Doing violence to the text… with theology

I’ve written at length about scripture before, especially the ways we can do violence to the text.

Still, I don’t think my previous post goes far enough. I’m coming to wonder if one of the primary ways we do violence to the text is with cultural and (this is hard to write, but couldn’t it be true?) theological imperialism.

That is to say… can we ask more of the text than it is prepared or was intended to convey?

Take for instance the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and verbal plenary inspiration in a bundle. Not simply the classic sola scriptura, that scripture is the final authority on doctrine and salvation (that’s not something I wish to argue with), but the sort of hyper-sola scriptura that I find all too common these days, that says, in the words of that great oracle, Wikipedia, “it is self-authenticating, clear to the rational reader, its own interpreter, and sufficient of itself to be the final authority of Christian doctrine.”

This almost certainly can’t be the case. The first and most troubling problem with this statement is that scripture itself does not demand it. You would think, if the Bible was to be a self-authenticating, self-interpreting book, someone, somewhere in the Bible itself would demand that scripture do either of those things. Same thing with verbal plenary inspiration: It’s an invention, by humans, to hold scripture to a higher standard that scripture holds itself. Again, if the Bible is supposedly inspired this way, should it not insist at some point, that this is the case?

I think we tend towards this self-interpretation especially by imposing doctrines on Old Testament narrative texts, especially in Genesis. We find it uncomfortable to say that God changed his mind (multiple times with Moses and threatening to wipe out Israel), or didn’t know something until it happened (when he tested Abraham with the sacrifice of his son), or even when he presents himself as the most powerful God of many gods (right at the beginning of the Ten Commandments and in many other places).

We have to somehow reconcile this account of Yahweh’s seemingly capricious nature, where Moses has to argue God down from the ledge, so as not to see his reputation destroyed, with our more sophisticated and nuanced understand of God as revealed later in scripture. We can do this by viewing this whole production as sort of a stage play that God plays out with Moses (rather unfairly to Moses, it would seem: Who would want to have to bargain with a God that just decimated the land of Egypt?) while the real God is behind the scenes as omniscient and omnipresent and omnipotent as always. But that seems a lot of trouble for no real reward.

Maybe it’s easier to say that God reveals himself this way for a reason, and that he chose to do so in a particular polytheistic context and culture is more important than trying to square away all the theologies. That is to say, God is telling a story, and that story is not about our modern theology of God. Instead it’s about conveying something to the children of Israel. Perhaps that something is that God is more powerful that whatever gods may be, regardless of whether those gods actually exist. Or something else to that effect. What if God’s intent in telling the story is more important to them (and to us!) than obsessive-compulsively reciting doctrinal propositions?

I’d hold that this reading of scripture is more faithful to the text than a reading that tries to shoehorn something in there that doesn’t really belong.

Then we have to wrestle with more of Genesis that seems terribly quaint, now that we have science and a view of natural processes that seems designed to exclude a creator altogether. A seven day creation? A world-wide flood?

This is where cultural imperialism comes in: We seem to forget that the scripture were not written to us though they may have been written for us.

I know that we have doctrines (creationism; so-called “literal” interpretations of Genesis) that seem to be the most faithful understanding of scripture possible–after all, if scripture interprets scripture, and if scripture is self-authenticating, there’s nowhere else we can turn to understand these passages–but I’m inclined to believe these doctrines are modern inventions by modern humans with modern worldviews. In that way we have done violence to the text, by imposing our own scientific and material worldview on a passage that clearly asks for no such thing and in fact demands otherwise.

I’m not going to go into a deep discussion about how I think about the creation and the flood and so on (let me just say that I do believe in a literal six day creation period, but I also believe the earth is very old, and that our current scientific paradigm of evolution seems a good way to explain life on earth). But I think it’s important to know how the ancient Israelites would have understood this text, especially when it comes to the idea of “creation”. After all, when God reveals himself to a particular culture, he sets out to reveal himself, not correct their science. Or even give the a concept of science in a culture that would have none. God isn’t trying to be incomprehensible.

The ancient Israelites would have understood the idea of “creation” very differently from us. We seem mostly preoccupied with material origins (our ontology is primarily material), while the ancient Israelites lived in a pre-scientific world that was concerned with functional origins. That isn’t to say that God isn’t involved in material origins, how the universe came to be and such. Scripture is clear that anything that exists exists because God caused it to exist.

However Genesis 1 & 2 give a very structured account of how God sets up a system that functions with mankind as his vice-regent and then on the seventh day enters his temple, the cosmos, to assume control of normal operations. This plays very much into the Israelites’ (and other ancient near east cultures’) cosmology, or their concept of the cosmos.

The point isn’t that the Big Bang did or did not happen. Presumably it did (or so we think, currently). That’s an entirely different discussion from Genesis 1 & 2 and would not have seemed entirely important to ancient Israel. They really did think the earth rested on pillars, that there was a great sea above the dome of the sky, which was hold back by an entirely solid firmament, etc. God didn’t see fit to correct that idea. He instead used that idea, that cosmology, to illustrate a point that Israel would have found much more salient: God is in control, he makes the world function, and he does it all for the benefit of mankind.

Ancient Israelites wouldn’t have cared (or wouldn’t have understood) how old the earth was. They wouldn’t have been interested in whether or not God created light in transit, created the earth to look frighteningly old for some reason, whether fossils and strata were created during the flood or not, etc, etc. That’s not the point at all.

If God were to write us a Genesis 1 & 2 today, I can almost guarantee he would write it a different way. After all, we understand science, and we care very much more about the physical, material origin of the universe than we do about the functioning of it (which we, rather oddly, call the “natural” world, apply laws to, edge God out of, and live our lives as practical deists). But he didn’t, and I’m pretty sure he won’t.

That said, the point of Genesis 1 & 2 is still valid. The universe that we see, functioning the way we see it, has purpose. It exists for a reason, it had a beginning, and it will have an end.

That reason, we find out, is God’s glory. And isn’t that, after all this talk, the most important thing?

Who You Are Is What You Do

Just a quick note: When you talk about the things you do and the person you are, you’re talking about the same thing.

You are not two things. You are not an abstract person made up of a bunch of perfect ideals (i.e. the things you “are”) in conflict with the concrete, real, tangible, imperfect physical you that can’t reach those ideals.

The abstract and the concrete are the same thing. You are not divisible. You are one person.

Listen to what people say they believe, and then watch what they do. What is more true, the belief or the action? If they do not match up, they’re not being honest. They may not realise it, living with this delusion that they can somehow be incompatible with themselves, living as if they can believe one thing and do another. They may not realise it, but they are still being dishonest.

You are what you do. You do what you are. These things can’t be separated. You are a whole person. You are not 6 of this and half a dozen of another. You don’t get to abstract your beliefs and then ignore your actions.

I’m a cowbug.

Fiat currency is called that because it doesn’t have any intrinsic value. It’s backed by confidence alone. The solution usually seems to be “invest in precious metals”.

But it seems to me that precious metals suffer the same problem. It’s simply buried a little further into the woodwork.

Gold has no real function other than decoration, and trading for real goods such as cows and grain.

In that case, backing up fiat currency with another, even more abstract fiat currency seems like a bit of a bad plan. The American dollar should be backed by cows and grain.

Post-Rock Church Music

Music doesn’t have to be lyrical to express its intentions. Some of the best music (in my always-humble opinion) uses a lack of lyrics to its advantage.

Post-rock can be that kind of music. It can be at once violent, celebratory, peaceful, overwhelming, and subtle.

I’d like to see some of that in our church music. I mean, not every week. But sometimes. Let the music speak in its own voice, instead of simply as a vehicle for those singing in the congregation.

Playing post-rock and listening to it are very similar experiences. It’s easy to get lost in the sound, even when you’re the one making the sound.

There’s something meditative and exploratory about certain bits of post-rock. In Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s “Static”, there’s a wonderful swell out of static into a minor-key 3/3/2 pattern on the guitar and violin (if I recall correctly, that is). It sounds to me like observing the universe being created. Suddenly from nothing there is something. The random becomes purposeful.

It’s almost monastic. In a church context it would be like practising purposeful silence. Shutting up, suddenly. Instead of always talking about how we want to worship, how we’re here to worship, how we will worship… we could just worship.

I know, it sounds like something ripped from the pages of our latest bugaboo, the liberals emergent church, but bear with me.

We could perhaps discover some of the artistry we’ve lost in transitioning out of the Roman Catholic Church. We could maybe, every once in a while, do something different and new and unusual.

It might be nice. Or it might not be, depending.

Crime and (not) punishment

I keep hearing from people in my circles (lay-people, pastors, mentors, bosses, friends, etc) that our justice system doesn’t work.

More to the point, they don’t like that we’ve started rehabilitating criminals instead of punishing them.

I’ve heard time and time again that a massive surge in crime has accompanied our new, soft, bleeding-heart liberal justice system.

You could maybe make that case in the 80s. You’d have to ignore that correlation does not equal causation, but you could make that case. Crime was rising rapidly. Things looked bleak.

But crime has fallen precipitously. It’s at its lowest rates in, what, 50 years? We haven’t changed the justice system. We’re still trying to rehabilitate offenders. We’re still not bringing down the wrath of God on guilty heads.

So what now? Are you going to be honest and just admit that your view must have been wrong (I mean, logic and everything)? Or is it the justice system’s doing when crime goes up, but not when it goes down?

Look at it from another direction. Perhaps rehabilitation’s fruits are finally being reaped. Maybe all the hard work of trying to help people be better people paid off after a while.

It’s just as plausible, right?

A typical day in 2014

So, 2014 is approaching (in 3 years). This is a significant year because Robert J. Sawyer predicted some things. I quoted the article in 2004 but didn’t say much about it. I am, after all, not RJS. I’m just me. And I’m no prophet nor am I the son of a prophet.

I think even Mr Sawyer made his list to give some people some ideas, not really to predict the future.

Nevertheless, let’s do a quite status update and see where we are.

Our mornings will still begin with waking up. But forget the old-fashioned alarm-clock buzzer. Tomorrow’s bedside clock will be a sophisticated brainwave monitor. It’ll keep track of your sleep cycle, gently bringing up the room lights at precisely the right time so that you’ll feel rested, not cardiac arrested, as you awake.

Nope. I mean, we can do this stuff, but we haven’t arrived at a time or place where it’s cheap enough to be in everyone’s home. Most of us still have a morning wake-up experience that even prehistoric man would have baulked at. Being brutally woken from a cocoon of slumber by what I can only describe as the sound of a million souls screaming from the bowls of hell? Not particularly pleasant. Wake me up when this one comes true.

Today, your coffee can be brewed while you sleep; tomorrow’s robokitchen will have an entire hot (but low carb!) breakfast waiting for you. Also waiting will be an electronic-ink newspaper, with stories geared to your particular interests culled from sources worldwide (with foreign-language news automatically translated into English).

My breakfasts are indeed low-carb, but I have to make them myself. Despite all the wonderful gadgets I have accrued to myself, the kitchen is still about human labour. I mean, I can make the coffee maker make me coffee in the morning, but I have to grind those beans and load that machine myself.

I have a Kindle, so I suppose I can have news delivered (if I choose which news), and if I use Google Reader’s “Explore” feature, I can kind of get some news geared to my interests, but it’s not particularly good at understanding what I want to see. It’s fairly good at understanding what my friends and I have already seen, but that’s about it.

The difference between RJS’s future kitchen & media centre is where the labour component is. Guess what? I still do it all myself. I have to cook my own food and choose my own reading.

Of course, you aren’t the only one who has to get going in the morning. Your spouse and kids will be taken care of, too — with smart toilets analyzing their urine and sensor-rich toothbrushes checking their saliva to make sure everything is ticketyboo; most health problems will be caught early and be trivial to correct.

This toilet exists, and I think in the next 10 years we’ll see this happen (everyone can get back to me then, thankyouverymuch). But it’s pretty expensive right now. Not to mention that there’s a lot of disagreement among medical professionals about what constitutes a healthy person. Even if we did get the smart toilet… who programs it to help instead of hurt?

The toothbrush does not exist. Sadly. Oral care is still pretty barbaric.

Most health problems still involve seeing a doctor and having the doctor mis-diagnose you, prescribe something expensive, and wait for the problem to clear up on its own.

Your spouse might telecommute — perhaps half of all white-collar workers will do so in 2014 — but you might still have to physically go to your office. Along the way you’ll take your kids to school.

Almost no-one telecommutes. This is a human problem, not a technological one. Most bosses aren’t as concerned that you’re getting your work done as they’re concerned about continuing their own personal power-trip. No to mention that computers are still pretty dumb, and unable to properly quantify whether someone is actually doing their work, meaning your boss will have to figure that out by himself. Which means him doing more work. Which means (in net) that you don’t get to crunch the numbers in your jammies. Sorry.

No point quizzing them on facts as you travel along, though. In a world in which any information can be easily accessed anywhere, mere memorization is no longer part of the curriculum. But analysis of information — knowing how to think — ah, that’s the ticket! Naturally, your electric car will drive itself, communicating with millions of chips that have been steamrollered into the asphalt covering our roadways. No more traffic accidents; no more gridlock.

We’re getting there. Smartphones mean we don’t have to memorize much of anything, which I think might be why I’m always forgetting all the nouns I once knew. But some people, especially educators, seem to think that knowing things is useful. So we still do it until we don’t have to any more.

We’re still not teaching anyone how to think. Education is still about facts and not how to use facts. Kids are still generally a bunch of bumbling idiots, high on facts, and low on logic.

My car is still controlled by my hands and feet. Self-driving cars are coming, but they are a technological and a human problem. The technology is in its infancy. It’s a tough nut to solve. It’s a hard design problem. And once you’ve solved that problem, you have have to deal with people who are willing to accept that people kill people all the time, but can’t wrap their heads around a computer killing people. Which inevitable will happen somewhere, sometime.

So we still have lots of accidents (though less and less), and we still have lots of gridlock (more and more).

Once you’ve dropped the kids off — yes, learning can be done online at home, but socialization still happens best in a real school and at a real playground — you will use the rest of your commute time productively, catching up on full-motion-video e-mail and reading reports (or having them read to you by totally realistic voice synthesizers). You’ll arrive at your office relaxed.

Learning online? Done. Socialisation in real life? More and more online.

And because my commute is still about me driving places, I don’t get to do anything interesting while I drive. At least, not legally.

My Kindle reads to me, but it still sounds like a robot drunk on aluminium.

I arrive at my office aggravated.

Throughout the day, your wristband — a combination cellphone, PDA, camera, and e-book display, all controlled by spoken commands — will be your lifeline.

Close! My smartphone does this. And it can definitely be controlled by my voice. Still, I don’t want to control it with my voice. No-one needs to hear me emailing my wife about what we might be having for dinner, or what we might be having after dinner (iykwim).

In fact, typing on smartphones blows chunks. Someone, fix this.

You’ll have just one phone number, good worldwide with no long-distance or roaming charges, and the wristband will screen calls for you, with a computer-generated avatar kicking in to deal with most routine matters.

Google Voice and Skype kind of do this, but neither are pervasive yet.

Still, even 10 years from now, much business will require face-time. No problem. One major wall of your office in, say, Toronto, will be a vast flatscreen, showing you your company’s Vancouver office. You’ll be able to walk up to the wall and chat with whomever is depicted as casually as if you were both sharing the same water cooler.

Flatscreens are still too expensive for this. And I don’t know anyone who wants to be that connected to anyone else. It’s a bit too much. We like our off buttons, you know?

Your cubicle will have a smart wall of its own, giving every worker the appearance of having a window; yours might show real-time footage of Lake Louise, assuming that global warming hasn’t melted the adjacent glaciers and flooded everything. And no matter which office chair you sit on, it will adjust automatically to your body’s proportions.

Cubicles are still cubicles. The human spirit is still your boss’s steppingstone to being your bosses boss. Seriously, who would spend the amount of money it would take to do this in order to get a marginal increase in productivity? All this stuff is out of the reach of most people and corporations.

And guess what? Global warming hasn’t done much.

Also, our chairs are still made out of plastic. They don’t do much more than go up and down.

Of course, we’ll all live in an enhanced reality. Today’s bulky virtual-reality goggles will have been replaced by contact lenses that overlay textual information on your vision; the lens will be in constant communication with the computing powerhouse in your wristband. You’ll never be in the embarrassing situation of not remembering the name of an acquaintance you happen to run into; facial-recognition technology will identify the person, and provide you with all pertinent details instantaneously.

Virtual reality has always been, and will always be, totally ridiculous. Until they can shrink it down so you don’t look so much like an imperial storm trooper, it’s never going to catch on. Also, immersive, generative worlds aren’t particularly feasible just yet.

I can never remember people’s names, and my phone sucks at this because it’s in my pocket.

I’m curious what interface Mr Sawyer thought we would use for all this? Because as far as I can tell, we’d all have to be wearing a heads-up-display of some kind, and no-one has come close to inventing one that doesn’t get in the way.

You’ll want to make some time in your day for exercise — and the microprocessors in your running shoes will keep track of your pace, telling you when to slow down or speed up for maximum effect. Meanwhile, nanotechnological probes will be working their way through your bloodstream, clearing plaque out of your arteries, and getting rid of dangerous chemicals.

Kind of. You have to hook up to your phone, but shoes can do this now. Not most shoes, but some.

Nanotech is till in its infancy. There’s no way they’re going to be letting the grey goo into your blood in two years.

And naturally, your wristband will be recording everything you see and do, with software indexing it all as you go along.

And it could all be uploaded to a central computer to track everyone all the time and then crime would disappear! Except… what if you were in a cave deep below the earth and something happened where you were transported to an alternate universe and in your absence you were accused of your partner’s murder? No, this whole life-recorder thing won’t work at all.

This one’s a good 20 – 30 years away.

You won’t have to worry about losing your car keys in the future — your biometrics will identify you whenever necessary — but you might forget where you’ve put your sunglasses and hat (sadly, both of which you’ll probably always need when venturing outdoors). No problem: just ask your wristband, and it’ll tell you where they are.

I don’t lose my keys because I put them in the same place. And global warming hasn’t done very much. Sadly, my smartphone doesn’t know where anything is. Yet. Google is working on this, I’m sure.

Recording your entire life will take a lot of storage, but the cost of data storage will be essentially zero by 2014, so that’s no problem. The images of your life will be beamed through the air to an archive that only you can access; quantum cryptography — unbreakable even in principle — will have made such transmissions totally secure.

The storage thing is just about right.

Everything else, though, not so much. I wish. That would be fantastic.

No transmission is ever totally secure.

On the way home, you’ll stop to pick up a few things at the grocery store. No standing in line, though, to check out: you’ll just waltz out the front door, as the Radio Frequency ID chips in the products you’ve bought allow their costs to be tallied and your account automatically debited.

They do have self-serve checkouts now. I guess that’s something. But I still have to do some scanning and whatnot. RFID is not everywhere. I mean, they barely just got it in credit cards.

You might make dinner yourself, if you enjoy cooking. But if not, your automated kitchen will again take care of everything, including doing the dishes. And you’ll have a humanoid robot, too — the descendant of today’s dancing Honda Asimo — that will take care of all the other housework.

I wonder what Mr Sawyer thinks the time to market is for making a successful mass-market product from a quirky one-off idea like the Asimo? Sorry if I sound a bit pissed off, but I’m grumpy from all the cooking.

After dinner, you’ll have your pick of any TV show or movie ever made, available instantly on your wall-screen TV.

This, at least, I can do. Thankfully, when it comes to entertainment, we do not screw around.

(Micropayments will work flawlessly: you’ll be able to access any premium information off the expanded, full-motion-video Web, with the creator compensated automatically.)

Micro-payments are still silly. They will always be silly.

Meanwhile, your kids will be off in their rooms, enjoying fully immersive virtual reality experiences — who’d have thought homework could be such fun? Eventually, though, it’ll be time for them to get ready for bed. Smart washcloths will make sure they clean everywhere, including behind their ears.

Virtual reality is ridiculous. Homework is difficult. Washcloths are made in China from crude oil.

And, a little later, you’ll turn in for the night, as well. But perhaps just before you fall asleep, a thought will occur to you — something you just have to remember to do the next day. Except you don’t have to remember it at all; all you have to do is mention it to your wristband — yes, you’ll go to bed with it on. And then you’ll fall asleep, totally relaxed, confident that your technology will remind you of this, and everything else that’s important, come the bright and wonderful morrow.

Sure, except that I have to type it with my thumbs into my smartphone. And that makes me wake up.

Technology still mostly sucks at doing things that don’t involve showing me ads, telling me what my friends are doing, and delivering entertainment.

So, have I got it right? Only time will tell. But, as I said at the outset, if I’m wrong, feel free to look me up in 2014 and let me know. Of course, if you do, I’ll bend your ear then about what life will be like in 2024…

So in closing, unless we do some major product development in the next two years, 2014 is going to resemble 2004, 1994, 1984, 1974, and 1964 a lot more than us futurists would like to think.

And unless all the geniuses out there pull their collective heads out of their collective adwords, 2024 is probably going to look a lot like today, too.

Slow revolutions

I’m a fan of revolutions. Not real ones in my country. No, I’m a fan of revolutions everywhere else. Specifically disruptive ideas and technologies.

There’s something thrilling about seeing a paradigm change in action. Which makes now an awesome time to live. We exist in a state in-between slow and constant change. We haven’t gotten to the point where paradigm change is the paradigm. Yet we’ve left the past of slow and gradual change behind.

It’s a great time to be alive.

Take the web as an example. I’ve watched it hatch as a military invention, then grown into an academic channel, then be co-opted by geeks, be over-run by n00bs, be penetrated by business, and finally become pervasive. A web site and email address is more important than a phone number now. Maybe one day that will be a Facebook page or something.

(As an aside, Facebook pages are not as accessible as a regular website. Where a regular website has an address, a concrete naming mechanism that does one thing only, which it lead to site, a Facebook page doesn’t, per se. This may be my age showing, but not knowing the address of something and instead just knowing I have to search something or click on a link somewhere is not as accessible as a plain old address. Imagine if you had to search up a friend from an obfuscated list of names in order to send them an email: This is Facebook’s problem. Its pages seem ethereal and anchor-less compared to a regular website.)

At the same time, lasting change is almost always slow change. This holds true biologically and ideologically. It may not hold true technologically, though. We’ll see.

I’m kind of torn about technology for this reason. I think slow change allows us time to take in the consequences of our collective actions before we move forward again.

This is the Amish way. Say what you will about the Amish, but they have a very slow-change sort of view of technology. They adopt it, but very slowly.

I’m not sure if that’s ideal. It won’t work in a free society. But it does allow the Amish to get a good look at the technological landscape (the water we swim in) before they adopt and adapt.

The Eternal Now (How Technology Changes Your Mind, Literally)

What I mean is that technology literally changes your mind. It changes the way you think. It changes the way you see the world, the way you perceive time, shapes, logic, language, and a whole host of other things.

I can only speculate how language changed the human mind. That was too long ago. But we can very easily speak about how written language changes the our minds, as writing is a relatively new development, and pre-literate cultures still exist in odd places.

For instance, pre-literate cultures don’t develop technology. At least not particularly involved technology. They don’t develop science, they don’t develop symbolic logic. They develop as far as the strictures of human speech and oral tradition will allow, and that’s it. They can’t go any further. Or at least the benefits of going forward don’t outweigh the downsides. Or developments simply get lost in the fog of oral memory. However you want to put that.

You start thinking differently about the world once you’ve got a written language. You can finally start talking about talking (meta-language, if you will), which means you can develop ideas like structure, syntax, plot, and other ideas like them, all words adapted from other, pre-existing arenas (such a building and surveying, for instance) to fit the purpose of speaking about speaking.

You develop symbolic logic, and from there you develop a scientific world-view. You start thinking in abstractions. The desk is the shape of the rectangle. Before, there was no such thing as “rectangle”. There was no categorization in that kind of abstract way. There were only words that applied to things. There were no external references. There were simply the things.

The printing press comes along and it changes your mind again. You start thinking of the printed word as something cheap, something almost disposable. Suddenly books are everywhere, and anyone can be a scientist.

The train is invented and changes your concept of travel. Suddenly you can go from one side of the country to the other without taking out years of your life to get there. For a while, the train is the fastest way to get people from here to there, but also information. This is dangerous, as the trains go faster than information can travel. Vehicle collisions become a very real and frightening thing.

The telegraph is invented and changes everything. You start thinking of messages as ephemeral, as passing quickly through the void.

The telephone is invented. Distance seems to melt away. Everyone, everywhere is accessible.

Video is invented. Everywhere a camera can go is here, right now.

The internet is invented. Cellphones are invented. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google. Everything, everywhere is now. Everything is electronic. The idea of waiting for something is an anachronism.

And you don’t see it. You’re swimming in a sea of all this change and of course you don’t notice the water.

But it’s there. The internet has changed your expectations, changed your perception about the nature of things.

We are entering the eternal now.

There will be no past, soon. It’s all there. The chronicles of your and everyone else’s life available, like everything else, instantaneously. Film, music, writing, journalism, participation, anything that can be reduced to bits will be reduced to bits and will be available at your fingertips now. Now.

And so there will be no future. The idea of waiting for something, instead of being an integral part of the human experience, will be a problem. If you are waiting for something, it’s because something somewhere is broken. Like when a website doesn’t load: You don’t sit back and say “well, that’s just a part of life!”. You think, “something is broken”. This will extend from the internet to every part of life. Waiting will be engrained on your mind as a function of something being broken. Waiting is something needs to be fixed.

I’m not a digital native, not really. I grew up in a world where the fax machine was the pinnacle of human information transfer technology.

Even still, using a fax machine is an unbearable experience now. It’s frustrating. Listening to a machine negotiating with another machine and being able to see a piece of paper being sucked into the machine is annoying.

My friends who don’t participate in social media don’t seem real to me. They seem ephemeral, like ghosts. Having to wait until we’re face-to-face to interact? That’s frustrating. I want to talk to them now. I want to communicate in the now.

My mind, that tricky organ that keeps getting overwritten by innovation, doesn’t understand the idea that they will be around in the future. That’s not a time, that’s not a place. They are not participating in the eternal now, and my brain is telling me that they don’t exist. That they’re not there. And in a brain wired to find sadness in people not being there, I feel sad. They aren’t in the eternal now. They aren’t there. It’s a source of unconscious, unexplainable sadness.

So here’s the question: How has technology changed your mind? How do you react to the world now that you’re online 24/7? Look at the sea you swim in for a moment and ask, “How is it changing me?”

What are these Values you speak of?

Maybe it’s me, but when someone says “value”, it’s impossibly vague.

I get it, you want a short-cut to mean “things I agree with and I think we should teach our kids”. But what are these values, exactly? Where do they come from? What do they mean?

The shortcut doesn’t help you there. Especially when you’re talking to people who might not even agree with what your values are. You say values, you mean one thing, they think another thing.

Maybe we should all just throw out that world. Let it mean something about data and databases and command lines. Let the values fall where they may.

Instead, let’s talk about actual values. Concrete values. Individually, and not as a group. There are important concepts here that need discussing. Respect for human life. Whether the group or the individual takes precedence. How to respond to authority. And so on.

I know it’s easier to just say “values”. It’s a wink and a nod. It’s code. But remember, we don’t all speak in the same code. In my social circle there may be a person who believes (sidenote: this person is wrong) that capital punishment is a good idea, and another person who believes that it is a crime on the level of aborting a child. They both talk about “values”. They both talk about how they wish to safeguard human life. They both speak the same language, but they mean very different things.

You may find when you define your terms that a lot of people pop out of the woodwork (suddenly, to your mind) who disagree with you. (You probably, on some level, already know this; this is one reason you use the code.) But then, this is healthy. Diversity breeds strength. Mono-cultures are fragile. Group-think that tolerates no divergence is brutality.

We need our conservatives, our liberals, our democrats, our socialists. We need different moral and political values. We need to remember that if there is one right way to live, we need the conversation in order to get there.

Tablet computing

Tablets remove the meditative input devices from between us and our gadgets. That is to say we no longer have a keyboard and a mouse as such. This is a blessing and a curse: The most revolutionary text input solution we’ve come up with is to re-create the hardware keyboard as a software keyboard. This isn’t revolutionary or even revolutionary. This is backwards.

The soft keyboard is less useful than a hard keyboard. There’s a backwards step (and a large one) in usability there. And the only reason it exists is because no-one will think outside of that box. Certainly there must be a better way. One day when we’ve removed the entire computing experience from the realm of hardware (no keyboard, no mouse, and no screen as such) we’ll have to figure out something better than simply moving the keyboard to a new medium. Might as well start now.

Tablet computing is more approachable but less useful. At once more and less tactile. They are the cradle of computing. But perhaps one can not stay in the cradle forever.