Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition

It’s with great pleasure and a little pride that we announce Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat “4th EDITION” part is important. We know lots of people are waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and it’s next in the queue.

But until then…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION is about 100 pages longer than the previous editions and about 10$US cheaper. Why? Because Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation is next in the queue.

Some Notes About This Book

I’m actually writing Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation right now. In the process of doing that, we realized we needed to add an index to this book. We also wanted to make a full color ebook version available to NextStage Members (it’s a download on the Member welcome page. And if you’re not already a member, what are you waiting for?)

In the process of making a full color version, we realized we’d misplaced some of the original slides and, of course, the charting software had changed since we originally published this volume (same information, different charting system). Also Susan and Jennifer “The Editress” Day wanted the images standardized as much as possible.

We included an Appendix B – Proofs (starting on page 187) for the curious and updated Appendix C – Further Readings (starting on page 236). We migrated a blog used for reference purposes so there may be more or less reference sources and modified some sections with more recent information.

So this edition has a few more pages and a few different pages. It may have an extra quote or two floating around.

You also need to know that Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History is a “Let’s explore the possibilities” book, not a “How to do it” book. As such, it deals with how NextStage did it (not to mention things that happened along the way). It does not explain how you can do it. This book’s purpose is to open a new territory to you and give you some basic tools for exploration.

There are no magic bullets, quick fixes, simple demonstrations, et cetera, that will turn you into jedis, gurus, kings, queens, samurai, rock stars, mavens, heroes, thought leaders, so on and so forth.

How to Do It starts with Volume II: Experience and Expectation and continues through future volumes in this series. We’ve included a Volume II: Experience and Expectation preview with a How to Do It example on page 302 so you can take a peek if that’s your interest.

That noted, I’m quite sure that you won’t get the full benefit of future volumes without reading this one because unless you’ve read this one you won’t understand the territory you’re exploring in those future volumes.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat’s Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION. It’s so good and so good for you! Buy a copy or two today!

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The Complete “Music on the Web (again)” Arc

Note: A two part arc, here in full

Music on the Web (again)

There have been two themes in recent posts; sound (music) and how the concepts of money changes how people think about themselves and others. These two are also coming at me from readers with questions about music on the web and dealing with investors. I thought I’d take a few posts to share something that touches on both subjects, another excerpt from my next book, Reading Virtual Minds volume I: Science and History, this time from Chapter 4, “Anecdotes of Learning: The Investors Heard the Music”

One of the early incarnations of the NextStage Evolution website modified itself in real time based on how individual visitors were interacting with it. Two people could be sitting in the same room but using different computers to browse the site and ET would deliver content customized to each visitor’s unique cognitive, memorization, and comprehension styles.

This was demonstrated when two investors called up from their office in San Francisco. I was sitting in my office in Nashua, NH, and they had asked for a demonstration of ET.

“Have you been on our site?” I asked.

Yes, they had, of course. So?

“Are you near a computer hooked to the internet right now?”

Yes, they were. So?

“Log onto the site. Pick any page off the menu you’d like to visit and tell me which one it is, okay?”


I navigated to the same page they were on. “I’m going to describe to you what I’m looking at. While I describe it to you pay close attention to what’s actually on your screen. You’ll notice some differences.” I started reading some of the text.

Yes, the text on their browser was slightly different.

I started describing the size and placement of images, as well as image content.

Yes, in some cases they didn’t even have an image I was describing, often they had one I didn’t have, etc., etc.

Then, while I was talking to them, their browser started playing music.

Music on the Web (finale)

“You didn’t tell us your site had music,” one of them said.

My response didn’t make sense to them at first. “ET determined that you weren’t paying attention to the website and were focusing on an auditory stimuli, so it started playing music in the hopes of bringing your attention back to the website. It’s attempting to substitute its own auditory stimulus for the one you’re focusing on.”

“Why would it do that? There aren’t any auditory stimulus in the room.”

I remember both the emphasis and the lack of grammatical expertise on the investors’ parts. My explanation stopped them cold. “Yes, the auditory stimulus is that you’re talking to me. ET doesn’t know that you’re talking on the phone, but it can determine that some sound event — in this case our conversation — is where your attention is focused. It wants you focused on the website, so it’s playing some music in order to draw your attention away from this phone call and back to the screen. Like a child, ET wants to be the center of attention.”

I heard them click onto another page and the music stopped.

“How come the music stopped?”

“Because your attention was focused back on the website. It didn’t need to play the music anymore in order to get your attention.”

A brief discussion ensued in which they expressed a great concern about my ability to access and distribute fertilizer.

And the music started playing again.

Links for this post:

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Another Interesting Post from Bill Ives

I found another interesting post on Bill Ives blog, this time about a site, uPlayMe using music to drive social networks.

I’m not surprised that this avenue is being used — music is one of the great and oldest cultural metaphors in existence. My teachers often told (and still tell) me that the reason every society has drums is because we spend the first nine months of our existence listening to a drum; the beating of our mother’s heart.

What something like this won’t work for are the people who are strongly auditory but are more motivated by silence (auditory whitespace) than by sound, but a) uPlayMe isn’t intended for that audience and b) I have no idea how large such an audience would be. Besides that, how would you market to them? “These people aren’t listening to the same thing you’re not listening to. Click here to find out more”?

Maybe not…

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The Complete “Music, Language and Making Offshore Call Centers More Effective” Arc

Note: This was a short, two post arc for J. Both posts are here

Music, Language and Making Offshore Call Centers More Effective, Part 1

Happy New Year, Everyone.

We spent last night with our neighbors, Gerhardt und Andrea and Andrea’s cousin, Raresh. I made an antipasto (went over very well) and three different kinds of pizza (I’m known throughout the Maritimes, Mississauga, Southern NH and Stoneham, MA, for my pizza). Between the antipasto and the southern red pizza, Raresh mentioned that he played piano, bass and guitar in his church. As we had all three, I invited him to play.

Soon he and Andrea were singing Romanian Christmas carols and Gerhardt was playing along on one of my guitars. It was glorious and reminded me of being back home in Nova Scotia where often people will gather just to play music together (aca Ceilidgh, ans a Gaidhlig). They asked me to join in on the sax but I was busy cooking and besides, why ruin a good thing?

But what really got me was the language “class” between dinner and Andrea’s honey-nut dessert cake.

Raresh’s English wasn’t that good and he didn’t have much German so he and Andrea spoke in Romanian. I listened and kept repeating elements of their conversation (Gonoi! Che? Como? Stan Kastan, kastanka stan (this last is a verse taught to children). Drom!) which got Andrea laughing so hard her face hurt.

At one point Andrea mentioned that she can curse in lots of languages but most either make her laugh or mean nothing to her, just words. But when she curses in Romanian? Oh, she truly feels the import of what she’s saying. I agreed. I can curse in English but it means so much more when I curse in Italian. The others shared similar experiences.

This got me to thinking about where and how the brain stores languages learned later in life, and that the neural wiring for native-languages is more closely tied to our emotional wiring than our higher thought centers.

And that got me to remembering some research which pertains to off-shore call centers and how to make them more effective. (more to follow)

Music, Language and Making Offshore Call Centers More Effective, Part 2

NextStage’s staff sociologist has been involved in a multi-year study of debranding. One element of her research involves people’s interaction with offshore call centers, something I’ve written about in Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History,Chapter 2, “What This Book Is About”.

A recurring theme in her research has been the customer’s inability to understand the call center personnel’s English due to a non-US accent. This is actually an amazingly simple problem to solve.

All the call center personnel need due to state at the beginning of the call that they know they have an accent and that perhaps they’ll need to repeat things a few times to be clearly understood. Research published in Psychological Science concurs with NextStage’s research on this topic. Several people interviewed in the NextStage study made non-prompted, voluntary comments suggesting that call center personnel who acknowledged their non-US English accents made for more rewarding help desk and call center experiences.

Something to think about, yes?

If there is a challenge to this simple fix, my guess is that it might be a legal one. A company’s personnel openly admitting they are missing or lacking something might open that company to litigation. Fortunately (and if you’re reading my post on building a business) you’re learning that I know nothing about such things. I’d be interested in your thoughts, though. Please feel free to share them with me personally via email or with readers via commenting here, as you’d like.

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For Mario and Roger

I had the good fortune to meet Mario Sgambelluri and Roger Park of IMediaCommunications at the recent IMedia Agency Summit. Mario I’ve known via email for a while, Roger I met for the first time. In the course of dinner and drinks, Mario, Roger and I discovered we share a love of music, both listening to and performing. We kind of promised each other that we’d bring our instruments to the next IMedia conclave, so this post’s for them.

One of my neighbors happens to be a jazz guitarist who’s toured internationally (he’s very well known in Europe and the Far East, not so much so here in the States, and isn’t that always the way?). I’ve been after Gerhardt (okay, maybe that has to do with his popularity overseas) for a while to help me get beyond my current plateau.

Plateaus are something I’ve heard from every musician. You get to a point where you’re playing very well but can’t improve even though you know you have it in you. Sit down with someone who is your master and they show you something so danged simple it’s a cross between a “Duh!” and “aHA!” and in either case you’re off climbing again. The last time this happened was when my oboe teacher (Hi, Sue!) told me to change my breathing pattern slightly. Whoosh!

Yesterday, while walking back from my morning walk with my dog, I saw Gerhardt and his darling wife, Andrea, outside. We chatted, Susan (my wife, partner, etc) and I invited them over for a Solstice drink, and then I asked Gerhardt again if he’d be willing to give me an hour of his time.

This time the stars were in the right constellations. Later in the day he came over and we had a killer session. We did some arpeggiations, some neck work, some really beautiful duets (alright, I played rhythm, he crawled up and down the neck and made me sound good, okay?), … every once in a while Gerhardt would just go into that musical space all students crave for and come back, smile at me a little embarrassed, and the lesson would continue. When he came back I’d call out to Susan (she was in the living room, we were in our music room), “Hey, I’m going to let Gerry play for a while now” and we’d all laugh.

But what really blew me away was the language Gerhardt was using to describe his experience and how he thought while playing. Yes, it was a very rich language, but it was also such an exquisite showcase of how his brain’s wiring has modified itself in order to be the musician he so obviously is. More than that, he provided a motherlode of cross-referential information that spanned several recent posts! Without realizing it (oh, if he knew what he was doing I’d really have to just hang it up and go die somewhere, I would) he was describing the sonoric equivalents of color vision, memory, spatial reference, conceptual integration, multidimensional thinking, …

Hey, T’is the season…Thanks for gifts, one and all. – Joseph

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