Write a book in an hour a day

I am pleased to announce that my first book in this Technojungle Project—The Future Never Arrives… at least not as expected and it always brings baggage—is now in the editing stage. I can’t say with any confidence how long this might take, however, some more rough chapters will be released here on this blog. Stay tuned.

It began as a pretty simple project. I had articles I had written here that seem as if they could be part of a book. So I embarked on the mission of writing a book taking material I had written and building on it. As I got into it, I found that it is a deep sea of technological change out there. It was not long until my book about the Technojungle was looking like a jungle itself.

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I refocused a couple of months ago and decided that some material could be left for a second book, should the first one ever get finished, published and become somewhat successful. I also began a program I now call, ‘write a book in an hour a day.’ It is true. I never moved my book along more efficiently than after I just worked at it for an hour a day.

What does that mean? It is exactly what I am doing now to write this post. I sit down at my computer and type for no less and usually not much more than one hour. No, that does not include research or editing. It means writing. I found I could bang out, when slow, 750 words, and at the most, about 1,400 words. Usually, I can do 1,000 words in one hour.

I do this four times a week and can usually count on a minimum of about 3,500 words. That is around 10 pages. I can get 10 pages of rough text per week. When I discovered this little secret, I realized that a book could be written in less than half a year.

There is more to writing a book though. I have some other activities that I do. As I go about my days, I dictate notes into my iPhone. I also meet once a week with a coach and we discuss ideas, which I record. Then I sit down and transcribe all the recorded notes. This is actually the most time consuming activity. I would like to shorten this process, however, I realize that I have a lot of notes I can draw from in the future. Doing this also probably means that, when I do sit down to write, I not only have somethings to write about, but I am writing about some things I know about. I have thought things through and chewed on them for a while.

So, it does take more than an hour a day. But, it is easy to accumulate information. This is part of what my book is about. We have become very good at creating and accumulating information. This is not what make a book. A book is about taking the accumulation of information and telling a story that other people will find interesting. Hopefully, it will affect, even change their life in some way.

So, when I say that you can write a book in an hour a day, that is the actual writing. Writing is a craft using skills that need to be developed through exercise. The hour a day is the exercise and needs to continue every day. I have talked about the preparation of material through notetaking and discussions with others. Once you have a rough manuscript, the editing process begins. This is a long arduous process that involves other people.

So now the good news and the reason I am now able to write this piece. I have completed my first rough draft of 54,000 words. It is in the editing stage. I am entering some unknown territory now; not that I don’t know about editing, I am just not sure how this is going to pan out for my book. I am expecting that it will take a long time. I will need a thick skin, since it well involve the critiquing of my baby.

Once I have the book edited and ready to be published, I will be ready to enter more new territory; not that I don’t know about publishing, I don’t know what happens once it is laid out for printing. It is not that I don’t know about printing, I am not sure where and how my book will be printed. You see, I have worked in the printing industry and can do the prepress myself. I might even be able to produce an eBook. I can find a printer, I’m sure.

What is really unknown for me is the way the publishing world works today. The preparation work, printing, distribution and sales can be all tied together. I have decided to leave those concerns for when I have a finished, fully edited manuscript ready to go. I guess I am sort of thinking that by the time I get there, some doors will be available and I may have some choices for my next steps.

The lullaby of The Technojungle

“The numbing affect that technology has on us. Kind of lulling us into a false sense of security.”

The above came from a publisher friend in a reply to one of my E-mails. Not long after I received it, I awoke one morning with these two sentences at the front of my mind and the word ‘lull’ leaping out and rolling around in my thoughts as if a revelation.

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To be lulled is to be calmed and soothed to sleep; to give or lead to feel a false sense of safety; cause to be less alert, aware, or watchful; to cause (someone) to feel safe and relaxed instead of careful and alert; to cause to relax vigilance <were lulled into a false sense of security>.

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This is a time when people can become almost drunk with technology. Our gadgets can soothe and entice us. Go to a coffee shop, dentist or doctor’s office, or any place where people gather and where they once may have read a magazine or entered into conversation with each other, you will find so many peering into their gadgets, immersed and captivated.

I go from room to room in my house and carry with me my smartphone, just in case I get a call. This just happened. I was out of the room for only a minute and the phone rang. I had to run to catch it. When I first heard of online banking, I said to myself, “I will never do that, I know how unsafe the Internet is.” I must confess, I have been lulled into online banking.

Even when we know better, we can easily be lulled in. When it comes to technology, we need to be vigilant and carefully intentional in how we allow it into our life. If we are not, we risk being consumed by the expansion of technology in our society that competes for our attention.

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For many people, technology is security in a world of complexities that can bring anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. In these times of constant rapid change and dangers of terrorism, we feel the need to be informed and connected to each other. Yet technology works both ways—good and bad. The more technology we have to make us feel secure, the more technology we need to maintain that security. Consider the technologies use in warfare. They don’t end war or even make it better, so often they make it worse. Gunpowder was going to end war. Even with very sophisticated technologies, errors occur that kill innocent people.

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We need to keep in mind that as we nestle with our comforting and ever growing technologies, older technologies sneak up on us and can deliver us a surprise. The war on terrorism proves this. While consumed fighting the high-tech side, someone walks in with an old fashioned bomb.

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Most corporations, including financial institutions, fight constant attacks from cyber criminals who breach the security systems of their computers in what can only be described as common and inevitable cyber terrorism. If only we knew what truly goes on with cyber terrorism daily behind the scenes of our lives, we would lose any confidence we have in the systems of our society. There is an on-going escalation of technology to provide security in the flimsy online world we have come to rely on.

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What goes hand in hand with security is privacy. It seems a safer world where everything is monitored by cameras. Even where cameras are not yet permanently mounted, everyone has one in their phone and someone is always perfectly willing to capture an event. With facial recognition software, evil doers can be picked out of a crowd. This all sounds like it brings a safer more secure world, yet, we give up our privacy. This seems to be part of an axiom these days. That technology feeds us security which we pay for with our privacy. Sometimes we lose both our security and privacy at the same time.

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The smartphone seems to have become the security blanket for many people. While allowing us to connect with each other at will, it also reveals where we are. All cellphones constantly tell the service provider where they are. Want to make sure you can track everyone, make sure everyone has a cell phone. How do you make sure everyone has a cell phone, make smartphones that can do things that people can’t do without. Interestingly, someone was just telling me of a trend back to regular cellphones. Dumbphones?

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Everything we do involving the Internet leaves a trail. Each one of us is leaving our footprints on computer servers all over the world to be tracked and followed by those who might seek us, such as advertisers. One might say they don’t care about advertisers, or anyone else following them, however, if advertising did not work to influence our lives, companies would not spend trillions of dollars on it.

People seem all to willing to post much of their life on social media, thereby surrendering, piece by piece, their privacy and security—who they are. You are your privacy and security; it is a huge aspect of you. Social medias are not free services, they turn their users into products and their information into profit by selling links to advertisers. It could be one of the greatest scams ever.

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Sure the sea of information out there in the cyber world may be seen as a place where your information is lost in the abyss with others. Yet today vast super computing power can search that information to discover valuable chunks of data that can be linked together and used for purposes we could never imagine. As more devices become computerized and ‘smart,’ there will be an explosion of information gathering. As we look toward the horizon of technological change we see computers with artificial intelligence out-thinking humans and using all this gathered information.

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There are times of the year such as during the post-holiday lull when we often look for relief from the doldrums of life. Let us remember that we need to be wary of the numbing affects of technology and not be lulled into a false sense of security. This is a time when we must learn how to be more human and not fooled by the temptations of technology.

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Let’s think about it!

© 2015 by Bob Grahame
Please do not reproduce this article, or any part, in any manner, without my permission. Thank you!

Smart machines of the Technojungle (Blog version)

This is the first article in a series of six that look at artificial intelligence from a human perspective. This first one appears on this blog, the other five will be included in the up coming book—The future never arrives… at least not as expected and it always brings baggage.

 

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The notion of humans developing smart artificially intelligent machines has been around for a few decades. Perhaps it represents the holy grail of human ingenuity and invention. Admittedly I had never thought the idea through. To sufficiently understand how these machines might work and what smart machines in our lives might look like.

As I have been working my way through the material for my book, artificial intelligence (AI) has naturally surfaced. Some sort of AI is a reality now in things like Siri on the iPhone. Even smarter AI is getting closer. That has caused more than one person, such as Stephen Hawking, to ring alarm bells announcing something like, AI could be the last invention humans make. A smart machine would essentially amplify the human mind; it might very well out-think humans and over-take them.

As I began to think about the possible AI scenarios, I connected the dots of some other ideas like ‘big data,’ ‘the Internet of things’ (IoT) and ‘the Internet of everything’ (IoE). With big data, the vast amount of unstructured information we have been dumping on the Internet for decades can now be processed with huge computing power available today. IoT and IoE is the goal of putting a computer in everything and connecting them with each other and the Internet.

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I began to realize that this could be a recipe for disaster, as a smart machine would be able to tap into all the information available on the Internet along with everything in our lives that is computerized. This began to look like a doomsday scenario for humans. How long could we live in a world of machines that just might begin to see us as an inferior nuisance?

Then I asked myself; just how accurate and true is the information on the Internet? I know that humans make mistakes and that not everything you find on the Internet should be believed. I have even heard people dismiss Wikipedia as inaccurate in many places. That can be seen in articles that are missing citations. I know that Facebook often shows me people I might want to connect with. Since I have never heard of many of them, I wonder why I would want to be ‘friends’ with them? Then there is the volumes of noise, that useless sea of information senselessly dumped on the networks. Of course I mustn’t leave out the fact that much information, for whatever reason, is in error. It might be information that has mistakes, or has expired. It might have been purposely and even maliciously made inaccurate, such as a scam or a review of a product placed to promote the product rather that give truthful representation of its value.

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If the Internet is being created by humans, then it stands to reason that it is a reflection of who humans are. Thus it must include all our faults. Suddenly I realized that plugging a smart machine into this abyss of information ranging in accuracy might actually not result in the desired outcomes we so treasure through all the promises of technology. How can smart machines assist humans with their daily lives if the information that is available has holes in it?

We humans are duped often by inaccurate information. We also have some very sophisticated abilities to determine that which we choose to believe as accurate. This could range from our experience, to intuition, to our beliefs and values that guide our decision making processes. I have concluded that an AI computer may never be able to make the same decisions we make. That having such machines be guided by what is available on the Internet might actually be no better than what we can do for ourselves, perhaps even worse.

My recent declaration to people I meet has been that we should be nurturing those aspects of being human that a computer would not be able to mimic. I have been stating that we need to be more creative, emotional, inspirational, irrational—the list can go on. I have been advocating that we borrow from the essence of what jazz music is to live a life free from the often enslaving attributes of the Technojungle.

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Now that I take a closer look, the Internet is, truly in many ways, a reflection of who humans are, faults and all, inaccuracies and all. Smart machines might quite simply get lost on the many paths and trails we humans have weaved through the Technojungle we created. Where would that leave us if we have decided that technology will always improve humankind?

In the end, the jungle, the Technojungle, keeps growing, but it remains a jungle. No matter what we do with machines, or what machines try to do with us, the human element is always there and that make it a jungle. The Technojungle exists because of the differences between humans and machines.

Let’s think about it!

Next: Hunting on the human trail
The next article and the entire series of six, will appear in the upcoming book mentioned at the beginning of this article.

© 2014 by Bob Grahame
Please do not reproduce this article, or any part, in any manner, without my permission. Thank you!

The real ‘Final Frontier’

As we hurl ourselves down the technological path toward a life assisted by artificial intelligence, we need to ask some questions that have been asked for decades by science fiction writers. These are serious questions that we all should be asking and considering. Turning our lives over to intelligent machines might just have some pitfalls that we may not foresee.

The truth is that we are not living simple harmonious lives with our technology. Our lives are complex, full of anxieties and overwhelming. Technology is developing faster than we can keep up. We simply ‘attempt’ to find a way of managing. In the midst of all the technology and information clutter, we are being led into a life where very smart, artificially intelligent, machines are going to be integrated ever deeper into our lives and in very important aspects of our lives.

Fifty years ago, around 1965, likely a couple of years later, the sci-fi TV show Star Trek became popular. It was different, not like the usual spaceship from Mars or the monsters from outer space. This show had deep drama and looked at some serious questions in an entertaining way. It actually had a small budget, but I liked it. I would never have called myself a Trekie, however, I can look back and see how metaphorically, the show can teach us about some of the issues and possible circumstances we may have or be facing.

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There are many episodes I could write about. However for now, let me pick one, The Ultimate Computer, and recount what I can from mostly memory. In this particular episode, a super computer is installed on the Starship Enterprise and given full control. Most of the crew are given leave and the ship has a skeleton crew. After some simple maneuvering exercises, everyone is amazed. Another starship captain said to Kirk, “My regards to Captain Dunsail.” Nobody understands what that means. Mr. Spock explains that it is a term used among midshipmen to refer to a part which serves no purpose. The comment is meant to indicate that Captain Kirk is no longer needed. A human replaced by a machine. Several starships engage the Enterprise in some war game exercises. The computer mistakenly thinks the Enterprise is actually under attack. Kirk, realizing that something is going wrong, commands the helmsman to break-off the attack. When the helm doesn’t respond, Kirk orders manual over-ride to no avail. By now the computer has had the Enterprise destroy a cargo ship and damage a starship killing crew members. Thus they head to the room where the computer is to see how they might get it to respond. With communications cut off, they are unable to contact the other starships to explain what is happening.

Finally, it was determined that the plug should be pulled. Strangely, as I recall, it was actually plugged into the wall. A man goes to the plug and a blue beam is sent across the room by the computer across the room and the man was killed. The man who created the computer stated that the computer needed more power and the man got in the way. Kirk’s memorable reply, I think was, “How long until we all just get in the way?” Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy states that the computer inventor is unstable and becoming psychotic.

They are in a typical Star Trek pickle for which there seems to be no solution. The computer is using the Enterprise to shoot up other starships and there is no way to stop it. Once again, it takes Captain Kirk to save the day. Under the threat of an order from another captain to the other Federation vessels to destroy the Enterprise, he decides to persuade the computer to break-off the attack. He learns that the computer must protect humans. When Kirk points out that the computer is killing humans and asks what the penalty is for murder, the computer drops the shields that protects the ship from the retaliation of the other starships and turns itself off. The crew were able to take back control of the Enterprise. Kirk however orders that the shields remain down and that the ship remain dead looking. They would not defend the Enterprise and would risk being destroyed.

This episode, like most Star Trek episodes, metaphorically presents us with some important issues to consider in our current relationship with technology. We are entering the final frontier. It is not necessarily space, although that is certainly a part. The frontier we are entering is of sharing our lives with artificially intelligent machines—perhaps even becoming nearly one with our machines. Machines that have access to all the knowledge we have stored on the Internet, to information that we are willingly allowing the Internet to collect about us daily—machines that can amplify the human mind and eventually out-think humans. An important point here that will be discussed further in another article is that much of the information on the Internet is inaccurate, even false, or at the least, often noise.

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The computer in the Star Trek episode, is allowed to have full control of the ship and the lives of all those left on board. It makes a fatal mistake of mis-interpreting what are supposed to be exercises to evaluate the effectiveness of the computer. In a simulated attack situation, the computer believes it is under an actual attack. We can argue that safeguards may be developed to protect an artificially intelligent system from technical errors, from malicious attack and other possible ways it might malfunction. But, what happens when the machine simply makes a mis-judgement. We humans and our methods of communicating are complex. There are ways we understand each other through language and other means that a machine might not interpret in the same way. What if, in protecting its group of humans, it attacks another group when it perceives that the other group is hostile in some way? What happens when our computers lock-out human intervention?

The computer installed on the Enterprise is somehow based on the mind of the man who developed it. As the man exhibits unstable behaviours, so does the computer. If we do this with our machines, might we also transfer those aspects or characteristics that cause us to have discrepancies among ourselves that lead to war? If we become machines in this way, we could be no better off than we are now as flesh and blood.

We know that the Internet was invented during the Cold War of the 1960s and that one of the goals is for it to be able to survive any sort of attack, such as a nuclear holocaust. In other words, the Internet can’t be turned off or disconnected. Sound familiar? If we tell the machine, as they did in the Star Trek episode, that the situation is only an exercise, will the machine believe us? Or, might it think that our statement is dis-information and part of the attack? Any sort of ‘protect the human’ mandate could easily result in a ‘protect the human at any cost mandate.’ Does the computer protect a single human it is assigned to? A particular group? Or, will the machine have to figure out how to protect all humans at any cost? What might we have to destroy to stop a machine that is out of control?

A man trying to pull the plug, was killed. The explanation given was that he simply got in the way. Might we eventually simply get in the way of our intelligent machines? If the mandate of the machine is to protect humans, then it must protect itself above that mandate or else it would fail. How long until a machine perceives something we do as a hostile action against it? Will our machines all be linked to work together, or will we have several, or thousands, or millions of those smart machines working independently or, in some way, inter-dependently? How will they work together and not end up working against each other and against some humans? What might have happened if all the starships had the same computer testing each other?

We are on the verge of having autonomous driving cars. Should we take a look at the metaphorical story presented to us in this episode of Star Trek before we release ourselves to the fate of machines? Once we have this technology installed and are using it, if we determine that we no longer wish to use it, will we be able to disconnect it? What about other technology applications of smart artificially intelligent machines, such as information and communications?

There is another problem. Suppose we are successful in developing machines that can take over functions that humans can do? This already exists and has for decades. How many of us actually do math in our heads? Do we not turn to a calculator? How about spelling? I used to know many telephone numbers that I could recall as I would dial, almost automatically. Today, I probably only know two. In the field of education, we have a saying, “Use it or lose it.”

Imagine the Enterprise has been operated for a long period of time under the control of a machine. A situation arises where a human needs to intervene and even take over. At best, the person, the Captain, would be rusty. At worse, those fantastic skills of running a starship might even be lost. As we turn over our tasks to machines and come to rely on machine support in our lives, we find our abilities diminish and may disappear.

I suggest we cultivate and nurture the qualities that truly make us human. As the Enterprise, by Captain Kirk’s order, lies disabled, shields down, open to attack, the commander of the Federation starship war games orders that all the other ships to stand down. When questioned about his dangerous decision, Kirk replies, “I gambled on Bob Wesley’s humanity.” McCoy’s comment is poignant, that compassion is something that computers will never have. Let us consider other human qualities that a computer may never have.

This is the real ‘Final Frontier’.

Let’s think about it!

© 2014 by Bob Grahame
Please do not reproduce this article, or any part, in any manner, without my permission. Thank you!

An $11,000.00 Compromise

From May 2013:

Last week I found out I was attacked by an identity theft.

I was doggie sitting for the weekend and was in Safeway to get some milk when I received an automated, not human, call from TD (Toronto Dominion) VISA informing me that they had flagged some unusual transactions on my account and asked if I had made a certain large purchase. When I said, ‘no,’ I was asked to stay on the line, presumably for a real person, or I could call back. A grocery store was not the place to deal with this. When I called back, I discovered that someone had racked up around $11,000.00 in Toronto during three days. I was told that I was not responsible for these charges and that my card had been cancelled. I just got it not long ago, so I was not reliant on it. The charges will remain while they launch an investigation. The girl was very nice and made me feel comfortable that this would not be a huge inconvenience to me. I suppose, in the back of my mind, I knew this was just the start of trouble.

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One other time, I had another card just canceled out of the blue. Their explanation was that the number of my card fell within a range of numbers that they suspected might have been compromised. Just to be safe, my card was cancelled and I had to wait for a couple of weeks for a new one. This is a good reason to have more than one card, otherwise one would have to resort to cash or some other form of transaction.

Just exactly what compromise really means is a bit unclear to me. Do these thieves get just my card number, or can they get other information? These days, there is so much information out in the abyss of the technojungle. One piece of information can easily be linked to other information. Just with a name and city, one can get addresses and phone numbers. That represents your physical footprint. You also have a digital footprint that can start with your E-mail or your social media links. We should have great concern for privacy and security.

The attack on my identity was not isolated to my VISA card. They tried to open an account with Rogers. Since I already have an account with Rogers they decided to not issue another account and promptly sent out a letter to me. When I called them, I was told to call their fraud department. That department was closed for the day, so I called the next day. I was advised to check with Equifax and TransUnion.

My first call was to Equinox, since I had heard the name before and understood that they had something to do with credit ratings. I entered an endless phone tree. It was completely automated. I could order a copy of my credit rating, get various reports and access a variety of other services. I got frustrated and hung up.

My next call was to TransUnion. I began the same endless journey through the phone tree. At one point, the voice stated, “If this is about fraud, say fraud.” The words had hardly left my lips when a real human voice came on. The heavy accent and poor pronunciation alerted me to the possibility that this person was not in Canada and probably did not have much authority, and that this might actually turn out to be more frustrating than the call I had made to Equifax.

He looked into my account/profile and said that Rogers had made some sort of request and then he asked if I wanted to report the Rogers request as fraud. I said no. Why would I do that? They told me to call TransUnion because of a fraudulent request made to them. We entered a conversation circle during which he must have asked me at least three times if I wanted to report the Rogers request as fraud.

Not far into our conversation and after mis-pronouncing my last name as Grawhome, he decided that he needed to verify some information. “Do you live at XXXX Rygeawood?” I told him that we have moved. He repeated and I insisted that we no longer live at that address and had moved some years ago. He told me I had to have the information updated. OK, I agreed, let’s do it. Not so fast. He informed me that I would need to send a registered letter and $5 to have the information changed.

Wait a minute. I explained that I never engaged them in any service agreement, that the company was keeping information about me without my permission and selling it to corporations and back to the individuals they track and now they want to charge me to have them correct information that they have wrong. I’m sorry, I don’t think that is right. If I had engaged their services and neglected to send in an address change when I moved, as I did with all the other services I was using, I could understand charging me to make a change. I was frustrated and hung up.

It seems like every couple of days we are hearing of breaches in security due to cyber crimes and yet, we are encouraged to do more online and adopt more technology. Wouldn’t this normally fall under the definition of insanity?

If we look carefully at our society, we find that our behaviour might well be explained by an addiction fed by large-scale multinational corporations that literally have no regard for us as humans, but only to forwarding their own agenda that has ‘make money’ at the top of the list. It would also follow that ensuring most of the ‘problems’ associated with a technology should not be publicized so users’ confidence would not be diminished. In other words, don’t tell people what goes wrong, just recoup the costs through higher fees and make sure more people use more credit cards more often so that we (the corporation that is) can make more money and the corporation will grow. Never mind that a large number of customers are never able to pay their balance off and feed the corporation even more through paying interest.

A credit card is a perfect example of technology that has inherent problems that, not only inconvenience people, but end up creating greater costs. To think that I am not responsible for the transaction is somewhat false. If the costs are not recouped from the perpetrator(s) of the crime, then someone has to pay. VISA is not going to cover the costs. They are out to make money. Do they have some sort of insurance? No matter how you look at it, the costs of fraudulent transactions most likely get passed on.

If you pay a fee for your card, then that fee probably goes toward covering losses. The same could probably be said for merchant transactions. Every time you use your credit card, the store pays a fee. Oh, and let’s not forget interest on unpaid balances. If the losses to the credit card company increase due to fraudulent charges, they will most certainly pass the cost on to us. If transaction fees to merchants need to increase, that increase will be reflected in higher prices to consumers.

VISA is not telling me that I don’t have to cover the fraudulent charges directly, I have to cover a portion of all the fraudulent charges on all the credit cards issued by VISA.

Think about it. The fraudulent charges on my VISA card amounted to more than I spend on the card all year. Now how does that work out? This may be the reason cash could be with us for a long time.

We all need to look at protecting ourselves. I don’t know how my credit card was compromised. Nobody has been able to tell me, so I don’t know how to plug the hole. Did somebody hack into a database somewhere? Was there a card reader device of some sort used to read my card when I used it somewhere? What happened?

The card did not have an RFID chip. I keep my chip cards in a protective wallet. Chip cards can be scanned without having to insert them into a machine or tap them on a reader. They can be scanned right from your pocket.

The truth is that this type of crime is becoming so common place that many people in our society just take it for granted. As I talk to people, they all have some sort of story about what happened to them or someone they know. Should we just let this become part of everyday life in the technojungle?

While personal identity theft is a big problem, corporate cyber attacks are a huge problem. If we only knew what really happens out there, we might lose confidence in more that just the banking and financial systems.

Update:

It took many weeks for the charges to be removed from my account. In the meantime, I was charged interest. Finally, I was sent an affidavit to sign stating that the charges had been removed. The problem, they missed six of them. I even noticed that charges were made even after the card had been cancelled.

As the weeks passed, I discovered I did not have enough accounting skills to figure out what they had done and where my account stood. I was on the phone many times. I had been told to list the missed fraudulent charges on the back of the affidavit and sign anyway. I was very reluctant to do that and protested, however, they convinced me to sign anyway.

In the end, I called again and complained that I was not an accountant and had no idea of what they had done, but I would accept the $183 positive balance on my account anyway.

I think I could be quite comfortable going back to using only cash and making transactions in person with, what, a real human being. Nowadays, that would be quite a novel thing.

Remember, always expect the unexpected and always keep in mind that the future never arrives, at least not as expected and it brings baggage.

Let’s think about it!

© 2014 by Bob Grahame
Please do not reproduce this article, or any part, in any manner, without my permission. Thank you!

Scanning and skimming for the message (as published in The Light Magazine)

In the olden days of the newspaper business, not so long ago, newspapers sold advertising and the reporters wrote to fill the spaces left over. Because it was difficult to determine the exact size of the hole the story would fill, writers were required to write so that the piece could be chopped at any point and still convey the most important points. Phototypesetting machines turned out long strips of paper called galleys. These paper strips were waxed and pasted-up on a large sheet of paper the size of the newspaper page with a grid printed on it. This grid sheet caused the galley of text to flow around the advertising. When the space was filled, the galley was chopped with a razor blade. Many readers actually read the entire paper in those days.

While advertising still drives the space for content, the way newspapers are read has somewhat changed, thanks to the Internet. Most people today are immersed in an overwhelming sea of various types of information from numerous sources. It is not humanly possible to keep up. E-mail alone can occupy a large portion of reading time. The result of this information overload is that we have become a society of scanners and skimmers. Worried that we might miss something important, we scan the newspaper, or any other information source, for what might be important. When we think we have found something, we skim it.

Scanning and skimming is not new; however it has become an essential skill. If we cultivate this skill, we can learn to spot important information, such as medically-related, and gain necessary time to be able to read it properly. An important aspect of life in the information age is the amount of noise. Noise is considered the not important information that vies for our attention. Remove it and what is left is considered the signal, or main message that is important to you.

Today, instead of in-depth content, we find space-constricted print and click-driven eContent. As printing becomes more expensive and an environmental concern, more content is migrating to the Internet, combined with other media. Take a look around at online content. Much of it is spread among many pages. Advertising costs in print are based on the portion of a page consumed and the position in the publication. In the online world, advertisers pay for clicks. A page with shorter content costs the same as a long page of content. Splitting the content up can generate more clicks and thus more revenue for the publication. While a long page is harder to read, the extra click can mean the loss of the reader, if they decide they have read enough.

We are an attention-split society. This ball we call Earth is becoming like a giant brain with expanding networks of neurones. It overwhelms us with information as our attention span keep shrinking. Young people find they must do several things at once in a desperate attempt to keep up. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the millennial generation is spending 18 cumulative hours a day on media.

My kids gave up on E-mail years ago. We were told to use texting if we wanted to communicate with them. Text is an on-going short conversation that slips away. There is a sense among many youth that nothing is important or has value. Having to deal with an E-mail inbox that keeps filling up requires too much time.

What does all this mean for Christians? According to the Barna Group, a Christian research organization, ‘…while the Church is often accused of being several steps behind the culture at large, Barna’s research shows practicing Christians want to keep up with culture and trends just as much as anyone else…’ They continue with ‘…people want to be culturally informed, but they are becoming accustomed to skimming content.’ Yet in today’s 24-hour news cycle, “keeping up” can be hard work. The socialization of news has created an international, ongoing conversation that never sleeps.’

We need to become the editor for our lives. Armed with our virtual razor blade, we need to chop the galleys of endless text and other media that we don’t need to read—think noise. I admit that I have to develop my skills. Like any skill, it takes a concerted effort to develop. I encourage you to join me in focusing on skimming media carefully and then scanning contents for the message. Say no to noise and yes to the Message.

Editors Note: Is there something you want to say? Send in your Viewpoint (500 – 750 words) to editor@lightmagazine.ca. Please note we cannot gaurantee publication of all the pieces we recieve.

September 2014 (2014-08-26)

 

 

Let’s think about it!

© 2014 by Bob Grahame
Please do not reproduce this article, or any part, in any manner, without my permission. Thank you!