Tag Archives: wired magazine

The X-Files Conspiracy: The Crow

XFilesConspiracyCrow

Part 5 of the 6-part miniseries was pretty good, but not great, which seems to be consistent with this whole miniseries. I just find the Lone Gunmen to be a little too silly for my taste, even in the original television series. Frankly, I’ll be glad when this is over.

Having said that, there were some parts in this comic that I found interesting. I do like the Crow mythos, where the Crow shepherds the soul to the afterlife, unless there is unfinished business that needs to be addressed before the soul can cross to the other realm. I personally also consider birds to be omens. Every time in my life that I have had an unusual encounter with a bird, it was followed by an equally unusual event.

The other thing I found interesting in this issue was the references to NSA and their Prism program. I recently read an article in Wired magazine about this and wrote a blog post on the topic (click here to read the post). I actually thought that the way the writers of this comic tied the NSA events into the story worked exceptionally well.

The next issue will conclude the series. Even though it was only moderately interesting, I’ll still buy the copy when it comes out and post my thoughts here. I hate leaving stuff unfinished. It would be like reading a book, getting to the last chapter, and then tossing it aside. Not something I can do. I like closure.

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Why Were We So Surprised?

WiredCoverNSAThis morning I read an article in Wired magazine about the NSA and how it nearly destroyed the Internet. (Click here to read the article online; or better yet, subscribe—it’s a great publication.) As I was reading the article, all I could think about was “why were we so surprised?” I mean, seriously. The Internet was originally Department of Defense technology. Did we really expect that information we post online would be kept secret? I never did. I fully expect that each online petition I sign, each article I read, every site I visit, each “like” on Facebook, is tracked in a database somewhere. If companies are doing this with cookies, you can be sure that the government is doing the same.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be upset about it—we should be. But we should not be surprised. I’m a dork, so I love the Internet and I love the abundance of information that the technology brings to my fingertips. I love that I can stream movies, download digital copies of arcane texts, instantly share pictures with my friends and family, and that I can discuss topics of interest with people like myself around the world. It’s awesome! But I also expect that the government will be able to access this information and that they will be able to construct a profile of the type of person I am, my interests, and my ideologies. That’s fine. I’m not concerned.

For those of you who are concerned, there are some amazing new technologies you can consider:

  • Postal Service—This service allows you to write your thoughts on a piece of paper, hermetically seal it in an envelope, and send that to a specific individual and only that person can read it.
  • Bookstores—These places allow you to buy printed material, no matter how subversive, and read it in the privacy of your own home. And if you use something called “money,” there is no record that you ever purchased or read it.
  • Printed Photos—Who knew you could actually print out pictures and create your own book with them? You could call it, I don’t know, how about a photo album. Then, you can invite your friends over to your house, have a nice dinner, and look at them together.

Pretty cool, huh? 🙂

 

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Filed under Non-fiction

Decoding an Arcane Manuscript

Manuscript

Illustration from original article published by Wired magazine.

I read a fascinating article in Wired magazine about how a group of people deciphered an arcane manuscript written by a secret society in the mid-1700’s. (Click here to read the article online.) They determined that the manuscript, referred to as the Copiale cipher, was written by members of a group called the Great Enlightened Society of Oculists.

According to the article, “the Oculists fixated on both the anatomy and symbolism of the eye. They focused on sight as a metaphor for knowledge. And they performed surgery on the eye.” While the eye is a recurring symbol in mysticism (for example, the eye atop a pyramid in Masonic imagery, or the eye of Horus), this group seems to have gone a step further and focused primarily on the eye.

The article continues by describing the historical significance of this accomplishment: “…decoding the Copiale was a significant achievement. Traditionally, historians have just ignored documents like this, because they don’t have the tools to make sense of them.” Secret societies, since they were in danger of death because of what they were studying, went to great lengths to hide their ideas and rituals. Because cyphers like this use symbols in place of letters and words, historians are unable to even determine the language in which these were originally written. Without a sense of the language, how would one even begin to start on figuring out a code?

Personally, I find articles like this very interesting. Just knowing that there is hidden knowledge out there, locked away in secret texts that have yet to be decoded, is the stuff of an Umberto Eco book. If you find this interesting too, definitely read the article in its entirety. It goes into a lot of detail and I’m sure you’ll find it inspiring.

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Filed under Non-fiction, Spiritual

Artificial Writers

I read an article in Wired magazine last night that fed my nightmares and caused me to wake up in a state of anxiety. The article was entitled “The Rise of the Robot Reporter” written by Steven Levy (click here to read the article online). The story explores the advances by Narrative Science, a company that successfully created an algorithm that can analyze sports and financial data, then generate well-written news articles based upon that data.

The company’s CEO and co-founder, Kristian Hammond, makes the bold prediction that within the next 15 years, 90 percent of news articles will be written by computers and that a computer will win the Pulitzer Prize in about 5 years. At first, this seemed kind of cool. I mean, I’m a geek and stuff like this is fascinating to me. In addition, who doesn’t secretly wish that the news contained more plain, factual information and a lot less spin from media with political and social agendas? But as I slept and allowed this information to percolate in my subconscious mind, I became aware of a personal threat.

I work in the field of technical communication, writing various forms of internal and external communications for a software company. Some of these documents include user and administrator guides, as well as technical reference materials. I became very aware that much of what I do could be outsourced to a computer. Essentially, I gather data, analyze it, then compile it into a format that is usable and accessible to my target audience. This is no different from what Narrative Science’s software does. For me, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to see this algorithm being applied to technical writing, where the application analyzes the code, reads the engineering notes, and determines the functionality, then generates a set of instructions or reference materials that is accurate and useful. So where would that leave me?

Over the years, I’ve learned that it is important to remain adaptable and not fear change. If technical writing becomes automated, I’ll find a new use for my skills, such as developing training materials or managing the information generated by these artificial writers. Our world is changing fast. If you can’t be flexible, you will likely end up joining the ranks of those unemployed individuals unable to use the narrow set of skills they have become dependent upon.

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