It’s a Dystopia Out There

Tough week, n’est ce pas?

I spent most of it in Silicon Valley and San Francisco without a bike. My business trip included looking at flexible shared office space, a two-day meeting with futurists, a look see at driverless vehicles, and a demo of virtual reality.

The futurist meeting was pretty interesting because we were developing a sort of cultural business forecast when we were set upon by a yooge black swan. We were all thankful that we had lots of work to do on Wednesday.

On the way to dinner we found ourselves behind a driverless Google car. It looked pretty normal. It even cussed out a pedestrian in the crosswalk. (This was very advanced technology.)

Google Driverless Car

We also browsed in a shop with the latest toys made from tech equipment including a bike helmet with head and taillights, brake lights, and turn signals. The was clearly meant for use in an urban environment. I like the concept but I ride on unlit trails so I need a heck of a lot more forward looking candlepower.

I also saw a device that looked a bit like a narrow black visor.  It wraps around your head and sends signals to your brain to improve your meditation experience. Or so they say. Seems to me a mantra or a candle is cheaper but what do I know? If you need this product, you have issues. Just sayin.’

I think the technology behind these sorts of things is fascinating, but I walked out of the shop thinking, “Why does anybody think they need this stuff?” If the economy depended on my spending habits, unemployment would be 75%.

The virtual reality demo would probably get a gamer all worked up. I tried it out and was impressed that it didn’t make me hurl. One of my colleagues was doing the demo with someone in the next room over. Their virtual hands touched. She says she faintly felt the touch on her actual hand. It turns out that virtual reality is useful for helping amputees cope with their situation. Brains are so cool.

Virtual Reality Demo

Even our rental car had odd tech on it. The engine would shut off at traffic lights then restart when the gas pedal was depressed. This drove us all nuts. I wonder how many starter motors this car will go through?

Wherever we walked we could see people typing away on laptops in offices, shared spaces, coffee shops. It seemed all rather dystopian to me. California is a foreign country.

Between meetings on Wednesday and Thursday I read Tweets of despair from my DC-based friends. More than 90% of DC voters backed Clinton. Their tweets were the “OOF” from a punch in the existential gut.

Here’s my take on the election: Certain things don’t need to be written in the rulebook. When a baseball player comes to the plate, it is assumed he is not going to assault the plate umpire with his bat. There is no rule covering this.

For elections, you should be able to assume that candidates will not be human pond scum. Apparently, not. I lived through Nixon. I saw George Wallace’s mean spirited speeches. This is worse. I don’t care how disenfranchised people feel, using the ballot box to validate hatred is unacceptable. Pandora’s box of bigotry has been opened. I hope we figure out how to close it and burn it to ashes. Quickly.

I got back home at 11:30 last night. Today, I took Deets in for a new chain and cassette. The old one had nearly over 3,500 miles on it. Then I took Big Nellie out for a nice, meditative spin. I was focused on not getting killed. Breath in live, breath out die. So relaxing!

I managed to avoid about ten cars being driven randomly on Union Street in Old Town. (Look Martha! There’s a parking space!!!) Fortunately the only police officer around was busy lecturing a bicyclist so he missed all the death defying fun.

In San Francisco Parking Signs Are Helpful

My ride took me to the Lincoln Memorial. All was calm. Then I rode a tailwind home by way of the vast and empty Pentagon North parking lot, Crystal City, Potomac Yards and Old Town.

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