Thursday, July 26, 2012

Writerly writing, coderly code

When I try to show my brother a good song, he sometimes rolls his eyes.

"That's easy. It's just the same three chords over and over."

This is the kind of thing that a classical guitarist like my brother might be expected to say. People who lecture in music theory typically don't drive home listening to Britney Spears.

It's the same for every kind of art. There are two classes of successful artists: those who enjoy fame and respect among the critics and theorists, and the proletarian underlings that the normals listen to.

In literature, these two classes are commonly termed "writerly writers" and "readerly writers."

Yeah that's great James. Thanks a lot.
There are guys like Stephen King, whose stories you know from the myriad movies derived from them even if you've never picked up a book, and there are guys like James Joyce, who you need a master's degree, a handle on Greek mythology, and a primer on Irish dialects to even begin to misunderstand.

I think both categories are cool. There's a lot of snarky back-and-forth between the camps, but I think they're both good for what they're good for. It only starts to be a problem when your career expectations align with one camp and your body of work belongs to the other. This happens sometimes. How badly does Madonna want to be seen as a serious artist? How badly did Plato want to be king?

The greater the respect you can command, the smaller the number of people who are able to give it to you. In a modern ideational universe with so many narrow caves to passionately explore, the most severely elite are often appreciated by almost no one but themselves. Daniel W. VanArsdale has never seen a dime for his godlike understanding and collection of chain letters. The best graphic designer I know makes website backgrounds that actually stir one's soul. They're original. They're painstakingly well composed. It's designerly design. How it stacks up against a default WordPress template when it comes to moving product, I don't know. He has a day-job at Kinko's.

I like interesting stuff, myself. I write programs in prolog. I read a lot of anarcho-taoist-individualist philosophy. But I have yet to be cold-called by a prolog recruiter, or put on the anarcho-taoist-individualist philosophy lecture circuit.

It bothers me that I can't find a prolog interpreter for my android phone. Maybe someone started building one, but shelved so they could turn their attentions towards the world's ever more dire need for mind-blowing million-download apps like the Big Fart Button. Which is really what this post about: farting may be the key that could unlock my life. If you want success, start farting. That's what I've decided. (Hat tip, Levi Self.)

Your deep thoughts can't get you your beach house in Bora Bora. In fact, the deeper your thoughts, the less far they can take you. Fart buttons can take you to the moon.

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind, but if you have goals involving Davos, a mind with much integrity will steer you towards things pedestrian.

I'm trying to learn to do this.

Someday, maybe, when I've sold enough funnel cakes, I can work machine ethics.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why I am not a warlock, for Domi.

In the early 1990s, I knew enough about computers to write a batch file, get a directory listing, or make a simple game in QBASIC. In other words, I was powerful enough to overwhelm the security of every computer network in town. I was 13.

"This is too much power for one person."

My first exploit was in the computer lab. Ms. Keel's class. Eighth grade. I shut down the network and got class cancelled.

My second great triumph involved running a password cracker on the Novell network in my freshman keyboarding class. I deleted a student from the network. He couldn't log in and do his classwork. To my surprise and horror, the teacher freaked out and screamed at the student, and he cried. It was his fault, she said, and he had somehow "deleted himself." Poor kid. I still resent the half-literate and emotionally two-years-old hicks that people trust their children to in that town. Teachers can suck.

Later I started doing websites. I'd look around on web servers for unprotected directories with encrypted password files and run CRACKERJACK.EXE on them with a 300,000-word wordlist I'd gotten from usenet. It took all night. I actually took root permissions on established silicon valley companies. Shockingly, people's work was often on the same network as the company website. I had everything. I got caught (genius elite hacker I was, I defaced a website by adding Weezer lyrics to the boilerplate), and got a talking-to, and held off on the high crime for a while.

In college, in the early 2000s, I did make a sort of reprise. Actually, that's a lie. I tried, but my cousin pulled it off. The cult I was a part of was having big splits and an internal civil war over child molestation and stuff like that. My dad (a higher-up in the cult) was a kind of whistle-blower, and he got royally shit on by the cadre of leaders. People were also being mean to me about my wikipedia edits about the stuff. Priests were calling me and saying I shouldn't talk about sexual improprieties in the denomination because I should have some sort of "family pride." I was pissed. I wanted into all their email accounts (by this time lots of people had email addresses). I tried some stuff and failed. Then my cousin (and perpetual co-conspirator) pulled it off. He hacked cox.com's (a big national internet provider and issuer of email addresses at the time) email passwords. All of them, in fact.

There was a moment, then, when an amazing amount of power was available to me. We had millions of people's email addresses. How many insider trading tips did we have? How many church secrets? How many politicians could we ruin?

This time, and later, I said "no."

It wasn't about the law. I was completely out of my mind, and thought I could get away with just about anything.

It was about not wanting to cry all the time.

From Macbeth to Faust to Dorian Grey, we have all of these parables about devil's bargains and selling your soul for power in messing with the occult. Me and Levi liked that metaphor for what we might become as hackers. We called our all-knowing hypothetical selves "warlocks" (a term that probably makes most people think of role playing games, but as a kids whose parents told them that those nighttime noises might just in fact be being made be demons, had a totally different, terrifying, sold-your-soul connotation).

I was afraid of what the information would do to me.

Anyone who's broken into an ex girlfriend's email account knows pain. People are horrible, yourself probably included.

("I set it down as a fact that if all men knew what each said of the other, there would not be four friends in the world. " -  Blaise Pascal)

I knew my teenage mind couldn't handle the truth. I did suspect that the polite world was a fiction, and that the truth of people's thoughts would be so existentially gut-wrenching as to make one question if Goodness and Love themselves were myths, but I wanted this to remain only a suspicion. The hope that things are not so makes life worth living.

So I backed off.

I have an awesome friend who wants to become a warlock now. I understand her motivations.

 I warn you, but I bless your endeavor.

Just don't tell me what you find over there.

An argument in poems.

With Dr. Jim LaPeyre.


An impromptu short story, for Paindancer.

Story for Paindancer

On the Evitability of the Emergence of Omohundro's Basic AI Drives

Ev It Ability

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Anthropology of Tablet Computing

When the iPad first came out, I was baffled at its wild success. Now I think I understand.

I was originally perplexed at why an overpriced portable computer, unique only in what it lacked (a keyboard, ease of customization, heavy-duty discipline-specific for-work software) should be thought of by so many as a great advance; an essential addition to our technological arsenals which already ubiquitously include laptops of equivalent size and greater power. Such are my proclivities towards cybernetic totalism. I've now realized that the iPad's supremacy has nothing to do with it's technical capabilities. It has everything to do with the visual metaphor it employs.

This, on a date, would seem very rude:


While this does not:


I grew up around computers. The sight of a person working on a computer comes with its own gestalt psychological baggage. I fight it, as a professor, even when my students are using their laptops for good and not evil. I know, automatically and subconsciously, that a laptop is a portal to the hive-mind; to reddit and facebook, to asinine pictures and pointless chat. Now of course I know that about iPads, too, but I don't know it in the same way. The iPad exploits a collective unconscious lag in the modernization of our visual metaphors. Someone can be as rude and self-absorbed and removed as can be, but my subconscious reads it:

"I'm paying attention. Maybe taking notes, even."




The genius of the iPad was bridging the gap between the demands of our nonverbal culture and our addiction to the internet.

And I would predict that its are not the last dollars to be made in such a way.





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Sunday, March 18, 2012

. . .

After a day and night with our anarchist lovers, going to the museum felt like returning to the chess board from a week-long free saunter on the checkered tile floor.

Here, rules applied.

Museum people.

-"You can't take pictures."
- "I was just taking a picture of the wall."
-"You can't take pictures."

or, rushing out of the building to talk to us,

-"Sir, you can't smoke there." . . . *directs us to an unmarked place one meter away*

And I think I might have an irrational hatred of the rich. I want to be rich, but when I'm rich I'm totally going to know that richness is a sham, and that I conned the world, and that I've sold out in my complicity to this violent soulless system of coercion.  How can these guys be so happy? Slowly sounding out the pronunciation of painters' names to their rosy-cheeked scarf-wearing kids. 

The language game made things more fun. Before parting ways that morning, I got to impress Cassy by pegging some Nigerians by their accents. At the museum, the African girls were probably from Gabon. They looked at the ritual masks that their great-grandparents wore like they were something from a work of fiction. The dark-skinned Russian speakers I still haven't figured out. So many languages. Six independent inventions of civilization and ten thousand years of development, all so we could drive the same Infiniti G37s to the museum and say the exact same false and asinine things to our kids about the statue.

There was an old statue of a Babylonian priest with his weird-ass conical hat. Nobody here was wearing one of those. This is a guy I could talk to. I wonder what he believed. I wonder if he knew Sumerian as a liturgical language. I wonder who was the last man on earth to believe in his religion.

There was another statue, a gold one, of a Buddha wearing a crown. The placard explained that in Thailand it is believed that kings have a special connection to Buddha, and so they made statues of him in regal, governmental attire. In the room behind it was an older stone statue of a thingless Jain.

Then I was transfixed, captivated, like Hitler before the Spear of Longinus, by an Egyptian hairpin from 3,000 BC. This, more than any of the the dumb Pollack paintings, posed questions. Was she defiant, sarcastic, and flirty? Or was she somber and devout? I wish I could find an ancient Egyptian hairpin. It's so small. Maybe I could steal it.

Leaving the museum we smoked a clove and made our sleepy way to Ft. Worth with hours to kill before the party. "Where to, what next?"


Thursday, March 1, 2012

P = NP: An Apocalypse.

Historians and data archaeologists studying the period immediately preceding the discovery of P = NP are in general agreement that the people of the 20th and early 21st centuries did not equate the hypothetical unification of P and NP with their civilization's collapse.

Civilizational collapse was a topic of discussion in both academic and popular arenas at the time, but was usually relegated to discussions of fossil fuel dependency, nuclear proliferation, and global environmental change. The problem of P and NP was understood as an important computational question, and even known to posses ramifications for cryptography, but was not generally regarded as having the potential to delegitimize all world governments, effect massive apostasy from all world religions, and restructure popular expectations and social mores regarding the universal human tendency towards prevarication.

In the immediate wake of the events of December 6th, 2012, Self and Locke were awarded a $1,000,000 prize by the Clay Mathematics Institute, which had deliberately sought to incentivize work on the P/NP problem. The result was seen as an advance in mathematics and computer science, and was believed at the time to promise societal advance.

The potential for societal collapse was not understood, even by the academic establishment, until the events of Revelation Saturday, two days later.

When global digital transparency was effected at the behest of elements of the "hacktivist" group Anonymous on December 8th, the perpetrators of the act believed that the infiltration of all internet accounts and the leaking of all private information would primarily affect the more oppressive ruling regimes of the pre-Revelation world's governments. However, as virtually all human electronic correspondence became publicly accessible, it soon became apparent that a panoply of impacts had not been considered.  When in the following week divorce filings were made by over half of all married couples, Anonymous pronounced its apologies and regrets. When the following mass disbarment of lawyers effectively destroyed the global legal apparatus required to prosecute members of Anonymous, render divorces, and carry out justice within a codified, legal framework, the societal implications of the mathematical breakthrough became better understood.

Popular opinion quickly coalesced around an amorphous opposition to the reestablishment of pre-Revelation legal and judicial systems, as virtually all legal and political institutions had been undermined and delegitimized by their internal data and correspondences. The parallel collapse of religious institutions was at first widely recognized on Sunday December 9th.

The causes and effects of the collapse pre-Revelation civilization are well understood, and a matter of large consensus among present-day theorists and historians.

There remain, however, open questions regarding how pre-Revelation civilization initially came about. Principally, it is not understood how the vast majority of humans came to give credence to their institutions while at the same time understanding first-hand their own human inclinations towards deception.









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Thursday, February 23, 2012

My story about lucid dreaming and lottery numbers

Last night I played the Texas Lotto with numbers I had gotten in a lucid dream, and half of them were correct. It probably doesn't mean anything. 1:250 odds, for that. Pretty weird, but not burning bush weird. I had gone to bed with the silly plan to do this, based on a whacked-out probably-not-true theory about time and the subconscious. Getting a weird fluke 1:250 event as the outcome of a deliberate experiment with time probably at least merits me doing the experiment again. It probably also justifies writing a blog post.

-------------------------------
My facebook page is at www.facebook.com/topochico, if you want to confirm this.


I want to talk about the theory, and my experiment. But first let's talk about my childhood.

When I was a kid, I believed I had precognitive dreams. They were usually about buildings. When I recognized a building from a dream, adults usually told me it was deja vu. It may have been. But I was convinced enough of myself that I got really serious about trying to prove them wrong. I wrote out detailed descriptions of all the weird buildings I had seen in dreams but not yet found in life. I wonder today if this journal still exists somewhere. It'd be mind-blowing if I found it and there were sketches of my current workplace, and the hotel in Toledo where we spent our honeymoon, etc. I don't expect that this would be the outcome, but it's fun to imagine.

When I got older, my dad told me about a book that C.S. Lewis and his whole Oxford posse were really intrigued by. It's called An Experiment With Time.

If you buy it, do it here so Amazon will give me a couple of cents.

The author purports to have precognitive dreams. He starts journaling them, and to his own satisfaction disproves the explanation of "you just made that memory up." He goes on to invent a theory of physics that can permit for such a bizarre phenomenon. He's not a physicist. His theory is ludicrous. It's really, really confused and bad. I walked away from the book thinking that all of his conclusions were untenable, but that perhaps his experimental data was still valid. There's no way of knowing. He could have made up everything in the book just to impress a girl and make a buck.

Later on in life, the brilliant Richard Morgan made me watch Waking Life.


It's a trippy rotoscoped indie movie about lucid dreaming. It's freaking fantastic. So I had now been exposed to lucid dreaming. I started to practice. I'm still not very good.

Lucid dreams are dreams that you have where you know that you're in a dream. When this happens, and you're naked in high school again where everybody hates you, you can smile, stand up on your desk, start singing a song for people, and then fly away.

There are a lot of cool things you can do in lucid dreams. If you need a sandwich or a weapon, you can reach out of your field of vision, know it will be there, grasp it, and pull it into your field of view (I got a revolver when I was being attacked in London this way once, and it was really useful).

So I started to think this: What if the crazy Experiment With Time guy is right in his argument that our subconsciouses have access to both future and past memories? What if by lucid dreaming, we can effect a bit of conscious inquiry into this data? What if, say, for example, I realized I was in a dream, and reached out of my field of vision to grab the Handheld Future Machine, which listed lottery numbers and earthquake coordinates?

It's utterly far-fetched, and I don't believe it, even as I experiment with it. There are just too many things that wouldn't make sense. For starters, I'm convinced that someone with even a little bit of precognitive ability could essentially take over the world and rule it as god/king, like Jones did in The World Jones Made. I figure that at least a few of the 100,000,000,000 people who've ever lived would have pulled this off by now, and we'd all definitely know about it.

There are other considerations. What about time's arrow? What about everything we know about neurology and memory formation? You can add your own what-abouts. They're innumerable.

So it was just a fun idea. Something to imagine about for funsies, like a ghost story.

Then I met Duña.

Duña Littlefield was a Peruvian woman who had married an old racist anglo for her citizenship. He didn't speak Spanish, and she didn't speak English. That started to make things complicated in their marriage, so he enrolled her in my class (I'm an ESL teacher).

Duña had the most outlandish ideas about la metafisica, and the moon, and tarot. It made classes interesting.

So one day, Duña comes to me and says (in markedly less fine English), "I woke up from a dream last night, and all I can remember are the numbers 311. I think it means something. What is God trying to tell me?" I quipped, "It's called Pick Three. Go buy a lottery ticket after class tonight and you'll win $500. You owe me half." We laughed and we continued with class.

She literally screamed, that night, when the numbers were drawn. She hadn't bought a ticket. She reported it to me and I verified it. 311. I was inspired.

So. To the present. My experiment.

I was talking with my son about the Duña thing two nights ago, and I told him that we should each try to lucid dream, and try to get lottery numbers. I promised I would play any numbers he dreamed. I left a sheet of paper and a sharpie by his bed. He didn't have a lucid dream. I did.

I didn't pull a Handheld Futuretelling Device, but instead a piece of paper. 

The paper was covered with numbers. I picked a line at random and started committing them to memory. As per the strategy I had developed with my son that night, I made up a song and sang the numbers to myself, so it would be easier to remember them when I woke up. I have a really hard time reading in lucid dreams (in fact, blurry illegible text is a dream sign for me: something that tells me I'm not really awake). I finally got the line down woke myself up, sang the song, and entered the numbers into my phone.

Which is appropriate, because the sequence of numbers I dreamed looked like a phone number. Depressing. I had to break it up into 1 or 2-digit numbers to play. 

I dreamed:

635     771     0538

It was depressing because I obviously couldn't play something like 635. I could play 6, and 35. or should if be 63, and then 5? Shit. Someone on facebook gave my their favorite break-down, and I ran with it. It had a 77 in it. The lotto balls don't count up that high. *sigh.* I let the gas station lady pick her own favorite number to switch out with the 77. (I had actually really, really, struggled to read that middle portion in the dream.)

They drew last night after I went to bed. The winning numbers were:

3 5 6   12   38 50
(you can verify here

It looks like a dyslexic reading of my numbers (with the 77 switched out, of course). What impresses me most is that it's even alike in sequence. My final chunk -- 0538-- looks a lot like that 38 50 over there. Same 635 and 3 5 6. Completely discarding the similarity in sequence, something improbable happened: I got half the numbers right. My 1:250 fluke paid off a disgustingly disproportionate $3.


Directions for further research

I have to try again, obviously. What will happen is that I'll get nothing right. And then try again, and get nothing right. And then quit.

Unless I get another almost. Maybe I'll use a machine that speaks the words to me so I won't have to struggle with reading, and maybe I'll get all but one number right, or all of them.

And then, happily, when we're celebrating at Video Bar in San Juan, they'll ask Levi, "So, how did you retire so young?" and he'll answer (truthfully), "I hacked the stock market."

They'll turn to me and say "And you? You too? What about your fortune?"

"I hacked the universe." 







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Saturday, February 4, 2012

What I believe. For Dad, and Jeff.

Me and Meg have been outed to my parents as polyamorous. Folks from church saw our outrageously cute 50s night quad picture and went to the bishop with it. My dad is the bishop. He's the badass /r/christianity bishop of "Hi Michael" fame. Him and my mom have been sobbing all night and day about me and Megan.

Last night, we had the posse over.

God I love you guys.
The sage (Jeffy) asked me how I could still identify as Christian. And more importantly, why not just leave it all and be free?

Some hours later, when we were having "the talk," my dad asked some similar questions. He also asked if we could sit down sometime and talk about my beliefs in detail. This post probably won't supersede that glorious impending conversation, but it would be good for me right now to at least try to paint the broad strokes.

I believe that when civilization came, a lot of pain came with it. I believe (with Marshall Rosenberg, author of the life-changing Nonviolent Communication),  that when complex human societies got underway, with all the slavery and violence that made them so good at growing and winning out in the long term, our language and education took a turn for programming us to be better slaves. A lot of false dichotomies emerged that distorted our thinking. Laws and morality were codified and internalized in a way that made us believe in some absolute wrongs and rights that run quite outside of the scope of "love thy neighbor," and sometimes run right against it. These were useful for the overlords, the still-free. Like Nietzsche says, every moral doctrine has its root in its opposite. Every prohibition for the masses was born of the prerogatives of the few.  As state-level civilization picked up, this led to massive violence and hurt. Where transferring our moral responsibility from our consciences to the law of the elites allowed us to stone adulterers and feel good the next day, transferring responsibilities to banks and governments soul-less corporations (who have now come to have "personhood" in modern legislation) allowed us to literally maim, kill, and humiliate at an unprecedented scale, and not even know we were doing it. Organized religion evolved as a part of this control system, and it served its purpose well.

Judaism actually seems to mournfully acknowledge this all. Pre-civilized man lives naked and with a single rule: don't eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He walks with God. Then he eats from that tree of codification and transference, and henceforth slaves away from the sweat of his brow.

The law is decreed. It's explicitly impossible to keep (whether it's from God, or not). Maybe this is God's brilliantly ironic retort to the people's insistence on having a law. Maybe it's just the slave-system hitting fever pitch.

Whatever the case, the Israelites do some inexcusably evil stuff. Stuff I can't and won't call Godly, ever. Genocide.

But then, in Christianity, the narrative twists breathtakingly. 

Nietzsche thought that Christianity was a dysfunctional religion, because even the elites were subdued by it. It still made slaves, but it didn't allow for anyone to be free. It is a weird-ass religion. 

Revisiting it, after I started to be more truthful with myself, I started to see in it a powerful story of freedom. God becomes a human, and works on the Sabbath, touches unclean people, hangs out with whores and breaks just about every law he can. He ordains apostles who literally call righteousness under the law "shit."

After all this insult and injury to the law, we're commanded to love each other. The Spirit will guide us and convict us. God dies on Tree #2, and we're back to something like the old rules.

This, surrounded by a thousand errata and contradictions and cultural moorings, is the basic narrative of Christianity. It's anarchistic, freedom-loving, and powerful. If there were a religion that could be read in such a way as to be liberating and empowering and ennobling, I think it's this one.

And if life isn't random, and things do happen for a reason, and we as individuals have a purpose, then the discovery of this probably has something to do with the reason I'm here.









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Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Tendencies

People need totems.

They really do. There's this primal yearning for a team to play on, with its own flag or jersey or ancestral god. Lots of kids' summer camps have a "color day," when the kids are divided into teams and get to run relays and stuff against each other. The kids get into it, and talk about it for years, ever holding their allegience to their bygone affiliations. Having a team is like having a name. It's humanizing.

Sneaky capitalists have used this to promote brand loyalty. When Coke and Pepsi, in the '90s, started bashing each in other taste-tests, it became clear to me that I was, in my heart, a Pepsi person. Because I'm not stupid, like those normal Coke people. 

I think there's an interesting thing that happens when you get too many people of the same totem together, though: it splits. Get a thousand professors together in a room, and no one will feel like they're on an elite task force with a special destiny just because they're a professor. A physicist will quip that non-physicists are glorified stamp collectors, and the teaming up will start.

Anarchism is a lot like that room of professors. It's split up into "tendencies," which can be defined, variously, by the goals of an adherents' anarchism, the methods they think will take us there, or what kind of party they're going to have afterwards.

Here are a few of our cool-ass teams:


Some goal-defined tendencies
anarcho-feminism
"when we get there, there's gonna be no patriarchy"
anarcho-primitivism
"when we get there, it's gonna be like it was before governments"
anarcho-transhumanism
"when we get there, we'll be free to change our bodies, and transcend this species, and  throw off the very shackles of death"
queer anarchism
"when we get there people, all genders and orientations will be able to do as they please"



Some method-defined tendencies

anarcho-pacifism
"we won't use violence or coercion to get there"
crypto-anarchism
"cryptography can help get us there a lot faster, and we need to pursue the hell out of it"


So far, I can identify with every single tendency I've listed. I can wave the whole rainbow of flags. But here's where it gets hard. Here's where all the big fights happen. Get ready.


Afterparty tendencies

anarcho-syndicalism
"when the state is abolished (or before) (or already!) I'm going to join a re-distributive syndicate"
anarcho-capitalism
"I'm not"

Team Edward, meet Team Jake.
"Why capitalism is what led to this mess!", the reds say. "Anarcho-capitalism is an oxymoron. Don't you know that corporations kill people and deprive them of their rights? Ever heard of Monsanto?"
"Re-distribution necessarily invokes the power of the state," the golds scream back. "Anarcho-syndicalism is an oxymoron. Don't you know that communists kill people and deprive them of their rights? Ever heard of Stalin?"

If you wave either of these flags, you are already spewing forth eloquence against the utter bullshit of one of the above statements. If you're really heavily methods-focused, and haven't signed up for either team yet, it's probably easier for you to see the malarkey in both.

I'd say this: lets beat Franco first. Let's even revel in the fact that we disagree. When we're all in some forum together, it becomes too easy to draw lines between each other. But when the sentinels are coming, even Xavier and Magneto team up. And it's sort of bad ass.

---

Addendum: Dear /r/anarchy, why are so many of you guys meanies?










Monday, January 30, 2012

Automating the conversion of girl friends to girlfriends

Since I'm already married, and it looks like Levi is getting with Yang, I guess I can go public with this.

Levi Self and Shirley Yang should have babies

I have developed a semi-automatic system for converting girl friends (meaning friends who are girls) into girlfriends, using Facebook and some macros. I'm not going to release any source code, but I do feel that is important to share this kind of information with the community. To this end, a walkthrough of the process is detailed below.

. . .

Step 1: Make a list of all of the Facebook friends you would date. They can be celebrities, friends, acquaintances, or cousins, as long as you would date them. 41 of my 483 Facebook friends are girls who I think are cute. The ratio will be different depending on your Facebook popularity and your standards, but I do think that 10% is probably close to the median ratio.

Is it just that I'm easy, or do I have a lot of cute Facebook friends? 

Step 2: Write a macro (I suggest using AutoIt or AutoHotKey for this) to iterate through this list of girls, pasting the following into private messages:

Dear %Name%,
I can't believe I'm actually typing this to you (I've only had two glasses of wine :) ). I have always been attracted to you. Tonight I have been (for various reasons) thinking about how short life is, and what I would regret if I were dying, and I think that not telling you how I felt would rank pretty high on the list. So I've got to say this now: I like you. I want to get coffee with you. Write me back and let me know what you think.
Step 3: Sift through the responses and correspond manually with your most promising leads until you've finished the conversion. It should be noted that the conversion rate between girl friends and girlfriends is not 1:1. Your mileage will vary, but count on the permanent loss of about ten friends who are girls for every girlfriend you pick up.

. . .

***Edit: There are people on reddit who are not catching that the above is a joke, and are freaking out about how much of a jerk I am. So, be it known: know I do not actually advocate lying to your friends en masse and trading all your female friends for a shot at one or two romances :) I do not actually cautiously guard as my trade secret the source code of my esteemed girlfriend macro. The rest of this post *is* somewhat serious.


This method is actually an adaptation of the one I used to use to get textbook editing gigs. I built an OPML file (an aggregation of RSS feeds) from all the world's craigslist gig listings. I then ran searches over the gig posts looking for words that were frequently used to describe gigs I could do well. I manually reviewed the results of this search, and then sent the plausible ones this:
Hello, 
My name is Kenneth Myers. I'm an instructional designer, software programmer, and former professor living in north Texas. I happened upon your craigslist post today, and if our distance wouldn't be an impediment to our working together, I'd like to be considered for the job.
I'd be delighted if you'd consider my resume, and even more delighted to hear back from you, either at this address or at (210) 289-3858.
I wish you the best of luck in finding the best fit for the job,
Sincerely,
-Kenneth.

I got lots of jobs. I made really good money some months. And I began to notice a strange pattern: even when I would apply for a gig in Iowa, people would assume that I had serendipitously been inspired to check out their out-of-state craigslist on a whim, found their job posting, and applied to it and it alone. Much as we do with romantic relationships, we humans by and large believe that careers should grow out of our lives organically and accidentally. The deliberate engineering of these things runs too much against the grain of our internal Disney life narrative, where storybook logic assures that we have the friends we were supposed to have, and don't get the job because it wasn't meant to be.

I think narrative is the meaning of life. But I prefer to write my story.

Directions in future research

Having already the best of all possible wives (not kidding), the facebook girlfriend converter is a solution for a problem I don't have. So I'd like to begin work on an algorithmic attack on the age-old problem of friendship. How many friends of your friends are ones that you grew up with, or went to school with, or worked with, or met through another friend? For most people, my guess is about 100%. Is there any reason for believing that the people who were assigned seats next to you in high school have the highest probability of bringing you the most joy?

With sweat and desperation, we miss sleep to apply our skills to server problems at work. But the most important stuff of life, we leave to chance.