internet, social media, Technology, Uncategorized

The Return

As I write this, the final numbers are being tallied for Giving Tuesday, the international day of giving following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Hopefully, this is more than just a marketing tool but an indication of a larger transformation in our society- a larger transformation of society. From Black Friday, a brick and mortar holiday and celebration that began in the 1960’s  and meant the movement from red ink to black ink back when accounting records were kept by hand, and red ink indicated a loss, and black a profit.  Now with our move from the physical to the electronic realm, we are met with cyber Monday.  For this celebration of electronic commerce, we have Ellen Davis, senior vice president of research and strategic initiatives for the National Retail Federation to thank who coined the term in 2005.

The relative newcomer being Giving Tuesday which began in 2011 later getting the support of the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a response to commercialization and consumerism in the post-Thanksgiving season. Asking people to give back and to be conscious of the good things they have and share their blessings. Maybe this is evidence of a progression or perhaps a return – a return to a mentality that we have not seen since perhaps the dark ages, the idea that we all depend on one another. Why the dark ages?  Because one of the things that took us out of them was the invention of double book keeping in the 13th century in Venice. This allowed a way to manage lending money that has been driving our civilization for centuries.  The Renaissance, the industrial revolution even the beginning of the computer age all driven by capital. With the advent of the web, we moved to a different coin, a currency of information. Hopefully, Giving Tuesday will be our next step, allowing us to see that the web that connects us is not electronic but our interdependent humanity, bonding us all together.

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social media, Technology, Uncategorized

A Future that is a Mirror on our Past

Looking back is not something that we like to do here at the “Galaxy” but there are times when a past post comes back to make us stare it in the face like Marley’s ghost demanding an answer. Unfortunately this is the case with one of our posts, “Outsourcing Hatred” we finished by musing that one day possibly we would have machines that could hate people for us, outsourcing our hatred so that we could be free for nobler pursuits. While it would be pretty to think that is remained in the realm of science fiction, recently it was touted in the news that the algorithms have learned our biases and are using them to continue a vision of the world that, hopefully, many of us disagree with.  It seems that algorithms are being used to grant or deny us opportunities based on prejudice built into our data. These algorithms don’t simply predict outcomes but cause them. When an algorithm takes the past record of success as the predictor of success, we get a future that greatly resembles our present and past, as sort of infinite ground hog day loop. In a world where the ruling class seems to have a vested interest in maintaining their grip on power, what could be better. But, if you have a vision of a tomorrow different than today, if you see something in the future greater than the present, we will have to wean ourselves from these silicon comforts and find value in each other and what we can do for and with each other or we will end up with a future that is a mirror on our past.

Trump,Impeachment,

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internet, social media, Technology, Uncategorized

Everything is a distraction.

I was thinking of the Poi Dog Pondering song while looking at my phone. The lyric “love is everything and everything is a distraction” got me thinking about the object of my affection, my phone. In a recent conversation, Simon Sinek tells how when we get a message on our phone it releases dopamine in our brain, the pleasure chemical that becomes very addictive in the same way that alcohol or drugs affect our brain. More than just that (as if that wasn’t enough) this outward journey keeps us from a necessary inward journey, to find ourselves, to know our own inner peace, free of exterior stresses and interior stresses that can only come through practice and meditation. There is an old African proverb that says, “If there is no enemy within, the enenmy outside can do us no harm.” We allow ourselves to become so distracted by the demons outside that we think we can ignore the demons inside. They will always be there until we turn, face them and make peace with them. All the social media likes will never allow us to love ourselves.

 

 

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AI is neither artificial nor intelligent, discuss.

What do we mean when we say, Artificial Intelligence? A quick look at Wikipedia shows that the word Artificiality is the state of being the product of intentional human manufacture, rather than occurring naturally through processes not involving or requiring human activity. There is little in this world that has not been affected by human activity, or human presence. In the largest sense, it seems that there is little that has not been affected by human activity. Now we may be splitting semantic hairs but let us step back and look at the larger picture and a more interesting question. We have found that algorithms and AI have begun to play some games better than we can and even learn things on their own using a rewards-based system.

But are they intelligent?

I think not.  Here is the reason why. AI and any computer will tell you that 2+2=4. But will they tell you that 2+2=7. The talent that we have that computers may never have is the ability to see what is not there. Anyone can look at the first problem and say, “Yes, that is right”. But what about the guy who looks at the second and says- that’s right too and here is why. The 2 is actually a 5 upside down and 2+5 is 7.” What about the ability to see what isn’t there? What about the ability, like they said of Michelangelo, to see the David in the piece of stone and to take away everything that was not in his vision. What about the Edison’s, Einstein’s, the Picassos and Mozart’s? Our greatest talent is to see what isn’t there and to will it into being. This is a talent that as far as we know only humans have- perhaps one of our greatest gifts. Our hearts are not stirred by the accountant or the analyst but by those who can remind us take that leap and learn to fly on the way down. For it is only in our taking the illogical step, by pushing us to make no small plans and to accept nothing other than our own intelligence and vision.

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Eighteen and a half minutes

To those old enough to remember the unfolding of the Watergate investigation, the words eighteen and half minutes have resonance. That was the amount of time that was erased from the taped conversation that then-President Nixon was having with JR Halderman, his Chief of Staff. This comes to mind when thinking about the ongoing conversation about the “right to be forgotten”. For those unfamiliar, this rule states “personal data must be erased immediately where the data are no longer needed for their original processing purpose, or the data subject has withdrawn his consent and there is no other legal ground for processing, the data subject has objected and there are no overriding legitimate grounds for the processing or erasure is required to fulfil a statutory obligation under the EU law or the right of the Member States.” In short, we can create our own eighteen and a half minutes of invisibility, take anything that happened and erase it when we think it is no longer appropriate to the current image we wish to project. While at once of two minds about this, I now have come down on the side that the past is something that we can reinterpret at will, it should not be something plastic to mold and form to fit into the current style.

While there are many who may argue over the Holocaust, perhaps the numbers of people extinguished, the importance or legacy that has left behind, but there is still a historical record, there are people who were there, who remember, photographs, lonely piles of shoes and glasses, the only remnants once-living people turned to ash. As we move to a more silicon-based memory, we must remember the physical is a testament too. While it may seem so, our entire lives have not been transformed by a blue light fairy into a Tron like existence, solely in a binary world. They used to say New York is a snake that devours itself every 50 years, are we not quickly approaching the same fate?  Are we creating a world where the past is simply a thing to be shed off in pursuit of an ever distant promise of becoming? Where ones past has no importance, or relevance. A world lost in a constant now?

 

 

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Technology, Uncategorized

Swept Away by the Tide of Innovation

A few years ago, I was working at at company that made promotional items and got a call from a client who was looking for an pen to match their brand color, a pantone color. Having not worked there long I asked one of my associates if it was possible for us to search our online cataloge in that way. “oh, no” I was told “we cant do anything like that”  All of the data was obviously in a database, in our computer and all known information. The thing lacking was either the skill or the desire to make the most of the resources that are easily available.

It seems that in many cases we are more interested in maintianing the status quo or our comfort zone than exploring what is possible and profitable. A recent article mentioned that banks outdated approach to IT could lead to their demise as they are unable to cope with disruptive technology. If you are standing on a slowly revolving disk, you need to keep moving slightly to keep staring at the same spot. Technology is making changes faster and that perimage our lives more and more every day.  We need to let go of our desire for the status quo and understand that change is the order of the day and as the rate of change accelerates, we have to learn to cope or be swept away by the tide of innovation.

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No matter where you go, your there.

I am old. I say that not as a statement about my age but my perspective is that of someone who has seen time elapse and hopefully gleaned some wisdom or wonder from that. Nowhere is that more apparent than a recent trip through the 10 best rock albums of all time while completing a project at work. Earbuds firmly screwed into my ears, I started listening to old friends, and other albums that I was not familiar with in their entirety. While I did skip around a bit, I was most surprised to hear “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” and met with a familiar unfamiliarity. While we have discussed the Mandella Effect here before, this was a more immediate confrontation with my personal perceptions of the album. After the first few seconds of the album, I found myself checking the download wondering if this might have been a remix or a remastered version. Paul Mc Cartney’s voice never seemed to be such a light tenor and the whole sound of the album is different then I remember hearing from my brother’s stereo playing the new vinyl album. While not proposing this is a Pepper from an alternate universe, it does pose questions about our relationship to the past and our personal and collective history.

Again, there are those of us who may remember the excitement around the airing of “Wizard of Oz”, once a year on TV, popcorn was popped and it became an event that we looked forward to every year until we were too old or jaded to care. Yet, now, the thrill around seeing something is gone, we can watch it at any time, anywhere and watch for as briefly, or as long as we like. After my self imposed exile from Sgt. Pepper perhaps the only thing that changed was me. In this world with so much innovation and revolutionary changes, perhaps we need that unchanging still place in the movies or music of our youth. And while it may (or may not-remember the Mandella effect) change, it may be our need for a constant in this world of change that makes us examine everything, not realizing that the thing that has changed is us.

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