Yesterday I went to CeBIT, which is Europe's main IT-Fair. I didn't go alone but with my friends Tsia and Arno; Arno's brother was also there. So we went checking the booths out, a lot of them are more oriented towards IT professionals than people like me (I have to say that Tsia and Arno are IT professionals though). So obviously the first hall we were in was aimed at governments, companies that need security equipment and banks, they had stuff like money counting machines, e-Passport control gates and stuff like that.
Then we came near a booth, which had quite a lot of people in front of it. The first thing I noticed that they demoed a system that scans peoples fingerprints. Many people unreluctantly put their hands on the machine to have their fingerprints scanned, something, which I would have never done with my true fingerprints (if your interested in how to fake fingerprints tell me, maybe that’s some material for a future post). Who knows what the company does with the data - if it somehow would be leaked everyone could go out and commit crimes leaving your fingerprints. So I already thought that was quite scary.
But then I noticed the other thing they had on display: A "visitor management system" as they called it or an "automatic face recognition for CCTV system" as I would have called it, that also can tell you the age, gender and happiness of the people in the picture. They had a camera filming everyone in front of the booth and a big screen displaying the picture overlaid with the analysis of their software. I heard of such systems before and that they might be used to analyze material the police films at demonstrations afterwards. Really scary stuff, as it could be used to very easily identify everyone taking part in a demonstration and also to find out at which other demonstrations or other CCTV-covered places they were filmed. 1984 at it's best.
But notice that I said it could be used. The thing is really it can't be used for anything like that, because well let's say it's in reality very buggy software. It shows you how happy the person is, it's age with a big tolerance, gender, unique id and how long the person has been in the picture. I noticed that my gender jumped from male to female and back all the time and it was the same with the age. The only thing it got right most of the time is my happiness, e.g. it noticed the difference between a smiling and a sad face, but that’s really nothing new, because this technology is already used in customer products like compact digital cameras that shoot a picture when the people in the frame smile. But the best thing was that I could get a new id assigned to my face by shaking my head and hair around a bit. Not that scary, after all.
When I bought a house ten years ago, I also bought place settings for six and silverware for twelve. Then I developed a minor fascination with bone China and bought settings for eight. I probably had four dozen glasses. About once a month or so, all of these dishes would be piled up in and around my sink, begging to be cleaned. I didn't have a lot of dinner parties-- I just hated doing dishes so much that I'd procrastinate until washing became a full day event. Those days were some of my least favorite.
A few days ago, I was doing the dishes for the six of us that ate dinner. There were pots, pans, plates, serving utensils, and glasses. The works. For the first time ever, I found myself enjoying doing the dishes. I could appreciate the warm water on my hands and the shine in the pot when it was clean. When I washed everything that wasn't dishwasher safe, I started handwashing the things that could have just gone in the dishwasher. It wasn't fun exactly, but it was so enjoyable that I actually found myself looking forward to washing the dishes the next day.
Work has become the same way. I don't love all aspects of it equally, but when I wake up and know I have a tough day ahead of me, I feel great. Pant of it is that I know the day will end with a nice chunk of progress made, but most of it is the actual act of working. I love it. I can't wait to face off with a bug that's been bothering me for weeks, trace it through all of our code, and fix it. It's relaxing, like an internal Swedish massage.
My friend Constance wrote me an email today. She was talking about me with her sister and some friends, describing my hyperfocus on work, learning, and other productive things. An excerpt from her email: