... because life's too short to do anything ALL the time . Creativity and positivity are my "hiraeth"

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Digital Human

One may have noticed by now that I am indeed a big fan of BBC Radio 4.

I have 2 goals in life, one is to do Judy Dench's make up, the other is to present Woman's Hour.

I love this series by the glorious Radio 4 Digital Human. Does make my blog post seem a bit crap though.

When we started discussing this topic in our lecture we tried to establish what being just a human is. And we couldn't manage to come up with a lot. Well we did, but what we did come up with could be argued against - on just about every point.

From Wikipedia:
"Humans are distinguished from other primates by their bipedal locomotion, and especially by their relatively larger brain with its particularly well developed neocortexprefrontal cortex and temporal lobes, which enable high levels of abstract reasoninglanguageproblem solving, and culture through social learning. Humans use tools to a much higher degree than any other animal, and are the only extant species known to build fires and cook their food, as well as the only known species to clothe themselves and create and use numerous other technologies and arts."

"Humans are uniquely adept at utilizing systems of symbolic communication such as language and art for self-expression, the exchange of ideas, and organization. Humans create complex social structures composed of many cooperating and competing groups, from families and kinship networks to statesSocial interactions between humans have established an extremely wide variety of values, social norms, and rituals, which together form the basis of human society. The human desire to understand and influence their environment, and explain and manipulate phenomena, has been the foundation for the development of sciencephilosophymythology, and religion."

Some of these characteristics are not exclusively human. Primates share so many characteristics, as do family pets that take on human characteristics (controversial - I'm dog obsessed) through living as part of our families.

So a digital technology and it's effect on the human is only going to be a good thing, seeing as it's been created as a tool for humans, by humans?

Part of human nature is to be lazy, (the tiny amount of reading I have done on human evolution tells us that it's so that we can reserve our energy for chasing animals so that we can eat them) and also to take things for granted. We all do this all day every day as we have the power to affect our environments. I can't imagine giraffes "taking things for granted". They merely work with what they have and respond to the environment they live in. They are natives, responsive. The digital age hasn't reached the giraffe population.

But our generation (define generation?) are not natives to the digital era. We are "digital immigrants". We remember how society functioned before we had all these incredible tools available to us. Within the next 20 years, realistically, most media professionals and professionals in general, will be digital natives and they'll be writing blogs (if they still exist) about what it must have been like to live before the World Wide Web.

Or will they?

To me, one of the most useful and valuable aspects of the way that content is created and stored, we have a running social commentary of the entire time the WWW has been in existence,  and social media has brought so much information into it form so many "unofficial " sources that we have an almost infinite supply of information about what it is to be human and alive during the time the internet and computing as a whole, and for some time before.

One of my favourite quotes about technology is that in order to get man to the moon, the Americans used the computing power that is the equivalent of 1/6 of the power of the technology contained in our chip and pin cards. That's one hell of a statistic and it was years ago I heard it so it could be hideously outdated.

There are actually loads of articles about this but I do not understand most of it as my tech knowledge is limited, to say the very least. 

This one's quite good: Comparing the Apollo Guidance Computer to an IBM PC XT So in a nutshell, there's a lot of information out there. 

An awful lot of people both on and off TV (you know, that thing we all used to sit around and watch the Dukes of Hazard) spend a tremendous portion of their lives, time and energy researching what it was like to be alive in days gone by. We don't have to do that any more. Documenting social history is one of the most important aspects of social media, and media as a whole. To me, anyway.

So what do we mean by "digital immigrants"? Simple. People who know what it is like to live both in and before the digital revolution. And "digital natives"? People who have been born into the digital revolution. They know no different. Whilst relatively obvious and simple a concept, the repercussions and implications are huge when you think about human adaptability and being affected by the environment.

I often think to myself when using one of the many appliances we have readily available to us (mainly the dishwasher and washing machine) "how on earth did people cope before washing machines were available?". I then berate myself for being reliant on this technology when I remember my Grandmother hand washing smalls in the sink, every single day. But life was very different then. The demands were different (she didn't work) the expectations were different (child, teenager, work a few years, marry, have children, retire) and the world was a very different size (as big as the life they lead, no bigger, no need). 

Even as a child, the impact of global society was having an effect. I grew up with Michael Jackson, the Brat Pack, Freddie Kruger on TV, video, magazines, cinema. It encompassed growing up life at 10 years old and then when a group of pop and rock stars get together to create a worldwide simultaneous concert flying people across the globe and coming together globally for the greater good - as a child it's more difficult to be unaware that global society exists. Up until that point in time, in order to integrate with the global community, one had to work quite hard to seek it out. Before this, of course, the Americas had a massive influence, it just took much, much longer to filter across. We were on different sides of the world. We're not now. Not really. 

You couldn't simply share a silly picture with somewhere in Sierra Leone. I could do that right now if I wanted - I probably have at some point today without even knowing it. 

One of the arguments against social media that we hear all the time is that it creates seclusion. Episode 1 of the Digital Human podcast Adaption discusses and illustrates both sides of this argument beautifully. 

One of the subjects is a blogger. A fashion and beauty blogger. A very good one. It turns out that she has agoraphobia. The argument is used that modern technology is facilitating this mental disorder - allowing her to be successful in her field without forcing her into social interaction. She eloquently explains that the technology has allowed her to gently and safely build her confidence and push her boundaries to the point that she's now able to go out of her front door. Not very far, but out never the less.

And anyway, hermits have existed in caves since the dawn of time. Does that mean they have no right to participate in society in whatever way they are able?

When I started writing this blog I found it quite difficult to get going. I can honestly say I could talk about this all night. But I won't, you'll be pleased to hear. Not JUST because I'm currently listening to a podcast about the effect of technological light on the hypothalamus  in the night time.

The people that seem to be finding the digital revolution the hardest are a new category that I've created. "Digital Illegal Immigrants". The guys who are reluctantly trying to get a tiny handle on technology simply because they have to and not because they want to. I do think it must be very hard as it's difficult enough for an immigrant of average intelligence and a keen desire. When the TV analogue signal got turned off, I was a care worker. Not every person I cared for had someone to set up their digital switchover for them. Several people that night were left without their only company other than 15 minutes with me as a result. For some, this lasted days and caused great confusion. That's not good. 

All in the name of progress. Reminds me of a sickly sweet ride at Disney World that shows the "wheel of progress" (I think that's what it's called)

I loved this! And "It's a Small World" too, obv.

I think we're in an age of massive change and rules and procedures we've followed for generations are becoming obsolete. Well, not obsolete, just changing. A lot.

Some of the other arguments against the digital revolution are unknown dangers, stranger dangers, unwanted attention and information theft.

Well, the way I see it, there have always been unknown dangers. They key is in the name. Strangers have been lurking behind trees and posing as others for hundreds of years. People have been subject to unwanted attention since they've been subject to attention and information theft has existed since information existed.

The dangers and the negatives are still the same - they just present in different ways. In the future, children will be taught how to cross the information super highway at the same time as Tufty has taught them how to cross the road. Information security will improve at the same speed as it did when money came into existence and people realised that keeping it under the mattress wasn't the best place to keep it.

Same, just different.

Friday, 17 January 2014

The Future of the Web

Since we last spoke (yes, yes, yes, it was a while ago) I've been given a task. Homework, if you will.

As part of my Foundation Degree in Social Media (year 2 now I am) I have to do LOADS of coursework. It feels like loads anyway. And I'm using my blog to facilitate one of my pieces. Hope one doesn't mind.

So, what do I have to do? Write a blog, obv.

What about? The future of the 'net.

So here goes:

I find it quite hard to imagine what the future will bring as far as the internet goes as it has already surpassed anything I could imagine before. If some one had told me 20 years ago that you could keep your entire and infinite collection of music in a cloud I'd have had them sectioned.

I think the buzz word of the future will be "integration". It really already is but I think it will quickly progress to new ways of interaction. We've seen the shift away from the search engine and towards the app already and I think there's more of that to come. Up until recently we accessed the internet via a computer screen, now the vast majority is done via smart phone. And a lot through an app rather than Google. There are already refrigerators that are connected to her Majesty's interweb so that we never run out of milk or Yakkult. I think that's how it's going to be. Less "screen based" more appliance lead and integrated into everything.

I can't begin to think how a washing machine might benefit from connectivity other than the reordering of detergent - although having said that it could be possible to set it to work via your smart phone to ensure your precious cream slacks don't have to lie creased up in a drum for a moment longer than they need to.

In my kitchen, I have a beautiful "old" analogue Roberts radio that I use all day every day. If I'm not listening to it then my dogs are.

My daughter and her boyfriend were in the kitchen; it was the first time he'd been to the house and he was fascinated by it's appearance and the fact that it has chunky buttons you need to push in and dials to turn. She, however had never batted an eyelid at it up until now.

He's examining the FM/MW/LW buttons etc. and turns it over. Baffled by the luggage tag of frequencies, he says to her (they think I can't hear) "so how does it work then?" "No idea" she says. "I don't even know how it's connected to the internet."

True story. I think that's a little insight into the future. Everything will have connectivity.

Google glasses are quite topical at the moment and I enjoyed the fact that the new BBC Sherlock 3 parter's ultimate "baddie" was utilising a version of said glasses. Whether they'll be anything like he was using, who knows. But they're going to happen for the average Joe, not just tech wizards and the mega-wealthy. I can't see how, but then I didn't see satnav coming. I dreamed about it; but not being a technical whizz, I wasn't aware that it could possibly be even likely.

Cloud technology has to improve I believe mainly due to the phenomenal and infinite barrage of information constantly being added to the already phenomenal and infinite barrage of information that exists. I think that the inconvenience of storing things in hard format, be that on a disk, hard drive, pen drive is something that will soon end and we'll all be able to access all our information anywhere we need to. I know that services like "take me to my pc" have existed for years through Citrix I think but I think it will quickly become a given. No more putting of hard drives in the freezer to repair them. Has that ever worked?

Passwords. They're on borrowed time really aren't they. And good riddance to them too. There are currently supercomputers capable of using algorithms that can generate something like 39,000 password guesses per second. "Special characters" don't stand a chance against that. I listened to a really interesting programme about passwords on Radio 4 yesterday.

Invalid Password: The Password, the History of Failure

Medical technology is the area I think we see a lot of "miracles". Think MRI scans and ultrasound. Already there's 4D capability with neo-natal ultrasound and  this will quickly become usual I think. I think that once technology proves a significant financial benefit to the NHS we'll see uptake of devices and equipment that monitors constantly, rather than having to get a GP or Nurse appointment for a test. Blood pressure monitors, blood sugar monitors, that sort of thing. People will be able to go home from hospital sooner knowing that they are being monitored constantly and because of web connectivity the results can be calculated and presented in real time. Infection rates will be down and care costs with it. This should free up resources and THEORETICALLY improve care standards, I would say.

Also medical apps. My best friend has severe Diaphragmatic Endometriosis and she uses an app to collect, monitor and manage her symptoms so that she can present her surgeon with a comprehensive and accurate representation of her current and recent states. This is now acceptable to forward thinking consultants and medical leaders.

We have auto complete and "you may like" suggestions and code designed to funnel information down to us, I think this will really take on a new life. I think in the future, the web is going to be whatever we want it to be, based on our usage, preferences, history, personal information and web content so much so that we will see it as almost being psychic. Everyone will have their own agenda, appearance and ability to access more readily the bits that really are of most interest to us. Glad I'm not writing the code for it.

There are some (me) who are looking forward to the adaptations and revolutions that the internet will no doubt go through in the near future. The same generally that anticipate it changing and enhancing their lives, allowing them to free up time from mundanities in order to spend our precious time on more meaningful activity (candy crush). But there are those (mostly Hollywood screenplay writers) who envisage a much darker outcome.

The whole "machines taking over the world" theory. I don't know if it's naive of me to think that a human will always need to programme the machines that take over the world, but, what can I say? I'm a glass half full kinda girl.