Thursday, April 08, 2010

Gods in the machines

It's been a while since I waxed philosophical on yer asses. I guess it's been a while since I've waxed a lot of things. Poetic, romantic, a car, my bikini line... But that's probably because lately I've waxed lethargic.

It's my Thursday classes. They aren't so much peopled with students as succubi and they drain every ounce of life out of me so that by Thursday night I just say, "Calgon, take me away! Serenity NOW! Balloonball!" Or whatever works. Usually I have barely enough power remaining to drink lots of beer and try to devise ways to stop kids from coming to class or to catch an illness that will last until the end of the semester. That combined with accomodation hell, the absolute absence of educational standards and practices at my workplace and the unconditional certainty of meeting with some xenophobic, ignorant and stupid treatment EVERY time I leave my room, leads to a lot of time wasted in my room watching movies and TV on my computer. A lot of time.

But today after a reasonable amount of sleep that was only interrupted a few times by rude, noisy, drunken students, I feel like I have a bit more physical and mental energy than usual. And I thought I'd get back to putting that excess marblage to work solving the problems of the world.

I saw a TV commercial recently for a Ford truck that featured computerized braking, fuel injection, guidance system, climate control, collision sensors the whole deal. And I recently chatted with some people about a hideous losing streak my character was on in a facebook role playing game I play. They all told me it was just the random roll of the die. These things got me a-thinking.

Are we really putting that much trust in computers nowadays? For my money the smart automobile shopper steers clear of all the extra wiring and computerization because it all just leads to extra headaches. And they are expensive headaches. I know from experience. I think all the specialized computer shit in vehicles nowadays is actually DESIGNED for the purpose of making vehicles impossible to repair at home, making them more expensive to repair at the service centers and making motorists visit those service centers a lot more frequently. And if you get scumbag mechanics like the ones I always seem to find, they can temporarily fix problems so that you'll have to fix the same problem a dozen times. Why not just buy a new vehicle altogether? There are lots of improvements and technoligical breakthroughs on the new models!

How often does your computer need servicing? If you're like most people it breaks down regularly. Even Bill Gates' computer screws up regularly! People believe it's because of these mysterious viruses and hackers and crap but really it's just that they aren't well made yet. Maybe they never will be. The same goes for those car parts we put all our trust in. But if we knew how volatile and undependable electronics really are we probably wouldn't buy so much. Maybe we would but we certainly wouldn't pay so much for this junk.

Here's a question for you: How many TV Repairmen do you know? How about people who fix phones or video cameras or even cameras? Nobody does this any more! Things are made poorly and repairs are hard to find or too expensive if you find them. And new updates and improvements come along just often enough to keep us buying new shit every couple of years. Whether we want to, need to or not. Here's a word to look at: capitalism. Capital means money. Ism is a doctrine or practice of support or even love. Folks, capitalism is the love of money and that is the root of all evil. Isn't it?

But the more we get herded into the electronic culture, the more we settle for the mediocrity of the products. Computer generated "random" is the best example I can think of. If you've ever played computer poker and real poker with actual concrete paper made from trees cards, you'd know beyond a doubt that there's a massive difference. There has never been a good "random" program created and there never will be. And I've played a lot of computer games with "random" card flipping, dice rolling etc.

It's like baseball. I've seen and played enough of it to know beyond a doubt that when the leadoff hitter gets on first, sac bunting him to second is never a good play. I don't need statistics to back me up, I just know from experience. But we don't trust fallable human beings any more do we? We need a computer to figure it out. Same with dice rolling or card dealing or any other supposedly "random" actions computers are designed to perform. They aren't random, they are highly organized, orderly, and structured sequences that are programmed to give the appearance of "random." It's easy for any human to tell the difference. If you look hard enough and keep statistics long enough you can find the patterns. This is how people came up with the probability matrix that PROVES a runner on first base with nobody out is more likely to score than a runner on second with one out. And this is how guys can "cheat" slot machines in Vegas.

But really, who are the ones being cheated? People are more and more reluctant to recognize the obvious limitations of electronics as they become more willing to accept, (and pay thru the arse for), the latest technologies. We are willing to replace reality with something synthetically designed to simulate it. And soon we will have been told so many times that there IS no difference that we'll believe it. And we'll be cheated out of reality.

Just look at another word: TECHNOLOGY. Tech is technical like made up of lots of parts that do things that are just magical to the average person. No means no. Negative. And one of the meanings of "log" is to achieve. Tech no achieve...y.

Okay, having said that, I use my computer a lot. I have a cell phone an X-box and a Wii. And despite the many problems I have with ALL of them, in general I get more pleasure than pain out of them although sometimes I wonder...

BUT, who are these lunatics trusting computers with their lives as they're hurtling down the road at 70 M.P.H.? Trusting computers to keep their life's savings safe? Believing that computer random is just as good as real random? These are people who'd probably rather whitewater raft or bungee jump in virtual reality; rather see the pyramids, Angkor Wat or the Great Barrier Reef on a 60 inch plasma screen; rather have sex with a robot than a real person. Well, okay there IS something to be said for that last one since the robot doesn't come with any baggage. But come on!

The longer I stay in Korea and am bottlenecked into this dependancy on electronic living the more I understand the Ahmish. I wouldn't go quite as far as them but maybe someday I'll marry a nice Ahmish gal and we'll compromise. We won't abandon technology but we'll only use the old stuff. We'll drive only vehicles we can fix ourselves. We'll play games with real cards and dice and spinners and bubble poppers and such. We'd do activities with other real people instead of e-friends. We'll chat offline. Tweeting will be the sound in our back yard. We'll virtually have sex, we won't have virtual sex. We'll raise a family of humans not Sims. We'll have a couple of dogs not a Zhu Zhu or a Tamagotchi. We'll buy things with cash, if it's still available to use. And we'll go to the store to get them instead of looking at a 3-D image of them that is "even better than the real thing."

Ahhh but who am I kidding. This would be so Thoreauian and potentially harmful to our owners that we'd be declared either insane or criminal. Or criminally insane. And we might be arrested or institutionalized if somebody can be found to leave their house long enough to go get us. It would have been worth it though. And I'd shout it from my jail cell every day.

But now I'm waxing idyllic. Even romantic. Lotta waxing today.

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