Resurrecting Treasures from the Rubble – Thank a Robot!

Technology to the rescue!  When I first read that Syria’s Assad had ousted the ISIS militants from Palmyra, I took little notice since I am not really sure if any news is actually good news anymore in that part of the world.  But it seems that with Palmyra now in the hands of the Syrian government, one can only hope that Syrian leaders will become more actively engaged in the reconstruction of these archaeological treasures.
Modern technology has also made the reconstruction of damaged historic landmarks possible through the use of 3D computer modeling generated from dozens of photographs taken by archaeologists over the years.  Fortunately, Palmyra has benefitted from the growing popularity of digital archaeology as a new frontier in the preservation of ancient architectural jewels. Now here is where the robots come in. These photographs can be put into a database, and once experts are confident that the computer model contains all the structural information necessary, a file is sent to Italy where robots carve the reproduction from blocks of Egyptian marble.

The fact that these marvelous structures were destroyed by man’s wanton disregard for past civilizations’ treasures, or plundered for personal or political gain, should enrage us all.   This is but one example of how the ravages of war can destroy marvels from mankind’s past.  In a very important way technology has the power to help us preserve archaeological wonders in spite of man’s wanton destruction.

Ray Myers

Yoga or Virtual Reality?

I guess there are a lot of ways to obtain inner peace, or to let go of the material world in order to enter a more spiritual place.  Yoga seems to be the most popular alternative today.  And then of course, there is always virtual reality which is a whole other “place.”  It seems like creating and seeking these alternative realities is becoming a 21st Century obsession.  Whether you want to travel to an ashram in India, or immerse yourself in interactive technological experiences, the desired outcomes seems to be the same: literally or figuratively going to another “place” that is not your everyday reality.

Or maybe there are so many optional realities available to us today that we can chose to live in multiple realities in any given day.  And that seems to be true for most of us.  From the time we turn on the TV, or settle into our work-a-day routines, we become immersed in our personal “reality shows,” not to mention our connected networks of social media, etc.   But I may be getting a little carried away here.  The basic point of going to an ashram for a year is to leave our “normal” lives behind, and I am aware that this is a luxury that most of us can not afford to do.

I think I have some sense of what yoga can do for you in terms of introspection and meditation, but I am still at a loss for fully appreciating virtual reality?  Please understand that I am still a true believer that technology can change the world, but I think the hard part is understanding ourselves and how we live our lives in an ever-changing world.

Ray Myers

Cubicle Chic

No, I am not talking about decorating your office cubicle so that it will be the most admired work station in your building, but rather how you will look in your new sartorial splendor.  For just $139 monthly, you will be able to borrow three items of office clothing, and then swap them whenever you want.  Now why didn’t I think of that during all those years I worked in a government bureaucracy?  Even though I was lucky enough to inhabit a real office with four walls and a door for many of those years, it was becoming clear that open cubicle environments were the new wave in office space management (I am not really sure why?)

Now you and your daily apparel will be more on display for everyone to see.  My usual attire consisted of a navy blue blazer, dress shirt and a variety of ties that may have had some relevance to the changes of the seasons and celebrations of holidays.  The slacks were usually gray.  (Sometimes a suit for special meetings, comferences, etc.) Lighter weight clothing was worn in the spring and summer months, but the  colors were still the same.  And then “casual Fridays” came along and I basically opted out since I was very comfortable in my office uniform routine.  Maybe it was all those years of Catholic schooling?

Just think of what a different man I would be today with online websites and apps like “Rent the Runway” and “Unlimited.”  I could create a whole new office image, but I would still be working in a cubicle?

Ray Myers

No Man is an iPhone.

So back on January 11th this year I posted some comments on a tech industry convening in San Jose, California, aimed at trying to untie the “Gordian Knot” of how everyone’s personal privacy can be protected whenever they choose to use any of the social media tools available to them (“Dazed and Confused in Silicon Valley”).  Government officials flew in from Washington in order to help broker this landmark agreement.  Nearly three months have passed and quess what?  We have reached an impasse, well at least with one of the the technological giants who does not want to share the secrets of its programming encryption.  Mr. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, wants to protect his users’ data.

I guess that’s all very noble and reassuring to iPhone owners, but let’s remember that an act of terrorism was committed here and many innocent American lives were lost.  Does Apple really want to protect the privacy of its customers, or are they more interested in guarding its “special sauce.”  I think it’s the latter.  I remember hearing something about corporate responsibility in American business practices in the past.  This situation may not be perfectly analogous, but let’s remember that companies like Apple have become very successful and very wealthy because of the favorable economic environment that exists in this country.

We should not forget that the victims of the San Bernadino attack at a Holiday party last December were professional staff who were working with individuals with developmental disabilities.  Fourteen were killed, twenty-two were injured.  I think that their lives mattered, and we should respond responsibly.  As Tim Cook himself has said, “This is an issue that impacts all of us and we will not shrink from this responsibility.”

Ray Myers

Fitbit or Jump Rope?

I feel a “bit” more fit after spending most of the last two weeks in Florida where the sun was shining and the temperatures were just right for time at the pool and beaches.  Unfortunately, I did not have my handy Fitbit with me so I could not track all my healthy mobility activities (sometimes you just need a break).  But I am quite confident that I met or exceeded my daily goal of 10,000 steps or more.  What did I ever do before I had this little technological gem?

Then I read this article in the Sunday (3/20/16) New York Times which talked about intuitive feedback vs. the data that a little technology can record and report on a daily basis.  You don’t have to worry since this little device will do it for you.  I just have to remember to “plug” it in to my computer to charge it.  Now if you really want to get more analytic about this whole process, here is a comment that might be helpful or inconsequential to you as a  Fitbit user:  ” . . .  when you’re running, instead of speeding up or slowing down based on immediate and intuitive feedback from your body and environment, you’re inserting an unwieldy extra cognitive step that relies on checking your device as you go.”  So I guess jumping rope just seems like a much simpler way of counting your steps or jumps?

Of course, please remember to count as you jump, or have someone count for you.  Doing all this will make counting steps or jumps more labor intensive, and it would not just be you and your Fitbit that would truly know how tech-savvy and healthy you really are.

Ray Myers

Universal Basic Income (U.B.I.) for Everyone – Thank a Robot

Don’t start counting on receiving monthly checks from the government quite yet.  The basic idea here seems to be that  as robots begin doing more of the work traditionally done by humans in our economy and jobs dry up, we should ensure that American workers’ wages will not be negatively impacted.  How about $1,000 a month?  And on top of that, we would all be free to become artists, scholars, entrepreneurs or otherwise engage our passions in a society no longer centered on the drudgery of daily labor.  What a concept!

Blame it all on artificial intelligence, if you are really looking for someone or something to blame.  So I guess it’s all about the intersection of artificial and human intelligence (just made that up).  We will be increasingly living in a world where we can use as much of either as we may want.  But I still think we need to exercise our natural intelligence on a regular basis to keep its “moving parts” working.  I don’t think artificial intelligence works on this same principle?

So excuse me as I go back to reading my daily papers, and drinking my coffee to fuel my brain’s synapses, and try to figure out how to escape the “drudgery of daily labor.”  I don’t think robots have to worry about that.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will be taking an early spring break next week, but will return on March 21st.  Thanks for reading my posts, or scanning them if you are a robot?

Billboards That Look Back at You

I never thought much about looking at billboards along the highways, or in the cities where they would light up the nightime sky. Now I have found out that they may be looking back too, thanks to the mobile technology we may be carrying in our pockets or purses.”  And while nearly all of these advertising companies claim that the data they collect is anonymous and aggregated – and that consumers can opt out of tracking at any time – privacy advocates are skeptical.”  So maybe we should be too?  I think that we would all like the right to know who is “tracking” us.  

But not to worry.  Remember, we have been assured that all these data are anonymous and aggregated.  Still, people have no idea that they are being tracked and targeted.  In addition, some of the collectors of these data have been sharing (selling?) location information with interested third parties like commercial advertisers.  In addition, many consumers feel they have been misled about what opt-out options there really are.

Maybe the next President and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission can figure this all out when we have new federal leadership in 2017.  Unfortunately, I am not as hopeful as I should be when I look at the unfolding political scene.

Ray Myers