Tuesday, July 7, 2020


The book The Brain: The Story of You, by David Eagleman, discusses two sorts of scientific physical immortality. An old idea involves freezing the body, carefully and specially to avoid damage to await the day when that body could be thawed or unfrozen, repaired and ready to go.  The other approach is to upload the brain into a cloud that can contain all the circuits, interconnections and memories in the brain.  This approach is rather well depicted in the fictional series on Amazon's Prime Video called "Upload".  

I am willing to expire as have millions of humans and other forms of life before me.  Freezing and waiting doesn't sound like it will work out to me.  However, as time goes by, I imagine greater understanding of how the brain works, despite its daunting complexity.  So, at some point in the future, I can imagine a person's thoughts, memories, fantasies, fears, tendencies, etc. being successfully recorded and installed in software that does a good job of "being" me, of acting as I act and of convincing people who know me that a pretty good replica of me continues on.  

This software could allow questions and comments to be constructed by my artificial brain.  The output would remind people who knew me when I was alive of how I acted and thought.  Some of them will say,"Yep, that is the old Kirby all right."  I suspect that it is the emotional and background me that will remind people of me, not necessarily the logical or reasoning part.  It will not work if the uploaded version starts discussing my joy of knitting or mountain climbing. But there do need to some new subjects and new books from time to time.

Monday, July 6, 2020


I'm hungry and I step up to the counter.  "Hamburger and fries, please."  What am I, a Martian?  Big Mac or Quarterpounder? Big or little?  Onions?  Pickles?  Cheese? Large fries or small?  Curly fries?  

This long interrogation finally comes to an end and I can eat in a few more minutes.  

That's the way it is with Google Takeout, too.  And with leaving Vistaprint, the firm that prints business cards but also caps, shirts, pens, mouse pads and umpty-ump other products.  Google has more products and services than you can count.  So, when you order Google Takeout, a flie of the data that Google has on you, the interrogation for the file's contents and specification is long!

Have you searched for Abraham Lincoln's birthday?  Do you want to include the terms of all your searches?  Have you used Google Maps?  Do you want to include where you have been?  How about Google Translate?  Remember that time you used Google Translate to the title of a post into Chinese?  https://fearfunandfiloz.blogspot.com/2014/04/blog-post.html How about all uses of Translate?  Should they be included?

It gets tiring to make all those decisions.  I did want a current, up-to-date experience of downloading much of my Google data and activities but the specification of the contents got to be tiresome.  Tiresome or not, I didn't want everything but I wanted most of it.  I persisted, just like Elizabeth Warren.  Google warned me that assembling the file could take hours or even days.  It took about one hour.  I received a set of 9 packages, which are zipped (compressed) files, amounting to 17.1 gigs of information.  

I first used a computer in grad school in 1966.  The machine was limited to 32 kilobytes.  A gigabyte contains one million kilobytes.  I guess it is a pretty good bet that I am not going to even look at all the stuff I just downloaded.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Looking forward and backward

Sometime, I heard of one's digital legacy, meaning the accounts, usernames and passwords that a person creates and collects and leaves behind after death.

When I saw an ad for the book "I'm Dead, Now What?"


I bought the book and it has been laying around for two years.  More of our friends die or become incapicitated and Lynn took notice.  She said we should look through the book and start filling in the information that it calls for.  It is mostly forms of relevant information when a person dies.

I kept saying we would get to it but she showed me a few pages and reminded me that she was the executor of the estate of our deceased daughter and of her mother.  Neither of them had much in the way of property, belongings or funds but it was still a notable responsibility and job.  As I looked at a few of the sections of the book, I realized that much of the information I know immediately but that item after item would be difficult for anyone other than me to find out.  Why not assemble things now?

We are both aware that what we do and how we do it changes all the time.  Won't much of such a document be out of date quickly?  Some may be, but it is still easier when the person is alive and cognizant.  It does make a person review what he has done, what he is doing and how it all looks from a little perspective.

One of the first items was the birthplace of my father.  My mother mentioned several times that she and her sister were born six years apart.  Through childhood, that much gap made for quite a difference in experiences.  A first grader and 7th grader are very different people.  Assembling the information creates a review of one's life, memories, achievements and regrets.  My brother-in-law created several records of our family and ancestors that are a big help.  

Much of what I do is online and much of that uses Google's many services.  Google has a service called Takeout that will accumulate a file of what I have written and performed.  Just setting up a Takeout and arranging all the specifications about what to include and what not to include takes quite a while.  

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Others and me

I got a lot from reading "Incognito" by Eagleman.  It is my favorite book of the last year or so.  So, I tried "The Brain" by the same author. It was ok but I was getting tired of it and was getting into the mood to drop it when I got to a section on the parts of our brains that are specifically for social things.  I hadn't thought much about the social parts of our heads but the new section got me focused on a human life and the parts played by others than the individual.

I knew Mom and Dad had to get together to start me off.  Getting together takes time and is not that all that easy.  Both participants can back out, switch to others, run off, etc.  I read that many animals are nervous about getting close enough to another to mate.  A female praying mantis can eat her mate.  The sexual partner might play rough and cut or bite or strike.  For humans and other mammals, the mother has to be reasonably safe and able to last all the way through gestation and perform birth.  

For babies and mothers, birth is just the beginning.  Without Mom and breasts and care and warmth from another, the baby won't survive.  I survived and so did you but only because of the care and feeding and attention and adjustment that others provided.  I bet you have read of babies fascination with faces and voices.  They don't know their own faces but they love to look at Mom's and to listen to her voice.  

Eagleman and others make clear that humans are born to be aware of others of their species, to notice who is familiar and who isn't.  Several parts of the brain are actually for recognizing faces and emotions.  Parts of the brain begin the work of learning to talk and it is always a big deal when Baby says her first word.  So, no wonder that lockdown and quarantine are a drag, no wonder that people are ready to bust out.  It is easy to decide there is no stupid virus and if there is, it is somebody else's fault.  

I thought I had seen a book by the title of "The Social Brain" but I found there are actually several books by that title or something like it.  Americans have often admired the picture of Daniel Boone, out in the wilderness, where he don't need nobody but don't kid yourself - we do need others, we benefit from others and we have from even before we were born.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Easy to mislead

I don't know about other email systems but in Gmail, it is easy to go into settings and change the name of the sender.  So, if I want my emails to show "loveableoldfellow" or "xxxx", it is easy to change the settings to show that.  On my Windows computer, the name of the sender shows in a list.  I use an iconic picture and if you recognize that picture, you might know the email is from me.  On both a smartphone and a computer, it is easy and quick to check the email address from which an email was sent.  

However, if I change my settings so that "IRS" appears to be the name of the sender instead of my real name, you may take threatening or angry language to be authentically from the US tax guys.  You could check to see what email address was used to launch the message but you might well be so scared or stirred up that you don't look to see that the message is a fake.

The Gmail settings may have analogous parts in other email software but I don't know about them.  I assume the opportunity to change what name appears is offered to those who want their recipients to see "Cutie" or "Champ" instead of the actual first and last name.  However, it is wise to be alert to the possibility that the name may be misleading.  A relative received a fake message from "me" but was suspicious about it.  She forwarded the message to me and asked if I had sent it.  I had not.  

So, if you get an email from your lawyer saying that you have inherited a million dollars, check the authenticity completely before you start spending.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Stricken with early-itis

Sometime in the last 60 years, I picked up a touch of earlyitis, that pesky drive to leave a bit too early, arrive a bit too early, be all set to begin too early.  Some people suffer from late-itis and there are those blessed with ontime-itis but I am not like that.  Tell me we will leave at 10:40 and I will be ready at 10:35, if not 10:30.  

I have seen how the unforeseen can interfere.  A flat tire, a road-blocking accident, and bingo!  I suddenly have too little time.  I am an ex-Boy Scout and I like to be prepared.  What if I turn my ankle and have to have a visit to the ER?  What then?  

I try to be reasonably sensible.  Yes, an earthquake could destroy the town and then I would have to find a new town.  But that seems too unlikely to plan for.  However, I am interested in working on my American-male-DNA impatience, my gung-ho-ness and in quieting down.  That project fits nicely with allowing a little extra time before my appointment.  In that extra moment, I breathe deeply, I sneer at my childish impatience, I praise my steady self for habitually leaving enough time and more and then, bingo, again!  It's time.  

What is a little bit annoying is to leave extra time, to get there a little ahead of time, to nicely quiet myself during the wait but then to accidentally lose sight of the time and still be late entering the restaurant, calling up the front desk, phoning, or whatever.  I have been told that it is rude to be late, that being late wastes busy people's time.  But is it rude to arrive early, hang around the receptionist's desk,  wander over to a chair, pull out a Kindle and sit there for ten minutes past the appointment time?

Don't forget that my watch and my car clock and the office clock here don't completely agree with each other on the actual time.  It is even more likely that your watch and phone don't fully agree with each other, not to mention my times.  So before you put me down as late, rude or silly, check your own timepieces.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Inconstancies of nature

In psychophysics, I learned about saccades, movements of the eye.  Whether it is the alternation of day and night, the beat of our hearts or the vibration of atoms, there are many on-and-off rhythms in our bodies and our lives.  We make like someone, and then not like them, and then like them again.  Our ears, an early sense that the body develops as a fetus, detect vibrations.  Our hearts beat continuously while we inhale and exhale.  The seasons roll around and around.

In high school, I was the drum sergeant of our drum corps of drummers, trumpeters and glockenspielers.  I had plenty of chances to practice rhythms and on-and-off sequences.  Many vibrations are too quick for us to detect and many are too slow.  


Even on the atomic level, I am told, there is constant movement:


When people look for a book to read, a movie to watch, or a puzzle to do, they often reject those they have already read, watched or assembled.  It can be surprising to re-read a book that affected me deeply.  I have aged since I read it before.  I have changed.  When I read it before, I was younger, less experienced, less aware.  I was different from what I am now.  

When I read or watch a movie, I actually sample the book or the film.  My brain helps me imagine that I see it all continuously but I don't.  Samples vary and the 2nd or 3rd time through, I may be looking for a given moment and not attend to others.  I may be very surprised to find that what I remember is not what the book says or the movie shows.

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