Humanoid Gets Citizenship: Odd.

Sophia RobotIf you think the world couldn’t get any weirder, it just got ratcheted up. Saudi Arabia, the country where atheists are considered terrorists and  women have less rights than in other countries, has made a humanoid artificial intelligence a citizen – the first humanoid AI citizen in the world.

So, the question is, is Sophia the AI a woman who has less rights than other places in the world, or is she a ‘terrorist’ – or has she had an AI sex change and become Muslim?

A Flood of Failures: Beyond ODPM.

Trinidad flood
Image Courtesy Flickr User ‘Trinidad News’ using a Creative Commons License .

This isn’t a technology post; however, it’s a post about failed systems and tangible problems here in Trinidad and Tobago.

There’s much that has been said about the ODPM, and having seen the press conference they suffered Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the world with, I’ve decided not to throw them under the bus only because they are already under the bus. It’s not even a challenge, but I offer they are under the wrong bus and those that should be with them are not under it.

Instead, I will write perhaps what they should have said as well as what should be corrected.

We have a tendency to believe that the ODPM, like any government agency, is on it’s own. When I look to criticize constructively, as someone with a technical background it is expected of me to point out the incompatible systems, the bottlenecks, and the problems with the apps and websites. Those are painfully obvious, and I have written about them before in the context of Brett.

Instead, let’s look at the systems.

We have a few agencies that are really involved with the flooding who are not garnering the attention they should be after these incidents – the ODPM, in this way, is a red herring offered for the masses to feed on.

The real problem is deeper, and the ODPM’s failures – as real as they are – only skim the surface of the actual problem: Flooding during wet season, water retention during dry season.

Environmental Management Authority

Let’s talk about the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) a moment. Their corporate vision, from their website, is to be “Stewards of Trinidad and Tobago’s natural resources and environment meeting current and future human, ecological and economic needs.”

I’d say that avoiding flooding is a part of current and future human, ecological and economic needs.

Their mission, as they communicate it on their website, is: “We are committed to sustainably manage the natural resources and environment by providing a transparent framework to facilitate policy and decision making in development. This will be undertaken within an approved regulatory system, utilising intensive public education and a collaborative cross-sectoral approach.”

So, how is it that a large amount of rainfall has created a problem that the ODPM cannot handle on more than one occasion? How is the EMA involved in that? Is it involved in that? Should it be involved in that?

It sounds like it is a big part of their job to this layperson.

Ministry of Planning And Development, Town And Country Division
This department is one I mainly know for authorizing land development and even changing land zoning. Clearly they should be working with the EMA; what they actually do is hard to find since they have an almost random note on the Ministry of Planning and Development’s website. They clearly should be more transparent. Website, anyone?

That they are almost always ignored in land development is something that may have something to do with that, as well as what seems to be an arduous process to get anything done – so much so that illegal land development has been an underlying problem with some of the flooding.

This is such a case that the Minister of Works has said he’ll be going after illegal land developers.

And yet, legal land development is hardly something that information can be found for, and what can be found is typically through people who know how the system works and how it doesn’t. In some regards, this could be  considered corruption, in others, it could be an inefficient bureaucracy that frustrates people to the point that they just go do their own thing.

Why is the Ministry of Planning and Development, Town and Country Division, more effective in reducing the potential for flooding? You’d think that they and the EMA would be joined at the hip.

Water and Sewage Authority (WASA)

We’re told that WASA is responsible for all the water in Trinidad and Tobago. Though I have never see it in writing, all water on the ground in the country allegedly is WASA’s water – unless, of course, there is flooding, where not even WASA wants it.

I bring them up because what we see as flooding in wet season is potential water to retain during dry season. In a country where many people still wait for pipe-borne water to fill their tanks on a daily basis, where water is almost always a problem during dry season, one has to wonder how WASA’s water retention isn’t being looked at as well.

Ministry of Works and Transport Drainage Division

As I regularly pass across Mosquito Creek, as many others do, we all see the problems with drainage. Flooding along any roads?


The Flood of Failure.

So yes, the ODPM didn’t handle the cascade of failures that creates flooding again. Sure, the Regional Corporations are also culpable at least to an extent – but with all this bureaucracy to save us from flooding, do we really want to blame the ODPM, forced to drink all this water, for wetting the bed? Clearly, the ODPM needs some work, but how much should we expect from them when much of this could be prevented?

The Introverted Network

Introvert / ExtrovertHidden in one of his posts (Measuring your real net worth) John Hagel welcomed some thoughts:

“…I would welcome advice and insight on how introverts (and others) can be more intentional about cultivating the kinds of personal networks that I’ve described above…


As a round peg that fits in many square holes, I do have a few things of value I can toss out there. John later mentions writing – writing has always been an asset for me. Photography came into play later on. Speaking for myself, with my own unique set of circumstances, I have certain guidelines for my networks I have created over the years that I still adapt to.

My guidelines are largely for attenuating my network, squelching noise and finding actual signal out there. In some ways, I feel like SETI.


My. Word.

In an age where everyone can communicate, it’s disheartening to see how many people aren’t authentic – they are showing who they want to be; these are the people who wash their cars and don’t do maintenance or have it done on their pretty little machines.

To find someone who is authentic is difficult enough…


I’m someone who ‘lives’ at intersections, always bridging one thing to another. I look for people who are not just specialists – in a world full of specialists – but also generalists and people who have something to offer other than something regurgitated from a newsfeed.


I appreciate a thoughtful read, particularly if it opens me up to a perspective I am unfamiliar with that is communicated in a thoughtful way – not the hollow expertise that has become rampant in even the most modern methods of communication. And when communicate back, I expect a level of thoughtfulness in the replies. If the response boils down to, “because I said so” or something similar, I’ll show my way out.


This has become more and more important to me – and while it derives from ‘thoughtful’, it is a true gem to find. When people can communicate effectively across cultures, first they reach a larger audience with what they are saying. This, unfortunately, also means wrong information can spread across that cultural bridge – but oddly, I’ve found that most information I get from people who live at these intersections is pretty well thought out and open to discussion – even, sometimes, starved for it as someone gives voice to things and is heard.


I draw lines.

First and foremost, if people get into my personal ‘space’ for no real good reason, I tend to squelch them. This is completely alien to some people and I understand that, but understanding that doesn’t mean I need to tolerate intrusions into my space (I call it my wa, or harmony). But what is this personal ‘space’?

The first time, people typically get a message from me that I’m not one for chit-chat; that I appreciate it all in one message. That usually does the trick. Usually.

The annoying ding of a message that just says, “Hi.” From this, I extrapolate that this will be a tiresome and largely unproductive communication that leads to multiple messages where one message alone would do. When I communicate, I lay it out all in one message.

And yes, I absolutely hate twitter for this. Absolutely. Twitter is good for sharing larger messages encapsulated in a link.

My second line is that if someone has an odd fetish that they post about all the time – for example, if they don’t ‘like Trump and post about Trump all the time – I squelch them. I learn nothing from that. The inverse is true for me as well. That is a form of intellectual masturbation I gave up a few decades ago, and while I appreciate that some have an odd predilection for it, I don’t feel like being near it.


For a certain amount of money, to be negotiated, people can pay me to put up with the above. Never the other way around.


I probably could have networks exponentially larger than I have now had I not squelched things. Larger is not my goal. I view a network as something everyone in feeds, and something that feeds everyone.

My Own Counterculture

The typical SEO/social media expert will tell you that you have to put on the Disney smile for everyone. I suppose this is important for corporations who want to appear authentic and alienate as few people as possible. I have never subscribed to this thought for myself, and only over the last decade have stopped trying to make excuses for it or apologizing for it. There is only one me, I am who I am and I am no more and no less.

This is not for everyone, of course, and if you’re paying social media experts to broaden your reach, you need to understand that your reach also has to be managed – and success in this regard can result in cataclysmic failure. Speaking for myself, I deal with the world as I can, and increasingly, as I demand. I see this as a factor of having grown up before the Internet became a ‘thing’, of having dealt with it since it’s inception and having made a living off of it, through it and around it.

Lastly, social media is only that. Real connections with real people trump social media connections. Social media can offer real connections, and I’ve outlined the general rules of how I cultivate those.

Deep Learning, Information Bottlenecks – and Osmosis.

I’ve experimented in the past with deep learning in a few different ways, coming up with my own thoughts on how things work and why they work. It was apparent to me when I stopped that in 2016 that I was missing something, and that I needed some distance between myself and the topic at hand. I gave up those Pine64s, and as it happened, moved away from where I was doing it – more importantly, divorcing me from a Software Engineering world where ‘solutions right now’ always trumped ‘solutions’, the former the harbinger of problems, the latter the Holy Grail of every software engineer who dare dream in a world that, except for the minority, requires lockstep precision within an industry that spends it’s time firefighting because of solutions-right-now.

It’s disenchanting. Being disenchanted allows for little in the way of real solutions, at least for myself.

And today I read, “New Theory Cracks Open The Black Box of Deep Neural Networks“. Of course, deep learning is not that new, and the ‘Information Bottleneck’ thought stems from the original work in 1999, the Information Bottleneck Method. That works perhaps in explaining things on a surface level and on an informational level – but as I read it, I was reminded of secondary school biology: Osmosis. No one has seemed to connect the two when they are so suitably connected, and I’d wager that Osmosis scales better since the information bottlenecks, when themselves in a matrix, pretty much would mimic a tunable osmosis.

That said, I’ve found the major problem with deep learning to be that we define inputs when, quite possibly, we should be more loose in our definitions of what we put in. This aligns better with chaos theory – something that the Wired article seems to dismiss:

…When Schwab and Mehta applied the deep belief net to a model of a magnet at its “critical point,” where the system is fractal, or self-similar at every scale, they found that the network automatically used the renormalization-like procedure to discover the model’s state. It was a stunning indication that, as the biophysicist Ilya Nemenman said at the time, “extracting relevant features in the context of statistical physics and extracting relevant features in the context of deep learning are not just similar words, they are one and the same.”

The only problem is that, in general, the real world isn’t fractal. “The natural world is not ears on ears on ears on ears; it’s eyeballs on faces on people on scenes,” Cranmer said…

Pragmatically, this is what we see when we work on projects – but the problem is not what we see, it’s what we don’t see. It’s the things we don’t intuitively connect ourselves because of our own limitations; with simple deep learning we may get away with what we see, but on a much larger scale, we may be looking at the motion of wings of a butterfly on the other side of the world causing a tipping point that creates a hurricane on the other.

Of course, this is all theory, and hardly some earth shattering change in the way we look at things – but a small change in how we approach things could well be what we need to move forward at various intersections. In this, I am trying to be a simple butterfly flapping his wings.