Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

How Technology is Destroying the Arts

Editors Note: For the purposes of this article, we will ignore the fact that the bulk of the profits for art have always been delivered mostly to the parasitic entities which surround the artists such as record companies, studios, promoters and distributors. We will assume the artists fraction is relatively constant, and ignore the fact that direct artist to consumer music publishing is now possible because of technology. Conversely, we will also ignore the fact that technology has allowed a proliferation of amateur artists to publish their art for free.

There is one unchanging feature about technology.  In a continuous process, the technology becomes ever smaller, faster, and cheaper.

150 years ago, if you wanted to hear a song, you had to hire live musicians. In buildings still standing, we see examples of old mansions, castles and the like where a studio was provided for musicians to perform, and the sound was vented throughout the estate. 150 years ago, if you wanted music you had to be an elite member of society who was able to afford to hire musicians to perform. All music heard was performed live by artists. Without technological progress it would be this way today.

Fast Forward-

The first video cassette recorders became available in the 1970’s. For the first time, this allowed consumers to watch movies at home. The same technology also allowed illegal copies of movies to be made and distributed.

The first computers came onto the scene in the early 1980’s. If you bought the super deluxe IBM model, it came with a hard disk about the size of a shoe box, which had enough storage capacity to store one or two modern mp3 songs.

Fast Forward-

Now only 30 years later you can store a lifetime collection of songs on something the size of your finger which you can keep on a keychain. You can even have it all stored right on your telephone. Countless people have digitized everything they own and listen to it anywhere they want.

The current state of the art allows you can store thousands of full length movies on a computer hard drive. You may not be able to carry them all around on a keychain yet, but that day will come soon enough.

It is no coincidence that as we have gone from 8 track tapes or cassettes and vinyl albums to ipods, that there has been a continuous decline in record sales.  In the old “analog” days, it was quite a time consuming feat to make a copy of a song. Furthermore, there was a degradation in the sound quality from every generation dub. If you wanted to listen to music, you had to either listen to it on the radio, buy the vinyl album, or buy the cassette tape. Because of the arduous task of copying, if you wanted to listen to your favorite artist at home and in your car, you had to purchase two copies. When you stepped on your album and cracked it, or when it wore out…when your 8 track player barfed up your tape after 20 plays….you had to go and pay the same amount all over again for a new copy. The cost of a given song then relative to income compared today was many times higher.

The key point to understand is that as we entered the digital realm of CD’s, mp3’s, computers file sharing, and now real time network streaming…and as technology has become faster, better, smaller, it has also become possible to duplicate 5 or 10 thousand songs in a few seconds. On a modern high speed network you can transfer the lifetimes work of any artist in a flash. You can browse and watch as many movies as you like on netflix as fast as you can press a button.

An entire lifetime of work….in 5 seconds. Think about that. An artist’s entire lifetime of production, or maybe a novel that took someone 10 years to write, moving from point a to point b in the blink of an eye. Think about a writer spending 5 or 10 years in front of a keyboard or typewriter, only to have the masterpiece transmitted to 100,000 people for free in an instant.

30 years ago with vinyl albums and tapes, this kind of duplication effort would have been a monumental task. It would have required an endless supply of expensive tapes, and when completed all the work would be inferior second generation copies. Copying a book was basically impossible.

So while copying personal music, movies or books for personal use may or may not be illegal, copying it for distribution clearly is illegal. That said, there will always be people around willing to use the technology for illegal purposes. This is also a constant. In spite of any law or protection mechanism that can be devised, there will always be an element willing to get around it. Because of this fact, the relentless march of technology will continue to drive down the value of art. There is no stopping it.

So at this point in time, the current state of the art in technology has already caused a proliferation of music. Does anyone remember riding their bicycle to a friends house to spend an hour listening to a Beatles record? When a middle school kid today can go over to his friends house and download 10,000 songs off of his keychain in 5 minutes, music proliferates. When file sharing services distribute the lifetimes work of an artist in a few seconds, the music becomes ubiquitous. Some of the younger generation today for example refuse to pay for music. With Pandora and on line streaming, there is so much choice this is now a valid option.

Does anyone remember the ubiquitous movie rental stores from two decades ago? The cost to rent a movie, not including gas and other incidentals was 2 or 3 dollars.

Today, a streaming netflix subscription costs 10 dollars a month with six allowed devices. If six people each watch one movie per day this is 180 movies a month or an average cost of 18 cents a movie.  What we can see from this is that the value of the art is declining due to technology.  When inflation is factored in, the real decline in price from 2 or 3 dollars to 18 cents is even more dramatic. This trend will continue unabated. The big media owners will attempt to stop it, or thwart it, but to no avail. So far, the new business model of suing their customers has not alleviated the problem.

Now we get back to supply and demand. If the music becomes ubiquitous, the price of the music or the value of the art goes down, however you want to look at it. As the value of the art goes down, there is less available profit for the artists to support themselves.

Today if you do a calculation that takes into account the amount of “free” (mostly illegal) music, the cost to legitimately download a song from itunes or equivalent, plus the giant proliferation of quasi legal offshore distribution sites, you come up with the average value of a hit song at about $.35 cents a copy (some fraction have paid $1.00, some have paid less, some have paid nothing).

Now lets take that .35 cents and talk about a “gold record”. Every artist strives to reach this pinnacle of success. According to the definition, a gold record is 500,000 copies. A platinum single is 2 million copies sold.

So lets go with that. Lets say as an artist you have struggled your entire career, and finally have a platinum single. Looked at another way, you have produced art that 2 million people want. At .35 cents a copy, that’s $700,000 dollars. Out of this $700,000, the cost of production, mixing and mastering, advertising and promotion, as well as distribution and channel sales, then finally wholesale and retail markup all have to be deducted. So this amount of money today isn’t going to buy a lot of rolls royces and learjets. Unless a profitable tour can be undertaken, this platinum recording probably becomes a loss.

It is no coincidence that the stables of the large record companies continue to decline and now support only a few broad appeal mega pop artists who have to be palatable to a mass audience. Otherwise, they are not a viable economic undertaking. Unfortunately for the patron of the arts, there is very little artistic value in this whole mass appeal contrived persona endeavor.

So in the case of illegal copying and downloading, the value of a lifetime of work for a one in a million talent is already reduced to zero. The cost of good quality high fidelity classical music from legitimate sources is already zero. It is no coincidence that symphonic orchestras are shuttering their doors around the world.

The point is that when there is less profit, there is less economic incentive to produce art. As there becomes ever less profit, there becomes ever less incentive. The art becomes economically not viable.

So without getting caught up in the details of the numbers, the important point is that as the technology becomes more advanced, for all these reasons the value of the art declines. As the value of the art declines, the number of artists which can be supported by quantity [x] of art declines.

As technology continues to advance,  how long will it be before you can have 10,000 movies on your keychain? At the present rate, maybe another decade.

What happens when we get to the point where technology would allow a copy of every movie ever made or every song ever written to be on your keychain?

What if you could go to a flea market and buy a keychain storage device with a copy of every movie ever made for $50? or $10. This would put the value of a movie at a few cents, and in many cases this would render the movie making process economically non viable.

If an underground character can buy a storage device for 5 dollars, and load a billion dollars of content he got for free to that, then resell it for ten dollars, he made 100 percent rate of return on capital. So it is the ability of the technology to do that, which drives the whole process.

Technology WILL make this happen. There is no law or treatise which will stop it. The technology will facilitate it, and there will always be an element willing to skirt the law or hack whatever protection can be devised. Because of this fact, the value of art in real terms, for any art which can be digitized and copied,  is destined to move ever lower. Maybe all aspiring artists should turn to sculpture?

The paradox-

Technology provided a “golden age”, where we went from having floor space in your living room for a quartet, to being able to electronically record a performance and duplicate it for the masses. This period has now passed. The profitability of all art is now declining.

So summarizing, what we can see now is that the price of a unit of art will continue to decline as technology progresses. This will be true for music, movies, artwork, photographs, fiction and non fiction books, or anything which can be digitized.  As the art and content becomes less and less commercially and economically viable, it can support fewer artists. As this happens, talented artists will enter other pursuits and endeavors because everyone has to eat. Collectively, this will reduce the quality of the art available, because some people who would have gone on to produce great art will instead choose a vocation that allows them to be fed.

The arts are dying. Technology is killing them.

For further reading about how technology is affecting our lives, please see Rise of the Machines.


Categories: music, philosophy, technology

Colloidal Silver the Right Way

May 21, 2011 6 comments

Link to full size drawing

Medical uses of silver
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The medical uses of silver include its incorporation into wound dressings to treat external infections, and its use as an antiseptic and disinfectant in medical appliances. Silver is also promoted within alternative medicine in the form of colloidal silver, although its use is controversial.

The silver ion (Ag+) is bioactive and in sufficient concentration readily kills bacteria in vitro. Silver also kills bacteria in external wounds in living tissue, so physicians use wound dressings containing silver sulfadiazine (Ag-SD) or silver nanomaterials to treat external infections.[1][2][3][4][5] Wound dressings containing silver are increasing in importance due to the recent increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA.[6] The disinfectant properties of silver are used in medical applications, such as urinary catheters and endotracheal breathing tubes, where the silver content is effective in reducing incidences of catheter-related urinary tract infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), respectively.[7][8][9][10] Silver is also used in bone prostheses, reconstructive orthopaedic surgery and cardiac devices,[11] as well as on surfaces and fabrics to reduce the spread of infection.[12][13]

Since the 1990s, “colloidal silver”, a liquid suspension of microscopic silver particles, has been marketed as an alternative medicine, often claiming impressive “cure-all” qualities. The effectiveness of these products has never been scientifically proven, and in some jurisdictions, it is currently illegal to include such claims in product advertisements.[14] Medical authorities and publications advise against the ingestion of colloidal silver preparations, because of their lack of proven effectiveness and because of the risk of adverse side effects, such as argyria.[2][15][16][17] Historically, colloidal silver was also used as an internal medication to treat a variety of diseases. Their use was largely discontinued in the 1940s, due to the development of safe and effective modern antibiotics and concern about adverse side effects.[17][18]

rise of the machines

February 27, 2010 23 comments

[and a lot of hard questions]

by:  Carol the Robot
EarthBlog News©
TinyURL for this article []

The promise of technology prior to the industrial and technological revolutions was a higher standard of living along with more freedom and independence…machines and robots would do all the things humans found repetitive and distasteful. We would all be afforded a utopian life.

Instead, here it is argued that technology is invading our privacy and dehumanizing us. We are becoming hostages to it. It is not improving the quality of our lives, it is turning us into slaves. Rather than more freedom and independence, the robot took someone’s job, the computer made your life amazingly complex, and the cell phone you carry everywhere you go has you on call 24/7.

The realities of the deployment of technology have not met our future expectations.

The reason for every technological development was to make something better, faster, easier, or more affordable. Necessity, the mother of invention. It’s hard to believe any of those motivations could have negative consequences. The wheel made a lot of things easier, faster, and cheaper. Few would argue about the utility of the wheel; that it reduced anyone’s standard of living or that it turned anyone into or a slave. Today, being able to buy goods and have them delivered to our doors with the click of a button seems to benefit everyone. There aren’t many complaints about air conditioning and heating. Certainly, technology has merits. Along with those merits however, are a host of negative consequences.

Technology involves machines and inventions. As technology progresses, machines get ever faster, ever more powerful, ever more demanding. The telephone was invented as a tool to improve communication, and yet less than 200 years after it’s invention, many people in the industrialized world are effectively on call. As the technology has increased, the expected human response time has been  reduced. Paradoxically, instead of allowing humans more time, the technology has demanded that humans keep up with it’s pace.

When you look at the receiving end of better, faster, easier and more affordable, you get more complexity, more items to buy and maintain, a decrease in expected response time, and more choices to be made. Although your life may be more comfortable and efficient, it has also become more complex as a result of technology. More is expected of you.

Why do people on vacation today look forward to leaving their watch and cell phone at home? Could it be because the technology is making heavier and heavier demands on humans? Could the increased efficiency on the output side demand increased efficiency on the input side? The technology is demanding that you keep up with it’s pace and it is working at the speed of light.

The issue of course is that human beings are not developing along the moores law curve. Humans are relatively static compared to a transistor density that doubles every two years.  Machines are becoming ever more powerful and ever more demanding while the human being being remains relatively constant.

An economist would call all of this increased productivity. As human beings however, is it our goal to have our productivity continuously increased? Is that what the evolution of our species is about? Is ever increased productivity the goal? Is it as simple as that? What IS our goal? Is our goal to be able to produce and consume at an ever faster more efficient and accelerated rate? This essay raises that as a philosophical question. The other philosophical question is, are we being forced into the use of it without a viable alternative?

We want technology to afford us a higher standard of living. Instead it is making more demands on our time and expecting us to keep up with it’s pace.  As technology continues to progress, human response times will be expected to keep up, until what? Probably until we are physically integrated into it. Is any of that good? Is that really what we want? Do we have a choice?

As technology moves at an accelerated pace relative to you in your “constant human” state, your productivity becomes ever greater and that’s good, right? Why? Is a chicken that was grown in a cage and fed antibiotics to keep it alive during it’s 56 days to slaughter a better product than a pre technological revolution chicken? Is a chair made on an assembly line better than one made in a craftsman’s shop by hand? This idea revolves around what constitutes “better”. Higher productivity is not necessarily better. Better is not always faster, lower cost, or more efficient.

Because of this fact, is it possible that increased productivity has led to junk? Maybe our landfills are filling up with junk because technology is producing junk instead of products that might have taken far longer to create and been produced far less efficiently, but might have lasted for generations?  Maybe technology is forcing us into a disposable society? Maybe technology is leading us to be living, breathing and eating in a sea of disposable junk all produced by robots with great precision and efficiency at the lowest possible cost.

Maybe we are consuming fast food/junk food because of our increased productivity and less free time? Maybe we are consuming junk media; watching junk TV and junk movies because technology is demanding ever higher productivity from us.

What are the consequences of our dependence on technology? 50 years ago, computers were not even a part of our daily lives and today we are utterly dependent on them.The industrialized world today is totally dependent on, and could not function without computers. If computers quit working you couldn’t get home from work because every single moving vehicle would be dead in it’s tracks.

Because of this, it could be argued that technology is making the fabric of our society more fragile and vulnerable. If computers everywhere were to fail, you would have no power, the car wouldn’t start, businesses wouldn’t open, you would not be able to obtain food. Simulations show how quickly our technology based civilization would grind to an immediate halt followed by anarchy if computers all failed. Although the risk of something like this  is small, the consequences are so large that the risk of dependence should be considered, and yet it is not. Instead, technology marches on and we as humans are powerless to stop the progression of it. It is arguable, and many people have argued, that as technology becomes ever more powerful relative to a “constant human”, it will relentlessly take over more and more of our lives.

Today as we have autonomous killer drone planes deployed at war, some of these former concerns have already been realized. When autonomous computers are armed with advanced weapons systems, is that good for humanity or bad for humanity? What are the risks of arming computers? Will we eventually trust machines with our existence? Will machines be our rulers and protectors without even realizing it?

What about arming the computers with money? Computers now control banking as well as the stock exchanges. Do these trading computers have the ability to autonomously  wipe out our equity before someone can pull the plug?

Technology has allowed us to live in greatly increased comfort, but that comes at a price. As our comfort level has increased, so has the amount of energy used. As technology delivers this greater level of comfort, are we increasingly using the resources of our host planet at an unsustainable rate? Along with higher population rates and longer overall life expectancy, what are the long term consequences of this trend all afforded by technology? Is all the technology worth going to the shore to see oily beaches and dead birds or washed up hypodermic needles? Is living in an air conditioned high rise or driving on the interstate at 70 miles an hour diminishing your interaction and enjoyment with nature and the planet? Are you using more resources than the planet can sustain? If not now, then when?

Would we be better off as a civilization if we didn’t have global media beaming the same thing into all of our living rooms and instead had local and community produced culture? Today our society spends endless hours being entertained by technology. Endless hours of video games. Television.  Gadgetry. Is the technology helping or hindering human development? Does a youth spent mesmerized by entertaining video games leave a void that should have been filled by learning and life experience?

What about the arts? Is a guitar hero better than someone who took up a real musical instrument? Is a real athlete more self satisfied and healthy than a couch potato sports fan brought to us via the machines? As the world moves to social networking and instant messages rather than person to person contact, what has happened to human interaction? As we all sit on the couch pressing buttons to communicate with our thousands of “friends”, has technology stripped the meaning out of  “friend”? Is a friend really someone who disappears when you press the off button? In the future, will our “friends” be machines…computers mimicking humans? Is the progression of technology enhancing the human experience or diminishing it? Maybe it all depends on how the technology is applied, but how are we choosing to apply it?

Technology was supposed to make everything easier, but it wasn’t supposed to strip humans of their dignity and privacy. As we are now set to have our bodies radiated and examined to get on an airplane so we can more efficiently and quickly get from point a to point b, one might ask if communities would have more character if there were no airplanes, nationwide mall chains and ever fewer large monolithic retailers? One might wonder if all of those security cameras would be necessary if the technology to produce them did not exist.

Computers have made it possible and probable that there is no such thing as privacy in any form of electronic communication, including the digital telephone. If desired, a person’s every movement can be tracked. The entire world can look into your backyard on a computer. Do we need that? Do we have a choice?

Is the fact that the technology exists going to ultimately lead to evil uses of it? No one ever really wants to talk about traits repeatedly demonstrated in the human species like self importance, ascendancy, irrational belief. What about hostility towards our own species, paranoia, lust for power and control, greed, domination, self extermination, genocide, intentional destruction, depletion or misuse of resources? That is the history of the human species.

We now have global gangs of hedge funds and banks who using fiat currency and 99% leverage can launch speculative attacks against entire countries. This sort of economic warfare was not possible without the computers and technology. It arguably provides another example of human development of a technology, then misuse of it.

Is it possible that technology itself isn’t the problem and that we as a species are simply incapable of handling the progression of  it due to our shortcomings?

We have harnessed the power of the atom to make nuclear weapons. The question that needs to be asked is, has mankind benefited in any way from nuclear weapons? There are a long list of hazards associated with this technology. As weapons move along the technology curve with ever improving price vs performance, nuclear weapons technology proliferates and it becomes more and more affordable to acquire these weapons. Is that benefiting the human species? As political regimes and authority to use the weapons may come and go, the weapons remain. In this regard is technology a Sword of Damocles in wait of a world leader insane enough to use them? Because of the relentless progression of technology, does it become a countdown timer to extinction when at some point in the future the power of an atomic bomb can be held in your hand?

Our human leaders have embraced an ideology of pre emptive wars using technology to preserve the peace. Innocent people’s lives have become “collateral damage”. People are being killed from the air conditioned comfort of a command and control center. As the weapons move along the technology curve; as they become ever more powerful, ever more cost effective and ever more ubiquitous, how is it possible to believe that they won’t be used again with even more deadly consequences?

Studies will consistently show us a  correlation with high technology, stress and a negative correlation with standard of living. Ten percent of the high tech US population take anti-depressant drugs. The society has a higher self inflicted death rate than a tribe living in the woods without any technology where antidepressants and suicide are unheard of.  Is technology necessitating technology to cope with technology and doing a poor job at it?

Scientists are now modifying the plant, animal and human genome, the design of life itself. The food supply is being bio engineered and released into the wild with entirely unknown and almost certainly catastrophic consequences. Is this how technology is improving our lives or is it putting humanity and the planet at risk of technological development that outpaces the human maturity to handle it?

Virtually every fish on the planet is now contaminated with mercury. In some places even the rain is toxic. There are residuals of pharmaceutical drugs and industrial chemicals in our drinking water and ground water. We are producing annually billions of pounds of toxic pesticides, poisons, herbicides and man  made toxic chemicals. All this waste is being released into the environment at an unsustainable rate of clearance. There was no promise of technology that it would pollute the planet, that was a side effect.

Ever larger machines are being developed to extract, transport and store toxic cargo’s. Safety precautions are always taken, but the error rate is not zero, so accidents and releases happen. As the machines become ever larger and more powerful, the number of accidents goes down, but when one happens it can be nearly catastrophic for the planet, the local inhabitants and ecosystem. No one told us of these ever increasing risks of technology. What happens when a satellite filled with plutonium crashes to the earth or vaporizes in the atmosphere?

Some would argue the benefits of technology have outweighed its negative consequences. Here it is has been argued that the consequences of the development and use of it has outweighed the good. Furthermore because of our human failings, we have as a species failed at the proper application and use of it.

We as human beings are not increasing our wisdom and maturity regarding how to use the technology as fast as the technology itself is progressing.

As a result, humans aren’t using technology, the technology is using humans. The rise of the machines will guarantee the eventual termination of the species by either poisoning the planet beyond it’s ability to host us, poisoning it’s inhabitants, or destroying ourselves. Possibly all three.

A non defective genome would not destroy itself. If it did, it would be a defective genome. The machines are just the tool, or not?  Is it possible that the rate of increase of the rise of the machines relative to the constant human represent an exploit of a weakness in the human genome? Are we being attacked by ourselves?

Whatever the case may be, whether these arguments are all valid or not, a case is made here for debate and for an objective look at both the benefits and the drawbacks of technology and it’s progression.

Filed under: Philosophy, technology, thought experiments

100 Percent of Fish in U.S. Streams Found Contaminated with Mercury