My Digital Future

3 computr generations
We live in a “Paradox of Progress” where the things that were supposed to make our lives easier have actually made them harder. On the right is a G4, in the middle is a first generation Mac Book Pro, on the left, same model MacBook Pro, two years later.

I sit at my desk with three computers in front of me.  All Macs, all laptops.  The first one is a G4 purchased in 2004 and contains most of the software that I used during those years, about $35,000 worth, all purchased and registered. It was refitted in 2007 with a new hard drive from a cloned computer after a friend of mine sat on it while on a trip to Australia.  Don’t ask how that happened. The operating system on that computer can no longer be upgraded.  I know I have the original discs around somewhere should I ever need to reload it.  It lives in the twilight of the computing age and I love that machine.

My next computer is a MacBook Pro, purchased in 2009 containing some of the software I could afford to upgrade when I decided to upgrade to the new operating system. It contains about $7,000 of software and effects and gets used heavily on the internet.  Somethings will update.  Others will not. I expected, based on my last experience, that I would have until 2014 to make the next shift, but I am elated to discover that this machine is still doing it’s work 2 years past it’s predicted lifespan.

The third MacBook Pro was purchased in 2015. It has limited software loaded on it that allowed me to do video editing and audio development only. It is a sleek machine, lighter, faster and smooth to the touch, sometimes I take it to bed to watch movies.  I love the way she feels in my hands.  But enough of all that.  This post is supposed to be a grumpy one not an erotic one.

I use my middle computer for going online and I leave my newest computer off-line as much as possible so that it can remain in mint condition.  I still use the G4  for many creative tasks but only turn it on when I have a major project that needs something done in software that I can’t afford a modern version of.  I am a manual kind of guy and enjoy using that computer to create great things because it let’s me do it on my terms.  A hammer is really only a hammer, after all.

When sitting in front of the three computers it’s fascinating to see how each one is slowly dropping off of the Internet and become less functional even though they are in perfect working order. The G4 used to play YouTube videos fine and surfed all the websites but as the Internet changed and delivery methods evolved, the G4 could go to less and less websites until it became impossible to surf the Internet on that perfectly functioning computer without the pinwheel of death forever taunting you. I have cleaned those caches soooooo many times.

My first generation MacBook Pro is now starting to exhibit the signs of the same kind of detachment from the Internet. It is become harder to surf the web, sites things take longer to load, and, perhaps most troubling, the amount of advertising that is loading cookies into my processor has become almost unmanageable.

It is because of cookies and online advertising that I keep my state of the art computer off the Internet as much as possible, surfing only to sites that I really trust.

I should also point out that I have put tape over the lens of all my laptop cameras owing to the things I hear about cameras being remotely turned on without my knowledge.  I patch my microphone through an external mixer that allows me to control what is being recorded or listened to, which I am also told is happening now.  I’m one of those “I have nothing to hide” people, but know too well how things can be taken out of context and reinvented to create bad press, so I’ll just hang on to my privacy as best as I can, for the time being, thank you very much.

In the beginning

I’ve been involved with computing since the birth of the desktop computer.  My first desktop was a Mac Classic that had been gifted to my theatre company in 1987.  It sat in the office for months before someone decided we could use it to print a newsletter and mail it to potential audience members  by printing a batch of sticky mailing labels, envelopes and paper.  Our first Mac was used to create the first versions of SPAM.

I followed Apple from its infancy, one of those dedicated hard core artistic Mac heads who was alway trying to convert the spreadsheet wielding PC users to our platform, because it was, supposedly, computing with a creative approach.  Ah, naive youth.  I think I invested in a new mac every 3 to 5 years back then.  in 1999, I cut my first digital films on FCP on the first digital macs with firewire and shot everything on the digital film cameras.  I bought a $35,000 Avid Media Suite Pro, integrated into a an Apple, because i wanted to enter the video editing marketplace and needed a state of the art digital cutting desk.  My ambition was huge and I spared no expense in hiring “professional consultants” to advise me on how the future of computing was going to unfold.

What a disaster.

I traversed the changing of three buss systems in 18 months.  My mega computer was at the front end of that debacle and I was awash with peripheral adapters and upgrades from the get go.  But that’s another story.

Eventually I replaced everything with the state of the art, again, and started a multimedia company called Sticky Planet.  I started blazing the digital trail, working for clients all over the world.  As the internet opened up, my business started to blossom because the public’s mind was on fire and I was helping people to make their appearance on the world wide web while doing my best to promote my own on line profile.  They were mad busy times.

But, things were simpler back then, of course they were, it was all new!  Things were just getting started. As designers, we were trained to develop new software applications with “elegant degradation” in mind, allowing people who could not afford to upgrade their computers to still participate in the Internet revolution.  I always considered myself bleeding edge back then.  I wanted to introduce the latest technologies and hope everybody else would jump on board, install the plug-in, and watch my stuff.  Before too long, I had many clients who wanted what I had developed for myself and for a decade it was good.

My multi media company in Australia was in its heyday during that point in time before Facebook and YouTube existed. I was working with a small decentralized group of international programmers trying to figure out how to make a flash movie launch an FS command, (full screen command), so that we could let people watch our movies, full screen, on their computers and hopefully give us the advantage in a constantly evolving marketplace.  Shortly after we figured it out, mainstream internet corporations released the feature as a standard browser feature and I was gutted.  3 years of development for something that had been figured out long ago by some people in a room on a spaceship and would only be released when regular folks figured it out.  I believe we are being guided by alien creatures.  From time to time they give us biscuits to chew on.

I and  my company designed numerous hi end websites using flash engines to create fluid interfaces, translation modules and, the big ticket item, streaming video. I worked closely with the 3ivx team as they helped me make my hand crafted movies deliverable on the internet in countries that introduced respectable speeds from inception, like Japan.  I ended up working a lot in Japan because they could see my videos owing to the fact they they opened the internet at full speed. Not like Australia, which had decided to roll out the speed over several years, if not a decade.  In 2006 I realized that running my company in a country that was light years behind other countries regrading internet speed meant international failure, so I shut it down and left for a country where I could get the speed I needed as standard issue.  That turned out to be Belgium, where the fastest internet codex was being developed by a small company that had snatched a young Australian programmer called “Captian Stux” to give Belgium the bleeding edge in video codec technology.  Silly Australians.  They had they guy and let him, and his revolutionary programming skills, be taken away by another country.

I continued to study interactive film making and learned how to program the frames of a movie so as to enhance the viewers experience beyond the passivity of television on high speed internet connections. I and my colleagues had a vision for the Internet that was going to revolutionize the screen experience and turn it into a truly interactive immersion.

We were so energized!

Roadkill on the information superhighway

Software development is, without question the most competitive industry in the world. When running a company that specializes in Internet applications, it is important to remember that there is always a new crop of young motivated geniuses who want to join in and get their share of the market.  To do this, they will work harder, longer and faster, mostly because they are young, ambitious, single and mostly irresponsible.

To survive in that milieux is to find a niche to which you can gain the intellectual property.  As the Internet has developed we have discovered that the proprietary issues find their way into the overall retardation of the development process. We don’t often end up with the best product, we end up with a product developed by someone who has the intellectual property rights and is servicing a business model. That person, or group of persons, may not actually be the best minds suited to the realization of such an idea.  Planned obsolescence is at the centre of the computing paradigm, the entire business is driven by upgrades.  It was The Henry Ford Motor Company that realized it had to make the Model T with inferior materials back in 1908 when it was discovered that the original car was made of mostly indestructible parts.  The only way to make more money was to make it so that parts would break or wear out and the customer would have to come back to get it fixed.

When creating a sound business idea it is always best to pursue projects that provide a solution. It follows that, in order to provide an “integrated solution”, you must first define a problem. If the problem doesn’t exist, then you must create the problem.  This is the very concept that destroyed what the internet could have been.  Instead of the best, we got a long extrapolated unnecessary pathway through the haunted digital forest to help prop up an already doomed Capitalism. The back end of the computer revolution has really just been a fire sale before money becomes obsolete and people don’t need to spend money any more on plastic crap and upgrades.

Planned Obsolescence

In my view, the telecommunications revolution was the first such event that was created so that a new industry could be ushered in an industry bent on keeping us in the same place while creating the illusion that we were advancing. Still operating until the late 80s and early 90s, telephone companies were owned by the government. Telephony was considered to be an essential service similar to electricity, water, heat, schools.  It was infrastructure by and for the community. In order for a society to function effectively communications need to be accessible by everyone. The telephone simplified this, the answering machine made it faster and easier.  When looking for revenue, where is the first place to look but where people gher to do the things they need to do, which is, primarily, be social.

With the privatization of the telephone companies came a whole new set of problems. Problems that could only be solved by a variety of telephone companies who are were, and remain, in direct competition with each other. The best problem to create for this business paradigm is to fracture the communications sphere and create confusion so that people can be manipulated into buying solutions that will, theoretically, return them to the ease of communication before it had been privatized.  They may have to switch companies numerous times and never get a solution that works, things are moving too quickly and lots of money will be spent digging ourselves out of he communications quagmire.

It’s much the same as taking a perfectly functioning wheel, smashing it into bits, rebuilding it into a square and telling people that we have to make the wheel rounder in order for it to function. It goes through several phases of development from four sides to six sides to eight sides to 16 sides to 32 sides and then 64 sides until, finally, the number of sides has been increased exponentially to create a circle. Which is where the whole thing began.  A perfect pointless trip right back to where you started to service a profit motive and nothing else!  WooHoo I’m having fun now!

We have been told that privatization was going to stimulate job growth, stimulate innovation and, generally, make the lives of people better. My question always remains, what kind of jobs were we creating?  Were they good jobs or just jobs people could do to help them find a way into a pine box after drinking some brews and partying hearty for a lifetime.  Has this society been so brain washed to be beholden to money that we wasted our lives running in circles?  The petroleum industry did that, refusing to acknowledge new sustainable energy sources and doing everything it could to retard the process of conversion so that it could assist the profit margins of the shareholders and not the general well being of all the plant’s inhabitants, the very people who drive the consumer marketplace from where they draw their fortunes.

“Hey what’s your job” says Bill

“Oh I sit in an office and figure out ways to get people to creatively chase their existential tails and always turn right.  They always need to turn right as they do it.”

The majority of jobs that are created today are based inside of the idea that we need to engineer disfunction so that companies can sell us more solutions for the dysfunction they have engineered.  When communicating with my friends and colleagues I have a vast array of tools in my arsenal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, Signal, SMS text messaging, iMessage, messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, YouTube, Snapchat, Bing, zing, ding.  The number of telecommunications applications that are available today is staggering. Of course it made sense in this hamster wheel of a world that someone created a single device that you can speak into and press one button to get everything you need.

The word Telephone was replaced by Siri.

Where as my telephone had 12 buttons, that I could use to blue box my way around touch tone code access, I now have a bevy of preferences panels for upwards of 50 apps on my handheld device. I can spend hours turning things off that arrived turned on. Sometimes one is in conflict with another and I find I am no longer using the app I wanted to use but I am being forced to use the new app which has hijacked my function.  iMessage did that.  Made it so anybody who wanted to send me a text had to be on iMessage or I couldn’t get their messages, further fracturing my ability to integrate and simplify my communicate needs. Some people use this some people use that, nobody answers their phone anymore, and we are told we will get a response faster if we send a written message.

I don’t know about anyone else but I have never been more isolated in my life. Sure I stay in contact with old friends using Facebook, but new developments in the privacy rules department makes this less and less of a desirable option as going on the site and sharing my views results in more advertising being shoved in front of me for things I have no intention of buying.

Recently I was having a private conversation on Facebook and my colleague mentioned an organization he thought I should research.  Within a matter of seconds of him typing the message and Ad came up for the website he was speaking of.  Some would say cool because the information is so readily available to you after it is been recommended, I found it creepy. From that point on I’ve had markedly less conversations using Facebook’s messenger system.

Perhaps the biggest difference between my three computers is that my early G4 allows me to use my computer as a tool that services my needs. My state-of-the-art MacBook Pro works very hard at telling me how I am supposed to use my computer, forcing me to change the message that I have used that were in my opinion simpler because they were manual. I work swiftly I like having my folders on my desk top with all the things in them that I need just like when I had a paper desk. New applications take my documents and put them into folders that are hidden inside of application bundles. Yes of course they were probably options in the preferences panel or I can change where my data goes so that I may access it on my terms. But the amount of time that it takes to set these preferences to my desired behaviours becomes a task that is daunting. It is as if, almost by design, I am being forced to change through Shear exhaustion.

Of course, for all of my quibbling, there have been undisputed great advantages and life has been improved with the evolution of computing technology. Duh.

However, Moore’s law of computing tells us that the processing speed of computers increases two fold every 18 months whilst becoming incrementally smaller . This law suggests that the first computers will be smarter than humans in about ten years.  It will be about that time I predict that we will have returned to a small box on the wall with a speaker and a transmitter into which we communicate by simply calling up a phone book, looking up the number and making the call.

I hope I get to see it in my lifetime, because the phone on the wall was a great thing when I was a kid and I was a lot more socially connected then, in real time, than I am now.

David Cassel(http://www.davidcassel.com)
I have been working professionally as a writer, director, designer, teacher, and performing artist since 1978. I have spent my career traveling the world creating and presenting original inter-disciplinary productions that have convergence and hybridization as their central creative principles. Each of my performance explorations bring together a multitude of elements including comedy, clown, character, story, narrative, acting technique, circus skill, juggling, acro balance technique, acrobatics, choreography, dance, improvisation, and, most importantly, human interactivity. In addition to a robust international performance career, I have continuously created numerous educational curricula for classes and workshops in physical theatre and sport oriented performance and a variety of related disciplines that have been presented through primary, secondary and tertiary school systems in Canada, Australia, Belgium, Holland, France, Germany and Poland. While always maintaining a relationship with outdoor performance and spectacle, I have extensive indoor experience as a Theatre Designer, Film Maker, Digital Programming Specialist, Educator, Producer and Artistic Leader. I have developed learning processes that integrate on line digital education with an intensive live physical theatre training program. I like to think that my work is an example of the kind of Digital and Physical convergence that 21st century technology was created to facilitate. In 2015, I won APA Pixie Award for Visual Effects and in 1995 I was awarded European Outdoor Performer of the Year (Rotterdam)for my solo production of "Hotch's 3D TeeVee" I have had the pleasure of seeing my face on the front page of 7 international newspapers was given 3 Australian University Comedy Performance Awards and one Short Film awards for my short film "Finding TIbby Harsh". To date I have performed and taught in over 30 countries.

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