Twelve Tomorrows | MIT Technology Review
This year’s collection of twelve sci-fi stories from Technology Review features three dConstruct speakers: Lauren Beukes, Cory Doctorow, and Warren Ellis.
This year’s collection of twelve sci-fi stories from Technology Review features three dConstruct speakers: Lauren Beukes, Cory Doctorow, and Warren Ellis.
Lighthouse are putting on their Improving Reality conference again this year. It’s the day before dConstruct. Come to both!
A profile of Norbert Wiener, and how his star was eclipsed by Claude Shannon.
The transcript of Anab Jain’s talk from the FutureEverything Festival.
We better get used to them…
Steven Johnson’s new television series will be shown on BBC in a few months time. Looks like it’s going to be good Burkian fun.
Today, a basic HTML/CSS site seems almost passé. But why? Is it because our new tools are so significantly better, or because we’ve gone overboard complicating simple things?
He’s right, y’know.
A profile of Demetrios Matsakis, keeper of time at U.S. Naval Observatory, America’s equivalent to Greenwich in its importance for timekeeping in the modern world.
Eileen Gunn writes in the Smithsonian magazine on the influence of science fiction.
Science fiction, at its best, engenders the sort of flexible thinking that not only inspires us, but compels us to consider the myriad potential consequences of our actions.
The GPS system is a monumental network that provides a permanent “YouAreHere” sign hanging in the sky, its signal a constant, synchronised timecode.
Some interesting thoughts that follow on nicely from Scott Jenson’s ideas around just-in-time interactions:
What if the technology was actually already in the room when we got there? Maybe that’s the kind of Internet-of-things that will be more sustainable and will win long-term.
I finally got around to reading Red Men by Matthew De Abaitua recently. It’s like Nick Harkaway crossed with Jeff Noon.
Here’s hoping that this short film will be developed into a full-length feature.
What a wonderful way to go online!
So Doug Engelbart, Alan Kay, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee walk into a panel…
This is a wonderful piece by Maciej—a magnificent historical narrative that leads to a thunderous rant. Superb!
The annual round-up.
A superb bit of sleuthing by James:
From London to the Mediterranean, to Malta and back again, over multiple countries and jurisdictions, through airspace and legal space. The contortions of G-WIRG’s flight path mirror the ethical labyrinth the British Government finds itself in when, against all better judgements, it insists on punishing individuals as an example to others, using every weasel justification in its well-funded legal war chest. Using a combination of dirty laws and private technologies to transform and transmit people from one jurisidiction, one legal condition and category, to another: this is the meaning of the verb “to render”.
From the lovely people behind Editorially comes STET:
A Writers’ Journal on Culture & Technology
Rachel talks about some of the old-fashioned technologies and business practices driving Perch.
This reminds of a talk by Marco Arment at Webstock a few years back when he described the advantages of not using cutting-edge technologies: most of the time, “boring” well-established technologies are simply more stable.
From CERN to singularity - the digital pioneer and cofounder of the WWW on 20 years of webscapades.
Iain M.Banks and dConstruct, together at last.
A timeline of technology.
Honor’s piece for The Guardian on this year’s dConstruct.
A smart and thoughtful write-up of dConstruct from Lee, pulling together three emergent themes:
A great, thought-provoking day that proved, once again, that there are many brilliant, generous minds working in or around the future of technology and human experience today.
This is a terrific write up of this year’s dConstruct, tying together all the emergent themes.
A little sojourn around the Victorian internet.
Some of the more idiotic, harmful, stupid and nasty things said by the thought leaders of Silicon Valley.
I have a lot of admiration for Reverend Dan Catt.
I don’t want to be in a position where I say “Hey, I’m working at Google, no no, don’t worry, the good bit of Google”, because goodness knows I did enough of that at Yahoo.
Oh, dear. An otherwise perfectly well-reasoned article makes this claim:
But the internet is peculiarly adapted to deftly pricking pomposity. This is partly because nothing dies online, meaning your past indiscretions are never yesterday’s news, wrapped round the proverbial fish and chips.
Bollocks. Show me the data to back up this claim.
The insidious truism that “the internet never forgets” is extremely harmful. The true problem is the opposite: the internet forgets all the time.
Geocities, Pownce, Posterous, Vox, and thousands more sites are very much yesterday’s news, wrapped round the proverbial fish and chips.
How to think about drones—an in-depth and fairly balanced article by Mark Bowden on drone strikes and the politics behind them.
In the long run, careful adherence to the law matters more than eliminating another bad actor. Greater prudence and transparency are not just morally and legally essential, they are in our long-term interest, because the strikes themselves feed the anti-drone narrative, and inspire the kind of random, small-scale terror attacks that are bin Laden’s despicable legacy.
This is a really well-written and worrying piece that pokes at that oft-cited truism about kids today being “digital natives”:
The causes of this lack of digital literacy can be traced back to school:
We’ve mirrored corporate networks, preventing kids and teachers access to system settings, the command line and requiring admin rights to do almost anything. They’re sitting at a general purpose computer without the ability to do any general purpose computing.
Also, this article has the best “TL;DR” description ever.
A good ol’ fashioned rant.
This sounds like it’s a going to be a good: a new TV series by Steven Johnson on the history of technology and innovation. Sounds very Burkian, which is a very good thing.
A terrific lighting talk by Scott on the need to think bigger. The solution to long-term issues is rarely “start a company”—we need to think more about creating a shared infrastructure …just like the internet.
The Victorian Internet indeed.
A wonderful article looking at the influence that Vannevar Bush’s seminal article As We May Think had on the young Douglas Engelbart.
The line-up for this year’s Improving Reality conference looks great (as always).
It’s the day before dConstruct so why not come on down to Brighton a day early and double your fun?
Google’s track record is not looking good. There seems to be a modus operandi of bait-and-switch: start with open technologies (XMPP, CalDav, RSS) and then once they’ve amassed a big enough user base, ditch the standards.
I’ve linked to this before, but with the death of Iain M Banks it’s worth re-reading this fascinating insight into The Culture, one of science fictions’s few realistic utopias.
The brief mention here of The Culture’s attitude to death is apt:
Philosophy, again; death is regarded as part of life, and nothing, including the universe, lasts forever. It is seen as bad manners to try and pretend that death is somehow not natural; instead death is seen as giving shape to life.
Ben is rightly worried by the blasé attitude in the tech world to the PRISM revelations. Perhaps that attitude stems from a culture of “log everything by default”?
I think there’s a deep rooted trait within this industry that sedates the outrage. That is the normality, complicity, and dependency on ‘surveillance’ in the software we make.
James gets profiled in Vanity Fair …which is, frankly, kind of weird.
It’s also so bizarre to read about his SXSW New Aesthetic panel as being such a pivotal moment: there weren’t that many of us in the room.
A well-written piece on the nature of work and value on the web, particularly in the start-up economy.
In a piece for Medium commissioned by Matter, Jon Norris describes a little-known aspect of the UK’s information technology history:
Gender equality is still a major issue in the technology industry, but 50 years ago one British company was blazing trails.
Scott points out a really big problem with the current state of the “internet of things”: everyone is inventing their own proprietary walled-garden infrastructure instead of getting together to collaborate on standards.
The single biggest fallacy I want to blow up is this utopian idea that there is this SINGLE thing called ‘The Cloud’. Each company today reinvents their own cloud. The Cloud as a concept is dead and has been for years: we are living within a stormy sky of cranky clouds, all trying to pretend the others don’t exist.
A history lesson from Vint Cerf. I can’t help but picture him as The Architect in The Matrix Reloaded.
When Tim Berners-Lee invented and released the World Wide Web (WWW) design in late 1991, he found an open and receptive internet in operation onto which the WWW could be placed. The WWW design, like the design of the internet, was very open and encouraged a growing cadre of self-taught webmasters to develop content and applications.
A design fiction video depicting technology that helps and hinders in equal measure.
A beautiful piece by James on the history of light as a material for communication …and its political overtones in today’s world.
What is light when it is information rather than illumination? What is it when it is not perceived by the human eye? Deep beneath the streets and oceans, what is illuminated by the machines, and how are we changed by this illumination?
A lovely description by Paul Ford of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol.
That simple handshake is the firmament upon which we have built trillion-dollar cathedrals and bazaars, the base upon which we construct other protocols and networks.
A lovely piece of writing from Richard on the nature of the web.
Sorta sci-fi from Adam.
Consider this a shooting script for one of those concept videos so beloved of the big technology vendors.
Charles Arthur analyses the data from Google’s woeful history of shutting down its services.
So if you want to know when Google Keep, opened for business on 21 March 2013, will probably shut - again, assuming Google decides it’s just not working - then, the mean suggests the answer is: 18 March 2017. That’s about long enough for you to cram lots of information that you might rely on into it; and also long enough for Google to discover that, well, people aren’t using it to the extent that it hoped.
I remember a talk and discussion at SxSW a few years back about trying to improve the efficiency of trade networks by making them more web-like: there are ships full of empty cargo containers, simply because companies insist on using the container with their logo on it. I really, really like the idea of applying the principles of packet-switching to physical networks.
But here’s the hard part:
The technology is not a problem. We could do it all in 10 years. It’s the business models and the mental models in people’s minds.
Now this looks like my kind of event:
A new micro-conference on science, technology, communication and fiction, organised by the Arthur C. Clarke Award.
What Dan said.
A great new site from Jenn and Yesenia: celebrating and supporting female speakers in technology.
Lauren talks about The Shining Girls and the tools she uses to write with.
Now this is what I call tech reporting.
The women leave the stage, wet computer in hand, and a new man takes the stage. He plays a schmaltzy video where Portuguese children teach adults to use Windows 8 accompanied by a hyperloud xylophone soundtrack that slices through my hangover like cheesewire though lukewarm gouda.
The fascinating story of how a dream team of geeks helped Obama to victory. Personally, I think it’s all about the facial hair. I mean, how could they lose with Trammell’s beard to guide them?
Man, I just love Scott Jenson.
Our brains have collectively gone startup-crazy, seeing the world through stock option colored glasses, assuming that if there is no money, there is clearly no value. This is madness. I’m so desperately worried that the internet will turn out to be a happy accident.
Turning his focus on “the internet of things” he makes the very good point that what we need isn’t one company or one proprietary service; we need an ecosystem of open standards that will enable companies to build services.
We all have to appreciate how we need a deep, open solution to solve this problem. If we don’t understand, demand even, that hardware devices need to be just as discoverable an open as web servers are today, we’ll never see the internet of things come to pass.
Some great thoughts from Mike Davies about the strengths of the web, prompted by some of the more extreme comments made by James Pearce at Full Frontal last week.
I should point out that James was being deliberately provocative in order to foment thought and discussion and, judging from this blog post, he succeeded.
The Web’s independence from the hardware and software platform people use is a feature. It’s better than cross-platform frameworks which are constantly criticised for not producing exact native-feeling apps on the multitude of platforms they run on. The Web is above that pettiness.
I know how Brad feels. I find it hard to muster any enthusiasm for any specific new device these days. But that’s okay. It’s more important to step back and see the trends and directions instead of getting caught up in the specifics of this particular phone or that particular tablet.
My remedy for device fatigue has been to take a step back and let my eyes go unfocused. Much like a Magic Eye, I can then see the hidden pictures behind the stippled noise that is the device landscape. This remedy helps me cope, gets me to stop caring about things that don’t really matter, and gets me to care about the broader trends the Magic Eye unveils.
There is an elephant in the Microsoft store.
Interaction dissolving into the environment.
A lovely piece from Joanne on storytelling, identity and the internet.
The cloud is not only a lie, it’s a lie that everyone pretends to understand.
When asked what “the cloud” is, a majority responded it’s either an actual cloud (specifically a “fluffy white thing”), the sky or something related to the weather (29 percent).
3D printing an exoskeleton for a child with arthrogryposis — technology can be so fricking awesome!
A good recap of the recent online/offline/does-it-really-matter discussion …although it does lend a bit too much credence to the pronouncements of that king of trolls, Nicholas Carr.
Pitch-perfect parody from The Onion:
HP announced they’re making a new push into cloud computing and that they totally know what that is.
In related news, I’ve ordered my “the cloud is a lie” T-shirt from James.
Vannevar Bush’s original 1945 motherlode of hypertext.
Vernor Vinge’s original 1993 motherlode of the singularity.
There is a there there after all.
The backlash against the backlash against connectivity.
I, for one, welcome our Manufactured Normalcy Field overlords.
Aaron should definitely skyblog more often if this is the result.
I could listen to Vint Cerf all day.
I think that it’s perfectly reasonable to have packets raining down from satellites, IP packets just literally raining down from satellites and being picked up by hundreds, if not millions, of receivers at the same time.
An introduction to the important work of digital archivists:
Much like the family member that collects, organizes, and identifies old family photos to preserve one’s heritage, digital archivists seek to do the same for all mankind.
Chris Anderson interviews Mark Andreessen.
This is very, very good. It gets a little unhinged towards the end but Jonathan Harris’s initial comparisons of software with medicine are spot-on.
This is a beautifully heartfelt post from Timoni:
Every day, I feel things because of the internet, and that’s amazing. Humans have been using abstracted communication for thousands of years, but it’s never been so instantaneous, never so capable of bringing folks of completely different backgrounds together in conversation. This is a huge step. Good job us.
An excellent longish-zoom article by Alexis Madrigal with an eerily accurate summation of the current state of the web. Although I think that a lack of any fundamentally new paradigms could be seen as a sign of stabilisation as much as stagnation.
Yes! Charles Stross speaks the unspeakable: that advertising is fundamentally “wrong”.
He’s right, y’know.
Bruce Sterling writes about the New Aesthetic in an article that’s half manifesto and half critique.
Grab a cup of tea or hit your “read it later” bookmarklet of choice for this one—it’s a lengthy but worthwhile read.
A cautionary tale from Stuart. We, the makers of modern technology, are letting people down. Badly.
We’re in this to help users, remember: not just the ones who think as we do, but the ones who rely on us to build things for them because they don’t know what they’re doing. If your response is honestly “well, he should have spent more on a phone to get something better”, then I’m exceedingly disillusioned by you.
The wonderful story of an odd place:
The Jamesburg Earth Station is a massive satellite receiver in a remote valley in California. It played a central role in satellite communications for three decades, but had been forgotten until the current owner put it up for sale, promoting it as a great place to spend the apocalypse.
Re-examining Von Neumann probes, reconciling their apparent scarcity with the Fermi paradox.
Here’s a challenge for the new year: use each month as an opportunity to try out a new web technology.
Set yourself small, achievable projects to work on and use 12412.org as a support group. We will all help to motivate each other and join in to offer help where we can.
An interactive timeline where we, the wise crowd, can add our predictions (although the timeline for the past, showing important technological breakthroughs, is bizarrely missing Cooke and Wheatsone’s telegraph).
Ariel is interviewed by Seth Shostak. Science! Science! Science!
A superb piece of writing from Jeffrey, scorching the screen with righteous anger. THIS. IS. IMPORTANT!
SOPA approaches the piracy problem with a broad brush, lights that brush on fire, and soaks the whole internet in gasoline.
This post from Maciej might initially seem negative but read it through to the end: there’s a very powerful positive message.
A thoughtful piece from Matt on the changes in cultural transmission that we should be embracing instead of bemoaning.
A rallying cry from Neal Stephenson for Getting Big Stuff Done.
A great speech by Ben Hammersley that ties together multiple strands of life in the 21st century.
Craig has written down his dConstruct talk, the one that completely polarised opinion. Personally, I loved it.
Having just seen Anna Debenham’s superb but scary presentation at Update about the shocking state of UK schools, this is a timely piece of journalism.
A wonderful reminder by Kevin Kelly of the amazing interconnected world we live in, thanks to network effects.
Those lovely BERG chaps profiled in the New York Times.
A pitch-perfect parody of people that peeve.
A great reminder from Bruce that we need to remember to use cutting-edge web technology responsibly.
Wonderful musings from Matt on meeting the emerging machine intelligence halfway.