forkintheroad

An aside from a typical work week.  Home for a mid-week holiday, I have time to let my mind breath for a rare moment.  Not reading and responding to the usual barrage of 200-250 emails per day (not kidding), and so forth.  I’m amazed I find time to tweet, blog and read the never-ending pipeline of information that feeds in from Flipboard, Vice, G+, Reuters, the tech sites, and channels I can’t even name.  Most aren’t funny at all.  I make my own laughs, which often happens from casual observation of my surroundings.  Most people would see the same things, were they not focused on their smartphones instead of their surrounding “reality”.  Anyhow, I digress.

Onward…

I read a very good reaction by Joe Wilcox on Google+ about an article he read by another writer, Josh Lowensohn.  The latter is about Josh’s interesting use of AirDrop to exercise his curiosity amidst an otherwise boring commute.  The former is Joe’s take on Josh’s efforts to walk around the landmines of rhetoric and endless “regurgitation” that consume much of the Internet’s “news”.

As Joe said,

“The Internet needs more original content. There is too much rumor and speculation, spreading wildfires of misinformation across the online landscape. We burn alive every day from the regurgitation of sameness—one story flash-firing after another original, lively storytelling. Give me more stories like Josh’s,…”

To Joe –

“Very Nice! Thank you! I’ve felt the same way for a long time.  I’ve wavered many times over pushing on or walking away from my own blog.  Age doesn’t seem to play well with technology like it used to.  What we used to value as “experience” and wisdom are rapidly becoming Google search results.  Even my own kids seek the great Google before asking dad for most advice.  It’s a constantly-changing world indeed.  We live in ancient times.  I’m not a writer actually, I just pretend.”

It’s true.  I’m not a writer.  I didn’t attend any schools or take any writing courses.  I am not well-read, which is ironic, given that my mother was an insanely prolific reader (when she passed away in 1997, we boxed up all her books for donation, as she had wished.  We stopped counting at 3,000.  That wasn’t even half of them).  She didn’t just collect books.  She read them, cover to cover.  I could point to any book and she could describe the genre, the plot or storyline, the characters, and so forth.  She could compare them with other books just as easily.

Would she have liked the Internet today?  It barely existed in her day.  A die-hard Trekkie and Pink Floyd lover, she would have very much latched onto what the online world offers in those areas.  But the rest of it?  I don’t know.  She might have become entranced by Facebook, but maybe not.  She was never a follower of contemporary trends.  Some of her favorite authors were Ray Bradbury, William Gibson and Kurt Vonnegut.  Those should have been clear indicators that just the idea of something like the Internet would be of huge appeal to her.  I will never know.  She exists now only in my memories.

As for technology and aging, well, that’s an interesting subject.  In the 1980’s into the late 1990’s it seemed that businesses valued the snowball accumulation of world experiences packed into their older teammates.  Since 2008 however, I’ve seen a subtle, but noticable shift away from that mindset.  Quantity versus quality isn’t the issue.  It’s automation.  Our agenda of automating things is finally returning dividends to businesses.  Robots are just a tangible example.  The newer tools are gaining intuitive characteristics at an increasing rate as well.  Where it used to take a team of individuals to design, code, test and maintain a fairly average web site, it now often takes only one or two.

Example? I worked in the CAD/CAM/CAE field throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s.  Hopping from one vendor platform to the next as contracts dictated, it was like a symphony of designers, drafters, engineers, architects, reviewers, and printers.  Yes, we had printers.  People that actually handled the large-format plotter output, rolling and folding to meet specs.  Packing and shipping or hand-delivering as well.  They were the first to go.  Faster, cheaper printers.  Online sharing.

Then the software tools became smarter.  Lessons learned from each iteration became embedded into the next software release.  A few less designers needed, since the drafters could drag items from a menu and click a few options to run tasks that once took days, in only a few minutes.  Then the engineering tools were updated.  Just as hurricane modeling tools have impacted the world of human-based meteorology, so have mechanical, electrical and even chemical engineering tools.  I’m not saying there’s no need for human engineers.  I am saying that it doesn’t take as many of them “per task” to solve a problem as it did 20 years ago.

I saw it firsthand.  As each ship-design contract was awarded, it resulted in fewer and fewer hiring levels and overall numbers of designers and engineers required to meet the demand were smaller than years past.  (spoiler: I worked in the naval design and engineering field, but we worked on military and commercial contracts alike).

In the late 1990’s, a team from DARPA arrived on a U.S. Navy ship we were in the midst of sketching up for retrofit planning.  They unpacked and assembled a very interesting looking gadget, a tripod, a lot of cables and a few computers.  This was in the densely-packed engine room, and it was under overhaul work, with things in disarray.  We had a conversation with them, but it was very brief, as their job was (at the time) classified.

We were asked to leave while they performed some tests.  When we returned they struck up conversation again and kindly explained not only that our clearance was as sufficient as our “need to know” (same contractor and contract phase work), but what they were doing.  The device used an array of lasers and reflectors to bounce light off of all the surrounding surfaces from offset angles, converge the results, sift and sort and produce (after hours) a 3D model of the space.  It had some serious limitations back then, but the future was clear at that moment:  The need for humans to obtain modeling data was not guaranteed anymore.

We’ll look back on 2014 in twenty years and laugh at the phones, cars, clothes and hair we valued “back then”.  Just as we do today, looking back at the 1980’s and before.

Meanwhile, the river of data and information, and the ripples of repeated and reflected parts (copies, etc.) will continue to grow and consume the bandwidth of the world.  As humans, we’ll need to stop at some point and ask ourselves, what are really trying to do?  Are we really trying to share original thoughts?  Solve problems?  Or just keep ourselves distracted from the things the scare the shit out of us?

Get up and go do something different today.  Something you’ve put off for way too long.  Prove to yourself that you’re really a human, and not some stamped-out item from a conveyor belt in life.

For me, I am going to spend a few hours weaning my following list from all the noise that simply repeats from other sources.  I get enough noise in traffic.  I don’t need it in my eyes and ears at home.

To those who post original content:  Thank you!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s