an ode to flight

In the last three weeks I’ve been all over the map.  I have no idea how many individual flights it was.  I literally can’t remember.  Was it 8, 13, 17, who knows?  All I know is where I ended up.

But the thought occurred to me just how darn routine air travel is.  You show up, you fly, you get to where you need to go.  Sure there are delays and occasional customer service nightmares, but it’s statistically about 700 times safer than your drive to the airport.

We take it all for granted.  The last major Western carrier to lose a plane was Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330 which fell into the Atlantic on June 1, 2009 killing 228 aboard.

In other words, for nearly eight years the airlines have a crash record of 100%.  This is insane.  Given the complexities involved you’d think bad things would happen all the time.  Nothing ever works 100% of the time.  I think even washing machines hurt more people each year.

When you really think about it, it’s pretty cool.  It shows that when we’re serious, humanity can do some real awesome stuff.  It’s mind boggling that it’s this way.  Yet it happens.  Take a moment to relish it.

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safer than locking yourself in your own closet

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the Giant Octopi are pleased

So I’m on a 737 full of live humans bound for Chicago Midway.  We’re all getting settled in for a quite brief flight of only two hours.  The flight attendant makes her usual announcements and then casually mentions that the aircraft wifi is not working.

About 1/3 of the plane gasps in frustration or offers a bunch of “ohh”s.  Kind of like if you’re at a hockey game, and the home team fires a shot that just misses and clangs off the pipe, and the whole hometown crowd yells “ohh”.  That’s what the plane sounded like.

I shook my head, and continued to read my paper magazine who’s design was originally modeled in 1632.  Apparently folks can’t do without access to the Internets for a whole two hours.  The Giant Octopi are pleased.  They’ve got humanity wrapped around their little finger.

At the time of this incident, Bezos, Zucky, and all the other Giant Octopi goons suddenly got the urge to smile.  They didn’t know why, but I did.

Gee wiz people, read a book, talk to somebody, stare at the back of the tray table and let your mind wander.  Anything at all will do.  But do please unplug from time to time.

oh, no

I’ve connected through Houston Bush before, but that was years ago.  So I deplane and as soon as I get out the gate I notice there’s a bunch of small screens everywhere.  The normal waiting areas with rows of chairs were apparently replaced with tables.  Each individual seat had a tablet in front of it.

I didn’t think much of it at first.  I had a quick hour to grab food before the next flight.  I ended up at a place called Bam Bam for Vietnamese.  I sit down at the bar, and I’m face-to-face with another tablet.

Oh, no.

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It’s the future.  Today!

It took me about five minutes to realize no bartender was coming to see me.  I figured out on my own that to get a beer or order food I had to use the tablet.  Then I had to swipe my credit card right on the spot.

Even after you’re done ordering, there’s this still that evil screen right in front of you.  They continuously bombard you with ads, proposed money games, and whatever else.  You can’t turn the damn thing off, at least not that I could figure out.

The beer was local Texas good, they had a great banh-mi, and a so-so salad.  But I couldn’t get over the darn screen.  I want a quiet beer and meal.  And maybe to watch sports behind the bar.  Not get ads shoved in my face.  Note the company logos on the shot above from the many, many usual suspects of the Giant Octopi.  I should have put a napkin over the thing.

I’m an introvert.  So you better believe it’s a legit problem when I say I actually genuinely missed ordering my food and drink from a real live person.  To actually engage in conversation with a fellow human.

I eventually figured out the screen thing, but almost nobody else did.  Other folks coming in were exasperated with trying to work it out.  And they got frustrated as the one poor waiter had to walk them through it.

Business consultants told Bam Bam and Houston Bush that there would be friction during the “initiation period”.  But that eventually customers will get used to using this technology on a regular basis to order.  Then they can save 47% on restaurant personnel costs once all orders are handled in this electronic manner.

This is the future.  Every single moment of your time is one giant opportunity for somebody to shove ads in your face.  Everyone notice the new gas pumps?  Where they throw ads at you in the 49 seconds it takes to pump your gas?

Machines probably won’t totally take over every job.  You won’t see a full blown robot bartender.  Instead you’ll see various aspects of humanity removed from the equation.  Technology will destroy jobs on the margins.  Instead of six waiters a restaurant will have two.  What are the other four newly unemployed humans supposed to do?

If you believe the wizards of the future, technology will free those four people to go become artists, or learn a new trade like plumbing, or whatever.  What I suspect will happen instead is that society will generally continue to become poorer and more unequal.

When traveling, I don’t think I’ll do this again.  If I see a screen like this again, I’m walking away.  I’ll take my cash to a business that employs humans.  And if every bar stool on the planet has a screen one day?  I don’t know what I’ll do, but that’ll be a sad, sad day.

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The future can kiss my ass.

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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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absurdity of the week – auto texts

It’s just short of midnight, ready for bed, dogs are settling in and my phone gets a text. So naturally at this time of night, the brain goes into partial overdrive. What could this be:

– Friend or family member is in trouble

– One of my coworkers is letting me know they won’t be in next morning due to car accident, sick, sick child, blimp attack, sick pet, dirigible attack

– The government is texting me to inform of its surrender to a previously unknown belligerent alien race; report to Main Street by 8 am for indoctrination

– A prince in Nigeria has been kidnapped by eleven beautiful women and needs my help

– The text is from my dog, I turn around and he’s snickering on the rug, but I search him and can’t find a phone

– The text is from me, from the future, warning me to stock up on massive amounts of cheese; which I ignore; and thus do not possess the required amount of cheese next year to pay the Moroccan bazaar dealer for the amulet; thus failing in my attempt to save Short Round, who is thus impaled on a bed of spikes within the shrinking death chamber

Ah, no, not any of this. Instead, it’s a free text message from my cellphone provider. They want to inform me that my monthly payment has processed. Apparently, that’s emergency information at this time of night. Seriously.

You know, these texts are generated by robots. You would think they’d program the auto text not to arrive except during normal working hours. Apparently this simple idea is beneath the conceptual understanding of one of the planet’s most financially rich corporations. I shake my head at this stuff. How stupid are these people?

I want to develop intricate computer hacker skills. Then, I’ll hack the cellphone network and direct it to auto text the entire executive staff only between 1 am and 3 am. Each of these brilliant auto texts will be one of my above scenarios. I will continue said harassment until these executives resign, develop insomnia, and/or go insane. I figure I should be able to implement this diabolical plan within the next three days or so. Stay tuned into this pointless blog for the eventual results. I cannot fail!