Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Ghost in the Machine? It's You.

I joined BHF for dinner before we performed server maintenance for one of our customers. We started talking about science fiction troupes. Once that line of discussion started, it was only a matter of time before we talked about The Ghost in the Machine -- we both agree we hate the term, but we are starting to see some of its fingerprints.

In science fiction, this troupe is all about a machine becoming self-aware and questioning whether it has a soul. Some of the greatest stories in scifi center around a self-aware computer that helps or destroys humanity. Naturally, we think it's complete nonsense.

Instead of scifi's emerging self-awareness, we believe it is more like a mass digital swarming Zeitgeist. With every tweet, comment, like, poke, friend request, review and data point we feed the ghost, it collects another piece of the human psyche. Slowly we are accumulating all the joy and hate, pain and pleasure, fear and hope of the human race into a digital format. The collective human psyche now has a mighty digital mirror.

Since all tech strives to become invisible and we are on a convergence course towards one another, soon we will merge with digital technology and make it part of ourselves. At that point, we are the machines. We become technology and it becomes us. The machine won't wake up -- we will.

R-Squared Computing | Lou RG | Nearly Free IT | Firm Wisdom

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Jews And Arabs Refuse To Be Enemies and Why I Stopped Hating Hashtags

Normally, I hate hashtags. Most are annoying, cryptic, pretentious or about cats, an animal I personally detest. But this morning I saw one (a hashtag, not a cat!) that has altered my reality. This morning I saw something heartening:

I invite you to click on the link just to look at the pictures. This is my favorite:

In a time of violence and conflict, these brave souls decide to show their humanity in the face of barbarity. It gives us a chance to remember that not everyone from a war-torn part of the world is consumed by hatred and fear. There are those who have overcome their tribal differences to find commonality and, even, love.

For the first time, the Internet has allowed us to see their faces and read their words. People who want nothing more than to live in peace, free from persecution and prejudice. It is important to remind the world that there are Palestinians who don't rain rockets, just as there are Jews who are not lethal.

With the media consumed with body counts and explosions, because of the Internet, these peace loving people aren't so alone, aren't so invisible. While the great enemies slaughter and maim, they connect with one another online to share a message of peace. And this message can be seen around the world.

For the Internet is a mirror to humanity. All our ugliness and glory on display for the price of the right keywords in your favorite search engine. Suddenly you can look deep into our madness and see the worst that humanity has to offer. Or, instead, you can look for those who seek to bring a positive message. One of peace, love and understanding.

It is harder to hate your enemy once you recognize him as human. That is exactly what this hashtag accomplishes. It shows us how two historically bitter foes can put aside millennia of hate by forgetting their differences and remembering their common humanity.

It's nice to see the Internet's sweet side, that doesn't feature a cutesy cat. Maybe hashtags aren't all bad.

R-Squared Computing | Lou RG | Nearly Free IT | Firm Wisdom

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Are Lab Grown Meats Vegan?

Is lab grown meat acceptable to vegetarians? 

While these may seem like strange questions, they are relevant to a subset of humanity who chooses a lifestyle they believe is more conscientious.Ethical vegetarians object to modern factory methods of animal husbandry and therefore have adopted a meatless diet. They oppose the conditions these animals are required to endure and therefore have made a moral decision to not support it financially.

However, since lab grown meat does not require you to harm or incarcerate any animals, is it vegetarian safe?

It seems clear that vegans should reject lab grown meats simply because they are harvested from animal proteins. The strict vegan would probably never agree.

What do you think? Will people who adopt vegetarian diets on ethical grounds accept lab grown meats?

R-Squared Computing | Lou RG | Nearly Free IT | Firm Wisdom

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Homo Evolutis

Eventually humans will control evolution, not just through DNA tinkering but also by merging with our technology.

Tech-Philosopher Kevin Kelly postulates that as technology becomes ubiquitous, it disappears from sight. As digital computers shrink towards the nano scale, it is inevitable that humans will implant these as augmentations. Just last month, DARPA announced a program to develop a digital brain implant to help augment human memory as a treatment for various brain disorders.

In April of this year, scientists tested a new DNA-based nano robot that can release medications in highly targeted and controlled ways. Very soon, we will be able to eradicate cancer with targeted treatments which only attack cancerous cells. Current chemo-therapies will be remembered as nothing more than witch doctor medicine. How soon till we are all walking around with nanobots embedded in our bloodstream?

Science continues to push the boundaries of the human genome. Very soon, every baby born will have her genome sequenced as part of her medical file. Doctors will become truly proactive at protecting against genetic illnesses before they become a danger. Eventually, we will be able to genetically engineer out these weaknesses and improve the human animal. Imagine a world without  hemophilia, autism or all the other genetic diseases. It can all happen once we can engineer the human genome.

This is a critical convergence point.

When we can tinker with our own DNA to make changes, and we can control that process via nanobots, we stop being Homo Sapiens and cross the threshold into Homo Evolutis. At that point we become the masters of our own evolution and the human animal will explode into a dizzying array of variations and permutations.

Suddenly, you can sport pink hair for that fancy dinner party and then change it back before work on Monday. You can tinker with your DNA to adjust your weight or even your height, within certain limits. Who knows? Maybe we could even geneer (gene + engineer) humans capable to withstanding hard vacuum or even those who can breathe CO2 instead of O2. The limits of current humanity end and a whole new human race begins.

R-Squared Computing | Lou RG | Nearly Free IT | Firm Wisdom

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Build Windmills

When the winds of change blow, some build walls, others build windmills.

This old Spanish proverb has been stuck in my head for the past 5 years. More and more it is obvious that new methods for work and play are taking over our lives. We can choose to fight the change or we can try to harness it.

Microsoft has spent the last two decades trying to fight the change and then grudgingly adopting it. This has put them into the role of a perpetual laggard with a host of "Me Too" solutions which just don't capture anyone's attention or imagination. While the company remains financially strong, it is clear that this strength is dwindling as time passes. In a recent interview, a Microsoft executive said that Microsoft operating systems only account for 17% of the total digital landscape. This is a far cry from their once dominant position. As times changed, Microsoft refused to change with them.

On the other hand, a host of upstarts have challenged the once mighty giants of industry. In the last 10 years, the Dow Jones 30 Industrial corporations have seen 12 changes in their ranks. This is extraordinary when you realize that since its inception in 1885, they have only ever changed 53 companies. That's just under 23% of all the changes happening in the last decade!

As the economic landscape continues to change, it is critical that you adopt these shifting winds. You must learn to harness change and make it part of your business culture. Study Elon Musk and his host of companies as great examples of harnessing the winds of change to create genuine innovations that will change the world.

R-Squared Computing | Lou RG | Nearly Free IT | Firm Wisdom

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