By David Mark Greaves
The tragedy of the recent motorcycle versus SUV confrontation was amazingly caught on a helmet-mounted camera and makes for compelling viewing. A large group of motorcyclists found themselves together on the Westside Highway and if you’ve ever been in that situation, you either enjoy the roar as they go by, or slow down to hasten their passing. Until this moment, every vehicle on the highway has given them leeway and allowed them to roar on. But now the camera shows the bumper of a car unbelievably moving at the rear tire of a motorcyclist. He does hit the motorcycle, and the rider goes down and traffic comes to a halt. Suddenly, the SUV bolts ahead, running over and crippling a motorcyclist and drives away at a high speed. The bikers take off after the perpetrator and what follows is a Hollywood-worthy sequence of a car chase, including high speeds on the highway and through red lights on city streets.
After having stopped the vehicle, instead of leaving the driver alone and calling the police, a couple of men on adrenalin-fueled stupidity, attacked the driver, beating him bloody in front of his family, which they’re going to regret for a long time. But here the story turns an interesting corner. Apparently, one or more of the people present were NYPD undercover officers. Now, if they were well-intentioned officers, they could have intervened saying, “Hey, be cool. We don’t need everybody being searched and checked up in here”. They would have stopped the attack and gained much respect. Instead, according to CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former deputy commissioner with the New York Police Department on “CBS This Morning”: “This is a story that starts out as not such a good day (for the NYPD) because they had a detective on the scene who was undercover, who took no action to intervene and then waited four days to come forward and say, ‘I was there’. That got worse (on Tuesday) when they reviewed the videotapes they received this week from other sources other than the YouTube video we first saw, and they see their own detective allegedly banging out the back window of the SUV during the incidents that led up to the man being dragged from the car.” Was he simply undercover, or was he an agent-provocateur with specialized instructions who seized an opportunity? This is a trial we’re waiting to see.
And lastly, brother-in-law Bruce Green asked me, “What about the driver?” Here, he had his family in the car, and he recklessly maneuvers to deliberately cause harm to the motorcyclist. Does he get a pass now because of sympathy? If he does not get charged with the precipitating action, the justice system is saying in effect it’s okay to run over a black man, or several, if you feel threatened. “This is stand-your-ground and George Zimmerman comes to New York,” says Bruce.
Debt Ceiling Breach
Regarding the much-dreaded “debt ceiling crisis”. If the Republicans don’t cave, the country will default on its debt. And as the global world begins to implode, President Obama will invoke the 14th Amendment and say the full faith and credit of the United States must take precedent over policy issues. There will be calls for impeachment and while the Affordable Care Act solves its glitches and becomes a fact on the ground, the elections will be upon us and justice will be served.
Looking at Tomorrow
We visited RPI and caught the end of the reception for the introduction of AMOS the Advanced Multiprocessing Optimized System. Their press release states, “With the ability to perform more than one quadrillion (1015) calculations per second, AMOS is the most powerful university-based supercomputer in New York State and the Northeast, and among the most powerful in the world”. This system joins IBM’s storied Watson cognitive computing system, Watson at Rensselaer, forming the Center for Computational Innovations (CCI). “This combination of AMOS’s balanced supercomputing power and Watson at Rensselaer’s ability to understand the subtle nuances of human language and sift through vast amounts of data uniquely positions Rensselaer as a world leader in data-related research, innovation and education.”
There were easels holding posters of calculations, drawings and text. It was an odd feeling, because while I could read and pronounce the words, I had no idea what they meant. A young woman, a doctoral student at RPI, told us that she was part of the team behind the poster. She explained that with the ever-increasing amount of data in the world having the ability to analyze it quickly is crucial to seeing new patterns.
The data being created throughout the world in all fields is a vast ocean of unconnected information and opportunity. And it is machines like AMOS and Watson that sail on those waters, making connections that were invisible before. So much of what we once thought was science fiction (one quadrillion per second!) has come to pass as everyday technology that fewer and fewer future scenarios seem far-fetched.
One thing is clear though, the only thing that can challenge these behemoths is the intelligence and imagination of the human brain (which, by the way AMOS, is encased in a system that can also dance and sing). It is growing up all around us. It requires good nutrition in the womb, an empowering environment and an education protocol at home and at school that inspires critical thinking and self-awareness. If we want our children to be full partners in this world, we have to fight for them now.