Filed under: Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, Civil Rights, Connections, General Musings, Humor, Marketing, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech | Tags: augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, blogging, Expert, humor, jim downey, predictions, science, Science Fiction, ScienceDaily, short story, technology, writing
“Here ya go!” said the salesman with almost sincere enthusiasm as he handed the key fob across the desk to me. “Your Googel AutoDrive Sedan is ready and waiting!”
“Thanks,” I said, with little desire to mask my exhaustion. I hated buying cars. I took the fob, stood up to go.
“Oh, one last thing …”
I cringed. Looked at him. He still had a gleam in his eye. Which I knew meant he hadn’t finished toying with me yet. “Yes?”
“In going through your profile, I noted that your credit score was … a tad low.” His smile widened just a bit.
“So? I financed it through MegaLoan. You got your money.”
“Well, yes,” he said. “But I wasn’t talking about the financing … ”
I waited to see where this was going. I was sure it wasn’t going to be someplace I liked.
He didn’t disappoint me. His smile broadened even more. “As you know, the AutoDrive system is programmed to consider every possible factor in road safety and benefit to society — in full accordance with all relevant laws.”
“Well … how shall I put this … your low credit score means that in some situations, AutoDrive may elect to …” he paused to savor the effect “… maximize the benefits to society in the event of an accident.”
“Well, if the situation warrants, someone who has a better credit score … who provides a greater benefit to society, as shown by their assets and wealth creation … may be deemed less expendable than you are.”
I had hoped my outrage would startle him. Instead, he licked his lips. “Now, now, not to worry. There’s an easy way to mitigate the chances of that happening.”
I sighed. “How much?”
“Well, we have a Net Worth insurance policy we offer which will indemnify society against loss of more valuable citizens, available on a sliding scale …”
Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, General Musings, Survival | Tags: 1885, art, blogging, book conservation, hope, jim downey, Legacy Bookbindery, Marshall Missouri
One of the lessons I’ve drawn from my years of book conservation experience is that what may initially look to be a hopeless case can sometimes surprise you. Take a look at this 1880s dance card for the Marshall Missouri ‘Christmas Hop’. Here it is this afternoon when I took it out of the stack of items a client had brought in:
Looks pretty bad, eh? Actually, it looks a LOT better there than it did in person, thanks to the automatic filters/functions on my phone camera. In person, that light grey was the color of charcoal, and almost no color or words were clear to the human eye. That’s because it was covered in charcoal — it had spent approximately 100 years hidden behind the chimney in a house. The charcoal was more than 1mm thick over most of the card, and had to be physically scraped away before I got to the surface cleaning. Here it is after I spent some time cleaning it:
Not perfect, but a distinct improvement. Not everything can be fixed. Not every problem can be solved. And even when you can improve things, you’re seldom going to be able to make it perfect.
But that’s OK. That’s life. You do what you can. And almost nothing is completely hopeless — at least, not as hopeless as it might seem at first.
Filed under: Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, Connections, movies, Predictions, Science Fiction, Survival, Violence | Tags: artificial intelligence, augmented reality, blogging, Communion of Dreams, Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, jim downey, predictions, Science Fiction, technology, The Last One, video, Vimeo
This is a good short, and ties in nicely with the end of Communion of Dreams:
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Astronomy, Babylon 5, Brave New World, Connections, Feedback, Fermi's Paradox, Gardening, Habanero, J. Michael Straczynski, Man Conquers Space, Marketing, Promotion, Science, Science Fiction, SETI, Space, Survival, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Babylon 5, Bad Astronomy, blogging, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, Dukhat, feedback, free, gardening, Glen Tickle, Habaneros, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, Kurzgesagt, Laughing Squid, Mother's Day, promotion, science, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, video, writing, www youtube
(Does not contain spoilers for Communion of Dreams. ;) )
* * *
Been a busy week. Part of it was putting in my garden:
(That’s just the tomato plants — the super-hot peppers will go in next week.)
Part of it was a MASSIVE job converting a 16 x 16 storage space into the beginnings of a workshop:
(There’s still lots to do, but man, what a change from being hip-high in grungy boxes and scattered junk!)
And part of it was we have a new addition to the family:
(He’s just 6 weeks old, entirely too cute, bold & adventurous, and tiny. For now. No name yet, though given his grey color I suggested perhaps we should go with Dukhat … )
* * *
I’m just now finishing up the first major revision to the working copy of St Cybi’s Well. I already have a couple of people lined up to take a look at it with fresh eyes, but if anyone else is interested also having a preview, leave a comment and I’ll get in touch with you.
Lastly: for Mother’s Day weekend, the Kindle edition of Her Final Year will be available for free. Check it out, download it, share it with others!
Filed under: Astronomy, Fermi's Paradox, Humor, NYT, Privacy, Science, Science Fiction, Seth Shostak, SETI, Space, Survival, tech, Website at the end of the Universe, Writing stuff | Tags: astronomy, blogging, Communion of Dreams, Drake Equation, Fermi's Paradox, humor, jim downey, New York Times, science, Science Fiction, Seth Shostak, SETI, space, Stephen Hawking, technology, writing
A better approach is to note that the nearest intelligent extraterrestrials are likely to be at least dozens of light-years away. Even assuming that active SETI provokes a reply, it won’t be breezy conversation. Simple back-and-forth exchanges would take decades. This suggests that we should abandon the “greeting card” format of previous signaling schemes, and offer the aliens Big Data.
For example, we could transmit the contents of the Internet. Such a large corpus — with its text, pictures, videos and sounds — would allow clever extraterrestrials to decipher much about our society, and even formulate questions that could be answered with the material in hand.
While I still agree with Stephen Hawking on the idea of ‘active SETI’, I think that there’s merit in the idea of exposing other nearby civilizations to what we’re really like, warts and all. Because as soon as they decoded our transmissions well enough to understand the comments section of pretty much any major site on the web, they’d either completely wall off our solar system* and post warnings around it or just trigger our sun to go supernova. Either way, we’d never know what happened, and the rest of the galaxy would be safe …
*gee, that’d make an interesting premise for a SF novel, doncha think?
Filed under: Feedback, Podcast, Society, Survival, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: belief, blogging, feedback, jim downey, loss, podcast, This I Believe, violence, writing
The folks at This I Believe have now put up the audio of me reading my essay “The Power to Forget“, as part of having it included in their weekly featured essay podcast, as I mentioned previously was in the works.
And I’d like to ask a favor: if you know of someone who might benefit from this essay, please share it with them.
No, not for any benefit to me. I’m not above self-promotion, but that isn’t why I ask for your help in this case. A decade ago when I wrote that essay, I had hoped that it might help others navigate through their own anger and loss. I thought that it had just disappeared into the foam of internet verbiage, until the people at This I Believe contacted me the beginning of this year. And now it feels somewhat like it has a second chance to do some good.
I don’t expect it to work miracles. Each of us who has suffered a loss — whether of a loved one, or our health, or our dreams, or an opportunity — have to deal with that loss in our own way. But it’s sometimes good to know what path others have taken, what worked for them. So maybe my essay will help someone.