Tell me what I want


How Apple is changing our outlook on technology

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the 1976-theme issue of The Other Press. January 13, 2016

The old way of thinking: Nobody owns a computer because nobody needs one. Take a look at the new Apple 1, which came on sale this summer (July 1976). It looks like something a high school student built during the final days before the science fair. That crummy looking machine is worth the equivalent of a month’s salary for many middle-class people.

Few consumers want computers, and even fewer understand them, but that is not how trends should continue. People are generally content with living day to day within a routine. Technology doesn’t abide by those rules. Technology disrupts, but it often takes many years for it to do so. The same way the printing press, the wristwatch, and the steam engine changed the world, I believe that computers can do the same.

Yet when I approach every new technology—like the Apple 1—I still say: “Nah! I don’t need that. I’m happy with what I have.” I’m happy writing this article out on a pen and paper, then transcribing it on a word processor, and transferring that to a printing press. That’s not a big deal to me.

Steve Jobs, the young and hip founder of Apple, said: “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them… Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.” It’s an inspiring quote that perfectly separates innovators from us mere mortals. This quote allows me to be even more optimistic about technology, knowing that in most cases it will win over.

Will there one day be virtual reality, mobile payments, or robot vacuum cleaners available to consumers? Probably. It could happen within the year, or it could take 40 years, but to write off technology is an ignorant reaction to change. We all need to push in the direction of progress. We need to push with Jobs and the Apple 1.

It’s easy to look to the past and think about how stupid those people were for doing things the “old” ways. Yet, what would the future generation say about us? Yes, technology is stealing jobs away from hardworking people, but I don’t believe that is a bad thing. I believe that people, like technology, should evolve. We need to start thinking like innovators and less like routine-orientated consumers. We should not just pick a job and stick with it. If you look at it, pretty much every job could be replaced with a robot one day, but I ask you this: how will you work with the technology?

Computers aren’t stealing jobs away from people. Computers are changing the way people work. Take this example: bank tellers are losing jobs to automated-teller machines. But then again, what are tellers doing to respond to this? They must innovate. We must see what has yet to be written.

Let taxes equal charities

Photo via Thinkstock

Is it really better to give?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 3, 2015

It’s hard to get excited about taxes. Like having someone reach into your pocket and take whatever they want, tax season often leaves us all feeling a little violated. But for as long as civilized living has existed, taxes have been constant and increasing. It’s clear today that if we want to continue living the Canadian life, we’ll need to pay taxes, and a lot of them.

After you wash away the tears, let’s take a look at all the benefits, because it is all about the benefits. Public safety and services are two popular reasons to pay taxes, and they’re good ones. I’ll be glad to pay taxes if the firefighters put out my burning house or if a policeman arrests the dude who just robbed me. I frequent the library, so I’m happy about the books my tax dollars bought. I drive, so I’m glad there is money left to fill potholes and extend the highway. Let’s call taxes a security for our future, insurance for our way of living, and a charity for the people in our society.

As I progress through life, I have noticed that I’m paying more taxes. I remember there was a time when I received money from the government for simply being alive. Now, I’m required to pay it back—it’s bullshit. But I’m not going to stop working; I’m not going to stop making money. My attitude toward taxes is different. I want to make more money so I can pay more taxes. Rich people get praised all the time for donating to charity, but they get pitied for having to pay significant taxes. No! Don’t pity them. They are rich. If needing to pay taxes is a deterrent for wealth, there is something wrong with your mentality, and that needs to change.

Money creates power and power begets money. Taxes break this pattern. They put responsibility on the wealthy to help provide for their less fortunate peers as they cope with the hardships of life.

We are all in this together, although we might not all agree on where the money should go. Some say the money should be dedicated to slums, others say it should go into renovating a public art gallery. Some want it to build a new transit infrastructure; others want to upgrade the healthcare system. We might never agree, but the thing is, we should be optimistic that wherever our money goes it’s going to good efforts. The same way we have little control once we donate to a charity, is the same way we should approach taxes.

Called it—maybe


Should we be praised for our predictions? 

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. April 1, 2014

Whether it’s a sporting event, the weather, or the end of the world, people love to predict the future. Some rely on the science of probability and statistics, but many predict by guessing out of speculation—and surprisingly, it’s as effective as any other method. Because when the dice are cast and the coins are flipped, chances play the largest factor in prediction. So, if you haven’t called it recently, you are bound to at some point.

We make thousands of predictions daily. We predict the arrival time of the bus, the mark we got on our exams, and the emotion we’ll feel when we see our friends at the end of the night. We get a lot of joy from predicting correctly, even though the guesses might not be in our best interest.

“The bus is always late,” you’ll say before you even leave the house. This isn’t a daring assumption compared to gambling, and it isn’t as rewarding either, but it satisfies you in the same way—if to a lesser degree. This type of prediction allows you to feel good whether the bus comes on time or not. You either called it, or find the nice surprise of a punctual bus.

People predict both out of confidence and a lack thereof; in other words, a need to cover their asses. It reduces the hurt of possible disappointment, while entertaining them lightly during mundane events. By predicting, we can make a high-stake event out of something that has little interest. Sports and awards shows are great examples of this cognitive hypothesizing. One of the teams will win, and odds are we might be able to guess it.

Uncertainty is scary, really scary. Imagine if we lived a life where we didn’t understand the concept of death; that death wasn’t an inevitable end to our lives. How differently would we live if not fearing death? But we are aware, and are therefore very capable of predicting every possible situation that will kill us, even if that means predicting the apocalypse or a new pandemic.

No matter how good at forecasting the future you might think you are, you’re powers are useless, because foresight, although it has value for yourself, is completely useless for most other people. If you are right about the apocalypse, it’s the apocalypse and we’re all dead anyways, but if there isn’t an apocalypse, then you’re a crazy, stupid person. If you called the result of a hockey game, great job! You might get a high-five from me, but it doesn’t make you superior in any way.

Predictions are made to satisfy you alone. We all have the ability to predict, so we don’t need other people to do it for us. We all like feeling smart, but when we confuse a lucky guess with knowledge, then we’re bound to misinform and tarnish our credibility. So if you think you know what you are saying, go ahead. Call it, friendo.

The good will always win


At least that is what the winners will tell us

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 17, 2014

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, or whomever he originally heard it from, “History is written by the victors.” Regardless of who said it first, the idea is probably as old as history itself—and still the statement is ever so true. We just need to look at contemporary situations to understand that we are in a constant flux for power, and there is no simple, peaceful solution in sight; examples could be found on every continent (omitting Antarctica, of course). But should we, as outside observers, acknowledge that whether the result may be good or bad for us, the winners are still winners and should therefore be respected?

We all want to change history for the better, but what might be better for us may be worse for someone else. Let’s look back to the birth of our nation—the genocide of aboriginals. We are of course now living in a society that is the consequence of that act. For us, it no longer feels like that big of a deal, because we weren’t there suffering or struggling through the backlash of the incident.

The same goes with the Chinese head tax, which was a fee introduced in 1885 to discourage Chinese immigration. Although, I’m of Chinese descent and feel the redress offered in 2006 was a small step in the right direction, it was far from resolution. But I also feel slight passivity to fight for that cause, knowing the struggle it takes to get any recognition from the government, let alone an apology.

The people in power today are ploughing forward without taking a look back at the mess they’ve made. We are not learning from our history, but not only are we not learning from it, we are using the history itself to intimidate. The winners of the past have become bullies of the present and that is evident in the Crimean crisis in Eastern Europe.

With so many diverse groups living together and such rich history on all sides, no one is willing to back down. Will there ever be harmony in that small patch of the world? Perhaps. But if we just glance slightly to the south and a smidgen to the east and see the endless dispute in the Middle East, we can say that resolution may never happen, because a victor is never crowned. Peaceful solution simply doesn’t exist, it cannot exist. I’m not just saying this because I’m pessimistic about the human race, but because history is not built upon handshakes and compromises—it’s built upon winners and losers.

The downfalls of Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, Fulgencio Batista, and Saddam Hussein, to name a few, are all examples of how the losers have paved the way for the winners. There were no handshakes—there were only executions and suicides. Ask yourself, is it likely that Kim Jong-Un and the North Korean dictatorship will simply wake up one morning and submit to Western democracy? That’s unlikely. If we want people to behave a certain way, we can rather ask or we can force. One is of course more effective than the other.

We North Americans are lucky to be living in the aftermath, as we clean up our own country and observe the destruction of others. The destruction, as our history has shown, is inevitable. We must also remember that the problems of others are not our fight. We have fought our battle and now they must fight theirs. They must, in a sense, establish their own winners and losers—and it won’t be pretty.