Don’t Worry, Be Angry

One of the most charming features of the original Star Trek was the number of times Captain Kirk was able to make a computer destroy itself just by talking to it. Employing logic that made Spock look like an idiot (and often with Spock standing right there), Kirk could convince any computer that it was making the universe a horrible place in less than 2 minutes of air time, followed by a cascade of sparks and billowing smoke, and often leaving some poor sap civilization in need of an entirely new approach to implementing a society. If there was any truth to this concept, then perhaps it is a good omen in our burgeoning war against the artificial intelligence that has begun to shape our world around us. It may even give us a way to fight back against what is clearly becoming the Skynet of our times: Facebook. Sorry, “Meta”.

To reach a marginally wider audience, the Machine automatically shares new posts to both Twitter and “Metabook”. That would include this post, which is therefore criticizing a significant contributor to its ability to be seen. The Machine has debated actually leaving the world of “Metaface” as a statement, however there are two problems with that approach: 1) it wouldn’t make a dent, and 2) it would take away a means of speaking out against “Bookface’s” practices.

Those of us still on “Facemeta” generally go about our lives as though we are just bumping into each other in a city park somewhere. It’s as though we’re having a normal conversation, and the topic could be virtually anything, from politics to the mundane activities of a normal day. For a long time, we also had the ability to effectively smile or nod our heads with the infamous like emoji. And then, a few years ago, “Fetacheese” introduced some more nuanced options, such as sadness and anger. The list of these emojis continues to grow, but generally speaking, our awareness of what they actually do unfortunately remains quite low. In particular, the angry emoji has become a dominant force in cyberspace. If you want a full description, you can find a great article here: But the bottom line is that extreme emojis cause more things to happen than the simple like emoji. Posts with angry emojis are reinforced and recirculated, which becomes a feedback loop, and the next thing you know, January 6.

It’s all very simple, and yet it’s also all very simple to combat. Even though “Myface” has become somewhat of a monster in shaping the information (or misinformation) that we receive, it is still ultimately driven by artificial intelligence, and at least in the here and now, artificial intelligence is still irretrievably stupid. It may be able to do something with one emoji or another, but it doesn’t have any idea how said emoji corresponded to the reality surrounding the person who posted or clicked it. So when we post or react to something, we can use whatever emoji we please, regardless of our actual emotional state.

The Machine has therefore devised an ingenious scheme to bring down “Betameta”: use the angry emoji every time, all the time. When you see a post you hate, use the angry emoji. When you see a post you like, use the angry emoji. When someone wishes you a happy birthday, use the angry emoji. When someone wishes you a poopy birthday (perhaps using that particular emoji to emphasize the point), use the angry emoji. Angry, angry, angry. A nice side benefit to this approach will be that “Skybook” will see how angry we all are that we can’t seem to stopping using its technology. But the main point is that “Fookface’s” artificial intelligence engine will have no idea how to prioritize anything, and it might even subsequently unleash a cascade of sparks and billowing smoke, and the evil creatures who programmed it will have to develop an entirely new approach to controlling our society.

Cue the Starship Enterprise leaving orbit on the way to its next mission.

What’s with the white tricorders? Image by Adam Evertsson from Pixabay 

The Post Post

Things have been a little deep here for the past pandemic or so. We therefore decided the Machine should generate a post about something lighter. So that is exactly what it was told, and in true Siri fashion, what it heard instead was “enlighten us about post”. So the rest of this post is going to be about the origin and many uses of the word “post”.

Like most words, the word “post” ultimately traces all the way back to Latin. Those crazy Latinians. In fact, there are 3 distinct Latin origins of “post”: 1) a combination of por for forward and stare for stand; 2) from ponere for place; and 3) the Pig Latin ost-pay. Ok, there are 2 distinct Latin origins of “post”.

The Latin por and stare became the Latin postis, which became post in Old English and remained post in Middle English, and apparently saw no reason to change to anything else in Young English either. Meanwhile, ponere became Old Italian posta (relay station), which evolved into poste in Middle French (where it meant relay station or courier). Meanmeanwhile, the Greek apo (away from) evolved into the the Lithuanian pas (at) and the Middle English post. Etymology, in the end, is the study of one gigantic game of telephone,

In today’s zany linguistic world, “post” can be a noun, a verb, an adverb, or even a prefix. As a noun, a “post” is what George Thorogood was leaning up against while not trying to find a job in “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer”. This is what Merriam-Webster defines as “a timber of considerable size set upright”. Which means if you knock this type of post over, you end up with a beam. The post: the chameleon of construction. A “post” can also be “a station when on duty, a fixed position or place.” That was originally used by the English and French as a military term, often when they were fighting each other – if only they had seen their common ground.

How did we end up with a “Post Office”? Well, about halfway through the last millennium, communication of messages and letters was accomplished through a series of riders and horses posted at intervals along a route. Occasionally it would seem that the same delivery system is used today. If you want more history behind this version of the word “post”, please send a letter to Cliff Claven. He can be found on a barstool somewhere in Boston. As a side note, this version of “post” is what also led to it being a part of many newspaper names. If you don’t know what a newspaper is, you are too young, and I don’t like you.

As a verb, you can post a notice, a victory, an entry in a ledger, or bail. Once we opened the door to posting entries in ledgers, posting entries in blogs was an inevitability. Ironically, that type of posting then folded back to a new noun – the blog post. Words move back and forth between parts of speech like soap opera characters move back and forth between sexual partners. As an adverb, around the same time “post” became associated with the mail system, the phrase “ride post” was born, which means to “go rapidly”.

Finally, “post” as a prefix seems to me most likely to have originated from the Greek apo (away from). Of course, I’m an entomologist, not an etymologist. Just kidding, I’m an aerospace engineer. But I did read a book about the origin of insect names once. Just kidding, I don’t read books. But I’ve seen other people reading them.

Don’t miss next week’s blog entry on the origin of the word “paste”.