internet, Uncategorized

The truth shall….

As my friend and mentor, Father Charlie is fond of reminding me, the saying isn’t, “The truth shall set you free” but that “The truth shall make you whole”. That idea of the power of Truth or truth is something that kept coming back to me as I read, Marcus Wohlsen’sBiopunk, DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life” for as fascinating and disturbing as the idea of the next great step forward in biological science would not come from a pharmaceutical company or a university but from people “hacking” biology in their own kitchens, garages and, in one case, walk-in closets. If information is the same as truth then perhaps it really will make us whole. It seems that there is an entire network of DIY scientist hacks working in such complex fields as gene splicing, genetic testing and more. It seems that our next major innovation in medicine may not come from the university or the major drug company but from people creating a cancer drug in their kitchen. As we give people greater and greater access to information, hopefully, we also liberate their imagination and ability to create a world vaster than what we have known. We have all heard the story of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak creating Apple in their garage and transforming the world. Who will be the next Edward Jenner or Antonie van Leeuwenhoek who creates the next wonder drug or engineer the next stage of human development? As Shaw said, youth is wasted on the young and perhaps our resources are squandered on the large institutions that have more interest in maintaining their own status quo than reshaping the world and the way we live in it. Honestly, how does a pink ribbon cure breast cancer or is simply raising our awareness of it all that we care to do? We can be aware of ethnic cleansing in the world but a ribbon or pin will not change that reality. Perhaps our current paradigm is supporting the truth but our information share will make us whole. If ever there were a time for free flow of information it seems it must happen now lest we are left strong in symbolism and weak in action. I believe it is our action that will make us whole.



Accountable to no one.

(Many thanks to Mr. Michael (Fletch) Reed for being a guest blogger this week)

Last week, Vizio was hit with a $2.2 million fine for collecting information about the viewing habits of people who used their televisions. Vizio not only collected the information but sold it to third parties. This aggregation and selling of data are not new. Google and Facebook make it a part of their license agreements that they will do this which is common in the industry to spell out what is being collected. However, in this case, Vizio was secretly collecting the data while the consumer was completely unaware that this was happening. This is patently wrong and a violation of the consumer’s privacy.

I have a friend who works in the development group at a software company. (Let’s call the company MFC). MFC collects information about people who use their software but allows the users to opt out if they chose to do so. Additionally, the information MFC collects is solely about the usage of MFC’s software to allow the company to decide which features to invest in and to determine what features are lagging in use.

What is the key difference between Vizio and MFC? The developers at MFC actually decided which information would help them make decisions about the usage of the software and the software only. There was little to no input from the marketing and sales departments. The developers exercised a level of restraint and ethics. But how common is this in the software industry if Vizio was collecting the information on the sly?

Other professional groups such as lawyers, doctors, and accountants have a code of ethics in place. Shouldn’t software developers be held accountable, be required to maintain a set of ethics to safeguard the consumer’s privacy?


All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

I hate my wife’s computer. It might just be that I work on a PC and she has a Mac but the whole feel of the keyboard seems to be somehow alien and distant from Q, my PC laptop. The funny thing is that I have no reason to dislike her laptop.  I hardly ever use it and this left me thinking, I wonder I don’t like it because it doesn’t like me. Perhaps it’s the height of personification to put emotions on to our computers but is the opposite true? Are they completely benign? Can a computer be evil or good? We don’t give those qualities to other tools- guns are the mere vehicles of tragedy, alone they can do nothing. And while there is hardly an evil toaster or a virtuous backhoe but we do seem to worry about our computers- that they can slip outside of our control, begin to think for themselves and put humans on the road to extinction. Are we really worried about what they could do or just afraid of losing the illusion of control. Perhaps that is that just a more palatable idea then our being watched over by machines of loving grace- that an electronic Eden is more than we can imagine?

While writing this post I came across the documentary “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace” by Adam Curtis which Part One of can be viewed here




On Demand Reality

While reading Esther M. Sternberg’s excellent book, “Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being” I was taken by an argument that our ability to see colours has developed out of evolutionary necessity- as herbivores we needed to see the green leaves as food but as we developed our palate we also needed to be aware of colour to distinguish a ripe red fruit from one that was either not yet ripe or possibly rotten. Our ability to see colours came into play when we needed them or as the Buddhist saying goes, .
I think of this in all the ballyhoo over the apple watch and all the other new technology that is in the wings and while I wonder if it is truly necessary or even important I find some solace in the hope that we will find what we need as we truly need it. Perhaps everything, technology included, is evolving just as it needs to and when we really need the next app or service, it will be there. Perhaps this is the ushering in of the on demand reality, with everything at the touch of a button.



The New Prometheus?

I was interested to see there is now a museum of expired technology beyond typewriters or rotary phones to apple clam shell computers and floppy disks. The thought is that some day we might need to get some information that can only be read by this older technology. This may be a good thing but it brings to mind the blind spot in our planning and thought process. If we were to look farther back in the past we might pause at the ancient writers preoccupation on the animating force of man and the universe. What is it that makes us go, this mix of air, wind and water makes us alive. While we are still struggling with this question we do know what makes computers run yet how concerned are we about that future? What happens to all this technology past and future if we don’t have the electricity to make it run? While we should be concerned about the past and preserving it what good will it be if we don’t have the ability to re-animate it. While Dr Frankenstein had lightning we may not be so lucky. Are we neglecting supporting our future while saving our past?