Tag Archives: differences

The Overlords

“Jerry you cannot do this!  You shouldn’t even think it!”

One man gripped tightly on to another’s arm trying to keep him away from the building ahead.  He was whispering through clenched teeth. At the same time his head swivelled back and forth desperately hoping no one was aware of them.

But they were observed.

The building in question was not imposing.  It was a century old structure with faded bricks and a sagging porch.  But if you looked very closely you would see incongruities. The lights above the front door were shiny and bright.  They also seemed a bit large for the task.  Were they more than just lights? There was no handle on the beautiful wooden door that guarded the entrance to the building.  And if you managed to get close to the windows you would realize they weren’t real.

What was real was the panic on Edward’s face.

“Please stop Jerry, we can’t do this without you!”

Something got through to Jerry.  He stopped.  For a moment he paused.  He appeared confused, unsure.  Then he quickly turned to his friend and dragged him away from the frightening building.  After some distance and out of sight of everyone, he spoke.

“Edward I am so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.  I don’t know what would have happened if I had made it to the door. Thanks to all that is good, you stopped me.”  Jerry was quiet but his face spoke volumes, he was afraid.

He stood beside his friend but Eddie was also afraid.  They had been seen.

With one understanding look between the two friends, they stood and without a glance towards the source of their fear, they moved further away.

In time they rested but still they didn’t speak.  Occasionally they grew wary as official looking vehicles passed by.  But the streets were quiet, too quiet.  People were staying indoors, away from Their notice.

In time the two men approached a small wooden building.  This one had a handle on the front door and its windows were real.  Several people could be seen through the glass, a few were crying.

With the front door safely closed and the blinds drawn, there was a collective sigh.  They were safe. Were they?

Jerry sat down and placed his head in his hands.  His shoulders shook as he silently wept.  The others stood by, uncomfortable.  People shifted their feet, clenched and unclenched their fists.  No one would look at another.  They waited.  Edward too sat down and he too waited.

“We did this.”  The voice that spoke was muffled, strained.  It was Jerry.  With a sigh he sat back in his chair, his hands dropped to his side.  He was defeated. He repeated his statement:

“We did this.”

He didn’t shout or throw his arms in the air.  It was a simple statement, delivered succinctly.

“We did this.  We wanted self-driving cars and smart homes.  We wanted computers to anticipate all our needs and fulfill them. Cash-less grocery stores and automated gas pumps.  We didn’t want to speak to each other.  We wanted to have control of everything through our phones.  But we didn’t want to actually do anything.  We didn’t need to think anymore, there’s an APP for that!

Jerry’s voice started to reflect his concerns.  As his voice grew louder, people moved further back from him.  Except for Eddie. He never moved.

“We put ‘chips’ in all out appliances.  Microchips are in our coffee makers, our watches, our door bells.  All those cameras we have to catch the bad guys are watching all of us and not by human beings!

Spittle formed at the corner of his mouth.  His eyes were manic.

“Planes and trains, banks, the stock-market.  The AI has control of it all and we created it.  The Artificial Intelligence is watching and listening. We are not alone.  We did this!  AI is in everything!”

There was a sudden silence.  No one spoke, no one moved.

Edward moved.  He stood; his shoulders still bowed.  As he raised his head a smile formed on his lips.

“Even me.”

 

 

The end

 

 

 

 

You Want to Do What???

I had a dream once that I was held prisoner in a car racing down the highway at extremely high speeds and there was no one behind the wheel. Ok, it was a nightmare. Good morning world, it may be true.

Put on your thinking cap for a moment and try to imagine how you would feel in this scenario:  you are driving down the highway at 100 kilometers (60 miles) an hour.  You casually glance to the truck on your right (or left) and realize there is no one behind the wheel. To those of you old enough to remember, this would feel like a Twilight Zone episode. It is not.

Some intrepid souls have decided that it would be cool for an 80,000-pound 18-wheel truck to barrel down the highway, or through your town, with nobody but electronics guiding its path. Not cool!

What started this mind meandering? I recently watched a news article about the future of long-haul trucking. There is a group of people that believe it would be beneficial to have those very large, very powerful trucks controlled by a microchip. A chip. Those of you who have followed my blog for a while will know my feelings on the concept of Artificial Intelligence. Not a fan. Let’s face it, we’re still trying to figure out our own intelligence, what gives us the hubris to think that we could mechanically create an artificial one? Does anyone remember Frankenstein?

We as human beings are fallible. Wonderful but fallible.  There is an idiot component to our psychological makeup that some people seem to embrace far too much. But we forgive their stupidity. We don’t try to eradicate this stupid gene, perhaps because we all have a small part of it within us. Let’s be honest, in our lives we’ve all done a few stupid things. Of course, I’m not going to admit to it and in my day there were no camera phones to document it. Thank goodness!

The concept of AI is appealing.  Think Star Trek.  As a tool, a resource, yes. Benevolent and under our control.  But running the whole show? It is a catch 22: People are corruptible and fallible; computers are hackable and emotionless. Neither is a perfect solution. A combination? Think Borg. Again, not a solution.  Here is a wild thought:  Let’s work on improving us, our minds, our skills, our cooperation.  Getting our products to market a little earlier is not worth the risk of becoming extinct. Or worse, redundant.

 

Lesson Learned

But is it?  As a species we have only been aware for a short time.  Archeology and anthropology are disciplines that delve into the scientific study of human activity.  I am sure some would say we have progressed amazingly fast but perhaps too fast.  We barely have time to understand our innovations before they are replaced by something better, faster, stronger . . .

In the seventies I wrote a poem called “In The Year Two Thousand”.  It was probably written for an English Class.  I don’t remember how it was received but it stayed with me.  Just a few lines:

We are playing with explosives

New technologies are so powerful

That they alone could abolish society

We are so excited by the next ‘new’ thing we don’t stop to question what we are doing.  That may be a mistake.  If your boat springs a leak, fix that before you invent a new propulsion system.

We have survived World Wars, pandemics, and terrorists’ attacks and we are still here. Why have we not fixed the issues that led to these problems?  Hatred, poverty, diseases are rampant and yet we are excited by a new phone.   A phone.  Yes, it does allow us to keep in touch with each other and it is a great tool.  I am afraid it has become a tether.

It really is only one section of society that is connected to the cell phone. A great deal of our world has neither the technology or the resources to support that technology. A great deal of our world is only concerned with living. They are concerned with finding enough food and shelter and safety. We have become complacent in far too much of our world. With complacency comes arrogance.

But we live in a world that is rich with resources. We live in a world that is wealthy beyond belief with raw talent. There is such an incredible beauty here right in front of us and yet too many focus solely on a 4 x 6” screen with pretty lights. Have we gotten our priorities skewed?

More than any other era, we are living in a time when almost anything is possible. Almost. There is one thing that seems to be lacking, the one thing that could change our world immeasurably, one thing.  And it is not something brand-new. It is not something exotic and rare. Will. One little word. The problem is it is more than just a word. It is action, it is a force and it is an idea. And we all know there is no greater weapon then an idea. Once it is entrenched it cannot be stopped.

But our will has been subverted by pretty shining things that distract us from the problems we need to fix.

Both young and old will have to brave

The pressures of the future

As we walk blinded into darkness…..

 

The Value of Failure

We’ve all done it. Some more than others of course. But it is part of the learning curve. Some successes were only possible because of the failure that preceded it. So why are we so afraid of it?

Nowadays it seems we don’t want to teach our children the value of failure. There’s a lovely story I refer to quite often about an older man taking his grandchild to a skating rink for the first time.  The man holds the young boy’s hands to get him on the ice and then throws his own arms into the air and says “fall down”. Of course, little boy does. The grandfather repeats this a few more times until the boy asks his grandfather ‘why?”. His reply surprised me when I first heard it: “It is to teach you not to be afraid to fall. You’ve already done it.”  Brilliant!

We fear what we do not know.  Our children need to understand that failure is something we all need to experience. If they don’t learn to deal with it when they are young, it can be devastating as an adult. Our lives are full of adversity. Along with failure and disappointment and confusion and…. It is also full of wonder and beauty and joy. There is a balance between the two that can be difficult to comprehend if you’re not exposed to it as a child.  I learned failure when I was young. My parents allowed me to fail, they didn’t shield me from it. But they were always there in the aftermath. That is good parenting.

I see too many young adults now who exhibit feelings of empowerment and entitlement. When someone disagrees with them, they are crushed and unable to handle it. They have lived charmed lives.  We all want what is best for our progeny. We want them to know only joy and success. But a false sense of security can before more damaging than the truth.

We inoculate our children against diseases that we know could be so incredibly harmful if they contracted them as adults. So why aren’t we doing the same thing with life. And how exactly do you measure success? Is it by how much money you have earned or awards you have received, or perhaps by the number people you have touched positively? I know what I use.

 

Who Shall I Kill Next?

 

Betty sipped her coffee hot

And watched the scene below

It was a busy market day

And the crowd was all aglow.

 

Children were laughing and running

Between the shopping stalls.

Mothers with prams were trying

To manoeuvre makeshift walls.

 

Nearby long-suffering fathers

Trying to look so cool.

Or at the very least

Not appear the fool.

 

Betty could see the thieves

Trying to work the crowd

They tried to be unnoticed

Their work was not allowed.

 

Then the Workers of the Night

Came looking for a score.

It looked like easy pickings

As they peaked around a door.

 

Now Betty had a code

That she followed to a T

She could not bring herself

To hurt a child you see.

 

So she would stay away

From the mothers that were there

The fathers on the other hand

Who said life was fair?

 

Though it might be easy

But it really was a thought

Men could be the target

She wondered if she ought.

 

She was getting bored.

Somebody had to die.

Should they be deserving

Or one who caught her eye?

 

The sun was setting for the night

Soon the light would dim

Work was needed to be done

It’s not a silly whim.

 

She heaved a sigh, and flexed her arms

And prepared to take a life.

Perhaps she’d use some poison

Or perhaps just with a knife . . .

 

 

Chapter One . . .

Continuity

 

“Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

Things always sound better in French. It is a beautiful, lyrical language. Unfortunately, my ability to speak it is stuck at the high school level. But there are some phrases that most people know.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

We see it again, and again, and again. There were wars when people had only just learned to walk. Then the Middle Ages, the industrial revolution, the modern age, the nuclear age. We can’t seem to stop fighting. Why? If you have something I want, I can just make another. And then we would both have what we want. We live in an age when almost everything is available. I don’t like the way you do things. So, I won’t watch. There’s always a solution to a problem if you’re willing to look for it. But it seems to be easier to hate.

Too many people live in the ‘now’ and are only capable of satisfying the needs they have in this second. They are not capable of seeing a future for us all. And that leads to shortsighted and selfish decisions that hurt other people.

I enjoy living in the ‘now’ and relishing each moment but I am also able to see a future and those working to ensure that the future is tenable. It is the ‘now’ that will dictate the ‘then’. Have I confused you yet?

We want our species to continue. We want all the other species on the planet to continue. We want the planet to continue. But we also want to maintain our lifestyle, to maintain a relationship, to keep getting the coffee we love. (Okay I don’t love coffee but it is the drink of the masses so it works in this context) We like continuity. But to maintain that continuity we must allow change.

I know it seems like I’ve going off my meds or I’m smoking something funny but this does make sense. In order to maintain the lives we have, we cannot sustain the practices we are doing which will ultimately cause a cessation of everything. Does that make sense?

I’m pretty sure I’m going to make it through my life without too much hardship but it is coming. Our children and our children’s children we’ll be paying the price for our arrogance. Will they have an air to breathe, clean water to drink? Will they have jobs, partnerships, ideals, hope?

By fixing up the present we can guarantee the future. Is that too much to ask?

Flotsam and Jetsam

 

Flotsam and Jetsam

Adrift on the sea

Some is deliberate

Others carefree.

 

Riding the currents

No motor or sail

Hoping for fair winds

And that peace will prevail.

 

We ride the waves

The seas are our world

For we are the Jetsam

And Flotsam unfurled.

 

Peace is the goal

As each wave hits its peak

Wonders appear

It is of this that we speak.

 

Together we soar

Or together we drown

Each brother and sister

Will never back down.

 

The future is bright

If we make a pact

Here in this moment

We just have to act!

 

 

Efficiency

 

I was in my kitchen the other day stirring together two powders to make my version of chai latte. I take a powdered chai and a powdered white-hot chocolate and mixed them together. It’s a little less spicy than regular chai and a little less sweet then white-hot chocolate. It takes a little time, stirring to make the combination right.  But in the end:  a perfect morning cuppa!

As I was mindlessly stirring the two powders together, my brain drifted to the question of efficiency. For a brief second I wondered if there was a more efficient way of mixing these two. And then I was horrified!  We endeavor to make our lives easier by inventing devices to do the mundane deeds. Like mixing together two powders. And then I stopped. If I had a device do the work for me, I would never have had the time to think about just how inefficient efficiency is.

Perhaps I should explain. Efficiency comes from being efficient. The definition of efficient is:  achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense or working in a well-organized and competent way or preventing the wasteful use of a particular resource. You must love Google search.

Maximum productivity. That sounds good. Well organized, a minimum effort, competent and my favourite:  preventing the wasteful use of a particular resource. What about us? All the tools we create to make our lives easier actually prevent us from actually ‘doing’. We sit in our armchairs and direct from a distance but we don’t get our hands dirty. I think a little dirt is called for. How else are we going to learn?

Ask anyone who creates just how that feels. Ask a woodworker, an artist, a chef. They take of themselves and create. Machines can’t! Or at least not yet. We need machines to assist us as tools. That is a given and I accept that. What I do not accept is people giving up control. We defer to whatever our phone happens to say but we never think to wonder if we have asked the right question.

I used to bake bread. It was a long drawn out process, I had to get my hands dirty. And I loved it! I would follow the recipe to a certain point and then I would become creative. A bread maker can’t do that. Only human hands can. Machines follow directions given to them by human beings. Machines build cars nowadays because they’re more efficient then people. But they’re not perfect. Ask anyone who drives a car that stops when it rains. Machines can’t find the problem and fix it, only people can. So why do we continually bow to the machines that we created to make our lives easier?

Do we use the time we supposedly gain from using machines to better ourselves or our environment? No. We’ll use that time to work harder so that we can afford to buy machines to make our life easier so that we can work harder so that we can . . . It’s a vicious cycle.

Machines are tools that we should never give up control to. Let’s not lose our ability to think. It’s one of the few things we have left.