Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Living in a Technological Culture

Living in a technological culture

2000 - The Years We Make Contact

But... what kind of contact?
Yes, you know what kind of contact i´m talking about. We have been "contacting" each other since immemorial times, forming tribes, societies, what gives. Even try to contact some other extra-terrestrial civilization. Even failing at the latter, we did manage to connect amongst ourselves through technology created and invented in at least for last twenty years.
A whole new world view is at our hands, a view that, while not impossible some time ago, but was only available to a select few.
People, that now, are able to talk, hear, share anything, anywhere with anyone as easily as ABC.
We all know how technology dependable we are. I know i am. And i´m not talking about millions of people whose job is totally funded on technology. I´m talking about us, who witnessed the rise of internet and virtually were grown with it. Can you imagine your life without checking your email, without using a instant message application, without logging on FaceBook? I can´t. It is not impossible but high unlikely.
Life without technology would mean a complete human de-evolution, hindering all these years of technological progress null.

Ex Machina

Technology is far from being totally perfect and advanced, altough there are many scientists and professionals working on it.
In the news, it is easy to find an announcement related to a benefitial use of technology in research and development projects.
For example:
"Scientists at the University of Connecticut Health Center have successfully converted stem cells derived from the adult skin cells of four humans into region-specific forebrain, midbrain, and spinal cord neurons (nerve cells) with functions. The research is a key step toward realizing the cells’ potential to treat various neurodegenerative diseases".
Imagine how many lives suffering with diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's could be improved upon, if not healed, with the positive outcome of a research like that one?
All of this being done with the use of state-of-art technology.
But that´s far ahead in the game.
What we, as "normal", everyday people get to is experiencing technology without really thinking about it.
Pay your credit card bills on the bank website and receive a validation message text on your cell phone? Check.
Watch a live show of your favourite band that you couldn´t atend to? Check.
Learn a new language through a community-based website and share your knowledge or even ask for help? How about helping others to learn YOUR language? Check.
It is all in there. Or, even better, here. In our PCs, notebooks, cell phones, IPads, whatever your choice is. The point is, we´re experiencing it and there´s no turning back.

Collaborative Media

Everybody knows what could be the biggest exponent of collaborative media since forever, Wikipedia. Online since January 15, 2001, Wikipedia is visited daily by millions of users, people all around the world. The online encyclopedia has an average of 10 million pageviews on a monthly basis - from august to october, it increased from 12 million to 23 million pageviews.
While Wikipedia is a good example of a collaborative tool, it is not the only one.
Blogs could be considered a form of collaborative media as well that became part of our lives. 12 million active blogs do not lie.
Another form of blogging, called micro-blogging, Twitter, has made its way up the internet sphere and ranks along Facebook as one of the most used interactive tools as of now. Twitter not collaborative? Famed comics and book author Neil Gaiman and his book "American Gods" were used as the 1B1T (One Book, One Twitter) book club. People are reading AMERICAN GODS and talking about it a chapter at a time, using hashtags to make the discussion process easier -- Chapter One is #1b1t_1c, Chapter Two is #1b1t_2c and so on. Gaiman and his books are the first chosen for the yet still on going project (it begun mid may) and will unlikely be the last. The author himself joined the project, doing sessions of Q´s and A´s with the participants.

Man-Machine interface

In a not so far technologically advanced world, we would have implant sockets as body extentions for device connections, we would be totallly disease-free, we would be cybernatically enhanced humans, self-aware artificial intelligence would be as normal as mistaking a human for a robot.
Ghost in the Shell, a 1995 anime, Blade Runner, a 1982 movie and Neuromancer, a 1984 book, were ahead of their time in a sense that they predicted the world we will be living a few years from now and, to an extent, the world we´re living right now. Works of fiction, of course, but in many ways, a reflection of the world and ultimately, a reflection of ourselves.
In Ghost in the Shell, the main character, Motoko Kusanagi, is driven for the answers to the questions that are still relevant today and maybe will never be answered: Who am i? What makes us human? What´s the next step in human evolution?
Enter a self-aware gone rogue artificial intelligence and all those questions are blown right out of the water. GitS succeeds in many levels, besides giving us a still fresh perspective of a very likely possible future. GitS succeeds where Blade Runner also did it as well. Something that we could not imagine possible: We begin to sympathize with an A.I. Deep stuff.
Blade Runner has basically the same theme as GitS. Deckard, a police officer assigned to hunt and kill replicants - bioengeneered superior to human beings also gone rogue. Why are they being hunted? What was their crime? They developed their own emotions. "More human than human", as Tyrell had said, explaining why one of the replicants thinks she's a human being.
Again, all works of fiction. Nonetheless, could be a sign of things to come, in a highly advanced future life.
Last november, the giant Big Blue, IBM announced:
"Scientists, at IBM Research - Almaden, in collaboration with colleagues from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, have performed the first near real-time cortical simulation of the brain that exceeds the scale of a cat cortex and contains 1 billion spiking neurons and 10 trillion individual learning synapses."
Perhaps, say twenty, thirty years from now, all depictions of the future in science-fiction works will come true.

Technology comes from the Greek "technología" — téchne, an 'art', 'skill' or 'craft' and -logía, the study of something, or the branch of knowledge of a discipline.
We are learning to cultivate our skills, our crafts, always will.
Our effort to remain what we are is what limits us.
Technology is here to help us break free from those limits.


This was written for a friend and I just came across it. It was saved as a draft and now I believe it is time to make it "public" here in this blog.

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