Sunday, July 9, 2017

Turning Off The NOISE!

I woke up from a dream this morning  ... a kind of nightmare actually, only it was after a short early morning nap. Maybe its the unrelenting heat out here in the desert. In the dream I was traveling with friends in a Spanish speaking country. We were on a tour, I think, and for some reason I got parted from them. They told me to "call" them when I was ready to come back and I wandered happily about until I got tired. It was hot and dusty and I was ready to return to them. When I went to call them my phone wouldn't work. All it could do was play movies, some in English, some Spanish and others I had no clue where they came from. Try as I might the phone wouldn't shut off, reboot ... nothing. It did things I never knew it could do but it couldn't make a call. I gave up and cried. The people around me tried to help, lent me their phones, but I realized I didn't even know where my friends were. It was hopeless. Then, finally, I woke up!
  In a way, this dream and events of the morning created the perfect storm. Courtesy of Dilbert, this Sundays cartoon featured a robot threatening to be happier than us ... until Dilbert adjusts his programming making him as miserable as many of us are. I had watched Joel Osteen who encouraged us to "turn off the noise" noting, correctly I think, that bad vibes, cell phones, miserable people, the daily news with breathless tragedies and events drag us down. Last night I had been watching a TV movie about a workaholic that just couldn't seem to put his phone down at the expense of friends and family. I noticed even in Hong Kong couples on dates didn't talk to each other but with heads bent were looking at their cell phones as they tried to eat.
   Then this morning I had been talking, actually texting, with my friend in China about the iPhone after he asked me if I had heard about the iPhone 8. Now that he is back in China we can only use FaceTime on our phones sporadically as his wi-fi isn't strong enough at times. We do text though. 
   I related to him hearing about the first iPhone in January of 2007 at the yearly MacWorld in San
The first iPhone
Francisco. Rumors were in the air and being convinced to go, had gone to my first MacWorld with a friend.  Walking in, just as Steve Jobs finished his keynote speech we were greeted by a gigantic image of the new iPhone. I was disbelieving that something like that would ever reach the marketplace, then standing in line ... #222, June 29, 2007 at the Glendale Galleria Apple store and getting that phone. 
   The day after the announcement we heard David Pogue, the head tech guru at the NY Times, talk to an incredulous audience at MacWorld that this, the first iPhone, would be the definitive device of the 21st century. "This," he said, "would change everything."
   Texting to my friend I began to realize how much had happened in the past 10 years. I went to Europe a few months later taking it with me. The AT&T guy at the store said don't worry, your iPhone won't work over there. How wrong he was. It DID work and in all my trips abroad, even to Egypt and Jordan, better than it ever did here. Riding the subway to the hotel in Copenhagen I followed the blue dot to the correct station with a crowd of onlookers that somehow knew exactly what I was holding in my hand. Standing in front of New Harbor (new in about 1629) I asked another tourist if they would take a photo of my ex and myself. About 20 volunteered. I was having a ball with it until a friend here texted me about the horror tales of those getting $1,000 phone bills by using the phones overseas. AT&T still didn't get it years later. iPhones work just fine and as I wrote earlier this year the photos they take are fantastic and look magnificent when printed in a book. When you own a smartphone, you literally hold the world in your hands.
   Yes, the iPhone and its technology and spinoffs from that technology has transformed our world. In fact, rather than at a walk, it is now running and soon, many of us fear, racing us to new and uncharted territories, ones that we may not be able to understand or even absorb. More noise. In my texts I began to realize that the US, like China and Russia, have elected governments that hunger for the old days ... days many of us realize will never, ever return leaving us fearful of the future.
   The electric, driverless truck saves on so many levels.
   No pollution at the polluted ports, no workers that

   have to work 20 hours a day ... but then NO jobs either!
   German automakers just revealed work on big rigs that will never have a human onboard. The prediction here is that in 5 years, all long haul trucks will be driven by software guided robots replacing the need of about 1.85 million drivers. Über is experimenting with driverless taxi's in Philadelphia and so far, there haven't been any serious accidents or deaths. 
  EVERY industry is threatened. Volvo announced that in two years every car they make will be either electric or a hybrid. I drove a Tesla Model S that in some versions is the fastest production car on the planet. At $100,000 it's cheap compared to say a $500,000 Ferrari or $2 million Bugatti Veyron. Tesla is building charging stations all over the country and more come on line each and every day.
   Governor Brown raised gasoline taxes to rebuild our infrastructure here in California because at his bidding we did too good a job buying cars that got better gas milage or hybrids and electrics that used much less gas, a tax cash cow. The public paid for his dreams, not once but twice.
   The smart home is next from key locks, to refrigerators that we can look into at the store to see if there is anything else we need even if they told us what was already there, to cameras watching our babies, deliveries and the thieves that steal deliveries, turn lights on or off a world away ... you get the picture. The control is there, in your hand.
   FoxCon, a huge manufacturer from Taiwan, that makes cell phones, tablets and other things digital is looking to build new factories here. What the cities and states courting them don't seem to understand, these factories will be filled with robots who don't need breaks, health care, can work in the dark and cold, 24/7. Stung with repeated reports of human worker violations their existing factories in China are replacing humans with robots!
The evolution of robots
   Will the world, as Issac Asimov wrote in his FOUNDATION series, reject and literally outlaw robots and the AI (artificial intelligence) technology that goes with it? His original trilogy, that he built on for years, talked about humans, their fear of robots and the extremes they went to outlawing them and crushing anyone who even dreamed of such a device. It was science fiction in the 50's, suddenly it is reality today. In fact, we were served a hot steaming dish by a robot in Shenzhen, China in May of this year!
   Another big industry that may fade away is, gasp, the automotive industry, as we know it. Predictions are that NO ONE WILL OWN A CAR anymore. Using your smart phone, you page a car, it takes you, driverless of course, where you want to go and your phone pays for the trip not unlike an Über trip today. No money changes hands ... everything is digital. In fact, it might be a much cheaper form of transportation. Just think, no purchases of a car, no gas bills, maintenance, insurance, just pay for the time you need it! Now the garage can be turned into a man cave with a robot bartender!
   We are rushing into the BRAVE NEW WORLD that Huxley predicted but could never have imagined. How we deal with it is, literally, in our hands. Here are Asimov's three laws:

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

   So, the question remains ... how do we turn off or at least turn down this whirlwind of change, this roaring that seems by the day to be growing ... growing louder? We as a society, as humans on earth better find a way or the life that we have will be torn apart increasingly with random acts of violence. We hate change and yet, as history has shown us, it is inevitable. Possibly, Asimov had it right. Maybe we should insert instead of robot the word human in his three laws of robotics...

A human may not injure another human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A human should must obey orders given fairly to it by another human being unless it conflicts with the First Law. A human must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First of Second Law.

Of course, with variations, isn't this what great prophets and teachers have tried to teach us all along?

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always have. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...

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