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“The intelligence chiefs stressed that Russia was attempting to undermine Western democracies through its ongoing information war waged by humans and automated computer programs known as bots on websites like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Google.”
~Time Magazine, 13 February, 2018
“As society becomes ever more computerized, the programmer becomes its unacknowledged legislator.”
~Nicholas Carr, The Glass Cage
During the first week of January, 1812, “a great number of men armed with pistols, hammers, and clubs, entered the dwelling house of George Ball, a framework knitter of Lenton, disguised with masks and handkerchiefs over their faces.” These men, following on the heels of numerous other similar attacks in the proceeding days and weeks, proceeded to beat Mr. Ball, and “wantonly and feloniously broke and destroyed five stocking frames standing in the work shop, four of which belonged to George Ball, and one frame, 40 gauge, belonging to Mr. Francis Braithwaite, hosier, Nottingham.”
The men were Luddites, and they were responding to the unnerving and disenfranchising appearance of automation in their lives, in the form of stocking frames for the knitting of textiles. This new technology, which the Luddites believed would eventually push them out of work and into poverty, also threatened the old orders of apprenticeship, and in the view of those blackening their faces and smashing frames in the night, it was an economic movement rapidly transforming into a revolutionary force.
But automation, and the efficiencies it provides for producers and consumers, and the profit it generates for business, generally wins the day.
Over time, many of the Luddites were hanged or sent away to penal colonies. Some were acquitted for lack of evidence. And though the figure of Ned Ludlam was probably a fiction, the Luddite Rebellion – which at one time employed more British soldiers than the fight against Napoleon – was a first manifest swing at resistance to industrialization and the encroachment of machines into the deeper reaches of daily life: employment, artistry, and traditional craftsmanship.
One of the greater realizations of the last century, and the early years of the 21st century, is that while technology evolves quickly — sometimes overnight — human beings are locked into an evolutionary framework of biology that is much, much, slower. And as our machine creations — from lawnmowers to supercomputers — seep ever deeper into our lives — beating us at chess, scheduling our days, influencing elections — many are rightly concerned that we are indeed becoming, as Marx wrote, merely “a living appendage of the lifeless mechanism.”
That tension is real. It is also frustrating and dangerous, and it is terribly important to consider as we face questions about models of interaction with our own creations — particularly software — into the future.
One goal of global software companies is to create an environment of “pervasive assistance”. We know that because Justin Rattner, Chief Technology Officer of Intel, has said so. The long-term consequence of that is to make software’s presence and manipulative influence in our life invisible. And when it becomes invisible it also becomes unquestionable, unconfrontable, and uncontrollable.
Another goal of software companies is to break down naturally evolved human behaviors meant to protect us from each other. No longer is T.S. Eliot’s notion of “preparing a face to meet the faces that we meet,” a normal human function and key ingredient of intelligent and planned survival. According to Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, “You have one identity. The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly…having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”
The presumption behind Zuckerberg’s statement is, in equal parts, ignorant, arrogant, and remarkable, and would render virtually every human relationship into a robotic exchange of algorithms mediated by software. Hence, Facebook. Literature and the other arts would become meaningless as, I think, a sound argument might be made that they are rapidly and regrettably becoming. When stories are reduced to mere algorithmic readings of complex human emotion and environmental inputs, we will have succeeded in sucking the soul out of life.
Which Yuval Noah Harari, in Homo Deus, says has already happened. “Homo Sapiens,” he writes, “is not going to be exterminated by a robot revolt. Rather, Homo Sapiens is likely to upgrade itself step by step, merging with robots and computers in the process, until our descendants will look back and realize that they are no longer the kind of animal that wrote the Bible, built the Great Wall of China and laughed at Charlie Chaplin’s antics.”
Harari argues that human beings have an innate desire to achieve immortality, and that having evolved out of, or away from, beliefs in the divine, the human response in the modern era has been necessarily to seek immortality through science and technology. It is this desire, he argues, that underwrites efforts at cryogenics, genetic cloning, and the merging of technology with the human body and mind.
“The rise of modern science and industry brought about the next revolution in human-animal relations. During the Agricultural Revolution humankind silenced animals and plants, and turned the animist grand opera into a dialogue between man and gods. During the Scientific Revolution humankind silenced the gods too. The world was now a one-man show. Humankind stood alone on an empty stage, talking to itself, negotiating with no one and acquiring enormous powers without any obligations. Having deciphered the mute laws of physics, chemistry and biology, humankind now does with them as it pleases.”
~Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus
It isn’t difficult to imagine what Rattner’s “pervasive assistance” looks like because it is already here, and it is fundamentally changing how we live on the planet. Google Maps is an excellent example.
Say you are about to visit a city. Calling up a Google Map on your phone or your computer will present you with a vision of the city that Google wants you to see — or thinks, based on an algorithmic judgment of your likes and habits, that you want to see.
Based on what you eat, certain restaurants will appear. If you buy books, a bookstore will appear. If you have searched for gas stations, they will appear, and so on. This sort of pervasive assistance is part of a trend toward “neuro-ergonomics” in software design, programs designed to integrate so seamlessly into our thinking that we hardly notice that we have ceded our own responsibilities for discovery to a software program.
This is a fine example of the degenerative effects of computer automation, which flies in the face of what science calls the “Generation Effect.” The Generation Effect tells us that the more work the mind must do the more work the mind is capable of doing.
And certainly we are in the midst of an unparalleled surrender of our own curiosity and pioneering awareness — seen all around us in the humorous form of people running into telephone poles or toppling into water fountains while rubbing their smartphones — as we cede the once-critical ownership of awareness and self-worth to manipulation by a machine and its algorithms.
“We believe that we have built a perhaps limitless power of comprehension into computers and other machines, but our minds remain as limited as ever. Our trust that machines can manipulate to humane effect quantities that are unintelligible and unimaginable to humans is incorrigibly strange.”
~Wendell Berry, It All Turns on Affection
Nicholas Carr, in his excellent book “The Glass Cage,” poignantly highlights the dangers of technology when he writes: “Automation severs ends from means. It makes getting what we want easier, but it distances us from knowing.” And it is this distance from knowing that is the truly dangerous part of the equation. At its furthest ends, it can obliterate the knowing portion of the equation entirely, and nothing is worse that not even knowing that you do not know.
Automation, at this stage in its evolution, already touches every facet of our lives. Many analysts have attributed the wild market gyrations of early 2018 with “algorithmic manipulations of high-speed traders.” Algorithmic-based trading strategies are programmed to respond within milliseconds to market conditions, far outpacing a human’s ability to react competitively. When those algorithms are triggered, massive numbers of shares are bought or sold in a blink, and the market can quickly find itself beaten into a corner.
When, during the recent correction, I spoke to my financial advisor, I asked him if there was a certain Dow-Jones number at which I should become concerned. His answer was revelatory: “It should probably be more of an emotional trigger than a specific number,” he said, which I maintain is probably true but leaves my family vulnerable to the behaviors of predatory software in the grand scheme.
“Taking the misanthropic view of automation, Google has come to see human cognition as creaky and inexact, a cumbersome biological process better handled by a computer.”
~Nicholas Carr, The Glass Cage
The idea of an emotional trigger to market conditions is one thing, but it also hints at the question of morality in machines, which is an enormous problem for software engineers. Carr points out the problems with programming, say, a driverless car, to understand the difference between a child chasing a ball into the street, or a small dog. How does the car react? What do insurance companies have to say about how the car reacts? How will our machines “calculate their way out of moral dilemmas”?
And of course there is the lingering question of LARs, or Lethal Autonomous Robots, which are probably the future of the battlefield, and who will need to make battlefield decisions of enormous complexity.
“The only way for robots to become truly moral beings would be to follow our example and take a hybrid approach, both obeying rules and learning from experience. But creating a machine with that capacity is far beyond our technological grasp,” writes Carr. “Before that happens, though, we’ll need to figure out how to program computers to display ‘supra-rational faculties’ — to have emotions, social skills, consciousness, and a sense of ‘being embodied in the world.’ We’ll need to become gods, in other words.” See Harari.
And finally, Carr says, correctly, that “The first shot freely taken by a robot will be a shot heard round the world. It will change war, and maybe society, forever.”
“Sex-Dolls Brothel Opens in Spain and Many Predict Sex-Robot Tourism Soon To Follow.”
“Sex with humans could soon be a thing of the past.”
In the words of Arthur C. Clarke, “We’ve designed a system that discards us.” Which can already be seen almost anywhere we choose to look, and which was the original fear driving the Luddites to smash weaving frames and whose fears of displacement and unemployment were also finally realized.
At the current pace of development and disenfranchisement of human capacity, one might be forgiven for wondering at what point a modern version of the Luddites packs a van full of explosives and attempts to drive it through the gates of Google, or Apple, or Intel. It is interesting to realize that today’s version of the truly dangerous underground radical is anyone — marvelous people like my wife, for instance — who makes a conscious choice to remain disconnected, unplugged, separate from the pervasive and utterly controlling worldwide digital nervous system.
“The Robots are Coming for Garment Workers”
“There’s only one problem: most of the alternatives higher up the value chain, like electronics, are automating as well.”
~The Wall Street Journal, 2.16.2018
I will only be surprised if that sort of modern Luddite Rebellion doesn’t happen in my lifetime. I don’t expect it to win out, but I expect that at some point it will begin to manifest, and I expect that in another century or two someone will be writing about the quaint little rebellion against software that happened way back when.
Which is another problem with pervasive automation because it will begin to erode our ability to properly interpret history. We will, I would argue, eventually be incapable of reproducing, or even understanding, the conditions of antiquity. We will find ourselves so far removed from similar day-to-day circumstances that our ability to interpret or understand the equations of decision making in an untechnical world that we will essentially be looking at alien creatures.
To a large degree we do that already when looking at the bones and burials of our ancestors who, at this point, we still have far more in common with than future generations will be able to muster with us.
We spend a lot of time thinking about and interpreting the past, a necessary function to help explain how it is we have arrived at this particular point in history. But it occurs to me that I have not spent nearly enough time thinking about the future — except through a kind of emotional extrapolation-projection exercise while sifting through a maze of collated assumptions — and often with a kind of weighty dread that what is in the offing can only be terrifying.
I’m hopeful that thinking more about the future, and in particular the role of technology in that future, might in some way inform my desire to find a balance between technology as a tool and technology as an invisible and inescapable crutch. Which it may very well become for our grandchildren, or their grandchildren, as software developers and engineers seek every day, inexorably, to combine the computer’s contemporary omnipresence with a future omniscience.
“The value of a well-made and well-used tool lies not only in what it produces for us, but what it produces in us,” Carr writes. We can see what pervasive technology produces for us, and some of it is extremely beneficial. But given that 1 in 5 Americans take either depression or anxiety medications, I think we also have a glimpse into what all of this pervasive technology produces in us.
We can guard against the designs of software engineers and futurists, if we are so inclined, by refusing to allow technology to become “enshrouded in abstraction,” by resisting the trend of “inscrutable technology becom(ing) an invisible technology.” Because, as Carr writes, “At that point, the technology’s assumptions and intentions have infiltrated our own desires and actions. We no longer know whether the software is aiding us or controlling us. We’re behind the wheel, but we can’t be sure who’s driving.”
Pfleging Jim says
“…nothing is worse than not even knowing that you do not know.”
Every time I managed to dig myself a hole, it was a result of thinking I knew everything I needed to know. Conversely, every time I succeeded it was always preceded by my realization that I probably didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.
If there is one vexing result of light speed commentary and reliance on algorithms it has to be the willing abandonment of truth and unwillingness to find it. It’s driven me to the woods.
We need to take your wife’s example and abandon it all. Except yours, of course!
Sadly, this commentary is brought to you by my iPhone 6 with voice recognition.…?
Thank you. At least I’m moving in the right direction …
Craig Rullman says
True that. It drove us both to the woods, Jim, and probably for a lot of the same reasons. After all, we know a lot of the same people. lol. My wife has been incredibly disciplined in her deliberate untechnology, and I admire her for it. It holds no attraction for her, which is refreshing, and probably one of the reasons she is excellent in so many other areas of her life–like making things. I was with her until I started the Bunkhouse Chronicle. After police work and juggling two cell phones for years I didn’t even want one of those damn things. No social media, of course. But then I realized that in order to have any audience at all that would have to change, because its where the people are. Almost all of them. They have all been beamed up into an invisible ether where they stare at each other through screens. Just last night I was amused by a very public, 100 post, 415 via Facebook about putting a weed shop in our town. It was mind-blowing–the vitriol. I suppose I could have just grabbed a knapsack and started wandering the earth, peddling essays, like some wild man eating locusts and wearing camel hair, but it gets too cold here in the winter. 🙂 What underwrites a lot of the success of social media is the enormous human ego, and of course the dopamine drip that feeds it. Mine included. Which even the ancient Greeks warned us about. If I can, in the end, find a balance, and keep the same suspicious eye on technology that I reserve for government, I think it will be a win. Thanks again for being here.
Pfleging Jim says
On a side topic of android human replacement. I would direct you to an incredibly stupid movie called Cherry 2000. Bad 80s movie with bad 80s hair about our hero who electrocutes his android girlfriend in a I/O fueled bath scene and seeks a replacement chip. Shockingly prescient along with the genesis of the #MeToo movement. https://youtu.be/urS8GmwmeWQ
Who’d have thought we would go so low!
Craig Rullman says
Nice find. The 80’s will take an extraordinarily long time for humanity to recover from. And Laurence Fishburne as an android broker. Classic.
Reminds me of the manga/anime Ghost in the Shell which deals with an anti-terrorism squad in a future where the majority of humans have cybernetic implants. The television adaption even had an episode with sexbots. (A surprisingly clean episode too.)
Personally, I believe in treating any prediction of the future with skepticism. Bill Gates was recently saying China may out pace us in the development of an AI. Thing is we were according to some suppose have development of an AI by the year 2000 (and cold fusion, to say nothing about moon colonies.) Which isn’t to say that I think you are completely wrong. FACEBOOK and social media seem to have a fairly negative impact on society to me.
Craig Rullman says
One of the keys to successful propheteering is to remain vague in one’s predictions. I make no hard claims, but the trends are certainly clear, and I would argue mostly irrefutable. Just this morning it was announced that scientists have formed an embryo combining human and sheep DNA–for the purpose of growing replacement organs. Imagine, a whole building filled with genetically engineered kidneys. And the recent indictments handed down by Mueller reveal the extent to which manipulation of the mind by social media is both possible and desirable for very powerful entities.
Saddle Tramp says
I too have succumbed…
As a class project in 1971 we were all given copies of Alvin Toffler’s book FUTURE SHOCK. These were the real old days. Digital watches just came on the scene as an example.
A predominant theme in the book as I recall was the term overchoice and the pace of change. An example would be toothpaste. In the not too distant future he stated, you would go into a super market and there would be a vast selection of mind boggling offerings and choices of toothpaste. That was only the beginning. The psychology of product placement and targeting and all that marketing manipulation was already going on. Store, front windows were an early come on but harmless by comparison. You can’t blame the merchants for doing what they do. Same game as always today but with greater (and increasingly more irritating) refinements. Also the same game today but with an almost omnipotence (and Gorgon Stare omnipresence). Even God is not watching us that close (thankfully). The greater good or not as always lies in the hands of the user or abuser. Hell, I’m guilty right now. I promise you that I am trying to curb my enthusiasm for RIR with less commentary and rather instead discipline myself to a more voyeuristic appreciation. My long term view has been to never throw out the baby with the bath water. I have never been a Luddite by any stretch and have no plans on becoming one anytime soon. Everything has the potential for good or bad. The concerning thing today is the pace and volume of what we are dealing with. The Sorcerers Apprentice (see Goethe’s poem) in charge or the wise master sorcerer at the stick. The damage can be so hard to rein in at the pace we are traveling and the interdependency of it all is it’s greatest vulnerability. I got sucked into The Book Of Face because of family and only had only watched and rarely participated or contributed. I felt a little guilty so I started a little weekly feature for awhile. I abandoned it quite some time ago. I really don’t like it alll to be honest. I take a quick scroll down and that’s it. I am also highly aware of the manipulative nature of the “Big Eye” in everything. Hell, when I went to see HOSTILES at one of those exclusive shopping centers in west L.A. I got disoriented finding my parking spot in the vast parking garage. As I always do, I had snapped a photo of my location spot (A6) or whatever. It all looks the same sometimes. and even with that I got mixed up. I saw an attendant and asked for help. He asked for my parking ticket. He then whipped out his phone plugged in some numbers and then described my car with plate number (showing me the photo of it at it’s randomly chosen by me parking spot and gave me the exact location and directions to it. Helpful, but also scary.Gorgon had got me and this is just the business application. Make the leap to government agencies (or criminals) applicable to your choice. God is not even watching us this close (thankfully)…
Jim Cornelius says
There are so many instances where I think, well ain’t that handy, followed instantly by recognizing all the multitude of ways some new gadget or tech trick can be abused.
Craig Rullman says
The real root of all this evil came when somebody put pockets on shirts. I just finished watching a fine documentary on the Celtic cultures of southern Germany and France. They had a fantastic trade network and the burial mound sites were full of Greek pottery and cauldrons far beyond the Celts’ own ability to manufacture at the time. The technology was so valuable that the Celts took great pains to repair breaks and keep the vessels in use. I fell down a mental rabbit hole wondering which Celtic artisans were enraged every time a Greek or Etruscan piece showed up in town. The finer walk I think remains in retaining independence where we reasonably can, but to keep a solid eye on the misuse or potential dangers of whatever tech comes our way. Not easy to do because, as you mention, the pace is accelerating constantly. I often begin writing a piece with pen and paper. It still works for me, and the difference of running the words from my head down through a pen or pencil with sprinting around on a keyboard I find very interesting. It forces a kind of deliberate thinking that I find meditative and interesting. But it also ends up requiring more work to transpose everything from one medium to another.
Breaker Morant says
I might echo the thoughts of many here (and previous generations as well). I am 51, and I am glad to be as old as I am. I grew up in an analog world and I will be gone before things go too far down the road you describe.
Whenever, I think of the singularity and whatever virtual reality/digital form our futures take‑I think of the wind in my face. About a decade ago, I spent significant time in the hospital and what I missed the most was the wind in my face. Nowadays, I often forget to remember that, but when reminded, as in this post, I get myself a dose of “Wind in my face.” I don’t want a VR version of that.
On High Frequency Trading (HFT) and investing. Starting from a very small base, I am proud of a stock market stake that I have built up over 20 years. I would put the total return right up against most hedge funds and so forth. Especially given the lack of flexibility and limitations in the the early years because of the small beginning stake.
I know I can’t compete with HFT and a short term mindest, but I can beat them with buy-and-hold and long-term investing strategies. One of the benefits of being a farmer is that we think in terms of decades and generations. I don’t give a crap about the latest 5 second moves, although, I admit that it is addicting to watch these moves.
Jim Cornelius says
First thing that crossed my mind when I read this piece was Don Edwards singing “I thanks the Lord I wasn’t born/No later than I was.”
“Wind in my face.” Always.
Saddle Tramp says
My last post on this one. Jim, I promiseif it takes someone tying my hands behind my back and locking up my phone in a safe.
I went and saw Don Edwards a few years back in Santa Clarita. He came out and entertained us ahead of his show with a song as a favor to the next next performer who
delayed coming out. The song he played was Saddle Tramp.
I met him after the show and had him sign a cd to Saddle Tramp. I told him how he had helped keep my sanity out on the road for years and how I had bought my first cd of his at a Lordsburg, New Mexico truckstop. Since then I have bought everything he put out. Like a Ramblin’ Jack Ellliot he also became a real cowboy that had been was born and raised on the East Coast. He inscribed the cd: The Saddle Tramp. One helluva a nice guy and his wife as well.
Western Jubilee Recording Company out of Colorado is a great source for his music and much more. It soothes the soul! Go online (here we go again) that is of course unless you are passing through Elko, NV and can stop for hands on purchases at the Western Folklife Center Store. Giddyup!!!
Oh and regarding HFT, how about the lengths (and shenanigans) they will take in order to get that zeptosecond jump on the market. Greedy bastards!! If the economy is not in the service and well being of the population it is a false economy. Give me Don Edwards! He makes me feel better about the world.
Craig Rullman says
At the end of the day, having the wind in your face, or some dirt on your hands, is the best reminder. Love that. For me its horses. Their lives down in our barn are incredibly interesting and endlessly fascinating to me. And whenever I reach a saturation point, I walk down there and just sit with them for a while. It works.
We can still beat the machine, and your strategy is, to my mind, the right one. Generational thinking…notes of Black Elk that I like a lot.
Annie Marland says
I find this discussion rather humerus, not that your writing is humerus Craig (well sometimes). I’m thinking back on early computers, I mean back when someone invented paper and pencil.
When I went to college the computer was this huge machine that ate punch cards and spit out some kind of unreadable stuff on paper. If you dropped your punch cards on the way to the ‘computer building’ you might as well slit your wrists (both o them).
Then came the IBM guys hawking their computers with the exciting concept of .….….….…. businesses becoming the “paperless office”. I ask you if you have ever seen a paperless office? Don’t know what your office looks like Craig but I happened to have been in Jim’s and in no way is it paperless. Of course he’s a newspaper guy.
Now, at 70, I see what has become of me. I can’t survive without my cell phone and computer. I’m in awe of your wife and her strength. I’ve spent way too much time in the world of computers. I do a lot of reading on my Kindle. However, I haven’t learned to play those games the kids do. Arthritis in my hands. Maybe in the future a robot will be helping me into my wheelchair.
Craig Rullman says
Annie, if you end up in a wheelchair who the hell am I gonna dance with?
My office is decidedly not paperless. Especially now that we have crammed the podcast gear in here and are gearing up to start producing the Running Iron Report podcasts, which hopefully demonstrates our commitment to using technology to service our needs, rather than the other way around. You will enjoy.
I’m also in awe of my wife and her strength. She marches to her own drum and fife, which is why I married her. Thanks for being here.
Lane Batot says
Ha! Talk about sink-wren-awe-city! As a lot of you know, I only JUST got my own computer contrapshun last summer–haven’t had it a full year yet. I have this plug-in thingamajig to get “reception”, and if I use up all the whachamacallits, even if I renew the money(via my old-fashioned, tethered-to-the-wall phone–I STILL have not-yet-yielded to the computer phone thingys), it will NOT give me “reception” until a pertikuler date–hence my computer silence these last few days. Do I fret or go into withdrawal? Hardly. Plenty of old-fashioned books to read, plenty of outdoor woods activities to indulge in(and those books are mostly about outdoor woods things.…). During the last few days, among other woods-related things, I put up a blind near my wildlife feeders I keep on my property, for moonlit and daytime wildlife observations–nothing like hanging out with critters to reafirm what’s REALLY important(like yer mingling with yer horse family, Craig), and reconnect one with one’s TRUE Nature, which IS Nature. I also have always had my dog pack, continue to roam the woods at every given opportunity(heck, I LIVE in the woods, basically!), and even my job as a Zookeeper keeps me rooted in the Animal Perspective, which, no matter WHAT technology comes along to distract mankind, will still ALWAYS be his/her TRUE perspective. Dogs are MUCH better than drugs! I love every moment of being addicted to THEM! I really don’t anguish much over the future–although I fully realize that it is likely to get very bad before the Fat Lady screams. But in the end, NATURE WILL WIN–it’s just all the loss and destruction and agony to getting back to that which is terrible to contemplate, but Nature WILL prevail. It is pure ARROGANCE and petty human ego to not realize it. I once heard a Chippewa medicine man chuckle at my youthful concerns over what we were doing to the planet, fearing we humans would destroy it. He flatly stated that all we were destroying was our own ability to survive on it–Mother Earth would shrug and go on and start over, no matter WHAT we did! Though still not a happy thought, it has given me great peace in contemplating the future and the survival of LIFE. I have often felt if ANY humans survive our disconnect with Nature, it will be the “forgotten” peripherals to modern society–those “primitives” still living in the depths of the Amazon, Siberia, the Kalahari and Congo, the outback of Australia–who keep the Old Ways alive and functioning. Truly those “meek that will inherit the earth”. To me, that is comforting. During my rare trips into cities, I feel comfort in every weed I see poking from the concrete, the rat I see scuttling in some dark corner, the blatant coyote turds I see on the sidewalks that no one else seems to see. That trickster Coyote! How I love him! Nature will NEVER totally lose. She is only waiting for us to realize the folly of our ways and come to our senses, or our self-imposed demise. I might add I am also comforted by connecting with others in the computer world like this–before computer contact, I felt like the LAST survivor of “Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers”, but I have been heartened greatly, also, by finding more of “The Meek” out there via this contrapshun.….So use these preposterous contraptions–adapt them and utilize them while they are here to be MORE yerself, and share with like minds, just don’t become ADDICTED–have plenty of ‘woods stuff” to do to balance things out and stay in touch with the only TRUE reality, Nature. If you are to be addicted to anything, be addicted to DOGS! They’ll keep you on the right track–truly our best friends EVER! In fact, dangit, pecking this out just makes me want to GET OUT and take the dogs for a run! See you’un’s later!.….How’z THAT for a harangue!
Craig Rullman says
That is a marvelous harangue and we are all better for it. Keep’em coming.
This: “I once heard a Chippewa medicine man chuckle at my youthful concerns over what we were doing to the planet, fearing we humans would destroy it. He flatly stated that all we were destroying was our own ability to survive on it…”
Saddle Tramp says
You sure do know how to give ‘em enough rope to harangue themselves with. I for one am grateful to you for it.Harangue ‘em high I always say. Seriously, you are always the one around the digital campfire to bring some levity to it. Cartoonish and serious at the same time. A true art form. Like-minded yes, but nothing can be learned from sameness. Differences are teachers too. You no doubt have your priorities straight. I can only imagine a FP / RIR parlay in Sisters some day. It would no doubt be eye-opening. A real campfire to get rid of the DT’s (Digital Toxification) Blues with Dogs & Horses as counselors…
Jim Cornelius says
He hates it when I say this, but Lane is a bit of a genius, actually.
And the Sisters Gathering is a real dream of mine.
Saddle Tramp says
Yes Jim. Agreed top to bottom!
Yes, I know I broke my promise already. I NEED HELP!
This one is for Lane:
I have had a iPhone (smart ass phone) from it first iteration. I must admit it is an invaluable tool in my line of work. I do know how to simplify. For nearly 7 years it was 18 wheels and a P.O. Box. Living the road 100%.
With the internet and smart phone I could be away from my P.O. Box for months. Today being a LAB (no lane not the dog) but a live aboard is much easier. I wanted to do it in a boat, but got sidetracked.
Anyway a reminder:
This is The Year Of The Dog by the way.
Some tips on how to Stay Wild;
• John Muir survived a snowstorm on Mt. Shasta in 1875 by staying near volcanic hot springs.
• Climb the wall. A granite one. When my shit is clean there’s room for fresh thoughts, not reactions to things.
• Clean the mirror and look deep.
• Washing the brain of all that city shit.
And of course a quote:
“But to be part of the treetops and the blueness, invisible, The iridescent darkness beyond, silent, listening to the air becoming no air becoming air again.”
— Frank O’ Hara
My oldest daughter’s dog Granger is saintly. I just look at her and peace comes over me. A very special healing vibe.
Lane Batot says
.….Nope; I don’t think “genius” is accurate(neither would most of the teachers and professors I’ve had!)–more like a frustrated “Heyoka” that never actually had a thunder/lightening dream to invoke the Power, nor any proper Medicine Person to guide me. You know the Heyoka–the Lakota name for the “contraries” that do everything backwards(and boy howdy, am I regularly called “Backward”!) and make complete fools of themselves to make The People laugh–not to be taken TOO lightly, though, as there is great Power in laughter.……
Lane Batot says
.…But the Sisters FP Rendezvous? I would do everything I could to attend THAT! No doubt I’d havta git on one a them-thar airy planz agin to travel all that distance.……
I don’t have a smartphone. When I got my first “slide” phone after going off to college, the iPhone had been on the market for a year or so, but not a lot of people had them. Over the next few years the iPhone became more widely spread, but as a poor college student (and then poor college graduate), I never had the scratch to own one. For about nine months I had a company smart phone when working for a construction outfit, but after leaving that job for another one I just turned on my old slide phone and that was that.
Somewhere in there, owning a smart phone became ubiquitous. I’m not sure why; anybody who tells you that it’s necessary to modern life is pulling your leg (or trying to sell you a phone…) When I worked in pizza delivery, I went down to the gas station and bought a gridded map of town with a key for all the streets. My delivery times were the same as anyone, and I learned the town better.
That aside, I get stranger looks these days with my slide phone than I used to. I also notice that I spend far less time on my phone than anybody else I know, because looking around the room or talking to people is far more interesting than playing with a calculator app on my slide phone.
And now that I’ve gone back to school for a grad degree and am teaching, I’ve realized that my freshman students (only 8 or 9 years younger than I am) would never question the necessity of the smart phone. (They also don’t remember 9/11, but that’s another story for another time.) Overall, I find my students to be wonderful, capable, and intelligent. I’m not about to say that the “younger generation” has nothing going for it…especially not from my “high vantage point” in my late 20s!
But it makes me sad that my students grew up just on the other side of the internet divide, where it’s weird not to have a specific piece of technology that goes everywhere with you, monitors your location, listens to your calls, reads your texts, and can be activated remotely becoming (effectively) a bug everywhere you go. Among other things.
Craig Rullman says
I was in graduate school when email became a thing. Still long before cell phones. I remember distinctly how all of us TA types were herded into a room to learn it, and I will never forget the graduate coordinator walking to the corner of the room and, like Vanna White, announcing “This is a server.” All I could think about was, stupidly, what tennis had to do with anything. That’s true and an honest recollection. I also remember sitting next to my good friend and both of us laughing at how ridiculous all of it seemed to be. When would I ever use this? Why would I use this? In the big picture, and it is a little unsettling, that was just yesterday. The next thing in the rehab and counseling industry might be focusing on detoxing from machine saturation, if it isn’t already.
Annie M says
My first cell phone was as big as a walkie talkie. Included an antenna.
Jim Cornelius says
And weighed as much as a brick.
Annie M says
Wouldn’t fit in a purse or pocket
J.F. Bell says
I’ve had the same phone for the last ten years. One of the older Samsung flip models. The usual response to such an antique is incredulity followed up with asking why I don’t get a smart phone.
Easy answer is because it does everything I expect of a phone. With this marvel of technology and I can make and receive calls and text messages in most part of the U.S. The ability to take blurry and out-of-focus pictures the size of postage stamps is an added bonus.
A more correct answer, I suppose, is that it still works and doesn’t need replacing.
The tertiary benefits are nice, too. I have zero risk of people stealing my phone. If somebody does they’ve got none of my information. The worst they can do is…I dunno…annoy my friends and run up texting charges, I guess. If cornered, it can be pressed to serve as a primitive bludgeon. For all my efforts I have thus far been unable to destroy this device, including running it over with field artillery.
Even so, I hate cell phones on principle. It’s an electric leash. Not too many years ago it was nothing to make a quick run to town. You needed something, you went. Now you pass the front gate and realize you don’t have your little electronic friend, and the involuntary response to turn around and get it ‘just in case’.
Nevermind the neurosis it induces when you don’t answer on the first ring or, worse yet, don’t answer at all. Somehow this magical toy which promises to improve your life has instead made you more accountable to more people at all hours of day or night.
They can drag me into the 20th Century, I suppose. Can’t make me like it.
Jim Cornelius says
I think of the phone as my ankle bracelet. A lot of people are on the job 24/7 because of those things. Ain’t healthy.
Lane Batot says
HA! I have the same old phone I bought back in the 1980’s! It gets very, very little use. Most of my friends are animals, and they just never call! There is an answering machine attached(a freebie hand-me-down from someone’s long past upgrade), but I still sometimes miss messages for quite awhile, as the dust layer from disuse often obscures the blinking light signaling I have a message completely! I thought the whole point of the old-time phones was that they stayed tethered to the wall so’s you can GIT AWAY from them! I can see where maybe having some little dinky–whadda they call them? Burner phones?–for emergencies might be a good idea, but I have still not yielded to that(yet). When I’m out roaming the woods, I REALLY REALLY DO NOT want such a tie to civilization bulging in my pocket–I’m out in the woods to GIT AWAY from civilization! That would only be in Winter, anyway, when I have some pockets. No place in the Summer in my loincloth for a cellphone! What I am beginning to resent most about cell phones is the ATTITUDE of the “majority” when they find out you don’t have one of the technological parasites attached–you are looked at as somehow being IRRESPONSIBLE for NOT having one. And I suppose society will eventually FORCE me to participate at least minimally, since I suppose my old phone will eventually croak, and there’ll be no even vaguely similar replacement for it. But I am used to being dragged, kicking and screaming, into modern high tech stuff–as you can see here, it happened with computers, at last.But just look WHAT I’m doing on the computer! Indulging in anti-high-tech rants! Something hilariously ironic about THAT! I’ve been resistant since childhood, however–the woods got DEEP into me early. I’m the only person I know that, when they turned 16, didn’t rush to get my Driver’s Licence that very birthday. After about 7 months had passed, and me showing no inclination to ever do so, my parents finally had to get insistent, and MAKE me go git the cursed thing. Even then, it took me three tries to pass! Ain’t no Luddites got innything on ME!