Making Pie

I was invited to a friend's house for thanksgiving dinner, and so I offered to bring my upside-down pecan pumpkin pie. It's pretty much the most amazing pumpkin pie anyone has ever tasted. After waking up around noon on Thanksgiving, I set to work making my desert. I looked at the recipe, and realized that I had forgotten that I was out of evaporated milk. So, I headed out to Sherm's, battled through the wild crowds, all buying last minute ingredients for their meals. As I was making my way through the store, I passed a display of evaporated milk, so I grabbed one, and was on my way.

After I finally made it back home, I started mixing up the ingredients. First, a big can of pumpkin pie mix, next the evaporated milk. Once I had added the milk, I knew something wasn't right. I looked at my recipe, I looked at the can. I had purchased the wrong size, 12 ounces instead of 5. I didn't have a second can of pumpkin, and I dreaded going all the way to the other side of town and fighting for another can of pumpkin. Besides that, time was running out, and I needed to get to my friend's house soon! I decided to check the local convenience store, and thank goodness, they had a can of pumpkin (puree instead of the mix, but I could deal with that!).

I got home, and mixed up the pies, poured them into the pans and started putting them into the oven. I had ended up with two large pies and four small ones (like pumpkin pie shots). After I put the two large pies in, I realized that I didn't have room in the front for all four little pies, so I reached back and carefully set the little pies in the back. Well, I wasn't quite careful enough, and one of them dumped over, spilling all over the bottom of my oven.

I cleaned up what I could, and continued cooking. In a couple minutes (unknown to me) smoke started billowing out of the oven, and then the smoke alarm went off. Our smoke alarm is ... excessively loud. BEEEEP BEEEEP BEEEP THERE IS SMOKE IN THE HALLWAY BEEEP BEEEEP BEEEP EVACUATE THE BUILDING BEEP BEEEP BEEEP! and so on. I opened the windows and doors, and frantically waved something at the smoke alarm, trying to get the smoke away from it. I turned off the oven, and eventually the alarm stopped. I called up my friend and asked her if I could bake my pies in her oven. She said, sure, as soon as the turkey and rolls are done cooking. So, I started taking the pies out of the oven so that I could wrap them up and bring them over. The first pie I took out, as I was setting it on the stove top, slipped and fell, splat, upside-down on the floor of my kitchen. I almost cried.

I took the other pies out (no more accidents) and cleaned up the floor as best I could. I was a little worried about transporting the pie. I figured that with my luck, I would dump them all over my car. They made it to my friend's house. I carried them to the fence, opened the gate, tripped, almost fell, caught myself, made it through her herd of mastiffs and into the kitchen without further loss of pie. Whew!

Sadly, the pie sat there all through dinner, as the turkey (like all turkeys) took longer to cook than expected. They finally went into the oven at 7, baked for an hour and then got put in the freezer in an attempt to cool them down before people fell asleep. By 9:30 when I had to leave for work, they were still hot, and so I left without seeing what anyone thought of my pies.

In the middle of the night, my friend sent me a message telling me that it was the best pumpkin pie she had ever tasted.

I have half a can of pumpkin puree left ...

Using broken minds as a key to Artificial Intelligence

I tend to think of the human brain as a very complex computer program that we could possibly re-create if we had enough variables and an effective method for teaching it to "learn" and adapt. In computer programing, one common aspect of all programs are bugs, or quirks in the programing that, when triggered, produce unintentional results. These results aren't always bad, referenced by the humorous phrase, "that's not a bug, that's a feature!" By looking at a program's bugs you can learn a lot about how it works without looking at the source code.

In my job, I work with people whose minds have malfunctioned in one way or another. Last night, one of my residents was rambling on and on as I was getting her dressed. It reminded me of a memory dump in a program, and that's when it hit me: it might be more profitable to create an artificial intelligence where the types of mental illnesses that humans face are possible.

Currently, those working on artificial intelligence are focusing on the visible functions of the human mind, but are not reproducing the system behind it. By taking a look at the mind's bugs (such as schizophrenia, memory loss, paradoxical thinking, fallacies, gullibility and so on) a greater understanding of the underlying structure can be realized.

My favorite (fictional) example of an artificial intelligence's mental neurosis is HAL in 2001: Space Odyssey. He is driven by the directive to make sure his mission succeeds at any cost, and sees the humans as being unnecessary, untrustworthy and flawed companions. He kills off most of the crew before being turned off by the protagonist. If we develop a computer with the ability to become mentally deranged, we will be forced to change our revering attitude toward the computer to one of caution, just as we have toward humans that we do not know. True artificial intelligence would be a dangerous thing, for it would represent a mental force as strong as ours, but malleable in a way that humans are resilient to.

Formal Organizations

How has one specific formal organization changed your life in some significant way? Explain how the institutional culture has shaped your personality, attitudes, values and/or beliefs. What role did bureaucracy play in this process?

When I was born, I was labelled a member of my parent's church. There was a ceremony (like a christening) that solidified my membership in the eyes of the other members. As I grew, I was socialized to accept the governing structure of the church as being "right" and "obviously the way things should be". When I was a bit older, I was officially made a member, and given a "vote" and felt as though I was an important piece of the organization. This illusion stayed with me until I grew old enough to realize that what we were told, and reality were quite different.

One interesting facet of this church is that it is highly structured and bueracratic. The power structure is VERY rigid and standardized across all congregations. There is a "handbook" for every position, and there are rules for every possible situation. The local administrators are usually well off, business oriented/minded men - even though the members are from all walks of life, and the leadership is *supposed* to be democratic. Once you move beyond the local sphere, there is a HUGE amount of inner-circle self-promotion going on, and it is impossible to get into a position of power without knowing someone or being promoted from a lower position. The sunday school lessons were standardized in the 60s, and now everyone in the world learns from the same book (translated), and hears the same information being regurgitated every week.

When I was 18, I was assigned to teach the 4 and 5 year olds, and had my first experiance of being told that I was not allowed to deviate from the lesson manual, and then realizing that I was being asked to socialize these young children with values and norms that I did not necessarily agree with - ie with being obedient members of the church bueracracy. I had been raised with a strong personal value of education and that there is always more to know about any given topic, and so when I started taking the "adult classes" and realized that it was really just the same exact thing I had been learning for the last 18 years, I lost all interest in being a cooperative member of the group.

Even though I am no longer a member (I was kicked out for heresy :-) ), I still look at some portions of the social structure and can admire it for being very efficient, and working for a large number of people who do not rebel against their socialization. It is very difficult to entirely step away from something that you were born and raised into, and even today, I find myself with values that originated from this organization. There was a emphasis on learning to speak publically, and each member was trained to become a member of the administration, even though most of them would never actually be appointed (it helped maintain the illusion that it was possible), and even today, I can get up in front of a bunch of people and wax philosophical for as long as needed to fill in the time.

Unfortunatly, I believe that the more they move towards a formally burecratic organization and away from their original form, which emphasized creativity, democracy and life-long personal and social change; the less powerful their method of socializing their members and KEEPING members through adulthood will be. If I had been a member in the 1800s when they were still radically progressive (even by today's modern standards) I might have stuck around.