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The term “grey goo problem” was coined by nanotechnology pioneer K. Eric Drexler in his 1986 book Engines of Creation. It supposed a self-replicating nanobot going out of control and in a “sorcerer’s apprentice” way, recognizing NO stopping point for self-duplication. The Earth is left as a lifeless desert of “grey goo”, composed of the bodies of the nanobots.

This scenario joined the library of science fiction plots where it continues to appear.  In 2004 he stated, “I wish I had never used the term ‘gray goo’.” He was probably conducting a form of due diligence by considering bad outcomes as well as good. As time has gone by, grey goo has been debunked as a concern in various ways (look it up if you are interested I’m not here to explore all that).

But there are other environments and other bots.

The Internet became a primary human environment at lightning speed, filling up with websites that represented more and more real societal institutions. Initially, they were mostly billboards for providing information. Gradually these online presences became interactive and even took over as the “real world”, the business end of everything. The isolation of solitary individuals running errands on the web protected society up to this point. That collapsed when we embraced social media and were reborn as mobs composed of socially isolated individuals. Continue reading


How falling in love differs from online dating. 

Falling in love

Love doesn’t arrive like a bus. Love arrives as a slow reveal, an awakening, a dawn. It doesn’t take an assigned seat or speak in plain sentences.  Love needs propinquity to confidently find its way. Love needs to bump against the beloved and smell them. Love needs to watch the beloved from the corner of its eye. Love is exited eventually when it has warmed to the subject and faced the facts. Disliking the spotlight, love stirs in shadows telling you with urgent whispers that you have become vulnerable to that person with the extraordinary smile.
You will no longer be able to not notice them. As of now, you will worry over whether they notice you. Their face and words, lovely to you now, host uncertainties that trouble your sleep. Typically, at this point, love must pretend it doesn’t exist, at least for a time. This is as graceful as hiding a cow under a sheet. It makes normal life a self-conscious burden. Flirting with your love is as disorienting as a sudden accident where time distorts and details flicker and swoop.

Mostly, love will die on this vine, either tethered to silence or offered and declined.

But when love and love stand naked face to face, desire is the bridge. From both sides to the middle, they run. And something new is born.

Online dating

An ordinary e-commerce database replaces item color with ethnicity and product description with the story of your heart’s longing to find a home. Each human transforms, upon entry, into a product.

Each product describes itself and the product it hopes to find in turn. In their profiles, each product makes their case to be understood and recognized for their divine spark. Each provides photo evidence. Each provides lists of activities and music and food in hopes of being found and adopted by a stranger they will find it effortless to love.

The product automatically generates a query and when enough data points correlate, results cascade or trickle before the querent in rows of common faces, names, ages, and isolated facts. Carol, 47 Speaks English. Laura, 44 has cats. The querying product wanders through the matrix-like results looking for something that stands out from the vending machine assortment as somehow, more than a product. And it happens, a certain beauty or quirk distinguishes a profile and we browse deeper. We carefully seek evidence both pro and con about the candidate. Are they fresh and funny, does a selfie reveal the honest fat hiding behind the word voluptuous? Is there some terrible band waiting to appear in her favorite music? What do we do with that knowledge? Perhaps we LIKE them, which might be a request for contact or merely a vague seal of approval in passing. All that is left is to either reach out to them or turn and leave.

If we message them and if they reply, and if we survive the labyrinth of failed texting outcomes, each ending like a dead branch, we may achieve a date.

And if we date, two individuals composed of meat and hope find each other on the earth. At this point, we receive a lesson about how little our data points actually count toward the goal we’ve pursued. Our data points felt like investment capital online but here in this restaurant or coffee shop, they are dwarfed to trivia by the God of  Chemistry.

Whenever two of us meet, the god of chemistry reveals the truth of our experiment in a court of no appeal. Over that hour or two we take in the truth, adjust expectations, swallow disappointment, and treat each other as we would want to be treated. We sit there at least briefly cast in the role of everything the other person was praying for and to them we look wrong and miscast in that role and the whole thing seems a bit crazy, now, how real this felt while texting.



Part 1.

Take a million rats.


Raise them in a strange high tech “ratatarium” full of rooms and environments where every positive experience is profoundly associated with clear-cut brightly colored shape pulsing on screens all around. Every wall and ceiling is a display screen. Local events of feeding, play, nurture or sex all generate a clear instance of the specific happy sign nearby. Periodically the whole place is electrified or bombarded with terrifying noises and rumbles. The happy lights are always off during these events, replaced by vivid and consistent alternate shapes and colors.

Never mind how it’s possible, I got a grant.

These million rats have a shared language of symbols. Being rats, they don’t speak of the symbols or scrawl them on things but if one day the system stopped mirroring what the rats were enjoying with a symbol and instead just turned the symbol for food on in one room and the symbol for sex on in another, hungry rats and horny rats would self-sort into each room, hoping to get lucky. Hungry AND horny rats would face a dilemma, and my heart goes out to them. Rooms displaying the BAD symbols would empty out. The experimenters would only rarely do this proof of concept, because “false advertising” might diminish the power of the symbols.

I didn’t mention it, but there are actually 2 of these Ratatariums ©, and each contains a million rats. I have spared no expense. They are exactly alike except that the shapes, colors etc. of the symbols are associated to mean something very different. A warm fuzzy symbol to one group is a cold prickly symbol to the other.  A green pentagon to one group means “playtime ending in sex!” while to the other it means “horrible shaking with bang sounds”.  Continue reading


 What Nuisance?

  1. Netflix considers an accidental click or a movie you ditched after 5 minutes to be perfectly valid sources for recommendations.
  2. The Netflix equivalent of bad one night stands you want to forget. You had fun watching Naked Zombie Apocalypse but you’d rather not base future suggestions on it.

Let’s fix this mess.

Log in to your Netflix account, I recommend doing this on your computer or results may vary. As soon as you are logged in, follow the link to “Your Account”. Once there, look near the bottom for “Viewing activity”.

Here is the history, take out anything you don’t want affecting future recommendations.

The bad news is that even with a clean and shiny viewing history Netflix has a bit of “WTF” built right into their algorithm…


Continuing my theme of the hybrid SELF that forms when people interact: The third mind. I’m not trying to create the idea of some kind of mystical entity. The third mind is simply a lens or filter for understanding ourselves.

There is no real “You”.

“Um, I’m right here.”
“Which you are you?”
“Excuse me?”


Every person you know and love has a bond with you like a chemical signature. You think you visit them but you don’t. You visit US. You are a different you with Tom and Petra and Janine. When you visit Janine you think you are seeing her, but you are seeing US.
You know that great way you have fun with her, cooking together and joking around? It isn’t exactly like that with anyone else. That isn’t you and it isn’t her. That’s the third mind. The US. The thing is, your friendship isn’t you and her. It’s what she brings out in you and what you bring out in her. Your friendship is the magic spot where those unique things overlap. This is really reminiscent of the Observer Effect in physics. You can’t study the thing without influencing and effecting it. There is no abstract, pure Janine. You can only know her the way she is when you are looking at her. She can only know you the way you are when she looks at you.

You get together with Janine and your mutual friend Petra. You don’t really know the way Janine is with Petra. You know how Janine is with YOU and Petra. You are standing there with Janine before Petra comes inside. You make a funny literary reference and she laughs and reminds you to keep thinking about that thing you talked about earlier. Why? Because when Petra is part of this molecule the sense of humor is different, maybe earthier, and you’d never really bring up that sort of serious thing for discussion because it would be the wrong kind of discussion. You guys LOVE Petra, you love being together. It’s wonderful, but it’s wonderful in a different way. So you tidied up business with the You and Janine molecule before the well understood transition into the 3 of you molecule.

The personality “You” was evoked in a unique way with one other person and then in another unique way only possible with that exact combination of the three of you. And if you leave, Petra and Janine have a different relationship. If you let yourself ride this idea it’s a hoot because there is no real you, there’s just what can be brought out of you by different people. And since the same is true for them there’s no real anybody anywhere. There are only the unique creations of relationships. In “The Four Loves” C.S. Lewis wrote a beautiful thought on our subject which I have to paraphrase here. Talking about the death of a friend: “If Jim dies I don’t just lose my unique friendship with Jim, I lose the way Jim used to laugh at Robert’s jokes.”

Friendship can be a lovely, lifetime thing in many cases because there is this enjoyable facet of you that you only get be in their company and they evidently have their own version of that joy. One note and another note being played at the same time are not those notes. They are a chord. And the easy, warm cruising of friendships across time is helped by its episodic nature, you don’t ALWAYS have to be that expression of yourself but you can return to it…like an old friend.

You might argue that the real you is who you are when you are alone but you are wrong, and stop being so argumentative!

Even all by yourself, the “You” experience is context-based and evoked by circumstances. It’s actually rather limited. You can’t be that warm, loving guy or the funny guy or the good listening guy. In some ways being alone is sitting with all the things you can’t be. Being in no external relationship reveals a kind of spartan, stripped-down you, but if you are alone for 10 days, I bet you spent time with 4 or 5 different versions of you.

For creative types (and introverts), there can be a special and productive relationship to being alone. A dedicated artist in any field isn’t usually alone because they have built a substantial relationship with the work. The discipline and focus centered on external results provokes, frustrates, and inspires in a way equal to any human company. But it’s still a selective filter that isn’t real in any other situation.

The principles of the third mind are laid out simply above and they don’t change with strangers or those closest to us. What changes is the impact or “side effects”.
Romantic love adds an element that only happens in its domain. Limerence. That dazzling infatuation which when reciprocated turns the third mind into a nearly visible glittering ball between the two people. This is where the third mind transforms into a different entity, almost literally an entity pulling intense emotions and hormones to the surface from the couple. It grows larger and practically seals the lovers inside. Of course, this is the human mating dance. This is the REAL honeymoon, a time of being swept up in something huge and electric and magical. When people look back on this phase, the third mind can seem like anything from a horrible deception to a lost golden age. If it does the job nature intends, a family follows.


With family relationships, we are playing with forces that help to define us. Mom and Dad are together in a tight pair bond, founded in romantic love. When baby makes three there’s a deep change in the orientation of the parents. Very much a team but a team that doesn’t have a lot of hot sex anymore and a team embarked on a shakedown cruise with a new person. Before the baby is old enough to a political player in the family there’s this period of adjustment to the altered definition of the pair bond. “We are now people who discuss what poop looked like.” This can also be a time where new facets of self come up in Mom and Dad because parenting builds a new floor onto the edifice of YOU. Your way of relating to the kid becomes a bit of new wild card. It’s natural and fine for Mom and Dad to be on somewhat different pages about parenting. But what it does here can be an alteration of the third mind in a way that adds stressors and subtly distances them. It only deepens when the child is a distinct personality, becoming triangulated and heating up any of those parenting issues. At times each feel parent will feel double teamed or manipulated and new kinks in the flow develop. Whatever the couple’s third mind started as it has morphed and tilted. Not necessarily in a terrible way, but forever. There is no going back. And something strange starts to happen here. It can feel like the power of this mind exerts such pressure that you begin to actually possess the characteristics projected onto you. As if the third begins to alter and edit you often in ways that are not pleasant. If people have a common complaint about family it’s probably this: The weird way you can’t help either becoming a certain person around them or putting all your energy into resisting it.
Children grow up with the family mind, a sort of interactive group sense of self: A growth medium made up of ourselves and a variety of subjective, overlapping reactions to us.


God knows there are lovely, happy, and vital marriages out there. And where they exist they probably have a rare relationship where the couple feels a great ongoing enjoyment with what gets brought out of them into the world by the other. This mutual bringing forth: “I love her and I love who I am when I’m with her.”

It’s easy to imagine the reasons things that can become stultifying and even miserable in some marriages. First, unlike friendship, this relationship has no easy come and go. It is your default and almost fulltime existence So it’s more serious from the start but also, people change. Especially as they grow up through their 20s and 30s and 40s. You could hardly help and nor should you, being different after all that. But that means that the unique signature of your personalities as they evoked each other when you married is gone. Perhaps not wholly but substantially. Even without inner change over time, the signature shifts as people reveal their more intransigent sides, as issues become wearisome and people become resigned.

But finally, there’s this: It becomes deadening when you only get to be one version of you year after year. Especially if that version of you is largely defined by a long history of ups and downs, tensions and compromises. Inside ourselves we know we are a 360-degree personality and this arrangement lets you express only a familiar, comforting, reliable constellation of all the possible YOUs for the sake of another person’s security and happiness.

It’s no wonder people struggle. There’s this tremendous investment in a situation that feels gradually less like home because you aren’t really getting to be yourself there or at least the version of you that you’d like to be. And fixing a marriage that feels very stuck is so challenging because even the medium for discussion can only be within the petrified and weary third mind.

There is no one real YOU, there are thousands.

  • So, America, for the rest of the 2016 election can we agree on a safe word?
  • Life right now feels like I am sitting in a multiplex, 2/3s through the movie and I mostly just feel like sneaking into another theater.
  • Tell someone to open their mind or open their heart? No problem but suggest the same about genitals? Suddenly everything gets weird.
  • It’s not that I object to having problems. All I ask is the chance to browse a glossy catalog for some new ones.
  • Welcome to Earth, where a tiny percentage of humans are exponentially more deserving of all good things.#KochBros
  • The day stretched out before him like a three-film, extended version, director’s cut viewing of “The Hobbit” with bonus material.
  • “Romeo, Romeo, whiskey alpha tango Romeo?” – Col. William (Bloody Bill) Shakespeare
  • 1 Butt load (unit of measure) equals 2 Hogsheads. I feel this may raise more questions than it answers though.
  • Middle managers are the insulation companies use to keep themselves at a safe distance from things they really ought to know.
  • Arguing with the phrase “Islamic terrorism” is like arguing with the phrase “Islamic charities” because not all Muslims are charitable!
  • We won’t let them in unless THEY’RE Christian? No dummies, you got it backwards. You won’t let them in unless YOU’RE Christians. #Duh
  • @CentruryLink just wants to be Comcast when it grows up. Keep trying, someday you might be the most hated company in America. #fuckthepeople
  • “titty twister” sounds like a really fun game played on a plastic sheet covered with brightly colored circles. People ruin everything.
  • Ben Carson is going to single-handedly ruin the phrase: “Well, it’s not brain surgery!” #BenCarson
  • The word “nipple” is clearly almost as funny as the word “chicken” but it can’t get much work due to its background in porn.

CenturyLink (Paul Allen’s company) missed an awesome opportunity. They are going around talking up their high speed internet, etc. But they have created packages and prices EXACTLY like comcast. They could have arrived as a total hero, breezing into Seattle selling affordable internet with no strings attached and people would have LOVED THEM. They gave up a stellar opportunity to go into business and have people breaking down the door to give them money, while joyfully thumbing their nose at comcast. My God, the customer loyalty they would have had and the tidal wave of popular support from new markets.  Continue reading

I think there is a continuum of cruelty. But cruelty may be the wrong word; if I stick to the letter C I might pick coldness or convenience. It’s about whether other people are real or not. Dehumanizing begins in a perception and then reveals itself in actions. I’m starting in the coldest spot I can find and working toward “room temperature” because of the perspective it offers.

Murder is scorn for the very existence of another. It may be for hate or profit or amusement but the exchange is based on a “good for me” foundation that takes EVERYTHING from the other for our profit. Raymond Chandler said that murder was “infinite cruelty” because you aren’t just taking everything a person has, you are taking everything they ever would have had. Whether it’s a robber in an alley or a spouse killing because divorce is too hard, it comes to the other being an inconvenience. This has to be because the other person is already seen as “something in the way”. 

 Slavery is scorn for the life and aspirations of another. It is based on a “good for me” foundation that takes everything from the other while harnessing their energy and abilities for our profit: Essentially it is a form of parasitism. Slavery is “murder lite”. If murder is “infinite cruelty” then slavery must be only a certain number of steps removed. They are visible on the same spectrum of coldness. You have taken what they had and what they would have had, but left them alive to see the sky and think their thoughts. 

Continue reading