Overwhelmed By Technology

 

AI1

Few years back when I was with my earlier organisation, an IT major at the cutting edge of technology, we used to have a monthly meeting with team leads of different projects. Every meeting, one of the team leads had to talk briefly on a particular technology or a technical aspect. After that the Director would wax eloquently about the upcoming technologies like 4G/5G, Connected cars, Digital life, Big Data, AI etc. and that how lucky we were to be in the midst of the next ‘revolution’.

Frankly, at the risk of sounding retrograde, old school or plainly out of sync and ruffling a few feathers of the techie readers, I felt the opposite. I felt and still feel that we are going down a sinkhole of technology, too much of technology.

giphy (3).gif

Seems like we are no longer living in ether space but in a sea of wi-fi. Always connected, GPS’d (located) and updated at all times. We eat and drink data, sleep in the internet and dream in the ethernet. We are stuck on the grid like a prey on the spider’s web.

 

images (10)

Ever since the technology has boomed and the internet speeds skyrocketed, we have been sucked into the never ending vicious circle. More the internet speeds, more content or data we consume and the more we consume, the more we pay for the data consumption! Consequently, the telecom and the OTT service providers and the ISPs are laughing all the way to the banks.

They have successfully hooked us on to fancy mobile phones, gadgets and the consequent data consumption. The techies or the geeks particularly take pleasure in wallowing in technology. I know geeks who proudly proclaim that they live their life in the IDEs.

IDE

Of-course, the companies are driven by business and they salivate at every possible business opportunity, no complaints there. My grudge is against too much use and dependence on technology. Let’s run through a few examples here:

 

 

1. AI Assistantalexa

The Amazon Echo uses Alexa, Amazon’s voice control system to listen to your commands and fulfill them. Have we become so busy, lazy or dumb that we need assistants to do our daily routine jobs?? It can play music tracks for you, dim lights, create a to-do list and of-course order some stuff on Amazon! Naturally, it would be connected to the internet at all times and gobble gigabits of data!

Why can’t we see through the game here? The more dependent we become on these gadgets the more dumb and helpless we get and we still pay for it. Why do we need a AI assistant to tell us what to do, create a shopping list, remind us of birthdays and what not….? This beats me.

 

2. Digital Life                    digitallife-none

Another amazing phrase or a concept. It is being touted as if you would achieve Nirvana if you live the digital life. I remember watching this marketing video which depicted the digital life. It showed, you could remotely lock or unlock your home doors, move your window curtains, control the lights, control the temperature of your home, turn on and off the water tap, basically control almost every gadget or machine that can be connected to the internet. Now I don’t want to sound a spoil sport but what happens in the event of a malware attack or the internet simply goes down for a couple of hours?? This brings us to the third and more worrying example…

 

3. IoT (Internet of Things)

IOT

As the name suggests, they are planning to connect almost every conceivable thing to the internet and to have them ‘talk’ to each other as well. The ‘thing’ here means mobiles, gadgets, home appliances, vehicles, sensors, actuators and transplants. According to Wiki, by 2020, the IoT could consist of roughly 30 billion objects. It also estimates the global market value of IoT to reach $7.1 trillion by 2020! Maybe humans too would become one of the IoT if they put transplants in us. Each of us could have an IP address then!

The connected car for example, would turn on the engine and the AC few minutes before you board the car so that the temperature inside is just right. As soon as you are seated, perhaps it could list out the things you need to buy from the grocery, provide you updates on the weather and traffic, remind you of a meeting or the upcoming dates to pay up your bills, the list is endless. Wouldn’t you rather just sit in the car, turn on your favorite music and just drive away instead of listening to irritating endless babble?

But wait, there is something more scarier coming our way…

 

4. Artificial intelligence (AI)      AI2

An obscene amount of data is being collected and crunched every day by the social media sites, search engines and the ISPs. The creative techies have written and continue to write awesome algorithms that enable the computers or the devices they reside in to constantly learn and improve on their own. They call it machine learning. The algorithms find out patterns in our behavior, find out likes, dislikes and traits and accordingly present us with suggestions on what to buy, what to eat, which movies to watch and so on.

The problem with AI starts when the machine starts developing its own logic and judgement and down the line there are chances that it would simply get out of hand. As an example, if you need to go to the airport to catch a flight in an autonomous car and for some reason you start late and instruct the car to take the best possible route and speed up, you could end up  with a siren blaring police vehicle on your back.

NLP

On the other hand, if it decides to obey the traffic lights and rules, effectively means it is developing its own judgement and logic. Think about it, as it develops on that logic one day, it would start arguing and ultimately override you. Still worse, if the AI technology falls into unwanted hands, you have a sure-shot recipe for Armageddon.

Now am not completely against technology. Let us use it on need basis like weather forecasting, diagnostics, research, simulations [or WordPress blogs  🙂 ] etc. But when it comes to our personal lives, shouldn’t we be better off on our own deciding what to do, what to buy, what to eat and what to watch? Shouldn’t we be driving our own cars and riding our own bikes? Why do we need some smart alec  machine to subtly influence or dictate our lives?

I haven’t even touched the topic of ‘privacy’ here. Would be happy to know your thoughts.

Can’t help but sum up the addiction and dependence on technology with these apt lyrics from Def leppard’s White Lightening:

You wanna leave but you can’t let go
You wanna stop but you can’t say no
You’ll never laugh about it
You just can’t live without it
You had enough but you just want more
You never get what you’re lookin’ for
You’ll never laugh about it, never…

 

 

Abstract Writing

images (8)

After my last post few weeks back, I had been thinking, procrastinating, reminiscing, waiting, forgetting and finally forcing myself to write a new post. Well, here am I trying to put together words but still struggling with them. It is 11 p.m. after a not so pleasant day at office, I am shuffling in my chair partly fighting fatigue and partly the ghost of writer’s block. I have got no clue what am going to write, I cannot think about any topic, subject or phenomenon to write. I do not know from where or how am going to get that stimulus to write. I am panning my surroundings trying to catch that elusive clue, that thin thread to pull out the ideas from the subconscious, that spark to fire up the thought process. However, am still at the starting block, seemingly frozen and locked up.

tumblr_m3kn54cfuh1rn63zfo1_400

By now, I have downed one cup of strong coffee hoping to clear the cobwebs in the mind and coaxing the amygdala to throw up some emotions but in vain. Few minutes have passed, I venture out in the balcony. The outside world seems to be peacefully disappearing into the night. The gentle breeze blowing off a few dry leaves off the tree is adding the necessary special effects. Although my conscience is coaxing me to write, my mind refuses to oblige.

images (9)

Now I change my tactic. I calm down, settle into my chair and take a deep breath. I close my eyes and try to focus inside, trying to rein in my adamant brain. No am not meditating though it may seem so. Sure enough the first thought that strikes is why doesn’t  the medical research fraternity make a pill to generate thoughts and ideas? Just pop a pill and voilà….you’ve got a nice bunch of ideas. But it’s of no use if the ideas just pop up randomly and overlap each other. As it is, the mind is a chaotic being. To be able to do or write something constructively, we need to reach that ‘ordered mental condition’.

Most-valuable-skill-Abraham

And to reach that condition, the psychic energy has to be channeled in a particular way so as to generate ‘the flow’. But we hardly notice how little control we have on our thoughts unless we are involved with some external stimulus like playing a game, watching a movie, reading a book, driving on a challenging road and so on. But as soon as the external stimulus is taken off, the mind wanders off to who knows where. It has the uncanny ability to fill itself with trash and gibberish. According to well-known psychologists, to control this chaos, we have to practice habits that facilitate control over the thought process. One of the simplest techniques is daydreaming, playing out pleasant and interesting sequences as mental images.

images (5)

 

Jerome Singer, a Yale psychologist who has studied daydreaming and mental imagery perhaps more than anyone else has suggested that it can help create mental order and reduce frustration and pain of unpleasant past experiences. Sounds interesting, if only we could spend a better part of the day – daydreaming! The entropy in my mind kicks in….how do you study daydreaming? By studying other’s daydreams and daydreaming yourself? Not bad for a job. Now this has got me thinking, what did the great philosophers and thinkers used to do? What was the motivation for thinking when there were no incentives like the Nobel prize or monetary awards?

DQmam4fFucQh7ikA5z73dgETKi3BeDf3n1khknrv7D6btuU

It is said that they just enjoyed the process of thinking more than anything else. Democritus, a pre-Socratic philosopher would sit for days immersed in thought. His countrymen, the Abderites had no clue what he was doing and thought that he was acting funny or was plainly ill. So they sent Hippocrates, a great doctor that time to check what was wrong. Now Hippocrates was not only a good doctor but also a wise man. After his discussions with Democritus, he immediately understood that he was merely lost in his flow of thoughts. Some of the retrieved fragments of Democritus’ writings prove how much he enjoyed the practice of thinking: “It is Godlike ever to think on something beautiful and on something new”; “Happiness does not reside in strength or money; it lies in rightness and many-sidedness”; “I would rather discover one true cause than gain the kingdom of Persia”.

download (3)

Democritus

Suddenly, the entropy in my mind again kicked in, I wanted to write on a particular topic but ended up on a roller coaster of random thoughts moving between the present, past and generally the abstract. Now I do not understand much about abstract painting which to me looks like random brush strokes of colors but I would liken whatever I have put down so far to abstract form of writing.

It’s About Time….

images (6)

BIO-EINSTEIN-TONGUE

At the outset let me apologize to AE (Albert Einstein) because am not at all happy about the way time or should I say space-time(aren’t they related?? Yeah!! Relativity!) has completely taken over our lives. Space-time, because we are always trying to reach from point A to point B in the least possible time. Be it the office, a rendezvous point to meet the client, trying to go up the corporate ladder, trying to better our social status, you name it. We are completely overwhelmed by the clock and the deadlines. We are now lifelong hostages of the digits or the pointed hands in the clock.

I can hardly think of any activity over the weekdays that is not governed by time. And by the way AE, why does time travel faster on weekends?? Just when it seems that the weekend has started, you have the specter of a dark and gloomy Monday hovering over you. To me, time is a monster that has gone berserk, devouring everyone and everything in this universe.However, the moot question remains, does time really exist? Time to apologize to AE again since am taking a shot at deciphering time(minus the space)with my peanut sized intellect.

It is the difference between now and then, before and after, here and there. In other words, any change results in time. It could be change in the state of the object, change in its position, change in its size, change in colour or even change in the sound or noise level. This is my theory but there are some interesting theories about time.

 

A Theory : Introduced by the Scottish idealist and philosopher John McTaggart in 1908. According to this theory, the events can be ordered as past, present and future. They call it a “tensed” theory. This is what we have readily accepted about time. But hold on, there is another theory…

B Theory : Again introduced by John McTaggart in 1908. This theory subscribes to a “tenseless” concept of time. It does away with the concept of flow of time. In other words, the past, present and the future all exist at the same time. Now this is very interesting. What this effectively means is at this moment, I exist in a specific time slice in the Einstein 1932spacetime fabric (Sorry AE for trampling again on your spacetime fabric!) and that each time slice is connected to the next one forming what I understand as my lifetime. It is like a film being played out but who or how is it decided if it is being played forward or backwards? Isn’t it all relative? I can already feel AE glaring at me.

Dr.Bradford Skow, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has proposed that space-time is like a “Block universe” where past, present and the future all exist together. He further elaborates that we are spread out in space-time in a “temporarily scattered” condition!!

If I were to take a look at my entire lifetime, I would need to transcend my existing reference time-frame and this is what I may see. My entire lifetime on something like a film strip.

Capture

My Lifetime

images (4)Interestingly, in The Bhagwad Gita too there is a reference to the timelessness(Na Bhuto na Bhavishyati) of the spiritual soul. So if am that spiritual soul (no… don’t laugh), I was, I am and I will be or just, I continue to be..!!  See AE, it is even messing up the grammar.

Now if we go beyond the argument of the existence of time and observe its behavior, scientists have found that time behaves differently near the Earth and away from it. They have conducted experiments with two similar clocks, one placed near the ground and another placed few feet above the ground. The clock placed above ticked few billionth of a second faster than the one near the ground. As it turns out, time flows faster away from gravity.  This is also known as Time Dilation.

All objects in the universe warp space-time and thus affect gravity.

general_relativity_large

Two dimensional space-time warp

maxresdefault

Three dimensional space-time warp

The heavier the object, greater is the warping of space-time. Hmm.. may be that is the reason why Elephants and Whales move slowly.

Time is also affected by motion. The faster you move, slower the time flow. They (scientists) actually sent an atomic clock on a plane around the world and when it came back, it was slower by about 230 nanoseconds. Now that’s not exactly a lot of time but if you do manage to travel somewhere near or equal to the speed of light and more importantly do manage to come back, you could possibly be enacting the scene in Interstellar where your daughter would be the age of your grandmother.

Another quirky quality of time: Different people perceive the same event occurring at different speeds. Enter AE again..!

download (1)

What??

He claimed that events that appear simultaneous to a moving person may not occur simultaneous to a person standing still. So we may have individuals living in their own timelines or time cocoons. Could be the reason why some people appear more aged compared to their actual age than others.

 

Time stops outside of a black hole. A black hole is a point in space-time which is incredibly dense due to insane force of gravity. The gravity is so strong that even light bends towards it or if the source of light is inside the black hole, it may never come out. main-qimg-c5fc977b65066309384fa3e1a84fa1aaMost interesting aspect of this “gravitational singularity” is that time stops. So if you were to observe Superman going into a black hole, first you would see him slowing down as he gets near the “event horizon” and as soon as he just crosses the event horizon, he would appear completely still! Forever! That’s because time stands still at the event horizon. However for Superman, time would pass in the exact normal way as it would on Krypton or on Earth.

It is pretty clear now that time is not such an innocent creature after all. Its behavior differs from place to place, person to person, speed to speed and last but not the least, it plays games with your brain. There are four very simple things you can do to escape its effects:

  1. Push it to the event horizon.
  2. Get out of your existing reference time frame.
  3. Travel at the speed of light.
  4. Settle inside a black hole.

It’s about time……

110916-N-ZF681-487

If time travelled backwards

nature-images-86Sometimes I get weird ideas, so weird that they qualify to be labelled as thought aberrations rather than ideas. But the mind refuses to be reined in and continues to run amok. One such thought aberration was what if time travelled backwards? Now Einstein would be surely turning in his grave saying it’s all relative and there is no such thing as forward or backward. However, with my current frame of reference and the way my mind is programmed to think, “clockwise” is time travelling forward and “anticlockwise” is travelling backward. With that issue settled, let’s embark on a journey “back in time”, literally.

I would start my life as an 80 year old, with standard complement of medical complexities, whiling away my time, cursing others, creating occasional nuisance and ogling at women third my age, boys will be boys! Not a bad start, considering the fact that I would already be retired and the onus of my responsibility (actually burden) would be on my immediate family rather than other way round. After spending couple of decades, I would have gradually regained my health and would be about to join the workplace.

The medical complexities would have ebbed and I would be joining the workplace at the pinnacle of my (erstwhile) career, with its full baggage of pressures, responsibilities et al. It would be cool to have all the knowledge and the experience prior to joining the workplace. No interview, no tests. Over a period of few years, I would gradually “move down” the corporate ladder.

Though I may have a settled life, the customary midlife crisis would make it appear as if I am the most unsettled and the most unfortunate of them all. While desperately trying various options for course correction including retirement, I would essentially stay on the same course just procrastinating. While the midlife crisis would die down, I would still be doing the tight rope walk trying to balance my personal and professional life.

Meanwhile my full grown, full-fledged family would be progressively getting younger each day. The kids who had just got a job and were independent would now be attending college and then “graduate” into school. While in school, wouldn’t it be amazing to show them their own photographs and videos when they were older? Same would go for me and my wife when we would look at our photographs and videos when we were old and have a hearty laugh. One immensely satisfying thing would be to lose the flab around the waist and get the foliage back on the head.

As I would progress back in life, one day I would get married and the next day I would be a bachelor! Oh how I yearn to be a bachelor….if my wife reads this, am sure to get killed or maimed. Subsequently, it would be the good old college, sun in my eyes, wind in my hair, no studies, no worries….just friends, fun and movies. Next, it would be time to go to school. The energy, the insatiable desire to learn new things, the innocence and excitement would return. I would find joy in small things like jumping in puddles, playing in dirt, chasing insects and butterflies, making paper boats and airplanes.

Getting younger and younger, I would lose weight and height, would start wearing colourful clothes with images of cartoons, slowly losing my vocabulary. Instead of saying full words and sentences, would start blabbering in monosyllables. My routine would now be eating, sleeping, crawling around and again eating and sleeping. The diaper would take care of the rest. Finally it would be time to say goodbye to the world and get into my mother’s womb!

 

The Writer’s Block Conspiracy

images (1)

One of the many creative urges, it’s far from many though, that I started getting lately is writing. People usually tend to get creative under extreme pressure, exceptional circumstances, a flash within or pure in-born talent. However, for someone like me who is exceptionally sedate, laid back, perpetually short of ideas and with a distinct lack of initiative, it’s a kind of mystery. Nevertheless, I sat down to write and that itself was an achievement. But that’s how far I went! Suddenly the enthusiasm, thoughts and ideas(as if I had many) went dry like a solitary tap in the middle of Sahara. But I was not giving up so easily. My mind frantically scrambled to look for ideas, past experiences, my interests, trending topics and anything under the sun! I closed my eyes trying to summon the thoughts within, then looked here and there and finally burned few calories pacing up and down the house. But all I got was vast emptiness, like deep space, finite but unbounded. Like a car with critically low battery, the thought engine would just not kick in.

writers-blockFinally I decided to take recourse to what else, Google! I searched for topics to write and was flooded with hundreds of topics, techniques and writer’s block. What I was experiencing was essentially a writer’s block. At some point of time or the other, every writer had or still has writer’s block. So now I gleefully shifted the blame on this phenomenon and restored my self-esteem. Usually am not inquisitive, but decided to take a deep dive. Soon I found out there was tons and tons of data or research on writer’s block. There are thousands of pages written about what are the common blocks and how to overcome them. The more I searched, the more I started getting lost. I kept opening new tabs and windows for different blocks and the ways to overcome them. The RAM on my laptop was now getting suffocated and my head was getting hazy.

There were so many types of writer’s blocks like not being able to come up with an idea, not able to build upon that idea if any, you have an outline but cannot get started, you are in the middle of a plot and don’t know what happens next, you simply get bored with your characters, you keep imagining that people would not like your story, you can’t think of right words to convey the idea, you have a great story lined up but suddenly go numb, you think you are good in a topic of your interest but just can’t write anything significant about it, you are revising your work but can’t seem to get past the blocks, phew!! The list goes on and on and there are equal number of ways listed out to get past them. From the search results and the amount of content written on this phenomenon, am smelling a conspiracy to blow the problem out of proportion and prevent budding writers like me to write. Even there are forums where people are ever ready to dish out advise on how to overcome the block. The more you search ways to get around the problem, the more you get entangled and finally after sometime you forget what kind of block you had and end up getting totally disillusioned.

They have created a whole industry out of this writer’s block with many books, articles, blogs, support forums and what not. Am all the more convinced about the writer’s block conspiracy but hey, I just got an idea to start a conspiracy theory series similar to what Jesse Ventura, the former Governor of Minnesota had.