Tag: john woestendiek
The older I get the more wary I become of technology.
What I haven’t figured out is whether one necessarily follows the other: Am I just becoming more fearful as I age, or is technology proving itself more worth fearing?
Both are unstoppable forces. Just as one can’t stop the march of time (even with anti-aging technology), one can’t stop the march of technology.
It keeps coming — whether it’s wise or not, safe or not — and we all blindly jump on board and become dependent on it. If it makes us prettier, gets us where we’re going, let’s us accomplish things more quickly, or function without actually using our brains, we humans are generally all for it.
Already we’re reliant on the Internet, GPS, and cell phones. Already we can purchase almost anything we want online. But the day may soon come when, once we order it, it gets delivered by a robot, perhaps a flying one, or a terrain-traversing one, or one capable of hurling 35-pound cinder blocks 17 feet.
I would say these robot dogs could become the newspaper delivery boys of tomorrow, if newspapers had a tomorrow.
Last month 60 Minutes revealed that Amazon was working on drones that will be able to fly to homes and deliver packages at our doorstep.
Last week the New York Times reported that Google has purchased Boston Dynamics, the engineering firm that designed the graceful beast known as “Big Dog” (seen in the video above) and other animal-like robots, mostly for the Pentagon.
It is the eighth robotics company that Google has acquired in the last half-year, but Google’s not divulging what it’s up to.
Given search engines don’t generally need to climb mountains, or hurl cinder blocks, to find their information, one can only wonder.
Is the company branching into war machines? Does it want to corner the market on robot pets? (Boston Dynamics did serve as consultant on Sony’s ill-fated pet robot dog, Aibo.) Is it hoping to take Google Earth one step further and have robots take photographs through our windows? Or, more likely, is Google, like Amazon, positioning itself to become the place where you buy everything, and working on lining up a delivery team whose members don’t require salary, or health insurance, or coffee and pee breaks?
It almost looks like Amazon is poised to cover air delivery, while Google, with its latest purchase, is positioning itself to cover the ground. (That, at least until Big Dog becomes amphibious, leaves the high seas open — aye, aye robot! — for, say, a Yahoo, Bing or eBay).
Boston Dynamics, based in Waltham, Mass., builds animal-like machines that can traverse smooth or rocky terrain, some of them at speeds faster than a human. Most of its projects have been built under contracts with Pentagon clients like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.
Google executives said the company would honor existing military contracts held by Boston Dynamics, but that it did not plan to become a military contractor on its own.
So why does it need computers with legs, or robots that can climb walls and trees? Surely Google isn’t working on ”Terminators” that can track you down, knock on your door and provide you with the top 10 recipes for apple crumb cake.
The Times reports: ”… Executives at the Internet giant are circumspect about what exactly they plan to do with their robot collection. But Boston Dynamics and its animal kingdom-themed machines bring significant cachet to Google’s robotic efforts … The deal is also the clearest indication yet that Google is intent on building a new class of autonomous systems that might do anything from warehouse work to package delivery and even elder care.”
EVEN ELDER CARE? Oy, robot! I do not want a robot dispensing my medication if I end up in such a facility. At that time, I will be even more terrified of technology, and the last thing I would want to see would be a robot coming into my room – no matter how sexy its voice – saying, “Time for your sponge bath.”
I’m not a total Luddite.
I can publish a website or two, and can hook up my cable TV, and can figure out about 10 percent of what my cell phone does.
But I resent how steep the learning curve has become — how much effort is involved in keeping up with technology. That device promising to make life easier — once you spend a week programming it — may be smaller than your little finger, but its owner’s manual will be fatter than a James Michener novel.
What I fear, though, is where technology can lead, especially technology without forethought, and how quickly and blindly many of us hop on the bandwagon, giving little consideration to the possible repercussions, and how easily it can run amok.
The one futuristic (but already here) technology I’ve researched most is dog cloning. Once achieved, the service was offered to pet owners hoping to bring their dead dogs back to life, and willing to pay $150,000 for that to be accomplished in South Korean laboratories. It bothered me so much, and on so many levels, I wrote a whole book about it. You can order it through Amazon, but don’t expect drone delivery for at least a couple more years. Might one day drones deliver our clones?
I realize my fears are both irrational and rational.
Fretting about the future, I guess, is part of getting older. Old fart worries were around back when automobiles first hit the road (and went on to become a leading cause of death). And it’s probably true that once we stop moving forward, we tend to stagnate. But there’s moving forward and smartly moving forward.
I’m not a fan of big government (except when it helps me get health insurance), but I sometimes wonder if we need a federal Department of Whoa, Let’s Take a Look at this First. Maybe it could monitor emerging technologies, and their ramifications, and determine whether they should be allowed to emerge at all. Maybe that would prevent unimaginable (but, with enough research, entirely predictable) things from happening — like cell-phone shaped cancers forming on the exact spot of our bodies where we pack our cell phones.
But we tend to be more reactive than proactive when it comes to those kinds of things. We wait for the damage to be done and leave it to personal injury lawyers to straighten it out — whether it’s a new anti-psychotic drug that unexpectedly made young males grow female breasts, or irreparable harm done by robotic surgical devices. (If you’ve been victim of either, lawyers are standing by to help you. At least that’s what my TV tells me.)
I want to enter my golden years without shiny silver robots assisting me in living, and without drones hovering outside my door (even if they are delivering a good book). Though I’ve met some clones, I wouldn’t mind getting through life without having any contact with droids and drones and robot dogs.
Sometimes, at least from the Fearful Old Man Perspective (FOMP), it seems we’re so focused on the future that we fail to see and appreciate the present, and don’t even begin to learn from the past.
Sometimes it seems we like dancing on the cutting edge, then cry foul when our feet get sliced up.
Sometimes it seems we embrace technology too quickly and casually, when it should be a careful and thoughtful embrace, made with the realization that, as much as technology can make life better, it can also screw it up badly. We tend to view technology in terms of what it can add to our life, not even considering what it might subtract. And, in what’s the biggest danger of all, we tend to let it overrule our hearts and do our thinking for us.
It can save and prolong lives, even, in a way, re-create them. It can make our human lives – though it’s arguable — more convenient.
But it can also gnaw away at us until we become tin men and scarecrows — maybe not actually missing our hearts and brains, but at least forgetting we ever had them.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 18th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: age, aging, aibo, amazon, androids, animals, aye aye robot, big dog, boston dynamics, brains, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, cutting edge, darpa, defense, delivery, dependency, dependent, dog inc., dogs, droids, drones, elder care, elderly, emerging, evolution, fear, fears, fretting, future, google, government, government regulation, hearts, high tech, human, human race, i robot, jobs, john woestendiek, machines, man, oy robot, pentagon, pets, regulation, research, robot dogs, robotics, robots, scarecrow, science, society, tech, technology, Terminator, tin man, war, worrying
For an article in an upcoming issue of The Bark on how we choose a veterinarian, we’d like to know what – in your eyes — are the most important factors.
If you’ve found the perfect vet, just what is it that makes him or her perfect? If you’re still seeking that person, just what exactly is it you’re looking for?
As our dogs become more and more like family members, the choice of vet is a decision humans probably take more seriously than they did 50 years ago. Time was one’s choice of veterinarian was based in large part on proximity.
We’re guessing that has changed. Now we seek opinions from friends, question fellow denizens of the dog park, turn to online reviews, and perhaps even make some in-office visits, all in our quest for the perfect vet.
But what makes the perfect vet?
Is it where he or she went to school? Is it a friendly staff, reasonable rates? Is it how quickly you can make an appointment or how long you spend in the waiting room? Is it bedside manner, how much empathy, or compassion a vet exudes? Is it how clearly that vet can communicate? Whether they honor your pet insurance? Is it how the vet connects with you, how the vet connects with your dog, or both?
We want to know what is (or was) the single most important factor in your choice of veterinarian, and how you found the one (if you have) that you can’t imagine ever leaving.
(John Woestendiek, who produces the ohmidog! website, is a frequent contributor to The Bark. His story on finding the ideal veterinarian will appear in an upcoming issue.)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 3rd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, article, attributes, bark, bedside manner, best, choice, choosing, choosing a vet, communications, compassion, connection, cost, dogs, dream vet, education, factors, great veterinarians, ideal, input, john woestendiek, magazine, perfect, pets, prices, query, rates, reviews, the bark, training, veterinarians, veterinary, vets, waiting, word of mouth, writer
A friend sent me this photo, taken at the Barnes & Noble in Towson, which shows “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend” getting some pretty decent display (at least better than the bottom shelf of the astronomy section, as was the case at an area bookstore that shall remain nameless).
I can think of no other sign I would like my book to be under — except maybe ”New York Times Bestseller.”
Alas, it’s not there yet, but it did rate the “Page 99 Test,” a website by Marshal Zeringue dedicated to the proposition that the quality of a book can be judged by turning to, and reading, its 99th page.
I lucked out in that page 99 of “DOG, INC.” contains a revelation — namely who it was that located Genelle Guzman, the last survivor found after 9/11, and held her hand until she could be freed from the mound of debris she was trapped under.
(Clue: It wasn’t the volunteer firefighters who took credit for rescuing her on CNN)
If you’re wondering what this has to do with cloning dogs, you can click the link to Marshal’s blog or, better yet, buy the book and allow your thoughts — and perhaps more — to be provoked.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 15th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 9-11, 911, animals, author, barnes & noble, best in show, book, books, bookstores, cnn, display, dog books, dog cloning, dog cloning book, dog inc., dogs, firefighters, genelle guzman, genelle guzman-mcmillan, ground zero, john woestendiek, last, marshal zeringue, new york, page 99, pets, rescue, revelation, sales, sign, signs, survivor, thought provoking, towson, westminster, world trade center
The star of my book signing in Federal Hill yesterday wasn’t me.
Nor was it my book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
And it wasn’t even — awesome celebrity traveling dog that he is — Ace.
No, the show was stolen by Jude, a pit bull mix from Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter who showed up in hopes of getting adopted.
(While a couple of people showed interest in her yesterday, my latest information is that she’s still available.)
Jude, according to the BARCS volunteers that accompanied her, was surrendered to the shelter a couple of months ago. Either her former owners or the staff at BARCS have taught her well.
At about two years old, she’s an absolute sweetheart, with a playful but peaceful soul, and she got along with everyone, dog and human, that came into The Book Escape (it’s dog-friendly) during the signing.
Well, she did a lot more than get along; I think she captured some hearts.
If I weren’t still wandering and trying to figure out where home is, I’d have snapped her up. She will be the best investment somebody will ever make.
Thanks to all those who came out in yesterday’s drizzly cold weather, bought my book, and/or donated to the Franky Fund, which BARCS uses to provide medical care to seriously injured animals. You can learn more about it here.
Also joining in was local artist Kelly Lane, who showed up to sell her hand-made Valentines Day cards, also donating 20 percent of her sales to BARCS. Kelly will be selling her cards today — Super Bowl Sunday — at Captain Larry’s, 601 E. Fort Avenue.
Captain Larry’s is holding its 4th annual chili cookoff today — for $5 you can sample chili to your heart’s content, at least until it runs out. The event starts at 4 p.m., and proceeds are going to BARCS.
Thanks again to all that helped out yesterday — Andrew Stonebarger, owner of The Book Escape, Kelly Lane, Tamara Granger (for making sure Ace behaved) and the staff and volunteers at BARCS.
And, hey, most of all, Jude.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 6th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoptable, animal welfare, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue and care shelter, barcs, book, books on dogs, dog inc., dogs, franky fund, hey jude, john woestendiek, jude, pets, rescue, shelters, the book escape
Today’s book signing is still on, despite predictions of some inclement weather.
Ace and I will be at The Book Escape, at 805 Light St. in Baltimore’s Federal Hill neighborhood, from 1 to 3 p.m, to sign copies of my new book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
(The Book Escape is dog-friendly.)
We’re hoping the weather turns clement by then — as of now it appears it won’t get worse than a little rain.
Between the bookstore and me, we’ll be donating 20 percent of today’s “DOG, INC.” sales to BARCS Franky Fund, which helps provide emergency medical care for seriously injured animals — like Phoenix and Mittens — who come into the shelter.
Some representatives from Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter, and one of the shelter’s adoptable dogs, are scheduled to attend, provide information and collect any additional donations to the fund.
The Book Escape also happens to be having a big sale today, with all used books being 50 percent off for “book pass” members, and 25 percent off for everyone else. Book passes cost $50, but those who buy them get $50 in store credit at regular prices.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 5th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care, barcs, book, book signing, bookstore, cloning, dog, dog book, dog books, dog cloning, dog friendly, dog inc., dogs, federal hill, franky fund, john woestendiek, signing, the book escape