A New Year, a new blog.

2017.  Saying that out loud will conjure either a grimace or a smile.  I can’t help but think that we left 2016 in the dust with little regard for what happened in that year.  Last year was filled with various tropes of climate change, Donald Trump, Russia and reports of social media making us more depressed.  Being able to take that firehose of information of course while trying to maintain a healthy relationship with people is a hard act to follow.  I’m sure if you’re like me, you’d rather not dwell on the past but look towards our new year with a sense of optimism.

An area of impossible growth over the past year that you may or may not know about is Artificial Intelligence or A.I. for short.  While you may scoff at A.I., think about it very carefully; You talk to your phone, you perhaps talk to Google, you may talk to Alexa — A.I. is as pervasive as the internet these days.  However, in the vein of trying to understand what A.I. is and what A.I isn’t, could be an entire Harvard class (okay, Columbia has one) so while I will not be trying to explain that portion of it to you (that’s your part of your homework), I will bring up some stories that I find fascinating on how A.I. continues to advances and re-shape our future.

Like I told my father-in-law, Artificial Intelligence is the new space race and everyone wants in; Tesla, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, cell phone providers and you.  This blog over the course of 2017 will be focusing on some of the milestones we hit in 2016 along with a look ahead in 2017 and what the future of A.I. could hold for humanity.

While this journey may be an uncomfortable one, I’m sure will be one filled with twists and turns.  For those interested in getting a jump-start, make sure to check the following movies and shows:

iRobot – Great movie on what it means for A.I. to have Morals

Her – Not for the faint of heart as there is some explicit sexual material but fascinating in terms of relationship and co-dependence w/ A.I.

A.I. – You probably have forgotten that this was ever made and quite frankly, I wouldn’t blame you.  A story about an adopted artificial boy who doesn’t know he’s not real.

Ex Machina – Another one not for the faint of heart as it deals with some fairly dark places of the human condition.  Incredible story that will suck you in and keep you wondering what is going to happen next.

2001: A Space Odyssey – If you’ve ever heard anyone sarcastically say “I’m afraid I can’t do that Dave…” and you had no clue what the hell they were talking about… this is the movie to watch.  Cult classic and while it only briefly touches on some of the technology, look for the human dependence on the machines.

Finally, go binge watch West World; Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Until next time…. Cease reading this blog.

Why my memories are better than yours.

That’s right.  My memories are better than yours.  Why is that the case you ask, well, most likely because you didn’t see it on social media.  I will caveat this article as to not be an affront on those who do live out loud on social media (although, you’ve been warned) but more of a look at social culture as things have evolved over the years.

Recently, I took a trip with my family down to California.  Yay!?– Right?  Of course.  What I did though was to make a conscious effort to not take a picture, selfie or even video of every little thing we did or that the kids experienced.  But why?  Honestly, I had the thought that living in the moment of the experience outweighed the significance of taking a picture;  secondly, memories by virtue create such a hardwired bond that by definition, we tend to remember them more fluidly than a picture or even video can capture.

I was curious, was this just conjecture on my part or actually some scientific point to how the brain processes memories?  Ironically, a quick Bing/Google search shows that how memories are made, are quite amazing.  According to work done via ULCA scientists found that:

… spontaneous memories arise through the activity of the very same neurons that fired when the memory was first being made. (Ref: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080908101651.htm )

Now why is this a big deal–  Well in the study, it showed how activity based memory showed neurons firing that were fired while initially creating the memory.  This of course lead me to wonder the resilience of the human mind recalling the activity (on their vacation) to prove my point.  Ironically, when we take a picture, video or whatever the form of media that encapsulates the memory are we remembering what we’re viewing through our screen/lens or the actual picture/video recording event itself?  To me, it definitely seems to be the latter as when you recall something that is not recorded, there is basically no filter to how your memory recalls it.  A picture, even though it is a snapshot of time (and an activity) is not representative of what story is being told.

So why the hate?  Well, I feel like this Reddit post summarizes my “hate” on this ugly trend:

After I got back from my trip, I had two close friends stay with me (I live in the SF bay area, so I often have friends from other states visit). They took photos of almost every meal we ate and every view we saw.

So, it left me with a question for myself: could I go on a vacation and not take a single picture? Would I miss not having some documentation of the trip, or would it be a more intense experience because I’m not subconsciously concerned about creating an interesting story to tell facebook once I get back? – not-a-ginger [via Reddit] (Ref: http://www.reddit.com/r/minimalism/comments/2jpxim/could_you_go_on_vacation_and_not_take_any_pictures/ )

The poster even makes the claim (that I think is valid) are our the photos we take on vacation simply more “digital junk”?  I think the answer could be, yes.

So next time when you’re on Vacation, set aside your smartphone, your iPad, your stupid Self-Stick, even your DSLR and embrace the natural wonder of creating a fresh memory that only you can remember and that you can let live forever.

=A

 

A nation built by immigrants now ponders the future path ahead

When you think of the United States, most think of freedom, an opportunity, a new start and possibly salvation. The last point seems to have taken
center stage with the influx of illegal immigrants entering the southern border of our country. Before we delve into that too far, we need to clear up
some terms of which people are confusing.

Emigration vs. Immigration

Emigration is the property of people leaving an established homestead based on uninhabitable conditions, poverty, no jobs, further education or war.
This of course may be by choice or it may be due to hardship.

Immigration is by which host countries have policies around whether or not large portions of the population are allowed to come into the host country by legal
processes and procedures.

Now that we have cleared up, what is it that the United States government is doing? Well, multiple things of which we can break a few of those down to
topical discussions.

1 – Theory #1. The President of the United States, Barrack Obama, has been soft on issuing a clear indication on what exactly his stance is on legal vs illegal
immigration to the United States. This is a completely grey area that unfortunately has been a political volleyball or can kicked down the road by both Democrats
and Republicans. If enough people overwhelm the United States system (both Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human services), there would be
little choice but to offer a defacto “amnesty” vote for all of the people who have not to the United States by standing “legal immigration policies” set forth by the
United States government.
2 – Theory #2. If Theory #1 proves to be true and all people are given some sort of “citizen” status either by temporary green card or otherwise new form of ID,
what is the status of the sovereignty of the United States of America going forward? This theory would suggest that the United States would reject and deport any
people emigrating to the United States by following US law that has already established “legal immigration” procedures. Ignoring to follow these laws would cause
chaos and represent yet another fundamental shift in governing policy by the current White House administration.
3 – Theory #3.  If both Theory #1 and Theory #2 are rejected and things continue the way that they are by mass emigration, little to no enforcement by DHS, HHS, ICE
and other government bodies, the United States of America will not survive for more than a decade or two at most being crippled by care for people we simply are
not setup to provide care for.

Why a decision must be made; Kids are dying. 
The time has come to put an end to the gray areas of our immigration policy and the reason being is people must know the reality of emigrating from great distances
and the sacrifice it entails. Right now, children are being found washed up on the shores of the Rio Grande dead. That’s right… DEAD.

This quote from the following story sheds light on this terrible reality: (link: http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2014/07/report-small-lifeless-dead-children-found-washed-up-along-riverbank-of-rio-grande/)

This indicates a pattern of covering up dead illegal alien kids by the Obama administration. It was two weeks before news was reported on the sole child death acknowledged by the Obama administration, Gilberto Ramos, a 15 year-old boy from Guatemala whose body was found in the Texas brush dead from the heat.

So what do we do? This is a tough choice. In thinking about this, one doesn’t need to look to far to see what emigration has done to countries in the Middle East with the Iraq War
and now more recently the war in Syria. Statistics show that Lebanon, smaller than the size of Connecticut, is going to have about 1/3 of its entire population be identified as
Syrian by the end of 2014. That is staggering. While the United States would nowhere near have that number, the calling out of people literally dying to get to the United States cannot be
swept under the rug.

Our solution must be compassion as well as justice.
The United States is seeing diseases that we have long killed off 20, 30 some even 50 years ago making their way into border towns due to the influx of people carrying crippling diseases. I believe we do have
a responsibility to care for those who have made the arduous journey and put them on a time-table for returning safely to their home countries. We cannot harbour or become a nation with IDP
camps on our border states. Furthermore, we must enforce laws already set forth by our governing bodies of years past; If we are to maintain borders and state we are a country of law, we
must act like it.

Final Thought
Honestly, this is a mess. While their may be the desire to point fingers, take sides, we must remember that people are people and that we must retain our humanity by loving them.
It is encouraging to see local churches taking in the illegal immigrants to care for them. I would hope that this would be an example to others and as a person of any faith, we must
look out for those who are less fortunate than us, now more than ever.