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Archive for the ‘Blogging & Techno thingies’ Category

This morning’s talk was from Stephen Lukosh, a Professor with the HIT Lab NZ, University of Canterbury. He explained that we can have Mixed Reality, some being virtual, and some augmented with a mixture of real and artificial. Environments can be simulated, yet the user feels immersed in them and is able to interact with the environment. We saw part of the dystopian movie Ready Player One, where people could be totally immersed in the Oasis, which has similarities to Zuckerberg’s Metaverse.

Stephen pointed out that some people can experience Simulator Sickness when using virtual reality (VR) headsets, and this has led to the development of better head-mounted devices. VR can include several of our senses, with scent being provided by an air canon.

Prior to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics the HIT Lab created a virtual simulation of the Alpine Down Hill course which the athletes used to train on before going to Beijing. VR has also been used for military training. We need to remember that using VR could give people a false sense of competency. It can help people learn, but may also make them over-confident.

In augmented reality digital content is added to the real world, and much of this research has been funded by the U.S. military. 3D images can be added to text books bringing pictures alive. Quiver is a programme where coloured-in pictures can be brought to life. It was noted that this cannot replace the blank pages children use to express their creativity. X-ray images can be superimposed on bodies to assist in medical operations, and VR can provide remote support for all kinds of repairs. There is a danger that by using digital information we may lose skills we have.

Augmented reality is being used now in Christchurch to show what buildings will look like before they are constructed, giving a better view than a two-dimensional plan. It’s also used to see underground pipes and services.

Stephen pointed out that HIT Lab’s motto is to put People before Technology.

It seems our real world can be
augmented by technology

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Associate Professor Alistair Knott was the speaker at this morning’s U3A session, with the subject: How will Artificial Intelligence impact on jobs and work in New Zealand?

Alistair has been researching Artificial Intelligence (AI) for 30 years, and is part of the AI and Law in NZ Project. He pointed out that AI systems already hire, monitor, and manage workers, and that robots are already being used in various areas, e.g. doing warehouse work, assisting police, and in the form of driver-less vehicles, such as the one at Christchurch Airport. Robots are the workers of the future, and now is the time to decide whether or not we want them, and how they might be regulated.

Some AI systems make decisions, such as the smart gate at the airport which matches your passport with your face. Some are text processing systems such as the chat-bots you meet on websites. There are AI systems which can produce new articles based on what they’ve learned on the web, e.g. the Open AI GPT2.

It’s essential that Aotearoa prepares for AI entering the workplace, and there is concern that it might cause unemployment. AI could improve the productivity of human workers, allowing the working week to be reduced, which would improve wellbeing. The outcome will be different depending on whether the AI is N.Z. owned, or owned offshore (by the likes of Google, Amazon, and Microsoft). The big tech companies need to be regulated and do what the Government tells them. If workers are replaced by AI there is a danger that inequality will increase, but if we own the AI the Government could use that tax to fund the redistribution of wealth, e.g. a Universal Basic Income (which was Values Party policy 50 years ago – sigh!). We’ve proved we can build our own versions of profitable AI, such as Trade Me, our local version of eBay.

Whatever happens, humans are likely to have a shorter working week, and the Government needs to prepare for this by investing in education and encouraging people to value community, as exemplified by Māori and Pacifica.

When asked what was a good educational direction for a 16 year old Alistair said that computer science is crucial, but needs to be taught alongside ethics, sociology, and law, in an interdisciplinary way. It’s also important to learn how to make good use of leisure time and follow one’s passions.

For those who work alongside an AI system there could be control issues. Who will be responsible when/if something goes wrong? If the work of professionals (doctors, lawyers) is done by AI this may improve access for consumers, but do we want to hand over the social function (pastoral care) to AI?

The world of AI is exciting and promises benefits, but it’s up to us and our Government to decide how it should be deployed. There are three main areas to consider: Are the benefits spread equally? Can everyone work less? How do we keep society functioning?

So much potential with A.I.
Which regulations should apply?

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Friday was a good day. our poetry group had an excellent meeting and there was an article in the Press about a site close to our cottage. This contained an error which I was able to use as a hook for a letter to the Editor.

Saturday started well with our weekly Zoom call to the daughters. I then checked the Press, found they hadn’t printed my letter, but on page 3 they’d used some of the information I’d given to print a correction to the previous day’s article. I felt miffed!

A break in the rain meant I could go out for a 20 minute walk. When I got home I went to do my daily Wordle, and found I couldn’t access it. The address bar at the top of the screen showed figures for the statistics for the 40 Wordles I’ve completed, but the screen was blank. I use Firefox as my preferred browser, believing their ethics are better than some providers. However, needs must when the devil drives (a phrase used by Shakespeare in 1601). I turned to Chrome and there Wordle awaited. I solved it on the second try, but my statistics didn’t show. Googling gave me a hint that Firefox had a loop around Wordle, but I still can’t get in that way today.

A friend visited in the afternoon and we enjoyed playing Canasta. She beat me in all three games, but I will have a chance for revenge in the not-too-distant future.

It’s raining again today, so no beach walk. Another walk was cancelled last Thursday because of rain. I heard the Auckland Harbour Bridge will be closed for several hours today because of high winds, and there are slips and road closures in Wellington. I hope the wet weather may dampen the enthusiasm of the peculiar protesters outside Parliament.

I had some setbacks yesterday
but better times are on their way

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For 35 days in a row I’ve posted something on this blog. I started on a post-Christmas roll (technically known as a streak) and was motivated to continue when I read about a WordPress project called Bloganuary which was a challenge to post something every day for the whole month of January. I managed to do that, and would like to keep writing every day, but some days it’s hard to find inspiration.

I have a book of 642 writing prompts, but many of them require imagination and I’m more of a factual writer. After blogging for almost 16 years, with 4,370 posts behind me I worry that I may repeat myself and wonder if my readers will notice if I do. I looked for lists of prompts on the internet but again many require imagination and creative thinking.

One prompt that did catch my attention was “Who was your first best friend?” The first close friend I remember was Karen. We met when I was seven and she was eight, and we were in a composite Standard 1 & 2 class at St Albans Primary School.

1956 class photo: I’m 4th from right on the 2nd row from bottom and Karen is 2nd from left in the same row.

Karen lived just a couple of blocks away from me in Sherborne Street and we used to walk to and from school together. She had two brothers and a sister as well as two parents. As I had only my mother and a much older brother I found this larger family intriguing. Karen and her older sister shared a small second-storey bedroom where they kept a collection of paper dolls and we spent many happy hours dressing these. They also had a collection of comics, which were new to me. Every Sunday afternoon the whole family went for a drive and I was often included. We would visit various friends and relations and have afternoon tea. It wasn’t always the whole family that went – sometimes the older sister would be left at home to do the ironing.

I occasionally also went on holiday with them when we would stay at a camping ground somewhere in the Canterbury area. On these occasions Karen and I slept in the large family car. When my mother, brother, and I toured the North Island one summer, Karen came with us.

Once mother and I moved to Auckland my contact with Karen was reduced to letter writing but a few years later her family also moved to Auckland. When I married Karen’s father “gave me away” . We had no suitable male relations for this role as my brother had emigrated to Australia, and in those days a male “donor” was considered essential.

Contact dwindled after this as Karen’s family lived in a distant part of Auckland. Eventually she too married and went to live in Australia, and I have no idea where she is now. Unless people stay in the city of their childhood it seems inevitable that early friendships will fade. Having moved cities twice during my life I have lost contact with many friends who were once close. My daughters have moved more and further, but the internet now makes it easier to trace and keep in touch with people. I’ve searched for Karen online, but haven’t managed to find her.

I’ve lost touch with my first best friend
the one on whom I could depend

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Mark Zuckerberg and his minions want us to join the Metaverse – a place where we will all meet through virtual reality.

I experienced this in 2018 when I had the opportunity to row a kayak along the Avon, all while I was sitting in a chair. There was also an occasion when Air NZ celebrated a milestone by providing a virtual reality flying experience at the Canterbury Museum. Both of these were fun to do, but not quite the same as the real thing. Some distant friends have bought a virtual reality headset. They can sit on an exercycle and experience a virtual bike ride. This was useful during lockdown, but still not quite the same. They’ve experimented with Half-Life: Alyx, but the novelty soon wore off.

Ruth rowing a virtual kayak

I believe you can meet up and interact with avatars in the Metaverse, but I can’t see how it could ever be a replacement for going outside and having actual social contact. An article in yesterday’s Press pointed out the dangers of harassment, racism, and porn. What do you think? I have wondered if online shopping might be the thin end of the Metaverse?

Having virtual experiences of art galleries, museums, etc, would be great for those unable to travel, but I’m not sure that’s what Zuckerberg has in mind. It seems he wants to shift our existence from the physical world to an immersive internet, and thereby have even more influence over us. I don’t want to go. do you?

I think I’m bound to get averse
to joining in the Metaverse.

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I love to blog. It satisfies my need for creative expression and gives me contact with all kinds of people, near and far, who read my blog and make comments. I appreciate and value all of you.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to write. Prior to Christmas I went a whole week without blogging, because nothing inspired me to write and I was busy with other activities. For the past 20 days I’ve posted something every day, and the habit becomes addictive. I keep an eye on my visitor statistics and am always pleased to get comments. Sometimes I think that what I’ve written isn’t very engaging, yet it will spark someone’s interest. Topics come from all around me, but some days it’s hard to find anything to write about especially if nothing new seems to be happening.

I have a book with 642 things to write about, but many of these require imagination and my imagination isn’t very active at present. The book did inspire my recent post about ice creams. My preference is to write about actual events and feelings. Because I’ve been blogging for over 15 years there’s a danger I may repeat myself, especially if I’m writing about the garden and/or seasons of the year. It’s unlikely that anyone except me will remember what I’ve written before, and often the only reason I remember is because they show up in my Facebook Memories.

Lately I’ve been purposefully encouraging my mind to drift just before I fall asleep and when I first wake up. This sometimes gives me an idea to write about, as happened for this very post. I always scribble my thoughts on paper, add a title and a final couplet, then go to seek a suitable illustration. How do others find inspiration for regular writing?

I want to write here every day
but sometimes don’t know what to say

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I never wanted a cellphone, but in 2001 Stephen had a heart attack and spent a number of days in hospital. I needed to work as well as visiting him, and I needed a cellphone so the hospital could call me in case of an emergency. A friend kindly went and bought one for me, carefully choosing a number that was easily memorised, and I carried it everywhere with me at that time.

Once he was home again the need for urgent communication lessened. I had landlines with answerphones at home and work, and that gave sufficient opportunity for anyone to contact me. My cellphone was kept for emergencies and travel. Later I upgraded from the earlier one to a smaller model, again used only for emergencies and travel.

A few years ago a kind friend who’d moved to an iPhone gave me her old Samsung Galaxy S phone, which I still have.

I just turned it on to take the above photo and got three spam texts! This phone is “smart” and can connect to the internet. It’s possible to use it to access email and social media although I almost never do so. Its smartness is limited and it’s not smart enough to download modern apps such as the one to scan Covid QR codes. This means that when I go to a shop or café I need to manually sign in on paper rather than scan.

Because I use my cellphone only for emergencies I rarely turn it on. I’ve sometimes used it as an alarm clock when I want to be sure to get up early for a UK Zoom call. Occasionally I turn it on to receive a text verification, e.g. if I set up a new payee on my bank account. Some internet registrations demand a cellphone number, and a few will accept a landline. Because my phone is used so rarely a charge lasts for weeks, even months, so I’ve never got in the habit of charging it regularly. I’ve never run out of power either, and I do check if I’m planning to use it. Stephen has no cellphone of his own. He shares my number when needed for an internet registration.

The ubiquitous use of text, especially by professionals, and the desirability of some apps is slowly pushing me towards purchasing a smarter phone. As well as Covid QR scanning, medical appointments these days tend to require you to show a QR code, and maybe it would be easier to do this on a cellphone screen than to print it out. I’m hesitant because it seems that once people have a very smart phone they leave it on all the time, just turning the sound off when they want to sleep. It seems to be a case of all or nothing.

I’m also hesitant because of the cost. Not only the possible price of a new phone, but also its continued operating costs. Plus there’s so much I’d need to learn about how to use it. I so rarely receive a call on my current phone that it takes me a moment to remember I need to swipe, not just tap the screen, to answer it. In the past I’ve appreciated the assistance of librarians to digitally educate me, but visiting the library can be a chore these days, with the need to wear a mask and sign in.

I wonder do any of my readers manage without a smartphone? Does anyone have suggestions for a cheap easy-to-use model? Just in case I eventually succumb and upgrade. I’m aware that I may otherwise fall on the wrong side of the digital divide.

I do not need a smarter phone
but could get left out on my own

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It’s now fifteen years since I started this blog. Over that time I’ve written 4,197 posts. That’s an average of three posts every four days, which seems remarkable to me. On the blog’s third birthday I noted that I’d posted four days out of five, so I’ve kept it up pretty well. THANK YOU to all those who keep reading.

My mihi, written in June 2006 has always been the most popular of my posts. Last year when we were in lockdown and it was hard to find new things to write about I started to publish pieces of memoir. There have now been forty of these memoir posts and they’ve been well received.

Blogs seem to be less fashionable these days. So many people have moved on to Instagram or TikTok, but I’m happy to stick with a format that suits me.

I’m always grateful to my regular readers, especially those who leave comments. I hope to be writing and posting for at least another fifteen years.

I never fifteen years ago
imagined how my blog would grow

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I’ve been Zooming along this week.  Have you too?  Zoom seems to be taking over life under rāhui.  First of all I zoomed with a friend.  She was on an Ipad so was able to zoom around and show me aspects of her garden.  On Saturday four of us had a family Zoom meeting.  One was in the U.K., the other three were all in this house, all on different devices, which gave the less technologically inclined of us the chance to practise.

On Sunday I participated in a Zoom poetry workshop, where we practised muting and raising hands, and even retreated into breakout rooms.  Our first exercise was a Definitional poem, as invented by the poets of the OuLiPo school.  In this format you make a short statement, then replace each word with one of its definitions.  Here’s my effort:

I live with a fluffy cat

The first person singular, i.e. my good self
occupies a colonial cottage which I share
at the same time, in the company of
the only one of its kind
a soft mass of long-haired fibres
attributable to a feline of a particular breed
which is part derived from Burma and part related to a small squirrel-like animal
and rejoices under the nomenclature
of Ziggy Stardust.

This morning, I walked around the Loop, and met a black cat on the riverbank.  It must have crossed the path I was on to get there, so was definitely lucky.  Of course I didn’t touch it ☹️.

Black cat on riverbank

At 11.30am I had another Zoom meeting, this time with tutor and classmates from Te Wananga, and I learned how to ‘share my screen’.  This rāhui is full of Zui (Zoom hui)!

Tech knowledge growing at a pace
I soon will be a Zooming Ace

 

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Today my blog turns fourteen, the age at which a child can legitimately be left on its own, as it may well be over the next few busy weeks.  I probably won’t resist the temptation to check and see how many people visit each day, especially as my stat’s have increased over the last couple of months.  There’s no obvious reason, but I’m grateful to all those who visit and to those who leave comments.  The total number of visits this week ticked over a quarter of a million, which is amazing.

Did you know that a tetradecahedron is a polyhedron with fourteen faces?

Tuesday was the first of my Te Reo classes, and we were instructed to do ‘home play’, not homework.  My usual home play is Wordscraper or blogging, but I don’t think that was what was intended.

Some random thoughts for Blog’s birthday
not much significant to say

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