CHILDREN OF THE MILLENNIAL

Damn it’s special to have a generation name that actually is a word!  Word UP!

I am a Boomer, or if you want to be technical, “Baby Boomer,” as in my parents generation, The Greatest, getting it on after WW2 and going for the American Dream, or so they imagined.  Boomer, now that’s a word!   And being born in ’46 makes me on the leading edge of this wonderful generation.  Man, we have seen a lot, a lot of changes that is.

Then time went by, and we humans like all of nature, just kept on pumping out offspring.  Sociologists, politicians….well, just about every facet of society has a need, usually based in reasons of $$$, to classify, assign attributes and track the habits of each generation.  So over time “someone” (I have no idea whose job it is to assign names to each generation….wow!) stamps “us” with a generational name.  After Boomers came Gen X, then “Xennials” (I never even knew of these guys), Millennials Gen Y, next came Gen Z, and then BAM, we are into “children of the millennial” Gen ALPHA! These little guys are like the anchor leg in a relay, carrying the baton into the 22nd Century!  What a burden we have placed on them!

These children will be amazing, as will be their children (and I expect most will delay child bearing even longer than Z is), and their grandchildren.  With science moving so fast into the unknown, these people may not have children until well into their 50-60’s!  The person who assigns names to gens will be glad of that!

Alpha’s will grow up with technology that will stretch human communication and knowledge well beyond what we believe is the bleeding edge right now.  What I predict also is that around the world, Gen Alphas will become at last a one world generation, connected in every capacity, and that in itself may bring about a more peaceful and cooperative world order as people collectively fight climate change and hunger.  I pray.

I have two God-granddaughters right now who are Alphas.  My one toddler already is showing me where that generation is headed, fully at one with smart technology, AI and things that multiply human capability.  We will need such an endowed generation to carry humankind through this century successfully.  I have faith they will do so.

Esthetic Appreciation of Machinery

On my walk this morning, something popped into my mind that I have thought about occasionally, so I decided to write about the topic today.  The title of the post was one I struggled with, but “Esthetic Appreciation of Machinery” sort of sums up my notion.

I readily admit having such an esthetic, and find myself sometimes bothered by the actions, or inactions, of those who do not; to wit, those who treat their vehicles (or other machinery, even gadgets) so “uncaringly,” so cavalier, not maintaining, not cleaning and generally treating the “thing” like a “thing.”  When I look at a vehicle, I see the millions and millions of hours it took to design it, and its predecessors, and build it and all its variations.  Surely that human effort should be in some way honored, at least by caring for the car or truck better than most car owners do.  How readily we take for granted all these marvelous creations that make our society so much easier to live in than fifty years ago.  Whether its highways, bridges, cell phones, or cars or a billion other “things,” we seem to just have not sense of appreciation for these “things” that just become part of our daily landscape.  This offends my engineering esthetic.

I know this is difficult to grasp, and as a Buddhist I don’t want to leave the impression I am grasping at material stuff, as in recent years I have learned not to.  We all have probably seen trucks or trains carrying crushed cars to be recycled for their metallic content, usually dumped the electric arc furnace at a steel plant, so this confirms that vehicles are in fact, “things.”  When I observe recycling of cars I think of it as like any organic matter, including the human body, being converted back into its original ingredients, from which the very universe is composed, but whether its people or cars, while they “exist” in this perceived reality, should we not show respect for the mind energy and labor energy that went into their creation?  I think so.

Let me remind my readers that I am an engineer, although a retired one.  But  once you “go engineer,” you are one for life I can assure you.  So I have a love for the workings of “things,” although I am an electrical engineer and the things we EE’s work with may be static/passive, or dynamic machinery such as motors.  My love for “what’s going on inside this thing”, I was born with it seems, but the appreciation for the “thing” I believe is a developed or learned sense, just like one’s appreciation of art, or music.

When I was a boy I, like many future engineers or “mechanics,” was always tearing apart any mechanical thing that I could find the right tool to undo, opening its secrets of operation.  At age 13 I bought my first powered lawn mower to earn money mowing yards.  It was what is called a two-cycle engine, spewed smoke like a sick diesel truck, but it was my engine, and I loved tearing it apart to clean it and tune it up.  No one taught me to do this, it was by just by doing it.  During my early teen years I had some neighbor boys who parents would give us a lot of slack on tearing into engines, big car engines, racing boat engines, and we boys were into powered model cars and airplanes as well.  As any mechanical engineer or mechanic will vouch, just to observe how the “guts” of an engine all fit together and serve mutual, integrative purpose, is a marvelous thing to witness.  Touching, handling, feeling the finely machined steel, in spite of the oil or grime, is to many people, a connecting, revelatory experience, similar to a basketball player handling the ball, the ball becomes like the key to opening up a large slice of the player’s psyche.

I have to be honest however, as although when a kid and later a young adult, I enjoyed working on engines, I gravitated to designing “things,” in my case, electrical power systems that connected a lot of “things” together, and given that most of these when operating are electrified and dangerous, there is not much “touchy-feely” one can do, without the proper precautions and procedures; otherwise one gets zapped and toasted

The car in the photo above is my very first new car.  My father bought it for me and we picked it up right after my receiving my 2nd Lieutenant bars at UT Austin, May, 1969.  It was an Opel Kadett Rallye.  He made the down payment, and then I picked up the payments when my military checks began to arrive.  I hadn’t had the car but a year or so, when I discovered the same manufacturer had just come out with a sports car, the Opel GT, and as a young military officer, I just had to have one.  That car was frankly one of the best I ever owned, and over my life I was fortunate to own a number of new cars.  I loved the headlights on the GT, as there were turned into the car when unused, then when you needed them, there was a lever right next to the shift stick, that you pushed forward and the headlights rotated out to shine.  Very cool.  Very mechanical.  And, it would hug the curves and hills going 110mph mile after mile.  Hit my esthetic dead on.  The car had a straight, 4-cylinder engine, and there was tons of room under the hood to get to the spark plugs and everything.  I worked on the engine to do minor things, like changing plugs, for several years until I could one day I could afford to trade it on a new car.  Over the years I loved the changes in technology, but golly-gee, that little GT was just the bomb.  I still miss it.  But I also miss my Ford Taurus, a 2014 model, one of the last of the big Ford sedans.  I miss it, but then I do not, as you see I have adapted to a life without a car, which is not a very easy thing to do when you live in Texas.  So now I Lyft or Uber, but also have found that I don’t really need to move around much needing a car, as just having a car compels unnecessary motion I have learned.  So now I walk a lot more and enjoy it immensely.

My readers also know of my fascination with futurism, especially AI (artificial intelligence).  So I wonder as cars become essentially autonomous, will we humans collectively become totally detached from any appreciation of these vehicles?  And, given their complexity, will it not require robots and androids to work on them, totally replacing our corner grease-monkey businesses?  It seems so, sadly.

Many of you will understand my appreciation for “things,” but for those who continue to use your car like a garbage can, oh my, get some help!

 

The Near Future World – Part 2

Now days I have a lot of time on my hands, and have a routine of watching a movie each evening.  I also have a lot of time I use just thinking – some would say maybe I think too much…but then no one knows whether I am thinking or just awake, not thinking, right?  The last statement applies to every human being, and will one day apply to “robots” and other types of artificial intelligent (AI) “entities” (“beings?”), so this makes for a crafty segue to the main topic of this post.

I watched a film last evening called “More Human Than Human.”  It is a recent documentary that explores several facets of AI…and there are many facets now, and in the near future we will experience countless applications permeating each moment of our lives.  Several questions of ethics were touched on in the film, all quite valid concerns.  Being a thinker, I have come up with a few others that extend what the film covers, and perhaps one or two that my stimulated mind produced.  Here goes….

As with any human creation, AI in many forms is or can be used for good, but also for “bad” purposes.  AI already is proliferating military systems, and this will only increase exponentially.  So, it is likely I believe that one day our military (and “their” military) will not even have humans, or at most just an insertion of a small group, in the theater of battle.  In fact, once the shooting begins….excluding cyber warfare for the moment…and the robots and other AI are “released” to fight, will these weapon systems and fighting robots and androids just take over the entire war…..the planning, strategy and tactical ops?  So we human generals and sergeants just sit back on base in the clubs sipping martinis until notified we won, or suddenly find a swarm of enemy bots engulfing our relaxation?  The next question I have, is once the AI weapon systems become fully autonomous and have the capacity for high level war planning and execution, along with all the logistical subsystems, what if they decide to just turn on their “owners?”….or all humans?  Of course this scenario was considered decades ago, but I see no signs that anything is being done to inhibit this happening.

Here is another question? (I have no answers, just questions about this subject.)  Will robots assimilate extant religions, perhaps the dominant religion of their creative societies?  Certainly the creators can either set up conditions for teaching robots to learn ethics, “right from wrong,”  et cetera, but will it go further?  Will there one day be Muslim robots, Christian robots, Buddhist robots, and so on?  If a robot develops a sense of self-awareness, with the ability to feel “love” and other human qualities, why would it not seek out a relationship with the larger universe of reality?  But then what will be its reality?  Like human reality, each person has one’s own reality in the quantum (and Eastern spirituality) universe, so will each robot develop its “personal” relation with the “over lord” of its reality?

Also it is a given by all accounts that one day humans will cohabitate with, copulate and otherwise have robotic partners, and even marry androids.  In fact I suspect that for many robotic developers this is rather high on their agenda…the ultimate sex toy.  So then comes questions such as will robots be able to have human step-children, in-laws, and so on.  What about laws of property inheritance…..will robots be allowed to inherit estates?

Death and taxes:  the two sure things right?  So likely robots could live forever or just be upgraded and the “line” of that one robot series live forever, building on the experience and knowledge and wisdom of all its ancestors: truly standing on the shoulders of those who came before.  Will the passing on of a robot’s consciousness include all its negative, even evil or manic tendencies as well, or will there be a way to purge, to launder, its memory just to pass on the “good stuff.”  Taxes:  if robots are productive, will they be required to be paid and to pay taxes directly?  Deal with the IRS (for those not in USA, that’s our infamous tax collection system)?

Will AI increase drug addiction and suicide among humans, especially in the present and near future, due to robots displacing humans at the workplace?  This probably is already happening and we just aren’t tracking it.

Violent robots.  For years now there have been robot fighting contest.  Encouraged, taught, abetted and promoted for our youth especially to participate in.  Team sports for nerds.  This is just an extension of re-enactments of dinosaurs fighting to the death, right?  Since they don’t exist in reality and are just lizards or “old birds” then this is all great fun.  But what fundamentally is difference of such activities from Roman blood and gore in the arena, or dog fights in every urban area today?  In my mind, it speaks to the same primal psyche we humans carry, and which we need to recognize and control.  But now comes robots.  If robots can have all the qualities, more or less, that humans or even animals have, will there come a time when we have MMA to the death with robot opponents?  Since they are not human, then its all ok, right?  I think not.

So really we have to ask, will AI just infinitely expand our presently feeble level of enlightenment, perpetuating both our good and bad qualities, or will the creators….this young generation and successive gens…comprehend that they are in the god-seat, and choose the higher road, giving their robots the values that perhaps will save our planet, rather than exacerbate its present path of destruction?

The Near Future World

I happened on a You Tube futurism video that I wish to share.

Here is the link:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUeWvtZ7crw&feature=youtu.be

(I apologize in advance for any ads that pop up, which of course I have nothing to do with. )

I have for many years been somewhat of an amateur “futurist.”  Having lived in a period to see the word “technology” actually come into everyday usage….although the word has been around for over a century….I am more amazed each year by what the word really “contains” in its meaning, and the connotations of the word.  Its meaning evolves as we human beings evolve as creative beings.  Perhaps “technology” is another word for “apple,” that which Eve tempted Adam with, figuratively opening the human condition to self-awareness, not unlike what today is being witnessed as humanoid robots “come to life.”

My post today is not just about technology, but questions some of the assumptions implied by artificial intelligence (AI) inventors, or creators.  Also there is the huge question of ethics, and overall societal issues.

The You Tube video mentioned above covers a host of AI “coming attractions.”  One such is that one day, and that day may come quite soon actually, humanoid robots will be so “real” that humans will “fall for a robot,” probably more so for reason of lust than love, but love will surely follow.  Then marriage.  No doubt robotic partners will be custom made also, to the buyer’s wildest imagination, male or female.  Think the film, “Stepford Wives,” 1975.  I haven’t heard how humans and robots will actually reproduce.  That seems to not be on the table, but I assume it will be bases on merging of minds, in lieu of going through the trouble of biological re-creation.  All this is seen to begin to happen on a recognizable scale by 2050, or sooner.  It is interesting also, that Saudi Arabia just recently made a citizen of a “female” robot, Sophia (just Google “Sophia”).   I have to wonder what the wealthy Saudi investors are up to, given the lack of freedoms for females.  Makes one wonder.

There is no question the predictions indicated in the referenced video will come about, in some form or fashion.  There remains always the ethicist question of “just because we can, should we?”  But that has never stopped “us” from continuing to expand the possibilities of technology, always with the downside of wider and wackier weapons, mind you.  What we dream of, we bring about.  It is our human nature.

It is unfortunate that the larger backdrop issue of implications to society and how ethics will no doubt evolve, does not get the publicity that show and tell robot performances receive.  So who will get all of this good stuff?  I do not see it being offered to anyone but the most wealthy, as even today only the richest can buy tickets to take a commercial space flight.  This brings to mind a movie, Elysium, set in 2054, where all the rich folk live on a space station and all the rest “of us” are worker bee’s on Earth, living in stark conditions.  Or, will by then all humans be covered by a Single Payer Earthling medical policy that will get us all new humanoid bodies?  I think not.

From a religious, or even spiritual perspective, come my own most profound questions.  It is predicted that the human conscience will be uploaded into the brain of a humanoid, thereby giving the original human a indefinitely longer “life” span.  (I suppose this act will put other life extension inventions on the trash heap.)  However, as a “scientific Buddhist,” I have to wonder, how will that humanoid brain with its human conscience integrate with the great Mind, the Void that stores all Potential….ok, call it God if you prefer?  I believe, as explained by some physicists today, that the workings of the brain are able to send/receive data vis-a-vis the fabric of what we call space.  There are other more traditional “Eastern” ways of explaining all this, but my point is that we and every living creature on this Earth, and every bit of energy (matter = energy) in the Universe are connected.  I suppose if they one day figure out how to not just upload our conscience to a robot’s brain, but also figure out how to plug into the great Mind, then we will have become…..from our little viewpoint in our puny solar system…..God.

One other question I have is, why can’t we put the same amount of money and research into advances that will help save our Earth Mother, rather than ways to allow the richest escape a dying Earth??

A lot to think about.