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As Rome burns, listen to the music…

While it has been noted here and elsewhere that there seems to be a movement to do away with people in the workplace and perhaps in general, the boldest faced example of this was seen recently in the Wall Street Journal article, “Everyone Hates Customer Service. This Is Why.” It seems that companies have started crunching data and using artificial intelligence to determine exactly how angry a customer has to be to hang up on a customer service call and finding a to step in just before that happens. While working to save a customer has seemed to be good business all along, now the point seems to be to push them off until they get to a breaking point before you take action to try to redeem the relationship. It seems almost unfathomable that this strategy would be suggested or even endorsed in any other situation. How would you feel if your boss decided he was going to abuse you until you were ready to quit and only then to decide to take any redemptive action. Would you accept this from coworkers or even your wife?
When we learn, when will we remember that companies are there to serve us, that we are not their servants? Since when do we have an obligation to a corporation that sells us goods or services? Is their obligation to us not greater than their obligation to them- are they not there to serve us? And yet we have become so desensitized to our own power, we cower in fear only hoping that they will continue to provide us internet, phone service, and even government. We can’t help ourselves from giving up our data so that we can be turned into force-fed veal dining on our own waste. Have we no dignity left? What is our purpose here- do our lives have a value other than an immediate material gain- and not even for ourselves but for those so engorged on money and power that they either don’t see or don’t care the effect of their gluttony?

AI, Google, Customer Service

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Lost in Translation

While it may have been a realty to be in two places at one time for St Gerard, the idea of bi-location seems to be coming back into fashion. The hagiographical concept seems to have returned in the idea of quantum entanglement, basically instead of sending information, you’ll create pairs of photons that mirror one another. This is quantum entanglement. You’ll keep one of the photons, send someone else the other entangled photon, and then anything you do to your photon instantly happens to the other person’s photon.
Painting a smiley face on your photon would result in a smiley face appearing on the other photon — no matter where it was. It’s sort of like the vanishing cabinet in Harry Potter but for data. It seems that we are on a quest not only to have all knowledge at our fingertips but all space and eventually time at our disposal. It seems as if we have given everyone the ability to read the story of Icarus but the point has been lost.

Quantum Entanglement, St Gerard, Saints, Bilocation, Hagiography, Harry Potter, Vanishing Cabinet, Icarus

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The Birth of Alternate Truth?

I often think of Galen better known as Galen of Pergamon, a prominent Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher in the Roman Empire. While accomplished of all medical researchers of antiquity, might be a strange person to dwell, he influenced the development of various scientific disciplines, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and neurology, as well as philosophy and logic. The problem was that as good as Galen was, his book was never updated for more current information. Centuries after Galen’s death, his book was taken as the book on medicine and when later scholars like Paracelsus disagreed with Galen, they were told that what they saw did not matter as it disagreed with Galen and Galen, they felt was truth hence, anything disagreeing with Galen was wrong. (There is a fascinating discussion of this in Daniel Boorstein’s, “The Discovers”, a book I highly recommend..)
This does not seem so far from the idea of alternate truths, and that today, with the internet one can find a source to back up whatever claim one makes. No matter how ludicrous a claim is made, it seems that someone can find some internet source to back it up. While, with Galen, it took years for the truth to will out, it now seems that we have a moving target in the realm of Alternate truth. Whereas with Galen, there was a finite monopoly on truth, the book was written and so his truth was determined. However today it seems that we have levels of truth, a tweet does not convey the truth but requires an interpretation and revision with a parade of soothsayers needed to discover the real meaning of the truth. Oddly enough, it seems that this was the initial objective of Galen.

Trump, Alternate truth

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The Curse of Choice

One of the quotes that stuck in my head from my high school history class was from Henry Ford who, commenting on his Model T’s in 1909, “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” This came back to me when thinking of how the explosion in electronic media has allowed us so many choices in life compared even to when I was growing up. I remember when there were only 5 TV channels on the TV, more if you could get the antenna in just the right place. Now we have more options than we know what to do with on our TV and with the addition of our tablets and phones, the options have grown . While author Barry Schwartz in his 2004 book “The Paradox of Choice” argues that the increasing number of choices while seemingly giving us greater choice and actually increases our anxiety, we seem to have greater stress around making the “right “choice when we have more options. Recent developments would seem to argue the opposite. We seem to be able to insulate ourselves from opposing views and now even wrap ourselves in the warm illusion of alternate truths. Why bother with the harsh light of truth when we can stay crouched in the cave of shadows and half-truths.

What do we see when we have the ability to look at everything?

What do we see when we have the ability to look at everything?

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the Death of Optimisim

My kids were watching the Matrix the other night and it made me realize how good the effects and the ideas are behind the movie are. Of course the whole “Allegory of the Cave” idea where we are only living in a shadow land of what is real has been around since, well, Plato, it still has a real resonance today. The thing is what if it isn’t so much a cautionary tale made for the pessimistic society but does that have to be the case? Does the future have to be so bleak and do we have to constantly be warring against the machines. Since when is optimism a dirty word? Why must we always be at war with the future? And if we are does it mean that we have no control over what is happening? Are we unwilling to be positive about the future?  Or are we creating a world that we have no control over and are afraid to imagine greater than we ever have before?

 

Optimism-Breeds-Optimism

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Coming full circle

My friend Mardi Ellen Hill recently shared an article about Google outfitting Carnegie Mellon with technology to create a living web or a complete internet of things. A brilliant idea and a fascinating concept – the internet of things that all things will be an electronic nervous system allowing us to interact with everything in our network from anywhere in the network. One could say bringing life to a once lifeless or disconnected landscape. This reminded me of one of the earliest films made by one of the great minds of the last great age of technology, Thomas Edison. Edison too was interested in the story of bringing together different elements, here in the Frankenstein story, body parts and making them one. Perhaps that is the age old dream, all the way back to Plato and the Symposium. In Aristophanes’ speech in the Symposium he puts forth a creation myth that people were once joined, both male and female into one being but were separated through intrigues and are chopped in half by Zeus, leaving them a separate male and female, left to spent the rest of their lives, each looking for their opposite and completing half.
We seem to have come full circle in our pursuit to bring oneness to our environment, to make our entire world one and yet we still stand quivering at the prospect of finding completeness in ourselves.

enso-the-circle-of-life

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The journey goes on and on….

My reading, which is often of a curious nature, recently brought me to a discussion of mazes as opposed to labyrinths. Now a maze, for those who spend time with such things, is a tour puzzle in the form of a complex branching passage through which the solver must find a route. This varies from a labyrinth in which has a single through-route with twists and turns but without branches. Technically a labyrinth will have one path to the center and one path which takes you back out of the labyrinth. Mazes are used to induce stress in lab rats and mice to see how they respond under various stresses while the labyrinth is reserved for meditation or as a metaphorical pilgrimage to the holy land.
Thinking of these similar structures, now identical in common uses, got me thinking about how we use search engines. Is our search for knowledge a maze only inducing stress or a labyrinth, a journey toward greater wisdom. Perhaps the journey is in the eyes of the beholder.

 

classgroup-in-labyrinth

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