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Max The Magnificent
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Sad face
Max The Magnificent   9/24/2013 4:14:05 PM
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Hi Tom -- I don't disagree with anything you've said, but it's left me wearing my sad face ... I just hope things end up working out for the best...

rick merritt
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Well said
rick merritt   9/24/2013 4:41:42 PM
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I love your phrase "a soulless silicon civilization" and I agree balance means so much.

On the positive side I have to remind myself the amazing capabilities we have with the Web and smartphones. I recall getting our first color TV and watching Star Trek. Such advances!

betajet
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Re: Well said
betajet   9/25/2013 7:29:03 PM
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I recall watching Star Trek in black and white.  To me, it seems artificial in color :-)

krisi
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moral dilema?
krisi   9/24/2013 5:07:52 PM
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I am not sure what is the moral dilema here...we live long, health lives now with pretty darn good comfort...just look back 100 years...so if the dilema is to use digital revolution or not you are free to stop using cell phone, I know many people who just did that


According to wikipedia (if I dropped the digital revolution I would not be able to find this out ;-):

An ethical dilemma is a complex situation that often involves an apparent mental conflict between moral imperatives, in which to obey one would result in transgressing another. This is also called an ethical paradox since in moral philosophy, paradox often plays a central role in ethics debates. Ethical dilemmas are often cited in an attempt to refute an ethical system or moral code, as well as the worldview that encompasses or grows from it


I hardly see that Moore's law or its consequences fit here...Kris

junko.yoshida
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So elequant!
junko.yoshida   9/24/2013 5:11:09 PM
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Tom, you wrote:

And when we're not being sold such products, we are the products being sold to advertisers, and state surveillance agencies.


That's so well put.

As you noted:

Maybe if we stop trying to reshape ourselves in the image and likeness of our technology, and instead redirect the rich portfolio of tools now available to us to more human and humane ends,we'll find ourselves doing real and necessary innovation.


That's an eloquant statement. We aren't the technology. But we own the technology that allows us to do "necessary innovation." It's time to get to work for the purpose of real and necessary innovation!

 

Tom Mahon
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Author note
Tom Mahon   9/24/2013 5:39:16 PM
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I've been writing about technology for 40 years as industry publicist, novelist, essayist and dramatist, most of that time in Silicon Valley. I am keenly aware of the many benefits of the digital revolution.  But I also know that while some cayenne pepper improves the stew, too much cayenne pepper can ruin the stew.  Moderation is an evergreen virtue. 

For myself, I was introduced to the digital revolution at age ten, in 1954, when our Scout Master invited our troop to visit his home workshop.  He had started an electronics company just after World War II, and we were in awe of his garage workbench filled with vacuum tubes of all shapes and sizes.

William Shockley had yet to start his company that would soon replace these vacuum-state devices with solid-state semiconductors, but even then, our scout leader foresaw a golden future.  Boys, he said, by the time you are my age these devices will make it so you never have to work.  Imagine being able to spend all your time fishing, or reading, or listening to music, or doing whatever you want to do.

That fired the imagination of this ten-year old.  And it was reinforced twenty year later when, in 1974, I wrote and directed an industrial film for a computer company; my first gig writing about technology.  The client insisted that my script focus on how his big mainframes were going to make air travel safer, health care more affordable, and education more widely available.

Admittedly, those early episodes set a high benchmark for me that could never be fully realized.  But I'm still struck by Robert Kennedy's observation that while some see things as they are and ask "Why?" the better path may be to imagine what might be, and ask "Why not?"

(I have an eBook on this subject, with information at www.reconnectingcalm.com).  Also see Occupy Technology on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OccupyTechnology)

Garcia-Lasheras
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Re: Author note
Garcia-Lasheras   9/25/2013 6:37:36 PM
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Albert Einstein stated:

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value."

Unfortunately there are most of us, electronics technology professionals, who are more interested in having success than in bringing value to the world :-(

RogerEaton
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Re: Author note
RogerEaton   9/26/2013 11:16:47 AM
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Hi Tom, 

The bad news is as you say.  Technology does play into the hands of the wealthy, who are a particularly immoral lot. In the hands of regular people, technology plays a positive role, as one commenter noted, saying he was working to apply technology to local use for education and the rapid spread of best practices. 

Were you thinking of the open source Voices of Humanity (amongst others) when you referred to "anarchic utopian hacks"? I hope not.  VoH is the opposite of anarchic tho it may seem utopian, and it is exactly the use of technology we need to empower from the bottom up and create a global consciousness so humanity can find a more coherent direction. 

atb,

-- Roger 

deron19
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Spot on
deron19   9/24/2013 8:49:14 PM
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Every single point is right on target.  It's discouraging to see so many brilliant people working on such marginally beneficial things.  We need to redirect resources away from fast and cool to more pressing societal issues.

prabhakar_deosthali
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Re:
prabhakar_deosthali   9/25/2013 8:02:59 AM
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In my opinion, there is already a section in our society ( almost in every country) which is thinking out of the box. This section is putting such innovations for some good use by the society at grass roots level.

Such groups are thinking beyond FB likes, twitter tweets or Whats-app messaging. These groups are finding innovative solutions using the same technology for betterment of society

Myself an engineer with 40 years of experience of walking with this digital revolution , I am an active member of such a group which is dedicated to offer solutions to the poor, the needy and the underprivileged in the areas of education, livelihood, environment protection and health, using the available modern technology tools - the smartphones, the tablets, the internet of things,  and all that this digital revolution is offering.

So while those crazy brains in the labs may be burning midnight oil on improving processor speeds, display resolutions , transistor density , battery life and network speeds - These other crazy people are scratching their heads day and night on how to apply these technologies for the betterment of the society.

 

Caleb Kraft
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the direction of tech
Caleb Kraft   9/25/2013 2:55:15 PM
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To me it seems like the biggest problem is that the innovators are focusing on entertainment and comfort. Afterall, that is where the money is! 

I hate to sound this way, but the capitalist drive is what is stifling us moving forward as a society. Everyone is focused on designing what will make money, not change.

rich.pell
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Re: the direction of tech
rich.pell   9/26/2013 11:39:47 AM
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Hmmm, under (true) capitalism the "consumer is king."  I'm not too crazy about most of the alternatives. 

Caleb Kraft
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Re: the direction of tech
Caleb Kraft   9/26/2013 11:43:19 AM
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I am not saying that capitalism is evil and that we need to all jump to a socialist platform. I think the solution is so much more complicated than that. 

However, it is very easy to see that when your primary goal is getting money, all of your progress will be focused on that. It is this reason that things like clean energy and space travel tend to go at a slower rate. There isn't as much easy money to be had. 

mcsruff
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Re: the direction of tech
mcsruff   9/26/2013 7:34:15 PM
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Dear Caleb Kraft  , regarding 'low-hanging fruit' &  'straw-man' see my previous post on Australia below.  The problem with socialists is their blind faith that there is a group of wise men somewhere that know what is good for the rest of us plebeians.  What's more, these wise men feel free to try out their social experiments using not their own money, but using the tax-payers' money.  As Margaret Thatcher said, 'Socialism is great until you run out of other people's money to spend'.  Australia recently made the electoral decision that socialism is not the way to go.  Other nations (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) are now finding out what happens when the socialist dream eventually meets reality (as did Russia in the 1990s).  The big-brother attitude of socialist governments in giving out tax-payer funded handouts to their favourite dreams leads to a weakening of the people and the reduction of freedom (as was happening in Australia).  Don't allow your government (wherever you may be) do that to you. 

David Ashton
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Re: the direction of tech
David Ashton   9/26/2013 8:34:35 PM
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@Mcsruff...I'd agree with you entirely, but you can substitute "Politicians" for "Socialists".   ANY politicians I have seen anywhere think they know better than their electors.  You seem to know a bit about Aussie politics.  How was it that John Howard - one of the best leaders Australia has had - was voted out?  Answer - because he got arrogant and tried to give his business mates too much power over their workforce.  He lost the balance.

Politicians seem to be the only workers who cannot be held to account by their employers (us).  Can you imagine a business that could only get rid of poorly performing workers every 3 years?   I don't say all politicians are bad, but a better way of holding them to account is badly needed.

Caleb Kraft
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Re: the direction of tech
Caleb Kraft   9/26/2013 9:08:33 PM
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the reason I called it a staw man is because you keep calling me a socialist when I merely pointed out that there might be a negative side to one aspect of capitalism. If you can't see how you're jumping to wild conclusions to make your point then there's no reason for anyone to attempt logical discourse with you.

mcsruff
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Rethink Required
mcsruff   9/25/2013 7:19:58 PM
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I suggest that you go to North Korea to view the results of the socialist central-planning implied by your article. You may change your point of view & realize that capitalism, though not perfect, has provided us with a very high standard of living.

David Ashton
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Re: Rethink Required
David Ashton   9/25/2013 7:54:11 PM
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@mcsruff...I don't think anyone is advocating going down the North Korean route.  But I'd agree more with the article, and some of the above posters, than with your dismissive assertion that  capitalism is just "not perfect".  I think it's worse than that.  And it's not just capitalism.

If you live in the US you will have had graphic reminders recently of the results of unfettered access to high tech guns.....

It's long been a feeling of mine that if we as a race put as much effort into social progress as we do into technological progress, the world would be a much better place.

As a society, we are far too tolerant of people who make other's lives uncomfortable (muggers, thieves) or downright miserable (rapists, murderers, people like Syria's Assad).

I don't have too many glib answers.  I think one of the problems is that people these days have far too many rights and not enough responsibilities.  Wasn't it JFK who said, "Think not what your country can do for you..."?

Governments like those of the US and here in Australia seem to place free trade, immigration etc above the needs of their own people.  And I think that is irresponsible.  I may seem to be be getting a bit off the original topic here but I think this is just a small part of a big problem.

 

mcsruff
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Re: Rethink Required
mcsruff   9/25/2013 10:28:19 PM
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You have demonstrated my point by referring to Australia. The recently-ousted socialist government there often thought that they knew better than the free-market economy and the results were devastating (including an attempt by that government to shut down the free-press). Thankfully, the vast majority of the freedom-loving Australian people opposed the attempts of social-engineering politicians & bureaucrats and threw that government out.

David Ashton
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Re: Rethink Required
David Ashton   9/25/2013 11:13:34 PM
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Not so fast.  The new government so far have started suppressing information about how many "boat people" are arriving, and having promised not to increasee the GST are now talking about it....the state government in Queensland is about to allow wholesale vandalism of the great barrier reef.....etc.  Labour tends to look after the workers and the environment and alienate business and stuff up the economy.  The Libs look after the economy and business but don't give a stuff about the workers and the environment.  Generalisations, but generally true.   Either way those in the middle (most of us) get screwed.   Hence the general frustration with politics and politicians here, no matter who you support.

Goes back to what I said about rights and responsibilities.  The two major parties here are as bad as each other, they both have different strenghts and weaknesses.  The one thing in common is that once they are in, they reckon they have a right to do what they want and no responsibility to consult the people on anything.  So we end up with 3-year dictatorships.   If they are fairly benevolent and don't throw their weight around too much they might get in the next time, as the lesser of 2 evils.  If not they get chucked out, again as the greater of 2 evils.  It's a hell of a way to run a country.   As far as I can see, the US works much the same.

My solution: force referendums on any big issues (using the $ value or the number of people affected) or if there are a certain percentage of people protest about an issue.   Everyone says   "Oh, that would cost too much" but compared to the amount any government spends on keeping itself in power, it wouldn't be that much.   The quality of your representatives would then matter more than which party they are in, and independents, if they are good, would be effective.

 

Caleb Kraft
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Re: Rethink Required
Caleb Kraft   9/26/2013 11:48:02 AM
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It is so easy to argue extremes. To say North Korea's method is bad is extremely low hanging fruit. 

Can you agree, at least a tiny bit, that some programs that would do us, as a race, some good are held back because they can't get funding? Could you agree, if only a little, that sometimes the priority to get money supercedes the desire to put out a product that improves society? 

That's all I'm saying. No need to pull a strawman out just for that. 

chipmonk0
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Cycles of History
chipmonk0   9/26/2013 12:39:27 PM
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The digital revolution in all its aspects is not entrirely unprecedented. Widespread adoption of Railroad technologies in the mid to late nineteenth century led to similar progress, social disruptions and concentration of wealth and power, abuse of the common folk by the robber barons. However there were variations from one industrializing nation to another. 

Within England, the home till today of unrepentant feudalism cloaked in sham Parliamentary democracy and the seat of a ruthless extractive Empire that fed Anglo - Zionist Capitalism ( Globalization v1.0 ), marginal farmers were evicted from their lands to become wage slaves in "satanic mills" with consequent development of huge income disparities.

In Germany, the honest home of Lutheran Protestantism, on the other hand Entrepreneurs took care of their workers as family members and in case of mega Inventors like Krupp or Siemens even toiled in the Shops / Mills alongside them. German Chancellor Bismarck introduced the first universal social security system in the 1860s that became the template for the world including, though much later, the US itself.

Though the US had become independent of British Colonialism there was far too much nefarious influence here of British style Capitalism. US industries ran on the poor immigrants from So. and E. Europe. Native born citizens and better off immigrants would have nothing to do with the Lowells or Carnegies and migrated West which provided a safety valve.

Its only after Republican Teddy Roosevelt's anti - Trust Laws in 1905 that some form of balance started to return to the US society. This was only temporarily disrupted by the Great Depression which however strengthened the hands of sincere reformers and intelligent re-balancers ( "New Deal" ) leading to the general prosperity in the US till the advent of Reagan.

Even in his last term Obama lacks the political capital or the will a la Teddy to rein in Wall St. or the Outsourcers. He is having far too much trouble implementing even "Obamacare" in spite if it being a settled Law now.

The backward South ( the hard core of Red states ) is still re-fighting the Civil War under the guise of Free Market and the US Constitution and has been holding the rest of the US back with the primitive feudalism / racism inherited from their English ancestors. 

There is enough evidence that renewed contact with the UK, thanks to the Jet plane and now the Internet, is further undermining US prosperity and democracy.  

 

sranje
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Not at all but -- change behavior
sranje   9/26/2013 1:40:01 PM
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About 50% of population is no longer voting -- that is very bad

About 60% of population is highly superstitious -- for example believes there is a Satan, angels, etc -- that is very bad

At the federal level -- US Congress and Senate is overwhelmingly corrupt (due to re-election pressure / priority) -- no hope there

So what is the solution? Vote but -- never for incumbents. Vote but don't waste your vote - vote only outside the Dem-Rep circus



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