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Thursday, March 05, 2015

Humans Can Be Programmed

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I often talk of programming subroutines in my mind. These are things that go on "in the background" without any real conscious thought on my part, as far as I can tell. SVC has noticed these on occasion. An example being the "Penske game" we used to play on Origins trips. SVC was often flabbergasted that I could be driving the vehicle and conducting a conversation with him, and suddenly pick out a Penske vehicle in the distance. I thought nothing of this as it was simply a programmed subroutine to look for them, little more than "pattern recognition."

Something yellow is moving in the distance.

The something is too large to be a car.

The yellow has black marks in particular places.

At a closer range the black marks on the top of the yellow vehicle are not a tinted window.


It is a little harder to spot a "stealth" Penske. Not all Penske vehicles are yellow, some are white, and these tend to get a little closer before being spotted for a score.

This is not, to me, unusual.

As a young lieutenant every time I went into a "tactical" situation I had multiple subroutines running. I had some mission to accomplish, and some of them were more intense than others (requiring more subroutines). The subroutines took care of things like listening to the radio. Any time I was in the field under conditions of maintaining radio contact I had to listen to what was coming over the radio. Whether I was running a non-tactical training exercise (such as how to set up camouflage nets) or a tactical exercise involving maneuvering to assault a hill, I had to keep an ear open to what was coming over the radio. Sure, my radio operator would call me over if I was needed to actually talk on the radio, but listening to it was a source of information on what was going on around me. Much more intense in the tactical scenario, because I might need to slow the movement of my own platoon if I heard over the radio that a platoon supporting my attack was being delayed, for example. Keeping track of that let me adjust my own plans and be ready for any overall change of mission my company commander might give me.

But listening to the radio was a subroutine, a small portion of my brain given over to that and advising the "command center."

Another subroutine was using that previously mentioned "pattern recognition" software, looking for things that were "out of place" and might mean a hidden enemy position, or one of my squads moving in the wrong direction, or an element of a flanking platoon intruding into my line of advance.

While all that is going on I might be issuing an order to a squad, or speaking with a squad leader about something he saw, or one of his men saw, and thinking about where to place a machinegun to cover my movement, or perhaps to support a flanking platoon.

And in the event I take fire, there was always a subroutine running about where the nearest cover was (I once surprised SVC when he announced that a sniper was firing at us on a walk and I simply responded that I would drop behind the hill for cover. Up to that moment SVC had not even realized we were just below the crest of rising ground and by simply lying flat would be out of the purported sniper's line of sight and of fire.

There is an upper limit to the number of subroutines I can have running at one time. Many of the ones from my days in the Army have languished and died from lack of use and been overwritten by new ones (such as the Penske game one that has been running, annoyingly, since SVC started the game . . . I cannot stop counting Penske vehicles when I am driving).