Posts Tagged ‘Elon Musk’

Letter From Claverack 09 30 2016 Reaching for the stars and more…

October 1, 2016

Something like sixteen or seventeen years ago, my friends, Medora Heilbron and Meryl Marshall-Daniels, began having weekly phone calls to shore each other up as we were all in transition points in our careers.

That wonderful custom has continued to this day.  Almost every week, except when one of us is traveling, we have had calls, sharing the highs and lows, the concerns, the fears, the triumphs of our personal and professional lives.

Today, we had one of those calls.  When it was my turn to comment on my state of affairs, I burst out with, “I am verklempt!”

Yesterday evening, an email that should have come in on a project I am up for did not come as promised and, for reasons that are hard to explain, released what Winston Churchill called, “the black dog.”  Discouragement and depression.  I woke at three in the morning and read for three hours before falling back into a fitful sleep.

It has been amazing to me the number of times in the last couple of years that I have awakened with a sense of happiness. Today, it was all I could do to speak my usual morning affirmations.

After our phone call, always good for the spirits, I made a decision to do NOTHING today but work on my physic wounds and get back my equilibrium.  Three loads of laundry and tearing recipes out of the newest issue of “Food & Wine” was as ambitious as I got.

The day matched my mood; grey, hostile, chill and rainy.   Marcel, the dog I am caring for, and I curled up on the couch.  He napped, I read.

Now that the day has slipped into evening, I have to say “the black dog” and I seem to be getting distance from each other.  Largely because of the wonderful support group that is our weekly call.  Together we have laughed and cried.

It wasn’t until late in the afternoon when my spirits were beginning to lift that I even looked at the news of the day.  The sound of uplifting jazz plays in the background.  Happier than I have been all day, I am sipping a martini and typing.  Getting back to the happy Mat.

What did make me happy today was that Alabama’s Chief Justice, Roy Moore, was suspended for the rest of his term over his urging state officials to refuse to grant marriage licenses to same sex couples.  Interestingly, this is not the first time he has been kicked out of being Chief Justice.  Last time was his refusal to take down a statue of the Ten Commandments.

And I was both sad and happy that Rosetta, the first spacecraft to orbit a comet, did a belly flop onto the comet’s surface and went silent, leaving behind reams of data for scientists to parse.  He/it/she was a plucky fellow.  What do you call a spacecraft anyway?

Elon Musk wants to send people to Mars.  He is thinking of a million or so colonists over the next fifty to a hundred years.  He has envisioned a rocket to take them there.  And they should be prepared to die, he said.  It made me think of the first colonists who came from Europe to the Americas.  They had a hard time too.

The thought excites me.  More than likely, I will be gone by the time there is a first rocket to go but if I were here, I would volunteer.  Wow, what an adventure…

The New World captured the imagination of the Old World and millions upon millions poured into North and South America, looking for better lives, something different.

My father’s family came from Germany.  My mother’s from Sweden.  We are a nation of immigrants and we always seem to forget that.  I am not sure how we manage to forget that but we do.

Growing up Catholic in Minnesota was nothing like growing up Catholic somewhere else as I have learned in conversations with friends over the years.  My good friend Bill told me once that he wouldn’t have been allowed to know me where he grew up in rural Missouri.

So I look forward to a time when we go out and populate the planets and then the stars.  I think it’s in our blood to do that.

Letter From New York 09 01 2016 From the Creek, thinking about space…

September 1, 2016

When I was a young boy, I was a voracious reader.  I devoured Greek myths and stories of ancient Egypt.  When night came, I would hide under my covers and read Tom Swift books by flashlight.  Finding that ineffective, I convinced my parents I was terrified of the dark so they let me keep a light on.  It made reading so much easier.

I discovered Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. The first time I read the Foundation Trilogy by Asimov I loved it but didn’t quite understand it all.  The third time I reveled in his artistry in creating a universe.  I still, once and again, read Heinlein’s “Citizen of the Galaxy.”

In later years, friends and I would gather and watch “Star Trek,” at an age when we would enhance the experience with cannabis.  I have looked toward the stars.  When the Challenger exploded, I was driving down Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles and nearly rear ended the car in front of me in my shock.

Yesterday Elon Musk’s Space X rocket, during a test, exploded, destroying not just itself but also a satellite Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had invested in to bring internet to Africa.

It is unlikely I will meet Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg.  And I credit them for using their wealth and technology to work to expand our efforts toward space.  It’s always been my belief that we, as a race, need to long beyond now to something more.

We have conquered this planet.  Maybe to its detriment, but there is little left undiscovered here and so much undiscovered beyond the gravitational fields of this planet.

Okay, I am a great supporter of space exploration.  I think we need it as a species.  We’re, as humans, driven to look for more.  Always been that way and hope it will always be that way.

When I was young, I was in a theater troupe and we all stopped that night in 1969 to watch the landing on the moon.

In my life, I’ve met the famous and the once famous and have never asked for an autograph.  Except when I met Buzz Aldrin, 2nd man on the moon.  It’s framed, in my study.

Okay, I have now exposed myself as a space geek.

And I admire, no matter what we think of them, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Richard Branson of Virgin everything, and Elon Musk of Tesla and Space X, for wanting to take us out there.

Since we retired the Space Shuttles we have no way of bringing personnel to the International Space Station so we use the Russians.  But Elon Musk’s company has brought supplies there for a fraction of the cost of other means.

It is my belief that we need to be looking outward because looking outward gives us, the human race, a sense of hope in the future and it is the hope of a future that has propelled us from the caves to here.

Letter From New York 04 27 2016

April 28, 2016

Twilight has passed and I am curled up with the laptop and a martini, allowing the day to begin to slip away.  It was not a bad day at all; quite the contrary.  My rambunctious students were less so today after I told them that if they were rambunctious today,  I was going to ask them to leave.  They knew when they had arrived they had gone a little over the top on Monday and were quite subdued as they arrived, giving me looks to see how annoyed I might be with them.

It was actually a bit amusing.

After office hours, I went to the gym and then to an early dinner at Coyote Flaco, a small Mexican restaurant not far from the cottage.  At home, there were lots of things to gather as I am going down to New York City tomorrow for an Odyssey meeting and a dinner at which Odyssey has purchased a table, all in support of a film they have made on “moral injury.”

It is beginning to shape up that I am going for at least a couple of weeks to help my friends who own the Edgartown Bookstore on Martha’s Vineyard.  Might be two weeks or a month but will be good for me to do that and I think they need the help in the time before college students start showing up looking for summer jobs so it looks like just before Memorial Day to sometime in June, with a trip down to New York to see my brother and sister-in-law when they are there to celebrate their wedding anniversary in between, I will be on the Vineyard, the place my friend Jeffrey calls “the land of off.”

It was a good day yesterday for Donald Trump, who swept all five races and for Hillary, who triumphed in four of the five.

The Donald said that Hillary was playing “the woman card” and that if she weren’t a woman she wouldn’t be getting five percent of the vote.  Like Hillary or not, she does have some pretty good credentials.

The Donald outlined his foreign policy directions today, carrying forward his America First! theme into foreign policy.  He criticized Obama for not standing with our allies and then went on to diss them himself.  Some thought it rambling and incoherent, others thought it a great step to the middle.  What I heard of it sounded like a big muddle.

Ted Cruz has chosen Carly Fiorina as his running mate.  Wait, don’t you have to be nominated before you announce your running mate?  Or is that just old politics? Regardless, it is not a pretty thought from where I sit.  Cruz is as concerning to me as Trump.

It was not a good day for Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the House, who was sentenced to fifteen months in prison for a bank crime, committed while he was paying off a young man he had sexually abused.  Apparently there were five of them who Hastert abused, all distraught, now middle-aged men, with one of them dead.  The man he was paying off has now sued for the remainder of the money. 

The Saudis, in an overdue awakening, are working to get beyond oil and to diversify so that when, someday, the oil runs out — and it will — they won’t drift back into a medieval state.   It will be a hard road to success.  The Saudi kingdom is not as open or as business friendly as the United Arab Emirates, who saw the future long ago.

Elon Musk wants to land an unmanned craft on Mars as early as 2018 and I say: go for it!

Salah Abdeslam, the surviving member of the team that perpetrated the Paris attacks last year, is back in Paris.  His lawyers have described him as a “little jerk” who is “falling apart” in jail and is ready to cooperate.

The evening is fading.  My martini is gone and I am ready for sleep, grateful for the day and the day that is, I hope, coming.  Life is an interesting mystery.

Letter From New York July 02 15 Of debt crises and Presidential Candidates…

July 2, 2015

Well, the grey summer is still holding. Yet another warm but grey day here in New York. I’m getting ready to leave for Baltimore and it looks like it might be on the grey side there too. It wears on me a bit, day after day of grey. It could be winter out the window.

It’s another day without a solution in Greece, a country pretty much shut down until the referendum on Sunday. One reporter there described the situation as “weird.” Hotels are pretty full, the sun is shining there, restaurants are pretty full but the country is running out of money and might have to start issuing IOU’s as early as this month.

On Sunday, the Greeks are voting for a deal that doesn’t even exist anymore as it expired on Tuesday night. That is part of the weirdness. European leaders are saying vote “yes” while the Greek leaders saying: vote “no.” The Greek voters are not sure what they’re voting on. Their government is saying “no” as they think it will give them more leverage in the negotiations with their creditors and the creditors are saying that a “no” means: bye-bye!

Tsipras wants the biggest “no” vote he can get, thinking it will send tremors through Europe. It probably will send tremors but maybe not the kind he wants.

The Boko Haram have killed approximately a hundred people praying at mosques in Nigeria. They target mosques where clerics are too moderate, according to them.

The deadline has passed for the nuclear talks with Iran but everyone is still talking and shuttling between countries to see if a deal can be done. Obama is saying he’ll reject a bad deal and conservatives are saying, nah, he won’t.

Angela Merkel has summoned the U.S. Ambassador to her office to discuss the latest revelations that the NSA may not have just eavesdropped on her but also on over 60 German officials, including some of her ministers. I wouldn’t want to be the student in that principal’s office.

This is for everyone who fears Artificial Intelligence. A robot in a German auto factory picked up a 22 year old man and crushed him to death. The auto plant is thinking bad programming. You might note that Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking are all worried about the potential for AI to decide we are too imperfect to be continued.

Probably will not happen in my lifetime unless I stumble into some rogue robot like the poor young man in Germany.

While it seems there is Republican entrant to the Presidential basis on a daily basis, today another Democrat has thrown his hat into that ring. Jim Webb, former Senator from Virginia, has declared he is a candidate. A former Republican turned Democrat over his opposition to the Iraq war, he will do his best to make his voice heard, though he fears being drowned out by the avalanche of money. Yes, it is hard to be heard sometimes in the waterfall of dollar bills unleashed by Citizens United.

You’ve heard of “Shark Week” I’m sure. It was thought up by a group of young programming executives more than twenty years ago at Discovery Channel as counter programming to the political conventions. One of those young programming executives was Steve Cheskin, now head of programming for Reelz Channel. Reelz is going to air the Miss USA Pageant from which NBC and Univision have run since co-owner Donald Trump opened mouth, inserted foot about most Mexicans who come to the United States. Steve knows a programming opportunity when it’s around and this is one. Good work, Steve, on the programming front. Still, I kind of wish everyone had boycotted Trump.

Macy’s has sent him packing. One of the products that bear his name is underwear. Creepy.

Trump is suing Univision for a half a billion dollars and says he’s going to sue NBC too. It will be interesting to watch this play out, some good reality television, I’m guessing.

Uber, the car calling app, is fighting the City of New York, which wants to halt its expansion while a study is completed to see what effect it is having on congestion and pollution and on the fate of yellow taxis. Uber called for a big rally yesterday here in New York and offered free rides to those who wanted to go but not many showed up. They brought food that ended up being given away to hungry tourists, of which there are lots in the city right now.

PAnyway, I’m now on the train, getting ready to pull out for Baltimore. Until tomorrow…

Letter From New York 04 22 15 From robotics to singing in the rain…

April 22, 2015

Last night, on a balmy New York spring night, I went at 5:00 to Junior’s Deli on 45th Street in the heart of New York’s theater district and met Cathy, my middle niece, her husband and their two daughters, Clare and Isabel, for a pre-theater dinner. They were off to see “Matilda” and I was off to see “It’s Only A Play.”

Cathy and Michael live in Portland and my brother is there watching after their two sons who had just accompanied he and his wife to Machu Picchu. I don’t get to see Cathy and her family very often so it was a cheery visit and then we went off to our respective performances.

Amazingly, after the performance, as I threaded my way through a hideously congested Times Square, I ran into them on the corner of 44th and Broadway. We laughed and hugged and then moved on.

I curled up in bed and started to read a Peter Wimsey mystery but soon feel asleep, Kindle in hand, only to wake later to turn out the lights.

This morning I had breakfast with David McKillop, who recently stepped down as GM of A&E and stepped into the role of Chief Creative Officer at a new production company called Propagate, which is being funded by A&E. He’s partnered with Howard Owens who used to run Nat Geo.

It was a glorious spring morning and we walked around Union Square for a while after breakfast, strolling past all the vendors that form the Union Square Farmer’s Market, then walked over to 7th Avenue where we parted. He off to a meeting and me to day of talks called “Imagination,” being held in conjunction with the Tribeca Film Festival.

The morning was devoted to robotics. While Elon Musk is terrified of intelligent machines, all these speakers were gung-ho enthusiasts of artificial intelligence and robots, as long as every one followed Asimov’s Three Rules of Robotics.

It was fascinating. The demonstration of Watson, IBM’s Supercomputer, was impressive. The video they showed reminded me of “Star Trek.”

Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL, spoke in the afternoon about the technology advances they are making in serving ads and video content to their 250,000,000 users and that was impressive, too.

After the 3-D printing talk “Eating Your Way Into 3D Printing” I had to leave to go view a cut of a sizzle reel my friend Todd’s company is working on.

While I was involved in all these fun and rather joyful activities, the world ticked on.

Yesterday the Saudis said they’d stop bombing Yemen but this morning bombs were still falling there, with the country lurching toward a humanitarian crisis as supplies are floating out at sea because of the Saudi embargo.

When I was in India there was lots of news about a land development law that the Modi government is attempting to pass. It would ease the government’s ability to expropriate land belonging to farmers for other uses. It is hugely controversial and hotly debated and stridently opposed by the Congress Party, the opposition to Modi’s BJP.

Today there was a rally in Delhi protesting the bill. At it, an Indian farmer committed suicide, hanging himself from a tree. He left behind a suicide note saying the recent extraordinary rains and hailstorms had ruined him. Rahul Gandhi raced to the hospital and the PM, Modi, is said to be “shattered” by the incident but probably not so much that he will withdraw the law.

Britain, which is facing elections on May 7th, is working overtime to figure out what is going to happen if the Tories lose. If the Scots become the power brokers in the formation of a new government, there is a concern about the results. “Constitutional crisis” is on the lips of a few.

Thousands of Ethiopians have taken to the streets to march in protest against IS’s killing of thirty of their countrymen for being Christian.

Prime Minister Abe of Japan paid slight attention to Japan’s wartime responsibility in a speech in Jakarta, which raised the ire of Japan’s neighbors but not so much that Xi of China wouldn’t meet with Abe. The two had a thirty-minute meeting and stressed their determination to continue working on their relationship. It almost sounded like an estranged couple continuing their therapy sessions.

The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis would stop in Cuba while en route to the US for his visit here. Cuba will probably go mad for the Pontiff.

The bright spring morning turned to afternoon clouds and rain, which has now stopped though the grey continues. I am off to dinner tonight with my friends David and Annette Fox, celebrating my return from India with take out from Indus Valley, our favorite neighborhood Indian restaurant. Will be a good time.

Letter From New York 04 14 15 Working to see with tourist’s eyes…

April 14, 2015

All around me the city of New York is thrumming, filled with the sounds of a city growing, being alive. Sitting in the office of a friend doing some work for him, the street below is filled with the clatter and the clanging of building.

This morning, as I was waking and sipping my first cup of coffee, I decided that I wanted to look at the world a little differently, as if I was a tourist in spots that were well known to me, to keep my eyes and ears open for new sensations and experiences.

Walking to the subway, I noticed the play of grey light on the sidewalk, through a cloudy sky that was hinting of rain, which didn’t seem to want to come.

There is a plastic milk box between what was the Radio Shack store and the upscale mart for sports shoes. Every day there is someone sitting on that box, begging. But it’s often a different person and today it was someone I’ve never seen before. I wonder if it is first come, first seated or do they change shifts during the day?

Certainly, it’s been an interesting day out there in the world. I’ve attempted to keep up with the world while I’ve been hunched over my laptop, doing research for my friend/colleague Todd Broder.

I have discovered that we haven’t discovered any other life in the hundred thousand galaxies we have been searching. We thought that if some civilization had advanced enough that it could have a galaxy wide imprint, we might be able to detect them but no such luck. But there are more than a billion galaxies out there and a hundred thousand is just a small fraction of the possibilities.

It is also noted today that it’s Equal Pay Day though it remains to be seen if employers will step up to achieve equal pay for equal work for women. But we have a day to mark the effort to that goal.

And also today is the 150th Anniversary of the shooting of Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre by John Wilkes Booth, the first assassination of an American President but not the last.

150 years – an amazing amount of time and a huge chunk of American history has happened since then. The Republic wasn’t yet a hundred years old when Lincoln died.

The somber visage of Lincoln stares out at us from those haunting photographs, a window into a time long gone and just beginning to be chronicled by photography.

In Washington, Obama wants to set Cuba free by lifting its designation as a state sponsoring terrorism. If that happens, the floodgates will open. There was also a story of how ubiquitous the American flag has become in Havana, flying everywhere and on t-shirts and painted on jeans.

Currently at the Acela Club in New York, there was a huge delegation of important people heading out on the 6:00 Acela to Washington. There were police guarding the doors and the group and then they slipped out and down to the train. One was a military figure from some European nation. Everyone seemed to be paying a great deal of attention to him.

A great deal of attention is also being paid to what is happening on the first steps taken on the campaign trail. Hillary has driven to Iowa and is doing her listening. Paul Rand is back from a five state tour and Marco Rubio is facing scrutiny about his immigration and tax stands. No news of Ted Cruz today.

Today Space X successfully sent another capsule toward the space station, carrying supplies. Its first stage attempted once again to land on a platform at sea. It hit the platform but too hard.

Still, to me, it’s a step forward. Have to admire Elon Musk and his steadfastness to his vision.

The markets today seemed to do well though Google will likely face anti-trust charges in Europe.

The world in the Middle East is still very complicated. A drone attack killed a leading Yemeni Al Qaeda cleric. Russia is planning on selling missiles to Iran. Iraq’s PM was in Washington, where he got some money and a warning that Iranians in Iraq should be reporting to Baghdad.

And now I am going to go out into the streets of New York and do my best to keep my eyes open and see what I can see, with open eyes. I am off to get a martini and a bite to eat, while I continue reading a very good book, “The End of Life Book Club.”

Letter From New York 01 28 15 Pondering Artificial Intelligence

January 28, 2015

Heading down to New York, the train is running alongside the Hudson River, a sheet of white as yesterday’s snow accumulated on the river’s ice. The sun gleams down, reflecting enough that it causes eyes to squint when looking out. It is a scene of rough beauty.

In the city tonight, there will be a reunion of several of us who worked on some programs together for the Discovery Times Channel during its brief and glorious moment. Two of the people, Jon Alpert and Matt O’Neill, have gone on to be nominated twice for Academy Awards for their documentaries. Diana Sperrazza is still at Discovery, working as an Executive Producer for the Investigation Discovery Channel.

We don’t get together often so this is a special occasion.

I will slip into the city today and will probably head home tomorrow or at the latest early Friday.

Traversing south I am passing the mightiness that is West Point, a severe redoubt on the opposite bank. It is hard to be tired of this ride, one of the most beautiful in America according to most who categorize such things.

Along with the NY Times, I often check out the stories on my phone’s BBC app, an interesting re-cap of news with a British perspective. The story I found this morning most interesting was one that was headlined: AI will not kill us, says Microsoft.

How can one resist that kind of headline?

I couldn’t.

Eric Horovitz, Microsoft’s Research Chief, has an opinion markedly in contrast with some others, including physicist Stephen Hawking and entrepreneur Elon Musk, both of who are warning that Artificial Intelligence could supersede us and destroy us. Hawking has said that AI could “spell the end of the human race.” Musk has put up ten million dollars to prevent it from happening.

We are experiencing this first wave of artificial intelligence in things such as Siri, the voice-activated assistant on our iPhones or Contana on Windows Phones, which will be integrated into the next version of the Windows OS. There is a little device from Amazon called the Echo, which comes equipped with Alexa. She is the subject of an article in today’s USA Today, outlining her benefits and her limitations.

My friends, Lionel and Pierre, have an Echo and I’ve been getting to know Alexa the last couple of weeks. She’s very friendly. Her voice is silkier than Siri and she plays music well. She answers basic questions but you can’t have a conversation with her the way one could with Data, the humanoid robot of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But you can sense it’s coming.

It’s both exciting and a little eerie. We are getting tastes of things that will come. And come they will. Because we can make them happen, we will make them happen. One day we’ll be having a conversation with Alexa’s descendants and the next they may be plotting to rid the planet of the messiness of humans. People like Horovitz suspect that one-day machines will be self-aware and where will we be then?

Back to Stephen Hawking, who has said, “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.” That’s a sobering thought: being superseded. Elon Musk thinks, “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.” Ouch!

Mephistopheles, get away!

According to the BBC, Sir Clive Sinclair, inventor of the Spectrum Computer, believes it is unavoidable that artificial intelligences will wipe out mankind. Double ouch!

But can AI appreciate the wonders of a ride down the Hudson River the way I can? We don’t know that yet. If they become self-aware, perhaps they will.

Science Fiction writer Isaac Asimov had his robots built with three unbreakable rules. “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.”

I wonder if those who are developing AI have thought about including The Three Laws into their work? Might be a safeguard from The Terminator.

Letter From New York 01 24 15 On the verge of singularity?

January 25, 2015

Night has fallen in Claverack, deep, dark night, the kind where you can see nothing outside your windows. Jazz plays in the background. It is chill but not as chill as it will be; tomorrow the temperature will plunge to 9 degrees and the lows will be that or lower for the rest of the week. Brrrr…

Waking this morning, I discovered four inches of fresh snow when only one had been predicted. It was beautiful though I waited to go out until the afternoon. I have a Prius, which is a lovely automobile but not great in snow. As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, a wild turkey regally crossed in front of my window. The geese in the creek sailed majestically upstream, a flotilla of living beings, glorious in their beauty.

It’s been a quiet day. Waking early, I fixed coffee and snuggled down with the NY Times. Lazily, I got up and organized some things. Young Nick came and we sorted all the things that needed to go to the Transfer Station, the euphemistic term used in Columbia County for the dump. He shoveled my deck while the snowplow freed the driveway of snow. The orange County trucks plowed the streets. By noon, the world was back to normal.

Normal is a relative work, of course.

It looks like ISIS has beheaded one of the Japanese hostages. Gruesome.

Two planes were held in Atlanta after “credible” bomb threats.

Sarah Palin is considering a run for President while out in Iowa some are branding Chris Christie of New Jersey a flaming liberal. Ouch! Worst thing that a Republican candidate can be called!

In an interesting note today, Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google, said the Internet would disappear! Not really. It just will fade into the background because it will be so integral to our lives. And, yes, I think that’s true. In a few years, we won’t be thinking about the Internet because it will be the thread of our lives. Google has just invested a billion dollars in Elon Musk’s efforts to connect all the unconnected with satellite delivered Internet services.

We’re moving into a very interesting world.

Years ago, I read Dan Simmons’ Hyperion novels, a quartet of books that laid out a world not unlike the one we are moving toward. Prescient in many ways; a dark vision of AI taking over man and man striking back, interlinked with all kinds of religious threads. I’ve read them twice. Supposedly they were going to be a movie but I don’t think that’s happening.

I think Elon Musk, CEO of Space X, has just given some millions to prevent AI from achieving a takeover of men, as in The Terminator or the Hyperion novels.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t think I will be here when that happens, one way or the other. The actuarial tables indicate I won’t.

There are those who preach we are fast approaching The Singularity, the moment at which we create AI that is smarter than we are, when brains can be uploaded for a kind of immortality. Or when machines turn on us. Guestimates suggest that it will happen about 2040 and I am not sure I will last that long. Might be a good thing. I don’t want to be chased down the street by The Terminator when I am old.

We are, technologically, doing amazing things. We are transforming the world.

Yet tribal rivalries are causing huge cataclysms in our world. We advance but we regress. I get confused.

But we are humans, contradictory creatures that defy stereotypes, contradictory creatures that propel us dramatically toward a technological future we can barely imagine while at the same time some are desperate to draw us back into a barren past.

Letter From New York 01 16 15 Settling into a winter evening…

January 16, 2015

The setting sun is casting golden slashes of light across my snow-covered drive. The day is ending, a little later than yesterday. The days are growing slightly longer and I can see it, here at my desk, working, caught here almost every night about the time the sun begins to set. The cold-water faucet in my kitchen is set to drip continuously as a way to keep it from freezing again. The temperature tonight will fall again into negative territory, a sure danger place for the kitchen pipes.

While the temperature rose into the mid-20’s today, it felt much colder. That troublesome wind chill factor…

When I drove down into Hudson on an errand earlier, I found that Warren Street, which usually starts coming alive on Friday afternoons, was pretty deserted – people probably staying huddled in, as I have been doing. The Franklin Stove is helping warm the cottage; I have gone through most of the wood I have in the house and will have to haul in more tomorrow. For a while, big, puffy flakes of snow fell and I thought we might be in for a good snowfall but they didn’t last long and the forecast is for a chill but dry day tomorrow.

My work today was to edit some pages on my website and that I did, with more work to go. I have left my website go fallow these past months as I was doing a long consulting assignment. Have to spruce them up to reflect what I have been doing recently.

While I have been doing that, there was another hostage situation in Paris at a post office. No word yet that it was terror related or not. Cameron and Obama today announced they would take on the “poisonous ideology” of radical Islam. The Paris attacks against Charlie Hebdo have accelerated and focused the attention of governments.

Late this afternoon, while I was out doing my errands, SCOTUS [Supreme Court of the United States] determined it would take on gay marriage. The world will watch. 70% of Americans now live in states where gay marriage is sanctioned. Something I never expected in my lifetime. I doubt anyone expected it would happen as quickly as it has over the last few years.

We live in an interesting world in which some rights, like gay marriage, are expanding while privacy is whittled away. In many ways, we are giving it up ourselves. Is there anything Facebook doesn’t know about us or that we haven’t confessed on Facebook? I’ve read some of the posts from my friends’ children and I wince. They admit things I wouldn’t publicly admit even now. It’s stunning how much I know about some of them, much which I don’t think I need to know. But they are of an age when they have no qualms about surrendering this kind of information. I don’t know whether to admire them or not but certainly I note their audacity.

Soft jazz plays in the background, a playful counterpoint to the encroaching evening. And while I listen to the jazz I peruse the news, which is interesting.

Elon Musk has committed ten million dollars to help stop a robot uprising in the future. Many leading thinkers and movers are getting nervous about the rise of AI and want to stop a “Terminator” scenario. I signed on online petition about it yesterday. God forbid an Arnold Schwarzenegger coming back from the future! He’s frightening enough as is.

And speaking of science fiction sorts of things, my favorite news posting of the day was from the International Space Station. Recently, there was an ammonia leak that forced everyone to get together in one module while the trouble was sorted out. While they were there, footage surfaced of a UFO flying by the space station. What it was, I don’t know. CBS aired it. Now you know about it.

Love stuff like that. So while UFO believers and doubters debate the footage, I am going to go add another log to my fire and curl up for a quiet evening in the country. Dinner with friends at their house and then some Netflix or Amazon Prime after.

A good evening, I’d say.