The Future Is Now

On Wednesday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, shared a video showing CNN’s Jim Acosta struggling with a White House intern to hold onto a microphone during a contentious exchange with Donald Trump. The video appears to have been doctored to make Acosta look more aggressive than he was during the exchange

Fact-checkers and other experts say the video, which was first shared by Paul Joseph Watson, a conspiracy theorist associated with the far-right website InfoWars, was deliberately sped up to make it look like Acosta chopped the woman’s arm with his hand. Authentic versions of the video that weren’t manipulated showed him slowly raising his hand, appearing to gesture to the president. The White House pulled Acosta’s press pass Wednesday, with Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeting that the White House will “not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video.”

In July I wrote a post about something called deepfakes. Deepfakes are videos that use a sophisticated type of software that makes it possible to superimpose one person’s face onto another’s body and manipulate voice recordings, creating fake videos that look and sound real.

“When you see video, you still think that you are peering into reality,” David Ryan Polgar, a tech ethicist, said. “The struggle now is that we are blurring the lines between reality and fiction. That’s extremely dangerous for our notions of truth, what happened, and what didn’t.”

It’s very telling that the American government is now disseminating doctored videos to spread its propaganda and to justify the president’s lies and abhorrent behavior. Authoritarian governments have a history of manipulating images and releasing propaganda films. But now it appears that our very own government, in the age of Trump, continues to deliberately create and promote false realities.

1337 5p34k

C5664DEF-6BE3-48C6-BE1C-4C38CCB88054Yesterday I received this strange notification from WordPress congratulating me on having received 1,337 followers on my blog.

That seemed to me to be a rather random number to have generated a special WordPress notification. I got one at 1,000 followers and I figured my next one might be when I reached 1,500 or 2,000. But 1,337? Huh?

So I typed “1337” into Google and learned that 1337 means “elite.” Apparently, “1337” is a sort of webspeak kind of symbol for elite. And “1337” is also referred to as “Leet.”

Curiosity piqued, I did a Google search on “Leet.”

LEET (1337) is a written language or cipher used in online gaming, emails, text messaging, tweeting, and other electronic communication. The root of the term “leet” is the word “elite” — translated as 31337 — and 1337 was initially developed as an exclusionary language: a way to encode text so that messages could only be read by the initiated. The defining characteristic of 1337 is substitution of symbols and numbers for letters (for example, in the term “1337,” 1=L, 3=E and 7=T).

Apparently there is this whole language called “leet speak,” and its alphabet is a specialized form of symbolic writing. According to Wikipedia, leet originated on bulletin board systems (BBS) in the 80s. Back then, having “elite” status on a BBS allowed a user special access and privileges.

Leet symbols, especially the number 1337, have become internet memes that have spilled over into popular culture. I guess I’m not so in touch with pop culture because I’d never heard of leet speak or was aware of any special significance to the number 1337.

And while doing my Google research, I also came across “1337 5p34k,” which translates to “leet speak” in, well, leet speak.

So essentially, “leet” is shorthand for the word “elite,” which, in leet speak, means “better than everyone else.” And apparently, the 1337 badge from WordPress is WordPress’ way of telling you that your blog has somehow achieved elite status for having reached 1,337 followers. Woo hoo!

I suppose this is a good, albeit weird, kind of recognition. But I came across another definition of leet speak that defined it as “the language used by geeks to help them identify one another.”

Now I’m not so pleased anymore. I’ve been called many unflattering things in my life, but “geek”? Seriously?

Cellular: A New Technology

DE89AFD5-5EAB-4D1B-9A7F-39E70114A02BStep into the Wayback Machine and set the dial for 1984.

“Sometime early next year, a new technology known as cellular will be available in the area.”

That quote came from a November 26, 1984, San Francisco Chronicle story titled “Cellular Phones Ready for Bay Area Debut.”

Back then, cellular technology was nascent and available to only the wealthy. That was partly because of the price. Cellular phones in late 1984 cost between $1,900 and $4,100 to install in a car, with a $39 per month base price, plus up to 50¢ per minute between seven in the morning and seven in the evening and 20¢ per minute the rest of the time.

Most early cellular phones were car phones.6ECEBA9C-347B-4420-9FCA-0D7E5706CEB7I remember when we got our first cellphone. It was a Motorola like the one pictured above. We mostly kept it in the car for “emergencies,” which typically consisted of me calling my wife on my drive home from work to tell her how cool it was for me to be calling her from my car.

The Chronicle reported, “Some units, weighing about seven pounds each, can be removed from the vehicles and carried in briefcases.” By the end of 1985, the article pointed out, Motorola had created a 3-pound phone. Is it any wonder that early, large, thick, and rectangular cellphones were often referred to as “bricks”?E03CCB48-AC16-4923-95A9-E980C769F257Cellphones today are tiny, handheld computers and super communications devices that are virtually ubiquitous. It’s hard to remember that just 34 years ago cellphones were heavy, expensive, and rare. Today, most people can’t imagine not having their smartphones with them at all times.

Think about that, millennials. And try to image how we will be communicating and interacting with each other 34 years from now. Assuming that the human race is still around in 34 years.


And Then Along Came Digital

EDCC4042-FD7B-47A4-834B-5F7077CBF1E6When I woke up this morning and I saw that my one-word prompt for today was “develop,” I decided to teleport myself back a few decades to when film ruled the world of photography.

You remember those days of having to load your camera with film, taking your pictures, and then having to drop off your exposed film at one of those once ubiquitous Fotomat kiosks for “finishing,” right? You’d have to suffer through the 24 hour “incubation” period before you could see the results of you photographic prowess.

How exciting it was to drive up to the Fotomat kiosk, pay the pimply-faced teenager sitting in the booth for your packet of photos, tear into the envelope, and view your handiwork.

And then you’d see something unexpected in one or more of the photos. Someone turned away from the camera at the last second. Or the whole image was blurry because you moved the camera when you pressed the shutter button. Or one of the rolls of film from your vacation somehow got exposed to light and all the pictures on that roll were ruined. Oh, if you could only reverse time and take some of those otherwise great pictures all over again.

And then along came digital photography, turning Fotomats into vestigial artifacts of a time forever gone.

I’m doing something a little different this time. Instead of listing the six one-word prompts used in this post below the story, I’ve bolded the words within in the story above. Let me know if you prefer the list or if it’s easier to see the prompt words bolded within the post itself.