Blog posts

  • Magnets and Marbles!

    The patience required to set all those dominoes up at just the right angle and distance to allow the magnets and marbles to connect the way they did is astounding.

    [Via swissmiss]

  • The Shape of Things

    Tom Coates has posted a slightly edited 1 version of his Webstock 2016 talk on The Shape of Things, which was about the challenges he sees in making the Internet of Things a useful service, as opposed to an excuse for an endless running joke about internet-enabled fridges:

    Today I'm going to be talking about the thinking we've been doing at Thington about the right and wrong ways to interact with a world of connected objects, and some of the problems we've been trying to solve. In particular I want to talk about the relationship we're starting to build between physical network-connected objects and some kind of software or service layer that sits alongside them, normally interacted with via a mobile phone.

    And I'm going to talk a bit about how there's a push in the design community to find a different model, dissolving the top layer here into the object itself through (a) tangible, physical computing, or through (b) metaphors of enchantment or magic […]

    I thought it was just the sort of thoughtful, insightful talk it would have been worth travelling to New Zealand for 2 if you're in the IT business. If Tom Coates and people who think like him end up defining how the Internet of Things ends up being implemented then it might actually turn out to be a very good thing. But then I think about stories about security flaws in everything from cars to bathroom scales and I wonder if we really want to connect every damned object we own to the internet just yet.

    1. Specifically, he's removed jokes that would only have made sense to those actually in attendance at Webstock, where he gave the talk back in February 2016.

    2. No offence to our Antipodean cousins. All I'm getting at is that I'm round here on the other side of the planet in the UK so from where I'm sitting it'd be quite a long journey.

  • The future isn't quite for everyone

    Molly Sauter's review of Kevin Kelly's latest book reminds us that he's writing for a very particular audience:

    To establish his bonafides, Kelly routinely supplies memoir-ish vignettes as someone who was in the room where it happened (usually Silicon Valley, the MIT Media Lab, or standing next to a name-brand innovator): the pitfall of which is that, like his previous work, the book remains incapable of envisioning the lives of individuals outside his affluent techno-elite bubble.

    Instead, The Inevitable spins rosy yet inconsistent, historically baseless prosperity gospels where there are no losers, no negative externalities, and nothing preventing technology getting what it wants. Like other techno-prophets of his generation, Kelly's success has anesthetized him against the harms and failures of technology.

    [Via @nd_kane]

  • Silicon Valley's Scapegoats

    Buzz Andersen's essay Silicon Valley's Scapegoat Complex is by some margin the best piece I've read so far on what drove Peter Thiel to fund the lawsuit that bankrupted Gawker:

    What makes me so queasy about Thiel's quest to destroy Gawker is that I suspect he and many others in Silicon Valley see this venture in much the same way they see the accumulation of their fortunes: as a passion project in which the personal will-to-power is happily aligned with the general welfare of society. Like John D. Rockefeller, whose near-miss with a deadly train disaster gave him the extremely helpful lifelong conviction that his success was divinely-ordained (and ergo that he was justified in ruthlessly steamrolling anyone who stood in his way), the titans of Silicon Valley have such naive faith in their ends that any question of means pales in comparison. In the context of lingering resentment over Gawker's 2007 outing of Thiel as gay (an open secret at the time), a decade-long, $10 million secret war on multiple fronts seems like a mind-bogglingly deliberate feat of grudge-holding. If, however, you happen to be the kind of self-styled investor/philosopher king who is capable of connecting your wealth and continuing life's work to an urgent narrative about human potential (perhaps even human survival!), you'd be doing the whole world a favor by silencing your grubby detractors. Thiel's essay "The Education of a Libertarian," makes his lofty sense of purpose abundantly clear: the intrepid technologist is mankind's only bulwark against retrogressive forces threatening to enslave mankind.

  • Humble head nod. Humble head nod. Humble head nod.

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