Think, Part 1.

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“Black Mirror”, Season 3 Episode 1, “Nosedive”. 2016 publicity photo.

Looking for inspiration to write software today, I did a search for “future technology”. Usually I watch Corning’s “Day of Glass” presentations or what Microsoft envisions 2020 will look like in the world of Surface and Office, but today some other suggestions were presented. One of those suggestions was the video from Korean Telecom featured in the blog entry earlier today.

The other was a link to the first episode of the third season of “Black Mirror”. The episode is simply titled “Nosedive”.

I’ve seen ads for “Black Mirror”; as I understand it, the episodes are standalone affairs, many based on future technology and how society reacts and implements it. Cursory research shows that the episodes can be quite dark. Some describe them as “nightmare inducing”. I have enough going on in my mind at any given time to fuel my own nightmares; I don’t need any exterior help to further the cause. However, the description of this episode was intriguing. Starring Bryce Dallas Howard (I remembered her from “The Help”) as Lacie Pound, the episode focused on a society that was completely dependent on Social Networking status. Everyone was rated on a score from one to five. Contact lenses allowed you to identify anyone around you and their current score or rating. People, strangers, co-workers, and friends alike, rated you on your interaction. Was that conversation worth five stars? Did the waitress deserve three stars? Perks in society were based on your ranking, for example, Lacie wanted to move into an apartment that required a certain ranking and she was only able to afford it if she ranked higher than a 4.5; the higher ranking would bring her a 20% discount on her weekly rent. Airline tickets and amenities were based on the same ranking system. Clubs were restricted to a minimum ranking. Your ranking was your collateral.

The driver for this implementation was to keep society calm and friendly. If you swore or screamed or did not “behave as expected”, your peers would rank you down and you would be ostracized. The more stars you had, the more impact your opinion impacted another’s rating. They were the Social Influencers. They even had counseling services to help you find a way to boost your rating.

How perilously close is our society to this scenario?

I am too busy on Social Media. I often say I use Twitter to keep up with current events, follow friends, and share my opinion on the state of the world. Some of the third party apps I use show a graph of how much of an impact I am making through my Twitter account. How many “hearts” did I get? How many people retweeted me? How many followers do I have at any given moment?

I will admit right here and now that I was elated when my follower count first went over 500 a few years ago. It recently climbed over a grand. That made me smile. It made me feel something. After watching this episode of “Black Mirror”, I can’t help but think a little hollow.

For all my life I have wanted to be one of the cool kids. I remember sitting in Room 220 in Lura Sharp Elementary School in sixth grade. Are desks were arranged in clusters; my desk was part of a cluster of four of us. We had greasy hair, we talked about geeky stuff, and we sat together in the cafeteria. Near the door was a group of six desks. In later years they would be the popular kids; the senior class president, the star quarterback, the girl with the parents that could afford to buy her a miniature Pong game. I was invited to join their group when one of their peers left for another school. I moved my desk and was welcomed into their club. I felt like I had some sort of status. It was nearly 40 years ago but I can remember it like it was almost yesterday.

It’s pretty much documented that “Likes” on Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) triggers a bit of a Dopamine high. This past weekend I was telling my friend Jeff how I felt when Earl and I walked into a restaurant on the 70th floor of a skyscraper overlooking the city. Admittedly, and I know this is quite shallow of me, I feel a ping of acceptance when an Instagram photo is liked by one of the cool IGers. When I muster up the courage to “Friend” someone on Facebook that I haven’t met in person yet (but we obviously have same interests, like both belong to the National Gay Pilots Association or something), I feel like I’m climbing some sort of social ladder. Years ago, back in the heyday of personal blogging, Earl and I ran into a fellow blogger in Manhattan. He recognized us and was pleasant. That meant a lot to me. Not too long after that, I attended a happy hour where a man, a very hot man, introduced himself to me. I said, “um, we are friends on Facebook.” His reply? “We are? Wow, I don’t remember you.”

I remember feeling a little crushed.

I have to admit that I try to keep my social media feeds pretty honest. I don’t have an online persona, I’m pretty much “what you read is what you get”. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve sought out validation for nearly every one of the almost 50 years I’ve been on this planet. But how real is any sense of validation one would find on Social Media? How real are the timelines we see? How true are the photos we see? How good is the person with so many Facebook friends that they can’t accept any more requests?

A few years ago, I was remarking to Jamie the drop in the number of “likes” I was getting on Instagram after I shaved off that enormous mustache I had. I’ve often said that Jamie is a very old soul because he said, “Fuck ’em”.

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My rating hasn’t been the same every since. And you know what? That’s OK.

I love television shows that make us think. If you want to think about your Social Media existence and what it really means to you, I highly suggest you watch “Black Mirror” Season 3, Episode 1, “Nosedive”.

It’s a solid 5 stars.

 

1 Comment

Future.

I’m always interested to see what others are thinking our future technology will look like. It’s felt like we were just on the edge of something “big” since smartphone technology became mainstream in the late 2000s and early 2010s. I think we are long overdue for the next jump in innovation. The question is, are we ready for it?

I could see this happening.

KT Future Technology – Smart Work from Jai Ryoong Kim on Vimeo.

Success.

The key to a successful, happy life is to identify your happy place and to always know how to get there.

I am lucky to have several happy places. This is one of them.

Loud.

This past weekend Earl and I visited very dear friends in Durham, N.C. for a post holiday gathering. It was good to see these folks again, as we haven’t visited in a long while.

My tweets came up for discussion during our visit; apparently I am a very opinionated person, at least in my online persona, and I’m not afraid to share my opinions online. I tweet often. While I have been thinking about starting a new Twitter account for some time, this pushed me to go ahead and do so. It’s only today, on Monday, that I’ve realized that it’s very hard to rebuild “Twitter capital”, especially since the platform now thinks I’m some sort of bot and has locked me out of my new account. I will probably end up changing the username on my original account to the name used on my new account and deleting the new account because I like to keep things as confusing as possible.

I’m digressing.

I believe being vocal is key to a functioning democracy. Much of what we are experiencing in the United States today can be attributed to apathy. Less than half of eligible voters vote. Think about that for a moment, less than _half_ of the voters eligible voters in the United States can find the time and/or energy to determine the direction of our country. Honestly, that’s pathetic. BUT, a lot more people will take to social media and other related Internet technologies to catch up on news, stay in touch with family, argue with strangers and look at pictures of cats. Sharing our opinion, while the practice may seem raucous to some, may have some sort of impact on apathetic voters, even if they vote just to shut up the loud mouth.

When I lived in Boston in the late 1980s and early 90s, I took part in a couple of ACT-UP! demonstrations. People weren’t talking about the staggering number of people that were dying of AIDS at the time and it was something that needed to be addressed. Being loud and being opinionated moved the needle. Society started realizing that something needed to be done and the ball started moving forward again.

Now, I don’t believe that every Republican is evil. I know that not to be true. I believe that we need a reasonable balance of power in Washington. When the balance is unchecked, it swings too far into one column and many people suffer. Making noise, sharing viewpoints, and at the very least, getting people to _think_ about what’s happening around them outside of their comfort zone, is one way to get the ball moving forward again.

I’m not so arrogant to believe that everyone needs to think like I do. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I accept that many people will be wrong. I accept that I might be wrong. I’m the first to admit that I need to learn to listen. It’s something I think about everyday.

The truth of the matter is: I don’t mind if my gravestone says “Well, at least he’s quiet now”. If hearing or reading what I have to say gets someone to think, even for one moment on one subject, then I’ve done my part.

Let’s get the ball rolling forward again.

Anew.

So I’ve decided to start a new Twitter account. My original Twitter account has been around since the early days of Twitter and I’ve tweeted nearly 40K times using that account. I’ve said a lot of things, I’ve expressed a lot of things and I’ve probably pissed quite a few people off over the years.


I’ve been thinking about starting a new Twitter account for a few months, and while Earl and I have been visiting friends and relaxing in North Carolina, I naturally thought this would be a good time to start a new account. The new account has my name in the username, something that I have wanted to do for a very long time, but there is a person in Japan that used my name for ONE tweet and has held onto that username since 2010. I was able to secure a username that did not include numbers appended to it and that made me happy.


I could have changed my username on my original account, but I feel the need to start afresh. It’s like having a blank sheet of paper sitting on the desk in front of you; what shall I create today?


In the process of creating this new account I also changed my profile description up a little bit. I’ve included more adjectives. I’ve even included the word “queer”! As mentioned earlier this month in a blog entry, I’ve slowly embracing the word “queer” to describe myself because not only am I gay but I’m also odd. I suppose the combination of the equals the word “queer”. It’s OK. And I’m opinionated, probably very opinionated. I’ve been told to shut up on more than one occasion.


I’m going to keep my old account around for a bit as I figure out who to follow on the new account versus who I followed on the old account. Having the old for referral will help keep some balance and tabs on people that I have met and enjoyed over the years through this tumultuous platform.


I’m excited about this new opportunity I’ve created for myself and it has reignited my interest in crafting a better Twitter experience. What shall I tweet about today? Life!


Oh, if you’re wondering what the new account name is, just search for my name without period. You’ll find it. I’m That Guy.


Isis.

I’m always worried I’m going to be tagged as some sort of operative because of my love of the live-action Filmation television series, “The Secrets of Isis”. But, I still melt when I hear Joanna Cameron’s voice.

Four.

I have four trips left on my bucket list. I could probably add a dozen more but these are the four I’d really like to do.

1. Drive the entire length of whatever is left of US Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. We’d take our time, enjoy the sites and make it an awesome Jeep ride. I want to experience the kitsch, the sand, the plains, and the concrete.

2. Drive the last four states we have left to visit: North Dakota, Idaho, Washington, Oregon. Again, I want to be off on interstates and experiencing the local roads.

3. Take a cross country train ride. Jamie did this a couple of years ago from LA to Chicago. I’d love to do the same. Chat with other folks, eating in the dining car, sleep on the bunk beds. Two days of awesomeness.

4. Fly First Class to any international destination on a Boeing 747. And yes, I want to be upstairs. Every time I see a 747 I’m in awe. I know the US carriers no longer fly the Queen of the Sky, but other carriers still do. I never had the chance to fly the Concorde. I don’t want to miss my chance to experience a 747.

I think all of these trips are fairly easy to attain. It’ll be a nice challenge for the next couple of years.

Jedi.

image from IMDB

I’m not a huge “Star Wars” fan but I’ve been to most of the movies. My first date, at the age of 12, was to see “The Empire Strikes Back” at the one-show theatre in my hometown. The theatre was called the Kallet theatre (it was built in 1942), and my date that night was one-half of a set of identical twins. Her name was Karen Black. She didn’t scream “there’s no one to land the plane!” because there was no plane. We had a nice time. The girls made me choose between the two for that date. It was my only date with Karen.

I reminisce about “The Empire Strikes Back” because the latest Star Wars move, “The Last Jedi”, has a lot of reminiscent elements in it. I’ve been a fan of Carrie Fisher for a number of years; her later interviews and the like, when she exuded her unique personality, have energized me when I’ve felt the world closing in a little too much. Watching “The Last Jedi” reminded me that we have nothing but history to rely on for Carrie now.

Overall the movie made sense (even though I haven’t seen the previous movie) and it felt like a Star Wars movie. Lumbering shooty things, Laser Guns making the same noise as the Dome Stomp at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York and crystal dogs running around. And of course, The Force. Even though it’s part of a work of fiction, I believe there’s a real Force that connects us all in a way the vast majority of humans will never realize. If we quiet ourselves and listen, we might hear it someday.

Or if we just be like Carrie, and just be ourselves, maybe that’s part of the key.

Here’s a video of someone doing the Dome Stomp. The first time I took Earl to the Carrier Dome, we did it together.

Cruising.

I was driving home from the airport this evening along the Tri-State Tollway. The air was damp, the wind was blowing quite a bit. The temperature was 58ºF; a little warm for this time of year in Chicagoland. The radio was tuned to classic hits 94.7 WLS. Gerry Raferty’s “Baker Street” came on. I cranked up volume and really enjoyed my drive this evening.

Enjoy the little things.

Overwhelming.

I walk through the streets, trying to get a little bit of exercise during the pre-dawn hours, before the madness of my workday kicks in. As I walk by the darkened buildings, apartments, condos, and houses, once in a while the reflection of a large television will catch my eye. As I maintain my pace of 3.5 MPH, I’ll catch a glimpse of a large television screen with various news stations shouting into the room. This morning my brain moved fast enough to catch snippets of 24 hour news station crawls: “Salvadorians denied…”, “Immigrants removed from…”, “Chaos in the White House…”. Someday I’d like to see something happy like, “Democrats and Republicans agree to work together on hunger and homeless crises”, but we know that will never happen.

Since Trump took office we have swung into this societal trend of having no empathy. I find this era of indifference to be overwhelming. The inexplicable public support of “I’ve got mine, I don’t care that you don’t have yours” just boggles my mind. I try to step into the world of ignorance, where my only concerns are those of my own, but I can’t help but think doing so would be socially irresponsible and negligent.

I was hoping the border wall had been forgotten. I still read and hear chants of “Lock her up”, even though the only reason Hillary Clinton is relevant in politics today is because those against her won’t let her have her life in peace. There is a crazy amount of vengeance permeating the populace today. People have turned real life into a poorly scripted reality show. Quite frankly, anyone that thinks the United States is in a good place right now is either incredibly stupid or willfully ignorant.

The issue is the noise is overpowering but the only way to fix things is to make more noise. But I’m tired. 2018 has felt exhausting and it’s only the 9th of January.