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Balance your Dedication with Understanding

internet-religion

Balance is usually the key. Bad things happen when things go out of balance. When something is in balance it is not changing or if it is changing its adjusting at the same rate. When something is out of balance it tips over, falls down, crashes or even explodes. Generally losing balance happens quickly and is hard to correct.

In one of my previous posts I discussed the issues of technology and social impact and I promised I would offer a solution to their common opposition. Balance, I believe, is the solution. Balance between commitment or dedication to new technology and the effort and resources applied to understanding the impact of that technology. Often the pursuit of new technology ignores the impact and its the impact that gets us.

This is well understood in pharmacology where every drug must have its impact studied before being released to the public. No point finding a cure for cancer if it gives you a heart attack. Pharmacology gets it wrong when they spend more money finding a use for a drug without putting equal (or more importantly enough) effort in determining its total effect. Of course, sometimes even when enough effort or balance is applied we still get it wrong. Technology and change can be dangerous, but it should not be reckless.

The Internet has changed everything even in the “Real World”.

internet-religion
My wife very often says very insightful things. I am not always smart enough to understand the full depth of her meaning. I could give you many examples that would make you laugh at her wit and also cry at my stupidity. This particular moment I am thinking of, was less comical and more just plain thought provoking.  She said “The internet has changed everything.” and before I could chime in and naively say how obvious that was, she went on to explain that, in particular, she meant everything that wasn’t even on the internet or seemingly related.

She was referring, specifically, to the subject of racism and how the internet has given people a forum to discuss whatever radical toxic idea they want, and for those wishing to hear it and find support for there own radical position. That the internet had transformed public awareness of radical views into the more mundane dialog of everyday. I think she is right.

It seems to me that 20 years ago people were more careful not to say racist things in public even if they believed them, but the fact that they’re exposed to extreme racism every day on the internet now has alleviated their fear of isolation or judgement. Crazy things seem to start on the internet and escape! Its a giant all-connected cross-pollinating petri dish of new and old memes. Some are good and some are very bad.

The internet has given us truly great benefits, such as being able to connect with almost anyone in the world and bring excellent ideas and valuable resources to people and places that desperately need them. It has, in many instances, been an agent of great positive change.

As I have discussed before, technology, like any other tool, can be used for good or bad. The internet is more than just a single tool. It is a tool that spawns, or makes possible, even more tools. It’s an enabler of other innovations, technologies, methods and forms of creative expression. It makes the impossible possible, even if it shouldn’t be.

Whether you think porn is good or bad is irrelevant to the fact that young people have far more access to it now with the internet and therefor hear about it a lot more in the school yard without a wireless connection to the net. That racist of every kind have many more groups to belong to than just the KKK. They can hold a meeting on-line any day of the week, but also, because of that, there are more real life meetings organized and attended as well.

If we turned the internet off now (something I would object to passionately) we could not undo the social impact. We need to understand how it has effected us. What realities have changed. What has the internet become and what have we become because of it.

The internet has made it likely for far too many people to correctly answer the question: what is Bukkake? Its a Japanese word we don’t need to have in our popular culture (judge my judgement all you want). To many people can quote racist comments, justifications and rhetorical garbage that certain internet and media icons have said and then been captured by the Google (no offense to the great Google, I don’t want to get any letters or have my domain name cancelled).

I mentioned earlier that I don’t think we should or could turn off the internet. I also don’t support censoring it (at least not by law, government or private enterprise). I don’t support banning books but there are many I have kept out of the reach of my children and I wish I could warn all adults about them as well.

What do we do?

We should talk about it. Probably on the internet since its one of the best ways to reach people.

The problem is us. We are the corruptor of the internet and the creators of the content in it. We need to fix ourselves.

Let me know if you have any specific solutions and remember I am not a book burner.

In my next blog I’ll post my own suggestion.

Review of Clockwork Heart

Clockwork Heart (Clockwork Heart, #1)Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a pleasant surprise. I don’t normally read steam punk or romantic fantasies but I found this book easy to get into and very enjoyable. It certainly has romantic elements but did not strike me as strictly a romance (a genre of which I am no expert). Characters are thoughtfully developed and well portrayed.

The plot carried itself and there was more then enough tension, suspense and mystery.

Sociologically it deals with the topics of class and power without being preachy.

I would highly recommend it to those interested in steam punk but it is approachable to all and well worth anyone’s reading time.

View all my reviews

“You do not talk about Fight Club”

But I chose to review it.
Fight ClubFight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel it is important to find away to explain the quality of this work, for both the movie and the book, without ruining the journey of exploration the reader, or viewer is meant to experience.
Extremely though provoking and unpredictable. A very deeply personal and yet also social inspection of cultural ideas.
Do we belong? What do we belong to? Who am I? What have I and we become?
Well written and brilliant.
I gave it 4 stars because I believe the movie deserves more.
Throw away your misconceptions about what this is and just read it to find out. I believe it would be difficult not to enjoy this great story.

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My review of Technicolor Ultra Mall by Ryan Oakley

Technicolor Ultra MallTechnicolor Ultra Mall by Ryan Oakley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dark, dirty, raw and riveting. I enjoyed the skill with which the author created an interesting setting and rich characters. I had no idea where it was going until I found myself there. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to those who like to be challenged by darker human explorations. There are moments when love, friendship and dignity light the way but this will never be Disney. Definitely adult. A gangster madmax bladerunner thing.

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Technology as an enabler of change and Social Innovation

Social CHange vs. Technology ChangeIf you have read anything, I have written or had the misfortune of meeting me in person you would guess that I “like” technology. It’s true, but, as I wrote in my last post, not all technologies are created equal and so my appreciation varies on the purpose, utility, complexity and a host of other criteria about that technology.

All technology is, by nature, an enabler (if not the actual cause) of change. Change is, as Martha Stewart would say, “a good thing.” The problem is she would be wrong in many cases. Change is not always good. Change can be bad. Change caused or enabled by technology can also be bad. So technology can be bad, right? Careful it’s a logical trap!

Even when change is bad, is it the “change” itself, or our reaction to it that is “bad”. Often our reaction is to ignore change and that, very often is “bad”. Technology enables change and there are so many external factors outside of the technology itself that determine the value of the impact of that technology and/or the change caused by it. Good and bad becomes difficult to judge relative to the “cause”.

Whenever there is any change in a system, often more changes are triggered as the system tries to reach stability or a new point of balance. Technological change often triggers social change! The plow is considered one of the most impactful technological advancements ever created. It triggered huge and persistent social changes including the scale of communities and enablement of cultural and artistic development. The plow was as disruptive as it was empowering.

In the end, we can probably all agree that the invention of the plow was a “net good”. How about another agricultural technology like pesticides? I suspect not everyone would agree. Nuclear energy?

Some sly advocates for technological would say, “well if we used these technologies correctly then they would be great.”
I agree but have we kept up social development to the rate of our technological advancement?

There are many fiction and non-fiction pieces that discuss this conundrum of technology. I try to do so in my book. I don’t offer a solution because it’s a politically charged topic and my solution would likely offend a lot of capitalist, libertarians and skeptics.

I am sure we are not going to stop developing new technologies, but I hope we find a way to speed up our social development to match. I think we all need to think about this because there is a part we all have to take responsibility for. Even if we are not the technological innovators, we are all the consumers. We should be skeptical that the inventors and geniuses have devoted their efforts to work out the social impact or the innovations needed to mitigate that impact.

Social innovators that organized movements to look into and educate people on the effects of pesticides deserve great credit and perhaps more than the chemists that have brewed them up.

I know less about organic chemistry than I do about the internet and communications technology and I am worried we aren’t socially innovating fast enough to guarantee that technological advancements aren’t creating “net bad” results.

We can’t all be inventors and scientists, but we are all social participants. Please find a way to contribute to this discussion. Otherwise, this techno-thriller ride we are all living may have an unhappy ending.

Techno Fetish

Often, I am labelled a “techy”. It happened again yesterday and the pigeon-holer had barely known me more then 10 minutes. In my opinion, the term implies that I’m someone with a fetish for technology and I wear it on my sleeve, perhaps in the form of too many portable electronic devices actually on my sleeve. I admit that I do have a fetish for technology, but my preference is for a much broader category then just electronic devices and I like to think it is more practical then aesthetic.

I believe the best technology isn’t high-tech but rather simple-tech. I more often have a multi-tool in my pocket then an android watch on my wist. I’m more excited by a well crafted carpentry tool than a new tablet. I reject Luddite rejectionism and admire Amish selectivism. What’s the difference? Luddites reject technology as a source of evil or corruption while the Amish don’t purchase or adopt technologies they can’t maintain themselves. As I understand it, Amish citizens are permitted to use “high-tech” tools when borrowing them from non-Amish and using them under employment to them. I saw an Amish carpenter using a cordless drill to do a job while under employee for a house building firm. Amish don’t hate technology but rather abide by, what I think are, a rational set of criteria for their relationship with it.

A critical factor in technology selection by the Amish is that the technology must be sustainable by them without the need for the outside world. Self-sustainable seems a good logical reduction of their criteria. Perhaps this is driven more by thier need to be apart from the “English” or their bad influences (morally) but the result seems very prudent for more then religious or cultural reasons.Self-sustainable technologies have, by their nature, less social risk. Technology dependency, which all of us city dwellers suffer from regardless of our obliviousness, becomes moot since any technology that does become a critical part of our infrastructure can be maintained without the risk of fatal withdrawal.

What does this have to do with my technology fetishes. Quite a lot actually. My criteria for technologies which I choose to adopt is that I should at a minimum understand it and my dependence to it, so that if I can’t maintain it myself, at least I am able to supplant it with another technology or process. This requires me to learn before adopting. I ask a lot of questions about technology and have amassed a fair amount of expertise on many technical subjects. Knowledge which I like to share :)

Remember I said simple tech is in my mind better then high-tech. Simple tech is both easier to understand as well as maintain. Often there is a lot of understanding required to fully master a simple technology. I have made it a personal goal to learn as much as I can about AC wiring since every appliance and light source in my house is dependent on it. As a result in the 10 years of owning our home I have yet to pay an electrician to do any work and our house is closer to code now then when we first bought it. I have as a result also learned that most electricians (at least the ones that worked on our house before we bought it) operate on the premise that ground wires are more of a nuisance than a requirement to getting the job done.

Ok I know that not everyone undertakes to do their own household electrical work but most do cook their own food. Cooking is full of technology and I don’t mean in the appliances. The process itself is all kinds of technology related subjects such as thermo-dynamics, chemistry, biology, botany and physics. In my opinion Everyone should take the time to learn what salt really is and how to use it beyond shaking it on their food according to the recipe. Start at salt and make your way as far as you can to the pressure cooker. If it’s an electrical appliance you should focus on what it does versus how it works. For me, the appliance that has probably taken the most amount of unexpected study has been the barbecue. Ironic, considering it is certainly one of the oldest technologies we use in cooking our food. It is a very rewarding piece of culinary technology!

I am rambling again, which is actually more to my original point. I like to ramble about technology. I don’t much care about what the technology applies to. It could be Mobile devices, Electrical repair, cooking, sustainability, it really doesn’t matter much. It all leads to rambling. I guess I am a techy.

Fictional Heroes

I argue that our greatest heroes are fictional and that is OK.

Who are our greatest fictional heroes? Among them include virtually all the characters of great mythology, but also all the protagonists within history.

“History,” you say? “But those are not fictional characters at all!”

Hog wash. I have read my fair share of biographies and, in all cases I have come across, every single historical figure in human history has a fictional caricature that has been more widely venerated than his or her true self. Yes, that is right; our heroes are as much lies and invention as they are truth. Take any example you like and dig a little deeper: Jesus, Gandhi, Kennedy, Elvis, Sir Issac Newton, Mother Theresa or Magic Johnson. “Heresy!” you say? No. Just human nature. Not theirs (although of course that plays a part); but, rather ours. We, the readers and writers of history, insert our own fiction. Men are men, heroes are fiction. Again, I say that is OK! We need heroes regardless of whether they are more fact or mere fiction. The message they represent is far more influential to our reality than the mundane or even controversial facts of their identity.

Go big or go home! Take Jesus for example. I have a little indoctrination combined with academic experience on the subject. In my mind, how much of “The Man” is fiction or fact is almost irrelevant to the impact he has made to our world. Actually, let me take that back. I suspect that the myth is perhaps more relevant than the facts of which there are so few. But again, I say that is OK! We own fiction! It is our exclusive tool as the only storytelling creature on this planet. A fantastic tool that can turn a narcissistic, self-indulgent, egotistical social climber and ruthless political assassin like Sir Issac Newton into an inspiration for future scientists as well as the up and coming world changers.

I am not so arrogant (yes, I said that) that I think I can change the world with my direct example. I do hope to create a fictitious character with better odds.

 

A Tragedy of Choices

Someone warned me that “what will be hard about blogging is choosing what to blog about.” I think they were being sincere, but I have also concluded they were wrong. I have no trouble finding things to express an opinion on. If you don’t believe me, just ask my wife, my children, my parents, my co-workers or anyone else who has endured more than 10 minutes of my company. My long-windedness and propensity for sharing is not a characteristic I have humble delusions about. However, there was I time when I was shy … and that time has passed. It is perhaps this trait that my blogging adviser had ailed to take into consideration when they warned me about blogging. It is also possible that they simply supposed that their own experience or experience of others would map unto mine regardless of my character. No.

Blogging does present its challenges; however, a lack of topics is not one of them. By adding a few qualifiers, though I think that their advice might become more appropriate, perhaps the greatest feat is “choosing what to blog about that you are an authority on or that people will want to read about or that won’t spontaneously generate a mob of lyncher’s bent on revenge.” Now that is a worthy challenge. I don’t really like to express the types of opinions that people generally expect. I like to be disruptive, particularly in social situations. At work, I can reign it in to maintain an income. In my personal life, however, I don’t feel so restricted. There are potential social repercussions, although obstacles are not the hardest ones to navigate. The same reason that makes me likely to offend, also emotionally inoculates me from the consequences. I accept and welcome dissent. No, the real obstacle is to blog about something people will want to read.

Relatively early in life, I learned about taste. I don’t share it with people as much as or as intuitively as “most” other people. I like vitel tonne (a dish my wife, no matter how beloved, does not share my affection for). I also enjoy geodesic domes (a lot). I support anti-nationalism. I could go on and on, as I have said before, I am too likely to do so.

So, I am not the subject matter “expert” I need to be on other peoples’ tastes. Help! Once a week, I will blog about something someone else suggests! This is an experiment. Do not misuse this privilege. At least don’t misuse it too much.

Fire away. Let me know what I should blog about.

 

No Man is an Island

It is a lesson that I have had to learn and re-learn again and again. Few things in life are truly an individual pursuit or can achieved on one’s own. I had a somewhat naive notion that creative writing was solitary labour. Although writing my novel did indeed require a lot of personal time, and even some isolation, it quickly became clear to me that it was a collaborative effort. There were obvious accomplices who provided proofing, editing, ideas, research and valuable criticisms, but as my work progressed, I gradually became more and more acutely aware that there were plenty of collaborators who worked behind-the-scenes to provide everything from inspiration to physical and emotional sustenance. This has made giving the appropriate recognition to everyone who deserves it, an almost insurmountable task. So, here is my modest, yet sincere attempt at proclaiming my appreciation to all of those that I have omitted formally in my book’s acknowledgements:

Thank you!  I hope that I may repay the favour with interest someday.

F.L. Ciano

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