Hungry Pac-Man

Saw this in a window from the street. 


Pac-Man eating the dots/pellets and going for the ghost. 


The classic arcade video game from 1980s still speaks volumes. 


Pac-Man is goal-oriented and hungrily eat the pellet pieces, but if the ghosts touch him first then he’s toast (or at least one of his 3 lives are).


Not so different from real life…


We try to reach our goals, by taking one bite at a time until we “eat the elephant.”


But if those people who are naysayers, haters, Debbie Downers, and obstructionists, get to us first, then we can not only lose momentum, and but also eventually be forced to divert or miss out on achieving our goals. 


Ghosts aren’t hollow friendly creatures, but those who want to stop progress, stop you, and maybe even end your pellet-eating life. 


You need to eat the super “power pellets” to overcome and eat the ghosts.


Eating all the pellets can be a herculean task requirement strength, resourcefulness, and determination, but that’s what takes you to the next level in the game of life. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

A Matter Of Vigilance

Handprints.jpeg

Getting around town, I have noticed a stark and scary hands-off absence of security. 


So different than the immediate vigilance after the attacks of 9/11 is the sleepiness of our security establishment now. 


Recently, I noticed a security guard not on lookout, but rather on video games on his smartphone while standing post. 


And then again coming down the street today, another guard (no child that is) was putting up handprints on the fogged up glass instead of having their hands safely on (or off) their trigger. 


What was even more frightening was that the guard abruptly turns around while handprinting the windows, as if I did something wrong just walking by, and says to me, “You scared me!”


To which I promptly replied, “Really, you’re the one with the gun!”


It’s incredible how far we have fallen security-wise after the attacks from New York to Paris and Orlando to Kiryat Arba.


In the Wall Street Journal today, Bret Stephens writes, “It’s depressing to think that the only way the world might understand the truth about terrorism is to have some experience of it.” 


Why do we have to be lazy and lackadaisical, playing around with people’s lives, instead of with it and ready to prevent the next one and the next one?  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Kid’s Games, For Survival Mostly

Action Figure

Some nights, I dream of fighting and others of running for my very life.  

This last night, I woke up from the dream, and thought how these instincts of fight or flight are so pervasive in our lives, and even in our sleep. 

But more than that, we are literally from the youngest age, programmed for survival (of the fittest). 

Ok, here’s a simple hypothesis about kid’s play:  

Kid’s play is not just play, but rather the preparation through acting out of these basic human survival instincts.

At it’s core, kids games mimic the fundamental human tendencies of fight or flight. 

Think for a second of some of the most popular games that kids play…the ones that mostly have been around forever, and kids from the youngest of ages gravitate too.

Tag — Running after from someone else running after you. 

Hide and Go Seek — Running to hide from someone looking to find you.

Play Fighting — Fighting an opponent to see who is stronger and can overcome the other. 

Action Figures — Often superheroes and villians that once again, fight each other.

Dress Up — Girls often dress as the beautiful princesses to be admired by boys who are in turn dressed as (macho) heroes that seek to protect them. 

Video Games — The most popular ones, first-person shooter (fighting) and racing (running away, faster than anyone else, and over the finish line or into the safety zone). 

Whether we are playing games, sleeping and dreaming, or going about our daily life activities, make no mistake, we are in survival mode. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Best High-Tech Looking Couch

Space_invader_couch

Just want to nominate this couch for the best high-tech looking couch award of the year.

 

It’s called the Retro-Alien Couch by 27 year old, artist Igor Chak.

 

The couch is made of leather and designed and manufactured in Los Angeles, CA.

 

“Buy now” cost is $5000.00 with free shipping to the first 10 customers from here.

 

The website says that you can customize it–and I’d like mine with first-person shooter lasers and remote control that electronically rise out of of the armrests. (Zoom, Zoom!)

 

This couch so reminds me of the video game, Space Invaders, which I played on Atari as a kid my friends in Riverdale, NY.

 

In terms of it’s high-tech look and it’s retro video game feel–this couch is completely awesome!

 

Another favorite Atari game was Missile Command, how about some coffee tables to match? 😉

Deus Ex-Overtaken By Technology

 

Deus Ex is an action role-playing game (RPG) and first person shooter game. It sold more than a million copies as of 2009 and was named “Best PC Game of All Time.”

 

A prequel Deus Ex: Human Evolution is due to be released this month (August 2011). 

 

You play a coalition anti-terrorist agent in a world slipping further and further into chaos.

 

The time is 2052 and you are in a dystopian society where society has progressed faster technologically than it has evolved spiritually–and people are struggling to cope with technological change and are abusing new technology.

 

The challenges portrayed in the trailer show people using/abusing technological augmentation–the integration of technology with their human bodies–replacing damaged limbs, adding computer chips, and even “upgrading themselves”.

 

There are many issues raised about where we are going as a society with technology:

 

1) Are we playing G-d–when we change ourselves with technology, not because we have too (i.e. because of sickness), but rather because we want to–at what point are we perhaps overstepping theologically, ethically, or otherwise?

 

2) Are we playing with fire–when we start to systematically alter our makeup and change ourselves into some sort of half-human and half-machine entities or creatures are we tempting nature, fate, evolution with what the final outcome of who we become is?  As the end of the trailer warns: “Be human, remain human”–imagine what type of cyborg creatures we may become if we let things go to extremes.

 

3) Technology may never be enough–As we integrate technology into our beings, where does it stop? The minute we stop, others continue and we risk being “less intelligent, less strong, and less capable than the rest of the human race.” In short, are we facing a technological race toward dehumanization and as enhanced machines.

 

4) Drugs and other vices follow–To prevent technology augmentation from being rejected, mankind relies on ever larger and more potent doses of drugs.  We not only risk losing elements of our humanity to technology, but also to drugs and other vices that make us forget the pain of change and rejection (physical and perhaps emotional).

 

Deus Ex literally is Latin for “G-d out of the machine.” Perhaps, future dystopian society starts out by people trying to play G-d, but I think the risk is that it ends with the proverbial devil displacing the best laid intentions. 

 

While technology holds the most amazing of promises from curing disease, solving world hunger, and endless innovations (even including developing the archetype bionic man/women–“We can rebuild him…we have the technology”), without a solid moral compass and frequent check-ins, we run the risk of technology getting away from us and even doing more harm than good.

Technology Anonymous

Technology_addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous is famous for their program to help people attain and maintain sobriety.

With the latest addiction being everything technology, there is now a movement toward “technology detox” or the AA equivalent, Technology Anonymous.

I remember reading months ago about people so addicted to the Internet and online video games that they literally had to be institutionalized to get them to eat, sleep, and return to some sort of normal life again.

Apparently, technology taken to the extreme can be no less an addiction than smoking, drinking, of fooling around.

And there is even a Facebook page for Internet and Technology Addiction Anonymous (ITAA).

I’ve recently even heard of challenges for people to turn off their technology for even 24 hours; apparently this is a tough thing even for just that one day–wonder if you can do it?

The Wall Street Journal (5 July 2011) reported on someone who “signed up for a special [vacation] package called “digital detox,” [that] promised a 15% discount if you agree to leave your digital devices behind or surrender them at check in.”

The message is clear that people “need a push to take a break from their screens.”

Here are brief some statistics from the WSJ on technology addiction even while on vacation:

79% expect to remain connected for all or some of the time on their next vacation.

68% (up from 58% in 2010) say they will check email while on vacation–daily or more frequently–for work.

33% admitted to hiding from friends and family to check email on vacation.

– Also, 33% check email on vacation while engaged in fast-paced activities such as skiing, biking, and horseback riding.

For people routinely checking email as many as 50-100 times a day, going on vacation and leaving technology behind can be a real shock to our social computing systems. Should I even mention the possibility of not logging unto Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flikr, etc. I see people convulsing and going into withdrawal just at the thought.

So what is this technology addiction we are all on? There’s no nicotine or alcohol or testosterone involved (except in some extreme video games, maybe).

Incredibly, for many technology is the first thing we check in the morning and last before we close our eyes at night.

It even lays on the night table right next to us–our spouse on one side and our smartphone on the other. Which do you cuddle with more?

It’s scary–technology is an addiction that is not physical, but rather emotional.

It is the thrill of who is calling, emailing, texting, friending, or following us and what opportunities will it bring.

Like Vegas or a lottery ticket…technology holds for us the possibility of love, friendships, sexual encounters, new job opportunities, fame, fortune, travel, and so on.

There is no limit, because technology is global and unbridled and so is our ambition, desires, hopes, and even some greed.

(Source Photo: here)

>Reality Trumps Virtuality

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What a crazy news story (reported through South Korean news media)—and true. This South Korean couple, addicted to a video game, ends up starving their 3-month old child to death.

The video game that the couple was addicted to happened to be about raising a virtual child—of all things.

The couple—a 41 year old father and 25 year old mother were both unemployed—and fed their child only once a day, while they spent 4-6 hours a day playing games at the Internet café.

When the child died, the couple was playing video games all night long.

This is an unbelievably tragic story that defies logic, where troubled parents caught in the web of the virtual world, abrogate their responsibilities to themselves and their child in the real world.

So are these two parents just a bunch of whack jobs…an oddity that we shake our heads at disapproving or is this something more?

While the American Medical Association has so far declined to include Internet Addiction Disorder in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, pending further study, we know that we as a society have become in a sense obsessed (although maybe not yet clinically) with everything online—getting information, communicating, networking, shopping, and gaming—and for the most part, we love it!

Some programs like Second Life even go so far as to create virtual worlds where people interact with each other through avatars. They meet, socialize, and participate in activities in a world of only composed of 3-D models—where reality is what programmers make of it—in a coding sense.

Social networks, like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and numerous specialized online communities—for all sorts of shared interests from books to music, dating to investing, and philanthropy to travel—are available to chose from and are widely popular destinations.

It seems truly that many people have become more comfortable living in the IP address on the World Wide Web than at their street address within their true day-to-day realities. Their chosen avatars, pseudo-names, and online profiles often far more exciting then the persons, occupations, and lifestyle they physically inhabit. The virtual world has become an escape for many, and a place many are all too happy to engross themselves in 2, 4, 6 or more hours a day.

What happens to the occupants of our real world, when we choose to retreat to virtual worlds?

Well at the extreme is the fate of the 3-month old baby who died of neglect and hunger. More common are spouses and children, and others—family, friends and associates—who are increasingly physically and emotionally distant.

Our connection to people in real life—around us—are traded in for long-distance, abstract, and virtual relationships with people we often hardly know on the Internet.

We routinely trade emails, instant messages, tweets, and blog comments, with people who we hardly know—often do not even know people’s real names and cannot pronounce their presumed cities of residence.

While the Internet is in many ways miraculous in its ability to bring us together—across time and space, in other ways it can potentially substitute the surreal for the real, the meaningless for the meaningful, and empty chatter with people we barely know and never really will for true giving with people we absolutely care about.

At the extreme, we cannot let real children die because we are hiding in cyberspace feeding our virtual addiction. In more common terms, we must not trade our most important real world relationships and activities for those that are phantom experiences in cyberspace.

It is great to extend our reach with the Internet, but it is not okay to do so at the expense of those that are truly at arms reach. We must find a balance between the two worlds we now live in—real and virtual!

While there is every reason to love the Internet—communication, connection, and convenience—it has also become a retreat from people’s very real world problems.

When Online, people are not hungry, not sick, not unemployed, not lonely, not judged—instead they are in a sense one with everybody else in a common pool of bite and bytes—where no one knows them or their situations. Online, they are anonymous, no ones and at the same time anyone they want to be.

The Internet is a great place to be—to escape to—sort of the like the Holodeck on the Star Trek. Choose your program—and you can be in any time and at any place—interacting with anybody. It is not real, but it feels real when you are there.

I remember when I used to watch Star Trek and be fascinated by the experiences the characters had when they went into the Holodeck’s alternate reality. At the same time (and I think this was the intention of the show), after awhile I found myself wanting the characters to get back to reality and deal with the issues that they truly had to face. Somehow watching them escape “too much” wasn’t very satisfying.

To me, real relationships, even with and maybe because of their inherent challenges and tests, is more satisfying than virtuality, because of the deeper impact of the actions and interactions. Cyberspace is a great augmented reality, but it cannot replace reality.

In the end, being online is a nice place to visit (and there are a lot of benefits to being there), but I wouldn’t want to live there all the time and miss the real fun.