Justin Spencer, IEEE Excommunicado


Yep, that's me. You might be wondering how I got myself grossly excommunicated from such a respected institution. Having attended numerous seminars, peer-reviewed conference papers, and written multiple   critiques on publications that involve power management - it may pose as a puzzle why a self-proclaimed jean-use like me would get banned from the nexus of engineering minds when it comes to electronics technologies. The underlying reason isn't simplicity itself I'm afraid, and calls for me to put on my story-telling hat. And just like all complex narratives, uncovering this plot would take some extensive reading - so reader be warned - lest you let yourself hanging on a thread of suspense and eager anticipation when that conductor announces your arrival to your supposed destination. 


It all began during this year's sizzling hot summer season, when a dear friend of mine suggested a mobile app to actively distend my already stagnating network of busy chums and chals. This mobile app has many striking similarities to a cliché social networking site, except establishing a connection with someone else isn't done by sending a discreet request to connect. Instead, one is required to make a public post of his/her image (preferably pleasing to the eye) and based on that image he/she will swipe left or right as a sign of acceptance.

Strange.

Though I had nothing to protest, seeing such as a serendipitous opportunity to finally flaunt my better-than-chris-hamsworth-and-robert-pattyson-combined good looks. My head reeled with excitement over the thousands of stunning self-portraits (selfies?) I can finally make public on Tinder (the name of the mobile app). Alas, I can choose only one. After choosing the winning selfie and composing a lady-killer caption, I waited.

And waited.

To my dismay, a few weeks passed before someone finally accepted. And it brought my spirits further down the well to discover that that person accepted only to disparage my post. The nerve of some people who don't understand the true beauty of a masculine face. Oh well, as the saying goes - beauty is at the eyes of the beholder I guess.

Still unabated by this unexpected obstacle, I decided to change my personal advertisement to the one below:


About Justin:
Nothing is sexier than a man full of mystery.


Perfect.

This peculiar strategy astonishingly yielded more successful matches, as the unknowing party is absolutely clueless as to who they're dealing with or what they look like. Is it an axe-wielding god of thunder or the hunchback of notre dame? Hhmmm...

But as I introduced myself and revealed my intentions I got accused of being a boring conversation starter. So I embarked on a mission to formulate the perfect ice-breaker that can get anyone hooked in the blink of an eye.

I ended up with the catchy interrogative below:

"Can artificial intelligence reliably flourish in the realm of unsupervised learning?"

Surprisingly enough, this didn't work. I stubbornly persisted with the opening above yet got mostly 3-letter responses - "wtf". Whatever that means, or whatever that figures maybe? 
Which all leads us to the inconvenient truth of part 2:

"Understanding is limited per person."

And it ultimately leads us to #5 of the 7 habits of highly effective people - "Seek first to understand before being understood".

In the beginning of this article, I mentioned some extensive reading. Did I mean this article would be an elephant's length long? Or did I intend the reader to research on the protagonists of a fan-fic teen vampire novel and sci-fi Marvel action film?

Upon reading my account of my struggle with Tinder, did you see an arrogant narcissist or an exuberantly comical tale woven under pretense?

Anything poorly explained is vulnerable to misinterpretation and bias. The coronavirus pandemic spun out of control because of misinformation that the virus was benign, or just a mere fabrication of the Chinese imagination. Had there been sufficient information to deal with, appropriate corrective action could have been executed, mitigating damages.

Sometimes those who refuse to wear a mask or even flat-earthers (I never expected this word to see the light of day - used to represent a special group that believe the Earth is flat) are treated as mere folly. Sure there's that possibility of a deeper psychological impulse where the mind finds every reason to repudiate what the body finds uncomfortable, or maybe the longing to differentiate oneself from the norm in a desperate struggle to prove one's self worth. Heck, even worse it can be a deliberate act to spread and reinforce misinformation. Whatever the reason may be, it is incumbent upon those with sufficient knowledge, background, and experience to fill the gap - to seek first to understand where the discord is coming from and concoct viable solutions that will lead to an agreement.

The problem-solving approach used in engineering doesn't fall far from this approach. When the system goes awry, it's the engineer's job to understand the cause and cook up a fix that will make things run smoothly again.

The same goes with the writing process, a piece of literature is  brought to life with the intended audience in mind. Having this foresight prevents the author from misleading or confusing the audience the same way I have in this piece as I rapidly hit the keys like playing "Flight of the Bumblebee" in ff. 

In summary, providing what one understands is not enough. Part of the challenge is making the recipient resonate on the same frequency. There are black swan events where a common ground is impossible to achieve in the face of enormous effort - ex. getting refused by the on-site banking staff and failing to reach a bank's call center due to a locked out card rendering your bills unpayable - a bill like the annual IEEE membership fee. Such cases are hopelessly intractable. But on the bright side, they're not as bad as getting 0 matches on Tinder.





(Author's note: My self-deprecating humor badly needs an overhaul. I will try other comedic devices (ex. juxtaposition)  in the next articles with a slice of more technical subject matters.


Also, Mr. Bill Schweber's interview is out on Software Speakers! 



There are some precious gems in this talk where writing a good technical paper stipulates a balance between depth and breadth, understanding trade-offs (as nothing is perfect after all), having clearly written headlines (with no puns like the ones on this blog), finding useful cartoons to supplement the text, identify proper analogies so as not to mislead, and many more!!