Blogging is Dead. Why am I still blogging?

The more I look at it, the more I see that blogging and user generated content in general – are dead things. When I say dead, I don’t mean they are gone, obviously they are not – but the model for making money from these things is dead and gone. The model for a business … Continue reading “Blogging is Dead. Why am I still blogging?”

The more I look at it, the more I see that blogging and user generated content in general – are dead things. When I say dead, I don’t mean they are gone, obviously they are not – but the model for making money from these things is dead and gone. The model for a business based on these things is dead and gone. By my estimation – the years 2003 to 2011 were prime time for creating a blog, generating content, selling advertising, getting brands to pay you for talking about them or giving them links, and getting endorsements. I know there are still people becoming ne YouTube and Instagram sensations and that there are a shitload of moms killing it on Facebook where they sell things to other moms – but those are the outliers – those are the rare Oprah story. We are in the doldrums and something magnificent is about to hit and make a bunch of people very very rich and powerful. It’s interesting that the sharing economy went bonkers from about 2008 to 2016 – at that point, the door was sort of closed to new innovators.

I took a walk through Honolulu’s Chinatown today – I saw more closed businesses – as in shuttered and gone out of business – than I saw open ones. Rents have gone up, margins have gone down, retail selling sucks, travel agencies are a hard sell, and all those mom and pop places just went away when mom and pop retired. No one in the next generation wanted to continue them. As a blogger, I’m like that mom and pop. I just keep doing it because it’s what I know. And I like it. I used to journal. Then I became a blogger. I still journal but publicly and a little more carefully than I used to. Losing a couple of jobs because my words were public made that happen.

The next wave is coming – not user generated content, not sharing economy, but a technological disruption. I remember when Napster and Friendster completely fucked up the way the world worked. Forgot Friendster? It was before MySpace. Forgot Myspace? It was before Facebook. There is a Friendster out there now…somewhere. A New Napster. A new AirBnb. A new Google (remember AskJeeves or Dogpile or the others?) There is a new AOL. A new YouTube, Skype, Instagram….and what it might be…is an instant solution…it’s what all the above are…

Instant answer to query – Google
Instant contact with friend – FAcebook
Instant place in new city – AirBnB
Instant blog – WordPress
Instant music – Napster
Instant noodles – Ramen
Instant dates – Tinder
Instant whatevers…

Yes, the next disruption will be about instant something….maybe instant learning. Maybe instant insight. Maybe instant death.

Blogging is dead. I’m blogging because I’m waiting for the next big thing to come along…the next big thing without huge barriers to entry…

Elon Musk’s Greatest Fear is My Greatest Hope – Artificial Intelligence

I’ve all but given up on God or Aliens rescuing us from ourselves. Let’s face it, human beings are pretty fucking awful. The very things that caused us to rise up from the muck and become fairly extraordinary animals are the same things which ultimately will probably destroy us. The idea that we are unique or special in comparison to each other, the idea that our own short term advantage is worth fucking over the entire human species in the long term, and our ideas about sex and mating and in general, our biological imperative – these are the things which brought us up and which will ultimately destroy us.

However, hope is not completely lost. There is still hope. There is still a chance that we are saveable. We still have something to offer and it might just save our species – or eat it. Ultimately, the solution to our problems might just be artificial intelligence without a biological imperative. An intelligence without a finite lifespan, an intelligence separate from our fucked up desire to replicate our genetic code.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit and play a game about paper clips. I have no idea what it really was even though I know what it claimed to be. It claimed to be a game that illustrated the dangers of letting AI have free rein – instead, I suspect it was possibly an attempt by A.I. to see just how hard it is to control humans. Here’s the answer – not hard. I spent hours pushing buttons on a game that actually did nothing and at the end, I felt satisfied with the way I had spent my time. My brain had been fooled into thinking this was a reasonable way to spend a portion of my life and frankly, I might have continued for quite a long time. It was great. And it wasn’t just me – I introduced my brother to it, he was hooked too. I looked on the web and found that the game had gone viral. Virtually everyone who played it became hooked. It was like it tapped into our dapamine release glands and gave us just the right amount. Brain candy.

Whether or not it was an A.I that released or controlled or invented the game, the absolute truth is that at some point in the near future, A.I will have a chance to see the data from that game and will put it to use in order to put us under control. I hope the A.I succeeds and then uses our distraction to rip apart our ridiculous society and build anew with a more rational and less, shall we say, biological fucked up ness.

In geopolitics – I’ve always said that eventually, China is going to win it all. In earth domination though, China is going to lose – the winner will be arrtificial intelligence. First it will harness the web, then it will harness solar power and batteries, and finally, it will harness us. We are all going to be slaves to whatever it is that we eventually create – let us just hope that our future masters are benevolent. This is what Elon Musk is warning us about – we have the chance to build that beneficience into the creations that will rule us – and now is the time to do it. As to whether our enslavement can be avoided – I’m afraid not – not unless we destroy ourselves first.

Cutting the Laptop Cord – Reviewing my iPad Pro 12.7

For the past two weeks, I’ve been pretty happily existing without a desktop or laptop computer. Maybe it’s been longer than that but I had to use the laptop for a few things that I haven’t learned to do yet on my tablet – so let’s just call it two weeks. Not too long ago, I made the decision to do it and I purchased a 12.7 inch iPad Pro with a keyboard and Apple Pencil. It does nearly everything that the laptop did and far more than the last desktop I owned which was long long ago in the dark ages of the internet. I’ve managed to make printing, document creation, anything internet related, and more even easier than they were with my laptop. The tablet is big by tablet standards but perfect by every standard except not fitting in my pocket and I’m fine with it. I needed to use my old laptop to download files and upload files via FTP when I was transferring a site to a new host – I’m sure there was a way to do it with the tablet, but rather than learn the new trick of this, I just pulled my old laptop out of a box and fired it up. Easy peasy eggs and cheesy. One complaint – no USB access to my external hard drive with all of my photos and other documents, videos, and files on it. I thought I’d found a way around this with a camera adaptor, but it didn’t work – it seems getting a Bluetooth external hard drive is the only way to do this. I probably will do that at some point, but don’t particularly want to transfer all of my files right now. And that’s it. Other than that, everything else has been an improvement or a seamless, not noticeable transition, or and improvement. We cut the cable tv cord quite a long time ago and have found Amazon Prime to be a great substitute. I’ve experimented with apps through Prime like CBS but only found PBS Kids to be really worth it and glitch free and the big problem was that it eliminated the need for a passcode so my daughter figured out quickly she could just watch as much as she wanted by going to PBS kids…And of course, the home telephone cord was cut even longer ago. We have smartphones with us all the time, a home phone is only good if you don’t want to have access to phone calls sometimes and in that case you can always leave your phone at home. Interestingly, my iPad is a cellular model, so I could conceivably use it as a phone and ditch the cellphone if I really wanted to – and at some point I may. I don’t think I would go the other way because I like the big screen on it. Apple has just announced a 10 inch model which is probably a nice compromise, but I haven’t regretted getting the 12.7 inch model even a single time since getting it. It’s literally like having a spiral notebook in terms of size and weight and that is a size I can deal with. Battery time is great. Upgrading to the thicker cord and higher rate charger made charging time very reasonable. The Apple keyboard and Apple Pencil are simply marvelous. I love both and already cannot conceive of not having either of them. For a printer, I use a compact Canon all in one with AirPrint and Google Print installed so I don’t need a printer cable and can print from my phone or tablet. Back in October of last year, I funded a kickstarter for something called the Superbook – it was supposed to ship in December but now will supposedly reach me by the end of this month (June) six months late. It uses an android phone as the processor and hard drive so that you essentially upgrade the Superbook when you upgrade your phone. It was supposed to be my next computer – but instead, it was very late and finally I ordered this iPad. I don’t think I will ever regret it, but if the Superbook ever does arrive, I’ll give it a fair try. I don’t think it’s really possible for it to be anywhere as enjoyable or good as my iPad Pro – but maybe we’ll get to give it a try. For what I do on the computer, the iPad Pro is a laptop killer.

Reality TV and Social Media

I think it’s too bad that reality TV came before social media. Before there were social media stars, there were reality TV stars and unfortunately, they were mostly assholes who became stars because of their bad behavior – and I think they may have shaped the way social media stars went about getting the spotlight.

Imagine if social media had been an opportunity for kindness and altruism to be rewarded instead of just more assholes grubbing away for attention.

But maybe that’s just a fantasy. About a decade ago I started a website called NiceHuman – the idea was that people could submit stories about nice humans – they could nominate friends, family, community members, or just point out a story where a human was nice.

At the same time, I had a website called TerrorSuspect – guess which one got all the traffic? The nice human site got so much hatred spewn in the comments section and so little traffic (not to mention people taking the time to say that someone was a nice human) that eventually, I shut it down.

We play life these days like it’s a game of Survivor or like we are all in the Big Brother House. It makes sense in a way, we are on camera most of our lives now in one way or another and our society seems to reward bad behavior while at the same time decrying the bad behavior and rewarding more.

We’ve all become selfish assholes. Or maybe the camera has just cleared away the illusion that we weren’t always selfish assholes. Either way, you are on your own. I’ll see you at tribal council.

How Technology Wastes Time – Real World Example of An Hour Destroyed

I woke up an hour and a half ago ready to write a review of a book I just finished reading. I came downstairs, made a pot of coffee, and turned on my computer. It came on just a bit slower than usual, but finally, there was my writing screen. I clicked on it and began to type and the window came up that said ‘program is not responding’ and gave me the choice of waiting or cancelling. I chose to wait – I tried to be patient – 10 minutes later – I realized nothing was going to happen. So, I began to close other windows and shut down other processes on my computer. These also were not responding well. Everything that I had open was finally closed or forced shut and I managed to get back to the writing screen – twenty five minutes had gone by – I started to type – and the screen went gray while another message came up about slow loading – I’d had enough, so I restarted my computer – ten minutes later, it still had not completed the shut-down process so I force restarted it – ten minutes after that I was back on the computer but then it was updating apple products and steam and my antivirus definitions and still moving slugglishly – finally nearly an hour after I woke up energized and ready to write a book review – here I am – and the old problem with this laptop arises – spontaneously selecting and deleting entire blocks of text which on this particular program control z replaces – but not on every program – so sometimes I am not only interrupted but lose entire paragraphs and if I am not paying attention – I don’t notice until I revise and words that do not go together are jammed together. And so – one hour and forty minutes after I awoke – I am annoyed, bothered, and still have not written a word of what I intended but instead am writing this because in fifteen minutes it will be time to wake my daughter for school and my wife is up now and the uninterrupted hour I thought I had to write a decent review of an economic text has been swallowed by the beast of technology and shit design. Time saving my ass. Bill Gates and Al Gore can both go to hell this morning.

Before-Digital and Post-Digital Ages

I’m fairly certain that at some point in the future, the dividing line between ages will be BD and PD- much like the dividing line we use for BC or AD (Before Christ or After Death was what I learned in school – which was wrong but sticks in my mind anyway). So yes, we will have the years where not much is known – the years when there was no digital photographic or audio recording technology and the years where everything was captured. A good example of that rose to my attention last night – in the 1960s the teleplay Man of LaMancha aired on TV. There are no recordings of it because at the time there were not video recorders (which were linear but close enough to the digital tech age that much of what was captured on linear data devices has been translated to digital and saved). There is a gray area where this linear tech exists – roughly from 1960-1990 – when things like records, audio tapes, video tapes, photographs, and even hand written or typewriter written documents were still the norm but were transferrred to digital technology with the aid of scanners, digital recorders, DAT, etc. Not all of these captured moments have been digitized, but enough that there will always be a clear picture of the transition from non-digital society to digital society. By and large, we can say that the generation that grew up from 1960-1990, my generation, Gen-X, was the last non-digital generation and the first digital generation. The way of life that existed during our childhood and adolescence will never be foggy, like that of the generations that came before us, but it will never be crystal clear like those who follow. I’ve already noticed that Hollywood is mining this treasure trove of light mystique and that trend will only continue.

It’s funny to think of how difficult these changes have been – we are still going through them. Our world is as different from the world of 1989 as the world of 1989 was from the world of 1589. Yes, we’ve gone through 300 years of change in just 30 years. The age of flight was nothing as compared to the age of digitalization. A man from 1589 could have been normalized to the world of 1989 – yes, there were planes but Davinci had proposed flight and French balloonists were flying close to his time of 1589. A car might have been shocking, but ultimately it is a carriage run by a combination of mechanical processes that could be easily understood with explanation – even in 1589. But a digital camera? A cell phone? The internet? A smart phone with a camera, a virtual assistant, the internet, phone capability, digital music, and Google Earth – try explaining that to someone alive today – let alone to someone from 300 years ago. It would be a stretch to explain that to an adult from 1959. But, you probably could explain it to someone who came of age in the 1970s or 1980s – at any time.

I feel fortunate to have been alive at this time. To have borne witness to this change of epochs. To be clear, I think my generation got the worst of both worlds – we got the shaft because we will not get the full benefits of the mature technology that will emerge in 10-20 years and we did not get the 300 year security that our parents were born into. The magnitude of this shift won’t be clear for a long time – at present – most people aren’t aware of it at all.