Some new bug pics, a new smartphone friend, and more on robotization
by Rob Tiller
This week I had a bit of a photography breakthrough. The books I’ve been reading advised against it, but I decided to experiment with the high-end ISO settings of my Nikon D71000.
Even at levels up to 5,000, I could not detect degradation in the image quality. This made it possible to use much smaller apertures with my 105 mm macro lens to get improved depth of field, while keeping shutter speeds high enough to capture some quickly moving insects. Here are a few of the images I got at Raulston Arboretum on Saturday morning. Thank you, brilliant sensor engineers of Nikon. Your technology is amazing and liberating.
I got a Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone this week, and I’m a little in love. It’s a marvelous device in most every way. The screen is a little larger than the S3 and a lot larger than the iPhone, but still fits in pants pockets. The screen is brighter and more vivid than leading competitors. It responds to you quickly, and gets things done more reliably. The voice recognition technology is improving, and sometimes works great. It is water resistant. It has biometric (finger swipe) security. Battery life is longer, and the battery is replaceable. (I always carry a backup.) And needless to say, as an effective interface to the internet, it can help answer any question that has an answer.
As with every new device, there are switching costs and learning curves, but for me they turned out to be minor. My existing apps switched over automatically as soon as I followed the new phone protocol. I then spent a chunk of last weekend going through my apps, deleting those I never used, getting resituated with services I used (including hunting down old passwords), and getting the rest into new folders.
I kept the S5’s new health app, which can monitor your heart rate and count steps and calories, and experimented with its phone, which is surprisingly good – not not as good as my Nikon D7100, but also way less bulky. It took a few tries, but I eventually got my personal photos of roses and lilies on as wallpaper, found new ringtones that I kind of liked, got a pretty and practical new font. I put it in a handsome blue rubber case to protect against the inevitable jars, jolts, and plops. Even with the case, she’s amazingly thin and light.
As I started to get to know her better, I noticed that the autofill feature of Swiftkey, which anticipates either the rest of a word I’m typing or the next word I was going to type, was getting more accurate. I’d type something like “Let’s” and up would pop “go.” Sure, that may seem obvious, but there were some that suggested a deeper understanding of my psyche, occasionally connecting words in a way that sounded like my own voice. This could be fun for a while, but it could also be heading towards a dark place. What if, when I typed I, it autofilled “worried that you might have taken my awkwardness for something more sinister, and resented it, when actually, I adore you.” And that was what I was starting to say? What if it allowed for the outsourcing not just of spelling and grammar, but actual feeling? Impossible? We shall see.
The effort, the struggle to communicate feeling in language is part of what I like about writing, and if that struggle were not so necessary our lives would be different, and possibly poorer. Could technology change the game on that? Of course.
Speaking of the transformative force of technology, this week I read the 2013 paper of Carl Frey and Michael Osborne out of Oxford on the continuing effects of computerization and roboticization. They draw on the work of Brynjolfsson and McAfee, which I’ve written about before, and add interesting historical and social context.
They find that 47% of American jobs are at risk of vanishing in the next decade or two as a result of increasing automation and artificial intelligence. That’s almost half! Jobs in manufacturing, transportation, logistics, office work, and administrative support are all at substantial risk, while jobs requiring creativity and social intelligence are less so. Big economic changes are coming, folks, just as big climate changes are coming, and we need to be preparing for both.