we use our first ride hailing experience to ponder the future downfall of the human brain

I took my first car app ride a few weeks ago. Most of you will probably wonder what took so long. You must understand, part of me wishes for the return of the stone age. I could probably do without the tetanus, lack of running water, or everpresent ancient angry demon gods, but otherwise a lot of that simplicity appeals to me. If it wasn’t for my dogs, I’d spend most of my evenings at home lit only by candles. Because night should be night and day, well, day.

So when on travel, and for whatever reason I don’t have a rental car, I’ll typically either walk or just call for a traditional cab. If I have a rental and can’t or don’t want to drive because alcohol is the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems, then regular cabs or walking work then too.

But a few weeks ago I just figured I’d try ride hailing apps. I’m moving overseas for work in a few weeks and the country has ride hailing there. Which I figured would be vastly superior to some of my prior international cab experiences I’ve had where I threaten to debark the cab while in motion because the crook in the front seat refuses to run the meter.

Work is sending me out the door so my colleagues (who I actually like) want to do a farewell party downtown. I’m in a hotel in the suburbs that’s an hour away by train. The hotel is three miles from the train station. Usually if the weather is decent and the walk is safe, I’m walking those three miles. In this case, the weather was rainy, chilly and it was most certainly not a safe walk.

Ironically I could’ve just driven to the train station. We all had to work very early next morning and so we hardly drank at all. My need for a ride from the hotel to train station and back later in the evening turned out to be entirely unnecessary. But I can’t see through time, so I used the app. I won’t tell you which app I used because that’s not really the point of the post.

The driver ends up at the hotel in less than 15 minutes. I found this timely and easy to arrange, so far so good. I’ve been driving around this area a long time so I know my way around. The driver clearly has no idea where he is. I offer to guide him but he refuses and says he’ll follow ‘her’ directions. The app takes us the wrong way, and then down an industrial access road that adds about five minutes to what is otherwise a short three mile drive.

But then the app starts to tell him to go the wrong way. At the intersection the train station is right. The app tells him to go left. He has no idea where he’s going and so is in the left lane to obey the app. I tell him the app is wrong and he should turn right. He refuses. I have to tell him three times that the app is wrong. He keeps saying he has to obey ‘her’, like he’s the app’s mind slave or whatever.

Eventually I talk him to the train station. The entire time the app is telling him to turn around blaring in the car. I get out and the driver mentions to me that he’s going to have to drive back to where the app tells him to. I ask him if the app can’t just be told he dropped me off where I wanted to be, that the app is wrong? He says no and drives off.

While I’m waiting for my train out of curiosity I observe his movements on the app. He does indeed drive the wrong way for ten more minutes arriving at the ‘destination’ of the train station. Even though I’m sure what the app thought was the train station was just a parking lot. Only after he arrived at this mythical area did my ride close out and I was prompted to tip him. Total cost $10 with tip.

Following the evening’s abbreviated festivities I’m back at the same station off the train. Now I need a ride back to the hotel. I use the app to hail a ride and it refuses to work. It keeps telling me that where I am, where the train station is, is at the mythical parking lot to the north. I can’t find a way to fix this.

This goes on for ten minutes until I finally just decide to acquire the ride and then call the driver once he’s chosen, or whatever. Again, this is my first ride app experience, what the hell do I know? The driver agrees and I see his car is a mile down the road. Awesome. I call him and let him know the app says I’m way up north, but I’m actually at the train station. Please come to the train station and get me here.

The driver says he doesn’t know where the train station is. I’m at the only train station within five miles. He’s one mile away, on the same road as the station, he doesn’t know. I offer to talk him to me, but he refuses, gets frustrated and starts to run his mouth against me. I immediately hang up.

I then call a regular traditional cab company. I tell them where I am on the phone to the dispatcher. A cab arrives in about 90 seconds. When I get into the cab, I tell the driver my hotel name and the street it’s on. He agrees and we’re off. That’s it. He needed no additional information, he needed no directions, he knew exactly where to go.

I ended up talking with him for the whole ride back. He was a bit of an older guy, been driving cabs for a long time and knew the whole area. We talked about my brief ride hailing experience, which amused him, as if a master wood craftsman saw a child trying to build a chair with a hand grenade. He also told me where all the cop speed traps were. He then made various belligerent comments about fellow members of the human race, which we won’t get into, but had me laughing my ass off in the car. He was a well thought out guy. He drops me off at the hotel. Total cost $15 with tip.

I have seen the future. It goes like this.

As soon as five or ten years from now all my frustrating moments with ride hailing won’t exist. Using voice recognition, I’ll tell my phone simply, “Need a ride back to the hotel.” Within five minutes a car will arrive and take me there. That’s it. No problems with directions, or location finding, or drivers who are angry or incompetent. In fact, within a few decades I think the car that shows up will be driven by a computer. But, because tech freaks are the new robber barons of the Giant Octopus, the ride will cost $20. And something will have been lost to the human race.

Ponder if you will, that on one hand I had two app drivers, who were so utterly unaware of their surroundings that they were entirely reliant upon the app to tell them how to get from point A to B. Otherwise they couldn’t do the most basic aspect of their job. It’s like a nurse who can’t treat a patient without a computer telling them the commands step by step.

But hold on a minute, why can’t nurses be told exactly what to do on command by a computer in say 20 years? Why not? And why when I’m driving do I need to know where I’m going anymore? Why can’t I just always follow the map app’s directions? Why do I have to think or do things that can be done by an app for me?

Let’s leave aside the horrific privacy, security, financial, and ethical arguments of this brave new world for the moment. What I’m most interested in is what this does to the human brain. On one hand you have two dudes who can’t do their jobs, at all, without machine assistance. On the other hand I had a cabbie who could recall in his brain the entire map of a city on command. Without machine assistance. Without error.

We’re turning more and more of our most basic and timeless brain functions over to machines. What happens to the human race, to the human brain if say 50 years from now most people can’t get from point A to B without machines. What if 100 years from now there are no people, cabbies or otherwise, who can recall in their brain the entire map of a city on command?

Tech freaks will convince you their future world is going to be a swell place for us. Where technology can and will make all our lives easier.

At what cost? Technology is just a tool. The human brain, human thought, human knowledge are supposed to be timeless and eternal. I’m not sure what happens next.

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retail stores are doomed

I didn’t choose my doggies’ brand of kibble (aka kibs).  Their kibs was chosen by another human who I no longer talk to.  But, it’s what they’ve always eaten.  They love it.

When I wake up in the morning they bounce off the walls because they know after a few short minutes in the backyard they get to eat.  The countdown towards dinnertime is when they’re most active and excited throughout the day.

So you better believe when I heard the retail store (Pet Valu) would no longer carry the brand on site I went into a bit of a mini panic mode.  Said retail store gave no valid explanation for why they were no longer carrying the brand.  They claimed that the company no longer makes it, which was untrue.

Anyways, I ended up trying to find another retail store but eventually gave up and went online to buy it.  How does one buy 30 pound bags of kibble online?  The thought never really crossed my mind.  Bags of dog food are large and heavy.  It’d be like buying huge bags of mulch online.

And yet, I found the brand online and for a decent and cheaper price.  I bought two bags.  What was my cost to ship 60 pounds of kibble to my front door?  $0.  Nothing.  It took me three minutes to make my purchase.  I did it from my cubicle.  I didn’t have to drive to a store.

Retail stores are doomed.  Doomed.  If they can’t compete on price, on saving you time, the only card they have left to play is that shipping things online can cost money.  But if online retailers just front the shipping costs?  It’s over.  There’s nothing else retail can offer you.

I’ll always buy my food in person because I want to handle my own produce and inspect it.  Other than that, I don’t really know what I wouldn’t have shipped to my front door.  Eventually we’ll all find out.

on Russians, sharks, bears, swimming, and who to trust

You, the average normal human, require a new hammer. You use it to fix up your house, apartment, hovel, or yurt. You have several options to choose from. But recommendations tell you that you can have the hammer made by a partially competent American maker at a reasonable price, or the cheap one made by a former KGB assassin. Which do you choose?

Well, I suppose if you lived in Russia you would pick the KGB guy. Or be made to pick the KGB guy. But if you’re not Russian why would you, or anybody else, choose the KGB guy? This question has always been on my brain as folks and organizations have chosen Kaspersky Labs to handle their internet security to the tune of half-a-billion active users.

I mean I somewhat get it, Norton, McAfee, and the many other generic Western firms are only above average at best. But what do you expect when the Internets sandbox is an inherently flawed security nightmare. That doesn’t mean you go running for help with Ivan, aka the guys who are directly responsible for much of the security nightmare. Unless you desire to make the counterargument that because Kaspersky is KGB, that it’s good business to ask the devil to guard your church because he knows how to mix it up, barstool style. But I don’t buy that argument. Eventually the devil will rob you and use your pilfered cash to buy cinnamon whiskey, his drink of choice.

Kaspersky is somehow considered respectable, which further proves the marketing goons of the planet can put a shine on anything and twist people’s brains with glorious abandon. Kaspersky advertises on NPR! So he must be legit, right? And since the beginning Kaspersky has tried to always prove they have an independent hand. Their claim is that Russian they are, doesn’t mean you can’t trust them. They’re separate and distinct from the functioning arms of the Russian state, honest. Eh, if they say so.

As far as my take, I think this Washington Post article sums it up pretty nicely. In particular:

“James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said ‘it’s difficult, if not impossible’ for a company like Kaspersky to be headquartered in Moscow ‘if you don’t cooperate with the government and the intelligence services.’”

Yeah, no kidding. So if you or your business has put your trust in Kaspersky, well, you deserve what you get.

Hey speaking of failed trust, apparently a whole bunch of people actually thought Discovery Channel was going to get Michael Phelps to race a shark. Instead they just computer simulated it and Phelps lost. Because Phelps is a human, as in, a creature not meant to inherently swim in the water. Kind of like how a shark is. But I digress.

Did folks actually think they’d put Phelps in the water alongside a shark and race them in lanes? Do folks understand that humans can’t order sharks around like that? Gee I sure hope so. How did people logistically think this would occur? Why are they angry with Discovery Channel? How did they trust that this would actually happen?

The only thing I can think of is they’d capture the shark and chain it up like some kind of angry Star Wars arena beast. They’d have him in a lane in the ocean contained by two sheets of transparent aluminum. And Phelps would be on the other side. Then they’d fire the gun and release the shark. Only, but what if the shark didn’t swim forward and instead tried to turn around and attack the folks behind him? As in, the folks who’d just chained him up. Or what if the shark swam for a bit and then stopped? Or what if the shark busted through the transparent aluminum and swallowed Michael Phelps whole in an orgy of chum related violence? Or what if we get Kaspersky to race a 700 pound grizzly bear? Maybe his KGB training, Russian bear familiarity, and Vlad inspired judo can save him? But I doubt it.

Who not to trust? Well for starters Russians who say they’re here to help. And folks who claim a human can race a shark. Along with all other kinds of lunacy that just don’t seem to make sense. Kind of like most of the nonsense written on this degenerate blog.

You could adopt the tact of: trust no one. But instead, just use your common sense. We’ve all got it. It’s pretty neat. Go with that.

fun time

four creatures enter; one creature leaves

why is it only now that folks think Uber is evil?

I’ve always been fascinated by the selective enforcement of opinion some folks display. This is because, in general, I try to be somewhat consistent in what I say and do. Like all humans, I fail at this all the time, but I do try.

For example, for half-a-decade Uber has been the cool little thing for folks to use. It’s been the trendy, young, urban way to get around oh so many metropolitan areas. But now, all of a sudden, Uber is evil. Why?

Well, first off the impression was (incorrectly) that Uber had sided with Trump (that guy folks don’t like) against airport taxi drivers striking against the immigration plan. Then, Uber’s Overlord Travis Kalanick had flamed one of his own drivers with the oh so memorable line, “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit.”

So now, folks want to delete Uber. There’s a hashtag or a messenger pigeon that says so, or something like that. Why?

A few things here:

1) Uber has always been evil

Since its beginning, Kalanick has always had a reputation (even within the Silicon Valley lifelines, which is saying something) of being a dirty asshole. For instance, once upon a time Uber got caught creating fake Lyft profiles which called for Lyft rides when nobody was actually there. Generally speaking, you would think one would like to purchase a product from a company that at least tries to conduct itself in a moral manner. But I specifically remember this incident getting largely ignored. I doubt anybody gave it even a second thought before they opened the app those few years back. Why was there not a delete Uber campaign back then?

Sure, Uber taxis were cleaner and their drivers polite and usually well dressed, but did folks realize that in most cases those same drivers were making substantially less money than a normal taxi driver? Or that Uber basically railroads them on costs and percentages? I have in my mind, a bunch of cool, hip youngsters. They go protest for a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers. They get back and forth from the protest, by taking Uber.

2) This is how Silicon Valley thinks

“Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit,” should now become the motto of Silicon Valley. I’ve got some news for all you cool earnest young people with your cool trendy apps and expensive phones: everybody in Silicon Valley thinks this way. They just don’t foolishly admit it like Kalanick did. These are ultra-Type A people who believe that success or failure in Silicon Valley (aka Life) is almost entirely dependent upon raw skill. In other words, Kalanick is rich because he is awesome. Those who are poor or fail are not awesome. And it’s their own fault.

Generally I tend to believe in the idea that we each can make our own life. Success or failure is in our own hands. But I also acknowledge that there are various intangible factors that can shape how hard it is for folks to make it in life. Kalanick is the son or a marketer and an engineer and went to a private high school. Does he make Uber happen if he was born in say West Baltimore? Or how about if Kalanick was a recent immigrant who drives for Uber? But in Kalanick’s brain, it’s not like that. People who drive for Uber are losers. If they were winners, they’d take responsibility for their own shit and get a better job.

3) The cool factor

Again, it’s always been like this, but only now has Uber crossed over and is thus evil. Why? The cool factor. If you are cool, you can (mostly) get away with anything. Steve Jobs is basically considered a demigod. Apple is the cool of cool. But Jobs (in true Silicon Valley style) was also an asshole. At one point Apple got caught colluding with book publishers to cheat the price offered to consumers. Ostensibly it was to undercut Amazon’s growing market dominance, but it’s still basically a Monopoly Man moment. Apple cheated its customers. Jobs got caught sending e-mails to The Mini Monopoly Man himself in James Murdoch trying to boost prices. Guess what? Nobody cared.

People still think Apple is the coolest thing on the planet. Your average Apple junkie either never heard of this incident, or mentally just wrote it off. Oh, Jobs tried to cheat me? Eh, but Apple is so cool. My iPhone is the coolest!

I think it was the same way with Uber. But I guess, even cool can only take you so far. So now Uber is less cool, and perhaps even evil.

Hmm, Apple, take note!

the bizarreness of modern work communication

You need something from somebody who sits 18 feet from you. How do you go about interacting with them? Normally you’d just go talk to them face-to-face, right? After all, a family member who is 18 feet from you inside your home is just a normal random conversation. Not so, apparently, within the dreaded confines of cubicle hell.

A guy three cubicles over has called me on the phone this week. Twice. I can hear him talking to me in one ear through the phone. In the other ear I hear him talking in the same room. It makes no sense. But other people do this too. They call each other in our bank of cubicles. I can hear them both phone talk like they’re standing next to each other.

This stuff has also occurred recently:

– The boss e-mails an employee who works 30 feet from him saying “come see me”

– The boss shouts from his office at somebody who works 50 feet from him asking if they’re in the office

– The other boss talks to somebody over a cubicle wall, and then says they’ll just instant message the work task instead of telling them

– People say they will respond to an e-mail, but then call somebody instead

– People will call you and make decent shit happen, but then ask you to send an e-mail to work out all the details again

– Folks will e-mail somebody who works 10 feet away asking a simple question

I think all this text messaging, Snapchat, mind meld, e-mail, Internets, etc, etc has destroyed normal human communication. Any one of the above scenarios is best handled by two people talking face-to-face. Instead, this easy straightforward method of interaction is devolved into a whole plethora of ineffective means. This ineffective nature increases stress and otherwise further harms an already unhappy place to work.

Just talk to people face-to-face. It’s better for all of us.

Or, just go off the rails. Whatever.

– E-mail your boss when you arrive at work saying “I’m now at my desk”

– Call the person who works in the cubicle next to you to say “Good morning”, then immediately hang up

– Instead of handing your boss a printed 53 page report with a face-to-face explanation, scan each page individually, then e-mail your boss the document as 53 attachments

– Instant message somebody 17 feet away and ask them their lunch plans, then regardless of their actual response, tell them to send you an e-mail calendar invite for lunch

– Put up a sign with skull and crossbones icons all over it that says, “today I can only be reached via e-mail”, and when people try and engage you in face-to-face conversation you just tap the sign without saying a word

– Bring a small bird into the office and inform coworkers you’ll communicate via carrier bird only, but never ever actually do this, you just have the bird in the office for months without ever using it

– Shout over the cubicle walls, “what day is today?”, “what’s the deadline for that bullshit product we owe to the boss?”, “where are my keys?”, “is the concept of anti-matter an oxymoron?”

– E-mail your boss, “I’m coming to see you”, before leaving your cubicle to go speak with her

– Write “I went to lunch” in your own blood on a single white sheet of paper, leave it on your desk, then dump a 28 ounce can of tomato sauce all over your cubicle floor and walls, then go hit the pub for about three hours before nonchalantly returning to work

gadget makers to turn humanity into amorphous liquid sphere based creatures

Just how lazy does Silicon Valley and the corporate world think you are? Apparently, very much. Everything you currently do is too hard. Just think about the difficulties you confront every day:

a) You need to remember to set your own alarm clock

b) Pull your corporeal form out of bed on time even though you’d rather sleep in

c) Let your dogs outside so they expel waste on grass instead of your floor

d) Feed your dogs in order that they might live

e) Take a shower so that you might live

f) Start your car in order that it might move

g) Drive your car so that you can go someplace requiring your presence

Hell, that’s all just in the first 30 minutes of the day. What horror. But don’t worry, the freaks are out to assist you. Every single one of these actions will soon be performed by a gadget. Pretty soon, you won’t need to do anything. You can just sit back and let machines do all the hard stuff. Your self-worth will become wrapped up in how much of your daily life is monetized by somebody you’ll never meet. How fulfilling!

You know, I think one of the main arguments behind this technology is that it’s supposedly liberating. If you’re not worried about feeding your dogs or setting your own alarm clock, that’s time you could be painting sweet art or writing a novel. I kind of get that, but eventually such thinking reaches a point of no return. Once you take the most basic and menial of human tasks and turn them over to a machine because it’s convenient, people are basically just ceding their humanity. They’ve crossed over from liberating, to stupid, or even lazy.

Doing basic human level stuff is necessary to have a rich and fulfilling life. A lot of it is a colossal pain in the ass. Who on Earth loves to do laundry? But that’s called life. It keeps you honest. I get the idea that the imagined end state of Silicon Valley’s quest (other than to get all your money) is to place a live human inside a liquid sphere where all they do is feel pleasure while all their worldly tasks are handled by machines. To me, this is a version of waking death.

To that liquid sphere end, CES is the annual gadget, electronic freak show in Vegas. It’s the chance for the world’s technological elite to show off how insane they are. I’m beginning to think that if every year we hired a bunch of twisted alien mercenaries to carpet bomb the convention hall, that we’d all be better off as a human race.

Oh my, just take a gander at some of these supposedly “cool” new gadgets. This is the future. Today!

1) Cheaty Fishing Drone [Link Slide 1]

This thing streams video, fish finding, and soon even VR. It also lures fish with a blue light so it’s that much easier to catch a live creature for somebody’s own financial value or personal amusement. Catching a fish using this kind of technology is like constructing a hover drone that goes out, lassos a deer, and walks it over to a guy so he can shoot it with a shotgun at a range of six feet. Dude might as well be allowed to throw dynamite into the water like some brain dead moron from 1878. It’s the same thing.

cheaty drone.jpg

2) Kuri the Child Predator [Link Slide 2]

Kuri (named after the famous Japanese anime character that eats flesh) is a robot that roams around a home with cameras allowing people to keep tabs on their children and dogs when they’re either out of the house or too lazy to do it in person. It’s also equipped with a creepy robot look that CNET think is “cool just for that”. Meaning it has just the right style to give children and pets nightmares for decades. Just look at the horror of this thing. In 2043, a grown man will be asked to identify who told him to burn down the shopping mall killing hundreds. The police sketch artist will converse with this man for eight hours, and at the conclusion will have drawn a picture of Kuri.

evil kuri.jpg

3) Devolvement Shower Assembly [Link Slide 13]

See above note (e). Everything, and I mean everything in your home must go on the Internets. Every basic action is worthy of an online twist, for whatever reason. This delightful piece of technology turns your shower on and off. That’s about it. It costs $1,160. One of the most basic of human actions is yielded to a machine, for some reason. We need to pass a government law that anybody purchasing technology that replaces a basic act (such as moving one’s hand to a shower handle) should be evaluated for devolvement to caveman status, thus requiring permanent internment in a cave to match their status.

evil shower.jpg

4) Robot Assistant [13 of 37 Link Slides]

I’ve ranted enough about the Amazon Echo on this degenerate forum, I’m kind of tired with it. I guess I’m just shocked at how many companies are fighting with razor blades to be that one guy who assists people with everything from their own calendar, check weather, Internets searches, whatever. Why does any of this require help? People need to do their own shit.

5) Adult Distraction Charger [Link Slide 26]

Uses the kinetic energy of a child stroller to charge a phone or other device like a distance tracker. Because nothing says a person loves spending time with their young child like using it as another opportunity to be constantly on the phone. Nothing says a human is an evolved higher form than by having a machine tell them how far they’ve walked, rather than looking at a map and figuring it out themselves.

evil charger.jpg

6) Human Corrector [Link Slide 25 of 37]

Our winner for this year’s trip to the crypt is the “Funky Bots Atomic Bands for klutzes”. This thing apparently wraps around limbs and then coaches the person into more “graceful movement”. You heard it right. A company apparently has the gall to state they know how each human on the planet is required to walk. That most basic of human tasks since 10,347 BC. How do you tend to walk? You’re wrong. This company is right. Never mind that each human being is inherently unique in both a mental and physical way. Nope, you’re just an algorithmic calculation away from being instructed and corrected on how you transition from your bed to shower, or car to front door. Hey, I get it, life is hard. But walking? This act needs correction, assistance, technology? Instead, let’s just buy people who buy this product one of those little motorized carts people ride in the grocery store. I’m sure the cart is cheaper than this wearable technology. I’ll even buy it myself using my own international gold reserves. My only caveat is each cart user I buy for must display two pennants from the back of the cart. They say “I am an amorphous creature!” and “I’ve given up!”

evil corrector.jpg