Christian Pearson Podcast

Below is the transcript of our episode 10 conversation with Christian Pearson

 

DF

 welcome everybody to the good data podcast. I’m a host drew Farnsworth. Today we have Christian Pearson on the program. Christian is a cultural critic and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and I wanted to have Christian on because I had this realization recently that in popular culture the data center is the new hidden fortress, like in movies and on TV there’s often this plot point that someone needs to break into a data center to steal a file or something and I’m wondered why. Like, why is it that data centers are a symbol of value the way that banks used to be a symbol of value and that launches us off into some pretty weird territory regarding data centers and science fiction in general. We realized that half of the Mission Impossible movies have some sort of a scene in the data center but of course all of the data centers in these movies are heightened and look nothing like reality. Also if you’re worried that this won’t have any technical discussions of data centers not to worry we have an oddly long discussion of data center water filtration so stay tuned for that. Christian was a great guest and I’m excited to share this conversation let’s go. [Music]  

DF

 Christian Pearson welcome to good Data.  

CP

 Thank you for having me.  

DF

 So today we’re doing something a little bit different. We’re talking about pop culture and how that relates back to data center specifically because that’s sort of the cause for this whole podcast thing to exist. One of the most interesting things to me about data centers is that they’re almost always there as a plot device to be broken into.  

CP

 That’s so funny I never thought about that before. Like I guess it’s like the modern equivalent of like the bank or something like that or the safety deposit box yeah  

DF

 Yeah it’s like it’s an impenetrable fortress that has something important in it and because we live in the information age it’s the perfect sort of icon of information, so it speaks to the fact that like information like literally is such a commodity these days that like it really does have a lot of kind of economic importance tied to it.  

CP

If you think about like you know that you already mentioned these companies Google and Facebook like really they’re just companies that sell back information that they gather for their either’s.  

DF

Right it’s one of those things that it’s just in terms of storytelling, information is almost accidentally replacing money as an important piece of storytelling. That as stories get more technological information becomes the commodity through which that story gets told.  

CP

 Yeah I also think it’s probably is easier to steal like a flash drive and is like 10 pounds of cash but  

DF

 It’s also it’s also funny because you know how the trope of heist movies is to crawl through a duct?  

CP

 Yes   

DF

 Well I’ve actually been in many many ducks in data centers and similar buildings that are big enough that you can like walk through them so it’s not that far-fetched as you say.  

CP

 If you’ve got a belly dropping down Tom Cruise stuff?  

DF

 I’ve thought about it. Yeah I think it would be… it’s almost something… I was actually commissioning a data center and I was in the return ducked for a big air handler and it was like 30 feet above the ground and I really thought about like just popping my head out and being like, you know have like a heist movie moment or like taking my camera and just getting a video as if I’m trying to break into the space .  

CP

 Thing could have been worth it.  

DF

 Well that’s why you know I mean that’s why data centers are interesting from a story generation is that they are actually fortresses as well or they’re supposed to be.  

CP

 Yeah. You know I was thinking about Tom Cruise but actually I’m just thinking like data centers have like in the Mission Impossible series starting from the first one he had a sentiment had like always been like really a key point of the story action actually like literally that scene in the first Mission Impossible was like so tense and it was part of a data center or you know like like computer interface yeah and there’s another one I can’t remember if it was the most recent one but it was like a factory where they had to like it’s it’s I want to say it’s like ghost Protocol   

DF

 You know that’s right I think you might be right  

CP

 Yeah it’s remind Alec Baldwin is in it. So it’s like this water-cooled system and then part of it is that like he breaks into the system by swimming through the water ducks is there like anything in real life or that could be like like like 10% even could be like possibly feasible based on the real system out there?  

DF

 That particular movie. So the weird thing is that the design of the water system was more akin to like a nuclear reactor like a fusion reactor it was not really like what you would use for a cooling system but water cooling is a convenient accessory but doesn’t look like that. I actually know somebody and they had a system that would pull water in from the ocean and use that to cool the data center so it was actually like this crazy like 50 foot tall 50 foot wide filter that was on a wheel they would like as the fish got sucked in it would sort of keep moving around like on a almost like a belt sander it would just keep moving around this belt this gigantic great and that would be more realistic than what was in that movie that was just kind of what a cool   

CP

What happens to the fish?  

DF

 I think they died. I’m not sure but I there’s some way to scrub it out yeah they they might I think they definitely get shot with water and then returned to the ocean but I don’t know if they’re fine afterwards or not like that they the screen gets cleaned with water and  

CP

 I’m sure some of the fish die.  

DF

 yeah some of them probably and I don’t know how they actually did it but I just know that that you know it’s actually really hard to use water from like actual biological sources because biological sources colleague you would think that the salt water would corrode all the gears and infrastructure and everything but it’s actually also the living material like barnacles and yeah shrimp or whatever would lay eggs that gets into all the systems and degrades it as tough as it is like there’s so many details so that kind of stuff that you don’t necessarily think about and actually   

CP

 I bet seeing a giant screen that it goes around the wheel would actually be really good cinema   

DF

 would be kind of cool to see that and see how the how Tom Cruise would have to navigate that like getting caught in this giant wheel like it it could be really interesting   

CP

 yeah he gets caught in somebody sprays him like often he falls into the ocean yeah like a dead fish but I still like soon I’m gonna have like look this up.  

DF

 Oh alright no what is that that was an initial design and that the actual they do that in nuclear power plants they do that type of filtration  

CP

 friends and I had a joke about Google having like a mood base from the dark side of the minute it could be I mean it seems if anybody was to have like a villainous kind of like secret base I think at this point you’d have to accept that it would be Google   

DF

 Yeah. I mean, given that their mission statement includes the term don’t be evil I think that there’s a good chance that they are very evil   

CP

 Yeah exactly because they know that they have the they can do it like they know that they’re like basically set up to be like a James Bond style evil corporation right so if you have to remind yourself not to be evil then that’s a sign that you’re pretty much evil.  

DF

 Yeah that’s the thought   

CP

 yeah it’s funny too that it’s always a monolithic you know that there’s so many in movies there’s so many monolithic organizations that that they almost have to be nameless or or the name doesn’t matter a for like liability reasons that they don’t want to get sued for being too similar to a actual company  

DF

 And because there’s something very scary about a corporation that you don’t know what it does that make sense like you know there’s so many like weird conglomerates or they’re there have been so many weird conglomerates it’s like oh there could be some arm of this conglomerate that is poisoning babies or something and we wouldn’t have any idea and even like the president of the company might not have any idea yeah I think that’s the only thing these kids like   

DF

 I think people in general just are concerned that like some of this information might be accidental and it’s not really even they have like information  

CP

 I think it’s they concern that like in the move towards progress that there might be these missteps or moral lapses that because there’s no person at the center of the wheel kind of paying attention to the like the general progress of like society as like we relate to technology that like I get it’s like it’s almost like it’s easier when there’s like somebody evil to point a finger at but when it might just be like us collectively just kind of like going about our day not paying attention like that seems like that’s actually a deeper fear like a deep-rooted fear that people have they’re like I guess it like it’s like ultimately like like they have dope meeting like it’s easy to think they’re like oh like you know there’s like a bad guy right there’s got to be it back at the end of the day for the fact that like on a might just be like a sleepy audience.  

DF

 Yeah it might be all of us and they are right that’s almost more nihilistic  

CP

 Yeah it’s it’s it’s the the feeling that like oh well this is just inevitable somehow this system will emerge and we can’t do anything about it it’s just gonna be some backroom in a corporation and even the CEO might not really understand it but usually the CEO is the bad guy usually.  

CP

 I think yeah good to see you   

DF

 Yeah but personally I almost feel like that’s not as believable because I’ve known a lot of bumbling CEOs that didn’t necessarily know or I shouldn’t say bumbling but people who aren’t aware of every day-to-day operation that’s under their roof   

CP

 Yeah. I mean it’s like even it’s like you are like on top of it like I think there’s a limit to how much one person can have no awareness about a corporation that’s like hundreds of billions of dollars in size yeah like it’s kind of an impossible task especially if you consider like a lot of these like technology information companies have like GDP that’s like bigger than most nations you wonder you wonder if you know they have they have a lot of subsidiaries.  

DF

 Alphabet for instance has a lot of pieces to it so the Google portion is probably understood pretty well because that’s mostly search and they cut that out but then they have like the X thing and they have so many different pieces of their business but so much the revenue comes from Google to pay for all this other moonshot stuff so I wonder I wonder if there is somebody in a back room that is doing something not necessarily intentionally nefarious but is I’ll just throw it out there accidentally coming up with a general AI that could take over the world like that to me is like the most likely scenario for robots to come about like a self conscious AI to come about is an accident.  

CP

 That you know but it’s just like a machine learning system that had their they were so focused on the machine learning aspect of it they didn’t think about like how sophisticated this machine like become  

DF

 Right. That you know you can you could layer all these different neural Nets on top of each other and just kind of see what happens and who knows what would happen you know  

CP

 It’s like that computer like programs they had to shut down because like they’d were developing their own language and then the programmers couldn’t understand what they were saying.  

DF

 You know what’s crazy about that? That’s common that’s how they usually do it like I think that was a Facebook article but that when when developing a I especially communicative AI that it often develops its own language because especially if it’s just talking to itself it can find a more efficient way to talk to itself which is kind of scary like you know that in terms of teaching a computer how to play go it can play couple days and same thing can be true of language and all that yeah I mean the other big one that that is a fear mongering trope of science fiction is is AI so I think you know there’s a reason why it’s scary is that it it could take over the world and really be harmful but also it’s the unknown and  they always give it kind of an anthropomorphized voice or something or body but it’s also just this very other like you know technological thing that that is very foreign and I think that’s part of the reason why it’s scary.  

CP

 Yeah well have you seen the movie ex machina?  

DF

 Yeah that was amazing wasn’t it?  

CP

 That’s actually like a really good movie too because they if I recall correctly the company that into baking the AI is actually kind of like an internet search marketing company and one of the reasons that they select the character played by Domhnall Gleeson is because they’re able to look up his search history and find out that he’s the perfect person and the robot intern is like designed to match what he would look for I guess in a romantic partner so that he is particularly susceptible to the Turing test man so it’s like like it kind of like funny case study as far as like pop culture is concerned is it kind of like touches on everything that we’re talking about right which is like the idea that like you could have this like super sophisticated AI who becomes self-aware but then armed with all this information that were just kind of like throwing into the ether about ourselves is that like a potential exposure at the very least you know it’s something that like I think speaks to our anxiety about these new technologies that can mean for our future

DF

yeah well especially you know kind of coupling machine learning with the amount of information that’s out there it’s amazing how little information is necessarily needed when it’s got the right algorithm behind it to identify a person yeah like gait analysis like the way you walk is and actually like a 99% accurate or it can be 99% accurate identifiers and then you look back at your location history that’s an incredibly good identifier you know because it shows you where you’ve been like you’ve been to your house and you go to work and boom they know who you are and you know that there’s so many little pieces of personal information that we put out there that are now able to be combed and aggregated by these machine intelligence or you know or or really just BOTS? I mean it doesn’t have to be that intelligent but you know? The whole Cambridge thing where that data was used to target people to send the misinformation I think that’s one of the most likely scenarios in real life of how really nefarious things are going to continue to happen is that the that data is gonna get combed and put together and there’s going to be some kind of system that targets people to tell them the exact story that they’ll believe yeah which is already definitely happening but it’s pretty guessed up there.

CP

It’s crazy. I was actually having dinner with a friend of her friend who worked in kind of like marketing analytics and like I had no idea how sophisticated the information was that this collected about people where it’s like literally specific to the person and then to it’s like that that was it it was like CVS a couple of years ago where like a woman her parents found out she was pregnant because of the types of things that she was buying it in the coupons that right like she was given just like that level of specificity as far as like the algorithms are you used and then what they can kind of like hone in on about you from the information that they collect but I say all that to say it’s really crazy because like as far as like the election concerned was concerned apparently like the biggest thing is that they convinced people to be inactive so it was that it was like the people who are on the fence either about Hillary or about voting in general they were able to convince them through a targeted campaign to to not act in that part is like I think the scariest consequence are kind of like talking about like growing up as far as like the overall kind of like yeah discussion is concerned but it seems like what happened is actually much more sinister where it’s like they kind of warped people’s sense of reality that they felt like they didn’t have to participate in the democracy or if they felt that there’s like I don’t know like there’s an equality on both sides a dream like the craziness of Donald Trump in the rhetoric of Hillary Clinton.

DF

Yeah I mean it’s it’s amazing that there are so many different ways to influence an election it that keeping people home is also influencing an election yeah they get that there’s like technology sophisticated to do that yeah well in and Facebook even like did they do their weird sort of scientific experiments on people who play who use Facebook where they had one that was they sent a message to a certain population that said, “hey go out and vote,” and another population who didn’t they didn’t send that to you and then they they somehow tracked it I believe I might be making up that specific one but there was some sort of get-out-the-vote effort that they tracked and they knew that they made a difference but it’s a little also a little bit shady that they’re experimenting on normal people.

[music]

DF

Today’s episode is brought to you by Green Lane design Green Lane has been designing engineering and building critical facilities for over 10 years including major enterprise customers as well as colocation facilities GLD has designed and developed an integrated stack of design disciplines if you would be interested in a free assessment go to http://GreenLanedesign.com click on contact and mention the podcast.

CP

The other thing is to I remember it was like a radio lab versus but I thought they were talking about like Facebook and specifically I think it’s like a part of their like push unit or world via pushing it and like another contacts where they had all these sociologists now hey like we have like this the sophisticated tool Facebook that we’re used to using for you know so a mark being go like you want to use it for social good to like what are the things that you think would be effective as for our studies are concerned and so the thing that was kind of mind-boggling these sociologists is that like there used to play those sociology studies they’re like don’t a handful of people they’re getting like what they it’s not even assuming but like with their best approximation of a significant size of the population but generally speaking it’s only a few thousand people as opposed to Facebook which has the ability to tap into like millions of people it’s like do you want to like you can pull information from I don’t know how much of the human population is like on Facebook like not just like you know the population of like college kids who like the 5 bucks they’re like you want to get a free lunch like literally the whole human population

DF

Right yeah like half of every human have a half of all the humans.

CP

Yeah

DF

Yeah I mean yes statistically that must be that must be so exciting as a statistician to be like oh well we don’t have to worry in some ways about getting a sample size because we’re talking about the entire population of people it’s like you know you almost don’t have to do the math on it because you just have everybody I mean it’s not quite like because I’m sure people hold back and there’s other statistical tricks they have to do but it’s kind of I don’t think that’s ever ever ever been the case except unless you’re looking at like census data but census data is only once every ten years it’s not like it’s every day or every hour yeah yeah and like this census is so unique here that’s like even like as far as like something that America started pretty crazy.

DF

Yeah so I I wanted to talk about the show black mirror yes and I’d seen a couple episodes but you know all this sort of sinister tech pieces that go into that show you know there’s a lot that has to do with memory and socialization and I guess control like government control but like what what do you think there’s definitely theme so what are the themes that you see in that show and why do you think their teams?

CP

Yeah that’s a really good question um as far as like names in the show well certainly like you said memory is a big part of that show it also seemed just a minute II – there seems to be like a bunch of episodes where the nature of reality so there’s a I’m thinking specifically of any episode was there’s been a few where they talked about downloading a copy of somebody’s personality on to the web essentially and a lot of those episodes and there’s been more than one I think there’s at least three I can think of there is the Christmas special which is like being pretty well-known where Johnny am shows up as like a it’s like part of a prison sentence where you like did you bring down low didn’t have to like relive the worst moment of your life like hundreds Houston told an attorney and then there’s another one where there’s a bunch of them so anyway it seems that like one of the big issues at the shows addressing is that as we enter the face with technology and we have like artificial intelligence that like not only is like equal to our own but can like totally kind of like approximate someone’s experience and someone’s consciousness like what does it really mean to be human and besides that like morally what responsibility do we have to something that is maybe not human in the sense that they have a body but as far as faculties are concerned like mirror any person you can find on the street which I think it’s kind of an interesting question it’s like uniquely explored in that show yeah it comes down to person HUD and identity and you know what does it mean to be a a person like you know that there’s this sort of age-old question if there was a conscious Android with they have human rights or you know would they have standard the same rights as people and so again.

DF

I was gonna ask your thoughts about it cuz it I think it’s actually even something more nuanced and that too because I think we you know through ever many years of science-fiction are used to the idea of like a robot whether or not a robot has rights but even just like a collection of data that amounts to a consciousness like what book rights to that half and right that where they did no physical aspect to it really right yeah I mean there’s already a lot of bots out there that are doing very complicated things especially related to the stock market that are very intelligent that are self perpetuating and don’t just live on one server but you know are moved around I mean you talk about you talk about a computer virus that it spreads it has its own sort of autonomy to move around to different nodes and and users those things have a lot of the the hallmarks of life not to say that they’re there yet but you can imagine that something that we just think of as as a bug as a computer bug is important in some way and maybe it’s you don’t call it alive but you you have to realize that there’s some kind of import to it and it’s not just something that that should be thrown away maybe not a computer virus but something along those lines yeah you know?

CP

There’s there’s more and more of an ability now for a program to move from one computer to another to another to another in fact they do that constantly these days that it’s it’s not like a computer program sits here in Philadelphia and then moves to San Francisco or you have to actually you don’t have to move the box to move it from Santa Cruz San Francisco you can have a virtual server that is backed up in San Francisco and will spin up automatically if the one in Philadelphia fails so it it’s like they have more computer programs have more actual autonomy than they ever did so it’s a little creepy already I think not I mean it’s it’s all sort of science fictiony,

DF

Of course I’m not really creeped out because I understand all that the back end of it and it’s not like this is nefarious in any way but there’s also something we where you can see the trajectory of how things have changed yeah which is a little creepy.

CP

Yeah and there’s like an ass accidental like aspect of how sophisticated is yeah it’s kind of like marrying life because it has like a well I mean to make sense or because it’s like what’s the term that necessity is the mother of invention yeah and so like I think if you need to create recreate which is essentially like a life problem which is like okay it’s like I have like information that I need to propagate like why wouldn’t that look like a virus which looks like a our silicate system uh biological world why wouldn’t it look like I don’t know like the meeting or the like a single cell were kind of notes it’s an interesting thought I guess I never realized how sophisticated things were already without having consciousness that’s not really.

DF

yeah I in some ways like there there is already enough computing power in the globe to I think to have human level of consciousness it’s just not all working together that you know there’s so much even that’s just going into just stupid algorithms like like I mean stupid as in they’re not actually producing useful work but but that Bitcoin and things like that like there’s there’s so much that is possible to do with computers that you know in some ways it’s like out of that could legitimately emerge some kind of consciousness and I definitely think that it could come out of Wall Street or something where it where somebody is making money off of an algorithm that you know the more you make money off it the more you’re gonna put resources to it and the more you put resources to it probably the better it gets but also the more that it can get out of control so I think that you know in terms of a movie that I would want to make I’d be interested to hear like you know a Wall Street trader who accidentally creates something that that ran amok because I do think like it would be an accident. Have you ever seen the movie primer?

CP

Yes I have seen primer

DF

I like that movie a lot yeah and one of the things I like about it it’s about these two guys who it’s kind of a spoiler but they make a time machine by accident and I think that’s such an interesting premise and I definitely think that’s how it would actually happen is that somebody is trying to do something and in this case it’s in a garage but in in reality it could be in some lab someplace where they’re doing something very strange and it just happens to have some unintended consequence that ends up being the feature that you actually want.

CP

Yeah we have just in general a convention – is that like a lot of things are done by accident yeah I mean that the classic example is penicillin that that was that was an accident to leave something out and it bunch of cookie but yeah no chocolate chip cookies good – I actually forget the story of chocolate chip cookies but I think you’re trying to make like a chocolate cookie and then thought that they could do that by like just like putting chunks of chocolate no see yeah I don’t think it was a very spark person who created but they’ll give me spaghetti chocolate chip cookie

DF

Yeah right yeah I kind of like always imagined it is like justly clinically good. But also I’m one other do you watch mr. robot?

CP

So I started mr. robot but I haven’t watched recently I haven’t watched it recently either one or three yeah there’s one that I really appreciated and was really good it got very dark sometimes and sort of went in too many circles and and was a little bit too self-referential and but I still appreciated it

DF

You know yeah but that was another one where they actually had to go to a data center and actually break into a data center and they’re so central to it.

CP

I do remember that episode because that’s like the end of the first season right oh yeah and so it was like this whole thing where okay we got to destroy this part we also have to destroy the tapes and we got a you know the backup tapes and we got to destroy like all these different levels of things at the same time so they could make sure that the financial data was all corrupted or ransomware right at the exact same time which it’s pretty much how you would have to do it and they they kind of went two levels deep and from my knowledge of financial institutions they would have had to go a few more levels to actually get everything but it was a it was one of those shows that really did think about the actual physicality of technology which I thought was really cool so you don’t see that very often in a sense I like these like oh this informations tied to like these like redundant data centers somewhere in the world yeah yeah because they had to they had to do it in actually literally they went to Ashburn Virginia they land in Dulles and take a car to Ashburn Virginia and that is where like the majority of the the biggest sort of data center hub in the world is in Ashburn Virginia because it it sort of grew up organically but the power was cheap and it was close to the government and so all these government contracts went there and also everybody else kind of followed that so that area of Ashburn Tyson’s Corner like that that piece of Virginia is this hotbed of data center so they actually in the show go there and then they have to they have the backup which is in a place called steel mountain or something which is totally means Iron Mountain which is a backup storage place it is in real life and then they have to destroy the tapes that are in China and it’s like this whole like oh they actually did think about this they they were like oh yeah we know what a data center is and we know what programming is and you know is it in its own way it was a heist movie because they had to break in and you know do the ransomware but I I don’t know did you like it kind of did fall off the rails a little bit but just in terms of the realism of it like did it feel accurate to you or was it like.

CP

Yeah no I mean I think like I don’t have like pieces of comparison as far as like what the real world equivalent would be but as far as like I don’t know I making me I think I’m just so I’m just trying to think it’s like it as far as like realistic was concerned it short but I like freaked I think he was kind of just like things that I didn’t think about yeah as far as like I guess that’s like that like every TV show or Bank is really God man that’s that must be how they did and that’s how like people become kind of like armchair experts on things that they mostly experienced through these but I would say I regardless if it’s true or not it felt like it was thought out and then Ryan thought out like had a level of what I don’t know

DF

maybe it’s just like the appearance of reality that was like uh definitely as a viewer something different well it’s like you said it’s like the fact thinking about like the redundancies in everything as opposed to like you know handled by like a less skilled TV show showrunner.

I forget to the ours but I think he’s like married to I think his name is Sam Esmail

CP

Yes yeah um but yeah if it was handled by somebody less sophisticated I think it would have like been basically how they go in and they hack into the system using I don’t know a dog with a radio ring or on it so thanks a lot like that well you know probably a cake in it’s funny like you know when you’re crafting a narrative  it’s very it’s very difficult to balance how much is like just made up and how much is based in fact and some people really put a lot of time and effort into basing somebody in fact but then that really hampers them and in terms of making something that’s really dramatic and interesting because sometimes real life is very boring what society like translate like all these redundancies to that are like mostly happening and visibly like via wire is your cables or air radio connections right?

DF

Right it’s it’s it’s like literally invisible when he speaks with Jabra you see nothing yeah it must you see like a blip on a screen and that’s that’s one of the things that I think is most annoying about depictions of technology on screen ever since like you know like the movie hackers were where they had a like three-dimensional fly through of a computer or or you know in in Jurassic Park they had to like they had a three-dimensional depiction of like a file system it’s like they have to make some way to make it visual but it’s very rarely like it looks hokey a lot of the time at least especially it did nineties it’s kind a lot better I think you know in in Hollywood it’s like actually a big really sought after job to design the computer system like the the screens that are on computer systems in a show or a movie.

CP

Which i think is probably an interesting job here you’re sort of like making a computer system for a movie you’re making it up but uh it’s like completely fake thing yeah exactly and I I almost feel like they could just have like a Linux desktop like why does it need to be fake like good night actually probably work enough for like most people yeah a lot of times they want to make it very visual and exciting but but sometimes just like these days a regular screen is pretty visual and exciting there’s a lot going on I don’t know it.

CP

I think you know there’s gonna be a lot more technological shows on TV because of how much it’s a part of our lives like almost every show has somebody on a cell phone looking at Facebook these days it’s liquid it’s almost at the point of being weird that you know that the sort of line in a sitcom of get off your phone kids yeah it’s from place like again stop watching TV kids like is that what sorry honey yeah I was just gonna say to you like I wonder if like I’m like blinking out but I think that like it’s strange because like I mean they used to say the same thing about like the novel sins actually that’s a conversation we had like last week – right when your gears I like there’s always been this kind of actually between like people getting used to new technologies but then like what does that mean with like our conception of like they’re real it like like phones just like maybe we’re just old they were just like grand scheme of things like people are gonna be fine right well.

DF

I think that a lot of times there’s like a boogeyman of all this technology’s gonna make everything worse and then you know it’s it’s an interesting someone open question as to what would the world be like without those technologies would it be better or worse but the especially like I some of it does bother me and I don’t want my daughter to like be glued to her phone I have to like realize that it’s gonna happen but I don’t have to be happy about it yeah I totally understand that I just like again I think about like people begin the same complaint about the novel yeah literally saying that it’s gonna corrupt people’s brains and lead them to be like totally physically like it atrophied or whatever like how I don’t and I’m triggered interview that probably is true but I don’t know why like this new thing of technology seems like particularly bad and to me this looks like yeah I don’t know if that’s good just like be like kind of being older like I don’t like it you have a kid so like were you kind of like house what’s her reaction to kind of being on her phone and having access to all these different things well we keep it away from her pretty well she when she’s watching TV she’s glued to the TV or like the few times if she’s had an iPad in her hand like she’s glued to it she can’t even look away like she just wants it so bad I have like Star Wars augmented reality app on my phone so she can like drag in like an x-wing or something to put it in the world and she’s played with that for hours she’s like she’s like I want to watch the robots I want to watch the robots like I can’t take it away from her it’s you know she loves it and it’s not even like like a game or anything that’s real immersive but she just can’t stop and I think if I had had that when I was a kid I couldn’t be I wouldn’t be able to stop either and then I think of like how great it was to play outside and you know run around and play tag and it’s like I don’t as long as technology doesn’t take away that like as long as kids still playing the dirt and as long as like you still have a physical connection to the world and you’re not just wearing a VR headset all day

CP

I think it’s fine but there’s got it there’s like with so many things there’s a limit there’s a there’s a both and it’s like yes yes let’s do this but also let’s do that like let’s not lose let’s not lose the tactile nature of reality yes no totally yeah I mean

DF

I think that’s like a really good kind of question and I’m also kind of thinking to you like so like you have like a daughter here like you guys like really try to limit her technology exposure like how does that compare when she’s with somebody who has like a little bit more exposure to that technology like is that does that become an issue I mean obviously she’s pretty young so it’s not like she’s missing out yet but I guess my question is like if you try to raise a kid who has like limited technology exposure like what does it mean when they go into like a school environment how does that like affect how they even like really and communicate to you like they’re they’re they’re they’re friends they’re their other students like you know yeah I think once she’s old enough for Instagram all bets are off like yeah you know it’s you know she’s she’s going to have to she’s going there’s gonna be so much pressure for her to be into all that stuff that I don’t think we’re gonna be able to stop her from that and maybe we shouldn’t you know

CP

I mean that’s that’s the way that people communicate and I get that but right now man

DF

I I wanna I want to make sure that that she develops within her brain you know as much as possible the physical reality the presence like I mean my my argument for a lot of this stuff is that it’s so helpful for me personally to be present in a given situation to not be distracted and that so much of media and social media and the phones and everything is all about distracting us and taking our attention and bringing our attention into this little you know six inch diagonal block in our hands like yeah yeah I I do think that’s not ideal that you know that it’s it’s not it’s not bad to some extent but just the the amazing draw of it like for myself personally I set my phone to grayscale instead of color so that I’m not as enticed cuz you know the bright colors on screens are very alluring to the brain so setting it to black and white I’ve actually noticed my use of the phone goes down a lot like I don’t I don’t stay on it as long yeah any little tricks like that I take you know I I want her to have that too yeah like a certain level of sobriety from like technology yeah like a healthy sobriety yeah take a couple drinks maybe maybe have a good weekend but you know don’t take every day what I’d be like you know I don’t know if this means for your future listeners

CP

but I think about that even in the context of like podcasts where it’s very rare that I leave myself alone with my own thoughts now which is exactly something that I’m aware of is probably a bad thing but it’s just so easy to have like you know conversation that I have like some really interesting podcasts about some like things I’m curious about how it’s just kind of like put that on in my quiet moment uses creative that piece of information but that I think well I’ve kind of robbed myself of these of the moments just to kind of like mull over thoughts and let things that may not have naturally come into my head just kind of like flow chill it kind of like the passage of ideas kind of like circling it out yeah well I think I agree with that I think you know boredom is a fantastic tool and teacher and you know as so many of my best ideas have come out of just Abject boredom and I’m not bored too much anymore like yeah I I have a constant entertainment in my pocket and it’s very rare that I feel sometimes I feel over stimulated or annoyed but that’s not the same as boredom

DF

It’s not the same as like staring someplace and letting your thoughts loose and you’re right I think that’s a loss so I try sometimes to you know I try and meditate and and do that kind of stuff for myself

CP

Yeah but I don’t know if it’s the same thing I think you need to like invite boredom into your life but it’s there’s probably these truth to it well yeah I think I think boredom is actually a good thing but but at the same time I hate being bored yeah it’s an uncomfortable feeling like yeah everybody likes to be stimulated but there is I guess like a self that was gonna say self stimulation I had to stop myself right yeah it’s like yeah you can kind of entertain yourself and then obtaining yourself is like you said it’s like the gateway to a lot of like creative ideas.

DF

Right well and you know a lot of the Back to Black Mirror and all the depictions in pop culture of the current moment of computers a lot of it has to do with addiction and this feeling that when we are stuck and glued to our devices I wonder do you do you think that’s true do you think that there isn’t an internet addiction or about like a computer addiction

CP

I totally think I’m addicted to my device well in the sense of like how many times have you had like that goop string or that ghost like the phantom like buzz you know God my god – somebody text me is like I got an alert like what yeah what’s happened to me it’s happened to me where I think I feel that buzz and then I put my hand down to find it and my phone’s in the other pocket yeah so did nothing happened yeah no I think it’s just like I think everybody’s a little addicted insanely bit like you know okay I’ve done PC epidemic because like you know really tasty bad for you food he’s like super available

DF

I wouldn’t be surprised that’s like Oh porch them the population if not a majority of the population kind of like is on the worst side of just a unnatural unhealthy connection in preoccupation with technology specific like all these like phones and stuff like that yeah and the more that we make them beautiful and the more that we make incredible content for them the harder it is to get away oh yeah absolutely but then also to you like the fact that those things are like pretty heavily tied to social engagement –

CP

it’s like you think they’re Twitter and like what’s trending on Twitter is like knowing that is like super important and like effects like how you connect to other people and how you socialize if you don’t know what’s going on in these be know what’s going on by like being connected right no that’s true and it’s it’s true both face-to-face socialization but it’s also true in socialization that happens with your online self that that it’s sort of like it’s important to be on cutting edge of whatever’s happening on Twitter especially on Twitter we’re especially on Facebook whereas I think it’s a little bit less important to be up on the newest latest greatest thing when you’re speaking to somebody face-to-face yeah it’s true there’s a little bit of a tail on that end but I think it’s still kind of surprising like in as much as like there is a gap by that it’s like it’s certainly not what it was five years ago even yeah it’s totally that means yeah look at the president right the president number one method of communication period is Twitter yeah

DF

yeah I mean it’s it’s like at a moment’s notice there’s some news item that happens 24/7 it’s kind of it is so it’s so hard to escape and it’s so addictive like

CP

I you know I’m interested when when I see a presidential tweet or I can’t look away sometimes and it’s I think it’s not just that it’s the 24 hour news cycle it’s so many things they’re just they’re they’re so damn entertaining like not in a not in a oh I want to see this but oh I can’t look away there’s so much of the world right now is oh I can’t look away because something crazy is gonna happen definitely a little bit of a train wreck mentality yeah I actually think there’s like a black mirror about to there’s like the teddy bear something like that and who like ends up being a put over candidate just because the controversy and like the crazy thing that he is gonna say becomes like compelling enough

DF

Right it’s it’s amazing how some things in science fiction really do prefigure what happened in real life you know including president Camacho yeah idiocracy just great for me that is a pretty great movie

CP

yeah one that I haven’t seen in a while but I think there’s a lot of great things about it but it’s also kind of like like this weird thing of all the intelligent people stop having kids it almost feels like you Genesis it’s a weird movie yeah but especially in terms of what it had to say about the dumbing down of society it does feel prescient

DF

yes definitely well

CP

yes certainly in a sense they like the that people are just as interested in somebody who has like well yeah because it’s like style over substance and it’s pressure in the sense that like people like go for the flashy ER thing as opposed to like the measured thing that might be a more considered solution to whatever social Elms that they’re like actually feel right like it really

DF

yeah no no I mean it’s it’s uh it’s tough not to get a little bit a little bit depressed I mean the other hard part is that talking about how great technology can be is not as good for storytelling like saying oh my gosh you know technology has really democratized education where people can go online and get free classes for things that they never would have ever heard before they can YouTube and learn about quantum physics and they never ever would have been able to learn that without getting a college degree or being at a university and you know the fact that we can conduct international trade and we can can have teams that span the globe and you know that there’s so much that is incredible and fantastic about technology but it’s so much easier to tell the negative story so do you think that that though is like a more representative of like whatever the pessimism exists in the zeitgeist as opposed to that’s inherently true of like storytelling?

CP

Cuz there’s like the dichotomy of sympathy the might this is a dichotomy to of like Star Trek right which Star Trek has always been at its core something about the ability of technology to expand the frontiers if like human experience and there’s like cool things like they you know communicator which is like the forerunner to the cell phone or the basically like technology like is very really the bad guy in any of those episodes and if anything it’s kind of like this building box that shows like oh my god like the future is like this incredible place where you’ve developed all these things and it’s like literally solved all these problems as far as like human suffering is concerned we’ve created this allegory for society and we use technology to do and so like no it’s just I mean it’s just kind of an interesting counterpoint and again it makes me think that like oh if is the issue really the storytelling which is that people do not want to be optimistic about technology

DF

it’s a good point because you know that that really was the the technology was never or was sometimes the driver of the conflict but was often the solution of the conflict

CP

yeah you know some sometimes there was like an Android who had gone amok or something but but often you know they would use like the transporter to save somebody or something it was there was this sense that technology was a safe but the conflict would then in general come from politics and and the difficulties between whatever the Klingons and the Federation’s like here it was the the the the driver of conflict in those stories was just happened to not so much be technology a lot of the time which is a good point like there is a certain techno optimism that is you know realistic and and good and I

DF

have you ever read any of the books of Cory Doctorow little brother or pirate pirate cinema? okay he’s he’s cool one of the editors of the the blog Boing Boing but he has a very optimistic version in some ways of technology like a bit I’ll say realistic but that mmm maybe not optimistic but it very much points to the ways in which free and open technology would be good for the world and the ways in which free and open technology is suppressed that you know things like copyright and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act kind of suppress all the good things that open source and like the open Internet allow they’re very esoteric books sometimes but they’re also books all the time yeah what the only thing cory doctorow he’s an interesting guy kind of uh I don’t know if he’s quite a techno anarchist or something but a smart guy he does a lot of speaking and is very much on the side of people should own what they have instead of licensing it you know most most of the things that you own anything that has a chip in it is actually licensed because they own the code inside it which means that you can’t open it up and tinker with it because of that Digital Millennium Copyright Act which is kind of a crazy law that I I’m not a fan of be probably because of reading his work but yeah

DF

yeah it’s we actually did you hear about the john deere problem now that like farmers farmer like farmers bought these John Deere tractors but they have computer systems in them that you know have to be serviced by john deere technicians because john deere wanted to make more money off of servicing their products go that but farmers have a long history of just fixing their own shit they take care of it so now they’re not able to do that and because the john deere keeps invoking this Digital Millennium Copyright Act of the MCA of saying oh you you don’t have the right to repair this and so there’s a movement for right to repair for the ability to actually like repair or like if you own something it should be yours but technically something like a tractor you can get sued for just fixing it yeah that’s insane

CP

I guess it only makes it makes sense to if you have like what it mounts to like hundreds of millions of like trailer tractor equipment like that’s like lost revenue for the company if you know I’m pretty that legally oh yeah

DF

yeah they make money off of it they’re not they know what they’re doing but it it still feels like you know the that that license shouldn’t expense the entire truck or tractor that it the licensing should just be the chip itself or really that if you can break the licensing you should be allowed to cuz like you oh that thing yeah you own the thing you should be able to repair that thing and you know some of the digital rights management goes too far like it just doesn’t it’s it’s backwards I

CP

I feel like I we’ve been talking for a while and I’m sorry you know I didn’t have an exact theme for just months ago yeah

DF

yeah this but I feel like I should probably let you go but I wondered if you wanted to it it’s a good time because it’s like literally like computers on 7% pattering in a play around both heads but it get a bit of good conversation you have the dropping yeah um but I was worried do you wanna do you have any like thing that you wanted to plug or you know if you wanted to put out your social media or some of your art that you would want to share

CP

yeah sure you can find me on instagram at a @Searson that’s the Cee RSO n it’s really just silly pictures of my doodles and stuff like that but you know hopefully I’ll use that to put someone my art out there so that’s my only plug right now

DF

no it’s good it’s a lot more fun to just throw out crazy random sci-fi theories than it is to do some of my normal work about data centers oh

CP

yeah totally yeah it’s funny thank you for talking yeah thanks for having me

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DF

that’s it for good data thank your listing I’d like to thank Christian Pearson and our sponsor Green Lane design if you’re interested in that three diagnostic then whose is it Green Lane design background and let me know that you listen to the podcast we were a good data I’m true points with I’ll talk to you next time on the podcast [Music] you [Music]