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What am I missing…

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.

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Its not my problem….or is it?

Recently, I saw an article on the BBC about how disastrous events could “break” the internet. While I find the idea intriguing, it also made me think about how we think of the internet and technology. We still think of shutting off the internet as if there were a large switch that needed to be flipped to turn the internet off, like the basement lights or turning the TV off. We bring all sorts of dinosaur thinking to the future. We save electronic documents on our desktop and dispose of old ones in our trash or recycling. Not that we don’t need to find a working vocabulary that is easy to use with our new technology but is that also holding us back from moving forward? As Captain Jack Sparrow says, the problem isn’t the problem but the way we are thinking of the problem. Are our thoughts holding us back?

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