I took this picture while in the Gulf of Mexico last month. I find it special because of its beauty. In my world, it was a unique moment in time.
To anyone else, itʼs just another sunset. One theyʼve seen thousands of times in hundreds of magazines, TV shows, paintings, web sites, and more.
Our ability to capture and reproduce the magnificence of nature has also desensitized us to nature. I am fortunate that I can look at this photograph and not think “Great, itʼs a sunset.” But instead, I can remember a moment in time when the sun and the clouds and the sea and the breeze orchestrated a feeling of giddy awe inside of me. A web page has never been able to do that.
Technology canʼt make us eternally free, because technology isnʼt eternal
Tuesday, October 3rd, 2023Alive19,152days
More and more, it seems that the promises of technology have fallen flat.
When we started building all of this, we really thought we were changing the world for the better. We had these visions that the work we were doing would usher in the Age of the Expanding Man — when people would be free to explore their humanity in new ways, while machines handled the grubby details invisibly behind the scenes. Steely Dan summed it up in the song International Geophysical Year:
Clearly, that didnʼt happen.
We wired all the worldʼs computers together thinking that access to infinite knowledge would lift people out of poverty. Mostly, it made the already rich people even richer. Social media was supposed to unite people in peace and understanding. All it did was divide us into angry tribes. We transitioned our movies and music to digital versions thinking that would bring the best the world had to offer to the masses. Instead, most of it was lost; and what remains is controlled by a few giant corporations to be doled out in dribs and drabs, sanitized, censored, and selected by a computer to ensure maximum profit.
Technology canʼt make us eternally free, because technology isnʼt eternal.
People who enjoy old technology continually struggle with degrading discs, leaking capacitors, and the inability to find parts to fix their machines. And while their hassles are readily dismissed as problems of their own choosing — like someone who chooses to drive an antique car — everyone has family photos.
Which, at long last, gets to the point of this screed: The illustration below.
The first image is a photograph of my grandfather. Itʼs over 120 years old, and looks nearly as good today as it did when it was taken.
The second image is what happens when I try to view a photograph I took with a digital camera 25 years ago. The bits have degraded to the point where itʼs not viewable, even on period-appropriate hardware. Few of the files on the disk show up anymore, and those that do are so full of errors, they canʼt be displayed.
The third image is what happens when I try to view a photograph I took with a digital camera just 10 years ago.
The printed photograph is still viewable 110 years longer than the photos from my Sony digital camera. And while there is a never-ending list of ways that the metadata can get stripped out of a digital photograph, the metadata for the printed photo is written on the back, and will be there for as long as the photo exists.
The folly is that we, as a society, have rushed to build a digital world without thinking about what weʼre doing. There is a persistent mantra of "technology is good" and "digital is better." But thatʼs not always true, in ways great and small.
What Iʼm trying to do in my life is to pick and choose which new technologies are worth integrating into my human world. Thereʼs no reason we canʼt live our lives with a reasonable amount of technology, but mixed with what we already have to enhance our lives, not to overpower our lives.
A light switch works every time. Asking Siri to turn on the lights does not. Therefore, Siri is a novelty, not an enhancement. So Iʼll turn on my lamp with my fingers, and look at my photographs on paper, while other people are free to stay locked in endless software updates and Googling solutions to the tech problems they have chosen for themselves.
It took me a while, but I finally managed to buy each of the original cartridges released with the Atari 2600 in 1977.
The sticking point was Star Ship. It took almost a year for one to show up on fleaBay for under $50.00. My budget was $5.00. So when one finally appeared, I was all over that Buy It Now button.
To mark the occasion, I put them in a stack on the dining room table, and took photos which I then turned into i-device wallpapers. They look pretty good on my iPhone. I haven't tried them on an iPad yet, but I made them with plenty of space around so that they'll work in both portrait and landscape on an iPad.
You may notice that the screenshot with the cartridges arranged in a helix has squiggles where the time should be. This is because on weekends, I don't want to know what time it is, and iOS doesn't allow one to remove the clock, so changing it to a language I can't read is almost as good.
It's also not possible to remove the date bar, but I can replace it with the weather, which is less awful than seeing the cold, bony hand of time scratching across the top of the screen.
You know how mid-tier cities desperate for attention create little signs or murals or plazas just so that people will take photographs of themselves and post them to social media and give the city free publicity? Carnival wins this game.
At Carnivalʼs cruise port in Cozumel, Mexico there is a small white sand beach. It is conveniently located right at the end of the pier that the tourists use to get off the ships.
It has a perfect little row of perfect little palm trees and perfect sand in front of perfect blue water, and the perfectly massive profiles of Carnivalʼs cruise ships in the background.
Thousands of people take pictures there each year and post them online without realizing that itʼs a marketing campaign. The stealth equivalent of those giant photo frame props that second-rate cities place around town to let the vanity-afflicted know exactly where to stand in order to get the perfect picture of themselves for social media.
Carnival deserves a big fat “good on you” for doing a great job with this guerrilla marketing technique, and pulling it off at industrial scale. It couldnʼt have been cheap to execute, and certainly demonstrates extensive vision and cooperation between departments within the company.
I like to take pictures of generic street scenes when I travel. When I look back at the pictures later, they very often help me remember a place more vividly than a photograph that's focused on a monument or a building or a bird.
However, it appears that I'm not all that interested in cleaning my lens before I take pictures. Most of my Falmouth photos were ruined by a smear of sunscreen on the lens.
Crowdsourcing used to be all the rage in the tech industry. It was a way to get content for your project for free. Use your automation system to ask enough people for content, and some small percentage will happy oblige. The problem with crowdsourcing is quality control.
If you let anyone contribute anything, anyone will contribute anything. I once built a crowdsourced system for people to share photographs of landmarks. A significant percentage of the photos contributed were people standing in front of a camera holding up their resumes, presumably hoping that someone searching for a photo of the Berlin Wall might magically hire them to write code in India.
In the example above, we see the result of two levels of folly. Getty Images allows anyone to upload photographs to its system in order to sell those pictures to other people. That's the crowdsourcing. Then Apple outsourced photography for Apple Maps to a bunch of entities, including Wikipedia, TripAdvisor, and also Getty Images.
The result is a photo of a city in China among the photographs that are supposed to depict the West Texas city of Midland.
Have you ever noticed that if you search for “doctor patient vaccine” in Adobe Stock, 90% of the fake doctors injecting their fake patients are using the same technique that a junkie uses to mainline skag? Have these photographers never received any kind of vaccine ever in their lives?
It was just this morning I was thinking that I donʼt see so many cowboys in Houston anymore. Then, just before lunch, a clown car full of them drove up to the roof of my parking garage and belched out a whole passel of dudes.
Those are not lampshades in the foreground. Those are the kinds of cases that are used to transport big-ticket cowboy hats on planes. There are cowboy hats that cost more than a MacBook Pro.
Discovery Green at night. You canʼt see the park for all the lights and buildings, which is mostly true durng the day, as well. There is a trend in modern park design to over-build in order to make a single park everything for everybody. The result is that very often, as in the case of Discovery Green, it ceases to be a park and is transformed into a playground for adults.
When I load photos of Valley of Fire into programs like Lightroom, they automatically crank the color down 15 notches because the programmers at Adobe in Seattle canʼt conceive of a place that isnʼt as humid and grey as where they live.