Beginning of New Bond

Google Home

I was quite excited to try out Google Home, although none of my light switches at home is smart enough to pair up with it.

The commands I have used most are:

Weather today/tomorrow/next week
News
Play a podcast (only autoplays the latest episode)
Play XX radio station
Play a XX song by XX artist

Phrasing the commands simple and straightforward is the rule, otherwise what awaits me is just “Sorry I can’t help.” or “Sorry I don’t understand”.

It certainly has created a new vibe at home, but I also sometimes wonder whether it is actually necessary to have such a not-so-smart “home assistant” to be around.

Google, not surprisingly, is pretty proud of its product:

What we found is that people are not only learning how to use the devices, they’re weaving them into their lives and daily routines. And in some instances, they’re forging a new kind of bond with technology, one that’s often much more personal than in the past.

I was expecting the bond to be formed a bit more smoothly than what I’m experiencing. The media had given a lot of credibility to the AI technology and what it can bring to the future, despite its obvious current limitations. It feels that AI has slowly taken its shape in certain fields through audio and visual stimulation, or maybe a combination of both. However, since long ago, the discussions of AI tend to focus on how AI can saturate ordinary people’s life both physically and mentally  — ie: occupations to be replaced by AI roborts by 20XX years; AI computer beats chess master; people become too obsessed with AI and get confused with boundaries between AI and reality (as seen in the movie Her, and Black Mirror S3E1).

The “new bond” pushed by Google signifies that they have kickstarted the process to transit a machine from one that talks, responds, and actions, to one that understands, interacts, and generates more intimate user experience.

Recently Facebook has decided to shift its Newsfeed algorithm from focusing on relevant content to enabling more “meaningful social interactions.”Another example that big companies are heavily investing in new ways of getting people to “bond” with technology, on a level that facilitates the day-to-day social interactions between people in an online environment.

As AI becoming part of the modern living, it will certainly introduce new user habits, access points, behaviours, which then lead to more diverse ways to perceive ourselves and others. However it’d be interesting to see if the “new bond” led by AI will live up to the high expectation, both in terms of its speed of development and the quality of the connection that’s being generated.

In the Name of My God

Transparent is a mind-blowing show that portrays the story of a transgender person – Maura Pfefferman and her LA-located family.  Maura’s three adult children, each experiencing their own sexual/gender issues at different stages of their lives, had distinct ways in coping with their father’s coming out as a transgender person. They were also pushed to explore the various unresolved conflicts in their idenity and developed deeper understanding of their own. It’s one of the best shows I have ever seen in normalising the existence of LGBT community in the everyday life — It brings out all sides of the LGBT in an honest but romantic way. One of the memorable parts of the show is that as a Jewish family, the Pfeffermans actively celebrate their ancestry by going to Jewish gatherings, reflecting on their past, and following different traditional rituals. All the religious practice with the presence of synagogue, close interaction with Rabbi, has lead the audience to view LGBT culture through a unique lens. When religious freedom and sexuality diversity meet, it challenges “the normal”, and yields this incredible level of  tolerance, communication, and love in an open religious community.

The similar feeling struck me again when watching the Japanese film — Close Knit (2017), where a young girl (Tomo) witnessed her uncle’s girlfriend (Rinko), who is a transgender person, encountering different kinds of discrimination in her daily life. As a way to channel her anger and determination to become a woman, Rinko set a goal of knitting 108 colourful woolly “penises” and then burning them as a symbolic way of letting go of her male identity, hoping this ritual inspired by the Buddhist idea of reincarnation would allow her to truly embrace her new identity without fear and worries. The act of knitting happened throughout the film, the scene where she finally burnt away “her past” with the help with Tomo and Tomo’s uncle is one of the highlights of the film. In this film, practice of religious ritual plays an important role in providing the emotional support for Rinko, and goes beyond to empower her to establish her identity in a society where LGBT is still a taboo subject to a large extent.

All of this more or less contradicts my previous understanding of the relationship between religions and LGBT issues, which is mostly observed from the conservative side of different religious groups as covered by media. The recent example being the discovery that religions play a role that is positively correlated to the “NO” vote in the Same Sex Marriage vote in Australia. I believe there are different layers of understanding, support and tolerance on the issue of LGBT among all different religions and sub-religious groups. However it is undeniable that the practice of faith among LGBT groups can not be stopped no matter how strong the disagreement one religion holds against the LGBT community. In spite of numerous conflicts and challenges in the modern world, I can still see how religions evolve in people’s minds and be reinvented in people’s hands.
After all, genuinity and being true to one’s heart is what makes a faith most sacred, authentic and strong. Love is love.
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Close Knit (2017)

The Game of Watching and Being Watched

Live streaming on Taobao has been gaining more and more popularity since its launch in 2016.

Like this one above, they all seem very entertaining to watch, and especially engaging by allowing users to ask questions during the streaming process.

This kind of sales model doesn’t require much set-up or training. For the sellers, not only are they providing services and promoting their products at the same time, it is also an opportunity for them to show off their personality, build trust with customers, as well as to stand out from hundreds of other sellers who sell pretty much the same thing.

Similar to the spread of live streaming on Facebook, Instagram, etc., being filmed has never been this common. From a viewer’s perspective, live streaming is probably something with more genuinity and interaction than many other things one sees on everyday media. The impact is also spontaneous, like reality TV but the audience gets invited to be part of the show as it is happening. Here’s another example in advertising:

However, the dark side of technology has quickly emerged. There also seems to be a tendency for murder, suicide, crimes being broadcasted on live streaming, and they got circulated online faster than ever because of social media. Suddenly it feels like Hunger Games could happen anytime soon in the real world. But Facebook has already reacted to that and found a solution, which is to hire 3000 “Content Monitors” to review the live streaming content as they go live. A solution that is not so high-tech but perhaps effective for the time-being, which seems to suggest that more violence simply leads to more surveillance and regulations.

What do people gain from going live? Profit, leads, or just pure entertainment? There is never a standard answer. As broadcasters, as viewers, we are all being watched, willingly or unwillingly.

Leave to Parliament everything about my future..

It’s been a couple of tough months for Park Geun-hye’s political career ever since the corruption scandal involving her close confidant Choi Soon-sil has emerged into the public’s eyes. Furious protestors on the streets of Seoul have constantly questioned Park’s administration and request her resignation.

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There has often been a mysterious aura over Park Geun-hye, who came from a family where both of her parents were assassinated due to political reasons. Her life seems be vastly shadowed by her father Park Chung-hee, and the tragic childhood. Her tight relationship with Choi soon-sil,  the daughter of a shaman-esque cult leader has revealed her dependence of spiritual advice in making presidential decisions, which is something extremely disastrous from a political perspective.

When looking at another example of female Prime Minister in Asia- ex-Prime Minister of Thailand –Yingluck Shinawatra, Park’s current situation looks not that unfamiliar. Yingluck, whose brother Thaksin Shinawatra was once the Thai Prime Minister, stepped down from her PM position after a military coup in 2014, and is now also facing charges over the rice-pledging scheme from Thailand’s Attorney General. Both Park and Yingluck came from families with inherited tradition of being in the centre of their countries’ political scenes, and came into power as the first female Prime Minister of their counties, while they are both currently under close legal scrutiny and criticism by their governments.

The struggles that Yingluck and Park are facing are probably just a moment in their destinies. For them, entering the political stage seem to have been closely tied to their family tradition, from which holds a deep sense of connection to the generations of supporters and also commitment to the country. They dedicate their lives to what they believe, and more importantly to fulfill what the family group have been trying to achieve. And now when they are struggling to continue holding the power, the merciless side behind a political scene has replayed on them, just as how it played out on their family members previously. For Park, the scandal has obviously infuriated the country, she doesn’t have much choice but to leave her fate to the judgement of the country for now. And in Yingluck’s case, she has determined to fight back with the best possible dignity.

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I stand firm to fight my case, I had duties and responsibilities to fight on. All eyes are on me. I assure you,  I never thought of fleeing.“–Yingluck Shinawatra