Monday, 5 December 2016

Dude, where is my job?

I remember when I started working in a bank a couple of years ago, the teamwork at that moment was constituted with approximately a hundred people and each one was in charge of a single duty. After two years, the team was reduced to half and four years later the team was formed only by twenty people and the workplace was occupied with more machines than human workers. But who should we blame for a such an enormous redundancy? The person who refuses to follow the advance of technology or the technology itself? Technology is here to stay and there is no other alternative than accept it and adapt to its power. The same thing that happened in the bank, happened in other areas as well. It is happening now in all areas of society. Human organic machine is been substituted by A.I (artificial intelligence) which is another kind of machine, much more efficient and this machine never get tired or get sick. It just need some maintenance regularly. The Big Corporations, as usual always eager for profits, have Interesting examples of how human beings are not necessary in some jobs any more. I.e: Drones have been tested by Amazon to replace its delivers, according to the Guardian:

Amazon has announced that it will partner with the British government to run tests exploring the viability of delivery of small parcels by drone – the first time such tests have been run in the UK. The company announced that a cross-government team supported by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) gave permission to Amazon to explore three key areas: operations beyond line of sight, obstacle avoidance and flights where one person operates multiple autonomous drones. The experiment will look at drones carrying deliveries weighing 2.3kg (5lb) or less – which make up 90% of Amazon’s sales, a company spokeswoman said.” (1)

With the exploration of high technology in all areas of human life, what could happen to our beloved area, Library and Information Sciences? How the old fashioned librarian should behave in these modern digital times? 
The same kind of redundancy that has happened to the bank that I once worked to, has been happening to my local library as well. The warm and happy faces were substituted by efficient and cold computers. Again, according to The Guardian:

Peter Preston, in dismissing Save Our Libraries Day, asserts that technology has changed our reading habits (Making way for the new, 7 February). He means, of course, that technology has changed his reading habits. His view is typical of many journalists and politicians now commenting on public libraries: comfortably off, with internet access, Kindles, iPads and Amazon accounts, they have no need to use their local libraries, and have little idea how much goes on in them. Yet they advocate, as Preston does, that "some things have to go" and point to libraries.” (2)

Unfortunately, it is sad but true words, specially for the old fashionable reader who really loves the smell and the touch of books and compares the library as some sacred place like the Vatican for Catholicism or some sacred stones for the native Hawaiians. For these kind of readers, closing a library or changing its physical collection to digital collection which is accessible only through a machine instead by their own hands, has the same effect of closing a church or destroying a sacred stone. But at the end, the one who do not want to be included in the massive group of people who are being superfluous every day in the I.T societies, is the one who thinks that adaptation in this kind of society is the cleverest decision to be made to prevent redundancy.  


Sunday, 13 November 2016

Data left by ancient civilizations

How amazing is the transmission of information through time, connecting the distant past to the present moment. Ancient civilizations experimented diverse types of material such as baked clay tablets, papyrus, stones and so forth, as data. Some part of those data would survive through time and space, but a massive part would be lost forever. The access to all those information would be impossible without the work of some people, those people who left the data with precious information; and those people who would be able to interpret those data and access the information, in a remote future. The Epic of Gilgamesh and Princess Enheduanna`s poems are examples of data registered in baked clay; and The Rosetta Stone, an example of data registered in black granite stone.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, considered the oldest registered data of human history was written in backed clay tablets, it is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia, each tablet contains the story of a single adventure of Gilgamesh.
Princess Enheduanna from the City of Ur, left a corpus of literary works and many personal devotions to the goddess Inanna and a collection of hymns known as the “Sumerian Temple Hymns”, in backed clay tablets. She is considered as one of the earliest author and poets known by name in world history. She composed 42 hymns addressed to temples across Sumer and Akkad and the texts are reconstructed from 37 tablets from Ur and Nippur.
The Rosetta Stone, perhaps seen as simply a weird black granite stone with some curious signals written in it. Actually, it was an essential data which holds information about the ancient Egyptian civilization, and in 1822, Jean-Francois Champollion, a brilliant young Frenchman, who was a scholar, a philologist, an orientalist and a professor in Egyptology, the secrets of ancient Egyptians begun to be revealed. He showed that the Egyptian writing system was a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs. The Rosetta Stone has a message in three inscriptions: 1) Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs; 2) Egyptian demotic script; 3) Ancient Greek. The message is a decree issued at Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC on behalf of king Ptolemy V. The translation was the essential key to modern understanding of Ancient Egyptian literature and civilization.
The secrets of those mysterious civilizations were uncovered through space and time. It shows that the power of information is an essential tool used by scholars to scrutinize the data available. Ancient civilizations were interested to transmit informations about their glory to the future generations. But how much secret still hide to us because it was lost? How many civilizations has existed and suddenly has perished without leaving at least a trace as a key to open the door to their mysteries? How many undeciphered symbol we have encountered and yet we cannot revel them because we have limited understanding of how access them?
In a time where the access of information resources were very limited. Time completely different from our modern time where we have the net and computers, people like Champollion would interpret the data left by the ancient Egyptians. Without internet, without computer. How such an amazing mind! The capability to understand the meaning of a message written a long time ago and transmitted through space and time, is really amazing.

I think that everything that exist, for instance, human Beings, planets, stars, black holes and so forth, can be seen as types of data holding information. Some of those data are much more complexes than others. The world is an infinite metadata, holding the data about data of everything.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Information is the new black (INM348)

Not  so long ago people used to go  to  the temples and  places that  they  considered  as sacred. They used to  pray  for miracles expecting some kind of alleviation for their pain and suffering. The access to  information was  limited to the hands of few men who knew exactly how to  keep control  of  the  truth and  people`s faith.  Information  was manipulated  by  a minority  who  decided  of keeping men and women  deepen in ignorance and  darkness for ages. But   the access to Information  slowly  started  to  be   spread  to  the  world by some few courageous people who risked  themselves  of  being  burned  alive  in  public fire pit. After being living in a Platonic cave for centuries, accepting the reality  showed  by shadows as the only truth, some brave men  challenged  the established system  and learned the way out of the cave taking the risk to embrace a new reality. In modern times, Google is the new miraculous temple,  where people can go when they need answers and remedy for their suffering. A reality based on information which everyone can decide what accept or not. And like a powerful virus the will for information was contaminating everyone by some new tools of dissemination and forcing to choose between being in ignorance and darkness and praying for answers or learn how to adapt and to access the new power. Information became the new master in recent times. You are what you read. The atoms of the new reality is bits. Objects used in the past to store information like rock tablets, papyrus and books which were very useful, are no longer capable to keep such a huge amount of data which we generated every day. New technologies were needed to be invented for this task. Nowadays the new reality is constituted  by bits. Where:1000 bytes = one kilobyte (KB); 1000 KB = one megabyte (MB);1000 MB = one gigabyte (GB);1000 GB = one terabyte (TB);1000 TB = one petabyte (PB);1000 PB = one exabyte (EB);1000 EB = one zettabyte (ZB);1000 ZB = one yottabyte (YB). According to IBM: 2.5 exabytes of data was generated every day in 2012. But how much of these data were really usefull? 
The technology developed to store information in recent times is really fascinating. For instance, the capacity of a human being's functional memory is estimated to be 1.25 terabytes or the equivalent of  the memories of 800 human beings fitting into one petabyte.  If a person decides to belong to the modern society, the person should not resist being involved in the massive power which Information mechanisms achieved  on people`s life. Each part of the planet is connected to some powerful information centre and "resistance is futile", according to the Borgs from Star Trek series. Assimilation is the new rule. But between so much infinitely data how to decide and choose what we should assimilate or not is the key. How to know the discernibility of the "I" of the useful information from the useless data must be clear if we want avoid the accumulation of rubish in our minds.  We are in the centre of an invisible information war between the big information corporations. Facebook and its "mates" are deciding our past, our present and what will be our future. They are in charge of our footsteps and they know each movement we are going to do next. We are being observed all the time by virtual eyes.