Archive for the 'potential' Category

Mr. Rogers did not contribute to American narcissism.

July 14, 2007

Professor Chance picked on the wrong American Icon in his rant against narcissism.  Students that try to argue up their grades are really a tradition.  It’s nothing new.  Rudeness, vulgarity and disrespect are definitely societal problems.  However, Fred Rogers was part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Mr. Rogers didn’t hurt anyone by telling them they are special.  My thought on it is that it was more about people having intrinsic value as human beings.  Let me be specific: if people have intrinsic value, then they should not be abused or harassed or tortured or killed.  To me, it’s not about entitlement.  That’s an entirely different social ill.  Fred Rogers was far deeper than that.  His message was more global.  Look at how people treat each other across the world.  Look at the violence.  Rogers is so far removed from the petty social ills that Chance discusses, it’s not even the same universe.

Fred Rogers was a humanitarian who consistently worked toward furthering the causes he believed in his entire life.  He is a giant among those who would help others.  Frankly, if you are going to try to criticize him, you had better have better ammo than some glib accusation.  Then again, attacking an icon is a great way to get attention.

I have always believed that you need to work for what you get in life.  So I am no fan of the spoiled.  However, blaming a guy who is probably as close to a modern day saint that we’ve had in the last 50 years for negatively impacting our society is crazy.  Also, let’s look at another theme of his show: respect.  Each character, each person, everyone on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood treats everyone else with respect.  Do we have too much respect for one another today?  Also, in addition to teaching that people have intrinsic value, Rogers taught that you should recognize those who help you through life.  This is from Wikipedia:

“Daytime Emmys, the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Rogers. The following is an excerpt from Esquire Magazine‘s coverage of the gala, written by Tom Junod:

Mister Rogers went onstage to accept the award — and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence.”[5]

And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, ‘I’ll watch the time.” There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. And so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds — and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly, “May God be with you,” to all his vanquished children.”

That is about as far away from narcissism as one can get.

I submit to you that Rogers telling you you’re special is a voice of hope in a very violent and hostile world.  Rogers was a man of great humility and he commanded respect by his devotion to humanity.  Plus he turned me on to Cardigan sweaters and occasion specific shoes.  In all seriousness, Fred Rogers deserves more than Professor Chance’s criticism.

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Cars of the Future.

June 22, 2006

In 50 or 60 years, when computers with cameras and sonar and GPS systems can drive cars with fewer accidents and fatalities than people, the interior of the automobile will look completely different than it does today.  From the future compact to minivan, cars will be places where we no longer lose time to travel.  The steering wheel and controls will be gone.  Seats can oppose each other and there will be at least a table for passengers to use and all the latest entertainment or work equipment will come standard.

For larger vehicles, everything will be modular.  You’ll be able to change from bed to kitchen to desk to treadmill.  Whatever you would do normally, you’ll be able to do while hurtling down the interstate at 80 miles per hour.  It will be far better than public transportation, because you’ll have all your home comforts or office necessities in the vehicle. 

Vehicles with bathrooms will be far more common than today.  Eight-hour night trips will be very popular.  Imagine packing your car then setting the GPS and climbing into a very comfortable bed.  You would get a great night sleep and arrive at your destination.

Parking in big cities would be different as well.  You could tell the car to park itself someplace cheap and be back by a certain time.  Or you might tell it to just drive around until you call it later in the evening.  Cars will become the ultimate party accessory when you don’t have to worry about drunk driving.  You can have a full bar and limo-like module pop out for bar hopping complete with disco ball.

Sure, it will be difficult to give up control of your car to machines, but the payoff in time is huge.  Time in the future will be even more precious than it is now.  And I’m sorry, but no flying cars until we can control the weather.  It will be at least another 150 years.

Digitizing Your Life.

May 20, 2006

On the plane back from Las Vegas last week, I was reading the June 2006 Popular Science and I came across Michael Myser's article entitled "You'll Enjoy Total Recall."  Myser discussed Gordon Bell and how he's been recording his whole life digitally for his MyLifeBits project.  The article left me open-mouthed and gave me one of those "hey, I've thought of doing that before" moments.  So I dug deeper.  Much of this concept comes from a guy named Vannevar Bush who wrote in 1945 about his Memex concept of supplementing one's memory.  Bell has worn a prototype camera called a SenseCam that takes thousands of pictures a day of whatever he's involved in.  Presumably, there is a microphone as well.  He's also manually digitized books and photos and other things concerning his life. 

I recommend reading some of the files associated with these links and watching the video"MyLifeBits a personal database for everything" is particularly interesting.  Not only is this a system for capturing all the events of one's life, it's also an organizational system.  It takes the data coming in from cameras, microphones, keyloggers, screen captures and what have you and automatically meta tags it so you don't have to.  The goal is to avoid having an individual become his or her own file clerk, curator or biographer.  The key is being able to review the information you capture quickly and easily.  If you can't do that, what's the point?

While this technology is thrilling, it is also plain scary.  How many things do you do every day that you don't want to be recorded?  I can safely say, in my case, every single trip to the bathroom.  Plus, if you do work that is confidential, this is practically impossible to use.  Loved ones aren't going to be too crazy about it either; especially the ones you go to bed with at night.  Law enforcement would love for everyone to wear a SenseCam.  While it would be the end of privacy, it would also solve a lot of crime. 

Something like this is coming, however.  It's inevitable.  Microsoft is funding MyLifeBits and the SenseCam.  I have strong yet mixed feelings about it.  It would be very useful to someone who is as forgetful as I am, but it would also be invasive.  I'm willing to bet that just as we see soccer moms with Borg like blue-tooth headsets flashing in their ears, so we will see them soon, smiling at Starbucks with SenseCams around their necks.  Smile for the camera, honey!

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On Turning 40.

May 11, 2006

It happens to me on Saturday.  My thirties exit and my 40s begin.  My life is statistically half over and I can finally begin my mid-life crisis in earnest.  My friend told me that her 40s were the best years of her life.  She said that you enjoy financial comfort and reasonably good health.  She tells me I can enjoy life like never before.

I certainly hope so.  I can honestly say that I age kicking and screaming.  I do not go quietly into my good night, I will rage, rage against the dying of the light, or the forming of wrinkles and the graying of hair.  Even though I am a guy, I will take advantage of all the tools of modern science to fool myself (and maybe others) into thinking that I am not getting any older.

I am lucky in a lot of ways (knock on wood).  I am in good health, I have a good job that I enjoy, I have a great family and I don’t want for anything.  Things could be a lot worse.  Though I approach this milestone unwillingly, it is far better than the alternative.

So what do I want to do in the next 10 years?  I want to continue being creative (podcasting, writing, speaking).  I want to write a book.  I want to continue to excel in my career and I want to continue to travel.  I want to try my hardest to achieve whatever potential this mind and body have and my last hurrah at youth count for something. 

I’m off to a good start; I plan on making the second half of my life even better than the first.

Topics for Friday Night Party Line, May 12, 2006.

May 9, 2006

It could be a banner week for FNPL.  We stand to have as many as 6 guests, 50/50 guys and gals.  I want to say thanks and give a link back to K at A Yoga Coffee Outlook.  She's going to be one of our guests this Friday and it's her first time on a podcast.

Here are this week's topics:

1.  The summer blockbuster movie schedule is fast upon us.  There's lots of mutant and superhero action coming and plenty of comedy and adventure too.  What movies are you looking forward to this summer? 

2.  Do you do any sort of exercise or physical activity that requires training or special skills?  How did you come to take it up?  What makes you keep doing it?

3.  I had the occasion to see Itzhak Perlman play this week.  In my mind, he defines the term virtuoso.  He takes his natural gifts and fulfills their potential.  What examples of virtuosity have you seen in your experiences?  Is it ultimately better to be a master of something or to be merely good at many things?

4.  Do you ever think humans will be able to stop the aging process?  Would you take advantage of it if we had the technology?  Would you have surgery to make yourself look younger?  How far would you go?

5.  Few people would run their lives based on astrology, yet just as we have fun opening fortune cookies, most of us know our our astrological signs.  Some of us may even know a bit more.  Do you ever say "that explains a lot" when you find out someone's sign?  Do you read your horoscope at least every once in a while?  Why does astrology still have enough pull today to appear in the newspaper?

6.  On NewScientist.com, there's an article about a new robot suit "that could help older people or those with disabilities to walk or lift heavy objects."  This suit is sleeker and less cumbersome than some of the bulky things that have been available in the past.  Is the age of the iron man here?  Have you seen the YouTube video of the guy with these spring stilts on his feet jumping around Las Vegas?  It's just another example. 

7.  There have been many TV shows based on animals (Mr. Ed, Flipper) and many commercials based on animals (Geccos, Tuna).  What is your favorite TV animal and why?

8.  There's an article from the AP this week that says women can look at a guy's face and tell which guy is interested in becoming a father.  Then they can also which ones they are interested in for "short term romantic partners."  Is this real?

9.  Generally speaking, women live longer than men.  I have an article that claims to know why.  Why do you think that is?

10.  I put up a link in my del.icio.us to peekvid.com.  It's television shows that you can watch online.  They have 24, Boston Legal, The Daily Show even Thundercats!  I'm not sure that that site is particularly legal, but there are lots of sites that are.  I have a computer hooked up to a television upstairs.  Is the average person going to start watching TV from his or her computers with content delivered from the internet? 

Extrapolation.

April 11, 2006

 

How much of the universe is right before us of which we are unaware?  When cavemen froze to death while sitting next to flint and wood, it was from ignorance of the meaning of their surroundings.  There was a time when coal had no value and uranium was just another rock in the earth.  I often wonder what else in our environment would be of great value to us if we only knew how to use it.  It’s like if a person from the future came back in time and said:  “You live near Lake Erie?  It’s one of the greatest resources on the planet!”

Or take all the pictures of Mars, Europa, Titan and the other bodies in our solar system.  There may be obvious clues in these pictures of life happening that we simply don’t understand.  If we knew what to look for, answers would be obvious.  If we could better extrapolate what is going on in the universe, we could pick up the pace of discovery.  People have speculated that extremophile bacteria could live in the clouds of Venus or even Jupiter.  We just don’t know what to look for.  We don’t know what we don’t know.

The idea applies in practically every branch of science.  What is basic to us now would have been miraculous 100 years ago.  A century from now, we will know so much more about the universe than we do now, our current knowledge will seem childlike.  Part of the problem is our limited five senses.  We can only perceive so much and it takes us time to make connections among the things we observe.

How much knowledge does it take to change human behavior or make the human condition a bit better?  Figuring out fire kept a bunch of people warmer and made food taste a little better.  The whole uranium thing certainly had its effects too.  The truth is before us if we are not too dumb to see it.  We are probably staring at the next big thing with the same spaced-out, open-mouthed, slack-jawed look that the first guy who saw oil bubbling from the ground had.  Eventually, though, we got it right with oil and someone else pushed the slack jawed guy out of the way and put a rig over the well.  Give us time and we’ll get it, eventually.

In Defense of Origami.

March 12, 2006

Engaget has trashed it on their podcast and even CNN has said it’s not cool! Many people here have expressed a low opinion of it as well. I maintain, however, that these people just don’t get what this Microsoft device truly is: the first companion computer. Oh sure, we have our Treos and Sidekicks and Blackberries, but what we don’t have are the computers in William Gibson’s novels. These are the computers that have a human interface and are with us always. Companion computers will take applications like Google and Microsoft Outlook and allow us to use them, Terminator-like, in real time as we look at people and objects in the world around us.

The aforementioned cell phones have computer qualities, but they are still special purpose devices. What Microsoft is trying to give us here is something more flexible that can be of aid to us at any time day or night. It is the first step in a wearable computer that people will come to rely upon as an extension of themselves.

What then are the Origami killer apps?
-A body strap so you can wear it (without sacrificing fashion).
-Monitor glasses that don’t make you look like Locutus of Borg.
-A real human interface
-A portable, rechargeable 24 hour a day power source.

This computer really is something new, not just device that’s in-between your cell and your laptop. If it is successful, it will subsume both of those devices and become essential to daily function and something we take for granted.

Final Word on “Snow Crash.”

February 15, 2006

I finished reading Snow Crash and I am still amazed by it. It’s the mark of a great book that it makes good reading years past its release date. It really started reminding me of Infinite Jest with the plot line of the bit map that makes people crazy. I am more than a little happy that I can now say Infinite Jest is a little bit derivative as it was written five years after Snow Crash. It’s central theme concerns a video tape that is so amusing that it makes people crazy. Stephenson gets a bad rap because people say that he wraps his books up too quickly. Those critics should read more David Foster Wallace. 1088 pages and NO ENDING. Not that he cares, but I still have not forgiven him for that.

I enjoyed the theme of religion-as-virus and as something that has evolved over time. It reminded me of my Western Culture classes in college when we learned that Jesus wasn’t the first religious figure to die for his people. There truly is nothing new under the sun. Modern religions borrow heavily from ancient ones.

Sometimes, I wonder, too, if there aren’t people who can hack into other people’s minds. Or, at least have some capacity that gives them an immense advantage over others. Take Warren Buffet for example. Has there ever been an investor in the history of humanity who had his knack? Doesn’t he seem to have a superhuman ability to figure out what to invest in? Is he a mind-hacker?  All of this heavy thought is wrapped up in a slam-bang action cyberpunk thriller. What could be better than that?     

 

 

Snow Crash

February 8, 2006

“… a scattering of schizophrenic first worlders who have long ago burned their brains to ash in the radiant heat of their own imaginings.” Neal Stephenson, “Snow CrashI told my friend that I had my choice tonight of losing myself on the Internet or reading about people who lose themselves on the Internet. “Snow Crash” is a great book and I’m committing a cardinal sin by talking about it before I’m done reading it. The story of how I came upon this book is mildly interesting though. J Allard was interviewed in the January 2006 issue of CPU magazine. When asked why his Xbox Live gamertag is “Hiro Protagonist,” he responded, that it was “more about identifying with Neal’s dream. Neal’s vision for the metaverse—how people would communicate, compete, collaborate, and use technology—was excruciatingly similar to the dream I had held and wanted to build… ‘Snow Crash’ has been ‘required reading’ for many of the teams I’ve built, and it felt fitting to honor Neal by making Hiro my gamertag.”

This is pretty damn good for a book that was written in 1992. It inspired the man who created the Xbox. How can you read that and not let out a Keanu inspired “Whoa.”

Bumble

February 7, 2006

Let me tell you what happens when I over-extend myself. When it’s to the point of actual exhaustion, it’s easy, I fall into a confused sleep and get better. However, when I am working and it’s the middle of the day, and there is no couch available, I get mental rebellion. I start asking myself questions like “are we just blobs of stuff that dream primitively about base future desires and perceive the present haphazardly?” “Do our dim senses only slowly give us lame, less than real time input to a brain that remembers only a fraction of what happens to it in a sad misguided way?” “Is life a bumble?” “Are the best of us the ones who screw up the least?” “Worse yet, are the people who live the best lives separated from those who live the worst only by the amount of daily pain they endure?”This is grounded in reality. I’ve been thinking lately about experiments that show that we decide to do things before the conscious mind is involved. I’ve also been thinking about the input rate of the eyes and ears to the brain (ears get info there much faster). So my brain keeps asking questions: “Is human achievement much different from ant achievement from a deep time view?” “Is it fair to the ants, since they never had bombs?”This is what happens when I let complexity mess with fun. This is what happens when I have outgrown the pure capacity to experience joy and muddle it up with complex thoughts that are really holes in that joy. Pure fun and pure joy are not impeded by a worldview. I have to believe that pure fun is innocent and consuming and is best undiluted. It is a gift that is best embraced without guilt or reserve.And pure fun is clearly what I need right now. And maybe some sleep.