I know I would

The weekend essay in the Wall Street Journal called Bionic Brains and Beyond by Daniel H. Wilson is worth the time to read. Science meets human spirit (a theme of mine, I know) and the results are astonishing. I guess I’ve not noticed or been paying attention but the advances in prosthetic engineering is incredible. Dilemmas though abound as now many question the very definition of the word human. If machines are implanted in humans, for whatever reason, does this mean the individual fails to meet the definition? I don’t struggle with this at all. I see this as just another human advancement that will require time for our intellects to process and reconcile. I boil it down to this. If artificial means can be used to allow a disabled person to walk, a blind person to begin seeing, or a deaf person to hear, I say that’s a cause worth supporting. Perhaps I trust science too much or maybe it’s because I don’t care to watch sci-fi movies that unfailingly tell the centuries-old story of humans up against the soulless power of machines, but I just don’t think it’s going to be a bad thing. Don’t those movies always end happily anyway. 🙂

Or maybe it’s because we have a friend who had his leg amputated and now, much to his relief, carries on a reasonably comfortable life with a modern prosthetic that allows him to get back to work and function almost as he always had. Maybe it’s also because at an event recently I met a guy named Greg Westlake. He plays on the Olympic gold medal and world champion Canadian men’s sledge hockey team. For the unaware, specially designed sledges (sleds) allow the disabled to play ice hockey. You’d think with those shiny sports credentials, the guy might have an ego problem. Not him, or at least it wasn’t apparent to me. During my chat with him he seemed genuinely thrilled that I even knew about the sport, let alone who he was. So when we humans struggle with enabling technology, we shouldn’t lose sight of the immediate and smaller individualized good (no disrespect to our friend and to Greg) while wringing our hands in worry about potential catastrophic ramifications on society decades from now. Let’s discuss the issues but let’s not prevent people from realizing their dreams just because of some misfortune that happened to them. If I suffered so, the choice for me would be even clearer.

Unheard voices

How wide should an open mind be?

I’ve been contributing to and observing conversations, following and un-following people, reading, skipping, ignoring, and eagerly anticipating information on Twitter for close to a year now. Lately I’ve been following and paying attention to the tweets of journalists, both Canadian and international. My rationale is that since I rarely have the time to read a daily paper, even online, receiving and reading articles in tweeted links might compensate somehow.  Generally, I believe it’s working.  In fact, I feel because I follow a cross-range of writers of all political persuasion across the world, I’m actually better informed than I used to be.  Hallelujah, social media!

I’ve been intrigued though by numbers that I notice.  When I say numbers, I mean actual numbers.  When I see an interesting re-tweeted tweet that ends up in my stream I will click on the person’s profile to see what else they may have tweeted.  I’m looking for signs of originality, of thoughts that are interesting and different and give me pause.  There is too much noise in the world to add even more voluntarily so I am quite judicious about who I follow.  However, when I look at the numbers of people some of these individuals follow and compare that to the number following them, it’s invariably off by a factor of at least 10.  Sometimes the factor is in the hundreds of thousands.  I’ll provide an example.  A former mayor of the city of Toronto has over 27,000 followers but follows only 245 people. Discounting all the garbage bots and lunatic followers all Twitter users have to tolerate, that should still leave him with say, 25,000 legitimate followers. Doesn’t he feel the least bit interested in connecting with people who find him interesting?  I know, I know, he’s a busy guy, blah, blah, blah.  (by the way, I don’t follow him)

I find it fascinating that people are so one-directional when it comes to social media.  It would appear they see social media simply as a microphone instead of the chaotic and democratic meeting room it is meant to be.  I think people are missing the opportunity to truly expose themselves to alternative points of view.  Wouldn’t the simple act of making the effort to connect to more people and hear what they have to say improve the chances of making the world a better and more peaceful place?