Read TheStar

According to TheStar, the MCA president said that, “people should be critical enough not to accept everything that is reported online as all the information need not necessarily be true.”

It is important for people to differentiate the truths, half-truths and what is a complete lie

Okay, I will actually go one better than him and say that “people should be critical enough to not accept everything reported as the truth.”

You see, the reason why I like to read TheStar is because it is an adventure! If you read TheStar literally, it would be an extremely boring newspaper to read. However, if you try to read between the lines, that is when it gets pretty exciting. TheStar actually tries really hard to report the truth under self-censorship practiced by most local news outlets.

I used to always say that the solution to rumour mongering is to teach people how to think critically. Most things that are said will be inaccurate, if not blatantly false. The rest will largely be exaggerations. Only a really small amount of truth will actually be revealed. Therefore, it is critical that we teach children to learn how to discern the ‘truth’.

Let’s quote Colbert on truthiness:

It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that’s not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It’s certainty. People love the President because he’s certain of his choices as a leader, even if the facts that back him up don’t seem to exist. It’s the fact that he’s certain that is very appealing to a certain section of the country. I really feel a dichotomy in the American populace. What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?…

Truthiness is ‘What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.’ It’s not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There’s not only an emotional quality, but there’s a selfish quality.

Hahaha! We really need people like Colbert and Stewart to help us discern the ‘truth’.

Merdeka? Rant

We suck as a nation.Yesterday was the official Merdeka (Independence) Day celebrations for Malaysia. It marks 50-over years of independence from our colonials – the Brits. Unfortunately, I did not feel very merdeka at all – not just in terms of the celebrations but also in personal terms. I just did not feel very happy at all.

It could just be that I have been rather unhappy with a whole lot of things and my unhappiness is stacking up gradually. I seem to be running short on my happiness quotient recently. There are just too many things to be depressed about in my life, and my nation by extension.

I find myself surrounded by idiots and as you all know, I do not suffer fools gladly. That’s the crux of the problem.

Maybe I should learn to see things differently, or to surround myself with less foolishness. I think that the latter would be an easier solution to the problem. However, I will have to find some way to alleviate the stress that I am currently under. Hopefully, things will turn out better after my holiday to Japan. Goodness knows I need a break from all this idiocy.

Life sucks. People are dumb. Learn to eat grass.

Gender Miscommunication

There is an article about a recent study on how men were found commonly to perceive more sexual intent in women’s behaviour than women are intending to convey. This study is from Indiana University’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. However, the study also shows that men were quite likely to misperceive sexual interest as friendliness. After reading it, all I can say that it is a sexist piece of crap.

Aside from the many flaws in the research methodology, it is patently clear that the conclusions drawn are one sided and designed to provoke discourse. As any student of real communication knows, communication is a two way process based on an agreed protocol. If either party does not communicate correctly, or if they were using different protocols, error free communications is impossible. Even when both parties communicate correctly with the same protocol, there is still a finite probability of error and therefore, error correction mechanisms need to be built into the communication system.

In a typical communications system, a message is first encapsulated with some extra information in order to identify the target of the message and also some error checking information. Then, the message is transformed into a signal for transmission, which is transmitted through a suitable medium, either wired or wireless. The signal may even be routed through several intermediate devices before reaching the intended target. When the receiver receives the signal, it will convert it from the transmission form into a readable form and extract the message. Afterwards, it will check this message against the extra information to see if it was the intended target and if the message was error free. Finally, the receiver would send another message back in the opposite direction, in order to acknowledge receipt of the message. That’s how all communication systems work in this world.

There are so many potential places for errors to happen between the transmission and reception of the message. The transmitter may foul things up when converting the intended message into a transmissible form. The medium of transmission can introduce noise and cross-talk into the system, which may garble up the message. The receiver may also foul things up when converting between the received signal and the intended message. Whether or not the intended message was correct, in the first place, is also questionable.

When a garbled message is received, there are error correction mechanisms to handle the problem. But in order for the mechanisms to work, both transmitter and receiver would have to agree on the same algorithm to use. Otherwise, even this correction would fail thoroughly and garble up the message even further. And the trouble with human communication is that, both genders use very different error handling mechanisms. Males tend to be encouraged by ambiguous intentions while females tend to err on the side of caution.

In the event of a communication breakdown, the first thing that an engineer will need to do is to ensure that both transmitter and receiver are using the same communication protocol. Then, the engineer would have to check to ensure that the transmitter is working and sending the intended message correctly. Finally, the receiver would need to be checked to ensure that it is still receiving the same message transmitted and is extracting the intended message from the transmitter. The path of the message has to be traced from the source to the destination.

The trouble with human communication is that the protocol is highly flawed. Human languages have too many nuances and meanings associated with each word and phrase that it is never entirely possible to understand the exact meaning of a statement. Non-verbal communications are even worse. Nobody really knows when a smile is more than a smile or otherwise. When such a problem happens in a communication system, both transmitter and receiver will need to fall back onto the lowest common denominator, a simple protocol that both sides can understand clearly.

Therefore, it is rather unfair to place judgement that the receivers are clueless. It is just as likely that the transmitters are clueless too. But the best thing to do in such cases, is just to fall back to the lowest common denominator, to clear the air, so to speak. However, I’m very sure that many other people will disagree with me on this. Some people insist on doing all the dancing around. Well, I’m sure that none of these people are communication engineers. d:

Realistic Science Fiction

It occured to me today, that I have developed quite a penchant for science fiction novels. When I was younger, I used to read lots of fantasy instead. The reason that I used to detest science fiction is because I have never gotten the correct exposure to it, until I picked up Cryptonomicon at an MPH warehouse sale back home. That changed my entire perception about scifi.

The author of Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson, is an extremely good author of science fiction. I loved the way that he blended real world events in with fictional events, to advance an extremely believable plot along. That was my first ever exposure to, what I call, realistic science fiction.

When I tell people this, they tend to ask me what I mean by realistic science fiction as fiction, by definition, is not real. Well, believable science fiction would be fiction that is so grounded in reality, that you can believe that events actually transpired as described in the story.

Since then, I’ve read his other books, The Diamond Age and Snow Crash. I also have the Baroque Cycle sitting on my shelf. This is his first massive 8 book work and is a series of historical novels. I’ve not touched it yet as I know that once I do, I would not be able to put it down and it will suck up weeks of my life. I’m saving it for when I finish my PhD.

Sitting right next to this set is another important scifi set from William Gibson, his Sprawl trilogy. Right next to these two are a bunch of books from Alastair Reynolds. I am presently contemplating on getting some books from Ian Banks. I’m still looking for his books at the local cheap book store.

The only issue that I have with the bookstores is that they tend to shelve the science fiction and fantasy books together. I guess that, sometimes, it’s not easy to separate the two categories. But, there is a very simple rule of thumb. Science fiction involves the use of technology while fantasy involves the use of magic.

Sufficiently advanced technology is like magic, though.