In the Bulkley Valley, not many farmers can say that their cows milk themselves. But in the case of Dan, Rudy and Nathan Vandenberg, their cows do just that. This past September, the farm’s milking system switched to artificial intelligence (AI), becoming the first in northern B.C. Before, all milking was done in-person, a time-consuming activity that meant the cows had to be rounded up and herded to the barn before they could be milked. As Dan Vandenberg says, under this system, the farmers “pretty much lived there.” That is no longer the case.
Ironically, the week that COVID-19 shut the door to in-person classes at Calvin University, our capstone computer science course was scheduled to discuss the importance of embodied community. One of the points that we were scheduled to explore is how electronic communications should not be preferable to embodied community. However, as we have seen with COVID-19, when that is not possible, digital communications are a blessing. Our current situation brought an unexpected “experiential learning” opportunity to engage this topic.
This summer, many teens decided – or, in some cases, had their parents decide for them – to put down their phones for a week and head to different cities across the country to participate in SERVE where they helped the homeless, the hungry and anyone else who needed a hand.
Young and perhaps foolish, we were trying to figure out the source of a famous quotation from Shakespeare while drinking a few beers at Pat-‘n’-Steve’s house. I disremember which quotation, but it may have been “They do not love that do not show their love.”
There was a time in the distant past when “distance education” meant sending letters to an instructor far away by post. In the long-distant past, you could do distance education by sending cassette tapes to an instructor in the mail. And just yesterday, distance education was about sitting down in front of a desktop or laptop computer and doing education over the internet.
Smart phones give us instant connection to friends far away – and often distance from those sitting next to us. They give access to global information – and fake news. Increased safety for teens – and cyber-bullying. Direct participation in political life – and interference in elections.
Last September, I bought my first smartphone. The next day, I flew home to Ottawa because my father had been moved into a hospice and the doctors said he wouldn’t have long.
I remember the moment vividly: I looked down and realized my phone was covered in flour. “That can’t be good,” I thought to myself. How else would I share this beautiful experience of baking bread? I need photos! Instagram! Snapchat!
Our kids love a song by Steve Poltz and Danny Michel called “Devices.” With a chorus of “Get off your devices / They’ve all become vices,” these Canadian singer-songwriters don’t mince words about the negative impact of phones and tablets.
From where I sit, I see little that connects the intelligence community (CSIS, CIA, etc.) with the medical practice of my doctor. But a recent perspective piece in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests it might be beneficial for the medical world to explore how the intelligence world is handling information.
Technology has brought remarkable changes to the world, and these changes are accelerating with new advances in medicine, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and the worldwide “internet of things,” to name only a few. The most dramatic change, however, may be invisible to us – a change to the way we think.
I have been tempted to send my saliva sample to Ancestry.ca and spend the hundred dollars or so to get a DNA analysis of my cultural heritage.