The Human Factor (Originally Posted 6 Jan 2013)

I don’t care that Big Blue was programmed to understand nuance and could beat Ken Jennings on Jeopardy. There are some things that are just done better by humans than by a machine.  You can write a program for Pandora that tells it that certain songs HAVE to be played together or not at all (far as I can tell based on recent sampling, they haven’t yet figured out that they need to write this program), but you can’t tell a machine what it means to feel the raw human emotion of “getting it right.”

This morning, as I was driving to church, I decided to check out iheartradio, rather than listening to Pandora as I normally would do.  Sometimes you don’t mind hearing another human voice (the DJ) or a couple commercials and thinking that other people someplace are hearing the exact same thing.  It is a form of connecting to the greater humanity around us and not being isolated in our own technological bubble (which I am as guilty of as anyone, or at least anyone who is not a teenager).

I don’t listen to ihr that much, or at lest haven’t recently.  But when I do, I will typically look for and listen to a radio station that I used to listen to the old fashioned way (over the airwaves) at some point in my past.  Again, it’s familiar and it’s a way of connecting, somehow, to the people I have crossed paths with over the years.  Maybe one of them is listening at the same time and without knowing it, we are sharing a connection.  Is this all getting too existential? [Note to self: reread Sartre and try to figure out what the hell existentialism is all about]

Anyway . . . I was listening to WDVE (spent a lot of time in Pittsburgh and sort of lived there Oct ’08 to Aug ’09).  Hold on, let me back up for anyone from the 313 (or now maybe it’s 313/734) that might be reading this. I STARTED by going to the one and only 101.1 WRIF BABY!!! When I arrived, the DJ was on, talking about how it sounded like we were gonna have some hockey this year after all.  YES!!  Still LOVE my Red Wings.  Can’t wait to see ’em.  Then they go to commercial.  Then they start playing some awful “new” rock that nearly caused me to drive into a light pole.  Is RIF still a Classic Rock station?  I don’t know.  It’s been about a hundred years since I listened to it.  And when I used to listen to it, it wasn’t called Classic Rock.  It was just ROCK!

Avoiding the light pole, I quickly diverted to WDVE.  I think there are a lot of similarities between Detroit and Pittsburgh.  I’ll save that for another time.  I think they were playing an Ozzy song when I switched it on.  And then they went into Heartbreaker by Zep.  Now THIS is a Classic Rock station I’m thinking to myself (contrasting it with whatever the hell it was they were playing of WRIF).

Pull into the parking lot at church, get into a parking spot, and I’m not really thinking about it, but the song’s just about to end.  Before I turn the key to kill the power I catch myself.  Wait for it:

Heartbreaker.  Heartbreaker.  Heart . . .

With a purple umbrella and a fifty cent hat. Livin’ lovin’ she’s just a woman.

YES! I can’t explain the joy of knowing that they would not f that up. That they wouldn’t just go on to playing some other song after Heartbreaker.  That there is ONLY ONE SONG that should ever be played after Heartbreaker. And WDVE came through, as I completely knew and expected that they would. Pure, unadulterated, JOY. And that human connection with whoever it was on the other end that got it right.

Check the clock. Yep, enough time to sit there and listen to the whole song before heading inside (not sure if Monsignor Moore would have understood if I was 3 minutes late but fortunately it didn’t come to that!).

Emotion is a uniquely human quality, despite my wife trying to convince me that the dogs are “sad” or “love” each other or whatever emotions she projects onto them.  I love dogs as much as anyone.  But emotion and the self awareness (or sometimes lack of self awareness or suppression) of those emotions, is, I think, what makes us who we are.

Embrace it.  Be thankful for it.  And share it.


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