Data Has No Heart

Everyone wants numbers. You see this in advertising, media, Facebook, twitter, the news. You see it in corporations, in medicine,  and in the government: Everyone wants more data, and it must always be sliced, diced, and julienned into smaller bits,  compared in more ways, and illustrated with animated, full-color visualizations. The meaningfulness of the data is often less important than the volume of data and how impressive its visualization. 

Life-altering decisions are made based on the data, the numbers presented, and the stunning visualizations. While you may occasionally make these decisions yourself, most often, powers-that-be who are entirely unknown to you make decisions that affect your life based on data you didn’t even know was collected and analyzed. These “data driven” decisions affect our lives in small as well as large ways, influencing how we think and what we do, permeating and often directing our lives, our minds, our bodies, and our spirits more than we realize.

Data does not consider the quality of the heart, the soul, the being that we are. Data does not consider that which makes us most human. “Data driven” renders individuals into nameless, formless granular instances, meaningful only when considered as a component within a wider pool, a part of a group data instance that has tendencies that can be easily labeled and profitably exploited, without considering each individual face, soul, or heart. 

Data makes numbers more valuable than people. Data quantifies and negates the individual while seeking to prove, as circumstances dictate, that the biggest is best, the most is best, or smallest is best. This is inhuman, for in the grouping and quantification, individuals and individuality are sacrificed. 

Numbers and data can be, and are, manipulated as those generating them wish, and leveraged to make you think, feel, act, buy in a calculated way. The ways to manipulate data are many, and often simple — that’s another topic entirely. (Want to manipulate a percentage? Change the denominator.)

Governments, advertisers, researchers, another others use data to make decisions that affect populations and the individuals within the population — you and me. These powers-that-be compile data sets (groups of compiled data meeting certain criteria) and decide the relative value of those data sets. The data sets are then used to make “data-driven decisions” that justify granting money, investments, time, or attention to specific group. Health care, government resources, advertising, jobs, and products themselves (such as books, plays, music, food, and clothing) are selected, funded, and granted importance  — or not — based on numbers and data.

The choices we have in almost every area of our lives are dependent upon the size and/or perceived value of the data set or group that includes what we want or need, and we ourselves often have little to no way to influence the data sets and the relative value placed upon them. 

Data itself is manipulated, and data manipulates our minds. This is dangerous. It’s a tactic used by those who seek to increase their own power by dehumanizing and devaluing others. You, yourself, are negated. If we are not aware and careful, we become in our own thoughts and feelings that which the purveyors and manipulators of data consider us: meaningless as an individual, meaningful and useful only when grouped and judged by third parties imposing fabricated standards of worthiness.

What if we have needs, desires, expressions of our individuality that do not fall into data set that’s deemed desirable by the powers-that-be? 

What about the book, the movie, the music, the shirt, that we want to have, or to make? What happens when we feel called inside to express a creation — a song, for example — and we’re told that the song is not “worth it” because “the data does not support it”? How valid is that data — who even decides the criteria for what is “valid” data? How much control does the data-driven decision and the forces manipulating the data have over not only the external factors in your world, but over your mind, thoughts, moods, actions, and being? What happens when the data does not support what your inner voice calls you to do? Do you stop, consider yourself a failure? Or do you listen to your spirit, your anima, that which calls you inside, and continue?

We don’t need more data and more data-driven decisions: They negate the individual and lack compassion. 

Instead, we must recognize, respect, and have compassion for ourselves; cultivate our spirits; and have the courage to listen to our hearts and let them guide us in making compassionate decisions.

Data, big data, and (obviously) artificial intelligence are inhuman. They have their place — and that place is far smaller than you think. I’ll be writing more about this, and reminding you of your humanity and individuality, and the importance of cultivating both. ~ KMK

Things You Don’t Think About

I recall reading that Greta Garbo, upon walking into the United Nations building in New York, looked at the carpets and exclaimed, “Think of the girls working in the factory making that!”. *

My respect for Greta only deepened, reading this. 

Now — in a time much different from the period when Greta made her comment — her words need some explanation. However, the insight and truth of the comment has not changed. 

At that time, wall-to-wall carpeting was still relatively new (and there’s a history of how and why it became so popular in the United States, but that’s for another writing). Factories, particularly those making carpeting, were mechanized, yet of course far less automated that factories of today. Workers still did much by hand, moving not just alongside, but within huge machines — dangerous, loud, crushing machines — with few, if any, safety regulations or equipment. The work was dangerous, even more so because it was boring and rhythmic, both enemies of safety. Then, as now, textile workers were badly paid, usually female, and seemingly invisible to the world. 

That anyone — especially a famous actress — would think of a textile worker, especially when walking into the esteemed halls of the United Nations, was shocking. 

However, Greta grew up poor, knowing girls and families who worked in the textile mills of her native Sweden. She understood the difficulty, the tediousness, the invisibility of the work. She saw and understood much about “little people” and their lives that most people of power and wealth — including many of the middle class — didn’t, and don’t, perceive and therefore cannot understand.

The seemingly little things that can and do affect a life, many lives, have always been of importance, and have often been invisible to those not imminent to the conditions. 

The invisibility only grows as technology increases. Yes, there may be an app on your smartphone that enables you to schedule a food delivery, a house cleaning, a refill of gas delivered to your parked car. But individuals, each with their own life, family, needs, desires, difficulties, perform the work your app orders. Someone is delivering the food, cleaning the house, filling the gas tank. And an individual wrote the code that made the application, and that person was hired by an individual. . . And so on.

What about each of those people? What happens if the person delivering food has a flat tire on their car, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle? What happens if the girl who worked in the factory years ago had cracked fingers from working long hours with her hands in near freezing conditions? Was it merely painful, or did the blood from the cracks in her fingers stain the carpet, meaning she would be fired? Or did her manager have awareness and kindness, and give the girl salve, bandages, and a gentler job?

Little things no one thinks about. Small acts, passing thoughts, random words, physical things that matter. Little things that contribute to the anima, the spirt within what you use, what you encounter, within you. Little things that together form communities, companies, nations, our world. Our lives. Our selves. Our self.

~ KMK

* The exact quotation is not one I can find at the moment. I believe it was in Walking With Garbo, by Raymond Daum. I had thought it was in Greta Garbo: A Life Apart, by Karen Swenson, but I can’t find “United Nations” in the index. Daum’s book does not have an index. 

I’ll be writing various pieces under the category Things You Don’t Think About and posting them here and on the Sardinian Arts website. 

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As Above, So Below—Programmatically So

So many teachers and so many texts have stated it: 

What you think creates your reality.

What you feel inside magnetically attracts the same to you in the external world.

As above, so below.

What you see behind your eyes creates what you see in front of your eyes.

A reminder often stated with these truths seems obvious: Watch your thoughts, watch your words. 

A related reminder is: Watch what you Google, watch what you search for online.

Programmatic advertising is the immediate, technological proof of statements such as “What you think creates your reality”.

These days, when you think about something, especially something you want, you most likely Google it. You search for it online. The next time you log into Facebook, your favorite news site, or even a random website, you see the very thing you thought about and Googled. Not just one ad, but many. Ads promoting what you searched for appear everywhere!

These ads are “programmed” to display according to data captured about you from various sources — your insurance provider, credit cards, the music you listen to, and much, much more — including what you search for on Google and Amazon. 

Advertisers argue programmatic ads are helpful to you (the “consumer”). Advertisers say these ads guide you to items that fit your profile, based on things you searched for — thought about — previously. Advertisers can even predict other “related” items you might want, based on your current search, previous searches, and your profile.

So: you search for something; a little later you see an online ad for that same item; you click and explore the offering. Even if you decide not to purchase the item at that moment, merely clicking the programmatic ad triggers more ads of a similar vein to be displayed to you. Soon, something that was a little thought, a Googled item, manifests everywhere in your online world — and even your offline world.

Programmatic advertising now extends to platforms beyond your computer, your tablet, and your phone. You could encounter related ads on electronic billboards, radio/streaming services, and more.

What did your one thought, your one search, trigger? 

Can you get away from that item, the ads, and your thoughts about it? Or are they reinforced by what you see “out there”?

Are you waiting for the ads to change, so you can have a different selection of items from which to choose?

Or do you have to change what you search for before the ads you see “out there” change? 

Ah.

I’m always amazed at how technology mirrors what we humans have the capability — or need — to do within ourselves.

We have to change what we search for first.

We have to change what’s inside, before we can change what’s outside.

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How to Launch a Successful Startup in San Francisco

AKA Why I (Mostly) No Longer Write Satire, Part II: There’s often no longer any difference between satire and reality. See the first part of Why I (Mostly) No Longer Write Satire in the archives.


This overview of what makes a successful startup was compiled after many conversations with startup veterans.

Come up with an outrageous business idea and label it “disruptive”. Note that your idea does not have to be “outrageously good”; your idea needs to be outrageous, then it will be good. Your idea does not have to create a profitable, self-sustaining business, as your money will come from venture capital (VC) and your initial public offering (IPO). 

Name your company immediately. The name should be a one- or two-syllable word, spelled in a non-traditional manner to reflect your disruptive space in the market. Design a logo that looks equally good in a circle and a rounded rectangle.

Rent a historic building in San Francisco’s Jackson Square area. Emblazon your logo above the door. Avoid putting any other identifying information on or around the entrance.

Fill the office with cool minimalist furniture. Hang bike racks on the wall. Put stainless steel dog dishes of water on cute mats near the front desk. Stock the office fridge with craft beer, kombucha, and performance-enhancing water. Keep baskets of fresh fruit, kale chips, and dog treats (organic only) in the kitchen and reception area. 

Ensure the kitchen has fixings for avocado toast and energy juice, especially from midnight to 10am. Install an automatic espresso machine with four compartments for liquids, so team members can make lattes with soy, almond, coconut, or oat milk. Make certain not to have any plastic straws or cutlery in the the kitchen. 

Hire a vegan kosher caterer who sources locally to prepare in-office sit-down lunches five days a week. For nightly working dinners, schedule a rotation of trendy local restaurants to bring in buffet-style meals. Make certain you include restaurants that put a hip twist on macaroni and cheese, hamburgers, and grilled cheese sandwiches (all with vegan options). Schedule happy hour on Thursdays, with sustainably-farmed sushi and plenty of locally-crafted wine and beer. 

Work with the VC firm to hire other visionaries for your leadership team. Visionary leaders are especially important for the Marketing and Research & Development (R&D) teams. Hire only MBAs with impressive schools and companies listed on their resumes. A leader’s image is more important than their performance, and certainly more important than their morals. 

Get an attorney, a creative Finance expert, and someone to lead Human Resources (HR). Hire some software engineers. Contract out everything else. For office maintenance, use an app to find a service that comes once a week to empty trash cans and do a touch-and-go on the bathrooms and kitchen. You expect the company to grow fast, so by the time the office gets really dirty, either no one will care because they’re working too hard in anticipation of the IPO, and/or you’ll move to a bigger office with new stuff.

Think up creative names for all C-level positions, employee positions, and the requisite office dogs. The names should reflect your value statement. The value statement itself must include the words “transparency”, “inclusion”, “accountability”, “social responsibility”, and, of course, “team”.

When enticing high-performing team players to join your company, ensure them you offer unlimited time off. Talk highly of team-building days, flexibility, and your collaborative workspace. Obliquely mention that no drug tests are required. And yes, mention stock options.

Ensure you have the swag you need to present your boldly understated company image. Buy 50 grey Patagonia® Synchilla® vests with the company’s logo, and give these to your team members. You’ll only need about 15 of the vests, but you can auction the leftovers after your IPO for a good bit of cash. 

Give team members several pairs of logo socks in company colors. Give branded water bottles to contractors as well as team members to enhance your reputation for being “green”.

Encourage the R&D team to produce outstanding ideas and visions of the company’s product. Add gaming components, especially scorekeeping, to your product. Inspire the Marketing team to create compelling stories and incredible visuals to illustrate what the product will do. Make certain all collateral is written using mixed verb tenses, so past, present, and future states of the product are confused. Share the collateral produced by the Marketing and R&D teams internally and externally.

On the Engineering side, have your highly flexible scrum master lead meetings. Ensure the engineers use JIRA and lots of other cloud-based software to stay busy creating artifacts. Have managers generate productivity reports that display always-improving success metrics.

Success metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) are really important. Make certain your visionary CEO presents both at industry events. The presentation should include beautifully-illustrated slides that tell the story of how your company discovered a pivotally important product for the niche market. The CEO should also tweet often and share their opinion on everything and anything. If the CEO or another TED Talk-presenting member of the leadership team is involved in a scandal, you’ll get lots of press. Plan for this carefully before the IPO. 

Continue activities to build your company’s reputation as a desirable market leader. Time your IPO to maximize your option price, and launch!

Whatever happens after the IPO doesn’t matter — you’ll have cashed in and someone else will take over. 

Don’t worry — It’s a disruptive, sharing economy and you, like everyone, need to flex for change. You have options — and they’ll support you well. 

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© 2020 Kelly Manjula Koza

iPad Users: Known Issue Viewing Home Page Photos

There is a known issue with Apple Safari on iPads running iOS 13.1 and above: The home page photos of some websites are magnified beyond recognition.

The issue occurs when using Safari on iPads running iOS 13.1 and above to view websites built with the WordPress 2017 theme.

The issue does not affect iPhones using Safari or iPads using other browsers or running earlier versions of the iOS.

SITE OWNER WORKAROUND: See this post on the WordPress forum. Look for the comment by user PhillipPrem, copy the snippet of CSS suggested (also shown below), paste it into the Custom CSS area (Appearance > Customize > Additional CSS), and click Publish.

The code snipped is as follows.

@media only screen 
and (min-device-width : 768px) 
and (max-device-width : 1024px) {
.background-fixed .panel-image {
background-attachment: unset;
}}

USER WORKAROUND FOR AFFECTED SITES: Click menu links at the top or bottom of the page to view pages and photos as they should display.

~KMK