Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cats and ducks

Sounds sort of like a pub name, but it's not. It's just where I am with photos just at the moment, in whatever order blogger chooses to display them.

Curtis, of course, being the most photogenic mammal in the house, gets top billing. He might well be in the top 10 for photogenic mammals in all of Calgary, but there are some who would say I'm biased or something.

I was out for a walk in Fish Creek last week. Normally ducks, geese, whatever they are, don't do much for me. In fact, I didn't even notice them for this shot, I was after the patterns of mist coming off the water and blown by the wind.

I was captivated by Celina's paws in the sun. Just a few seconds before this her nose was in the shot as well. Then she was telling me what a rotten human I am, disturbing her sleep.

The Facebook vacation is going great! Librarians season 3 is fun and done, awaiting season 4. I got through both the Octopus and the Human Deus books. (See here if you are puzzled.) Both have got the brain cells churning which is good, but I ended up being a bit disappointed by both. For the first, the author seemed to be more interested in the evolution of the cephalopods rather than what they are now. The second is interesting, but holy doodle does he need an editor! That book is a quarter to a third too long for the points he's making. The short piece is that mankind needs to get it's shit together pretty quick.

Humanity has dealt with war, famine, and plague pretty well, now we need to deal with climate change and what we're going to do with all the people that will be put out of work in the coming decades, replaced by our robot overlords. I mean, computers that might not be self aware, or constitute artificial intelligence, but in fact are running things.

When the computer knows you better than you do, are the suggestions that it makes still suggestions, or are they orders, or something in between? How many books or discs that "Amazon suggests" have you bought? How much longer before you'll authorize it to spend a certain amount per month on such things, based on your likes and feedback and waiting list?

There used to be a saying, "have your people call my people and we'll do lunch." We are nearly to the point that we'll say, "have your calendar call my calendar and set up a date for lunch." Or maybe the calendars will set up the date anyways, because they see shared interests and goals. The hapless human will just see on their calendar for the day, "Lunch with Bill Smith at Melindas at 11:45, discuss the financing for season 5 of the X show.

When they get there, the greeter sees the reservation one of the calendars made, and takes them to the table. Only then do the two humans realize they hadn't actually planned the meeting, but realize they have lots to talk about. By then the calendars will have cross referenced their various working documents, and there's probably a link to a spreadsheet in the calendar. I can see where restaurants that specialize in working lunches for various industries will provide tables with big monitors and privacy.

Or, another example, traffic. It used to be that knowing how to get from one place to another was a prized skill. Paper maps were a thing. If you had to, you'd ask directions from the person you were visiting. It usually took a minute to get a common starting point, because directions are useless without a starting point. Everybody had their secret route to get across town during rush hour, knowing which roads went through in a useful way, and which didn't.

Calgary is bad that way, with many examples of roads with the same name not actually connected to each other. Maybe the best example here is 17 Ave in the south west and the south east, with the Stampede grounds, an LRT track, a major set of railroad tracks, a neighbourhood, several steep bluffs of unstable soil, and the Elbow River in-between the two sections. Getting from one to the other is not as easy as you'd might think. The grid system is totally broken there.

But many people now are beginning to rely on their phone and traffic app for directions, even if they know the way. Why? Traffic. Some idiot human is all too likely to demonstrate their incompetence at driving, and mess up the traffic for everyone else. Even if I know the way, I'll often check for traffic issues. The trick is what the computer tells drivers for the alternatives.

Let's say there are two equally good routes from A to B, which are also used for many other journeys. There might be a number of other routes not quite as good. Now, route 1 gets clogged for whatever reason. If the traffic app tells all the traffic to go to route 2, it will be clogged in short order. Some of the traffic should still go on route 1, and some of it should be routed onto the lesser routes 3, 4, and 5.

How does it do that? It lies to the drivers. If the app tells you there is a traffic jam on route 1, it might tell one driver to take route 2 because it's the shortest, and the next driver will be told route 3 is the shortest, and the following driver will be told route 4. It might only be a few minutes difference, but how likely are you to take the advice? How are you to ever know if you were sent down a slightly slower path in the name of overall traffic management?

The last thought is, what if you knew other people were getting shown the faster route?  What if the traffic app promised you priority routing for an in-app payment or a small monthly fee? Imagine sitting there fuming that the rich people get told which route really has less traffic. Maybe they're so rich they can pay for the app to direct people off the route they like. Of course, the non-app driver, who has a map in his head (it's likely to be a him) could take that route anyways. Now imagine not getting a choice, in that the car decides which route to take to your destination.

1 comment:

  1. I received a text message this afternoon. Auto correct thought the message was Okey Donkey :) Cheers, Sean


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