Human-Complete Problems

Occasionally, I manage to be clever when I am not even trying to be clever, which isn’t often. In a recent conversation about the new class of doomsday scenarios inspired by AlphaGo beating the Korean trash-talker Lee Sedol, I came up with the phrase human complete (HC) to characterize certain kinds of problems: the hardest problems of being human. An example of (what I hypothesize is) an HC problem is earning a living. I think human complete is a very clever phrase that people should use widely, and credit me for, since I can’t find other references to it. I suspect there may be money in it. Maybe even a good living. Here is a picture of the phrase that I will explain in a moment.

File Mar 31, 9 15 11 AM

In this post, I want to explore a particular bunny trail: the relationship between being human and the ability to solve infinite game problems in the sense of James Carse. I think this leads to an interesting perspective on the meaning and purpose of AI.

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Berliners #11: Snowflaking Out

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Berliners #10: Pie-Carving

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The Epic Struggle between Good and Neutral

/* Zapp: prepare to continue the epic struggle between good and neutral */

Let’s say you are a member of the proud Red tribe, enjoying a ritual communal feast. There is mirth and joy in the air. There is eating, dancing, and various other sorts of revelry in progress. Everybody is enjoying the priceless feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves.

Suddenly, a young buck of your tribe runs into the camp ground, exhausted, wounded and bleeding. He delivers news of a grievous insult to your tribe dealt by the chief of the hated Grey tribe, and dies.

Now a different sort of priceless feeling of being part of something bigger descends on your tribe. This feeling is not derived from festive joy, but from infinitely outraged honor. Joy races against rage in every head. Hot heads and cool heads, young bucks and grey eminences, all start talking at once, to process the emotional calculus.

ContendingEmotions

Eventually, a consensus narrative emerges and a course of action develops. The narrative has done its job: helped you decide how to feel, allowing action to cohere and precipitate.

How should we understand the unfolding of this course of events? The answer lies in a principle it’s taken me quite a while to formulate to my satisfaction: narrative abhors a vacuum. 

What sort of vacuum?

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Berliners #9: The Scent of a Yak

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Podcasts with Longform and Farnam Street

I did a couple of podcasts in the last few months.

The first was with Aaron Lammer of Longform in November, at their studio in Brooklyn. We talked about living versus observing gonzo lifestyles, developing an identity as a reader and as a writer, life scripts and going off them, and a lot more.

Longform podcast

The second was with Shane Parrish of Farnam Street, over Skype (so there’s a bit of static in parts). We started off talking about Tempo, various styles of decision-making, staying grounded in reality by maintaining cracks in your mental models, being shaped by the work you do and the books you read, and so forth. I think I rambled a bit in this one. Note to self, chunk it up.

Farnam Street Knowledge Project podcast.

I am recording one more podcast, with Dan and Ian over at Tropical MBA, tomorrow. So you can look out for that in the next few weeks. I’ll try and talk about stuff I haven’t already covered in these two.

Podcasts are interesting. I’ve done a few radio programs and podcasts over the years, but there does seem to be a big spike in the medium (I think the last one I did before this spate of requests was in 2013). Several readers have suggested that I ought to try my hand at the game, but I don’t have any good ideas that lend themselves to the format. Plus it seems like a lot of work, so for the moment, I’ve decided to stay out of the game. Being on others’ podcasts is fun though. For those of you who like audio though, it seems Pocket now offers audio for arbitrary content. I haven’t yet tried it, but maybe you’ll like having ribbonfarm posts read out to you.

I’m having a lot of fun taking a break from writing and playing around with comics, which is why I haven’t yet done a real long-form post yet this year. Also because all the posts in my drafts folder seem to be long and complicated, and are taking forever to finish in the midst of a rather messy start to my year on the consulting side.

In other random news, I also recently upgraded to an iPad Pro with a Pencil, and it’s a life-changer for anyone who makes heavy use of thinking tools. Worth getting. It’s better than pen and paper.

Berliners #8: Red String

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Berliners #7: Organic, Free-Range Chicken and Egg

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Berliners #6: Purgatorinomics

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Complete 2015 Roundup

Here’s the complete roundup for 2015 in chronological order. New readers this year might want to check out the 2014 roundup and 2013 roundup. If you want to do some binge reading further back into the archives, there is a page for the Rust Age (2007-12) with both curated selections and complete roundups. This year we released an update to the ribbonfarm map (post 39 below), which is a decent representation (though biased towards my personal interests) of the themes we’ve been exploring through the year.

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Let’s dive in and take a look at the year’s refactoring.

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