Once Upon a Time

Stories. We listen to them. We live them. They teach. They entertain. Connecting with a story is to be educated in some way. The hero. The protagonist. Is it man versus himself? Storytellers look at life with a creator’s eye and insight. Business storytelling can also be called a business plan.

Storytelling creates businesses. What is the next step in the plot of your life? Each milestone reached has a story. Do you want to be an author?

The mind creates stories with imagery. Action that shapes my memories may not derive from physical experience. Sure, family vacations or participation in a sport may leave indelible marks, but quotes of wisdom are special memories. Each of us discover nuggets of knowledge in our journeys. They are the Easter eggs that appear with attention and persistence.

Hear a Who

I have stories to tell. But first, a note about this post. At the beginning of the year, I promised to publish on a monthly schedule. It was a promise to myself. I missed that goal in May. An important point is that I may be the only person who cares and the only person who SHOULD care. My inner voice murmurs “what’s next?” and “is it enough?” Managing your own projects (your destiny) creates an internal feedback loop. The inner cheerleader, critic, editor, accountant. How you are motivated by your inner resources determines how you control yourself or struggle in life.

Marketers know a ‘less is more’ strategy can make a reduction seem like a benefit. It works for ideas and markets of all sizes. Tiny homes and smaller lifestyles. Minimalism is promoted, admired. I recently digitized some portfolio items, including a technical newsletter I edited for Silicon Graphics. The May/June 1992 issue of Pipeline was an unexpected inspiration to change my publishing schedule.

This is my May/June 2023 post. I’m switching to a bi-monthly schedule for a number of reasons. I retain continuity and cover my neglect to publish in May (CYA). Will I offer you MORE in-depth and valuable content in a bi-monthly format? Will I publish the equivalent of a monthly post and save a month’s worth of work? Does it matter? I won’t get into a quality/quantity debate that is easily muddied by suggestions to enhance productivity (with tools such as AI). This post has links to BONUS media content. Read on to find them.

Friendly Skies?

Lack of time and inspiration are barriers to productivity. In the second half of May, I traveled to NY from CA. I travel by plane infrequently to visit family and work on site projects. While traveling can be unpleasant if you aren’t prepared (at least mentally), it gives me a sense of accomplishment — from budgeting to scheduling to execution. Getting through security screenings and adjusting to ever-changing normals is depersonalized at best, demeaning at worst.

My traveling hacks are economical. Traveling on a plane is like riding a bus. Buses and planes can be comfortable. We pay for comfort, in a mulitude of ways. Fewer people on a plane means more carbon per passenger. You can think about that when you’re lounging in First Class. Or on a private jet. Or on a regular flight with an empty seat next to you. Basic Economy works for me. I travel with a backpack-sized personal item that holds my clothes and personal care accessories, iPad, laptop and chargers.

My go-to personal care item is isopropyl alcohol (70%). It can be applied using a small spray bottle to kill odor-causing bacteria quickly and effectively. Eliminate under-arm odor and more. Buy isopropyl alcohol at your destination, if necessary. Saving weight makes walking through airports more pleasurable. My pack fits under the seat in front of me, though it does restrict legroom. Savings in the ticket price can be substantial. Departure times vary and the cheapest flight may leave early or late. Enduring discomfort to save money is a typical tradeoff.

My packing strategy works partly because I leave clothes at the destination. Some attire has utility based on a specific environment. Boots, for instance. Work boots are daily drivers on rural landscapes, not urban locations. I leave my boots in NY.

The End of Intelligence

The other day I asked ChatGPT to fix my roof. I’m still waiting for it to show up. Maybe “showing up” is what it means to be human. We will NEVER arrive at a day where robots and artificial intelligences do all things for all people. Showing up will always be necessary.

What if it took an AI 20 years to offer a solution? 50 years? There is an adage: with age comes wisdom.

My mental AI works like this. I introduce a need for something relevant or timely or curious or irreverent. My prompt returns a stream of spontaneous responses full of strings containing ‘what’ and ‘how’. In response to these queries, I supply other prompts. The ‘how’ prompt becomes get outside, look at headlines, social media, advertising, be aware and observant. The ‘what’ becomes AI, web3, societal norms, authority, change, growth.

I iterate with my internal AI prompt/response. My mind works on the prompt when it can, sometimes when I sleep. The nice thing about an internal AI is the native neural link. You are in control. It has human-scale tolerances. You’re materially-involved with hallucinations (they can even be fun).

The human AI is unpredictable. Attempts to deconstruct and program it are made every day. I find myself taking stabs at sentences with words that seem appropriate. The landscape of words remaining after the deluge of a writer’s thoughts and actions. The sterile screen comes alive with a series of words. Are the words coherent? What is the next word? Is this the rambling of an AI? AI will never replace humans in provenance. Humans created technology. Is technology serving humans? Guns and bombs serve some populations at the expense of others.

AI is another iteration in the human quest to build things that satisfy our needs, wants and desires. AI is another iteration of speed and scale. Innovative people today are not building solutions from scratch. The modules available to snap together solutions are immense. Factors limiting deployment are imagination, ambition and endurance. These strengths are required to develop any lasting solution. Be careful wielding large, blunt instruments.

Cave of Laughs

We’ve always been creatures of imitation. Ever since the first caveman hit his head on a tree branch and his friend laughed, others imitated the action for comic effect. AI is finally forcing us to look at the reason for the information we consume. Is the next formulaic blockbuster what we want? Just type a prompt in an algorithm and spit it out, replete with actors and visuals. Will we make this type of decision to save the planet from wasteful travel and location budgets?

Humans want to do more and be more and consume tremendously as a result. My hope is that an equilibrium will be reached between the desire for the needle in the haystack and the haystack itself. Is an energy-intensive query to generate an eighth-grade book report adding as much as it detracts from the reason for the exercise (to uniquely learn and create)?

Reinforcing patterns of thinking and living increases the likelihood of retaining the idea/habit. The secret to learning is that the knowledge is subterranean until it’s used. It can change the wiring of the brain in unexpected ways. Which seems similar to AI. It’s useful to compare human thinking to AI as we have always compared AI to the human brain.

Reading an article (or summary or just headlines) produces an impression which orders/reorders the brain’s mental map. Myelin is a compound in the brain that is produced as a result of the brain’s impulses. Circuits that fire more often create more priority for the pathway. This is a physical component of muscle memory, where the process of using a muscle repetitively makes the muscular action more deft and habitual.

We all have experience with myelin. Based on the ability to perceive and the focus of your perceptions, pathways are formed. Endurance and strong emotions scar the mental landscape. Constant mental activity/awareness becomes the data streaming into your mental model. Consider the learning or anger pathways that are painful. When the pain is cerebral, the myelin mechanism is at work.

Time in Place

Time. Always a timely theme. On that subject… Once upon a time…

I used this popular fairy tale opening as the title of this post to refer to storytelling. When I began to explore imagery for the banner, an idea for clock time emerged. I found numerous clock faces for an artistic treatment of this well-worn metaphor. Non-digital clocks are predominantly circular. I also noticed a similarity in the position of the hands in many of the images (mainly clocks for sale online). In the results of an image search on ‘clock’ was a link to the Mental Floss blog of Matt Soniak “Why is 10:10 the Default Setting for Clocks and Watches?” https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/22461/why-1010-default-setting-clocks-and-watches

The blog inadvertently reveals a connection between time and storytelling: people make sh*t up when they have nothing to say. The blog lists a ‘number’ of mysterious reasons behind the origin of 10:10. They are stories fabricated to answer why many clocks’ hands are arranged in a particular way. I agree with Matt that the real reason for the setting is aesthetics. The 10:10 position gives the clock or watch a number of benefits. See Matt’s blog for more.

BONUS MEDIA CONTENT: This blog is now a published historical document. I recently produced more history in a Steve Jobs related media piece. I captured and edited a short public conversation, a real-life search for meaning in the realm of private security.

Early in May 2023, while capturing video around the Jobs home in Palo Alto, I was confronted by a private security “presence.” It was cathartic to document the “privacy for hire” treatment I received when I visited Steve’s house. Watch “Silicon Valley Confidential” published on YouTube at https://youtu.be/Hydk1D04Mxs

I posted “The Side Door” on this site in 2017. In it, I remarked “A person who has been an inspiration to me is Steve Jobs. One of the ideas attributed to Steve is that the world is yours to create. You have the ability to push on a point of it and anticipate a result. We all contribute to collective reality governed by this formula, whether we are conscious of it or not.” A picture of the side door at the Jobs residence accompanies a story of an earlier visit to the house.

Press Here to Start

Silicon Valley Confidential is an expression of Steve’s creed: press to see what happens which leads to what’s possible.

What do you believe? Who do you believe? After all is said and done, you only see things through a lens you’ve constructed. The lens is the framework you use to filter life. How do my profile and viewing history seed the algorithm on YouTube? Life is a game. According to a suggested video. (A filter bubble in action.)

Living a playful life is a way to make it more enjoyable. There are worse ways of looking at life. If you find work that feels like play, you’re on your way. On Your Marks, Get Set, Stop. Think. In a game, levels are reached, skills learned. Small games offer status and rewards in minutes, hours. Real, life-games offer status and rewards after months, years.

How does the meta-player control the player of your game? The meta-player has a higher-level view of the game. This helps the player. The meta-player knows the entire board, while each player can only move along the designated path. Is there skill in rolling dice? In games where player choice is necessary, the outcome is a combination of luck and skill. You’re both a player and meta-player of life.

There are many other ways to look at life. Life as journey. Hero’s journey. Life as a thrill ride. It has its ups and downs. Life as an API. We are plugged into a “matrix” where we are being used to create power. Sounds like an economy to me… Put on different glasses. Imagine an event from different perspectives. You’ll have an AR experience without the hardware.

Existential Outfield

A key to happiness is letting go of competition. Winning a game does not mark achievement without consideration for the myriad efforts and circumstances of each participant. Shedding the need to be #1 fosters more empathy for those who are #2, #3, … Rankings are the result of formulas with no room for opinion. Achievement is subjective. If the game is about sharing, the exchange is positive and a win for both teams. Fusion has great potential. Root for the other, you’ll feel better.

We limit ourselves by placing things and people into categories. Corporate and governmental organizations make generalizations about their consumers and constituents. Forecasting considers a reasoned estimate of a group’s preferences and attitudes. Unfortunately, stereotypes develop and define the nature of who and what we “see”. To break through cultural filters is like having x-ray vision to see things that others don’t.

Stop trying to correct others’ opinions and preferences. People are vehement advocates of their own opinions. Preferences are hard enough to change in yourself, let alone someone else. A better way is to express the personal, positive impact of an attitude on your life. Allow others to make changes on their own terms. I try to consider atmosphere and environment when I form an opinion about a person’s character and physical appearance.

Human inclinations arise from the past, our history. They reside in our DNA as needs, wants, desires. As much as we like to think people are selfless, being charitable to others can only begin after one’s needs are met. Put on your own mask before helping others. You are responsible for defining your needs (wants and desires optional). When we lose sight of our needs relative to what others lack, self-care becomes a priority over helping others. In the end, conservation promotes the greater good. Efficiency, yes. The best? Use less.

Writing is work. It takes time. To fill an empty page, I rely on patience, persistence and practice. The product is submitted for public scrutiny. If you like what I’ve written, share, comment, follow, contact.

Celebrate Independence. Thanks for reading.

About Peter

As a consulting professional in the Internet industry, I have helped small- and medium-sized businesses and community organizations effectively design and deploy web services and information. Years of hands-on design and project management experience for this market have inspired me to post my ideas and insights on a public forum -- blog.collab.us.
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