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Driving to Oblivion

It was surprising to me to hear when a friend of mine had taken a job driving for Uber. Now there is nothing wrong with driving for Uber, I was surprised as my friend and I had met in college and I thought him a smart man and good student, talents not so much in demand as an Uber driver. It seems this electronic revolution, will have the same effect as the industrial revolution only on a larger scale. While the industrial revolution took skilled laborers and reduced them to a cog in an assembly line, this computer revolution seems to be doing the same for every worker. It seems that there is no skill that cannot be replaced, revised or in some way significantly downsized by computers and automation. Just as skilled craftsmen and blacksmiths were relegated to endlessly executing the same task, now college educated people are finding their jobs behind the wheel of the cars that the first revolution made possible.
They say now we are teaching our children skills for jobs that do not yet exist so that they can be ready for what is to come. Let us hope we are not giving them all driving licenses for an age of driverless cars.

Uber, Uber driver, electronic revolution, industrial revolution, automation, downsized, computers, assembly line, computer revolution, revolution, driverless cars, Driving licenses

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The Hurrier I Go, The Behinder I Get

I woke up from a dream not too long ago, thinking about QWERTY. Now as you may know that is the name of the keyboard that I am using to type this and probably the keyboard you use too. I was surprised to learn some time ago that the arrangement of keys on the QWERTY keyboard supposedly was not to allow people to type quickly but to slow them down by placing the keys in award places to keep the levers that produced each letter from colliding as they typed. I like to think that the technology was changed to allow for human speed but it is common thought that that is not the case. This makes me wonder about the new coming waves of technology. It does seem that there will be a point where technology will move faster than we can as humans but will we remember who the technology is for? Will we make the technology serve us by intentionally slowing it down or will we force ourselves to work at a pace dictated by technology? In short, will we retain control or end up like Lucile Ball struggling with an uncaring production line of chocolate without the benefit of a laugh track.

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Predict At Your Own Peril

Like many people, I have been following the political race pretty closely and have been surprised bordering on shocked in the way that the candidates respective roles have been portrayed. I understand that there is a whole grammatical ballet around how one presents a candidate, there is an entire lexicon available to refer to candidates with the correct meaning, but as we refer to the “Presumptive” nominees it seems as though we take our data to higher and higher platitudes (with a nod to the late Mayor Dailey).  It seems as if because we can sample data and make predictions from it that these predictions are obliged to have the future oblige the prediction.  An off colour remark by a candidate and the pundits  are showing us how this will put his future victory in peril, all charted with colour maps showing  delegates hanging like low-pressure systems awaiting the next prediction to blow them to a different course. Maybe we are looking to be ruled by the predictive force of algorithms in place of our own free will. We still have a voice but we won’t for long we allow the predictions to become the dictators of reality.

 

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A Change of Direction

In addition to the beautiful writing, I have been taken by the central idea behind Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass” asking that we reexamine our relationship to our environment, asking us to create “cultures of regenerative reciprocity” and invoking a relaationship to the earth like the native americans; taking just what we need and no more, remembering that giving is as important as getting and to have respect for where our gifts come.  She laments the winner take all mentality we take to the planet, noting that in the long run, we are the losers.   The impact and importance on the environment is clear as is the importance of this new paradigm she proposes. The thing that I found interesting was the parallel to the new paradigm that social media has created. It seems that the only reason that social networks survive is our generosity with not only our time but our information, opinions and lives. We must feel the need for gratitude for our efforts for 35% of people check their mobile phones before getting out of bed while 80% of smartphone users check their smartphone before brushing their teeth.  Why else would we do this unless it filled a need, a need to have our gift acknowledged and hopefully commented upon, liked and retweeted?

It seems that what Kimmerer is looking for in our relationship to the world is what we are already doing in our relationship to social media. To give first, not expecting anything in return but being thankful and grateful for what we get, to take the gifts of others and share them hopefully respecting the dignity of their words and thoughts. The top down model, where content flows from top down is over, hopefully we can bring this new interactive approach to other relationships in our life and our world. While this new media destroyed the old media hopefully the social media paradigm will bear with it the seeds to save our world.

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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

 

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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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Why I love Google

I have to come clean at the start. I love Google. Yes, I use the search engine and think its great but that isn’t the real reason for my devotion. I love Google because they have a commitment to a optimistic future. Larry Page and Sergey Brin are willing to invest in projects that may or may not come to any financial fruition- what can be called a forward focus. In a world where the news is constantly telling us how bleak the future is I find this optimism to be a breath of fresh air. If it is true that we find what we look for then why not look for a bright future where the new technology has the ability to change our life in a positive way? So what if Google Glass may not have been a success or the chorus of disdain for the driver-less car drowns out the fact that- both things are really pretty cool. What if they don’t work out – what about what we learn by our willingness to make mistakes and to take chances.
When asked about his failings, Thomas Edison replied, “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. One of the many offshoots of the space program was Teflon- While that wasn’t what we were looking for it was something found along the way. We were willing to tolerate and accept mistakes as a cost of success. We were willing to take risks on what seemed absurd to discover something beyond our wildest imagination. The fact that Google’s willingness to fail is seen as an oddity makes me fear a future where we take no great risks for fear of failure.

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