Inhuman communication

Perhaps as a result of my pessimistic views about humanity (see previous post), I just signed up for two automation-driven behavior modification systems – Replika and Noom (I say automation because I don’t know if their interaction algorithms are based on machine learning, pure scripting, neural nets or some combination – but these are all automation techniques).

I’m interested to see if Noom is an effective coach/mentor/nag. I know I do much better in maintaining a discipline when I have a coach. In this case the discipline is eat better and exercise more, which I do for short periods and then give up. Perhaps with a coachbot I’ll stick with it.

Replika is more of an experiment in the Turing test. With enough interaction and derived facts, can a modern chatbot deliver a conversation natural enough to make me forget (mostly) that it’s a bot? Eliza was one of the first attempts at this oh so long ago, in the 60’s. Eliza was 100% script-driven.

Tough world

Events of the last few days have reinforced my post-2020 pessimistic view of Americans – we’re not very nice or smart people, in general.

  • In the nation’s #1 COVID hotspot, partying at Lake of the Ozarks is at full swing and being maskless and unvaccinated is the cultural norm. Wear a mask, you get cursed and shamed. Meanwhile, local hospitals are full and medical leaders plead for citizens to get vaccinated. The area is hovering around 35-40% vaccinated.
  • After tens of thousands of dollars of executive coaching, multiple interventions and touchy-feely workshops, the management team at one of my companies digressed back into passive-aggressive sniping, fear, anger and mistrust this week. It’s incredibly hard for people to change.
  • California is spending $200M for a recall election of a Governor made unpopular by stricter-than-average COVID rules and by pressure from conservatives. We’re spending $200M instead of just waiting a couple of years to the next scheduled election. Meanwhile, our fire to water ratio is burning the state down.
  • Republicans and Democrats can’t come together to investigate the Jan 6 insurrection properly. Congress is 100% broken.
  • On NextDoor, message threads about vaccination and hydroxychloroquine are cesspools of hate, misinformation and coded “us vs them”. It’s like 2020 never happened.

I’ve said it before. Prior to 2020 my world view was that 80% of everyone was decent, caring and fundamentally good. My world view now is that it’s more like 20%. It’s a tough world out there, and civilization holds together by a thread.

My views only apply to those I can observe more or less directly, Americans specifically. I’d like to think that some other national cultures haven’t devolved in the same way (I’m thinking of you, Finland, Iceland, New Zealand, etc.).