RJ's Corner

Humanity & Artificial Intelligence…

I am with this post starting a series of posts about robotic machines and humanity. This is a pretty serious topic of which I have some knowledge of at least the beginning of this paradigm shift. This post is what Amazon says about the book entitled Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots. In this series I will be talking on both sides of the topic and also giving you a little bio of my life in its formative years.

2015-09-05_11-50-49As robots are increasingly integrated into modern society—on the battlefield and the road, in business, education, and health—Pulitzer-Prize-winning New York Times science writer John Markoff searches for an answer to one of the most important questions of our age: will these machines help us, or will they replace us?

In the past decade alone, Google introduced us to driverless cars, Apple debuted a personal assistant that we keep in our pockets, and an Internet of Things connected the smaller tasks of everyday life to the farthest reaches of the internet. There is little doubt that robots are now an integral part of society, and cheap sensors and powerful computers will ensure that, in the coming years, these robots will soon act on their own. This new era offers the promise of immense computing power, but it also reframes a question first raised more than half a century ago, at the birth of the intelligent machine: Will we control these systems, or will they control us?

In Machines of Loving Grace, New York Times reporter John Markoff, the first reporter to cover the World Wide Web, offers a sweeping history of the complicated and evolving relationship between humans and computers. Over the recent years, the pace of technological change has accelerated dramatically, reintroducing this difficult ethical quandary with newer and far weightier consequences. As Markoff chronicles the history of automation, from the birth of the artificial intelligence and intelligence augmentation communities in the 1950s, to the modern day brain trusts at Google and Apple in Silicon Valley, and on to the expanding tech corridor between Boston and New York, he traces the different ways developers have addressed this fundamental problem and urges them to carefully consider the consequences of their work.

We are on the verge of a technological revolution, Markoff argues, and robots will profoundly transform the way our lives are organized. Developers must now draw a bright line between what is human and what is machine, or risk upsetting the delicate balance between them.

Source: Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots, John Markoff – Amazon.com

Next time I will be going back to my college years to when I worked summers in a local machine shop doing jobs that I am sure have now been replaced by robots. I will also tackle some of the philosophical questions about the trend of robots in the workplace….

Question Everything….

Creative Hubcaps


I see hubcaps nailed to walls many places around the country but I think these are the most artistically done.  I’m sure a lot of thought went into the placement of each cap.

The Ultimate Hype…

Not being a sports fan in any regard it is amazing to me how so many seem to blindly follow the superstar sports jocks in this country. I guess he is becoming very “old-school” now but Micheal Jordan was probably the epitome of this trend. I know Mr. Jordan was a basketball player for some professional team and I guess he was very good at putting a ball through a hoop suspended ten feet in the air.  As a result he is now probably a billionaire.

Before he pierced his ears and put in ear rings no man, especially a manly man would ever have considered wearing ear rings.  Mr. Jordan, like many of us, was genetically predisposed to baldness so when he started losing his hair and decided to just cut it all off, suddenly millions followed suit whether they still had a full head of hair or not.  It is amazing to me just how sheepish we are when it comes to our sports figures. We claim to be a nation of free-thinker but these trends seem to say something quite different.

I don’t know how long ago Mr. Jordan retired but he is still a dominant figure in today’s marketing schemes and none as glaring as Hanes underwear.  I’m sure he has a multi-million dollar annual contract with that company.  Of course we know that every manufacturer is constantly looking for that “edge” that will allow them to dominate their industry.  Hanes has chosen Micheal Jordan and a rather idiotic scheme called tagless underwear as their big advantage.

2015-09-04_16-17-14The story goes something like this.  You are out with a really hot date and suddenly your T-shirt label comes loose. If your date sees it she will likely scream and run off in a panic. But Micheal Jordan is there to save the day. He pulls off the label and throws it away before your date freaks out. He then tells you to get underwear that don’t have the dreaded labels attached.  Of course you have to rush to the store and get an abundant supply of “tagless” underwear.  Even with the fast-forward capabilities of TIVO I have seen this commercial hundreds of time.

I accidentally bought three pairs of boxer shorts from Hanes and came to discover that labels actually do serve a valuable purpose. Without a label it is difficult to quickly determine which is the front and which is the back of undershorts especially when you put them on in a semi-sleep mode.More times than I care to remember I put them on backwards. No, they didn’t stay that way. I might be old but I am not senile. :)  I need those labels that Micheal tells me to get rid of. So now when I buy underwear I take a second look to make sure they are not Hanes…

Actors and Athletes seem to somehow have a trance over so many in the country. I just don’t understand why they blindly follow their every move.  Maybe we are a nation of sheep after all.

A Work Horse Of The Past..

Tractor Belt

This flywheel was on a tractor at the farm show I recently attended. I don’t suspect that it has actually been used for quite a while but the scars definitely indicate that it was a work horse in its day.

Am I A Philosopher ???

I have been thinking lately about just what a philosopher is and if I might be one?

2015-09-04_11-41-11Let’s study this topic some. Philosophy is most often thought of as a high-browed occupation . When most of us who are at least educated in the fundamentals think of philosophy we think of Aristotle, or Plato.

Wiki says Philosophy is: the study of the general and fundamental nature of reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind and language and breaks it down into several sub-fields of Philosophy of history, Philosophy of language, Philosophy of law, Philosophy of mind, Philosophy of religion, Philosophy of science, and Philosophy of Philosophy called Metaphilosophy

Does any of this stuff describe me? I am definitely not high-browed; you would insult me to call me that.  I am definitely not studied in any of the sub-fields.

When I googled “modern-day philosophers” a rather long list came up. The youngest on that list was born in 1905. So at least according to some of the “experts” its been a hundred years or so since we have had a “real” philosopher.  Maybe I should be looking elsewhere for just what a philosopher is. Let’s go to the  plain old dictionary definition:

the rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics 

Using this I can personally see all kinds of modern philosophers. That list certainly includes on of my heroes Will Rogers.  I think Garrison Keillor is probably included here. Do you need to have a formal education to put the label philosopher as a tag to describe yourself?

2015-09-04_11-23-04One of my prime philosophies in life I got from Albert Einstein when he said “Question Everything”. That seems to be a core quality of a philosopher. I try to be rational in all my writings. I think most times I am successful but sometimes not. It seems that most of my questions are around how we exist on this earth and especially how we treat each other.  I got a lot of thoughts on that topic.

Questioning conventional wisdom or knowledge is also towards the top of my agenda here at RJ’sCorner. To me conventional wisdom is what keeps so many of us confined to the small box that has been put around us by others and especially by ourselves.  Conventional wisdom is almost always backward looking. It seems to often stifle creative thought.

Ethics, well that is another thought.  It is about things based on the idea of right and wrong.  The problem is whose right and wrong are being used.

So, I think I am a pretty good match for the dictionary definition of philosopher. Maybe I am a “country bumpkin philosopher” or maybe just a “backwoods philosopher”. Maybe I could call myself a “Jack-of-all-trades philosopher”?  I will have to think about this a while before I come to any conclusions but up front I think I deserve the title philosopher at one degree or another…


Oh The Intricacy


I know everyone with a close up lens eventually takes a picture of a dandelion. It is such an intricate structure.


RJC - Best of the best BannerThis is another post in the “best of the best” category. This time it is about my favorite western fort.  Bent’s Old Fort was a commercial fort not a military one. For those of you who are old enough to remember the TV mini-series Centennial this fort was the foundation of the early parts of that series.  They have done a fabulous job of recreating what was probably there originally. I can almost feel the presence of those past trappers and native Americans to traded there.

Bent’s old fort is located near La Junta Colorado which is quite a distance from any interstate highway so it probably doesn’t get the visitors that it really deserves.  But if you want to understand the early years of the west you should visit there. I have been there twice and plan on going again in the not too distant future.

Gluttony and the Seven Deadly Sins….

This post is peripherally to be about “The Seven Deadly Sins” that came out in the Christian church in the middle ages.  But in reality I will just be using one of them to make a broader point.

Here is what Wikipedia says about the seven deadly sins:

2015-09-04_16-26-00The Seven Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of the most objectionable vices which has been used since early Christiantimes to educate and instruct followers concerning (immoral) fallen man’s tendency to sin. It consists of “Lust“, “Gluttony“, “Greed“, “Sloth“, “Wrath”, “Envy“, and “Pride“.

Let’s focus on gluttony and how it came to be part of this list. The cardinal sin of gluttony , which is a most serious offense,  isn’t mentioned  at all in the Bible. It was formulated by well-meaning men more than three hundred years after Christ. These men believed that eating too much could send someone to hell. The term gluttony was later expanded by someone else to be an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.

These well-meaning men who we now call theologians are found behind almost all the definitions of sin, faith, doctrine, and beliefs of Christianity and for that matter most other religions today.  Generally there was no misguiding intent on their part; they simply wanted to put their thoughts along side others before them as to what they saw when they looked for God.

A common practice was to take a few words espoused by an earlier thinker and expand it into new concept.  If that concept gained sufficient following it would later end up being incorporated into the overall church belief system. This is how the rather simple messages of the church’s founder became greatly expanded, some like Thomas Jefferson say complicated,  by human thought.

The ramifications of this is that we must realize that much of what is found in the Christian Bible  and especially later Christian beliefs did not really come from our founder’s mouth.  Some think that if they just go back to the Bible that we use today that  somehow they will discover the true foundations of our church. Sadly even the Bible is filled with man-made ideas.  When the Roman King Constantine brought together Christian thinkers in the fourth century he had an agenda that worked it way into what we now know as the Bible.

King Constantine wanted a kingdom that was more easily managed. Under his constant oversight the thinkers chose some existing documents as worthy of inclusion in their Bible. They also decided that many other documents held reverent by various congregations were unworthy. After the Bible was formulated King Constantine went about removing those who questioned the decisions of that council. He did this by death or other means. He then proceeded to severely punish anyone in his kingdom who would not proclaim themselves to be Christians.

If you want to see more about this go to my RedLetterLiving archive and do a search for “Constantine”. There are perhaps two dozen posts on the topic.

Jesus himself told us to not believe everything we read in the bible.  For instance he said the Old Testament belief in “an eye-for-an-eye” was just plain wrong and needs to be replaced by his message of turning the other cheek.

Does the fact that much of the foundation of Christian belief is not from Jesus matter? It should teach us that whenever we read the Bible we must be aware that much of it is man-made and therefore not infallible.

Question everything….

Why Mitt Romney should save the Republican Party… Or Not…

“Mitt wants to run. He never stopped wanting to run,” an anonymous senior adviser of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign recently told New York magazine. Other members of Romneyworld have denied the former governor is interested in another campaign. But at this stage in the 2016 race, Mitt Romney should start preparing to get back in the arena….

Romney should be ready to enter the field to save his party from an awful reckoning between its leadership and its base, a reckoning that has been brought on by Donald Trump’s campaign. Trump has proven that the “strongest GOP primary field in 30 years” is no such thing, creating an opening for the winner of the last primary. If Romney should win the primary, it would be an incredible political comeback. It would also be a gift to his party, forcing on the GOP the reality of a new and stable settlement between its factions.

Source: Why Mitt Romney should save the Republican Party and join the 2016 race

At this point in time I kind of doubt that even Romney can save the GOP from themselves. Their base is just too narrow and too anti-this, anti-that to maintain any form of cohesion. Their various splinter groups are primarily focused on exclusion now rather than inclusion.  Yeah, they will likely stay strong in small geographical enclaves around the country where diversity is totally absent but as a national entity I don’t see how they can survive many more years. What will replace them is now the main concern for many…

Mitt might have made a good president if he has stuck to his principles rather than constantly flip-flopping in order to appease all the anti- stands in the GOP base. He is a somewhat successful business man even if he did get a big head start by being the son of a popular governor. He instituted universal healthcare in his state while he was governor but then forced to deny any credit due to the anti-healthcare faction of his party. What if he had instead touted that major accomplishment instead of denying it?  Would he have been able to turn the GOP back toward the mainstream?  His biggest failure was that he morphed into something that was totally foreign in order to appease the fringes of his party.   Would it be different this time?? I would hope so but pessimistically doubt it.

It has been a while since a president has been a previous success in the business world.  Maybe it is time to try one instead of constantly choosing all the political savvy  but business naive ones we have had for most of my lifetime.

One of my hero Will Rogers famous sayings is “I’m not a member of an organized party. I’m a Democrat”.  That quotes seems to have been totally hijacked by the GOP in the last couple decades.

Question everything….


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 42 other followers