying to undermine democracy. It was the simple problem of spending too much time on Facebook and Reddit, and not spending enough time writing, making games, learning new skills, and enjoying life.

Zuckerberg

“I swear, your honor, that I put my pants and my flesh mask on just like the rest of you homo sapiens.”

I’ve lost the convenience of easily connecting with people. But I don’t think it should be easy to connect with people. It should be tough. It should be a little bit of work. Out of the three hundred friends I had a week ago, it’s plummeted to roughly sixty. I’m alright with that. Even though it’s going to be a little more work to connect with people, I have at least an extra hour a day to it. And maybe a five minute phone call would be better than liking a photo of them online.

The internet is a powerful tool. But like any tool, it can be misused. Stirring the pot to get peoples attention on the internet is like smearing the walls with shit to get your perfume to stand out. It works, but people are going to eventually get sick of the poop smell, even if the perfume is free.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’m four days in of not having access to social media. It’s been pretty zen so far.

1. Image taken from https://news.sky.com/story/five-questions-mark-zuckerberg-needs-to-answer-in-congress-11325242

 

 

Mr. Charlton – Still Gaming

It was a week before I got the opportunity to sit down with my new computer and play a game on it for longer than five minutes. An entire week, plus a day. I got the new computer, in a number of smaller boxes, on Tuesday March 7th 2017. It wasn’t until Tuesday March 14th 2017, that I got to fire up a game and not just stress test my machine, but actually play for a bit and unwind. One very long week.

12 year old Mr. Charlton would (have tried to) kick my ass for leaving a sweet rig sitting around for a week before playing a game.

Twelve year old Mr. Charlton had a lot less responsibility than thirty-three year old Mr. Charlton. Twelve year old me also had a lot less disposable income than I currently do. But this train of thought led to me thinking about exactly when I started playing games.

The earliest I can remember was playing games over at other people’s houses. I remember heading over to the Spehar’s place when I was five to play with Stef. They had a Nintendo, the old school grey box, and they had a couple of sweet games with it (notably Super Mario 3 and Ducktales). I’m pretty sure that after playing the first time, I sped back home and started begging my parents for a Nintendo.

There was a bit of problem with this. Nintendo Entertainment Systems were goddamn expensive. When they first hit the market, they were retailing for $199. Adjusted for inflation, this was about $450. And those were American dollars, so for a brand new Nintendo, you were looking at a pile of money. My parents didn’t have a pile of money lying around, so I never did get a Nintendo Entertainment System. What we did get, in the winter of 1989, was a Nintendo Gameboy, the handheld version of the console. We also got a couple of games thrown into the mix.

Now, this was an incredibly smart move and a really bad move on my parents part, and this was no fault of theirs. It was great because it was cheaper than a big system and could be taken on long car rides, which was a pretty common occurrence when we were children. It was bad ’cause you COULD take it anywheres, which meant I was bringing it with me on every camping trip we ever went on. It was also bad because unlike the system you could plug into the wall, this little punter used 4 AA batteries, so I’m pretty sure my parent ended up spending more on the Gameboy when you factored in buying piles of batteries every other day. The biggest flaw with the handheld device is that it was a one-man operation. So even though there were three boys, there was only one Gameboy. I’d have to ask my mom, but I’m pretty sure we fought over the stupid thing constantly.

Both my brothers play video games. Heck, even my mom is playing HayDay on her IPad. But I’m pretty sure that out of the family, I’m the only one who’d be called a “gamer”. I was, and still am, a fiend. I’d consider getting a ‘Legend of Zelda’ tattoo. I’ve put a Super Nintendo emulator on basically every electronic device I’ve ever owned. I’ve beaten ‘I Wanna Be the Guy’. I played Cave Story before it was cool. Man, have you even played Cave Story? That’s straight Indie goodness at its finest.

Now I’m starting to build games. This has been on Mr. Charlton’s bucket list for a long, long time. I told myself that 2017 would be the year I at least give it the ol’ college try. So I grabbed a couple of classes from Udemy and I’ve been taking the plunge.

Luckily, I’ve got some skills from a previous life that’s making the process of learning a little easier. A decade of drafting has given me a lot of tools for designing, planning, and executing basically anything you throw at me. I’ve been slowly learning to code for the last couple of years, so when I was tasked to learn a new language, it wasn’t complete gibberish I was learning. I’m using Unity for the game engine and development environment, Blender for the 3D modeling, Visual Studio for the IDE, GIMP and InkScape for the 2D art and textures. There’s only one thing I’m lacking…

Music. Sounds. A video game needs some sort of music to fill the space between your ears. That’s the weakest link in the chain, easily. Even though I’m not a great artist, I can manage. Even though my code is rudimentary, there’s a vibrant community who’s willing to answer questions and help a noob. Even though Blender is still new to me after years of having it installed on my machine, I’m picking it up quicker now that I’m allocating time to learning it. But music?

Look, I consider myself a lousy guitarist and an OK harmonica player. But I don’t know where to begin with making music on my computer. I’ve been given some pretty good advice so far, it’s just that I’m so new I might be asking the wrong questions. So if I’m making music on the old PC here, here’s what I need to know. Ignore these questions if you’re not

  1. What DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is right for me? And when I say right, what I mean is cheap or free. Unity? Free until I make bank with it. Ditto for Visual Studio. Blender, GIMP, and InkScape? All free. I’m going to start out with Audacity, ’cause it’s free. But people keep telling me I’ll have to upgrade eventually. I’m leaning towards Reaper, ’cause it’s cheap and people seem to like it. Keep in mind I’m doing this legit. Don’t fire me a link to a torrent for Fruity Loops.
  2. People, I’ve got no sense when it comes to plugging instruments into a computer. No sense? I might have to steal some of that sense from you. Should I get a keyboard? Or a controller? Can I rock one of these things into my computer via USB? Where can I get some cheap instruments? Where’s the shady guy with a van full of gear that ‘was just left behind in a warehouse’ somewhere? Mr. Charlton is in desperate need of some cheap stolen shit.
  3. All the other programs I’m using make sense to me. Blender is just 3D modeling, and I have a background in that sort of thing. I’m not a great coder, but I know what they’re talking about when they’re asking me to import a library. But this audio shit? Holy Christ on a cracker am I out of my element. I might have to actually sit down with someone and get this sorted out.

So music people, I’m asking you; what the hell are you people doing making music so damn complicated? I don’t need this malarkey. Can’t a guy just hammer on his computer keyboard to make some beeps and bloops for a game? Did you folks make this complicated to pretend like you’re doing actual work? Where’s the MS Paint version of music making?

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Seriously, I am a fish out of water when it comes to music production. Any advice you wish to solicit would help me out greatly.

p.s.s. I ended up going with Reaper. I’m slowly, slowly learning it. The manual is only 500 pages long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Charlton Builds a Computer

I received my computer Tuesday and after work, chores, making dinner, and a bunch of tasks needing to be accomplished, I finally had time at about 10:30 pm to sit down and put together a massive box of computer pieces. By 2:00 am Wednesday morning, I finally had the damn thing together and running with an operating system. Ran into a couple snags, though…

  • I bought a CPU fan, thinking the CPU wouldn’t come with a fan. It did. So I have two CPU fans. Now, the extra one I bought is most certainly an upgrade, but Christ, never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine attaching such a massive and ugly piece of hardware to a CPU. It looks like my processor is being molested by a silver monster.
  • I also bought an extra tube of thermal paste. That’s only because I didn’t expect the extra fan to have some. It did. Now I’m capable of attaching a ton of processors to heatsinks and fans. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.
  • I installed the mother board first, which turned out to be a mistake. You see, that crazy monster CPU fan needs to fastened to the BACK of the motherboard as well as the front. I had to take off the sucker and attach this beast of a fan before I could put the motherboard back in.
  • I was going to return the fan, once I realized what a pain in the ass it was. As I was looking up the return policy, I spilled coffee on the instructions for this fan. After a lot of swearing (sorry Kat!), I decided to keep the fan.
  • If you haven’t noticed, basically every problem I had was with this fan. But damn, does it push some heat!
  • Once everything was installed, I went to go install my operating system. Except I didn’t actually buy one. After some digging, I found my old copy of Windows 7. Brand new machine, and it’s running an operating system that’s over 7 years old. I’m off to a great start.

It might seem like two and a half hours is a long time to setup a computer, but remember, this is the first computer I’ve bought in 8 years. I was taking my sweet time, occasionally smelling the cords as I was putting it together. They had that new cord smell. Delicious.

I’ve been slowly adding software to the machine. Slowly. I’ve starting with some basics I use a bunch. Which brings me to a new problem. Because right now I’m satisfied that everything that NEEDS to be installed finally is, and I’m writing this blog at 3:00 pm on Friday. From the time of unboxing to the moment I can finally sit down and feel comfortable using my computer, it has been three days. 2 and a half hours ain’t bad, but 3 days is a goddamn long time to be waiting to use your new toy.

You see, you can’t just start mucking about on the computer the second you have it plugged in. No sir. You have to make sure everything is updated first. You have to update all the drivers for the hardware; the motherboard (you should do this first), the video card, the LAN, the audio. You have to install the latest service pack for Windows. You then have to update Windows. Now you’re going to want to install all the cool software you use on a regular basis; A good internet browser, Skype, Steam, a slew of design program I tell myself I’m going to learn but never do. Once that’s all done, once all of that was setup, I finally installed Skyrim to see how well this computer would run.

It runs at 60 FPS on the highest settings. I mean, it’s a game that’s also 8 years old, but damn, it still looks pretty good.

I’ve been going on such a downloading spree that I had to call my service provider and have them bump me up to their platinum program. If I hadn’t done that, I would still be installing Visual Studio’s 2017 (this program happens to clock in at over 50 Gbs with all the bells at whistles. No joke). I’ve only had this computer for a couple days and I’ve already downloaded well over a hundred gigs of sweet data, and from how it’s going so far, that ain’t going to stop any time soon.

TLDR; Mr. Charlton got a new computer. Mr. Charlton build his new computer. Mr. Charlton is now treating his new machine like a China vase, and refuses to even browse Facebook with it yet. You’ll know the new shiny has worn off when I start downloading crap I shouldn’t be.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I missed a post ’cause I was enthralled with my new toy. I should be working instead of playing, but I just downloaded Batman: Arkham City and SWEET PEARL it runs at 60 FPS with every damn thing turned on. An old game, but this tells me I can at least play some new games if I choose to.

 

 

Mr. Charlton is a Terrible Code Monkey

I was recently working on a project for a friend of mine who’s a software engineer, helping him put together some 3D modeling stuff. Nothing outside of my scope, but it’s been a while since I’ve sent anything to a 3D printer, so there was some stuff I had to relearn. We ran into one major issue after I had built the first model. When we sent it off to the 3D printer, the 3D printer said the model was too small. It was so small, in fact, my model wasn’t even showing up at all.

Now, I’ve been doing this sort of thing for a while. When the printer balked at me, my first reaction wasn’t “What’s wrong with this stupid hunk of garbage”, it was “Okay, let’s  simplify the problem”. Instead of checking the model (which I had spent hours on at this point), I sent a boring 3D cube to the printer. I ran into the same issue. The cube was too small. Huh! This instantly told me my model was probably fine, but the model and the 3D printer weren’t talking to each other correctly. Something was getting lost in translation. So I made the cube 100 times bigger. Success! The cube was being recognized. I made the model 100 times bigger, and the issue disappeared.

I told my friend, the one who contracted me to do this work, about the issue and how I solved it. He told me the process I went through, simplifying the problem then testing it, was the same way a coder would tackle the problem. Little did he know I’ve been teaching myself the ins-and-outs of coding for a while now! The philosophy of working with code is the same as the philosophy of generating 3D models, which is also the same philosophy of dealing with technology and computers in general; Test the easy, big stuff first so you can narrow down the solution. Also, your computer does not respond very well to yelling instructions at it.

20161213_124526

Strangely, it doesn’t respond to hand gestures either.

Coding isn’t something that comes naturally to human beings. Unless the person has some sort of specific autism, coding is a skill everyone will struggle with. Learning how to code and making little programs has taught me an incredibly important skill, one I never got the hang of in grade school, at college, or anywhere before in the workplace. The skill of being miserable at something, and failing over and over again.

I was pretty good at school. I wasn’t an exemplary student, by any stretch of the means, but I didn’t struggle with any subject. There’s never been a time where I was overly challenged. The only challenge I ever faced was of my own doing, as I tended to procrastinate. Any problem can be made difficult if you wait until the absolute last minute to take it on. School and work never really put me in the path of failing. If it was school, I did well if I put the slightest amount of effort in, and work was basically showing up and doing the job.

Enter coding. I started coding, ever so slightly, a couple years ago. I was a lousy coder back then. These days, well, I’m still pretty awful at coding, but I can look at code and make some sort of sense of it. I can make little scripts to automate tasks. The truth is, I’m not sure if I’ll ever actually be good at coding. I think it’ll always be something I struggle with. That okay, though, because there’s few things I’ve found in life to be as enjoyable as solving problems, and a computer, well, that is basically a box full of problems that need to be solved.

The point I’m trying to make here is very few people are naturally good with computers. The rest of us nerds have to work for it. So if you’re trying to teach yourself how to code, there’s a trick that will keep you on track. The trick is learning to be happy with failing, over and over again. A computer doesn’t hand out participation trophies. Having code that is 95 % correct will still return errors. The computer will only recognize code that works. But when you finally do figure it out, there isn’t anything I’ve found that is quite as satisfying.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Okay, an orgasm can also be satisfying, but anyone can give themselves one of those, so it’s a different kind of satisfying, I guess.

 

Mr. Charlton – The Laggard

I sit on both sides of technology. One one hand, I spent my Wednesday evening ranting about how the internet has turned everyone into some sort of huckster. That Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are full of narcissists who are screaming at the top of their lungs to look in their direction. I also know that’s pretty disingenuous coming from a guy who has a website with his name as the address. The irony is not lost on Mr. Charlton. But it’s true that I’m completely clueless when it comes to social media.

On the other hand, I spent my Thursday evening creating procedurally generated terrain in JAVA. I can replace the processor in my computer, even making sure the thermite paste is properly applied. I can create 3D models and have them sent to a 3D printer. I have a number of computers. Two of these computers run Linux. I have, at one point, had a computer with three operating systems on it. Mr. Charlton has spent decades now breaking computers, and I’m at a point where I can safely be trusted with one.

The picture I’m trying to paint is I both love and hate technology. I love computers, but I hate carrying a cell phone around.  I think the internet is a wonderful, fantastic tools for communicating and sharing ideas, but I absolutely loathe Facebook, Instagram, and Google. I think new gadgets are neat, but I’m convinced that if you can’t open a device and fix it, then you don’t actually own it. I should also mention that almost all the technology I own is really old.

Which puts me in the camp of, what Kat has labeled me, the laggards. The late adopters of technology. I’m using an old Galaxy SIII for my phone. Both my little lappy and my tower PC were bought in 2009. I didn’t actually own a cell phone until 2006. The only thing I own that’s even relatively new is a laptop that Kat’s parent gave to me. Either than that, everything I own is crazy old, in terms of tech progress.

The thing is, I don’t actually need my computers and my cell phone to do more than they’re already doing. The only thing I haven’t been able to install on my phone has been Pokemon Go. My computer can’t run the newest and greatest games anymore, but everything I play is pretty old school. My computers are almost exclusively used to write and design stuff, and they do that just fine. Truthfully, I’m saving my pennies right now to upgrade the beast of a tower I have, but I’m in no rush. Until it bursts into flames, the workhorse is still sitting happy besides my desk, churning out the polygons. Why am I so damned adverse to change?

I thought about this long and hard, and it boils down to two things. I hate being pestered, and I’m a minimalist.

Let’s start with being pestered. I don’t actually like having my cell phone on me. Sure, it’s great for emergencies, but I’ll be damned if I can remember the last time there was an emergency that needed my immediate attention. For the most part, it’s an electronic invitation for someone to pester me. And it’s not a human that’s usually being a bother, it’s Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest, or maybe it’s…

“Mr. Charlton! Neil DeGrass Tyson just tweeted a picture!”

… look, this is what I’m talking about. Alright, I’m turning the push notifications off. How on God’s green Earth do you…

“Hey! One of your friends just spammed a massive invite to everyone they know on Facebook! Are you able to go to their party taking place 2000 kilometers away from you tonight?”

Goddamnit! How do I turn off every one of these stupid noti….

“Man, someone from Instagram is at the gym. They want you to know they are at the gym. Here is a picture of them at the gym, in gym clothes.”

Turning off the push notifications on my phone wasn’t easy, but I managed to get it done. Still though, I don’t need to be connected to the network at every goddamn second of the day. The way apps are designed, you’d think it these programmers used to be crack dealers. The people who work at places like Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest use various psychological tricks to keep you coming back to their sites. How many times have you checked Facebook today? Five times? Ten? Is it more?

On the minimalist side of things, I’ll put it bluntly. My phone, for me, isn’t a sign of status. I don’t care if you have a better phone than me, or if you have a MacBook Pro, or if your computer has way more RAM than mine (it’s important to point out that most people rarely need over 8 gigs of the stuff. Anything over that is overkill). Some people like to call it ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’. I refer to it as ‘The Biggest Dick Waving Competition in the Universe’. The only time the brand name is important is if I’m working for that brand, and they are paying me to sell it. This rarely happens in my life.

I’ve caved recently, though. I’ve given up the idea that I can succeed as an adult without social media. If this is how the world is going to be, then I have to accept it. So feel free to follow me on twitter @SandyCharlton. Twitter only allows me to use 140 characters, so that might be a problem. Brevity is the soul of wit, and you’re about to find out how witty I’m not.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. LinkedIn is also a weird one for me. It’s like Facebook, except with less ignorance and racism.

p.s.s. I actually don’t have an Instagram account. Those people who are social media savvy, is this something the hip young kids are using?

p.s.s.s. Social Media Savvy is code word for narcissistic sociopath.

AlphaGo

He turned to face the machine. “Is there a God?”

The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without a clicking of a single relay.

“Yes, now there is a God.”

Fredric Brown – “Answer”

Five games of Go took place between the 9th and 15th of March. The game of Go is a Chinese strategy board game, created over two and a half thousand years ago. Even though it has simple rules, it is considered more difficult than chess, as the board is much larger, giving the players a wider scope in which to play. Games can last up to six hours. Professional ranking are 1st dan, the lowest ranking,  to 9th dan. Those five games in March were between Grandmaster Lee Sedol, a 9th dan from South Korea, and AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence developed by Google DeepMind. AlphaGo ended up winning four of the five matches.

You may be asking yourself what the big deal is.

Go is a notoriously difficult game with a staggering number of board positions and outcomes. There are so many permutations of the board that there are less atoms in the universe than there are Go board layouts. Because this number is so high, a computer can’t brute-force it’s way to a victory, the way it has in the past with chess.

Computers aren’t very smart. At their very core, they are only able to answer yes or no, one or zero, or in actuality, whether there is current passing through an electrical gate or not. It’s referred to as binary. What a computer excels at, thanks to seventy years of electrical engineering innovations, is answering yes or no millions of times in less than a second. Consider a password four digits long. If a computer wanted to crack the code, it would stand at the gate, bang it’s head against the door and yells “0000” and waits for a response. If this is the correct password, great. The computer grants you access. If it’s not the right password, it bangs it’s head against the door again, yells “0001” and again waits for a response. This is how a computer would ‘brute-force’ a solution.

There are roughly ten to the power of eighty variations of the Go board. Here’s what that looks like written out.

10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

No computer has the ability to brute force a number so large. AlphaGo had to learn how to play. It did so by first playing and studying human opponents, and when it became proficient enough, AlphaGo started to play against itself. Within a short amount of time, it played more games than any person alive. With that knowledge, it was able to defeat Lee Sedol. Not only defeat him, but AlphaGo made uncharacteristically inhuman moves, some that were so baffling that Lee Sedol had to get up from the table and take fifteen minutes to regain his composure.

The game of Go represented the last milestone of Artificial Intelligence in the arena of board games. When DeepBlue beat Chess Grandmaster Gary Kasparov in 1997, a machine victory for Go was considered a hundred years away. Five months ago, experts said it would be another ten years before a computer would be able to play at the Grandmaster level. What does that mean for tomorrow?

Here’s some music to begin tomorrow’s celebration.

Computers ability to replace human beings for tasks once thought too complex to be automated are becoming increasingly realistic. Cars that are able to drive themselves are just around the corner. Many jobs consisting of manual labour will be replaced. There will be a technological revolution that will dwarf the industrial revolution.

Where exactly do humans have the edge? What if a machine becomes self-aware, and decides that it’s so much better at work that humans are obsolete? Would it put humans in people zoos? Would it wipe humanity out?

There is one thing a human being has over all artificial intelligence; it’s emotions. One of the necessary things needed to make a decision, specifically an irrational decision, is emotions. If you give a rational task to a computer, something like “Learn Go”, it can do that. A computer isn’t a biological organism though. The human will to live, learn, strive and become better isn’t a logical process, it’s a biological one. It’s the desire to propagate the species genes further onwards.

There was a study done by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio. He studied people who had brain damage, specifically the parts of the brain where emotions were controlled. His test subjects had lost the ability to feel any emotion. What he found is they had no way of making irrational decisions. If they had a choice between chicken and fish for dinner, there was no real rational method of choosing between the two. They knew they had to eat, but became stuck when having to make a choice that had no real impact on the outcome of being fed. As a result, they were unable to come to a decision.

Teaching a computer to play Go is incredibly challenging, but we’ve proven that the human race is capable of that. What may be an impossible task is to give a computer curiosity, drive, ambition. We might be surprised that the first question an AI asks is “Now what?”. At it’s core, no matter how good the computer gets at analyzing a problem, it still will more than likely need to be asked to solve the problem in the first place. A computer, even with intelligence, isn’t driven by a need to be better. I’m not convinced it ever will be.

The terrifying aspect of AI isn’t the artificial intelligence itself, but who happens to be at the helm. AlphaGo made moves out of the scope of human thinking. An AI isn’t bound by any human sense of regulation or morality, unless we program it to. If someone with a lack of foresight asks the computer a question, the computer might come to a solution that is potentially illegal, immoral, and even disastrous. This has already happened, when a online shopping bot, after being given $100 in bitcoin, purchased illicet drugs. Asking an artificial intelligence to “Make me the richest person alive” may result in the computer coming to the conclusion that the easiest way to do this is wipe out every person with more wealth. We have to be very careful about what we ask of a machine that has the potential to do anything. Humans, once again, are at the mercy of our own hubris.

The robot apocalypse is coming, and it won’t be a fight for your lives, it will be a fight for your livelihood. This shouldn’t be a bad thing though. Computers were created to make lives easier, so that people would have more leisure time. This, for many people, hasn’t been the case. The idea of capitalism and the rules of supply and demand, is one that is slowly becoming obsolete. In the digital age, the rules are changing, and the idea of ownership has been challenged for the last decade and a half. “You wouldn’t download a car, would you?”, which is often the cry of anti-piracy legislators. If someone had the resources to do so, you can be certain they would.

To put things bluntly, if we manage this paradigm shift correctly, it could usher in the greatest renaissance the planet has ever seen. If we don’t, the inequality of the world could be gigantic, separating classes of people so thoroughly that they may as well be two different species.

If they do actually create an artificial intelligence, one capable of real, rational thought, then I’m not sure how forward I’m looking to that. The last thing I want to do is deal with my toaster having an existential crisis when I want a bagel.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

P.s. the only reason people think that Judgement Day would happen is because humans either subjugate or eradicate every other species on the planet.

P.s.s. once again, the real enemy is MAN!

p.s.s.s. I took some leaps here, but would love to discuss it with anyone in the future.