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.

20170410_200120.jpg

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.

20170410_202253.jpg

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.

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

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!

Amazon is a witness to your life and death

Well, this didn’t take long.  This Amazon Echo contraption has only been ordering pizza, shoes, demolition cord, Uber rides, autogyro rides, and aged cheese for just a few months.  Now it’s already being asked to solve a murder.  No pressure little cylinder dude.

Apple at least got to wait a few years before being blamed by the Feds for allowing terrorists to potentially raid a nursery by refusing to give up iPhone data.  Amazon didn’t get any such grace period.  Nor will any other technology company / invention I suspect.

The background here is pretty simple.  Amazon has data, government wants data in the hopes it can help solve crimes, Amazon (citing privacy) refuses to give up data.  How can the Echo do this you ask?  Why just let the BBC tell you, the Echo:

The “always on” machine makes recordings of audio it hears from a fraction of a second before it detects a wake word – either Alexa or Amazon – until it judges the command to be over.

This audio is then transmitted to Amazon’s computer servers, which interpret the request and tell it how to respond.

Although no recordings are meant to be made at other times, the device often becomes activated when it misinterprets speech as being its wake command.

So basically what we have here is it’s become clearer that yes indeed, the Echo is in fact a live listening device that folks (for whatever reason) have installed in their own home.  So when the following things occur, the Echo is listening and potentially recording:

1) You get murdered in your own home

2) Your dogs hijack your internet while you’re at work to purchase more kibble behind your back

3) You say or do intimate things with your significant other

4) You and your kids get in a fight

5) You comment to another human how tasty a meal is

6) You express all your hopes and wildest dreams to another human, your dogs, or an inanimate object such as a painting, piece of artwork, or stuffed animal

7) Aliens kidnap you, repurpose your home’s guest bedroom, and make you write regularly for a shitty blog

8) You say off the record (on the Amazon record) belligerent comments about your boss, the one who employs you and pays your bills

9) You say off the record (on the Amazon record) belligerent comments about your family, the ones who love you and cherish your existence

10) You say (offhand) to your significant other that you’d punch Jeff Bezos in the face and neck, if you met him randomly on the street

In order to conduct its basic functions, why does the Echo even need to store anything on Amazon’s servers (Amazon Web Services)?  That the cops could later get a warrant for?  Even if the Echo needs to talk to Amazon’s servers to best interpret your audio request, why do they store the data for the long term?

Because by storing everything you say on their servers they can run programs to mass analyze what you and everybody else said.  They’ll then use the algorithm output to find better ways to sell you stuff.  It’s not about privacy.  If it was about privacy, Amazon would morally never collect and store things you say in your own home on its private servers.  They want your money.

I’m not saying Amazon should go ahead and hand it over to the Feds, don’t get me wrong.  The government is among the most egregious and worst violators of your privacy there is.  Your local sheriff probably has the power to look up your favorite beer if he so chose.

But I do have a problem with Amazon (or any other company) waving the privacy flag in defense, when in reality the six biggest violators of privacy on the planet are Google, Apple, the NSA, Facebook, the KGB, and Amazon.  Not necessarily in that order.

Know your risk.  I use Google’s products almost every day.  But I understand they’re data hounds.  So I hedge my risks as best as I can.  I knowingly accept some of the badness.  For example, did you know if you’re logged into Gmail that every other piece of browsing activity you’re doing is logged on Google’s servers?  So if you’re checking e-mail (on any browser type) and then tab over to search for directions to Hitler’s death house, Google will know and log it.  It is for this reason that I will check my Gmail, then actually log out and close the browser, before I do any other web related activity.  There are also cookie and history deletion methods I regularly execute with Google.

I’ll never do this Echo thing for any reason.  I don’t need Amazon in my living room.  If for whatever bizarre factor you need an Echo in your already overly complicated life, okay, I guess.  Just be sure you know the intricate details of how that thing works and how you manage your data.  For as it stands, it seems the basic default settings of this snoop cylinder are insane.  Amazon is a witness to your life and death.

amazon-echo

One day, I’m going to come back home from work, and there’ll be an Echo on my dining table.  I didn’t buy it, nobody broke into my house, it’ll just be there.  I will then club it with a bat, grab my dogs and some canned goods, and run for the hills.

algorithms are never going to drive your car

The wave of the future is you sitting in your car reading a book or drinking a beer on the way home from work. Man, that’d be sweet. Trillions will be spent trying to make this happen. But I still don’t believe it’ll ever happen in large scale.

Once upon a time I dabbled in computer science. It’s been so long since I did that, that in writing the word ‘algorithm’ in this post’s title I had to re-spell it like ten times. But I remember enough to know just how flawed computers are. It’s why everything eventually breaks, at least once. Or has to be restarted every now and again.

I mean, airplanes don’t tend to crash anymore, but remember those are always human input at the end stage. It’s interesting that in all these autonomous car dreams (experimentally on the road today) that nobody seems to be seriously considering autonomous airliners. I’d bet a substantial amount of my freestanding international gold reserves that your average person would be a hundred times more comfortable getting in a robot car over a robot plane. Even though the fatality rate on the roads is astronomically higher than the skies.

The challenge with the robot car is not the computer hardware, or the sensors, or even trying to rewrite thousands of federal, state, local, and insurance road laws. It’s the algorithms. These algorithms will guide the way the car drives, navigates, how it responds to failures, how it handles emergencies, dangerous situations, and so on. If the algorithms don’t work, or are flawed, at least some badness will always occur. And in my mind, since algorithms are always written by humans, the flaws are never going away. And you can’t restart your car while you’re driving 65 mph down the road. Though I suppose the car could pull you over and then restart, if the algorithm handles the error resolution correctly.

But also, it comes down to what humans are willing to entrust to an algorithm. For example, I heard this used in a play on that morals exercise, if you’re in a car at 45 mph and you go left you run over one person, if you go right you run over three people. What do you do? But in more relevant terms for our discussion here, at 45 mph if you go left you run over one person, if you go right your car hits a jersey wall. Your significant other is in the passenger seat.

Or, with different circumstances, what if you go left it’d be two people you’d hit. If you go right you still hit the wall, but it’s just you in the car. How does the situation change if you’ve got kids in the back? Do you go left or right? Both these options suck, but it’s a decision that determines the fate of other fellow humans, or you and your car partner.

Yet in the self-driving car world, the algorithm makes this decision for you. You have no say. Then the programmers have to turn around and pre-program (somehow) for the car to handle a limitless number of other eventualities. Would you let your car decide any of these situations for you, for your family? I wouldn’t. An algorithm doesn’t get to make those kinds of choices for me. Only I do.