Category Archives: Technology

Careening Toward the End

Knowledge explodes.

From biology
To virology, bacteriology, immunology, epidemiology…

From abacus
To mobile, cloud, Android, iOS…

From chores
To pilates, zumba, yoga, swing…

Connection deflates.

Eye color unknown
Due to staring at a screen…

Vocal quality unheard
Due to letters thumbed in…

Emotions unexplored
Due to emojis and emoticons…

Souls undeveloped
Due to too much social media and not enough knee time…

Faster and faster…
More and more…
Agendas and schedules and skype…

Weaker and weaker…
Less and less…
Manners and courtesy and caring…

Too much change, too fast…
Stop!!!

I choose Jesus.

He is the same today
As He was yesterday
As He will be tomorrow.

I choose His Word.

The sun will melt,
The moon will dissolve,
The stars will fade,
But His Word remains forever.

Futures Essays: The Future of Communications

Author’s Note: I am so glad I have a strong background in science fiction. It is the only way I could explain some of the eerie and uncanny “prophetic” statements I made in this paper I wrote 20+ years ago. Well, not the only way… but the only way for who I was at that time…

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Prior to this class session, I had thought very little about the future of communications. I had seen the ATT&T commercials about a person ordering concert tickets by credit card from a video phone booth, a doctor putting a credit card in a slot and having access to all of the medical records of a woman in labor, and the woman on a business trip who called home and saw her infant and husband while they were seeing her during her phone conversation. (Yes, I see the blasé looks on the faces of those under 20, but for my generation, it was all so futuristic and inspiring.) I had also seen the commercials for an interactive video game on compact disc. However, I had never really thought about the relationship among these things. After the seminar session, I began to see that everything is becoming related to everything else by dependence on similar technology; this interdependent relationship is called convergence.

Convergence is the state in which there will be affordable, universal two-way service which is broadband and which allows access to all kinds of products of the communication industries on a single, large cable. An example of convergence which could occur in the future (the future is now) is a person at home in Denver using a computer to listen to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on a classical radio station from Philadelphia as he wakes up in the morning; later, he uses his home computer to send a work report to his office in New York; in the afternoon, he calls his sister in Australia and his mother in India both at the same time; and at night, he watches Gone with the Wind before going to bed.

Convergence is already happening in a limited basis. I can use my computer to listen to a CD while reading electronic mails containing stories from my best friend from high school in Maryland and communicating over a bulleting board system with acquaintances in England or Jamaica. Although the technology in color computer screens is not good enough to provide the same quality as a projector and screen, I have already seen simulated film-like programs that have an almost life-like quality. On a visit to the National Aeronautics and Space Museum in Washington, DC, I was fascinated by one of the displays involving a simulation of a trip to another planet. A video is played and at various crucial points, a series of options is offered on the screen. The individual involved with the interaction puts his finger on the box next to the preferred option. The choices I made sent me on a difficult mission to an unexplored planet; my experience was different from the person before me who made different choices.

From my own experiences, I can see that the technology is in place to achieve most of the examples in the AT&T commercial. To order tickets with a credit card from a video phone booth would combing the use of the interactive computer program and the technology already in place by which stores scan credit cards to check the credit limit and authenticity of the card. (Yeah, I got one of my highest grades in the course on this paper, and I never addressed the video phone booth.) The medical card would be achieved with the combination of coding a magnetic strip on the card and identifying the section of a computer network storing the medical data through a code on the magnetic strip.

Video phones are, however, a little further into the future. (Wait. Here’s where I put that information.) Currently, there are great difficulties in transferring pictures to impulses that would be translated into images that most people would accept as recognizable. Also, current wires could not deal with light impulses. The translation of light to electronic impulses would cause not only a great deal of lag time, but also a bottle-neck at both the transmitting and receiving ends. (I can’t believe I had this vocabulary back then. Maybe I was too close to a required physics class?)

The biggest concern I have with the idea of convergence is that is sets up the potential for the invasion of my privacy. A computer hacker with the right knowledge could stalk me without my knowledge. He would know my choice in music, films, entertainment; he would know how much money I earned and spent; and he would know the people with whom I communicated on a regular basis. (Yeah, I am describing the current days in a freaky way.) He could even know my most intimate thoughts if I were communicating them with an acquaintance. These kinds of things are really my personal choice and no one’s business but mine. I would not be very comfortable with that possibility. I am not even sure strong government regulations would ease my discomfort because the only way foul play could be discovered would be through the use of foul play. If I do not wish for a complete stranger to monitor me, then I most certainly do not wish for a government official to monitor me in order to determine whether there is a complete stranger monitoring me. (NSA, CIA, TSA, DHS–welcome to the future because the future is now, and people still lose their identities to complete strangers.) I do not feel there is an easy solution to this problem.

I find it fascinating that I am using technology that even when I was very young was considered futuristic, and I look forward to the development of even greater technology. (Yes, yes, you do, you Borg collective candidate.)

I don’t even want to go here, with hackers and spammers and identity thieves. As I age, I find although technology evolves, newer isn’t always better.

Futures Essays: Delphi Technique

Author’s Note: In this paper, our class was to explore the Delphi Technique and discuss the pros and cons. This will not be a word for word rekey; some of my grammar and expression was absolutely atrocious, and the professor who graded the paper was quick to note and challenge the missteps.

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I was fascinated by many ideas presented in our recent session on futures studies. The most fascinating of all was the Delphi Technique. Many people prefer to consult with groups of experts instead of just one person when it comes to predicting the effects of current trends on the state of the future; the problem that occurs in many groups, even experts, is that although an individual group member may have better, more important thoughts and ideas, he (or she) many change his opinion to that of the majority to avoid feeling left out or appearing uncooperative. This phenomenon is referred to as “group think” or the “bandwagon effect.” The Delphi technique was formulated to eliminate the “bandwagon effect” and produce an informed foresight of the future minus the poorer ideas supported by more dominant personalities. The Delphi effect consists of three or four steps, each of which has its own benefits and drawbacks.

The first step is to determine the type of foresight necessary to the study I wanted to conduct and to tailor a survey for the experts based on information necessary to the study. (At this point, my professor must have had a massive headache; I just combined two steps into one. Somehow, they must have been linked in my brain.) The benefit is that I can control the flow of information and the experts would only have that information that is pertinent to the study. There are two drawbacks. The first is that I might miss crucial information in what I present. The second is that I construct a survey that channels participants to only provide the answers I want to hear; a slanted survey narrows the focus of participating experts, increasing the chances that possible outcomes are missed.

The second step is to determine who my experts are and invite them to participate. I would want to ensure anonymity is preserved in the interest of overcoming group think. The elimination of group think is one of the major benefits of the Delphi technique. However, there are three potential drawbacks. First, I assume that the experts have more knowledge than I or the general public. Second, I have to rely on the notion I’ve properly identified my experts. Third, although unlikely and far-fetched (maybe not so far-fetched given human nature), is that I cannot control whether the experts remain anonymous and refrain from communication with each other.

The final step is to collect the surveys, collate the feedback, and return the survey feedback to the participants for further consideration and revision. This step would be reiterated until the group came to a consensus of thought regarding the trends affecting the future. The benefit to this step is that I get the foresight in to the future that I need; it is modern and full of conventional wisdom, and it lacks the influence of ties to previous thought. (I just became my own translator. And I’m not sure I translated it properly.) The drawback to this step is that it is time consuming and difficult to get consistency in thought.

I find the Delphi technique incredibly fascinating. In my frequent past group work, I found my ideas were largely ignored even when my presentation was well-formed, organized, and cogent. Sometimes it was because of my gender. Sometimes it was because of my religious or political views. And sometimes, it had to do with some vague, amorphous character quality that was undesirable and therefore made my ideas undesirable. Also, I often refuse to go against the flow of predominant thought because I am quiet and reserved and avoid conflict. Had the Delphi technique been enacted, I would have had an outlet through which I could have expressed myself without fear of discrimination or rejection.

Futures Essays: Where I to Become Dictator of the Globe and Supreme Master of the Planet for Life…

Author’s Notes: Sorry, gang, not sure what I was thinking when I wrote this one, especially the title. But I hope you enjoy.

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The quality of our environment is something about which every human on the face of the earth should be concerned. Unfortunately, some are uneducated regarding the various aspects of environmental quality, and even more unfortunately, some people just possess a great deal of apathy (Wow, what a reality check! Apathy exists not just in regard to the environment, but all over. Can’t believe that mouthful came out at the age I was when I wrote this!) If humans as a race are going to survive on this planet, we must begin to care. I feel very strongly that we as a race have less to 250 years to avoid making the entire planet toxic to human and non-human life. To some, this might seem like doom-saying; to others, it might be exceptionally generous.

There have been many suggested solutions to the problem of environmental quality. A few have been implemented; a prime example of the implementation of suggested solutions is the mandatory recycling some communities have (wish I lived in one) and the emission filters compulsory on exhaust systems in California. However, in my opinion, not enough is being done. That is why, were I to become dictator of the globe and supreme master of the planet for life, I would implement many of the suggested but ignored solutions in favor of leaving being an environment suitable from children and my children’s children. (Huh, I was really hung up on the whole kids and grandkids thing. And why was I using children’s children instead of grandkids?!?)

The first action I would take would be to make recycling of paper, aluminum, and plastic mandatory (globally). Recycling of each of these materials would help to reduce the stress on land fill capacities. The recycling of paper would lessen the need to take down as many trees for the purpose of paper production. Perhaps the measure would also allow the protection of the habitats of several  endangered species whose natural homes are in danger of destruction by lumber operations. Although aluminum recycling would be more expensive in the areas of time and energy consumption than making new aluminum soda cans, there could come a time when all the aluminum naturally appearing might be consumed. In that day, we would have to start recycling aluminum. Why not start now and postpone that day? Plastic recycling would reduce the amount (number?) of two-liter soda bottles, laundry detergent bottle, and other such bottles that society puts into lad fills each year. While not cheap, plastic recycling is a far better option than trying to find new land fill space and angering a community when their surrounding environs are chosen as the next land fill site.

I would mandate the use of compost heaps for all organic wastes like fruit and vegetable peelings and seeds, leaves, and weeds. (Comma issue: unknown number of series items.) Not only would this lessen the load on land fills, but it would also save money because compost heaps are a natural source of fertilizer.

I would mandate that all fast food restaurants begin to use paper or other biodegradable containers for the food which is served. Thus, styrofoam, a material which biodegrades with a great deal of difficulty (how about it doesn’t biodegrade?!?), would no longer be a necessity and could be outlawed. I would also mandate that all food containers in the grocery stores be made either biodegradable or recyclable, once again to ease the strain on land fill capacity. (Obviously, you weren’t buying groceries for kids. The cost to recoup research into these materials would be astronomical, thus increasing the cost of the groceries.)

Emission filters on exhaust systems would become mandatory all over, instead of in high smog areas. This would help make the air more breathable for both healthy and respirationally challenged people. (Nice… I created my own word and I didn’t get caught. Good job! And that was before I accepted that I could not live without writing.)

A halt on manufacture of those things that result in the production of toxic by-products would be enacted. The halt would continue until researchers found a way either to degrade the toxins to less toxic by-products or to render the toxins non-toxic. This is quite an unrealistic goal and would probably never be accepted by big business or by the consumer society existing today; however, I would still enact the measure (After all, I’m dictator and supreme master and all that jazz. I can be egotistical and maniacal and make everyone do what I say *snort* ).

The final measure I would enact would be the mandatory powering of homes and businesses by solar power and wind power. Even if the power generated would not be enough to achieve 100% powering by sun and wind, it would be enough to lessen the need for fossil fuels. Lessened fossil fuel use yields lessened emission of the by-products responsible for acid rain; lessened use also yields preservation of the source of fossil fuels, for fossil fuels are not without end.

Looking over my ideas (They are not really my ideas. There is nothing new under the sun. I’ve just collected them in one place and presented them my way.), I see that most of them are quite reasonable and very easy to enact (with the exception of the halt on production idea–that is a little far fetched). (Um, this whole essay was far fetched, but more on that below.) I cannot understand why many of the planet’s countries have not enacted them. Complacency and apathy are no excuse. We have a responsibility to take care of our planet and preserve it, and we have not been doing a very good job. The question is not one of cost; it is one of whether or not we as a species care enough about our home to treat it with respect and give it the same care we give a precious gift we have received from someone whose attention we treasure and need. (Uh-oh! Melodrama alert… this belongs more in a greeting card or self-help book than a college paper.)

In some ways this was a paper on solid ideas. In other ways you can see how the liberal environmental agenda had crept into every pore of my being. However, I’m not in favor of polluters, either. I think we need a balanced approach toward the environment, and we just haven’t found the right combination of time, talent, and treasure to make it happen.

Futures Essays: Space…

 

Author’s Notes: 20+ years ago, I was a bright-eyed coed working on a degree in “you take a guess” at a small liberal arts college. As part of the requirements for a special designation at graduation, I took a seminar course. In this course, we studied the current state of an issue and then projected what would happen in the future, which we are now living in.

What I propose to do is re-key these essays and include my current thoughts as well as any responses to the questions posed by the professors leading the seminar course. (Why, yes, yes, I have hit the winter blahs as a writer, but I digress…)

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“Space, the final frontier…,” the opening to episodes and movies of Paramount’s Star Trek (let’s not forget to give creator Gene Rodenberry some credit), is an idea which I have often considered (um, not quite–I considered closet and dorm space far more than outer space).  Man now has nearly every inch of land on the Earth’s surface charted and is working to chart the surface of the ocean’s bottom. Our population is rapidly increasing and there is no where for man to go but to go to space. (At this point, the professor challenged me about the time frame, which didn’t fit into my little monologue. The professor also said something about the difference between charting and using; that might have been something to explore.)

The first problem of space is how do you shelter creatures used to gravity, atmosphere, and temperature in a vacuum at nearly absolute zero. (Yes, I probably had the most technical major sitting in that room, so I could get away with what I wrote.) Scientists and science fiction writers have proposed various means, including intergalactic starships and artificially created planets. The most feasible plan right now is a huge cylinder of steel which would be constructed in outer space of metals found in asteroids. Gravity would be simulated by spinning the cylinder on its end to end axis at the appropriate velocity calculated by physicists. (Okay, my writer’s soul is bleeding–I can’t picture what I really meant by end to end axis.) The atmosphere would then be created with the appropriate gases in the proportions in which they are found on Earth. (Okay, so I’m wondering what year Babylon 5 came out. This would have been the right time frame, I just wouldn’t have had an advanced enough TV set to see it.) The problem with the steel is that impact with a sharp object hurling through space could result in rupture of the container; the rupture would cause the atmosphere to leak , the cylinder might change velocity resulting in a change in gravity, and the temperature would get quite chilly. Although scientists propose a radar-like detection system, I would still be concerned that sharp objects might go undetected through technological error or human negligence, and this could (would?) result in the possible unnecessary loss of human life and resources.

The next problem is food and water. Water could be easily created from the reaction of two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen (this might generate some energy and heat too) or extracted from asteroids or passing comets. Food is not so easy. I am sure that every mineral and vitamin humans need to live is somewhere on some asteroid and could easily be encapsulated and administered to space colonists (yes, but could their bodies tolerate the vitamins and minerals coming from a non-food source?). I know that there would not be enough room on any kind of space-going vessel to carry food for those on the ship, let along those on any colony in space (the colony could be agricultural and self-sustaining). However, being the Pennsylvania Dutch girls that I am, there is no way I would give up my real, honest to goodness, Sunday afternoon chicken and waffles for anyone or anything (actually, I have for my health, but I digress). Food is part of one’s cultural heritage, and I am not sure that losing one’s roots is worth having more living space. (Okay, thank goodness it wasn’t an English prof on this session. The tangents abound, and I still didn’t address the production of food aboard spaceships.)

Energy is the next problem. Human beings tend to use too much energy in their search to make life more convenient. Humans tend to use as much energy as they can; put another way, the more energy to which we have access, the more we tend to use (um, a little stilted, aren’t we?). Putting an entire civilization based on consuming resources into space with access to unlimited energy from various stars is almost absurd. Colonizing space would lift the burden from the Earth, but that burden would be placed on various stars.

Communication would be another problem. Radio waves and laser beams would work superbly as communication tools ( *snorts* *giggles* I can think of so much to communicate with a laser, but it all ends in fire, smoke, and ashes. ); however, it would take at least four years to reach the next colony. Being very close to most of my family and friends ( *snorts* ), I would not want to wait that four years to hear from them, know that the things about which we were communicating would be old news by the time the communications reached one of the parties.

The real issue is not the future of space exploration. The real issue is the future of the human race in general. (Start the climactic orchestral piece. *sigh* ) Are we, as a race, willing to curtail our consumption of energy and resources? Are we willing to create only as many new lives as could take the place of deaths for the year in which we plan to procreate? (Um, I’m confused. This wasn’t a thought in any of the denominational pews I was in at the time. Did I try to poke fun at liberals with dead pan humor?) Are we willing to take better care of our environment to prevent further pollution of our air and water and to allow clean up and decontamination of those areas already badly affected? Or are we, as a race, willing to condemn ourselves, our children, and our children’s children to a poor standard of life under the shadow of overpopulation, pollution, and the psychological effect of a lack of hope because time is running out?

It is funny to see how my corner of the globe has almost given up on space. Not funny, sad. We haven’t seen very many improvements in space technology, despite all the exploration from Earth.

Primal Scream 3

I’ve just had one of those weeks, the kind that leave me too tired to process much of anything. While Zippy’s arrival was a bright spot, it can’t take away the shadows and dust devils of what I’m going through. In this post, I’m going to share what I’ve been going through so you can watch yourselves and pass the info to your friends.

Early in the week, I got three emails from a business in another country. The email address is one of my lesser used ones, usually used for seeking alternate employment or communicating with people in my new denominational pew. The final one scared me into hypervigilance. It claimed I had applied for a loan online and was denied.

What?!?

I don’t like putting financial information online; I still cringe at paying bills over the internet every month. Second, I most certainly would not go for a usurious payday loan. When I called the recommended number, I got stuck in electronic dialing purgatory: I pushed the number, got a series of selections, pushed another number, and got the same series.

Getting panicked, I called my homeowner’s insurance. By the prodding of the still, small Voice, I remembered I had purchased some identity theft insurance. They took all the information, but thought it was nothing.

Next day, they called back. They opened a claim and referred me to third-party vendor A. I called third-party vendor A. They believed they could not help since I “caught it so early.” So I was referred to third-party vendor B.

Third-party vendor B gave me a list of things to do, including calling the branch of the credit provider in my country. I called; I had to call the branch in the country that denied the loan. I tried them. Their rep was courteous, but his lack of English language skills was stellar. In the end, I sent him copies of the emails. It didn’t feel good.

Later, I got a call back from their fraud audit group. It was a genuine email and the attempt was genuine. So I called vendor B back. Based on their rep’s suggestions, I have done the following:

  • Placed a 90-day freeze on all credit requests at all three major reporting agencies
  • Ordered annual reports from all three major reporting agencies
  • Filed a report with the state police (may take some time to finalize the trooper’s report since there is the added complexity of jurisdiction with international entities)

Still to do

  • Contact the five lesser known credit agencies to get reports and attempt to place a freeze
  • Purchase a copy of the report from the regional barracks as opposed to the local barracks
  • Make copies of police report and send a mountain of forms to all three major reporting agencies to request a seven-year freeze

But this doesn’t help me as a human being.

I’m still scared this will affect employment and insurance and credit for the rest of my life. The reality is that no one knows whose responsibility this will ultimately become. While I give kudos to my homeowners policy, I am getting frustrated by the responsibility hot potato that seems to be planned to continue until the cows come home.

I’m also frustrated with some of my friends and acquaintances. For whatever reason, they’re not passing the word of caution to others. I don’t know if this is like the Titanic: this is so unthinkable that no one want to admit the possibility and therefore there is no preparation for an emergency. Or maybe they found my mode of expression in another social media offensive and are focused on that instead of the hassle and hurdles others will have if this is just the beginning. Or maybe they don’t walk in my world so they can’t see the dangers inherent in this event or how the dangers could be perpetrated on those less stable or skilled at weathering a storm like this (not sure that I’m that skilled either…the physical toll is tremendous).

And I’m angry as a hornet. I work. I make a living honestly. I pay my bills and wrestle to live within my means. I earned that credit, every point and dollar. I am disgusted that someone is fraudulently trying to steal that from me, a complete stranger. I don’t care whether this is a random, pull-a-name-out-of-an-email-provider attack or whether I fit some kind of profile. Whoever did this sought to achieve dishonestly with little work or effort what I have earned honestly through the blessings of heaven over time. They also didn’t take my kids into consideration; my kids have needs that may last into adulthood. I will have to provide for those needs. This attempt affects my current and future ability to care for them. (Don’t worry; this immobility won’t last long.) Hell hath no fury like a mother with an issue affecting her kids.

What’s sad is that I’m not sure I’m ready to explore the spiritual elements of this situation.

Forgiveness is a requirement, and I know I have to get there before the sun goes down or I give the enemy a foothold (T minus five hours and winding down). The perpetrator doesn’t care, and it doesn’t matter the reason. Before sundown, I have to choose on blind faith to forgive; right now, I don’t like that and I am not ready. And I will probably have to choose daily until the situation completely resolves itself.

Moreover, I now have a superb opportunity for spiritual growth. I’ve had so much growth lately I was getting ready to push away from the grace table for a bit, but more has just been dumped on my plate. So again, I profess Romans 5:1-5 (in Contemporary Jewish Version):

So, since we have come to be considered righteous by God because of our trust, let us CONTINUE to have shalom with God through our Lord, Yeshua the Messiah. Also through him and on the ground of our trust, we have gained access to this grace in which we stand; so let us boast about the hope of experiencing God’s glory. But not only that, let us also boast in our troubles; because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope; and this hope does not let us down, because God’s love for us has already been poured out in our hearts through the Ruach HaKodesh who has been given to us.

I apologize if this has rambled or if I’ve come off too strong in my expressions. As I grow toward endurance and character and hope, my desire is that what you learn from this is the following:

  • It can happen to anyone, including nobodies, freaks, geeks, and outsiders with limited means (although I do have to consider I am wealthy in comparison to third-world workers).
  • There are options for help, but you may have to do a lot of legwork.
  • You will survive somehow
  • Don’t let the electronic bullies win. Roar to alert everyone when something goes wrong. If we roar together we eventually outshout the bullies.

*steps off the soap box and breaths*

*grabs a note card*

*with frustration and still wrestling the still, small Voice, writes the text of Luke 23:34a on a post card*

*burns the post card in hopes that the negative energy is released with the initial choice of obedience*