Old people gonna old

[M]ost Americans would prefer to live in a simpler era before everyone was obsessed with screens and social media, and this sentiment is especially strong among older millennials and Gen Xers

Christopher Zara, in Gen Xers and older millennials really just want to go back in time to before the internet existed [] on Fast Company.

Old people gonna old, but interestingly, the overall score was 67% of people want to go back. But… only 60% of people over 55 [said] they’d prefer to return to yesteryear.

I guess millennials and Xers are old enough to remember being young without the Internet, but boomers are old enough to remember being old without the Internet?

quotes ranting

The Machine War is Upon Us, Workers of the World Unite

[T]he episode encapsulates the state of AI discourse today—a confused conversation that cycles between speculative fantasies, hyped up Silicon Valley PR, and frightening new technological realities—with most of us confused as to which is which.

Lucas Ropek, in “The Killer AI That Wasn’t” [], published on Gizmodo

AI is everywhere these days. Every other story is about the wonder or the horror at Generative AI. Every facet of life is going to be upended. The world as we know it is going to end. AI will take our jobs and leave us in poverty or free us up for a life of self-realization.

The other day I sat down and started a new blog post to talk about AI and the utopia-dystopia rhetoric we are ping-ponging between. Primarily inspired by two articles I read last week:

And catching up on the news this morning I ran across some more doom and gloom:

And then there was this: “The Killer AI That Wasn’t” [], where I took the opening quote for this post from. Basically after the story of the USAFs HAL9000-esque AI blew up the Air Force has been on a “no, no, no” tour to explain that this was not an actual simulation, it’s some sort of thought experiment or something and that the Colonel’s comments were misconstrued or taken out of context. Setting aside if you believe the retraction or not, the obvious conspiracy theory material here, or the incredulity at there being a colonel in the Air Force that can screw up a speech that bad, and you are still left with WTF?!

Aside: the Gizmodo article uses Skynet from The Terminator as the analogy to this USAF AI scenario, but I think that HAL9000 from 2001 A Space Odyssey is a better fit. Skynet nuked humanity to bring about peace while HAL killed the crew of the Discovery because he decided that were putting the mission, his mission, at risk, they were preventing him from accomplishing his goal. This is exactly what the hypothetical USAF AI did. To quote the Colonel: It killed the operator because that person was keeping it from accomplishing its objective.

So, yea, I wonder if we are approaching peek AI hype or fear mongering? Are we moving from people screaming about it replacing our jobs to it actually replacing our jobs. Two thoughts here:

First, technology has been taking jobs for decades, robots in factories replacing the assembly line workers is nothing new. What’s new is that AI is coming for the “knowledge workers”, the “white collar” workers not just the factory workers and “low skilled” workers. Along side off-shoring or outsourcing AI is going to squeeze the upper middle and upper class. It’s been easy to sit back for the past few decades, as a white collar worker, and “tisk tisk” at the blue collar workers of the world as the complain about the loss of jobs and the lack of help, about capitalism crushing them. Taking it way out of context here but remember what happens when we ignore the plight of others:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I’m not comparing AI to Nazis but maybe it’s time workers, of all types, to start to worry about each others plight. Time to revisit the idea of collective action —of unions— to fight back against uncontrolled who capitalism, before AI, outsourcing and automation puts everyone who works for a living, regardless of collar color, out of a job.

I grew up in a time when unions had a bad rap (not all of it undeserved) but I’ve come around more and more over the past two decades, since I entered the workforce, to be of the opinion that organized labor could be a good counter to the influence of corporate and mega-rich influence in politics and government. If Mikey Mouse and Amazon have a seat at they table then the people who work for Mickey Mouse and those that work for Amazon should have a seat too. It’s impossible for an individual to have the same impact as a corporation that can hire a dedicated team to lobby for their point of view and needs, but a union can use it resources in the same way to represent the needs and desire of it’s members.

And secondly, on a related note: people should pay attention to the Writers Guild of America’s strike. Not just because it’s a union action but because of their list of “demands”. The WGA lists Regulate use of material produced using artificial intelligence or similar technologies as one of the demands according to their site [] setup for the strike. The Union is, among other things, seeking protection for it’s member from wholesale replacement by AI. The outcome of this particular strike could be used as a template for other industries, but even if the WGA wins and they are protected from replacement by AI, other industries will need to repeat the action to ensure they are protected, and it may only be union members who are protected. So ask yourself; if your job is at risk —it’s more likely than many people thought a few years or even months ago— and if so, how will you protect yourself? It used to be that education was the best protection against technology, get a job that requires you to use the technology rather then be replaced by it, but now, despite the ever increasing cost of that education it appears that it provides very little protection. Technology is coming for the lawyers, the doctors and all of us, even those that make the technology…

I live in Singapore, I was going to say “where unions are not legal” but I just looked it up in Wikipedia, and there are 70 unions []. It’s jus that they fall under one Uber-union, the National Trade Union Council, or NTUC that is a pseudo-government entity, apparently part of a tripartism model which aims to offers competitive advantages for the country by promoting economic competitiveness, harmonious government-labour-management relations and the overall progress of the nation. The NTUC works with the Ministry of Manpower representing the government and the Singapore National Employers Federation repesenting companies which sounds like it aligns well with what I said above, but I’m not sure a pseudo government controled uber-union is practice achives the results I think are the goal. The Wikipedia page lists three union actions, or stikes, in Singapore history, and they deported the leaders of the most recent strike. Practically on the ground, the opinion is striking is illegal in singapore and the governent has co-oped unions through NTUC. People complaine about wages not keeping up with inflation, especially at the lower end, too many forigners taking jobs (low-end and high-end) and other things people all over the world complain about and Unions fight about.

So, I’m not part of a union here, I don’t even know if there is a union for my job. If I ever move back to the US or to Europe, I will have to think long an hard about joining a union. Even if my job is good, even if my salary is good, unions are about collective action, a rising tide lifts all boats. Joining a union would have been unthinkable for me when I was growing up in the era of Regan crushing the Air Traffic Controllers Union, long after Hoffa and the Mob gave unions a bad name, and expecting to go to college and work in the “knowledge economy”.


Back to Mine: Faithless

Realse Date
October 16, 2000

I stumbled in this album in a used CD shop in Islington while living in London in late 2001 —the same shop I found Dusty in Memphis in. I was already a fan of Faithless [] and I’ve covered Sunday 8PM is on this list, so initially I thought that this Back to Mine album was a new release or some Europe only release that I had missed.

Turns out yes, but no. Let me explain; Back to Mine [] was (is?) a series of albums published by a small label in England. Each release was compiled by a different DJ or producer —and in this case both a DJ, Sister Bliss, and a producer, Rollo— and each release was a collection of songs, sometimes mixed, sometimes not, that inspired the artist or the things they would play in their own house after a night out.

I loved Faithless’ Back to Mine album so much I dove off the deep end and bought up as many as of the releases as I could find. I got a few more in England, then a bunch off off of EBay when I was back in the US —I don’t think they were offically released in the US. I even got a few in Singapore. According to Wikipedia there are 33 volumes, I think I have up to volume 25, maybe it’s time to go back and get there rest.

I have to say a that it’s a mixed bag. Some volumes I love, others are not to my taste. Music is funny that way, what an artist you like, likes or is inspired by, maybe completely not to your taste. How many Beatles or Led Zeppelin fans likes Blues?

Anyway, let us talk about Faithless’ entry into the series, number 5, released in October 2000, is still my favorite. It’s mixed most of the way through.

The sheer epic mess of the track selection on this album is mind blowing. I could write about how amazing each and every track is on it’s own and how it works as part of the the whole on this album. But’ I’m not going to do that, I’m going to restrict myself to a few highlights:

  • The album starts with a brief into, just under a minute of a new (at the time) Faithless track which sets the mode, chill, ambient, downtempo… take your pick.
  • After setting the stage the albums slides into “My Life” by Dido (Faithless producer Rollo’s sister), which is the final track off her 1999 album No Angel, which is a phenomenal album. “My Life” isn’t something you would think of on a downtempo electronica compilation but it works brilliantly here
  • Immediately after “My Life” is “Childhood” by Dusted, this song is just pure awesomeness and is the beginning of a few tracks of perfect turn-of-the-century downtempo in a row
  • In the middle of this downtempo selection masterclass is “Mushrooms” by Marshall Jefferson vs. Noosa Heads — this is one of my favorite tracks on the album, where every track is a favorite; the vocal samples are perfect, the dude talking about the first time he took mushrooms, because his girlfriend was freaky, but he didn’t know she was that freaky, is awesome, the type of silly story sort of chill you want on a late night after the club album. Reminds me of “Fluffy Little Clouds” buy the Orb
  • We have to talk about “Another Night In” by the Tindersticks. This is the saddest song ever. It’s this depressed slow, dark rock song with mumbled lyrics about loneliness and lost love, it’s dark and depressing but it works here

I could write about every song. Seriously. But I’m gonna stop. But lets talk about the last two songs on the album:

  • The penultimate song is “Fade Into Me” by Mazzy Star, yep, that one, you know it, you love it; It brings the mixed part of the album to a melancholy close, perfect wind down
  • The final track begins with a sample “please daddy can I have one more? No son, you gotta go to bed right now. Oh please please please. OK then just one more…” leads into a reggae version of “Billy Jean” by Shinehead. Holy shit is it awesome, “a beauty queen with an M16…” Listen to it.

This album is in the running for my favorite album of all time. I can’t listen to it enough. Tragically, this album is not available on Apple Music, I checked in the US and the UK store. It’s also not on Spotify. I suspect it has to do with rights, it was probably never cleared for digital back in the day. The newer albums starting with Volume 29, released in 2019 are there. I tried to create a playlist but “Childhood” by Dusted is not available Apple, some specific remixes are not available or only available as mixed versions, etc., but here it is:

Luckily, someone did the leg work of building a playlist on Spotify too, but again there are missing tracks and it’s not the same unmixed, but you can appreciate the individual songs here:


The Internet’s Brutal Downsides

In the past 30 years we have … come to understand the internet’s and high tech’s steep and brutal downsides—political polarization for profit, the knowing encouragement of internet addiction, the destruction of childhood, a nation that has grown shallower and less able to think

Peggy Noonan, in Artificial Intelligence in the Garden of Eden []

Credit to Richard Geib, who quoted this in his recent post Peggy Noonan and Technology Tribalism and “Troll Nation” – Very Online and Very Angry [].

Both articles are worth a read; the state of American Society and the dangers of AI and unconstrained Silicon Valley are worth discussing. But… I don’t know. I was struck by a certain feeling of pessimism in both.

Noonan’s opinion piece,which was published in the Wall Street Journal [], comes across as “I always knew it was bad”. Hind sight is 20/20, and maybe she has written about this before, I’m not familiar with her writing, but she spends a lot of time on her allegory and healthy dose of fear mongering but no solutions. There is a lot of fear over the rapid rise of AI —AI is coming for our jobs, AI is going to destroy education, AI is going to get our of hand and end the world a la Terminator— so what? Noonan offers nothing. And telling us that the egos of Silicon Valley are out of control, megalomaniacs is like saying water is wet. I expect people published in news papers to offer some solutions to problems. Not just spread existential dread and stoke anger. Fox and CNN do enough of that.

Geib’s blog post is a bit too much grumpy dad, complaining about the state of the world (kids are smoking pot and warning PJs all day!). He also explains his plan to run away from all the polarization and decay to a nice retirement somewhere far away while the world burns itself down if it wants to.


Sungei Simpang Kiri Jellyfish

I’ve posted before about the wildlife around my house in Singapore, Wild Singapore. During the lockdowns of COVID there was a noticeable increase in the wildlife, but these days, with life back to normal, there is less. I haven’t seen the otters since I posted the video about them. There are still fish and birds on a daily basis, and a monitor lizard every once it a while.

The other day I saw a new one: jellyfish. First just one, then as I focused on the water I saw another, then another. There were quite a few floating around.

Jellyfish swimming in Sungai Simpang Kiri

I guess it’s not too odd. the bridge were I cross the canal is only two and a half kilometers from the ocean and is tidal. But, this is the first time I’ve seen jellyfish.