Passing

2405970998_de2a70e2c4.jpgMy mother died this morning. The cancer she's been fighting for four years finally gained the upper hand. The good news is that she got the best care she could possibly have gotten on the planet, and that most of the last four years, she's felt good or, at worst tired. The bad news is that her cancer became aggressive a few weeks ago and couldn't be beaten down. Oddly, thinking about her death makes me think about technology. Technology is a form of worship of immortality and godhood. Of taking the things that are beyond mortal control and turning them to your ends: electricity, matter, the basic forces of nature. Digital cameras take pictures that will last forever (if you back up) with perfect fidelity. Technology in its apotheosis is represented in the Singularity, a science-fiction notion that's becoming mainstream in which the continued exponential growth of computational power allows the complexity of a human brain to be completely modeled in a single device. The singularity drops the boundary between mortality and technology, allowing us to transcend our bodies and step into the computer. Which is what many of us working in fields related to and around technology today do in a virtual sense every day when we plan, fix, describe, invent. But technology is part of the material world. No matter how much we want to transcend our material beings, silicon isn't going to get us there. My mother is gone, and what I have left are spinning arrays of electrons. 2405358301_1445d5e448.jpg (Top photo from my 3rd birthday in Poughkeepsie, NY, in 1971; bottom from some morning after we moved to Fremont, Calif., probably late June 1971. My dad said we took one of these every year for a few years. That was when we had just moved to California, where we stayed until 1979, when we moved to Eugene, Oregon.)