A Dream: Google PRIME

I had a pretty intense dream last night.  I’m sharing it here with the hope that someone will steal my ideas and make them into a short story, novel, or movie. I don’t have the skills for this, but I’d like to read the rest of the story…

I was running through the downtown streets of a big city during some apocalyptic catastrophe. Buildings were crumbling and falling around me as I looked for shelter. I found a small but ornate black stone building in the style of a 19th century bank, with a Cold War era “Bomb Shelter” sign, and a Google logo.

I entered the building, and found stairs leading down, where I expected the bomb shelter to be.  At the end of my descent I found myself in a huge, dark room with a low ceiling.  The underground space stretched farther than I could see in all directions.  Groups of people were sitting on foam mats, so I joined them.

I knew that this place was only for Primes, and I knew that I wasn’t a Prime even though I didn’t know what a Prime was; but I stayed anyway. I found another man who was also not a Prime, but they let us stay.

Some time passed and our group found ourselves in a different room: smaller, friendlier, and a lot more like I’d picture a postapocalyptic refuge to look like. We hung out on couches and survived, basically. There wasn’t really enough water, and there was a radiation danger.  Eventually I figured out we were on a space ship.  There was an action scene where we fought off the bad guy space ships, which were all shaped like giant tanks.

At some point I learned or knew what a Prime was, and my dream became lucid, or transitioned into waking thoughts about the ideas the dream contained.

The synopsis is: Google is secretly using its data mining and search technology to identify the best candidates for repopulating the earth after an apocalypse-scale catastrophe. It looks for the best combination of health, longevity, genetic diversity, and compatible personality to ensure the survival of the species from a very small population.

The people identified by this process are known as PRIMEs, or Primary Repopulation Individuals for Mother Earth. In the event of a catastrophe, Google collects these individuals and brings them to its “ark” for want of a better word: a survival bunker of some sort, supplied with the technology and supplies to allow humanity to survive whatever has happened.

At this point my mind was concentrating on how this concept might be turned into a short story, and the implications of someone like Google using their massive data collection for this kind of purpose.

I imagined a man running through the downtown streets of a big city during some apocalyptic catastrophe.  This time, Men in Black (or equivalent) asked him “Are you so-and-so?” and told him to come with them when he confirmed his identity.  He protested: he needed to find his wife and child and help them.  The Men collected him, and brought him to the Google vault.  He was a PRIME.

Like many things the real Google actually does in real life, dream-Google’s PRIME program is a double-edged sword. On one hand, PRIME has a noble goal: to save humanity in case of an apocalyptic catastrophe. On the other hand, dream-Google’s algorithms entirely define what that surviving humanity will look like.  They choose who lives, who dies, and the genetic shape of the future human race.

What happens next?

Ne quid nimis

Terence wrote “Moderation in all things” (in Latin, but close enough for my purposes).

When I append “(including moderation),” as I am wont to do, I usually mean to make the aphorism self-referential in order to extol the virtues of occasional excess in one’s life.

But this time, the context is with respect to this blog: I received my first comment spam (now deleted). 

To avoid this in the future, I’ve unfortunately had to change my blog settings from “Moderation in all things (including comment moderation)” to “Comment moderation in all things.”

If you’re a non-spamming human, don’t worry: your comments will be accepted.  This first line of defense is against spammers, not trolls, so flame on!

Of course, the main point of bothering to tell anyone about this is my inability to resist a few good (or maybe not?) plays on words.

Plumbing WTF

thedailywtf.com decided to join polite company, and declared that their use of “WTF” stands for Worse than Failure. This site is sort of a There I Fixed It for programmers.

What is Worse than Failure? Success, when it looks like this:

It’s not failure: it works. It’s just a horrifyingly bad solution. That’s 5 separate fittings screwed together with teflon tape, in order to replace one T-fitting that isn’t available in the exact size and specs I require. It also required at least 4 trips to the hardware store to get the actual parts I needed.

(Yes, I even asked for help at the store on two different occasions, and no one knew what the heck I was talking about, despite the fact that I bought the water filter at the very same store.)

The long story:

We got a new water filter, that came with a plastic T fitting to plumb it into the supply line between the faucet and the supply hose: 1/2″ pipe threads. The water filter stopped working. In the process of figuring out why, I screwed up the faucet. The replacement faucet has the supply hose built in, to prevent people like me from breaking it the way I did. But that means the water filter T fitting needs to have 3/8″ supply hose fittings instead of 1/2″ pipe threads now. Hilarity ensues.

It’s never too late to ride your bike

I saw this wonderful news item, about an 84 year old woman who has been riding a 150 mile charity ride for Multiple Sclerosis, every year for the last 26 years.

She rides in a dress and high heels, on a single speed bike with upright bars and a basket. She’s slow, but she finishes.

My favorite quote from the piece:

“I have the most pressure out of anyone on the tour,” Sim adds jokingly. “I know I can’t quit, because my grandmother’s behind me somewhere!”

To ride a bike, even for long distances, you don’t need the right bike, the right clothes and equipment, or ideal fitness. Mainly, you need to want to do it.

Managers and Diplomats

“I had a dream last night, but I forget what it was
I had a dream last night about you, my friend
I had a dream–I wanted to sleep next to plastic
I had a dream–I wanted to lick your knees
I had a dream–it was about nothing”
— Camper Van Beethoven

I had a dream last night. The pertinent part started when I found myself in a swimming pool, with about five other guys who were going to move into the basement of my empty house in South Side. (Don’t ask me, it was a dream.)

But there were also a few young women in the pool. One asked, “Is there a manager here?”

It sounded more like “Is there a doctor in the house?” than “I’d like to speak to a manager.”

“I’m starting a job as a manager tomorrow, and I have some questions.”

I offered that I was a manager, and talked to her. It was immediately obvious that she was highly but awkwardly educated: she new all the words, but had no experience to give them any meaning in the real world.

The conversation seemed to turn into an e-mail exchange. She explained that her book said that managers were diplomats, but her glossary only contained a definition for “Diplomatic Palace,” which referred to a building used in ancient Rome to house diplomats. She was confused because she wasn’t really sure how that applied to her new job.

I agreed with her, and then woke up to the sound of trucks ripping the pavement off our street.

But I remembered my dream, and thought it made a good point. Although I am not exclusively a manager, some aspects of the managerial part of my job are very similar to what a diplomat does. Dictionary.com’s second aspect of the noun “diplomat” is defined as “a person who is tactful and skillful in managing delicate situations, handling people, etc.” This also applies.

As the head of my team, I have the job of interacting with representatives from other departments in the company. I have to negotiate solutions to their problems, while keeping in mind the restrictions and interests of the members of my team. I build a working relationship with the other departments, and learn to navigate their systems, so my employees don’t have to. I maintain an alliance and friendly negotiations even if our departments decide they’re at war.

The rest of my management tasks are just as the traditional aphorism describes: “Managing programmers is like herding cats.” The key to success is finding well-behaved cats (and wearing claw-proof gloves).