AI & Humans
I remember hearing a while back from some tech people that the first time an automatic driving car kills someone, it will be a huge deal.

This is because all of us will expect an AI to not just be as good as a human driver, or slightly better, but exponentially safer.

Regarding that point, I just heard the news that there was the first known fatality for a driver in an automatic driving Tesla.

I want to point you towards the Tesla blog post responding to the accident.

A quick point before that.
One thing I’m learning to do more often is that we should always ask “compared to what” when hearing any type of statistic.

If a new prescription drug is touted for its results, we compare it with a placebo. If someone says we’re paying too much for health care in our country, we would calculate it as a percentage of GDP and compare it with other industrialized nations. If the stock price of a company has risen 15% during the year, we would compare it with the S&P500. If the S&P rose 35% during the same time, then our stock is not doing so hot.

With fatalities caused by AI driven cars, we compare it with human drivers. Tesla vehicle computers collect data so that a black box type examination can be conducted.

From Tesla:

This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. Among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles.

That means the AI has been able to drive 38% more miles before a fatality compared to American drivers, and 116% more than drivers worldwide.

When looking at all types of accidents (not just fatal), Elon Musk has stated previously:

“The probability of having an accident is 50% lower if you have Autopilot on. Even with our first version. So we can see basically what’s the average number of kilometers to an accident – accident defined by airbag deployment. Even with this early version, it’s almost twice as good as a person.”

Mathematically this is a huge improvement, but the general public will demand almost fail-proof AI before trusting a computer to drive for us. The technology will get better, but we can expect many more bumps along the way.

Resources:
A Tragic Loss – Tesla Blog
Tesla’s Autopilot lowers probability of having an accident by 50% based on early data, says Musk

The Brexit is bad (temporarily) for the UK but great for the US and rest of the world.

Caveats:
Before starting, I should mention I’m mostly ignorant on the subject.
I haven’t watched news programs in many years but topics like this usually find a way to pierce my bubble. Either through family & friends, when I walk by a tv that’s on in the house, through non-news podcasts that happen to talk about this, youtube video clips, or when I surf NYTimes & Washington Post websites for unrelated reasons.

Assumptions:
1. Humans tend to learn best from things that go wrong rather than when things go right.

2. Life is like a pendulum.
It swings to the right and to the left. And this process is beneficial in the long term. It would not be good if only the liberals won or vice versa, no matter what we personally want. Leaning too left, or too right, helps us recognize that the middle way is the best.

Examples:
I learned about personal finance because of my hardcore mistakes. Losing all my money during dot com bubble led me to learn about stocks. Got into credit card debt early in life, which led me to learn about money management.

I learned more about real estate investing from actually trying it out and losing money than I did all the years I read about it.

I learned about health & nutrition only because my health became super poor.

The world learned not to let dictators get out of control from the whole WWII debacle. America learned to get involved in world affairs rather than sit on the sidelines from WW1 and WW2.

The 50 states in USA learn from each other.
Each state can have their individual laws and citizens can freely migrate to any state. We’re all taxpaying/job working/job creating free agents and the states need to recruit us via favorable laws. That’s the whole point anyways.

I don’t think the US would’ve elected the first african american president unless they were fed up with the previous 8 years.

Brexit & USA:
So the UK is trying out an experiment.

They left the EU and want to go their own way.
More secure borders and blah blah blah. Leaning super conservative.

This is a huge benefit for the upcoming US elections. It could not have happened at a better time for us.

We get to see how the UK citizens feel remorse after their votes, what it did to the world economy, how the rest of the EU react with bitterness, how the overpromising brexit politicians walk back on their promises, etc. We get to learn from our friend’s hangover.

UK is a big enough country to matter to us.
64M people with 5th largest economy, $2.8T GDP.
We have 319M people with largest economy, $18.6T GDP.
It wouldn’t have been the same if a smaller country tried the same thing.

UK is like our parent.
For them to try out this experiment means more to US citizens than if France or Germany had done the same. We’re pals with UK. A lot of us look like them. We’re their kids who grew up and earned freedom. We proudly speak their language. Despite our differences, we got their back more than the other guys.

So, the US is facing a similar uprising as the UK.
One party has a presidential nominee that wants to try out similar extreme ideas.

The Brexit happening means his chances of winning went down even further.
Many of us who were sitting on the election sidelines will feel an inner urging to vote. We can’t fucking let something like that happen to us.

The Brexit also means the likelihood of the first female president in the US went up.
The chances were already high, the only way she could’ve won is by having an opponent even his own party dislikes.

Now with the UK pendulum leaning hard right, the US will compensate by going center left politically and hard left socially by electing the first woman to be our leader. It’s guaranteed.

Resources:

I want to compare four movies that I watched recently.
Keanu: 77% (rotten tomatoes score)
Popstar: 76%
Central Intelligence: 64%
and Finding Dory: 94%

All these movies have people I love and admire.
Key & Peele
The Lonely Island team
The Rock & Kevin Hart
Pixar team

But only one of them, Finding Dory, was great.

All the other movies missed the mark.
I just couldn’t get myself to like the stories even though it had people I liked. Out of the other three, Keanu was probably the best. Popstar, I finished watching simply out of loyalty to Lonely Island. Central Intelligence, I could not finish.

Caveats:
I’m not shitting on anyone and I know making a movie is super hard. I’ve never made one ever and don’t think I could do any better. I’m just curious how and why more movies aren’t great. Meaning, how come more movies don’t get into the 90% and above rotten tomatoes range? Movies are made by large companies with decades of experience making flicks. This should seem easier as time goes on.

Pixar:
Let’s consider them the gold standard.
They make movies that rank well & make money.
pixarmovies
(source: wikipedia)

They’ve only been up to bat 17 times in 21 years, and hit home runs 12 times, in terms of high 90% or above ratings.

All their movies though have made tons of money, no losses yet.
Average production budget: $147M
Average worldwide gross: $583M

How they operate:
According to Ed Catmull & John Lasseter, Pixar has some unique practices.

1. They take a long time to make a movie, 4-7 years on average.
2. They go thru many drafts that all suck until it gets good.
3. They have a council of mentors (other veteran pixar filmmakers) who give brutally honest feedback for the person making the movie.
4. They do NOT take mandatory notes from studio executives.
5. They don’t release a movie unless it’s good. If it’s not, they’ll keep rewriting it or in some cases, scrap it.
6. They don’t make that many movies. They’re averaging about 1.5 movies per year.
7. As far as I know, they DON’T test their movies in front of audiences. They have the same Steve Jobs & Henry Ford philosophy that it’s not the customers job to tell them what to make.
8. New filmmakers get practice & audience feedback by making small shorts that appear before a big release.
9. They also really care and want to make great movies.

In his book Creativity Inc, Ed Catmull talks about folks nearly killing themselves in the process of making one of their movies. I think one guy accidentally left his baby locked in a car in a hot parking lot because he was so stressed out about meeting deadlines. Baby ended up being fine.

Disney Animation:
When Disney bought Pixar in 2006, Ed Catmull and John Lasseter were put in charge of revamping the declining Disney animation studios.

They brought over the Pixar process to Disney.
Movie directors no longer had to accept mandatory notes from corporate executives. They enacted the same peer review system (consisting of other film makers) with non-mandatory notes. Removed a lot of bureaucracy.

Now they’re starting to make hits again. Most recent megahit, Zootopia is rated 98%. So that means, their process of making great movies is learnable.

Same goes for Marvel & Star Wars franchises, also owned by Disney. They all tend to make highly rated + high earning movies.

Why do good people make bad movies?
The conclusion I came to why bad movies exist is this:
A. They don’t care about ranking high
OR
B. They don’t know how to rank high

There are 4 scenarios on how a movie can do:
1. Bad rating, bad money
2. Bad rating, good money
3. Good rating, bad money
4. Good rating, good money

No one wants to lose money, so scenarios 1 & 3 are deadly, especially #3 because a lot more time and effort goes to waste.

In terms of making good money, we can assume getting a good rating is exponentially harder than settling for a bad rating. If you can make money without trying hard, why not?

Central Intelligence ($50M budget, $56M gross so far) seems like a movie that fell into category 2: bad rating + good money. It’s estimated to gross $155M by the end of its run. I believe they got a bad rating because they don’t care enough to rank it high. They know they’ll make money regardless. CI was produced by Warner Bros., who are scheduled to release a total of 17 movies in 2016. Compared with Pixar, who’ve only released 17 movies in 21 years.

It was as if they worked backwards with the movie.
They had two popular stars that wanted to work together, so they got some writers to make a story for them to be in. It’s not that they purposely wanted to make a badly rated movie, they just didn’t want to kill themselves trying to make a good one. Plus both Dwayne Johnson & Kevin Hart are starring in tons of movies, so they don’t have time to wait around two to four years while the writers finish polishing things up.

Keanu ($15M budget, $20.5M gross, Warner Bros.) did pretty well. 37% return on investment, though they may have hoped for $60-80M gross. There’s an awesome movie in there, maybe could’ve done better by using the pixar method of rewriting until greatness & peer review by other comedy filmmakers. This movie seemed like it was made mainly for their own enjoyment and the audience gets to come along for the ride.

Popstar ($20M budget, $9M gross, Apatow/Lonely Island/Universal) falls under category 1: bad rating + bad money. I think they wanted to rank high but probably didn’t have the money, time, or know-how to do it. Or something else went wrong. Lonely Island’s only other movie was back in 2007. Hot Rod (40%, $25M budget, $14M gross) also fared poorly.

It’s probably unfair to compare live action with animation movies. And to compare G rated family movies with R rated comedies.

Some top rated R comedies (that I liked) for comparison:
Bridesmaids (90%, $32.5M budget, $288M gross)
Superbad (88%, $20M budget, $169.9M gross)
The 40 yr old Virgin (85%, $26M budget, $177M gross)
& Knocked up (90%, $30M budget, $219M gross)
– all via Apatow Productions.
So, Popstar should’ve done better! (unless Lonely Island had final say over Judd)

Update:
Ok, fuck me, I’ve become obsessed with this topic. I’ve already done 2-3 updates to the freaking post and still haven’t gotten to the bottom of the matter.

Are r rated comedies a different beast than g rated animation when it comes to high ratings? Meaning, high ratings are good for G movies but not good for R movies? Better the rating, less money? Is that possible?

I took the top 17 highest worldwide grossing R comedies and ran a correlation in excel.

Movies selected: Hangover 2 (highest movie, 33% RT Score, 80M budget, 587M gross), Ted, Hangover, There’s Something About Mary, 22 Jump Street, Beverly Hills Cop, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Bridesmaids, American Pie 2, Wedding Crashers, Scary Movie, Neighbors, We’re the Millers, American Pie, The Heat, Lethal Weapon 2, Knocked Up.

Correlation
Rating to gross: -0.28
Budget to gross: 0.66

From this small data set, it looks like there’s a slight negative correlation between high ratings and high money. And a positive correlation between a high budget and high money.

Maybe the best thing to do would be to take all r rated comedies and figure out if there’s a correlation. I’m way too lazy to do that.

Update again:
Ok, I did more.
I have no idea why but I couldn’t help myself.

I took 23 R rated comedies released in 2015 and ran a correlation.
Rating to gross: 0.13
Budget to gross: 0.76

The highest grossing R comedy released in 2015 was
Spy (93%, $65M budget, $233M gross)

2nd highest grossing:
Ted 2 (46%, $68M budget, $217M gross)

Good rating seems to have no real effect on the movie making money. A higher budget does.

Why?
Maybe this has to do with the idea of R rating.
Rated R means it’s not a movie for everyone. Under 17 not allowed without an adult. Contains some adult situations (sex, violence, language).

R rated comedy means it’s not funny for everyone. It’s going to be more cruder, violent, sexual.

So maybe the rotten tomatoes rating does not apply to R comedies because critics are watching a movie likely not intended for them. It’s like having a sheltered food critic from Idaho taste a spicy curry dish flown in from Mumbai. It’s not going to be a pleasant experience going in or out.

A higher budget helps with gross because they can hire bigger stars & spend more on the marketing.

Update once more:
Out of curiosity, ran a 2015 correlation for domestic gross, rather than worldwide. Since rotten tomatoes critics are aimed at domestic audiences.

rating to gross: 0.13
budget to gross: 0.64

On a side note, I just realized that movie budget figures listed on BoxOfficeMojo/Wikipedia don’t include advertising costs. For example, Get Hard (2015) has a production budget listed at $40M at BoxOfficeMojo, and a marketing ad budget of $44.5M as listed by Variety. This is a never-ending mystery.

Resources:
Creativity, Inc – Ed Catmull, book

Pixar Movies – wikipedia
Pixar q&a
Walt Disney Animation Movies – wiki

Keanu – wiki
Popstar – wiki
Central Intelligence – wiki
Finding Dory – wiki
BoxOfficeMojo
Rottentomatoes
Long Range Forecast Central Intelligence
Comedy Movies 2015

The Story
Allen Carr, a British accountant, smoked 100 cigarettes a day.
For 33 years.

And then one day, he smoked his last one and never looked back.
No nicotine patches, gums, no medication, no withdrawals, no willpower, no nothing.

Cold turkey.
Didn’t smoke again the rest of his life.

He went on to write a book on how you can do the same.
Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking.
Quit smoking forever, simply from reading this book.

The book became a big hit, went on to sell over 20 million copies and is currently ranked #1 in the Smoking Recovery section on Amazon. It’s got a 4.7 out of 5 star rating (high even for a good book), with 1,209 reviews.

Allen spent the next 23yrs of his nonsmoking life helping other smokers quit, through his book and the over 100 EasyWay clinics he opened. According to his amazon page, he conservatively estimates that at least 10 million smokers have quit thanks to his method.

He passed away though from lung cancer in 2006. According to the profile, it’s because he was in smoke-filled rooms helping others quit for two decades, and that seems to be the cause.

I heard about the book from multiple sources.
I think the first source was through a podcast by Wade Keller, of Pro Wrestling Torch. He was doing a promotion for audible and mentioned that this book has helped many stop smoking. All you have to do is read the book til the end and it’s very likely you won’t pick up another cigarette again.

What?!

I then saw a video by Ellen Degeneres mentioning the book and how it helped her quit. There are many other celebrity endorsements, including Richard Branson.

By now, I was hooked.

I don’t smoke but wanted to know what the secret was.
Are there some weird things listed there that trick you into stopping? Are there odd rituals to perform? Blood sacrifices? Voodoo? Black magic? Chanting?

Nope.

All the book does is tell you to keep reading the book with an open mind, and smoke the same amount of cigs as you normally do. You do NOT have to stop smoking (this reduces fear and apprehension in the smoker).

The book then goes on to explain exactly what a cigarette does to your body. The addictive nature of nicotine, the withdrawal symptoms you experience are actually caused by smoking cigarettes, and other cold hard truths he learned the difficult way.

By the time smokers reach the final words on the last page, they no longer want to smoke again.

I’m not sure what the success rate is for the book but there are a lot of reviewers saying they quit for good. His clinics, offering a 100% money back guarantee, boast a 90% success rate for smokers quitting for 3 months and 51% quitting 12 months.

By comparison, the nicotine replacement therapy (patches, gums) have a 15% success rate after one year. Zyban, an antidepressant, has a success rate of 30% after one year.

Willpower alone, with no treatment, is listed as 5% by one website and 11.53% by another site.

(Studies and stats can be manipulated, so I don’t know if the above numbers are true and I don’t feel like doing a deep dive to figure out if it is. But we do know reading a book has probably zero side effects and much lower cost, compared to medication & other treatments.)

What’s his secret?
I’ve been thinking about this for a year or so.
I kept rereading the book, even listened to his audiobook, and watched other interviews. I didn’t get it.

It makes no sense, and there was no way to find out unless I somehow developed a smoking addiction to try this method out. Pretty heavy experiment I did not want to conduct.

But tonight, I think I’ve got a good answer to this mystery.

Lemme switch topics to Cognitive Behavior Therapy
This is something I do know about.

If you’re depressed, one of the techniques you will run into is CBT. And it’s very effective for treating depression caused by negative thinking or trauma.

All you do is take a pen and paper, write out your current (likely irrational) thought. Then you identify how that thought is irrational and which category it falls under. There are only 10 of these recognized cognitive distortions. Then you argue against your own thought. Think of this as untangling some heavily knotted cords.

You can do this by yourself at home or go to a therapist and do it with her. It doesn’t matter.

You can do an easier CBT method known as The Work by Byron Katie. You ask yourself four questions and try to prove your thoughts wrong by finding opposing examples. That’s it. And it will change your life.

These techniques are so powerful that it’ll make you feel better asap, cures some folks of depression & other mental issues, and produces serotonin in the brain.

You could have gone thru the most traumatic experience ever, with enough of these sessions, can achieve peace of mind.

How CBT Works
This works because each thought has an effect on the brain.

There are things that fire in the brain each time we think. Old repetitive thoughts end up creating large pathways, becoming a wide river. These then become our automatic way of thinking because we don’t consciously choose most of our thoughts, they simply happen as we’re trying to get through the day.

When we purposely choose to think new positive thoughts, we’re essentially creating new rivers in our brain. With enough practice, these positive thoughts become large rivers and the old negative rivers dry up. They’ve found this through brain scans (of monks, meditation practitioners, patients, etc).

Back to Allen Carr
What Allen accidentally figured out is that we create new neural pathways in the brain by simply reading words that tell us how and why a cigarette is addictive.

When we think that new thought once, and then hammer the point home page after page, new rivers of thought start to grow wider.

These new pathways replace the old automatic habit patterns of addiction. It’s basically his form of cognitive behavior therapy aimed at smokers who want to quit.

Pretty cool!

Resources:
Allen Carr’s Easy Way To Stop Smoking – book

Allen Carr – wikipedia, program philosophy & success rates
Nictoine, Zyban, willpower stats
Nictoine vs Willpower stats

(more) On Synchronicity

June 20, 2016

The other day, I was telling you about some synchronous things happening in my life (more frequent now than normal) and Carl Jung. I also wrote to you recently about The Inner Voice.

Joe Dispenza Article
Now, I want to point you towards an article on this topic by Dr. Joe Dispenza.

Joe is a guy I’ve kinda heard of in periphery through documentaries and other authors, but never paid full attention to. He wasn’t on my radar to do a deep dive… until now.

Last couple days, I’ve been listening to his talks on youtube and stumbled onto the article on synchronicity tonight. He is awesome and what he wrote about is exactly what I’m experiencing these days.

As soon as I read the article, I had an urge to write to you about it.

And I reached for my phone to, well, I can’t remember why now but maybe to make a note on my calendar. The time stamp as I awoke the phone was of course 11:11. So I quickly tried to take a screenshot of it, and that sucker immediately turned 11:12. Funny.

I get the message loud and clear though. Don’t try to capture every one of these moments as if they’re rare specimens, just accept em as normal synchronous moments and go with the flow.

My Inner Life
On a tangent, these days, I’ve been doing the playing card divination, like I mentioned before.

Usually as soon as I wake, I pull out the deck to get the “temperature”, or main theme, for the day. It’s pretty accurate, or a better way to say it is that the card messages are useful. They spark some insight in the brain. It doesn’t matter which card pops up, the messages are worthwhile and inspire deep introspection.

I then write down any dreams or lyrics stuck in my head, these are usually clearest in the morning. I also write to and hear back from the inner voice. What I’m trying to say is that my days are filled with constant two way inner conversation.

Anyways, so today I had to drop off two heavy boxes at the UPS store.

It started raining, but cleared up as soon as I got out of the car. I balanced both boxes in my arms, held against the car and my body, as I freed one arm to close the car door. Then I carried the boxes using both arms (& most of my chest) towards the store. Right as I started walking, I had a small mental image, wouldn’t it be super cool if someone was walking out as I walked in, and held the door open for me?

I didn’t do this purposely or wish it or have any attachment to the desire. It was a random, wouldn’t it be cool, thought. And then I let it float away into the ethers.

I’m sure you can guess the punchline.
As I get close, one of the guys that work there ran and held the door open, by walking outside. The whole thing was perfectly orchestrated, as if it was pre-planned and we had been practicing it for a broadway play.

Ok, now onto that article I was talking about…

Resources:
The Magical Language of Serendipity and Synchronicity