About Syria

The Guardian newspaper reports that the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (whose website has too much Arabic for Western readers) estimates that the war in Syria has resulted in 470,000 dead, 1.9 million wounded, and 45% of the population displaced. (The UN reported 250,000 dead, but they stopped counting in 2014 and the Centre has better access to local data). The staggering figures which are matched by the nightly reports on the refugee crisis in Greece, Turkey, Jordan and the whole area pound our conscience. A Los Angeles Times editorial February 11th asks Continue reading “About Syria”

27 Seconds

Car manufacturers are fast including infotainment systems in their new cars, systems that usually make available to a dashboard screens what smartphones can do. Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Mazda, Chevrolet, Hyundai and others are all making sure their vehicles have the kind of technology that promises what is being called a connected lifestyle. Look up Apple’s CarPlay or Google’s Android Auto and you’ll get an idea. All this at a time when the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety tells us as you might have heard that most uses of infotainment systems can leave a driver distracted for up to 27 seconds. Almost half a minute is a lot of time for trouble! We’ve all seen people who text and drive, or even been in a car when the driver is texting, but this is more than that. We can say using the car radio is safe, we can say using GPS is safe, we can say talking on the phone is safe, but when we put all this together and then factor in the possibility of texting, maybe looking up a stock quote or peek over at a passenger looking at a game, we need to ask do we want to be on the road with such drivers? And if we don’t are we willing to change our behavior, to delay a bit of gratification, to not be 100% connected for a small amount of time? It’s easy to understand the pull to use all this technology in a car, how often do we get stuck in traffic? And most cities now have traffic woes. It’s easy also to understand the motive of car manufacturers. The question remains, what are we going to do? How do we plan to handle all of these systems and the apps that can come with them ? If some of this technology is not already in our cars, it will soon be, and we must prepare ourselves. The AAA Foundation feels that car makers should develop infotainment systems that will require no more attention on our part than a car radio or an audio book. That can be used as a guide if we allow ourselves to be strong enough.

A Hope For Better Times?

Millenials are and have been a subject of great interest; for one thing they represent the future, for another they are the generation, 18 to 34, sought after by advertisers and media execs. Sometimes they are depicted as idealistic, sometimes as forging their way separate from their parents, and sometimes of course in negative terms. That was apparently what happened after several instances of students making demands from their respective universities. An article in Quartz related how some university officials then called them whiners and coddlers and in order to debunk the idea, the author decided to quote a few statistics, some of which I am sharing here. Continue reading “A Hope For Better Times?”

Virtual Reality at The UN

True, I don’t know much about virtual reality, but usages like the one suggested by the movie “Her” makes me queasy, wondering if our very humanity is being mechanized. But as is the case with most people, my fears and opinions do not always match the reality. You can imagine how intrigued—and I admit glad—I was to read that the UN headquarters had used virtual reality to draw attention to and create better grasp of the refugee problem. A group affiliated with the UN Millennium Campaign had made a special film—using a girl in the Za’atary refugee camp on the Jordan-Syrian borders, one of the largest refugee camps and one that houses some 80,000 Syrian refugees. Heads of states and delegates were able to view the virtual reality film and get a sense of presence of what’s it’s like to be there. Later a portal was set up where heads of state and delegates could have anonymous conversations with people in those refugee camps. It was at first thought that the portal would be there temporarily and it may now be permanent. Other portals are being set in in D.C and San Francisco. The idea is that there’s a difference between pity and empathy, and that such methods are conducive to a unique understanding which policy makers often need.
As far as the UN was concerned it was all very successful, so much so it drew the attention of ADWEEK, the advertising magazine which wrote about it and suggested that it was an instance tech-minded marketers could learn from. So now I have a new set of fears and concerns.