Technology in an Age of Moral Relativism

I love science fiction. I write it, I read it, I watch it. So it’s fair to say I’m kind of technology geek. Anything that reminds me of something I’ve watched or read gets me pretty excited.

But I’ve also consumed enough science fiction to know what happens when technology goes massively, colossally wrong.

And it’s not pretty.

When I look at the kinds of technology being invented and created today, I ask myself this: are we losing our humanity or is technology helping us further who we really are?

I’m not saying I think technology is a bad thing. I’m writing this on a laptop, on a website, and after pressing a button this post will be available to almost anyone on the planet. How cool is that?

But in an age where right and wrong have become greyed and ambiguous concepts, technology and its applications become just as convoluted.

On the one hand, a robotically operated machine can perform life saving surgeries once thought impossible. On the other hand, artificial intelligence is reaching a critical point.

Are we creating beasts that will one day come back to bite the hand that feeds them?

I don’t really have any clear answers about this topic. I don’t think anyone does.

But I think it is very important we carefully think and discuss where technology will lead us.

Because one day, we will reach a point where measured thought and tangible boundaries may no longer be part of the equation.

And thinking of the possibility of that day scares me.

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I’m Still Here

I left an empty house to wait in a crowded terminal.

I flew 2,901 miles, then drifted for nine hours before flying another 5,607 miles.

I ate my favorite burger while riding in the biggest pick up truck I’ve ever been in.

I lived out of a suitcase, slept in someone’s living room, and caught an annoying cold.

I walked through the doors of my childhood home and couldn’t decide if I liked what I was feeling.

I walked along the shores of my favorite coast line and thought only of the water and the sun and the sand and the people in my heart.

I walked into grocery stores shelved with ten types of bread and two types of ramen. I pushed a heavy cart with a dazed look through The Home Depot as I realized–again–that I live here now.

I slowly set up my room–in a temporary form. Pictures Scotch taped to the walls. Books and movies lined up on the floor. Wrinkled clothes pulled from suitcases and hung in a closet that feels twice as small as it used to. A borrowed bedside table that doesn’t do much to help the clutter.

I’ve generally felt too overwhelmed to make a plan or feel like I’m moving forward.

I’ve panicked–genuine hyperventilation, requires-medication-to-calm-me-down panicked.

I’ve been angry.

I’ve been confused.

But I’ve also walked between the shelves of the library I grew up begging Mom to take me to.

I’ve eaten Mexican food as often as I like.

I’ve eaten chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream that didn’t cost me an arm and a leg.

I’ve been to the Farmer’s Market and eaten delightfully fresh strawberries, nectarines, and kettle corn.

I’ve sat in coffee shops with friendly baristas and pleasant ambience.

I got to talk to my brother on the phone.

I’ve texted my close friends who live throughout the US.

I’ve been blessed by the hospitality and generosity of so many people.

So yeah, it’s been hard, and sometimes I feel like I’ve gotten nowhere.

But I’m still here.

Why I’ll Keep Watching Marvel Movies

A lot of people say the Marvel movie franchise is repetitive and familiar. They’re not wrong. But I’m still going to keep watching Marvel films.

Even though the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been pretty impressive in its scope and scale, many people would argue they’re not very good films. The storytelling isn’t original. The villains are predictable. The action (while impressive in its visual scale) follows the same model.

All of these things are true.

I suppose as a writer, I should be more critical of the MCU. Generally speaking, I analyze films the way I analyze literature. I dissect characters. I look for symbols. I seek out plots that are original and have twists you don’t see coming.

However, I generally suspend my critical mind when I walk into a Marvel film. Part of it is because I’m such a huge geek. Part of it is because I love comic books.

And I don’t think there’s a problem with that. I think there’s a place for stories that are written and played out just for the sake of entertainment.

I know there are those out there who think I’m committing some kind of cinematic crime.

But I don’t really care.

I’ll keep watching Marvel films. I’ll keep cheering at the screen when there are cool fight moves and hero shots.

And I’ll certainly keep sitting through all the credits to watch the last few seconds of screen time.

The Confessions of a Kind of Child Celebrity

When I was twelve-years-old, I discovered I was a celebrity of sorts.

My parents worked for a non-profit organization and much of their job involved fund raising and meeting supporters for dinners and casual gatherings to inform them about the work they were doing. My brother and I were usually there as well.

One day, I walked into the home of a perfect stranger. As I entered their kitchen, I saw a picture of my face on their refrigerator. It was a postcard sized image of our family with relevant details about what kind of work we were doing and how interested parties could reach us or our organization.

I was completely taken aback. Who were these people? Remind me why I’m here again? Why am I on their refrigerator? After a few moments, I had a rather shocking revelation: “These people think they know who I am.”

Our supporters–whether they realized it or not–had a preconceived idea about who we were. I was this perfect,twelve-year-old who got to travel the world and see amazing things and I was “just so blessed” to be part of what my parents were doing and wouldn’t it be amazing to be part of my family.

Years and countless similar visits later, I realized the thing that really bothered me. I didn’t really mind someone having a preconceived idea about who I was. This happens everyday with acquaintances and people we meet in passing. What bothered me was that they thought they had the right to interact with me based on the notions they created in their heads.

They believed I was the person they thought I was not who I really was.

And what was worse is they didn’t notice the difference.

For years, I let these people define me. I smiled and answered their questions. I complemented their cooking, and I put on a big smile as we left their house. I knew our family needed their donations. I thought I was doing the right thing.

Now I’m an adult and have had years to process these experiences. I’m not longer upset or angry at what these people thought about me. Let’s face it: I’ve made the same kind of assumptions in similar situations.

But I now know I’ll never have to conform to that picture perfect image on someone’s refrigerator ever again. I am my own person.

And if you want to get to know me, you should just ask.

25

I’ve been thinking about what I should write now that I’m a quarter of a century old for a long time. I haven’t really come up with anything good or especially deep.

It’s not as though I haven’t grown at all this past year—or in the twenty-four years preceding this one. I just feel like I haven’t had any super deep revelations about the meaning of life and who I am and what are we all really meant to do.

But maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

We as humans spend a lot of time making ourselves look good like we know what we’re doing. In reality, most of us are completely confused about who we are and have very little idea of who we want to be and where we are going. We spend money and time and anything else we can think of trying to find meaning in life beyond the mundane every day tasks we face.

We complicate an existence I believe should be quite simple.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how one is meant to live simply in a complicated, fast-paced world. But I think perhaps we don’t have to.

I think we just need to put one foot in front of the other taking each day as it comes.

And maybe in its own weird way, this realization is something deep and meaningful.

Radioactive*

I went to an Imagine Dragons concert hoping to have a good time. I didn’t really expect to have any deep revelations but I kind of did.

Dan Reynolds (the lead singer and front man of the group) said somewhere after the first couple songs that music he believes music is the one thing that unites people all around the world. 

Sitting in the Singapore Indoor Stadium, feeling the waves of energy and excitement and passion, I totally agree with him.

But I think it goes beyond that. Everyone in that audience was coming from somewhere–a long day at work, school and sports or activities, taking care of someone who’s sick, and a whole host of other things. Maybe they had a bad day. Maybe they had a great day.

None of those things really mattered once the band came on stage. For two hours, it was like being wrapped in this cocoon, cut off from the world and all its problems.

And even though I was just one voice in the midst of thousands, I still somehow believed that by shouting and singing and screaming I was part of something bigger and crazier and more beautiful than anything that could be achieved by a small group.

So thank you, Imagine Dragons, for hosting a night none of us will soon forget. Thank you for making music that makes our heartbeat, our ears ring, and our souls feel like they belong.

Thank you for giving us a small break from this world that often feels cruel beyond belief.

*Title taken from the Imagine Dragons song of the same name.

Friends

I don’t like writing about love but not for the reasons you might expect.

Since the dawn of humanity, we have been trying to understand romantic love. We write sonnet, books, movies, plays, notes, and music. We use countless other outlets to try and understand why we love the way we do.

But we often forget there is more than one type of love.

There’s the love you have for your dog or cat. There’s the love you have for things you are passionate about. There’s compassionate love. There’s empathic love. There’s love for family members.

And there’s the love you have for your friends.

I think this type of love is overlooked and misunderstood. Our society is so saturated and trained to think about sex and romance that when we see two people who are extremely close, we assume there must be some kind of romantic or sexual history between the two parties. This is often true but not always true.

I’m not trying to diminish romantic love. I’m just saying I believe love–all kinds of love–is what makes the world a better place no matter how cliche that sounds.

The love of my friends has gotten me out of bed on my most depressed days. It has made me laugh and cry and sing and shout. It has created amazing memories of being giddy with laughter and hours of deep conversations late at night.

So here’s to the late night Dairy Queen runs, the school dances, the nights crying, the graduations, the good-byes, and the reunions. My dearest friends, thank you so much for your love. I love you all from the bottom of my heart.