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The Need for Limits

Igor Stravinsky liked a challenge. In his pieces, Octet and L’Histoire du Soldat he takes instruments that should never go together and makes them work in unlikely and strangely beautiful ways. He seemed to need the diversity of sounds to force him to be creative and to push himself beyond what he had done before. The same is true of musician Chad Lawson who works with a piano and I pad to create new sounds from a familiar instrument. Anyone who has had children knows the importance of setting limits or boundaries in our lives. Not limits on what we think or how we perceive ourselves but we need challenges to bring our creativity to life. When everything is available, what is there to discover, what is there to explore for ourselves. What would you do if you had to find the definition of a word and there was no internet, or bake a cake with no recipe or mix? In finding all of this information at our fingertips, let us hope that we never lose our natural curiosity and desire to explore for ourselves for finding answers is one thing but learning how to find answers is another. Let us not become too willing to accept what we find and still be willing to challenge ourselves working within limits to set our creativity free.

 

130317-Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-Quote-It-is-working-within-limits-that

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Boiling the Frog

Of course, you know the old story, to boil a frog, you don’t drop it into a pot of boiling water but put it in cool water and slowly turn up the temperature to boiling. The same seems true of the ongoing debates over privacy and net neutrality. Lulled into a false sense of security or blinded by naiveté, we allow corporations to mine who we are and what we choose to treat us like horses with blinders on, seeing only what they want us to see, and now we want to give them the ability to fast track the online content of their choice while allowing other content to linger in the slow lane. It seems odd that the same legal bodies, corporations, that created the financial crisis in the savings and loan and mortgage industry, not to mention the opioid crisis in this country now want to create a world where they control our access to information for their personal gain. In an economy where the bottom line is at best the shareholder (or more frequently the executives) payout, why should we think our best interests are a concern. The entire point of the internet seemed to be to allow everyone accesses to knowledge for the betterment of all. If we allow our access to the free flow of information to be restricted, we will be no better than frogs in warm bath water on the stove.

net netruality, internet

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internet, social media, Technology, Uncategorized

“Hang on a minute, lads. I’ve got a great idea” or The Tipping Point

In everyone’s life, in some way, you come to a place you say about something you are doing or not doing- is this really worth it? Malcolm Gladwell calls that the tipping point, or “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point” at which change becomes either obvious or inevitable. It happens to all of us and in all sorts of situations, that moment when you realize that change is inevitable and perhaps the only choice. It seems that wiser minds than mine have come to this conclusion, as when I read in the BBC that African nations have begun to worry about the risk of job loss in Africa as robots automate many processes that can be brought back to the US or other nations and not depend on the cheap labour force that Africa and other nations have provided. Those who deride the coming economic disaster, suggest that if only the African nations would educate their children in the magic world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), all problems would be solved. These children would rise along with all the other stem fed children to ascend into the light of a technological new day. But don’t worry, for those who are left behind by the ever upward spiral of capitalism, there is always the promise of the universal basic income, a salary for everyone at the cost of social services, so that even those of us who are misplaced in this economic game of musical chairs can receive money to live and, of course, buy things to keep the whole spiral going. Yet, what happens to people with no other purpose than to consume to keep an antiquated and harmful system running? What is the meaning of a life that is only based on our ability to consume? What happens when we reach our tipping point and realize that we are no better than veal calf’s being fattened to make our masters fatter.

Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell,

What happens when the status quo becomes unsustainable?

 

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internet, social media, Technology

No Man (or Woman) Is An Island

Detroit has a special place in my heart. While performing there I had a lot of downtime in my schedule and as the days turned colder, I found myself spending many of them in my smallish downtown hotel room. My own strange fascination with poetry lead me to read Shakespeare and later, Whitman s “Leaves of Grass”, out loud to myself in the quiet of my hotel room. My fruitful isolation was not unlike our current hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth over the many ways that the internet will lead us all to be social misfits who can’t handle being with others in the world or worse. The same was said to be true of television, that it would lead us to become isolationists, unable to relate to one another or the world. We needn’t look too far into our collective imagery to find examples of people who hide in books to escape a world. It seems that in this instance our new media is just the opposite of the book, while the book is static, the internet is constantly presenting us with new vistas, real and imagined. With Google Earth, I can see places that I may never be able to see in person. I frequently chat with several friends with whom I have never met and only know each other through email. Is that friendship any less valuable or is this just another example of the glorification of a first world problem? We find ourselves more obsessed with inane tweets than the situations that caused them. As long as we allow this to happen, we are creating a greater isolation by turning away from the events of our world and focusing on the distribution of content. Perhaps we need to look at this new technology as the gift that it is and if we choose to, we can turn our eyes from the projections of the blue light on the cave walls. Indeed, we are truly all connected to one another and neither cell phones, or books or anything other media can ever change that. The true delusion is thinking that we are anything other than connected, to each other and to our environment. Perhaps all we really need to do is have faith in our ability to change our world, knowing that it takes more effort than a swipe of the finger.

Detroit, Shakespeare, Whitman, Leaves of Grass, Isolation, internet, Book, Google Earth, Technology, Allegory of a Cave, Cell Phones,

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internet, social media, Technology, Uncategorized

A Better Person than I, Gunga Din

It is with a fair amount of interest that I have followed the debate in Europe over the role of AI and how it should be viewed or regulated. Readers of this post may remember the kerfuffle caused by Sophia, the robot that appeared at Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh and caused a stir as a robot, as a woman robot and as a woman robot in an Arab country without a hajib. Well, the discussion has come up again in Europe where the European Parliament, to the outrage of AI specialists, advised that robots be given legal status. Like a corporation, this would not hold the companies that created the robots legally responsible for their behavior. It seems to be step in the Alfred P Newman, “what, me worry?” theology that seems to be the order of the day. If guns don’t kill people, then why should we think that companies that make robots are responsible for what they do. And yet, what about the place of robots as human beings. Would they have all the rights of a human or would they have some fraction like the 3/5 voting rights proposed for slaves by the Constitutional Convention of 1787? We seem to have such a good track record of integration and inclusion in this country, it seems strangely natural that we would not even be the ones having this discussion. Europe is far ahead of us on matters of understanding and regulating the role of this new technology, asking questions that we do not seem yet to acknowledge as issues. We can only hope that the robots that we give human status will be better humans than we seem to be.

AI, Alfred P Newman,Future Investment Initiative ,Hanson Robotics

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internet, social media, Technology

Never Go Out of Style

 

After a long day and pouring a (large) glass of red wine, I settled down to read a bit of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” when I was stopped in my tracks with the quote, “Information and Knowledge: two currencies that never have gone out of style”. While the quote stopped me in my tracks, thinking of the excellent quote uttered by the brilliant Anthony Hollander in “Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man’s Chest” that Currency is the coin of the realm. With our Janus faced thoughts of the caduceus of wisdom and knowledge often the fodder for this blog, perhaps at this point, we need to shift our focus to different horizons. In these days when the CEO of Facebook sits before Congress and says, perhaps we were naïve, makes me think that perhaps he was looking for a balance of information and currency. How charming to miss the stealing of information as one is too busy counting their money. As our political process seems to have become an all or nothing perhaps our whole worldview has moved to that view too. Perhaps, that is the thing we seem to be lacking in our current approach to information and life is balance.

I'm afraid currency is the currency of the realm.

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Life Imitates Art

It was with surprise that I saw the article in the BBC, that doctors in Britan were treating brain tumours with a drug that will cause a tumor to glow so that in the edges of a  tumor will glow giving doctors the ability to see the edge so that they can remove it during surgery. In a strange case of life imitating art, I was reminded of Kevin Brockmeier’s book, The Illumination. In the book, pain manifests itself as visible light after a mysterious event called “the Illumination,” revealing our greatest pain to be the most beautiful thing about us. In this new electronic age, it seems that media allows every one of our pains to glow, to be seen and re-lived at any moment. We can look at tragedies from yesterday to almost 100 years ago, keeping Parkland as present as Hiroshima to those who are willing to look.  On the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, it is my hope that we might take a moment, find the courage to reflect on our own pain and give it the respect and reverence that deserves. It is truly one thing that while we may run from, we can not hide from it forever and in this world of the immediate now, perhaps its time to stop and see the beauty in our pain.

Dr Martin Luther King, King, Electronic age, The illumination, Kevin Brockmeier, BBC, Britan, Brain Tumors, glow, pain, light, Memphis, denial, cancer,

When our pain is the most beautiful thing about us.

 

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