KBar’s Findings: In Event of Moon Disaster

I’ll start by offering that I’ve spent most of today lying on the couch, napping. This is a rarity for me. I’m usually always doing something. I was able to relax so completely today because we spent most of last night around a bonfire on the edge of the woods with about twenty friends. We made a bucket of moose chili which was enjoyed by all (none left and it really was a bucket), we got to listen to some great music (thanks, Scott and Jen!), we watched satellites and mapped constellations and even saw some falling stars.

Late into the night there were only four of us around the waning coals and it was cold out there. We got to sharing the joyous stories of family members who’ve passed away this year. The NextStage family lost more than its share, I think, and last night was one of the first times we gathered and laughed rather than gathered and cried.

So today, receiving “In Event of Moon Disaster” from KBar, got me to think about the what-ifs and might-have-beens in our lives and our friends’ lives.

Life is what happens while you’re waiting for your plans to arrive, or something like that.

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MultiTasking, Anyone?

I was watching one of the Saturday morning news shows — does anybody remember when Saturday mornings were the venue of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Mighty Mouse, UnderDog, Rocky&Bullwinkle? That’s not old fogy talk, it plays into this post’s theme — and there was a segment on how to save yourself from multi-tasking, from being overwhelmed by everything that’s “out there”.

Many things have happened in the past month that are, to me, the Universe’s way of whispering to me, “Time to grow up, Joseph.”

I’ll start with the question that came to me while watching this segment, “People need help doing this? This segment is on because people can’t organize and structure their lives any more?”

This is a theme I’ve touched on before in the MediaFree and Gridless, Email Bankruptcy and Voluntary Simplification arcs. Those arcs generated much email from readers. I even had a prolonged Saturday morning phone call with a frequent reader on the subject.

It has always been a mystery to me, how much I’ve done in my life — heck, how much I get done in a day — compared to most everyone else I know. Judah Phillips called me a genius, Brad Berens called me a genius in print and in a podcast, students have said it, Semphonic’s Paul Legutko makes mention of me being a “big brain” in a recent Bentley College interview, Susan Bratton says it in a recent interview she did with me and I keep hearing it at eMetrics and IMedia Summits, when I talk with people after presentations, interviews, meetings, …

I don’t think people really understand what a genius is.

Or perhaps I don’t. I remember, about 20 years ago, taking a job and, during the interview, the CEO of the company commented that I made him feel shallow. I got a job with that company and a co-worker expressed open disbelief at what I’d done in my life by the age of 33. Well, I offered, I hadn’t spent much of my childhood sitting in front of a TV, going to movies, things like that. I grew up in a culture that required people to be multi-disciplinary in order to survive. The easiest way to become multi-disciplinary is to make facility a requirement for survival.

Still, the concept plagues me because I don’t think of myself as being a genius. If anything, I think of myself as dogged. I don’t give up on things too easily.

But this past month’s travels…I don’t know…

I made a comment during a meeting about a way to increase a company’s profitability. It involved some statistical modeling. I was directed to the company’s statistician. I suspect, by the way he answered my question, that he thought I didn’t understand what I was asking about.

Note the above. He understood what he heard, simply not what I said, and in not understanding what I was saying his decision was that I didn’t understand what I was talking about.

Where are my Center for Semantic Excellence fellows when one needs them?

I’ve encountered the above situation often; someone not understanding what I’m talking about and deciding I don’t know what I’m talking about.

So, during a break in the meetings, I sketched out the solution I was talking about. It involved multi-dimensional solid models. Find the informational center of each projection into n-space and link them. The resulting shadow shows absolute max and min behaviors for a best practice solution to increasing profitability.

I don’t consider myself a mathematician. Not by a long shot. I showed the solution to a few people. Their advice was to not show it to the company’s statistician. I followed their advice. Instead I instructed a few people in how to apply the best practice. Their productivity doubled and in one case tripled.

But I’m not a genius. I know of one uniqueness I have; I’ve always been able to see things in many, many dimensions. I remember the first time someone talked about time as the fourth dimension and that we couldn’t understand it and my being completely confused. What do you mean, we can’t understand it? It’s right there. Project a line into space, go ninety degrees from it, lather-rinse-repeat.

I was shocked to discover other people could only see in three dimensions. I think and am not sure this has to do with my eyesight, or lack thereof, during my childhood. I couldn’t see until I was about five years old. I think and am not sure that people who lead an auditory life naturally think in many dimensions because, auditory information propagating slower than visual information, we understand time as a tangible element in our universe. More than that, when you’re in a world with echoes and grow up in a family in which everyone gathers around a table and talks at once (oh, how I miss my Grandmother’s kitchen table. An extended family some 30-40 strong, all talking at once, every conversation so information rich, so fluid, so dynamic).

Hmm…this begins to make sense to me now that I’m thinking of it. Voice, distance, time, inflection, tone, modulation, familiarity, language, pacing, breath, … No wonder I naturally think multi-dimensionally. I remember, when I was teaching, amazing my students at being able to isolate single conversations in busy restaurants several tables away. Just think of yourself in the middle of a bunch of musical instruments, I told them. Each voice is a separate instrument. You can focus on the harp and exclude the violins, exclude the harp and focus on the piano, exclude the fiddles and focus on the guitar, right?

No, they couldn’t. To them orchestrations were orchestrations. Even Susan, beloved wife, is amazed that I will listen to a single piece of music over and over and over again. “What are you doing?” she’ll ask. “I’m listening to the bass this time.”

So am I a genius? Like so much else in my life, I’ll let others decide. Besides, if I was truly a genius, I’d figure out a way to get all the information inside me out to others. That’s my greatest concern, really, that I won’t have enough time to share everything I’ve learned with others. Some big things, some small things.

For example, you want to know how to love deeply, limitlessly? Easy, accept that you might not be loved in return. Once you’re good with that, your ability to love will be endless because you stop being subject to the pressure of the ocean and simply rise to the surface, the love in your lungs expanding as you rise. You never run out of air. Drop your tanks, they’re not doing you any good, really, they’re just fooling you into thinking your safe with the weight of all that humanity on top of you.

Doesn’t make much sense? Ah, well, see now, if you were a genius…

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Not So Social Networks

I was listening to NPR’s Morning Edition this morning and was intrigued by David Kestenbaum’s story “How iMet My Neighbor on iTunes”. It is a cautionary tale for companies wanting to use social networking components into their websites, and even more cautionary a tale for people making use of those tools.

In a nutshell, the commentator made assumptions about others in a software engineered social network that were not shared by those others. I think this is an important example of something I described in Online Identity arc.

I don’t know much about Mr. Kestenbaum other than to hear him on NPR once in a while. Based on those few elements, though, I non-consciously make some assumptions about him. The assumptions I make about him are that he’s obviously intelligent, obviously erudite, obviously well read, … I’ll throw in obviously virile and obviously handsome while I’m at it because the assumptions are really things I’d like to think are true about myself. They may or may not be, but hey, I listen to NPR and I’d like to think those things are true about myself so they must be true about other NPR listeners.

And, my god, if they’re true about NPR listeners, can you just imagine how true they must be for NPR’s online commentators?

The error here is actually pretty common – assuming a shared concept of one thing equals a shared concept of all things. This is similar to the Equality and Identity conundrum; Equality and Identity are not the same thing. To say all men are created equal is not to say they are recognized as being equal. Don’t confuse the “what” with the “who”. To say equality equals identity is to say that all men are one man, and the actions of one man are the responsibility of all men.

This error, though, can lead to a misplaced trust (think Hostage Syndrome over the internet). They like the kind of music I do so they must be just like me. Not!

They listen to NPR and to the same shows I do, so they must be just like me. Not! (trust me on this one. I’ve taken part in some NPR fundraisers. Not all NPR listeners are the same)

And this, of course, feeds into our arc on noisy data and designing new metrics because just as the reason I’m sitting here typing isn’t the reason you’re doing it, the reason I listen to NPR isn’t the same reason you do (it can be, doesn’t have to be) and just because I listen to the same music you do doesn’t mean we like the same food or drive the same car (despite what marketers want to think).

Noisy data is, to me, like junk DNA. We use to think there was a lot of DNA that was meaningless, just taking up space in the helix. Then we found out there is no junk, all of it has meaning, you just have to know what it means.

Noisy data is very much like that and plays a crucial role in microtargeting and market segmentation. We’ll be concluding the noisy data arc over this coming weekend. Stay tuned…

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Information in this post is from the Reading Virtual Minds series

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