Posts Tagged ‘Prius’

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 March 14, 2010

March 15, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

It’s been more than my usual week between letters – I am going through one of those preposterously busy periods one goes through once in a while. Working with Odyssey Networks, I am helping them launch a mobile channel and that is consuming a good piece of my life – and will for the next couple of months. Friday afternoon, I said to someone that yesterday was Monday and now today is Friday and I need for it to be only Tuesday. It’s going that quickly.

But even if life is going that quickly, things do keep happening that aren’t directly related to launching a mobile channel. A week ago, we all gathered around the electronic fireplace and watched the Oscars, which, it turned out, were the most watched Academy Awards in five years. Maybe it worked to nominate ten films for Best Picture, the first time that’s been done since 1943.

I have a rule now when watching Awards programs. I suspend my critic persona and just surrender to the experience. These Oscars, like many, if not most, were excoriated by those who did not suspend their critical selves. From the choice of hosts, to sets, to musical numbers, the critics were savage. I didn’t care – I was just along for the ride; it made the experience much easier. I didn’t have to work. It was what it was.

The surprise was that HURT LOCKER won Best Picture over AVATAR, which was what the smart money was betting on – well, may be not so smart after all but it was AVATAR that I thought would be walking out with the gold statue.

While the world was Oscar titillated, other things were going on. The rancor went on in Congress about Health Care and Obama is pushing for an up or down vote, which means following procedures that are supposed to prevent the opportunity for filibuster. Reconciliation is part of the process though there doesn’t seem to be much reconciling going on with Republicans. Whether it actually happens remains to be seen. Seems a number of Democrats aren’t all that sold on reform and may not follow the party line. Regardless of what is going on with Health Care Reform, one gets the impression that Congress is so dysfunctional it needs group therapy. Polls are indicating indignation with Congress.
In an effort to turn indignation away from him, Tiger Woods did a carefully orchestrated apology. The jury is out on whether it was sincere or not. Some thought so, many didn’t. As I said, the jury is out…

And the jury is still out on Toyota, which has gone from corporate paragon to corporate pariah – well, that’s too strong a word but the glitter is tarnished. While its leaders apologized to Congress, issues continued to plague its vehicles and doubts abounded as to whether the recalls were fixing the issues. One poor man had a scary ride down a freeway with his Prius just last week – he slowed down by nosing up to the rear end of a police cruiser. Three Toyotas were involved in curious accidents in Connecticut. Not good for confidence building.

Speaking of confidence, and going full circle, theatre owners are feeling good – theatre attendance has been up during the recession and it’s been a boffo year at the box office for films. Theatre owners are expanding and working to make going to the movies a true escapist experience with restaurants and bars on premises, ever bigger seats while we are being wowed by 3D. ALICE IN WONDERLAND rules the box office again this weekend.

Preposterously busy or not, I still have a few minutes to notice the world…