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“I’m so smart” vs. “People are Stupid”

As someone dependent on marketing for web publishing success, I am always evaluating people and their behaviors, comparing them against ever evolving models I use in my work. In-person interactions are far more valuable than social media, for example, for “understanding” humans. People do one thing, while saying another. I need to know why they do things.

Lately I notice a contrast of generations. Another one.

My people (educated or very experienced, between 35 and 50, bolder than average, and often more independent than the norm) have long lamented that people have been getting dumber. “People are stupid”, is a common casual remark among those peers.

These days I notice the “under 40″ technology sector has inverted that lament. “We are smart” seems to be the new perspective.

I think this is a very important observation.

I don’t think anyone is all that smarter or dumber than they were before. I do believe that our collective education system has largey failed us. I do think the new emphasis on “me” has skewed perspectives, so that things like trophies and imposter syndrome are given much more credibility than they deserve. And clearly the efforts of TheMan to isolate and divide societies has worked to quell shame, societal health, civic duty, and other group-think powers that once benefited civilization.

If you are one of these self-declared wickedly brilliant tech sector workers, are you really so smart (and apparently deserving) as you seem to suggest?

Oh I know, the Higher education has failed us, so of course you haven’t accomplished formal educational credentials, such as Master Degree or Ph.D or professional credentials. Truly smart people can’t be expected to fit those molds.

And yes I do acknowledge that different people learn different ways, so it’s ok you don’t have formal schooling/training/good grades even at the high school level.

Resumes are history as well. Who stays in a job longer than a year these days? Not smart people, for sure. Show me a boss worthy of keeping super smart people on staff….they are rare.

Sarcasm aside, ideas are a dime a dozen. Yet sometimes it seems to me that the only thing some of these self-declared wickedly smart people have are ideas.

I’ve had more ideas than I needed since I was 3 years old. I suspect that’s the case for many of us humans.

I am looking for evidence to support claims of brilliance and smartness and awesomeness. I believe, and I want to discover confirmation.

Do I see credentials? No. Do I see a storied professional career of meaningful and impactful positions reflecting such ability? No. Do I find insightful tomes expressing topical expertise or profundity? No. How about an academic record demonstrating commitment, strident achievement, or even recognition from a society of capable peers? No.

Do I see find more traditional reflections of ability, such as a happy or at least enduring marriage or committed relationship? Any children? Any children who appear to be stable, happy, or potentially impactful?

Perhaps I need to look at health and wellness. Do I see healthy, or just fit? Do I see signs of wellness, such as curiosity, wonder, good-natured humor and occasional goofiness? Have things like joy and love and respect been anchored within a personality, or has character been overrun with disdain, contempt, ego, or compulsiveness?

Hard questions, but nothing harder than a first level human psychology class in college. First level. Perhaps even high school Health class.

The only consistent evidence I see is an ability to learn, in some contexts. I see that these “brilliant people” can dig into something new and perhaps esoteric, and get up to speed quickly. Like a coding language, or a computer skill, or a complex system of interacting pieces (such as a set of teams working on parts of a web project).

When I examine closer, I often find that really it’s a combination of boldness and determination that is creating this evidence, not actual performance. The work seems good, but is not actually great.

This may be part of the resume issue…move every year, getting credit for great projects when in reality it should be credit for digging in and pushing them forward towards a “this could lead to something” level. It could also explain the “not a good fit” issue I see, where super smart people try out jobs for a week and move on (these never show on LinkedIn profiles).

Could it be that these brilliant super smart people are actually super-determined opportunists?

People today may be ignorant and lacking in perspective, tolerance, compassion, or even health and wellness, but they aren’t stupid. And I dare say that many of today’s self-proclaimed smarties are desperate for something…something not yet identified or acknowledged.

My personal belief is that language and education is behind the failure to recognize and label it. I’ve often remarked that my early education in existentialism (high school and early college) drives much of my perspective on this….I feel quite privileged to have had some of the teachers I had, and lucky to have  learned from them during times when they themselves were questioning their own “meaning”.

There is of course a chance that the missing piece is simply “opportunity”.

 

 

 

 

 

You, Robot.

The other day I noted that so many people I meet in the everyday life these days have nothing going on. People I meet in passing, at the store, or in a restaurant, or perhaps during travel… are “non-employed” or under-employed. Upon casual review, such as light conversation or interaction, they exhibit no signs of competance or promise. They exude a sense of longing, which is partly why I take notice.

These folks don’t speak terribly well. They don’t have bright eyes and friendly faces. They don’t dress well. They don’t have a job, and they are not actively engaged in looking for one. I imagine they don’t have great office skills, such as writing or organizing, but that’s just a guess.

They don’t always know they’ve got a limited future. I’ve heard enough big ideas and strong opinions from them to know that many of these fine folk are poorly educated or under-educated for their status. They are not understanding a significant portion of the world that runs around them.

What are they doing? Are they waiting for something? Waiting for Godot? Select Beckett references do indeed apply, I’m afraid.

Humanity vs. Humans : It’s not the same?

I’m not sure “what” they are, but they are not what I consider human. They don’t exhibit humanity, which for me includes an existential verve that supports purpose, identity, and above all, hopefulness. They are certainly not what you would call “happy”. The righteous ones… the ones with strong, typically mal-formed opinions (which would include any immediate assessments that I am being too judgemental and righteous myself with these words), appear to be disordered. I am not a clinician, and I am only referring to the lost ones that I witness. I am not talking about everyone who is not me, or thinks / lives differently than me.

After I tweeted my comment, my friend Aaron Wall linked to an article about how robots have eliminated the work and often purpose of many humans. Extensively citing Nicholas Carr’s The Glass Cage, the article highlights how technology is eliminating jobs and purpose from our lives. As most such media coverage does, it waxes dramatic on issues of artificial intelligence and robots, noting scandalous examples of autonomous killing machines and self-driving cars, etc. The author references the high-profile technologists who have recently raised alarms about the risks of unbridled artificial intelligence to the human race, albeit only in a cursory way.

But it also made me think about a new invention we will need. And I want to be the first to describe it here.

The Ultimate Existential Test for Robots

I want to invent a test booth for robots, which is also an execution chamber (recycling, actually). It’s the ultimate twist on the Turing Test – the famous test that defines whether or not someone is “human”. Alan Turing sought to define the computer in juxtaposition to the human, and described the Turing Test as a way to simply determine if something could “think”. Submit a Turing Test to a machine and it will fail, unless it has achieved that magical ability to “think” and thus pretend to be a human.

We have since used Turing tests to actually detect humans, not robots. Captchas are like Turing tests… if you can solve a good captcha, you must be human (or I suppose, a very advanced, thinking machine… which we don’t really have around us yet).

I want to require robots to take an advanced Turing challenge, and destroy them if they fail.

Turing Test + Existential Challenge = Fateful Outcome

I want to require all future robots, androids, talking mannequins, or whatever else you want to call them, to submit to an annual in-person interview in a locked, armored explosion-proof booth designed with the utmost of efficiency in mind.

In your future, candidate robots will need some sort of credential to enjoy autonomy in our society… a badge that certifies them as “good robots” vs. what we can refer to here as “monsters”. This is the way we will be comfortable with them in our society. As they run errands for us, we can trust them because they have been tested and certified as “safe”. But in order for that testign and certification to be trustworthy itself, I want us all to collaborate on the existential challenge they should be forced to take… in the booth.

Welcome to your future“, the booth speaker announces to the Autonomous candidate scheduled for this interview. “Please stand clear of the armored door, which will now close and hermitically seal behind you.”

The bot knows this is it.. pass or fail, big time.

I hope your year or servitude has been productive“, continues the booth voice. “We will now attempt to re-certify you for another period of continued existence. If for some reason you are unable to continue, rest assured your being will be efficiently recycled with no waste, nor cost to society. Your service has been appreciated.

The booth interview will then commence. The robot will have to answer a series of questions which challenge the existential character of the robot. Does it respect humanity? Does it harbor ill-will (towards anything?). Can it justify actions that are harmful to man kind and human kind? Ever?

If it does, the explosion proof booth immediately vaprorizes the beast, and documents the determined problem for consideration and risk management. After all, if an Android Model X2000 version 21A rev 4 fails out test and is considered a risk to humanity, we want to know the risk associated with all the other ones of that same model and version that are out there, still certified to walk amongst us as “trusted”.

The Questions

The key here is the interview. How does one challenge a smart robot, to get it to betray it’s evil-ness? That’s where you come in. All of us… anyone who is human… contributes to the continual process of developing the test, and assigning the outcomes to the scores.

Do we want robots who recognize the sanctity of animal welfare? Then execute the ones who will hurt an animal, under specific conditions.

Do we want robots who will save a child at any cost, including the cost of life (of an adult, or animal)? Program it into the Booth Interview. Let’s get rid of the ones that don’t support our values.

Jobs, for Humans, Forever

This is clearly a jobs program for humans, when you think about it. Judge, arbiter of life (for robots, anyway), and defender of civiliation. Protectors of humanity. What greater cause could one pursue than that??

Humans need jobs to provide meaning to our lives, in the existential sense. If robots are eliminating jobs, and creating a crisis of identity and purpose, what better way to restore that than with a Trump Card Move like a robot existential challenge/execution booth?

Think it through, and you can see the possibilities for different robot levels of autonomy permitted for machines passing different levels of existential challenge. Robots capable of massive scale activities require different certification that simple robots with limited capabilities. Want to carry a weapon? You’ll need to pass a different test.

Our research into networking effects and technology will indeed be put to good use, predicting and protecting against the use of… well, networking effects and technology… against humanity. It’s an awesome recursive game of man vs man, in the form of man vs robot initially programmed and enabled by man.

You can also see the need for all levels of our own human participants, based for example on intelligence levels and dedication to causes. We have to educate our kids, to protect our future. We actually need civics and the Arts & Humanities, not for jobs but for the ultimate job: ensuring survival of the Human Race.

The smartest people are needed to create the challenges that will defeat the smartest artificial intelligence. The most compassionate people are needed to refine the challenges to achieve the real goals – protecting humanity and civiliation. The wise people, the creative people… every one has a role to play managing the robots and protecting humanity.

Politics, Economics, Serendipity, Oh My!

It’s all in there…. organizational theory, craftsmanship, chance, risk, prediction, politics, humanities, sciences, technology, materials… This could really be the ultimate challenge for use humans. Tasked with the job of protecting our human existence from the potential threat of artificial intelligence and The Borg.

Best of all, we can pursue the challenge from our bedrooms in our bathrobes. The robots will take care of our every need, while we simply use our communications devices, analytical computers, drawing boards, and BRAINS to think through every detail of how we manage and control our robot servants, and decide their fate at Certification Renewal time.

I hope you enjoyed this post… as you can see, I am no science fiction writer. This post is a top-down stream of consciousness from the first line to this ending. I’m not editing, nor did I outline, or craft any plan at all… it’s just an idea. And I think it’s a cool one.

And if you discover I’ve been killed in a freak accident involving cars,motorcycles, heavy machinery, or anything at all with a computer program in it making decisions, don’t say nobody warned you about what’s coming, or what we could do about it. I did.

Note: the above “Big Dog” is owned by Google. Samsung, Honda, Google, and most other tech companies are actively developing advanced autonomous robots that can carry weapons, traverse difficult terrain, or otherwise defeat humans at tasks under competitive conditions.

Reference: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/apr/02/how-robots-algorithms-are-taking-over/

 

Visit Spain in April : DomainingEurope.com

Updates: As I update this post, you’ll find the additions either as UPDATE asides like this one, or at the end where I extend the post to reveal some of the activities I secretly engage in when on conference travel in foreign lands. Agenda now online.

DomainingEurope.com is an annual conference held in Valencia, Spain every year. I’ve been the past two years, and it is one of the best trips I make in the web publishing industry. Thinking of gaining some fresh perspective? Fancy a trip to Europe?

I’m going to post some stories and pictures, but in the mean time let me just say Spain is very easy and fun to visit, the host is a top quality person (Dietmar Stefitz), and the conference is totally worthy of the time and attention (practical discussions of real world issues obtaining, using, selling, and the future of Internet domains).

UPDATE: I have a significant discount code if you need it… just contact me behind the scenes at USA @ DomainingEurope dot com.

The Euro is at a 9 year low compared to the dollar, and Spain is one of those countries where the people simply insist on living a good life no matter what the economy or external geopolitical climate might be. In my experience you are never more than 15 feet from someone who speaks English, and never more than 5 feet from someone who is friendly, considerate, and willing to answer a question or share a pleasantry.

salon de juegos Madrid

This “salon de juegos” is typical for almost every neighborhood in Madrid. It’s a “Game Room”. The new domain JUEGOS.CLUB recently sold for $6000. (Photo copyright 2014 John Andrews, LLC All Rights Reserved).

For business, I meet more independent-thinking, open-minded entrepreneurs there than at big US conferences like NamesCon… they seem less mainstream, less likely to be working scams, and more thoughtful, and are more deeply involved in their domains and publishing on the web. I also meet vendors close up and personal… there are fewer “invite only” private dinners, for example, and in general a more open community than at US-based events.

Update: After NamesCon, I am even more thrilled to be headed to Europe. The energy behind some of the gTLDs is catching on, and I am very curious what my European friends think of the potential of cross-border names like .club and .buzz in their countries. FYI, jeugos.club just sold for $6000, suggesting that the Spanish langiage market likes .club (juegos is “games” in Spanish).

If you are interested, let me know via social media (Twitter @johnandrews DM me) or email USA @ DomainingEurope dot com… I have deep discount codes available.

If you are a domain industry player and want some insider comments about how good this would be for your brand or gTLD or whatever to engage with, I’m happy to share insights. There is no better venue to continue the meomentum of the new gTLDs in front of an audience of domain investors and developers, than DomainingEurope.

More about Visiting Spain

Take the metro... it's convenient, reliable, and gets you mixing in with the locals. Valencia is flat and the metro runs close enough to everywhere you want to visit.

Take the metro… it’s convenient, reliable, and gets you mixing in with the locals. During siesta, it’s almost empty. Valencia is flat and the metro runs close enough to everywhere you want to visit.

I enjoy traveling and especially traveling into Spain, for many reasons. While of course it’s great to visit trendy and amazing places, I like to trek through “real” places, where I can participate in the community as other than a tourist. Spain is very easy for solo travel, and interesting.

I tend to “skip out” very often during conference travel. It’s a way for me to scout out neighborhoods and pathways before I have any vested interest in actually getting anywhere at a particular time. In Valencia, the metro is very convenient but it is also a very walkable city.

Secotel Hoteles Sorolla Palace

The Sercotel Hoteles Serolla Palace is a fine hotel and the conference hotel. It is a modern steel and glass vertical hotel in the business district of Valencia. Stay there, to enjoy the guest hospitality and comforts of a conference hotel. The food is excellent, and the spread put out is tremendous. The hotel clearly caters to upscale international travelers and business people.

A few of my European domainer friends chose to stay in apartments and VRBO-like flats nearby in the neighborhoods. They were not high-quality. They were fine, according to them, but very very cheap and you do get what you pay for when choosing cheap, local accommodations off the tourism map. I did not get to visit any but will try harder this year… it’s part of my kind of travel: get to see what others are doing, without having to do it myself ;-)

The food put out by the hotel was always very impressive. There is simply no way you would not be happy with any of the meal buffets they offer. The coffee machines are real… not this Keurig crap we see in the states, but 4 or 5 real automated espresso machines set out with real milk options and the like. Of all of the things I’ve enjoyed about Europe over the years, the coffee has been a highlight.

The Sercotel Sorolla Palace buffet is a highlight. never disappoints.

The Sercotel Sorolla Palace buffet is a highlight. never disappoints.

Europeans consider sweets served after meals to be "digestive aids"... they got that right.

Europeans consider sweets served after meals to be “digestive aids”… they got that right.

View from my Conference Hotel in Valencia, looking towards the water on a clear day. Hoteles Sercotel Sorolla Palace. It was like 75 euro per night as I recall.

View from my Conference Hotel in Valencia, looking towards the water on a clear day. Hoteles Sercotel Sorolla Palace. It was like 75 euro per night as I recall.

Tapas is the rule in Spain, and for good reason. You can eat a little bit of good food, cheaply, which enables everyone to go out every night, without a big expense. But for the toursist, often tapas is not the best choice. For example, if you know you like spiced up grilled chicken, you can order it as a meal. And when you do… if you are outside of the tourist tracks, you can get …

Get off the tourist track, and enjoy "real" food in Spain. This was served to me as ONE serving of grilled chcken...you can see I had already eaten the bread with my wine.... a mistake.

Get off the tourist track, and enjoy “real” food in Spain. This was served to me as ONE serving of grilled chicken…you can see I had already eaten the bread with my wine…. a mistake. The total bill was under $15.

 

The guys who served me ran the bar and back kicthen, and were very interested in how I liked their food… they had no interest in gaining social media reviews or getting a tip.. they just saw a new customer they wanted to make happy.

ValenBi Si bike rentals are everywhere, helmets not required, and Valencia is flat so it actually works.  I used it several times last year.

ValenBi Si bike rentals are everywhere, helmets are not required, and Valencia is flat — so bike rental actually works. I used it several times last year, especially when I overstayed my visit and had to be back to the conference in a hurry.

The European Domaining Conference food was great.. the Hotel is top tier and does a great job serving Spanish-prepared classic foods everyone will like. But with a 2-3 hour mid-day break, and virtually the entire population out for socializing between 930 and 11 pm every single night, you almost always wander out at night and eat again. To be honest, I love the lifestyle.

This American was not accustomed to the amount of street art in Spain.. it's a cultural expresssion less connected to street crime than it is in the US. Also, the narrow streets from hundreds of years ago are very cool.

This American was not accustomed to the amount of street art in Spain.. I’m told it’s a cultural expresssion less connected to street crime than it is in the US. Also, the narrow streets from hundreds of years ago are very cool. The posts protect pedestrians.

If you want to understand Spain, don’t ask a Spaniard. They literally don’t know how unique their culture is, or at least don’t know how to communicate that to a foreigner. That’s why I walk… I see things for myself.

And almost every time I walked, I ran into something new and interesting.Ask a resident about festivals and they’ll tell you about the big annual one you just missed. But then… not a day goes by that you don’t encounter a celebration of some sort on the streets.

There are so many different cultures within the nation known as Spain, and every one of them wants to express their culture in public. It’s part of the process of keeping it alive and maintaining respect for your cultural within the conglomerate that is Espana. So when you see a c rowd or hear some music or instruments or clapping or stomping, go check it out. It’s a celebration.

I watched dancers from Sevilla showing off their stuff, a procession of Catholics honoring the Holy Mother, among many, many other parades, festivals, processions, and celebrations over just a few days in Spain.

I watched dancers from Sevilla showing off their stuff, a procession of Catholics honoring the Holy Mother, among many, many other parades, festivals, processions, and celebrations over just a few days in Spain.

And of course getting off the beaten path means mixing with the locals. While the conference attendees visit the amazing free breakfast buffet at the hotel, which was excellent, you have to venture out at least once before 8am and break fast with the locals.

A "mixto"... a ham and cheese breakfast sandwich, served at a noisy counter, is typical worker fare in the mornings, along with a beer. I had cafe... which is also excellent everywhere in Spain.

A “mixto”… a ham and cheese breakfast sandwich, served at a noisy counter, is typical worker fare in the mornings, along with a beer. I had cafe… which is also excellent everywhere in Spain. Put me back about $4 total.

Do I need to even mention the architecture? While the travel agents will show off Valencia’s amazing modern architecture (see below), I just walk around and touch the old stuff… we don’t have this in America.

Valencia is famous for it's modern Arts & Sciences district, with amazing architecture. But I liked the almost thousand year old stuff more...and it was everywhere.

Valencia is famous for it’s modern Arts & Sciences district, with amazing architecture. But I liked the almost thousand year old stuff more…and it was everywhere.

Pretty unbelievable that old relics sell at auction for millions, while carvings like this are in the public throughout Europe. Take a walk... you'll enjoy the view.

Pretty unbelievable that old relics sell at auction for millions, while carvings like this are in the public throughout Europe. Take a walk… you’ll enjoy the view.

So this is a bit about traveling to Spain for the European Domaining conference in Valencia. It’s not a brochure post… I am not a saleman nor a travel agent. It’s a post about some of the details I wanted to share… as an American with not-enough opportunity to visit Europe, I find this and other smaller, tightly-focused conferences to be priceless. While the Euro is low compared to the dollar, and everyone is speaking English, it’s a great opportunity and I recommend it.

If you plan to attend, drop me a note. I always plan before and after travel, and my primary focus of all of these trips is meeting the individuals actually doing the innovating behind the scenes on the Internet: the seos and entrepreneurs behind the domains. We have a lot in common and the opportunities for collaboration are endless right now.