Showing posts with label Virtual. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Virtual. Show all posts

June 3, 2016

Last Man Standing Wins

So it has always amazed me how until modern times, armies would line up and face-off on the battlefield to basically bash each others skulls in. 

Whether in medieval times or in the civil war...it goes something like this. 


- Red coats line up on this side. 

- Blue coats line up on that side. 

- Everyone pull out their weapons.

- Scream your bloody heads off.

- And run towards each other swinging. 

- The last man standing from either side is the winning army!

How brilliant is that? 

Basically, mass suicide for both sides (like trying to take the hill running straight into machine gun fire). 

These days, there is a notion at least of using stealth, smart bombs, and sending in drones or robots, so as not to risk real people's lives unnecessarily. 

But I guess that takes the fun out of it--can't slice and dice and smash the enemy with your bare hands.

Last weekend, I watched people who like to fight the old fashioned way, dress up in medieval gear, take their sides on the field in the park, and go at it. 

They had swords, and clubs, and javelins, and bow and arrows, and more.  

They even had roles, and one guy I talked to was actually the king for one side of the fight--and apparently you have to earn that role in battle and in council vote. 

On the battlefield then the people get together and go at it hitting each other with some pretty scary weapons that fortunately are (mostly) padded, but still they seemed to get some pretty good zets!

Honestly, it sort of looked like a lot of fun and good exercise, but probably (more than) a little dangerous too. 

I saw one combatant coming off the field, taking off his outfit as it was pretty hot out, and he literally had layers of shielding on, so aside from seeing them take hits again and again, I could see that they felt they needed the protection. 

What was also interesting watching this--and I understand sometimes they get about 150 people on the field at a time to go at it--is that people seem to really want to go back in time to the way things were...more natural, more real, and even more deadly--up close and personal!

We are so much in a virtual world or like Elon Musk (CEO of SpaceX and Tesla) said living in a simulation, that there is just a wild yearning and craving to get back to nature, basics, and what's tangible and real. 

Even if it means bashing heads on a hot Summer's day...and reenacting the times of lore...put your smartphones down and pull out your swords and clubs--it's a new day and age. ;-) 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 2, 2013

Virtual Government--Yes or Nonsense

The Atlantic (2 June 2013) asks why do we even need a government these days--why not just have a virtual one--where you just "buy" the government you want, the size, the capabilities, and you tailor it for your needs?

The author sees government as menu-driven, like a videogame, by a "rotating dial," where you choose whatever government suites you best. 


In this world of virtual government, people are seen turning to private sector alternatives to get capabilities, customer service, and prices that are better than the government's--in some cases, this may actually work, like with private insurance. 


However, this article goes beyond this notion to where government is not tied to the physical boundaries of the real world, but rather to virtual jurisdictions, citizenship, and even values held or abrogated. 


While I agree that raising the bar on government is a good thing--expect more for less--and partnering with the private sector can make government more efficient, the idea of wholesale shopping government around is quite ludicrous: 



- Will we hire mercenaries instead of having an armed forces?

- Will we rely solely on CEOs to conduct our diplomacy?


- Will justice be doled out by vigilantes? 


- Will private inspectors alone regulate food, drug, and the financial system?


While compared to an iPad wheel for making service selections, Government is not the same as a library of songs or movies that one scrolls through to pick and choose what one likes and dislikes. 


Like the old joke about the difference between family and friends...you can choose your friends, but you can't just choose your family!


While government can provide services virtually, it cannot be a government entirely sliced up by choice--where you opt-in for what you like and opt-out for what you don't--if that were the case, we would all selfishly take and never contribute to the greater good. 


For example, "Hey, I like social entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, but I don't particularly care for contributing to space exploration or research and development for certain diseases that I may not be genetically predisposed to."


There is a civic commons where we must share--the prime example is a fire department. If I choose not to contribute, then the fire department still has to come to put out the fire or else it can spread to others. 


In the end, we are not just a collective of individuals, but a nation bound together by core values and beliefs, and shared interests and investments in the future--and where by sharing the risks and burdens, we fall or rise together.  


Like anything that you are seriously apart of--family, religion, organizations, and work--we take the good and work on the bad, rather than just immaturely throwing it all or in innumerable parts away. 


Yes, government should only do functions that are inherently governmental, and we should avail ourselves of all the talent and expertise in the private sector for the rest, but no, we should not wholly think that we can replace government with loose and shifting ties on the Internet and purely profit-driven private sector players. 


If Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda serving as modern virtual governments are the best examples of what can be accomplished, then we should all be running (not walking) to good 'ol Democracy of the U.S. of A.


Virtual government as a way to provision services as well as competition and augmentation by the private sector is great, but becoming a stateless state will not solve the large and complex problems we must face, not alone, but together.


Even though bureaucratic waste and abuse is bad, the system of debate, negotiation, checks and balances, basic human rights, and voting is good, and we should not just throw out the precious baby with the dirty bathwater. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)



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February 8, 2013

Going To An eLibrary


I've always loved libraries--the stacks of books and periodicals--all that information (almost like being a kid in a candy store)--and the quiet space to enjoy it. 

But in the digital age, where people are reading books and magazines on e-readers, news on smartphones, downloading videos with Netflix and watching shorts on YouTube--what is the new place for libraries?

Libraries will always provide a peaceful place for reading, thinking, and writing whether with hardcopy or digital media, but libraries need to meet peoples information needs, incorporate the latest technologies, and fit with the times. 

The Wall Street Journal  (7 February 2013) describes a new library in Texas that "holds no books"--it is all-digital--you "check out books by downloading them" to your own device or a borrowed one. 

While many people still like holding a physical books or paper to read--I know I do, especially when it involves anything more than browsing online--Generation Y is comfortable for the most part getting it all digitally--and then you can electronically highlight, annotate, and share as well. 

Some libraries are offering a mixture of paper and digital--actually "more than three-quarters of U.S. public libraries feature some digital books, and 39% offer e-readers for patrons to borrow."
One of the things holding back the all digital conversion are publishers who don't want to lose print sales, and so they won't offer all new titles electronically or they charge more for it than for paper copies. 

I envision that once we have 100% broadband penetration--where everyone in the country has Internet access--then we all can purchase or borrow the books, periodicals, music, and videos online from anywhere--in other words; libraries will become vastly virtual, instead of predominantly physical structures. 

With more information online than at any library in the world, information growing exponentially, and with online resources available 24x7 (versus set hours for a brick and mortar library), it would be hard for any physical library to keep pace in the digital age. 

Aside from physical libraries for traditional use, we need easy to use elibraries, where all information resources are available all the time, where students or those that can't pay can get it for free or at an appropriate discount--and where help is just a click away. 

Of course, many of us also don't mind a hybrid solution, like being able to go online and borrow or purchase a physical edition--maybe they can just drop ship it overnight or same day is even better. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Ellen Forsyth)

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July 29, 2012

G-d Doesn't Have a Blackberry

I saw this lovely and clever poem on Facebook posted by Yona Lunger, I assume a relative of the 11 year old girl who wrote this.

"Hashem" is the Jewish name for G-d. 

And he is truly the center of our real and virtual worlds.

None of it would exist without him.

G-d keeps us all moving forward technologically.

He is the greatest innovator of them all. 

Thank you G-d!

(Source Poem--Chana Pessy Lunger)

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April 7, 2012

Passover 21st Century


This video (2011) by Aish.com is terrific! The story of Passover--"Google Exodus"-- with all the technology of instant messaging, email, social networking, mapping, and more.

I love how they make the traditional and sacred, new and promising again by "letting people go" and being able to see and interact with it in modern terms. 

While some may find it challenging not to lose the essence of the old, when keeping it fresh, I think the past becomes more meaningful when we can truly integrate it into our daily lives. 

I personally am still not comfortable with the idea of online Passover Seders or DIY Haggadah's--and I don't think I ever really will be--probably more because of guilt at not following strictly and the concern that people may change things so much as to either misinterpret or actually distort the truth of G-d.

However, I do think that we can strengthen regular people's connection to their past and their faith only by truly bringing it in our present and looking to the future, as well. 

The world of religion-can often be filled with controversy between those that maintain iron-clad religious practices from thousands of years ago and those that seek evolving routes to religion and G-d today.  

When we can use technology to help people bridge the religious divide, we are helping people connect with their G-d and choose good over evil in their daily lives. 

Neither modernism nor technology is inherently "bad," and we do not have to run away from it--or escape through the Red Sea from it.  

Rather, faith in the Almighty, in His hand that guides all, and in the doing good in all that we do, are fundamental to religion and can be shared online and off, as G-d is truly everywhere and in each of us. 

Sometimes, I wonder when Orthodox people probe and judge with incessant questions of "What Shul do you go to?" "What Yeshiva do your kids attend?" "Do you keep Kosher?"  and more, I imagine G-d looking down on his "people of the book," not with satisfaction that they follow his commandments, but with disdain for how people can hurt others and not even realize that is not religious. 

While I agree that unguided, people and practices can go astray, I also believe that automatic suspicion and rejection of new things is impractical and actually harmful. 

Modernism and technology can be a blessing, if coupled with faith and integrity.

Congratulations to Aish.com for the good work they are doing in helping people integrate the old and new in a balanced way.

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August 22, 2009

Technology, A Comfort to the Masses

Typically, as technologists, we like to point out the great things that technology is doing for us—making us more productive, facilitating more convenience, allowing us to perform feats that humans alone could not do, and enabling us to connect with others almost without regard to space and time. And truly, we are fortunate to live in a time in history with all these new unbelievable capabilities—our ancestors would be jealous in so many ways.

Yet, there is a flip side to technology—what some refer to as the 24x7 society—“always on”—that we are creating, in which life is a virtual non-stop deluge of emails, voicemails, videoconferencing, messaging, Friending, Linking-in, blogging, tweeting, YouTubing, and more.

We are becoming a society of people living in a Matrix-type virtual world, where we go around addicted to the online cyber world and yet in so many ways are unconscious to the real-world relationships that are suffering in neglect and silence.

A fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal, 22-23 August 2009 entitled, Not So Fast, by John Freeman states that “we need to protect the finite well of our attention if we care about our relationships.”

Certainly, online communications and connections are valuable, and in many ways are meaningful to us. They can create wonderful opportunities to bond with those near and far, including those who would be normally beyond our reach geographically and temporally. For me it’s been great reconnecting with old friends from schools, jobs, and communities. And yes, who would think that Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger would be but a FaceBook message away for me?

Yet while all the online interaction is fulfilling for us in so many ways—filling voids of all sorts in our lives—in reality the connections we make in the virtual world are but a tiny fraction of the real world human-to-human relationships we have in terms of their significance and impact.

The Journal article puts it this way: “This is not a sustainable way to live. This lifestyle of being constantly on causes emotional and physical burnout, workplace meltdowns, and unhappiness. How many of our most joyful memories have been created in front of a screen?”

One of the biggest fears that people have is not their own mortality, but that of being left alone in the corporeal world—for each of us, while a world unto ourselves, are small in the vastness of all that is around us. Perhaps to feel less alone, people amass and encircle themselves with great amounts of familiar, comforting, and loving people and things. And while people have these, they are connected, grounded, loved, and they are comforted that they are not alone.

But the harsh reality is that no matter how much we have in our lives, people are beings onto themselves, and over time, unfortunately and extremely painfully, all worldly things are ultimately lost.

The Journal states: “We may rely heavily on the Internet , but we cannot touch it, taste it, or experience the indescribable feeling of togetherness that one gleans from face-to-face interaction.”

Connections are great. Virtual relationships can be satisfying and genuine. All the technology communication mechanisms are fast, efficient, and powerful in their ability to reach people anytime and anywhere. Yet, we must balance all these with the people we care about the most. We cannot sacrifice our deepest and most intimate relationships by sitting in front of a computer screen morning, noon, and night and walking around with the BlackBerry taking phone calls and emails at our kids' school play, on their graduation day, and during their wedding recital. We are missing the boat on what is really important. We have forgotten how to balance. We have gone to extremes. We are hurting the ones we truly love the most.

“We need to uncouple our idea of progress from speed, separate the idea of speed from efficiency, pause and step back enough to realize that efficiency may be good for business and governments, but does not always lead to mindfulness and sustainable, rewarding relationships.”

Finally, with all the technology, we are in a sense becoming less human and more mechanical—like the Borg, in Star Trek—with BlackBerrys and Netbooks as our implants. Let’s find some time to pull the plug on these technologies and rediscover the real from the virtual.


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