Writing Exercise: Can robots ever be human?

The Terminator in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

The Terminator in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

I realize this topic is as incredibly deep and complex as it is general. I will start this by stating that I am not in robotics nor do I work with artificial intelligence. I have never even studied it. I am a man who is very interested in concepts and logic. I enjoy in delving into the overlying principles of things. My opinions on this are not fact and they possibly aren’t even close. Do not be offended. If my writing makes you think and feel, whether it is an introspective “I haven’t thought of that” or an angry “Is this guy an idiot?!?”… I have done my job.

Robots are a strong theme in American culture. They evoke a wide array of emotions from us. Many of us find them interesting. I loved the show Battlebots. I love having the newest, sleekest technology. I love that my phone can use simple algorithms to predict things I want to do. I am an absolute nut for predictions and analysis. Heck, I even have a scale that links to an online profile so I can see exactly how my weight is fluctuating. Give me a shiny piece of technology that syncs through WiFi or Bluetooth and presents its information in colorful bar and line graphs and I’ll be your best friend. These machines or robots are created to analyze us and assist us. They are getting smarter and we have long been past the point where our phones know more about us than we do. In some instances, our phones can probably predict what we will do before we know it. While computers (I’ll generally use that term here) are getting better and better at knowing us, that leads to another emotion we have towards robots:

Fear.

Americans have many fascinating obsessions. We glorify ninjas and pirates and have made ridiculous versions of them that never existed. We drool over superheroes who have seemingly plausible “origin stories” but are obviously impossible if you give it any amount of thought. We love orcs, mages, and elves despite there never being an instance of any of them in history. We equally are fascinated by the idea of robots, but unlike the others, robots are real. Robots are here. As many movies and video games there are that portray good robots who help us fight an enemy (usually other robots), there are just as many that feature robots that kill us. Usually the narrative is the same. We keep making technology better until we reach a point where AI has the ability to achieve free will. At this moment, AI is not a program anymore. It has consciousness. It doesn’t necessarily “feel” but it can make its own decisions and that turns for the worst when that is coupled with the intelligence, processing speed, and ability to essentially recall any memory in its storage in nanoseconds. These advanced robots then always go through some change that causes them to turn on humanity. Sometimes their coding just glitches. Sometimes an evil mastermind “rewires” them. Sometimes the perfect beings just realize how flawed humans are and decide to get rid of all of us. What makes this fear rational is that this could possibly happen down the road. For whatever reason, these robots are usually made into the shape of a human. This brings me to my actual point.

In this exercise, I’m not discussing if we will be mass-exterminated by a robot in the future. We are nowhere near that point. However, as computers get smarter and more knowledgeable of us, people have undertaken the task of trying to get them to emulate us. The question is: Will there a be a day where robots look and act like humans? Will you be able to bump into a stranger out in public, have a conversation, and then be shocked 10 minutes in when that stranger informs you that it is a robot? Many people say no, but there are also those who believe the answer is yes so strongly, they have dedicated their lives to it. I will not say no as the future is a long time, but I will say we are nowhere close.

The issue is that from an artificial intelligence standpoint, humans are perfectly imperfect. We are irrational and we act on impulse. We will actually make a terrible decision with no thought or research, but then we have the capability to amend the mistake and still get the job done. There are many times that humans will actually do research and then still make a mistake because of an unforseen variable. Humans have embraced the ever-present possibility of mistakes. Jobs have policies for getting stuck in traffic. Companies have insurance for people hurting themselves while performing work. Humans are irrational, but not random. We will do everything we’re supposed to do, then in a moment of rage, break a $500 cell phone. Computers are efficient and would never do these things.

The next step would obviously be teaching the robots to emulate us. This would not be easy to do since they do not have emotions. You could program a robot to emulate the average human, but then have it rarely do random acts, but this is not even close to being the same. I think watching a robot pretending to be human would be like watching a fake viral video on the internet. I would bet that every day, hundreds of companies try to fake videos where something ridiculous happens in public. They stage events that are cute, romantic, or dangerous. They sit in meeting rooms and analyze other viral videos. Many of them probably even have focus groups to test how believable they are. No matter the process, most of them hit the internet and are ignored. The problem is that real viral videos happen naturally. We can tell when a video is faked/staged because it just seems unnatural to us… It seems inhuman. You could strap a GoPro camera on a thousand people’s heads and then upload that footage into a robot and it still would be emulating humans. The robot needs to feel, think, and act on impulse for it to be believable. It needs to be human. We are nowhere close.

I find this entire process scary. Using programs and algorithms to assist us has progressed society to new heights. Things have become cheaper and easier. We can digitally film and edit. We can make complex spreadsheets in a window that would have taken an entire wall of a conference room to draw out. We can instantaneously mail each other through the internet. The list of things technology has provided us would be a mile long, but how far do we need to go? Why do we need robots walking around pretending to be human and acting like us? I don’t agree with making humanoid robots to complete certain tasks, but I see the purpose (I think the implications toward jobs would be horrible). I don’t see the purpose of making human robots that do everything we do and that pretend to be us. That’s another issue, however.

As the future comes, we will undoubtedly reach higher levels of technology. Processors will get better. Memory will better. Storage will get better. There will be a point where things like androids will be a possibility. I just don’t think we’re anywhere close to that right now.

Thanks for reading my random fit of writing inspiration.

-Marty

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How an Amazon email marketing goof-up lost them a sale



I love Amazon. I think they are the best online retailer on the planet and everyone who knows me well knows that I use Amazon for everything. I will sing their praises until the end of the world.

However, that doesn’t mean that Amazon doesn’t mess up.

I woke up today at 5 a.m. and did my normal routine of checking my emails (and Facebook) in the hopes that it would help me wake up. Amazon sends me emails regularly with different deals or products catered to my interests. I don’t open many of them but I prefer getting them because every now and then, I do get an email for something I want.

Well, that actually happened this morning.

I received an email for “Up to 65% Off Select Kingston Memory Cards and USB Drives.” This was incredibly convenient because my last flash drive (which was also a Kingston, by the way) burned down with my house and I hadn’t bought another yet. There are ways for me to get around using a flash drive so I had been holding off, but 65 percent off the normal price would have been the thing to make me finally buy one.

Amazon email marketing mess up martyfnemec Communication Made Simple

The email did a great job of building a sense of urgency as well. The Kingston flash drive sale was the Amazon “Deal of the Day,” which means that I only had today to buy a flash drive using this deal. This marketing technique was very successful as I immediately clicked the link so I could buy a cheaper Kingston flash drive.

Then, something strange happened.

The “Deal of the Day” was not the Kingston flash drives. I was confused and I stopped for a moment and thought that maybe Amazon messed up and the flash drives were not the “Deal of the Day” but instead part of Amazon’s “Lightning Deals” that are featured on the same page. I clicked through all 37 of them and there was nothing involving a flash drive.

I decided to go back to the email and I saw what had happened. The “Deal of the Day” was for April 15 (yesterday) and I received the email at 3:01 a.m. on April 16. Even if I had opened the email the second I received it, I still couldn’t have bought those flash drives because that day had passed. Even if I lived in California, which is three hours behind Florida, the state I call my home, I STILL COULDN’T HAVE BOUGHT ONE OF THOSE FLASH DRIVES.

Amazon successfully assessed my interest and sent me a relevant email. Their email marketing worked and I was 100 percent ready to make a purchase and their mess-up lost them a sale.

Will this affect my love of Amazon and cause me to stop using them first and foremost over every other online retailer?

Nope. It doesn’t change anything for me. I am disappointed, but the value Amazon brings me far outweighs this rare mistake.

But this does bring to light that every company makes mistakes, even the almighty Amazon. The difference is that Amazon can afford it. Can your business?

Make sure that your email marketing is tested and analyzed deeply. Just like in my case, a lead can be ready to become a customer and a simple mistake can make it never happen. Unlike my case with Amazon, your missed opportunity may not come back and give you another chance.

Do you have an opinion on this subject? I’d love to hear it in the comments.

-Marty F. Nemec

Game of Thrones makes TV watchable again



Game of Thrones

I admit that I’m a tough sell with TV shows. I have probably watched two or three episodes of a hundred shows. I just don’t have time for TV shows that can’t keep my attention. I expect shows to make me interested in the futures of the characters. I expect to laugh or cry (feel like it). I expect to feel emotion.

Three of the only shows I have ever finished and made me satisfied with my decision were Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad, and Arrested Development. Game of Thrones definitely meets all of my expectations for great shows.

I won’t ruin what happened, but in a roughly four episode span, featuring both the “Red Wedding” and the “Purple Wedding,” this show blew my mind and changed what I thought about TV shows. Game of Thrones will keep you up at night thinking about the show’s events. It will have you talking to coworkers about it.

The one constant complaint I hear is that Game of Thrones is too long. The episodes are sometimes slow and always an hour long. What you don’t realize, though, is that the entire show is a series of build-ups. Each long build-up peaks at a crazy event that leaves you speechless and then the next build-up begins. You have to know these characters. You have to love or hate these characters to truly appreciate what the show has to offer. That is why you have to watch the episodes that aren’t action-packed from start to finish.

I strongly suggest that you get a big bag of popcorn and dedicate a Sunday afternoon to Game of Thrones. After three episodes, you will most likely be as hooked as me (and most of the country). It is an incredible show that will make you feel every emotion known to man. Don’t be that guy (like me) again who starting watching Breaking Bad after it ended and you already knew the ending.

Also, you will come to really appreciate Jack Gleeson’s portrayal of the cowardly, yet sadistic, King Joffrey. What a tough role and Jack nails it every single episode.

-Marty F. Nemec

My life at the moment (03/24/2014)

Many things have happened since my last real post.

I now am a full-time paid Marketing and Communications Intern at Crowley Maritime Corporation. The title is misleading as I actually do an incredibly vast amount of functions. The sect of Crowley I work for is called Crowley Technical Management, and my department primarily deals with business development, mostly through government contracts. At the moment, I mostly help write bids for government contracts, but we are kicking off a marketing campaign to further expand CTM’s online reach so we an secure more contracts. I will be the head of this campaign and will be in charge of the blogging and other social media content creation.

It is a giant opportunity for me and I am very excited to prove my worth so I can have a chance at getting employed here in a permanent position. This company is great and everyone here is incredibly helpful and nice. I know that I am in an environment that will help me be the best I can be. Plus, I can put government contract writing on my resume now.

How cool is that?

Things are going well and I’m sorry for not posting in a long time. How are all of you? Are your careers/lives going the way you want them to be going?

A blog I wrote about the Sonic Redskins’ sign incident for Axia PR.

Sonic-Redskins-Sign

Come read it and comment on there if you have an opinion on the matter. Axia and I would really appreciate it. Please look around at the other posts too if you have free time. I am very appreciative of all the support you guys have given me.

The post is here.

-Marty F. Nemec

The PR side of Amazon’s drone unveiling on 60 Minutes

Amazon-PrimeAir-flying

This is a very interesting article by Axia Public Relations on the PR side of Amazon’s unveiling of the “Amazon Prime Air” drone on 60 Minutes. It was a giant move for both Amazon and 60 Minutes and its timing was perfect. It was done the night before Cyber Monday, which is the biggest day of the year for internet retailers.

Check it out here and write what you think of the article in the comments.

How a House Fire Made Me Who I am Today

My destroyed house while the debris was getting cleared out.

My destroyed house while the debris was getting cleared out.

On December 18, 2012, two days after my 25th birthday, I was sitting in my living room around noon. It was a day like any other, except something unsuspecting would happen. There was a pop in the wall behind me. I didn’t have time to evaluate the situation or ponder on what caused the noise because the burnt plastic smell told me right away. It was a spark.

I immediately threw the couch away from the wall and saw the old curtain was already on fire. I tried to kick it and put the fire out, but my attempts were to no avail. I ran to my refrigerator and grabbed a giant container of water. I even thought for a second how lucky I was that I hated the iron water from my well and kept distilled water for drinking. Those positive thoughts quickly dissipated as the water hit the fire and did basically nothing. It was at that point I saw the fire was coming out of the outlet and that’s when I knew that the fire was inside the wall. I ran into the kitchen and frantically looked for something, anything. I turned around and saw the fire was already at the ceiling of the living room. I grabbed a shirt and covered my mouth, ran into my living room, grabbed my cell phone and darted out the back door. That move actually singed the front of my hair, but I didn’t realize that until a firefighter pointed it out to me later.

As I ran down my back porch steps, there was a sound similar to a cannon firing and the living room window blew out causing glass to fly everywhere. I called 911 and waited at the road with nothing but the pair of gym shorts I was wearing and the phone in my hand. Slowly, the rest of the neighborhood came and stood with me offering me apologies and small tokens of help. I appreciatively smiled to them, but my mind was still numb at the sight in front of me.

The house that was burning was where I grew up. It was old. The walls were covered in wooden panels, a practice not done anymore because it is essentially turning your walls into flint. The insulation was old, as was the wiring. Perhaps I was lucky that something like that didn’t happen earlier. After all, it could have happened while I was sleeping.

I have always considered myself a strong person, but there is no denying that it was devastating. Not only did I lose everything from my childhood, I also lost everything I owned too. On top of that, I received a dose of reality on how mortal I am. If it had happened just a little earlier, I would have died in my sleep. Insurance did pay for most of my lost items eventually, but I was in a bad spot right after the fire.

I had no house and belongings. I had no clothes. I lost all of my school work as well as my computer. My dad lived an hour away which would have turned my drive to school into a two hour trip each way. As hopeless as the situation seemed, something magical happened. My friends and family popped up wanting to help, especially my girlfriend and her family. Even my friends’ parents gave me things. People on Facebook that I hadn’t seen in years were messaging me telling me I could stay at their house if I needed to. I must have had more than 30 people contact me wanting to help.

My network turned my tragedy into a manageable problem that didn’t ruin my life. When school started again after the Christmas break, I was able to drive my normal route to school and do my work on someone else’s computer. Because of the charity of everyone, I was able to get my life back on track until the insurance money came in and allowed me to support myself and replace my belongings.

Looking back, I can see that this network that helped me is the same concept that is used in public relations. Whether you need help getting a message out or getting access to new potential clients, a network of friends and strangers is necessary. Like when someone gave me a shirt, someone can give a retweet. A place to stay for a few days is like an opportunity to guest blog. Maybe it is silly to downplay my traumatizing experience by comparing it to the public relations industry, but I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to learn from it. It is only traumatizing if I let it be. I choose not to.

If there was anything that I gained from the house fire, it is strength. I didn’t crumble to my near-death experience or the things from my childhood that were lost. I’ll never get to show my kids the chess set from Jerusalem or the Slovenian history-themed Tarok card game set their great-grandfather gave to me before he died. I’ll never get to look back at anything I ever accomplished or the hundreds of poems and novels I endlessly wrote as a kid that made me want to be a writer like I am today. It was humbling, but it was strengthening. I am a firm believer that God does everything for a reason and now I look forward, ready to make an imprint in the public relations industry. I’m ready for whatever comes my way because I feel like I’ve already been through the worst.

Did you have a situation in your life that you learned from like this? It doesn’t have to be traumatizing, but I would love to hear it in the comments section.

-Marty F. Nemec

A guest post I wrote about my time interning at Axia Public Relations.

I hope you enjoy it. I’ll have something deeper on here eventually, but it is cool that I got some placement on the actual company website. Let me know what you think. Did your internship experience in public relations or marketing go like mine?

Click here to read the post.

And gosh, do I hate the picture they used of me! Hah.

-Marty F. Nemec

Busy, busy!

I hate to beat a dead horse, but… wait, what? Why is that an expression? That’s horrible!

Anyways, I’ve been very busy lately. I’ve been doing an unpaid internship here at Axia Public Relations for over three months and I’ve been trying to get an entry-level PR or marketing job here in Jacksonville, Fla. I just can’t seem to find one right now, but I am going through all of the job boards every couple days with a magnifying glass (not literally) and I have been applying to things that are relevant to me. Plus, college football season started and I’m probably the biggest fan you’ll ever meet. Being a sportswriter is why I majored in journalism, although that is not my end-goal anymore. Go Buckeyes!

I know I will get my break soon. I’m too smart and I work too hard to not be getting paid. Haha. Other than that attempt at confidence, I also have bills and student loans to pay off. I’m glad I’m in a situation where I can at least get experience, but I am definitely going 100 percent to try to start my career. I will write a few posts soon about the things I’ve learned during this internship.

To those who read this, thank you! How have you been? Any new developments in your life? I hope all of you are doing great!

-Marty F. Nemec