My Dinner with Androids - Part I

Cyborgs! Mechanical People! Androids! Robots!

Apocalypzia keeps a close watch on robots. Ever since Radio Shack rolled out the TRS 80, we humans have been sharing the planet with machines that increasingly think like us.

Now we stand on the same stage with machines that, heaven-forbid, look like us. The amazing part of this is not so much looking like us as moving like us.

Our style and manner of movement have always separated us from the creatures lower down the phyla and to the left on the evolution chart. Cheetahs are poetry in predatory motion but no biped is a graceful as we are, right?

How would Bruno and Carrie Ann rate Asimo's performance?

Cheap is the New Expensive

Finding the absolutely cheapest price is the new American pastime.

Sears built its business from humble beginnings by offering its products organized around the idea of good/better/best, a value equation based on providing acceptable quality at an affordable price.

But Wal-Mart shifted the paradigm and the consumer collective embraced a new raison d'etre -- cheap is king.

At one time the buzz phrase was planned obsolescence. We actually worried whether manufacturers were deliberately short-sheeting us on quality.

But over recent years, many corporate touchstones of quality have crumbled and turned to dust. Quality is Job #1; Total Quality Management; ISO 9000 and Six Sigma just don't seem so important anymore.

As one of the unfortunate aspects of globalized manufacturing, cheaper became more important than better, as Wal-Mart, and many other cost-cutting profit-seekers proceeded to hang-ten as they surfed the cheap-beats-good sea-change.

Retailing Apocalypzia.
Perhaps the tony stores on the other end of the price spectrum missed a cue. While the discounters shouted, "We're cheaper!," maybe the upscale retaiers could have responded, "Yeah, but our stuff lasts longer!," if, indeed, it does.

After all, in the long run it's cheaper to buy something for $10 that will last for 5 years than to buy something for $5 that will only last one week beyond the one-year warranty expiration, yes?

Beware Little Brother!

Big Brother is One Thing, But Little Brother is Watching, too.
While the government watches us from almost everywhere with zoom lenses perched on street corner watch towers, we've become enamored with watching ourselves.

And though it's no American Idol, one of the most popular television programs on the planet is the reality show ... Big Brother.

And Live Web Cams are everywhere. It is now possible in the comfort of your own home, real time, 24/7, to watch nothing happening in almost every country in the world. You can watch what's going on in New York's Time Square, in front of the Grand Hotel Praha in Prague or in Leister Square in London, England.

And perhaps most interesting of all, any time you choose, you can watch the Beatles not crossing the street in front of famed Abbey Road studios as they did on the cover of one of their last albums.

Google Street View
And that doesn't even begin to get into the compelling yet unsettling world of Google Street View. How do they get those pictures anyway? Here at Apocalypzia, we've always imagined some kind of futuristic hovercraft cruising down city side streets with some giant revolving Cyclopic eye mounted to the top.

Google seems sensitive to our discomfort and provides us the chance to opt-out if necessary. Though the result is sometimes the great black void in the photo at the beginning of this entry.

And as regards another place you won't see the Beatles, Paul McCartney's estate was black-voided on Google Street View when the ex-Beatle rightfully complained.

Vast Wasteland
Once upon a time, then-head-of-the-FCC, Newton Minnow called television a vast wasteland. What Newton didn't understand was that maybe that's what we were looking for all the time.