Saturday, April 2, 2016

a public service rant by Crow

New York City, 1927

Have you ever heard a Crow chortle? It's a little disturbing.

A few evenings ago while I was tidying up one of his albums, Crow relaxed on his antique perch by the fire reading the news. After the chortle I heard a distinct snicker. Since by then he'd caught my attention I had to ask what was causing him such amusement:

It appears no matter how long I share the world with your species I will never understand the logic of humankind. Listen to this:

"America’s infrastructure is so bad the self-driving cars can’t even find the lanes on the road.

Shoddy infrastructure has become a roadblock to the development of self-driving cars, vexing engineers and adding time and cost. An estimated 65 percent of U.S. roads are in poor condition, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, with the transportation infrastructure system rated 12th in the World Economic Forum’s 2014-2015 global competitiveness report.

Tesla, Volvo, Mercedes, Audi and others are fielding vehicles that can drive on highways, change lanes and park without human help. But they are easily flummoxed by faded lane markers, damaged  signs or lights, and the many quirks of a roadway infrastructure managed by thousands of state and local bureaucracies."

I love stories like this, in which a robot can’t even manage with great difficulty to do what any human being or crow can with ease. The proposed solution is always “transform the world to suit the needs of the robot” and not to recognize the limitations of technology. Why can't the genius entrepreneurs of Silicon valley grasp the fact that in the real world “faded lane markers, damaged signs or lights” are normal, and part of the reason for that is the systematic withdrawal of funding for public infrastructure that has been supported by them.

Only projects that make use of computer software have any interest for those people. While they ignore the many serious concerns (like how to increase public transport, save creatures from going extinct, or finding a cure for cancer etc.) they waste time, money and resources on inappropriate technological solutions to non-existent problems. Do you remember the big story a week or so ago when the Google data center beat a human Go master three out of four games? What was hardly mentioned at the time was that the machine used 50,000 times the wattage of the human player.. and all it can do is play Go.

The cars are flummoxed? So are the humans! You don’t need artificial intelligence. You need some real intelligence - coupled with a set of ethics. Hmpff.

It was obviously time for us both to calm down so I poured us both a snifter of Remy and we nibbled on fruitcake while we watched Michael Grab work his magic:

Quote of the week:

Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe.
Read more at:
 “Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe. ”
Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe. Alan Watts
Read more at:
~ Alan Watts


The Crow said...

Crows do, indeed, chortle - or so it sounds to me, especially when the adults return to the young stationed in the trees awaiting the return of the parents and family helpers.

I enjoyed the video, played it twice to watch the stacks unfold. I was so mesmerized by Grab's work that I was taken aback by the scene where the Canada goose was balanced on one foot, at the right end of the row of stacks. Caught me by surprise and I gasped with delight.

Small things can bring great joy.

clairesgarden said...

fascinating video. its a shame he knocked them down though, it would be nice to leave them to be discovered by other walkers or passers by who could take delight in them.

Ol'Buzzard said...

I have never seen his art - It is temporary but fantastic.

When construction was the cash cow for the mega wealthy infrastructure was built and maintained; now the wealthy make their money from money with no product involved so infrastructure in no longer important to the people truly in charge.

We have two branches of government: the political professional whose only concern in staying in office - and the mega wealthy whose only concern is making money - and the wealthy are the ones actually in charge. The rest of us are the punters that they placate to achieve their goals.
I'll have a glass of madeira tonight and think of you and crow.
the Ol'Buzzard

MRMacrum said...

Tell Crow it is sometimes necessary to point out the obvious because the obvious more often than not hides in plain sight. Good post.

susan said...

There are times when I don't need Crow to translate what's being said in the trees, Martha. :)

The first thing I found was a photo journal article of his constructions. They were beautiful but when I saw the video I was stunned.

Thank goodness for those small things.

susan said...

I don't think he knocks all of them down, Claire, but it does make for a good effect, doesn't it? We live near a very rocky beach where people often build stone 'things', some of which avoid vandals for a few days.

susan said...

I found myself holding my breath just looking at his stills, never mind the video. Amazing.

I agree. Now Amazon is in the process of finalizing the destruction of the post office by planning to have drones deliver your order direct to your door.. or balcony.

It's their world, as Crow has said, we just live in it.

susan said...

It does indeed. The two of you have much in common.

troutbirder said...

I hadn't thought of it that was but he's right on. Our rural counties are particularly neglected in most infrastructures...:(

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Ah if only there was someone to offer me a snifter of Remy with every rant... (I'd rarely be sober). After a few snifters does the phrase "as The Crow flies" need to be modified somewhat?

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,
Quite an entertaining and interesting post since the “rock artist” is an amazing example of patience and creativity.
As far as auto-driving is concerned I see more application to trains and buses where there are opportunities to both reduce risk and to benefit the community. In fact forms of semi or driverless rolling train stock are soon to be implemented around the world.
On quotes about interconnectivity how about this one “A hydrogen atom in a cell at the end of my nose was once part of an elephant's trunk. A carbon atom in my cardiac muscle was once in the tail of a dinosaur.”
― Jostein Guarder, Sophie's World
Best wishes

marja-leena said...

I do love Crow's rants, and chortles!

Our resident crow family has taken roost in one of our camellia bushes this spring! They got into a tiff with the neighbour crows but won the battle for this real estate, so pretty and private as it is covered in pink blooms.

susan said...

Apparently they don't do too well with the guys who signal at construction sites either.. never mind getting on a ferry.

susan said...

Crow has a marvelous built-in compass and a hollow leg for brandy.

susan said...

Hi Lindsay, I'm happy you were able to enjoy seeing Michael Grab's wonderful rock sculptures.
I agree that public transport is better suited to automation than private cars. A frequent and very serious problem in North America with trains is that tracks haven't been adequately maintained - never mind modernized. A couple of years ago the central area of a small town in New Brunswick was destroyed by a runaway train that had been operated by just one man. I simply don't understand the push for more automation when there are competent people who need work.
That was a very good quote. Thanks and
Best wishes to you too

susan said...

I'm glad you do, Marja-Leena. Goodness knows there will be more.

Camellias were always lovely to see but sticky when stepped on. Hopefully your crow family members won't be wearing boots when you invite them in for fruitcake.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan
I think a Mantra in North America for some time has been
"if it doesn't make money it doesn't count". Hence technology investments are driven by consumerism which mostly supplants all else. Nothing wrong with technology of course, which can be of great benefit if used wisely to improve safety, convenience and efficiency for the community. But of course its essential to get those railroad tracks fixed firstly as a priority and an application of uncommon common sense in tune with your post.

best wishes

susan said...

Hi Lindsay,
I agree and will add that the general inclination seems to be that what worked yesterday will work today and the day after ad infinitum.
The tracks certainly do need to be fixed.
All the best