Writing Prompt: Social Greeting Rituals

One of my favorite non-writing blogs is Ask A Manager (if you have a day job and need advice it is the #1 through #10 spot to go, it is amazing). There was a post earlier this week about social signaling at work and the difference between “Hi, how are you?” “Fine, you?” “Fine.” in the hall while passing at work and someone seriously asking “How are you?”

Alison (the eponymous manager) said:

When the interaction is a quick one — like when you’re passing someone in the hall or greeting them in the morning — “how are you?” is a social ritual that means “I acknowledge you, fellow human!” The fact that people aren’t looking for long, genuine replies in that situation isn’t inauthentic; it’s that the words mean something different than they might in other contexts.

But the good news, is that we do not have to be bound by current social rituals. So what might a very different social ritual to acknowledge a fellow human look like? What would a world where we never acknowledged the humans in our physical space look like? What will social ritual look like with AR? VR? Or with magic? What if you had telepathy?

WACKY WAVING INFLATABLE ARM FLAILING TUBE MAN!

S2.5 The Senior Guy Did Not Like Being Alone in the Office After Midnight

The Senior Guy Did Not Like Being Alone In The Office After Midnight by Mary Clemons

 

Mary has spent many years in the software industry watching a great deal of interesting things which are both good and bad.  After the last episode of undesirable activities in the workplace, she decided it was time to leave the office and put her fingers back to work documenting what she’s seen and experienced instead of writing down the steps to enter data into software applications.  She would love to go back to getting paid by a corporation but is very wary of who she will have to deal with this time.  Plus, she’s getting too old for the hijinks and silliness required to withstand an open cubicle plan and next time her cubicle-mates are going to see a slightly more stern version that will say the following “time to work” to others.

Music is provided by MADS.

You can support 600 Second Saga by giving us a 5-star review on iTunes.

S1.41 String-Driven Thing

String-Driven Thing by Vaughan Stanger

String-Driven Thing was originally published in Nature Futures.

Formerly an astronomer and more recently a research project manager in the aerospace and defense industry, Vaughan Stanger now writes SF and fantasy fiction for a living. His stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Abyss & Apex, Postscripts, Nature Futures and Interzone, amongst other noted magazines and anthologies. Like most writers, he’s working on a novel—and has been for many years. He also loves cats, thus further conforming to the cliché. Plus he’s still holding out for that holiday on the Moon he was promised in the dim and distant past. You can follow his writing adventures at http://www.vaughanstanger.com or @VaughanStanger.

Read more in Sons of Earth

Music is provided by MADS.

You can support 600 Second Saga by giving us a 5-star review on iTunes.

Random Roundup

Mostly not of this earth, but a little of this earth. Just a normal random roundup.

Also humans.

Fire, watch it burn - from Pixabay
Fire, watch it burn – from Pixabay

Not of this Earth

Planetary rings are incredibly beautiful. They may be the remnants of the destruction of dwarf planets.

The rings are pieces of Dwarf Planets that got torn off in passing, which were then ripped to pieces!

Juno – I don’t care how old this is – is out of safe mode and awesome. NASA is awesome. Humans managed to send tiny hunks of metal, plastic, and glass and throw them super hard and whoop they went out into space and made pictures of planets that we can see (and that we can’t) as just little specks of light. Humans. Can. Be. Awesome. Then again, robots are the ones doing the hard work. Packing up, leaving home, journeying through potentially lethal and unknown space to explore the universe. Didn’t humans used to talk about going out and exploring? Now we just let robots have all the glory?

At least that will be another reason for AI to not want to bother to destroy us. If you write about AI I can’t recommend this enough.

The true understanding of natural language, the breadth and generality of human intelligence, our ability to both play Go and cross the street and make a decent omelet—that variety is the hallmark of human intelligence and all we’ve done today is develop narrow savants that can do one little thing super well.

A quick funny – sort of funny?

Whatever public works is important. Or pay the troll!

Is it ok to like your own work?

Paperwork
Paperwork! (Sarah@Flicker)

I’m currently recording Dangerous Metal (which I hope to have out by the end of August!) and I’ve a few times run across lines that have genuinely made me smile and go, oh I really like this.

Today’s:

“You watch too many movies. I do more than drive recklessly and shoot blindly.” He was smiling, the tension easing. “I also do paperwork.”

It isn’t entirely a light-hearted romp about paperwork. (Read not at all light-hearted.)

I was going to write a fancier post today but I’m entirely amused with this line and have to go handle some other things, so I’ll leave you with this.

Your Future…bumbumbum…

Over at Terribleminds Chuck Wendig issued a challenge. Write a flash fiction with words from his small child. Challenge accepted. I wrote about your future. (Or his, if his child turns out to be a super sarcastic partly alien living in a colony growing up in the J cohort. Seems unlikely, but not impossible.)

I even made a quiz. (should be at the bottom of the page too) You can find out your own future. Now excuse me while I go say some not sarcastic things to work this out of my system so I can do other writing.

Your Future

I looked around the room and peaked at tests. I looked down at my own. 500 questions. I was never going to finish. I only had my name on it.

“Please remember, this is not a test of your knowledge. There is no right or wrong answers.” I rolled my eyes at the teacher. She smiled at all six of us.

No right or wrong but it would determine the rest of our lives.

“Well some answers will be wrong.” Julie, who knew everything, mumbled just loud enough for everyone to hear. Jason chuckled. I rolled my eyes and my shoulders.

“Every job is important. Every position matters. Without each person and their specific talents the colony would not thrive as it does. Soon you will all be important, powerful members of the colony. This will help identify what your skills are.”

Someone made a sucking sound. Probably Jacob. I scoffed and sighed. At least when this was all over I’d be done with the Js and we’d all be off into the rest of the colony. It was so annoying to deal with these immature idiots all the time.

I sighed and looked down at the questions.

What is the most important thing in your life?
◦    The colony
◦    My cohort
◦    Discovering new worlds
Finishing this test. Not being annoyed by the Js to death. Being done with this damn test. Pff. I marked Discovering new worlds.

During free time you…
◦    Study the colony details, history, and optimizing my capacity for learning
◦    Spend time with friends and develop relationships
◦    Tending the animals
◦    Volunteering
They had to be kidding. Ugh. Fine.  I selected volunteering. At least my actual record would show I didn’t do that.

In the morning you notice your________first when you look in the mirror.
◦    My eyes
◦    My smile
◦    My fangs
◦    My aural stalks
Come on. Were they all going to be like this? Nothing even about what I was actually good at. I skimmed through the test looking for anything even the slightest bit relevant.

Which trait is the most important?
◦    Compassion
◦    Honesty
◦    Diligence
◦    Determination
Diligence would be something like janitorial duty. Compassion would make me deal with the dumbest of the colony, oh wait. I looked around the room…I already did that. I marked Determination. I was determined to be done with this test.

What is your favorite animal?
◦    Worms
◦    Goats
◦    Hawks
◦    Spiders
Oh, I really didn’t want to end up in the barns. I wrinkled my nose. Hawks, I guess. I looked around. Jill was reading each question carefully and stopped to actually ponder the answers. They’d just shove us into whatever jobs they had open. It wasn’t like they’d let the medic job sit empty because no one was naturally inclined to do it. Why were they making us waste hours on this damn test?

Under pressure you are:
◦    Nervous
◦    A natural leader
◦    A follower
◦    At my best
Oh good. We aren’t biasing our answers at all here. Nooope. Not even a little. Where’s the question about preparing these exams?

When evaluating others it is important to be:
◦    Consistent
◦    Pragmatic
◦    Direct
◦    Supportive
All over the place, random, obtuse, and dismissive wasn’t listed. Which of course just meant that I was absolutely right about shoving us into whatever job they needed filled.

B. I was going to go with B for everything. Nah. Every fifth answer I’d switch it up a little. I started checking boxes. B, B, B, B, A – oh fun!

Jacob was just drawing boobs on his. Maybe they’d make him the medic.

All my questions were answered. Well none of my questions were answered, but that wasn’t going to change any time soon. I filed up to the front and passed the test over to the teacher. I was the third person done. Jacob of course had been first. Boobs were apparently the way to finish fast. I snickered to myself.

Jill had finished before me too. I couldn’t quite figure it out. She was smart, sure. But she’d been thinking about the answers. Maybe I dozed off and took a nap and didn’t notice.

The teacher took the sealed print out from the machine and handed it to me. Putting her fingers to her lips and baring her fangs at me, she pointed out the door.

I headed out. My last day of class.

Jacob was slumped on the floor in the hall. “I’m a janitor. A goddamn janitor.”

“Hey now, you will be the second in charge. You jumped right to the front of the line. And all jobs are very important. And you’ll get to go outside the habitat. You like getting out of here right.” Jill was crouched in front of him with her hand on his knee.

“What’d you get?” Jill sat down next to Jacob and I came over to sit next to her.

I ripped open my envelope and held my breath. “I am queen of the goats.” Lead Goatherd

There was silence for a long moment and then both Jill and Jacob burst into laughter.

Goat - your future - good for you!
A goat – from Armin Kübelbeck @ Wikipedia

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Creative AIs

I’ve been thinking about the new wave of creative AIs. When will AI be able to take over many of the jobs? It is coming, the question is when. How long until AIs go from iterating (which is primarily what they are doing now) to revolutionizing? That is the real trick with art and creativity in all things. Not just thinking about how to build a better mousetrap, but how to build a house that is mouse proof.

Part of that is you can try a thousand revolutionary things and you’ll be lucky if one of them takes off. Revolution is so much harder, and based on so many other components. But AI might be good at looking at the market trends, at taking in millions of factors, the change in weather, the downturn of the economy, the last revolutionary shift, etc. Take all that into account and it might be able to go, ok here are the 40 potentially revolutionary books that might shift everything. And yes, there might be hundreds of other books or movies or whatever like that, but you just need to be the right one at the right moment to create that entire shift in the way the market is, or to create and entirely new market.

Recently there was the Rembrandt thing, before that the Japanese novel, I was sure that some AI somewhere was creating music.

Emily Howell

This is from 2009 so yeah, that’s been a while. She’s gone on to release more records as well. And yes, Emily Howell is an AI. She builds compositions, takes in feedback and adjusts based on if people thought it was good or bad.

Also every article I read absolutely called this AI by the name the programmer (David Cope) had given her, and also calls this AI ‘her’. Which, yup! I am too.

I don’t think either the Rembrandt AI or the Japanese Novelist AI had gendered names. I hope somewhere out there someone is doing a study about what impact using people names for AI has on our brains and interactions with them. (Bonus Rap Bot)

New Rembrandt
New Rembrandt made by creative AIs and humans. Lots of humans.

MS AI makes a Rembrandt knock off

This doesn’t personify the AI at all, it talks a lot more about the team working with it than the actual AI. It sort of talks about how the team (of humans) uses the AI as a tool. Which is a very different take on the whole thing from Emily.

They really talk about it like they are doing this as an extension of Rembrandt. Would you be comfortable with someone taking what you do now and coming up with what happens next? It does happen plenty now.  (Wheel of Time anyone?)

Is it very different to have someone else finish a work rather than have an AI do it?

Japanese AI Novel

This is another instance of it really being about the human team working on the project.

Though people are calling for the end of authors because of this.

Do you welcome AI overlords?

The basics of this seem to be that the human team did an outline and some basic development and then the AI filled it in. This is sort of like the AI ghost wrote the novel. If you could get an AI to ghost write your idea would you? (Although I don’t think that it “almost” won an award. It got past round one, it was not the runner up.

How to Listen to Podcasts

Don’t know how to listen to podcasts? I’m here to help!

Just make it easy!

iPhone
Android

What are podcasts?

Basically a radio program on the computer. Or like going to the library and picking a series, and then the rest of them are already checked out when are ready for the next one.

If you can think of it, if it is your hobby, something you like, there is a podcast about it. It is the internet, it exists.

Podcasts can be regular, weekly, monthly, daily, or irregular sort of whenever the podcaster puts them out. You can have video podcasts. Most podcasts are audio. They can also range from just a few minutes up to hours and hours.

So how do I listen?

Do you have a smart phone? If you do get an app. For iPhones or iPads I cannot recommend Overcast highly enough. Once you’ve downloaded it, tap the plus in the upper right corner, then find a podcast.

Go ahead and try with my podcast (you knew this was going to come up!) Just type 600 Second Saga into the search directory.

You can add a single episode, or subscribe so every time a new episode comes out it will download right to your phone.

I don’t have an iPhone!

Stitcher is a fine cross platform tool. (Meaning you can use it on your Android phone, or desktop, probably not Blackberry, Windows phone apparently not. Windows phone users might be on your own. I spent over an hour trying to help a friend with this, it was a challenge.)

If you are on Android and use one of the other tools this link (Android) should make it work for you. You can also find me in the Google Play app.

No smartphone

You can listen on the page of the podcast. On the side of the page you’ll see a player, click and listen. You can also subscribe on YouTube if you are a YouTube fan.

600 Second Saga each episode has a link to play right in the browser at the bottom of each post. You can also listen right from my Facebook page.

For other podcasts, most of them will have the ability to listen directly from their webpage as well.

And Overcast has a website too. (I swear this isn’t an ad for Overcast, it is just the best tool I’ve found.)

I did user test these steps with a couple smart but not tech savvy people in my life, but if this still confuses you please comment and I’ll be happy to update it or help you.

Save

Save

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Apple Watch Edition

Was the Apple Watch Edition a really thoughtful and deliberate example of anchoring?

So my (entirely lay) understanding of Anchoring is basically the first thing sets your perspective of the next thing. A tool used in negotiations very frequently.

Wikipedia says “ For example, the initial price offered for a used car sets the standard for the rest of the negotiations, so that prices lower than the initial price seem more reasonable even if they are still higher than what the car is really worth.”

So when Apple first came out with the Apple Watch there was a super expensive fancy version meant for super fancy people. ($10-15K) I know some people said this was in line with expensive watches. But for those of us who don’t regularly buy expensive watches it is a wow price point. Especially when there are other versions that do basically the same thing with a much lower price point.

Apple just came out with cheaper versions, and apparently (according to 9to5Mac) they’ve been hiding the information about the Edition version. (When I went out to find the link to the Apple page I searched Apple Watch Edition and the ad at the top was NOT the Edition page, though the first link was, which is also interesting.)

So did Apple’s marketing people specifically design this campaign this way? Anchor the price with the Apple Watch Edition versions over $10K and then bring it down and shift their campaign to say, hey, we are for everyone. And now people will look at it and go, oh well it’s WAY less than $10K I can totally afford that. Things like sales and mark-downs all play heavily on Anchoring.

I know this seems not-writing related but I think it is. The way our brains work, and how we understand them is critical. It is also a part of how the world around us is changing and projecting that into the sci-fi of the future. Sci-fi isn’t just about new watches, it is also about how we talk about, think about, and market those things. Consider a world where marketing classes are all taught by people like Dan Ariely. (I took his Coursera class a couple years ago and I don’t think it is out there anymore but it was fantastic and really educational, I highly recommend his book as well.) What does that look like? How does that shape what we do, what we buy, how we save, how we invest, what we decide to do? Do we go to Mars in that world? Do we shoot for something bigger? What are the other changes in a world that shifts that way? What other possibilities are there for it?