Monday 2 March 2015

The Crow Cries Uncover The Corn Field ; Automation makes us dumb, 25 smarter websites & 90 degree artwork

I used to be a workaholic. Why? Because deep down I saw myself as a lazy person who didn't necessarily want to work up to 80 hours a week, which is what I saw my parents doing for decades. First it was when they worked for others, and then for over 20 years it was whilst they ran their own business.

Years later, I realised that no one I knew worked those sort of hours, so the 50 to 60 hours I was working for a decade plus, were actually quite excessive. To compensate, I partied when I could, and hard, in order to wind down from the effect of being so 'switched on' all the time.

It's incredible what you can put yourself through when in your 20's. I had a lot on my plate(s), which also included familial responsibilities, as my mother had not one but two brain anyeurisms that burst successively. So for about 5 or so years, she needed a lot of care and attention to get her back on her feet both cognitively and emotionally. That took it's toll in other ways, as you never really think for yourself during the time it takes for your loved one to recover. However, 14 years after her illness, she's made a splendid recovery and enjoys life as a retired lady, with a relaxed and fun filled pace.

My pace of life is also relaxed compared to back then, and I'm grateful for it. But the advance of technology has had a large part to play in that. I no longer have to run around, both physically and metaphorically speaking, as much as I did back then for everything. The internet was just starting to proliferate with content and the speed of access had increased to mb per second , but the concept of artificial intelligence was still something best left to science fiction and films such as THE TERMINATOR. It's remarkable how much times have changed  :-

Automation Makes Us Dumb

It's ironic that we've reached a stage where the level of computing power is starting to render us as a race, obsolete. I can remember there was a real sense of satisfaction when using a slide rule and logarithmic tables, in order to perform calculations. That may well be a dying art nowadays, with smartphones having all sorts of built in calculators and available applications to do the job in seconds.

More importantly, I see that a lot of portable devices tend to be used more for information and entertainment ( or 'INFOTAINMENT', as I like to call it), rather than for actual work. That's understandable due to the ergonomics of the devices. But this is porting over to the larger technology platforms such as laptops and desktops.

We're probably using social networking software as much - if not more- than we're using drawing packages and spreadsheets. The rapid nature of interaction and the potential rollercoaster of emotive responses and calls is rendering us to be more scattered and fried. This in turn makes our attention spans and powers of concentration shorter. This can have unwanted cognitive side effects in the long run.

But the problem talked about here, is more to do with leaving the machines and the technology to do more of what we used to do, which is the decision making part of the process. By integrating that more into the design loop, we can avoid this increased feeling of being a 'remote operator' in our incrementally computer-programmed lives. 

More importantly, computers cannot accurately emulate the myriad of emotions that intertwine with our logic and rationality. This is what gives us our uniqueness and sense of individually. Until we even come close to that level of interactive artificial intelligence, we can still do more or less what we want to do. Computers are ultimately programmable boxes of prompts and commands.

Until we can safely find a way to leave them to do more of our what was once considered de rigeur 'donkey' work, then human beings still have a vital part to play in all decision making processes at every level. I hope it stays that way.

And in case the use of technology is making you noticably more cerebrally flaccid, there are tools available on the internet to get yourself back into mental 'top gear'

25 Websites That Will Make You Smarter

There's plenty to plough through on there. All sorts of bases are covered too, so get cracking whilst you can.

Of course, if you're not so much in a working mood, then the arts can be a great mental salve and soothing too :-

See the artwork that only reveals itself at a 90 degree angle

Kudos to the artist Thomas Medicus, who planned everything beforehand so well. The intricacy and final delivery even when watched on my laptop, is remarkable. It'd be interesting to see what else he comes up with, in the future

Whilst we all need and rely on technology to deliver and assist us with our daily lives to an increasing degree, it's always good to stand back and assess the reasons behind this. Not only will this prevent us from incremental lazyness, but it will also allow us to remind ourselves as to whom is ultimately being served here.

In effect, this  metaphorical future paced landscape of silicon, metal and plastic is something we've created and improved upon over the years. And it was done to serve us and not the other way round.

I like making my own decisions and am fine with suggestions from a program or even a device I use. But I'm less comfortable with the increasing micromanagement that our advancing software and hardware combinations is delivering for us. It takes away from the absolute freedom of choice I can employ when selecting what to do, where and why. It goes beyond a basic 'yes or no' and I don't think machines can ever accurately emulate the emotive and sociological power that humans inherantly possess. It's what makes us compassionate, caring, considerate, moody, quirky and so on. It also makes us angry and a bit volatile on occasion as well.

We are the sum of the parts that make the difference. That is what makes our decision making so unique. Ultimately, we can reboot ourselves (to an extent) and choose a slightly or completely different reboot each time, whilst retaining a complex set of variables known as our characteristics and personality. The permutations can run into the millions. That's something a machine can never do as well or dare I say it, as efficiently. And that's a good thing.

Computers are great at quick answers and logic, but we're better at ameliorating and innovating. We've co-existed successfully for this long, so there's every chance we can carry on in harmony for a very long time indeed. Provided, of course, that we continue to know each others' boundaries and limitations, and don't willingly overstep them.

Remember, all technology is only as fast as it's slowest component. To engineer a machine that is more adept at being human, than a human being, would therefore be impossible.

..or would it?

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