Archive for September, 2014

The Strangest Dream

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

I think most of my dreams just drift through my mind like a breath of wind. They do the necessary rearranging of neural pathways, and waking up is like stepping out of an elevator door. The world behind is gone, and the new one is full of promise.

The other night, I woke up from a dream and felt pretty troubled. It wasn’t a nightmare — it was more like a scary scenario that seemed, as I lay there waking up, pretty plausible.

The story as best as I can remember it is, I had been selected with 5 other people to attend some sort of conference. It seemed as though it was a pretty good perk to be able to travel, all expenses paid, to wherever the place was. The conference involved a tour of the theater on the site, and having worked professionally in theater for about 5 years, I was very interested in this tour. It really wasn’t much of a tour though. They just let the six of us wander around.

We were all up in the light booth looking down on the stage. Four other people were just wandering around the booth, but myself and another guy were drawn to a large touch screen that was angled on the console. As soon as we got near it, the screen lit up. In the upper right corner was a strange sort of bar chart. It was strange because partway up some of the vertical bars, there were tiny horizontal bars sticking out to the right. This guy and I stared at the screen, and became interested in it. There were symbols on the screen that were definitely not English, but some sort of symbolic language. The symbols were arranged such that they were asking a multiple choice question.

We two were staring at the screen, and I was starting to make a little progress when my partner stabbed one of the multiple choice answers, and clearly got the answer right. I started to ask him what he had figured out, and he started looking my way to discuss it when the screen cleared. Next there were a series of sliders that might be seen on a sound board, and in the lower left, a kind of meter. My friend started moving the sliders and watching how the meter responded. All 8 of his fingers were busy with the sliders. He got them the way he wanted them, and the meter said, 300%. He spoke, mostly to himself, “hmmm, it should be 30%.” I started asking him what he meant, but he was soon engrossed in the screen that he didn’t even hear me. That was about when I woke up.

What worried me about that dream was its plausibility. The world now knows more about me (by that I mean us) than it ever has. All our email is read, and that is just fine with us. Algorithms are bashed against our intimate ideas, and we are completely clueless. We tell the world what we think on facebook and blogs, knowing full well that massive farms of hard drives store all that stuff, and that results can be teased out of all that data. Once the ideas leave our fingertips, they are attached to us for ever, and can be massaged in ways that are limited only by the creativity of the statisticians; and by the bankroll that is funding that statistician.

I lay there rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, and could see in a few minutes how some pretty automatic processes could be searching the data farms for just the right people to fill an important niche, invite some of these people to a neutral location, and “test” them with a large touch screen. Of course, the computer would know who this person was by their fingerprints on the screen. Once the test is passed, who can say what was in store for the person? I do believe that history has shown us that one exceptional person can do a lot to move a project forward. Until now, luck has been the primary way to pair the exceptional person with the circumstances, but what if there were a way to pair people with projects more scientifically? And, most sinister of all, who (or what) is controlling this process?

I’ve thought about this for the past couple of weeks since I had the dream, and I still can’t shake the feeling. All the pieces are currently in place to make something like this happen, and I can’t believe I’m the first person to have thought of it. So is this thing going on? Or was it just a strange dream?

Being Sick Can Be Humbling

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

I’m in about my sixth week of being sick, and I can tell you I’m pretty tired of it. The doctor didn’t put a specific name on it while I was sitting in his office a month and a half ago. He thumped me here, listened there, shook his head and said things like, “not good,” and “I don’t like this.” Then he started saying things like pleurisy, bronchitis, pneumonia, and started writing prescriptions. I was on 3 or 4 things at once for quite a while. The drugs seemed to tackle the infection that was wracking my body, but the cough and the weakness have persisted.

Today was the first day since I’ve gotten sick that I was able to work outside with something approaching my normal energy. And man did it feel good! The usual summer projects have all presented themselves one by one this past several weeks, and I had to just watch them float away like dandelion seeds. The weather has been conducive to outdoor work for the most part, but I pretty much watched it from the window. Some days I’d kind of wander outside and drift past the projects, but nothing grabbed me enough to suck me in. Lucky thing I guess, because diving in would probably have only frustrated me.

I got thinking about how easy it is to look an another person, and say, “someone should light a fire under that guy!” It is sometimes tempting, but you really don’t know what is going on inside that poor fellow. He could be sick too, and I now know how that feels. It feels like you’re about ready to whatever it takes to feel better.