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A deliciously wriggling can of worms this topic is. I lean toward the answer being yes, but having rights in our society isn’t a guarantee of justice or fairness. I would hope that by the time sentient AI becomes a thing, we have our own house in order so we can be a good example to our AI children.

Safety? Security? – A window into our fearful past and what we’ve lost of our privacy.

On the level folks, I do use a cellphone – a smart phone even.  But I’m not sure I like it.  I most certainly enjoy the GPS that comes with it, as finding those schools tucked away in suburban hell can be very tricky, even at the best of times.  But, past the land navigation benefits,  I’m not too sure.

Owning a mobile phone is not helping me in my struggle to continue to read widely and with depth in the topics I am interested in.  The false novelty of the facebook feed is much to easy an out, versus intellectually girding oneself for tackling that next book on feminist theory or the ravages of American imperialism.  I read a great deal in my 20’s and have the bookshelves to prove it, but now reading seems on a path that is further and harder away to reach.  I remember my voracious reading days and wonder where that zeal went, and how to restoke that desire for knowledge and perspective of the world.

Facebook is open in the other tab, even as I write this post, offering its usual semi-catered beguilement for my consumption.  It is truly the ‘ghost feast’ we read about in fairy tales – where you can eat and eat and eat and yet slowly starve to death because the scrumptious food being consumed is a insubstantial, desultory facade.

Much of what Dr.Reed says resonates with me, and I thought I’d share a part of his essay here.

 

“The decisive reason, however, for me to refuse a cellphone is the opposite of everyone else’s reason for having one: I do not want the omnipresent ability to communicate with anyone who is absent. Cellphones put their users constantly on call, constantly available, and as much as that can be liberating or convenient, it can also be an overwhelming burden. The burden comes in the form of feeling an obligation to individuals and events that are physically elsewhere. Anyone who has checked their phone during a face-to-face conversation understands the temptation. And anyone who has been talking to someone who has checked their phone understands what is wrong with it.

Communicating with someone who is not physically present is alienating, forcing the mind to separate from the body. We see this, for example, in the well-known and ubiquitous dangers of texting while driving, but also in more mundane experiences: friends or lovers ignoring each other’s presence in favour of their Facebook feeds; people broadcasting their entertainment, their meals, and their passing thoughts to all who will bear witness; parents capturing their daughter’s ballet performance on their phones rather than watching it live; people walking down the street talking animatedly to themselves who turn out to be apparently healthy people using their Bluetooth.

The cellphone intrudes into the public and private realms, preventing holistic engagement with what is around us. Smartphones only perfect their predecessors’ ability to intrude.

The disembodying and intrusive effects of cellphones have significant implications for our relationships to the self and to others. Truly knowing and understanding others requires patience, risk, empathy, and affection, all of which are inhibited by cell phones. Cellphones also inhibit solitude, self-reflection, and rumination (formerly known as ‘waiting’ and ‘boredom’), which I think are essential for living a good life.”

 

    The dour feminist in me would like to point out that women are still struggling toward full autonomy in society after some 2000 years of ‘civilization’ ( :/ ), but the hot topic of self driving vehicles has crossed my desk and merits a comment or two with regards to society.

A healthy dose of skepticism is always in order when it comes to vaunted new technology promoted by the tech industry.  Because they, like other features of capitalist society, value profit over anything else, the tech industry will often jazz up, embellish, and often outright fabricate their claims to make their product seem like the next “must have” consumer item in society (consider the recent crapple failphone X – now with *twice* the screens to break).

Skepticism in place, we do need to realize that sometimes the technological advance is real and will have serious effects in society.  Consider the case of the elevator operators in the 1940’s.  It was a flourishing job opportunity, and even wielded social power as a 1945 elevator-operator strike in Manhattan severely clogged the engines of business industry.  Within a generation this profession was gone; automatic elevators had all but replaced human elevator operators and ran elevators more efficiently and cheaply ever since.

A shit deal if you happened to train for and be a Elevator Operator – with the phrase “this is progress looks like burning in your ears” you had to go out a get a different job, and most likely one that did not pay as well as being an Elevator Operator.

Fast forward to the present day – Truckers are now facing this very same conundrum as automated vehicles are entering their field of work.  Operating truck driving software and actually driving a truck are two very distinct categories; thus yet another blue collar job opportunity might very well be shut off to the people.  I’m not a Luddite when it comes to new technology in society, but the motivation behind the vehicles (and most of capitalism to be honest) has me worried.  “In Canada 1 in every 100 workers is a truck driver, some 300,000 people – it’s the second most common occupation reported by men.” (The Walrus – Overhauled by Sharon J. Riley).

Are we going to spend the money to retrain these people if the technology for self-driving vehicles actually becomes a standard?  Or do we just turn these people to the wind, like the Elevator Operators of the 40’s, “here’s your last paycheck, sorry about your luck , bu-bye now.”?  I highly doubt that the trucking industry – the prime mover in its quest for ‘automated-efficiency’-  is going to step up to the plate and sponsor job retraining for all the employees that have become redundant.  The responsibility for integrating these now jobless people back into the economic workforce will most likely fall to the government and as valiant as Canadian social services are, a three hundred thousand plus hit on our limited social resources just won’t end well.

So, the case looks like this – Business moves ‘forward’ creating more efficiency and profitability, while the social and economic damage caused by said advances is left to the government to haphazardly repair with the limited resources available to it.  This smells like a looming case of what in corporate culture is known as “externalities” or items that have a tangible economic or social cost but importantly not directly to the company itself (Pollution is a prime example of an ‘externality’).  So really, it will be the common citizen, who will be responsible for keeping society going while business plunges ahead willy-nilly chasing the most effective and profitable supply chain.

I have a problem with these technology driven calamitous ‘externalities’ that we will be facing, not just in the transportation sector but in other sectors as well.  This process is driven by greed, and greed gives no fucks for those who must perish in the process of efficiency maximization.  The argument against me would be such – but with greater efficiency and optimization more people will be better served by the industry at hand, thus society will be better and everyone wins.

It’s just that everyone doesn’t win.  The people put out of work by technological advances and their families are going to lose and lose big because they will have no income to afford the goods being delivered so efficiently and profitably to the stores.  Our profit driven corporate/business sectors almost always seems to ignore that fact that their profitability hinges on condition that people exist in the market that have the capacity to buy their widgets.   You may have the best widgets out there, but with no demand, nothing happens.  Of course you can keep profits going up through dubious accounting methods and the churn and burn of the stockmarket magic – but that is an illusion as you are just moving money around an not creating actual value in society; plus that financial shell game periodically crashes hurting everyone in society (see 1929, 2008 et cetra).

The way forward is clear, at least to me.  Technological advancement needs to examined and fined tuned through the lens of what society as a whole needs, and not just the business sector because the business sector is necessary too short sighted to see beyond the bottom line and what is good for them at the time.

 

Related reading and some of my paraphrase fodder – Overhauled – By Sharon J. Riley found in the Walrus Magazine December 2017.

 

The fight to maintain Net Neutrality has been raging.  You have not heard about it because it is not in the big companies interests for you to know about it.  Think it isn’t a big deal?   Please partake in the observed behaviour of said companies and remind yourself that these infractions happened during the time when the regulations were still in full force with the FCC enforcing the rules.

 

The best predictor of future outcomes is past behaviour…  Stop this shit.  Canada is waffling at the moment, but it is better than the free for all that will going down in the US.  If you happen to be a US citizen spend some time filling out a form and/or making a call to your congress critter here.

I’m not sure what exactly goes on in the American psyche when it comes to regulations that make the shit-kettle we know as life better for everyone.  Romanticizing the ‘good ole days’ is pretty much just bug-fuck crazy, unless you enjoy eating tainted meat, breathing polluted air, and having the female half of the population as sex slaves.  Regulation is necessary in a democratic society, libertarian fap-happy wet dreams aside.

 

Being a piano student and slowly learning the craft I found it fascinating to see the differences between how two pianists tackled and tracked their music.

Hard hitting social commentary to resume soon on DWR. Today, I have a bit of personal fluff that I hope will bring a smile to your day. TL;DR version provided at the end if you’re pressed for time. Just scroll all the way down.

I do not do well with real world objects or processes. My skill with a hammer was once likened to lightning. I never strike the same place twice. With supportive feed back like that (thanks, Dad), it should be no surprise that I do most of my tinkering in the virtual world. In the synthetic land of 1s and 0s, mistakes are a Ctrl-Z away from being completely erased from history.

Recently I’ve had two such interests cross paths: photoshop and web coding. I have spent a great deal of time looking up manuals and tutorials online on these two subjects. In both fields, there are usually a thousand and one ways to get a particular result. The trick is finding a method that is effective, efficient, and caters to your style of doing things. So while I wouldn’t say I’m particularly good at either photoshop or coding, what I have gotten fairly good at is finding the bits and pieces I need on the internet, then combining them to achieve my tinkering goals. My Google-Fu is strong (if I do say so myself).

Throughout my many photoshopping adventures, I have, from time to time, played with geometric shapes, patterns, and psuedo-fractals (check my profile photo). As these shapes are not representing anything, the choice for colours is wide open. This makes things quite difficult for me, as I’m horrible at deriving colour schemes.

“You better marry someone who can dress you, because you don’t know a thing about colour”
-My first web design instructor

While I have many techniques for checking my colour choices, there is one relevant today. I will put a hue adjustment layer on top of my project and slide it slowly around the 360 degrees of the colour wheel until I find a spot I like. On numerous occasions I’ve thought that the shifting colour was more impressive than any one spot on the wheel. I will just play with slider, going back and forth, watching the colours shift into each other. Depending on the project, these colour shifts can be very exciting or quite soothing.

Previously, I played with the idea of taking a number of stills at incremental hue settings and then making an animated GIF out of them. However, GIF files only have 256 colours and the results were less than impressive. On top of that, the process was painfully slow and arduous. After three or four attempts, I gave up on the notion and it disappeared in the lonely wasteland that is the graveyard for broken dreams and abandoned whims. Two recent discoveries brought it back.

First, I learned that it is possible to write scripts for photoshop. While the program comes with a number of actions and the ability to create your own, sometimes a project needs a more custom-fit solution. It turns out that one of the languages you can use for this is javascript, a language I am familiar with because of the web work I’ve done. Further, there is a script reader you can attach to photoshop that will log the script involved in every PS action you take. You can then use that log to inform your scripts. The potential is immense.

Second, I learned about APNGs. I was reading up on reducing web site load times and this article said that you should compress all images, as any file made in photoshop is unnecessarily large. I tested a few online compressors out and indeed, the there was a lot of file shrinking possible. One of these compressors had a new feature. They compressed not just JPGs and PNGs, but also APNGs. Their example blew my mind. It was animated PNG of a panda waving, smoother and clearer than any gif I had ever seen.

It just so happened that these new-to-me things were fresh in my mind when I was using my colour wheel check on a project and it all clicked together. After a little trial and error, I had written a script that would adjust the hue by 5 degrees, save a numbered PNG to a folder on my desktop, then repeat until it went all the way around the colour wheel. I found a couple online APNG assemblers, uploaded my stills, downloaded the animation, and put it through the compressor. Now, I’m not about to pay for the pro service, so I was only able to use one quarter of my stills. This makes the result not nearly as smooth as I’d like, but I’m still pretty happy with it.

So now, after much too much ado, I present a fractal colour morph built on script and Google-Fu, created by yours truly.

For the adventurous among you, I have a second example. With some images, this shifting colour can give the illusion of movement. Warning: The linked animation is big (5MB) and is not recommended for viewers who aren’t comfortable with flashing lights. If you’re cool with that, enjoy some psychedelic splendour.

TL;DR Lookie! Colours!

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