Wow unbelievable

18 05 2015

This is too easy.

Autonomous cars will be commonplace by 2025 and have a near monopoly by 2030, and the sweeping change they bring will eclipse every other innovation our society has experienced.

No, and no.

They will cause unprecedented job loss and a fundamental restructuring of our economy, solve large portions of our environmental problems, prevent tens of thousands of deaths per year, save millions of hours with increased productivity, and create entire new industries that we cannot even imagine from our current vantage point.

Possibly, unlikely, unclear, perhaps, unclear, unclear.

The whole piece goes on like this, ending with

But perhaps most exciting for me are the coming inventions, discoveries, and creation of entire new industries that we cannot yet imagine.

 It is exciting to be alive, isn’t it?

Well, beats the alternative, I guess.

I was going to say I don’t want to rain on Mr. Kanter’s driverless-car parade—but of course I do.

Of course I want to smack him upside his head and say “Have you never heard of the steam engine? the telegraph? high-yield agriculture?

ANTIBIOTICS, fer-cryin’-out-loud-from-the-top-of-the-Empire State Building!”

Or how about the freakin’ bar-code, which, while certainly not up there with ANTIBIOTICS (fer cryin’ out loud. . .), is more innovative than a car. Without a driver.

You know what was innovative? The car, that was innovative.

The driverless car? Cool tech, bro, and it may eventually become more popular than the drivered-car, with some of the effects (good and bad) Kanter mentions.

But it’s still a car, still takes up space, still requires roads, still requires traffic infrastructure (signals, policing, snow removal, road work) still requires maintenance, still moves people one or a few at a time.

It’s more of the same, except hands-free.

Maybe my perspective is skewed because I live in a city in which most people get to and from work and wherever without getting behind the wheel. Granted, we enter vehicles (taxis, limos, buses, trains) which someone else is driving, but the idea that one can get from here to there without paying (much) attention to what happens in-between is. . . old.

Perhaps someone living in a place less densely crossed with mass transit or car-service options might be able to grab the sweepiness of the no-driver-car than I can—maybe if I had to drive from Sheboygan Falls to Milwaukee every day, I’d be more excited at the thought of spacing out while hurtling up and down I-43.

But one of the advantages Kanter lists of driverless cars—that these would also be ownerless cars—would likely not be seen as an advantage by those in rural areas and small towns, not least because it’s not clear that there would be sufficient population density in a place like Sheboygan County to make it worthwhile for some company to set up a fleet of to-rent cars. And even if they did, I doubt that people would be willing to wait for that car to show up from the other side of the county just so they could make a beer run.

And hey: why would driverless cars necessarily be ownerless? I mean, maybe they could be, but why would not-driving a car make you want to not-own a car? Yeah, owning a car in New York City is a pain, but the rest of the country is most definitely not the city.

I could go on—no, really, I could—but who wants that. So let me end by saying, yeah, driverless cars might someday take over the road, and maybe that’ll lead to some of the (not-so-) nifty things Kanter mentions in his essay.

But it’s still a car. On a road.

Ain’t nothin’ new about that.

~~~

h/t Robert Farley, Lawyers, Guns & Money





What if God was one of us

5 11 2013

I’m one of those don’t-hate-religion non-religious types. Most of the time.

And then I read smug shit like this:

To a person, the new atheists hold that God is some being in the world, the maximum instance, if you want, of the category of “being.” But this is precisely what Aquinas and serious thinkers in all of the great theistic traditions hold that God is not. Thomas explicitly states that God is not in any genus, including that most generic genus of all, namely being. He is not one thing or individual — however supreme — among many. Rather, God is, in Aquinas’s pithy Latin phrase, esse ipsum subsistens, the sheer act of being itself.

I’m all about being, so you’d think I’d be all over this. You’d be wrong.

Hell, I’ve read Heidegger, and even if I can’t stop myself from muttering “Nazi gasbag” every time I pick him up, I do think he is worth picking up. It’s tough to talk being without talking nonsense, and while ol’ Martin (that “Nazi gasbag”) peddles his share of nonsense, he does also manage to make sense. Unlike Robert Barron.

God is not a supreme item within the universe or alongside of it; rather, God is the sheer ocean of being from whose fullness the universe in its entirety exists.

Actually, this does make a kind of sense: God is everything, such that without God, there is nothing. It’s a handy bit of sleight-o-hand: How does one know God exist? Because without God, there would be nothing. Easy-peasy.

It’s not a bad tautology, as tautologies go, but, like Pascal’s wager or Lewis’s trilemma, it seeks to lock down not just the answer to a question, but the questions themselves. This is THE question, one is told, and no follow-ups and no other possible interpretations, which might lead to other possible responses, are allowed. No questioning the question.

Barron allows that science allows us to learn a great deal about our material reality. The problem, he says, is that these materials are themselves “contingent”, i.e., dependent upon another reality rather than being real in and of themselves. How does he know this? God-is-everything!

We are surrounded on all sides by things that exist but that don’t have to exist.

[…]

Now a moment’s meditation reveals that all of the conditioning elements that I mentioned are themselves, in similar ways, contingent. They don’t explain their existence any more than the computer does. Therefore, unless we permanently postpone the explanation, we have to come, by logical deduction, to some reality which is not contingent and whose very nature is to exist.

Um, no. Perhaps the explanation is that everything is contingent, nothing is necessary, and existence itself a kind of chance, nothing more.

Barron accuses skeptics of incurosity and irrationality for not bothering with the question of why is there something rather than nothing, but not having an answer doesn’t mean the question isn’t asked; not all questions are contingent upon an answer.

As for Why should the universe exist at all? Who says anything about “should”? It does, for now, and for awhile longer. If it someday ends, it doesn’t mean it never existed at all.

Same goes for us. We don’t have to be here, and yet we are, for now. So what are we to do with this chance?

That, to me, is the real question, and wonder, of being.





Take it easy

14 06 2013

Another dream about Madison.

It was so vivid, but, of course, it’s now all faded. I was in Madison, with T., in the Union (which, of course, was nothing like the actual Union) and near Lake Mendotat (which, of course, was nothing like the actual Lake Mendota: in my Madison dreams the shoreline is a coastline and lake scallops are oceanic waves), and when I awoke, I was so sad that I wasn’t living there.

Living in that dream-Madison would be so easy; I missed the chance of that Madison-dream.

Of course, that’s just what it was: a dream. Madison is a lovely town (when Scott Walker ain’t around, but it’s no longer for me. I may visit it again on my next sojourn to Wisconsin, and I set a part of my second novel in Madison, but as a real place, it’s not mine.

Part of this is my sense that to live there would be to ‘go backwards’, but more than that, I would always be looking for something beyond what Madison could offer.

This is not a knock on the joint: I’m restless, full stop, and thus unable to indulge he pleasures of staying put.

Then there is the fact that I am made uneasy by ease. Even assuming an identical level of financial uncertainty there as I have here, life in Madison would be easier in every way. You know those t.v. shows or books wherein newcomers are able to find a rich & quirky community life, with beloved hangouts and folks willing to tell-you-what? That would be possible in Madison.

Which is why I can never live there.

Okay, I could live there for a time—for a semester, maybe—but the idea that I would land there and stay there and stay there and there. . . no ma’am.

I’d wonder what I was missing, not just in the what’s-going-on-elsewhere way, but in the sense that ‘this is too easy: what’s the catch’? I always think there’s a catch.

I’m too skeptical, even suspicious, to live easy. This is not a wholly bad thing—looking for something more has its own rewards—but I miss out on the pleasures, and, perhaps, sorrows, of letting it be.

There is a whole other life which is beyond me, a something more available only to those who aren’t searching for that something more.





Rage against the machine

20 03 2013

*Update* Check out Conor Friedersdorf’s review of anti-anti-war commentary.

I don’t even remember why I was against the war.

It’s easy, now, after the lies and mess and blood and money and vengeance and torture and horror and exodus, to say What a monstrous disaster.

Did I see all of this coming? I don’t know. I was skeptical, fearful of the what-ifs, but did I foresee the monster we would become, the disaster we would inflict on ourselves and the people of Iraq?

I doubt it. I doubt it.

I don’t feel vindicated for having been right. I didn’t have to argue myself into skepticism, didn’t have to fight my way past the shiny objects dangled in front of the American people in order to arrive at the summit of wisdom.

There was no summit, and I claim no wisdom. Is it really that hard to be skeptical of unnecessary war?

This is why I rage and despair in equal measure at those pundits who say “I was wrong, but I could have been right, so. . . .” They couldn’t be bothered to perform the most basic act of citizenship: to think, to think beyond one’s desires and sorrows and glee—and you betcher ass there was glee at the prospect of war—about what we were, truly about to do. Could they not be bothered to wonder at their own anticipation?

I am ungenerous in my interpretation of the commentators who supported the war, ungenerous in my reception to their ex post facto “soul-searching”; I read their apologies as justifications.

This is unfair (at least to John Cole), but I don’t care. They lost nothing by being wrong, suffered no consequences for whooping it up as the Congress and the Bush administration led us into destruction. They are sorry only that the destruction was inglorious, rather than shockingly awesome.

Again, this is unfair, I know, I know.

And it puts too much on the sideliners, not enough on the Congress and the Bush administration. I vent my rage at the pundits because I despair of influencing the politicians.

Once a president decides to go to war, that’s it, we’re going to war.

Pundits make the pitch easier; protesters are, if not ignored, a useful foil. But, truly, nothing any of us says, matters. We don’t matter, except, perhaps, to ourselves.

If a president wants war, war is what we get.





Just who is the 5 o’clock hero?

1 08 2011

What a fucking ridiculous day.

I almost said absurd, but that would lend it an ontological weight which it clearly does not deserve.

Yes, the job-not-job-but-maybe-yes.

Tch, I don’t even want to talk about it other than to say that my only error was in the initial excitement. Yes, it might still work out, but my eyebrow will remain raised until events prove otherwise.

And then our let’s-make-a-deal president who, apparently, thinks that  giving everything away beforehand is the preferred opening gambit. Nevermind he could have pushed the Dems to have done this while they were still in control. . . tch, I can’t even.

So a bit of good news: The Unexpected Neighbor has been granted premium status by Smashwords (which means it’ll be available thru Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo [Australia], Sony, etc.) AND managed to get through the EPUB verification system.

Had there been problems, I would have worked them out. But it’s nice that there were (at this point) no problems.

Tch, finally.





Welcome to the working week

31 07 2011

So I finally got some work. A real job.

Or real-ish job. I’m not sure.

A guy I know got me a job in shipping/receiving on a construction site. I’m fine, more than fine, with that: I’m old school enough to thrill to the sheer bluntness, there-ness, of steel and concrete. I’ve never wanted to be an engineer, but I am fascinated how to make something appear where there was nothing, before.

So the work is real.

And I’ve worked receiving previously, so while I don’t know the specific procedures of this work site, I at least have a grasp of the general process.

Still, there are bits about this offer that are sketchy. I don’t want to go into precisely, but let’s just say I’m a bit skeptical about the promises made.

This skepticism was small, at first; hell, at first I was thrilled at the prospect of replenishing my drought-ridden bank account. But since then my questions have multiplied, and I’m not at all sure I’m going to get good answers to them.

My reaction then swung from thrill to terror: What the hell am I getting myself into? Is the job (i.e., the conditions under which I’d do the work) even real?

I’ve since calmed myself by saying, Well, I’ll find out. I’m slated to start tomorrow, so tomorrow or by the end of the week, I should have some sense of what’s happening. If it’s solid, I’ll stick with it; if not, I won’t.

It sounds dumb, but I really did need to remind myself that this job offer isn’t a prison term: I get to say, No, this isn’t for me.

Once I remembered that I have that option, I was able to shrink my outsized suspicions—this all happened so, even too, quickly and informally—to a reasonable skepticism. Now, instead of being either thrilled or terrified, I am merely uncertain.

I don’t particularly like uncertainty when it comes to the requirements of a job, but, again, I remembered that I am always uncertain when I start something new. I am good at ending, but not so good at beginning.

That’s how it is; that’s how it always is.

So I have questions about this job, some of which I  might not have about other jobs which have been offered after a more considered process, others which attend any new venture. Instead of assuming the answers, however, I’ll show up and find out for real.

That’s how it is; that’s how it always is.





Checking it twice

11 03 2011

Silly me—no, stupid me: for not considering that a James O’Keefe-sponsored NPR video just might possibly maybe could have been. . . edited.

That should have been my first response: Is this even real?

h/t to the commenters at TNC’s joint, especially &chik and his/her link to a critical look at the video at (goddess help me) Glenn Beck’s The Blaze.