Saturday, August 27, 2016
In the world of computer science, where a lot of acronyms were created (and still are), there was a term GIGO. GIGO is an acronym for "Garbage In, Garbage Out". This is a shortened version of saying that if what goes into a system (a computer, as one example) is not legitimate then it cannot be processed into an appropriate output. For example, a cruise control system takes into account current gear ratio, axle speed, tachometer reading, and so forth. If the cruise control believes that the car is moving at 100 miles per hour (60 kph) then it will do inappropriate things to the brakes and accelerator if, in reality, the wheels are spinning freely on a patch of ice and the car is not making any forward progress.
If a data entry person (who are almost always touch typists -- not looking at the keys) had their hands at the wrong point on the keyboard as they entered data into a system, then things are not going to go well. You may get a $1,000 refund or you may get a bill for $10,000. In the first example, there is an assumption -- that the speed of the axles is a reliable indication of the speed of the car. In the second example, there is a lack of verification that the correct data are being entered.
Data can also be wrong if the input instrument fails. If your thermostat breaks, then it cannot give proper information back to the processor that controls the oven temperature. You find out when the turkey comes out raw from the oven or the bread starts burning and catching on fire.
Unfortunately, we are not always able to know, or immediately be able to be certain, that a problem has occurred. We may come up with a result that is completely false -- but we do not know that. This is why it is so important to have secondary, or backup, systems and studies to make sure that results are consistent. In the case of scientific studies, one study may be interesting and have results that may entice OTHER researchers to try to duplicate the study or try a different approach, but the results of the one study cannot, and should not, be relied upon on their own.
In the past decade, the term GIGO has expanded a bit. It now is sometimes used for a situation where any type of inappropriate incoming conditions results in bad outgoing conditions. Eating "junk foods" is an example of this in the area of nutrition. If you eat foods that do not supply the appropriate "building blocks" (see my earlier blogs on nutrition) then it is difficult to build, and maintain, a healthy body. Another situation might be a building that is created with bad materials (inferior steel, poorly mixed concrete, lack of specified reinforcements, ...) and it collapses when a problem (perhaps an earthquake for which it was SUPPOSED to have been adequate) occurs.
Another situation is more human-directed. That is falsification of data. In other words, people can (and do) sometimes lie. This may be for many different reasons -- they want different results to be true or they think that other results will bring them more attention (and funding) or they trust that no one will bother to cross-check the results.Two instances (I'm sure there have been more) of this have happened in the past decade -- one dealing with autism and vaccines and the other having to do with climate change. While it is difficult to be certain of the motivations, the results were considerable -- a loss of trust in vaccinations (and a rise in preventable illnesses and deaths) and possible delays in addressing environmental problems.
In the area of politics, of course, this happens all of the time. A politician will say something and reactions and decisions are made based on what they say. If what they say is truthful, then those reactions and decisions have a better chance to be good ones. If what they say is not truthful, then it is unlikely the results will be good ones. Unfortunately, the rules of scientific studies are rarely followed in politics -- the facts may be researched but the results of those fact-verifications are either not seen, ignored, or misbelieved based on what the recipients want to have happen.
A situation that lies between the two is the matter of data gathering for political purposes. Polls are used to reflect, and to influence, people's attitudes. However, a poll may gather data that is not representative and, thus, the results are not accurate. For example, if a poll only calls people on "landline" phones then the people who have only cell (mobile) phones will be excluded. It turns out that certain groups of people are more likely to have only cell phones -- thus the poll will be skewed away from the cell phone group and not be accurate. Or the poll could call people only in the evening hours -- and certain groups not present during the evening hours will not be represented. Or some people will filter out calls based on incoming numbers and so only those who do NOT filter their calls are represented in the poll results. It is more difficult than ever to get an appropriate poll base.
Finally, a situation that combines computer science, politics, polling data, and cross-checking -- voting. There are two types of fraud that can exist in elections. One is voting fraud -- where someone who is not entitled to vote (or who is entitled to vote once but votes more than once) is able to vote. This situation sounds scary but actually does not happen a lot. The other is election fraud. This is where people who should be able to vote are prevented from voting, or their vote is changed such that the person/cause for which they are voting does not get credit (possibly giving it to the opposing situation). This happens much more often than voter fraud and appears to be increasing in volume. Both voter fraud and election fraud are instances of GIGO in the political arena. They are addressed in the same ways -- simplification (fewer systems or people between the voter and the recording of the vote) and cross-checking (paper trails for electronic voting systems, receipts for voting records, duplication of systems and verifying that both results are the same, ...). Unfortunately, people often decide to make things "easy" and "fast" which tends to increase the opportunities for election fraud.
In what areas of life do you see the principle of GIGO operating? How do you, or would you, make sure that the information, on which you make your decisions, is correct?
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
This blog is about marketing -- and marketing is about politics (and politics is about marketing). Most people think of politics as about politicians and other elected officials. Most people think of marketing as being for/against commercial products and other types of physical objects that can be transferred. Yet, we talk about marketing a candidate and politics are basically a matter of forming/creating, and expressing, views on various subjects. They are inseparable.
So, this is a warning. If you don't want to read a blog about politics then don't read this blog. Some examples will be about commercial products and other examples will be about current events and, admittedly subjective, aspects of current society.
Sometimes marketing is used as a short term for marketing media which is about HOW the marketing materials are distributed -- television, pamphlets, advertising within other social media (movies, plays, ...), and so forth. This is different from the marketing content and I won't be talking about marketing media (at least, not in this blog). Marketing is also closely related to sales -- and I won't be talking directly about sales. This blog is about marketing and labels -- the words that contain the concepts that you want to have others absorb.
As mentioned above, marketing is basically a matter of creating/forming views on various subjects. The person, or group, that is doing the marketing will have an object view -- what she, or he, wants you to have as the final thought about the item being marketed. Candidate X is the best. Product Y makes your clothes cleaner. Legislation G will make you safer.
The following bullet items are concerned with categories of methods used to make labels more effective -- more likely to achieve the desires of the people creating the labels. It is meant to include the more important methods but certainly will not contain all of them. Please note that, although examples are taken from the U.S, examples abound from around the world -- in my research, I have found items from Canada, France, the U.K., and Germany.
- Obfuscation -- this is a $20 word for making things less clear. Clarity is sometimes desired within marketing and, at other times, it is strongly not desired. In general, if there is one side then there is the opposite. Gas-conserving versus gas-guzzling. But "gas-guzzling" isn't appealing so that might get ignored and "powerful" would be used instead.
For a controversial social/religious area, the sides should be "pro-choice" versus "anti-choice" or "anti-life" versus "pro-life". But, even though it is accurate, "anti-choice" isn't something that is marketable. The people opposing the "pro-life" people are strongly supportive of all phases of life, including the post-birth lives of the woman and fully-developed child -- so "anti-life" is not at all accurate.
In most cases, obfuscation can only occur when the media allow it to happen. Many times, the media will actually assign the labels and they often do so based on "catchiness" rather than attempted accuracy.
- Conciseness versus Self-explanatory and perspective. Shorter descriptions are more easily remembered. "Jingles" are short phrases that are easy to remember (and, often, sung) and get associated with a product. Hashtags are now used to give a short, compact, indication of the subject matter. A difference of perspective can mean that a concise term does not have sufficient information to be self-explanatory.
The term #BlackLivesMatter was created based on the reality that, currently, the lives of black people, poor people, Hispanic people, and First Nation ("Indian", Native, indigenous, ...) people do not matter very much to the U.S. justice system. Their deaths are under-investigated and legal matters are not treated with equal importance. They are also profiled and subjected to laws that are directed specifically towards their communities. They are over-represented in the for-profit prison system.
(What do for-profit systems try to do? Increase demand -- which, in this case, means to increase the numbers of people imprisoned and it is much easier to do that with less-powerful segments of the population.)
People who are not in these groups assume that the groups of people are treated in a similar way to the way that they are treated -- thus they respond that #AllLivesMatter which, unfortunately, is not accurate. It is true that #AllLivesSHOULDMatter. If the original hashtag had been #BlackLivesAlsoMatter would that have headed off some of the arguments? A concise label may be accurate but, without appropriate history and perception, may not be sufficiently clear.
- Inferences -- drawing on history and associations. The Patriot Act (and the Patriot missile) have no direct connection to anything "patriotic". By associating the name to the legislation and product, the associations that people have with the word can be connected, in people's thoughts, to the product. Local company names that have their local city, or neighborhood, as part of their name tend to attract more business.
- Avoidance of "hot words" by redirection. Some words are associated with negative things by the majority of a population. In the U.S., such hot words include "socialism" and "welfare". So, if you are going to promote a new taxpayer-funded airport, you do NOT use the word "socialism" (which it is) -- instead you use the less direct "subsidized". If a new factory needs special utility lines (electricity) and water lines that are taxpayer-funded, they are "expanding infrastructure" even if it is specifically for use by the company which does not pay for it. "Welfare" is a bad word when used for helping individuals -- so the word is not used when corporations are subsidized.
- Newspeak -- the way of using language for redirecting thoughts. This is closely related to obfuscation but is more deliberate. Newspeak was described in the book 1984 by George Orwell. A more complete list can be found in the Wikipedia article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Newspeak_words.
"Right to Work" laws actually reduce the wages, and freedom, to work for a living. The phrase "Anti-Union" is much more accurate but not as easily sold. The "Internet Freedom" act moves the control of the Internet to large corporations -- thus actually reducing the freedoms of the consumers.
Much of the transfer of wealth from the 99% to the 1% has been done under Newspeak titled Legislation labels. Who has time to read a 2,000 page bill when the extremely inaccurate and misleading title "Help out the Middle Class Act" (not the actual name of a bill, as far as I know) says it all?
Newspeak also deals with the re-writing of history. Don't like what actually happened 50 years ago? Change the history books to indicate something different. Does a book written 100 years ago use language that is no longer acceptable? Rewrite the book to be currently acceptable. This is related to labeling as it is possible, with effective marketing, to change the current meaning of a word. For example, the word "gay" is no longer used in the U.S. to indicate happy and joyous. The label has changed because the underlying meaning has been diverted.
- Irrelevant but popular associations. A carbonated beverage (soda, pop, soda pop, sparkling drink -- regional names) can be marketed as "gluten-free". Carbonated beverages almost never have gluten but, since many people now consider gluten to be bad, a marketing method can include saying what "bad" things are NOT included. "This soda is gluten-free, cyanide-free, lead-free, and contains all the vitamins that start with the letter B".
Labels are a way of marketing products and ideas. As an aspect of language, they make use of -- and form -- the ways that we think about those subjects. If we are aware of what we are doing when we create labels, they can be more effective -- and, if we are aware of what others are doing when they create labels, we can make it less easy to be misled.
Are you aware of other methods that labels can be used, or misused, within the world in which you live? How much do labels affect the way you think about things?
Sunday, August 7, 2016
I was involved in a thread once upon a time and got trolled (expected if you talk about anything of significance -- and sometimes even if you are just talking about the weather). This was a thread talking about one of society's "magic numbers".
These are part of a group of numbers which we use based on statistical information. As Mark Twain once said (he said that the British Prime Minister Disraeli said it first): "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
For example, in current society a number called the Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to determine whether you are overweight, underweight, or in a "good range". This number is a ratio of height to weight and provides reasonable results for 80 to 85% of the population. For the other 15% to 20% of the population, the number just doesn't work well. If you are an athlete (or work out a lot and have more muscle) it doesn't work well. If you are a total couch potato with almost no muscle it will actually give you a better result than you "deserve". If you truly do have "thick bones" you will be at a disadvantage. This doesn't matter that much except if people are basing other things on that number -- insurance companies and computerized social services for example.
Why do we use this "magic number"? It is quick. It is easy. It is cheap compared to other, more accurate methods of body fat percentage calculations. However, even if one used a more accurate measure than that of the BMI, it would STILL not be accurate for everyone because there is no "one body shape fits all". For some, to hit that "ideal", one part of their body would have to be UNDER-weight in order for the average to be correct.
There are other "magic numbers" used. The "age of consent" is a magic number which, in more technical society, indicates that a child has become an adult. They are able to sign contracts, do things without permission from parents or guardians, get married and so forth. This magic number ranges from 13 in Japan to 21 in Bahrain. In some non-technical societies, it depends on the age when menarche sets in for women and "rites of passage" for men.
Many people get the direction of "age of consent" backwards -- thinking that a higher age of consent protects the child more from society. In reality, the family, church, or government usually have many options to do what they want with children at the age they think is right. The "age of consent" is what gives people the right to control, for themselves, decisions that affect their lives.
These numbers are set for two principal reasons. One is to prevent abuse of others by pushing them into activities (such as marriage or other things) before they can really make good decisions for themselves. The other is to determine an "age of emotional and mental maturity" which is taken to be an indication that they can make good decisions.
This type of magic number is determined almost solely by societal norms. It is usually lower in agricultural societies and higher in societies that require a longer period of education and social adjustment. It is also higher in societies where familial, and religious, control of women is greater. But, as is true with the BMI, it is (at best) a statistical reflection. Some will not be ready at age 30 to properly make decisions for themselves. Some might be ready at a very young age. There have been no psychological studies and are unlikely to be such.
Even the "age of consent" is not for everything. There are separate "magic numbers" for voting, being drafted for war, being able to drive, being able to work full-time, for purchasing and using legal drugs, and so forth. In many instances, the society would like to prohibit the activity but do not have sufficient backing from the populace to do such. Therefore, they set an age which most of society agrees is appropriate.
In all of these areas (and more), the "magic number" is sometimes determined by a statistical averaging and sometimes determined by societal norms. It is rare that the number is backed up by thorough, and consistent, studies -- which is why it is "magic".
What other "magic numbers" are you aware of within society? Do you know of any that have a researched background reason? Others that do not have such a background?
Saturday, June 18, 2016
I recently had a friend, who also uses one of the same Social Media sources that I do, complain about the way their contacts list was being used to send out advertisements to her friends under their name. For them, this was an item that made them consider dropping use of that Social Media source (I am deliberately not naming it because the problem is not really specific to that particular source -- call it YYY.) I responded to their message with a brief note about how all of the Social Media sources had to find ways to fund themselves and that if they chose to drop usage that was certainly their right but to recognize that the source had to be able to fund themselves.
During the past 50 years, we have had a true technical revolution -- meaning that the ways that things interact have dramatically shifted. All change causes discomfort and the need to adapt new methods to work with them. However, as I have talked about in some earlier blogs, money -- which is the representation of labor and other resources -- still needs to be able to be moved around so that people can pay for their needs to live.
It may be difficult for many people to remember so far back but, once upon a time, everything was paid for in cash of the local economy -- or, possibly, private representations of cash such as personal checks or money orders/traveller's checks. My younger children have never written a check -- and it is quite possible they never will (they also may not learn cursive handwriting to be able to sign a check or contracts -- but that is a different story). The first credit card (or what we would call a credit card) was invented around 1950. For the first couple of decades, a credit card was used more as a guarantee against payment with the card's numbers (sometimes imprinted from a raised surface) associated with an account which was then printed with the purchase/fee amount and sent to the local bank or credit repository. The money was then authorized to be given to the merchant and a bill was later created for the person using the credit card. It was not until the 1980s that the landline phone system began to be used to connect directly to the credit card issuer's accounting system -- an "electronic" credit card. Of late, it is becoming popular to embed "smart chips" to increase security.
With use of electronic credit cards, the user, the merchants, and the credit system became part of the "big data" pool of information. Privacy was greatly diminished -- laws were created to help protect privacy but certain information could now be accessed unless directly forbidden. If you buy a specific product at a specific store, you may get (in the mail -- or via email) a coupon for a competing product at a competing store (or the same product but at a different store). They know WHAT you get and WHERE get it -- and the purchase is specifically connected to YOU. The advent of even more abstract methods to transfer money such as Paypal means that all info within the capital stream can be matched against each other.
So, with that general background, here comes the Internet. Others are better qualified to talk about how it evolved than I am -- but it basically started as a network interconnected by the Defense Department to help its contractors better communicate with each other. That expanded into a general connection of universities, colleges, and scientists which then expanded into connections between businesses as well as all the former connections and then the leap occurred for virtually everyone to connect with everyone else. This global interconnection used to be via voice phone, or physical letters and telegrams, or long personal trips.
The old, physical, methods had a set of costs to provide services and a set of fees and charges to make sure all the people involved could continue to provide the services. The old pre-Internet was paid for by the Defense Department, and then divided between the Defense Department and the various businesses and then private companies started to be formed which helped with interconnection for a fee -- with transmission fees to the private companies paid directly by the end user. That is the way that the fee structure is largely set up now. People pay for connection (cable, DSL, analog phone, broadband ethernet, whatever) and usually have an Internet Service Provider (ISP) -- many times these are now provided by the same company. In some manner, the full amount of fees/charges must pay for the needs of all the people/resources needed to provide the service.
We (finally, you say) now get to the Social Media. Social Media is a destination -- just like going online to shop is a destination -- or online to get information is a destination. Each destination has an interest in having you go there. But every destination has its own costs needed to provide the services that are attracting you to go there. Online shopping sites are a straight-forward equivalent of a "brick and mortar" store. Their costs are paid for via the profits on items that they sell. Online information access is usually paid for by the people who want you to have the information -- tourist destinations or government entities (taxpayer funded) or whatever. Private information destinations may be paid for by advertisements which exist to redirect you to businesses which have use an online shop finance model.
But what about the Social Media? Every destination has to get you to decide to visit. Many of the major Social Media (and major "search" groups) decided that the services would be "free" to the user. In other words, people could work with the destination's services without paying any additional money directly. A "free" site can then entice people to come there by providing the services that they want to use without having to precisely decide on a fee structure for the services (which, if they give many types of services, could end up being very complicated). BUT, the Social Media still has people and other resources that are needed to provide the service -- and these people have their own needs to be able to live. So, every destination -- including Social Media -- must eventually bring in money to pay for those services.
Once a service is provided as "free" it is very difficult to start charging up-front fees without having a mass departure of people from using the service. So, the fees must be charged in a manner that is "optional" -- you are not required to pay/use them in order to get the general services -- but enough people are expected to want to use them such that the money brought in is enough to pay for costs. The first, easiest, avenue is advertisements -- this has a long-time association with use of services and people expect it (even if the service initially starts with no advertisement). It is even a way to get initially "free" services changed to a fee-service without getting rid of users -- ("free" with advertisements but, if you don't want ads, you can pay a fee to get rid of them). The next step is to provide access to other services which, once again, may be "free" but have added inclusions that do cost money (for example games that allow you to purchase "extras"). A following step is to "sell the client list" to other fee-based advertisers (such as my friend complained about).
There are various methods used to bring in the revenue needed to provide the services and resources -- some are very ingenious. The goal is to make you WANT to pay -- something that you have been persuaded that you NEED -- without ever making you doubt the reasons for which you initially went to the destination. It is a "tightrope" for some companies and they often sway back and forth between not making enough money to starting to lose people because they are unhappy.
What other methods of bringing in money do you encounter? How do you feel about them?
Saturday, June 11, 2016
The more that a person uses social media, the more likely it is that you will be the subject of a troll attack. Like most situations of being attacked, the most direct way of avoiding such an attack is to not be present. Within social media, this means do not post -- do not show any indication that you exist. For some people, this works pretty well -- they "lurk" in the background and notice what is happening in other people's lives and what are the topics that others are interested in discussing.
There is nothing wrong with passive use of social media -- unless there is something important going on about which you want to give your opinion. Or some event is occurring of which you are particularly proud -- maybe an anniversary or an award that your child has won. Or you keep encountering situations where you say to yourself -- "yes, that is possibly true -- but this other point, which I think is much more important, keeps being missed". Perhaps they keep talking about point B and they don't talk about point A which is related but not the same.
Pride, knowledge, a desire to contribute all may add to the reasons why you may want to actively participate. But, once you are visible, you can (and probably will) be attacked.
You may have heard about flame wars -- which are related to troll attacks. In both cases, the person attacking is primarily making personal attacks -- the messages have little, if any, relation to what was actually said. Many times, there is no way to tell from the attack whether the original message was read at all. However, the sneakiest (and most hurtful) troll attacks occur when they DO mention something that is somewhat relevant to what you have said -- because it can seem like the personal attack is based on some part of your message. It isn't.
Why would a person conduct a troll attack? It truly is the same situation as a "playground" (or workplace, or other locale) bully. First, they are angry. You don't know why but they are angry. Perhaps they lost their job or were refused a promotion in a job or their child was struck by an unlicensed (and uninsured) driver or they dropped a bowling ball on their foot or they were just screamed at by their mother or cousin. You just plain do not know. The only thing you know is that they are angry.
Second, they want to hurt others. Why do they want to hurt others? Why do they want to hurt you? Unfortunately, many people seem to feel that if others are feeling badly, or are being treated badly, then they -- in comparison to the others -- are doing better. This happens with various prejudices as well as in the arena of bullying.
Why are they attacking you? Well, it is possible that your message mentioned a keyword -- or "hot button" -- something about which they have an entire set of preset ideas and emotions. Am I saying that they ARE addressing your message? No -- not at all. They are still creating a personal attack based on anger. They are not listening (reading), analyzing, researching, thinking, or anything that really is concerned with the topic. They are reacting in anger because they are angry.
Why else might they choose you to attack? It might be because your message shows some indication that you may be vulnerable to attack -- it indicates insecurity or that you are hurting -- and there are also "-ist" attacks based on peripheral things like religion or pigmentation or ethnic origin or such. They attack because you seem to be a person who can be attacked.
What do you do if you are attacked? Personally, I suggest to do nothing. Like other bullies, if they do not get anything back to feed their anger, they will choose a different target. (It is conceivable, but unlikely, that they will even reconsider what they have said and try a different response -- at which point in time it is up to you whether to respond.) It may be useful for you to create a reply -- but never, never send it -- in order to allow emotional responses to find a form.
It is possible that others will come to your defence -- which may have some effectiveness unless they also start attacking from anger rather than addressing the contents of the messages.
Disagreements occur in life -- and they occur on the Internet. When the contents of messages are addressed, researched, explained, expanded upon, and treated as a bit of information within a much larger pool of information, those disagreements can lead to growth, change, and continued exchanges of ideas. When people attack the person who writes the message then there is no route to constructive response. It is an emotion not a thought and they may have reasons to be angry -- but they do not have the right to address that anger upon you.
How do you deal with flames and troll attacks? Do you have any methods that work to decrease them?
Saturday, May 7, 2016
People are always searching for a "good value". But what does value mean? Value is certainly a subjective matter -- the value for one person will differ from the value for another person. Still, even though it is variable, there are certain things that make up value. I call this "the Value Equation". Real economists may very well have a better formula for this concept -- but I like mine for general simplicity and use.
My Value Equation is Quality * Quantity * (1 / Cost) = Value. I would love to have Cost not be used as a reciprocal (divided into 1) but that is really how it relates to value. The lower the Cost the greater the Value -- a reciprocal situation. There is one other factor that indirectly affects the Value Equation. That is Affordability. It interacts with Cost in some manner but I don't know how to directly put it into the equation. Let's just say that if you have more money available then cost becomes less important.
Quality is the most subjective part of the equation. If one person really loves something then their perception of quality increases. In a similar way, if another person really hates something then the quality becomes less. It is even possible for it to become negative. A negative quality would indicate that the thing being evaluated goes against moral values. If you hate internal combustion engines then a more powerful engine has less quality for you because it uses more gasoline and probably emits more pollution. If you don't mind internal combustion engines then a more powerful engine has things about it that you love and will increase the quality for you.
Quantity is the only part of the equation that is mostly fixed. I say "mostly" because it is not always true that "more is better' for some people. A huge drink ("big gulp") sounds great until one evaluates the health consequences of drinking too much sugar or artificial sweeteners. A huge sandwich that is more than one should eat either becomes "wasted" (thrown out) or "waisted" (accumulated as fat into your body).
Even cost is a variable factor. First, the price that is charged is not fixed. Often, wealthy people (or celebrities) are charged less for things because they can "take it or leave it" and because their possession and use of it provide a return advertising value for the supplier. Second, in most instances cost does not reflect "total cost". Total cost is the price of all events that exist from harvesting the raw materials to manufacture to distribution to reclamation of the object and the environment from which the raw materials were harvested. Total cost is rarely used -- a good portion of the cost is absorbed by the general population and subsidized by the taxpayers.
Even with the subjective variability of the parts of the equation, it is still easy to see how it is used. Something that is of high quality, in the desired quantity, at a low cost will give the greatest value. If the quality goes down, the value goes down. If the cost goes up the value decreases (but may not be so important if it is very affordable).
How would you define quality? Do you see a limit on quantity that provides value or is "the more the merrier"? Do you consciously take into account "total cost" when you buy something. Do you "waste" or "waist" or do you try to always get just the correct quantity?
Although the Value Equation can be used as a framework -- the final answer is still up to you.
Saturday, April 30, 2016
If memories are so unreliable (and they truly are) then what can we do to make them more reliable? How do we convert them from transient to permanent? Well, on a technical basis, that process is called moving them from short-term to long-term memory. But, as we have discussed, that still doesn't make the memories any more "true" just because we remember them longer.
First off, it is good to acknowledge that almost any "evidence" can now be forged -- with enough money spent, it can be forged to the point that it is impossible to detect that it was not from reality. Technology has moved along a lot since the movie "Rising Sun" was made with Sean Connery. Photos, and video, can be created pixel by pixel. Cursive writing can be reformed from templates into any combination of letters, words, and sentences that may be desired. Audio is still, currently, the hardest to forge as it is a representation of analog (continuously changing) information -- but it is still possible to create something that would be very hard to distinguish from "real".
The only real protection individuals have from data forging is that most of us are NOT "worth the trouble". Even though it is easier and easier, with more easily used tools, to manipulate and fake data it still takes time, knowledge, experience, money (for equipment and software) and (for the second mention) time.
So, how to create a record for oneself that we can use to keep our memories "solid"? We have already inferred a number of methods. Photos. We can take photographs (preferably with notes associated with them). We do have to be careful to not infer about what we do NOT see. If we take that photo of a person in a red hat -- we do not know the color of the other side of the hat. We do not know who hid behind a tree. However, if we are taking these photos for ourselves, we can include notes to help get the information correct.
Audio is a great way to note things down -- but audio of what we experience is more useful than our taking an audio note of what we noticed or experienced. (That is just as easily misled as any other account of events.) If we can record someone saying something then we can refer back to it as what they said. Content, sequencing, and who said what can be noted and solidified.
Video combines the two of image and sound. The more the merrier. We just have to make sure that we recognize that what is not recorded may be as important, or more important, as what IS recorded. Do not take the "evidence" further than what is really there.
A final method of solidifying memory is just that -- physical reconstructions and recordings. Statues and sculptures, writing, models, and so forth can capture events and the emotions of events.
Do these methods make memories more reliable? No, not really -- although they can record details that we can forget ("Did I wear a green shirt that day or the plaid one?"). But they do help them to stop changing.