What Star Trek: Discovery should have been

Star Trek DiscoveryMy opinion of Star Trek: Discovery is positive, but there’s still something that annoys me and since it’s a bit of a spoiler, you should stop reading here until you watched season 1.

Star Trek: Discovery shouldn’t have been a prequel. STD (oops, unfortunate acronym) should have been a sequel to all the other Star Treks we had. I don’t understand why they made it a prequel. It’s not trying to explain an origin story; if anything, it’s destroying Star Trek cannon.

If it was a sequel, in the 25th century:

  • the uniforms wouldn’t be an issue
  • the introduction of new races wouldn’t be an issue
  • the introduction of a human that went through Vulcan academy wouldn’t be an issue (she could be Spock’s protege, instead of Spock’s father’s protege)
  • the Klingons looking different wouldn’t be an issue
  • flat screens and holograms wouldn’t be an issue
  • the use of a sort of holodeck wouldn’t be an issue
  • discovering a way to teleport through the galaxy without needing warp drives wouldn’t be an issue
  • we could have Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager and Deep Space 9 cameos.

The BorgWhy make it a prequel then? There’s no advantage to having it be a prequel. You could still have a war with the Klingons if they wanted to bank on their fame (although a war with the Borg is much more frightening in my opinion, specially since peace with the Borg is impossible).

They couldn’t have the flip phones, I mean, the communicators, which apparently are iconic enough to put on one of the posters, but aren’t the badge communicators also iconic? And if not, it feels like a small lose.

I don’t understand this obsession with needles prequels, are people afraid of the future? of moving forward and seeing what happens next?

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Read this before watching Star Trek: Discovery

I just finished watching Star Trek: Discover and although I’m not blown away, I did enjoy it and I’m looking forward to how the story continues.

There were three points that felt wrong about the series but if you approach them with the right mind-frame you can minimize their impact on your enjoyment because they are more subjective that they look.

Star Trek Discovery

  1. The Star Trek universe: this TV show just doesn’t fit. The uniforms don’t fit, the look of the Klingons don’t fit, the level of technology doesn’t fit, the design of the Starfleet ships doesn’t fit. Just think of it as a reboot and stop trying to make it fit, it’ll hurt. This is what happens when you do a prequel and you are original.
  2. The bullshit: there’s plenty of space bullshit in Star Trek: Discovery and you might feel insulted by it, but if you try to be objective you’ll see that all of Star Trek had a lot of bullshit in it. This one smells slightly different but it’s neither better nor worse.
  3. It’s an exception in Starfleet: the events depicted in the TV show are exceptional in the Starfleet organization and thus it’s not the attempt and success at clean solutions that we come to love and respect with Captain Picard; but if you think about it, it’s not that different from some of the Deep Space 9 episodes.

If you can get past those three points, the TV show can be very enjoyable. It’s not full of politics and morality like Star Trek: The Next Generation; but this is only the first season (go and re-watch TNG season 1 again, it might not be what you remember) and there’s plenty of talk about what’s right and wrong and when the ends justify the means and whether the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.

It’s a breath of fresh air to see clean-tech sci-fi produced with state of the art graphics. It looks astounding, even better than J.J. Abrams’ movies (mostly because, I believe, it tries to be even less canon than those). The design of the Klingons, their culture, their spaceships, their armor and space suits, their language and the fact that they speak it constantly is amazing and gives a deep experience of the difference in cultures. I just hope those sets and costumes are not too expensive, I want this TV show to go on.

Book Review: The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World by Adam Gazzaley, Larry D. Rosen

41aipvZ90dLMy review of this book is going to sound a bit negative, but my regard for it is not, hence the four-stars.

The book is nicely divided in three sections. The first one is the brain, how it works, studies, it’s history and evolution. The second section is about the effect of the technological world on the mind and vice-versa. And the third is about how to deal with the world, techniques to be more productive, less distracted, more engaged. I don’t have much to say about the first part except that it’s fascinating and some of the studies were new to me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The second section is where my surprises begin. For example, it spent a lot of time explaining how you cannot text and drive. I have used my phone while in the car to change songs, podcasts or the route (I use it for navigation) and every time I can clearly see my driving quality going down and thus I only do it in low risk cases (empty highway with lanes on both sides of me, things like that). I can’t believe that there are people that believe they can text and drive.

The second part also spent a lot of time explaining that multitasking is not doing more than one thing at the same time, but doing one for a bit of time, then the other and coming back and that switching has a cost and thus, doing two tasks multitasking is less efficient than doing one task and then the other. Again, is this news? I do multitask but I know both tasks are suffering. Generally I do it for enjoyment or because there’s value in one task being in-progress (silly example: applying coats of paint while reading a book, you need to wait between each coat, so, multitasking has some value).

The third section is what really surprised me the most and made me feel like a very uncommon person. My phone is by my bedside at night in case of an emergency, but only calls from certain people get through; everything else is blocked. I don’t pick it in the middle of the night and I know that when I do, or when I look at it before going to sleep, it’ll affect my sleeping cycle negatively. There wasn’t much new about this in the book but it was a good reminder to improve my sleep hygiene, which I’m going to start doing.

There was a category of recommendations that I found really interesting. Apparently, the presence of a phone, on someone’s hand or on the table, even if it never rings and it’s never touched, even if it’s off, reduces the quality of human interaction. I’m highly skeptical but I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and maybe start avoiding having my phone present during these sort of interaction.

If you are struggling with messages, Facebook, mails, and so on, overriding your life, then, this book might have some good information for you. For me, it didn’t feel very applicably as I’m a work-at-home-entrepreneur, so, Facebook, email, IM tend to be much needed human interaction for me.

Aside from my experience of the book, I think the book is good, and if things are as bad as they are painted in it, more people should read it.

★★★★☆

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Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

zz48df98ecDo not expect the book to be serious or high brow. It’s silly, predictable and satisfying. Very satisfying if you are a geek that enjoys pop sci fi and fantasy culture. If you enjoyed that aspect of Ready Player One, then you are likely to enjoy Armada too. If that’s you, go ahead and read it, you’ll enjoy it and it’s short.

I feel the book could have spent much more time world building. Maybe Ernest Cline didn’t do that because, unlike Ready Player One, the world is supposed to be our own regular world; but there are a few technological changes that left me wondering how much more advanced it was. I feel that later on, when more information is revealed, a flashback with a lot of world building would have helped me getting more into it.

The audio version read by Will Wheaton is great. Most of the book is read in a more or less neutral voice but every now and then he makes appropriate voices (such as Yoda) which I find suit the book rather well.

★★★☆☆

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Goodbye Apple

My main computer was an Apple MacBook Pro for about 8 or 9 years. That is, until last January, when I said good-bye to Apple. It wasn’t easy, but the last iteration of the MacBook Pro is terrible.

I’m not against the touch bar. I think keyboards need more innovation and I applaud the effort. But aside from the touch bar, the keyboard feels weird because they tried to make their power-user product super thin.

Let me repeat that: for their power user product Apple favors a bit of thinness over usability.

I don’t know how much of that also pushed them to produce an underpowered product with not a lot of RAM, very expensive hard drive, very expensive in general.

At the same time as I was in need of a new laptop, I was putting together a gaming computer and I decided instead to add some more funding to that project and turn it into a proper workstation. For the price of a MacBook Pro, I got the most amazing workstation I could ever want. Granted, it’s not mobile, but I need my nice keyboard and monitors to work anyway, so, it suits me well.

I’m really surprised to be back using Microsoft Windows as my main operating system; something that hasn’t happened since Windows NT 4.0. And I’m happy about it.

Goodbye Apple, it was fun while it lasted.

Book Review: The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War by Robert J. Gordon

the-rise-and-fall-of-american-growth-2I read it as an audiobook and it doesn’t make a good one. It’s full of figures, numbers, charts, diagrams, etc which get lost in the audio version. This might cause a bias on my review.

The book feels thoroughly researched. I caught a couple of small errors but most time when I thought “What about this or that” the book answered my objection a couple or paragraphs earlier.

The first two parts cycle between a dry list of numbers and little stories or descriptions that are very interesting. It is, as the title suggest, very American centric but every now and then it compares USA with Europe.

The last part is different, specially the last two or three chapters, which talk about the present and the future. I was heavily entrenched in what this books call techno-optimisim. Techno-optimists believe progress is happening and it will accelerate. AI will solve all problems and destroy all jobs. We also believe robots are the biggest source of unemployment today. This book made me challenge these assumptions. I’m not sure what to believe. Some of the conclusions that you may arrive at from the information here can be very xenophobic/protectionist.

The postscript, America’s Growth Achievement and the Path Ahead is great and concise. I think it should be mandatory reading to be a politician of any kind. Actually, the US should elect Robert J. Gordon as their president.

★★★★☆

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