Covid-19 Family-Isolation Diary

March 22, 2020

Sol returned on AC 008 from Singapore via Hong Kong so we’re decided to join him in a household self-isolation for a couple of weeks. I’ll post what we’re learning along the way.

Day 1

Started the day with a virtual minyan prayer service for a friend who lost their sister last week (but not to Covid-19). People were quite giddy to be together on the Zoom “Gallery” screen and greet each other in the cyberspace.

The worst part of video conferencing is the audio – for all it’s excellence as a remote work tool, the algorithm’s effort to only really allow one person to speak at the same time doesn’t work well for social e-gathering.

Still, it is pretty amazing that people connect with each other as well as we do when we can co-locate in meatspace. I still find it surprising that even with all that mediation of pixels, electrons and photons, that people connect with one another emotionally like the human reach tunnels through the electronics.

Later in the day our vaguely Jewish/Middle Eastern band met by Zoom and we explored various settings to reduce compression and squelch, and try to play together. A partial success. I worked in early digital telephony at Mitel in the mid-80’s and the battle was between the telephone company’s “Circuit Switched” systems and the digital network advocates for “Packet Switched” networks. Circuit switched systems like the old telephone systems guaranteed the quick delivery of data, while packet switched systems made better use of the same resources (100s more phone calls per pair of copper wires than circuit switched). Now that copper is a commodity largely replaced by fibre optics, the war is won and everything is now packet-switched.

That means latency is everywhere in the digital world. You hear it on both cell and home phones (now that they too are packet-switched) when you start to talk and the other person seems to have started at the same time. You hear it when you have two hear yourself on a remote Zoom computer. Perhaps the only tangible benefit I anticipate from 5G networking is super low latency. Maybe that will restore our ability to play music or sing in choirs over the networks. Let’s hope.

Dinner returns to our family dynamic (minus 1, hi Elia!) of eating together and discussing the news of the day and the topic of the hour – today it was about how accelerationists hope to ensure that the emergence of sentient AI have an ethical system underpinning them so they don’t just devolve to being psychopaths. Today’s reading homework...

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