Where Is My Settings Button???

It seems grossly unfair to me that every browser I use, every software program comes with a ‘settings’ button whereby you can make all sorts of choices regarding how you want the program to act in certain circumstances.  You can set it to dim the screen at night, to automatically save your work, how it appears in terms of colour, font, etc.  So … why doesn’t the human body have a ‘settings’ button or an ‘undo’ button?

Think about it … you just said something stupid to a friend … UNDO … and poof, it was never said.  Didn’t mean to eat that second roll at dinner?  UNDO!  Oops, I overslept … UNDO!  Don’t like the way your hair looks this morning?  With the press of a button, you could change the ‘font’!  Better yet, you could adjust the ‘settings’ so that your hair always looked just as you wanted it to, and when you got tired of the colour or style, you could simply change it up in the settings.

If humans came with settings and undo buttons, there would never need to be car crashes again … the driver who wasn’t paying attention and ran through the red light could just hit his ‘undo’ button and be transported back 30 seconds in time, perhaps saving a life or two.  Don’t like something about yourself, such as your skin colour, sassy mouth, or the way one ear sits higher than the other?  Just go into the ‘settings.’

The ‘undo’ function in humans would put an end to the whole abortion debate/issue!  There would be no unwanted pregnancies, thus no need to make laws to keep women under the thumbs of the male-dominated law!

Visiting France, but you don’t speak more than four words of French?  No need to fumble around with a French-English dictionary, automatically labeling yourself “Tourist” as if you had a sign on your back.  Simply change the language feature in your ‘settings’ … Ouah! C’était facile! The possibilities are endless!

Oh, and what about late at night when our battery is running low, we just want to get to bed, but there is work yet to be done?  Well, just switch to ‘battery saver’ mode!

I’ve long heard about the ‘miracle’ of the human body, and it is pretty impressive how the heart, lungs and other organs all work together to keep us ticking, but when you think about the computer, the human body pales in comparison.  Technology has come so far that now computers can even write college term papers in under 10 minutes, but the human body is still slogging along much as it did 200 years ago.  Oh sure, there have been advances in treating diseases such as cancer and AIDS, extending the life of humans, but the human body itself has not been improved on … we still have no ‘settings’ button, no ability to really control the body and its behaviour.

Seems to me that science would do better to work on improvements to the human body and mind rather than spend time and money making computers do everything for us!

Sunday’s Theme Music

Since I didn’t do a music post this morning, and haven’t even given much thought to an afternoon post yet, I thought I’d share Michael’s great theme-music post with you … and you’ll have to laugh at his story about his fit-bit thingy! Thanks, Michael, for both the humour and the tune!

Michael Seidel, writer

The Neurons stuck “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” by Chicago into the morning mental music stream. I think the group may have been the Chicago Transit Authority when the song was recorded. It’s from 1970, when I was fourteen, instilling thoughts about what year it is and how old I am. The song was delivered when I looked to my wrist to check my Fitbit for the time. ‘Lo, it wasn’t there. Apparently, the FB faked me into believing all was well. Then its symptoms returned. I charged it and charged it again but had to remove it from my wrist because it was going off every three seconds — notification — which becomes v — notification — intrusive to m — notification — processes.

Yes, the Fitbit is no more. I thought about searching for DIY repairs. Had done that tentatively. Maybe later. Maybe I’ll purchase…

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How Have We Lasted This Long?

Remember not long ago, I told you that Popeye’s had come out with a chicken sandwich that was said to be the equal of Chick-Fil-A’s?  I was happy to hear this, for I refuse to set foot in a Chick-Fil-A restaurant because of their overt bigotry, but I did like their chicken sandwiches long ago.  Well, before the girls and I got around to trying Popeye’s new sandwich, it was announced that they were sold out and would have more in the near future, so I rather forgot about it.  Apparently, though, the Popeye’s sandwich is … um … I don’t even know what word to use … controversial?  Worth risking life and limb for?  Just in the past week …

On Monday, the headlines read “Man Is Fatally Stabbed Over Popeyes Chicken Sandwich”, and on Wednesday it was “Driver Damages Own Car Trying To Jump Popeye’s Drive-Thru Line”Popeye-1.jpgThis post is not about those two events specifically, and I won’t waste my time or yours going into detail.  But rather, this post is about the thought that occurred to me upon seeing these two stories:  I wonder how the human species has managed to survive this long?

Ever since humans evolved from their simian cousins, it seems that they have been trying to kill one another, sometimes with cause, but more often for no good reason.  The more laws we make in our effort to establish a ‘civil society’, the more violent we become.  The more we enhance our education systems, the more ignorant we become.  The more we claim to care about others, the less we seem to care.

Part of the problem, of course, is that we don’t know when to stop reproducing.  The population on earth today is roughly 7.7 billion people, which is more than double the number of people on earth in 1972, just 47 years ago.  The amount of land on the planet, however, remains roughly the same, although with rising sea levels it is on the downturn.  The land on the planet is roughly 196.9 million square miles, which translates to .03 square miles per person.  But, of course, some of that is taken up by forests that are critical for the survival of life on earth.  The bottom line is that we cannot continue to double the population on the planet every 50 years and survive!  Maybe China’s ‘one-child’ rule wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

But, there is more to the problem than overpopulation.  I think that technology has a role in the way people treat each other these days, as well.  Mind you, I’m not putting down man-made technology in general … there have been many amazing inventions, as evidenced by the fact that I am sitting in my comfy chair, and within minutes I have discovered the amount of land and the number of people on planet earth without moving more than my fingertips. Then with a few more clicks of the fingertips, I was able to make the calculations I needed.  Now, I am writing words, again with my fingertips, and in a couple of short hours, people across the globe will be reading my words.  Back in 1972, nobody would have believed it possible.

However, in some ways I think that technology has made our lives too easy.  If the Internet died tomorrow, how many high school kids would know how to go to the library and look up the information I just found at my fingertips?  I’m betting very few.  And, technology has put distance between us – not physical distance, but we are emotionally disconnected from others as we text messages on our cell phones, play video games, watch movies, or troll the ‘net.  We have become emotionally isolated, and when we do have the occasion to interact with others, we have little tolerance.

We are easily frustrated by the actions of others.  Going back to the chicken sandwich example … a man was rude and cut in line in front of another, and the other was so frustrated that he pulled out his knife and stabbed the rude man to death.  Is this what we call ‘civilization’?  All species will kill if they feel their lives or the lives of their pack are threatened, but humans are the only species I know that will kill a person because of the colour of his skin, or where his ancestors came from, or because he was in a hurry to buy a sandwich.

At the same time as we are losing more and more of our humanity, we are also failing miserably to take care of the Earth on which our lives, in fact the lives of every living thing, depend.  The human species seems, as it becomes less tolerant toward one another, to either have a death wish or to believe that they are invincible – I’m not sure which it is.

There are those that will say “Well, species come and go, it’s the natural progression of life”.  Not true.  This extinction will be near-total, and it differs from the extinction of other species in the past because this one was completely, entirely avoidable.  Our fate was in our hands all along, yet we chose to take the path of least resistance, the path that gave us the greatest pleasure, but at the highest cost. It is the arrogance of mankind that has led us to the brink of extinction, and as I ponder it, the only real surprise is that humans have survived this long.

Something to Ponder …

In this day where everyone seems to have to wear a label – democrat, republican, moderate, liberal, conservative, neo-conservative, snowflake – David Brooks is hard to pin down.  He has been dubbed a moderate, a centrist, a conservative, and a moderate conservative.  He has even been called “one of those Republicans who want to ‘engage with’ the liberal agenda” {gasp!!!}, “not a real conservative” or “squishy”.  To me, labels can mean whatever one wants them to mean at the moment, or nothing at all.

David Brooks is a Canadian-born American who is currently a columnist for the New York Times and commentator on PBS NewsHour.  Along with The Washington Post’s George Will and a couple of others, he is among the conservative writers who gets my attention, commands my respect, whether I agree with him or not.

Mr. Brooks’ column of March 11th  is, I think, worth reading and giving some serious thought to.  This particular piece is neither right nor left, conservative nor liberal, but it is, rather, a statement of our ‘techno-society’, for lack of a better term.  Give it a glance, then give it some thought.  Are we walking straight into the mouth of the giant alligator?  Your thoughts?

If Stalin Had a Smartphone

Suddenly technology has a centralizing effect.

David-BrooksBy David Brooks

Opinion Columnist

I feel bad for Joseph Stalin. He dreamed of creating a totalitarian society where every individual’s behavior could be predicted and controlled. But he was born a century too early. He lived before the technology that would have made being a dictator so much easier!

In the first place, he’d have much better surveillance equipment. These days most interactions are through a computer, so there is always an electronic record of what went on.

The internet of things means that our refrigerators, watches, glasses, phones and security cameras will soon be recording every move we make. In 2017, Levi Strauss made an interactive denim jacket, with sensors to detect and transmit each gesture, even as minimal as the lifting of a finger. Soon prosecutors will be able to subpoena our driverless cars and retrieve a record of every place they took us.

And this is not even to mention the facial recognition technology the Chinese are using to keep track of their own citizens. In Beijing, facial recognition is used in apartment buildings to prevent renters from subletting their apartments.

One Chinese firm, Yitu, installed a system that keeps a record of employees’ movements as they walk to the break room or rest room. It records them with blue dotted lines on a monitor. That would be so helpful for your thoroughly modern dictator.

In the second place, thanks to artificial intelligence, Uncle Joe would have much better tools for predicting how his subjects are about to behave. As Shoshana Zuboff wrote in her book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” when you are using Google, you are not Google’s customer. You are Google’s raw material. Google records everything you do; then it develops models that predict your behavior and then it sells those models to advertisers, which are its actual customers.

Thanks to this business model, some of the best minds in the world have spent tens of billions of dollars improving tools that predict personal consumption. This technology, too, has got to come in handy for any modern-day Stalin.

Third, thanks to big data, today’s Stalin would be able to build a massive Social Credit System to score and rank citizens, like the systems the Chinese are now using. Governments, banks and online dating sites gather data on, well, everybody. Do you pay your debts? How many hours do you spend playing video games? Do you jaywalk?

If your score is too low, you can get put on a blacklist. You may not be able to visit a museum. You may not be able to fly on a plane, check into a hotel, visit the mall or graduate from high school. Your daughter gets rejected by her favorite university.

Back in Stalin’s day, social discipline was so drastic. You had to stage a show trial (so expensive!), send somebody to the gulag or organize a purge. Now your tyranny can be small, subtle and omnipresent. It’s like the broken windows theory of despotism. By punishing the small deviations, you prevent the big ones from ever happening.

Fourth, you don’t have to go through all the trouble of staging a revolution. You just seduce people into a Faustian bargain. You offer to distract them for eight hours a day with animal videos and relatable memes, and they surrender their privacy to you and give you access to their brains.

As online life expands, neighborhood life and social trust decline. As the social fabric decays, social isolation rises and online viciousness and swindling accumulate, you tell people that the state has to step in to restore trust. By a series of small ratcheted steps, you’ve been given permission to completely regulate their online life.

This, too, is essentially what is happening in China.

As George Orwell and Aldous Huxley understood, if you want to be a good totalitarian, it isn’t enough to control behavior. To have total power you have to be able to control people’s minds. With modern information technology, the state can shape the intimate information pond in which we swim.

I don’t want to pretend that everything will be easy for the Stalin of the 21st century. Modern technology makes it easier to control people, but it also creates a mind-set in which people get much angrier about being controlled.

When people have a smartphone in their hand, they feel that they should have a voice, that they should be broadcasting, that they should have agency and dignity. When they discover they are caught in an information web that is subtly dominating them, they react. When they realize that ersatz information webs can’t really create the closeness and community they crave, they react.

Angry movements and mobs arise spontaneously. What you get is a system of elite domination interrupted by populist riots.

Human history is a series of struggles for power. Every few generations, just for fun, the gods give us a new set of equipment that radically alters the game. We thought the new tools would democratize power, but they seem to have centralized it. It’s springtime for dictators.

Ready For Flying Cars … ???

“Mark my word. A combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile. But it will come.” – Henry Ford, circa 1940

You may remember my previous posts No Driverless Cars, Please; Installing Morals Into Self-Driving CarsA New Kind Of Hood OrnamentCrash!  about driverless cars.  You may also remember that I am not sold on the idea, though I am also less than enthusiastic about humans being allowed to operate a 2,000 pound potential projectile on roadways!  Well … those fears were bad enough, but today I find that it is even worse than I feared.  Welcome, the … {drumroll} … FLYING CAR!!!

Three headlines just this week:

  • AeroMobil Flying Car now available for pre-order
  • Uber Really Seriously Promises Flying Cars by 2020
  • It’s Time for a Reality Check on Flying Cars Like Uber’s

And Filosofa is now ready to give up any and all driving privileges and become a complete hermit.

I don’t deny that technology has some benefits and has been used to do some good things.  For example, my electricity went out one day a couple of weeks ago.  No reason that I could tell … it was neither stormy nor windy, but the electricity flickered, then died.  I wondered what happened, wondered if it would be out for a few minutes, or a few days.  But I did not have to wonder for long, because within 10 minutes or so I received a text message from Duke Energy informing me that they were aware of an outage in the area and that they anticipated having power restored no later than 4:30 p.m.  The power actually came back on around 3:30 p.m., and within just a few minutes I received another text message from Duke asking me to text “1” if my power was restored, “2” if I was unsure, and “3” if it was still out.  I am just curious how a person would be ‘unsure’ whether they had electricity or not. I texted “1” and received a ‘thank you” text in return.  At the time, I thought, “what a great use for technology!!!”

But I do NOT think flying cars is a great use of technology.  At least, I do not think it is a technology for which the world is ready, given that people seem to have enough trouble driving safely on the roadways.  However, there are a number of companies vying to be the first to market a viable flying car, most determined to have them in the hands of crazy drivers everywhere by at least 2020.

First, there is the Kitty Hawk Flyer …


This is not the most impressive, as it does not actually resemble a car at all, and only carries one person … no passengers, no luggage, no bags of groceries.  The Flyer is the brainchild of a Silicone Valley start-up called Kitty Hawk, funded by Google founder Larry Page. The company plans to have their car in production and available to the public by the end of this year. No word yet on the price, but interested parties can pay $100 to sign up for a $2,000 discount on the retail price.

Of a more practical nature is the AeroMobil Flying Car …

This one was unveiled this week at Top Marques Monaco by none other than the Prince of Monaco himself, and is already available for pre-order, though it is not expected to go into full production until 2020.  It can be driven on the highway, at speeds up to 99 miles per hour, then converted for flying in under three minutes, and take to the air at speeds up to 161 miles per hour.  It is also capable of carrying up to 529 pounds, or two adults plus luggage, unless the adults are super-chunky.  Though the final price is not yet set, it is expected to run between $1.2 million to $1.6 million.  Whew … it is comforting to know that only 1% of the population will stand a chance at buying one!

And lastly, there is the Uber Air Taxi …

This one is different from the AeroMobil in that it uses vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (VTOL), rather like a helicopter, so no runway is needed.  They would operate from “vertiports” situated around urban areas, predominantly atop buildings. And, at some point in the future, they would be unmanned. GASP … shoot me now!  The initial testing is expected in 2020 in Dallas and Dubai.  Sigh.

Airbus is also working on a similar concept, as are a number of other companies, Aurora Flight Sciences, Joby Aviation and Zee.Aero.


There are a number of obstacles that must be addressed before any of these vehicles can actually be placed in the hands of the public:

  • What happens in the event of a mechanical failure? One cannot simply pull off to the side of the road when there is no road.  Gravity plays a role here …
  • Today’s battery technology cannot support flights of a reasonable distance, say a 30- or 50-mile commute.
  • Weather conditions – how will these relatively lightweight vehicles deal with strong winds, sleet, and the like?
  • How much air do you own above your home? A plane at 30,000 feet is probably okay, but a flying car at 100 feet probably isn’t. The law is not clear on this.
  • Air traffic control systems will need to be re-structured to accommodate these types of vehicles.
  • The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) will need to come up with a set of regulations … and obviously police will need to have a presence in the air … how else will they stop speeders and reckless flyers? Instead of DWI, will we have FWI?
  • And the biggest hurdle, at least from my perspective, is that I do not think most humans are capable of ‘driving’ safely 100-200 feet in the air … heck, most humans seem incapable of driving safely anywhere, as they are typically distracted by cell phones, juggling beverages & food, or disciplining their kids in the back seat.

I have serious reservations about the whole self-driving car thing.  I think recreational drones are interesting, but I am not a fan.  I was thoroughly distressed when I heard that Amazon was considering using drones to deliver packages, envisioning stepping outside my front door one day, only to have my monthly shipment of Tide pods, Mr. Clean, Cascade and coffee pods land smack on top of my head!  But the thoughts of drivers flying around just over my head … no … just NO.

Self-driving car expert Brad Templeton recently said, “I love the idea of being able to go out into my backyard and hop into my flying car, but I hate the idea of my next-door neighbor having one.”