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Current Topic: Technology

You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto
Topic: Technology 7:58 am EST, Jan 11, 2010

Jaron Lanier, whose new book is "destined to become a must-read":

Web 2.0 is a formula to kill the middle class and undo centuries of social progress.

Boomer Pinches:

To the Editor:

I very much enjoyed the first 140 characters of David Carr's article, "Why Twitter Will Endure."


I am amazed by the power of the collective to enthrall people to the point of blindness.

Jose Saramago:

If only all life's deceptions were like this one, and all they had to do was to come to some agreement, Number two is mine, yours is number three, let that be understood once and for all, Were it not for the fact that we're blind this mix-up would never have happened, You're right, our problem is that we're blind.


Collectivists confuse ideology with achievement.

David Kilcullen:

People don't get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks.

Jean-Luc Godard:

It's not where you take things from -- it's where you take them to.


To be constantly diffused in a global mush is to embrace mundanity.

Michael Agger:

The Web hasn't lost flavor; you've lost flavor.


It's the sameness of the familiar that closes minds.

Dave Winer:

I'm sure that's the future. Might be horrible but we're already almost there.

Freeman Dyson:

The purpose of thinking about the future is not to predict it but to raise people's hopes.

Steve Bellovin et al:

Architecture matters a lot, and in subtle ways.

Rivka Galchen:

I recalled hearing tell from my father of a time not so long ago when the term "technological fix" didn't sound dirty and delusional. When my dad was young, Buckminster Fuller and scientists like him were crusaders of the left, heroically engaged in ushering in an utter transformation of society. The humbly engineered new world order would be one of less waste, more justice, less suffering, domed town halls built out of Venetian blinds, and, just maybe, plastic living rooms that happier housewives could simply wash down with a hose. The technological aspirations were well-diagrammed, beautiful, and ludicrous.

Viktor Chernomyrdin:

We wanted the best, but it turned out as always.

You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto

What the information superhighways aren’t built of ...
Topic: Technology 1:26 pm EDT, May 30, 2009

James Boyle:

For at least 10 or 15 years, educators went gaga over ”the computer.” Sleek, modern, progressive, competitive, it represented everything they imagined the future to be and thus it came to stand for all those things, generally without achieving them. The computer embodied all the values of sophistication. Merely to have it, was to have them: like a lion’s claw necklace that conveys the courage of the beast to the wearer. Eventually, familiarity began to undermine the fetishism. When your students’ cell phones have vastly more processing power than the Apollo 11 computer, and are mainly used for texting, it is hard to retain your reverence.

Because politicians like to seem modern, they try to update the metaphor. The US stimulus package contains 7bn dollars of subsidies for broadband connections. We see the economic advantages of a network -- the lowering of barriers to entry, dramatic improvements in information flow, lower transaction costs -- and we associate those advantages with the thing along which the network’s bits flow. But here’s the problem. The information superhighways of the mind are not just wires.

What we ought to be doing is trying to understand where the architecture of information in our society has been a success, where government investment has yielded remarkable social and economic benefit.

Now would be an ideal time to invest in the architecture of openness.

What the information superhighways aren’t built of ...

Tinkering to the future
Topic: Technology 1:26 pm EDT, May 30, 2009

Alex Pang:

Tinkering is about seizing the moment: it is about ad-hoc learning, getting things done, innovation and novelty, all in a highly social, networked environment. Tinkering is a bit like jazz.

Today we tinker with things; tomorrow, we will tinker with the world.

The counterculture is one important influence on tinkering; so is computer hacking, with its casual contempt for established authority, deep respect for arcane technical skills, and refined love of imaginative jokes.

Consumption encourages you to just react; the more thoughtlessly the better. Tinkering forces you to reflect, to learn from your experience, to think about why something has worked or failed, and to consider the possibilities before you.

Tinkering to the future

The Pouzin Society
Topic: Technology 7:52 am EDT, Apr 28, 2009

In Computer Science we face a rather special challenge: We Build What We Measure. We don’t really have Nature to test our theories for the structure of systems. This makes it very difficult to know what is principle and what is an artifact of the engineering decisions.

This has lead to a somewhat "anything that works is good" attitude and has contributed to the master craftsman approach that seems to dominate recently. History indicates that artisan approaches come to rely on tradition and ultimately stagnate. We are already seeing this.

This is not science.

For the last decade or more, the research community has been considering the problem of a new theory or architecture for networking. They seem no closer now that they were when they started.

The Pouzin Society, named after Louis Pouzin, the inventor of datagrams and connectionless networking, announces its initial organizing meeting. The society’s purpose is to provide a forum for developing viable solutions to the current Internet architecture crisis.

The Pouzin Society

Tweet. Tweet! Tweet?
Topic: Technology 9:19 pm EDT, Apr 19, 2009

"We need to have a Twitter strategy," he said.

Twitter seems to be, first and foremost, an online haven where teenagers making drugs can telegraph secret code words to arrange gang fights and orgies. It also functions as a vehicle for teasing peers until they commit suicide.

Swampy, boggy, inescapable connectivity: it seems my middle-class existence has stuck me here.

"Poor folk love their cellphones!" he said.

Samantha Power:

There are great benefits to connectedness, but we haven't wrapped our minds around the costs.

NYT on Jan Chipchase:

What amazes Chipchase is not the standard stuff that amazes big multinational corporations looking to turn an ever-bigger profit.

The prostitute ads in the Brazilian phone booth? Those are just names, probably fake names, coupled with real cellphone numbers — lending to Chipchase’s theory that in an increasingly transitory world, the cellphone is becoming the one fixed piece of our identity.

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data
Topic: Technology 7:30 am EDT, Mar 29, 2009

Alon Halevy, Peter Norvig, and Fernando Pereira, in the March/April issue of IEEE Intelligent Systems:

Invariably, simple models and a lot of data trump more elaborate models based on less data.

So, follow the data.

From the archive, Peter Norvig:

I think another focus is to understand how people interact with Google and interact with each other on the Web, in general. How do people operate in these social networks? Understanding that question can help us serve them better.

More Peter Norvig:

My belief is that PowerPoint doesn't kill meetings. People kill meetings. But using PowerPoint is like having a loaded AK-47 on the table: You can do very bad things with it.

Your daily dose of Simpsons:

Smithers: That's quite a nice model, sir.

Burns: Model?


When asked, "Who is the person you would most like to meet?", Veronica Varekova, the cover model for the 2004 swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated, replied:

Charlie Rose.

Charlie, not a man to keep a beautiful woman waiting, promptly complied, inviting her to the show for an interview.

From the interview:

She looks like a graduate student!

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data

Technology and Progress | Another Noteworthy Year
Topic: Technology 6:07 am EST, Dec 29, 2008

Until the late 18th century, parents took for granted their right to arrange their children's marriages and even, in many regions, to dissolve a marriage made without their permission.

Human beings do not like to think of themselves as animals.

Are We Giving Robots Too Much Power?

Scientists say that is very unlikely -- though they have done some checking just to make sure.

Theo Jansen is the Dutch creator of what he calls "Kinetic Sculptures," where nature and technology meet. Essentially these sculptures are robots powered by the wind only.

Fewer Americans now than at any time in the past half century believe they're moving forward in life.

We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization - a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.

Every now and then I meet someone in Manhattan who has never driven a car. I used to wonder at such people, but more and more I wonder at myself.

My existence, in short, costs the planet more than it can afford. This is not some handed-down moral stricture, nor any sort of guilty self-flagellation, but a simple recognition of fact. The consequences are obvious, and near enough now to see the warts on their noses. For my own future, as well as my children's, I must change.

Multitasking is dumbing us down and driving us crazy.

Sudo make me a sandwich.

Any technology that is going to have significant impact over the next 10 years is already at least 10 years old.

Sustainable growth is not the consequence of an unsustainable consumption boom but of the progress and diffusion of science, technology and innovation.

Just as surely as the SUV will yield to the hybrid, the half-pound-a-day ... [ Read More (0.3k in body) ]

Technology and Progress | Another Noteworthy Year

Plain Clip
Topic: Technology 7:24 pm EST, Dec 15, 2008

Plain Clip is a small Mac OS X application that removes formatting from text which is on the clipboard. It's designed as a faceless application (no GUI), which makes it ideal for triggering it from a hotkey and launcher applications such as “Spark”, “iKey”, “LaunchBar”, “QuickSilver” or “Butler”.

Plain Clip

Cooliris, Inc. | Beyond the Browser
Topic: Technology 8:08 pm EDT, Aug 26, 2008

Your favorite sites. Full-screen. 3D.

You need this.

Cooliris, Inc. | Beyond the Browser

How to Design Programs
Topic: Technology 7:30 am EDT, Aug  6, 2008

Or, how to cultivate a computational state of mind.

Many professions require some form of computer programming. Accountants program spreadsheets and word processors; photographers program photo editors; musicians program synthesizers; and professional programmers instruct plain computers. Programming has become a required skill.

Yet programming is more than just a vocational skill. Indeed, good programming is a fun activity, a creative outlet, and a way to express abstract ideas in a tangible form. And designing programs teaches a variety of skills that are important in all kinds of professions: critical reading, analytical thinking, creative synthesis, and attention to detail.

We therefore believe that the study of program design deserves the same central role in general education as mathematics and English. Or, put more succinctly,

everyone should learn how to design programs.

This book is the first book on programming as the core subject of a liberal arts education. Its main focus is the design process that leads from problem statements to well-organized solutions; it deemphasizes the study of programming language details, algorithmic minutiae, and specific application domains.

From the archive:

Defining craftsmanship far more broadly than “skilled manual labor,” Richard Sennett maintains that the computer programmer, the doctor, the artist, and even the parent and citizen engage in a craftsman’s work. Craftsmanship names the basic human impulse to do a job well for its own sake, says the author, and good craftsmanship involves developing skills and focusing on the work rather than ourselves. In this thought-provoking book, one of our most distinguished public intellectuals explores the work of craftsmen past and present, identifies deep connections between material consciousness and ethical values, and challenges received ideas about what constitutes good work in today’s world.

The Craftsman engages the many dimensions of skill—from the technical demands to the obsessive energy required to do good work. Craftsmanship leads Sennett across time and space, from ancient Roman brickmakers to Renaissance goldsmiths to the printing presses of Enlightenment Paris and the factories of industrial London; in the modern world he explores what experiences of good work are shared by computer programmers, nurses and doctors, musicians, glassblowers, and cooks. Unique in the scope of his thinking, Sennett expands previous notions of crafts and craftsmen and apprises us of the surprising extent to which we can learn about ourselves through the labor of making physical things.

How to Design Programs

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