REAL ID Act (H.R. 418) - The World Changed and Some Folks are Afraid

Evidence of change can always be witnessed in the shared fears of a society. TalkLeft offers up discussion on US Representative James Sensenbrenner's (Rep/Wisconsin) bill to require a national ID system. I believe the bill is reflective of how the world is getting "smaller" and the village getting "larger".

Small is equal to the distance between me and every other person in the world. Between technology, media, curiosity, etc., the distance is pretty short. I am no longer dependent on someone else's story of what is over yonder, but can actually (virtually) be there.

Larger is equal to the number of people that are in my immediate vicinity (whether physically or virtually) that can influence me or other people around me. In the earlier times there were thousands and thousands of villages each containing a few hundred people. That was the only "world" they needed to concern themselves with. Today there are few villages each containing millions of people. That is a lot of change. Maybe more than humanly conceivable.

So people that fear villages getting even larger WILL propose ways to put up fences. In a small town way that seems to have so much appeal. For me (speaking only for my little piece of humankind) it feels degrading, controlling, and reinforcing of prejudicial thinking (they're not one of us).

Einstein: A Catalyst Appears When It's Time

Wired News released an article on Albert Einstein marking the 100th anniversary of the release of some of his most influential work. In the bigger picture Albert Einstein was a true catalyst of change. It could be argued that all things will be discovered by someone at some point and that Albert Einstein was merely a random bridge to between what we did not know and what we would eventually know.

I believe that there is nothing random about his place in the discovery cycle. There have been many a thinker and inventor that started as unknown and remained as such. Stories abound of inventors arguing that they "were first". And then there are those selected few intellectuals whose names become household words. Galileo, Newton, Bell, etc.

These people come forth with their discoveries at exactly the time these discoveries need to be made within the context of what mankind can conceptualize and accept. These discoveries become the fuel for other thinkers/inventors so that within a generation we are working to exhaust every new avenue created through these new understandings. It could not be by chance that every time, at the exact right time, a new genius is uncovered.


Artistry, Empathy, and Emotion are Hip Again!

Are we at the end of the "information age?" Writer Daniel Pink at Wired takes a look at how we are changing and why we are moving toward a new "age".


The World is Becoming Less Crowded?

Will we create our own means of extinction through social change? After reviewing several recent studies on population trends that is the view put forth by Pavel Kohout over at Tech Central Station.


2020 Hindsight

Thomas Freidman takes a crack at imagining what we might see in hindsight from the year 2020. If only we could know now what we will know then...


Sloppy Gene Control... That Explains a Lot!?

I've often wondered how I came to be the way I am... or better yet, what about that guy over there!? Phew! Are we changing for the better or the worse? According to some scientists our future is narrowing.

Through diligent work and with the help of a few thousand rats that volunteered to have their genes spliced, scientists have determined that if my ancestors had enjoyed a larger choice of mates I would now be far healthier. In their words, "They (researchers from the universities of Bath, Edinburgh and Sussex) believe that if our ancestors had benefited from the vast choice of mates available to other species such as mice and rats, there would have been fewer of the mutations in our DNA that can trigger illness."

I not sure if I am happy for all those healthy rats and mice, or saddened at my genetic propensity to illness... Maybe just a bit of each.


The "Gaming" Generation

Just a few days ago I commented that "an entire generation.../... has grown up using technology as a toy." My commentary correlated the waning of Internet Explorer as the browser of choice to a rise in the number of users that have been immersed in technology since birth.

Today I ran across this great article at the shifted librarian that includes this wonderful quote, " 'We've got an entire group of people under age 30 who grew up playing video games,' said Jim Gee, professor in the UW-Madison School of Education. 'It's completely changing the way people think about education and the workplace.'

It's Not Change Just Because Someone Said So...

Headline: Scientists Warn Of Global Dumbing

Sometimes even the "smart" folks say dumb things. The implication that the people of the world are getting dumber, like we've hit a tipping point of some kind, is dumbness in itself. My thought is that the people overall (that's me and you too) are not any dumber now than at any other time. What has changed is our ability to know the vastness of dumb. We used to only know one village idiot. Now we can witness the idiot's in every other village as well.


Johnny Carson: A Sad Reminder That Everything Changes

There are people that become part of the fabric of the world around us. For each of us the people and pattern is different, yet there are certain individuals a large number of us include in our fabric. These are people that touch us time and time again. They're always there and feel like part of what makes everything around us OK.

Johnny Carson passed away today. I grew up watching The Late Show. As a teen it marked the end of the day. I had to at least stay up long enough to see his opening monologue. In marriage it was a show we shared together in laughter. When Johnny left TV he left shoes that would not be filled.

To me there was something about him that seemed so real-life. I imagined he was a wonderful friend to those that knew him. I could watch him and imagine he'd be comforting to talk with; That he knew when to share, when to listen, when to laugh, when to help, and when to just be there.

When people like Johnny Carson pass away, at least for me, it takes a moment to put my world, and all the background of life back into order knowing that something is now gone and will not return. Everything is always changing. Some moments are a reminder.

Witnessing Change First-Hand

I came across this great commentary by Clay Sharky on the changes he's observing in the "software ecosystem." In his words:

"I teach at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), where the student population is about evenly divided between technologists who care about aesthetics and artists who aren't afraid of machines, which makes it a pretty good place to see the future. Part of the future I believe I'm seeing is a change in the software ecosystem which, for the moment, I'm calling situated software. This is software designed in and for a particular social situation or context."


Coming of Age: Why IE is Waning

The current buzz around the decline of Internet Explorer is a wonderful example of a larger change in society. It's the change that happens whenever "what we know" exceeds "what we're told". In this case the change is happening in technology; The catalyst is an immersed generation of technology users.

When I was introduced to computers (remember Ohio State-Compuserve and MAC 512?) there were almost no choices for what programs to use to accomplish any computing task. As a non-techie I simply loaded programs according to what Apple said would work and I was off and running. Though always growing, the population of people who actually understood what was happening "under-the hood" was pretty tiny... And getting paid by a small pool of companies that published the software. For most of us technology was a tool.

Now, an entire generation behind me has grown up using technology as a toy. Not "toy as in "ha-ha", but "toy" as in "I was just playing around and look what I did." They are not constrained by what they don't know. Technology is so familiar to this generation they won't allow companies to control their curiosity (and along the way rejuvinated the curiosity in the rest of us).

Their curiosity has driven battles over intellectual property, file sharing, open source vs. closed, net access, and on and on.

And their curiosity has led to knowledge... And we all know what knowledge leads to; Choice. Most of us started with Netscape because that is what "worked", then, most of us switched to Interent Explorer (let's not debate how THAT happened) because we believed it worked better.

Now there's a generation of users that knows enough to ask, "Why?" And when they don't like the answers, they come up with their own. They use technology to spread their answers; to ask new questions; and create new answers.

IE is losing market share because we've stopped being dependent on what we're told and are acting on what we know.


The Perfect Labor Storm

I recently started looking for a new job; It's time for a new challenge. And as an "older" worker (I'm not 50 yet but I can see the corner...) I need to consider the perceptions of decision makers when they interview an "experienced" worker. One of the jobs I was just passed over for informed me that I was "too set in my ways", which I interpreted as, "there is a right way, a wrong way, and our way." And I also heard that I may be to set in my ways. OK. I can accept most of that. Actually, what I believe about myself is that I've grown accustomed to thinking for myself and having an opinion about choices. I can live with that to.

While researching labor statistics I came across this little jewel on the changing workforce released by the folks at Success Performance Solutions. As a tail-end baby-boomer I interpret the declining workforce as a pain for employers and an opportunity for me.


Should Machines Make Emotion-Based Choices?

I seems like I am on a robotic roll here... but the news just falls in place. Emotive Alert, designed by Zeynep Inanoglu and Ron Caneel of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will analyze voice messages and label those that are urgent, happy, calm, etc., according to the caller's tone of voice to help people identify which messages are the most urgent.

Just a thought; When I am the most stressed my outward signals including voice and breathing calm significantly. Will a machine be able to adjust into this gray area of human variances or am I forced to "act" in order to gain priority? Second thought; This system implies that I am guided by what others determine my priorities should be. I hope if the system becomes commonplace I will be able to sort messages so that I hear the "happy" ones first.


Do You Want to Live Forever?

Aubrey de Grey is convinced that he has formulated the theoretical means by which human beings might live thousands of years—indefinitely, in fact. Perhaps theoretical is too small a word. De Grey has mapped out his proposed course in such detail that he believes it may be possible for his objective to be achieved within as short a period as 25 years. (Read more)

Our Intent is Noble::We Will Touch Generations

The TNIV (Today's New International Version) of the Bible arrives in stores in mid-February stuffed full of new words to replace "archaic" words. A committee of collaborating scholar's were tasked with making the scripture more understandable for modern readers. At least, that is what the publisher set out to accomplish.

It is true that words and connotations have changed over time. As I read my Bible I do have to pause sometimes over words and sentences that are hard to comprehend because of the way they're written or the words that are used. But it does seem misguided to believe that changing a few words inside a sentence will not change the original meaning and intent of the author.

It's my opinion (as a non-expert in language studies) that if the scholars want to change the bible to reflect modern language usage they would need to re-write entire passages so that the EXACT meaning is still retained. They would need to write fresh sentences as if the Word was being put to paper for the first time.

What they have accomplished in the TNIV is to mute God's voice in favor of their interpretation of His intent. If the TNIV was the only text available to teach from, would new Christian's know God as He intended? This sort of effort WILL effect many generations.


Through the Eyes of Children

How clearly change becomes visible when we listen to children as witnessed by Christine Hurt at Conglomerate.

When Will it Be Impolite Not to Greet a Robot

Robotics keeps ticking away in the background.... An entire sub-culture of technology brains are churning away at creating machines that become independent within their purpose. Of course, you can say we already interact with "robots" daily through machines that accomplish complex tasks with minimal human input. We've already written billions of lines of code to allow these machines to make choices.

Just as an aside, I am not a Ludite. I do however trust in the "nature of man" to build first, then adapt to the result. Put enough momentum behind any initiative and the nature of man is to be inclusive.

Remember Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics"?
  • A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
It was Asimov himself who coined the term, "robotics" while imagining the futures represented in his writings. I believe the coming explosion of robotics technology is a fantastic thing and also see how subtly it will change our world in really big ways. Then one day we're being lectured on the proper etiquette for the treatment of "Robo-citizen's".

Disaster & Change... Continued

Found this article on political change linked to disaster. I also liked the quote within the article that stated, "Some natural disasters are triggers for change; others are catalysts for change already under way."


Church ends taboo on mercy killings

Over time all things move to the center... including opinions and moral choices. I'll use "killing" for my example. The Bible specifically states that "killing" is a sin. Period. Then there are those among us who believe they should have the "right" to decide the fate of another life. This is not a discussion of capital punishment or war, but of all other instances. Now the Vatican, bowing to the pressures of mankind, has determined that the Bible's edict needs adjustment.

When we as a society decide to alter what is black and white to fit within what we think will be pleasing to others we are compromising our society's ability to sustain itself. The long term effect of this particular choice? At some point it will be "reasonable" for someone else to determine if your "life" is worth living.


20 Years of Usenet

Speaking of hindsight and being able to watch change as the script unfolded... Google has fully integrated the past 20 years of Usenet archives into Google Groups, which now offers access to more than 800 million messages dating back to 1981 including this classic from 1981, the TCP/IP Digest #1.


100 things we didn't know this time last year

I love lists! This one is soooo interesting just because hindsight is always a great topic. If we had only known....

A More Conservative America

In peace it's easy to lean liberal. In times of war our domestic population becomes infiltrated with returning veterans. The result: A more conservative generation with regard to family, politics, career choices, etc. As a veteran (Vietnam) myself I can relate to seeing and feeling the difference between who I was as I entered the Marines, and who I was when it was over. Veterans of war (my opinion) prefer more control and certainty in their civilian life as opposed to the chaos and uncertainty of the combat environment. This generation will produce trackable shifts in the Republican/Democratic balance.


The '04 Tsunami Effect

What is a "Catalyst Moment?"

Over a billion people have been directly and traumatically effected by the post-Christmas Tsunami of 2004. Beyond the "right now" is a billion people that will live in a decidedly different way. They will think and feel differently. They'll work differently. They'll love differently. They will treat their world and our world differently. They're already shifting economies and politics, mobilized a globe, and turned talkers into doers.