Category Archives: technology

Technology: Can We Live Without Plug-n-Play?

If not for Plug n Play

Sliding rulers always cause me to pause, if not for them where would we be?  USB technology is like that.

There was a time, when pocket protectors were like badges.  Mostly worn by those with above average intelligence, who felt comfortable with numbers.  People who owned a lot of pens, that wrote in multiple colors.  People who didn’t use a calculator to figure out the circumference of a circle, or how much to tip the waiter.  But who used a calculator to confirm answers that they already reached in their heads.

Life was simple and a pop quiz, was meant to gauge how much we knew, and what more we needed to learn.   It wasn’t quantum physics and the classroom wasn’t a prison.  The library, public and private were sanctuaries, where books evoked our imagination and inspired our adventures.

We believed in the world’s potential and we believed in ourselves.  We freely admitted limited knowledge of cyber kinetics, robotics and transportation, but were excited by the possibility!  Technology then, as it is now was exciting, it fueled innovation without teaching itself.

But something happened.  It may have always been there, nestled in the corners but when technology mixed into our daily lives, something went awry.  At first it was subtle, we interacted with automated teller machines (ATMs), we had always struggled with balancing the checking book, never enough money so nothing new there.  But then we pretended as if we knew and feign a smile as if we fully understood what we had only partially comprehended.

Our approach to life changed, people with the pocket protectors, became revered techies.  We eagerly numbered one or two among our friends and casually coaxed them out of basements and away from garages.  Hoping to invite them into our homes to take a look at our new personal computer that was just sitting there… unattached.  We quickly understood that geeks as we had called them, had a natural ability to delve into computer processing, and they easily interacted with connector pins, parallel ports, ROM and RAM.  They knew the jargon and could install drivers that made it go!

Where we had cursed a cursor that blinked and got hung up, the techie patiently typed and the computer responded.  Again, technology was exciting!  So we pretended we understood his instructions as we waved goodbye at the door, but deep down inside we felt hopelessness.  And then, before we got to admit that we didn’t get it, technology changed again.

It just went on about its business without the masses.  Rather than dumb down, tech developers just reversed the process and called a CPU a black box.  Convinced us that we didn’t need to know what was inside, that it would work and we humans would be very efficient when we used it, and so we did and they were right.  Hello World!

The Universal Serial Bus was a game changer, literally connecting us to our devices.  The thumb drive to the universal Plug-n-Play opened up vistas and we all became proficient at the same time.  We didn’t have to learn anything, no instructions, no lessons and no quizzes.  And we all started to relax, new technology has that affect on us.  Lulled into a false sense of security.  We created new words by simply adding an adjective to a noun– SmartTech: Smartphone, Smarthome, Smartwatch and Smartcities.   But where would we be without the power of USB Plug-N-Play?

Next week, there’ll be a Pop quiz…    hope we’re prepared.

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Filed under Baby boomers, PlugnPlay, SmartTech, technology

Tech Up

Coat of Arms cirsuit boards

How do we respond when we’re told that the only stupid question is the one that wasn’t asked? Hopefully, we ask.

It’s particularly important as technology continues to advance, placing more and more information readily at our fingertips and moving away from the notion that arches, loops and whorls, those distinctive patterns of our fingerprints are the only reliable mode of human identification.

Facial recognition systems allow a computer app to identify and verify a person from a digital image or a video frame from a video source, using selected facial features and a database.

When used with other biometric technology, including those fingerprints and eye iris scans, facial recognition can be extremely accurate at identifying us, but what’s beyond the pale is the social laissez-faire towards facial technology.

More often it’s being used on social media to identify who attended the bachelorette bash, the summer cook-out or the family reunion and it’s posted without intent of malice. Those smiling faces, young and old gathered together to celebrate life.

All very neatly named and tagged on FaceBook, Instagram and on SnapChat, and all shared with family and friends who weren’t invited, or who for a myriad of reasons, were unable to attend.  So many digital photographs curated and posted on the internet, forever.

And what about the little round faces, with pudgy cheeks who unknowingly and unwittingly have their photos taken over and over?  So innocent, just a photo taken of a little girl, that  should never have become a part of an illegal drug ring, or reappear in a trade magazine or be confiscated in a botched raid, one that included fake IDs’, but some how did.  And years later, that little girl grows up and is interrogated or denied international travel, misidentified because an age progressed photo “guesstimated” her adult facial features?  We humans, after all  have but one face to be digitalized, recognized and identified.

Children grow up, people grow old and fancy pictures of our younger selves.  Humored by how young we looked, but somehow, long after time and the natural elements of this world have caused our faces to wrinkle and our memories have begin to fade, what about all those photos?  Who’ll ask us then, is that a picture of you?

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Filed under Apps, Photo, photography, Selfie, technology

Tech Armor, A Girl’s Security

Techny Armor 2

In many ways, the radio is old timey technology.  A throw back of simpler times, when air waves weren’t modulated and a slight hum was tolerable, as was fumbling with the dial to bring the station in clear.  Nowadays, I only listen when I’m alone driving in my car.

In that closed interior, with the world just beyond my windshield, I’m comforted to hear a voice other than the one in my head.  I tire of reminders,  conflict in my schedule, errands that I need to run and I things left undone, like the shirt that requires my attention and the button I keep forgetting to sew back on.  The radio’s DJ is friendly, almost bubbly with idle chatter, pertinent today, and boring enough so I don’t have to focus all of my attention, half-listening and half being indifferent and non-opinionated.

This is pure technology, copper wire and vacuum tubes, transistor radios, soldered circuitry that’s also portable.  Radio reaches people in a way that television never will, because there’s no visual accompaniment to distort one’s own self-image.   Without product placement, without luxury and without perfect abs.  Instead we’re captivated by a voice, the radio personality’s enthusiasm and a distinct annunciation of words.  In between commercials, there’s a nice mix of music.  I like singing along, belting out a Frank Sinatra song or absent mindedly humming along to Billie Holiday’s August in New York.

Ironically, I always have perfect pitch when no one else is the car, my inner ear comes out.   And then, the very best part of radio, is during the “goldie oldie” moment, when that one long forgotten song comes on and miraculously, I know the lyrics!  And soon the warm feelings return, the powdery fluff of nostalgia.  It makes me smile to myself, as I drive along the road.  And I’m reminded again that simple technology, like the radio has a powerful control over me.

Yesterday, a DJ invited listeners to call in with their stories.  One woman called in excitedly, she had recently lost 150 pounds.  Her happiness oozed from the radio’s airwaves.  This stranger made me smile.   Like her, as a kid I too had been teased, she plagued by obesity and me with my big nose.

Now, here she was on the radio sharing the fact that she carried an old photograph and called it a “Fattie-Selfie”,  a reminder of her former self.  And that was it, the radio personality acknowledged her achievement, told her that she was beautiful!  And then thanked her for calling in, made an off-handed comment about the telephone lines being lit up and took the next call.

I blinked, the era of stringed pearls and frilly aprons forever gone.  I glanced at my reflection in the rearview mirror.  Like the radio caller, I too was now comfortable with my looks, I seem to have grown into my big nose.  Or I wasn’t as self-conscious, perhaps a result of being too busy to take notice.  Still, I recall what it felt like, to not resemble the models in any of the fashion magazines.  When I was a young girl, fairytales always made me think being powerless was okay, by taking away the option of having power, as if by design.

As I pulled into an empty parking space, I saw a group of little girls eating ice-cream laughing, and enjoying their silliness.  They were at that perfect age, when looks don’t matter and eating has nothing to do with disorders.   That being self-sufficient means she can tie a good knot in her shoelaces, as a preamble to running wild and free.

The radio DJ introduced a new song, it was upbeat and a perfect segue from the girls back to my reality.  I reached over to cut the car engine off and thought those little girls will make their own shiny suits of armor; I hope it fits them well.

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Filed under Gender, Gender Equality, Girls, technology

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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Filed under Life, technology

How Technology Stacks Up

1 tech typewriter

Lately, technology has been a stark reminder of time.

I’ve come to realize it’s not that life whizzes by too quickly or that time ticks too slowly.  The truth is, time just passes without any change in pace whatsoever.  How we manage it determines how we view it, like looking through a glass of water.

Yesterday, I climbed the attic steps and discovered my old smelly typewriter, I smiled. How long had it been since I’d replaced it with the newer technology, an odorless plastic keyboard that didn’t need ribbon.  I miss that, as I miss my daughter’s hair ribbons now.

I stopped writing when she was born, because I imagined time wouldn’t wait up, or slow down for me to fully experience motherhood. I decided it would be well worth it, to feel my kids sneaking up on me.  They’d struggle to contain happy giggles, as they slipped and slid across our wooden floors in stocking feet, determined to catch me off guard in a loving surprise.  All of the carefree giddiness of childhood, set free from curled lips before the age of teen modesty!

I relished the thought that they would reach from behind and cover my eyes with their little round hands.  And more than anything, I wanted my response to be simply happy.  Expressed by my feigned surprise and their squeals of delight at having surprised me.  Of course they hadn’t, but what did that matter?

Later, in their rooms by the night light, I’d read someone else’s words to them and miss my own.  And I never thought to shut the book too soon, or to shut them out.  It was important for them know I would be there when they woke up, available to them.  Unabashed and unafraid because they understood my love and the difference between their “mommy” and its homonym, the word “mummy”.

Now, the house is quiet.  And as I look around the attic, I’m noticing how much of my life has become obsolete, like the outdated technology that’s stacked high.  And not in any particular order, not like our chronological lives.

I’m reminded of the passage of time, I see it in my typewriter to my computer to my laptop to tablet…

Well, at least I’m writing again.   There’s no need to worry that I’ll be interrupted by the sound of little feet scurrying across the floor, or round hands cupped over my eyes.   There’ll be no crying, no “boo-boos” and no childish quarrels or metaphorical fences for me to mend.

It’s time to plant new seeds and to insert dangling modifiers; to write down adjectives that will never completely describe the taste of water, or how technology faded away and re-invented itself.   Me too.

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Filed under Creativity, technology

Tech Enlightened

$ Lightbulb

Progress! By definition, smart technology implies intelligence and enlightenment.  Used responsibly, it improves life on a global scale and it begs the question, what happens when a lightbulb is unscrewed?

Once upon a time, people worried that electricity would leak from an empty socket.   And we can understand how they might’ve reached that conclusion, it seems reasonable.

Most great technology that improves life also has the potential to be harmful. There’s a dark side that if left unmonitored could present a real danger. From x-rays to Big Data, we’ve become increasingly powerful and vulnerable all at once.

Technology has become incredibly small, invisible to most microscopes and yet, quantifiably humongous. Usurping our lives but also improving it, making everything we do in real-time tangible and with results that can be analyzed, understood and used for good.

And all the while, our footprints can be tracked, stacked and gathered.  How we do what we do, when we do it, where we’re doing it, analyzed and visualized.  The right questions asked, the algorithm applied and the data collected.

Smart cities that measure pot holes and compute their own capacity-duress until repair, can schedule that pavement crew and reroute traffic, anticipate patterns and give curbside bus arrival updates, all in real-time.   Smart cars can intuitively not start when their drivers are inebriated, and likewise won’t start when they’re not road worthy, offering alternate modes of transportation, in some Uber- Lyft social good package, for free!

Smart  smart technology won’t lie, won’t hide, but what if it could be programmed to monitor the good it does?   Like fear is good.

Being cautious doesn’t mean we won’t proceed, just that we’re mindful in its use, the way we might lean over a window sill; seeing so much and yet careful not to fall out.  we can have the great technology and maintain a survival technique, the flight and fight adrenaline that propels us into action, not darkness.

In a digital world that’s spinning incredibly fast, having a sense of fear might preserve a culture.   Might remind us that we’re a learned society, one that has long been enlightened and free of walls.

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Filed under Big Data, innovation, tech, technology

Technology Requires Creativity

#innovation Invention

Ever wonder if people gathered around cave paintings of elk, and appreciated the lightness of the artist’s brushstroke?

Um, no.  Me either, most likely, people stared at the painting and devised a thought, how to get the elk.  Survival in those times of darkness, fueled by fear and hunger, required creative imagination, a thought.   What to use and how to make a tool, the precursor of our modern technology.

From sharpened flint stones to steel to the Digital Age; the spark of an idea fed our ancestors, sheltered them and eventually helped us to defy the laws of gravity.

The really great technology creates an entire ecosystem, like bees pollinate flowers.  One thing leads to another, to another…  from transportation to education to healthcare.  And just as the flower needs that honey bee, inventive technology needs creativity.

Without creativity there would be no inventions, and without innovation our inventions would become stale and cracked.   Like rubber, first used for automobile tires, until innovation came along and used it for a sneaker.  That got us up and running; jogging for a healthy heart, which led to better health awareness, which led to a fitness economy that continues to boom.  Why else are we wearing Fitbits?

There are a lot of people in this world who are extremely good at inventing things, call them scientists. But that doesn’t make them good at identifying alternative uses for their inventions. People who are good at designing mechanical things, call them engineers aren’t necessarily good at marketing their designs.   But a graphic artist helps and just like that, so on and so forth, one person to another to another, and social media helps.

Sometimes we’ll see a line of people standing in a museum, staring at a painting.  I wonder if they see technology?

Art calls on our imagination, we become transfixed.  Studying the way light dances across the canvas, a thin line made from a sable hair paint brush.   Still art, the artist’s own tools in shadow, her palette held at an angle… A heavy dotted pink chrysanthemum and her perspective of a bumblebee’s wings moving, barely there…

I wonder…  without art where would we be?

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Filed under Creativity, Fitbit, Healthcare, technology

Teleological Technology & Me

#Open Tech

Most people won’t talk about it, but technology isn’t very friendly.  Ever notice, it never smiles?

There’s a teleological affect that’s inherent in our technology, as if being standoffish is ordained and necessary.    That something so silly as a whirligig could become an airplane propeller is astounding, but it can’t smile.

We can.  I smile, even when I’m not happy.   Not because I’m rich, or that I’ve never known hunger, but for one very simple reason– to put another human-being at ease.   So we might share.

A smile, it’s a whole conversation, without a word passing between us.  No, it doesn’t mean we’re best buds, or I’ll invite you to move into my home.   However it does lay the ground work, that there might be an extension of those amenities as a result of a wordless gesture.

It doesn’t matter that I don’t yet know which language you speak.   We human-beings are versatile, we can learn and adapt.  Especially when we think its worth our while, and sometimes it just makes sense.   So we share information and resources for our survival.  Our commonality expects it of us on the basest of levels, that being survival.   Even before we begin the process of evaluating, vetting and analyzing true intentions; we smile.

Technology can’t, so we’ve given it Emojis.  A cheap replacement for our feelings, facial expressions that convey our intentions.   So, machines can pass along our warm-gushy feeling and treat us virtually the same.  Hence, my cellphone has learnt my likes from yours, and it stands to reason, so has your cellphone.  Likewise your smart device, being as smart as it is, is equally as smart as his; same make, same model and proper updates.   🙂

In fact, technology is so efficient, it could care less who’s using it, switching easily from one user level to the next, neither engaged or distracted by the lack of expertise.   And that’s it!

The real magic of technology is it brings us together by the temporary blindness of our differences.   It’s a skillset that human beings don’t naturally have,  to be devoid of individualism isn’t our focus.

Sadly, distractions like hunger and thirst aren’t only intrusive, they’re necessary.  So is the part about being irrational and divisive, filed under illogical.   But technology has none of that, it has no use of religion, gender bias, race discrimination or politics.

The irony is we want more technology and we want it to be smarter.  That regardless of human use, technology has intrinsic purpose and in order for it to perform, it must be allowed to flourish.   And so it exists without smiling.

iSmile. iPhone and iWonder…

What if there was a detour, where humans stopped and became a little teleological, just like our technology.

 

 

 

 

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Yesterday’s Tech Now

#Tech Study

Nostalgia.  That word aims to impress, as if every bit of our past is glorious.  Funny, one person’s account of the way it was, seems fairly different from another person’s account.   And those days, really were College Daze.

Technology is changing our perception, what was won’t be and what is, isn’t ours to reminisce over.   Without such strong convictions, our traditions will seem less important.  The past will be less impressive and old authority less oppressive.

The games we play are changing us, free of religion and politics, we ‘re allowed the joy of winning a trillion jewels as we embark onto the next level.  There seems an infinite amount of possibilities and we’re neither bored nor frustrated by this; which is strange.   Stranger still, is the fact that we practice at these games without being made to or told that we must.

We become deeply engaged in an activity that requires time, concentration and we pay to play.  Sure the payment isn’t monetary, so we’re less worried.  But to think, so many finger swipes and so much data, from IP addresses to our likes and dislikes.  Data gathered stored and analyzed, while we play Jewel Hunt!

That’s powerful stuff.

And one day, that stuff will tell our story.  The games we played, what we liked and disliked and who were our friends.  All of this information will be preserved and live-streamed to us,  on a platform called “Our Memories”.    Telling us what we struggled to forget, our stories manipulated into ready fill order:  “iNostalgic”.

We are a changing society, today’s mores and values have replaced our ancestor’s principled beliefs.   So curated arts, culture, and education that was once spoon fed will be outdated.  It’ll be replaced by new inventions, new research and opened to new interpretation.  Long ago vetted information will now be less useful, but technology can’t protect us from ourselves.

Ironically, to enjoy the good, like the orange glow of an Autumn afternoon, we might have to admit the human mind’s ability to filter our memories is positive.  There’s pleasantry associated with remembering the regal day, without the total recall of the argument that preceded the moment, that left him alone, seated in a picture window depicted in a print by Norman Rockwell.   Mercifully, emotions like pain aren’t remembered verbatim.

The Digital Age will have no boundaries, and our memories will be streamed to us intact.  Yours will look eerily similar to mine and mine to his.   Hopefully it’ll be worthwhile, like watching a replay of your favorite sport.  By watching it, perhaps we’ll discern what we did right, what we did wrong and what we could do better.   And then like the games we play, we can practice to get rewards and maybe even reach the next level.

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Filed under Baby boomers, Gender Equality, tech, technology

The Pursuit of Smarty Pants

#smarty pants d

Smarty pants!  Not so long ago that label was reserved for sarcasm and usually accompanied by some form of bullying.   It wasn’t exactly an endearment that made you the “Big Girl On Campus”

But what if?

Much of what’s happening in our digital world happens so fast, that before it’s completely absorbed, we’re onto the next thing.   What was once generally accepted as taboo, is added to our “To Do” lists.   And jumbled together, what’s derogatory is the new compliment!   Hello.

When it won’t fit neatly into our compartments, we stuff the data into storage space.   Renting clouds is like that, from standard to hybrids.  They’ve become a necessity, and what we once paid for, is now free, a supposed perk of disruptive innovation.

But remember Blockbuster Videos, the store that rented out our favorite games and videos?  It was quickly replaced by Netflix’s streaming videos on-demand.  And once upon a time, we didn’t blink twice to be charged for an email account, that too became passé.   Acronyms can be like that, easily replacing an “L”  for an “A”, making us laugh out loud at  America On-Line.

Still, deep down inside, we know that nothing is free.   We’ve simply exchanged one thing for something else, the latest commodity, our personal data.

Facebook recently had a judgment made against them, by the EU court in Europe, on a privacy case.   A case with such huge ramifications that it’s most likely a triple threat- dare, of the mammoth size, where there’ll be no clear winners.

It seems that the digital world doesn’t turn in a predetermined static-free orbit, after all.  But instead it’s in a constant state of flux.    Laws written fifteen years ago have become out dated, transcontinental e-commerce that was once all the rage, is now the brunt of outrage.   And it’s hard to predict which way it goes.

Because technology just keeps moving, incapable of feeling, it’s capable of separating good people from their data.   The word open platform doesn’t always lead to bug fixes, or great results.   Sometimes, it leads to new ways to discover breaches to be breached.

And budgets spent to fix what’s discovered, breaks relations and leads to distrust and clandestine meetings.  A cycle, that the Internet Of Things might avert, because its capable of firewalling data in that machine to machine way, without being paranoid.   Making ulterior motives apparent and functioning more efficiently.

But first… we all put our pants on the same way, one leg at a time.

As we pull our digital pants on, we’ll know what data is collected and dispersed.   Data collected will be gathered by how hard we pull today versus yesterday.  Whether that movement was swift or jerky; and if our grip around the waist band was strong or weak.  And was the fit loose or snug?  Things like body temperature and amino acid level inside, read by an inseam.  Our diet adjusted automatically, and accordingly.

Oh, and the best part will be the multi-functional zipper.  The head-end that communicates to the internet of things– Our refrigerator and our coffee machines.  Simultaneously turned on, preferred sources of information will stream in real-time.   Our location, the day’s weather, morning traffic and news.  The pharmacy notified, pre-written prescriptions filled and the car’s heated seats, turned on.

While there’s a lot that might go Topsy-Turvy, there’s an awful lot that might just go right.   The true pursuit of happiness in a pair of smarty pants!

Nicely done, aging in place.

 

 

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Filed under Big Data, Internet of Things, tech, technology, Wearables