Posted in Monday Mayhem


Artificial intelligence is always a hot topic among science fiction fans. Can anyone argue that although 2001: A Space Odyssey’s Hal has good intensions, he no less presents an interesting story albeit that of a sociopathic nightmare? Additionally, a discussion centered on machines with humanlike attributes could not be complete without Sonny, I, Robot’s anthropomorphic servant droid who proves a heart within a machine is worth saving.

Artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence.

How close has humanity come to creating a true representation of itself within a computer system?

Take Apple’s Siri. As creepy as it sounds, Siri is the digital equivalent to a best friend. Ask it a typical question such as “How are you?” and it will respond, “I’m fine. Thanks for asking.” Should a user of the device choose a male voice to represent the virtual assistant, things begin to sound eerie and familiar. Hal would be proud.

With Apple’s iOS 9 coming out this September, Siri will be able to predict what a user will ask next. For instance, if a user would like directions to a particular address, Siri will also suggest places to dine and a place to lodge, should a user be so inclined to do so.

The logic behind Google Maps is already there. It takes it a step further by providing alternate routes, the ability to avoid toll roads and traffic conditions.

Artificial intelligence couldn’t be better. But what is the cost of all this AI?

I, Robot's Sonny
I, Robot’s Sonny

Years prior to the year 2000, computer experts warned of an upcoming digital apocalypse where computers would choke and destroy humanity. Obviously, that didn’t happen. The Y2K bug was to usher in a second dark age where electricity would be scarce and hospitals would be full. Again, it didn’t happen. However, what it did prove was just how fragile computer networks were at the time and what precautions governments and companies took to prevent an utter catastrophe from occurring.

Could it happen again, only this time for real?

Given the world’s reliance on electricity, would it be hard to imagine a world hit by a global scale blackout? It happened in 2003 on the northeastern seaboard. In August of that year, the lights went out for several days leaving 50 million people without power. The “glitch” started with a tree branch in Ohio spreading power surges through the grid all the way up across the border to Ontario. With all the safeguards in place, the incident still brought two nations to a halt.

How difficult would it be to think of a time when a routine event couldn’t cause the downfall of the entire global infrastructure? Looking at it a different way. What’s to say that in an effort to protect the grid, artificial intelligence wouldn’t attempt to circumvent safeguards to preserve life on this planet?


Is artificial intelligence too much intelligence to control our lives? Should we allow it?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

The Ice Storm of 2013

Almost three weeks ago, Toronto and the surrounding vicinity had its power cut from under its feet. Living an hour north from the greater metropolitan, we came out of the disaster unscathed. Other than a few felled trees, we had a virtual behemoth of ice blanketing the area. But we retained our power. That in itself is miraculous. And why wouldn’t Freedom Friday describe the event as anything but?

Our neighborhood one morning
Our neighborhood one morning

I awoke to the sound of silence. Unusual, I thought. The neighbor’s dog should have been out barking in the backyard. A car or two should have been traveling on our street to work. I wouldn’t have known what to make of it until I hopped from my bed and peeked through the blinds to discover everything coated in ice. I felt I was living a real-life scene from the movie The Day After Tomorrow where New York City fell under a sub-arctic weather mass.

My first instinct to call my parents proved unproductive. Their phone gave me a busy signal, which meant one of two things—they were talking with my sister about the storm or they’d lost power and weren’t home. Sure enough, my sister had called to let me know my folks were over at her place after having lost power. The region had shut down and no sign of any visible progress would be forthcoming for the next seventy-two hours.

Meanwhile, I had my own dilemma. Even though we hadn’t lost electricity, we had a driveway covered in a foot of ice. It looked like a literal skating rink out there. When I dared make the trek outside, the five steps from our home mocked me with the words, “treacherous”, “lethal”, and “deadly”. The steps were non-existent, replaced by a hill that wasn’t there the night before. I negotiated the anomaly without compromising my safety.

The first inkling of trouble.
The first inkling of trouble.
Deserted street
Deserted street
Our front lawn
Our front lawn

Once at the bottom, I slid to the edge of our driveway. Had I known then what I know now, I would have never slept. Instead, I would have chosen to stay up all night to ensure the bottom of the driveway remained clear. Well, that didn’t work as expected. I stared at the mound to the mouth of the driveway and measured it to be three feet, more or less. That’s three feet of solid ice. I knew I was in trouble.

Surely, I thought, my snow thrower would rescue me from days of attempting to find the bottom of my driveway. I didn’t know what I was doing. I revved the engine, aimed for the ice and—nothing happened. The machine threw its hands in the air not even recognizing the ice and laughed at me. Okay, so maybe my optimism got the best of me.

Plants  frozen solid
Plants frozen solid
More plants  frozen solid
More plants frozen solid

Next, I put away the snow thrower and went to Plan B: I lined my pockets with cash and waited at the foot of the driveway on the mound of ice that held my weight without a problem. As the cars passed by my street, I held my breath. I hoped upon hope for relief. I didn’t know if it would come, but I kept my wits about me and remained confident.

Half-an-hour later, reinforcements came in the form of a plow. With a pocket full of cash, I felt confident we’d win. And win we did. We managed to get the whole driveway plowed for a $20 bill. Imagine my relief.

A leaf frozen in place
A leaf frozen in place
Branch covered in ice
Branch covered in ice

Well, that was one problem out of the way. It didn’t help my stair problem. What to do with all the ice that had made my steps a ski slope? Unfortunately, folks, this I had to take care of myself utilizing a spade fork to break up the ice. Three hours later, I’d cleared the steps.

Now, this is all very well and fine, but it doesn’t compare to the satisfaction of digging out our neighbor across the street from this mess. But that’s another story.


Did you experience the ice storm of 2013? What did you have to do to dig yourself out of its clutches?