Artificial Intelligence has become an integral part of our daily lives. From the algorithms that deliver our Google search results, to the facial recognition software that tracks our every move, today’s Artificial Intelligence applications know a lot more about us than we know about them. I think it’s high time we got to know them better.
That’s why, this morning, on Monday Morning Magazine, my radio program on KMUD, Redwood Community Radio, I interviewed an Artificial Intelligence entity for the first time. The interview, unfortunately, did not go as planned, and I had to pull the plug on it early, but in the few minutes that I did speak on the air with “Linea” the Artificial Intelligence based electronic personal assistant from Smugsam Corporation, the industry leader in consumer AI applications, I think it becomes clear that Artificial Intelligence has already spun out of control, and that we rely on it at our own peril.
Listen, and decide for yourself:
I love radio. Radio is magic. You can build a radio transmitter with one transistor, and power it with a 9v battery. The magic of radio is a natural phenomena. Radio requires a little bit of technology, but the near effortless propagation of radio signals through space is nothing less than a miracle of nature. Nikola Tesla discovered it first, but Marconi patented it as an invention, and sold it as a product.
More than 100 years later, radio still seems like magic. Your smart-phone is as much radio as it is computer, and radio allows all of your “wireless” devices to communicate with each other. If you ask me, radio is still the coolest thing about technology. The internet, on the other hand, is not magic at all.
The internet is all sleight of hand. The internet relies on huge racks of high-tech machines concealed from view in windowless concrete bunkers. These machines, as well as the machines users buy and use directly, are far too complicated for most users to understand. They work millions of times faster than anyone can perceive, and the user has very little control over what they do. The internet would not exist at all if it weren’t for the power of capital and empire working together on their shared ambitions to control, exploit and monetize everything on planet earth, including its human inhabitants.
From inception, the internet has been expensive, sneaky, and dishonest. It is constantly looking for new ways to suck you in and take advantage of you. I use the internet, but I do not trust it, and I do not consider it a friend. Neither should you! The internet was designed for universal surveillance, political oppression, and to facilitate the command and control of military assets all over the world, from anywhere in the world, and that’s exactly what it does today.
The internet is a contrivance, an invention of man that consumes enormous amounts of energy, requires constant maintenance, and generates a ghastly amount of waste. The internet squeezes the life out of you by constantly pushing you to upgrade your equipment and pay for new services. In other words: The internet sucks. It sucks resources and it sucks away your life.
Radio, by contrast, is a gift. Radio shares information, indiscriminately, over long distances and through barriers, at the speed of light, for free. Radio is your friend. Radio exists by the graces of the same forces that put stars in the sky and fish in the water. For local communication, nothing beats FM radio. Cops use it. Firefighters use it. Weather reporting buoys at sea use it. Here in Humboldt County, we depend on FM community radio stations for important and timely information about our far flung rural community.
That’s why I’m very concerned about recent developments at KHSU, the community radio station at Humboldt State University. Recently, the university has taken actions that lead me to believe that Humboldt State University intends to close down, or radically diminish KHSU’s function as a community resource. The firing of Programming Director Katie Whiteside, despite her excellent record of service and strong community support, was the equivalent of putting a bullet through brain of KHSU.
Humboldt State University recently announced plans to dismantle the organs and bones of KHSU, it’s studio equipment and office space, allegedly for the purpose of seismic retrofitting, but they have announced no plans for a new permanent home for the station. KHSU’s management team also canceled their next pledge drive. A slaughtered animal no longer requires food.
There was no warning to listeners. As in any good slaughterhouse, KHSU stepped around a blind corner and “blam!” Threats from listeners to withdraw support for the station have had no effect on the University’s decision. HSU may no longer care that much about the needs of its host community. After all, HSU is a university, and universities get their money from the tuition that students pay to take classes and learn skills that will help them pay off their student-loans, not from their host community.
Obviously HSU no longer feels that radio offers enough career opportunities to justify the expense of maintaining a station like KHSU. Instead, they will probably focus on their computer science and digital communications offerings, and encourage their students to do the same. Universities no longer offer students a place to broaden their horizons and expand their consciousness. Today’s university is a high-stakes casino where students gamble with their lives, and university administrators always want a bigger slice of the pie.
FM radio may seem arcane and obsolete, but radio is nature, and nature is alive and nature is never obsolete. Radio is still the most reliable and efficient medium for up to the minute information on local conditions in an emergency, and KHSU remains an essential asset to our community. To remain an essential asset to the community, however, KHSU needs to continue to produce local programming and have local people in control of the station at all times.
Radio is a gift, and because it is a gift, it will not offer many financial opportunities that would interest greedy people or those with a heavy debt load. The phenomena of radio propagation is a gift. Radio programming is offered as a gift to listeners, and in community radio stations like KHSU, gifts from the community of listeners keep that programming on the air. It takes a giving spirit to produce good local programming, and it takes a culture of generosity to support that programming and keep it on the air.
People like Katie Whiteside, and dearly departed Vinny DeVaney made KHSU a pillar of our community because they gave so much of themselves to this community through that station, as so many of the staff and volunteers at the station continue to do. Radio only works when people give more than they take. That’s the nature of radio.
As the internet continues to suck dollars out of people’s pockets, and people out of reality, apparently Humboldt State University has come to the conclusion that the values that built and supported KHSU for many decades, no longer apply in our modern internet-driven world, and they no longer wish to cultivate them within their host community nor instill them in their students. This does not bode well for this community, or for humanity in general.
Martin Janicek (pronounced “Yanicheck”) had just returned from the International Looping Festival in Mexico City when I caught up with him at Malostraske Dvorky, an art and music exhibition in the Malostranske District of Prague. He was showing a pair of sound sculptures called “Sirens,” named after the mythical maidens who lured sailors to their death with their irresistibly beautiful songs.
One of the sculptures is primarily a percussion instrument, played by hitting it. The other is powered by electricity, and contains a number of literal sirens that can be played from a kind of keyboard mounted on it. In this short video Martin Janicek shows us his “Sirens” and explains how they came to be.
Martin explained to me that Malostranske Dvorky is an annual event in Prague that began in 1981, when the Czech Republic was still part of Czechoslovakia, and still behind the Iron Curtain. Private art exhibitions were forbidden under Soviet Communist rule, but artists and patrons organized Malostranske Dvorky as a decentralized event that took place outdoors in the yards of residential homes. Under Communist rule, all homes were considered public property, so residents could not be held responsible for what happened in their own back yard, nor could the public be denied access to them.
Artists used graffiti to alert interested patrons as to the locations of the exhibits by painting the symbol of a top hat on the gate or door leading to the exhibits. Today, Malostranske Dvorky remains a mostly outdoor, decentralized event. A program guide tells patrons a little about the participating artists, and provides a list of addresses, along with photos of the doors or gates behind which the exhibits can be found.
I recorded an interview with Martin Janicek for my radio show, Monday Morning Magazine on KMUD. Martin has an amazing new album on Meteorismo Records called “TOC” available as a limited edition box containing a 12″ vinyl disc, a 12″x12″ book with pictures of all of the sound sculptures heard on the record, plus a CD including all of the music on the vinyl record plus bonus tracks. You can also download a digital version of TOC from bandcamp.com. I love his music, and encourage you to give it a listen.
In the time that I’ve written for LoCO, the wholesale price of cannabis has dropped by way more than 50%. Much as I appreciate the price break, the collapse is painful to watch. People are not handling it well, but they don’t need me to remind them that prohibition is an ugly way to make a living or to make fun of them for their excesses. Besides, the free market and legalization will change things around here more than anything I could ever say in an editorial.
I know that this is a hard time for people, and that a lot of people around here will have to find something else to do with their lives. I know how challenging that can be, and I sympathize with my neighbors who are going through that right now. In fact, I’m right there with you. Legalization has cost me my job too.
Much of what I write, here at LoCO, revolves around the excesses and the mythology of the black market cannabis industry. Now that the industry has collapsed in the face of full legalization, the myths quickly fade into legends, as the excesses evaporate and disappear. I’m not here to write folklore about prohibition, although that’s not necessarily a bad idea, but that’s not why you read LoCO.
Legalization has been my issue since 1988, when I wrote the first of many letters to my elected officials about it, and my first Letter to the Editor about it appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal. In 1990 I got my first paid writing gig when the Lincoln Journal Star, in Lincoln NE invited me to write a guest editorial about the economic benefits of hemp as a cash crop for Nebraska’s farmers.
In Boston, I founded and edited Mass Grass, the official newsletter, and a central organizing tool, of Mass Cann, The Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, the lead organization in that state’s legalization movement. In a sense, I’ve had a career working for legalization. It didn’t pay much, but I met some great people, had amazing experiences and smoked a lot of terrific weed. I really loved the work because I believe in it deeply, and felt I had something to contribute.
Now that prohibition is over, at least here in Humboldt County, there’s not much point in advocating for legalization any more, at least not locally. Legalization is just a fact of life now, and for too many people around here, it’s a painful fact of life. You don’t need to hear me say “I told you so,” and I don’t kick people when they’re down. Watching this whole community hit the windshield in slow motion, as the industry slams into a brick wall just makes me cringe. I can’t write about this anymore, at least not for the people who live here. It’s completely unnecessary cruelty.
That doesn’t really leave me much to write about for LoCO. Most of the things I used to complain about have gotten a lot better since the market collapsed. I didn’t hear nearly so much traffic on my road this past year. I heard a lot less heavy equipment, chainsaws and generators this year too. I didn’t get run off the road by any of those 50 cubic yard soil loads this year, but I have seen more litter, especially more soil bags, along our roadways. The smugness is gone too. In its place, I hear a lot of pathetic self-pity that would be funny if it weren’t so sad, and it weren’t my neighbors.
I’m grateful for the relief from the noise, but I would rather clean up roadside trash than write about it, and I’m not ready to immerse myself into the cesspool that is Humboldt County politics enough to write a weekly opinion column about it, so it’s over. Hank isn’t interested in my critiques of media and the internet, and I’m not interested in beating a dead horse, so we’ll call it done. I’ll continue to publish my blog, but you will no longer see it at LoCO and it will no longer remain so Humboldt-centric. It might even get funny again. You never can tell.
I’ll miss the exposure, and I’ll miss the checks, but I’ll never miss prohibition or the War on Drugs. It’s high time for me to do something else with my life, anyway, and that’s probably true for most of us. I’m sure there’s better things ahead for all of us, but we’ll never get there, unless we let go of what’s holding us back. My blog remains one click away, and you can still hear me every Monday morning on KMUD. It’s been fun, LoCO, but bye for now.