Humans, Technology Mesh in Fascinating Ways

I am honored to be invited to write for MacNewsWorld. As one who isdaily entrenched in Linux and high performance computing, it may be expectedthat I would write about the battle between Linux and Windows, PowerPC andIntel. But I do that for a living. I need a break, a creative outlet for thosethoughts that otherwise remain trapped between brain, fingers andkeyboard.

In this column, I plan to explore the subjects of human interconnectedness and isolation, interdependence and independence in a rapidly evolving age of technology and telecommunications. In so doing, I will derive as much as I am able from my own experiencein order to share first-hand what I have observed within myself, myimmediate associates and the world within my sight and touch.

I will also callupon conversations with customers, articles and books I have read, and thecreative liberty of extrapolation for events and places that either Ihave not explored in person or to create those that have not yet come toexist.

Building the Foundation

Before I open a book, I always turn to the back page to read about theauthor. I find it helpful to know about him or her, for in my mind I desire topicture this person when the words were first applied to keyboard,screen or print. It helps build a foundation for what I am about to read, even ifidealized or oversimplified.

Therefore, I offer to you a bit about me: I am the cofounder and CEO ofTerra SoftSolutions, developer of Yellow Dog Linux for PowerPC. I am an avid rock climber, I prefer sleeping in a tent rather than a bed and I have traveled to many countries around the world. I would claim to live alone in my 1912 sugar mill home in Loveland, Colorado, were it not for the animals that live with me within the walls (literally): birds, mice, spiders and bees.

I purchased the oldest (by choice), ugliest (not much of a choice), fixer-upper (a third generation, seemingly incurable disease) house in this historic neighborhood. My mother cried when my parents first visited my home, asking if I could get my money back. Knowing it was too late, she promptly called in a 30 cubic yard dumpster, which we filled twice while gutting all 900 square feet of home. One more dumpsterload and I might as well have hung curtains in the dumpster instead. Six years later, I continue to prepare my food over plywood, for my countertop is not yet complete. I have more projects started than complete.

A Mixed Bag

Seemingly caught between two worlds, I am often perplexed by technologyunfolding at a breathless pace whereby humans are able to conduct thatwhich was written about in science fiction just one generation ago; and my owncraving for a time since past when one could drink from mountain streamswithout concern for giardia or the outwashing of acid rain.

I use a 15-inch Apple PowerBook with immediate access to a dozen servers,routers and fibre optic backbone scalable to 100 MB with the click of a mouse,a gigabit with a phone call. I have employees in three states and Canada, one ofwhom I have never met nor even seen his photo. I don’t need to. We are connected daily via e-mail, electronic calendars, CVS, chat and phone.

At home I do not own a television, computer or game console. I have a1914 piano, many books, and, as one who enjoys quality sound, a decent hometheater system connected to my 1978 Commodore 64 monitor for watching DVDs. Ihave a peach, a plum, a mulberry and two apple trees. This year I am growingcorn, beans, carrots and “a” strawberry (despite my best efforts, this plantseems to produce no more than a single fruit per year).

Ever Evolving

I am simultaneously thrilled by the possibilities of a space ladder tohoist payloads to orbiting cities without massive pollution — and frightenedby the very real desire for some parents to embed GPS beacons in theirchildren’s arms to make certain they are neither lost nor stolen.

If I recall correctly, just a few years ago, half of the human populationhad never used a telephone, let alone the Internet. But I am in awe of therate at which intercomputer connectivity is increasing, not only in speed butin the number of persons online. It seems the gap between the connectedand the disconnected will soon narrow.

This transformation will occur as a function of desire for interconnectivity and, oddly enough, independence. Therefore, I am fascinated with the potential for shifts in power when once-isolated peoples have access to the entire connected world, and of equal importance, the entire world has access to them. But what will happen when individuals fail to recall what it means to be alone and their desire for independence grows to become interdependence?

When microchips give way to nanobots which are replaced by organicarrays nearly indistinguishable from our own cells — passed from one generationto the next, evolving by design — then our own connected future may lie notin the light of fiber optics, but in the spectrum of a new kind of ESP(what I will call “Engineered Sensory Perception”), a means of interpersonalcommunication that makes a gigabyte per second look like two children with agarden hose, funnels held to mouth and ear.

Interdependence and Independence

My writing will be a one-way communication in most respects, from me toyou. Given this constraint, I will do my best to write as a catalyst,offering material for discussion. While I do write with an agenda (or I wouldfind no compelling reason to write), I will do so based upon the premise that “This is what I have experienced …” in hope that it stimulates thought, consideration,awareness, action, reaction, even debate among you and your associates.

I will remain attached only to the hope that I may cause the occasional”Hmmm,” or “Ah-hah!”

Given this introduction, please return to this column next week for thefirst of what I hope to be many thought-provoking ventures into the experienceof being human in a world rapidly evolving to extend humanity’s reachthrough innovation in technology.

Kai Staats, a MacNewsWorld columnist, is the cofounder and CEO of Terra Soft Solutions, developer of Yellow Dog Linux for PowerPC.

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