Some reflections for New Year

I love technology, period. Since love is an irrational feeling, it isn't easy to write rational comments about the subject (at least for me), anyway, I'll try to do my best at it.
I was hooked to technology since I was 7 or 8, this was long time ago, at the time computers where huge machines (typically the whole basement of an offices building), and we cheered at the exploit of "simulating" a boxing match between Rocky Marciano and Cassius Clay, so go and do the math... I was hooked anyway, I always loved to make electronic circuits for this and that purposes, like blinking lights and the like.
Also any piece of technology was an object of worship for me. This was probably due to the fact that I was exposed to all kind of vintage electronics equipment since very young, thanks to my friend's father who was subscribed to Practical Electronics and other magazines like it. He built lots of projects with valves and lately, even some with transistors! Unfortunately, he did not live to see computers at home-budget reach.
So, as soon as I could, I managed to convince my parents to buy me an "Electronics Engineer" game that Philips sold in the 70s. This game provided you with the means and instructions to build a number of projects: light detectors, blinkers, radio receivers... I read up the manuals in one day, and started immediately with it, without understanding a lot (actually my first projects did not work because I did not know how to connect a transistor with the right orientation!). When (micro)computers started to appear, I was at the right place at the right time, and managed to work during my University years (guess what did I majored in?.... Telecom engineer, just in case you have any doubt), in one of the very fist computer magazines published in Spain, where I had the opportunity to test drive almost every computer that was marketed.
And this were fun times! not the current PC's and Mac's monotony: Intel, Zilog, Motorola, even Rockwell microprocessors where used in sometimes crazy configurations, all with the desire to conquer the then potential market.
But I digress, my intention for this post is to express my opinions on whether Technology is good or bad for humans. As I said in the previous post, it's rather difficult to establish absolute values, it always depends on the circumstances, but let me give it a try: Technology is good, isn't it?

Why is it good?
For whom is it good?
Can we live without?

These questions and their answers should give us some ideas on the topic.
Why is technology good? Well, unless you are the victim of a techno-initiated disaster, in general terms we can say that technology is good because it makes our life easier. After conquering a majority of physical tasks and liberating humans from them (or at least facilitating them), the technology has been improving our intellectual life, essentially by facilitating our access to information of one kind or another: from trash TV shows to the distribution of doctoral thesis, we can safely say that the world today has full access to any kind of information. Hell, you could even build an atomic bomb with the information you can find in Internet (fortunately, the materials are not on eBay).

For whom is it good? My direct answer is for everybody. Even though many people think they are screwed daily by technology, the balance is definitively positive. We use a train to go to work, drive a car whose computers are more powerful than the mainframes from the 70s, or use an electric toothbrush, for example. Everyone does this or that daily and the advantages are evident.

Or, if you work at an office, just try to remember how you made documents in the past, with typewriters and hand drawings... they were nice, yes, but the effort needed was 10 times more. When working at the magazine, I used to write the articles in a primitive word processor machine, only to print them afterwards and give them to a composer (who used and IBM composer typewriter), for hand-mounting the magazine pages...

Who is against all this? Of course if a company decides to fire 9 out of ten office workers because it needs the same documents as before.... those 9 won't be extremely happy, but fact is, the economy has grown (with notable exceptions, of course) so much that those 9 have found an alternative job eventually. Working more hours probably, but working and making money.

Are we slaves? In a sense yes, we are, and it takes a lot of thinking to be able to survive without being slaved by technology. As usual, common sense should rule: use the best of it, avoid the dependency from it.

Have nice holidays and happy new year!


Two years into recession and... how many more?

Well, two years have passed, the downturn became a real recession, even "depression" as the journalists like to say, and we don't see a lot of light at the end of the tunnel, at least in Europe.

Worst of all, the initially very bold statements about "changing the model", "stopping bad practices" etc.... were only that, [empty] bold statements. The banks have recovered somehow, the bonuses are back for the big fish, nothing changes.

Recovery in Europe is challenging: currency devaluation is out of the question for the less wealthy countries, the debt is still there at the same value, but GDP is falling. At micro level the debts are also there while the assets that back them have 30% less value.... frightening.

Then we have China, booming growth again, its currency still too low, despite the requests to adapt the value to the real economy from all over the world, exporting unemployment to the West. And CALA: always the same, except maybe (hopefully) Brazil.

I see that tourist bookings for this Easter are up 5% Year-on-Year in Spain, that's good, even if 2009 was an all-time low, up is the right direction to go. Also housing prices are stabilizing and 2nd hand homes are actually up some marginal percentage points compared to December. There are some "experts" (and also some experts, without quotes) that say this is a "W" situation, where we will go up and down again with even more momentum.... since nobody knows what will happen, let's be optimistic and start spending!!!

So what's left? Well, there are industries that start to show positive signs, also some clever strategies that should bring up the activity, so I have hope in the future.

I will give example by consuming some electronics (always my favorite spending) or some guitars. Tools are also attractive for us poor males.


Long Time No See

It's been a long time since I wrote the previous entry to this blog, more than one year! It's hard to believe how much everything has changed in this relatively short period, from a relatively calm situation to absolute worldwide panic in only 12 months.

One of the outstanding things that I'm seeing these days is that it seems that we all expect things to happen very quickly: The EU launches a rescue plan and we are kinda' dissapointed the day after because the unemployment is still growing, the stock exchanges keep on falling, and so on... or the FED lowers the interest rate by 1 point and we dream that overnight everything will go back to normal... there are literally thousands of proposals to save this or that put on the table, but no positive effect is perceived: everything is falling apart around us.

So, I propose to the rulers that they should not only announce their ideas to save us (from what?, from them?) in terms of money, but they should also indicate a timeline: when should we expect some results? which results? Something measurable and trackable would be handy.

I know this reveals my technical background and also the "total-quality" mentality, but this all-qualitative way of doing things by the politicians is leading us to anxiety in the best case, or to depression in the worst. Not to mention the effect in the stock markets, where they buy rumours and sell news.

Am I the only one that is feeling cheated? There are some conspiracy theories around saying that this crisis is being created on-purpose by some evil organizations... difficult to believe, these guys would be real geniuses to execute a so-complete and effective plan. BUT, it is also difficult to believe that this is only a consequence of uncontrolled business operations, which fell off the scale in terms of risks, and plain felony. I mean, the people doing that will also lose all their wealth eventually, so it's kinda suicidal: 
What is the point of having a zillion dollar if the dollar is worth nothing???? The answer is "I converted it to Swiss Bonds, stupid", yeah, but they also have difficulties... or will have in a couple months.

OK, you buried the money somewhere in the Caribbean (a treasure chest?)... in gold... hmmm how are you gonna retrieve it? rowing? And after that, who is going to buy your gold? With what?

Anyway, let's hope this crisis is partially also an exaggeration from the media, so when they change their attention point to something else, this will calm down a little. This can be seen as stupid optimism, but bear with me, since nobody seems to be able to explain what's going on (and, more important, how to stop it), I prefer to be optimist and stupid, we'll have time to cry later on.


Let's have some discussion !!!

I created this blog to have some debate over the benefits and counter-benefits of living in this highly technological world. So all comments are welcome and desired, I would like this site to be a meeting point for everyone that has an opinion about this topic.

This is a moderated blog, I would like to keep a high standard of communication, whilst allowing lively discussions, so please keep your opinions within a reasonable level of common sense and good manners. No personal offenses of any type will be allowed, nor rude language. If you have the absolute need to say a four letter word, please use euphemistic representations, or emoticons.

Once I have laid down the principles (and these are very few as you can see), let me express some initial opinions to get this thing going.

Techno-living is great!
The technological world sucks!

You have probably heard these two contradictory statements more than once, and most probably both where justified in a certain context.
Why is that? Why do we usually have mixed feelings about the situation in which we have to live? I would like to elaborate on these, and hear your opinions:

We think the technology is great when we make use of it, of course. When we are in need of something and the answer comes from technology, we feel very happy to live in the developed world.
For example, you are waiting at the theater to get a ticket and the movie starts in 5 minutes... you know you'll never make it and the kids are pulling your vest asking for pop-corn and soda and... you name it. Just flip your cell phone open, click a few keys and voila!, you have the ticket selling website in front of you, asking how many tickets you would like to have. Some clicks after that you walk to the automated ticket dispenser, credit card in hand, and get those 4 tickets in a second: forget the waiting line, enjoy your film and... hey, don't forget the pop corn, you promised it!!

That's great, ain't it? Who can complain about it?

Now after the film walk away to your car, press the remote control button to open the car's door... nothing happens. The manual lock is broken since seven years, since you don't use it anyway... press again... nothing happens.

Kids start asking questions, you start asking not-so-nice questions to the air... Then you remember: “I've got 24h service, just a call away” bring your cell phone up... you realize that the number is inside the car. It starts raining... you wish you have stayed at home watching TV... maybe start swearing at the car, the rain, ... mmmm .... no, not at the kids, poor victims as you are. In the old days, you opened the car turning the keys,
not with a d...ed remote control!!!

Now it doesn't look so great !!

Obviously, as everything in life, this is very subjective, there are no absolute values... or are there?

In next postings I'll try to establish a set of absolute values about technological benefits or problems, but of course I will be glad to have your opinions and proposals about it.