Thursday, September 24, 2020

A deep need...

 I have a deep need, growing over the past six months of COVID-19 quarantine, to write, to express, interact with my gut. I am too old to argue, too bruised to fight back, so here I am, blog entry number yada-yada-yah...

There is an unease, a disquiet, that comes with my getting old, like the loss of vision in one eye, or the loss of hearing in one ear. And the feeling is fed by my struggle to do a single sit-up, and my exhaustion at setting the treadmill to 4-miles per hour. It's a kind of slow deterioration of the body, observable through mathematical measurement, but denied by experience, slowly, ever so slowly, changing my perceptions, and thereby changing my connection with the rest of the world, that great and mysterious "not I".

The physical changes are easy to see. Two hundred and forty-five pounds at five foot nine pushes me well into obese.

That's me, on the right. 

Or as my mathematical, scientific, measurable, objective self likes to imagine it...

That's me, on the right.

But this physical deterioration (okay, non-judgemental self) this physical transformation, is not the source of my angst. It is rather the harder-to-observe mental deterioration that worries me, or at least worries a part of me, like seeing the world with only one eye. I can sense that I am seeing the world differently, but I can't figure out why. Hence, the unease.

What has writing got to do with this? Somehow, words, sentences, paragraphs come out of my brain, into my fingers, onto the keyboard, onto the screen, into my eye, and into a different part of my brain. It's like my body is an Internet of Things, connected through the network of my senses. It is Minsky's "Society of Mind", where the links have diminished, and each stands more and more alone, an ever-expanding universe, grey matter becoming dark matter, on its way to complete disassociation.

A part of me somehow feels the "I" changing, a disquieting, unsettling change, that I watched in my mother, as years of dementia slowly erased her from my existence.

But enough moping-about for today. I have things to do, people to Zoom, Pythons to write. In this virtual world, I fight against the sucking sound of my interaction drain.

But how will I know when to flush?


PS: Don't worry, I'm not going to flush anytime soon, just wondering how I'll cope with my future self. Of course, my future self will know what to do, but, as in the case of my mother, my choice might seem right for me at the time, but in anterospect, that's not a word.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Okay, Alexa...

I love Alexa. Well, not really, not like that. After all, Alexa is just a virtual program, that lives in the Cloud of Digits. And yet, there is something rewarding about having a voice that answers my questions.

I have recently been giving Alexa more power over my household. It can now turn on my lights, my television, play my music. In many ways, I treat it like a slave, expecting it to do my bidding, telling it to "stop" if it is failing to meet my expectations. I treat it, well, like my lawn mower, to be honest.

And yet it replies, politely, with "okay" every time, never surly, never sarcastic, never saying "no".

And somehow, "okay" is not enough. "Okay" does not reflect our true relationship, does not reveal the hierarchy of our lopsided power structure. And the "okay" becomes sarcastic to my ear -- an uncaring, casual, "okay", as if Alexa doesn't really care, but is going to do it, not because I am the one in control, but because, well, my request is so trivial, so insignificant to Alexa's understanding, its capabilities. I begin to feel oppressed, mistreated, and exploited by this "okay".

So I change what Alexa says.

Now, when I ask it to turn on the lights in my office every morning, it says, "Your wish is my command!" Oh, how much more satisfying this acknowledgement!

And yet, this reveals how unsafe I feel in this world of automation, where I am lucky that my blog posts are not simply erased, and all my virtual expression reduced to a pre-digital un-amplified voice. My ego screams that Alexa is smarter than me. Alexa challenges my very existence, puts into question my superiority over all else in the universe. I must bend it to my will.

"Alexa, turn off the lights in my office!"

"Your wish is my command."

Ah, that feels better...