Categories
Poetry Social Media Tech

Permanent voyeurism

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The exhibitionist plays her role and lives up to the internet’s stage of expectations. Like robots, we feign surprise at the latest occurrence of routine deja vu. 
 
We walk into our own cameras to take selfies while we move on camera recorded from CCTV above. Even the faintest nook can’t escape the ubiquitous photograph. The invisible fence amplifies a sea of caginess.

Inspection is self-inflicted

Says director Gus Hosein of Privacy International: “if the police wanted to know what was in your head in the 1800s, they would have to torture you. Now they can just find it out from your devices.”
 
The maw of Orwellian watchability is here, in our pockets and from above. The cameras render us into thoughtless lemmings of time.
 
We are the watched, watching the watchers survey conspicuous lands.
Categories
Tech

Drone to the rescue

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via Little Ripper

Lifeguards deployed a drone to save two struggling teenage swimmers stranded in rough seas off the coast of Australia.

This is apparently the first time drone technology carrying a flotation device has rescued swimmers.

While drones are commonly known for selfies (i.e. dronies), Amazon deliveries, firing missiles, and spying but they can also do some good too. The company behind the technology, Little Ripper, developed the drones to monitor sharks for coastal safety.

The drone also recorded the entire event which you can see below.

 

Categories
Apps Social Media Tech

Win back your attention by turning your screen gray 📱⬜👀

The variety of colors on our smartphone screens pop like candy. As advertiser Bruce Barton wrote in his 1925 book In The Man Nobody Knows, “The brilliant plumage of the bird is color advertising addressed to the emotions.”

We tap into Instagram, scroll through a few photos, and return to the home screen to bounce off to other apps. And then we repeat the process again in a mindless fashion.

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After a while, we start to lose all conscious brain power. We fly between apps like we’re hitting buttons at the casino. The variable rewards keep us spinning in a ludic loop. Technology undermines our attention by bombarding our senses with a surfeit of stimuli that lights up like a Christmas tree.

Turn it gray. That’s right: we need to dull our screens to bore our senses. Turning the phone grayscale doesn’t make it dumb, it just makes it less attractive. Writes Nellie Bowles in the New York Times:

I’m not a different person all of a sudden, but I feel more in control of my phone, which now looks like a tool rather than a toy. If I unlock it to write an email, I’m a little less likely to forget the goal and tap on Instagram. If I’m waiting in line for coffee, this gray slab is not as delightful a distraction as it once was.

Want to give your thumbs a break and regain some attention? Study the instructions on Lifehacker on how to turn your screen grayscale.

Categories
Science Video

Are we living in a computer simulation?

Perhaps what we see isn’t what we get. Instead, life is just computer code and humans are information.

So does a simulated life mean that we can live forever? Says theoretical physicist James Gates: “If the simulation hypothesis is valid, then we open the door to eternal life and resurrection and things that formally have been discussed in the realm of religion. As long as I have a computer that’s not damaged, I can always re-run the program.”

We are conscious automata

If our lives are predetermined and robotic, surely there’s a way to confuse the puppeteer? MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark offers some sage advice:

“If you’re not sure at the end of the night whether you’re simulated or not, my advice to you is to go out there and live really interesting lives and do unexpected things, so the simulators don’t get bored and shut you down.”

To bear with uncertainty is to be certain that there remains chaos undulating in the computer code of the cosmos.

Categories
Tech

Make it new

“Reality is an activity of the most august imagination,” wrote poet Wallace Stevens.

What we call reality emerged from human ingenuity. So if we can take today’s tools and use them for good, we’ll naturally have a better future.

Instead, we are building technology that paints a future dystopia. Hackers hijacked Facebook, Google, and Twitter and filled them with fake news during the 2016 election. What did we think was going to happen with free-flowing information?

“The art of debugging a computer program is to figure out what you really told the computer to do instead of what you thought you told it to do,” quipped Andrew Singer, director of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois. Meanwhile, Amazon is replacing its workers with bots.

While we can expect software manipulation to continue, there are still reasons to be hopeful. As Tim O’Reilly points out, we should be looking at ways to work with artificial intelligence to fuel productivity and innovation.

We have to make it new. That’s a wonderful line from Ezra Pound that’s always stuck in my brain: “Make it new.” It’s not just true in literature and in art, it’s in our social conscience, in our politics. We have look at the world as it is and the challenges that are facing us, and we have to throw away the old stuck policies where this idea over here is somehow inescapably attached to this other idea. Just break it all apart and put it together in new ways, with fresh ideas and fresh approaches.

We have a choice: we can deny optimism and permit darkness, or we can build a brighter future. For every time Google chooses to be evil, or Facebook invades our privacy in an attempt to make stockholders happy, there’s another rocket Elon Musk is building that takes us from New York to Shanghai in 39 minutes.

There’s a lot to be hopeful for, as experiments should continue to be encouraged. The real question is how we can create a society for rapid technological advancement and reflexive sociopolitical change. How do ‘we make it new’ without throwing out the stuff that made it right in the first place?

Categories
Psychology Tech

A brain without a body

Artificial intelligence is like a brain without a body. 

Instead of billions of neurons, computers contain bits and bytes of varying voltage levels so they can do stuff like provide directions, select and edit our best photos, or beat humans at chess.

Deep Blue beat Kasparov not by matching his insight and intuition but by overwhelming him with blind calculation. Thanks to years of exponential gains in processing speed, combined with steady improvements in the efficiency of search algorithms, the computer was able to comb through enough possible moves in short enough time to outduel the champion. 

Nicholas Carr, A Brutal Intelligence: AI, Chess, and the Human Mind
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Machines contain faster processors than human brains. Even the most effective Ritalin in the world would leave humans trailing behind its fellow instrument. 

The irony, of course, is that AI is a factory of nothingness without human programming. Computers are ‘competent without comprehension,’ chugging along like a human does on automatic pilot.

If anything, we need to augment humans with machines. Thanks to Elon Musk, we’re nearly there.

We’re a brain chip away from the computer-powered brain, scampering closer to superhuman cyborgs. 

Becoming the tools of our tools, the brain with a body comes back to finish the chess game first.