WIRING THE ARK

Category archive

TECH SEAR

TWINKLE

The vastness of known space gives us hope that there is other intelligent life out there, perhaps even life like us, that feels and wonders and hurts and hopes and schemes and makes, possibly life like us that can be reached, somehow, probably not through travel, not physical travel, but maybe through means of a signal, one or more signals containing our image, our sounds, our reality.

A few years ago, I wrote a short tale, Love In The Time Of Caller ID, that considered this very idea. A man builds an app that lets us share our music, an app he hopes will go viral — viral because every time someone plays their music or shares their music, their phone sends out an extra signal, a signal song that floats into space and, yes, probably dissipates, but maybe not, maybe one survives and is heard.

It is.

An alien responds.

This has now been done for real:

Humanity’s first contact with aliens could be a breezy 24 years away. We sent a signal to an Earth-like planet that may host life – and we sent them a mixtape.

The project, called “Sónar Calling GJ 273b,” is a team effort led by the Sónar music festival in collaboration with METI (Messaging to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) International and the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia in Spain.

They sent the message via radio waves and transmitted it 9 different times. This helps ensure that all the information reaches its destination

What’s in the message?

Thirty-three musical pieces, each 10 seconds long, a tutorial on how humans keep time, and when we will be listening for a response.

What might a life out there be like? Just one. What might they do?

Evolution creates more life and more diverse lifeforms and it’s magical but if it’s just a quirk of an empty universe, no God, no spirit, no higher calling, a big bang proceeded by bodies in motion, then, fine, maybe your life turns out exactly the same, maybe so does mine, but oh the lost joy of reverence and potential.

Is it really only us among all these empty spaces?

Twitter has announced it will remove verification badges from “verified users” should those users tweet something the company chooses not to sanction. This is their right, for now, but it’s also terrible business.

Let every user validate their identity. Discourse will improve, greatly, and no one can accuse — or sue — Twitter for using its verified user badges as a means of sanctioning words or supporting views. That Twitter refuses to do this strongly implies the company wants to sanction and, as you can’t have one without the other, wants to marginalize.

It gets worse.

Twitter says it will remove the verified badge of literally verified users should those users engage in thoughts or acts — outside of Twitter — which Twitter does not sanction.

The gist is this: if a user breaks Twitter’s rules on Twitter — that is to say, by tweeting — that user will still be disciplined in all the usual ways, a spokesperson said. What’s new is that Twitter now plans to do at least some monitoring of verified users’ offline behavior as well, to determine whether it is consistent with its rules. If it isn’t, users can lose their badges. And so a hypothetical verified user who tweeted nothing but pictures of kittens but organized Nazi rallies for a living could now retain his tweeting privileges, but lose his verification badge.

This is what China presently does — the nation  that makes your iPhone.

They first verify who you are, connect your identity with your online account, then track you and punish you should you do anything, online or offline, not state approved.

We can only hope Twitter goes bankrupt for such searing incompetence and like-minded politics.

But what if it doesn’t?

What if the way of anti-democratic, anti-free China becomes the way of Twitter and that becomes the way of all the web?

Stay you.

It’s still an incredibly vast world out there, teeming with life, bursting with potential, and you, your words, your thoughts, your values, your actions will resonate and matter and just might even reach far farther than you ever thought possible. You don’t need another’s vehicle to carry your signal.

MATRICULATE

My biggest professional regret? Never able to convince former Yahoo CEO Marisa Mayer to waste $50 million on me. Seemed like she handed out cash by the millions to anyone who happened along with a bad idea or bungled business plan.

Guess I was just too good for her.

Too straight, too narrow.

Blame it on college.

Which may no longer be a viable excuse.

Because college may simply no longer be needed, not for the real, not for its fake.

The industrial revolution let us outsource physical labors. The thinking revolution lets us outsource rational effort. Crazy is our future. You can’t teach that. Now throw in YouTube, coding academies, AI, a million bots, all of the Chinese, three hundred million just-as-smart but much harder working Indians, plus this apparent need for line cooks, plumbers, electricians and underpaid outrage peddlers on Twitter, and it’s plain to see that the business of college — learning as an industry — is in the midst of a massive disruption.

There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, but Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen says that half are bound for bankruptcy in the next few decades.

Heh.

In his recent book, “The Innovative University,” Christensen and co-author Henry Eyring analyze the future of traditional universities, and conclude that online education will become a more cost-effective way for students to receive an education, effectively undermining the business models of traditional institutions and running them out of business.

I will shed no tears.

In search of dollars and powers, colleges politicized themselves, becoming one of the largest partisan donor classes in America. They gave good jobs with great benefits disproportionately to individuals of sanctioned groups, got bloated and bellicose off hardworking taxpayers, conned parents and children into believing they were gatekeepers to the future, and happily joined in the grand parade to denigrate our culture and deride our greatness. Sooner they collapse, the better.

Then what do you do?

Where goes your future?

Hit the road.

You may have no better choice.

You, your mate, your friends, others, buy a bus — or, if this is being read ten years from now, an autonomous bus — and drive the roads, seeking work, constructing an economic unit, maybe creating a happy little cultural ecosystem, using Twitter, Snap, even Facebook to promote your homemade wares, reveal your various talents, to barter, build, play, keep safe. Live in the bus, play in the bus, sleep in the bus, all as the vehicle’s AI drives you from Cleveland to Dallas, from Flagstaff to Vegas, Alaska over to Russia, no need for a house payment, no need for a house, everyone sharing expenses as best you can, learning from one another as much as you can.

The nomad lifestyle is upon us, and soon as simple and then-obvious as Uber:

Founded in 2016, Cabin (formerly known as SleepBus) recently launched a chartered bus service between SF and LA that allows passengers to fall asleep in one city and wake up in the next — for about $100 one-way. The logistics are a no-brainer: Get in, grab a bunk, and snooze.

The flat rate makes it more affordable than flying and potentially more convenient than driving, but only if you can handle the tight quarters and 23 passengers aboard the double-decker bus.

The economy is being deconstructed, the cultural gatekeepers are going under, technology is destroying everything, all of which means various pods of people, activity, creativity and community will sprout up, some stationary, many mobile, and I dearly hope this leads to something better. I really believe it can. Less consumerism, less waste, less quiet desperation, more acceptance.

The past is gone, or soon will be, and its gone-ing will be massive and permanent. Shed a tear if you like, romanticize it if you wish. It’s not coming back, not in a form the past would recognize.

You’re the next. You get to build the future. Do it better.

You don’t need a house, a mortgage, a car, the trappings. Literally, these are called trappings! The world at present is poor and bound. Be poor and boundless, start there.

JD

Technology is enabling us to extend our life, awaken our spirit, exit the past, direct our consciousness, and build a future, as well as destroy all who are now and everything that came before. I won’t let that happen.

But for now, let’s talk about baseball.

Knowing they wouldn’t make the playoffs, and needing to shed salaries, the Detroit Tigers shipped off much-loved outfielder JD Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Perhaps you care, probably you do not.

The 30-year-old Martinez is now up for a new contract. He is seeking $30 million a year over 7 years. $210 million.

And Al Kaline wept.

Imagine Mr. Martinez gets only $20 million a year for 6 years. $120 million. Now imagine half of that is taken away by the government — $60 million.

Now imagine his agent and various others take $20 million.

He’s now at $40 million.

Let’s say he blows $10 million on foolish investments. $30 million.

His wife leaves him, taking most. He’s left with only $10 million.

For playing baseball.

Still more money than at least 95% of everyone, maybe 99% of everyone on the planet earns in an entire life of working.

In 1976, before most Americans were born, Reggie Jackson, one of the greatest to ever play the game, signed a five-year deal with the New York Yankees for $3 million — just over $500,000 a year.

Baseball, was stunned. Ditto, the cultural landscape.

The world is changing faster now than it did in the 1970s, I suspect.

We can’t predict where value will come from in ten years or twenty, certainly not thirty. Nor do we know what is well valued now that will be shockingly high-valued in 2034, say.

Writers have been casually documenting the destruction of businesses, industries, manufacturing, even salaries of others, but now are in tears over the destruction of wealth and the re-routing of value in writing and journalism.

The letter was from Joe Ricketts, the billionaire owner of Gothamist and DNAinfo. At the URLs of both sites was a statement in which Ricketts explained that he was closing them because they weren’t profitable. “I’m hopeful that in time, someone will crack the code on a business that can support exceptional neighborhood storytelling,” he wrote. Reading the letter, Whitford told me, “I burst into tears. It could not have been more abrupt or brutal.”

Had they spoken up before about the loss of jobs and opportunity throughout the country, no doubt they might have garnered sympathy today.

Well-compensated magazine editor Tina Brown lived large on even larger but now demands private industry fund her lesser colleagues chosen career path.

I do worry very much about the business model. I think it’s high time that Facebook and Google created a vast philanthropy fund to fund journalism. They have stolen so much that it’s high time they gave some of it back.

This is never going to happen.

But this post is not about hypocrisy nor even comeuppance.

Your job is also going away, and no, you can’t be retrained. You’re 36, three years into a mortgage, with 2 children. If you could be retrained, you would have long ago jumped at the chance. But if it makes you feel better, know that everyone else lives similarly — by choice, oddly enough.

And like you, they will also be out of work.

The upcoming worldwide workforce reckoning that artificial intelligence is expected to bring will happen much sooner than many experts predict, the former president of Google China told CNBC on Monday.

Kai-Fu Lee, now chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, believes that about half of all jobs will disappear over the next decade and be replaced with AI and the next generation of robots in the fastest period of disruption in history.

In response to the coming AI reckoning, there is a push by Big Thinkers to put us all on the dole, “give” everyone a monthly stipend. This is bad policy.

We each need a mission, that’s why God put us here. We each desire a role, that’s hard coded into our DNA. But there’s more than that. We can’t surrender to our technology, we — not it — should decide the future. We, not it, determine value and value distribution. But should we fail at this most human of tasks, policy should not be to give everyone a monthly paycheck. Instead, make sure everyone has an actual job. Perhaps the government sector becomes an even larger proving ground for people who otherwise couldn’t find a “job.” That’s a start. That gets us each out into the world, bumping up against one another, it reminds us of our need to contribute, reveals to us the plight and lives and ways of others, and just might spark an idea that leads to improving our lot.

Hunger motivates, movement inspires.

And humans either control the future or surrender also the present.

THE QUICK AND THE NOT DEAD

Life is old, but getting older.

I sense opportunity.

We are constantly told of technology’s disruptive power, its potential to alter the world, remake our life, but which we rarely believe because it almost never happens. Everything is still mostly the same. But imagine, for example, if technology so disrupted the world that it made older people the cool ones, the ones everyone comes to for wisdom, guidance, to seek the truth, to know what to buy, to live as long as possible.

Unlike the growing ranks of nonagenarians and centenarians, those who breach a 12th decade, known as supercentenarians, rarely face protracted illness or disability before they die, a boon that many of them have ascribed to personal habits.

Why is that?

Let’s go to them and find out! Maybe even ask for pieces of themselves.

But even as they indulged the notion that exceptionally healthy longevity can be explained by lifestyle, each agreed to donate DNA to a private effort to find the secrets in supercentenarian genes.

As everything becomes available to everyone, we’re all connected, we all have more than enough to eat, watch, consume, and the robots do life’s heavy lifting, might the very old prove to be the most fascinating among us? The most valuable?

Yes!

If unusual patterns in their three billion pairs of A’s, C’s, G’s and T’s — the nucleobases that make up all genomes — can be shown to have prolonged their lives and protected their health, the logic goes, it is conceivable that a drug or gene therapy could be devised to replicate the effects in the rest of us.

As technology satisfies all our other needs, how much might we alter our economy, politics, and culture to make sure everyone has the chance to live just ten years more? And if that potential lies in the old, the odd, the marginal?

The value paradigm shifts.

An age-defying mutation found in the genes of Amish people appears to be boosting their lifespan. Individuals carrying a single non-functional copy of the gene SERPINE1 live an average of 10 years longer than other members of their communities, according to new research.

I’d rather have that extra ten years than the next five new iPhones.

Does the future belong to the old?

Bill Gates is investing $50 million in venture-backed start-ups which are seeking to find a cure — or more likely, to limit — Alzheimers. Gates makes wizened bets, and it’s easy to imagine that an ecosystem of tech companies looking into the maladies of aging would ultimately lead to interest and expertise and spin-offs in new technologies exclusively for older people, or at least first for older people.

Talk about disruption.

Consider the elephant:

ELEPHANTS AND OTHER large animals have a lower incidence of cancer than would be expected statistically, suggesting that they have evolved ways to protect themselves against the disease. A new study reveals how elephants do it: An old gene that was no longer functional was recycled from the vast “genome junkyard” to increase the sensitivity of elephant cells to DNA damage, enabling them to cull potentially cancerous cells early.

What do the long lived and cancer-free human  among us possess?

Teach us! Show us! Help us be like you!

As we meld flesh with computing, those over age 50, or over age 100, could absolutely represent the next frontier. Old is the new black.

AND BREAK THINGS

President Trump is a dealmaker, not that it matters. Because the problem facing America is not the political, cultural and economic polarization rending our faith in country and fellow citizen, and thus requiring a brilliant dealmaker to bring together, rather, it’s that this polarization coupled with the massiveness of America, its massive past, its massive debt, its outsized role in the world, has us locked in place. Locked and loaded and the only way to move forward is by breaking things.

Healthcare. Trade agreements. Political parties. The Middle East.

Is this also why so many Americans are broken?

A New York Times editorial states: “I will teach my boys to have profound doubts that friendship with white people is possible.”

Parental choice, fair enough, but as whites are and will be the majority, at the very least the plurality of people in this country, and with a rapidly decreasing black population, the editorial writer seems intent upon radically limiting his children’s potential.

Divide, divide, the broken divide. Politics before even children.

Broken.

Ironically, he is not alone. The only way to take back or ever possess power, our cultural leaders tell us, is to divide, and then choose up sides, choose sides over literally everything and between everyone.

A convoluted editorial in Buzzfeed demands pop star Taylor Swift choose sides for its pet cause, while simultaneously demanding that its readers take sides against Ms Swift.

Move over a little from there and you’ll find Swift’s image itself — willowy, blonde, and aggressively white. Perhaps, in an awkward corner close by, are the white supremacist fans who’ve claimed her as a figurehead. In any blank space, you’ll find her political silence and her idiosyncratic ways of communicating with the public. Somewhere scattered among all this is her actual music — as genre-torn as ever, but permanently catchy. Altogether, you’ve got a map without roads, the landscape to how we view a public figure who is alternately aggravating and illuminating.

Garbage words, garbage thoughts, a muddled mind lashing out, seeking power through division.

Yes, our media is presently focused on dividing The Other against The White, there’s money and clicks in it, and this is especially so where the white is male and straight and absolutely demanded where the white is male and straight and potentially of Christian faith. These calls never end with attacks upon just one group. That we know for sure.

But we — those decents among us — don’t want to divide, don’t want to nourish ourselves on outrage, don’t want to stay broken.

This seems, at present, not possible.

And that is why we turn inward first.

To reconnect with our dreams, recall what is most matterful, remind ourselves why we are alive, and relight our spirit.

It’s not religion, not yet, not even faith, not really, rather this is the releasing of ourselves from the incessant external now so that we may instead rub our mind and soul together, seeking a spark, the spark that will then move us forward.

The world is amazing and big and magical but needs finishing.

We are deploying exoskeletons to make us stronger, electronics to extend our reach, pharmaceuticals to heal our wounds, strengthen our flesh, but we know that’s not enough, it’s certainly not all. We may be yet unwilling to admit our spirit is eternal, but we do know that it is timeless, always with us, even after we’ve tried to shut it down, locked it way, ignored its calling, but the more we break, the more we need it.

Everything is wrong, it’s all not working, breaking seems the only option. I get it. But in truth, it’s fixing, fixing is our future, righting this world, usurping our technology, demanding it work for us not against us.

Technology, long viewed as our savior, is stripping us from our most basic. Just consider the numerous sex scandals of late, where there’s no actual sex, just a series of kinks and perversions and self-flagellation, humiliation, because even sex has been deconstructed, soiled, split from love, torn from wholeness, goodness, stripped from our spirit, the very idea of sexual intimacy between a couple, no tools, no cameras, no accessories, no lies, this no longer even is depicted in our culture so alien it has become.

Everything’s broken. You’re broken.

You’re also fixable.

Just like the world.

Hibernate, emerge stronger. Transcend, become better.

MENTAL OBESITY

I read Twitter as one absorbs a Rothko painting, the sum more than the many parts, a flash of words, a burst of insight, the totality of the engagement weaving directly into my brain, the conscious mind bypassed. Twitter moving from text message-sized to 280 characters plus images plus gifs plus longer usernames is like taking a Rothko work and adding an extra hundred forty lines of different colors. It might mean something, but I’m unlikely to ever know because the visual cacophony will never enter my brain.

Sometimes, less is more powerful.

Will we ever again know this truth?

The firehose aggregation of words and texts and likes and shares and check-ins and selfies are certainly affecting our days, but we do not fully comprehend how they are reconstructing our brains. Perhaps we should.

Sean Parker is very rich, which means we must listen to everything he says because in 2017 everyone of us wants to be very rich and there’s no sure way but probably the best way is to pay attention to what the very rich say and do. Sean Parker was an early investor in Facebook. He tells us (now, after he’s become so very rich) that he fears that opening the Pandora’s box of social media may have unleashed a beast upon humanity which is not yet done devouring our world.

It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other.

It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways.

God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.

It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.

Interfering with our productivity, impacting children’s brains, exploiting our emotional vulnerabilities. You begin to understand why our government has called the present-day social media barons to appear before them. This is powerful stuff, maybe far more powerful than we ever envisioned. It’s no wonder that so many continue to howl over supposed “Russian bots” tricking the weak-minded and “hacking” our election.

The problem, though, is that we are viewing social media — and these ne’er do well bots — all wrong. Think of them not as programs or algorithms but as entertainment. The latest Hollywood blockbuster. The Netflix show you are currently binging on. The YouTube channel your child won’t stop watching. They attract us, distract us, gorge our mind, taking us out of time, away from our space, prodding us to emotional response, altering how we view the world — and others, even those we have otherwise tolerated at least for years, maybe longer.

The difference with this entertainment is in the never letting go, never enabling contemplation, never even taking a bathroom break. Instead, everyone from near-birth is now seeking the shelter-feather of the online realm, more and more and more and always more, the never-ending page, the never-stopping notifications, the always-on feed, another light to die upon.

Zap!

And you crave the singularity? Where the digital, binary, electronic, and human form meld together That portends a level of mental obesity of the kind where the super-fat man can’t leave his home without a crane. Constant response, nonstop outrage, unbroken connection. Even the cyber cowboy junkies of the punk era unplugged. Not so, today.

We seem not the better for it.

How wise is the crowd, how true is the algorithm, how complete is the data, and how certain are we that the digital, the binary, the processor, the computer is the one true path?

We built machines then to outsource our labors. We build machines now to outsource our thinking. This should at least free us to create, wander, unleash our spirit but instead we built these new machines with mind-tentacles, able to latch onto us, never let go and so we don’t create but regurgitate, we don’t wander but fixate, we aren’t unleashing our spirit but our most toxic.

Two weeks ago a gunman, and we still do not know why, shot and killed over 50 in Las Vegas. A week ago, a terrorist used a truck to kill 8 in New York. Did you forget?

You didn’t move on, certainly you didn’t move forward.

You just kept pressing refresh.

I can’t promise you there is a way out. But I can swear to you that keeping logged in won’t get you to the other side.

APPLE CASTRATO

I learned recently of a late 19th century Russian sect, the Skoptsy.

The Skoptsy were a radical sect within the larger Spiritual Christianity movement in Tsarist Russia, best known for practicing castration of men and the mastectomy of women in accordance with their teachings against sexual lust.

Let’s now consider Apple bloggers.

No, wait. First, more on the Skoptsy, as I find this notion of genital mutilation so abhorrent and shocking and unnecessary, yet am mildly fascinated by a human’s commitment to their ideals so dearly that they would literally emasculate their body.

The Skoptsy referred to themselves as the “White Doves.” Their aim was the perfection of the individual, by eradicating Original Sin, which they believed had come into the world by the first coitus between Adam and Eve. They believed that human genitals were the true mark of Cain, and that the true message of Jesus Christ included the practice of castration, that Jesus himself had been a castrate, and that his example had been followed by the apostles and the early Christian saints.

The Skoptsy, we are told, totaled 100,000 members at its peak, a shockingly high number, but Soviet oppression and reality ultimately brought an end to the movement. Apple’s newest iPhone includes an OLED screen, a charging plate, and no home button. Just like Samsung’s device, from 2015.

And?

Loop Insight:

“Stop stealing and pay the money (Samsung.)”

Stratechery:

“Delight”

“Apple at its Best”

“Samsung doom”

This is what passes as thoughtful analysis.

I thought we’d be farther along than this, honestly.

Of course, when analyzing the largest conglomerate in the world you must also consider more than just product. For example, as a progressive American who believes we should take care of everyone and everything forever and ever — and know this, I am happy to pay my fair share, please, tax me more, I have enough, I want to make sure others can get a leg up and climb the ladder, that’s what an inclusive, tolerant, equal America is all about.

Six Colors:

“I’d argue that it’s the responsibility of the people employed by public corporations to use every single legal option available to reduce their companies’ tax burdens.”

Of course he would.

Daring Fireball:

“The problem isn’t Apple’s tax structure, it’s U.S. law.”

These statements are exactly — literally, exactly — what I would expect the PR representative of (any) large global conglomerate to say. Basically, LOWER THE TAXES AND THEN WE’LL PAY THEM!

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I can use an iPhone and note just how much Apple’s newest device borrows from Samsung, or others.

I can be proud that Americans in America built Apple Inc — while simultaneously decrying that the company now does everything it can to skirt our tax laws.

I understand the benefits to many, including myself, of an interlocked global economy, but am rightly concerned that Apple’s outsourcing of iPhone manufacturing to China directly limits the opportunities for many here in its home country. Oh, and I can be doubly concerned about what China might be doing with Apple’s tech given that its government has literally outlawed anonymity on the web and does not allow for do-not-track.

And every single Apple blogger and every single Apple fan and every single Apple user should have the courage to state these.

I understand. You want something to believe in. You want a tangible representation of what you hope will be the future — and you want others to know that you are on the right side of history. Fair enough. But we need to demand more completeness, more honesty, more facts from those who speak for and about Apple. We are vigorous, complicated, grown human beings, not self-infantilized adults insisting anime is captivating when really it’s just a sad, small escape from the tumble and rough of the world. iPhone delights you? Really? Okay, fine. But also call out Apple’s contorted privacy stance. Believe no other company makes products as magical as Apple? Sure. Now deride the company for depleting its focus on irrelevant content deals and Hollywood star fucking. Think having the very latest iPhone, along with the Apple Watch and those earbuds reveals you as a person of matter and means? Well, I can’t help you with that but you can still — believe me on this — find it in yourself to call out Apple for spending billions inside an anti-democratic country.

If you believe Apple is the best there is think of how much better it could be if you were honest with them.

And if you make your money by promoting Apple, I completely understand any hesitancy you may have in criticizing the company. But care about your readers! Consider your values! Maybe broach these subjects by simply linking to an alternative view: a report on China’s web practices, say, or an analysis of the plight of the working class in America. Couch your barest of suggestions for doing better in terms of a slavish concern for everyone, nobody can fault you for that.

You wish Apple pays more taxes because…

You want manufacturing moved out of China because…

You’re smart enough to figure this out. And you’re not bad people. Right?

KODOKUSHI

When I was your age, Japan was the future.

The coolest tech, the coolest art, the oddest manifestation of human life in the developed world. We were all turning Japanese, or hoping so.

No longer.

Nokia punctured their reality, iPhone crushed their vision, China thwarted their ambition, and then age, Japan got old, really old, death old. But now, Japan goes back to the future — as it cloaks old and death with keen engineering acumen and its typical cultural kinks.

Japanese are dying. Alone. And from this I expect great things. Marvels. As China and the West tinker with flesh and consciousness in a mad rush to hack mortality, Japan, the breadth of its peculiarity notwithstanding, rightly intuits that death and loneliness are the next bold frontiers to conquer.

Kodokushi:

Miyu, who was 24 when we met, works for ToDo company, whose employees clean the homes of people who have died. Theirs has often been a “lonely death”, known in Japanese as kodokushi.

Lonely death.

It’s an increasingly common phenomenon in a country with an ageing population, more elderly people living on their own and fractured connections. Miyu is the only woman and the youngest employee in the 10-person company.

Imagine, a city of twenty million or more, so many that for most only the toilet is a private space, yet thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, maybe millions are dying or soon will die — alone. No one knowing, no one caring. What an odd reality we’ve constructed for ourselves.

Lonely death is such a prevalent theme in Japanese life that some of the most calculating, conniving and outright evil elderly are making a killing.

A 70-year-old Japanese woman has been sentenced to death for the murder of three men, one of whom was her husband, and the attempted murder of another.

Chisako Kakehi is accused of using cyanide to kill her lovers and make millions from insurance payouts. Her lawyers plan to appeal the sentence. Prosecutors said she targeted wealthy men who were mostly elderly or sick.

The frail Chisako Kakehi was no stranger to the metaverse.

The trial heard that she had joined matchmaking services in which she had specifically requested to meet men who were rich and childless.

How rich can you be if you are childless?

But what of all the alone-dying not killed off for insurance money, still with many more years of lonely death before them?

Government, private industry and research centers in Japan are all dutifully working on making learning, emotive robots, mostly in the familiar form of dogs or humans. The hope is these machines can alleviate the spreading open wound of chronic loneliness mixed with chronic aging. Care, comfort, contentedness, and then you die.

It beats dying without any of those things.

If you think a human, of any age, can’t love a robot, you are simply wrong. This is verifiable. But what we don’t know yet, but soon will, is can humans love a robot that responds to us just like the dead human they are now standing in for?

Can a robot adequately replace your departed mother, father, son, daughter, best friend, that person you interacted with everyday on Twitter but never actually met in the flesh?

Probably.

With all the images, check-ins, texts, shares, tweets, likes, conversations, comments, the entirety of life writ digital, all that information can — soon — be inserted into a robot form of your choosing. This man already built a chatbot, still just digital form, that responds to his texts much like his deceased father would.

While his father was dying of cancer James Vlahos made a controversial call; he turned his dad in to a chatbot, keeping his voice and memories alive long after he passed away, raising questions on whether we are moving towards a world of artificial immortality.

We are all dying. Many are seeking a workaround.

There may be no better people to uncover this, and build it, than the Japanese.

IF IT AINT FIXED BREAK IT

Apple released the iPhone X with Superbowl-like pomp but little circumstance last week, the very same week it reminded us that it makes a lot of money, more money than any other (publicly listed) corporation in the world.

And?

Yes, I’m bored, and I suspect so are you.

It’s now rote. It’s now sadly predictable. LOOK AT ME!

LOOK!

I have the new iPhone!

This is the iPhone X. TEN! EX! Ha!

ARE YOU LOOKING!

SEE! ANIMOJI!

I HAVE FACE ID AND YOU DON’T!

This is what they want you to spend $1,000+ on?

What need is the newest iPhone fulfilling? What hole is it filling? You’re not more empowered, you’re not more connected,  you’re likely not more creative, you may in fact become less so, so enamored are you with the new and the shiny and playful.

The great irony of Apple is that it finally has the resources and user base to create the future, but it no longer possesses the vision.

Apple can’t even get the UI right for the *tenth* incarnation of its own iPhone.

Watch Apple’s own UI tutorial video. Yes, yes, the Genius is lesbian, that’s how you know Apple is on your side, the right side of history. Fine. But its product? Watch. No, wait. Hand your shiny new iPhone X to your mother or father or your son or daughter. Now have them watch this video, and play along. The entire UI is a shocking mess, hot garbage, it’s almost a parody, a thing someone in a college dorm might make to mock Apple.

Swipe from the bottom, then pause, then swipe…

Swipe down from the top right.

Press firmly on these buttons…

“To turn your iPhone off, press and hold the side button, and either volume button, then swipe.”

I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!

Want to use your $1,000 iPhone X to make purchases?

“Double click the side button, glance at your iPhone to authenticate, and hold your iPhone near the terminal.”

Magic!

DEAR LORD, HERE, JUST TAKE MY CREDIT CARD!

There are times when I get angry, but I am not angry now. Just disappointed. Again.

What is Apple’s purpose?

Outsourcing all its manufacturing to anti-democratic China? Dodging Europe’s tax laws? We know the company makes more money than everyone else, which is absolutely an achievement, but for us, those of us who remember when Apple was about more than making money, about more than having lines of business that — as the cheerleaders never tire of telling us — are bigger on their own than competing conglomerates, where is the joy?

U2, still the biggest band in the world, has released several new songs.

Each sounds exactly like a current U2 song.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. U2 knows what it’s good at, understands what it’s great at, desperately doesn’t want to disappoint its fans, obviously fears not making enough money to keep the entire U2 ecosystem well paid and happy, and the new music is, well I suppose it’s fine. But it’s not going to nourish your spirit. It’s happy background noise, which, fair enough,is a positive in this overwhelming world, but also a reminder that neither U2, nor Apple, are going to get us to that next signpost, nor even point the way there.

Apple is our General Electric.

It doesn’t know us, it doesn’t care to know us, we are its market, one of many, but we are also — still, for now — it’s most important market.

Fine. Let’s start making demands.

Rush Limbaugh, the popular American conservative radio host, is probably Apple’s biggest fan. Certainly, he’s the iPhone’s most vocal cheerleader. Limbaugh also loves capitalism and professes his joy in “criminal” profits, which no doubt Apple Inc, world’s largest, richest, most profitable corporation, has in spades. But I wish Limbaugh would take Apple to task for its betrayal of its roots.

We can!

Let’s all of us — including the cheerleaders who in all other ways insist they are “progressive” — demand Apple move its manufacturing out of China, the very country that has outlawed access to information its ruling government finds displeasing and which does not allow anyone to opt-out of its personal web tracking, and which is devouring America’s and Europe’s patents and innovations and very best technologies.

Let’s all of us — including the cheerleaders who in all other ways insist they are “progressive” — demand Apple pay its fair share of taxes.

Let’s all of us force Apple, and I am not sure how we do this, to end the primacy of ecosystem profits and focus instead on usabilitiy, user experience, and use cases.

Let’s make Apple care about us, not just our checkbook.

Apple has lost its way. Let’s help them find it again. We’ll all be the better for it.

A CRY FOR HATE

Hate is not all that we have left, but it remains the easiest we have left, and a declaration of our humanness, our aliveness, still, because ours, unlike all before us, is a world of superpowers, superpowers for all but with none of them under our control, this is true, think about it, a supercomputer in our pocket, in everyone’s pocket, a super earth-overlaying computing machine accessible with our voice, soon our face, and yet our own life, our own relevance, increasingly less so, buried beneath data and consumption, screen times and keywords, we tease our psyche, we rage against the machine, awed by it, fearful of it, hopeful through it, and even marvel that the very makers of the machine have themselves lost control, a few clever Russians confounding its algorithms, handfuls of sheltered and damaged teens manipulating its global discourse, the giddy unmasking of our truths, revealing our darkest, some do it for dollars, some for fuck it, the collective toxicity leading Americans to take aim at one another, an emerging civil war pitting one against one, all against all, for no better reason than our impotence at forcing the Other to acknowledge us, agree with us, be like us, accept like us, deny like us, faith like us, nothing else left, our ability to build, construct, create rapidly slipping away, despite all the superpower tools availing themselves to us, each of them starkly reminding us we are now serf to the Machine, we may access Giant Brain, beckon Comfort Voice — Alexa, play Mozart’s concerto for flute and harp — and instantly recognize its beauty, but just as instantly become distracted from its glory, a new tweet, a new share, the newest recommendation, barricading us from creating anything so grand as before, and so instead we make it money money money, ass ass ass, pussy pussy pussy, kill kill kill, the pharma taking hold, the lies keeping steady, but its all so fragile, like our phones we’ve hit the pavement and we get up cracked, but there’s no time for a fix, no money for a do-over, the shattered pebbles of glass weaving into our flesh, like digital bits into our brain, we stare at the broken screen, see our self, seek our self, look, look at me, see, see me, hear me, validate me, with the return response enough to keep us tethered, spinning wheel, food pellet, life on view, isolated, behind the glass, but we push forth, confident, we are the future and the future is vast, open, so open there can be multiple genders, or none at all, we can transform our sex, delete our past, erase our tracks, edit our genes, hack our brains, animal organs supplementing us, electronics enhancing us, boundless potential, but none of it nearing our soul, none unbreaking our spirit, because we like our spirit are just one, and just one in this world no longer matters, not when the aggregate knowledge, the ruling algorithm, the one screen, the Giant Brain and the Comfort Voice are always there, watching, listening, waiting, and altering how we view our self, how we view each other, making it almost impossible to even perceive value in the one, which we acknowledge makes sense because the aggregate world continues to get better, more democratic, more prosperous, we are sure of this, at least enough of the time, but people want to matter, some especially so, matter so much they embrace hate and death and killing and no, of course making sure everyone matters won’t stop this week’s mass murder nor next week’s, nor end gun crimes, nor prevent suicide, but the farther we arc our worst to the margins the better, that’s how we move ahead, but I get it, this is also the age of the non-rational, we have outsourced our thinking and calculating and decision-making to the machine and, as humans always do, we instead do what our machines cannot, and so that means crazy, emotional, faithful, joyful, hatful, violent, tribal, let the computers and processors and AI and Big Data and algorithms take care of the non-optimized human functions, I understand, I know that I can’t appeal to you using data or numbers or facts because those are already available to you whenever you wish them, which is why I will step into the irrational, me, here, to see you, hear you, touch you, to maybe help you so you can maybe help me so we can maybe help everyone find our way through this madness, a madness we did not create but which hatched from our response to our creations, so okay let’s do something to end all this hate, all this violence, to limit the mass shootings, because what if — think of this — what if all those people standing outside of abortion clinics for the past 40 years, the people we ignored or mocked, what if that’s now us, every single one of us, we are all now on the sidelines, resolute perhaps, righteous certainly, but changing nothing, not a thing, even though we know it’s all wrong, it’s profoundly wrong, it’s killing us, killing our soul, only it’s not some amorphous concept like unborn or fetus or clump of cells or, let’s face it, very few of us want to have a child when we’re not ready or don’t want to be with that particular person, not anymore, or if, god forbid, there’s something gone terribly wrong in it, poor thing, it happens, but I think of those people standing there along the walkway to the abortion clinic and wonder if that is the fate of all of us so that decades later we’re still killing off one another, innocent and non-innocent alike, because we couldn’t bring ourselves to solve the painful, we couldn’t place a hard stop on our selfishness, we could too easily look away, until 2057, say, when the mass shootings are over 100 persons each time and it happens 3 or 4 of 44 times a week, which is why, following yesterday’s mass killing, I’m now okay with any and every restrictive gun control laws you propose, seriously, have at it, even though I am skeptical it will do much good because I don’t think this is about guns, not really, instead we are dealing with a new breed of serial killer, the kind that can only bubble up in this toxic brew, but go ahead, please, try, try anything, ban, destroy, never again make AR-15s, or automatic weapons, or semi-automatic weapons or any of the other weapons that we label as automatic and semi-automatic but which aren’t but which doesn’t matter because regardless of what kind they are or make they are they bring easy death in mass numbers, because I know we have to try, we have to try to ban these things, destroy these things, not because it will end this but because we must take a stand for life, we must take a stand that we are in charge of our creations, and we must likewise make it plain to all that once these bans are in place there will still be those who try — and, sadly, succeed — at killing many, but that’s acceptable in a sense because only then, after all the rage and troll comments and posturing and laws, and failures, only then will we realize that we must restore our spirit, that’s where our focus must be, and we won’t restore nor re-affirm nor renew nor rebuild our spirit until this truth is out and clear to us, which dear God I hope is soon.

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