In the last edition of “Productivity Rethought” (click here for a refresher) I defined productivity as: the least amount of time to produce the greatest amount of the highest quality of whatever it is you want to produce. This formula takes into account time, quantity and quality. It does not take into account the human beings, with all their marvelous flaws, that serve as the producers of ”whatever it is you want to produce”. Productivity can be examined at the level of economics, where efficiency and the-bottom-line are gods, and where employees are dispensable. Capitalism is a magnificent creation, and I will not disparage it for a second. I will however let the experts quarrel among themselves on how to make businesses more productive. I do not know enough about the subject (most of the time neither do they, but they have fancy degrees and 6 figure salaries that prevent them from admitting this).
What is more, such an examination of productivity would treat human beings in the abstract and in general. It would probably utilize statistics and flow charts. I prefer to focus on the struggles of a concrete individual, and allow my readers to draw the requisite analogies to their personal experience. The human being I have in mind will remain nameless for the time being, I will merely refer to him using such personal pronouns as “I”, “me” and a few possessives like “my”.
Long ago, I self diagnosed myself with akraisa. Akrasia is a Greek word, roughly meaning “weakness of the will”. It can be a fatal illness for those with lethal habits, like binge drinking or baking. Those who are afflicted with this ailment tend to sleep long hours, and envy their dogs for sleeping even longer. They keep a long list of YouTube channels they cannot stop watching, and an equally lengthy list of exercises they never perform. Wikipedia defines akrasia as: ”the state of acting against one’s better judgment.” This helps explain why, unlike your average couch potato, those suffering from akrasia tend not to be very pleased with themselves. They make all the right judgments, and every wrong move. Nothing is more exacerbating than that. I, for example, often judge that it is in my best interest to get to work, or continue working, but instead procrastinate for weeks. “Why” is the million dollar question. The 10 million dollar question is “how to decrease akraisa and increase productivity”. The battle lines are drawn!
I could give you the answer to either question, if I had it. Alas, there is no cure for akrasia. Nevertheless, there is plenty that patients can do to improve their situation. There are no (legal) pills, or any miracle ointments. No self help guides, or life couches. In my time on this earth, however, I developed a few tricks. I would not have been able to maintain this blog for the past 2 and a half weeks if I hadn’t. But now it is getting late and I really must get some rest…
To be continued!
Quote of the Day:
We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.
See this post for more: The Turing Test
Alan Turing invented the modern computer. Other than that, he was a small potato from England whose chief claim to fame is the instrumental role he played in the Allies’ defeat of Nazi Germany. He helped crack some codes or something. The Nazi’s had a machine called the “Enigma”, which they used to communicate top secret orders from the Fürher, but Alan found a way to crack their encryption. It is as if Hitler had sent a private tweet only to discover he hit the “public” button by mistake. How embarrassing is that? He must have thought the British were clairvoyant. Taken for all in all, though, Allan only saved a few hundred thousand lives. A million tops.
More accurately, Alan Turing invented modern computing, but the difference is too tedious to bore anyone with. Alan himself got bored with his invention one day, and decided to try his luck in the field of theoretical philosophy. He probably heard it said that that was where one went, if one was bent on finding fame, fortune, and an endless supply of one night stands. If so, he did not stick around long enough to find out this was said only in jest, and at the expense of the local professor of ethics.
Alan theorized that one day his invention would be mistaken for an actual flesh-and-blood human being. In a time when the average computer was housed in a 2 story building, and could do little more than punch holes in little white cards, this was a slight stretch of the imagination. When this was pointed out to Alan, he claimed his personal computer reminded him of his uncle Fred. From that point on, however, he did not emphasis the flesh-and-bone stuff much, choosing instead to focus on linguistic proficiency. Allan argued that a computer that could fool a person into thinking it was talking to another person, and not to a computer, could be said to possess artificial intelligence. Talking, as is well known, is a broad term, ranging from face to face conversation to anonymous chat rooms. It is safe to say that Allen had something more like the latter in mind, although the internet would only be invented several decades later..
Why anyone would consider intelligence to be the biggest divide between man and machine is hard to say. True, computers possess a certain amount of intelligence; they can follow simple commands if these are given in their mother tongue. Nowadays they can even locate the nearest Starbucks on a map. People, on the other hand, tend to feel much more at home around blind devotion. They are able to repeat what others have told them (with only 70 - 80 percent error), but ask them to think for themselves and they’ll brand you a blasphemer and burn you at the stake. Come to think of it, human intelligence is entirely artificial, so maybe Turing was on to something. His hypothesis, however, contains an even greater bloomer. He blatantly disregarded the complete and utter gullibility of man. He must have been overdosing on a Homeopathic remedy when he thought all this up.
Needless to say, no computer to date has passed the “Turing Test”. They can fool some of the people some of the time, but find fooling most of the people most of the time more difficult, and fooling all the people all the time impossible. This is partly because a bunch of the wiser specimens of our species, widely known as scientists, came up with a list of question computers find difficult to answer. Just try asking Siri what rhymes with “orange”.
As o’er my latest book I pored,
Enjoying it immensely
I suddenly exclaimed ‘Good Lord!’
And gripped the volume tensely.
'Golly!' I cried. I writhed in pain 'They've done it on me once again!'
And furrows creased my brow.
I’d written (which I thought quite good)
'Ruth, ripening into womanhood,
Was now a girl who knocked men flat
And frequently got whistled at,’
And some vile, careless, casual gook
Had spoiled the best thing in the book
By printing ‘not’ (Yes ‘not’. great Scott!)
When I had written ‘now’.
On murder in the first degree
The Law, I knew, is rigid:
Its attitude, if A kills B,
To A is always frigid.
It counts it not a trivial slip
If on behalf of authorship
You liquidate compositors.
This kind of conduct it abhors
And seldom will allow.
Nevertheless, I deemed it best
And in the public interest
To buy a gun, to oil it well,
Inserting what is called a shell,
And go and pot
With sudden shot
This printer who had printed ‘not’
When I had written ‘now’.
I tracked the bounder to his den
Through private information:
I said ‘Good afternoon’ and then
Explained the situation:
'I'm not a fussy man,' I said
'I smile when you put “rid” for “red”
And “bad” for “bed” and “hoad” for “head”
And “bolge” instead of “bough”.
When “wone” appears instead of “wine”
Or if you alter “Cohn” to “Schine”,
I never make a row.
I know how easy errors are.
But this time you have gone too far
By printing “not” when you knew what
I really wrote was “now”.
'Prepare,' I said, 'to meet your God
Or, as you’d say your Goo or Bod
Or possibly your Gow.’
A few weeks later into court
I came to stand my trial.
The judge was quite a decent sort,
He said ‘Well cocky, I’ll
Be passing sentence in a jiff,
And so, my poor unhappy stiff,
If you have anything to say
Now is the moment.
I said ‘And how!
Me lud, the facts I don’t dispute.
I did, I own it freely, shoot
This printer through the collar stud.
What else could I have done, me lud?
He’d printed “not”…’
The judge said ‘What!
When you had written “now”?
God bless my soul!
Gadzooks!’ said he.
'The blighters once did that to me.
A dirty trick, I trow
I hereby quash and override
The jury’s verdict. Gosh!’ he cried.
'Give me your hand.
Yes I insist, You splendid fellow!
(Cheers, and a Voice ‘Wow-wow!’)
A statue stands against the sky,
Lifelike and rather pretty.
'Twas recently erected by
The PEN committee.
And many a passer-by is stirred,
For on the plinth, if that’s the word,
In golden letters you may read
'This is the man who did the deed.
His hand set to the plough,
He did not sheathe the sword, but got
A gun at great expense and shot
The human blot who’d printed “not”
When he had written “now”.
He acted with no thought of self,
Not for advancement, not for pelf,
But just because it made him hot
To think the man had printed “not”
When he had written “now”.’