Sometimes I just go off on one

Facebook will do this to me sometimes. I see a comment from someone who I like and respect, but I don’t agree with the sentiment. So I type a sentence.

Only it’s not just a sentence. Well it is briefly just a sentence, but that sentence makes me want to type another sentence. And then another one. And then a second paragraph.

And then that extra bit makes the whole thing long enough to need some structure, so I put a pre-amble at the start.

And then I stick another paragraph in the middle, because it doesn’t flow right.

And then I see an opportunity to link to something else I’ve been thinking about.

And before long it’s an entire blog post that I feel I should probably copy out because actually I’m quite proud of how it reads.

Always this happens when I’m full of wine. I’m sure that’s completely unrelated.

So this was today’s. Apologies to Mark, who made a tiny, entirely justifiable, throwaway.comment about some dick politician blethering about Brexit and then found himself having to read all this shit that I wrote. And now it’s here too, just in case not enough people were bored with what I have to say. Hooray for the internet!

 

There’s no need to worry, there’s zero possibility of a second referendum.

Can you think of a situation where this has happened before – politicians opposing a clear decision by the people? Usually politicians just bend over and take it up the arse when the public has spoken, because they need the public support to get voted in the next time.

What’s different this time?

The world is changing. Political battles are fought not with facts any more, but with marketing. Well, they always were, but in the past there hasn’t been the quantum shift in psychological manipulation that there has been in this single year. For Christ’s sake, *Donald Trump* is the Republican candidate. Donald fucking Trump! Because he knows how to do marketing better than anyone.

Nobody outside the US sees him as anything other than a laughingstock. So how is he so popular? Because he’s unbelievably good at marketing. Everybody outside the US is bemused, because they’re not targeted by the marketing.

Boris’s team copied his techniques. They didn’t bother with facts, they wielded psychological weapons. They are hypnotic when you are subjected to them. “Take back control”. “£350m a day”. They’re all visceral and they make us *feel* the right way. This is the future of politics. Whoever’s better at psychology wins.

If you look outside the UK, you’d be hard pushed to find anybody who thinks it was a good idea for the UK to leave the EU. Most of them couldn’t give a shit, granted, but that makes them immune to the emotion. They’re just looking at the cold facts. And they’re all bemused.

Everybody’s bemused.

Just like we are at Donald Trump.

This is not a coincidence.

Let me leave you with this question. If we were to have a second referendum tomorrow (which we clearly won’t), how do you think it would go? And whatever answer you give to that, do you think that would be better, worse, or the same for the UK?

 

Mark riposted with the, again, entirely correct point that both sides had their pants well and truly on fire throughout the whole campaign. Politicians are, by their nature, repelled from the truth like I am from TOWIE. That is 100% true. I just think the Leave campaigners were a lot better at it, because they’d employed an evil genius of their own to do their social engineering for them. I hate the fact that we’re all moist robots, so easily manipulated by marketing, but I still sing the fucking Shake-n-Vac advert from 30 fucking years ago, so it’s a really hard point to argue against.

The next year will be the real shift in understanding – that’s the time when we’ll all start to learn exactly how these things have come to pass and the mechanisms behind them, and in ten years’ time it’ll be as commonly understood as wearing a tie to an interview and not getting your cock out at a wedding. Well, not during the service, anyway. After the cake – that’ll probably be OK by then. Times they are a-changin’.

How to fix Facebook

I really like Facebook.  I like the fact that I can still feel connected with people I like, even when I’m far away from them and don’t see them for ages.  That’s what it’s for, and That Is Good.

Only now … now things seem to have changed.  We’ve all got a bit more confident about writing publicly because we’re bleating to a friendly audience.  I can write the most inane sheeply drivel and nobody will tell me I’m talking ball-juice, because they’re all my friends.  I come away feeling like Hemingway.

I assume Hemingway was good.  People seem to speak highly of him.  My literary qualifications are largely imagined.  But they still count on Facebook.  We all feel like little Hemingways on Facebook.

And that’s the problem.  We’re all content creators now and, I’m sorry to break it to you, we’re all SHIT at it.

On the whole, that doesn’t matter.  I’m on Facebook to connect with people I like.  If I want engaging content, I’ll surf … erm … hang on … give me a minute …

Wait, is there *any* engaging content on the internet?  Hmm … that might be an insight into my surfing history that I didn’t intend to share… forget I said that … 8O

Aaaaanyway … Facebook posts don’t need to conform to any standards, protocols or even guidelines, and that’s the whole point of social media.  Everybody *should* be able to post whatever the hell they like.  And I want to be able to *see* whatever the hell I like.

If you’re anything like me, your Facebook experience centres around the Page Down key, skipping acres of content that means something to somebody else, but not you.  Facebook is broken.

That. Is. Bad.  For everybody.  For the poster.  For the reader.  For Facebook.  For the advertisers that pay Facebook for their ad that zips past without you registering anything but the word “Sponsored” that made you skip it in the first place.

Here’s how to fix it.

We need to be able to filter what we see.  There’s too much noise.  There’s only so many times you can swipe the page up twenty times in succession without seeing anything of interest before you’ll throw the little bingly thing down in frustration and go for a walk instead.  Perish the thought!  This is how to make Facebook better.

We need TAGS.  We need CONTENT TAGS.  If something’s about cooking, it needs a Cooking tag.  If something’s about the EU referendum, it needs a Politics tag.  If something’s about Piers Morgan, it needs a tag on its toe having been dragged from the depths beneath Tower Bridge and be identifiable only from dental records.

But I digress.

I will say again that everybody should be able to post whatever the hell they like.  That’s what this malarkey is all about.  I don’t want to change what people post.  I just want to control which bits *I* see.

To take one personal example, I really couldn’t give a flying fuck about football.  Whether that means soccer to you, or American football, or punting your pug over your neighbour’s fence, I honestly can’t think of anything that matters to me less than that.  So when I see a post saying, “Holy crap!  I can’t believe Ranieri didn’t get arrested for that!” and I Google it and find out Ranieri is a FUCKING FOOTBALLER and I’ve just wasted thirty seconds of my life that I could have spent perving over a Caterham 620S, it makes me want to unfriend you.  But I don’t *want* to unfriend you, because you *are* my friend, and if you post about your new fluffy-wuffy widdle cat then I do want to see that.  No, really!  I’m not being sarcastic, I really *do* want to see that!  I want to see the nice stuff!  I want to share your fluffy moments!

You see?  Some of you are reading that and thinking, “FUCK OFF!  If I see another pissing cat photo I’m going to barf so hard I’ll implode!”

You see?  *That’s* why we need tags!  MY Facebook is not the same as YOUR Facebook.  But right now, today, it *is*!  We’re all exposed to the same stuff, and we have to scroll through the stuff we’re not interested in.  Tags will fix that.

So here’s how it will work.  Tags will absolutely fail if it relies on the *poster* to do the tagging.  Posting needs to be quick, and if we have to tag stuff, we just won’t do it.  Plus we’ll lie about our posts.  We’re shit like that.  That’s a non-starter.

This is the key: It’s OTHER PEOPLE who tag your posts.  But the crucial part is that NOBODY KNOWS who’s tagged what, and nobody can find out.

When my good mate Charlie posts about Fernando Ronaldo’s rumoured move to Spuntak Moscow, and I swear at him for wasting my valuable wanking time, in my disgust I tag the post as “football” so that none of my other sexually repressed football-hating friends will have the same experience.  Nobody knows that’s happened – it just doesn’t show up in their feed, because they’ve specified “No football” in their timeline preferences.  If they view Charlie’s page, they’ll still see it, but otherwise they’ll be blissfully unaware.  The Facebook community has become a tiny bit better.

When I post bollocks like I’m writing right now, my Facebook friends can tag it with Politics, or Commentary, or Preachy Fucker, or whatever tags Facebook deems fit to define.  They do need to be pre-defined, because we need to be able to tell Facebook which ones to leave out of our timeline, but we will be able to request new tags, and every month Facebook will give us the highest voted new tag to use thenceforth.  So after month 1, none of us need to hear about those fucking Kardashians EVER AGAIN!  How great is that?!

When I tailor my timeline, I can specify tags as:

  • Never show me this
  • Not interested
  • Interested
  • Always show me this

and that will determine the precedence of the post.  The precedence is altered by the order of the rules, so for example if I’ve defined my number 1 rule as “never show me football” but my number 2 rule is “always show me twats getting their comeuppance” … I might miss out on quite a lot … but that’s MY CHOICE!  The moment I swap the rules around, my timeline changes instantly.  We know this ability already exists in Facebook, because if I add a friend, his or her past posts immediately appear on my timeline as if we were friends all along.  The timeline is a dynamic window.  This will work.

So, just to get the juices flowing, here are a few examples of tags that we might find useful.  Some of them you will want to see more of, some you will want to see less of.  Nobody will have the same set, but that’s the whole point.  You set your own preferences.

Some tags to start with

  • Football
  • Cars
  • Children
  • Politics
  • Sport
  • Exercise
  • Drinking
  • Cooking
  • Charity
  • UK
  • USA
  • Europe
  • Music
  • Kardashians
  • Reality TV
  • Pets
  • Death
  • Cute
  • Violence
  • Daily Mail
  • Religion
  • Request to share
  • Hoax
  • Feelgood
  • Animal cruelty
  • Donald Fucking Trump

That’s just a few off the top of my head.  JUST IMAGINE if you could tailor your Facebook feed with just those few tags, so that you saw more of the content you WANTED to see and less of the content that makes you feel like shit?

Wouldn’t Facebook be SO MUCH BETTER?

I think it would.

 

The universe is not what you think it is

I’ve been kicking this one around for a few years now and some of you will even have heard me talk about it already.  Every year that passes it seems a little more appropriate.

Simulation is a powerful tool that we use to discover things about our own world that we can’t directly observe.  Computer simulations are becoming ever more intricate and accurate and they will continue to advance.  We already create simulated worlds, simulated creatures, simulated humans.  One day soon, someone clever will realise that *evolution* is now a tool that we can use in a simulated environment.  We can plug in the parameters of a world containing (simulated) life, fast-forward the simulation a few million years and see which fascinating creature evolution delivered to the top.  Someone clever will also soon realise that we can extend that idea to manufacturing design.  We can pit potential designs against each other in a made-up world in which the parameters have been tuned to ensure survival of the fittest design with random mutation across generations providing the variation.  Once that happens, all kinds of weird and wonderful ideas will pop out of an algorithm that no human could ever have thought of.  It’s coming.  It’s inevitable.

When we have this capability, of *course* somebody’s going to apply it to our universe – I can imagine plugging in the deduced construction of the universe a trillionth of a second after The Big Bang and then rolling forwards to see what happens.  The first time we do it, it will end up nothing like our current universe looks.  So we’ll tweak the parameters, maybe tinker with the cosmological constants, play with some new rules.  We can even use the evolution idea here, and get our computer to run billions of simulations and pitch them against each other.  With such huge numbers of simulated universes going on, somewhere there’s going to be a cluster of stuff that evolves into humans, just like us.  For the simulation to work, clearly those beings can have no evidence that they are indeed simulated (otherwise it isn’t a representative simulation) – they will feel like they live and breathe and see and love, with no idea that it’s all zeroes and ones (or qubits!) inside a machine from an advanced civilisation.  After a while, those beings will start making simulations of their own and we go a bit fractal.

The video game “No Man’s Sky” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Man’s_Sky) is due for release in 2016 – it features literally quadrillions of planets, because they’re generated by an algorithm rather than being mapped, and those planets have variations of life on it.  There are so many planets that most of them will never be seen by any human, ever.  This is a *video game*.  We’re nearly at the critical mass already.

Of course, you can see where I’m going with this.  For a simulation of our universe to work, the humans have to believe they’re “real” (whatever that means) and so they are 100% indistinguishable from *us* here today.  A real human has exactly the same inputs and outputs as a simulated one, so if you *are* one, you can’t tell whether you’re real or simulated.  And the thing is … there’s only one real universe.  Only one “top of the tree”.  As soon as simulations start making simulations, you’re into an infinite spiral downwards, which means that for one of us real-or-simulated humans, it’s infinitely more likely that we’re in one of the twig universes rather than the one single universe at the top.

That’s a pretty mental thought.  The only axiom I’ve used is that we will continue to make ever-more complicated simulations and that seems to lead logically to a mathematical *certainty* that we live in a simulated universe.

Not only that, but this simulation (or its root ancestor simulation) was programmed by somebody – *created* by somebody.  So our universe has a creator?!

Oh shit.  Have I just proved the existence of God?

I need a lie down.

Oscar predictions 2016

Oscar season is upon us again and, as is the tradition, I’m having a stab at predicting the results.

This year feels a bit weird.  Normally I feel like I’m making educated guesses, but this year, for the first time, I’m quite confident.  That probably means I’m going to get them all wrong.  It’s also the first year that I’ve thought *all* the Best Picture nominees were really good.  Something is changing in Oscarland…

Anyway.  For better or worse, here we go.

Best Picture: An outside chance for Spotlight, but it’s probably going to be The Revenant.

Best Director: Alejandro Iñárritu for The Revenant.

Best Actor: Without the faintest shadow of a doubt, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant.

Best Actress: Definitely going to be Brie Larson for Room.

Best Supporting Actor: I really hope sanity prevails and it goes to Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies … but I think, unbelievably, they’re going to give it to Sylvester Stallone for Creed.  8O   I know!  But let’s not forget they gave Best Picture to Rocky in 1977 over Taxi Driver… they have form for such lunacy …

Best Supporting Actress: This is a three-way fight that I keep changing my mind about.  Rooney Mara has a shot for Carol but I don’t think her role was broad enough to win with. Kate Winslet has a bigger chance for Steve Jobs, but I think it’s going to Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Very probably The Big Short.

Best Original Screenplay: Almost certainly Spotlight.

Best Animated Movie: Can’t see it going anywhere else but Inside Out.

Best Cinematography: Absolutely positively The Revenant.

Best Visual Effects: Now here’s a tricky one.  Mad Max could sneak this one on the night.  But I think it’s going to be Star Wars.  This is the one I’m least confident about.  Ironically, given the amount of gongs that The Revenant is likely to get on the night, I think it’s going to miss out on this one, which is the one that it deserves the most.  You could only tell the effects were effects because clearly that *can’t* be Leonardo DiCaprio being tossed around by a bear because, well, he’s still alive and is present to pick up his first Best Actor award.  That’s what a Visual Effects award *should* be for.  Not the Millennium Falcon looking a bit too crisp as it flies over a desert.

 

And so it is with trepidation that I press the Publish button, consigning my predictions to their ultimate fate.  We’ll find out how close I was on the night of 28th Feb.