Just some stuff

One of the best pieces I have read in recent years from Eben Moglun of the Software Freedom Law Center, examining security in the cloud and what it means for web2.0. Its a transcript of a talk given in 2010 (hence the mention of 2.0 which has been out of vogue for a while now) but worth it for his potted history of the origins of the construction of today’s consumer facing computing infrastructure. He shows how the whole client/server structure was a bastardisation of original intentions and what it has meant for us as customers. Doc Searl’s brandishes a similar war-cry describing it in terms of relationships as calf/cow.

 

 

This piece from the Economist does a great job of explaining why closed source is a significant problem and something that we should all gain a small level of understanding about. Describing the fact (which is obvious once mentioned, but until mentioned simply not on the radar) that all medical mechanical implants are built from both software and hardware the article then goes further and shows that there are no circumstances whereby you could get to look at that code. Moreover, and considerably more worrying, there are NO significant safety checks required under law to ensure the safety of this code. Add in the fact that many of these devices have wireless functionality and the whole security aspect of open vs closed becomes somewhat pertinent. The most simple method of hurting someone who is in medical need of one of these devices? Just run the battery down with repeated calls to the wireless communication functions. This youtube link covers the same ground and is superb.

 

 

Here is a great AMA from reddit. If you’re not familiar AMA stands for ask me anything. The individuals being asked questions are often famous people, but often they are ordinary people who have done extraordinary things. This is one such. Its a 97 year American who worked at NASA through Apollo missions 1 to 14, his grandson is transcribing his answers. Just pure gold, this man has led a great life. A tip for making it easy to read. Scan and scroll down looking for the name Methusela1915, which will also be the only name on a small blue background, it stands out nicely. These are his answers, the specific questions will be just above. Scanning the thread like this allows you to avoid the fluff from well meaning people who are simply saying hello or expressing their gratitude and amazement. I have linked the whole thread and also one of a specific question he answered, just because its such a great story.

 

 

Here’s a toy. We’ve all seen these kind of things that enable a very quick, but surprisingly cogent construction of a piece of music that requires literally no talent beyond working the interface of our computers. This is a great example of the market adjustment required in some areas of the creative industries. This shows how easy it is to make music today. Now, whereas no-one is making a hit using this toy it is easy to understand that a few technical jumps forward and the talent required to create music today is not what it was 20 years ago. Are there still great talents using all this modern tech to make great music, hell yes. Does that mean that every passable 15 year olds attempts should guarantee a functional income…hell no.

 

 

Here is a wonderful thing. Bill Gates has purchased the Feynman lectures, prepared and annotated them and made them available for free. Yes for FREE. Feynman was a wonderful man, a huge character and frontiersman in theoretical physics much loved by many. His life was a joy and the mark of the man is that he published books, not only about physics but also about his life, that have converted people to consider his contributions to science purely as a result of a fascination with his personality.


Natives and Interlopers: Whose future is the present?

Google.com was registered as a domain in 1997. If you were 6 years old in 1997 then you will be 21 now, you might have your own children, a job and a mortgage. The world you have grown up in is very different to the one that I grew up in.

There are lots of reasons for these differences but the obvious is one is computation and the unceasing charge of western society towards ubiquitous computing. We have got to the point where we must concede that computers and computing are the ephemeral infrastructure of today’s society, an, unfortunately, invisible layer underneath everything.

Everything? Well pretty much. And if not quite so today, the fact is that pretty soon nearly 100% of our essential interactions will be governed and controlled via computers.

The recent US elections were computerised. On one hand this sounds wonderful (easy to use, quick to count), but on the other hand nearly 100% of the population have no knowledge base that could allow them to understand the mechanics and hence, the veracity of the count. The US elections have become an article of faith. People no longer count ballots, they program computers. If you suspected that there was election fraud, and lots of people do (always have, of course, computers or not), you’d have to be a coding expert to even start the right dialogue. Most of us are not coding experts and so, whereas your average citizen could, at least, understand the corruption of a Huey P Long or Tammany Hall the same is not true of today’s institutions.

Now If you were 6 when Google was launched you are what marketers call a digital native. Like much of what goes on in marketing it is a subtly misdirecting phrase. It gives comfort to those of us born before the execrable line in the sand that is Google. It implies a world where our instincts are still dominant, where our experience is the valuable hoard of wise gold that will steer us through the challenges of a changing world.

“You are a digital native, I am of the world, the whole world, you are only digital.”

Like all subtly misdirecting marketing phrases it also harbours some stone cold truths. It delineates two different groups of humans. It tells us what is different about them. One group understands naturally. The other does not. It’s a brutal phrase if truth be known. It shouldn’t be a source of comfort for those of us too old to lay claim to the name.

William Gibson told us that the future is here already, just not distributed equally. I’ve always taken that statement at face value and unquestioningly assumed that the inequality implied was geographic. New York versus Bangladesh, for example.

At the same time I have, of course, always realised the truth of the difference between the generations in terms of technology adoption.

So in reality we have both a spatial inequality and a generational inequality in the distribution of the future, and those inequalities overlap. Whose world is the real world? Or, to borrow Gibson’s terminology, whose future is the present?

I’d argue that it’s the one belonging to the natives. Those that understand naturally are always at an advantage. In this case the present, the world, is their present (future), born of their technology and beholden to its invisible dominance.

And as I live in that same world (even if my experience of it is different) I should acknowledge a second truth, a truth that also flows from this juxtaposition between space and generations, which is that there is no offline anymore. Not one tiny bit. Everything is digital. Or to be more Zen, everything is.

When I started writing this I had structured my thoughts with the guiding concept, ‘the end of offline’, which I have since discarded because it implies a handover, a change of who holds the reins.

It’s much more than that, it’s not just a change in who holds the reins but also a change in what the reins are, and more obliquely a change in awareness of what the reins are.

It’s almost always been the case that wisdom is delivered to society by those who have lived and have built experience through living. It’s no accident that the classic imagery of the wise, is also the imagery of the old. Thus the impetuous nature of youth, the energy and vigour of youth, the experimentation and risk taking of youth is tempered by the wisdom of age. Youth has always been the interloper, a successful interloper of course, youth almost always gets old after all.

In today’s world, those we have named digital natives are in fact just natives. This world is theirs, and it’s neither online or offline, it just is. They see no divide, because there is no divide.

However, if the digital natives, are in fact just natives then it’s the rest of us who are the interlopers.

Smile Gramps.


r/pics November


JB Links (4)

This is pure gold. A wonderful way to consider the future and how it ‘arrives’, or as it seems doesn’t. The language is a bit fanny in places, and I had to really concentrate to understand some passages (which he then explained in much easier language 2 paragraphs later….doh), but the essential value in this essay is great. I Have mentioned the manufactured normalcy field before, as a marketing tool. This is the original piece and deals with the concept in a deeper more informative fashion.
“Most futurists are interested in the future beyond the Field. I am primarily interested in the future once it enters the Field, and the process by which it gets integrated into it. This is also where the future turns into money”

 

Another great read, Cocaine incorporated, a comprehensive overview of the Sinloa cartel in Mexico and the vast drug smuggling empire built by Joaquin Guzman, El Chapo. Aside from being straightforwardly entertaining this article produced the following 2 nuggets.
“It’s like geopolitics,” Tony Placido said. “You need to use violence frequently enough that the threat is believable. But overuse it, and it’s bad for business.” 

“They erect this fence,” he said, “only to go out there a few days later and discover that these guys have a catapult, and they’re flinging hundred-pound bales of marijuana over to the other side.” He paused and looked at me for a second. “A catapult,” he repeated. “We’ve got the best fence money can buy, and they counter us with a 2,500-year-old technology.”

 

 
Alan Kay is a pioneer of much of the computing landscape we take for granted today. He seems like an incredibly interesting person although I won’t pretend that I understand all of the work he has produced (at all!). In this interview we learn of his views relating to powerpoint, the web, the internet and education.

“My interest in education is unglamorous. I don’t have an enormous desire to help children, but I have an enormous desire to create better adults.”

 

This is a short view, just over a minute long, called sketches of the meta city. On the one hand it seems to be another nice, high production value view, of how and where augmented reality technology may eventually interact with our lives. On the other hand it shows how the concept of meta data is leaking out from the world of the semantic web and the data mining behemoths into everyday experience. Experiences that haven’t really been digital before, and only become so now in an observational fashion. In short, you’re still going to be riding a bus.

 

Finally a bit of Friday afternoon whimsy. I could wallop on about how young children ‘get’ technology (the star of the clip is 4 years old), but frankly that’s old hat now. Much better to just enjoy her wonderful prank !