May 23, 2012

Terabyte 451

The capacity at which blogs burn | #SecondLife


I’m going to let you in on a little secret.


Deep down inside, I actually dislike technology. For many of you reading these words, this comes as a great surprise, and may even leave you scratching your heads a little. Clearly, if I am a computer science researcher, you’d be led to believe that I actually love technology.


Allow me to clarify.


As the title of this post implies, the theme for today is based on literary references and begins with the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, whereby the plot was essentially a dystopian world where books were banned and burned. Furthermore, in this dystopian future, television was the central role of media delivery.








I remember reading the book when I was younger, and later on I watched the movie version from 1966. It is very true that the book is almost always better than the movie adaptation, and even when I saw I Am Legend there was disappointed because I had actually read the book before hand. It’s not so much that the movie was bad, because in its own right it held its own in a society that has a short attention span. What makes me angry about technology is not that it is bad in any way, but that society chooses to use it as a crutch or an excuse to lower their standards of intelligence or expectation of the world and:


Technology isn’t advanced enough yet to tell the

stupid monkeys to get a grip


We live today in one of the most technologically advanced societies, and you would think the collective level of intelligence for the world would have been raised by now out of the gutter and into the stratosphere. What we see instead seems to be a position where the world is quickly separating into a situation of technological Eloi and Morlocks. In the 1960’s we put a man on the moon, and in 2012 what amazing advancements in space exploration do we have?


Um… apparently NASA discontinued the space shuttle, and we haven’t stepped foot on another planet since the hippies in the 60’s took some LSD and collectively said “Sure, why not?”. I mean, clearly we could have not only another trip to the moon but we’d be able to do it thousands of times better this time around. Essentially if Apollo can make it to the moon and back with the equivalent of a TI-80 calculator in computers on board, what the hell is stopping us today with doing it again and setting up a moon-base with nothing but an iPad on board?




Time Machine - Morlock

Morlock: The Eloi will give you brain damage. | Doc: C’mon, they can’t be that bad!



Such things as the Internet have empowered many to be much more intelligent than we could have otherwise, making it that much easier to soak up the knowledge of the world as if we have access to a modern day Library of Alexandria. These would be the Morlocks of our age, while there is still an unprecedented amount of ignorance despite this advancement; clearly we’re talking about our Eloi in this case who use the technology but really gain nothing more than convenience and frivolity. The digital Morlocks, on the other hand, are taking that vast resource of knowledge and using it to push forward and create more information and technology, though sometimes I really question – “For what, exactly?”




Time Machine - Eloi

Doc: Did you just compare Justin Beiber to Mozart?



Recently I saw on the local news that Newark Airport had installed an avatar assistant to help people, and to be honest, I was immediately reminded of the Librarian from The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.



In the future, artificially intelligent systems won’t try to kill us… they’ll just be patronizing.



Clearly the avatar at the airport isn’t as advanced yet as the VOX system from The Time Machine, but it gives us a little context for both how technology is advancing accordingly to our science-fiction roots as well as (and I argue more importantly) what the outcome of that technology is likely to bring upon us due to our stupidity.




Maybe science-fiction authors are smarter than we give them credit for?



In a twisted sort of irony, we’re living in a world where both Huxley and Orwell were correct. Huxley’s argument was that there would be no need for militaristic control over the world and the people because we’d be entertaining ourselves into submission. Orwell, on the other hand, imagined a world where militarism and dictatorial leadership reigned supreme to keep the population under control. Strangely, they’re both correct in that the best way to establish a militaristic control over the population is to let them entertain themselves into submission first.



George Carlin tells us about the Morlocks



That’s why people who watch Fox News are routinely ignorant on both the facts and implications of serious situations in the world and locally. If you aren’t intelligent enough to see the situation for what it is, then clearly it doesn’t matter if you vote or have an opinion about it. All of that just becomes part of the entertainment value of society  – keeping people smart enough to work and dumb enough not to know any better or care. But then, the Morlocks are uprising as of late and going for broke, now aren’t they? Maybe the Morlocks are the Occupy Wall Street movement and related protests, in conjunction with cyber-hacktivist groups like Anonymous.


Or maybe, the Morlocks are best described today as our 1% in the world. Ok, that’s a much better analogy. Then there are the technocrats such as Anonymous which seem to have realized that the only real way to get us out of this Eloi future is to stop listening to the stupid Eloi, and fight against the Morlocks. The Eloi would just let their own be killed without so much as an intelligent thought about what happened or why… their attention span is so short that it’s always a matter of time before something else catches their attention and they forget all about why they were pissed off to begin with. I suppose I can cite September 11th 2001 as a perfect example of this Eloi mentality.


Going back to the Fahrenheit 451 theme, the real reason this bothers me about technology and human stupidity, I suppose, can be blamed on Dora the Explorer.



Dora - Favorite Part



The thing about Dora the Explorer is that at the end of the show she asks “What was your favorite part?” and then just goes ahead and breaks the fourth wall in the worst possible way by going completely silent and staring at you. A few birds might chirp, and Boots the monkey might shuffle a little bit, but Dora simply stands there staring at you with her gigantic eyes.


Those giant… unblinking… eyes.


It doesn’t matter what you say, either, because as adults we know it’s just a television show and can’t hear you (though you sports fans out there shoot my theory to hell). No matter what the kid says, Dora will always say “Yeah, that was my favorite part, too!”. The simplistic way to address children who don’t know any better is to just have the fictional characters always agreeing with them no matter what. To the children it seems like Dora is their best friend and talking to them, which I suppose beats the parents having to actually do that. God forbid.


Of course, our kids are watching this condescending crap on our new flat screen televisions stuck to the wall in glorious high definition output and surround sound…








Which now that I think about it, sounds like a really familiar scenario. What does this remind me of…. hmmm.






Aren’t you ladies missing the latest episode of Dora the Explorer?



Oh, that’s right! Fahrenheit 451 again!


See, in the book, there’s this flat screen television that Montag’s wife watches all the time – because remember, books are illegal… and one of the scenes I distinctly remember was when she was kneeling in front of the flat screen television watching some sort of “interactive” murder mystery and it had this button where she could interact with the show. So all of the characters in the show would talk for a bit about what they knew about the case while Mildred watched along, and then – just like Dora the Explorer does today, they all just stop and say “What do you think?” while every character on screen stares back at you in silence. Mildred then starts to say something but really can’t formulate an answer too well. After a few moments of thinking she begins to say something but before she can finish her sentence, Time’s Up! and all the characters on screen proclaim “Yes! That’s exactly what we were thinking, too! That’s a great idea!”

Of course, Mildred at that point is debating with the fictional characters on the screen about them not letting her finish what she was saying, and so on… Not bad for a movie from 1966 and a book written far earlier.




By the time you’ve learned to love your slavery, you won’t mind the transition to totalitarianism.




Of course, this isn’t to say that it’s all bad news.


I acknowledge that technology is really agnostic and that it is really what we actually do with it that makes it good or bad. I just wish sometimes that we weren’t using it for frivolous things or as an excuse to be placated and stupid. Whatever happened to the digital board in the classrooms where the students would be sitting around with tablets and sharing in an open conversation to and from that board with the class and teacher in multimedia?


Walk into a classroom today and chances are you’ll see a whiteboard or common blackboard still, which really bothers me. All of this technology in the world and we’re still fighting tooth and nail just to catch the majority of the population up for a global benefit.




Twenty years later and we’re still not realizing this future. What the hell, humanity?




Personally, I don’t watch a lot of television. I mean, I actually have a television but it rarely is turned on. For the most part I read books or watch stuff on the Internet. It’s a balanced agenda, however, as I spend most of that time looking at academic and high minded materials versus frivolous activities. One of my favorite shows is How Stuff Works, and when there is a marathon you know I’m the first to be watching it.


What this boils down to is that despite having vast amounts of knowledge at our disposal, and incredibly high-powered technology in our hands, the average person never seems to bother with thinking bigger or of higher minded topics. We live on a small planet in an infinite universe and chances are that most spend their lives never even thinking about just how profound that is. The Internet itself was referred to originally as Intergalactic Computer Network before later being referred to as International or Interconnected Network. This isn’t one of those weird conspiracy theories, either… just look up J.C.R. Licklider.


Really, I just think it’s a shame that despite all of the technological advancements, the Eloi of this planet far outnumber the Morlocks, yet the Morlocks are clearly in control. It’s a shame that despite all of this great technology, we’re just as stupid proportionally as we ever were and there is still only an upper percent of the population that is much higher minded who can truly appreciate it all while thinking far deeper about everything as a whole. If anything, humanity, you should be thankful that groups like Anonymous exist and the Occupy Wall Street protesters. They’re out there literally trying to save our asses because we’re collectively too stupid to do it ourselves.


What really matters in the end?


Maybe the entire world needs an existential crisis to wake from this ignorant slumber and move forward together instead of continually fighting each other and impeding global progress?


Who knows… maybe that global existential crisis is closer than we think?




Apparently humanity would rather believe they are utterly alone in the universe than to share it with others.




So much potential in humanity, and we continually waste it. I’m pretty sure we’re all smart enough to stop doing this to ourselves…


I suppose there’s hope. I’m one of those people who wholly believe that popular media really acts as a social engineering outlet to introduce and prepare the population for coming events. I’m not entirely satisfied with constant coincidence that popular science-fiction shows and movies more often than not end up predicting the future. Either it’s function following form (inspiration) or in my belief, somebody knows an awful lot about the real world that you and I don’t, and have been sharing little by little over time.


Stargate SG-1, Star Trek, M.I.B, and countless other shows and media over our lifetimes have been slowly leaking out bits and pieces of what is likely going on for real on a higher level than our mundane lives and little social bubbles. A perfect example is the movie Lord of War where the movie flatly states it is based on a true story… and yet here we are still thinking that stuff doesn’t happen. It’s a classic case where we are conditioned to the point where we could literally be told and shown the truth and we’ll still laugh it off and walk away.


Another example is assuming Anti-gravity is impossible.


My question then becomes: Is it really?


Let’s explore this further a bit, shall we? Essentially what we’re talking about is reversing the magnetic pull of a planet in order to cancel or repel from the mass object. It’s a localized field, and so we only have to create a localized magnetic field which acts upon the planet in some manner, correct?


Well, this would be much simpler if it was dielectric magnetism, because then we’re talking about floating a magnetic object between two other fields. But where do we get two opposing magnetic fields on opposite sides whereby the entire planetary surface is the space in between? I’d wager the planet’s core (such as Earth’s molten core) could suffice as the first magnetic point, while the magnetic field covering the Earth (called the magnetosphere) acts as the opposing magnetic field above us.








Which puts us smack in between two magnetic fields by which we can assume dielectric magnetism for “anti-gravity” purposes. Of course, I’m oversimplifying this immensely, but that’s the gist of it all. I mean, how often have you seen those floating globes in the mall science store and thought “Wait, if a sphere floats between two magnets like that, then why can’t we apply the same basic knowledge from this children’s toy to the magnetosphere and planetary core?”


Two words alone explain why we don’t have flying cars yet:


Drunk drivers.


But it’s not so much that I’m right or wrong about anti-gravity that matters. What matters is that I actually took a few minutes to really think about it and how it can possibly be done, whereas a majority of the planet automatically ignores it. That’s what this world needs more of, objective thinkers.  We all need to become better objective thinkers and work together as a planet on stuff.


Look at the great comics of the time: Bill Hicks, George Carlin, et al.


All flatly telling us the blatant truth of the matter and like stupid monkeys, we sit in the audience and laugh… not knowing just how serious the message really is.


So today, I leave you the best message I can find.

It’s time to start thinking.

It’s time to make this world a better place.





It’s just a ride…


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