Why “Dancing With the Stars” Doesn’t have a Robot Champion

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I timed it so I would walk past Lisa’s house precisely when I thought she was going to leave. She wasn’t there. So I walked around the block. I passed her house again. Still no Lisa. Hmm. I walked around the block again. Maybe she was taking a long shower and forgot what time it was. It was time to go to school and run into me in the street so she would love me. Still no Lisa.

We were in a relationship. But it had only started about two weeks ago. A few days ago I was happy just holding her hands and lying in bed. She said, “lets go out and hang out with our friends. This is boring.” She didn’t think we were in a relationship. “Don’t tell anyone about us,” she said. It was our secret.

The next girl I dated had a crush on my PhD advisor. But he didn’t like her. “You aren’t tenure track enough,” she told me. “I mean, look at you.”

So that was a little secret also. Nobody could know. She was also going out with a guy who was married. “They have an open marriage. His wife is very sweet. We shop for clothes together,” she said. “But don’t tell anyone.”

The next girl was from India. She had a heavy accent and acne all over her face. But to me she was an exotic princess. “If my parents find out I’m going out with a white boy they will murder me,” she said. So I had to walk at least ten steps behind her when we were in public.

“Your parents are 20,000 miles away,” I said, “how would anyone know about us?”

“All these Indians you see here are related. Its one huge gossip network. If even one Indian sees us then my parents will know.”

She showed me how to cook Indian food once. “You make potatoes and spinach. And then there are these five spices my mother gave me. Put all spices on. That’s Indian food.”

The next girl, Amy,  had two parents who were psychotherapists. That means I was constantly being analyzed by four different people. The parents. The daughter (who had absorbed 20 years of psychotherapy at the breakfast table) and the psychiatrist they all required I visit. Since her father thought I was crazy.

It was because of Amy that, indirectly, I never worked on the IBM computer, Watson, that just defeated Ken Jennings, the Jeopardy super-star, on the Jeopardy TV show a few weeks ago.

At the time, 1991, IBM was working on the chess computer Deep Blue, the computer that would eventually beat Garry Kasparov, the world chess champion.  The developer of Deep Blue was my former office-mate in graduate school, Feng Hsiuh. But we all called him “CB”, for “Crazy Bird”. I have no idea why.

(Deep Blue vs World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov)

Deep Blue was called “Chip Test” when we were office mates and it was already the best chess computer in the world even then (1989). I would play it all day long rather than go to classes.

When CB moved over to IBM I had an idea for Deep Blue. I said, “don’t have the program analyze every move. Why don’t you skip a move and see if in some of the resulting positions, you win. That implies the computer had a threat. You can then back up and first analyze all of the moves that are threats before you start analyzing other moves. This will make the software much faster. “

They liked it!  I was  offered a summer job for $3000 a month. Triple the amount I had ever made before. I was gong to be rich! What made it even more real was that I had to take a urine test. It was IBM. I was in the big leagues. I was important enough now that someone even wanted to analyze my urine.  I told my parents about the urine test and they were very proud of me.

I turned it down. I wanted to be with Amy. Amy was very predictable. I knew exactly when she would be passing my house on the way to her Japanese classes. I would bump into her every day. By accident. We didn’t last the summer.  “You’re not an outdoors sort of person,” she told me, “and Lance is.” Lance had a nickname. “Tri-pod.” Because of a particular body part.

Lance.

If I had gone to IBM not only would I have programmed the best chess computer in the world but I would undoubtedly have played chess every day. It would be the most amazing dream come true.

Then, when that project was over, I would’ve probably worked on more projects for them, ultimately leading to the most recent Watson project. I would’ve been IBM’s gaming king. I’m sure of it! Then, who knows what games I could’ve created for IBM.

(Dancing with the Stars)

Ten years later I got an email from Lisa. The first girl mentioned above who wanted me as her special secret that nobody could know about. I hadn’t heard from her in a decade. She was dying of cancer and she decided not to take treatment. She had moved back in with her parents in Toronto. She sent me a picture of herself with her boyfriend. She seemed really happy.

I never knew any young person who had died before. I wanted to respond to her but I didn’t know what to say. Every day when I looked at my email I felt ashamed that I wasn’t responding to her. I was dealing with my own issues at the time. A few months later I read on the world wide web that she died and that the university where she worked was setting up a memorial for her. Someone wrote, “Lisa was the sunshine of my day.”

What if I had run into her back in the day, when I was circling the block fifteen times in a row. The cars going back and forth wanted me to run into her. They whispered to me, “She likes you. But it’s a secret.”  That one day I would’ve made her laugh. She would’ve realized how foolish she was for avoiding me and not returning my calls. “It was all a test,” she would tell me. “I just wanted to see if you really loved me.”

Maybe that would’ve changed everything. She would still be alive, having beaten the cancer with my encouragement. And IBM would now have a world champion robot for “Dancing with the Stars” because of my amazing programming skills.

For the briefest of moments, anything could’ve happened. And all life would have been different.

—–

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  • Steven L Goff

    Truth is > I am starting to get depressed reading your stories. For you have passed on more opportunities than most even dream of in a lifetime!
    That is why I personal feel that life is cheap in this world today….For only a fraction of a fraction of the people in this world really do anything meaning or substantial. Or have the opportunities to to do.

    • http://www.zacharyburt.com/ Zachary Burt

      Go watch “Rome”. We’re making improvements. Gradually.
      Major technological innovation can enable the change you seek.
      Khan Academy is a start.

      • Steven L Goff

        “Brick by brick my citizens” ROME
        The Khan Academy is the shizitttttttttt!…And yes, it is what will make schooling as we know it today obsolete. Thank god, it is crap and costing the states money they dont have any more. And is nothing more than state subsidized daycare for kids while mom and pop go off to work to pay the tax man!
        Schooling in future will be done via the web and biometric identity tech. Especially in developed countries. Bye bye some more jobs!

        I always said when folks asked me where I did my schooling, I always reply > “I have a Masters from the School of Hark Knox and a PhD for Google University….like most all will have in near future!”

        And I will put my brain pan against most walking down the street (especially wall street….lol)

  • Andrew Contreras

    The opportunities are everywhere (especially in this country). Having the ability to attenuate the noise and see the signals (see the world for what it is), is rare.

    I actually found this post to be uplifting.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Andrew, thanks Thats really true. The signals are everywhere. And you only need to pick up on a few to make it all worthwhile.

  • Guest

    My knee-jerk reaction to your story was to mentally run through the short list of tiny decisions that have set my life’s path – then I realized I can’t do this to myself or I will certainly go crazy. And I don’t watch Dancing with the Stars, however, I was thinking about robots the other day. I wondered why robots weren’t being used at the Fukushima plant.

    • Steven L Goff

      They are being used. Irobot was the first one in the doors at the plant. The stock even got a boost from it!

      • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

        Steve, I didn’t know that. Good info.

        • Steven L Goff

          Thats actually OLD News guys……dont get too excited!
          And also remember > Anticipation of and not REACTION to…is key to consistent market success!

      • Guest

        That’s awesome, thanks Steven. Apparently Irobot stepped up for 911 and for the BP gulf spill as well.

        http://tinyurl.com/4bsjt5s

  • http://profiles.google.com/1000zahia 1000 zahia

    Hi James,

    I like to read your blog, and I really appreciate all of the suggestions you give to people. And I have a question for you because I assume that you know about this a lot better than I do.

    How would you learn how to build websites if you were to learn it on your own today?

    Thank you. I hope you will give me/us a good/great answer.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Hi 1000, if I had no programming experience I would go to a site like elance.com or scriptlance.com. You can put out your spec (don”t worry about anyone stealing ideas) and then its a reverse auction to provide you services as cheaply as possible. My recommendations, based on experience, is to hire people in the same time zone as you and don’t automatically go for the cheapest. Spec out as detailed as possible your website.

      If your website is simple, i’d go to wordpress.com or blogger.com and start there.

      • http://profiles.google.com/1000zahia 1000 zahia

        Thank you very much. But, what if I don’t have the money to hire someone or some people?

        I know a little about HTML and CSS. I’m good at math. I have several website ideas. So what do you think I should do? What books should I read? How would you learn what you know today if you were to learn it today?

        • https://jarvisapp.com/ Jay Shirley

          Not to step on James’ toes, but as a geek I’m happy to offer an opinion.

          I would start with a website framework like Drupal (http://drupal.org/), which has very good documentation. You can setup a server (first step), and even do it for free using “virtual machines”. I would recommend Virtual Box (free) and Ubuntu to get started.

          After that you can follow the directions to get your Drupal site setup, browse the plugin directory and really learn how everything comes together. Once you’ve done that you can start to look at other plugins you would like to write and start writing plugins.

          If you don’t want to learn with PHP, Jekyll (in Ruby) is a good website builder as well but a little less polished (lots more to figure out on your own).

          Drupal has a large community and good documentation.

          (Having said all that, I’m a Perl developer and really dislike PHP. I think long term it would be a poor solution to use Drupal but definitely can get you started)

          • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

            Jay, thanks. those are great ideas.

          • http://profiles.google.com/1000zahia 1000 zahia

            Great idea! I’ll explore that further. Thank you.

        • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

          become an expert at wordpress. not sure what the best books are for that but thats where i’d start.

          • http://profiles.google.com/1000zahia 1000 zahia

            Thanks a lot, James. I’ll become an expert at wordpress.

  • pjc

    Best part of reading James …. gathering tips so my nerdy sons can get more dates than I did!

    Tip # 37 = girls like guys who know how to cut a rug!

    James – I work for a certain company whose initials rhyme with “High tree phlegm”. Although it’s been good for me (knock on wood), it likely would’ve driven you nuts.

    “Indian food = potatoes and spinach and 5 spices.” F*ckn brilliant!

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Thats funny, pjc. Do you work in the Poughkeepsie area by any chance?

      • pjc

        No, I’m associated with a satellite office in Eugene OR, although mostly I work out of a home office (also in Eugene).

    • Sooz

      :))

  • Steven L Goff

    I personally feel $IBM “Jumped the Shark” with the TV Jeopardy game show gig! And is in no doubt a propaganda war with CHINA’s announced super computer….that is super obvious!
    Look up the term “Jumped the Shark” if ya dont know already!
    I’m a bear in IBM….have been since $167 (I think I caught top here)…as I wrote at stock picker a month ago.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      i am the “Happy Days” expert on this planet so I’m up on the term. I used to be a bull on IBM. now not so sure.

  • Steven L Goff

    Why “Dancing With the Stars” Doesn’t have a Robot Champion….yet
    It should read…add the YET!

    Ya cant stop exponential tech growth….especially in it’s latter stages and one driven by corporate profits and bottom line efficiency= less human more profits!
    Life and major altering tech must released into society at the rate it can absorb it. Or the ill social side effects are too much for that society to keep pace with w/out major economic ramifications. Humans just aint keeping up……as well they shouldn’t. that is why Apple needs to start making smart acquisitions from here on and RIGHT NOW. to compensate for that plateau in tech to the world that is comming. Like what happened to RCA in it’s day. When everyone was saying “RCA is going to take over the world”………..RCA who?
    That is why Apple should buy Visa (V)….for the cashless society comming like freight train….and by necessity!

  • Steven L Goff

    Exponential tech and medicine advancements (human longevity/life expectancy) is the main reason we are in the employment predicament we are in now. And will only get worse! It can not be argued….but can be in denial….like it is!

    Too many people(and growing) and an EVER lessening amount of vital economic supporting (consumer feeding) jobs > recipe’ for social and economic disaster!

    ============
    Exponential advancement of medical technology, and where that will take us in regards to immortality as a species one day~by Steve Goff on Sunday, January 16, 2011 at 12:49pm.

    Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords took a 9mm bullet to the back of her head, it exited through her eye socket, and she lost massive amounts of bodily blood on the scene.

    But yet in today’s modern medicine world, she will more than likely be giving the keynote speech at the DNC (national convention) in 2012. That wouldn’t have been the case only 10-15 years ago in trauma medicine. Hence the exponential advancement of medical technology, and where that will take us in regards to immortality as a species one day. Down to the radio communications call that went out when it happened, and was responded to. From the time enhancement on test results at scene and in ER, to the response time of EMS due to better and faster vehicles and remote control or computer traffic light controlling technology. It is all relevant! And increasing at an exponential rate. That can not be denied or argued otherwise.

    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=185767084774431

  • Steven L Goff

    A serious plan to put about 300,000+ people to work, in foreseeable permanent jobs, in the next two months time All with no more than a PEN! Too good to be true….right?
    by Steve Goff on Monday, January 17, 2011 at 6:06am.

    except

    I am reminded of Judge Smails(The late great Ted Knight) from the movie Caddyshack, and his infamous employment line, when Danny was smooshing up to him for the Law school Caddy Scholarship > “welllllllll the world needs ditch digger also Danny” Problem is nowadays it dont take as nearly many people to dig ditches and not everyone can be a lawyer or a doctor. And we have a population growing exponentially that needs ditch digger jobs so to speak”

    Judge Smails Clip…lol

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwYJxNnABp4

    Mainly due to life expectancy increasing exponentially and advancements in medical technology and in automation (robots/computers) People are living and by necessity working to survive longer than ever. Catalysed with stagnant wage growth and rise in cost of living. Added also robotics, high performance computer efficiency in workplace, automation, relentless corporate profit seeking (outsourcing) to appease the Masses/Stockholders. All reduces the amount of vital jobs to survive let alone maintain an economy. More and more people and an ever lessening amount of jobs…is a recipe for social and economic disaster!

    Can the amount of future job creation keep pace with the rising life expectancy and exponential advancements in technology? What is the remedy if jobs can not be created quick enough? Give people a check/ stipend/money? That expires if not spent in certain time, thus to prevent hoarding and to drive consumerism or investment in the markets?

    full read here..about the 300K JOBS JOBS JOBS

    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=185941441423662

  • David Dyer

    It all DID happen that way, in the multiverse. Rest assured you are the Dancing with the Stars robot master programmer in a parallel universe, but you may also be a crazed mad man… With all the potential possibilities, do you feel like your reality would be classified as ‘likely’, or are you living in the outlier??

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      reminds me of the book “Seth Speaks” by Jane Roberts.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      David, that reminds me of the Jane Roberts book “Seth Speaks”.

    • Steven L Goff

      parallel universes ehhhhhhhhhhh > The Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy~By Robert Anton Wilson

      best line in the book “never underestimate the power of a good blow job” said by the female president Hubert in the book when dealing with state affairs….lol

      one of my fav books BTW

  • Steven L Goff

    Let me just add this quickie example as well. The casino industry vaporized 100,000+ service jobs, that are NEVER comming back….When they went to the coinless operated slot machine. Gone are the change attendants, the hard counters (coinage), and most slot mechanics. Even IGT and Bally Gaming laid off employees because of that…….that will never return. And NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOo other jobs were not created to replace them lost (peoples main bullshit argument). Look at what shuffle master did to the casino industry.

    I have about 50 more example as well.

  • Steven L Goff

    What is fitting for below is this > “product of ones own demise” = our place in the evolution of technology!
    It is hurting more than helping our species now. need to slow it down baby!

    Cutting off nose to spite face also fits!

  • http://www.ivanhoff.com ivanhoff

    Your life experiences deserve a movie, even a whole series of movies. It would be hilarious. What is stopping you from using your posts to create a script for a movie and than realizing it. It will be a huge success, I am sure.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Ivan, that seems like a lot of work. I like the 3D feel of the space thats being created here. Not sure yet what it lends itself to next although I’ve been thinking about it. I am about to speak to a comic book company about turning the blog into a comic.

  • PatD

    Interesting thing is…
    in all of my “What If’s”…..
    I am also the Hero, Beloved, Brilliant Admired one….etc.
    can we really “What If” ourselves into being the best we can truely be ???
    all I know is…if we cant …who can???
    I guess we have no choice but to keep trying…..
    Great Story

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Pat, thats great that your mind works that way. I have some pretty bad “What Ifs” for myself that takes discipline to avoid.

  • http://twitter.com/JackDurg Jack Durgaryan

    Imagine if IBM can program a computer that will be a consistent champion in Deal or No Deal lol

    • Steven L Goff

      Jack, The game show deal or no deal has no champion in its strategy or rules (you are competing against yourself and not others) Second, that is an improbability to start with, for regardless of person or computer it has to pick and initial case. Mutually exclusive event each time with no rhyme or reason. Just random luck to pick case with largest amount. And the choice in the end to switch your case w/ last case. No variables their to quantify (but gut feeling)…lol

      • http://twitter.com/JackDurg Jack Durgaryan

        For consistent champion i was supposed to say a computer that consistently chooses the million dollar case
        I said imagine cuz i know its impossible to built a cpu that would be able to choose the million dollar case unless the computer has a built in x-ray.

        • Steven L Goff

          “case unless the computer has a built in x-ray.”….that is brilliant thinking and it eluded me until you said it!…nice
          Orrrrrrrrrrrrr if the tech or the AI (artificial intelligence….HAL… why did you unplug me HAL?…lol) was soooooooooo advanced, that it hacked the shows internal computers and knew the case allll along. but yetttttttttttt went thoigh all the shows sequences for the effect/illusion to the masses it is performing for…..ahhhhhhhhhhhhh

  • Steven L Goff

    And just look at what the advancements and implementation of mass home computing did to render the old school conventional stock broker obsolete in profession…..gutted that industry like a fish.
    If not for the crisis of 2008…they would have been handing out pink slips on the Street like water….lol
    Them jobs aint never comming back.

    The reason why Dance w/ Stars might not never see Robot > same reason why financial people and professionals are nor TV commentator and pundits. Humans are the entertainment only now!

    Folks are living in fantasyland and denial!

  • Steven L Goff

    Here is some more jobs going the way of the 8Track tape so to speak >Obsolete in light of tech advancement > Cops and Firefighters

    Dear Sir or Mam,

    I for one, am for a vast reduction of police presence and employment in our society. And not just in Atlantic City, but across our nation. The advancements in technology has made that a possibility today, without the ill side effects of social disorder/anarchy. Them same advancements are the reasons that during this current economic recession, we have seen a crime rate reduction across America. As compared to the traditional rise in crime rates, that in the past have accompanied recessionary times. This anomaly is solely due to the fact that “old school crooks and crimes” are almost obsolete in tactic in society. It’s pretty difficult to be an old school crook per se nowadays. We have advanced monitoring now via sophisticated nano camera technology. GPS tracking, enhanced significantly police communications and response times to crimes. We have traffic light cams that remotely mail you a ticket with a photo of you running a red light. If you have EZ Pass, and are timed between toll booths that exceeds the maximum speed to do MPH calculation. They can mail you a ticket for speeding. The list goes on and on. Point being, we dont need as many cops in society as before, like in our infancy as a country. Unless it is to now employ the masses, and to grow the govt job sector. Via the “Prison Industrial Complex” so to speak. There is BIG MONEY in the housing, guarding, rehabilitation, feeding, and supervised release of State writ/sentenced prisoners. So that has to be considered. The same can be said for the amount of firefighters we have today. things dont burn like they once did. We also have in place now building ad fire construction codes that lessen the amount of fires. We have fire suppression and monitoring. Enhanced response times and newer more efficient fighting techniques.the invention and implementation of fire retardant material construction. them points right there make a strong case for at least some consolidation among logistically feasible fire stations. Thats why in Ray Bradbury’s classic > Fahrenheit 451. The firefighter in the future have nothing to do, but go and burn book banned by the Govt. Thats their job and purpose in the future in the book. Funny thought there, while writing this. And a most relevant one at that. Also keep in mind this. Technology advancements and growth happen at an exponential rate. For the layman’s, that means the it will only get more difficult to be a crook in the future. So if you dont at least agree with what I wrote above right now. At least keep in the back of mind for future budget of police and firefighter forces.

    Voice/response about Atlantic City Police rehiring from layoff.Monday, November 8, 2010 12:49 AM

  • Steven L Goff

    Needless to say > CNBC should of had me on instead of that other clown the other day to talk tech and jobs it’s taking. Ya hear that Erin Burnett? That guy was horrible! and had not a clue!

  • Steven L Goff

    There is major farm equipment that drives/operates unmanned all day in the feild via GPS technology and automation in controls. It even pulls itself in the barn at end of day and washes itself off…..lol Bye bye farm workers.

  • http://economicdisconnect.blogspot.com/ GYSC

    My dad died at age 50 (heart attack, but with a 3 month vegetative state nightmare scenario) and my brother died a few years ago at 36 (took about 5 minutes, blood clot after achilles heel surgery). A good friend of mine, now 25, is battling brain cancer after leukemia for 6 years. It happens and it sucks.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      That’s horrible gy. I’m sorry for your losses. How do you recommend people deal with the pain in a situation(s) like what you went thru

      • http://economicdisconnect.blogspot.com/ GYSC

        What can I say? Accept that stuff happens? Wish I could write more, but its late for me and bedtime. Thanks so much James for asking about it, means a lot.

    • http://twitter.com/r_shivakumar shiva kumar

      im sorry for your losses man..thats terrible . :(

  • Steven L Goff

    This is a totally awsome and must watch vid w/ regards to advances in medicine/health and longevity of humans and developing worlds and their wealth. it’s great!

    http://www.kurzweilai.net/hans-rosling-200-years-changed-the-world

    and james I accidentally posted this in another read. please delete…it belongs here

  • http://twitter.com/kamalravikant Kamal Ravikant

    Beautiful, James. Just beautiful.

  • Blusky1225

    Go for the comic book James! After a short time of reading your excellent site (just discovered it today), I feel that it is a perfect new step for you. Whether it is successful or not doesn’t matter, I think the act of doing it will be just the ticket. As I read your list of “starting a new career ideas”, it is simply one of those things that simply can’t be left unfulfilled (or at least tried until you get bored of it). And that journey alone will generate a myriad of new experiences for all of us readers who appreciate your work, candor and mind. Thank you for putting it all out there – you are a brave and brilliant soul and I thank god you are positive and real.

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.altucher James Altucher

      Yeah, having the official conversation with the comic guys tomorrow. Excited about it.

  • http://twitter.com/r_shivakumar shiva kumar

    wish u had wrote back to lisa.she would have felt better …and funny story about indian girl …luv ur blog and reading all the article from india ..thnks

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.altucher James Altucher

      yes, i agree. I should’ve written back.

  • petrom

    having just suffered sudden, cold turkey breakup from my two weeks earlier valentine, i appreciate even more your brilliant life-recounts, keep it up

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.altucher James Altucher

      petrom, sorry to hear you are going through that. but it gets better.

  • loquitur

    Just catching up with J. A.’s adventures, but
    it’s not everyday such an accessible blog
    proffers a discussion of the “null move heuristic”
    in computer chess.