Category Archives: Life

Technology’s Subliminal Mission

NASA Valkyrie

I was just thinking…

How easily we’ve accepted artificial intelligence, how cozy we are when we’re introduced.   Recently NASA delivered Valkyrie, its humanoid R5 robot to Northeastern University and M.I.T.  where the response was exciting but quaint, like a family reunion.

We were interested, but not awed.  In an earlier era, we would have gawked at his size and the audacity of his mission, to land on Mars!

For the next two years, as scientists and engineers prepare him for his long journey, we’ll go about our business of texting, emailing and being slightly annoyed with our technology.  Meanwhile, Valkyrie’s cognitive intelligence will be developed.  He’ll be given the ability to reason, to build and to understand logical assertions taken from his sensory perceptions and to use that information to solve simple and complex problems.

We’ll be momentarily fascinated and encouraged by reports.  But we’re not going to ask ethical questions.  We’re not going to wonder if we might’ve gotten a bit ahead of ourselves, that maybe we’ve placed the cart before the horse.  In fact, our quick success at artificial intelligence hasn’t required us to question organic intelligence.   We haven’t paused to understand the universe, or our place in it.   Not all of us are smart enough to create a virtual galaxy, to write code or to even understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

We don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg and we’ve resolved ourselves to possibly never knowing the answer. We don’t know, nor do we truly care how the internet or our cellphone work, we simply need them to work.  We entrust it with our most important information, from bank accounts to telephone numbers, those things once stored in our heads.

Artificial intelligence seems a good name, as the imperfect create perfection.  There’s a possibility that we’ll get it right, because sprinkling bits and bytes of humanity doesn’t seem too far off, besides we’ve managed pretty well by not knowing things.

But these are extraordinary times!  The stars seem to have aligned themselves and mankind’s journey seems to be destined for greatness.  Once again genius has arrived, as if there’s an honored time and place, some synergy to when great minds are born.  It’s not likely that great minds would be understood by the general population; the Newtons and the DaVincis would have been lost to prosperity, had their peers been unable to understand their ideas.  Up until now, it’s been organic intelligence that’s changed humanity, propelling us forward across oceans and into space.

As if technology had been placed into our sleeping psyches, allowing us to make use of mathematical equations and scientific knowledge via smart technology.  Giving us a chance to experience space, black holes and zero gravity, without having to touch them.

And by training Valkyrie for a mission to Mars, we might be in training to become our better selves.

I was just thinking…  What were you doing?

 

 

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Notes From Analog to Digital

From Analog with Love

As this year comes to an end, I’m a bit emotional.  It’s an end to an era.   My elderly mother has become that lady we use to laugh about and I’ve grown old.

My journey is very different from how it began.   And like most people, I’ve never benefitted from a personal roadmap or a handbook.  Sometimes the experiences have dove-tailed nicely into place, as if by destiny and other times, nothing seemed to work.   But we’re still here.

Each struggle– yours, mine and hers– has had it’s own purpose.  We’ve compensated for our weaknesses by making athletes into heroes and found motivation reading stories about a little train that could.   And during sleep we’ve gained some of our greatest insights into this life, lessons only a sub-conscious mind could learn, like forgiveness, forgetfulness and the art of moving on.

Our dreams were useful tools that helped us endure and combat injustices in daylight.  But the truth is, our world has been diced and sliced into so many pieces, that few get a fair deal.  And global issues, like climate change really will require us all to make a difference.   Adults much more than our children…

Which is interesting, because as adults we are often expected to do the right thing, but without added incentive.  Even in America, where the stalwart of childhood is a reward/punishment culture, where every child on the soccer team receives an award for participation, but no reward is given to the parent that nurtured and fed the talent.

And rewards grow more elusive as we enter adulthood, with few exceptions outside academia or military service.   I wonder why?

With so many adults on FaceBook, Twitter and Snapchat, each pining for attention and seeking acceptance.   Social media indicates that there’s a need, and why wouldn’t there be?  Having been raised in the reward/punishment system, it seems rather logical and a bit unnatural if we weren’t busy trying to be seen.

If we use trophies and medals to foster good behavior, why do we stop using that form of motivation? Particularly as we grow older?

Why shouldn’t we want to read our name in the newspaper, or on social media?  An obituary isn’t a true blue ribbon.  What if we learnt early in life, that pro-creation isn’t an achievement and staying out of jail isn’t an accomplishment?  What if there were small awards for those behaviors?  Would we as a people do better at life?

Me?  I’m mostly self-taught.   I used a length of chain link fence to learn how to ride a two wheel bicycle.  I paddled a row boat into the middle of a lake, and jumped into dark waters to learn how to swim.  During winter break, I shoveled snow in the schoolyard so I could play basketball, because I wasn’t allowed inside the school gym with the boys.  And my high school guidance counselor instructed me to drop out of school and have babies, I went to the public library instead and taught myself telephony, electric code and telecommunications, all marketable trade skills.

I’ve used  pulse technology and rotary telephones; spoken with operators of switch controlled, data entry, card punched computers and watched the first manned trip to the moon– all feats of analog technology.   But earlier this month, the SpaceX program sent a rocket ship into space, it returned and landed vertically, so it can be used again… that’s a digital feat!

Aiming a little higher.  In a digital world, there ought to be social media awards, ones that make us as individuals aim a little higher.  Who knows, maybe that will help us save our planet.

I’m willing.  I wouldn’t mind a little plastic trophy to put on my bric-a-brac shelf.   Besides Heaven seems a long way off and I’m not particularly sure that’s where I’m headed, once I leave here.   Besides, there’s still time for me to do some good.

Happy New Year 2016 !   Notes from analog to digital, an Honor Roll of the greatest use of technology.

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