As the debate goes on over allowing Huawei to use its technology in this country- people wondering if the Chinese company can be trusted with our data, would we be giving them a backdoor to share all our data with the Government of China. Strange that we would be so concerned that the Chinese government might mine our data, yet we blissfully donate our data to Facebook, Google et al. without the merest thought. Perhaps there is a sort of cyber racism going on here. We will allow wasps to feast on our data exhaust and grow fat and rich but good Episcopal God no- we won’t allow the Chinese to gain from our detritus. Are they not worthy to exploit people like everyone else? Perhaps our manifest destiny has run amok and on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs the needs of Americans are above those from other nations.
While listening to public radio, my ears perked up when I heard a story about how the first MP3 was created. It seems that in 1987, Tom’s Diner by Suzanne Vega was the first song that was compressed into what we now know as the current MP3. It seems that to create an MP3 the file is compressed and that some of the audio data is lost in the process. While the current technology seems to give us acceptable losses, there are losses none the less. Ryan Maguire’s Ghost in the MP3 project examines this lost information and presents this lost data as an oddly beautiful piece of music, a sort of phoenix from the ashes. In addition, our cell service is regularly flattened which has the effect of removing the emotion out of the voice we are listening to while supposedly reducing background noise, it also removes some of the emotional content of the voice- possibly one of the few remaining things that we have that computers can not yet replicate.
While these losses may seem insignificant, it reminds me of the poem by Martin Niemoller, “First They Came” how one by one the Nazis purged groups until there was no one left to protest when at last they came for the author, no one was left to hear his protests. What exactly are we compressing, do we know what we loose over the thundering goosestepping of technology. While I like to think we have learned from our mistakes if we wait too long our calls of protest will be devoid of emotion content in the interest of reducing the background noise.