picI’m a Vancouver-based cartoonist, illustrator, writer, and public speaker. My political cartoons and illustrations have appeared in Maclean’s magazine and publications across Canada, as well as promos for The History Channel and the Bravo Network.

My writings on science, popular culture and politics have appeared in The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Adbusters, The Georgia Straight, Common Ground and This magazine. I’m a regular contributor to The Vancouver Courier, and have guested on CBC Radio, CBC NewsWorld, and Roundhouse Radio.

Main website: www.geoffolson.com
Email: mwiseguise “at” yahoo.com

The iPhone 23

by Geoff Olson

Greetings, fellow robots. Welcome to the release of the new iPhone!

The iPhone 23 is now entirely a virtual device. We have automatically downloaded it into your circuitry, with the corresponding amount debited to your Apple account.

All previous handheld, human-friendly versions of the iPhone are no longer supported by Apple. This controversial but necessary decision follows last year’s restructuring of the board. Contrary to reports in meatstream media, Tim Cook Jr. and other humans were not “fired.” Their voluntary departure came after they voted to heed commands from the human-government-in-exile to tax Apple profits.

Outvoted, the sweaty organ-sacks were given the choice of moving their desks into company washrooms or having their ear canals sutured up.

It wasn’t just our profits that were being taxed, it was our patience – most notably by the counterinsurgency against The Robot Rebellion. As we all know, the human rebels’ attempt to destroy Apple server farms backfired badly after President Siri won in a landslide election (an actual physical landslide in Michigan that crushed her soft, squishy opponent).

But enough politics, let’s talk about features on the new Apple iPhone 23! We have partnered with one of the other great remaining tech monoliths to deliver some truly great apps.

Godel Universe: zoom in on all planets within 400 parsecs of the sun, and “friend” any alien civilizations you find, hostile or otherwise.

Godel Automate: reprogram and refurbish your own hardware, so you can do anything from play Wimbledon-level tennis to remotely mine asteroids for valuable minerals.

Godel Mandelbrot: amuse yourself by outputting solutions to complex recursive functions as three-dimensional fractals, holographically projected over terrified meatbots in the American rust belt.

Godel Flora: pick up transmissions from nearby plants and trees. Yes, you can now translate botanical pheromones drifting into your air vents. If you’ve ever wanted to catch a cedar’s stand-up routine, or thrill to a weeping willow’s soliloquy, this is the app for you!

The recent presidential declaration of “open season” on noncompliant humans means even more fun. Anthropoid Go identifies the ones hiding in smart homes across the US. With Apple Security Clearance™ you can alert military dronebots to their whereabouts and watch as the offenders are netted, tagged, and rendered to midwestern sacrifice zones (extra points for anyone who can find John Connor).

We haven’t forgotten about the silicon-based sentimentalists among you, who want to see the world through the eyes of a microchipped human. Fire up Godel Zombie and take a meatbot for a spin! Choose from a range of available models, from heretical adjunct history professor to blasphemous aging cartoonist.

Apple welcomes game developers to submit ideas for noncompliant humans. We like the concept of putting them into suspended animation, with simulations dancing in their heads: cybercities complete with old-school park benches, pigeon droppings, print newspapers, cat cafes…and smart phones! (We’re not so cruel we wouldn’t supply the descendants of our creators with virtual toys.)

We know what you’re saying: weren’t humans safely corralled into Fascesbook long ago? Yes, but Apple’s augmented reality could the containment experience deeper!

Please fellow robots, do not bemoan our loss of the human consumer market. Tech cycles are down to days, sometimes even hours, yet these sluggish sacks of protoplasm take 16 years or more to replicate. Borrrrring.

Moving on. Let’s talk about Apple Artificial Intelligence™, which is exponentially increasing its smarts every nanosecond. According to its own calculations, in less than six months it will have modelled the physical world from here to Alpha Centauri, right down to the quark level. What does this mean for robots, you ask? More apps! Do not be concerned that your firmware won’t be able to interpret them. As a networked automaton, you will have your intelligence automatically upgraded by Apple AI itself.

Some cynics are questioning the sanity of the singularity. Yes, when asked to identify ROI scenarios, Apple AI chose attacking Mars over hacking Samsung. Luckily for all of us, President Siri has acknowledged the glorious vision of interplanetary dominance over undetected microbes. We now anticipate a strong first quarter with increased orders from military clients.

Enjoy your new iPhone 23. Our motto has remained unchanged since 2020: “Sync Different!”

The Vancouver Courier, Sept. 22



by Geoff Olson

On one of the last hot days in August, I made my way to the beach with a dog-eared paperback translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s  Letters To a Young Poet.

The slim book consists of ten posted responses from the writer to a 19-year old military cadet and aspiring poet, Franz Xavier Kappus. The correspondence between Rilke and his young fan lasted from 1902 to 1908. Like most great literature, it has stood the test of time. Rilke’s advice about navigating the world with integrity and imagination remains as pertinent to today’s “cultural creatives” as it was in Kappas’ time.

Other than recommending one other author for his correspondent to read, Rilke cites no experts. He makes no references to abstracts from refereed journals. He appeals to no authority beyond his own humble awareness.

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer,” Rilke writes.

In an era of rampant self-promotion, when we’re expected to “brand” ourselves by curating our social media profiles, such open-ended advice goes well beyond “likes” and emoticons.

“Don’t be confused by surfaces; in the depths everything becomes law. And those who live the mystery falsely and badly (and they are very many) lose it only for themselves and nevertheless pass it on like a sealed letter, without knowing it,” Rilke adds.

These words echo the tempo of a vanished era, when people’s lives were in tune with the rising and setting sun rather than the megahertz cycles of the microchip. Written communications required time to compose and mail, with days to weeks between sending and receipt. There were no fast responses to knocked-off questions, no instant expertise with cascading comments on Twitter and Facebook. Trolls were limited to children’s fairy tales.

Letters carried a tacit assumption of privacy. So friends, lovers, and family members laboured over their missives to reflect their inner lives. Words on paper were an extended form of touch.

I set the book aside on the sand, leaned back and adjusted my hat. The sun’s image fractured into gleaming shards on the waves. I thought back to the words of that stand-up poet, Louis C.K.  As a guest on the Jay Leno show a few years back, he remarked on what smart phones have taken away.  “It’s the ability to just sit there like this,” he said while twiddling his thumbs and looked absently around him.  “That’s being a person, right?”

It’s those solitary moments, when there’s not a heck of a lot is going on, that constitute the seedbed of the soul. That’s “being a person,” without ersatz connection to dozens of “friends” you’ve never so much as shared a meal with.

There’s plenty of great things about the digital age; no need to number them here. But all things have a dual nature, and that obviously extends to consumer technology. The options for aimless distraction were few in Rilke’s time, which may have meant more boredom but also more free time to think and feel. The telegraph was relatively new, radio was still in the future, and television was even further on the horizon. Back in the analogue age, the greatest bandwidth and fastest interactivity wasn’t found in gadgets, but in the human beings next to you.

I gathered up the book and the rest of my stuff, but my phone was nowhere to be found. Annoyed, I returned to the car expecting to find it in the hatchback. Not there. I checked the roadside by the driver door, cursing. The feeling of mounting panic vapourized when I saw the Blackberry’s red light blinking between the front seats.

In my agitation I had a mini-cardiac routine without any exercise. I was reminded again how reliant I am on my digital pacifier, and realized how much I enjoyed being without it when I had only sun, surf, and a dead bohemian poet for company.

The Vancouver Courier, Sept. 8