When Momma Ain’t Happy

Downsides of Innovation Mania

(Revised and expanded July 4th, 2018. Happy Independence from Consumerism Day!)

You probably sense as I do that normality isn’t what it used to be, even a few years ago. I’m talking not about Trump or politics but of the magnificent panoply of digital technologies we are immersed if not drowning in. The speed at which technologists are shoving stuff at us has bugged me for quite some time. Understanding innovation mania has caused me to spend years puzzling out what’s driving the complexification of nearly everything and how the new ways we are obliged to adopt might transform concepts of what human nature is.

Why, I wonder, is everything possible being digitized as quickly as possible? I hate to use the phrase, but might there be some “intelligent design” that drives humans to churn out technology, faster and faster? More importantly, whom or what are we serving with our clever innovations, especially those that render what once was tangible into bits? Continue reading “When Momma Ain’t Happy”

Innovators, Mind Your Mother

This article is an excerpt from a book in progress, titled The Silica Papers: Who Technology Is and What She Wants. Silica is the name I have given to the technosphere—the totality of human artifacts constructed over eons by human beings that allows us to survive and improve our lot. Except that things don’t necessarily get better in every way. To underscore how technology drives us as much as we drive it, I have personified Silica as sort of a demigod-in-waiting, a female force of nature I also call Stepmother Earth, who’s not quite sentient but quickly becoming so.
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The Daily (or whenever) Eruption


Archive

Irritation on Tap: Thursday 7/26/18

You know what pisses me off about men’s rooms? (Not to slight the ladies; I’m sure their loos are equally up-to-date.) It’s the contrivances they now sport, all motion-activated, allegedly for our sanitary convenience. Handle-less taps and urinals; auto-flushing johns; whooshing hand driers and even touch-less towel dispensers. (Ever tried to dry your face with a wall-mounted blower? Ineffective and totally humiliating.) And for ventilation an exhaust fan or a/c; nary a window to admit light and air. Imagine trying to do your business in such a place when the power fails. Forget flushing, ablution, drying of hands. It’s a plot, I tell you, by the bathroom appliance industry in cahoots with power companies, who are by now surely pushing home builders to install all-electric johns. If in your heart you feel that the only power bathrooms should rely on for anything but illumination is gravity, write to newspaper editors, your representatives and social media friends urging the banning this insidious electrification of plumbing and a swift return to the days when bathrooms were all lever-operated. File under Useless Crap. Continue reading “The Daily (or whenever) Eruption”

Cutting Cords to Kurds: Facebook’s Foreign Policy

NOTE: This article has been updated to include subsequent events. It is also posted on CounterPunch.

One of my correspondents (let’s call her Jinwar), a supporter of autonomous areas in northwestern Kurdistan, notified me that Facebook had deleted her support group’s page plus her personal page as well those of others, requesting that the above graphic be shared widely on social media. (But before doing so, please read the last four paragraphs.)

Continue reading “Cutting Cords to Kurds: Facebook’s Foreign Policy”

A.I. Enablers Gear Up to Assault Intellect

Perhaps you haven’t noticed the investor class getting all gung-ho these days over Artificial Intelligence (AI). Only a couple of decades ago, these same people dismissed AI because it wasn’t very useful yet. But that’s all changed due to advances in machine vision and learning, and now VCs, hedge funds, and most of the rest of the usual big-money suspects are salivating over prospects of automating most of the rest of the economy, even including agriculture.

Thanks to its clot of institutions of higher learning, Boston—my fair city—is littered with tech startups and factories that churn them out. They and the Hub’s cloud of serial investors have created a knot of compressed energy, the nexus of which one can find at a suite in Kendall Square—epicenter of Boston’s tech scene, featuring outposts of Google, Oracle, Facebook and Amazon, pharma firms like Merck and Novartis and a host of biotechy startups fed by MIT’s biomedical research complex, augmented by its AI and Media Labs—where every Thursday evening prime movers get together for suds and savvy strategizing at private oasis called Venture Café. Continue reading “A.I. Enablers Gear Up to Assault Intellect”